During my last semester of college, I took a course called, General Religion,* with Professor Howard Clark.* He’s a pretty well-known psychologist, who has written a ton of books, worked with politicians around the world, and completely reformed a maximum-facility prison in Colorado.* I had class once a week, for two hours and forty-five minutes. I would go straight from work to class, and be tired as hell. I figured out that the best way to stay awake was to write down things that I observed about my professor/ random ideas/ poems/ opinions of the girls in my class that popped into my head. You may learn something from this, or at least be entertained.
*Howard Clark and General Religion are made-up names in order to not reveal the true identity of my professor (He’s a cool dude, but may not appreciate being portrayed as a forgetful man with a big stomach). I also changed the state that he worked in.
February 8th, 2012
Hair looks like a cloud, with a stomach like a bulging bowl attached to his body. Looks like that dude “Soc,” from Peaceful Warrior. Navy blazer, with dark blue turtleneck. What’s the difference between those colors? Digital watch. White, “God-like” beard. Blazer has gold buttons, I own something similar. He’s like a 21st century Alan Watts. Says, “Let me put it this way,” a lot. Refutes idea that memories fall to the forward of our brains with head down, because he leans his head back, as if at the dentist’s, to find his memories.
February 15th, 2012
Same blue turtleneck, but the white beard has been slightly trimmed. I’ve recently learned the word, “Paunch,” which is the best description of his stomach. He has a slightly bad memory, and mentioned the Amish people, and the disaster that they faced, again. Still extremely kind-natured, which can never really cause you to be annoyed with him. Upon reading at least 70 pages of The Case For God, by Karen Armstrong, and knowing that he knows her, I realized that a lot of his beliefs came from her, or that they may have influenced each other. He said, “Jails are graduate schools for crime.”
A little poem I wrote during class (Different parts were written at different times):
I feel the loneliest in a crowd of people
Share my eyes
I’m trembling, as if the earth beneath my feet is causing the tectonic plates of my soul to crash
Thirty stories are beneath my feet, but this all started with one
I see taxis that I’ve taken, people that I’ve spoken to, and panhandlers whom I’ve smoked with
All busy little bees buzzing from hive to hive, just to stay alive
I am a bee, too, watch me buzz
I feel most alive around death
Share my eyes
I’m kneeling, as if the floor beneath my knees was created to support the weight of myself
and this body
The juxtaposition that I observe between life and death existing so closely causes me to become cold like the body in front of me
Who am I? Who was this man? My inevitable fate stares into my deepest caves of fear
I am going to die. I am going to rot. And one day, my name will be spoken by someone
for the last time
I feel most human while inside of a woman
I’m sexing, as if the woman beneath my body was born to open my heart
She looks at me with an expression of revelation, as if she’s seeing the meaning of life
I know that she’s just another body, fated to grow, wither, and be forgotten
But she doesn’t see that, ignorance is fatally bliss
I am going blind, my fate is no longer visible. I am mortal, and death is a gift.
February 29th, 2012
Amish people are here. Two women and two men. Also an author who lived with the Amish named Peter Rodrick.* The larger of the two men looks as if he has just taken a hat off, and has an extremely long beard with grey strands that hang like waterfalls. His hands look as if they have been worked since they could grip a shovel, and he’s sporting these glasses that resemble aviators. I think they all share the last name Tucker,* but they’re not all related. This may signal that many people within their small community share last names.
The two women are sporting white caps, with strips of lace that are tied into a bow. They both have glasses, and the one next to the aforementioned man has a Norwegian nose, fully clothed in black, while the other woman has a black sleeveless dress, with a blue sweater underneath.
The other man all the way to the left has long, shiny, brown hair. And has bangs just like the other man. The two women have parted hair. The man on the left has no glasses on, and has a large brown beard.
It’s difficult to put them into words, or anyone for that matter. They’re human, and their realization of this can be somewhat intimidating. This author, Rodrick, is slightly condescending in how he’s telling us to phrase our questions. He knows how to match a tie with a shirt, though. (Nathanial, Claire, Rebecca, Ezra),* that’s the order they’re in, with Rodrick next to Ezra.
As they speak, I heard the conviction of their lord in their voices. Ezra just said that his oldest daughter left the community, and he sounds deeply sad. They seem so sincere in the things that they say, and I appreciate their deep honesty.
Ezra embodies the phrase, “Lead by example,” and he uses prayer as a weapon. “I am not in control.” Clark is dressed as usual. Nathanial: “Forgiveness is the only option.”
They have such great humor and light to them. Especially Ezra, he has a beautiful laugh. They are currently having a little trouble opening a Smart TM bottle of water. It’s beautiful. They don’t drive cars, nor have any desire to. They hire people to drive them places. Flying is unacceptable. They speak Pennsylvanian Dutch.
