Saturday, December 6, 2014

“that black nigger yonger ruttin’ on my Mayella”

(The following pictures were taken on the Singapore Cable Car over Sentosa Island)

There’s nothing like teaching literature.  Nothing in the world.  Working a kid, working a whole room of fifty kids through a book of classic art that you chose for them in hopes and prayers and pleading begs and shattering will for it to point them in life’s right direction.  Only those that have attempted this can understand the joy and heartbreak.
Knowing every twist and turn of narrative yarn.  Setting ‘em up.  Knocking ‘em down.  Pausing at just that right moment to milk a word into existence.  Breaking at just the right time to tell a story from your life that brings it home.  
It’s like having fifty individually intimate conversations with every soul about who they are and what they want and dream and scorn and secretly wished they had the guts to go after... and of course, what they fear most in life.
On your best days the earth actually tilts in your favor. Time stops.  A buzzing surge enters you.  You’ve done something.  Created a thought in someone’s head.  Provided a mental axiom for someone’s hat to hang.  Given clarity, or just…been the one who listened without judgment.  You were exactly what you were supposed to be.
But on your worst… you’re reduced to ash.  Human rubble.  A blithering sobbing mumbling manic sitting in the dark on the floor wondering…what just hit you?
For my money…perhaps the greatest sentence in the entirety of American literature is:  He stood up and pointed his finger at Tom Robinson. “I seen that black nigger yonder ruttin’ on my Mayella!” (p. 231).  Harper Lee nailed it.  The courage it takes to write that sentence...completely baffles me.  Yet here I stand in a classroom and deliver it for analysis...offering it as a sacrifice.  Armed only with words, shielded only by thin wrinkled pages.  God Bless You, Harper Lee!

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