Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Days of Network Outages and Meetings

Yesterday, I got to work to find that our computer network was down.  We have the kind of system where we access programs like Microsoft Word through the network--so, even documents on a thumb drive were not accessible to me.  And of course, the Internet wasn't available.

Oddly, although I couldn't get to my new e-mail, I could access Outlook and decide what to do with old e-mails.  Most, of course, need to be deleted.  For those I want to keep, I was able to put them into the files I've created.

The network was down for almost half my work day.  What to do after e-mail management?  I went through faculty files to see when everyone's annual review is due.  I took out the files of those who won't be teaching this term.

I needed some room in the file cabinet where old files are stored, so I looked through some old files.  When I moved into the office, I decided not to tackle that file cabinet immediately, so I found a lot of old EMS tests--a quick check with our Program Chair let me know that there's no reason to keep them.  Out they went and in went the old files.

In some ways, yesterday morning was peaceful, even if I couldn't tackle the tasks that I had planned.  I thought about my former colleagues who were sitting under fluorescent lights in a windowless, echoey room in their quarterly meeting--I was glad to be sitting in my quiet office, sipping tea and looking at the clouds scoot across the sky.

I realized how few books I have in my office.  I wished that I had brought my old Poets and Writers to the office--but who knew that the network would be out? I thought of the poetry prompt books on my shelf at home.  I wanted to write a poem, but I couldn't remember a single idea I'd ever had.

Eventually, the network came back to us.  Later in the day, I remembered a poem idea that weaves together the rivers of Babylon, both the ancient text from the Psalms and the reggae song.

Yesterday evening, I had a chat with a friend from my old school, and I was even more grateful for my quiet morning which was not spent hearing about ACICS woes and numbers that weren't where they needed to be. 

I finished the day by finishing our watching of Lonesome Dove.  That last segment is a tearjerker.  I understand why it is faithful to the characters and the narrative arc--but part of me wishes for more happiness for more characters.

But maybe I should return to the lessons of yesterday morning--contentment can be found in many containers.  For the most part, those characters in Lonesome Dove have stayed true to themselves--which may not have brought them happiness, and certainly not the traditional happy endings, but has brought them a measure of peace that they wouldn't have had otherwise.

I could tie all of these strands together into a larger meditation about work and our modern lives--or could I?  Some of the winds buffeting the ships of higher education may seem just as random or senseless as the circumstances that lead to much of the death in Lonesome Dove.  And yet we must go on towards a future that we cannot see in full.

I've thought of higher ed in terms of cathedral building (for an example, see this recent post).  But maybe we are like those Lonesome Dove cowboys on the last cattle drive.  I have run out of time for this morning's writing--so let the pondering begin.

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