Nomad

“In the beginning there was curiosity. From curiosity came the many things such as effort, loss, victory, hope, and grief. Where those with experience of these many things paused to reflect, they found wisdom. Through wisdom, these relative few came to know compassion. Because they felt compassion, they strove to share wisdom with others so that they would thrive more and suffer less.”

I dreamed up this little parable yesterday morning as I scooted beneath the ornate and through the two huge (broken) front doors to my district’s central office. I had to hustle because I was late for a meeting, but even in a rush, the walls with huge gaps in the plaster, a string broken window panes, and a water fountain that had separated from its moorings fed my reverie.- Just this building alone was a project that would take years and cost millions. That’s when the moral of my story hit home –

It’s best to travel light.

Now, the daydreaming for me is a daily event. Even as a boy, I daydreamed like a pro. So, no surprise that, while thinking of traveling light, I forgot to sign in, entered the meeting room without grabbing an agenda, and made a bit of noise as I found my seat. Meanwhile, the blue haze of PowerPoint slides lit the room with a three year implementation plan for a new language arts adoption. As slide 24 appeared above, my silent epiphany went to the next level.

Again, the building. . .Hundreds like it citywide constitute the opposite of “traveling light.” They form a huge and decaying infrastructure, costly to maintain, and irrelevant for an effort to transmit wisdom. Oh really, I said to myself. Yes, really. But here’s how it works:

At the core of my best teaching, there was simplicity. What mattered was that I carried something essential and could find the right moment to share it with someone else. I had much of what I needed within me – not in the gadgets around me. The bulky institutional structures surrounding such a straightforward and simple exchange spoke to something different from compassion or an end to suffering.

That which improves communication improves learning. True? Huge buildings, centuries of tradition, reams of dogma, and an alphabet of degrees seem more suited to slowing down the essential exchange and gumming up the learning process. How, with the certainty of impermanence, might I participate in a more effective and connected process?

Maybe teaching and learning are nomadic at their core, not suited to staying put, putting down roots, expecting to live forever. What might I really need to get the job done?  How many languages would I be wise to speak? What kinds of interaction with others would help the process along? Would I need a building at all? As slide 64 appeared on the screen above me, I realized that the implications to my reverie were stunning.

Indeed, I did not absorb the content that had been prepared for me that day. I am sorry for any disrespect that may have been implied or revealed. I own that I dreamed of my own free will and that I could have chosen to end this dreaming in order to return myself to a more complaint member of the team. I would at least have tomorrow to try again.

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