A philosophy professor walked into class towards the end of the semester and told his students to prepare for a pop quiz, sort of a benchmark to see if they were grasping the overall concept of his lessons.
There was a shuffling of personal stuff as the young men and women cleared their desk and got out paper and pens. As two graduate students handed out single test papers, the professor told the class to leave the test papers faced down on their desk, and on his signal to turn them over and begin writing up what they saw, what their comments were.
The papers all handed out, students poised on ready, the professor told them to turn the test paper over and begin writing. They had 15 minutes.
On each sheet was a single black dot in the middle of the page. Nothing more.
There were a lot of groans and “WTFs” but in short order everyone in the class was busy writing.
Time was called and the student answers collected.
In short order the two graduate students scanned the student comments, and smiling, turned to the professor and said, each one, “100%.”
The professor shuffled some papers on his podium. He turned his mouth to one side and said that the students weren’t goin’ to be graded… it was his grade, that he had failed them… that he hadn’t made himself understood.
He apologized and said that he would try to do better.
Because, he went on, every student had written about the black dot, no one had written about the larger white part of the paper. The dark spot dominated everyone’s focus… when a case could be made that the full page white represented – in a way – what we predominately encounter in our day to day lives… weather, friends, learning, laughter, family, colors, sleep, hope, dreams, love… miracles every one, every day. The greater majority of our lives are these miracles.
We have to make a conscious effort not to focus on the dark specs that are in all our lives… lack of money, or lost pride, or envy, or unnecessarily judging others by our standards… so small in comparison to the wonderfulness that is all around… these dark smudges pollute our minds way out of proportion to their relative size.
The professor said that each one of the students had been captivated by that dark period tells him it is a universal human phenomenon – this immediate focus on the black dots in our lives.
“And that is my job, as I see it,” he said, “to make you more aware of this larger experience called life. It is in fact what all the philosophers teach.”
And one more school house story.
A professor, a tickler for details, gave a timed test to his students. As it neared the cut off time, his graduate student ass’t said,
“OK, fifteen minutes.”
“OK, ten minutes.”
“OK, all papers are due in five minutes, no papers will be accepted after that time.”
The graduate ass’t in the front was putting the papers in a pile in the center of his desk.
One minute after the cut off time, a student came running forward and tried to hand in his paper.
Graduate student said, “no way, Jose.”
The student stood there his mouth wide open, and then said, “What?”
“Sorry,” said the nerdy graduate ass’t, “the professor said absolutely no papers taken after the final call.”
“My dear sir,” said the student, “Do you know who I am?”
The guy said, “No, and it doesn’t matter.”
Student said, “Yes it does,” and stuck his paper in the middle of the stack of papers already turned in.
Smiled and left