Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I wonder if I could eliminate most of the pressure in my life by simply not applying it. This thought came to me as I was grading papers the other day. As usual, I was writing my comments with a pencil, and, as usual, I was pressing down rather hard, literally pushing the pencil tip into the paper as I wrote. My fingers were gripping the pencil forcefully, almost squeezing it. In fact, the muscles of my entire hand and arm were tense and contracted as they focused on this “severe” task of writing. For some reason, though, I suddenly relaxed. I loosened my grip, calmed my hand and arm, and just allowed the pencil to move easily across the paper. I think I even took a deep breath, as though I had stopped laboring and was now settling in for some recreation. Surprisingly, I found that my handwriting improved when I wrote in this tranquil way. The letters and words were more precise and graceful, and there was a curious elegance in the flow of the letters. It was as if the pencil, freed from the pressure of my tight grip, could now perform its task with its natural fluidity. As I say, this started me thinking about all kinds of pressure in my life, and whether most (or all) of that pressure comes from me. Perhaps I am always holding the “pencil” too tightly. Perhaps I generally need to “loosen my grip”, whether I’m teaching, talking to someone, reading, or just walking down the hall. Perhaps life works best when its allowed to be its efficient self, like my pencil swaying gracefully in the margins of a student’s essay.

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