Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Enemy of the Good

--Showing Off of Jumping Off?, 2006--

Thanks to Voltaire, I might sound well-read, but I cannot claim to be original:

"The best is the enemy of the good", he said in Dictionnaire Philosophique. Since I have been mentally spent the weekend preparing for tomorrow--the first day of a new semester--this quote has been in the backdrop of my mind.

After the whirlwind of this last academic year, I have been tapped to teach 3 additional classes for the fall semester, including a new seminar that I designed over the summer. For someone who is still finishing the dissertation, this is an especially large teaching load. Not only am I teaching full time, but I am swimming through a dissertation that cannot write itself. Between here and there, I am somehow supposed to write, prep my lectures, handle student concerns, present another conference paper, apply for several more post-doctoral positions, and, for the sake of appearances, seem to be on the job market for next year. Between you, me and cyber space, however, I have an a earnest sense of certainty that I will be hanging my hat in the academy as soon as I am done with my degree. Getting an academic job is one thing, but getting an academic job that will realistically satisfy my short list of needs (ie: money and location) is something else. Here, the "best" is the enemy of the good. Having a job is important, but this experience has taught me a great deal about my limits. Yes, of course, the job is wonderful. It is good. Even without health insurance, it is very good. It serves a tremendous purpose in my life, and I am convinced that it is exactly where I need to be right now. But nothing about this scenario makes the job itself--or even my life at the present moment--all that especially great...

As thankful as I am for the job and all that it entails for now, I am equally thankful that it is only for 3 1/2 more months. Professionally, I have unfinished business in the Middle East. Personally, I crave the duality and oddities of the place, both the tenderness and the danger. More than the psychological heaviness of its history that clings to me now no matter where I am in the world, I physically crave the sunlight and aridity of the Jordan Valley. It seems that I am at my "best" when I am on the road and enjoying the raw physicality of 'living the question' in an otherwise highly-questioned place. Yes, there is nothing more satisfying than being mildly dehydrated, low on blood sugar, generally pissed off, scratching at words in someone elses tongue and only looking forward to that next meal of hummus, fresh pita and extremely sweet mint tea. The place itself can be as defeating as it is filling. Like everything, it could kill or it could make me stronger. Obviously, I prefer the latter.

But back to the business at hand: Here's to one more semester, boys and girls. Here's to making the best of it, with the hope that the best I can do in this moment will be good enough.



Alan Ward said...

You could also consider the Latin equivalent; "spe meliori amittitur bonum" (accept what is good, while hoping for better).

In view of your workload for this semester, "non carborundum" may also be apt.

Laura said...

You're going to kick some fall semester ass and then go on to bigger and better. I have full faith in that. This is a stepping stone and a Good one. Onto the next Great one.