Issue 217, Summer 2016
I began the day with the profound realization that “the person in the world” was not a philosophical placeholder, as I had been treating it for the past twenty years, but was actually a student in my class of eleven silent girls. This sudden comprehension shone like a newly engraved plaque in my consciousness, though there remained no trace of how it had gotten here. I was stunned into involuntary meditation. I spent the morning on it. I am teaching “the person in the world,” I weighed from a comfortable sitting position. Why aren’t I flattered? I had to keep verifying: “The person in the world” was a student in my class of eleven girls and was one of the silent ones, which was all of them? Why hadn’t she made herself known, or at least distinguished herself? How did one draw out the person who is the most perplexed of all persons? You couldn’t be direct. You couldn’t just say, Will “the person in the world” please stand up? Or rather, Raise your hand—because you were still talking to that class of eleven shy girls. How did “the person in the world” end up in my class anyway? What was she doing at this institution? I wanted to know what her trajectory looked like. I mean, was she “the person in the world” now, or was she in training, in the way my students were training to be writers or executives of nonprofit organizations? It surprised me that “the person in the world” would be interested in writing. You’d think she’d confine her studies to anthropology or religion. What was she doing in a field that really left a person nowhere to go but further into herself? How would this help her plight as “the person in the world,” who had suffered so much already?