Thursday, June 13, 2013

Reflections on My Thinking and My Most Frustrating Teacher In Which I Give Shoutouts to Dr. Peters, Father Z, Cardinal Burke, and Papa Benny

This is a continuation of my series of reflections of my high school experience. All but one of the last five posts should be on this topic! 

As a brief continuation of my last post: I have a list of sins of pride at the top of the blog, from St. Josemaria Escriva who founded Opus Dei. 

I had the same teacher for my sophomore English class and junior Theory of Knowledge. The first had Friday discussion days, if you stretch back to a few days ago. The second was primarily discussion-based, on virtually whatever topic we could come up with questions about 'how and why do we know what we know." This extended from talking about a unique Shakespeare festival with translated plays and productions in sign language, feral children, the HHS mandate, abortion, calling every veteran a hero and thanking them...the list goes on and on. Some of the topics were quite interesting, and genuinely forced me to think. I really enjoyed the Shakespeare topic. A neat thing about IB is it allows you to take a topic and run with it. For example, I have thought about the use of American Sign Language in the Church, which presents its own challenges, quite like it does on the stage. Of course, its ramifications for the soul are bit greater! I have since read more, mostly from Dr. Edward Peters, on ASL in the liturgy, and it's quite interesting, both from a theological and linguistic standpoint. My mind was also thoroughly moved by it, because I was dead-wrong on the ability of a priest who cannot hear to use sign language, or the ability of a priest working with someone who cannot hear to do the same. 

On the other hand I felt that myself and my peers were the know-it-all pseudo-intellectual like the guy in Woody Allen's film Midnight in Paris. We say things just to say them, because they sound good, and we think we are right each time. What is worse for me is saying, "Oh I knew that!" I just need to not say it. Look, I probably did hear something about it, but I couldn't precisely recall it, or it was vague the first time anyways. No one cares in the end, and they'll just get annoyed if you say it. 

 Those are all sin of pride. Since I have met men like Cardinal Burke, and seen the intellectual gifts of Dr.  Peters, Fr. Zuhlsdorf, and most pre-eminently, Pope Benedict XVI, I have learned a few things. One, "giving your opinion without being asked for it, when charity does not demand you to do so" is a sin against humility. Another is the careful  processing of information, reading what is there and not what one wishes to be there, and being nuanced. Deep and insightful commentary is what I regularly expect and receive from those men. God has been so good to them in their abilities, and to us for being able to read them. 

I disagreed with my TOK teacher on virtually every point of policy such as same-sex 'marriage,' abortion, and the welfare state. I also struggled with him as a teacher, and not just because he is openly homosexual. That fact I learned on about the third day of sophomore year, and struggled to deal with it. He was one of my most difficult graders, and I disagreed with his methods of teaching, including his discretion on topics we talked about. I left the class angry about half the time, and stayed angry. 

But one must always respect and love those whom we disagree with because they have labored for the Truth as well (to paraphrase an Aquinas quote I put in a post recently).

And on the other hand, he was really interesting, and gave me books and titles to read or look for. For example, he loves Evelyn Waugh-whom I'd only vaguely heard of before- and gave me Wise Blood. As part of the humanities section in TOK, we read the Philosopher's Poetics. I immensely enjoyed it, and thoroughly understood it. It was my introduction to his work. 

At the end of junior year, he said he had been thinking about me and another student in particular, and wondered where we would be at thirty years old, and in what ways-hopefully for the better- we would change. So, I wrote a list down that I keep in my prayer book. Mostly it is of virtues I hope to develop, emulating the form expressed by a particular Saint (and even some I consider to be saints, and hope that the Church and her faithful do one day as well), in order to become a good man, husband, father, friend, and worker in whatever field I go into. Spiritual influences can come from the strangest corners, I tell you. 

May my teacher one day rest within Holy Mother the Church. 

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