Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Creeping Feeling of Dread

Have you ever experienced that sick, twisted feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realize that you had forgotten something: someone's birthday, a crucial meeting, an important file, perhaps a vital task. There's  brief moment of denial, a quickening of the pulse, and a cold resignation that, basically, you've blown it.

I hate feeling this way. It's as though the bottom of my stomach drops out and icy water surges through my veins. Sometimes, when things are really bad, I feel as though I can hear the blood vessels expanding and contracting as they push newly-frozen blood throughout my body.

For years, I associated these feelings with tasks I had failed to complete. These last two years, however, I have begun to associate them on a near-daily basis with things I say while teaching. As an extrovert, I process my thoughts about three feet away from my head. That is to say, I usually say whatever comes to mind. The more enthusiastic or engaged I am, the greater the likelihood that I'll say something completely outlandish.

With the young students, I fight mightily to keep the filter firmly in place. Generally, I can screen what I say enough to catch anything completely offensive or stupid. Hence my teaching style for the underclassmen: pre-prepared notes that they have to write down and a minimum of free discussion. Of course, I'm happy to engage any questions that they have but I treat these individually, rather than trying to get the whole class in on a discussion (20+ sophomores discussing a single issue??? IMPOSSIBLE)

My seniors, however, get a faster, freer, looser Duns. In a class with 35 students that starts at 8:40 in the morning, I have to do my best not only to keep them engaged and interested, I also have to work hard to keep them awake.

I mention this because last night I experienced the cold dread I experience daily when I signed into Facebook to find that I had been invited to be a member of the "Abba Duns Quotes" page. My heart rate skyrocketed as I read nearly 200 quotes culled from my senior philosophy class this year. I think I had a sense that stuff was being written down but, to be honest, I never thought much about it.

Here are a few highlights:


  • (pours water on sleeping student) I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit…Evil Demon be gone!
  • 1517, ahh, the good ol’ days…we could just burn people who disagreed
  • If I feel the hand of my beloved on my cheek in bed I think, “that’s great”. If I feel a hand on my cheek on a bus in New York, I think, “Oh my God! I’m going to be a statistic”
  • Descartes wanted to get you a ripped Philosophical body
  • Just because he (Heidegger) was a Nazi doesn’t mean he was a bad philosopher…he was just a bad person
  • Did you know that babies with cystic fibrosis taste salty?
  • I think that Jesus had more on his mind than me when he was crucified like, “Oh my God this hurts like hell”.
  • I think I made a kid an atheist by accident the other day…he’ll take my class in the future though and it’ll be fine
  • This may surprise some of you, but I am going to die one day…sometimes I wish it be sooner
  • You are close enough to a ginger that I feel like kicking you
  • If philosophy were easy no one would major in Communications
  • Interesting enough, Tom Cruise studied to be a priest as a child…see what happens when you abandon your childhood religion, you become a nut job…you have a hot wife but you are damn crazy
  • So under the influence of Sudafed and two goblets of Jesus’ precious blood, I had the most delusional prayer experience ever…This is how I think I ended up on an Indian reservation for 9 weeks
  • Type In “Jesuit” into YouTube and you will either get tin flute lessons or how we control OPEC
  • You have the depth of a pie tin…
  • I knew a girl who was kicked in the head by a donkey and was cross-eyed for her entire life. It was always unnerving to look at her


I include these simply as representative sampling of the struggle I face as an extrovert. If nothing else, my students will leave my course with an appreciation of the art of the quick comeback and the outlandish claim!

As you can imagine, I live with the sinking feeling of dread that I described above. Every night when I pray, I promise myself that "Tomorrow, I resolve not so say _________ again." With God's grace, I think I follow through on this prayerful resolution....it's just that something else finds a way to replace each yesterday's slip!! I don't mean to say things that are crazy, but they just escape from my mouth before I have time to catch it. Fortunately, my students tend to find these things amusing if not a bit dis-edifying...proving that Jesuits are real people, too.

As of 9:15 this morning, my final exams are administered and I'll go down and run them through the Scantron machine later this afternoon. It's hard to believe that, with this exam, my regency hits its half-way point. Although I look forward to further adventures in my Jesuit formation and my eventual ordination to the priesthood, I really love my regency and I can't think of anything I'd rather do than teach...despite what my aforementioned quotes may indicate! [Disclaimer: all of these quotes need to put into context. Most of them are far more vanilla than they seem at first blush]
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