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Category Archives: education

unquestioned answers

 

One of my young ones questioned me about the importance we place on planning and time management, on setting goals, on thinking ahead and thinking about things deeply.

“Why do you older guys always want us to think and make plans and be accountable with our time?  Why can’t you just chill?”  “Things are what they are, … why can’t you just let it be?”

I answered,

“One day you too will be older like me and then you will remember this conversation, and I’m sure at that time you’ll see things from a very different perspective.”

 

“Maybe I won’t.”  he replied.

“Maybe none of us will be here anymore?”

“You say you make plans and prepare for the future.  Then how come is the world in a worse state than ever before?  And why does it seem so highly likely that it’s going to continue getting worse, and that it most probably cannot ever recover, that it’s probably on an inevitable course towards total destruction?”

“Is this what you planned for?”

“Is this what your thinking achieved?”

“Is this what you worked so hard for?”

 

I remain silent.

It is difficult to hear and speak at the same time.

 

“Today you are You, that is truer than true.  There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

― Dr. Seuss

… imagine if on birthdays we sung these lyrics over our loved ones as opposed to the regular “you look like a monkey, and you act like one too…”

… imagine if we spoke about this every day

… imagine if this was the unseen quest at every meal…

… imagine if we meant it

 

… maybe there would be no need for politics? …

nor even nations …

nor war …

nor religion …

nor capitalism or communism …

or any other “ism”

 

imagine

 

 

there were no instructions to take notes

nor any commands to record anything

there was no time frame given

nor any specific direction offered

 

there was no course duration

nor any curriculum revealed

and no season for evaluation

no diplomas

no certificates

 

there was no expectation to remember anything

and no demand to be anything

other than what they already were

…only more

 

even suggestions came scarcely

and clear, detailed answers were rare

 

there was just this simple statement…

 

“follow me”

 

and then he turned around and walked…

In this age of democracy and self-determination, independence and freedom of choice it is difficult, even un-PC to suggest that we have a staggering amount of freedom already – more than we could ever handle.

We live in a world that can make us as intelligent as we can possibly imagine.  Available to us is rampantly advancing technology that is so rapid in it’s advance that it is frightening.  At the same time it’s all well within our reach if we wanted to reach out for it.  There is almost nothing that we cannot have access to.

We have more books and more movies than we could ever view let alone study.  More information than we could possibly ever use in a hundred lifetimes.  We have access to incredible knowledge instantly at our fingertips.

We can also add freely to this staggering data base that is available.  Almost anyone can be an author, a journalist or even a film maker with instant access to publish new or even old ideas to the rest of the world at virtually no cost at all.

We have access to thousands of universities, tens of thousands of  TV channels and literally millions of websites with almost infinite bytes of information of every conceivable type.

We also have direct access to billions of humans across the earth from every country, tribe and tongue.

This is almost as much freedom as can be imagined and with all this access to all these things we have more potential now than ever before.

Yet in practical terms we cannot even use one millionth of what is already available to us right now, at this very second, even though it is virtually free and instantly easily accessible.

Yet amazingly we want more.  And we want more freedom to choose.  In fact, it’s as if we demand freedom.

Yet strangely, with all that is already available to us there seems always something we believe that is being denied us.

There seems always to be something else that we want, something else that we believe we need.

Not content with access to almost everything imaginable, we want more.

So here’s a question that plagues me:  If we got this freedom, all this freedom we so desperately desire, … what would we do with it?

Many can quite easily agree that when God met with Moses in the desert it was a huge occasion.  A pivotal point had been reached and in hind sight one can see that the plan required a very strategic turn at a very strategic time and a very strategic person was needed and engaged to run with it.

The ensuing events as recorded revealed a very detailed process and procedure which was handed down and followed for generations.

I can’t help thinking that if I were to hand down such a strategic communication to a very educated person (like Moses was) and ensure that the whole thing not be placed at risk of being misunderstood I would have been very much more specific and detailed right from the very beginning.

Yet God grabs Moses’ attention by burning a fire in a desert bush?

Why all the vague symbolism?

Why run the risk of using such a sensual attention grabbing device?

After this Moses spends great amounts of time alone up a mountain gathering data and eventually comes down and delivers a plan of exacting detail and inflexible adherence.

