R Thomas Collegiate

Episode #791

March 30, 2023

There is a wooded path on the land bridge between the two lakes at Notre Dame.



I need a break from studies, so am strolling down the trail. I notice a station of the cross carved into a wooden plaque on the side of the path. A little farther along is another plaque, then another. The Simon and Garfunkel song, “The Boxer,” comes to mind. After the 14th station I arrive at a clearing with Jesus on a crucifix. The lyrics ring in my head:

“In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of every glove that laid him down
Or cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
“I am leaving, I am leaving”
But the fighter still remains.”

In that moment I see Jesus as the boxer and I am the fighter that remains.
I promise myself to check out the Catholic Pentecostal service on campus tomorrow.

When I arrive home for summer, I look up Father Fred Gaglia, my old teacher and college advisor. He is a priest who has been baptized in the Holy Spirit as a Catholic Pentecostal. He asks me if I want to be baptized into this pioneer Catholic sect.

So here we are at Pepperdine University chapel sitting in the first row of pews. The celebrant calls up the catechumens who file up the aisle toward the sanctuary to be baptized. As I stand, I see the others in a sharp reveal. To my mind’s eye they are emotionally needy. Each of them has some void in themselves, desperate to be filled. I cannot see myself among them. I turn to Father and say, “I cannot do this. It is not for me.”

Father Gaglia smiles and nods his head. With an unsurprised tone he says, “Sit back down, Rick. You are OK.”

Back at Notre Dame, after Analytical Geometry class I am meeting with my professor.

“I am having trouble with postulates Mr. Johnson.”
“What is bothering you Mr. Thues?”
“What is the truth of a postulate. How can I prove a theorem based on a postulate that can’t be proven?”
“You just have to have faith in the postulate.”
“So mathematics is based on faith, not fact.”
“I’m afraid so.”

This idea is a barricade to my understanding and embracing of higher math. It is also affecting my GPA.

My sophomore Biology professor hands out another mimeographed installment of the textbook he is writing for Harvard premed biology. The final exam will be next week. Class ends and I rush across campus to the biology lab. I love the labs. I can really do science. It is fun, like cooking a dish or building a project. I ace all my labs.

We are in the midst of the biology final exam. It is administered in the north dining hall. There are a hundred students taking the test. The professor looks on. I am doing quite well when I come across six questions about flat worms. I have no memory of the flat worms at all. It turns out the information was only a footnote in our textbook. This is a disaster. I miss six questions of 100… 6% of my final test score. Time is up and we hand in our tests. I lose one whole grade point for the class based on a one inch footnote.

The professor speaks from the front of the room:
“I have observed several of you cheating on this test. Show up to my office tomorrow morning and you will receive a reprimand. Don’t show up and you will fail this class.”

I know I did not cheat but am curious who will show up to the professor’s office. The next day I am lurking behind some trees near the office building. There is a long line of students outside the professor’s office waiting to be absolved.

At my quarterly review, my English teacher, Sean Cavanaugh, is sitting across from me at his desk. He is rereading a copy of my poem, “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” Mr. Cavanaugh is also my college advisor.

“My focus of interest is Medieval poetry, Mr. Thues. I like what you have done in this poem. Have you ever thought about translating Middle English poetry to modern English?”
“Can’t say I have. As I have said, I’m considering switching my major from premed to liberal arts. I see it as a preparation for teaching. I also think that communications skills will be useful in business. I don’t expect to be communicating with Arthurian characters.”
Sean chuckles. “With a background in Middle English you might end up a writer, scholar or teacher.”
“I think a focus on modern English prose and a minor in marketing would serve me as well.”
“Ok, Rick, I will put that in motion. If you ever change your mind or want to take my other classes, just let me know.”

My focus toward a Bachelor of Arts degree has been on Modernism in literature. Authors such as Fitzgerald and T.S. Eliot highlight the advent of subjective truth. They write of the people surrounding themselves in decadence to distract from a pervading spiritual emptiness. Their prose is about post WWII disillusionment which is leading to a lack of faith in the American Dream. I am profoundly influenced.

