Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Waiting for an Epiphany


He comes to me often, these days – a portly, Friar Tuck of a man, draped in a charcoal gray suit speckled in chalk dust.  He comes to me in recollection and day dream.  He is gone from this earth.  He has passed.  I wonder what he would make of these upside-down times … though he grew up, a child in Germany during the Second World War … and he had seen darkness.  What did he do with that experience, I wonder?  Did he carry the scars of it deep inside?  Or was that the catalyst that made him the Seeker of Knowledge, that he was. 
 
Early days of History 101, he gifted me with an epiphany – probably the most powerful epiphany of my life.  Perhaps, that is why I think of him now.  I long for an epiphany … for an impactful moment of clarity, to shine a beacon of direction into the muddled black … as that Teacher – that Learned Scholar – had done for me, so many years ago …  

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Question:  Miss Shaw” – his base voice boomed, from the front of the class – rousting me from my less-than-cerebral contemplation on whether I should get my hair cut – or not. 
 
“What concerns you the most:  socialism or communism.”  Picking up on my, no doubt, clueless visage – he quickly added: “For the purposes of this class:  pick one and tell us your reasons why.”

“Well, um – communism … I guess … because, of ya-know … stuff I’ve heard, ya-know … about it being … um … bad.”

“Stuff you’ve heard.  H-m-m-m … Well, of course, there are many adherents of the stuff-they’ve-heard school of learning … indeed, I’ve no doubt, that their numbers are legion.  I suppose, your plan is, then, to continue to gather more information in this manner, until you arrive at firm, intractable opinions on any number of issues, such as this … I’m referring to issues that shape our lives and our world.  Perhaps you’ll get lucky and run into someone, who has all the answers.”

By this point, I was feeling extremely foolish – and rightly so.  I felt my face turning hot red, as I, straightened my shoulders and sputtered.  “I could read books.”

He smiled – kindly – though I sensed I was about to discover I had just taken-the-bait.  "Your thinking being:  that if it says so, in a book, or maybe two or three, or even a library of books, then it must be so.”

“Well,” I hastened to add: “there is film on actual events, and reporters who investigate and documentaries, interviews with people who have studied the various issues, the opinions of other students …” my voice trailed off, in the awareness, that I had not – yet – hit the History 101 nail-on-the-head.

“So, you’re off down the path to enlightenment:  reading and watching and listening … anything else?” he queried with a fixed straight-in-the-eye stare that dissolved into a cliff hanger pause.

“I could think about what I’ve learned and  …” (like a chorus of muses swinging open the gates of Macedonia … my ‘ah-ha moment’ – my  great epiphany – crescendoed like an ‘Eureka’ on loudspeakers) …  “I  COULD  QUESTION ! ! !”

He beamed with pleasure, then.  “Another one …. off to the library stacks.  Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring”, he chortled.

“Pardon,” I interjected – my expression:  likely a study in unmitigated bewilderment.

“Look it up, Miss Shaw,” as he began writing on the blackboard, in capital letters:

notes:  In Greek mythology, the Pierian Spring of Macedonia was sacred to the Muses, as the metaphorical source of knowledge.  In the 1709 poem ‘An Essay on Criticism’ by Alexander Pope, he wrote:  "A little learning is a dang'rous thing;  Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring."

I am calling this a flash fiction piece, rather than a prose poem, as I gather (hopefully correctly – and please don’t hesitate to set me straight) that while virtually identical in structure, prose poems are image driven, whereas flash fiction is character driven.

graphic:  through the maze – W. Bourke (I’m pretty sure the maze graphic offers a path from the question marks into the light.  Though – as it was driving me half blind trying to prove it to myself – I gave up on that particular quest for an answer. ~lol~)

© 2017 Wendy Bourke


25 comments:

  1. Very touching for I had a teacher who changed my life.

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    1. Yes, he – absolutely – changed my life – there were others, of course, but he had and continues to have a huge influence on the person that I am. He had a way of pushing his students to want – really want – to learn. He taught us to never be afraid to question and that if people bullied and blustered when they were (politely – always politely) questioned, they probably had something to hide. He taught us to have respect for our intellect and common sense … to be confident in our ability to seek out information about issues that we might disagree with, or were outside of our comfort zone. That that is what informed citizens do. And yet, for all that, he was extremely kind and (of course) polite. He always addressed his students formally, by their surname and would nod and speak to you, if you happened to pass him in the halls … so courteously, almost as if he had come upon a fellow colleague … not some kid just out of highschool.

