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2006-02-16 - 7:21 p.m.

..killing time with an entry..

Just made it home from the colloquium that I gave at a college in the city - it was poorly attended but I think the few people there thought it was good (I hope). I was disappointed by how few professors appeared, but I was pleased by the two who did.

I think that the hard disk crash put me over the top this week. It's been difficult for me to maintain a sense of jolly equilibrium about life's mishaps..something essential if you want to teach. Last night I right out gave up on explaining the homework assignment to my students, and had them explain it to each other. Clearly my 5th-6th repeated explanation was still not getting through, so I reasoned that someone with fresh words would do a better job. It was a wise decision. It kept my temper level, and I think they finally understood.

I've been dealing with two colleagues who are even more stressed than I am. One works next to me every day. She is consistently stressed, and I am consistently forcing her to relax. It has become habit, and perhaps a habit that allows me to keep my own manic behavior in check. If you are constantly explaining to someone else that in the long run this stress is useless, and that things will either get done or not, eventually you internalize your own 'wisdom.' Constantly repeating calming words has had the effect of calming me. Nice side effect, don't you think? (I wish it worked when hard disks crashed. My dreams the last few nights have been doozies.)

The other close friend and colleague has me more worried. He is also a new professor at a different university. He apparently has been bottling his anxiety for months now, and they have exploded into a full blown case of manic depression. He informed me that he has been crying four out of the last five days, and today he was so wound up that he literally walked into a TREE and knocked himself over, and then sat in his office bleeding while typing this all to me. He's not an overly expressive man to begin with, but one of the gentlest, most wonderful souls on the planet - with the most incredible wit - definitely a favorite. I've noticed that he was unhappy but I didn't realize to what extent, or why. In the past five days he's opened up about all that has been happening with him, and I can see that he's in real trouble. Anyway, our main form of communication is email - and since I discovered his mental state, I've been trying to write to him a couple times a day, mixing my concern with as much humor as possible. By my standards, he and I are not very close. But given his rather closed temperament, I wonder how many people he really talks with...and there are some people with whom I do not need to reveal everything to share a strong affection.

The other thing I've been thinking about is rather unrelated to everything else..I've fallen into lust with a book character. Is that strange? The book is a fantasy representation of France in the middle-ages, during the height of the troubadour culture. In this fantasy, the society is dominated by women and a culture of courtly love. The sexy character is a stoic, bearded nobleman from a neighboring, male-dominated society (one that objectifies and subjugates women). Only he has left the male kingdom to live as a migrant mercenary in the female kingdom. He is bearded and broad-shouldered, and very wary to keep his opinions and noble identity to himself.

He finds the female culture very foreign and somewhat superfluous, but a tolerable substitute for the heinous society in which he was raised. And he is silently respectful and somehow forced to find a righteous code of honor that sits between these two extremes. He finds the notion of courtly love melodramatically demonstrative, and yet his interactions with all females are respectful, gentle, and honest. I'm not describing this nearly as well as the author... But somehow this author has succeeded in inventing a very appealing, very sexy character. (Or maybe my hormones are just going nuts).

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