School Daze (1953)

School Daze

When my mother dropped me off at school for the first time I went into shock.

I hated going to school, could not understand the overall concept of why for the better part of a day I had to leave the comforting shelter of mother and home, only to be forced into interactions with strange children or even stranger authoritative adults. This is not to mention actually having to learn or memorize things, which I definitely felt had no substantive purpose. My mother explained that if I did not go to school I would grow up to be a nobody, would not be able to do anything useful in life, and would never get a job. So what? I already had everything I needed: Food, clothing, shelter, and a 12-inch Black and White television set with two working channels and two hours of daily programming.

At least in kindergarten the teachers broke us in gently by trying to make it fun. But even then I struggled with the regimented activities such as finger painting and mandatory nap-time. I was not artistic and I was never sleepy.

The scenario: Two dozen five-year-old children, told to go to sleep, all at once, and for a collectively specified period of time. Did anyone ever figure out who came up with that brilliant idea?

Oh yes, it was fantastic fun to lie on a small mat on a hardwood floor while the teacher was busy doing her nails or struggling with the difficult Kindergarten curriculum. Like myself, at least half the other children in the class did not want to sleep either, always peeking around to see what the other kids were doing, which would usually evoke some minor disciplinary action.

  • O.K children. For your punishment you will now be required to sleep an extra fifteen minutes.

The problem being that this daily mandatory inactivity period never carried forward to adult life, and is a concept totally lost on a child except for prevailing in Mexico or other parts of South America where it is commonly known as the Siesta.

The Siesta is a civilized two-hour rest period, which breaks up the day and allows one to reset his or her mental fuses, so that the day might be finished later in a less frazzled and more relaxed manner than would otherwise be the case. As a consequence it may be that less work and productivity occurs or that the day might become a little more extended on the other end, but the peace of mind is worth it. In fact, the rest of the civilized world cannot understand why Americans work so hard in the first place; believing that as a nation we are inappropriately and irrationally obsessed with work. Not all cultures believe that an obsession to overachieve or to get ahead is worth sacrificing something that could afford daily stress relief instead. In France and Spain the entire country shuts down for the month of August.

Some corporate business executives actually do subscribe to the idea of Siesta, but in this case it is politely referred to as the Two Martini Lunch; an exceptional privilege not reserved for the common man who cannot spend the second half of the work day in the inebriated wrapper without risking job termination.

For some reason it seems a trait more common to my older male patients that they seem to enjoy naps, a habit constantly brought to my attention by their wives, who for some reason believe the behavior to be an abnormally subtle indicator of recurring poor health.

  • He sleeps a lot doctor. Does this mean his heart is slowing down and getting weaker?

Reminding them of Kindergarten, I tell them that their husbands are only now completing one of their very first school assignments, how truly healthy the behavior really is, how much I envy them and wish I had the same opportunity to join them every day. I then say that my first intention when I retire is to set aside time on my daily calendar for a shot of good booze followed by a nice snooze.

As I then slogged forward in early grade school, the curriculum subjects of addition, subtraction and multiplication became a real struggle due to my innate mental blocks about certain rote concepts and memorization. To this day I still have to add my golf score by counting fingers instead of doing a running mental calculation.

Diagramming sentences was another particular horror I never came to fully understand, trembling in fear that I would get called on to put one on the blackboard. Adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, and verb tenses were a conglomerate hodgepodge that defied definition or abstract separation; only to be regurgitated in my responses as nothing better than creative ad-libs.

These dyslectic issues may perhaps be linked to the fact that my mother smoked cigarettes while she was pregnant; accounting for why I eventually couldn’t even grasp the mathematical concept behind the Right Hand Rule in Physics.

Sometimes I think I should see if there might still be time to join one of the myriad Class Action suits against a major tobacco company to litigate for the missing parts of my brain’s neural connections. Why not? At every level everyone else seems to be looking to blame extrinsic factors for poor personal outcomes.

  • So you seek compensation for the fact that in-utero nicotine exposure put your I.Q 15 points below Mensa?
  • Yes, Judge. I can swear to it on the Bible that my immutable belief in two times two equaling five has absolutely ruined my life. What’s even worse is that I can’t understand why everyone else doesn’t believe it too.
  • What? Who said that two times two doesn’t equal five? In my court it sure as shit does. Everyone knows there is an exception to every rule.
  • See what I mean, Judge? At least you understand.
  • Ruling in favor of the plaintiff. Case dismissed; and I’ll see you later at the cigar bar.

More likely it was because very few teachers have the ability to explain curricula in anything other than didactic. Very few make learning conceptual, fun, easy to understand, or to embrace it within the framework of a foundation upon which a totality driven interconnected educational system can be built. For example, although Calculus is math, I understood it because the teacher, who explained it conceptually, made the subject live and breathe. This type of pedagogue is rarely encountered on the long and winding Educational Highway.

The only things then that I really liked in school were the qualitative aspects of science, nature and outer space. I also enjoyed the History of Anything and could relate well to logical explanations of the how the world came to be, how it evolved, how it operates, and how the parts relate or inter-relate one to the other.

I was not stupid. I was simply becoming a systematic thinker, who did best with visual cues.

Unfortunately, this proved catastrophic for my ability to embrace the theology of the Catholic religion.

E=mc2: Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Space-Time curvature as an equation

 Space time curvature

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Space-Time Curvature as a visual graphic

 

 Graphic source:  http://www.blog.speculist.com/archives/spacetime.gif
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