Last year at this time I wrote about those who invest impossibly large sums into celebrating something transient whilst not investing the time, effort and treasure required to build something worthwhile. That hard work was the key to connecting joyous celebration to outcomes of lasting value has been shown in myriad ways at school this year, and I find myself more proud of, and excited by, the people I work with than I ever have before. This is a good place to start a year that will see some big challenges – even difficulties – for us to negotiate, whilst keeping a weather eye on the politicians as they struggle to find a way to serve as well as to save, whilst retaining enough energy to keep fighting each other.
This morning’s reading in Bonhoeffer’s letters (1 Feb 1944) had this quote:
Is not the loss of this moral memory (a horrid expression!) responsible for the ruin of all obligations, of love, marriage, friendship and loyalty? Nothing sticks fast, nothing holds firm: everything is here today and gone tomorrow. But the good things of life – truth, justice and beauty – all great accomplishments need time, constancy and “memory” – or else they degenerate. The man who feels neither responsibility towards the past nor desire to shape the future is one who “forgets”, and I don’t know how one can really get at such a person and bring him to his senses.
This is truly a big problem in teaching as in life: if we feel responsibility only to a curriculum – to get it all taught, but have no feeling for the past and what it offers, nor a desire to shape individuals – then the depth of what we are creating within children and (as a direct consequence) within our society is truly too shallow.
Watching Tate Taylor’s 2011 film The Help last night was a beautiful experience of seeing how a small community of women in Mississippi were able to effect a real change on each other and on their expectations of each other, and deepen and grow, whilst those characters in the film that were responsible for their oppression and subjugation fragmented internally and became progressively worthless. Wendell Berry describes this process eloquently in his book on American racism, The Hidden Wound. The film made me realise that there is a deeper place we have to go to in creating a truly beloved community within our school, and it is important that we work hard to get there. This requires a clear awareness of our past, of where we have come from and how we have grown as created beings, and a mutual commitment to one another’s flourishing as adults. Perhaps this is one of the ways in which we are called to be in the “flow of God’s love” as in yesterday’s post. Who we can be as a community of educators and those who are seeking to love children and one another will be stronger, far stronger than if we try to go it alone. Here’s Bonhoeffer again (Letter to Eberhard Bethge: 29/30 January 1944), commenting on Matthew 5:48 (You must be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect):
For the Christian and the “cultured man”….he cannot split up his life or dismember it, and the common denominator must be sought both in thought and in a personal and integrated attitude to life….we can never achieve this “wholeness” by ourselves, but only together with others.
This informs me again that all I live is important to all I am, and that in God’s economy, little is wasted if we can learn from it; but further, that I require the insights, experience, love and encouragement of others to achieve the wholeness of character and of community to which God is calling us as a school.