The John Green Collection

The John Green Collection by John Green Read Free Book Online

Book: The John Green Collection by John Green Read Free Book Online
Authors: John Green
cancer. Barrel-chested and ancient, the Old Man, it seemed to me, might die before he ever reached the podium.
    “My name,” he said, “is Dr. Hyde. I have a first name, of course. So far as you are concerned, it is Doctor. Your parents pay a great deal of money so that you can attend school here, and I expect that you will offer them some return on their investment by reading what I tell you to read when I tell you to read it and consistently attending this class. And when you are here, you will listen to what I say.” Clearly not an easy A.
    “This year, we’ll be studying three religious traditions: Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism. We’ll tackle three more traditions next year. And in my classes, I will talk most of the time, and you will listen most of the time. Because you may be smart, but I’ve been smart longer. I’m sure some of you do not like lecture classes, but as you have probably noted, I’m not as young as I used to be. I would love to spend my remaining breath chatting with you about the finer points of Islamic history, but our time together is short. I must talk, and you must listen, for we are engaged here in the most important pursuit in history: the search for meaning. What is the nature of being a person? What is the best way to go about being a person? How did we come to be, and what will become of us when we are no longer? In short: What are the rules of this game, and how might we best play it?”
    The nature of the labyrinth,
I scribbled into my spiral notebook,
and the way out of it
. This teacher rocked. I hated discussion classes. I hated talking, and I hated listening to everyone else stumble on their words and try to phrase things in the vaguest possible way so they wouldn’t sound dumb, and I hated how it was all just agame of trying to figure out what the teacher wanted to hear and then saying it. I’m in
class
, so
teach me
. And teach me he did: In those fifty minutes, the Old Man made me take religion seriously. I’d never been religious, but he told us that religion is important whether or not
we
believed in one, in the same way that historical events are important whether or not you personally lived through them. And then he assigned us fifty pages of reading for the next day—from a book called
Religious Studies.
    That afternoon, I had two classes and two free periods. We had nine fifty-minute class periods each day, which means that most everyone had three “study periods” (except for the Colonel, who had an extra independent-study math class on account of being an Extra Special Genius). The Colonel and I had biology together, where I pointed out the other guy who’d duct-taped me the night before. In the top corner of his notebook, the Colonel wrote,
Longwell Chase. Senior W-day Warrior. Friends w/Sara. Weird.
It took me a minute to remember who Sara was: the Colonel’s girlfriend.
    I spent my free periods in my room trying to read about religion. I learned that
myth
doesn’t mean a lie; it means a traditional story that tells you something about people and their worldview and what they hold sacred. Interesting. I also learned that after the events of the previous night, I was far too tired to care about myths or anything else, so I slept on top of the covers for most of the afternoon, until I awoke to Alaska singing, “WAKE UP, LITTLE PUHHHHHDGIE!” directly into my left ear canal. I held the religion book close up against my chest like a small paperback security blanket.
    “That was terrible,” I said. “What do I need to do to ensure that never happens to me again?”
    “Nothing you can do!” she said excitedly. “I’m unpredictable. God, don’t you hate Dr. Hyde? Don’t you? He’s so condescending.”
    I sat up and said, “I think he’s a genius,” partly because I thoughtit was true and partly because I just felt like disagreeing with her.
    She sat down on the bed. “Do you always sleep in your clothes?”
    “Yup.”
    “Funny,” she said.

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