How A Single Lesson From An Extraordinary Teacher Impacted Me 40 Years Later

In my senior year of high school I had an extraordinary AP English teacher who not only ignited a deeper love of reading but also engaged my class in lengthy discussions about authors, painters and philosophers.


What I learned in his class 40 years ago I practice to this day. That is the sign of a great teacher.

I clearly remember one particular discussion about the great French artist, Paul Cezanne, who my teacher explained painted still-life as if he were looking down at his objects from a higher plane. Cezanne accomplished in his paintings what some writers do in their work, by stepping outside of themselves to see the world from a different and clearer perspective.

I am not a scholar on the works of the Greek philosopher Plato but I do know he wrote about entering a higher (or ideal) plane of consciousness. Plato's basic tenets of idealism are similar to Cezanne's method of painting still-life -- stepping outside of oneself to take a closer look at the world around him.


I've often applied this concept to my own life, particularly during stressful times. Stepping outside of myself gives me a chance to re-examine a given situation in a new and non-judgmental way. Doing this -- taking another look at things -- has been helpful and often changes my thoughts, opinions and feelings.

I have found this concept to be useful in removing some of the stress of every day life, allowing me to become a more joyful person.

Why am I writing about this now? Last year was not my banner year. There was one exception, and that single moment more than made up for everything else. Perhaps someday I'll write about it instead of being so vague, but for now let's leave it at that.

Before the new year began I found myself once again leaning on the philosophy of Cezanne, Plato and Mr. Sherburne, my English teacher. I stepped outside of myself and glanced over the events of 2014 to try and find a silver lining.

What I found was this: There are things beyond our control that leave us feeling sad, lonely or hurt. Unfortunately that is a part of life.

What we are in control of are our thoughts and deeds. Changing our perspective and looking at things in a different light can ease stress and worry. It's freeing to lighten our load by eliminating negative thoughts.

My wish for you in 2015 is to take flight to discover a way to lighten your load and ease your stress to create a new path toward a more joyful life.

Photo Credits: Wikipedia (Paul Cezanne's art) and Pixabay.

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