I’m not sure where this blog entry is exactly headed. Let’s find out together….
“Why are you doodling in my class, Mr. Roedel?” my eighth grade religion teacher asked sharply from her fixed position above me.
Where in the crap did she come from? Mrs. M had just been in front of the chalkboard explaining to us heathens about the difference between venial and mortal sins. How did she get over here so quickly? Had she used some soft of unholy power and teleported across the room once when she noticed that I had buried my attention down into my spiral notebook? I was now standing in the shadow of her terrible gaze as she was now hovering over me with her angry and wolf-like grey eyeballs that were peering at me over her horn-rimmed glasses.
Shit balls. Mrs. M had once again caught me not paying attention to her drone on and on about the subject of hellfire and her opinion on God’s propensity for eternal condemnation. This sort topic was a popular teaching point that she took such delight in talking about. Despite her attempts to hide it from us, I could always see a slight curl upwards on the corners of her lips whenever she talked about damnation. Mrs. M was definitely not a glass-half full kind of lady – unless, of course, that glass was filled with brimstone and lava that was fresh from the furnace of Hades. Every day during her “religion” class I was spoon fed a huge helping of “God punishes the wicked, and rewards the pure” TED talk with the definite implication that neither myself, or many of my classmates would ever be worthy of divine forgiveness. To Mrs. M, God’s love was like an exclusive country club and most of humanity were too spiritually poor to ever partake of it’s eternal buffet. I often wondered why she taught kids, due to the fact that she obviously hated us. I imagined that the only reason she pursued this vocation was because it was the only group of people who she could terrify on a daily basis. She probably would have also made a fantastic IRS auditor had she not found such joy in telling us how we were all agents of The Devil.
I’ve heard that over the years Mrs. Mohatt mellowed out and found some balance in her approach to teaching kids about God – perhaps she started taking a mood enhancer or had suffered a minor stroke which activated the previously dormant compassion gland in her brain. Either way, I was never afforded the chance to see her more and positive human characteristics. My experiences of Mrs. M were always bathed in a piping hot tub of old fashioned Catholic guilt. She passed on a few years ago and I hope that she encountered a God much more loving than the one she taught us about.
Certainly I was indeed guilty of not paying attention to anything she was saying. I never did – and she knew it. This was our little dance we performed all the time. She would teach about shit I didn’t have any interest in and I would ignore her quietly. It was our unspoken truce that I thought we formed in an unspoken pact. Why was she violating it now? I had long abandoned listening to her gospel of fear that she used to testify to. To be fair, it wasn’t just her vision of theology that I was often bored of. At no point in my life I’ve never been one for trying to understand the nature of the divine. I don’t find much value in knowing the story of why Jonah was swallowed by a whale or the reasons why The Holy Spirit was sent down from the heavens. I don’t need to know why things happen. I enjoy the mystery of things. I don’t want to know how electricity works – it just does. I don’t want to know the motivation behind why India and Pakistan always are in a state of near war – they just are. I don’t need to know why a crazed gunman walked into an office building and start shooting people – they just did it. I don’t want to know how even after billions of years since the spark of creation that The Universe can be still expanding – it just is. Motivations or reasons behind why thing happen don’t really interest me. I’m not suggesting that they shouldn’t interest you, in fact, I hope they do. Doctors should be looking at the things that cause cancer. Psychologists should be looking into why people snap. Political Scientists should be looking into why ISIS wants the destruction of America. You should be curious to the “why’s and how’s” to how the sausage of life is made. Just don’t expect me to join in on the chorus of the delightfully informed.
For most things that exist in this world this is my opinion:
This is probably one of the central reasons I was such a terrible student – but to be honest I could care less the reasons why I didn’t do well in school, but I’ll explore that more later on in this entry though.
I enjoy being ignorant, thank you very much. This was a point of view that Mrs. M ( or my other teachers, or my parents for that matter) never could quite understand. In this moment she was most puzzled to why I was not more invested in learning about why God needed to cleanse me of my original sin. The only thing I knew, that was once she started to talk at the beginning of class it was then my cue to start to draw in my notebook. My notebook was not for writing down notes about why The Council of Trent made the decisions they made in 300 AD, it was instead used for creating a world that I could escape to. Inside the pages of countless notebooks I drew my Neverland – which was a place that I had purchased a shit-ton of emotional timeshares in during the course of my academic years. I would meticulously sketch kingdoms of stick people who usually lived their lives peacefully between the valleys of two large mountains (all of you sexually charged psycho-analysts can keep your opinions to yourself) that would tower over either side of their village. I was not much of an artist, but I would spend time crafting different variations of this world. There would be rivers and vast farmlands that would surround these intricate stick people villages.
I had never quite figured out what exactly they were growing in those farms, in hindsight it was probably some sort of opium because most of my stick people ended up looking fairly intoxicated. Nobody ever worked or went to school. It was just a two-dimensional world where folks would leave their small huts to go farm for a bit before going back to their homes to probably get high on the magical herb they had just harvested. There was no conflict in my stick kingdoms. Once in a particularly special drawings there was a dragon that showed up to eat the stick people, but he ended up just wanting to be adopted by a family. The stick people made him a giant pet. The problem of how they picked up his giant dragon poop, or how they fed him was never fully resolved in my drawings. It was a significant plot hole I admit – but so was the fact that all of my stick people seemed to be asexual, yet there were a bunch of stick-infants running around. It was like watching an episode of The Love Boat in the fact that you just had to suspend disbelief for a bit. So what if Captain Stubing’s daughter never went to school and was forced to have to watch a bunch of horny 40-year old hook up every week?
“Mr. Roedel!” Mrs. M snapped. “I asked you why you are doodling (I bristled at the term “doodling” This was more than that! Doodling is what you do in the shower. this is art, lady!!) in my class?”
I had two choices:
1) I could lie and tell her what she wanted to hear. If I told her that I accidently allowed Satan into my heart and he is now forcing me to draw in my notebook she might instantantopusly offer me a pardon. Of course, the only cure for this type of demonic possession would be probably for me to have to transcribe the entire Book Of Revelations into Gaelic and then offer myself to be burned at the stake on the front lawn of The Bishops house.
2) Or….I could tell the truth.
I chose the second option.
“I’m bored” I said before I knew what in the hell I was saying.
Her eyes lit up. I probably shouldn’t have said that.
“You’re bored of hearing about God’s redemption?”
She wasn’t really asking me to hear the answer. My answer would probably be of no consequence to her. In her mind I was already a lost soul who was just biding time in my meat bag suit until my first class ticket to hell was punched. My teacher was using this as a moment to make sure the rest of the class was paying close attention to what was happening. I was a cautionary tale that would soon scare the rest of the students straight.
“I don’t think God cares what I know. I think he has other things to worry about.”
Now she had crazy eyes that you would only expect to encounter when facing the business end of a serial killers knife.
“You don’t know the first thing about God!” she announced.
Of course I didn’t and neither did she.
I wish I would have kept talking, not because I was some enlightened free-thinker who had some radical ideas to preach, but instead because I’m designed to be a passive aggressive dickhead who takes delight in arguing with people who provoke me and in this case that’s what was clearly happening. I should have challenged my angry faith formation teacher to explain to me how she has come to know God. Did he send angels to her at night to confirm that her theology of fear she insisted on spewing was dead on? I wish I could have pushed back and quizzed her on how she was able to become the mouthpiece to church teaching? I didn’t say a word though. I chewed on my tongue and I slunk back in my seat i complete surrender. Mrs. Mohatt took a quick non-verbal victory lap and leaned in close to me with her fingers tapping mockingly on my sacred stick person kingdom journal.
“Parent-teacher meetings are next week” she sneered. “Should be interesting to hear what your parents have to say about your lack of attention in religion class. I think I will take this notebook with me to show them what you have been up to.” Mrs. Mohatt left my desk with my notebook clutched in her hands. I hope that the stick people would remember to feed their pet dragon without me there to remind them. Who will harvest all of the stick person hemp? Oh well, at least my teacher finally had admitted that she didn’t actually care why I was drawing (not doodling!!) in class – the reason didn’t matter. She did not care why I wasn’t paying attention.
