Thursday, June 15, 2006

In the Beginning Was the Word


In the fifth grade, my language arts teacher had us read a book about the power of the word, a parable in which a person could give someone else a "warm fuzzy" (a compliment) or a "cold prickly" (a put-down). Of course, warm fuzzies were the way to go according to the author. I hadn't experienced all that many warm fuzzies in class -- the last time I'd fallen for someone's kindness was when one of the boys in the class said he liked my necklace, a butterfly with a rainbow on it. When I smiled, he proceeded to ask me where the dead (insert racially slanderous term starting with an n) was that I had stolen said necklace from. Given this kind, humane environment, I dreaded the assignment that followed the reading -- we were to make warm fuzzies and scotch-tape them to other students. Dear Jesus, this was hell and I was living it. I used all my fiction writing skills to come up with as many warm fuzzies as I could and the others in the class also begin to write, but with more glee than usual, and I could see what was going to happen before the rather dense teacher. Many cold pricklies came under the guise of the warm fuzzies, back-handed compliments, outright insults, blank pages with only "ha ha" written on them. We all had to sit down and take a time out to think about our evil little selves. Had we learned nothing from the book? Our teacher couldn't believe the cruelty. I guess she bought all the bullshit about the lovely unspoiled humanity of children. I kept my warm fuzzies with me, the real ones, though, even though we were told to throw everything out. You take your kindness where you can get it, even if it's pinned to your back that's against the wall most of the time.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"Words lead to deeds, acts of kindness and mercy." St. Theresa of the Little Flower

Warm Fuzzy

1 shot of starbucks coffee liquor
1 shot of godiva liquor
1 cup of hot chocolate

Make hot chocolate and add the shots.

Benedictions and Maledictions

Love the lively debate on the comment board! Have to agree with Robin about trusting intuition. There's always a moment before something huge happens, for better or worse, that you are given a sense of it, a way for you to embrace it or run from it. Some people call it your conscience, some the voice of God, and so on. I know it exists, regardless of what one names it, and we put ourselves in great peril when we ignore it. Of course, peril is a great learning experience so it works out either way.

In regards to all the academic crap, I spent a lot of money and time drinking to get it out of my head. Ultimately, I found that a) I was not very good at it and b) it was vaguely masturbatory (and not in the good Woody Allen, sex with someone I love, kind of way). Thank you, Robin, for the kind compliment about my class -- I try to be as straight as possible about the writing process and have fun with it and hope to impart anything and everything that can help -- but mostly, my entire class can be boiled down to this -- write anything you can for as long as you can and enjoy it! As for the comparision to Anne Sexton and the compliment on "The Difference Between Sex and Rough Sex," I send a big old kiss to Mr. Anonymous Rants. Love Anne Sexton -- she was beautiful, brilliant, and completely devoted to her poetry, fanatical with her persistence and didn't let anyone or anything get in her way, even her own mental illness -- when she taught classes (and she taught very very few), she'd tell the students not to bother with obscure references to other poems and poets -- she wouldn't get them. What's not to love about someone like that? As for "Cathedral," it's not my favorite Carver story, but I have come around to liking it more as years pass, but emotionally I understand a story like"Vitamins" better. Who could resist a last line as brilliant as -- "Things kept falling."

9 comments:

Cindy said...

Michelle,
You are so wonderful and sweet and strong. I love today's post, seems very you.

xo;)
Cindy

robin said...

Thanks for the post, M. Your unpretentious and nonjudgmental nature are true gifts to your class! I'm glad to have had the experience.

John said...

Dear Michelle,

Another lovely post. I just came across a brochure for the Little Flower in a most unlikely place. What you sometimes call kismet? Your teaching style seems as refreshing and delightful as your writing style. Bravo -- and warm fuzzies.

paul said...

To my Cajun Queen,
word up, you rock and roil, O Mighty Isis. More warm fuzzies for the mighty pretty one.

R2 Cass2

Bonnie said...

Hey honey,

Love the warm fuzzy/cold prickly story. Most men are cold pricklies, but we can manage, right? xoxo, Bonnie

JR's Thumbprints said...

Your post reminds me of "Africans (Urban Contemporary) for James Brown," a short story by Tom Williams. The main character, although black, grows up digging the Boston Celtics and Rock-n-Roll. In his elementary school he gives a report on slavery. Williams uses a 2nd person narrative:

You stopped, your finger at the bottom of the page. "I can't say this word," you said.

"Let me help you pronounce it," the teacher said, good intentions preceeding her like the smell of perfume.

"I just can't say it."

The teacher stopped herself. The students perked up as though you'd just promised three hours of recess. They knew, all but said it for you, lips poised, the word silently escaping.

*****

Kids can be very cruel, and more often than not, they pick it up from their parents or other adults. Another thought-provoking post. --Jim

Anonymous said...

As you know, I would prefer a big young kiss.

robin said...

"As for "Cathedral," it's not my favorite Carver story, but I have come around to liking it more as years pass" --a quote from a great, young teacher. She allows herself her own opinion, without touting it as "the truth" to be "affirmed through the use of skill." Stodgy, old professors, take note: we students are tired of sitting in your classes, listening to your "vaguely masturbatory" remarks. Try learning some new tricks; we may just end up getting a better education for our money.

Anonymous said...

It's very sweet how Robin is protective of Michelle.