Seek out your teachers, seek out learning
Ever since I put out the blog ‘On holograms and seeing through time’ I’ve been trying to work out what I called a ‘principle of insideness’. In other words, what is it like to be inside a world, an ecology etc. in which consciousness is being transmitted through the generations as Memory (in the form of holograms). How could we orient within such a world lucidly? I think I was almost there when I wrote in that blog about a lifelong learning journey. That being the case I have recently arrived upon a principle of insideness based fundamentally on openness. It can be stated succinctly:
'Seek out your teachers; Seek out learning.'
I like this idea of seeking – it suggests that life has a quest-like feel. I think about the way Carl Jung described an eternal quest for one's own anima - the masculine seeking the divine feminine, and the feminine seeking the divine masculine. There are times when I feel bored, or stagnant, or even burnt out, and these may actually be a call to again take up that quest: to seek out my teachers; to seek out learning.
But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say, and so I start with myself: does it help me to feel more lucid, perhaps more connected; does it help to restore my own lightness of being?
Recently I started reading Barack Obama’s A Promised Land. It’s a huge autobiographical work that I’m getting through very slowly on my bus rides into work. Through Obama’s writing I’m learning a lot about American politics; and the social context in which huge events, including the 2008 financial crash, played out in communities across the United States. However I’m also really impressed by his openness in leadership; his preparedness to reach across the aisle and work with would-be opponents; and moreover his pragmatism in trying to make things better for ordinary folks. In my own very modest way, as a senior lecturer I'm becoming mindful of the ways in which my role calls for leadership.
Someone recently asked me why I care about inclusivity, and indeed about social mobility. And whilst I could offer an account of the challenges I faced in my own journey, I also must acknowledge my privilege. The question might be phrased more directly, more bluntly, as what’s in it for you? I am aware of the egoism present in my motivation. Obama captures his own grappling with this question of egoism far more eloquently than I ever could:
‘I recalled a sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called “The Drum Major Instinct.” In it, he talks about how, deep down, we all want to be first, celebrated for our greatness; we all want “to lead the parade.” He goes on to point out that such selfish impulses can be reconciled by aligning that quest for greatness with more selfless aims. You can strive to be first in service, first in love.'
First in service, first in love. Let egoism be the fuel expended in realising a nobler and transcendent end. This really helped to settle the question in my own mind.
Recently I joined some friends at a book club and suggested we read Susan Holliday’s Hidden Wonders of the Human Heart. In a very different way, Susan’s book is also learning for me. I consider myself, having been in practice for 10 years now, matured into my role. However Susan writes with a greater maturity still. Susan has a clear thesis around 'attending with concentration over time' - findings analogues in childhood nature observation and photography, and what it means to see deeply. I found myself humbled in the light of her attention to detail and her capacity to stay with, and see through. As I read her work I think about the way a therapist matures, and becomes wiser, journeying with their clients as they themselves pass through their lifespan. They are a treasure.
These moments of learning for me are like manna from heaven. In these moments it is as though my teachers radiate their energy across the landscape, like the Sun, and I catch a tiny bit of it, and am changed by it, and in the change I’m able to enact that same learning in my own microcosm – in this place, and this time.