I was a fervent, probably thoroughly obnoxious student of comparative religion in my final two years of university. It was no doubt the culmination of my search for The Whole Truth. I wanted a key that would unlock the meaning of everything. I’ve written about “The Meaning of Everything.” It is my all-time favorite post, even if it isn’t my best post.
This, however, isn’t about me.
It’s about Mr. Wekerle, pronounced Weh-ker-lee with the emphasis on the first syllable. He was the head of the Philosophy Department at Hofstra University when I was attending.
I adored him. Not because he was “hot,” but because he was so incredibly smart. He was also the only professor could tell when I was bullshitting and hadn’t actually read the books. The only teacher to give me D-/A+ as a grade for a 50-page paper.
The A+ was for style, the D- for content.
Mr. Wekerle — he was ABD having not quite finished that doctoral thesis and I don’t know if he ever did — made me work for my grades. Made me think. Forced me to spell everything out and never assume my reader already knew any of the material. Which, as it turned out, served me very well in the business world.
He read every page of every paper submitted in class. He was harder on me than on other students because he felt I had potential as an academic. I probably did, but life had other plans for me.
One of his best tricks for getting students to listen attentively in class was to whisper. It was what we call a “stage whisper.” Loud enough to be heard at the back of the room if no one talked or rustled papers.
In Wekerle’s classes, no one wanted to sit in the back. You never wanted to miss a single word. Especially not during his annual “Phenomenology” lecture. Students would show up from all over campus to sit in on it, even if they’d heard it half a dozen times over the years.
We would sit there, breathless as he whispered the meaning of everything into the hushed room.
Never underestimate the power of a quiet voice, in words spoken in a whisper. Shouting may get attention, but a whisper can change the world.
The Encyclopedia Britannica provides this definition of phenomenology:
Phenomenology, a philosophical movement originating in the 20th century, the primary objective of which is the direct investigation and description of phenomena as consciously experienced, without theories about their causal explanation and as free as possible from unexamined preconceptions and presuppositions.