Back to Work I Go


Yesterday was my first day back at work after the holidays.  At first I was a little reluctant to go, not wanting to leave the warmth of my bed and of my home.  It’s hard to go to work, even when you love your job, when you’re so entirely content at home.

Once I got there, though, I was glad to be back.  I was able to connect with a kid I haven’t seen since October, played some rugby (badly) with her, and was able to invite her to some other holiday break activities.  We sat around drinking hot chocolate and eating chili, and then she turned to me and  said, very casually, “You’re coming to the talent show, right?”

One of the high schools I work out of is hosting a Talent show.  Apparently a  TA class is organizing it, and had auditions before the break.  I hadn’t even known that this kid tried out, but she did, and she was awarded with a place in the show.  She’ll be singing a Mary J. Blige song in February in front of the whole school, and I was honoured that she wanted me to be there to support her.  I felt very much like a proud parent.

These little things mean so much to me.  I love my kids, I love my job, and I love my life.


You Should Not Bear the Cross


I’ve had a very excellent Christmas this year, full of celebration and reflection.  Thinking of the person I was and the person I have become led me to reread many of the  posts on my “myspace blog”.  I read the self-righteous and venomous words that scorched the pages (or rather the screen, I suppose), and could not believe that those were my thoughts.

And yet, I do lament the amount of spiritual messages, the outpouring of my psyche from the chaos, that I experienced then and do not seem to experience now.  Post after post of prophesy screaming to me from my subconscious self misunderstood and misinterpreted!  That screaming has quieted, perhaps because I’ve heard and understood.  I need to focus on remembering to hear myself now, even when all feels well and the screaming is reduced to pleasant murmuring.  It’s too easy to forget the murmur.

One post that especially resonated within me was the day I had had a strange outburst in the shower, and cried out, “You should not bear the cross for he who dies upon the stone!”  At the time, it was merely a thought that came to me and I didn’t understand what I meant.  I didn’t understand where it came from.  I just knew that it was true.

I later imagined I had meant that I shouldn’t take responsibility for a former friend of mine when I felt she had sacrificed herself to her hedonistic drives.  I thought that this meant I should tear myself from her and end the friendship, that I ought not to be a martyr and sacrifice my well-being for this individual.  This is what I did (terribly self-righteously!).

But now I’m re-investigating the interpretation of this phrase and I’ve found that both parts of this phrase (the cross and the stone) are unmistakably Christian.  The Stone is not “pagan”, but rather represents the foundation of the Church, which are the teachings of the Anointed One.  I’ve even found a Biblical verse which seems to reflect the phrase exactly:

“And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” -Matthew 21:44.

And the cross I should not bear was not literally carrying another’s burden, but rather following a leader who was unable to withstand the stone, the teaching, his own ideas, who was false and a hypocrite… Myself.  And not only myself!  It was a call to examine the nature of my reality more closely, to look at things carefully before making quick judgements.

This call came out again and again.  And again and again I misunderstood and misinterpreted, redirecting personal responsibility and believing that everyone in the world was either stupid or evil, and that I myself remained uncorrupted and aloof.

I’m not sure where exactly I’m going with this.  I certainly don’t feel this way anymore, and furthermore, I don’t feel like I have anything to prove when it comes to my own spirituality.  I’m not wary of sounding neo-pagan, and I’m not worried about sounding Christian.  I’m not concerned that others will misunderstand me and classify me as a madman.

Spirituality to me is merely one way of expressing in figurative language all of the truths that I cannot name, and if I use metaphors others have used, it’s no different than using a language another has invented to communicate the commonplace happenings of my Experience.

And I think that is the substantial difference between the I that was and the I that is.


In the Midst of Tragedy


 

I witnessed the aftermath of what must have been a horrible crash on my way to work this morning.  I also think I saw my first dead body.

As we approached the traffic lights, we noticed that there was a silver car parked off to the side.  Four civilians stood in a line, blocking traffic and forcing everyone to turn left.  Past the civilians was a school bus, slanted across the road, and in front of that school bus was a woman in a red coat, lying motionlessly in the middle of the street.  A man dressed in black was bent over her, but no police or ambulance had yet arrived.

And in the midst of this very real, very terrible moment, I could think of only the little girl in red from Schindler’s List.