Quite a significant shift from the original symbolic encounter he first had when he saw the burning bush in the desert and heard the call of God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.

Was that the plan all along?

Or maybe Moses just got a bit carried away and all the detail we inherited was something from his fertile imagination and his own psycho-pathology?

Who was the God of the burning bush?

In South Africa a secrecy bill (the “Protection of Information Bill”) has been shoved through in what clearly appears to be a sneaky, underhand and sinister fashion.  If it gets past any constitutional court appeals and hearings it stands to give the government unimaginable power to control who says and does what … and exclusively at their (the ruling party’s) own discretion and for their own personal benefit and ultimately, protection (from exposure and prosecution for corruption and any other deviance or malpractice).

A thought from another planet perhaps: – the bill, what it stands for and the way it was forced through as well as the alleged reasons for this action is to my mind somewhat extremely unethical to say the least. The fact that it comes through the ANC is nothing less than shocking.

However, in terms of the direct implications of the bill on the “free press” what to my mind does perhaps need to be thought through is the extent to which the press really is “free” and objectively “journalistic.”
Let’s face it, sensationalism sells and revenues from advertising in publications that generate sensationalistic response is what makes the world go round for the press industry.
The press feel like their freedom to inform is being taken away, as well as their freedom to bring an ‘objective’, factual perspective (and before I am branded as a neo-Nazi, totalitarian despot sympathizer, I do believe that strong debate and passionate opposition is essential and very healthy for any community).

But for many decades now I personally battle to read the newspapers, or watch TV, TV news, or read current news editorials as they are to my mind so overwhelmingly manipulatively inflammatory and one sided in terms of the sensationalistic negative spin they seem to take (take the whole recent Rupert Murdoch debacle for example).
Could it be argued that the cries of the “free” press are the same as the cries of the record industry against piracy (who even mobilise the artistes themselves to campaign against piracy) when they themselves, to my mind at least, are the biggest pirates, raping and pillaging creativity, the arts, culture, artistes and the coffers of the artistes themselves for their own gain and dictating to the masses what, when, and who to listen to in order to extract exorbitant profits for themselves?

(and as a personal footnote jab, the Gospel Worship/”Contemporary Music” industry as well as the Christian/Gospel Book Publishing Industries do exactly the same thing – selling manipulatively marketed, sensually “popular” merchandise for exorbitant profits and in so doing dictating to a thoughtless and naive church what the “prophetic” voice and message and culture of God is…  – which in the present Christian scene is merely a very weak, attempted copy of what is perceived to be popular and trendy in the ‘secular’ marketplace. –  A bit extremely blasphemous to my mind … …  .. .   don’t you think?)

There’s this last sentence in the Gospel of John that says that Jesus did many other things as well as those recorded in the written texts of the Gospels.  The author goes on to say and that if every one of them were written down he supposes that even the whole world would not have enough room to contain the books that would be written to record all of them.

For those who have a fundamentalist view this poses a few interesting challenges.

Either the author was speaking speculatively based on the limited perspective of the times or he was writing somewhat persuasively using ‘poetic license’ and deviating from actual fact to achieve a desired effect.

In either case it begs to be asked what bearing this might have on the accuracy of the events declared as facts in the prior text of the gospel of John as well as the other gospels and epistles.  In other words, when were they being 100% specifically accurate and when were they speaking broadly or even metaphorically to achieve some degree of lateral effect?

Jesus is recorded to have walked for about three years proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom of God, making contact with the world, performing miracles, doing good and healing all kinds of people of all kinds of diseases.

The people who followed him all the time must have had an amazing experience as they saw these things happening before their very eyes.  As they walked with him they saw things happening that had never been recorded before and a lot of the time they were as shocked and amazed as those who were actually healed or set free.  Even right up till the end there is clear indication that most were baffled and even confused by it all.

At the end of his time with them Jesus told them that he was going away and that he still had so much more to reveal to them but that they were not able to receive it.  He made a strange statement wherein he said that something else would happen.

He told them that another comforter would come because he was going away and that he would personally send this comforter to them to reveal more and more things and would effectively lead them deeper and deeper into all truth.

However, this comforter was not another human being, but a spirit.

But Jesus never stopped there.  He went on to say that because of this they would do even greater things than they had seen him do up till that point.

