The professor handed out index cards.

“I want you to take your time and write something truly precious,” he said. “Make it a real work of art.”

I thought I could guess the exercise, but I played along anyway. The first-year students were already hard at work. I could see the iridescent ribbons of poetry float off the ends of their pens and drape the little paper oblongs with beautiful patterns of the soul.

I dashed off a quick sonnet from memory, then spent the rest of the time gazing out of the high windows at the golden spring sunlight that taunted from outside.

“Everyone happy?” he asked. He’d given us a full forty minutes to work. A handful of students kept writing, desperate to squeeze the most out of their creative juices.

“Now, I want you to rip up your cards. Shred them into tiny pieces. No photos before you do, either. Really obliterate what you've done."

There were a few muttered protests and looks of incredulity, but one by one we complied. The professor circulated with a wastebasket and collected our scraps. Fragments of perfection, to some.

“What is the lesson here?” he asked.

“That life is fleeting and nothing precious lasts,” I said, before someone else embarrassed themselves with an inferior answer.

2023.07.28 – 2023.12.20

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