In her mind there was no good reason for me to not be hanging on every word she said – she just wanted me to knock it off and listen.
However, my parents were going to have a different take. They were going to want to know why I was not being attentive in class. Double shitballs. They were going to kill me. I’m not talking the metaphorical “kill” either – I’m talking the real deal here. They had warned me me if they heard from another teacher about how terrible I was in class that they were more than capable of hiding my body. I was always terrible student and that was an capital crime in my household. My mother was a former teacher while my dad was a super-genius, and neither of them could never understand why I didn’t care a lick about academics. A few weeks before my run-in with Mrs. Mohatt they had received word that I had a D in my pre-algebra class. This caused mass hysteria around my home. I felt relieved that I was actually at a D level, considering the fact that I had no fucking clue what in the hell algebra was in the first place. It was a class that I went to everyday where people spoke a different language. I might as well been sitting in a class on Mars. A + B = What in the crap are all of you talking about? The value of Z is equal to when does the friggin’ bell ring? I think my math teacher was being more than generous to grant me that grade, my parents didn’t see anything affirmative about it though. They had me sit down and talk to a counselor about why I was doing so poorly in school. His name was Jake, and after about a half an hour of asking me questions about my life he had figured me out pretty quickly.
Jake The Child Whisperer handed me a pre-packaged container of chocolate ice cream and one of those tiny splinter-giving wooden spoons that always seemed to accompany it. I figured this was part of his operating procedure. John would hand out a bit of dessert before smacking you upside the face with some “hard truths” about your life. It was like a one ma good cop/bad cop thing – but with freezer burned ice cream and corduroy pants.
“I think the problem is that you don’t take school or your life very seriously”.
Bingo Jake. Let’s consider this a breakthrough and call it a day.
“Do you agree with that?” he asked.
He wasn’t done…damn
“I guess…” I offered weakly.
I knew this is what he wanted to hear me say. Hopefully that would end the questions –
“Why is that?”
I responded with the predictably mumbled “I dunno” answer.
Jake was delighted. Everything was going according to his after-school special script he had already written in head where I would come to grips with my academic problems because of his keen insight and compassionate approach. Which lead him to ask his final question.
“Finish this sentence for me, I don’t take my school work or life seriously because_____”
I couldn’t fill in the blank because there was no answer. I told Jake that I didn’t know, which caused his forehead to wrinkle up a little. He pressed me on the issue. He said we couldn’t end the session until I gave him my answer. I really wanted to go home because I had already missed 10 minutes of my precious television time. I said “I don’t take my school work or life seriously because that is how I was made.” Wrong answer. Jake’s face wrinkles went haywire. He did not believe that was a proper response. Jake wanted me to come up with a better “because” answer. I couldn’t. I tried to explain that I had no idea why I didn’t care about the crap that I was told by adults to care about. My apathy toward life had always been there. It had been a little glitch I had been born with it. It wasn’t like I enjoyed being a shitbag – because my life would sure have been a hell of a lot easier had I been programmed to be more ambitious. We went back and forth for a bit arguing over nature vs. nurture until he had enough of my circus act. After the session he told my mother that my academic problems were simply because “I was just really lazy.” Thanks a lot Jake, I hope you choke on your terrible ice cream and by the way you better find a different face to make when talking with children. It looks like you are having some sort of movement….
My poor sweet mother took this very badly. She knew I was lazy, but she hadn’t considered the fact that I might be “really lazy” before that moment. She was heartbroken because she felt like she had been the cause of my laziness. On the car ride home from John The Child Whisperer, she lamented that she had been too easy on me as a small child and that’s why I was now cursed to be forever lazy. I explained to her that there was no great reason to any of it and that this was the way I was born – which I was a theory that offered her a bit of relief. It wasn’t her fault! I had laid the blame solely on God and how I was designed! By the time we had gotten home we had both come to the conclusion that “Schools not for everybody”. Which I took as an excuse to head straight inside yo make a fried bologna sandwich before sitting down to watch some Happy Days reruns. As I tuned in to see what new co-ed The Fonz was seducing, my mom did give me one last warning on the matter.
