A reader wrote and asked how to make a difference. Teaching was his profession and of course his talents would be appreciated. As Americans, our first reaction has always been what can I do. Do being the operative word. How can we break this down to sizeable chunks to be effective. My first response is Be. Not do, or do by Being.
One is no doubt a spouse, or a sibling, or a son or daughter, or parent. Not necessarily in order, but one of these. Or simply single human. This is where we begin. In a world which shrinks not only because of space as we grow in numbers but because as our children marry and discard familial cultures or combine belief systems, we need to absorb unfamiliar and prejudicial behaviors that we think threaten our security. What I see as necessary is a substantive broadening of what needs to be embraced. (What came through as dictation is in italics. Since all time is simultaneous, it is valid yet.)‘ Growth is with oneself. Growth is with the knowledge that humanities’ progress must begin with oneself. And to be able to see the infirmities of humankind in the wider scope of behavioral and genetic structures allows a compassion to be directed at the individual. We learn much at the parents’ knees. And much is not good and here it is we can change.’ When I wrote the post, Who Will Teach The Children? we assume of course the young child. But children come in all sizes. As I wrote many times, ‘some too large to sit on your lap, but not too large to sit on your heart.’ And sadly, I say sadly from this vantage point of my eighth decade, that I have seen too many of my generation go to the end of their lives as prime cases of arrested development. Growing up is not easy to do. Many things restrict our development. We are not the prime interest in everyone’s life when we are born and survival of oneself is everyone’s goal. The world is not out to get us so to speak, we may just be in the way of someone else’s life.
‘All things are not said and done with malice aforethought. Some things are said simply because they have been heard all of one’s life and one has not thought them through sufficiently to change one’s thinking. And there’s the rub. To think through sufficiently. The dastardly job of thinking through is given away, like some vile disease. Yet the process of thinking, the gift of thought, the joy of thinking, the remarkable process of thinking, is what man is all about. It is a birthright of greatest value and is scorned as odious work. It is man’s liberation from a life of drudgery and here we talk of the tediousness of the day’s duties with no respite. Thought does this. Thought will take one from the humdrum of every day and lift one to the heavens where imagination originates and dreams are spun. It will be the wings upon which man will fly. It will be the culmination of a life’s work and there is nothing else.
We will ask of him how did you spend your days? And man will say, I work at such and such and have accomplished great things. But we will say, what did you think? And what will man answer? For the heavens know, do they not, what transpires in the mind of man. The heavens know. To resolve issues which plague the heart is the work of man. We pester the mind with that which has not been resolved and bring forward the issues until man feels possessed. Try, we say, try. Resolve them and bring some peace to your life. But thought, that marvelous process which separates man from the unthinking and no vision creature, when we see that man disparages this active tool which is his gift, then heaven laments.’
When we teach a person to read, we open them to worlds of thought, both ancient and contemporary. When we create a safe place to speak our thoughts, and someone listens, we grow. Many of us are unable because of physical issues to do much but we can listen. We can Be. We can be the listener for the child, no matter the age. We can guide the stumbling thoughts to wider vision. If we cling to what our parents believed, our question should be ‘why?’ If we cling to our preferred prejudices, our question is ‘why?’ If we are quick to rush to judgement, our questions should be many. What we require are those whose thoughts do not necessarily agree with ours, but who show us a direction where we can adjust our thinking and grow. This is a necessity. Our world, our planet, our Earth and its survival, demands it. Our churches and synagogues should be that place where arms would hammock the growing knowledge, but they are not. They have a vested interest in positions of power and are impervious to change. We must find that place for thoughts no longer appropriate to change in safety. To be shown how by those whose knowledge of differing cultures can be a good beginning. Just a thought. But perhaps then those of us who close shop this night will ensure an enthusiastic incoming class in the morning.
photo by Joe Hallissey Sr.