Some years ago I enrolled in a comedy sketch writing program. I had long suspected (and, of course, everyone else already knew) that comedy was intimately, intrinsically connected with some sort of “higher” way of living. Like court jesters and Zen masters, comedians saw things the rest of us didn’t – and they wanted to let us in on the joke. The writing program confirmed that suspicion.
The program instructors reminded me of those Zen masters. One of them told us that, at bottom, there are four things all human beings want: to be seen (acknowledged, recognized); to be heard (making one’s “voice” or point of view known); to be touched (that emotional connection); and to be loved (what children look for from their parents, why we have friends, spouses, that sort of thing).
I’m not sure anyone saw me or heard me until seminary high school. In my sophomore year I got my first indication that I might be good at writing. I wrote some essay for an English class, maybe five hundred words about how alone I felt, how angry and frustrated I would get, how I never felt like I mattered anything to anyone. My teacher was a teacher in the best sense – he taught me how to write, but he also cared enough about the person writing it. He made me feel like I was worth a damn.
About six years ago, a few months shy of his 70th birthday, this wonderful teacher passed away. I cried when I got the news; I hadn’t spoken with him for at least twenty plus years. But I’ll never forget the kindness and generosity he gave to a kid who, back then, didn’t think he had a friend in the world.
I’ve wanted to do for curious minds what Fr. Hawk did for me so many years ago: bringing what I love to the classroom and helping people learn how to think (NOT “what” to think). With any luck, my students might come to see in themselves a passion they can’t live without, something that shows them they matter, as well as know that they are more than good enough to enjoy everything this world has to offer.