This I Believe

S. Leonard - State College 16801, Pennsylvania
Entered on March 9, 2008
Age Group: 65+


I believe in desperation. I am desperate fo understand. And so I ask questions until I do. Desperation will not allow me to pretend that I understand.

I am a professor emeritus. I have made a living asking questions and thereby provoking others to ask questions. Desperation can’t be faked. Nothing in my education has persuaded me I truly know anything.

I am not merely profoundly ignorant. I am superficially ignorant. I not only lack wisdom, I lack information. So I have sought both in the classroom, infecting students with my desperation, demonstrating that desperation is a dynamic.

Desperation allowed me a career as a teacher of writing as students sought to provide me with both wisdom and information.

For instance, my desperation taught my students something about writing. One wrote a story about shooting a deer. It was the first time he’d killed a deer, and he was shocked and horrified and was not going to hunt again. The author intended to make his audience indignant about killing deer. The class was bored. I asked who in the class hunted. I asked one young man who said he hunted whether he liked it. He said yes. I asked what the size of the entrance hole was in a deer. He told the class. I asked what the size of the exit hole was in a deer. He told us. I asked what the shape of the exit hole was. He described the irregular shape and the flaps of skin and flesh that protruded. I asked if blood came out. He said not from the entrance but from the exit, and, if lun-shot, from the nostrils. I asked if it came from the nostrils in a stream, or in drops, or in a spray. By this time one of the women in the class said, “Please don’t go on.”

And so desperation, genuine desperation, is not only my belief, it’s my profession.