The price of the match…

In my very first post (Don’t blame me!  He started it) I ended with a question that was a bit of an “in joke” between my friend, Alex, and myself, dating back to an English class we had in high school.  Our teacher, John Shilts, was incredibly intelligent and was able to share his passion and insight with teenagers in ways that made literature seem relevant.  I probably learned more about analysing literature and presenting my thoughts in his classes than in all the other classes I took at that high school. 

As someone who had been a part of writing and judging AP English exams, it should come as no surprise that his standards were firm and rather high.  Mr. Shilts did not make any attempt to spare the fragile egos of his students.  I believe he graded on a curve, it is the only explanation for my final grade and the number of students who passed in general.  Although I don’t believe anyone failed to improve their writing in his classes.

One afternoon, we had to write a brief essay in class, then we read them aloud.  After collecting our efforts with an obvious air of disappointment, he sat at his desk and stared at our papers.  Holding them up, he posed this question to our class.  “Is any one of these essays worth the price of the match it would take to blow them straight to hell?”

My essay earned the rather dubious distinction of being voted the only one worth the price of the match.

So, when you start to question your worth, ability or accomplishments, just frame things a little differently.  Does what you have done rate the effort of lighting the match to burn it to the ground?  When you set the bar there, things seem to get a little better, if you have any talent at all.  Even if that is as much credit as you are ready to give yourself, console yourself by looking around and notice all the things people around you have done, that are NOT worth the price of the match.

Of course, having made this the a blog topic, I will have to be a little more careful about using my favorite, unrecognized insult.  A lot of people take it as a compliment when I express my opinion that “I wouldn’t burn it.”  You wouldn’t tell on me would you?

I have decided to face down a pack of matches by joining in the National Novel Writing Month project, with many other authors, each with the goal of writing 50,000 words during the month of November.  Toward that end, I may have an occasional guest blogger post to keep things fresh this month, while I am focusing on this new venture.  So, may we all be worthy of matches and aspire to Zippos.  As they say in Greektown, “Opa!”


~ by friendlycurmudgeon on November 8, 2009.

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