The other day, after a student had shared her interpretation of a poem in class, I replied, “That’s a really surprising idea” – but it occurred to me later that all ideas are surprising. Because we grow so accustomed to ideas, their inimitability and lushness often go unnoticed, but the fact is that each idea is a pristine marvel. It seems clear to me that every idea is totally new, never been thought in just that way in the history of thinking. A thought may be similar to other thoughts, but in certain, sometimes secret ways, it has its own matchless style and substance. Every thought is like every moment – fresh, unblemished, and ready to do its irreplaceable work. Luckily for me, I spend my days in the classroom surrounded by the steady streaming of these new ideas – hundreds and thousands of them. In a 48-minute English class, my students and I together might produce 37,000 ideas, a figurative Mississippi River of spanking new thoughts surging through the classroom and our lives. If I thought about it as I was teaching, I might feel utterly overwhelmed by the reality of so much newness and brightness of thinking.
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