Bitter Roots


The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet. — Aristotle

imageYou know what they say about too much of a good thing. My problem is not which punctuation marks I avoid using, it’s what I use far too much, the lowly comma. It’s not that I have anything against this simple little punctuation mark, it’s that I view it pointing to a deeper failing, one that can hardly be undone. The heart of the problem is that I don’t really know proper use of the things; I never learned their correct usage. But the thing that disappoints is that it shows how selective I was as a kid in the amount of education I absorbed; it’s a constant reminder that I should have paid much more attention in school. Except for reading, and at times as it struck my fancy, I would pay attention to arithmetic or biology or social studies, as we called it then, as it suited me. If I wasn’t particularly interested in the topic of the day, I was tuned out,  day dreaming about flying or some day having a Corvette in the garage, or some such thing. If I’d been just a bit smarter, I’d have realized that in order to be an Air Force pilot or be really serious about things like designing and racing cars, you need a solid foundation in awful things as math and science. The thought never crossed my mind. It’s a shame too, because at the time I was attending school in Detroit, they had one of the best educational systems in the country.

After my stint in Viet Nam, I had learned the lesson and got serious about getting an education and, with the help of the GI Bill, finishing college. By then, however, except for English and history, I didn’t have even a semi-adequate background in things I would be required to study, like math and sciences, like biology or chemistry; physics was a lost cause. As a result of my selective consumption of the education offered me, my course through college was peripatetic, at best. I studied history, English, pre-pharmacy (a really dumb idea), engineering (I can’t believe I got through 4 semesters of calculus), and, finally, accounting, and much to my amazement and the amazement of all those who knew me, passed the CPA exam.

But even with all this study and hard work playing catch up, to this day, I have no confidence that any comma that appears in my writing is well placed and deserving of the attention I gave it. Its sad, the fruit could have been so much sweeter.

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2 thoughts on “Bitter Roots

  1. Sounds like you had a fine education to me. But your story reminds me of a story.

    My suite mate at college was an actor for the college theater on campus. He was also studying to be a CPA.

    Every day when he came in from acting he’d hit the books and complain interminably and loudly (our rooms were separated only by a curtain) about how he hated accounting. Every day I’d tell him to shut up.

    One day he came to the room and started complaining again before looking for his books. When he couldn’t find his books he asked me if I had seen them. I had.

    I had thrown them out of his window (our room was on the third floor) and onto the yards below. When he asked me why I said, “Every day you whine and moan and carry on about being an accountant. Well, that’s over. You’re going to be an actor. So I threw your books away and you’re not gonna complain about it anymore because I’m sick of listening to ya. Do what you want, not what you hate, and I hate listening to ya. So I threw your bloody books away.”

    He got kinda sore at first, then he laughed and said, “Okay.”

    He finished his degree in accounting but the last I heard he was touring with an acting troupe. It’s good to have stuff to fall back on, but it’s no excuse for not living.

    Your post reminded me of that. I don’t think he could properly use a comma either, but he said his lines awful good.

    I hope he’s doing well.

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