It’s been a confusing day.
A lot of things today didn’t make sense. There was Edwin’s talk for his senior seminar, in which his computer and slides suddenly didn’t work, even though they had worked perfectly just the other day. There were sudden outages in my email server, so things would “decide” not to communicate with the outside world one moment, only to change its mind the next. Music on my computer suddenly became lost, titles and artists without files that had been there only days before. I forgot that my mother-in-law reads my Facebook status updates; always awkward. And Diane died.
That was the epitome of nonsensical. Diane has been in the math department for many years before I arrived in the college. I didn’t work with her directly most of the time, but we’d have the same students. She was one of the rare faculty for whom students would gush, and they would gush about math, and they would gush about her love for math and their subsequent love for math. She was young, figuratively and literally; she was friendly; she was enthusiastic. When I would serve on search committees in her department I would enter the room and immediately find that everything was better when I saw her there. She, along with her colleague, Dixie, had spearheaded reforms and innovations that just this month got the two of them acknowledged as the state’s educators of the year. And then she suddenly went to the hospital and died the next day.
My facebook status, the one that my mother-in-law asked about, stated that I was “angry with God.” I know that this is the equivalent of an adolescent’s anger with his parents, immature, not reasonable, non-productive. And anger doesn’t really describe it. There’s disappointment; there’s sadness; there’s confusion; there’s numbness. Mostly, there’s the paradox of someone simultaneously living and dying at their most memorable. I can admittedly and ashamedly think of others who wouldn’t be so missed. So, there’s no reason, no justice, like there wasn’t for Chris, there wasn’t for Ken, there wasn’t for John … others in the last one, two, three years whom I wished I’d had the chance to know more.
I’d like to think that God could explain to the adolescent in me that it’s all part of a plan. But even God couldn’t possibly see any reason to make the math department any less functional and friendly than it already is? So I’d like to believe in a plan, a scheme, or even a grand joke. But I don’t get it; it’s not funny. It’s not fair. I know it’s not supposed to be “fair,” but Jesus, it’s not supposed to be so completely unreasonable, either.
My only sense of balance and balance of sense comes from this morning when I got to talk to a friend back East. She gave me great ideas on lesson study, ideas about teaching, and ideas about faculty development. As we talked, her 3-week-old woke up and spoke up from two time zones away. Her name is Sarah, with an ‘h’, and she’s healthy and happy. This all made sense. This was all before. And tomorrow there will be some other things that will make sense: a class I’ll teach in the morning on scientific misconceptions; a series of presentations in the afternoon on faculty research; a lecture in the evening on human evolution. Those things will all make sense. I can hold on to those things and their sensibility, but I know I’ll stop somewhere in the middle of it all and still get stuck on all the other things.