Now that the disaster at my substitute teaching job, alluded to last week, has been "resolved," I'm going to rant about it. I got an "URGENT!" email on the 16th from Kelly Education's incident manager Ana Gradillas saying that Mountain Crest High School of Hyrum, Utah, where I worked on the 15th, had reported an "incident." Of course for perfectly obvious reasons this email mentioned nothing whatsoever about what the alleged incident actually was. Instead, I had to email Ana at a different email address to schedule a time to talk to her about it on the phone so she could then email me a link to write a statement about the things I already told her on the phone and she could then "resolve" the alleged incident. All of these steps are necessary for perfectly obvious reasons. I talked to her and wrote the statement the following Monday. On Tuesday, nothing happened. On Wednesday, nothing happened. Thursday afternoon, by a staggering coincidence, she finished up resolving the "URGENT!" incident right when I called her to find out what the hell was taking so long. And of course during this whole time I was locked out of the scheduling system and couldn't work. The assignments I had already scheduled were canceled. And I experienced a great deal of stress and more insomnia than normal. And also this whole thing happened while I was already dealing with a spurt of loneliness and existential dread over the possibility that there's no afterlife, so you know, I didn't need it.
One might understand, then, why I was even more upset to learn that Mountain Crest High School's allegations are pure unadulterated bullshit. Mountain Crest High School claimed that when I showed up there, multiple times, and got the sub folder from the office, I was "unresponsive" and didn't answer questions. This is a lie. On every occasion, I have communicated everything that needs to be communicated and I have not ignored any questions. From the way I heard it secondhand, this lie sounded like discrimination against me for being quiet and awkward and forgetting to make eye contact with the office staff - in other words, for being autistic. And of course I just have to sit here and take it like always because it's not big enough to justify the effort of filing a complaint, especially when I live in a Republican state that doesn't care. But it sure annoys me. Stuff like this will never let me forget that the society I live in was not built for people like me and has no desire to coexist with people like me. It increases my empathy for women and people of color and LGBTQ people who are also marginalized, and it makes me want to make the world better for them, but then my efforts in that regard are equally ineffective because nobody seems to pay the slightest attention to me.
Mountain Crest High School also claimed that I "had trouble following the lesson plan." This is a lie. I did literally everything asked of me in the lesson plan for the one actual class I had (in addition to two study halls). But for the first ten minutes of class the students were supposed to be doing an assignment in their books, and after I told them twice and the teacher's aide also told them, only three of them even opened their books. And it turns out that the ones who didn't even open their books later had the gall to complain that I hadn't explained what to do. The instructions were right there on the page of their books to which I told them to go and were also being projected on the classroom wall. The assignment explained itself. The lesson plan didn't tell me I needed to give additional explanation. Not one person indicated at any point that they needed additional explanation. I have been in countless middle and high school classes where, following the lesson plan, I told them to do something in their books or on Canvas and most students went and did it with no trouble because they knew how to read. But somehow it's my fault that these students straight-up refused to do what I told them. I also told them, following the lesson plan, that it would be graded the next day, so I had the crazy idea that they were old enough to know better and face the consequences of their choices. Silly me.
Mountain Crest High School also claimed that I didn't leave a note for the teacher. This is a lie. As I do whenever space permits, I wrote my note on the lesson plan and left the lesson plan in the middle of the desk. It was not hidden. The teacher would literally have to be blind to not find it. Ana Gradillas only alluded to this part of the allegations during our second phone call, when she suggested that in the future I leave a note for the teacher, at which point I interrupted and exploded a little.
Yeah, I made no attempt to hide my anger on that phone call. The first time I was just confused and trying to not get fired, but after a few more days to process it I moved on to resentment. Mostly toward Mountain Crest High School for the false accusations, but also toward Kelly Education for not having any systems in place to prevent its employees from false accusations or to compensate them for loss of income caused by false accusations. My refutation of the false accusations made no difference to anything at all. I'm just an employee stuck in a job available to anyone eighteen years old with a high school diploma. I have no rights. Only the schools have rights. They can say whatever they want with no consequences and I just have to deal with it. Ana was very patient with my anger and very understanding and she kept saying she understood my frustration, but of course her empathy won't pay my rent, which of course is going up significantly while wages aren't. Maybe now I'll get fired for writing this post, but whatever, my life isn't worth much if I can't be honest about things that aren't okay. At least I removed most of the swear words before publication.
1. Earlier this week I noticed a slightly higher than average number of hits from cities in Germany. The only German-language content I have on this site is a translation of my former LDS testimony, so I assumed it had to do with that somehow, but actually what happened was that someone shared my fan fiction based on the rejected screenplay "Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men from Mars" on a German Indiana Jones forum.
It says "Interesting novel variant that also functions as a prequel for [Kingdom of the Crystal Skull]. Monkey King has also been rewritten, but is incomplete." I feel flattered and attacked. I never finished Monkey King because, while I love writing out the funny dialogue and the worldbuilding, writing out action scenes that were intended for a movie is difficult and tedious for me. I suppose I ought to get back to it and just push through.
Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men from Mars
Indiana Jones and the Monkey King (unvollständig)
2. I made a joke in a GroupMe chat and nine people thought it was funny.
3. It was already a given that under no circumstances will I substitute teach children for another year, but another disaster happened this week that sent me looking for other jobs immediately. I found the exact perfect one that I wanted a day before the application deadline. If I get the job, I won't be able to prove that this turn of events wasn't a lucky coincidence, nor will I understand why God should do me such a favor while allowing millions of his other children to starve, but I will, nonetheless, freely acknowledge it as a miracle. If I don't get the job, then I'll just acknowledge it as an unnecessary kick in the crotch from a capricious deity or an indifferent universe. But anyway, in the application I had to provide student feedback from one semester of my last (and only) two years of teaching. So I picked my feedback from spring 2022 and I actually looked at it for the first time. Yeah, I was graduating and I just wanted to relax all summer and I was scared to read what students had said about me so I didn't. This week I did. The numbers from the quantitative portion were good enough, but the qualitative comments made me cry a little.
English 2010 (067)
English 2010 (074)
So maybe I have a chance?
4. I was going to watch Darby O'Gill and the Little People with a couple of my neighbors on St. Patrick's Day, but for some reason we watched the first episode of DragonTales instead. Nostalgia overload. We discussed the possibility of an edit/dub to make it a horror series, and/or a companion series to follow the adults as their children keep disappearing.
Carl Sagan and Life After Death
This week I read Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World. It's a book about the need for scientific literacy and skepticism, but it's not an anti-God or anti-religion book like the ones that became popular a few years later, so it's interesting how he tiptoes around the elephant in the room that much of what he says could be used against God and religion. He does get into a few religious topics like the efficacy of prayer and claimed sightings of the Virgin Mary and the torture and murder of innocent women accused of witchcraft, but mostly he debunks alien abductions and psychic powers and stuff. He spends a lot of time on aliens. I came to the same conclusions as him when I wrote a folklore paper about aliens for graduate school. I was trying to avoid the question of their veracity altogether, since it's irrelevant to their role in folklore, but I still couldn't avoid determining that they aren't visiting Earth, they aren't making crop circles, and they aren't kidnapping and raping people. Which is good. But these experiences are still very real to the people who imagine them, which is almost as scary and just as worthy of study.
It's very frightening to me - and I'm not just going off this one book, which reiterated and expanded on a lot of things I had already learned - how deceptive and unreliable our brains are, how prone they are to cognitive biases, logical fallacies, false memories, and straight-up hallucinations. It takes great effort and more education than most people ever get to disentangle oneself from all of this and strive for what one can only hope is something approaching an accurate understanding of the world. Humankind's inherent irrationality has, in my judgment, caused more persistent and widespread problems than evil itself. Frankly, it threatens my belief in God because I don't see what purpose he could have for making us this way. I don't think it was to make us trust in him instead of ourselves, because spiritual feelings and experiences seem to be the least reliable of all. That is, when they're being used as a guide to truth. Simply having spiritual reactions to things is harmless. Sagan's opinion of spirituality:
"'Spirit' comes from the Latin word 'to breathe'. What we breathe is air, which is certainly matter, however thin. Despite usage to the contrary, there is no necessary implication in the word 'spiritual' that we are talking of anything other than matter (including the matter of which the brain is made), or anything outside the realm of science. On occasion, I will feel free to use the word. Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or of acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both."
On life after death, he writes, "My parents died years ago. I was very close to them. I still miss them terribly. I know I always will. I long to believe that their essence, their personalities, what I loved so much about them, are - really and truly - still in existence somewhere. I wouldn't ask very much, just five or ten minutes a year, say, to tell them about their grandchildren, to catch them up on the latest news, to remind them that I love them. There's a part of me - no matter how childish it sounds - that wonders how they are. 'Is everything all right?' I want to ask. The last words I found myself saying to my father, at the moment of his death, were 'Take care'.
"Sometimes I dream that I'm talking to my parents, and suddenly - still immersed in the dreamwork - I'm seized by the overpowering realization that they didn't really die, that it's all been some kind of horrible mistake. Why, here they are, alive and well, my father making wry jokes, my mother earnestly advising me to wear a muffler because the weather is chilly. When I wake up I go through an abbreviated process of mourning all over again. Plainly, there's something within me that's ready to believe in life after death. And it's not the least bit interested in whether there's any sober evidence for it."
