Who wants to talk about something besides Covid and politics? I’ll have to say, people’s reactions to all the chaos have thrown me just as much as all the surprises, globally and personally, that 2020 brought forth. Reactions that made me stop and think—ask a thousand questions about why people respond the way they do. I’ve even done some thinking about my own responses which got me chewing on some memories and why my brain often rejects the status quo on whatever current cultural thought is expected of us.
It wasn’t a highly educated college instructor that taught me to broaden my ways of thinking. College in the ’90s was permeated with the overused and abused term open minded, which, in my experience meant that the instructor who lived by that mantra was hell-bent on stripping the values, the faith, or whatever you came to college believing from your very marrow.
(I will throw in here that some of my teachers were quite excellent, but this isn’t about the good ones either.)
No. To help stretch my mind, I needed a teacher who was so wrong, that 20+ years later I wonder if he’s still alive.
He was tall, personality-challenged, and stood in front of the class as he tried to convince us that humans had lost all instincts. That gut feelings were illogical and we used knowledge to get around in life and nothing more.
You should have heard the mothers in the room bellow at him like he had lived in a bubble his whole life. The women. Tell me, what woman hasn’t heard that small inner voice telling them that Mr. Handsome and charming and perfectly perfect by all appearances is, in fact, MR DANGER on the inside?
At first, I assumed our teacher was trying to inspire conversation, but no. Turned out that he believed it.
I still think of that teacher (if he’s still alive) as life has thrown me many opportunities to consider the matter of instinct. One in which I will probably never know the whole story.
It was close to midnight, I was a young twenty-something, married, and alone in our apartment when someone knocked on the front door. Our apartment complex was regularly visited by police and drama. It wasn’t the worst place around, but it wasn’t what I’d call the safest either.
But for some reason, I rose from my recliner at the sound of that knock. At the last second, something made me pause and grab our orange tabby, Loki—the Garfield of all Garfields–and tuck him under my arm. I swung open the door and this young blond guy I had run into a few times stood in front of me. And I knew. Despite his shiny exterior I knew his intentions were bad.
But I wasn’t afraid. I also knew, knew, that all would be well. At the sight of Loki and me standing in the doorway the guy flinched, and whatever he planned before I opened that door fell to the wood walkway beneath him like broken promises. He actually stepped back, fear filling his eyes as Loki and I stared him down.
“Uh…do you have any cigarettes?” he mumbled.
That’s when I closed the door, latched it and stared at my cat. I mean, he was a force to be reckoned with but the guy had looked at my orange ball of cuteness like he was God himself.
Strange, yes? I’ve gone over this incident many times over the years, from questioning why I felt compelled to open the door at midnight to wondering what that guy saw in my cat’s eyes, or mine, and why I knew that I’d be safe while staring into what my gut told me was evil.
Some people say that instinct is a pathway to God, some say it’s something we developed when the world was primeval and every day was survival—our senses were heightened out of necessity. Maybe it’s both.
The inexperience—or ignorance—of my instructor could have proven deadly if I had thought my gut feelings were no more than paranoia–not to mention the fact that I was naive when I took his class, but not so much that I let him dull my mind. I had learned way before I took Sociology that instinct is as valuable as the air I breathe. But his disbelief has taught me to dig deeper into the enigma of instinct, adding books to my TBR pile, and to hold conversations that have been enriching to say the least.
I also wonder about the blond guy. Why did he react the way he did when he saw me and Loki in the doorway? The manifestation of my prayers, perhaps?
What do you think? How often do you take someone’s word for truth, and when do you step back to dig a little deeper?