Saturday, August 2, 2008

Right-brained epiphanies, IV: second acts as faith healers

It was just days after Radovan Karadzic turned up as a purveyor of charms and amulets that harmonize the cosmic energy, prana, mana, organic energy, and quantum energy that "flow in and around us," that I discovered that another person familiar to me had similarly reinvented himself.

The person in question, however, isn't an international war criminal who massacred thousands of civilians. Rather, he is my former high school English teacher.

In my memories, he is an analytical thinker, a focused critic, and an open-minded skeptic. He is, hands down, the best teacher I had in public school. With comments like "This paragraph is wordy and repetitive and can be reduced by about 50%," and "you should avoid the fact that because it's usually untrue and always wordy," he gave me better advice on my prose than any teacher has before or since.

His detailed feedback filled pages of yellow legal paper.

He taught me to revise, revise and revise.

He gave me my first exposure to the close analysis of literary texts: we spent two weeks going page by page through "The Masque of the Red Death."

He taught me to try to answer my own questions: "Well, how would you answer that," he'd often reply.

He once gave us a true-false test consisting of about 40 generalizations. The correct answer to all of them, he later explained, is false: you can never know that anything is generally true.

In other words, he represented to me, among other things, the apotheosis of the analytical skeptic--the quintessential left-brainer.

And today? He deals in aromatherapy, reiki, ear candling, energy healing, and body-worn labyrinths.


Liz Ditz said...

I had a college roommate who left her graduate program in biology, and her long-time partner, to join a fundamentalist church--not quite a cult. It happened very quickly, in a manner of weeks. At first, Partner thought that Roommate must have had a brain injury of some kind.

It was very, very strange.

In my opinion, the partner never really recovered from the loss -- he's never married, never again been in a long-term relationship.

lefty said...

That's intense.

I wonder how often the reverse occurs: an erstwhile devotee of cults or faith healing or anti-reductionist holism turns to science, skepticism, and/or taking this apart and analyzing the pieces?