Neonrevolt’s latest includes a wonderful story about how, as a little boy, he stood up, knees shaking, in class. The only one. Everybody else remained seated. He says it was one of the defining experiences of his life, teaching him to stand up for himself even when what he thinks he knows goes against the crowd.
I have a similar defining experience from about the same age, also involving mathematics, though mine pertains to a question I asked in class, not, like young neon, a question the teacher had asked us to answer.
In his case, his courage in standing, thinking yes, after much thinking in his head, he had got the answer right, meant he got rewarded.
In my case, my blurted question, coming from nowhere out of my surprised mouth, prompted the equally surprised Sister Bernita to attempt to shut me down, shame me.
Slowly, she turned around from the blackboard, and stared at me. So did everybody else. My face burned. Finally, she stated, no doubt not knowing what else to say: “That is not a question, dear.”
Neon’s answer had gotten the number right.
My question had been “What is a number?”
It took me decades to get over that shaming. And I do not blame the teacher. She was doing the best she knew how. After all, my question had concerned the unconscious framework within which all our thinking operates. And most people don’t know there IS a framework. Nor did I. But a part of me that is larger than the ego, then being trained for compliance, did.
Much later, I began to open to this larger part of me, and recognize my early question as a harbinger for what would come. At this point in my very long life, I am always grateful for questions that call into question the entire human endeavor that constructs an artificial reality “on top of” the ineffable mystery in which we live and move and have our being.