When a person has a deep genetic tendency toward sarcasm, it's fun to pick on people with a deep genetic tendency toward sincerity. In my case, the target of my (usually good humored) mockery was teachers of one sort or another - know-it-alls, fitness instructors, self-help gurus and "new age-y" types in particular. After all, a good teacher sincerely wants you to learn. This may account for my rather splotchy academic transcript.But as I've grown older and presumably wiser, I've noticed that most of my profound memories are times of learning, encounters with new experiences, moments when I saw the world or some part of it with new eyes. These memories are almost always presided over by some teacher. So my mockery of teachers is, in effect, me ridiculing those people who made me, for better or worse, who I am.If there's a theme to this issue of New Hampshire Magazine, it's teachers, i.e. people who are sincerely trying to make the world a better place by influencing others for good - even when those "others" are reading Creepy magazine in the back of the class while the teacher is diagramming sentences on the blackboard (sorry, Miss Wagner).Our article on exemplary school programs (page 48) may not mention individuals by name, but every extracurricular or academic event at a school has some such person or small group of people - often volunteers - behind it. Tender young minds are drawn to these instructive environments for fun and friendship, but while there they encounter the two greatest (some might say "only") teachers: Success and Failure.Our article "Turning Back Time" (page 40) features a number of experts who have based their careers on making other people healthier, more engaged or simply better looking. Here the motives for teaching are professional and perhaps not so clearly charitable. But when someone actually helps you change your life, get trim, refocus or get back on track after a lifetime of bad habits, you know that person has given you a part of themselves. It's like an infection of goodness passed between souls. One bit of wisdom I've gained over time has been to seek out the types of people who have this "good virus" and then hang around them long enough to catch it.It might be harder to make the case for this teaching theme in our story on "The Spirit of the Stones" (page 56), but let me try.A rock or stone need not be emanating mystical vibrations for it to have a beneficial effect. What affects us about Mt. Monadnock, apart from its simple majesty, is the collected experiences of those who have known and loved it and then told us so. Mystery Hill in Salem may not be the former home of American Druids, but learning about it draws the mind to the ancient roots of our homeland and expands our frame of reference. The spiraling path of a labyrinth in the woods may not have any special power to realign the chakras of those who walk it, but someone, somewhere focused his or her mind to map that path. Hands carefully and thoughtfully laid those stones in place with a plan to impart peace and contemplation to others.And in the time it takes to walk a simple maze, viral goodness from a sincere and beautiful effort can overwhelm even the most genetically sarcastic mind.
This article appears in the September 2010 issue of New Hampshire Magazine