Thursday, March 24, 2011


I wish I could convince my students that they are always, as the saying goes, “on top of the world”. I’m sure they don’t always feel like they’re the full flowering of youthful achievement, and there are days in their lives, I’m certain, when they probably feel like they reside more on the underside of the world than the top, but still, in one special sense, they, and their English teacher, are always right at the top of the world. Of course, the truth is that all of us on Earth are on top of the world, at all times and in all places. Our planet is a sphere, and, like any sphere, all places on this sphere, from sinkholes to the crests of mountains, are at the top. Wherever we stand, wherever our seemingly small and inconsequential lives are playing themselves out, we are at the top, the apex, the peak of our planet. Strangely enough, we have no choice in this matter. It’s not up to my students and I to decide when we will try to take ourselves up to the peaks of our lives, because, in a sense, we are already there. We are already, at each moment, making our mark, along with everyone else, at the very top of the earth. A reader might laugh at the folly of pretending that all of us are always doing our best, but that’s not what I’m suggesting. I’m merely wishing I could show my students the simple truth that, in fact, anywhere on earth is the top of the world, and that’s exactly where they always are. Thinking about this peculiar fact might just be enough to bring a small smile to their faces, which, in the sometimes unsettling and disheartening lives of teenagers, would not be a small blessing.

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