Of Constancy

The Peripatetic sage does not exempt himself totally from perturbations of mind, but he moderates them.
montaigne, “of constancy”

Emeritus marketing professor Theodore Leavitt lectured his students that “the reason the train industry could not compete with the automobile industry was because it failed to recognize that it was not in the railroad industry but in the transportation industry.” But how can you expect the train industry to forgo its iron beginnings? The heavier the rails, the faster the train, that was how it worked then. It’s the opposite thought to current-day featherweight travel. Fiberglass and superlight aluminum—that’s the domain of the transportation industry. The train industry knows what it’s good at. Ruts. Lines. Permanence.

An online, less-reputable-than-the-OED etymology website says that “rut,” meaning “narrow track worn or cut in the ground,” was first used in the 1570s, probably taken from the Middle English word for route. The oed finds this “improbable.” But perhaps it is the oed that is in a rut.

Every day I wake up at 6:55. I make my kids’ lunch: pepperoni, rice, yogurt, grapes, pretzels, carrots, juice. I eat an English muffin, then check Facebook, Gmail, work e-mail. Then I check work e-mail, Gmail, Facebook. I grade student-essay one, check e-mail, essay two, check Gmail, essay three, Facebook, essay four. I hold office hours. I tell students that their Spanish courses will fulfill their cultural understanding block. I teach. I tell students that the difference between dissociation and distance in a narrator is how willing the narrator is to be obviously broken. It is better to be broken. You can see yourself better, like when an arm breaks through the skin and for the first time ever you see your inside, now out.

I come home. I make dinner—tacos. I have a glass of wine. I watch a show called tv. I go to bed at 10:00. I wake up at 6:55.

I am in a rut, but it’s okay because I’m a lover of routine. No disrespect to the oed, but I love my route. A well-worn route is a rut. A well-worn routine is a life capable of heavy lifting. You can do the work of a thousand boxcars. You are iron track, trains running along the back of you. A rut-lover is a conveyer of speed. My life is going so quickly. My rails are on fire….

Posted in Covers.