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3600 Seconds
February 7, 2010 - 4:53pm

Still experiencing the afterglow of being in the presence of the transcendent artistry of Nina Stemme’s magnificent performance as Ariadne in Thursday night’s performance at the Met, I turn again to studying for the course. Hearing something like Stemme’s performance also, for me at least, produces a deep sadness: I will never do anything as well as she sang that role. Nonetheless, I must go on with my struggle to continue.

Today, Sunday, as I wait to head to my local to watch Super Bowl LXIV (my head says Colts, my heart wants the Saint -- I’ve never been to Indianapolis, but I find it hard to imagine I’d like it as much as New Orleans), I’ve decided to revive my fortunes in the course with one hour of studying.


I had planned to start this hour about two hours ago, but I had first to eat breakfast, vacuum my apartment, re-organize my closet, hear Tom Waits 1978 live performance of “On the Nickel” on the BBC’s “Old Gray Whistle Test,” read the latest of Tony Judt’s luminous memoirs in the New York Review of Books, bask in my relief and joy that my elder son was accepted into his dream high school, Beacon, answer some e-mails -- in short, anything but actually start studying. But now, with music switched from Van Morrison to some far less distracting Mozart horn concerti, I will...

Well, that was … well, I don’t know what that was: to be sure, I gave my full concentration to the text (by which I mean that, more often than not, I thought only about what I was reading) and I could see how it was building one formula on top of another as it explained light and its relationship to everything from pollution to sun tans.

Yet, I did not grasp it in the same way I would have grasped an hour’s worth of study of Plato’s Euthyphro. There are many reasons for this, most so obvious I need hardly recount them, but the main one, at least for today’s reading, is that it lacked a narrative.

Narrative aside, the main problem is that one hour is a drop in the ocean. If I was taking “Energy and the Environment” as a normal student, it would be one of four courses. I do not remember exactly how much studying I did for each course when I was an undergrad, but I’m certain that it would have been, over the course of three days, far more than 3600 seconds. I console myself that it is a necessary start, but I cannot delude myself into thinking that it is remotely close to being sufficient.


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