This is my therapy
You breathe life into me
My only sanity
Within these walls is where I’m free
Square peg, round hole
Faces come and faces go
There is so little cast in stone
Regarding life, luck, loss, love
But there is one thing that I know for sure
These are the only crowded rooms
Because of these days I’ll never have nothing at all
Because of these times there’s only so far I can fall
There will always be a place, there will be a crowded room
Where I’m not all alone
The years have come and multiplied
So much of me has been washed out with the tide
Still there’s nowhere else
That I’d rather be
Drawn in like a moth to a flame
Without these days I’d have gone insane
So many hearts pinned to so many sleeves
Within these blessed walls
You have set me free
There is no mistake, that I’m not free to make
All because of six strings stretched across a board
Bane’s song “My Therapy” speaks to something I have been thinking of and dwelling on lately: I am much happier when I have the chance to engage in dialectic on a regular basis. Training enables survival without it, because we must remind ourselves that we are not in control of the happenings of the world, and to what it avails us. Accordingly, one may temper all things. Regardless of this fact, I must confess that I feel best, most refreshed, most passionate about life, when I am able to exchange words with other virtuous and wise individuals.
This is where I feel “sane” and finally am able to lower my defenses and relax. I feel as if I am in good company when we discuss: I am drawn to it like a moth to a flame, to mime Bane. Epictetus and Musonius were not the only ones instructing during dialog. I operate best when there is a room I can go into and exchange arguments for the good life. This injects a vigor for life into me. I cannot begin to express my gratitude to my teachers who provided a place for this to develop in prior years.
I can say that I honestly am in love with wisdom. This is the desired condition of a philosopher, but it is difficult to keep the awe for life to oneself. That ability to share and to hear is absent in my life since the end of my undergraduate education, and without an outlet to speak of things worth speaking about, I draw a bit madder per day. Survival mode is constant as I am surrounded by viciousness, boorishness and indecency, with no holy place to unroll the scrolls of Vergil or Homer. Out here, I am the last Roman. At least in the university, I could consider a few professors brothers and sisters.
But I don’t want this to be a swan song, or lament. I try to simply make order of disorder. In some ways this post is a dedication and tribute to my teachers who offered a place for dialectic throughout my life.
Catherine Pentola – My first philosopher teacher. Her method was extremely personal and each class began with Socratic questions and often the meditation on a quote or saying. In her classroom I discovered my love of dialectic. Although prior I had been quite a skilled sophist, I became a philosopher by the end of her instruction. I neglected visiting my high school, even after she summoned me some years ago.
Donald Gilzinger at SCCC – Approached literature as philosophy, delving deeply into the moral implications of character and plot. His soft spoken, courteous and kindly manner was an immediate aid to learning, and few disrespected him. His lectures had a sort of threatening, shocking immediacy, and he was able to shoot a gaze which penetrated the superficial exteriors of students and forced them to consider the fundamental questions of life.
Lars Hedstrom at SCCC – Approached the good life from a different direction – not a study of the classical works, but a study of our lives. At key points he would skillfully weave the opinions of great men into the discussions, but never as an “assignment” but as an earnest guide for introspection. His utter disdain for the machinery inhibiting real learning and the good life was inspiring, and his expedience and fortitude were impeccable models for emulation. He sought to make friendships, real friendships, with all of his students, and to see to the establishment of friendships amongst them by creating an environment of no judgment or censor. The class was organic, and where it went was up to the students; a true visit to the school of Musonius or Socrates. Many of the classes ended with tears by all involved, as the deepest personal flaws were exposed, examined and confronted by a fellowship of virtue. Good times.
Marc Ricciardi at SJC – A Christian warrior of the greatest caliber, Marc speaks with great clarity and power of voice, urging his students to imitate the classical heroes, whether they be biblical or pagan. His speech and method is focused on unabashed raw honesty and a character of straight, moral living. His lectures and the conversations deriving from them were uplifting and life changing. He was utterly obsessed with the good life even in the face of disease and misfortune.
Ed Emmer at SJC – A living embodiment of the Cynic school (although he would probably adamantly refuse to be labeled), Emmer started every lecture with a scathing questioning of the ignorant dispositions of his students. Most students rolled their eyes and tuned out, but under the beautifully blunt satirical vitriol were gleaming gems of wisdom. His critique of modernism is visionary and mind blowing.
Probably others, but these few pop out in my mind. My intent was not to make a complete list of those who fostered such an environment but to illustrate the sort of environment to which I speak. I feel like an alien most of the time, but I’m not alone, again miming Bane, in those rooms.