Failing physics and flowering forbearance

Faith & Inspiration

"If you pass physics," my mother told me several weeks ago on the telephone, "of course we'll be happy." She spoke for herself and my father. I assented from where I sat in the bushes behind my dorm. "If you fail physics," she added, "we'll be creative."

I blessed her and counted myself the most cared-for person in the world.

Then last week I sat on the steps of the New York Public Library, gazing upon the rump of one of the stone lions, with tears running down my face. I could hardly have chosen a more private place for grieving. New York overflows with people committing strange acts. No one noted me crying over my "F."

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Many good nouns begin with the letter "f": fortitude, fearlessness, and fervor-and to grow more particular and perhaps thereby more meaningful-F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The writer of the Jazz Age got expelled from school at 16, then advanced to Princeton, where he got bad grades but made a good showing in campus theatrics.

His story, along with those of other academic failures, served to a degree as anesthetic. In the aftermath of my sad revelation I went to the The Strand, a Manhattan store containing 18 miles of books. I bought a T-shirt of The Great Gatsby, with Daisy Buchanan's eyes blinking out of a blue background. Like me, she happened to be crying.

If anyone deserves to spell "physics" with an "F," I do. Sitting on the steps I wondered: Since I had so much time to avoid my homework, why did I not take opportunity to preorder some sackcloth in size 6?

My educators, among them the deep-hearted Dr. Gene Edward Veith, with his doctrine of neighbor-love through the vocation of schoolwork, conveyed a deep sense of academic responsibility to me. Good ethic, I hear (and believe), would have made up for my scientific deficiency.

"What have you been doing all afternoon?" my mother asked me during finals week.

"Writing," I said.

"How do you justify that?"

I can't. I hunt the Muse with a sword and pistol and hope that words will flood for me in a magic midnight. How little that seems to have to do with microfarads.

But negligence matters in the kingdom of heaven. It is right that heaven's rumblings-in the form of conscience-rattle downward to my kingdom of one. In believing this I resign my right to shirk obligation in favor of mad creative midnights.

In philosophy they call my conduct akrasia: acting against one's own moral judgment. In the Bible Paul stamps it with a cry: "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?"

In the face of all this moaning I continue to hope that from dirt, flowers spring.

My mother, who celebrates when somebody in the household breaks a dish (to remind us that life is about people, not dishes), forbears. She says, "I don't know what God is teaching you."

Chelsea Boes
Chelsea Boes

Chelsea is an editorial assistant for God’s World News. She graduated from Patrick Henry College with a degree in literature. Follow Chelsea on Twitter @ckboes.


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