THE MIRACLE OF TEACHERS, THE MIRACLE OF IT ALL

“Oh, Great Spirit, keep me from ever judging a man until I have walked a mile in his moccasins.”
—Sioux Prayer

I’ve never even walked in my own moccasins.

Where would we be without great teachers, or even average teachers? What would we know if we just landed here, and no one said a word? The world would be flat, and I wouldn’t even think about it, anyway. I’d just be following that gurgle in my stomach, and trapping insects and eating the wrong plants. I have learned so much from parents, friends, from time—from being allowed by great people in great moments to have my experience, my mistakes, my revelations—from spiritual teachers, from academic teachers, philosophers, activists, elders, relationships, environmentalists, business people, scientists, artists, and from my association with profoundly good, loving, decent people from all walks, limps and runs of life. And idiots, too.

At 45, I find doing yoga asanas (on my own at home, for the record) vital to keep my body—specifically my back and lately my right hip!, but my mood and heart, too—from being chronically painful and, in a way, debilitating. The truth is, at 35 I thought I would always have chronic back problems (a compressed fracture of T5/6, a herniated disc at L5/S1 and a couple of broken collarbones by the age of eighteen didn’t help—nor did my sedentary writing style thereafter). I do a little bit of breath work, too, called pranayama (which is different than brushing one’s teeth, though that too is important—and don’t forget your tongue!). I must admit, further, my work as a filmmaker and writer etc. allows me the good fortune of having time to do this in the morning. After this yoga, I do a little meditation. Truth is, in the strictest sense of the term, I rarely reach a meditative state, but I practice a technique (or two) and have for quite a few years now.

Today I had an interesting practice, and I found myself contemplating the famous saying from many, including philosopher Gottfried Leibniz, about existence: “Why something instead of nothing?”

I found the answer. Okay, I didn’t. I don’t know the answer. Victor Hugo wrote in Les Miserables:

All roads are blocked to a philosophy which reduces everything to the word ‘no.’ To ‘no’ there is only one answer and that is ‘yes.’ Nihilism has no substance. There is no such thing as nothingness, and zero does not exist. Everything is something. Nothing is nothing. Man lives more by affirmation than by bread.

But either way, that there is something is really not nothing. It is something. We are here. It’s difficult to remember revelations from meditations, as huge as they might feel at the time. They slip away, like time—as if they appeared and can only be reheard, in that different dimension (or whatever it is).

But I followed this “something instead of nothing” back as far as I could, and as inconceivably mammoth as the universe is, I didn’t feel like a random, meaningless speck—although I may just be one. I felt amazed. I felt overcome. I felt eternal—not Pete, me. I can’t feel that the same way right now, but I recall feeling it. And I felt, ‘Wow: this animated body that is clearly in some form temporary, feels and loves and yearns and wonders—among other things I’d rather not mention.’ That’s not nothing, my dear friends, that is something.

Are you with me? No, yes, don’t worry about it. Just remember, smiling is also a miracle. I walked around a like the other day, committed to smiling the entire way. I had to concentrate and think about things that made me smile. Geezuz, the things I have to do to have a beautiful day. But I tell you, if you smile on a walk for, say, thirty minutes, the trees start to get a personality. Whether they have one or not, I can’t say, but there it is.

A teacher affects eternity; she can never tell where her influence stops.
—Henry Brooks Adams

And in my meditation, the law of conservation slipped into my mind/body complex (or was already there): that matter (matter and energy are ultimately the same, according to Einstein’s theory of relativity) can be neither created nor destroyed, it simply changes form (basically, it changes its pants in every moment). This has been known, for the record, since long before Newton. Nonetheless, if matter/mass/energy is neither created nor destroyed, it seems that it holds within it a certain inexplicable eternality. Wrong perhaps, but that’s the best conclusion my little mind/body complex can find. This I’ve felt for a long time, but in this particular meditation, it was a particularly wonderful emotion, felt while observing my animated body from the inside out, with my tummy relaxed.

And in the process I again thought, “Wow, we are here and we can perceive and express remarkable things (and miss an awful lot, too). And we’re not plugged in per se, but we’re completely plugged in (and not just plugged up). And we have no idea of ‘why something instead of nothing.’ Or why not? Or how long ago ‘we’ began (but if matter is neither created nor destroyed, I’m going to relax a little bit…)…”

Anyway, I felt wonderfully and simultaneously tied and untied to the ‘story of here’ today, and the story back then, and the story tomorrow, and I felt how amazing it is for all of us to be “all of us”—both on the comsic level, whatever that is, and right here, on this level of writing a blog and stretching one’s back, and trying to be more loving—whatever that is. In short, you beautiful you, you’re a major, fact-stumping miracle.

You have to decide who you are because everything rests on that.
—Jeffrey Armstrong

Hint: fact-stumping miracle.

TEACHERS

Most teachers have little control over school policy or curriculum or choice of texts or special placement of students, but most have a great deal of autonomy inside the classroom. To a degree shared by only a few other occupations, such as police work, public education rests precariously on the skill and virtue of the people at the bottom of the institutional pyramid.
—Tracy Kidder

And then (yes, there is more), speaking of this level here, and all its troubles and joys, I watched this remarkable 1985 documentary from PBS, and cried several times, and felt also great love and tenderness and longing for all my brothers and sisters. If you are a teacher, I can’t express, pay not withstanding, how vital your job is, how much opportunity you have—mammoth frustrations aside—to inspire in kids the miracle and potential they hold inside. I know many great teachers, I have been blessed by great teachers.

A true teacher challenges you to be your greatness.
—Jeffrey Armstrong

This film was inspired by the remarkable idea and skill of an Iowa third grade teacher by the name of Jane Elliott:

On the day after Martin Luther King was killed, one of my students came into the room and said they shot a king last night, Mrs. Elliott, why’d they shoot that king? I knew the night before that it was time to deal with this in a concrete way, not just talking about it, because we had talked about racism since the first day of school. But the shooting of Martin Luther King, who had been one of our heroes of the month in February, could not just be talked about and explained away. There was no way to explain this to little third graders in Riceville, Iowa.

Watch this film, A Class Divided, here. It is something. And forward it to all the wonderful teachers in your life. What class (or teacher) wouldn’t have a bona fide experience watching it?

The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence. He inspires self-distrust. He guides their eyes from himself to the spirit that quickens him. He will have no disciple.
—Amos Bronson Alcott

Sending you tons of love,

Pete

Speaking of ‘We are here,’ it’s a line in a song from a song of mine called Jean-Paul Sartre (that is soon to be not just acoustic guitar and vocals, but full of instruments). ‘We are here, in a mystery…’

And here’s Wide Open.

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2 Responses to “THE MIRACLE OF TEACHERS, THE MIRACLE OF IT ALL”

  1. Rozina K says:

    I’m a huge fan of your blog.
    Thanks! :)

  2. Rozina, thanks for dropping that lovely line! Mark Twain said he could live two months on a good compliment.

    Wishing you all good things,

    Pete

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