This month I’m happy to be participating in the Blogging A to Z challenge. I love a good blogging challenge and this one happens to mirror my current habits–write Monday through Saturday, chill on Sunday. So for today, I was overrun with ideas for A: Austin (where I am heading next weekend for VegFest), Alpine (the gorgeous little town on the edge of the Big Bend where I received my MA), Archetypes (one of the my favorite literary elements to discuss), Margaret Atwood (the best writer in the history of life), Avocados (the food I’ve grown to love after years of hate) . . . so many options!
Instead, I decided to talk about apathy, a crime of which I am certainly guilty. When my students come to me with their excuses for why they haven’t don’t their work/come to class, I usually tell them I don’t really need to hear the excuses. They interpret this as apathy, that I just don’t care. And in some cases I don’t because they are lying to me or have made a habit of lying to me. More often, I do care and want to help them, but I have set up rules in my syllabus to keep me from getting taken in by the liars and letting students scam grades they don’t deserve. It’s my protection from taking everything in my classroom too personally and being completely apathetic.
Another frustration I find in the classroom is my students’ apathy. It often seems that they care about nothing. They don’t read, they don’t watch movies, they don’t do anything that I can connect with–I often end up saying in frustration, “What is it you do care about?” because I can’t find anything other than texting in my class that they show any passion for. From a writing standpoint, I often have to tell my fiction students that their characters must want something (as Kurt Vonnegut says, even just a glass of water), that apathy is boring to read about. We want to read about people who want something, who feel something, even if it seems silly. At least it’s something.
In life, apathy is dangerous because now it’s so easy to say “I don’t care” or its eye rolling cousin, “Whatever.” There is too much in the world that threatens to mash our hearts that apathy becomes our protection. We can’t deal with the terrible things we see and hear, so we make the call not to care. Or, we select two or three things we care a great deal about and focus on those. I am guilty of that crime–my apathy extends to things not in my “wheel house,” so to speak. The problem then, as a parent, is how do I keep my children from the dangers of apathy while protecting them?
I don’t have an answer (as I get older I find the number of questions outweighs the answers); instead I have my instincts which tell me to keep it simple. We should not be apathetic to suffering. We should not be apathetic to joy. We should not be apathetic to making the world just a little bit better each day.
PS. Since I am blogging A to Z, any letter specific topics anyone wants to see?