After a semester off, I purposely came back for another round of more grueling mental work. Finally, after much agony, I decided to enroll in my third graduate class in writing.
I’m usually decisive, but each semester, I battle over whether I should take another class. And then I try to analyze if the struggle proves that it’s just too much trouble and I should get out now. Or maybe because it’s the harder thing I should do it, with the accomplishment being sweeter because of the effort.
How do you make decisions? When do you know that it’s time to give something up? When do you keep pushing harder?
The class this time is Rhetoric. I can’t even say it’ll help me become a better writer; there will be no writing prompts or assignments in creative writing. The class is purely academic, a fact which is terrifying. At the end, a 20-page footnoted research paper is due. I haven’t done anything like that since college — many decades ago. So why in the world did I sign up?
For one thing, I’m hoping that just attempting the work will help keep dementia at bay for a few more years. While I doubt I’ll ever attain the goal of getting a degree, just in case, it gets me one step closer and keeps me moving in that direction. And it’s a short-term commitment. I can handle anything for two months, right?
But probably the biggest positive is that it keeps me sharp in finding new and relevant ways to express my faith to my classmates in a secular context. Over the few classes I’ve had with them, I’ve really come to love them. I’m being challenged and seeing how difficult it is to take a stand for Christ in the real world. I’ve lived in my Christian bubble world for a long time.
My biggest concern is how the homework will cut into my limited time with Steve. It’s tricky to juggle even more activities in an already-full schedule, especially when it intensifies my jealousy over my husband being retired. (There, I admitted it. I’m jealous.)
After listing the pros and cons, I thought of the cost if I don’t succeed in this class. That’s actually what made me decide to do it. The class is a free perk that comes with working at a university, and I can always drop it if it gets out of hand. So the major downside (which is probably an upside) seems to be taxing my dormant brain cells.
We started the class a week ago by posting a few paragraphs on an online forum about what comes to mind when we hear the term rhetoric. I listed pretentious politicians who puff up their speeches with highfalutin words devoid of significance; advertisers who prey on gullible people and hide behind words that conceal the truth; and sarcastic interrogators whose rhetorical questions offer the equivalent of a demeaning “Duh.”
Then I added something about the Three Musketeers: Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. Their names are not to be confused with the art of persuasion through the use of ethos (character), pathos (feeling), or logos (words).
No one seemed amused. I guess my attempt at humor wasn’t true rhetoric, since it was an ineffective use of language. Is there any hope for me in this class?