Monday, April 03, 2006

Important Influence

Who was that person in your early life, the one who--by example or instruction--turned your perceptions upside down? Maybe it wasn't that drastic; maybe it was just someone who "got" you, or someone who inspired you to make an important change.

Did you have a chance to thank them? If you bumped into them now, what would you want to say to them?

For me, stuck in smarty-pants classes growing up, I was almost completely isolated. My peers were either the lisping thick glasses/retainer group, clumped together at a lunch table trying to solve ancient mathemtical problems; or the un-gifted and non-talented normal kids, who generally treated me like a pod person. Given those options, it's no surprise I turned to books for companionship and escape.

It all started with Thomas Jefferson. My assignment was to create a diorama of Monticello, with accompanying essay on the circumstances surrounding its construction, blah, blah. Whoopee!

However, the more I read on Jefferson, the more I liked him. I researched the people who influenced him, then the people those people cited as influences. While you've already drifted off from boredom reading about this, I found it damn fascinating.

So I'm in Jr. High school, absorbing my Ancient Greeks, Romantics, Philosophers, and Existentialists (in between note-passing and spitballs) and working out a personal philosophy from what I gleaned. I was a big hit at slumber parties, let me tell you. FYI: No one likes a light-as-a-feather, stiff-as-a-board spoiler.

By high school I was integrated into regular classes, but not really included. For spite, I delighted in ruining the grade curve. I am pretty sure I was the only cheerleader who quoted Bertrand Russell off-handedly, but I didn't last long on the squad, anyway--I was kicked off for insolence and brawling.

When I enrolled in a Philsophy and Religion class in 10th grade, it was certain it was a pure easy-A thing. I definitely didn't count on my instructor being a damn wicked genius.

How the hell he ended up in suburban Denver, Colorado is a great mystery. The poor chimps who took that class thinking it would be an easy-A for them were tortured with weekly reading, essay, and presentation assignments. Those blindered by their faith were often reduced to red-faced, shaking anger, or tears. He'd heard it all and was unwilling to coddle. He refused to accept scriptural quotations as backbone in arguments--that would guarantee a barrage of questions that usually began, "Really? That's interesting. How do you know this?" There was no escape, no relief, until you reached the lightbulb moment.

I was used to getting a "pass" in my classes and hiring myself out for tutoring and ghostwriting, and I went into this class unprepared for the momentous changes in my thinking that occurred. This teacher knew all about me before I walked in the first day (secret teacher cabal--I knew it!), and made it his mission to test the limits of my intellect. There may as well not have been 20 other students in the class, every hour was a Lincoln-Douglas debate between my teacher and myself on stuff like existentialism and moral realism.

Sure, I learned that many people simply do not wish to have their minds opened, expanded, wowed, or changed. It makes sense, perfectly logical. Every sperm is sacred. What I can't grasp is why. Why don't you want to know?

On the other hand, this especially timid girl in the class never once made a peep; she listened intently and took copious notes, but never participated in the presentations, debates, arguments, or tirades. Curiously, my teacher never called on her or paid her the slightest attention. She was despised by all, and rumors circulated about an illicit affair.

I pulled Mr. Teacher aside after class one day to register my displeasure with this special treatment. He smiled, listened to me rant about the injustice of it all, and when I ran out of material and breath, he said: "(Trouble), that girl comes from a strict Mormon family. Her parents would not approve of her taking a comparative religion class, but she asked me if she could just sit in and learn." In other words, she gave up a free period for this melee, and completed all the assignments, for nuttin'!

Miss Mormon said two sentences to me in high school: 1. "You are the first Jewish person I've met." and 2. "I liked your Evil Queen costume in the Homecoming Parade."

If you're still reading, I thank you. Wrapping up now! Thanks to my teacher, I have a more balanced point of view; I can debate anything calmly and with proper form; I acknowledge, if not always appreciate, the necessity of differing opinions. Most of all, I learned there's always more to learn.

I still think about this amazing teacher whenever I talk religion or politics, which you already know is constantly. If I saw him, I would cheerfully taunt him about his Kierkegaard obsession and then ask him to be my BFF.


Blogger Leave It To Cleavage said...

Damn blogger ate my comment.

I love reading posts like this of yours. I already know that you're articulate, well-read and extremely intelligent, but I love to read about your journey. I soak up your posts such as these just as you did about Jefferson. Lots of love.

5:54 PM  
Blogger marty said...

I don't think anyone would want to be associated w/me let alone have me say that they influenced me. The fact that most of them are in the witness protection program might also have something to do w/it.

5:40 AM  
Blogger Trouble said...

Marty, you infuence me! You complete me!

11:48 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home