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    The following is a short e-mail correspondence between my English teacher and myself. It was during the middle of the third quarter of 9th grade. The e-mail addresses have been changed, don't ask me why. Sorry in advance for you will also have to decipher my English teacher's short hand.

To: AE Oberheim (obe1@changed.com)
Subject: Humanities

    How long does life wait for one?

To: Aj (dfuzer@changed.com)
Subject: Re: Humanities

    Mr Cann,
        Not long. Not long at all. Why do you ask?
    Oberheim

To: AE Oberheim (obe1@changed.com)
Subject: Re: Humanities

    I suppose I feel sickened by the fact that I'm falling into the social mold. I'm going to school, in a few short years I'll attend college, for engineering most likely. From there on in I'll get a job to make a living, maybe after awhile I'll get married and have a few children (starting the cycle again). While all this is happening I will be becoming a part of society's machine. Merely a superfluous gear in this monstrosity of a creation that accomplishes what? Social order? Bah! Although undoubtedly cliche, I have the feeling that I'm wasting time, I need to be out in the world...doing something, god knows what. What I fear the most is becoming apart of the machine, a part to small to ever know what its purpose really is.

Battles of the mind make our life an inconstant tide...
        Aj

To: Aj (dfuzer@changed.com)
Subject: Re: Humanities

    Mr Cann,
        Already you feel this way, the path before you mapped, w/ every rest area marked, each stop predetermined? And, of course, you are right & sometimes life works like that & sometimes not. We all become part of a social machine, but I do not agree that our part is superfluous. No, not at all. Yes, one needs a job. One needs to eat. One needs that. One needs the necessities. One needs love. But one also needs to matter, to make that trite difference & that difference can come on any scale, great or small. What you perceive, however, to be a process out of control, isn't really. You have the power to shape yr life as you see fit, even w/in the boundaries determined by social systems, perhaps not now, but you will.

    To use another cliche, I really believe we become superfluous if we allow ourselves to become so. For you, for me, for those of us who are fortunate enough to have the chance to have a choice, we really have a choice. Consider how many people in the world, in the school, don't really have a choice? How many people walk the halls of Reading (Side Note: Reading pr. Redding: Town I live in) & are stuck? How many decisions have they made to lead them into a rut fr wh they will never rise? That's horror. But you, now, have choices.

    If you feel that you are wasting time, determine why. We all have to go through the motions, take classes, spin wheels. That's normal. But even in going through things that don't really interest us, we are bound, by our own mortality, to find a way to engage. W/ great hesitation & w/o implying that you fit the stereotype, I shall say that one of the ways society has changed is in its passivity: most people, most young people, expect the world to come to them & dazzle them. We were told to go out & be worthy of the world, its grandeur, its challenges. It isn't easy, but I do think it more healthy to rise to the challenge & be disappointed than it is never to have reached for anything. How many of yr peers in Humanities wait for Shakespeare to make sense to them? And you guys are supposed to be the best Reading has to offer. How many of you actually read? How many are intrigued by ideas? By implication, I'd answer, not many, but what do you think?

    No, never be superfluous. Never. The cost is too high.     My father & I fought for many years. Sometimes we still do. Long ago, however, he warned me that my radical tendencies wd undo me. Too idealistic, he said, I was doomed to failure in life. That may be true. But he also said that for those of us interested in changing social systems, the change must come fr within, not without. That's pretty good advice.     Order is a good thing, to a point. Chaos is a good thing, to a point.

    AJ, you are out in the world. This is it. Students, for some reason, think when they leave high school life will be different, that they will be free, that they will do something that they think is important. Like what? WHAT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN LEARNING? Sure, our focus sometimes become narrow. But we try to teach something important abt the human heart, the soul, the body as well as broaden yr minds. If I don't go to school every day believing that I can effect change, then I shd not bother going in. Do I succeed? Sometimes. Did Rubinstein suffer humiliation? (Side Note: He is referring to the day prior in which a student failed to admit she did not understand Macbeth. By putting her on the spot she finally asked for help and was enlightened) Yes. Did taking a few minutes to talk to her make all the difference? No, but did she rise to the challenge I set for her & ask a question? Hell yes. Even if she doesn't quite get there all the time, has someone asked her to actively engage her intellectual life? Yes. And she did it. Is that a challenge to the social order? Yes. Whether she knows it or not, she was empowered. With any luck, she'll like how that felt. It doesn't matter that I taught a lesson, but that someone learned something.

    What is it that one shd be doing?

    What is the great cause that will consume yr life?

    It is up to you to give that cause meaning.

    It is up to you to have a cause.

    Don't let life pass you by w/o having a cause. No teacher BS, for the moment, it is up to you to create a cause out of the next few years that you'll be in school. Fill in the blanks w/ whatever moves you, w/ whatever you feel passionate abt. The greatest gift of high school & college is that students get to learn widely, abt everything.

    And I have some more reading to do before I shower for school.

    Cheers,
        Oberheim

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