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    2. Oh, I almost forgot his most endearing quality. He made us laugh - especially at our vain and silly human foibles. Without a mean word ... he simply pointed the direction and we found our own way to that bit of self-discovery. He was a very wise man.

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  2. I enjoyed your story, Wendy. And ah, what an ending.
    How wonderful to have had a teacher like that.

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  3. This made me chuckle. Those moments when we're "caught" really are life changing. What a cool teacher.

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  4. I had a few memorable teachers too. One of them was a history teacher I had for grades 9 & 10. Another a teacher I had for typing and shorthand, though I never became a secretary (smiles). I thought about the question you were asked. In today's world, I am more afraid of fascism than of either socialism or communism. If I had to choose either socialism or communism, I would choose socialism. As far as reading things in a book...hmmm.....we can all do that. But living it gives a better picture. I pray we will never experience fascism. Thought-provoking words, Wendy.

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  5. What a wonderful poem to contemplate at this particular time. I agree with Mary's thoughts, re socialism and the horrors of fascism.........my friend and I were saying today, we are glad our grandmothers are not alive to see what we have come to politically (in the US). I can see before me my grandmother's expression of horror at the quotes from Scarimoochie night before last. Unbelievable.

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  6. That's a great story.. a good teacher is a blessing.

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  7. Wendy, this poem is an eye opener & you've done it with humor. A wonderful teacher he was.

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  8. Wonderful story!!! I think it's still the way to go, even in these confusing times. (Yes, your maze offers a path, first inward to confront the questions, and then gradually out into the light. I 'walked' it with my cursor.)

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  9. Such a beautifully heart-stirring story, Wendy! I too once had a teacher who changed my life ❤️

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  10. Wonderfully revealing narrative

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  11. How timely this is as we see the possibility of change threaten us worldwide not only in emerging countries but in our own. We must question everything and never accept second best when we know that there is something better.

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  12. This us grand little story or seeker and enlightenment. I well understand your reflection at this point in social and economic times

    Have a blessed Sunday

    Much love...

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  13. I think it works both ways. And a wonderful recall in deed.

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  14. I've fallen in love with your Friar Tuck professor! What a wonderfully wise man, and, I'm sure, much loved. Thanks so much for sharing him with us.

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  15. What a wonderful teacher. Great teachers really do touch the future

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  16. I love this lovely bit of flash fiction (I agree with your assessment of the form and your evidence). I'm half in love with both characters and for the same reason: they remind me of growing up, of falling in lust with learning, of understanding that "the truth [might be] out there", but if we don't work to find it, it will just flow away in the sea of what-everyone-has-ever-known-to-be-truth...

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  17. What a great story/poem no matter what we call it.... a wonderful lesson and indeed an epiphany.....what I loved about a great teacher who MADE ME THINK! I too am waiting for an epiphany these days as I wonder/wander and feel lost in all the information and lies swirling.

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  18. I teach voice and know that some of the most powerful influences in my life have been my teachers and I hope that I can in turn, pass that on to others--this was so moving Wendy

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  19. I loved this and the self-deprecating, easy style of your writing. I think it would be called a creative non-fiction piece, since it is true and happened to you.

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  20. Great teachers change lives.

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  21. Teachers help us find our way as we weave through the courses of life. Some of the lessons stay with us long after the class has ended.

    "I could question" - that is one of the most important lessons of life to question and explore ones thoughts.

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  22. It's a great story and superbly well written. I don't know much about specific genres but it reads like prose, a story, to me and not a poem.

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  23. Your blog was absolutely fantastic! Great deal of great information & this can be useful some or maybe the other way.
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