A Lesson In Waiting

It is still strange to me how many shops are now open seven days a week - as if the impulse to purchase a packaged, industrially-made Swiss roll is an urgent need that must be met. Open shops kill the habit of forethought and improvisation.
I am writing to argue in favour of giving people the freedom to leave their mobile phones under a pile of 'primitive' rocks, and enjoy other flows of time whenever it suits said person. Whence the right to demand an immediate response: what a mockery of restraint and humility.
In such cases, humour is on the side of the offender and human behaviour becomes a parody of itself, like in the recent PBS ads featuring absurd "reality show" premises with the slogan: "The fact you thought this was a real show says a lot about the state of TV." (Reviewed here.) The bread and circuses slip, insidiously, into contexts of education, pushing out the other half of Horace's equation for good communication: the useful. And we know from Confucius that the useful is learning the trade oneself, which inevitably requires work, explained in physics as force (F) times distance (d). For the work of learning, I define F as guided exercise and d as time.
There is little patience for the d in much education today, unless we mean ADD, or investment deficit. Quality study is silent and reflective - and takes hours, days, months and years to develop. That is one aspect of time. But what of diversions of respite, when the mind, as if swayed by a muse, seems to take control of the subject, creating something new of its very own.
The trend of learning on demand seems to move against this natural time. The audacity to demand learning is to already have a faulty point of departure. There is a submission to learning, also a giving over of one's time. This requires trust that the system makes sense. I remember a class I took required I memorise how much corn and how many shards were found in the mounds at various locations. I couldn't see the point until a friend pointed out that I was exercising my memory, which I have been fond of ever since childhood, when we would play the game: "open the room, go to the dresser, open the drawer..."
Any promise of education that tampers with the time and trust of work is the charlatan of today: the word charlatan, itself, coming from prattle or babble. So I choose to have it prance around like a clown saying: yes, you cute little tyrants, demand your education! If it falls short of your fast-food satings, demand more sugar! If it isn't delivered to your door like your pizza, have your teachers replaced by the computer that - and we can't see if Einsenstein is laughing or crying - uses photoshop to montage LOL cats for laughs. The GIFt of this education is a Mausian potlach beyond measure.

In a short paper entitled, "The Clown's Function" by Lucile Hoerr Charles (The Journal of American Folklore, 1945), the author writes that through laughter is "acceptance of an element needed for personal balanced progress."  Laughter is at odds with man's push towards achieving "his full stature," which cause him to become enraptured in the soaring flight of the mind, paying little heed to the humble goings-on of the every day.
Elements become hidden in this attempt: it is the hyperbole of the clown that attempt to magnify what has slipped from view - namely, "earthiness, poverty, renegade irresponsibility, irreverence and license of all sorts".
Everything looks easy today, some might even claim that couponing has eliminated poverty and that irresponsibility is always the ailment of the higher-ups. Ah, my little tyrants, just because a meal costs less than a euro doesn't mean you have earned it. The ugly face of reality is, in reality, shunned or mocked, as with those nerds who always appear on television, never silently at work.
According to Hoerr Charles' model of the clown, the profane is combined with the sacred to bring the neglected element back to consciousness "in order that life may be fully lived". In this way, what would otherwise be considered as evil becomes not only necessary but most valuable. To all the electronic messages of students who cannot manage to come to class, I wish I could always answer in silence, as a symbolic measure of the time they will have to learn to put up with if they are to ever age gracefully, tolerantly.

No comments:

Post a Comment