There's a poster in my room above my desk with a poem by Carl Sandburg written beneath an old army helmet. The helmet is partially buried in the ground, with a flower growing out of a rusted hole.
The poster was given to me by my English teacher, Mrs. Meadows, after my junior year of high school. Titled "Grass," it tells the story of history -- of how, given enough time, people forget.
"Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work -
I am the grass; I cover all."
A popular understanding of this poem is that it urges the importance of studying history. That, without the knowledge of the past, monumental events become lost in the background or, worse yet, forgotten completely. As the oft-misquoted adage goes, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
But I disagree.
"And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work."
I think it comes from the interpretation of the word "work." A professor once told his class that work was a negative verb. At least, it used to be. In the ages of Alexander the Great and Napoleon and Cleopatra, work was for peasants. It was something the strong, the enlightened, the divinely ordained avoided because through fate or fortune or God, they were destined to spend their time and efforts on more pertinent matters of the mind.
Biblically speaking, work is punishment for eating the apple. It's supposed to be negative. It's supposed to be undesirable. Yet, now it isn't.
"Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?"
This same professor told his class that when man finally separated his government from his religion, work became good. Work became opportunity. And this is where I part ways with the particular critique of Sandburg's poem.
The study of history is important. I agree, the future is constructed from the lessons learned by our fathers and mothers, but I also believe in the age-old maxim that time heals all wounds. I believe that, in the instance of this poem, the grass is the protagonist.
Perspective is an exercise in time, and since God hates us all, it's a luxury most often afforded when it's time to move on. Still, in mid-March, somewhere between Orlando and the Georgia border but just before the toll booth, the last four years finally sank in.
If I'm honest, I've probably grown as a person more in the last year than in the previous three. It has much and more to do with the individuals I've surrounded myself with on a daily basis: The folks at The Crimson White, both past and present; the group I affectionately refer to as my business-school crowd, who help remind me there are people outside the Fourth Estate; even those wonderful, beautiful people I met at Egan's that one Friday night who showed me what it truly means to love life.
I've been thinking about this column from the moment I submitted my first back in October of 2010. Then, and even as recently as a few months ago, I envisioned a giant, 800-word middle finger to the system as my final parting gift.
Truth be told, though, that'd be selfish, because despite everything that has happened since that first piece, this has been and always will be a conversation.
Someone somewhere once decided it was a good idea to give me this space each week to spout nonsense about a whole lot that never really mattered. But each day I pounded the keyboard it had everything to do with reasons yet explained about why you all continued to turn to page four on Monday morning.
On the occasions I received a compliment regarding my column, I always replied with, "Thanks, I really appreciate you saying that." What I always meant was, "Thanks, I really appreciate you taking the time to read it at all."
So from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you, Roll Tide and go to hell, Auburn.
"I am the grass.
Let me work."