Teaching and Learning
A Call to a serious examination of the world we are making.
I have been accused of being wishy washy when it comes to my political opinions. I have a tendency to think out loud, even in print. I sometimes wonder if I will ever find a point in my life when I am satisfied with my beliefs and stand pat, having finally reached all the right conclusions. I have a dream of consistency. Alas, for me, it is only a dream.
I am coming to regret some things I have espoused and also some of the people I have supported and it pains me to say so. There is a lot I want to work through so bear with me.
First of all, I am perplexed. I thought I was a progressive. I thought I was part of the movement that would revive the Democratic Party. Now, I’m not so sure. I have been reading some disturbing articles from I guess what you would call Bernie Sander’s true believers and I have so say they are somewhat disturbing. Some of these commentators are asserting that what is needed is not reform within the Democratic Party, but a takeover. One writer referred to it as a hijacking to further the progressive cause.
On the other side, some Hilary supporters are vilifying anyone with a critique of her ethics or her campaign. These folks will not suffer fools who dare question Clinton’s tactics and choices lightly. It is disheartening to think I have marched and worked with some of these folks only to find myself, once again, on the outside looking in.
Looming over all is this poisonous environment created by people who are scared to death they are losing out on everything. It is a dangerous thing to have a grievance and feel no one is listening. The results of this past election are indicative of this I think.
An educated person is doomed in our society. A person who can hold two disparate ideas in tension and see merits in different sides is almost automatically going to be vilified with questions like “whose side are you on?” The simple answer is that I am on the side of truth.
But whose truth? Have we not moved on from the antiquated concept of universals, forms, absolutes? Are we not living in the land of sharing “my” truth? It is not necessarily wrong to hold with a degree of relativism, however, to say only truth is in the eye of the beholder is to say that we have failed as intellectual beings to explain our world.
What I see happening in our political life, in our social structures and in our philosophical thinking is a surrender to the unknown. We don’t know so we don't try to know. We can’t agree so we don't try to find common ground. We can’t find truth so we will settle for dogma.
Aristotle famously said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” What I would add to that is that an educated mind can entertain a thought contradictory to its own thinking and still possess room to be changed by it.
The self is not made of walls. It is made of malleable curtains that let in varying shades and intensities of light and at some points, the beams cross and create something beautiful. That is the beauty of reality and truth. We best attain truth when we drop our own rigidly held presumptions and open ourselves to being proved wrong.
Truth is not certainty. Truth is reality. It is opening a window and feeling a breeze rather than being certain the breeze doesn’t exist because you’ve never felt it. Truth cannot be found when we hide behind our opinions. It is found when we allow ourselves to be persuaded by reality and the implications it has on how we choose to live. We must always choose to live in the breeze, not in the thought.
Truth is perceived through reflection. You cannot hear truth if you are drowning out its voice. You cannot expect someone to hear you if you are choosing to shout them down. I have watched our ability to govern ourselves devolve into tribalism and resentments. We can’t live in a society where there are not some shared agreements. If all we have are issues and arguments, we have very little reason to act for the common good.
It is past time for educated people to act like it. We need to turn off the news and just sit with our world for awhile. We have plenty of facts. We have a deluge of information. But we have little knowledge because we refuse to see that knowledge is based in relationships as well as in facts and figures.
The deepest relationship we have is parent and child. It is the most basic form of love. I teach you, I love you, and when you are ready, I send you out to learn what I cannot teach. I send you into the world where you will be taught by voices that you can trust. A teacher has no other agenda than to enable the student to find their way into reality so that when they reach it they can accept it and share it.
Knowledge is shared. Truth is agreed upon. We are doomed if we have sharing without agreement. We don’t have to agree on every point, but there are some things that are essential on which we must agree.
We must agree that life is good. The life of the child, the life of the tree, the intersection of all of life that feeds and sustain all other life. These are essential to maintaining our planet and our society.
We must agree on the dignity of all humans. We may not like all choices, but we must revere the chooser and honor them for our common humanity. Much of our disagreement could be set aside by honoring our common humanity and respecting autonomy of choice. Choice is not truth, but it is indicative of mind and each person has the freedom to follow their mind where it leads.
We must agree that harm to humanity is unacceptable. We cannot hold together as a society believing that some are expendable while others are paramount. Equality is a foundation of being. All of us are equal in our pursuit of a meaningful life. We all have different ideas what that means, but we all have it as a goal and where possible we must support one another in achieving it.
Albert Camus wrote, “Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” At the heart of reality is our need to be in relationship. We learn best from those we love. We understand best when we have others in mind. We live best when we live for each other.
This is why our current politics is futile. We are trying to operate a society based on self interest and this is not a foundation from which we can build a just world. Until we are able to see beyond our own plate, everyone is going to starve. It is time to put away the nonsense of partisanship. Even the sides cannot agree on a litmus test to prove themselves. If the allies within parties cannot agree, what hope do any of us have of being the “united” states?
I am your neighbor. I have a Hilary sticker on my car. I have four dogs and a cat. I have two children. I have a mother and a wife. I love them all. I want a world where my children can live in peace and raise their children in same. I want to live out the rest of my life with meaningful work and as much happiness as I can attain. I want to work in my yard, run in the park, read good books, cook good food and ponder my God in freedom. More importantly, I wish the same for you. I don’t have all the answers and neither do you. But I do love to talk to and learn from others. What can you teach me? What can I teach you?