Terry Marotta: The school of all of us
The man at the Mobil station leaned in the window to talk as my car was filling with gas.
“I’m readin’ this book,” he said after some general chat. “You seem like a pretty intelligent person; maybe you’d like it.”
I guess we talked a good eight or 10 minutes about the book before a fresh customer pulled in behind me, and I have to say, by the time I drove away, I was thrilled -- not just about the good conversation but about the fact that the man said I seemed like I might be an intelligent person because -- oy! -- if you’d known me in my earlier days!
When I was 16, 18 and 20, I needed people to think I was not just intelligent but extremely intelligent -- and if it felt like they weren’t gettin’ the idea, I’d just empty the dictionary on them to use Mark Twain’s phrase for it, just try dazzling the daylights out of them with words that nobody has used in actual conversation since before the Civil War probably.
I was smiling because those vain days are way behind me now. Now I seem to know very little and require assistance with the simplest tasks.
But to get back to that conversation at the Mobil station:
“So tell me about this book of yours.”
“Have you ever heard of non-local consciousness?”
I sat straight up from my semi-slouching position behind the wheel.
“Does that mean like the stuff we all know together even if we don’t know it, or don’t think we know it, on our own?
“Sort of, and also –”
But I didn’t even let him finish.
“Because I definitely believe in that!” I said excitedly. “I’m actually kind of banking on there being a non-local consciousness; I’m kind of really hoping there’s this store of collected wisdom that just keeps getting fed by people one little insight at a time until it fills up in this big pool that we all go and drink from sooner or later.”
“Yeah, that’s it, basically. And its two authors quote Einstein and all those famous scientists and professors. They're scientists and professors themselves.”
“What else do they say?’
“Lots of things. That there are no coincidences, which I totally believe. That you’ll get yourself to the place you’re meant to be.”
“For the next lesson? For the next clue?” I asked -- and on we went on from there, talking and listening, talking and listening, until by the time I pulled away from the pump I felt as happy as the more elderly Mr. Emerson did on any day he tramped across the meadows of Concord with his earnest young friend Thoreau.
So why tell all this here? For the sake of you young people, back at school already or soon to back there.
I tell it so you will consider two notions, both highly encouraging, and they are:
(1) That you will find more terrific life-altering conversations on the public streets with strangers than you can possibly imagine now, held as you are in your little classrooms, and (2) that soon the burden of self-involvement, the worry over how intelligent or attractive or competent you are will lift like a scab, freeing you to enjoy such conversations every single day of your life.
Write Terry via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or care of Ravenscroft Press at P.O. Box 270, Winchester, MA 01890. Or Google “Terry Marotta” and the phrase “Exit Only,” both in quotes, to see the lively near-daily musings on her blog.