catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 8, Num 5 :: 2009.02.27 — 2009.03.13


Ashes three student?

So on Ash Wednesday, I received a delightful e-mail declaring that one of the conference papers I’m giving at the International Communication Association (ICA) conference in May has been awarded the status of one of the Top Three Student Papers for the Mass Communication division.

It was a surreal moment – here I was, sitting in a classroom a few minutes before the beginning of a grad class in which we were to discuss a cognitive view of how metaphors work. I was tired from the cold I’ve been fighting and mildly aware of the cross-shaped smudge of ashes on my forehead from the noon service I’d attended. I was feeling a bit ashes-like, particularly since I was trying to resist the delicious-looking chocolate cookies just handed to me by a lovely friend, who hadn’t been aware I’d decided to give up chocolate for Lent.

Then I checked my e-mail on my laptop, and there was this message telling me that I’d won this award, and I won’t lie to you: I felt a bit less ashes-like for the moment. After all, beyond the fact that this was a bit of a big deal in my discipline, it was encouraging that I was on the right track with my dissertation, since this was the first paper I’d sent anywhere outlining some preliminary thoughts in that direction.

So I was happy. And don’t get me wrong – I still am. But on reflection, I realize, especially with the help of the cold, that I am no less ashes than I was before. Sure, it’s a cool thing and all, and I’m pleased that people like the paper, but I’m considering the award in the nature of a great gift, rather than as something I somehow earned. As Eliot says in Four Quartets, “For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.”

In turn, this reflection creates the delightfully convoluted metaphor of me being a bundle of really excited ashes sitting under the Christmas tree (in February, no less), unwrapping this gift of the certificate I’ll be handed in a few months.

It may be convoluted, but it feels just right.

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