Friday, February 07, 2014

On loving teaching

To the relief of my students, we put Plato to rest today. I like to finish up talking about him by talking a little bit about the speeches of Aristophanes and Socrates in the Symposium. Having talked a lot about how reason—and philosophy—can help us ascend to the world of the Forms and into the presence of the Good, it's nice to get a little discussion of love and how it can do the same thing.
We discuss Aristophanes because I find his speech beautiful and a good precursor for other discussions of the need for an other to complement and complete us. And, there's something so damned funny about the idea of eight-legged double-humans rolling around and angering the gods. (That's where Hedwig and the Angry Inch got it.)
Then we talk about Socrates' (Diotima's) account. I don't go into a great deal of detail, because we are doing a survey, but I hit the idea that all love is love of the Good as it is reflected in the object of love, that love begins with love of particular bodies and moves upward, and that all love is a longing for immortality. On that last point, we talk about the way that procreation is a hungering for immortality. And, then I talk about other ways to live on. Usually, I talk about living on through whatever influence I have on my students. 
And, today I told them that I love them. And, I do. It's a hard thing to say, because we so often take love to either be romantic love, or familial love, or the totally banal I-love-you-man non-emotion. We devalue the loves of friendship, I think.
After doing it for sixteen years, I still find teaching absolutely terrifying. I still get sick to my stomach every morning that I have to teach. I still don't know what to do in the minutes before lecture or discussion begins. I'm still as socially awkward in those moments as I am at a party. 
But, I love teaching. I'm not always sure I'm very good at it. But, I'm pretty damned lucky to get to discuss things I get excited about and other interesting ideas with groups of young women and men. And, as I told one class, they are as close to my children as I'm going to have. And, for all of that, I love them.

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