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Posts Tagged ‘passionate curiousity’

Someone recently, I think it was a journalist, exhibited a sense of wonderment about my project, the one where my interviews with World War II veterans led to the unification of them with the hundreds of Holocaust survivors whom they saved. He was excited and mentioned that it was my “obsession” with this story that led to so many reunions and magical events with liberators and survivors, and the children and grandchildren.

That gave me pause.

I do spend a lot of time working on this project. It’s my baby, after all. And yes, I’ve taken tons of risks to bring it to the public and the students at large. When these large conferences are being planned, profuse amounts of bullets are sweated. Once I’ve inked the contracts, will the guests come? What if no one shows up? Will my guests get along, will they stay healthy while they are here? Will the teenagers behave with these older people, be respectful? Thank goodness for my support network, especially Tara, Mary, and Lisa, my fellow teachers, and not in the least my family. I tore a lot of hair out.

Merriam’s defines obsession as “a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling; broadly : compelling motivation <an obsession with profits>”.

I’ll admit to preoccupation: “the absorption of the attention or intellect; something that preoccupies or engrosses the mind: “<Money was their chief preoccupation>”. Though I can’t say it is about money. I don’t have any on hand to speak of as a result, but that is not the point.

I’ll admit to compelling motivation, but again, I don’t think it is over profits, unless we decide to discuss how my own life has been enriched by witnessing the enriching of others’ lives. It is safe to say that I have profited emotionally. It is also gratifying to see the reactions of the students and the deeper understanding that they seem to internalize as they become the new witnesses.

But not obsession. Obsession channels unhealthiness. Especially when you are dealing with the Holocaust.

The fact is that once it is apparent that an unopened door is in front of you, you can decide to turn the knob, or not. When you are exploring an old house, you can wonder what lay behind that door, or not. You enter a new room, and sometimes there are new doors to open. Then you begin to connect the dots, as all these streams of information begin to blend into a larger stream of new understanding. You are excited, because no one   has charted these streams to the headwaters of understanding in quite this way. There have been similar journeys but no one has actually been here before.

You begin to see things with a clarity that might even approach the sensation of an out-of-body experience. The events of nearly 70 years ago are unfolding in my head, now, in real time.

Sometimes you get lost. As you become immersed in your own new stream of consciousness, the outside world takes a back seat. You are not really lost, but you have to keep the “real world” at arm’s length while you work out the path. This can be exceedingly difficult and might explain why it is 0230 as I write this.

I guess being labeled obsessive bugs me a little bit. “Passionately curious” is good. A teacher’s dream is to encounter the “passionately curious” student. I’ve been blessed with a few in my career.

Maybe if you are a parent you want a teacher who is still curious about the subject they teach as well.

But not obsessed.

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