Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spiritual beings

I know students mean "spawn of Satan" and "you are the devil" as terms of endearment for professors; how could it be otherwise?  I'm actually far less concerned when students address me with these terms, as I assume some measure of comfort exists and the message being delivered is a variation of the your-class-is-killing-me-but-I-don't-take-it-personally type.  Not that it happens all that frequently, mind you, but it does happen.

The most recent "you are the devil" comment followed my observation that the person who'd provided editing comments on a paper (the paper was lying on the table where the team was working) clearly did not have enough to do, as there sure were a lot of edits.  Since I was the editor in question, the devil comment seems appropriate.  And, as I thought about it a few days later, I was reminded of one of my favorite Satan stories, that of C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters.  I've read Uncle Screwtape's letters to his nephew Wormwood multiple times, but it's been a while; so I picked up the book again...and, as is always the case with good writing, it's a rediscovery.

C.S. Lewis (who was part of the faculty at both Cambridge and Oxford) wrote The Screwtape Letters when he was 44, an age that seemed far older at one time.  With whatever limited wisdom I may have gained in the years since I first read Lewis, I now appreciate the wisdom and life experience offered in his writings.  Screwtape has a pretty accurate take on human beings, what makes us happy, and what, ultimately, leads to our greatest misery.  But, as with many other things offered to those who want to lead examined lives, it may only be of value to those of a certain age.  As with any teaching, the student must be ready.

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