I am currently slugging through what I hope are the last few chapters of a book on Aristotle and it is not easy going. Although writing has always been something I love–crafting sentences, considering the nuances of words, playing with metaphors and images–it is also one of the most difficult things my job and career demand of me.
This week, though, as summer comes to an end and the pressure to make significant progress has increasingly taken a toll on my psychological well-being, I was released from my self-imposed obsession with the minutia of Aristotle scholarship by two moments, one involving Hannah, the other, Chloe.
Yesterday, I was particularly frustrated as I emerged from my basement office after a day of writing and torment. The effects of it must have written on my face, because when Hannah saw me, she said, “Daddy, why are you mad?” When I told her I wasn’t mad, just thinking about my writing, she said, “Daddy, I missed you when you were at work. I love you; you’re my best Daddy. Do you want to sit with me and play?” It was a great gift, a reminder that forced things into perspective.
Heraclitus put it best: “A lifetime is a child playing … the kingdom belongs to a child” (fr. 52).
The other moment was also very touching. I often bring Hannah and Chloe to the Penn State library when I need to pick up something. They love to run through the stacks of books and play on the ancient elevator with the gate in front of the door. We were in a corner of the basement where the books on Ancient Greek philosophy are and I noticed my book, The Ethics of Ontology, sitting on the shelf. (Shockingly, it was not checked out!)
I picked up the book and asked Chloe if she could read the name on it. She was able to identify some letters and ultimately came to the surprising conclusion that the name on it was that of her very own Dad. “Oh Daddy,” she exclaimed, falling into me with a huge hug, “you wrote that book all by yourself?!? I am so proud of you! That’s great! And how did it get in the library?” When I explained that they bought it from the publisher, she said, “They bought it! I can’t believe it. Your book is in the library.”
Her pride and excitement were so affirming and genuine that I immediately felt the years of work that went into the writing of that book–and this one–come suddenly into poignant focus: this moment made it all worthwhile.