Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Meaning of Serendipity

Yesterday was a very productive day. From 6 in the morning on I was moving in the right direction, marking things off the list, capitalizing on the minutes. It's hard work being that focused, but the reward is a good night's sleep, and I wanted it.

Seriously, remember being a missionary (or, for the rest of you: "Imagine being a missionary.")? Your time is consecrated so you're mildly obsessed with not wasting any of it. You're on your feet all day, in a perpetual rush, and any time when your body might rest—say, waiting for the bus—you instead work your mind, trying to memorize something or other, in my case, the dictionary. By the end of the day you're exhausted and you lay down on your mat and you fall asleep in 17 seconds and there's no worrying about dreams waking you or tossing waking you or anything. Did anyone ever have a bad night's sleep after a good day's missionary work?

That's what I was ready for, and I was ready for it at 9 on the clock. So as not to be troubled by a frenzied mind, I spent that last hour slowing down. I cleaned up and packed my bag for the morning. I turned the lights down low and sat by my bed and read Emerson. I emptied my memory bucket of whatever needed to be remembered for the next day by writing it all down. I breathed deeply, a little pranayama, if you will. I prayed. And then I jumped into bed, turned out the lights,

And proceeded to not fall asleep.

I did crossword puzzles on my Gameboy. I read about Shackleton's incredible voyage. I thought; I tried not to think. I got up and wrote an email. I got hungry (the very worst part of insomnia). I did more puzzles.

The point of going to bed at 10 is that I have to get up at 6 to be ready for class. I watched my clock tick away my 8 hours:

7, 6, 5, 4.

I fell asleep sometime after 3.

Did I mention that part of what made me so productive was the fact that Athens was covered in snow? The grade schools were cancelled, but not the university. Still, there wasn't much to leave home for after getting back from class. Kate and I had barely got there in the first place, despite 4-wheel drive, and the walk home had been, uh, slushy.

When the alarm went off at 6 I was too tired to be furious. I looked out the window at the sidewalk I had trudged home across the day before and imagined trudging it again in a few hours. It looked like the footprint-pocked slush had refrozen into icy, peaked, death. I grew crafty: I could cancel class. I'm the teacher, after all. I don't need the school's authority to call it off, and it being only 6, none of my students would be up yet—they'd wake in an hour or so and see my email and rejoice!

Wait, this sounded suspiciously like the promises I make to myself in the morning. If my brother were there he wouldn't have even bothered to point out the flaws in my groggy reasoning; he'd have just said in disgust, "You're not making any sense—go back to SLEEP."

I didn't care. I found a piece of paper and wrote on it in marker, "Kate, No class! See ya!" and hung it on the door so she wouldn't wonder where I was. I grabbed my lappy, logged into Blackboard, and wrote an email which said, "Hooray! We won't be having class today, so go back to sleep!" Once sent, it couldn't be rescinded. I pressed send before my waking mind could think better of it.

I ignored the feeling of guilt and lay down. As I began to drift, I dimly realized that both those messages might be misinterpreted to mean that the University, not just me, had cancelled classes. 20 people's days might take an odd turn because of me. Oh well.

This is the meaning of serendipity:

At 9 I awoke to the cheers of my roommates: Athens had declared a Level 3 snow emergency; the University was closed. Not only was my class completely justifiably cancelled, but the 4 hours of class I should've attended that afternoon were history. Even Institute was cancelled. All homework postponed.

A less lucky guy would've had insomnia and a snow emergency on a day he didn't have class anyway. He would've lost power or heat or realized he had nothing to eat.

I'm a lucky guy. I now will have had no reason to be at school (except one hour tomorrow morning) for 6 full days.

I spent the day doing absolutely nothing productive. I didn't shower. I didn't do homework. The power didn't go out. I made a leftovers omelette and ate it with toast and baked beans. I spent the afternoon doing a puzzle and listening to Billy Joel and the Grateful Dead. We ordered pizza for dinner and watched TV on DVD.

It's called "The Wizard's Observatory."
As is my style, I did it without looking at the picture.

Now, having squandered my time and created more to do tomorrow, I'm of course going to sleep like a baby.


The Hippo said...

i got up this morning and realized that I had to be in a training in the office in 10 minutes. i showered and dressed and got there in 20. it was really cold outside today and no time to dry my hair (which there is al ot of) so all morning i had cold hair which led to hot fever in the afternoon. had BBQ for lunch but they were out of fried okra. then when i got home the internet was busted and i had to fix it. nothing i am waiting for came in the mail either, so take your perfect day and stuff it. the only light i have left is that i now own "North to Alaska" with John Wayne and Fabian on DVD.

Jennifer said...

Well, I don't know what to say. Except that I giggled when you said that you laid down on your mat. I'm glad that you relished the day! Mmmm, relish...

Gillz said...

I loved this post. And that is the geekiest puzzle I've ever seen (Aside from my 3-D Millennium Falcon, but that was in Jr. High). Oddly enough, public schools in Rexburg were closed the same day for -10 degree weather. BYU-I never closes, ever. We almost hit five pedestrians on our way in. You'd think that them wearing no-traction brown Uggs would tip them off that huge trucks, 4WD notwithstanding, aren't going to be able to stop sliding on the roads either.

A truly beautiful experience: it's like you caused it to happen. You should take credit for that snow day.

Also, Billy Joel and Grateful Dead. Well played. Perfect snow day puzzle-piecing background music. I hope you listened to "Box of Rain" more than once and Joel's weird and cool "Pressure" song at least once.

Zach said...

I think all that bad stuff you wrote of happened to Steve.

Janssen said...

Bart always talks about the sleeping on his mission. Not a moment of insomnia in Korea.

Drew said...

For some reason reading this post made me a little emotional. I'm surprisingly a little teary. I guess it reminds me of similarly serendipitous events in my own life.

You really are the second luckiest guy in the world. Well done.

David Grover said...

Jon: North to Alaska=awesome.
Jen: I'd trade my bed for my mat any day or any week.
Gillz: "Pressure"=totally weird.
Zach: That's what he gets for not making us dinner yet.
Janssen: It's true. And I don't think had a moment of insomnia in England either.
Drew: Aww, that's so sweet. YOU STINK.

The Hippo said...

Man i could use some of that luck. David google the Air Race Classic.