The Philosopher

He presented himself to us by throwing a rock on the floor; we gazed at him curiously.  He threw the American flag on the floor; we all reacted with a little yelp.  This first encounter with Mr. Kilbourn, freshman year at his activity period Philosophy Club, was not to be my last.  At first, I did not know what to expect from this bizarre way of teaching.

The following year I had Mr. Kilbourn for English 2. I did not know whether to be excited or scared; so I was both.  For some people, he presented a great opportunity to learn English, but more importantly how to think.  For others, he was a nightmare, a black evil spirit only there to make them completely confused.

I can still recollect the first test he gave us.  It was a picture of a man performing a handstand.  We were to generate common ideas among the picture, our class discussion concerning Mt.  Olympus, and the quote “Life is a blue guitar in which we improvise the song of the world.” (Annie Dillard) Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t this a wee bit extraordinary? He stood watching scowling at me from across the room.  His silver beard, white curly hair and his deadly gaze made me want to curl up into a cowardly ball under the table.

I realize now it was nothing but an observational, gaze, nothing to be intimidated by, but at the time the class, and most of all Mr. Kilbourn, intimidated me. I struggled my way through his course sophomore year with a “C”.     I then realized that although the course was difficult and peculiarly taught, I liked it and Mr. Kilbourn gave me a new outlook on life and learning.

It’s two years later and I have had two different English teachers.  In the past two years I realize that I can learn by rote with these teachers and pull off an “A” or a “B” or I can spark up my schedule with Mr. Kilbourn.  When I arranged my courses for senior year I was advised by my parents not to take Mr. Kilbourn because he is too hard, but I had a different outlook now that I was two years older.  I enrolled in his course despite what my parents told me. I felt that Mr. Kilbourn, more than others, had something astonishing to offer.

Now I am in his English IV class taking it all in.  I have definitely made a statement that enables him to see my creativity and mental capacity.  I realize now that maybe I too can be a wee bit extraordinary.  Like the man performing the handstand, I am now able to turn upside down and see ideas from a different perspective. No longer do I get blank stares from Mr. Kilbourn, but I get looks of understanding and appreciation, for I have taken a stand.