He was talking about earning his doctorate later in life and how it taught him to be patient with difficult reading.
“I came to love and admire the work of Puritan writers in the American colonies — work I had previously detested. I saw there was something universal in all expressions of human culture, and a mature student would not pass something by as being not his cup of tea. It was the student writer’s JOB to drink the tea,” he says. “Drink the tea, people.”
And then I dropped my half-eaten apple. Not because of the gravity of his words, but because of real gravity. Also, I was lazy and thought I could bite around my thumb. But I couldn’t. Hence the bitten thumb. Deservedly so.
As I was cleaning up my dropped apple, his words resonated with me.
“Drink the tea, people.”
It occurred to me that’s what’s wrong with America these days. Nobody is willing to do or say or learn or read or listen to anything or anyone out of their comfort zone, I thought, wiping apple goo from my pants. We’re mired in our own opinions and beliefs because it’s easy to do so. It’s so much more difficult to create neural pathways that lead to potentially different, unfamiliar territory.
I swiped at the sticky on my floor and tossed the dishrag back in the sink before picking up the magazine again.
The next paragraph admonished us not to “swivel the radio dial because it’s blasting something you’re not interested in — attack call-in talk shows, fundamentalist sermons, ball game reporting, left-wing sob stories — however you define your least-favorite aural experience. There is always something to learn from paying attention to everything.”
I love it when I’m smart like that. See, I got it before he even explained it. Yay me!
My son says, with what I can only assume is hopeless and grudging admiration, “You are a very curious person.”
You’d be justified in thinking he was calling me odd, but I know it was after one of those conversations where I asked a zillion exhausting questions to which his answer was always, “I dunno.”
I remember when my kids were in elementary school and they’d come home to have this conversation:
Them: “There was a new kid on the bus.”
Me: “Boy or girl? What was his name? What grade is he in? Did he get off at your stop? Where does he live? Were you nice to him? Did you offer him a seat? Did you introduce him to your friends? Does he have any siblings? What do his parents do? Have they ever vacationed in Belize? Are his grandparents still living? What are their memories of the Great Depression? Did they have a Victory Garden? Do they like to garden? Maybe you could take them down to the community garden. Do you want a snack?”
Them, eyes crossed and ears bleeding: “I dunno.”
But I don’t always drink the tea, either. I’m going to make more of an effort, though.
I’ll read more non-fiction.
I’ll try tofu.
I’ll play Wii golf (which is hard) instead of Wii bowling (which is easy).
And if none of that hurts too much, I might even try to listen to Rush Limbaugh or read Sarah Palin’s book.
Of course, then I’ll have to drink something stronger than tea.
What will you do to break out of your comfort zone?