Papers and Proust

The second summer term has ended, thank goodness.  Paper writing during the summer months is harder than suffering through the three-hour premiere of Bachelor Pad on ABC.  I really believe that.

I recognize that my first-world sense of “suffering” is little more than a mosquito bite in the broad scheme of things, but you certainly have to give a little (or a lot) of yourself when you sit down to write a paper…or watch Bachelor(ette) rejects vie for more media attention.

Related to this “lightweight” sense of suffering: Alain de Botton, who wrote the book (that hasn’t left my bedside for the past two years) How Proust Can Change Your Life, helped me see what Proust would say about “suffering successfully,” a concept I’ve been thinking about a lot in light of graduate school.  And that’s what paper writing (or any other tough project) is, isn’t it?  Suffering through the work (and, at times, enjoying it) with the hope that you will come out successful?

Proust sees it a little differently.  Loveable Marcel Proust, who spent most of his adult life curled up in bed writing In Search of Lost Time, saw suffering successfully like this:

Infirmity alone makes us take notice and learn, and enables us to analyse processes which we would otherwise know nothing about.  A man who falls straight into bed every night, and ceases to live until the moment when he wakes and rises, will surely never dream of making, not necessarily great discoveries, but even minor observations about sleep.  He scarcely knows that he is asleep.  A little insomnia is not without its value in making us appreciate sleep, in throwing a ray of light upon that darkness.  (qtd. in de Botton, 66)

Translation for me: People who harbor no diffidence with their writing probably don’t appreciate it as much as those of us who labor over it.  Proust affirms my experience.  And probably affirms yours, too.

Although that does not mean I’ll be finishing Swann’s Way anytime soon.

(I used BJ’s “Blue Window” picture here because I imagine myself bustin’ out of that little clay house and taking a vacation…for the next three days, at least.)