Monday, July 29, 2013

Terrifying Class of Terror

      I think most of us have had those teachers/professors that just simply enjoy pushing the envelope. They have, what some call, a "power trip"; they enjoy lording their power over their helpless pupils, inciting fear and disdain amongst the class. And for what reason? Who knows. Maybe they thrive off fear. Maybe they're just mean people by nature and have no motives. Again, who knows; in the end it doesn't really matter, because any way you slice it, it's still an awful situation to be subject to that kind of authority.

     A year or two ago, I had one of those professors. At the beginning of the very first class, before even reading the syllabus, he promised that he would personally offend each and every one of us by the time the semester ended. As the semester progressed, his promise began to come true. Slowly but surely, he'd cuss some student out, disregard someone's idea as being "complete rubbish" and even insult people based on appearances. Every single class I would walk in basically paralyzed with fear; "Would this be the day he takes ME down?". Class after class, nothing happened. The fear grew... Even as I gripped the doorknob leading into that classroom the fear gripped my heart twice as strong. It was on one such day that my fated encounter with the professor occurred...

     I was late to class. He always ribbed on the kids that were late to class. He'd make a spectacle of them, make an example of them. Knowing that to be my fate, I looked through the window in the door into the classroom. Good; he was writing on the board; if I could just manage to get in quietly enough he wouldn't notice me... This was gonna take skill.

     I turned the knob expertly, avoiding the inevitable "creak" it produced if turned too quickly. Slowly, I pushed the heavy wooden door open, so as not to catch his peripheral vision. The whole time, he was focused on what he was writing on the board, while talking to the class. He didn't notice me! I'd done it! I had just silently shut the door and finished sneaking to my seat, I was just about to sit down, when, without turning from the board, I hear him.

Uh oh... Fear pierced my heart like a fiery arrow. My stomach churned. I knew I was gonna get it. My time was up. So long, pride. Time to brace for humiliation...
I pivoted around on my heel slowly to face the direction the voice had come from. "Y-yes, Doctor?" I managed to squeak out in my sheer terror of the situation. I was dying. The whole class was staring at me, mouths agape half from horror and half from the sadistic expectation of the scene about to unfold. I was beginning to wish I had played truant that day.

     "Thompson. Did you get a haircut?"
Oh no. Here it comes. He's gonna make fun of me now... The eyes of my classmates were as big as saucers, they were practically drooling over the whole thing (classmates are sadistic and will take all manner of pleasure from the misfortune of one of their own, you see). "Yes sir... Yes, I did." Surprisingly I managed to say that with a mite of confidence.

     Everyone was on the edge of their seats, waiting to see how horribly he would insult me, how he would destroy every last bit of self esteem that I had.

     Not once during this whole charade did the professor avert his eyes from his task at the blackboard. Not once did he turn his head to see me enter the room, it was impossible that he had been able to see me and realize that I had gotten my hair cut.

     A few moments of silence as he continued to write on the board. The tension in the air was so thick, and oh was he loving it. The power he had over me, over the whole class, as he simply stood up there writing on the board... He was loving every second of it. Sadist.

   "Thompson, you got a haircut?"
 " Y-y-yes... Doctor... Yes I did..."
"Looks good. Suits you well. Sit down and open up to Don Juan."
".....Yes, Doctor..."

     I slowly turned around and took my seat. I looked around at my classmates; not very surprisingly, they all had looks of intense disappointment on their faces. They had wanted a yelling match. A scene. They didn't want to see the Doctor compliment me and then continue about his business. Heck, even I didn't really want that. But that's what we got. I got out my book, turned to Don Juan, and sighed the biggest sigh of relief I possibly could. Life went on.

      I only had one close call with him after that. I was turning in a late paper. I had to go up to his desk, in front of the whole class, and turn it in. I was expecting him to yell at me for it, since he technically didn't accept late papers.
     I walked up to his desk. His nose was buried in a stack of lesson plans, he seemed really quite vexed and flustered. I thought it might be best if I return another time, perhaps after class, when all of a sudden I hear a sharp "What?" I looked down at his face, now fully out of the papers and glaring at me. I made sure to make eye contact and try to appear confident. "Hello, Doctor, I've got an assignment I'd like to turn in... I know it's late, but I emailed you about it and...." It was at this point that I noticed him staring at my face.
     Oh no. Here it comes... His eyes were locked with mine, his mouth agape with what I took to be disbelief at the audacity of my turning the paper in late. I stared back into his confused gaze. We looked into each others' eyes for a really uncomfortable amount of time, before I asked meekly "ummmm... Doctor, are you okay?" As if snapping out of a trance, he shut his previously agape mouth, kind of shook his head a little, and averted his eyes from mine. He sort of muttered "I'm sorry, it's just... your eyes..." Confused, I said "umm.. I'm sorry..." He looked back into my eyes, and almost fell back into that trance-like state, and said "your eyes... they're grey... intense... beautiful..." At this, my cheeks instantly reddened and I felt the need to get away from that desk. I could hear my classmates snickering behind me. I awkwardly apologized again and put the paper on his desk and returned to my seat. The Doctor still seemed a little out of it, distracted. He sat at his desk in silence for a while. My classmates gazed from him to me and back to him again. Nobody could figure out what had just transpired. I just sort of slumped down in my seat, hoping nobody would notice me for the rest of the class. Eventually the Doctor regained his composure and began class. I was worried that the girl sitting next to me could hear my heart beating out of its chest with terror. She asked me what he said to me. I just told her "he got freaked out by my eyes." She turned around and we all opened our books to Ozymandius.

