While completing a segment of the course that I am currently teaching, spontaneously said to my students, “How you carry things forward is completely your prerogative from now on. I was here not to give you the text, but just the context.”
A student asked me before I could complete the segment: “Ma’am, why is it so, that many of the lives of these great writers or poets or singers are so dark? Why does it happen that they live in pain?” My response was : “See, reading literature, enjoying literature, and living literature are different things. These people “lived” literature. Anxiety for acceptance and the lack of it are probably one of the reasons. These great writers, poets, musicians, sculptors, etc. kept on struggling with the anxiety of being accepted by themselves,the world, by peers, and by a lot of people. For them, money and livelihood was also important because they had chosen a profession which did not pay a lot, they also were struggling for love, or else an intellectual acceptance by peers”. I hope this interpretation made sense to people. I have been thinking of a few questions that come along these lines — How is it that we are accepted or rejected by people? On what basis is an acceptance or non-acceptance? It might be intellectual in nature or emotional in nature. When I thought a little in-depth, decided to bring a slice of literature and life to Iris for you all. Thought of carrying some parts of my discussion “how popular is popularity?” from the last article in a new form in this article. I am drawing a few threads for this article from my classroom experiences, from personal conversations, and from life in general.
I was in conversation with a friend and asked him: “How do people deal with rejections? I mean how do they deal with or possibly live with something like a ‘break-up’ or an emotional ‘un-acceptance’ in personal/ professional circles or among peers? When a paper gets repeatedly rejected or when people don’t consider your views seriously? He had an interesting response to share. He said something like the following: “This happens when people keep things repressed. They struggle with rejecting the emotion in the first place. They think of ‘growing out’ of it soon and for them the ideal is the greatest source of agony or joy. The simplest solution is to ‘accept it’ and live with it, until the scars are wiped out and whenever one recollects, it is not bitterness but happiness that brings back memories of the moments spent.”
Have you ever come across the following lines from William Wordsworth’s “Lucy” poem series?
Beside the springs of Dove,
A Maid whom there were none to praise
And very few to love:
A violet by a mossy stone
Half hidden from the eye!
—Fair as a star, when only one
Is shining in the sky.
She lived unknown, and few could know
When Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her grave, and, oh,
The difference to me! (my emphasis)
When I was very young, I used to enjoy reading these lines a lot. Now, when I think of these lines, I feel that the anxiety of acceptance is so potently present in the poem. Possibly, I personally associated with the lines very much because had a strange story with places — was in general unrecognized in the places and by the people with whom I lived or contributed to. The anonymity which Wordsworth writes of was the kind of anonymity that I have always existed in.
“Fair as a star, when only one is shining in the sky”.
And now when I am enveloped with many varieties of students, I have bitterly felt the truth of these lines. There are those young boys and girls who need no push or drive. They are deeply motivated by themselves, these are the achievers who make it big both professionally and personally. On the other hand, there are those stars that wait to twinkle only when the rest of the sky is getting dense and dark. They cannot shine by themselves, because they wait for a push, a polish, a drive for being accepted, and often get lost on the way. Academics calls some of them ‘the poor students’, but possibly the fear of ‘un-acceptance’ is so deeply grounded in them that it makes them passive, and un-interested. Some of them can be nurtured back with a real push or a constructed acceptance, while many have to be left behind because life and time do not always give a chance.
A moment’s acceptance/rejection can be life changing. Citing a story again from my personal experiences. Was in the Undergraduate classes. We had a course titled “The History of English Literature
“, where one had to read and analyze the entire history of British literature
from Chaucer to the twentieth century writings of Eliot, D.H.Lawrence
, Virginia Woolf
, etc. I was pathetically poor in that subject. Too afraid, too nervous. The subject was itself notorious in the University for giving the maximum flukes. One day, I wrote a long essay on the history of ‘The University Wits
‘ (Marlowe, Kyd, Nash, etc.) and took it to Usha Ma’am (Prof
. Usha Sundari) (she is no more) for review. Like me there were many others who had submitted their own write-ups. When she came the next morning with our edited write-ups, she encouraged each and everyone with good comments. When it was my turn, she threw the notebook at my face saying: “You people are good for nothing. As girls you all know that you are in demand in the bridal market because of a degree in literature. You think that any rubbish you write makes ‘History of English Literature’? Go and change to some other Arts subject which will fetch you marks. My dear, literature is the toughest bait of the world and I do not want students like you ruining it.”
I was devastated by this dramatic, utter, pure rejection. Thought of seriously changing my subject. Living in this claustrophobic atmosphere was tough for me for a long time. One day I decided to meet one of my favorite Professors with whom I shared my trauma. She laughed out aloud and said, “If Usha said this to you, then be rest assured that if you put the hardwork, then you are going to top the University. She is not a goldsmith, she is a diamond-smith — that is her style. However, that also means it is your HARDEST work to prove her wrong — lets see who wins when a challenge like that is presented.”
These moments of acceptances and rejections do prove to be dramatic and life changing. For instance, a “yes” or “no” in the hospital marks the thin line between life and death. Or take day to day lives, we post pictures, posts, thoughts on Social Sites for not only ‘sharing’ but also ‘acceptance’.
I stop here today. Let me grab a bite for lunch. Till then, you enjoy reading and look at the ‘Pie-Chart’ that Panapatti has sent as a gift to Iris on its 30K mark. Bbye! Take care of yourselves! See you very soon 🙂