April 2020

Words from Our
English Department Chair
Lance Larsen

“Strange times are these in which we live.” And you don’t have to take Plato’s word for it, having experienced the strangeness firsthand. And with the strangeness, big dhttps://www.cnn.com/videos/sports/2020/04/20/italy-tennis-players-rooftop-coronavirus-social-distancing-mxp-vpx.hlnoses of disappointment, including missing out on your commencement and convocation. My household is missing out as well: our son’s graduation from a different university postponed, our daughter’s study abroad to Spain canceled, my and my wife’s dream trip to Siena put indefinitely on hold—no chance to visit that storied medieval city my friend calls “gentle and feminine and feline.” A different friend of mine, who has been quarantined in a 700-foot apartment in NYC, writes: “I find myself looking at actors onscreen who are shaking hands or touching their faces or kissing or even standing next to each other, and I feel such a strange kind of nostalgia.” Strange times indeed.

And yet we muddle along, sometimes magnificently. We find ways to cope. Maybe we write a bad sonnet or watch marble races online or dance to the Number #1 song on I-Tunes this week, which begins, “I’m a ghost living in a ghost town.” Or if we feel athletic and happen to be living in the Mediterranean (I had to bring Italy back in), maybe we take up tennis with extreme social distancing in place. This 30-second clip is worth watching! https://www.cnn.com/videos/sports/2020/04/20/italy-tennis-players-rooftop-coronavirus-social-distancing-mxp-vpx.hln

And if you’re a BYU student taking an English class (and that includes majors and minors and grad students and others), you step up. One of our faculty members, Jamie Horrocks, wrote me this morning with this request: “I don’t know if you’re planning on writing a special ‘graduation speech’ in the Scoop to our students, but if you are, would you consider making a shout-out to those students who kept working until the end? No one will know which students this semester took the high road and kept fighting the good fight and completed the course with A’s, but man, do I respect them! I didn’t know I’d end up feeling as grateful to them as I do.”

Like her, I’m grateful to you (and your parents), to the adjunct and full-time professors who teach you, to our remarkable support staff, and to a Gospel perspective that invites us to keep getting up and stretching our modest spheres of influence. Let me quote the closing lines of a favorite Czeslaw Milosz poem in which an angel gives advice to mortals like us: “Day dawns, another one. Do what you can.” Good luck these next seven weeks, whether you’re in school or working or gracefully waiting out the storm.

Lance Larsen