Enthusiam Fail

I should be having the time of my life with this course.  It's one I've wanted to teach for years, it's on questions and sources directly related to my research, it's something I've thought about more than pretty much anything else, ever (okay, other than dieting and fencing).  And yet, I'm scared.

Our discussions are going fine, but I leave class feeling wiped in a way that I have not experienced since my very first years of teaching.  I don't think it's the class; they seem attentive and interested.  It's me, I know it's me.  But why?

Because I care too much.  Because if I cannot excite them about this topic, then everything I do is a lie.  No, not quite that.  Meaningless.  A charade.  Because, truth to tell, this topic is the only thing that really matters to me, has ever mattered to me, and it is too much to bear if I can't get them to see why.

I'm overreacting, I know.  The course is going fine.  Their blog posts (go read a few!) are brilliant.  They are clearly listening and engaged.  But then why am I finding it so hard to encourage them to talk?  I want them so much to talk, to question, to argue, to wonder.  And, instead, I feel like I'm pushing them too hard.

It's the reason I've put off teaching this course, I know.  Too much is at stake.  It is much easier to take a topic that I know they are already interested in (like, say, Tolkien or war), than to risk the thing that I care about most.  Maybe they care about it just as much as I do, but are themselves nervous to say so.  Maybe if I can just ease off a bit they will feel comfortable admitting as much.

But what if they don't?  What if...no, they're in the class, they must care.  Of course they're afraid to speak up.  It's too big.  Surely they, too, have experienced the blank looks, the loss of interest whenever someone has asked them, "So what are you working on?"--and tempted by the prospect of being able to persuade, they have risked answering, "Mary."

Flicker, look away in embarrassment, assume.  I've seen it over and over and over again.  From colleagues, prospective graduate students, family members, friends.  "Really?," they want to say.  "That's so narrow.  Why aren't you doing something bigger, more important, like materiality or ethnicity or gender or the formation of the modern state?"

"But this is big," I stumble.  And fail

I know that this is my proper work.  I know that this is the single most important thing that I have been given to do.  But what if I say or write isn't good enough?  How will Our Lady ever forgive me?


  1. Well, we're only a few weeks in, and I'm quite convinced that there could not possibly be anything bigger. Materiality, Ethnicity, Gender, and the Modern State all have their adherents, but do their adherents have as worthy a patron as the Queen of Heaven? None of them can reveal the Incarnate God, let alone give birth to him. None of them can intercede on our behalf. None of them carry salvation inside of them. None of them even care whether we fail, in order that we can ask "How will they forgive me?" I am sure that Our Lady knows exactly what it is like to wonder if she is good enough. And as for her forgiveness, I heard this story from a very reputable monk, about this priest...

  2. : ) That monk wouldn't be called Peter by any chance, would he? Thank you! I will take courage for the sake of Our Lady!


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