He then segues into debunking mediums who claim they can talk to the dead. He doesn't try to debunk the existence of an afterlife itself. Of course he couldn't, because at the time of writing he'd never been dead. But if one does exist, how could we know? Maybe he's been trying to tell us about it for years but he can't find a good medium to talk to because they're all frauds. I used to be so confident that I knew exactly what would happen to me after I died. I would be compensated for every injustice I ever suffered and enter into eternal happiness. Now I wonder if instead I'll just enter an eternal dreamless sleep. I wouldn't mind that, except that I'd never get to listen to music again or see anyone I love again. Sagan missed his parents. His wife, Ann Druyan, misses him. She has said, "When my husband died, because he was so famous and known for not being a believer, many people would come up to me - it still sometimes happens - and ask me if Carl changed at the end and converted to a belief in an afterlife. They also frequently ask me if I think I will see him again. Carl faced his death with unflagging courage and never sought refuge in illusions. The tragedy was that we knew we would never see each other again. I don't ever expect to be reunited with Carl."
I thought about this when I recently watched a video clip of Russian soldiers committing one of their many war crimes, in this case executing a Ukrainian prisoner of war. It was a short clip. He calmly smoked a cigarette and then they shot him and he fell to the ground so fast it almost looked fake. Were all his memories, his personality, and the very core of his identity permanently erased from existence in that moment, faster than the blink of an eye? In another instance I read about, a Ukrainian soldier sacrificed himself to protect his son, also a soldier, from an artillery shell, but it exploded near their heads and his son died with him anyway. I think of all the premature and undeserved deaths, the heroic sacrifices and the cannon fodder and the murders and the diseases and so on, and I think what a sick cosmic joke it would be for all these people to be erased, and for any species to have evolved to the point of having these existential questions and fears in the first place. But then, people of one kind or another have been dying for hundreds of thousands of years longer than any religion that teaches an afterlife has existed. So we're in good company. I shouldn't spend too much effort fearing or resenting the most universal experience in the world.
The only thing I would really need to worry about is the possibility that God exists but is not loving or good. Maybe I will be tormented for eternity for failing to discern the correct religion that God hid among a thousand other religions and/or for giving in to the sinful nature that God gave me. I don't care what anyone says, I don't deserve to be tormented for eternity. Maybe a decade at most. And I think a lot of my experience on this planet should count as time served.
I know I'm always complaining about other people and churches so in the interest of humility, let's talk about a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing I did last week. I went to a linger-longer after my old ward's church service to eat soup. That wasn't the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing because first of all, I was invited, and second, I paid tithing that I didn't know was being used to purchase Apple stock, so I feel entitled to eat food purchased with church funds. I went and this woman I've met a couple times asked me questions about graduate school because I did graduate school and she wants to do graduate school. I get a weird vibe from her that I can't really explain. Usually when pretty women talk to me I get a vague sense of benevolent condescension, like on some level they feel like they're doing me a favor, and that could be dismissed as my imagination except that once in a while it isn't there and I'm shocked. I think that's the case here. Her friendliness catches me off guard even though lots of people are friendly.
I was happy to share my wisdom and happy about her ambition. I wanted to say "Aren't you glad the church doesn't discourage women from having hopes and dreams anymore?" but it might have killed the mood and anyway, I'm not convinced it's entirely true. A lot of women in the ward seem to have career goals and that's great but I don't know how it isn't causing them hella cognitive dissonance. Or maybe it is. So anyway, I asked what she wanted to do in graduate school. She said Asian Studies. I asked what parts of Asia she wanted to study. She said China. I asked why. She said "Mostly to please my ancestors." And this is when I did the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing. I looked at her, and I thought she looked just as white as she had a moment ago before she said that, and I blurted out, "Are you adopted?"
Yes, I committed a microaggression - not my first or worst one, but that's small comfort. I hate the word "microaggression" because usually there is no aggression. Usually, as in my case, these incidents are purely the result of ignorance and/or stupidity. I had two thoughts as I was asking my question, neither of them aggressive. First, that if she had decided to claim her adopted ancestors as her own, good for her, I had no objection, I was just curious. Second, that I wouldn't have batted an eye at white parents adopting a Chinese child, but the other way around seemed weird somehow, but of course it would be allowed because why wouldn't it? An episode of Psych had a white character who was adopted by Thai parents and people thought he was racist for speaking with a Thai accent. In any case, though, if I had stopped to think for a few seconds I would have second-guessed prying into such personal matters.
She said no, she wasn't adopted, she was a quarter Chinese, her mom was half Chinese. And just like that, I could see it. She looked exactly the same and yet different somehow. I wanted to say "Aren't you glad the church doesn't oppose interracial marriage anymore?" but it might have killed the mood. It turns out she's really steeped in Chinese culture and not shy about bringing it up. I just hadn't interacted with her enough to notice. Anyway, she didn't seem offended at all but I have principles to uphold regardless. That evening I went to ward prayer, managing to skip the prayer and only do the game afterward, just so I could apologize to her for being an idiot. She was so not offended that she burst out laughing before I could finish. And then on Thursday I ran into her on campus and we ate dinner together and she caught me off guard with a fist bump so I think we're cool.
tl;dr: I'm not perfect, but I'm trying.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.