When I was a teenager, I had special powers. They had no effect on girls, though.
Well, I don’t rightly now if I had special powers or whether the nature of reality is not what it appears. Either way, it seems to come down to the same thing. In a certain sense, reality would bend around me. In a certain sense, I seemingly willed it my way. Imagine a stellar object bending space-time around it.
Let me start with what could be explained away. I was around twelve and had the flu, the first day of it. The thing is that the day after we were to go on a family trip, which I was really looking forward to. However, being sick, it was going to be called off. This was not the first time and certainly not the last that flu got in the way of life. Being ill sucks and you always want to wish it away. It is just that that time I actually did. It is very real to me that with incredible will power, I burned it away somehow, much as a sun burns haze away. I did this thing one more time a few years later, when I wanted to go on an all-out night of dancing. When I was back, the high fever was gone, and I was healthy as a bull. Let me get now to the weirder stuff.
There were many incidents…I will recount a couple. These happened during my solo trip to the United States at the age of sixteen. I took a public bus in Florida and somehow fell asleep on the ride. At a certain point, I woke up with a jolt. I don’t rightly know why. Some fellow passengers were silently looking at me. I had a strong feeling that it was my stop, and I hurriedly got off. I had not talked to anyone throughout the ride. And yes, it was the right stop, as it turned out.
A couple of weeks later, on the morning of my last day in the US, I reasoned that I have gotten the dates wrong and had to dash off to the airport on that morning. I had stayed the night at the apartment of my second cousin. Alas, he had left early and I was alone. I rushed with my bags downstairs and pleaded the black doorman for the equivalent of about $75 so I can take a taxi. It was NYC circa 1982. He looked at me and then proceeded to fish the bills from his pocket. I hailed a cab, went to the airport, and got on a flight to Israel.
When I arrived, I thought it was odd my parents did not come to greet me at the airport. It turned out I got my dates mixed up and arrived one day early. Everyone thought this was hilarious. But think it through for a moment. I boarded a plane with a ticket for the wrong date. I was not on the passengers list, and for all I know I sat in someone’s designated seat. The flight was on one of the most secure routes in the world. And no one said a thing or thought there was anything amiss.
Around the age of 23 or 24, these things diminished and then went away altogether. In fact, at some point, it must have dropped to zero and then has been working its way in the last decade or two down on the negative side of the scale. What on occasions is happening now is equally inexplicable, but going the other way.
I am aware that in recent years and in a very different way, thirty years ago, I have had some experiences that don’t fit into our conventional understanding of reality and call it into question. I just don’t have a better framework, better metaphysics, to explain these things. Oh, there are possible scenarios, it is just that I don’t buy into any of them—I suppose any more than you do.
One possibility is The Adjustment Bureau scenario, where some sentient agencies nudge ever so subtly behind the scenes the events so they go according to The Plan. Alternatively, it could be that this is all a dream I am having and there is no one out there. And finally, there is the Star Trek’s Parallels episode scenario: a person is shifting, without him being aware of this, through different alternate realities, each of them subtly different.
Has it occurred to me God is the answer? Not really. Since the age of nine, I had nothing but disdain to the concept of a personal god and this has not changed. Given my unrepentant attitude, this doesn’t add up anyway.
There is no conclusion. In the end, there is nothing to it but to sigh in frustration and keep operating under the assumption that all that has happened in my life can be conventionally explained away, if I could only reason better. So I am keep telling myself.
"What right did Britain have to grant the Jews somebody else's country?"
I don’t envy the bind you are in. Never before was there a need for you to do more than rubber stamp the results of the general election—in this case, oblige a minority of voters who succeeded in securing a majority of Republican Electors. Alas, this time is like no other. You need to act as the checks and balances that you can be.
In choosing Trump to be our next president, you will do the equivalent of enabling a vengeful, conniving teenager to be the commander-in-chief and to lead the country. In choosing Trump to be our next president, you will hand over leadership to a man who cares little for the civic principles that underpin this republic. In choosing Trump to be our next president, you will betray the responsibly that was entrusted upon your shoulders.
Come December 19, you have to be the adults in the room and elect someone else, someone with maturity and integrity.
When I was eight or nine, I worked out the principles of steam power and fabricated a miniature steamboat that chugged away at the local pond. When I was a teenager, I rented a mechanical typewriter and spent a few hundred hours in a closet-like room next to our washer, pecking away, writing a book. What is remarkable is that I did those and other things without any kind of support from adults. Was it in spite of that fact—or due to it?
I experienced an “Aha!” moment many years later when I read A Single Shard by Linda Park. The book recounts the story of an orphan boy in a small unassuming village of potters in 12th-century Korea. From a hidden spot, the boy spends many months observing the potter, Min, at his work. Min produces far fewer pieces than the other potters, demanding far more from each individual piece of work. The potter is willing to discard anything that fails in any way to satisfy him—irrespective of the amount of work he has put into it or the subsequent time delay.
As the story unfolds, the orphan and Min enter into an apprentice-master relationship. It is a story of a reluctant, reclusive master and a boy with a dream in which he invests all of himself. The old potter is gruff and often cross. He rarely addresses the boy and, when he does, it is mostly to bark terse directives. At the end of the book, there is little doubt in the reader’s mind that one day the orphan boy will become a potter of the highest order.
In effect, the older potter has provided the antithesis of a sound learning environment: no respect, no real attempt at instruction, no attempt to motivate. Was there something else at play, so compelling and powerful that it rendered these obstacles inconsequential?
I believe there was. The orphan boy experienced a sense of an immense, exciting possibility. And that made all the difference.
I have portrayed two extreme examples, two exceptional cases. All the same, there are points we can take away and apply to our learning institutions.
The children of today are managed to such an extent, and inundated with so much well-articulated content, that as a rule they have no empty space around them from which to originate, and no empty space above them to aspire to. Furthermore, in following tour guides (teachers) along well-lit, orderly lanes of knowledge, they have no sense of ownership and no awe of discovery.
In the context of reimagining our learning institutions, it is paramount that we strive for an environment that will empower and galvanize youth to imagine, aspire, and then go the distance. And that will make all the difference.