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Reflections: Shawn

 

 

SHAWN

 

 

When one spends a lot of time in a single place, one will experience many surprising things. One will also meet many unique people. For we all are unique, unrepeatable. And each moment, as well, is unrecoverable.

I have spent tons of time at the Y seeking to recover. I had already spoken to a man who told me he was a medium. Once he had even signaled to horses. “Did I care about horses?”, he asked. I was quite surprised at his words given the history of horses in my family.  I spoke to him and questioned him. I asked him how he knew what he knew. We spoke respectfully. I always thanked him for sharing his way of thinking. When with him, I always thought about Socrates and about Delphi. The whole thing.

And then there was the Brazilian whom I called “Cantante”. Many times he sang beautifully. Once I asked him to whistle the Brazilian national anthem while doing exercises in the shower. He gladly did so. I remembered then all the times Brazil had been World Champions and how familiar these sounds were. I remembered my hero as a young man, Pelé.

Since we usually hung out naked in the men´s room, there are many other stories which are better reserved for private ears!

And then, one of the many days while doing my basketball routine as part of my recovery, a group of special needs adults arrived at the basketball court. They chose the side where I was shooting. Soon, I was left alone with them as all other players chose to move to the other side of the court. I did not mind playing with these challenged adults. The other younger players did. I played normally amongst them for a few minutes and saw how they marveled at shooting and enjoying their limited abilities. Their teacher, a young woman, really cared for them. It showed. They were having fun. It was like the NBA, but in really slow motion and with lots of misses. Like Jordan, but in the upside down world of timelessness. I was having fun too, as I always do with a ball. I was surprised at the amazing recovery I had undergone during the last few months. Almost a year.

But my routine had come to an end and I knew I could not keep on going anymore as I could injure myself. Now I had to cool down, as I usually do, by simultaneously stretching and powering down the muscles. This for, example involves kicking in the air and very gently jogging almost in place. If one just saw these last movements, they would actually look a bit odd in a basketball court. Some involve kicking as if playing soccer. But his was not a soccer field. You can imagine. Odd.

Then, it happened. One of the special needs adults stood up right beside me and started mimicking my actions. I looked to the side and saw it was real. It was true, he was doing exactly what I did! He still had his basketball in one arm, but he started to jog in place as best as he could, for it was obvious he had some serious movement difficulties. But that was not all. Suddenly he —–about 25 or so, and with a kind face—- started laughing with all his might. He did so while at the same time watching me and repeating my very movements. “HA, HA, HA”,  he almost screamed as if no one else were there in the gym. Louder than Santa´s “HO, HO, HO”, it seemed. But of course, there were many others. I had found it a bit odd that he was mimicking me. I wondered why.  What had caught his imagination. But when he started laughing, every single person on the court turned to face us. Their faces were that of surprise.  Some even seemed sorry for me. I wasn´t.

There I was cooling down from my routine and my special needs friend laughing out loud. And both of us doing strange non-basketball movements in a basketball court! Weirdly funny.  As I have been a teacher, I was not vexed by the unexpected situation. As I have myself overcome difficulties in movement, I was not vexed by his loud presence. Actually, I was happily surprised.

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Hoy me he enterado de la muerte del Padre Francis. Todos sabemos que un día moriremos, pero hay personas que uno cree, como viviendo una ilusión, que jamás lo harán. ¿Por qué esa ilusión? Porque deseamos que quienes son mucho mejores que nosotros sigan siempre vivos, porque son irrepetibles, porque son ejemplo. Y lo son, así no comulguemos con todo lo que creen e invitan a creer con amor y generosidad. Es por eso que, aún no creemos que el Padre Francis haya muerto. Pero sabemos, eso sí con seguridad, que toda su vida no fue sino la preparación para ese día final que ha llegado, preparación diaria que es el modelo de la vida benedictina. Porque es que el silencio benedictino habla claramente del silencio de la muerte. Francis va ya hacia el destino que escogió y ejemplificó.

