Unveiling Your Life’s Compass: Lessons in Authenticity from John Williams’ “Stoner”

What do we pursue all our lives? What are you living for?

Perhaps, you can find the answer in “Stoner”, the representative work of American writer John Williams.

This book tells the story of Stoner, a son of a peasant family, who changed his life trajectory because of a literature class when he was studying agriculture in college.

The author integrates his thoughts on life into the text. The book contains not only self-persistence, the joys and sorrows of fate, but also insights into ordinary life.

Stoner’s experience teaches us:

A person has a long life and should listen to the call of his heart and live his true nature.

Self-awareness, restarting the course of life

Stoner was born in Missouri, USA, to a poor farmer family.

After graduating from high school, he went to Columbia to study agriculture with his father’s hope of changing the farm.

In the first school year, he worked diligently on his homework as if he were working on a farm and achieved good results.

Stoner was pleased with this, feeling that his father’s expectations would be fulfilled.

But in the second semester, he was troubled by the new introduction to literature course.

Those literary works were like unpredictable clouds. No matter how hard he studied, he could not understand their meaning, and he almost failed the exam.

In order to graduate smoothly, he could only get up early and work late at night, using all his time to study.

Even so, the words were still obscure and difficult to understand. Just when he was about to despair, a wonderful thing happened.

On this day, Professor Sloan read Shakespeare’s “Sonnets” in a low and soft voice as usual.

When he read “Seeing this, your love will be stronger, because he will leave you in a moment and leave you forever” , Stoner felt something flashing in his mind, and he couldn’t help but read silently with Professor Sloan.

As I read, those obscure verses became clear, and the deeper meanings emerged.

This discovery surprised and delighted him, and he felt a strong desire in his heart to find out more about these poems.

In this regard, the book writes: “His self-awareness began to awaken. He had never perceived himself in this way.”

Soon, it was time to choose courses for the next semester, and Stoner was deeply entangled.

On one side is my own desire for literature, and on the other side is my parents’ ardent expectations.

If you follow your own heart, your parents will be disappointed; if you follow your parents, you will lose your own heart.

After several struggles, he still could not give up literature, so he quietly gave up farming and studied literature without telling his parents.

He originally wanted to inherit his father’s business, but eventually successfully obtained a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and a doctorate in literature, and became a lifelong lecturer at Columbia University.

Writer Wu Qi wrote in “Silent Confession”: “We spend our whole life trying to get rid of the expectations of others and find our true self.”

But there are too many people who follow the footsteps of others, shoulder the expectations of others, and live how others want.

In this regard, Chen Haixian, a doctor of psychology, said: “Finding yourself is the reason for your existence in this world and the evidence that you are alive in this world.”

If you regard other people’s maps as your own road, you will only lose your way in the end. Only by knowing yourself from the heart can you control your own life course.

Persevere and not be afraid of the hardships of life

Stoner, who became a university lecturer, thought he could teach students safely, but at this moment, the war between virtue and virtue broke out.

For a time, the teachers and students in the school were excited and rushed to sign up to join the war. His colleagues invited him to join the army.

Looking at the enthusiastic faces, Stoner was at a loss:

If you go, you will have to give up your ideals and will be unable to teach; if you don’t go, you will be mistaken for being greedy for life and afraid of death, and will be spurned by others.

In desperation, I had to ask Professor Sloan for advice.

Professor Sloan stared at Stoner, who was struggling in his heart, and said calmly: “You must remember who you are and who you have to choose to be.”

This sentence was like an enlightenment, and Stoner suddenly woke up. He resolutely refused the invitation of his colleagues, and in the strange eyes of everyone, he stuck to his post and worked hard.

Wherever you sow, you will bear fruit.

When Stoner recognized his ideals and poured his enthusiasm into his words, his class became brilliant. Not only was he loved by the students, but even the principal was full of praise.

But how can life be smooth sailing? Tribulation always comes unexpectedly.