That’s a mind blast considering that Jesus amongst many other things, walked on water, raised the dead, fed multitudes seemingly out of thin air, commanded evil spirits to leave people, confounded the greatest legal minds of the day and healed every kind of sickness and disease.

And the disciples saw it all as they followed him around.  They were there, all day, every day, absorbing it all, letting it all sink in.  They never really understood most of it intellectually, but they learned by just being with him as he went along.

Communication research has revealed that only 7% of human communication is verbal.

Now they might be out by a percentage point or two either way so let’s cut them some slack here, so even if human communication is not exactly 7% but let’s say as much as 20% verbal, it still tells us that at least 80% is non verbal.  And this is just what the researchers can ascertain.

That’s pretty amazing especially in the light of how textually based we have become as a modern culture.  Literacy rules and it’s only very recently that other ‘intelligences’ are being recognised as playing a role.

The reality is that almost all wisdom and understanding these days is textually rooted and bound.  Even in our everyday speech if we want to emphatically stamp the veracity of something we will insert the word ‘literally’ (e.g. “He literally spat at me!”).  Mostly we’ve done away with learning a “trade” or doing an “apprenticeship.”  In fact education is almost exclusively ‘academic’ these days.

 

So, if Jesus did so many things not even recorded and told us that he could not tell us everything he wanted to but that the spirit he would send would take it on from there and lead his followers into all truth by taking what was essentially his and making it known, why do we lock all truth about Jesus and the Kingdom of God to the written scriptures as we have them recorded for us in text?

Why do we pride ourselves when we boldly declare ourselves as exclusively “bible based” believers?

What about the Spirit Jesus is recorded in the texts as saying would come and do the job of taking it all further and lead us on where his own teaching and practical demonstration was not the full picture?

Jesus himself said that any blasphemy against him could be forgiven, but if anyone blasphemes against the Spirit there was no forgiveness.

I know we sincerely desire to be obedient to God and serve the purposes of the Kingdom as fully as we can, but what might this reveal about our fundamentalist proclamations and tendencies?  In our desire to be textually accurate have we closed the door on our reliance of the Spirit and being led as was always the intent?

And does all truth only come through the academic, literal scripting and encoding of the ideas presented in the biblical texts or might there be an 80% portion as yet mostly, if not completely untapped?

 

Ken Robinson, in his book “The Element” wrote:

“…. Children everywhere are under intense pressure to perform at higher and higher levels on a narrow range of standardised tests.

Why are school systems like this?  The reasons are cultural and historical. … … The point here is that most systems of mass education came into being relatively recently – in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  These systems were designed to meet the economic interests of those times – times that were dominated by the Industrial Revolution in Europe and America.  Math, Science, and language skills were essential for jobs in the industrial economies.  The other big influence on education has been the academic culture of universities, which has tended to push aside any sort of activity that involves the heart, the body, the senses, and a good portion of our actual brains.

The result is that school systems everywhere inculcate us with a very narrow view of intelligence and capacity and overvalue particular sorts of talent and ability.  In so doing so, they neglect others that are just as important, and they disregard the relationships between them in sustaining the vitality of our lives and communities.  This stratified, one-size-fits-all approach to education marginalises all of those who do not take naturally to learning this way.” (Ken Robinson, Ph.D. with Lou Aronica, “The Element” – Penguin Books – pg 13-14 paper-back edition)

Even though in orthodox Christian scripture we are told not to conform to the patterns of this world but instead to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, Ken Robinson could be talking directly to the dominant fundamentalist mindset prevalent in the modern church of our day.

Even in regular sermons, truth is not truth unless it is parenthesised by a mathematical grid reference – a spiritual GPS, if you will.   Conformity to correct social order, culture, language, behaviour, ‘submission’ and ‘discipline’ are the direct determinates of ‘spiritual’ progress and promotion in the church along with academic qualification and rote regurgitation of and conformity to doctrine and tradition.

The fact that in the same scriptures an overwhelming picture is clearly painted of the significant prophetic players in God’s dealings with man and the church as being non-conformists and even the outcast, rejected, often uneducated, even rebellious and ‘sinful’ of the community is somehow completely disregarded.

Could it be that we got here because we have focused on playing a game of ‘catch-up’ with the cultural and historical times we live in rather than keeping our eyes on the instigator, provocateur, and revolutionary originator of our faith?

