I’m pretty sure it was Rumi who said, “I am forever the slave of that student who, after gaining new knowledge, will not then turn and say – that’s enough,” but this is a feeling that all true teachers understand (and the lucky ones, actually get to experience).
There is nothing more irresistible in all the world than a true student – that is, someone with open curiosity, energy, patience, humility and the ability to step outside of limiting frames that were comforting, in order to see and do more.
A true teacher is energized by such a creature as no other, and must give over every secret and skill they possess, for as long as the student remains open and correctly ready for more. No longer, though. The minute the student begins to mistake their own ego for their right attitude, they no longer deserve anything, and are often hilariously shocked to find themselves turfed-out completely. (Zen includes some especially funny versions of this tale)
What I keep asking myself is – where is our new learning? Why are so many of us stuck repeating heroic lines from a half a century ago and more? Are we paying attention – are we just fans of a vague revolutionary brand?
And that’s the point, really – adoration of any one fixed dogma or statement, no matter how powerful, substitutes an easily memorized speech, for the hard and self-challenging work of building one’s philosophy and experience with others. Progressives must actually make progress themselves!
Learning isn’t adherence to fixed ideal points – learning is a dynamic process – it requires a constant inflow of new ideas and considerations from the world around us, and a humble recognition that if our ideas and approaches were adequate already, we simply would not be so deep in a sea of ignorance.
I really do mean the final lines of the song, most especially:
“Democracy’s a dream until it’s here” and
“Our hope is less a phantom than our fear.”
No one else to do this work but us. No other work before us than all of this.
I love to write songs, but I have a real problem when people ask “what is your stuff like?” – because every song I work on is different. There is a general tendency toward polysyllabic lyrics (though I have never exceeded my decades old high water mark, “The igneous molybdenum residuals.”)
They also tend to be rather long (sometimes 10 or 12 minutes) – but this is my second-shortest ever (one of these days I’ll make a proper recording of the absolute shortest, “My dacha is a yurt” – but I have to get my ukulele chops up, first!) Anyhow, the reason they’re all so different (aside from the fact that I’m a sloppy instrumentalist), is that, as with poetry, each piece has it’s particular point to make, and I try to be as open as I can to whatever form best suits the theme.
In this case what I’m after is a new marching / protest song that does some good for the singers, which I haven’t yet seen adequately addressed. (Hence the slide-whistle / tupperware-drum arrangement, here presented)
You’ve all heard me mention tribalism, again and again – the reason is two-fold. One is that when we believe our team to be the good guys every time, automatically, we stop behaving with the right level of moral caution.
The other is less discussed, but crucial – the single best way to recruit someone into becoming a fanatical opponent of yours, is to have an ‘ally’ of yours who is a tribalist, rather than a principled person, screw them over while using your team’s words and ideas to ‘justify’ their wrong-behaviour.
Leftist tribalists have no trouble understanding that sadistic nuns in parochial schools recruited and trained determined atheists for decades, with the overt hypocrisy of their shockingly unchristian cruelty – but they have yet to accept that their own bias and sanctimony is precisely the same sort of destructive POISON to the progressive movement – wounding it badly for decades running, and giving much undeserved energy, to it’s own worst opposition.
Everyone who ever attains knowledge has to start off in a state of relative ignorance. Which means that every time we say “All of those people who don’t already agree with us are evil,” we’re actually saying – “all of the potential allies who haven’t yet come to our understanding, go screw-off and join the other team!”
Cathartic? Maybe. Useful or principled? Nope – not even close!
Yes there are plenty of bigots on the left – just as there are lots on the right – they are the people who think abstract labels, words and affiliation define us – rather than humility, understanding, compassion and loving action – as were unambiguously recommended to us by the leader of every great religious AND progressive movement. (Which plea has of course been completely ignored by huge proportions of their followers, in all times for which we have records).
In other words – “Keep going” my friends. We have levels and levels of growth yet to go – and uncountable friends and allies to earn along the way, with our good hearts, and our true humble curious open-friendship spirit.
Simply can’t do good work with bad tools.