April 20 Tagore and Final Exams

Monday,  April 20   Rabindranath Tagore # 2   {Gitanjali}

“When Thou commandest me to sing  .  .  .  . ”

Finals week, fatigue, worries and self-doubt.  Finals week, courage, the joy of intellectual engagement.   Final exams reminded me of Tagore’s great poem which often reminds me of the courage at the heart of students encountering their university.

We are a university, where people listen, take each other seriously.  Teachers listen to students.   When I taught full-time, some students told me one day that I was most scary when one of them would say something and I would turn around and write her/his words on the board, circle one word then turn around and ask: “Why did you choose that word?”

Teachers do that:  listen for the voice, call it forth; expect respect for words.   Not only teachers though.  Universities call on students to listen to each other, to expect meaning from each other.     Administrative assistants,  staff in the registrar’s office, nurse practitioners in the student wellness center,  campus security officers, coaches;  lots of listening.  On good days, each of us knows that.  And on hard days, maybe one of our peers will notice our distress and ask how we are doing, and listen to our story. These days many of our stories are tales of fear and fatigue; pretty much everything takes longer, our futures are deeply uncertain.  Perhaps that is what led me back to Tagore’s Gitanjali #2.  Rabindranath Tagore writes of God expecting a song from human beings, thrilling us by sacred attention.

Best to read the poem out loud, with pauses.

Have a blest day, perhaps even with three good surprises.


john sj

Today’s Post   
Tagore # 2   Gitanjali  # 2

When Thou commandest me to sing
it seems that my heart would break with pride
and I look to Thy face
and tears come to my eyes.

All that is harsh and dissonant in my life
melts into one sweet harmony
and my adoration spreads wings like a glad bird
on its flight across the sea.

I know Thou takest pleasure in my singing
I know that only as a singer I come before Thy presence
I touch by the edge of the far spreading wing of my song
Thy feet which I could never aspire to reach.

Drunk with the joy of singing
I forget myself
and call Thee friend
who art my lord.

Rabindranath Tagore
রবীন্দ্রনাথ ঠাকুর
May 1861  – August 1941

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