The Curious and Quirky are Welcome HERE. A tribute to Mr. Hazell

His name is Alva, and the only Alva I’ve ever met. I think he was a school teacher, but he did brain surgery on the side. I looked him up the other day on Facebook and in probably 25 years he hasn’t changed a bit. He’s doing video production (quirky) and art projects (awesome) near Lebanon, Mo, probably among a lot of other things.

He operated on my skull when I was a teenager, while I was at a summer camp called DLA (Drury Leadership Academy). It took place in a classroom at Drury College, in Springfield, Mo, while we all sat around in a circle on the floor. I made sure each year that I signed up for whatever class he was hosting, it didn’t matter the name or the subject.

He is one of those people who can guide a young mind on incredible journeys of discovery. He woke up the rarely challenged spirit of invention and creativity in children. Most people are content to let kids be kids, but he seemed to want us to see possibilities beyond just ‘kiddery’.

I remember crafting new contraptions out of a box of discarded parts and batteries. I ‘invented’ a device for installing into bathtubs. It gave a signal when the preset water level was reached and warned if the temperature was too hot. I was probably 13 or 14. It took just a couple days. We only used  random Radio Shack junk, And it worked!… kinda.

He gave kids the confidence that they could accomplish ANYTHING. Wow! Mindblower for me!

Another time he sliced open my noggin’ and operated on it, was an exercise I’ll call Song Dissection. He took popular radio songs (which we thought was so cool!) and played them in short clips. REM had a song called Losing My Religion. He’d play – “ I thought that I heard you laughing” then we’d talk about it for a bit. Next was “I thought that I heard you sing” then “I think I thought I saw you try”.

Basically we broke down the songs, line by line. He wanted us not to just hear the music but to listen, to look closer and even comprehend the meaning behind the words. This was the first time I can remember someone encouraging me to pull back the curtain, to question the questions themselves and to not take everything just at face value.

His version of brain surgery must’ve been powerful. I’ve remembered those moments in his class often in my life. I’m sure he didn’t care if knew the real meaning of those REM songs back in the early nineties. I do think though, that he’d be glad that his operations ignited deep mental curiosities that are still burning in me today.

How much do we just intake information from the ever expanding explosion of media around us? How often do we question and probe with in-depth examination the concepts, the catch-phrases and the content pouring into our minds through TV, Radio and Internet?

I think Alva, excuse me, Mr. Hazell, would be glad to know that we don’t just constantly set our minds on cruise control. If I had that capability as a youngster, I think he helped to carve it out and toss it away. Thank God, and for that surgery, and thank Mr. Alva Hazell for making it FUN!!

Until next week my friends… Question EVERYTHING!!


Aaron Nichols

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