“I don’t care why you are struggling, but I expect you to try harder.”
I gave her the Arthur Fonzarelli “Ayyyyyyyyyyyyy” thumbs up and assured her I would.
Now, just a few weeks later I was going to be in trouble again. This time for not paying attention to the rapture-loving nonsense that Mrs. M had been supplying. To my relief after meeting with Mrs. M my mother came away with the same impression I had on the woman’s education style. “She is a bit crazy.” was all the assurance I needed from her that I was not going to be smothered to death in my sleep for not getting high marks in religion class. I agreed with her assement. “But…I expect you to try harder” I flashed another thumbs up – Fonzi style. You got it Mrs. R! Ayyyyyyyyyyy.
I have spent my life not carrying about “The Why’s” or “Because’s” of anything which has led to more difficulty than probably neccesary. I just don’t like filling in the blanks to why things happen in my life.
I lost my right eye when I was eight
because I was being careless.
I believe God will redeem me
because I learned about him.
I did terrible in school
because I was lazy.
I use my imagination a lot
because life can be scary.
I will love my wife forever
because she looks past all of my flaws.
I miss my parents everyday
I love to write
because I have a fairly large ego that needs to be filled.
I have depression
because of a thousand reasons. Chiefly because I’ve never moved away from where I was born and I am probably chemically imbalanced.
My child has Autism
because it’s an epidemic that is sweeping our world.
I still have faith in humanity because the alternative is far more terrifying.
I will do the best I can to be a good parent
because I want my children to have a better life than me.
I like serving others
because it makes me feel useful.
I enjoy living simply
because I get easily overwhelmed by the many complications of life.
On my deathbed I hope to die happy
because I lived a good and full life.
Part of my struggles lately have been centered on those damned becauses. I have fixated on why I am not more successful, or a better writer, or a happier person. Asking why those things are happening give me a chance to find a scapegoat. Why do I struggle with my faith life? It is because of my people like my eighth grade religion teacher, that’s why! Bullshit. That type of thinking is the cowards way. I need to focus more on what I am going to do about the obstacles in my life. The world is so concerned about why things happen and I bought into it for too long.
The question “Why” isn’t important.
Ain’t no reason that exists that will every be a satisfactory answer to me anyways.
The question of “What” is the one we should be asking.
To hell with everything after the “because”. I’m sure there are plenty of reasons why I am the way I am or for why things happen to me – but those reasons don’t matter to me in the slightest. I don’t want to know or put stock in the “becauses” of life. I only care about the first parts. Focusing on the whys of life keeps me rooted in the excuses of the past. Yes, my son has Autism. I don’t care how or what caused it. I just care about what we do about it today. I don’t give any thoughts to the reasons why I sucked in school, it doesn’t make any difference to me today. There is no drive on my part to fill in the blanks to why I act the way I act. I would be the worst mental health patient ever as I have no curiosity in what makes me tick, I really don’t. Like I said, I kind of like mysteries. Even if I remain a mystery to myself.
Without all of those “becauses” I listed above, my life looks more like this:
I lost my right eye when I was eight. I did terrible in school. I will love my wife forever. I use my imagination. I miss my parents everyday. I love to write. I have depression. My child has autism. I still have faith in humanity. I will do the best I can to be a good parent. I like serving others. I enjoy living simply. On my deathbed I hope to die happy.
Those things exist because of __________? Who cares why I am this way. “Why” is so passive. I just need to care more about “what” What am I going to do about the things in my life that are true? Everything else is just unnecessary subtext that I flower things up with. I don’t care to fill in those “because blanks”. There are things in my life I am good at. There are things in my life I really suck at. I don’t care why either of those things exist. The only thing I care about is the promise I made to my mom years ago.
I promise to try harder. That’s what I can do. Now, if you excuse me I have to make sure my stick people feed their pet dragon. Yes, I still doodle. Why? Because I just do.