P.E. 101

1/23
((from Natalie))

*the following post is a fictionalized account

Dear Diary,

Today was the first day of classes on campus.  It was nerve-wracking. In my first two courses, when the professor handed out the syllabus and explained what we would cover through the course of the semester, I could feel my palms begin to sweat. There’s a lot of material to cover and many things on the syllabi that I don’t even understand. My heart was racing. “This semester is going to be hard,” I thought. Day one and I’m already nervous.

But then, in the afternoon I had an elective P.E. class.  Sure I still got sweaty and my heart was racing, but this time it was prompted by exercise, not anxiety.  Part of why the class was unlike any other, is because of the professor… something about him felt familiar, yet mysterious.  Professor E. M. Manuel, was so welcoming. He spoke to us with firm authority and yet, his kind nature made me want to soak up every word. As he introduced the concepts we would be exploring, he spoke in terms that we could all understand, often by sharing a story to illustrate what he was saying. He was one of those people that you could tell was just made to be a teacher.  He seems as passionate about teaching and encouraging us as he is excited about the material.

He made us run a mile. Having stayed up half the night excitedly talking to my roommate from the top bunk, I didn’t feel like I had the energy for a run. But before we began, the Prof said the point of this exercise was not to “work-out” in the sense of straining our bodies to press its limits, but instead we were to run to “renew our minds.” I doubted that the run would be a “time to relax and renew” like Professor Manuel said, but his words echoed in refrain as I ran.  By half a mile in, it was as though the stress of the first two classes had left me.  My mind felt decluttered and my body felt lighter.  I finished faster than I had ever done the mile trials in high school P.E. class.

After the run, he tasked us with finding our pulse and then he spoke a lot about the heart. We pondered the magnificence of the electrical system that controls it, pulsing at over 115,000 times each day.  Professor Manuel said that we would do as much pondering as learning this semester. Today, I learned that science has not yet learned what initiates the heart’s first beat from inside our mother’s womb. Professor E. M. Manuel said that perhaps it’s a miracle that the heart suddenly begins its pulse somewhere around 22 days days after conception.

All of the pondering made me thirsty for more knowledge, so my roommate and I did some google searching and read to each other about the heart over dinner in the dining hall.  It’s all so fascinating! One article said: Myocytes removed from the early heart and grown in culture will beat sporadically, and if they become connected to each other, will then begin to beat rhythmically, in unison. As a functional organ, the heart begins to beat very early, even before it has assumed its final form. Because beating is an intrinsic property of the cardiac myocytes, exactly what causes the heart to begin contracting is essentially a cell biological question. Unfortunately, there is not yet a definite answer to this question. We are beginning to understand how cardiac myocytes are specified very early in development, long before the heart has even formed.

I cannot wait for our second class so I can share with Prof. E. M. Manuel what I learned! Inspired by him! …but something tells me he already knows.

P.S. Tonight I was having some quiet time, reflecting on the first day of school.  I opened the Bible and landed in Romans Chapter 12 and the verses 1-6 spoke to my heart, they’re just perfect ponderings for today!

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”

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