A new school year is upon us. For teachers as well as students, new school years can feel a lot like Mondays. And while it’s easy to feel overshadowed by the dark side of a Monday, in reality Mondays are both light and dark. Mondays are double-edged swords.
This week my eleven-year old son discovered on Netflix the old tv show Lost. I know that Lost was an “It” show when it aired from 2004 to 2010, and though it looks well made and I see the appeal of it I’ve only ever watched a few hours’ worth of the first season. My boy, on the other hand, modern as he is, after viewing four of seven episodes in today’s opening salvo declared that he will devour the whole series – all 121 episodes. (Given his track record, I am inclined to believe he will.)
One aspect of the show’s appeal is suggested by the title of the first season’s third episode: “Tabula Rasa.” Blank slate. The premise of Lost is that an airplane crashes on a tropical island and the survivors must work together to elucidate its many mysteries and, they hope, orchestrate their own rescue. One of the survivors, we come to learn, is a criminal. Another is a drug addict. And so on. In other words, we have a group of human beings with skeletons in their closets, with emotional baggage, with reasons to embrace the opportunity to begin a new life on this apparently deserted island. Maybe their pasts can be forgotten. Maybe they can forge new identities.
With this in mind, consider the following dialogue. Kate is the aforementioned criminal. Jack is a sympathetic doctor. Here Kate seems to be ready to share with Jack some of the darkness of her past:
KATE: I want to tell you what I did – why he was after me.
JACK: I don’t want to know. It doesn’t matter, Kate, who we were – what we did before this, before the crash. It doesn’t really… 3 days ago we all died. We should all be able to start over.
Now I know that some people – especially, in my experience, athletes and entertainers under the influence of tv interviews – say they have no regrets and if they could do it all again they wouldn’t change a thing. Sometimes I wonder if they mean this literally or only mean to express gratitude and/or confidence. In any case, who doesn’t sometimes feel overshadowed by a Monday, burdened by the unknown looming just ahead?
Isn’t that why Bob Geldof and the other Boomtown Rats don’t like Mondays?
Isn’t that why Garfield hates them?
On the flip side, who doesn’t yearn for a new beginning, one with no skeletons, no baggage, no regrets? All right, Mondays aren’t that powerful – but each one is a new beginning, an opportunity not to be wasted.
I often think that a Monday (along with however much of the preceding Sunday has been overshadowed by it) is a sort of dress rehearsal for death. It feels like the end. You can practically hear the clock ticking. You can’t escape. Existential crisis! My opinion, as opposed to my reflexive mood, is that this is good. I’m supposed to remember my death. If I don’t remember it, I might not live well, might not live fully, might become too self-centered. That, in my opinion, is a kind of hell.
The dark side of Mondays (and new school years and anything worthy of dread) says: death is near. The bright side says: so is new life.
I intend to listen to both voices. “Live each day as if it is your last. One of these days it will be.” AND “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”
I intend to keep in mind that my students might feel overshadowed by Mondays and new school years and other forces unseen by me. With compassion, I hope, I can point them to the value of double-edged swords such as Mondays.
Mondays make me feel lost, yes, often. But with a bit of a mind flip they can also make me feel found. To paraphrase Jack from Lost:
2 days or 2 months ago… we all died. We should be able to start over.
Okay, skeptical baby?
(Photo by: Christine Boose)