Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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An Exercise in Blame Passing

Res Publica

July 2004

by Beth Gostlin

When I sat down at my desk today, I intended to write a paper which is due in a couple days and spend a little time working on my Senior Thesis. When I sat down yesterday, I had the exact same intention… Yet here I sit still having only half a page written and not having touched my thesis in days. I am not sure how to account for my advanced state of lethargy, but I shall attempt to pass the blame as much as possible. I have heard this malady termed ‘senioritis,’ but this is such a broad term it can be easily brushed aside. More specific blame laying is necessary in order to absolve myself of the guilt of laziness.

Several reasons for my procrastination come readily to mind. The first and most powerful, is that it is Spring Break. Somehow, after four years of college, I have clung fast to the idea that the these words have some meaning. Yet if I were to rationally examine the phrase referring to a week in March when there are no classes (and even if there were one would not have time to attend due to the vast amounts of reading and writing assigned), I must conclude that it is a cruel invention designed to teach students the reality and harshness of life. Since my freshman year I have been continually taught not to believe everything I hear or read; always to maintain a healthy level of skepticism. It seems the faculty then devised a test. The idea was to label a week which is not in the Spring and provides no leisure, “Spring Break” and see if students were quick enough to realize the impossibility. I failed. Before I was aware of what had happened, my brain shut down for the week in preparation for its long awaited break, and now I sit unable to put two rational thoughts together.

My second scapegoat is the variety of material I am expected to study and write about. The knowledge of a myriad of tasks that must be completed and topics that must be covered leaves me in a continual state of distraction, the only cure for which is to stop thinking about any of it. I have resigned myself to this cure, with a sense of foreboding about what awaits me at the end of the week. I know that eventually I will have to focus, but this realization only increases my desire to escape the overwhelming pile of books at my elbow. If I could just focus on one thing, I think I could accomplish something, but while I am working on any particular task the rest of them gnaw at the back of my mind. Since I know they will be there no matter what, I prefer to put up with the gnawing without compounding it with work or thought.

My final excuse, which encompasses the other two and puts the whole situation happily beyond my control, is nature. Nature, in every form, has impeded my studies. In the generic form, the long winter and continuing gloomy weather have created an environment in which one wants to hibernate, not work. If Ohio were not inclined by nature to be one of the muddiest and cloudiest places on earth, I would not feel such a need to slow down and match the pace of the dragging winter weather. This is compounded by the fact the we humans are predisposed to sleep approximately one third of our existence away. If I were not, by nature, required to sleep at least seven or eight hours out of every twenty-four, I know my productivity would soar.

Nature also requires me to seek gainful employment, which further detracts from my allotted time for reading and writing. The physical need for food, beside requiring me to stop working or studying to eat once or twice a day (A practice which takes quite a bit of time when compounded with a family who want to see you and talk to you as you eat), comes with a requirement to pay for the food I consume. The space that nature has placed between my home, school and work requires transportation, which also must be paid for. By nature, employers are interested in working their employees during the most productive part of the day, and as an employee, I am left only the dregs of my day and the leftover energy and capacity of thought with which to complete my studies.

In presenting these excuses, I believe I have lifted the fault of my unproductiveness from my own shoulders, and cleared my conscience. It is evident now that if I accomplish anything this week it will be a feat of super-human proportions. Not only have I been set up for failure, the odds have been stacked against me by the very institution for which I am laboring, and nature itself has conspired to keep me in a state of unthinking lethargy and mindless busyness.

Still in the back of my mind there is a nagging doubt that all my arguments can be refuted; that in the end only I am responsible for my own motivation and actions. But I do not have the energy to think about that right now…

Beth Gostlin is a senior form West Salem, Ohio, majoring in History and Political Science.

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