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Vanity and vexation

Last week our dean sent us a list of this year’s seniors so we could begin considering who will win our journalism/mass communication awards at commencement this May.

Except for helping them with job application cover letters and résumés, I haven’t worked with these students for two or three years. That’s because the courses I teach are almost exclusively for first- and second-semester students. This year’s seniors are in many ways different people from when I last worked with them. In fact, they’ve grown so much and done so much since their first year that they are familiar strangers. It’s true that a few of them stop by my office to chat every now and again, but the students who did that early in their years here stop in different offices now to talk to different professors. For the most part, as the Teacher in Ecclesiastes says, “There is no remembrance of former things.”

And so the second semester starts. Tomorrow or Tuesday I’ll read the list of seniors again and begin identifying the people who deserve the awards, even though many of them already have graduated from my obscure corner of the academic galaxy. I’m probably wallowing here in what exemplifies another observation from the Teacher: “All is vanity and vexation of spirit.” And this mood usually passes quickly as the semester starts at its usual hectic pace. But on a Sunday morning, my third cup of coffee sitting on my desk, this is how it feels the day before it all begins again.

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Wish I'd Said It

Nota bene: “Fear has governed my life, if I think about it. ... I always feel like I’m not good enough for some reason. I wish that wasn’t the case, but left to my own devices, that voice starts speaking up.” – Trent Reznor

“I hate to say this, but not many people care what you do. They care about what you do as much as you care about what they do. Think about it. Just exactly that much. You are not the center of the universe.” — Laurie Anderson

"The path's not yours till you've gone it alone a time." – William Carlos Williams

“Filling this empty space constitutes my identity.” – Twyla Tharp

"My definition of peace is having no noise in my head." – Eric Clapton

"The wreckage of the sky serves to confirm us in delicious error." – John Ashbery

"We are all here by the grace of the big bang. We are all literally the stuff of the stars." – Dwight Owsley

"For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream." – Vincent van Gogh

"It is only with the heart that one can see right; what is essential is invisible to the eye." — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"Forget about being a perfectionist, because entropy always wins out in the end." – Darren Kaufman.

"Impermanence. Impermanence. Impermanence." – Garry Shandling

"Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion." – Mark Twain

"There is no realm wherein we have the truth." – Gordon Lish

"Actual life is full of false clues and sign-posts that lead nowhere." – E.M. Forster

“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe." – Frank Zappa

“I try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.” – Elmore Leonard

“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” – Voltaire

• Journal title and subtitle: Ian Hunter, “Man Overboard”

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