This was recommended to me when I was reflecting on my life as a PhD student and academic teacher and I have decided to share it:

“This is the true joy in life: The being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. The being a force of nature, instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die – for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” to me; it is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

George Bernard Shaw


4 thoughts on “Clods

  1. Today, the day before my viva, instead of staying in the house and desperately rereading my conclusions, I went to the Shemoni Etzeret service at Garnethill Synagogue (yes, I’m Jewish, and I have my viva on Simchas Torah. Not great, but I am not so orthodox that I could really say anything…I don’t always go to the synagogue on that day).
    I was just going to watch and listen to the service, because it all takes place in Hebrew and it doesn’t mean much to me. But a lovely woman who became my friend when I was living here in Glasgow, writing-up, earlier this year, said ‘oh, if it’s your viva tomorrow, you should go and get a prayerbook, and go and pray! – it doesn’t matter whereabouts you look in the book, any of it will be fine.’ And I found some really, really relevant parts in the prayerbook, amazingly. Part of which resonates very strongly with GBS above, definitely a luminary, and something I aspire to be now!

    “God, the Lord over all works, blessed is he, and ever to be blessed by the mouth of everything that hath breath. His greatness and goodness fill the universe; knowledge and understanding surround him.

    The luminaries are good which our God hath created: he formed them with knowledge, understanding and discernment; he gave them might and power to rule in the midst of the world. They are full of lustre, and they radiate brightness : beautiful is their lustre throughout all the world. They rejoice in their going forth, and are glad in their
    returning; they perform with awe the will of their Master. Glory and honour they render unto his name, exultation and rejoicing at the remembrance of his sovereignty.”

    (From the Singer translation of the authorized prayer book, service for Tabernacles (Succoth/Shemini Etzeret)).

    This is what GBS was talking about, I think. So, I will be going into my viva, radiating brightness, full of knowledge, understanding, and discernment, aiming to be a real luminary. And it’s good to know that the Jewish God is lord over all works (including my thesis) and that as long as I’m close to God, then I’ll be close to the knowledge and understanding which surrounds her. [sic].

  2. ” I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

    it also makes me think of my aunt, the late artist Hannah Frank (1908-2008).
    She always said that she wanted to, in the words of Longfellow, ‘leave footsteps on the sands of time’ and the pen name she chose was ‘Al Aaraaf’. This was both the name of a star which had been discovered by the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, and the name of an epic poem by Edgar Allen Poe. Poe explained that Al Aaraaf ‘shone brighter than Jupiter and Venus for a few days, and was then never seen again’.

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