Pero claro, no es tan ilusorio pensar que el Padre Francis no ha muerto. No, no lo es. Porque, en primer lugar, ahora aparecen noticias de su fallecimiento en las primeras páginas de todos los diarios capitalinos. ¿Más famoso para dónde? Y uno se imagina al Padre Francis riéndose desde los cielos de su fama porque es bien obvio que para el Padre Francis esa fama, esos aplausos, serían de muchísima menor importancia. Y eso es así porque la vida benedictina que nos enseñó no vive del reconocimiento público, y mucho menos del aplauso de los medios. Y si no me cree, sólo mire el look y “style” del Padre. ¡Úselo para una fiesta, a ver cómo le va! Pero, sea como fuere, esa fama nos permite mantener viva la ilusión de que no ha muerto. Así sea sólo momentáneamente. Sonreímos entre lágrimas.

Pero obviamente vive él de otra manera más poderosa y cercana, así nos haya dejado para siempre. Él vive porque hay cientos de exalumnos del CSC que no podrán olvidar su presencia, como tampoco los familiares y allegados de quienes somos sus exalumnos. Menos aún sus profesores/as. Ser sancarlista es algo particular; eso se lo debemos al Padre Francis y, en gran medida, a nadie más.  No más en mi familia, hemos sido cuatro —en diferentes generaciones— los que hemos pasado por las aulas  abiertas de esta institución reconocida. Y es que ninguno de nosotros exalumnos olvidará la sotana negra, ninguno olvidará esas gafas, ninguno olvidará su deambular por los corredores del CSC. Muchos, imagino, recordarán, largas charlas. Imposible olvidar su presencia: al principio con cierto temor de niños, luego con la total admiración de hombres. Y más que eso, no se olvidará jamás la convicción de un amor por Dios que es sano, natural y decidido. Y para eso más que palabras, mejor recordar sus “alborotadas” y extáticas tocatas del órgano del colegio en las misas principales. A tono personal, el también  profesor católico Charles Taylor, quien también nos enseñó mucho, habla mucho del poder de Bach. Sólo gracias a esas tocatas del Padre Francis pude entender a qué se refería. Dios hecho sonido por manos humanas. Conmovedor.

Pero claro, yo sólo puedo dar fe de mis recuerdos propios como exalumno; uno entre tantísimos.  Y estos recuerdos son de una muy alta particularidad. Seré lo más breve posible.

Cuando alguien parte de entre nosotros los vivientes, debemos intentar recordar y agradecer lo que esas personas nos dieron para vivir mejor, para desarrollarnos como seres, así terminemos en orillas muy diferentes por diferentes razones. En mi caso hay muchas cosas para decir. Pero debo resaltar al menos cuatro:

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Learning through the Internet has become one of its greatest advantages. One can learn no matter where one lives. One can learn no matter what one’s schedule. In this regard, one finds excellent websites such as Coursera, Kahn Academy, Lynda, Udemy,  and many others. We ourselves have actually done excellent courses both in Coursera (“Sustainable Development”) and Udemy (“Flying Drones”).

 

Another of these websites is The Great Courses which offers courses in multiple areas by excellent professors. But unlike, for example, Coursera –which is free—at The Great Courses one must buy them. They offer great sales, though; especially for the audio-only options. Coursera does have Forums, The Great Courses, does not.

 

But even more strikingly, this year The Great Courses has started offering a STREAMING SERVICE just like the already famous Netflix service for movies! This is available at THE GREAT COURSES PLUS website and relevant apps for tablets and smartphones.. (link)  You must add the “PLUS” to get to the correct website. For a modest monthly sum, you can take many of their courses. Moreover, they are currently offering a one-month free trial in which you can take any of the courses they offer! We were able to extend this offer to two months ourselves. The only disadvantage is that you must know English. Of course, learning a language itself has been made much easier by internet courses themselves! (For instance,  Mango’s special relationship to the Toronto Public Libraries.)

 

 

Unfortunately, we cannot go into details as to why we chose these courses, nor can we review them. Suffice it to say that they are all EXCELLENT. It bears emphasizing, though, that this kind of learning is especially beneficial for many learners who are independent and not so interested in learning for diplomas. For those who have actual diplomas from Universities, they represent ways to further enhance understanding. They truly allow for what is known as a LIBERAL EDUCATION, anywhere, anytime.

The following are the courses we finished in the last 3 months, organized into 7 general groups. Each “lecture” is about 30 minutes long.  Continue Reading »

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