There is a scene at the end of Hercules, where old mighty Zeus conjures the stars in the Heavens and aligns them so that they form the shape of the mythical hero. All of the townspeople look up and one of them yells out: “Hey! That’s Phil’s boy!” Phil is short for Philoctetes, the pan who is Hercules’ trainer. Phil cries with joy and astonishment. In the end, that was his lifelong dream.
Phil: Yeah. Who do you think taught Jason how to sail? Cleopatra? I trained all those would-be heroes. Odysseus, Perseus, Theseus. A lot of "yeuseus." And every single one of those bums let me down. Flatter then a discus. None of them could go the distance. And then there was Achilles. Now there was a guy who had it all - the build, the foot speed. He could jab, he could take a hit, he could keep on comin'. But that furshlugginer heel of his! He barely gets nicked there once and - kaboom! He's history. Yeah, I had a dream once. I dreamed I was gonna train the greatest hero there ever was. So great the gods would hang a picture of him in the stars... All across the sky, and people would say, "That's Phil's boy." That's right.
I did something of the sort once. I swear I am not being nostalgic and not even reminiscent, although Enya “we will now begin with the awards” song has mysteriously shuffled into my Itunes (It’s the Fates: “indoor plumbing…it’s gonna be big”). It’s just that I’m about to embark on a teaching journey once more, and I’ve been thinking about that quote all day.
I have been appointed to teach a general culture class. Low pay, no benefits, but definitely worth the effort. For one, my employers trust me as if I knew History’s answers (which I don’t and it’s scary). For another, I get to shape my class in the way I want it to be, even if it just ends up being an oceanic culture with a finger of depth. But that’s my goal and my objective: to repeat the Phil story to myself every single day. I have learned many a times that there are no greater satisfactions than helping other people succeed.
The problem with the teachers I encountered during my careers was that none of them (I’m being selfish none except four) taught us to “be inspired”. To go the distance. They were professors, not educators. To me there’s a huge difference. Nothing beats the pleasure of having taught him how to dive, how to inspire her to get on that plane, how not to really care or be ok with the fact that you want to retire. Nothing can top the lesson that one has to get up if you ever want to win at the races.
That’s all I’ve ever wanted in life. In the end, no matter how trivial the class may be, or how poor I get (then again what is poverty but petty ignorance?) I really do want people to look at them in action when all is over and say “that’s Phil’s boy”.- Even if nobody ever really does.