So few students came to class today that it was almost like giving private lessons. People here are beginning to prepare for Easter. The farmer's market, already awash in the technicolour of neon salmon and deep green kale, is cluttered further by improvised tables, appearing wherever there is space, covered in egg dyes and stickers. Which is to say that the atmosphere is quite special, nothing commercial, rather, everyone seems to be at home or preparing for home.
Which brings me back to the miniature classes I taught today. One of my students said afterwards how happy she was she had come, since I could clarify her individual concerns. And I started to think about the bygone tutor, and about how learning is to be "passed down" as described by the epigram to one of J.C. Maxwell's books: λαμπάδια ἔχοντες διαδώσουσιν ἀλλήλοις ἁμιλλώμενοι τοῖς ἵπποις. That passage, from Plato's Republic, reads: They will pay visits to the old home and receive visits from it, beget children and bring them up, and thus hand the torch of life on from one generation to another and perpetuate the service of God which our laws demand. (via)
Individual attention is needed if we are to learn something well, if but to instill patience and an awareness that there is as much truth as there is deception. There are myriad examples of where essence departs from appearance, such as "doing the right thing" with a wrong attitude. Even virtue can be a vice if it is taken to the extreme, even if it happens unwittingly. "I give to charity!", "I don't break any laws!" says Ms. Bunty, but then she goes off in her thoughts to loathe her ex-husband.
Doing the right thing is not easy. In that '80's hit movie The Breakfast Club, the dean laments to the janitor over how each generation is getting progressively worse, to which the janitor replies that they aren't: rather, it's the dean who has changed. I think that one of humanity's greatest challenges is to reel in self-righteous judgement.
Being an educator does not give one the right to impose one's teaching. This is partly why Confucius spoke of one student as "rotten wood" - one is not to get angry if a student does not take to learning, but rather leave the student be. One must know the capacity of the material one is working with.
There is something to be said of letting go, even in the midst of one's work. That is another thought that keeps coming back to me these days. There is no way to get it done if one wants to get all vigilant about all the tasks: such an approach makes work unnecessarily monstrous.
The best tutor, the "guardian" who "watches over" will strive towards being understanding if firm with the bare minimum. He or she may try to watch that the torch has been correctly received by the willing and capable student.
Such contact, such a handing down, is part of how I feel about Easter. Much of the meaning really only begins to take on its bright colours when one has been taught to see certain things, and in the joy of an intimate togetherness.
Elements: velvet corners: pugly pixel.

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