So Leon comes to me and slaps Romeo and Juliet down on my desk in a somewhat ironic gesture given the young man’s well-documented distaste for the dramatic arts. He mutters that the play is boring and in my mind my well-deserved cup of tea starts to dematerialize.
I look up at Leon and my eyes get to just about above his waist. Then they keep going due to the fact that the first attempt was wholly laughable. If Leon was any larger he’d have a dangerous north face that only the most foolhardy would attempt to scale. In the past climbers (good, experienced climbers dammit!) have perished on Leon.
I like Leon a lot. He’s a good kid. But he’s got between me and my tea. And he’s chucking my man Will about like yesterday’s Metro.
So now I must destroy him.
Listen, I say. The guy that wrote that there sent you a message. That message survived wars and plagues and horrors and beauty untold for centuries. Centuries Leon. Entire nations have risen and fallen in the time it has taken that message to get to you and your freakishly large hands with their sausage roll-sized fingers. Do you think you or I will ever create something that will outlast us like that? Something that will persevere? That man created his own legacy through thought and art.
What have you been up to today?
It’s not boring Leon, it’s hard – there’s a difference. And no wonder. It’s a time capsule from damn-near half a millennium ago and, believe it or not Leon, things were different back then. Language was different. Do you think he set out to make some kid, some gigantic behemoth of a kid, in a future he would never have been able to comprehend miserable because his work is chosen as one of the great examples of this beautiful language of ours?
…That’s a rhetorical question Leon…
…A rhetorical question means it doesn’t need an answer…
…Yep, we looked at it last week for persuasive writing…
…I gave you a copy. Ok, Ok listen, I’ll print you a new one…
Anyway, the point is that you have a message from another time in your hands, and if you put in a bit more effort you’d see that it echoes with us here and now. The problems are the same; life, love, honour, friendship, family. This is still what it’s all about, Leon. It is a rare and beautiful thing that still holds true today. A work of art from another time that reflects our lives in this modern age. That is a thing of unparalleled wonder. The least, the very least you can do is pay the man the respect he deserves and try to listen. Can you dig it Leon?
CAAAAAAN YOOOUUUU DIIIIIIIGG IIIIIIT??!!
(Granted that last part was no more than common grandstanding and not really appropriate for the library, but I thought I’d end with a flourish.)
Ok, I admit, that’s not exactly how it went (I wouldn’t have dared reference Leon’s gargantuan hands for fear he’d use one of them to choke me to death) but it’s close enough and I do believe there’s a case for teaching and defending what you love with unbridled enthusiasm, even if that thing can be a complete pain in the backside for those you teach. It doesn’t matter. You should never apologise for greatness.
Leon picked up the book, muttered something about ‘giving it another go but there better be Sparknotes on it’ and wandered off. He did try again and eventually, in a herculean effort to match his herculean stature, received the equivalent of a B- in his controlled assessment on Shakespeare.
That was Leon’s legacy. Not quite as grand as Shakespeare’s but still extremely important. A great deal of enthusiasm mixed with a touch of pantomime disdain got him to pick up that play and do something with it. And I got to have my cup of tea.
It was cold but tasted of victory.