I’ve been teaching The Canterbury Tales this week. We began with the Prologue in which Chaucer describes the different travelers on the pilgrimage to Canterbury. Chaucer tells both the virtues and the faults of these people. So, I created a table with columns for the characters’ names and rows denoting the seven deadly sins and the seven cardinal virtues. One of the virtues is fortitude. I certainly don’t use this word on a daily basis, but after two weeks of struggling with procrastination, mild “It’s-after-the-holidays-and-I’m-alone-again” depression, fortitude became meaningful to me. It means “never giving up” or if you want the dictionary definition–courage in pain or adversity.
It’s not that I was actually dealing with physical pain or even situations at school that were adverse. It’s that I was struggling against one of the other most meaningful terms I’ve encountered in my Chaucer teaching–sloth. Sloth is the deadly sin that means laziness. “A reluctance to work.” Yep, that was certainly me for two weeks! Had I used my time more wisely, I could have written a few papers in two weeks. I truly had the free time to do it.
Last weekend was the last straw. I kicked slothfulness in the butt! All my prep work for this week was finished by Friday morning, and I wrote another paper Saturday and Sunday. I sent that paper off, after lots of revision, on Wednesday. And, my week has been less stressful since I’d so carefully planned the weekend before.
So, back to fortitude. I could have given up on writing papers, preparing Chaucer so closely, and being meticulous about my writing. But, I didn’t. I could still give up on finishing my Masters and being the best teacher I can be. But, I won’t. Fortitude will overcome slothfulness every time. All it takes is recognition of the problem, prayer, and active movement in the forward direction. Even if it’s only a little movement, like reading one article! : )
On another note, due to my fortitude while working on a paper, I fell in love with an 82-year-old man named Robert Butler. This guy is amazing! He is a pioneer in geriatrics (medical care for the elderly), started the nation’s first geriatric division at a medical school in New York, and was one of the first to use the term “ageism” and predict the ginormous age wave that is hitting our nation as I type. “Every day, 12,000 boomers turn 62” (Megan McIntyre, Media Takes: On Aging). Here is a video in which Butler discusses issues facing our nation concerning the elderly. This man doesn’t sound a bit over 50, to me. :) Enjoy!