Thursday, October 26, 2017

Authentic Authority


Michael Meade recently posted a piece about the abuse of authority in our time. Of course, it’s not an issue just for our time, it’s an age-old problem of all times and all places. People in politics are often those attracted to outer power and authority and get their pleasure from lording over someone else—or millions. That either leaves us compliant, obedient and silent (and thus complicit) when authority is abused or distrustful of all authority and rebelling like sullen teenagers whining about why they can’t have the car tonight.

But Meade suggests—and rightfully so, in my opinion—that true authority is linked to words like author and authentic. Author comes from the Latin augere, to augment, increase, originate, promote. It later shifted to auctor and then the Old French autor and finally the English author, one who originates stories or increases the discussion of ideas and promotes them being shared and spread. Authentic is about integrity, the real deal, the sense of having genuinely earned the privilege to share something that has been carefully cultivated, worked and re-worked. If someone in the position of authority has not done the necessary work to actually earn their standing through their deep understanding of the issues and their genuine desire to promote well-being and increase happiness and understanding (hmmmm. Anyone come to mind?), then authority is false and dangerous and right to be mistrusted. But no need to dismiss all authority, just hold its feet to the fire to be authentic and worthy of creating, of authoring something of value.

And so today. One of those moments of grace that occasionally comes to teachers. In this class, I was not frantically corralling the wild impulses of children, putting out small fires of inattention, redirecting with mild threats or enticing with motivating praise. While the 4th graders danced their way through our decades-old Intery Mintery Halloween ritual, I simply witnessed the beauty of their interpretation and allowed myself to feel the goosebumps. It was the real deal. It was authentic. And their subtle creations of shapes and ways of moving in characters in a simple choreography was their way of authoring beauty. That’s the kind of authority and power we want to awaken in our children. Who just might then become adults worthy of whatever outer authority they earn.

The 4th graders felt the power they released in the room today and I was happy to let them know I saw it and felt it and admired it. One of those rare moments of connection that we all may hold close in times of need.

Thank you, 4th graders.  

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