Parker Palmer and Alan and Eric

I honestly couldn’t remember anything about this essay (even though I read it just yesterday) until I went back and reviewed it just now.  Perhaps because so much of it was abstractions and generalizations.  Perhaps because my brain was full today and things I learned yesterday had to fall out to make room.

However, upon review, the stories of Alan and Eric struck me on a personal level. The call to “know thyself” is the ancient call for every sentient being to figure themselves out; to realize their true identity.  Many of us eventually reach a very good understanding of ourselves.  And that’s great. But that’s not enough to find true happiness, you also have to follow that other ancient maxim: “to thyself be true.”  We all have to find a life, (which means mostly you have to find work), that complements your own basic integrity.  PP talks about how your basic integrity is that part of your identity that is essential to you, that which makes you special, your life-force and then you have to let that dictate your life’s path, your life’s work.  And that path is natural and it comes from within you, and not from what society/family/false friends (and whatever of their opinions you have internalized), then it won’t feel like something you dread, something your forced into for lack of any “better options.”

This struck a cord with me because I don’t know how much I’m going to respond to teaching.  Listening to some of my fellow students, it’s obvious that they feel teaching is a “calling” for them.  That is so awesome.  I hope I get to the same place, but I don’t think I’ll know that till next summer.

I know I don’t want to be like Eric, who “…failed to weave the central strand of his identity into his academic vocation. His was a self
divided, engaged in a civil war. He projected that inner warfare onto the outer world, and his teaching devolved into combat instead of craft. The divided self will always distance itself from others, and may even try to destroy them, to defend its fragile identity.”

I suppose all I can do is continue to watch for clues as to whether teaching presents itself to me as a “life-giving choice”.  I’m optimistic but I’m also aware that it may not be as central to my integrity as it is to others.  And if that proves to be the case, I have to be accepting of that and then to plan accordingly.

The only thing I’m totally sure of is that Meta Cognition is some kind of a superhero and that Parker Palmer is clearly her/his mild mannered intellectual alias.




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