Hero worship: Unabashed.

Moving near campus has made me exponentially happier, mostly because it makes my life more convenient and I finally get to live alone in my own little cave. Beyond that, however, I discovered a bonus today while walking to the El. I ran into one of my faaaaaaaaaaaaaaavorite professors ever in the whole wide world. Actually, he stopped me (gasp!) to say hi and ask how my summer was going. After some friendly chit chat, we said goodbye and I practically skipped the rest of the way to the train.

I find it difficult to talk about him without sounding like a hyper-active 10 year-old, so I will attempt brevity: Throughout my semester with him, I was continuously surprised and reassured by my professor’s honesty, humility, passion, commitment, and his dual ability to command and offer respect. I’ll stop here before any eye-rolling commences from the nice, patient people reading this.

Oh, who am I kidding? I can’t stop there. Further explanation of my professor’s uncontainable awesomeness:

After each class with him this past Spring semester, I typically felt compelled to post something my professor said or did during class that I thought was particularly inspiring on Facebook. Yes, this is silly. But I would leave his class so pumped, truly believing that I and my classmates could change the world, that I felt like all my Facebook friends might like to feel the same way.

The two things he said to us that have stuck with me the most are:

1. “You will never do more for people than what you allow people to do for you.”

2. “It is more important for you to understand than to be understood.”

Now, I don’t know if these are Walter J. Palmer originals, but I don’t really care. What I care about is that I have thought long and hard about these two off-handed statements. The first statement I’ve though about in relation to my social work practice and the relationships I’ll build with my clients. If I never learn to be open, humble, and how to accept help, I can never truly be there with my clients. I won’t be able to fully appreciate how hard they work to take the help I’m offering to make the small and big steps they need to get on the right track. I have to understand give and take.

The second comment I’ve thought about over and over again in regards to my personal relationships, especially with my family. I have said about six billion times in my life, “He/She/They just don’t understand.” Now, if I find myself thinking that, I feel ridiculously childish. When I really look at why I feel that way, I realize that he/she/they don’t understand because I haven’t let them. If I can’t listen to someone else’s perspective and respect it as a valid point of view, they sure as hell can’t consider mine. To communicate and make a connection, I have to be ready to learn about the other person first and not expect them to put effort into me that I haven’t bothered to put into them.

OK, now back to brevity:

The main reason why I love Professor Palmer is because he made me feel as excited, naive, angry, and hopeful as I did when I was a teenager and just starting to really discover what drives me, but ultimately I think he helped me become a better adult.

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  1. Miles
    June 15, 2011 at 12:11

    Professor Palmer sounds like one slick dude. I like to imagine him looking like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, whom I’ve never met but whose words have often moved me the way Palmer’s have evidently moved you. While his first quote has this sort of ungraspable circularity to it that escapes my full understanding, his second one totally hits home with me. I’ve recently been engrossed in a lot of religious debate, and sometimes I think that “Palmer’s Second Law” goes out the window on such topics.

    You said it perfectly: “If I can’t listen to someone else’s perspective and respect it as a valid point of view, they SURE AS HELL can’t consider mine.” I wish more people kept that core idea at heart, especially when discussing how SURE or UNSURE hell might be!

    • June 15, 2011 at 16:18

      1. Professor Palmer looks younger than his 77 years and is either dressed in full suit with ascot or a track suit. Nothing in between. He’s got a shaved head and kind brown eyes.

      2. Conversations about religion are some of the most frustrating. People seem to feel compelled to define the uncertain rather than accept there are some things we can never know. We can’t know what happens when we die until we die. While we’re alive, we might as well be open to the endless possible outcomes.

      3. I’ve been thinking about Statement #1 in different terms since reading your comment. In order to function and grow as a person, we need other people’s help. Think about when you were a really little kid. You had to accept help from others to tie your shoes, reach things that were high up, even to blow your nose. Then as you got older, you probably saw a kid younger than you, trying to tie his shoes. He had that little bit of anxiety unique to small children when trying to accomplish little tasks. You remember what it felt like for you, so you go over and help him tie his shoes. So I think another possible explanation of Statement #1 is that we need other people to help us grow into the men and women we become, and it’s our duty to offer the same help in return.

      4. Another one of my Palmer favorites is: “If you’re bored, it’s because you’re a boring person.” This makes me reflect on a number of young men I’ve known who were enthralled with their own sense of ennui.

  2. October 1, 2011 at 10:48

    thoroughly enjoyed this appreciation lorelie It’s a wonderful gift to maintain the ability to get over the top enthusiastic about somebody or somethigng. a joy. many seem to lose it and I often find myself wishing for them that they could regain it. yay

    I think about point 1 often. Every time I hear a different reflection on it, my ears perk up. still sorting it out. I remember when Whitney Houston first belted out “Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of aaaallllll.” And oh my: the ooohing and aaahhhing ensued. “Yes, of course”, they cooed, “how beautiful”. I was like, “huh? I just don’t get it.” since then, I have made much progress and even some times, even recently, felt there were astounding internal breakthroughs and I ‘got it!’ went around for a few days feeling that way.

    today I read this discussion on your blog and realized, ‘nah, I’m on my own journey with it. I still can only see it from a very precise angle and if it changes at all (like in your prof’s pt 1) I get lost again.” LMAO

    as for point 2, your discussion on it here brings to mind for me a point about dialogue. Dialogue is monstrously ‘under-actualized’ to be such a common word. Dialogue takes conscious intent, maturity, humility, curiosity and most of all a certain confidence and hope, even faith (faith in humanity, the processes of the Universe or WhatEVER floats the heart forward). To see anyone submitting to a genuine dialogue, or to be part of that, is a RARE OCCURRENCE. I hope and believe it can become less so with wonderful people like you in the world.

    your side point about religion – yep. As you know, I use a specific practice – I do this and not that. For me, it’s like digging a hole to China: digging a bunch of holes I keep having the same limited experience. But just picking one hole and continuing to dig, I continue on an internal journey that takes me to places hithertofore unseen. However, I can only do it because the philosophy incorporates the point that religion comes into being to serve a need inherent in many humans and not the other way around – humans serving religion.

    finally, I wrote a quote on an index card recently I forget where I got it. But it kind of ties in here and a few other places I visited this week (like at a restaurant with work friends during lunch!):

    Finding a place of compassion eliminates the need for self control.

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