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One of the most exhilarating moments that a teacher can have, apart from seeing a student have an epiphany or a profound realization on his own, is when the teacher himself is surprised by a beautiful truth. Whereas you normally teach what you have already prepared, or what you have taught previously, there are still those blessed times when you find out something new, or say something beautiful--without you wanting to, or no matter how much it seems impossible for it to come from you.

As I've grown more relaxed in class through these few years, I've been able to let go of my lecture or spiel every once in a while; sometimes I leave the philosopher we were discussing alone, and I try to "philosophize," or more of just think out loud, on my own while talking to my students. While for the most part students would not be able to discern when I am the one speaking and when it's the philosopher, I know, of course, when I am already testing my own ideas or thinking on my feet, when I am already speculating. At the risk of sounding pretentious, I surprise myself sometimes with what I come up with or say. Recently, perhaps feeling confident of myself, I even say things aloud first, only to figure out later that, yes, what I said was possible, might even be true or "profound." At those times, too, so as to make sure I made sense, I ask my students "Is that possible?" Most of the time, to my surprise also, they concur.

But, alas, the terrible thing is these flashes of insight easily disappear. Since it is foolish for me to write down what I said during class, as that will disturb the flow of the lecture or simply appear very vain, I end up forgetting most of what I say, save for the really cool things which I am able to retain in my memory. I write these down on my index cards (I, if I haven't told you yet, have this already huge "collection" of cards where I write down quotes, ideas, etc.), and sometimes here in this clearing. But since I forget the rest, I am almost always left feeling that something happened and it will never happen again, like something was shown to me and just as quickly lost to me.

Perhaps that's one of the saddest emotions one can have: to lose a shooting star to the greedy night, to never know the name of the woman whose scent you will forever remember, an unhappy death. These flashes of beauty, which happen in the blink of an eye, can even still contain in them much more than that moment, that ecstasy. There are moments which contain forever. Heidegger called such a moment augenblick, that glance of an eye or that moment of vision when you see more than you see: the trace of the divine, the pulse of the universe, the meaning of time. Beauty shows itself in the blink of an eye--and then it totally disappears, leaving those who saw it, blinded, unable to recover and even remember.

Longing by Bill Mack



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