It’s Yourself, By Lucas J. Mather
The way the sun hits the California Live Oaks off the 101 between the 405 and the 23 North, morning, noon or dusk — and I’ve seen them all those times, like a black man’s hand coming out of the ground, a Chernobyl hand, too many fingers spread every which way, with some kind of green cotton on the tips of them, and the shadows more fingers — or the way the rocks shine on the Santa Susana pass between Simi and San Fernando Valleys, the way they glow golden bright every time of day, lit up like dawn, even at dusk, or the way the sun sets off PCH between Malibu and Venice, a candle sprouting out of a dark teal Pacific flat calm, singing silently to any one who will listen, though Santa Monica is too busy for that, these are reasons to teach college in California.
But there’s something else.
There’s this feeling , like being hooked up to an electrical current, a charge going through your body, when you walk into a dark place. And when the rot, the hell, the stink, the smell, the ignorance leaves, because you command it to leave, with a lecture.
You have no authority here. A new day has dawned. Here in this place, your reign is over.
And just like that, it leaves. It sometimes bolts. It sometimes seeps away , a swampy damp drain, over days and weeks. Sometimes, it doesn’t quite go away at all. Those are scary times, indeed. But that’s not most times.
There’s a town where I grew up that had a darkness, a spoilage, a holocaust of souls seemingly hovering through it, called Boulder, Colorado. Every time I thought of the place, but especially every time I went there, I felt it. It felt like Auschwitz feels like in your mind, except this came from outside your body. A cold chill up your spine even on a hot day. A scratching night, bile black, even in daylight. Shrill screams, even in the quiet shade. A feeling of death, the kind that doesn’t die. It just keeps staying there, decaying life.
That same feeling I had in many a college campus here in So Cal, although actually Boulder has it the worst that I’ve felt.
The privilege of teaching has been for me, watching that feeling claw its way desperately out of my classroom. Scraping , scratching , mouth ajar. And feeling it leave, to where, there’s just a classroom, with kids, and lights, and windows, and desks, and a pencil sharpener, and stupid technology, and my marker, and my mind, and what I tell them to read and think about.
The vast majority of the time, it’s the same: I say, bye bye, and it leaves at the sound of my voice. A few times, choice times, it left at the sound of my footsteps down the hallway. It’s as if I could see it jump out the window, several stories to its death. At least for that one.
There have been times where that has not happened, and I did not know why. Those are times of fear, and rarely, panic. But those are a set of stories for another day. You could fit them in a thimble. If I dwell on them, they are the most bothersome. Those are the ones where I felt like the darkness reached up into me and grabbed me.
The privilege of teaching , though, has been to live through that to fight another day, to fight by teaching your heart out.
The students want , whether they know it or not, not a Powerpoint. Good Lord. Not that.
They want you. They want a piece of you.
What you have to give them, a part of yourself, that’s what they really need. And if you don’t have that to give, you shouldn’t be teaching.
It’s the biggest gift you have: it’s yourself.
The material you teach of course has to be so deep in you, so a part of you, that it almost is you. That’s what changes lives. That’s what drives out the darkness.
The privilege of teaching is allowing that Spirit to flow through you to them, and listening to the story of what it really means as you float across the highways and byways , taking in trees and critters and shadows and mountains and oceans and valleys and owls — for owls aren’t critters — and just feeling that breeze on your ears as the Spirit tells you about what happens and what it meant and how nothing now can take it back.
Copyright Lucas J. Mather, 2018
All Rights Reserved
Originally published to Facebook on Friday 19 Oct 2018 at 11:23 pm
Dr. Lucas J. Mather, Ph.D., is the producer and host of The Republican Professor Podcast, which is oriented around conversations that matter on any topic Dr. Mather feels is related to American Politics, whether that be Constitutional or Administrative Law, military or police service, self-censorship, entrepreneurship and business, Theology, metaphysics, epistemology, or ethics, Spiritual Formation, or local or state politics and elections. Dr. Mather teaches The American Founding and American Political Institutions at Azusa Pacific University in Lost Angeles County, California.
You can access the audio only version of the podcast here , and each episode has a YouTube link attached besides the ones the Democrats that run YouTube don’t let us talk about on there.