The Center Of The Universe And More Lessons From My Shop Teacher

The Center Of The Universe And More Lessons From My Shop Teacher

Thinking back to my time in this mountain top village summons a typical Hollywood movie scene of some character tripping out to the latest fashion drug. It is psychedelic, chaotic, fragmented, colorful, frightening, and generally makes no sense whatsoever – for the most part.

In one flash I am sitting across from a friend of mine at his kitchen table, his hand lying flat on the table in front of him with his fingers spread apart. In his other hand he is holding a large kitchen knife. He begins to thrust down the kitchen knife in the motion made famous by “Psycho”, stabbing the tip of the blade into the kitchen table, in-between each of his fingers. He increases the speed, continuing this lunacy for the next 30 seconds or so. I look at his face and it almost shows disinterest. No intense concentration. No maniacal or deranged look of a killer. Just disinterest like his life is so fucked up that even this is boring him.

Next flash has me practically running with my best friend at the time to either his house or mine, right after school, so we can watch our daily soap opera. The two TV shows that captured our attention was “General Hospital” and “Another World”. We would be glued to the set in an effort to get caught up with the drama of these different characters. It is somewhat ironic that my friend went on to be an administrator in a hospital while some people close to me may simply chuckle at the inference given with the second choice.

Then there are the flashes that relate back to school. In one scene there is a frantic look on a teenage boy’s face as he is desperately running as fast as he can, all the while looking back over his shoulder at me. I am walking slowly but firmly after him – and like in the movies still able to keep up. He darts into the music room that has been set up with chairs for some class time. As he stumbles and trips in his effort to get around these obstacles I follow closely behind simply plowing through them all – booting the chairs as necessary, sending them flying across the room. It all comes to a rather anti-climatic end with me being constrained by several people and the teenage boy making his getaway.

This other flash intrigues me and I have often shared the story, as an old man often does, in an effort to both inspire and instruct the youth today. In my case it has been my children that get to hear these stories, often timed in the moment of something stupid they are doing, to which they respond with an eye roll, dismissing me and my story with a “we have heard it all before dad” look before they move on with something else. A brilliant strategy on my part whereas I stop their idiotic behavior by imposing upon them an oft-recanted story from my youth. They run away screaming with their hands clasped to their ears, which provides me with amusement, while diffusing the situation that required such actions in the first place.

This flash is of me standing in shop class, clearly having just exasperated my shop teacher with something, I have no idea what, just before he points his finger to the door in a dramatic gesture and says, “Out”. The scene then breaks to me standing in the hallway, bored, just before the teacher comes out of the classroom. It is clear that he would rather do a myriad of other actions in the moment but he composes himself and stares at me, trying to find the words. His one sentence, context be damned, has stayed with me these past few decades, haunting me, and reminding me that life lessons comes from the weirdest places.

If I were to meet him again I would thank him. He didn’t know it, and neither did I at the time, but his one sentence was profound and prophetic. It started a crack that continued to build over the next few years that would eventually lead to my undoing. And that was a good thing.

As he stood in front of me, clearly exasperated, he paused but a moment and then told me, “The world does not revolve around you.”

He then left me standing in the hallway, returning to his classroom.

I was taken off guard. I pause, even as I type this, for his voice and those words still vibrate around me as I remember them. Said in a fit of frustration, when what he probably wanted to do was to tell me off with as many succinct swear words as he could, but instead in that small insignificant moment he mustered whatever he had left of his teaching professionalism, and handed a teenage boy a life lesson that would alter his ways years later.

For, you see, I was convinced that the world, in fact, did revolve around me. My arrogance knew no limits, as arrogance often does, and my foray into a darker spiritualism feed into this egocentric superiority that only justified itself with my daily academic achievements. I was successful at whatever I touched, and that feed into this dark, smoldering arrogant mass that was hell-bent on consuming everything and everyone around them, including itself.

In the moment I dismissed his sentence, convinced that he was, simply, a moron. I left that hallway, even more arrogant then I was only a few moments earlier. My lesson would have to be learned another day.

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