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"I once had a friend. He had been teaching a long time when I was just starting. He liked telling his students he'd seen them before. In another life, at another school, the same hairline, the same kid brother back home in eighth grade. In class, he gave them obituaries to read. And though we're no longer close, here is consolation: I still believe in what he was up to: seeing if he could make them dizzy. Suggesting they write their way into or out of the disquieting facts he offered up. Offering the chance to find themselves breathless, to consider themselves a point on a circle falling and rising, falling/drawn up, as the wheel moved, moves, is moving relentlessly on. He wanted them to feel conveyor beneath their feet, when all along they'd assumed they were walking. To consider they might, somehow, for another, be a mark and a measure of vastness. A site.

What does my friend want his students to say, what does he want them to stumble into, considering those obituaries? "Nothing in particular," he'd answer, meaning "I have no plan." No one thing in mind. Only for them to skid to a halt, to go breathlessly forth, for here is their chance to see: the patterns keep coming, all the lives theirs resemble - in the newspaper photo, the deceased at age twenty, the jaunty tilt of that head so like the tilt of their own. That they share the same name, the same birthday and interests. That the most basic, seismic events daily converge and include us."
- Lia Purpura
On Looking
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