Published January 29, 2017
[Editor’s note: The following is the eighth part of a ten-part series of reflections on education, presented by Wayne Weiseman. These remarks are reprinted from his Facebook site with his permission.]
A Rumination on Relevant Education and Great Teachers (part eight)
“To teach love, we have to feel love. To feel love, we have to see all as divine. To see all as divine we have to contemplate the divine within everyone, and dance with the divinity.” Shrii Shrii Anandamurti
“The Perfect Way is only difficult for those who pick and choose; do not like; do not dislike; all will be clear. Make a hairsbreadth difference, and Heaven and Earth are set apart. If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against. The struggle between for and against is the mind’s worst disease.” (Seng-Tsan)
Our ability to learn and perceive the whole is strengthened. Love is a longing, a merging. Love is the greatest desire. To be fulfilled in love. Whole learning strives toward this ideal. Now, how may we begin this process?
We all know the difference between being scorned and being nurtured. When another human being truly cares for us, supports us, accepts each one of our idiosyncrasies, makes no judgment upon us, and is determined to cooperate and utilize conflict in a healthy and healing way, we know the difference. All of our efforts to resist or fight or remain separate melt away. We know, as teachers, that when we pick or choose or show too much interest in a student in class, or too little interest in others, when we do not revere each student things get out of hand. This does not necessarily mean that we treat each student as though they were the same person, with the same habits and abilities, but only that our love is equal. To love equally is to be free of the attachment to good and bad.
Each personality, each constitution needs specific lessons to help them evolve and grow into their work and service in life. The teacher’s leadership skills are of utmost importance. Good leaders know how to balance the energies of a group of individuals into a harmonious whole, like a symphony conductor guiding and blending the spinning wheels of melody and harmony into a heartfelt and soulful performance.
As educators, we receive so much in return when we can take command and direct the flow of energy between students into the joy of learning. If this happens, then the willingness between fellow students to share and cooperate becomes active. Students are more prone to take personal responsibility for the “other”. In turn, the student cares and comes out of himself/herself to share in the experience at hand, takes a giant leap forward in the ability to make their way through life in a balanced fashion. They will make a difference. The teacher or leader must be able to read the underlying constitution of each student and know how to blend their differences together into working teams so that each student acts as homeopathic medicine for the other.
The teacher’s responsibility here is to develop his or her powers to observe and understand human psychology. This requires on-going study and learning. The lessons lie hidden in each individual. The sepals and petals of the flower, which have yet to bloom, obscure them. ‘Do not, I beg of you, look for anything beyond phenomena. They are themselves their own lesson.” (Goethe). We, as educators, must constantly be on the lookout. We must develop our vocabulary and be able to read the book of the whole student whole. While our focus and attention will keep us in the moment, our studying, observing, and guiding the student, will create the calm, still point in the center of the flow.
When we love we receive love in return. When we care we are cared for. When we give anger we receive it back. And when we pollute we cannot help but become victims of our own wastefulness. Nature, human and society spiral in and out of each other like a fantastic web of reality and possibility. The spiral growth of plants, of shells, of sticks pulled through still water, of a mushroom, of a galaxy, mirror one another from the most macrocosmic to the smallest minutiae. All of the proportions, the shapes, colors, textures, forms of this world match up, integrate and explode into a rapture of creation and potentiality. We study the creation and we can see that the laws of nature hold true on all levels of life in every thought, word and action. As an educator and naturalist I have come to see the intrinsic wisdom and design of the natural world through long periods of protracted observation and contemplation. What has intrigued me the most is the striking realization that in every moment spent exploring the woods, mountains, rivers, or estuaries, I was as much a moving, changing point within the creative process of the web as were the plants, stones, insects, mammals, snowflakes and thunderheads I encountered. Every step I take, no matter how silent or careful I am, I create a disturbance in the surrounding environment. Go slow. Create the least disturbance. Observe carefully. “Leave no trace”.
Human society has a profound affect on the land and natural resources of our world. In ancient times tribal societies moved through the landscape, culled and used only what was needed from their immediate environment, covered their tracks and moved on. Nature was given time to regenerate. But the modern attitude toward the natural world has been very different. Our population has skyrocketed in numbers through recent centuries. It has been estimated that when the first explorers first stepped onto American soil that in all of the Americas, from Hudson Bay to Tierra del Fuego, only ten million people inhabited the land. Currently, metropolitan New York City easily doubles that figure while being concentrated into only a few square miles. The repercussions of the relatively rapid rise in population on land use and resource consumption are overwhelming. We have all paid witness to these astounding affects. As much as each human being can affect another with caring or harsh words, and as much as a society can either work together for the common good or create bloody conflicts to attempt to settle differences, we as educators owe our students help in understanding the repercussions of our thoughts, words and actions. We must not be doomsayers. But we must be truthful. And, if we present the positive side of the high ideals of the human world, we can set something constructive in motion.
Most importantly, it is the teachers who create the environment for creativity. They are the point around which the ideas and elements of life swirl and spiral and branch out into more ideas and elements that bring new beliefs and awareness with them. They become centers of spirals themselves and affect many. But will they spin with the grace of a top at steady speed or will an external force tilt the top as it careens more and more away from center? It is a curious fact that on the periodic table of elements the inert elements appear as octaves on a spiral that frames all the other elements. The inert gases require no extra particles. They stand by themselves, still and content, whole. But as we move in either direction, away from the inert gases, the other elements require more and more elements in their shells in order to form stable compounds. They are more needy. What kind of educational system do we wish to potentiate — still, centered, accepting, open and aware, or needy, rapacious and ravenous where only dissatisfaction rules us endlessly? Do we wish to inspire a freethinking, full feeling humanity, or an addicted and depressed world?