Walker, the department chair’s favorite student, also wanted to be a teacher, so he took Stoner’s seminar class.

In class, Volker relied on his relationship with the department chair and was only interested in grandstanding and had no intention of studying hard.

During the thesis defense, he was speechless and answered questions that were not asked. Stoner rejected him without hesitation.

This made the dean of the department very angry. He asked Stoner to change his sentence several times, but Stoner refused.

Stoner knew the consequences of offending the dean of the department, but he still stubbornly said:

“If I let Walker pass and he becomes a teacher, it will be a disaster for the students.”

In the years that followed, Stoner lived under all kinds of pressure from the department chair;

He was not allowed to continue teaching graduate students and was instead allowed to teach freshmen;

Make his classes cluttered so that he cannot concentrate on writing;

He even blocked his promotion and made him an associate professor.

Stoner endured it all silently under tremendous pressure.

He devoted himself wholeheartedly to the world he loved and worked tirelessly. Not only did he publish new books, but he also ranked first in the subjects he taught every year, becoming a legend in the school.

Kant said: “I have long been committed to what I am determined to stick to. I will go on my own path and nothing can stop me from pursuing it.”

Stoner performed this sentence perfectly. He stayed in his corner, knowing that there were many hardships, but he still forged ahead.

He firmly believes that no matter how bad the situation is, as long as he persists, suffering will eventually be replaced by joy.

Reconciliation, enlightenment of the true meaning of life

Leo Tolstoy said: “Death is the inevitable end of all things.”

Whether you like it or not, everyone will reach the end of their lives.

Stoner was found to have cancer when he was 62 years old. When he learned about it, he was extremely calm and told the doctor not to tell anyone.

When he returned to school, he began to work frantically and did not do the surgery until he had finished everything at hand.

After the operation, Stoner insisted on going home to recuperate despite his physical weakness and the doctor’s dissuasion. He wanted to spend the last days of his life quietly.

Stoner was lying in bed, always recalling this life involuntarily:

If you want to go further in teaching, you will eventually become an associate professor;

Wanted to study literature, but only published one book that no one read;

I want to have a happy family, but I am faced with an indifferent wife and a rebellious daughter.

This life seemed to consist of nothing but failure, and this thought made him extremely depressed.

But when he was frustrated and felt that something was missing, he couldn’t help but ask himself: “What else did I expect?”

This question has been lingering in Stoner’s mind. When he woke up from his drowsiness again, he suddenly heard the cheerful laughter of students outside the window, and a sense of joy arose spontaneously.

He remembered the shock that Shakespeare’s “Sonnets” brought to him, the joy of being immersed in the literary world, and the passionate teaching in class…

At this moment, he suddenly realized that those lingering failures were not worth mentioning.

Although I have had many ups and downs in my life, I have always persisted in doing what I love and enjoyed the fun, excitement and satisfaction. Isn’t this more valuable than “success” in the eyes of the world?

At the last moment of his life, Stoner was relieved. He let go of his obsessions and regrets, and understood that his life seemed dark and ordinary, but it was so real and unique.

Isn’t this the true meaning of life?

In this case, what else do you expect?

Christopher Morley said: “There is only one true success, and that is to live your life on your own terms.”

The real winner never lives a life that others envy, but has a life of his own.

Even if life is not perfect, we must accept this fact calmly. After all, imperfection is the normal state of life.

In ordinary life, only by bravely accepting the gifts of fate can we experience the brilliance of life in the process of living out ourselves.

The thinker Montaigne said: “The greatest thing in the world is that a person knows how to be his own master.”

Just like Stoner, in ordinary life, facing the hardships and hardships, he never changes his pursuit of self.

Many of us are easily deceived by external things, ignore our own true intentions, and blindly pursue the glory in the eyes of others.

It wasn’t until I looked back on the past that I sadly realized that I had become someone else’s shadow.

In this complicated and chaotic world, only by seeing your true heart clearly can you not be disturbed by external things, see hope in confusion, and achieve a unique life in hope.

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