For every man in the world functions to the best of his ability, and no one does less than his best, no matter what he may think about it. — John Steinbeck, The Pearl
These words got me thinking, though I don’t know if I’m interpreting them correctly. This school year has been one of tensions, and among those tensions perhaps the strongest was the tension between what I thought I was capable of doing and what I ended up doing. I’m not talking about grades, because I couldn’t have asked for better grades. Instead, I’m thinking of my own evaluation of my work.
I think I’ve mentioned before that going into seminary I did not want papers to become just a product that would please the professor or meet assignment requirements, but I wanted them to be something I did just as much for my own benefit. This was, of course, a bit of an idealist picture of what the school year would look like. Between the 4 or 5 classes in a semester, assignments, family responsibilities and rest there is really only so much a person can do. Especially as the end of a semester approaches and deadlines loom, the balance almost by necessity has to shift to making a product. Assignments simply need to be completed on time.
For some reason Steinbeck’s line got me thinking about this tension.
…no one does less than his best…
Is it even possible for me to reasonably accurately evaluate my own work? When I think this paper could be better, is that a fact or do I simply think too little of my work (or too much of my potential)? I often think that if I had a couple more days a paper could be much better than it is the day I hand it in. All else being equal (e.g. being well rested), would a couple of days really make a difference?
…no matter what he may think about it.
What if my best is just what it is I’m doing? What if my best includes not only how I write, but the influence of my personality, work habits, etc.? In this way, my best is simply what I am able to at this moment–including my faults and shortcomings–rather than what I could do given any number of factors (i.e. my potential).
I’m still thinking this through. It has an effect on how I feel about assignments. I can live in regret about what could have been, or can accept what simply is or even had to be under the circumstances.