15 October 2008

An E-Mail and a Warp In Time

An e-mail made my day today, even though its tone was sad and rather anxious.

Sajidur, who took three classes with me, graduated last year. Since then, I've thought about him a lot. And, last year, I really wished he was around: One becomes an educator to be of service to people like him, not to academic bureaucrats. He is very smart and works hard. Best of all, he appreciates what you do, no matter how small it is, for him, and you find yourself appreciating him because he's, well, him.

How can I describe him? Well, he's not tall or in any other way physically imposing. But he is formidable, in part because of what most people would call his intelligence. Yes, he does have more intellectual prowess than most people. But more important, at least in my opinion, is what I like to think of as his spiritual quotient, if you will.

As I got to know him, I came to realize that his appreciation for literature--and his ability to write about it--is really part and parcel of the same gift that allows him to understand his major, business, so well. You might say he's a creative spirit, although I doubt he would ever describe himself as a creative anything.

Even when we talked about an assignment for the class, I felt somehow as if our souls, rather than our egos, were conversing. Too often, people conflate ego with intellect. I have done that myself: I have done things ostensibly for intellectual reasons, but they were really a gratification of my ego. In other words, I took inordinate pride in being smart enough--or, more accurately, having people think I was smart enough--to do whatever I was doing, whether it was playing Scrabble or explaining how a particular kind of poetry works and how it's related to quantum mechanics.

All right, that last part is fiction. I've never in my life compared anything to quantum mechanics, mainly because I don't know what it is. But I have given explanation that were pure mierda de toro and congratulated myself, mainly for impressing someone who didn't know any better.

Anyway, back to Sajidur. He wants to meet for a heart-to-heart talk. A lot of things he never could have anticipated have happened to him since graduation, he says, along with the way this country has deteriorated economically and politically (and, to my mind, spiritually) during that time. Everybody's tense and anxious, or so it seems, and I don't envy anyone who has to find a job.

He also said he read an article I wrote a couple of weeks ago. In it, I said that the United States has become an economic plutocracy. "I couldn't agree more," he said. " The greed has taken us to lands belonging to others and killing and destroying without justification. " I couldn't have said it any better.

Now you know another side of him: He doesn't go around saying "evil capitalist system" or anything like that. He had expressed interest in a career in international business. But, at the same time, he doesn't see greed as a good business practice or conquest as the only kind of success.

However, the part of his e-mail that struck me most was near the end, when he said "All of a sudden I feel twenty years older." I can relate to that, oddly enough, because my recent exprerience has been almost the inverse of that: I feel younger than I did twenty years ago (and people who've known me, or seen my old photos, say that I look younger), and somehow that makes those times seem even more distant. Maybe it's because, paradoxically enough, getting older has meant becoming more whole, and in some ways, simpler.

Well, there's also the fact that my undergraduate days are much further in the past for me than Sajid's are for him, or anyone else his age. What that means, for me, is that I really don't think much about them these days, so I don't dwell on how long ago they were. For me, those days were mainly a time of confusion and anger, so I have less reason to think about it than I do.

In any event, I just want to see him again. Maybe soon...Anything I can do to help the time pass without aging him, or me.