Listen--on the tenth night the peg was pulled out of the hasp on Billy's boxcar, and the door was opened. Billy Pilgrim was lying at an angle on the corner-brace, self-crucified, holding himself there with a blue and ivory claw hooked over the sill of the ventilator. Billy coughed when the door was opened, and when he coughed he shit thin gruel. This was in accordance with the Third Law of Motion according to Sir Isaac Newton. This law tells us that for every action there is a reaction which is equal and opposite in direction.
This can be useful in rocketry.
Billy is exhausted from the ten-day train ride through Germany. He hasn't slept or eaten that much. He's surrounded by death and people who hate him. Of course, during the course of the journey he has been shuttling back-and-forth in time, and this gives him a tiny advantage over his fellow passengers. He knows that he's going to survive, return home, and become successful.
I sometimes wish that I had that kind of foreknowledge. It would make going through difficult times just a little easier. For instance, right now, I don't know if I have any classes to teach next fall semester at the university. That's the existence of a contingent professor. It's a balancing act between gratitude and desperation. I'm teaching now, and I'm grateful for that. I don't know if or what I will be teaching in four months, and that plants a tiny worm of panic in my brain.
The way I have learned to deal with this kind of uncertainty is by focusing on the certain. Tonight, I have to teach a class. Student presentations for three hours. That is a certainty. Tomorrow, I have a full day of work at the medical office. Certainty.
If I begin to focus on the "what ifs," I would drive myself crazy. For example, what if I don't get classes for the fall semester? What if my job is deemed unnecessary by the healthcare system for which I work? What if my car's engine dies on the way home tonight? What if my students all give me horrible evaluations? What if . . .?
You get the idea. It would not be a pretty scene if I gave into the What If monster. I would go to bed and simply never emerge from under the covers again.
So, tonight, is about certainty. Saint Marty is thankful for the certainty of his students.