Now that I’m all grown up–married, children all raised into contributing adults–and therefore pretty as I need to be, rich as I need to be, and educated as much as I need to be, I still find sometimes that I’m not as smart as I would like to be. At no time is that fact brought home to me faster than when I attend various functions and lectures with Hubby at the University and the big library downtown. I enjoy them almost without exception even when I know I’m in way over my head, such as that lecture on the universe using pictures from the Hubble telescope. At that one I simply stretched my brain as far as it would stretch in trying to find a practical application to my own life so that I might retain something, but settled mostly on enjoying the unbelievably gorgeous pictures.
Clearly I’m very often outside my comfort zone. One of the reasons may be that I’ve been occupying a world the past year vastly different from either my southern farm girl upbringing and the near-lifetime I’ve spent tucked away on the sidelines of life in domestic pursuit, to living life on a faster track now that Hubby has retired. He’s a very intelligent man who cannot tolerate sitting still for very long, and now he includes me in his life 24/7, not just after work and as long as he’s in town, as it was for most of his working career. Naturally that includes stretching our imaginations and feeding our curiosity about the world and all its people, going to science fiction and foreign movies, taking classes, attending concerts, art exhibits, and of course attending lectures.
One problem I have every time I go into a lecture hall and slide into one of those seats with the swing-up desktops is that, split as my background is from farm to now, my whole family from my childhood always seems to go in with me. Sometimes I even feel the presence of my 8th-grade teacher Mrs. Guthrie. Read on if you’re having problems understanding my dilemma.
A few weeks ago, for instance, through special invitation we attended several sessions of a University Conference on the effects of world violence on its citizens. We knew about it through our daughter who is on the faculty of the Psychology Department. She and a colleague were presenting a paper concerning violence and children, and of course we wanted to hear it. I’m happy to say their paper was presented very effectively, with visuals for me to attach my brain to, in simple language without seeming to “talk down” to the audience. What surprised me most about other presentations, however, was how poorly a few of those highly educated and brilliant academics presented their papers.
It was Mrs. Guthrie’s voice I heard first, correcting the speaker. Don’t lean on the lectern, and for heaven’s sake, don’t read your paper. Look at your audience. If you read with your head down, no one will hear you! The paper knows what you saying, it doesn’t need to. Then, when a speaker who did look up to talk to the audience stuttered or hesitated, looking for the right word perhaps, Grandma would pipe up with If you’d quit trying to sound so high-faluting we could understand you easier. Just spit it out! Say what you’re trying to say. For a change my father was silent, but I knew he was just waiting for a chance to point out how those people were just trying to brainwash everybody! I kept feeling an almost desperate need to silence those people still trapped after all these years inside my head.
My feelings were mixed. Even though the purpose behind the Conference was to warn us all, I’m afraid that as slowly as these university conferences affect the world without the proper media feed behind them, I’m not optimmistic for a non-violent future, though I’m not at a stop the world! I’d like to get off now place–yet. It wasn’t clear to me from everything I’d heard what I could do to change things, but in spite of my background, I’ve decided going to these events is good for me because now I know there is hope for not-so-smart people like me. We’re perfectly capable of comprehending brainy academics even if we’re not familiar with the jargon. You see, in between bouts of wandering attention and trying to restrain those familiar voices in my head I am still able to say that what I, with my limitations, got from the Conference might be summed up thusly: Poverty and helplessness can and does lead to struggle and violence, and violence can lead to malicious children who grow up with a propensity for more violence, and that perpetuates the struggle and translates to no peace for nobody, no time, no way. Simply said. What will be harder is keeping the family and Mrs. Guthrie quiet, or better yet, not letting them go at all.