A little over a week ago I had an unsettling dream.
No, not that dream. It’s been months since Stephen Harper and Soupy Sales appeared in my dreams, and for that I’m extremely grateful.
This dream was completely unprecedented. For one thing, it involved work, and I never dream about work. I understand other people do, and years ago when I was a janitor I used to empty garbage cans in my sleep, but in more recent decades, my working life and my dreaming life have been nicely segregated.
In this dream, I received my fall schedule, only to discover that I had been cut to two classes a week. With three or more classes I qualify as “partial load,” which not only gives me a higher hourly wage, but also medical benefits for the last month of the semester.
Outside of my first semester, I’ve always had partial load in the fall, and quite often in winter as well, so I was quite shocked at being demoted like this. I turned for advice to some of my colleagues, who told me I was being “Ethaned.” At this point it began to dawn on me that I was dreaming; while we often ignore unbelievable events in dreams, getting any kind of advice from my colleagues was too unbelievable even for dream logic. Before I woke up, however, I came to understand that “being Ethaned” was the administration’s method of getting rid of unwanted profs by making it impossible for them to earn a living at the college any more.
“It’s what they did to Ethan,” my uncharacteristically helpful colleagues told me just before they faded away.
So that was weird. But it gets weirder.
The day after my dream, I received my fall schedule. It consisted of only two classes.
Needless to say, I was nonplussed — meaning I was not plussed at all.
So I wrote back saying that, while I was happy to take the classes, I was disappointed not to get my normal partial load. The answering e-mail explained that, due to budget cuts, the department was no longer offering partial load to any of its profs.
Imagine my relief. I wasn’t being singled out. We were all being “Ethaned.”
Still, while the dream’s prophetic nature wasn’t entirely accurate, it did make me stop and wonder: “What kind of person is named ‘Ethan,’ anyhow?”
There are two famous fictional Ethans, both of whom come to bad ends by following unethical dreams. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Ethan Brand,” the title character is burned to a crisp after a life-time spent trying to find the one “unpardonable sin,” while the Ethan in Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome is semi-crippled following a poorly executed attempt at suicide-by-toboggan with his wife’s cousin.
And then, of course, there’s Ethan Hawke who, while not himself fictional, plays fictional people in movies such as Dead Poet’s Society, Training Day, and Before Sunset.
A real-life Ethan, Ethan Allen, was a Revolutionary War hero who captured Fort Ticonderoga (with the aid of a pre-traitorous Benedict Arnold), and has since had his name given to a couple of forts, several ships, at least one submarine, and a furniture company. The battle itself was commemorated most famously by John Dixon who founded the Dixon Ticonderoga Company, which manufactured his new invention, the pencil.
The earliest Ethan I could find is Ethan the Ezrahite, who was considered the wisest man in Israel, aside from Solomon:
And Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol: and his fame was in all nations round about.” (1 Kings 4:29-31 KJV)
Bible scholars believe that Ethan the Ezrahite wrote the 89th psalm, a conclusion they reached by reading the beginning of the psalm which says that Ethan the Ezrahite wrote it.
As for me, at the urging of my wife I’m going to get my Technical Writing Certificate. It’s a field which not only offers full time jobs, but has absolutely no connection to the education system.
It’s such a smart idea, I’m convinced it’s what Ethan the Ezrahite would do.