     He never did humiliate me. Confuse me, yes; humiliate me, no. He broke his original promise, and I'm thankful for that. But every class, I lived in terror, waiting for the day that wouldn't come.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Humanity in Remission

     Humanity (the state of being human, not the institution itself) is something that plagues me. Being human makes me lose the will to live. It attacks my soul, it deteriorates my moral condition, it kills all potential of goodness within me. Yes, to be human is to be cursed; it's been fate ever since the incident in the Garden of Eden. To be human is to be selfish at all times, even when you feel you're being selfless. It's being arrogant even though you feel humble. It's being self-righteous and hypocritical, even while you feel that you've gotten it all figure out, you're living life the way you ought to. Humanity is something that will devour you. Much as cancer attacks its host's body and kills it, so, too, does humanity, in an alarmingly literal way. Unlike cancer and other lethal diseases, though, humanity has a treatment that can be quite effective, even more-so than radiation or chemo therapy. 

     When a person has a terminal illness, there are perhaps no sweeter words to be uttered by a doctor than "it's in remission". Remission. It's going away; retreating, diminishing, the very harbinger of death is itself dying away. How wonderful to know that there's hope, that life will get better, maybe even easier. This demon disease that's been gnawing at your insides, devouring your hope and will to go on, it's retreating. Remission.

     I'm here to tell you that my humanity is in remission. Yes, the thing that has plagued my life for 23 years now, making me selfish, hard-hearted, impatient, harsh, hateful, controlling, spiteful, arrogant, self-righteous, and many other hideous things, this disease called humanity is in remission. It's retreating. Going away. Every day, I find myself thinking less of myself and more of others and how I can help them. My empathy and compassion increases steadily. I find myself more willing to take time to understand people, I'm now able to wait much longer without complaining or feeling angry. I find my speech becoming less hateful, less negative, and more positive and loving. I no longer hate anyone, even those I once considered enemies. I have a much easier time surrendering control of every aspect of my life, I no longer feel as though I'm spiraling out of control when things don't go as I expected or planned. I find myself forgiving more readily, and holding grudges less and less. I hesitate to mention anything about pride, because almost by default when one claims humility they display arrogance, although I do find myself more willing to take correction and input about my life from others. Best of all, self-righteousness is fading away. How can I possibly be self-righteous when I have nothing to offer? I am a human, a member of this cursed institution known as "Humanity". There is nothing good in me.

     There is nothing good in me, save for the One who saved me. The treatment I spoke of earlier, the one even more effective than radiation and chemo therapy, the treatment that has sent my humanity into remission; this treatment is the cleansing blood of Christ, which atones for my humanity and takes my sins to the grave. This treatment is the Holy Spirit, which floods my soul and lends peace to my troubled and anxious mind. This treatment is the unending, eternal love of God, which offers me escape from humanity. I have done nothing to deserve this opportunity. Nothing I can or could ever do would qualify me for this. As I said before, I have nothing to bring to the table, I have no good thing to offer that would atone for the cursed sins of my humanity. Before receiving this treatment, I was a hopeless wretch, fast succumbing to this disease, humanity. There was no good thing in me. My soul was destined for Hell. Now that I have this escape, though, now that I'm covered in the blood, flooded with the Holy Spirit, and enveloped in the great love of the One True God, my humanity is in remission, and I'm seeing the results. This is not by anything I have done, this is solely the result of the treatment.

     Relapse. A disheartening term in the medical world, relapse is practically the opposite of remission. Relapse is a falling back into the old problem. Relapse is when the disease gains ground again, rears its ugly head, and causes problems once more. How heartbreaking, to have been making progress, but then experience such a setback, a setback called "relapse". This happens not only to patients with cancer or other illness, but it can happen to struggling with humanity, too. In fact, while not guaranteed for patients with cancer or other illnesses, relapse IS guaranteed for everyone struggling with humanity. Humanity is a state of being, one that cannot be fully transcended until death. Cancer and other terminal illness are just that: illnesses. Potentially lethal, but not always permanent. No, sadly, with humanity, even when it's in remission, even those who receive treatment, all will eventually fall again. All will relapse into sin. Even those with the most successful reaction to the treatment, those people who appear so spiritual and as though they've got their life all together, they are destined to succumb to humanity again. For while we can become Christians from non-believers, we cannot become non-humans from humans.

     Another difference between the remission of humanity and that of cancer and other illnesses, though, is that while remission cannot always be possible for patients with cancer and other illnesses, it is always an option for those struggling with the burden of humanity. God's arms are always open, the Holy Spirit will fill your soul if you ask, and the cleansing blood of Jesus has been spilt on your account and He has risen from the dead, defeating death and humanity itself so you don't have to. Even after experiencing relapse, remission is always possible again.

     My humanity is in remission. It cannot be cured while I'm on this earth. I'm destined to experience relapses many times over. But with remission comes hope. My life isn't perfect. I don't have it all figured out. I'm still a human, so by nature, I'm still a bad person who sins daily and struggles with various inner demons consistently. The only difference is, I'm a human filled with the Holy Spirit to guide me, the blood of Jesus Christ to atone for my sins, and a God that loves me enough to send His son to spill His precious blood and conquer death for my benefit. Yes, my humanity is in remission. And yours can be, too.