Those who Can’t Do…


I’m rather nervous about work today.  I volunteered to help organize an activity today called “Gifts to Give and Get,” being possessed, momentarily, by that spirit of Christmas that so consumes us all, that I  may possibly be the world’s least crafty person… You might even say that I am craftless.  Now, if this was a lesson on how to analyze the significance of an already made bracelet, I’d be right in my comfort zone.  Unfortunately, I’m going to be trying to teach kids how to make “Wish Bracelets” while the one I made myself  as a demonstrative tool is distorted and completely unaesthetic.   Ah well.  Those who can’t do, teach.  Right?

Guess I’ll just have to openly make fun of myself instead of pretending to know what I’m doing.  This may be an interesting learning opportunity for everyone.  Heh.


Do you believe in God?


I overheard the most interesting conversation today between a grade nine Christian student and a grade 11 student who is non-religious.  The grade 9 student is very curious about religion , and will often ask people about their beliefs.  The response of this grade 11 student to the question, “Do you believe in God?” was:

“If God DOES exist, then he’s a giant douche bag.”

Touche, young man.  Touche.


Reflecting on Demian Again


I helped one of my kids write a poem yesterday.

This student, who is a brilliant grade 9 student, struggles more with English than any other subject.  He came into the tutoring centre stressed out by this overwhelming task his teacher had set out for him.  So we sat down together to figure out how to best begin.  First he wrote a short story, saying the things he wanted to say in the poem.  Next, he broke it up into “stanzas” whenever he thought there was a thought-change.  From there, he looked at each sentence, and cut the sentence into fragments to emphasize the most important parts. It was a very scientific approach to poetry, not an approach I would ever be able to take myself, but this is the way his mind functions best.  And he ended up writing a pretty good piece of work.

This is the kind of thing I like best about my job: the ability to teach without having to be labeled as Teacher, to instruct and guide, but not be forced to evaluate based on generic criteria.  And really, the role I have now is a  role I have always felt I was destined to play.

Awhile ago, years ago now, when I was reading Hermann Hesse’s Demian for the first time, I wrote:

I have always wanted to be something.  My pride wishes to be sustained by affecting the lives of others.  I want to be a teacher, and a Master.  I want disciples to learn from me, and I want to spread Truth to as wide an audience as possible.  I want to be a nurturer and a guide.

I am none of these things.

If I am honest with myself, I am impatient and intolerant.  I am rash and fearful.  I can guide myself, but not others.  I am harsh and blunt, and while I may offer protection, it is only a temporary protection; it is not in me to nurture.  In fact, the only function I think I serve is as one who smashes the illusions held by an individual in order to prepare him or her for a true teacher.”

I think, basically, the same is true today.  Although I no longer “smash illusions”, I do still try to help individuals see not only illusions but also to understand their own perception of reality and the world around them.  By doing this, I AM preparing my students for a true teacher and  am “acting out my natural function”, one that I did not pick out myself but when performed seems to complete me, just as Hesse instructed us to do.


What About LOVE?


I’ve been thinking about love recently and the myriad different aspects of it I have encountered.  I have found Love to be an Argus figure, whose hundred eyes are all different ways that it not only sees but is also seen. 

When I was an adolescent I did not love.  I did not love my parents, I did not love my siblings, I had no friends to love.  I felt only the love found in books, a love that I understood to be unreal and unattainable.  From this empty shell, this essential lack within me, came an experience of genuine Love, the first I had ever felt, and it was necessarily influenced by the unreal nature of the closest thing to Love I had ever experienced.  This love was what I call Romantic Love, Romantic in the sense that it was idealistic and not necessarily grounded in reason. 

With the collapse of this Love came a period in which I indulged in Self-Love, in narcissism.  I could not yet understand that the Love I had believed in, the Love I had bowed down to, had been a false idol.  I didn’t understand that this Romantic Love was not “True Love”, that like “The Way”, “True Love” does not exist.  Friendships crumbled, familial relationships crumbled, everything that could possibly lead me to any kind of Love crumbled.  What could be smashed was smashed, and I left a lot of desolation in my wake.

 I was nearly lost, alone and wandering in the abyss.

And then, slowly, I came to understand that Love is everywhere and in everything.  I still don’t know when or how it happened, what sparked this realization.  But it solidified in the past six months with the kind of work I try to do every day.

There exists a Love of Beauty, a Love of the Sublime, a Love of Wisdom, a Nurturing and Protecting Love, Love of the Senses, Love of the Absence of the Senses, Love of Life, Love in Sickness, Love of Warmth, Love of Action… There is Love in everything.  But today, we seem to feel like we must reserve this word, alienating the feeling and making ourselves feel ashamed that we love.

Or maybe, to be more truthful, it was only I who was ashamed to love.