Rodrick often asks people, “Am I exaggerating?” He’s very theatrical, and seems wrought up in a lot of emotion in regards to his adviser at Harvard, who forced him to conform to a certain standard for his PhD dissertation.
Nathanial states that it’s not practical for someone to convert. They have no fear of being desolate because the community supports one another. They try not to dwell on the “Whys” of things happening. Their actions are limited by their modes of transportation. People date, but usually meet in youth groups, and at youth activities.
March 7th, 2012
He’s sporting a blue and white, striped button-up with a red and green tie that has a pattern I’ve seen before, but currently can’t name. I wonder why he’s changed his dress today. I see the same navy blue blazer with gold buttons hanging on the coat rack behind him.
I also notice that he has taken his shoes off. He may do this every class, but I first noticed it last week due to my change of seat. We’re reflecting on the Amish’s visit last week, and Clark seems in awe of them, although he has repeatedly stated, “I’m not about to become one of them.”
He also seems to truly love William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience. He just told the class that he once thought of becoming a monk, but that he couldn’t live with the celibacy and obedience that is required of it all.
The Amish place an incredibly strong emphasis on their commitment to baptism. Sort of a “Do what you said,” type of thing. That makes me think of what happened to Chad* and I in Varanasi, India.
We just had a 10-minute break because he said that he had to take one. He’s so funny and warm; this guy is awesome. Clark: “The highest level of intelligence is realizing the limitations of intelligence.”
March 21st, 2012
Different turtleneck, same paunch. This turtleneck is black and from Polo. That dude Ralph Lauren is somewhat of a genius. What brands do geniuses wear? Clark just said that he agrees with Dostoevsky in that sin doesn’t exist, that you can’t apply morals to the things we do, that crime doesn’t exist, that everything is cause and effect, and that all human action is determined.
Interesting, or slightly surprising. Not really. I just stretched to see if he has his shoes on. They’re on. He just said that violence and massacres are a public health problem, and that it should be dealt with as an epidemic, like AIDS.
He also just said that morality is no longer useful. I think it’s relative, though. At an individual level, each person should decide whether they believe in the socially constructed illusion of morality. But if everyone gave up morality, where would we be? Ah, I think that’s when the real fun would begin. Personally, I say, “Fuck morality,” but I don’t think that this view is for everyone.
What happens when bodies meet? I’m just looking around the room at various girls I could see myself having relations with, and I’m thinking that we’re strangers of the mind and body.
When two people meet, and say hello, that seems to be a meeting of the minds. And then there can be a meeting of the bodies. As one lays on top of another, your arms get used to the weight of another. Your freckles touch for the first time, and you can taste the sweet saliva of a stranger, which you have never tasted before. Knees knock and toes are twisted with someone else’s. But what may be even more intimate, is the meeting of spirits.
This meeting is felt, and not heard or seen. Words can’t describe it, but many come close to it: Love, bliss, ecstasy, or enlightenment. The thing with these meetings is that there is no logical order to them. Usually it’s mind, body, spirit. But a drunken night can make it body then mind, with two people never reaching the spirit. And if you somehow meet with the spirit first, the other types may not matter. Maybe this meeting is love at first sight.
He just said that moral nihilism isn’t compatible with human life, or anomie in regard to laws. Damn, he just failed me a bit. He said that the sources of morality are no longer useful, though.
April 4th, 2012
He just used, “dying conditions,” in place of, “living conditions,” which is great. He also said that the lifespan of people in Harlem is lower than those in Bangladesh. “The third world is only a subway ride away.”
Yo, he always talks about violence, shame, and humiliation. I know it’s what he knows best, since he worked in a prison for years, but we’ve literally heard the same things over 3-4 times. I wonder where this forgetfulness comes from. Actually, I know a bit since I took that memory course in Abu Dhabi. But I wonder what it feels like to have something like Alzheimer’s. Does one remember that she forgets?
This class is always so silent, save for the few sparks of discussion that flare up in a fiery passion. Sometimes people seem so careful with their words, movements, and facial expressions. But I feel that we are most sincere when all facades are dropped, and we allow raw thought and emotion to be shown.
It’s like the discussion and thoughts in here are constipated, as if we’re constantly pushing, and pushing, and pushing some issue or underlying question, that is only released upon the consumption of some type of mental laxative. At times, I am that laxative.
I write to stay awake. Clark: “When you don’t love others, you experience no joy.” “You can’t value others’ lives without valuing your own life, and you can’t disvalue others’ lives without disvaluing your own.” “There’s no such thing as a purely individual life.” “There’s no such thing as a human.” He’s saying that we can only live in relation, and because of our relations, to others. That’s interesting.
He just asked, “Why do we want to live?” It made me laugh for some reason. It’s such a good question that’s rarely asked. He’s currently equating population growth to cancer. He thinks that the population should limit its reproduction. “The largest and most effective contraceptive is called prosperity.”
I didn’t take notes for the last month of class.