As I have become a huge fan of Laurens van der Post, I must share another paragraph that I read this week in the sequel to A Story Like the Wind, entitled A Far Off Place. Once again the story of the young 13-year old Francois has continued (see post from December 8, 2010), this time with Francois taking a harrowing journey across the great desert of Africa for over a year. His journey comes to an incredible, but safe end and in the waning pages of the book, Francois' Uncle Mopani is reflecting over man's existence, and as he does so, van der Post writes the following:
"...the whole intellectual trend of the day put up a plausible pretense that our troubles were due to imperfect political systems, badly drawn frontiers, and other environmental and economic causes. The whole history of man as he, Mopani, knew it, had tried all of those approaches over and over again and at last, as far as he was concerned, they were proved utterly bankrupt.
The real, the only crises out of which all troubles came, was a crisis of meaning. It was the terrible invasion of meaninglessness and a feeling of not belonging invading the awareness of man, that was the unique sickness of our day. And this sickness, he was convinced, was the result of the so-called civilized man, parting company with the natural and instinctive man within himself. Never had the power of the civilized over the natural been so great...
For that reason alone, the journey within could not be resumed soon enough..."
There is so much being said here and on many levels, but I would like to put it into context of what we see as the next step in creating a learning journey with and for young people. What van der Post says to me in this passage is that at some point in the distant past, a decision was made by our forefathers to follow the belief that the way to a better world was through rationalization, mechanization, and standardization, and in so doing set us on a course that moved us away from the natural patterns of life. In doing this, we began a long journey into the desert - a journey that has left our societies starving, thirsting, and so heat-stricken that we are struggling, even failing, to find a solution to getting out of this desert. The efforts that we have made over and over again have not worked and despite all of the modern day way of doing things, we have brought ourselves into an even more precarious position.
As I sat with this paragraph, I began to think of young people faced with this way of being in the world. How difficult it must be for them today to move from their childhood of intuition, flow, creativity, play into the rationalization, mechanization, and standardization. In seeing this through their eyes and hearts, the impact on them is enormous. As it was designed by those same forefathers, our current education is designed to honor this old path, to teach our young that the secret to success lies on the outside, lies in re-creating what we already have in place. But as they well know, this is not the answer and I believe it has led many of our young people to a sense of aloneness, powerlessness, and despair.
As he says in the last line, the answer lies by taking a journey within - back to the natural self that exists in all of us, a self that is filled with magic, intuition, wonder, and curiosity - all seeking to create a sense of meaning and belonging - the place where real nourishment occurs.
What would happen if we sat down together and answered together, the question Imagine Learning is asking, "How do we educate young people to thrive in a world of possibility?" The optimal word here in this instance, is "thrive." Isn't it time that the learning journey moved from a system based on testing knowledge into one that teaches each and every student the skills, the insights, the ways to journey within themselves for the answers they need and for the nourishment they seek?
We can sit and point fingers at all sorts of reasons why we are here and who caused us to get here, but wouldn't it be better if we just sat down and did what our inner voices were telling us needed to happen?
Won't it be the most amazing day when we sit together and embrace the inner light of our young people as being sacred and that fueling the growth of that inner light is the most important thing that we can accomplish? I am so excited that we have reached this point in our history, that we can now look back and see that the time has come to choose a different path - not one that leads deeper into the desert, but one that leads to fertile lands beyond that will feed every one of our parched hearts, particularly those we call young people.