Jun 10, 2020

HERE'S WHAT I WROTE...

I am finally one of the one percent, but it isn't the one percent I had hoped for.

Hello.

My name is Coni Rich, PLS class of 1989. I live in Granger, IN (about ten minutes from campus), and I am presently retired and undergoing dialysis treatment while waiting, hoping, and praying for a kidney transplant.

The one percent reference is to my immune status and how I fall into the category of people for whom the coronavirus will be deadly if contracted. Under normal circumstances, dialysis treatment is invasive, scary, uncomfortable, and confining. With the virus in play, however, we now don protective gear and then diligently try to avoid any/all human contact for the foreseeable future.

My fellow PLS alums, I'm sure, have turned to serious contemplation of the larger themes of life and are relying on their close reading of significant texts to help them navigate these waters.

Me?

I turn, as I always did, to fiction.

My first reaction was to devour the stack of novels checked out of the library, and then I started scouring the shelves of my apartment for favorites from years gone by. I re-read a few and discovered others that were never read, and happily gathered several that had been long forgotten.

I've spent the better part of thirty years feeling very embarrassed that I cannot adequately quote, remember, or explain Kierkegaard or Milton or Plato or Locke. And every year I promise myself that I will return to the texts and "learn" them once and for all. 

But it occurs to me that "learning" them and actually "living" them...especially during a time of unprecedented chaos...just might be one and the same. 

Life now (for me, anyway) is a constant contemplation of love and hate, of health and sickness, of control and surrender. It's mostly, though, a contemplation of faith. There's humility and sacrifice and fear to be sure, but underlying it all is a sense of calm that is based upon this rock-solid foundation of the "something" that is in all of those books on my shelf -- both fiction and non-fiction alike. There's something very comforting in the fact that far greater minds than mine have written and read these questions and answers for centuries. And, fortunately for me, they are as present in the novel as they are in the essay. 

I suppose the literary purist would demand that I qualify the TYPE of novel that brings insight, but even a lighthearted book that brings nothing but escape has value to me at the moment.

Maybe I learned more than I realized?

My own writing is casual and about the daily life of a portly spinster who loves needlework, but in my own way, I think I am still trying to answer the same questions I did so long ago. My blog might not address an existential crisis in society or examine the real meaning of the greater good, but it does connect me to like-minded souls. And that connection is life-changing and life-saving, especially while in quarantine.

Thanks to this project, I've just spent a few minutes looking at my "PLS" shelves, and pulled my dog-eared copy of Don Quixote. I remember the absolute joy it brought me so very long ago. It will be interesting to see what the passing years have added to my reading of it, and how life has influenced what I will take away from the pages this time.

May God bless and keep you all during this time. Thank you for the opportunity to contribute, and for reminding me how fortunate I am to be part of the PLS family.
 


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27 comments:

  1. Oh Connie, you make me proud - this is wonderful. You are the very best of us!

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  2. Coni, this essay of yours is incredible. You kept it real, you kept it simple, and you kept it true to you. And it grabbed me from the start.

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  3. You hit the nail on the head....again. thanks, Coni.

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  4. Coni,

    I read what you wrote, and tried to read the other one, but it seemed way too annoying. Your essay is heartfelt, very well written, and completely relatable. The other one seemed too much like a class paper.

    Your voice is very heartfelt and important. Please keep writing.

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  5. My dear, do not apologize. The very best writers have a keen understanding of human nature. And, that is where the wonder lies. Enjoy.

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  6. Wow! That is a great contribution to the cause!

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  7. You know what makes your writing wonderful? You put yourself into the writing. I love your essay!

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  8. Brava !! Heartfelt and succinct, not to mention genuinely
    friendship-laden. Many hugs are headed your way. Your phrase
    about Kierkegaard, Milton, Plato,and Locke et al.... so true,
    so true. That is why they are immortal; their words repeat
    themselves in actuality for later generations. The more things change, the more they remain the same. Thank you for
    that wonderful and insightful essay, Connie dear.

