Saturday, July 24, 2010

How the stoner in Mr. Dant's class shamed the Mormons

I just remembered something that happened in my sophomore English class. It was an honors class, so there were a bunch of smart kids. We were a pretty homogeneous-looking group, wearing a lot of retro-preppy 80s clothes. (This thrilled my parents to no end.)

The class was, I'd guess, half Mormon. One kid there (maybe there were others) didn't fit; he wore a black concert T-shirt everyday: AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Bon Jovi, maybe KISS. Very un-retro-preppy.
He also had long hair—very definitely NOT retro-preppy. Boys didn't have long hair in the 80s unless they were stoned. He didn't comment much, but Mr. Dant must have seen potential there, because occasionally he'd call on him directly, and Concert T would reply with something very snarky and we'd all go, "Whoa, he's smart for a stoner."

But, that's all background. Here's the real story: We were discussing I don't know what, when the conversation turned to religion. Mr. Dant asked: "Why do people go to church?" The Mormons perked up, smelling a "missionary moment."

Mr. Dant called on one of us. I can't remember who, but the answer was, roughly: "We go to church to learn about God and the scriptures."

Mr. Dant looked confused, "Nope."

Small panic. That was my answer. What was the question?

He asked another student who gave a variation on the same answer, "To learn what God wants us to do," then someone else, " . . . to learn what we have to do to get back into heaven." We kept going like this.

Mr. Dant kept shaking his head saying, "No, no, no!" and laughing. I was wracking my brains. What could he possibly be looking for? Then, he called on Concert T who didn’t hesitate: "To worship God," he said.


Yeah. Right. That's it. Why didn't we think of that?

I swear I could read Mr. Dant's mind: What a bunch of sorry Mormon kids who don't even know why they go to church! Now I'm wondering if my kids would say anything different. I’m also wondering if I really know what it means to worship. I confess, I only use that term when I'm describing an unhealthy romantic relationship.

[I’m stretching for a working definition here. Can anyone help?

How about: to express love and adoration, acknowledging the perfection and wisdom of the worshipped, with a commitment to follow absolutely. That’s a little frightening, isn’t it?]

Even now, church is a lot of corralling my offspring, doing my duty, still trying to learn, and refilling my own cup—not so much worship.

I do worship, but I think it mostly happens in odd settings, like driving on the freeway or folding laundry when my mind has time to wander, uninterrupted. Sometimes it wanders into gratitude which leads me to worship. Only sometimes.

I don’t worship enough. I wish I could remember Concert T’s name. I’d like to ask him about his worship. I should have asked him when I had the chance. 

Does anyone have a picture of Mr. Dant or Concert T?


Diane said...

We had a kid like that in my sophomore English class - stumbled and bumbled through reading anything aloud. Then one night I went to the school play. There he was, on stage, almost as good as Sir Lawrence Olivier. I realized he was yanking our chains in class, but was really getting and absorbing stuff.

Dave and Bianca Lisonbee said...

Sally, oh how I love your writing! I can't get enough of it. Wow, any of us who have lived through that era can relate to the stoner in class who we all werr fascinated with/repulsed by/and a little in love with.
Love the thoughts about worship. Good think to think about as I sit here at 11:00 pm Saturday night in Italy trying to get ready for Church tomorrow.

Jon and Katrina said...

So good. So true. Thank you for this.