Last week I overheard my friend's son utter “Not again!” as he stumbled across a bubbly back-to-school commercial while scanning the TV channels. I guess he did not relish the prospect of spending his free time, starting in September, “shackled” to his desk, memorizing page after page of esoteric content, and having to come face to face with the procrastination monster within him. I can not blame him.
I think it is human nature to avoid repetitive and dull tasks whenever possible. Schoolwork does not exactly get anyone's adrenaline pumping. One spends hours motionless listening to the teacher go on and on about some obscure Shakespearean passage or mathematical principle, writes quizzes, exams, and essays, and several months later, the cycle repeats itself. Yawn.
To be fair, the school cycle is only one of many cycles all around us. In other words, the repetitiveness not only applies to school but also to one's daily housework and livelihood. It is even present in our human body, the many hormones and chemicals that escalate and abate on a daily basis, not to mention our heart, beating repetitively over 100,000 times a day.
On a larger scale, our own planet rotates once a day and revolves around the sun once a year, producing day and night, and four seasons, over and over again. Does this mean that we are imprisoned in a popcorn-free version of “Groundhog Day“? Is there no way out other than romancing Andie Macdowell?
On closer inspection, however, one realizes that even if everything around us were to repeat, human beings have the potential not to. Akin to a whetstone sharpening a blade by rubbing against it repeatedly, these cycles can hone us and make us better people.
For instance, if we work everyday, we become wealthier; if we exercise everyday, we become stronger; if we study everyday, we become wiser. Hence, what may be seen as sameness may in fact lead to growth and improvement. Unlike “Groundhog Day,” no two days are exactly the same in reality.
For instance, the upcoming school year will have its share of surprises: There are new friends to be made, old friendships to be rejuvenated, errors to be avoided, new mistakes to be made, fresh interests to be developed, novel abilities to be mastered, and more laughs to be shared.
With the intention of explaining all this to him, I approached the young boy that same evening. I wanted to tell him that if he loves something, if he has a goal, if he can feel excited about some aspect of his studies, all these repetitions will fade away. I found him playing a basketball game on the computer… again. I realized he would have no trouble understanding me.