Thursday, September 5, 2013

Mr. Biology

The voice. It was commanding, authoritative, penetrating, and yes, frightening . I remember so well that first day of the required sophomore biology class at old Wallace High. It was moments before the bell rang, and as usual, there was a cacophony of voices all over the classroom as we nervously awaited the start of a new adventure. None of us heard the door open because we were too engaged in our own little worlds of chatter when "the voice" bellowed two terrifying words. "Shut Up"

If silence really does have a sound, there was the sound of silence in that classroom. There was nay a whisper, a cough, a sneeze, or a chair moving. I am not positive any of use were even breathing. As "the voice" walked into the room, he said," When that bell rings, there is to be complete silence". Believe me, he meant that, too. It was a lesson that we all remembered and practiced with religious fervor for the rest of the school term.

Now, that same voice had another remarkable talent, and that was that it was absolutely mesmerizing when the man with the voice was standing in the middle of the classroom without one single note to read from and lectured for a full hour about the relatively new world of DNA.

The first question that he asked was " What is life?". What? Well, life was---------------and one by one as he called our names from the class register we tried in vain to come up with the  answer that would please this man standing in the middle of the room wearing the pop bottle glasses. He was definitely enjoying our ignorance, because by now he had a smile, or was it a smirk, I am not sure, on his face, and we knew that he knew some deep dark secret about life that none of us in our limited lifetimes could even fathom.

Finally, as the tension was too much to bear, this voice let is in on the deep, mysterious definition of life. I can still hear that voice all of these years later as he said " Life is DNA". Well, that was news to all of us. But now, when I watch court room drama and hear lawyers and expert witnesses bantering back and forth about DNA, I smile, and go back to that old Wallace High class room, and can see Mr. Paske standing there with a  smile on his face saying " Life is DNA"

Year later I ran into Mr. Paske, and to my utter astonishment, he still knew who I was and called me by my first name before I even recognized him. Mr.Paske was no doubt one the best teachers that I had in either college or high school. He indeed was Mr. Biology.

No comments: