Saturday, December 07, 2013

Grading War Letters to Home, Day 3

These are the letters from the third day of the Grading War.  If you landed here by accident and don't know what you're reading, click here for the backstory.

7 December 2013, 11:20am
Dearest Marcus,
Oh Happy Day! This morn found my heart both gladdened and relieved after procuring news that Providence continues to shelter dear Charles from the most savage indignities of this Grading War. Just last evening, our beloved friend dispatched a treasure chest's worth of encouraging words in a brief missive to me. Even as I read them shivering in the dark and cold Silence of mid-night, I could hear the full-voiced wisdom and familiar aplomb of that baritone Sage ringing from his page.

Despite that Good News, I regret to report that already this War has begun to fray the moral fibres of my Soul, tested my spiritual devotion and given me pause. I find myself at intervals querying much that we Lambs of God have been taught, much upon which I have relied, much of what I heretofore have taken to be unquestionably True. Forgive me, dearest Marcus, when I confess: some of the Revealed truths of Scripture are now manifest as puzzles to my mind. The greatest enigma afflicting me at present, formulated as humbly as it is imperfectly, is this: Why did our blessed Saint Paul, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, give to Love a privileged place in the triumvirate of Faith, Hope and Love?

I say to you now, dearest Marcus, that our friend Charles' recent letter to me, coupled with the increasingly unbearable paucity of the like from you, inclines me to believe nothing more resolutely than that Saint Paul was wrong. The greatest of these is Hope.

But no more of this solemnity! I've availed myself of a hearty (even if tardy!) breakfast today and, as I write now, I am mere moments away from returning to the front rested, nourished, emboldened and hopeful. I dispatch this post, as ever, with love and devotion, with prayers for your Health and also that of Josiah, and I remain steadfastly and devotedly and
Lovingly Yours,
Leigh M. Johnson

Dearest Leigh,
I hope my slender missive finds you comforted by the fact that our mutual endeavor – this horrible Grading War – will be soon ended, at least for a while. I too am heartened to hear from you! Your kind and thoughtful words gave me proof once again in the kind hand of Providence. It is a much-welcomed salve to my current situation. Your words warmed me, even in the midst of a seemingly endless night, a night bounded by cold weather that, like the Hounds of Hell, persistently nips at the very fabric of my being. Yes, your words were most welcome. I hope you will not mind, but I could not help but share them with a few of my compatriots – dear comrades who have not heard hide nor hair from any of their loved ones. Of course, they fear the worst – that this damnable War has gotten the better of their brethren. All I can offer them are my own solemn appeals to Hope – and the words of your letter. While these are not words sent by their own kin, they are words that nevertheless provide some small succor to those who hear them. 

Dearest Leigh, I wish not to burden you with my persistent lamentations. And yet, only you can understand the depths into which this irredeemable odyssey drags my weary heart and fatigued mind. It seems as if many of my young charges – those who would lay claim to my tutelage – have neither heeded nor honoured the core of my instruction. A season of reckoning is now upon us; their various deficiencies are laid bare as I hear back from them. Their reports are a hollow mockery of the Language. At the merest investigation, their swelling phrases and garrulous insights are revealed to be nothing more than, to quote a learned man, “brass fronted impudence.” They quibble with me incessantly about the direction that I provide, and then proceed to disregard that very direction! Their musings are the plainest puffery. Their powers of argumentation seemingly crumble with a wisp of inquiry, at the slightest intimation of debate. Indeed, I grow weary of this Grading War, for it reveals in me a resounding uncertainty as to the quality of my tutelage. It forces me to look within the abyss, my dear Leigh, and question the very cause upon which I have staked my Sacred Oath.

Your letter means more to me than I can say, dearest Leigh. For in it, you have reminded me to take solace in Hope. Having done this, I am also reminded of the pupils who have shown themselves to be admirable, thoughtful and brave in the midst of this most trying of times. This Grading War is a scourge. It robs us of the full usage of our fragile faculties. Perhaps worst of all, it blinds us to the glimmer of progress that many of our weary soldiers make. Steven – a bright-eyed boy from Ohio – has rendered a persuasive report, most persuasive indeed. Susannah, from faraway California, has crafted a document whose words and thoughts echo the strength and intelligence she inhabits. Young Jennifer from Boston, wise beyond her years, has shown herself to be a most worthy constituent. Yea, though we walk through the Valley of the Shadow, Hope reminds us that we need not – indeed cannot – walk it alone. You have reminded me that Hope can be a beacon for us in this dark hour. It is a lesson that I shall not soon forget. 

