Cruel September

September is the cruelest month, no matter what T.S. Eliot says. It is also a hot month, as the seasons have been reduced to three. Still, September has always been an incubator of melancholy, a vast yet anomalous landing ground for those returning from their summer vacations. A week back in disciplined normality is enough to expose the groundlessness of all our pet metaphors and similes about «recharging the batteries» and so on. For a while, under the August sun, it may seem possible to stop time, or at least stretch it out, but unfortunately time cannot be hoarded, and summer serenity cannot be stored up for future use. Even the unknown words that we learned («relaxation,» «chatter,» «full moon,» or «nothing») seem written in sand and we have to master them anew when the summer comes back again. With the coming of cruel September, nearly all of us (excluding workaholics) become learners again and we are overwhelmed by the same gloom that overwhelms even those pupils who are really interested in classes. We have to find our urban ways again, to hand ourselves over to automatic routine, to reconcile ourselves to the bitter truth that free time, our very own time and its untrammeled use, is the most imaginary and, at the same time, the most unattainable of any utopia. Like pupils who, as the first day of school approaches, hear seductive words about all-day schools and free, lifelong education and rush to believe them, we, the willing victims of the summer plot, let ourselves believe whatever we want to believe, that life could be a day-long school and a lifelong gift. Fortunately, as the years go by, knowledge brings us the consolation that the holy routine is as necessary and as valuable as exceptional magic.