I may have gotten in over my head.
I tutor a preteen student who is brilliant, who reads at a 12+ grade level, possibly a higher reading comprehension than I have, and who is bound to study physics, astronomy, or cosmology one day. His vocabulary is only at a tenth-grade level. Only. Ha! Look at me. What is my vocabulary level?
But yesterday, I promised his mother I would challenge him and work to raise his vocabulary to his comprehension level. I showed her a stack of books I had in my library that might challenge and interest him. I said we would read these books together. What did I do? Am I qualified for this?
So, we are reading Stephen Hawking now. My student doesn’t like to write, though he’s perfectly capable. My goal is to get him to write daily responses to Hawking’s work, to expand his vocabulary using words like syzygy and axiom. No, I didn’t know what syzygy meant until I looked it up. It’s even fun to learn to say. (Hint, it rhymes with analogy.)
Some religious zealots declare their axiom that the world will end when there is syzygy, alignment of the moons and planets, in the solar system, but that is just superstition regarding science that most people don’t quite understand. Just wait until those zealots get hold of the ideas of a multiverse. Their heads will spiral out of control. See, what I did there? I used my new words.
The cool thing about working with a student like this is that I get to learn alongside him. I get to stretch my mind into the abyss of black holes and variable time. There’s a poetry to it. As I read Hawking’s book, one I can never quite understand because the math isn’t included and I wouldn’t understand it if it were, my mind is transmitted into its own imagination. I see galaxies that consist of electron stars with black hole protons and neutrons at their centers. I see Fibonacci spiraling at a cosmic level. I see a sinusoidal Big Bang, expanding and contracting, as a simple wave of light traveling from another sun to another tilted face. I see fractals on a grand scale, a sun shooting around a galaxy, spiraling its planets in a nautilus shape around it. And then my mind is out of time and I stare into space.
My brilliant student, sitting next to me in a room full of ordinary kids, may look at me and think I’m a little bit deranged. I don’t care. This is really fun.
Thank you for listening, jules