Yesterday in my creative writing class, I gave an assignment that asked students to write the word “God” at the top of the page and freewrite on it. No rules. No boundaries. Just an exploration of that word.
And when I ask something so big of them, I think it only fair that I ask myself to do it too.
(In the past I learned the importance of participating in those free-writing assignments from my department chair who cheerfully passes along a good many lesson plans and classroom strategies. And for this most insightful advice, I am truly grateful.)
As a result, I found this inclusive student/teacher exercise to be a most gratifying experience for a couple of reasons.
Number one first and foremost, freewriting is fun-time and I find that if I model some kind of industrious task-oriented behavior during this period, then I’m more or less contradicting myself by setting a hypocritical example.
And that’s no way to get on with the business of sharing the joy of learning.
But lately, I have been a lot pre-occupied with thoughts that just take me to a place that I ought not go.
So I’ve been shirking my responsibilities a little as mentor.
And in this transgression from my duties as well forgetting that no matter what transpires between the two of us, the bottom line is that the student is internalizing this from experience, which, up to now, has always been the best teacher:
“Do as I do, not as I say.”
And when I think of my own learning experiences, that is how it always worked anyway. I mean, I loved being taught. Loved my teachers, all of them, even the ones still struggling with themselves to be patient and such, because they taught me other things I needed to know as well. Things like being organized with numbers and keeping to a schedule. I mean, these are respectable behaviors that must be tended to as well.
Sadly the point was often lost on me as I always picked up on some other kind of unhappiness in that exchange and it usually made me run from any kind of discomfort that might reinforce it in myself. So the lesson got lost on me a lot.
I always knew they meant well though. And I loved them just the same.
I don’t think there is any such thing as a bad teacher. Just some in need of a bit more love and support themselves it would seem. I mean, if you look past that sometimes inscrutable and unforgiving face, you can and will see a softer one. It’s there if you’re willing to look. The little girl at three years old, her hands having just been slapped for putting them in the light socket.
She knew that Mommy meant well in doing it, meant to save her from the ultimate separation between parent and child. If anything ever happened to elicit such a misalignment of the stars, then Mommy would fight like a tiger to stop that. Even if it meant seeing the tears of disappointment on on the face of someone so close, so innocent and vulnerable. Those words we all wish to avoid at any given time in our tenure as parents. “Mommy, why?”
Alas, there was a second lesson in that interaction, one that Mommy in her infinite longing to understand, might never have anticipated and that was “If you explore too much, then you will get punished.”
And so it begins, the cycle of learning and punishment.
Followed by rebelliousness and breaking away.
Which in turn leads to more of the same.
And where on earth could we have gone so terribly wrong as to keep that inefficient system alive for so long?
After all, we came into this world, every single one of us, with two very basic means of understanding and those were
A. To love and be loved.
And B: To learn and share what we have learned.
And so I offer up for you this other kind of scenario to ponder, one in which the child’s learning experience leads her to a pile of excrement in the back yard, the one wherein the dandelion is sprouting up so proudly beside it, and in her excitement to share, she just leans down and kneels to it. A supplicant in awe of the innerworkings of this earth. That for every pile of shit, there is a rebirth that follows and flowers after it.
It is the way of the world after all. Birth, Death, Rebirth.
And without all three of these elements, there simply is no way to understand the divine.
So now I sit here before the laptop and freewrite and let the words fall where they may. No beginning or end to speak of, just being.