My favorite disabling phrase from a student paper, was and always will remain: "hybrid bean entities." It was this phrase that taught me how to deal with the incomprehensible. Though clearly, what I learned at the time has long ago worn off.
I was stuck for hours — like a robot with the power unit shut off — pen in hand, leaning over the paper unable to move, the phrase stunned me so. I tried to picture them, those little bean entities. Hybrids, no less. But they eluded me. Still, I could feel them; they were fully and wholly alive. And sentient. They were thoroughly enjoying their impact. Laughing at me. At my paralysis. I was at an Anthropology of Consciousness conference at the time, being stupid enough to bring papers to grade to the conference, when I read that phrase. I walked into the room next door where all my friends were altering their collective consciousness (while I sat in my room reading student papers) — and I did the only thing I could think of: I handed them the phrase: "Hybrid bean entities" I announced, and started to walk out.
It was one of my most memorable grading moments. Everybody froze, their eyes on me with the same stunned expression on their faces (altered states of collective consciousness is an SAC specialty). The result, though I couldn't have predicted it, was in retrospect, obvious. Or perhaps inevitable. That phrase disabled me the whole rest of the conference. I locked my door (so the little entities couldn't escape), and was forced to join the party.
Maybe that lesson is worth retrieving.
The class was Religion and Anthropology. The assignment was to take one of the concepts we had just covered in class and apply it to something from the student's own life. Turned out, this was what she knew. She worked in a hybrid bean factory. I don't remember anything else from that class. My memory was completely wiped clean. Except for the little bean entities who took up permanent residence in my neural pathways.