Someone has discourteously clipped—no, smashed—the sideview mirror on your car. You call the dealer and arrange to have a new one put on. A week later, when you maneuver your mirrorless car through rush-hour traffic, 30 minutes up the highway because all dealerships are in the suburbs, hunching even within the car because you live in Minnesota and the windchill is like -24, the service guy takes a quick survey, says, “yep, they really took your mirror off, didn’t they?” then tells you they’ll have to order the part—though you made the appointment a week ago; did they not believe you when you said you needed a new mirror?—and can you come back later in the week?
You’re wedging your way off the plane, yanking your suitcase made unwieldy with Christmas presents, pacing impatiently for the tram to the next concourse for your connecting flight, then loping, suitcase dragging, down to the gate, only to find it locked—though it’s still a good 15 minutes before the scheduled take-off time. Your sister is texting you from inside the plane that despite her pleas they wouldn’t save your seat; indeed, they had oversold the flight and now someone is sitting in your seat, your nonrefundable upgraded seat, moreover, and you must make your way with the other irate latecomers to the customer service desk, where you will be informed that you can get on the next flight to San Diego: in eight hours.
It’s the end of the semester. Between trips to the car dealership for your new mirror you grade one, then two, then three sets of papers, hit “submit” on the final grades while zipping up your suitcase and barrel into holiday travel. But now, having bid goodbye to family and settled back at home, you turn with a grateful sigh to your writing. Dear old blog, patiently sitting, lonely and neglected since—what? can that be? September 22.
Or: it’s nearing what should be the end of the semester, but there was never a beginning. Instead, September saw strikes launched against crippling austerity measures calling for massive layoffs, and each day, then week, then month, you watch anxiously as the university remains closed, classes are not held, your own and your students’ and your colleagues’ lives put on hold as you wait.
When you find yourself in these decidedly unsoulful (though perhaps soul-making) situations, call upon this time-honored Greek phrase, indispensable for minor irritants and major setbacks alike: τι να κάνουμε (ti na kanoume).
“What can we do?”
Or, to translate it into a most familiar English phrase: “Nothing to be done.”
Yet, as I look back, there was a little something to be done. In the midst of my tsunami of a semester and my University of Athens colleague’s locked-out campus and absence of a semester, we managed to get this little joint creation out into the world: a special issue of the journal Synthesis on the subject Hellenism Unbound
Those of you curious about literary and historical scholarship on the centuries-long international love affair with Things Greek (aka Hellenism) may find it intellectually stimulating, a good brain-dip. It’s the academic buttressing of my blog material, you might say.
Here’s to a soulful new year for us all. Thanks for reading. I hope you’ll stick around.
Καλή χρονιά και Χρόνια πολλά!