Tuesday, September 13, 2016

the "poor caryatid"

I found myself thinking of this the other day. I didn't much like any of the characters in "Stranger in a Strange Land," and I found aspects of the story creepy (though perhaps that was Heinlein's goal).

But I remember this, and was thinking of it enough to look up the passage:

"This poor little caryatid has fallen under the load. She’s a good girl—look at her face. Serious, unhappy at her failure, not blaming anyone, not even the gods…and still trying to shoulder her load, after she’s crumpled under it.

But she’s more than just good art denouncing bad art; she’s a symbol for every woman who ever shouldered a load too heavy. But not alone women—this symbol means every man and woman who ever sweated out life in uncomplaining fortitude until they crumpled under their loads. It’s courage…and victory.

Victory in defeat, there is none higher. She didn’t give up…she’s still trying to lift that stone after it has crushed her…she’s all the unsung heroes who couldn’t make it but never quit."

(Apparently this is inspired by an actual Rodin statue, though I can't quite make out the caryatid in that photo. I see her arm and hand and maybe her head, but I can't quite make out her position and where the stone has crushed her)

I dunno. It's probably too Rarity-on-her-fainting-couch for me to say I feel like that sometimes. But I kind of do. Part of it is the periodic feeling that I'm in a career-path that's in its twilight days (at least for how all of us have known higher ed): yes, MOOCs have pretty much collapsed under the weight of the false expectations they raised, but there does still seem to be thoughts floating around that either higher ed needs to be largely reduced to a few "prestige" schools where the elites will go, and everyone else can, I don't know, learn a trade (Just as college-for-all is useless, I'd argue that trade-school-for-all, or entrepreneurship-academies-for-all are fairly useless: any blanket solution is bad). Or that somehow MOOCs need to be revivified, and have ONE professor for 10,000 students and an army of underpaid graders. (And again, the whole Superstar image haunts me: I know I'd be one of those graders and I couldn't deal with it)

Part of it is just not having that spouse or kid or boyfriend or whoever around to kind of shove an emotional shim under me when I'm listing a little - that a lot of the emotional heavy-lifting or the salving of feelings, or even the "suck it up and be a woman about it" are things I have to do for myself.

And part of it is just feeling like I'm *good* but not quite as good as I could be, or as I want to be, or as the Brave New World of whatever academia will look like in another couple years will require....And part of it is the fact that I tend to be that "good girl" who sighs heavily and says, "Okay, I'll do it" when some responsibility comes up and everyone else looks uncomfortably at each other and one person protests that they JUST retired and you know, really, people shouldn't take on anything new within a year of retiring* and another person makes noises about how her daughter and son in law just *might* be expecting and you know, she needs time to be available for this hypothetical grandkid, and of course there's someone else who gets a pass from me because their health isn't very good.....and.

I dunno. Maybe the lesson is I need to be less of a "good girl" and more selfish, I don't know. Or maybe I need to learn how to slack a little better. Or something. But I am just tired and I can feel that stone across my shoulders, especially today.

(*I hope that dictum is still in place when I retire, by golly, but I bet I get pressured into doing EVERYTHING because "You don't have grandkids to worry about" or some darn thing. Then again, who knows if I'll ever be able to retire)

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

I should try to read that again. I was 19, just in a car crash, in hospital, when someone lent it to me. got about 20 pages, but couldn't focus...