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  9. Coni, you are always a pleasure to read, even when you write about painful things. I love you for your humanity, your humour and your grace. I don't know what the other writer is trying to say; is it that he's a happy groundhog?

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  10. I just read this now as I am locking up for the night and heading to bed. You have given me thoughts for sweet dreams and a sense of peace.

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  11. I love it! It came from the heart - best because of that.

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  12. I definitely think you should contribute--we are all important! Our minister, years ago introduced us to the readings of Fransis Scheaffer, his wife Edith Schaeffer wrote a book "The Tapestry" in it she says our lives are like the threads in a tapestry, some long and strong, others short, etc. but we are all needed to complete the picture.

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  13. I'm sure you absorbed more than you realised - it is only in later life when things seem to be remembered at the perfect time. I'm half way through the Aeneid - Sister Veronica would be so proud of me. What was daunting back then has become more enjoyable, same to be said of Shakespeare. I still am not a Jane Austen fan but I get it now.
    Maybe it is time to pounce on Don Quixote - I have never read it at all.
    Hang in there and enjoy your reading. xx

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  14. Well. Based on these 2 essays, I know who I'd rather be quarantined with. You win by a mile.

    I tried to read the other essay. Really, I did, several times in fact. Last night and again just now. As I tried, every time, I started hearing "blah, blah, blah" which then transformed into the "voices" used for all adults in Charlie Brown shows. Pretentious and trying too hard are my thoughts on it. Your essay was readable, understandable, and relatable. Then again, math and science were my preferred courses in school and I haven't read fiction in years, so what do I know??

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  15. Beautifully written!!! You are such a gift to us Coni. Thank you.

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  16. Perfect! Thank you for sharing.

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  17. You graduated with your humanity intact. Celebrate that, and let the ones who want to flaunt their "education" get on with it; we prefer your style, any day!

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  18. Brava! Thank you for sharing with us.

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  19. Here in my little corner of London I really enjoy reading your posts. I always refer to you to my family as 'that woman who writes like Nora Ephron but about embroidery'. There could be no higher praise from me. I did a PhD almost 30 years ago but have spent the last 22 years at home raising my three children and supporting my late mum with her dementia, so I know that thing about feeling that you haven't used/absorbed your education. Your essay shows that such feelings are for the birds - you write wonderfully about important things. Best wishes, Joan

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  20. Dear Coni,
    I don’t recall how I stumbled across your blog a few months ago but it has become something that I look forward to reading – even have a special bookmark on my browser! I second all the kind comments from others and would like to add just a few of my own. I have asked myself why I continue to read your blog; I don’t know you, nor do I share your challenges or pastimes. The answer is simple; you are real and not afraid to let others know it and reading about how you respond to your life gives me some glimpses of how I want to respond to my own. I have my own challenges that I am tired of dealing with yet ignoring them could be life threatening. I want the grace and determination I see in you to keep on keepin’ on. Even your postings with no or few words bring a sense of reassurance that I am not alone. As for your essay, which is “pure Coni” … I had no idea what “PLS” stood for, so did a bit of research. This is what I found – the opening paragraph of the major from Notre Dame. The emphasis (CAPS) is mine but the writing speaks to how I see your blog – you have created a community of strangers (and, likely some friends!) who appreciate the other attributes (in CAPS) that you share with us. Clearly, you are a PLS success story.

    Hugs,
    Susan

    What is The Program of Liberal Studies?
    PLS is not just a major. It’s a COMMUNITY. In seminars guided by some of the most influential thinkers of the last three millennia of Western history and in tutorials spanning the arts, history, literature, natural science, philosophy, politics, and theology, we continue a conversation about what it means to be human. In the tradition of the liberal arts, we READ WIDELY, THINK RIGOROUSLY, WRITE PERSUASIVELY, COMMUNICATE CLEARLY, ARGUE CIVILLY, AND LIVE FREELY. If you want your university education to change your life, join us!

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