Who are the legalists, the lawyers, the scribes, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees of our day?

…. why, … they are we

Kids at kindergarten age or thereabouts are at an appropriate developmental stage. The world for them is an exciting place filled with new adventures at every turn. They explore every facet of the world around them with explosive abandon. We not only allow them to operate at this level, we actively celebrate it with them.
Childhood can be an interesting and even a delightful space – for the child as well as the watching adult. A child’s fantastic story can  fill us with wonder and amazement.

We marvel at the fluency of seemingly random unassociated associations as tales weave in and out of almost seamless fictitious wordscapes which often seem to have their origins in far away realms clearly never previously explored. The adventurous, primitive rendition of these fantasy worlds in artwork delights us as we watch them engaging with new and wonderful concepts. Stick drawings or the bold simple shapes of a landscape are received with joy and praised. We ask the child what they have drawn or painted (often because it can be somewhat indiscernible to us) and when they tell us we can be overwhelmed and we rejoice in their creation. We make them feel safe and adventurous in their creativity. It is not a difficult thing for us to do. We seem to instinctively know that it is good to let them explore creatively and without restraint. We even encourage them to continue and even to increase in their activities. Bold attempts are applauded, failures are down-played. Experimental abstract expressionism is received delightfully and we enter into the joy of the fertility of their imagination even when we cannot really make head or tail of what we are looking at for ourselves.

We delight in the fantastic stories they create. We are overjoyed with the interpretations they make and the stories they come up with. Even their grammar and pronunciation is enjoyed by almost all who hear even a jumbled rendition of something. Even a speech impediment sounds delightful, cute, even adorable to us. We go home and repeat the joy of our experience to our family members and peers and they too can easily enter into the deep richness of the event.

But then something happens.

Before we know it they stop.

Perhaps they are stopped?

… and soon, they become like us.

 
We seem to all but lose the ability to rejoice in dreams and be spontaneously creative. Perhaps something inside dies? Perhaps our thoughts become too tightly formed that we become perplexed by any dream or idea that strays even slightly from our norms, from our agreed upon patterns of the reality that we share?

We get very serious. We become sensible. We seem to lose the ability to rejoice in the creativity of others. Instead of opening up, we instead close down free thinking.

Yes, there is a difference between childlike and childish, but there’s also a difference between cleaning the baby and losing the baby down the bath drain pipe.
When did we get so restrictive? How did it happen? What did we do, or not do, that freed us up to be so imprisoned?
In the biblical narrative it is said that unless we become as little children we will not be able to enter into the kingdom of God.

What will it take to get back?

Can we afford not to pay the price, even if it costs us our very lives?

We assume that developed is an exclusively advantageous, more sophisticated, beneficial state of being. Development is viewed almost exclusively as a positive term directly related to a better, more advanced context or state of being. We use the concept of development in a global sense to distinguish the have’s from the have not’s. But what have we developed into? And what do we have and what do we have not? Can we have all things? Can we have all things at the same time? Do we lose certain things in order to gain others?

Perhaps we in the developed world are of the opinion that we have a better, more advanced and even superior life? Perhaps we feel we have a higher standard of living? One of the celebrated aspects of the so-called developed world is a longer life expectancy. But that measurement is quantitative and not necessarily qualitative.

It seems clear that we in the developed world do have more material possessions, more disposable income and we clearly seem to celebrate this as wealth. But why would we work so hard only to dispose of it all so easily? We may live longer but a lot of what we produce doesn’t. A lot of what we produce threatens not only the quantity of our lives but also the quality. The big drive seems to be cost effective production. More at less cost to us. But is this possible? Is it sustainable? A great deal of what we are and what we do is disposable. Sure, we are great at producing stuff, but what do we actually get in return? Of what sustainable value is it?

What comes back at us?

It’s not reasonable to measure wealth only in terms of material benefits? What about non material things such as ethics, justice, equity, respect, honour, honesty, dignity (to submit just a few). Which of these do we need to dispose of in order to make sense for ourselves of what we have spent ourselves for? What energy do we need to spend to justify that which we produce? If we are so creative why would we need so much recreation? What is it we need to re create? Was it not all that good when we created it at first?

So, we are the developed world and development is our game. But what exactly are we developing? … and what are we developing into?