I will leave you now to return to the front line in this execrable Grading War. But I will do so having been nourished, both by your words and a hearty meal that will, God willing, sustain me for the treacherous undertaking that lies before me, before us. It is my desire that these few words, while written in haste, will find you comforted in the knowledge that you are not alone in this endeavor. It is Hope, indeed, that sustains us. And it is with a hopeful heart that these words will find you well.

As ever, I remain yours in this Eternal Struggle, and pray that the Hand of Providence protect you and keep you.Your humble friend and compatriot, 
Charles W. McKinney

Dearest Charles,
Cherished friend! I take up this pen now, an instrument all-too-deficient for the task with which I charge it, after an admittedly brief service on the front today. I confess, dear Charles, that I am weary. I am tired. My early retreat from the battle on this day comes on the heels of two very long, hard-fought engagements. One can only strive as one is enabled by Fortune or Providence. I am confident that your Heart must confirm as much, if not also your Body.

I trust this letter finds you (and our Fellows alongside you) safe, warm and still persevering in the Struggle. I received your most recent missive only this last eve, with equal parts relief and delight. I understand from your report that your current post is close-by, though unfortunately too distant for us to exchange the long-overdue and reassuring embrace that might serve as our mutual salve. As you read this now, assuming as I must that Providence has not yet seen fit to alter my current state of affairs, I grievously report that I am not well. I fear my beloved Marcus, dear to you but far dearer to me, may have become—a consequence either of poverty or vice, I cannot be sure—yet another casualty of this War. For days now, I’ve received no word from him, despite my regular dispatches home. My heart aches tonight no less painfully than Job’s, though I cannot find within myself the strength evidenced by Job’s exemplary Patience. And so I write to you now, rather than to my dearest Marcus, as a fisherman casts his line out into fallow waters, hoping against Hope for some solicitous confirmation from the indifferent deep

Today, Charles, I found myself face-to-face with one of the Rebels. Her visage was desperate, exhausted and inconsolable, and I cannot help but report to you that I saw in her my own likeness. I ask you this, and only you, dear Charles: are you confident that we are on the side of Right in this War? My brief encounter with the Opposition inclines me to believe that they are like you, like me and like all poor Souls in these wretched trenches we share. They are, as I have borne witness, nothing more or less than the spiritual kin of Job. Do you not also wonder, in the cold and dark we now suffer, why this a War at all? Dare I ask you if this current conflict is, unthinkable as it may be to us now, nothing more than a charade? Who profits, my friend? Who gains? More importantly, who is destroyed? Who are our enemies, after all?

God forgive me this thought, but what if we simply refused to engage this War as it has been given to us to fight?

On that suspicion, no doubt blasphemous, I retire for the day. Godspeed the end to this ridiculous Conflict. As ever, my thoughts and Prayers remain with you and those beside you. In Hope and solidarity and, of course, in Friendship, I remain
Your Loyal Confidante,
Leigh M Johnson 

I worry you may have fallen ill or, worse, that you have been beset by a Darkness so paralyzing that it prevents you from taking pen in hand. You must be aware by now, I trust, that I remain desperately and utterly in need of some reply from you. Please, my dear, send word of your condition post haste. I can only hope that whatever Misfortune conditions this protracted disappointment of mine has landed not on your (our!) sweet doorstep, but rather that of the incessantly unreliable Josiah's.

Neither of us were ever fond of, or trusted, that boy, I know. I won't tell Charles if you also wish Josiah ill.

With impoverished yet steadfast devotion, I remain,
Increasingly Suspiciously Yours,
Leigh M. Johnson

Dear Leigh,
It is my hope that, the merciful Creator holds you close to his everlasting bosom.  With regret, you will find the tenor of this letter, mournful, melancholic even. I find myself lost in an infernal wood of run on sentences, awkward phrases and split infinitives. It is as I am wandering through the Inferno of Dante himself yet with out the sanctified presence of a Virgil. I lie in the depths of an un-spell-checked miasma. But I take comfort in the knowledge that like Beatrice waiting for Dante in Paradise, that at the end of my toils, the Registrar awaits with open arms and final grade submission forms.

  Like a naïf I once believed my commitment to academe to be righteous in its bearing, that my life would be one of glorious invective. However, in the growing shadows of the shortening days at the end of the semester, doubts plague me, I am no longer certain of my place in the grand scheme of Creation. Oh but for the refreshing sweet air and tender times of Winter Term! But now, I must away from my correspondence and return to my labors.
My regards
Charles Peterson

Click here to proceed to DAY FOUR of the Grading War Letters

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