"Heavenish" is the awkward word that came to mind as I was strolling around the sun-kissed campus of Pomona College during Parents Weekend earlier this month.
And it took me a bit of trial and error to even get to that.
"Heavenly" seemed wrong—an adjective better suited to cake. "Paradisaical" is not in the vernacular. I rolled "Edenlike" around in mind, but that implied a certain innocence belied by so many skateboards and smart phones at the California college, an hour east of Los Angles.
Perfect weather. Temperatures in the 70s, but dry. It took me days to find a cloud. A botanist's dream of palms and plants and unusual trees—at least unusual by my admittedly narrow Midwestern standards.
My kid wore shorts, oxford shirts and flip flops and padded here and there, never in a particular hurry. He seemed to have one class a day, James Joyce and French and economics and ... I kid you not ... bowling. A different parent might have blanched a bit at the thought of going to college to learn to bowl, but they make students take phys-ed at Pomona —mens sana in corpore sano*—and I can't say I disagree. You've got your body for your entire life; might as well learn to take care of it.
None of it seemed particularly difficult, but then my kid tells me that, after the gladiatorial blood academic sport that was high school, college is a breeze, so far. Not exactly preparing him for the tooth and claw of the business world, perhaps, but as he points out, there's law school for that, and law school is plenty hard, and no reason why he shouldn't ramp up slowly.
Life serves up plenty of bad stuff; if it starts offering ambrosia, well, grab a spoon and enjoy.
After all, he is going to school, and if my pondering over which shade of the empyrean to cast Pomona is worth considering (and I'm not sure it is, but it's too late now. Every ... goddamn ... day) then it's worth pausing over the word "school."
From the Greek, 'skholḗ," which means "leisure." And if you're wondering how a word that meant, in essence, "spare time," came to mean the place where exactly the opposite is true, for most, therein lies the tale. Because in ancient Greece, a child was either a slave or working a shop or picking the fields or, if you were very, very fortunate, and and if your pateras was rich, and you had a lot of skholḗ on your hands, you were expected to edify your mind, with lectures and readings and such (and your body, with running and wrestling and such, but no bowling). Eventually the place where those lectures absorbing the spare time of well-to-do kids took place became known as "schools" and you can figure out the rest from there.
|View out my kid's dorm window|
Meanwhile, the etymology of "school" is a reminder that leisure is for learning, in my view, and that a life well spent is a life of constant education. In the perpetual mourning over the decline of journalism, which spiked again this week with a dozen newspaper colleagues taking the buy-out and leaving, I have to remind myself, through gritted teeth, that it was still a good choice to go into a profession where, basically, you go to school full time, wandering about, poking your nose into unusual places, reading engaging stuff, and regularly exploring what you're interested in, and then trying to tell people about it. Or at least I do; I understand that I'm lucky too, in that regard, and some journalists are laying out the agate high school sports scores or working in the back of take-out restaurants. It took a lot of work to get here, and I'm inclined to stay until they pry my fingers off the doorjamb, which should be any minute now. Until then, this job is a good thing, and suited to my personality. Now if only the setting were warmer. And the business model a little more sure. And colleagues not departing at such a clip.
* "a sound mind in a sound body"