I rewrite T.S. Eliot’s “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. I keep a similar meter and rhyme scheme but change all the words. I change the poem from the reflections of a disgruntled old man to the musings of a young man looking forward to a disgruntled life.

From “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”:

“Let us go then, you and I,

When the evening is spread out against the sky

Like a patient etherized upon a table;

Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,

The muttering retreats

Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels

And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:

Streets that follow like a tedious argument

Of insidious intent

To lead you to an overwhelming question …

Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”

Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go

Talking of Michelangelo.”

—T. S. Eliot


From “The Love Song of R. Thomas Prufrock”:

“i, a young man, torn in my closet
have made many fine illusions
and many more conclusions
that leave me standing quite alone;
i cannot, will not suffer thought
or lack of thought or words i’ve bought
on credit.
you say i should forget it:
laying on my useless bed,
crumpling the black fur nylon spread …
in the end i can’t resist
fighting is a Boxer’s job
(i’ve never had a clearing to stand in and sob)
i can’t resist,
join my questioned whirlwind
if questions must persist.

 in the dorm the lovers pause and linger
drinking Harvey Wallbangers.”
— R. Thomas Thues

My Junior year GPA is excellent. Exploration of the Arts has taught me an appreciation of the human condition. People are fascinating and challenging at the same time. Some research tells me that getting a teaching certification in California will be lengthy and expensive, only to yield a poorly paying job at a high school filled with out-of-control students like myself. I lean into my marketing and advertising classes.

In my advertising class, we have broken up into production groups to design a commercial for a decongestant product. I write an outline of a mucus character who is pursued by a futuristic soldier. The laser toting soldier corners Mucus Man and disintegrates it in the lungs where it lives. Another of us draws up the story board and the third writes a script. Little do we know that years in the future Mucinex would create a similar character in Mr. Mucus.

Senior year allows me a great deal of freedom. I have accumulated so many course credits that my class load is light. Each of my classes require extensive reading and final essays with very little testing. Every one is on a Tuesday/Thursday schedule. I am in class from 8am to 6pm. All day Wednesday is spent in the library, studying, researching and writing. Fridays I put some books in my backpack and hitchhike around the Midwest. The people I meet and the places I go can fill books. My Friday through Monday adventures teach me more about life than anything else in college.

It is graduation day. I am seated in the honored section of the class. Contemplating my Dean’s List status, I wonder how I got here and what I actually learned. My science courses taught me the Scientific Method. Business courses taught me statistics and probabilities. The Arts were an education in humanity. “Critical Thinking,” I say to myself. These past four years have taught me to take a wider view of reality. Critical thinking has focused my mind to conceptualize, analyze, synthesize, evaluate and apply information gathered from observation, experience, reflection, reasoning and communication. It forms a guide for my beliefs and actions.

Searching at sea’s edge
starving sharks die on sea cliffs
giving sand crabs food.
–R. Thomas Thues


“Skydivers Know Why Birds Sing” by Ricki T Thues is now available on Amazon.
It is a Love story of Rick and Paula Thues and their 35 years of Skydiving.

Click HERE to buy the paperback or Kindle ebook at Amazon.

Follow Ricki T Thues on Amazon HERE.

“Technically Human” by Ricki T Thues, the iMentor, is available on Amazon.
It is a compilation of selected episodes from this bLog which tell the story of Humanity through the eyes of the iMentor.

Click HERE to buy the paperback or Kindle ebook at Amazon.
The ebook version of “Technically Human” is also available on Kobo. Click HERE.
For you Barnes and Noble Nook readers it is available for Nook. Click HERE.
The “Technically Human” ebook is also available on Apple Books . Click HERE.



One Response

  1. Danielle L BARLOW March 29, 2024

Leave a Reply