Grad school is a period of extended adolescence. One’s future is up in the air, and one is largely dependent on others, especially creditors. Unlike adolescents, however, grad students often lead very sedentary lives. They burrow into libraries amongst musty aisles of books. And they stoop over their reading and stuff their faces with flaky croissants and stain pages of books with inkblots of coffee. Sure, the cloistered life of learning has its advantages, but physical activity isn’t one of them. In One of Ours, many contrasts are in play: urban/rural, individual/group, and reason/faith, among others. But my favorite contrast hands down, and the one that makes me chuckle at all hours of the day, whenever I think of it, is the contrast between the life of the body, say, farming, and the life of the mind. Of a young man who intends to be a professor, Claude’s muscular and sun-burned neighbor drily asks, “What’s the matter with him? Does he have poor health?”
Postscript. In related Bay Area news, here’s a tribute to a “crusty old farmer who had a dream.” I have something approaching love for him.