Friday, 22 May 2015

How to mark essays: the practical application of the doctrine of divine simplicity

Every academic is a surgeon. I am, you see, a Doctor of the Academy and the red pen is my scalpel. It is my Duty to perform surgery on student essays to safeguard the future of the English Language. Sometimes the surgery is cosmetic, but quite often I am called upon to perform a coronary bypass or an amputation. Occasionally, after working on an essay for some time, I am required to pronounce the time of death.

Most frequently, however, my scalpel cuts down capital letters in the essays that come to my operating theatre. In theology essays, words such as “Omnipotent”, “He”, and “Love” are often piously capitalised. These essays are littered with little impudent letters standing taller than they should, like a beggar who presumes to lift his head in the presence of the King. Such unnecessary capitalisations fill my eyes with red, which I gleefully spill onto the page.

You must understand, I quite enjoy wielding the knife—slicing comma splices, maligning malaprops, abrogating apostrophes. It’s a thoroughly Religious Experience, if you know what I mean. In fact, today, I had a Revelation. 

While marking an essay saying something about baptism, I was caught up—whether in the body or out of the body, I know not—to heaven. A voice spoke to me and asked, “Why do you persecute Me?” I replied, “Lord, I have done nothing but serve you.” The voice spoke again, “Then why do you disrespect My Name?”

At that moment, a choir of angels descended singing a hymn of singular glory. While they seemed to be singing in parts, there were no parts. Somehow, each angel sang the whole song. The plurality of voices added nothing to the music, but each voice was true and necessary. Every angel sang but a single word—“Love”, or “Just”, or “Omnipotent”—and with this word every angel sang the name of God. While they sang, all the essays I had ever marked came up to greet me. I wept as I saw the Names of God shining brightly from their pages, the beautiful capital letters standing tall and glorious. Each capitalised word was a complete and robust description of the divine essence: “Grace”, “Mercy”, “Wrath”.

I startled back to my senses in my study, paper in hand. Putting the paper down, I sent an email to the receptionist to let her know that we will need less red ink in future.

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