Monday, September 14, 2009

In Memoriam.

Among the benefits of the likes of Facebook and Twitter are that you are infinitely plugged in. Amidst tweets of Kanye's latest indiscretion and the elegiac "Nobody puts Baby in a corner" Swayze references, I stumble across another tribute. A teacher from my high school has recently passed away.

I look back at my high school years and can't help but think it was utterly unremarkable - much of it my own doing. Sure I got A's and went on to university, but I had no desire to learn. Not really, anyway. Or more appropriately, I lacked the courage to learn. High school was a means to get by, blend in, and maintain the status quo. A time of intellectual curiosity suppressed, when personal detachment kept me from truly learning. Ends justified the means, which translated to letter grades - letter grades on a page - flat, without depth. And SAT scores aside, the truth was, I was positively mediocre.

I had taken Mrs. Phillips's World History class during my freshman year, and I hadn't understood any of it. From humble beginnings in Ur to ziggurats and a six-wived king, what I recall about this class was being frightened. Frightened of her expectations, frightened that she'd call on me. And call on me she did - the girl with the tiny voice. I still remember the day Mrs. Phillips beckoned this shy, momentarily resentful girl to stand up and yell to her, as if I were calling to a friend across campus. And still, my voice tremored, half-whispered while I lashed out at her in my mind. Her class was outside the box.

It hadn't occurred to me then that history reincarnates itself time and time again, in today's politics, yesterday's civic battles. The cycles of human behavior, gradations between the order and vagaries of life, the need (greed?) for expansion, religious claims from various sects, unapologetic tyranny... all of which constitute history. Each lesson running the gamut from fable to fact for me, as the chronological scale ticked on.

As I'm reading through these posts, I find I am overwhelmed with the regret of not having taken EHAP with Mrs. Phillips. The reason? Simple. It was going to be hard. I didn't learn it when I could have, but I suppose the important thing is I'm curious now. I want to know now, what it was that you were trying to teach me 13 years ago.

I want to know the events that influence our future. I want to envision the fertile grounds of Mesopotamia and the technologies of the day. I want to breathe life into the now impressive relics standing tall amidst tourists in Greece and Rome, and the mythology surrounding them. I want to understand advancements that may not immediately register to me as technology.. and then slowly experience that flickering light bulb moment. I want to learn the religious implications of the Crusades, of the persecution that resulted in so-called dissidents braving scurvy for these shores in pursuit of freedom. I want to know the importance behind Henry VIII's six wives, not just that he had them. I want to know how to argue and write a damn good essay, even though I will probably never write another paper again. I want to learn how atrocities, genocides are in any way justifiable, and how we can learn from them. I want to learn why we reap what we sow, and how we can change from what we know. I want to be challenged.

Thank you for teaching me. I didn't understand it at the time.

Mrs. Adrienne Phillips, may you rest in peace.

1 comment:

Slater said...

I love your sketches. Do you sell them?