“If you want to be loved…”

I was cleaning up a desk drawer this morning, and I found an old post-it note from an earlier phase of research. On the note I’d scribbled a quotation from Seneca’s ninth epistle to Lucilius. Seneca quotes the Greek philosopher Hecato (Hecaton).

“Hecaton ait, ‘ego tibi monstrabo amatorium sine medicamento, sine herba, sine ullius veneficae carmine: si vis amari, ama.

“Hecato says, “I will show you a love potion without drugs, without herbs, without the smallest spell of a sorceress: if you want to be loved, love.”

 

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Facing Failure

What is failure?

I fight every day to remind myself that not living up to perfection is not the same thing as failure. That not having everything go smoothly is not failure. That being anxious or depressed is not failure. This is a daily battle, and I have decided, after many days, weeks, months of this tumult, that I know what failure is.

Failure is deciding that you have failed.

Well, I’m deciding not to fail today. Or tomorrow. Or the next day.

I’m choosing to work. I’m choosing to try. I’m choosing to plan. I’m choosing to accept that perfection is impossible and its lack is success not failure. I’m choosing to take command of my time, my health, and my mind. I’m not giving up.

I may not always be right. I may not always make my deadlines, or clear my To-Do list, but I will give my all every day. And if my all isn’t quite as much tomorrow as it is today, then I will accept that, too. I accept my limits, and I accept my ability to work through them, to learn, adapt, and grow.

 

 

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Summer Update

Sometimes you just need to write. I’ve spent far too many years not-writing because it wouldn’t be good, or it wouldn’t be interesting. But right now, tonight, I’ve worked up the energy to say that it doesn’t matter if it is good or interesting. It is written, and that’s what matters.

I’m in the midst of a shift right now. I teach two sessions of Classical Mythology during our summer term, and the first is now finished. I submitted grades this morning. The Blackboard site for the next term is up and lively. I’m pleased since it is the first time that I’ve managed to get it live before the first day of classes.

I teach Mythology as a hybrid course, so it lives both online and in the more traditional classroom. It has taken me several years to get the online portion right, but I think I’ve finally got it. The students work through an online journal, and then interact with one another and ancient art through a short(ish) blog assignment.

My favorite part of the course, however, is the Mythmaker assignment, where the students write their own myths. The course is about storytelling, first and foremost, so I want the students to actually tell their own stories. I keep the assignment fairly generous. Students have a lot of latitude with how they’ll approach their work. They do need to reference and use the themes, structures, and components that we discuss in class, but how they do that, or what their final stories look like is pretty much up to them. This makes the grading of the assignment difficult. Standards are broad, and I haven’t yet worked up a set of criteria with which I’m satisfied. I don’t really want to judge students on the supposed quality of the story, so I focus only on the elements that they have acquired from the course. I keep the value of the assignment down in order to keep it from overly inflating the students’ scores. I find that the students throw themselves into the mythmaker, and I usually end up with a stack of delightful, entertaining retellings, reworking, and reimaginings of mythic tales.

Okay. I’ve written. More later.

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Kindling

Two-headed Janus, source of the silently gliding year.

The only god who is able to see behind him,

A prosperous day dawns: favor our thoughts and speech! (Ovid’s Fasti)

Seisachtheia – the shaking off of burdens. That is my theme for 2016. Looking back over the empty spaces of this blog, and the tattered pages of my paper journal, I realize that I have let too many things slip away. The world is full of loud distractions, and I’ve been more than prone to losing myself to them. So, I rededicate this blog and myself to a year of mindfulness and intention.

The new year holds many challenges and delights. Old projects that have for too long stood burdensome upon my shoulders will soon be shaken away. We travel to San Francisco next week, and in March I’m leading a group of my students to Rome. Interesting classes on Gender in Antiquity, the Roman Republic, and Mythology are waiting for me once the new semester begins, and I’m looking forward to a prosperous year of writing and reading.

I promised myself, too, that I would not lose sight of my family, who have supported me so thoroughly during the darkest years of my life. My beloved spouse, who remains my best friend, and my lads, especially, for they must deal with me daily, I thank, and I will honor with more time, more hugs, more mindfulness about us and what we can be to one another. With the littlest lad, now four, five this summer, heading to kindergarten in the autumn, there is only a short span of time left of those pre-school days, and I would like to cherish them more than I have.

Perfectionism, that old master, I would like to see wither this year, falling ever more into decay. It has served me naught, and I would like most of all to be rid of it and its cloying presence.

New Year’s Day – 2016. A beginning, at last.

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After Chicago

<<I noticed this blog in my prep folder, but I never posted it. Better late than never.>>

After Chicago: Some Thoughts on APA/AIA 2014

It is fair, I think, just this once, to begin a blog by discussing the weather. I hope you will forgive me the indulgence, but weather was the primary topic of conversation at this year’s combined meeting of the American Philological Association (APA) and the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA). Chicago is a gorgeous city, and I write that as a New Yorker with a tremendous fondness for Manhattan. The architecture is often breaktaking, and the views of the river from many of the loftier demesnes was exquisite. Even from our not so lofty sixth floor hotel room, the view was lovely, with a towering magnificence here and a straightaway vision of Millennium Park there.

But it was cold. And I don’t mean chilly. I mean numbing, biting, frosty cold. At one point in what was meant to be a brief sojourn to see the sights, my wife and I were caught in a breeze filled with icy razors, which scoured us for a good five minutes before relenting. On the last days in Chicago, when the frighteningly named Polar Vortex made its way through the region, my tears froze to my cheeks. I don’t even know why I was crying.

Let us put the weather aside, for it was otherwise a lovely conference and a lovely city. My wife and I strolled (read: hustled) down Michigan Avenue, toured both the Art Institute and the Field Museum, ate delicious food, including Chicago’s own answer to pizza, and spent several wonderful hours with friends and colleagues. There was something particularly nice about this conference, as we travelers were all trapped in the ice palace that the Windy City became. We bonded over the weather, and spent more time in one another’s company than might have been our inclination in a warmer local. And this was good. I met more people, shook more hands, and chatted about more invigorating topics than at any prior APA/AIA meeting. It was glorious.

Less glorious was the hotel’s poor Wifi signal, especially in the rooms where the main presentations of the conference were held. For those of us who try to Twitter as much of the proceedings as we can, this proved a significant problem. Not being able to tweet my way through this year’s conference, did give me the chance to ponder the value of such work. I do not think that even the best Tweeter/Twitterer/? with the fastest fingers ever manages to convey very significant information. Twitter is not, I think, the medium for conveying even short, academic papers. It is a wonderful place to share some briefer discussion points, or to alert folks of larger conversations happening elsewhere. What I think our APA/AIA conferences really need is to determine that several panels will be recorded and then posted to the Web. I mentioned this point on Twitter soon after the conference in Chicago, and was reminded that much of the work we present at the conference is preliminary at best, and that not every presenter may want his or her research spread as wide as the Web allows. I’m not terribly supportive of such an idea, as I think that, in general, more and better communication is essential for our academic work, but I’m also unwilling to force the hesitant to participate in the all-consuming world of the Internet. That said, we could and should establish several panels, just to start, that will receive wider broadcast. I know that I find the conference’s packed schedule quite frustrating. There are always simultaneous panels that I want to see, and if at least one of those was broadcast, I would have the chance to revisit the one I missed, perhaps even during the conference itself.

Perhaps next year, while we’re in New Orleans rather than Chicago, and less consumed with conversations about the terrifically cold weather, we’ll be able to make room for vodcast and podcast talks.

 

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