Winning the War

There is more in us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps for the rest of our lives, we will be unwilling to settle for less.” Kurt Hahn, Outward Bound

I write that quote with the intention of copying yesterday’s free writing below and uploading it to wordpress. Instead, what happens is I begin to reflect on what it might mean to communicate what I figured out to my students as we work through the text, explaining up front, that we need more efficient and effective ways of making progress as a species. But in order to do that I realize I need to know what I’ve figured out and then figure out how to embody and reinforce with words that very thing. Something in me wants to list and rank but the reality is more akin to my hair which, for the first time in months, I have washed by myself and decided to let it do what it does. I have promised my other self satin pillow cases for the indignation of staring down Buckwheat in the mirror or in others’ eyes for as long as I shall be made to endure this visual ignominy. I am certain that making the decision this morning (perhaps all my life and I’m just now acting on it?) to the Lord in this unadorned shape has made such thoughts possible. I always imagined hair as a kind of antennae but who’s to say? Samson? Perhaps.

In any case, what I’ve figured out so far is that you’ve got to get person out of the way to let Person in. That will go over like a lead balloon. Well, I could use these things I’ve figured out as decoding exercises for the class. The Black Lit students seem very good at having and holding onto their own thoughts and sharing them. I’ll have to write Z and ask him why he was so very quiet. What have I figured out, perhaps it’s the phrase that dries up the thoughts even as my un chap-sticked lips curl back into a sneer and my un-shea-buttered hands turn ashen before my eyes the further minutes take us from the over-long shower. If I asked instead, what have I learned, maybe that would provide a more beckoning doorway for answers to flow. Perhaps just transcribing the notes will do it. To it, then.

Okay, so the contest begins early. It’s a good thing. Get it out of the way early. In my second semester of teaching it was Ray, the cab driver, I believe, in 104. He admitted he simply needed to eat. I didn’t want to belabor the point but you simply have to obey me and then things will go well. I have the traditional power buttons as everyone else but in the classroom, obedience is merely an efficiency, the conditions I require in order to continue thinking about the whole. (Until students take it on – which means until they begin to understand the rights and responsibilities of belonging and move from theory to practice and apply them without being prodded to do so by a grade or an authority ‘perceived’ to be greater than themselves – other than God that is. I’m thinking those are a few things I’ve learned – or that my students have taught me. And not what I’d written during the original writing. I hope James joins the African American Lit class. Perhaps he’d also be a guest lecturer in my 098 classes….hmmm…that’s an idea!) I wish I could put it another way. So many people (myself included) have been sorely disappointed obeying someone else. Obeying someone who implied, was expected to or said outright that they loved s/he who should obey. The book on Beginner’s Mind must say something about it. I know the I Ching does – Lao Tsu calls it sweet limitation. It is when we agree to accept a discipline even of ourselves, the better to achieve a greater goal. This is a yoke that is easy to bear. It is something, though testing, we endure for the prize is more to be desired than the punishment required to achieve it. It is the kind of thing that keeps us humble and increasing in confidence as well as competence and that is indeed something to be prized. When one considers all the unjust laws that we neglect, ignore and fail to resist with the moral obligation Martin Luther King, Jr. said was ours, we participate in our own destruction, our own oppression. The great Brazillian educator, is that spelled with two Ls? (no) Paulo Freire said the goal of all education is breaking the silence, coming to consciousness – conscientiçazaon (sp) in Portuguese, of the oppressed and so named his book Pedagogy – teaching or instruction of the oppressed – those who are subjugated to unjust conditions, (who among us isn’t!) unjust laws. He and other philosophers through time have said without apology that the only weapon [and therefore the only thing strong enough to liberated the oppressed and the oppressor] is the mind of the oppressed. Here is where we begin – in our own minds and hearts to win the war for our own freedom.

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