“One can’t make a new heaven and earth with ‘facts.’ There are no’ facts’—there is only the fact that man, every man everywhere in the world, is on his way to ordination. Some men take the long route and some take the short route. Every man is working out his destiny in his own way and nobody can be of help except by being kind, generous and patient.” – Henry Miller: Tropic of Capricorn
It was a glorious 2nd grade music class. We danced. A spirited play-party dance, two lines, partners facing. Bow, swing your pardner, do-si-do, the whole nine yards. The boy who was sullen last class smiled the whole time. The girl often struggling with pattern got all the steps right. The boy with Asbergers, always shut away in his own dream-world, wholly participated the entire dance— and even corrected some other kids! The two kids often at odds with each other were partners and happily so. Like I said. Glorious.
There is no app for any of this. None of it fits on the i-Pad, except to view from afar through the thick wall of the screen. Nothing on the machines we’re infatuated with gets the heart pumping, the hands sweating, the spirit rising with each swing and sashay. Nothing else teaches the children what it’s like to give and receive weight from a partner, what a wonder it is to be lost in the swirling motion of coherent patterns, how to join mind and movement so that thought is active and activity thoughtful. Nothing on our little hand-held devices reveals so much of each child’s character or announces the breakthroughs they’ve just made.
The schools we have known forever have mostly been about a narrow slice of our full, glowing humanity. They began in clear knowledge that this was their job— to teach the 3R’s and leave the rest of it to family, neighborhood, culture. That has changed radically in our times, the whole village raising the child changed to the pop culture exploiting the child for profit, addicting kids to fast food, constant consumption, action-packed video games and the like. With few neighborhoods meeting in the barn for community dances and sings on Friday night, the burden falls to the schools. Which mostly continue the old-factory model of churning out facts that must be swallowed without chewing and regurgitated on the old tired standardized tests. The same old narrow slice of who we are and who we might become.
The school that I have envisioned has always been about transformation, transforming the raw potential of children into the flesh and bones realization as the body, mind, heart and imagination find their way to ordination. 38 years of my life devoted to making a “new heaven and earth” class by class, with as much patience, faith and kindness as I can manage. Today some of it paid off.