Published January 29, 2017
[Editor’s note: The following is the seventh 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.]
Education as an Evolutionary Process
“My words become stained with your love. You occupy everything, you occupy everything.” (Pablo Neruda)
We may say that life is an evolutionary journey. What do we mean by the word evolutionary? Is it from a Darwinian perspective that we take our first step onto the path of education? Maybe not. To evolve, in Latin, means, “to turn out”. The Latin word, volere, is a turning, a revolving. The word revolere means to turn again, to turn out, and to rotate out. Educate- to lead out. To unfold, to spiral, to grow, to transform.
We state that the human being’s most persistent longing is for spiritual fulfillment and love. This is Love with a capital L. But haven’t we heard this so many times? The word “love” is overlaid with so much cultural meaning that it may seem a poor choice of words to get our point across. But if we look deeply into this simple word, we can uncover the primordial understanding that will put our thoughts, words and deeds into harmony and reveal something of the Divine brilliance that lies unperturbed at the core of our spiritual being. Yet, how can we say that all of us are aspiring to spiritual fulfillment and love? Whether we have a preference or not all of us are evolving (growing, changing) in time. We cannot stop the clock, nor can we set up a roadblock or detour to our impending death. Just as death is inevitable, life is inevitable. And no matter how we approach life or death, we are all trying, in our own characteristic fashions, to work out answers to basic questions about our existence. Some of us may meditate and contemplate our existence. Some of us attend houses of worship. Some believe that their work will lead them to fulfillment. Some raise their children to the best of our ability. These can all be spiritual paths.
Through our activities we seek to belong in this world, to find purpose, to find essential meaning. Even those of us who shirk responsibility and declare that the world is without meaning are taking a stand and a point of view, creating a personal niche that we inhabit and exhibit to others. We need to come to some form of expression, to be seen and known. We are in life, always driving toward our full potential. It may not look pretty but periods of chaos must always follow periods of order. We contract and we expand. The law of opposites in this world is a fact that we cannot avoid. It is in resolving the contradictions that energy and consciousness is released and this pure stuff can be used again anyway that we want.
What lies beneath and creates the endless opposites that we must navigate in our entire existence in this human form? What and where is this mystery that stands behind creation? And why are we, the human beings, the only beings on this earth that are capable of thought and contemplation and philosophical reasoning? Who is the Creator and why must this Creator create? Or is there really a Creator at all? It is from these questions that we begin to uncover the essence of our first learning principles.
My objective is not to arrive at any ultimate answers or statements concerning the questions I have posed. My objective is only to explore the deeper questions, to stimulate the heart and mind into meditation on the Great Mystery. Ultimately, I believe that if we understand how to do this, we will be able to continually refuel ourselves and be able to give our students something of use to make progress in their lives. This all begins with a conscious act on the part of the educator to go beyond what is comfortable and habitual and to begin the courageous effort of breaking down old systems that have become nothing more than scaffolding where we hang our hats, a few bits of memorized facts and dogma.
In adventure there is great risk. We may approach the edge of a precipice after being chased by a Tiger through a Himalayan Mountain pass. We might have to jump without an inkling of what lies beyond. There might be a warm spring with delicious fruit trees and a paradise growing all around down there! Let’s jump! We might end up with our arms and legs intertwined with the branches of a tree at the base of a canyon. We simply do not know.
The whole learning ideal is that the student will always be supported to dive headlong into the fray of unknowing. That the teacher will be there as a guide and helper along the student’s personal evolutionary path. The teacher will create an environment into which the student can continually expand. Each individual and collection of individuals has the opportunity to reach full potential as human beings. This is the same as saying they will find unity in all things, that nothing is separate from anything else. “Where there are no eyes, there are no things; there is only the One, the Truth”. (Ibn Arabi) This is a tall order. But this is the goal of a real education.
Education begins with articulating the values and ethics required to create a society of accepting, compassionate, communicative, truthful and loving people. We can only accomplish this task through a sound, moral and ethical educational process that enlivens and empowers the individual toward wholeness. We are not out to preach morals, but simply to put into practice the highest human ideals that we can: Love, Compassion, Truth, Beauty, Goodness. And if we, as educators, learn how to build these ideals into curricula and activities that teach our students how to care for the earth, how to care for each other, and how to build lasting relationships with each other, and with all created beings around us, we have provided a service beyond which nothing else may be needed. Whole learning would begin with subtraction before addition, division before multiplication. We would begin from the whole and then move to the parts. After all, we are spiritual beings living in a human situation. We emerge from the Whole and we return to the Whole at death. Our math lesson reveals a profound moral truth. From whole to whole to whole. If we can become conscious of this in each and every moment of our waking and sleeping lives we may very well be on the track to fulfillment and love.