Sunday, May 10, 2020

Evolution

With one of the lowest forms of the human species voted into office by just under half of Americans who voted and perhaps a 1/3 of my fellow citizens till supporting him in the face of overwhelming evidence that he’s even a lower life form than we suspected, I maintain my conviction that on the whole, we are better than we ever have been.

I’m reading a friend’s autobiography and he tells a grueling story of his Jewish grandfather being killed for sport in Poland in the early 1900’s. Just read a bit about Little Richard (may he rest in peace) and how his father beat him for his effeminate tendencies and children at school bullied him for having one leg shorter than another. And then recently finished “Where the Crawdad Sings,” where first the father and then other men abuse and neglect a girl and then a woman, mostly with cultural approval. 

Not that such atrocities aren’t still happening. But between the people I know from an ordinary life of friends, family, neighborhoods, schoolmates and then a few thousand more of children I’ve taught and adults I know through international Orff teaching, I’m happy to say that I don’t know of any who have (or would) kill someone on the basis of religion or race, beat a child showing homosexual tendencies or think that women are wholly inferior and deserve to be kept in the place men want to put them. Of course, there are more subtle forms of racism, homophobia, sexism and more in all of us (including me), but the cultures I move in are more apt to hold us accountable for reflecting deeper and opening our minds and hearts and changing our ways than giving us blanket permission to keep hurting and harming, to keep feeding our worst selves. 

None of this is an excuse to relax. As the opening paragraph suggests, there is plenty of work to do.  But the values in the circles I move in all lean to a level of care, concern, compassion worthy of rare people—saints, poets, visionaries—of former times. In my school these past 50 plus years, we have drawn many lines in the sand and publicly proclaimed, “This is where this stops.” Kids, of course, will experiment, test limits, transgress, but the community will hold their feet to the fire. Not to burn them but to warm them and remind them that effort to be better is better than excuses to be bad, that learning to love is more fun than accepting our hate, that discovering our own beauty and opening to the world’s beauty is much more satisfying than raising our own esteem by putting other’s down. Of course, being human, we constantly fail with both the children and even more often, with ourselves as adult teachers, but the North Star of greater possibility still shines bright and guides us back to the path we’re walking.

Good thoughts on Mother’s Day. It does no one any good to overly idealize mothers, but the practice of birthing, caring, nurturing often puts them a step ahead on the evolutionary path and we would do well—all of us—to follow that lead. 

Onward and upward!

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