29 October 2008

Cor Sapiens Quaerit Doctrinam

I made it through my High School reunion last weekend, and honestly, it was pretty enjoyable. The highlight had to have been one of my classmates tracking down and inviting to our reunion the great woman who taught us Sophomore English. During the school year that spanned from 1980 to 1981, I was fortunate to land in the capable hands of Sister Rita. In the 28 years since that year, I have credited Sister Rita with awakening in me a love of literature and a lifelong need to see my name in print. Sister Rita had the rare talent of making a room full of 14-and 15-year-olds pay attention and find English interesting and even enjoyable.

I've been wracking my brain and trying to remember what we read and wrote about that year and I have a vague memory of writing a paper about humor, so we had to have been reading Twain. I remember too, writing the first poetry I'd ever written but I'm not quite sure what I wrote about. Despite the gaps in what I remember, what I can recall as clearly as this morning was Sister Rita's constant encouragement. Her teaching philosophy seemed to be that so long as we threw ourselves into something completely, whatever resulted was perfect. If I read and understood a passage or a short story, any opinion I ventured was valid. It was my first taste of academic freedom and it was the first time I experienced the joy of learning something for no reason other than the reward of knowing. And the 14-year-old version of me who sat in that classroom couldn't get enough of it. 

Thanks to Carol's brilliant detective work, I was finally able to tell the amazing Sister Rita how huge and lasting an impression she made on me. It felt like a circle'd been completed after 28-odd years. 

The title of this entry is the motto of my Alma Mater and it means "A wise heart seeks knowledge," if your Latin's a little rusty. Those words were hollow to me when I was a teenager, but in the years since I've come to appreciate what they really mean. Wisdom; like happiness, confidence, satisfaction, tranquility and any other state of being you can name, come from inside and work outward. Wisdom seeks knowledge, knowledge doesn't cause wisdom. That's hardly news but I'm glad I figured that one out, even if it took a while. So thank you Sister Rita and thank you oh Alma Mater dear. You set me on a path I wouldn't trade for anything.

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