My son Michael, who recently became a grandpa himself, wrote this wonderful, deep, thoughtful letter to me. It was in response to, or perhaps to further ponder my last two blog posts about, how, at 89, I could respond to the events of Charlottesville, and about maintaining a culture of learning and teaching across the generations in our family.
First, I have to say how meaningful it is to me to have this depth of conversation and analysis of life philosophy and current events with my son.
Yes, I know that he doesn’t agree with my need for a conscientious approach to promoting learning and teaching among members in our extended family. He believes it happens organically. On that note, I do find his commentary interesting. He points out that while we learn all the time, we may not “have the company of others in that process” or someone to give “encouragement to demonstrate those assets we have.” Hmmm…those two missing items sound very similar to what I propose as integral to a culture of learning and teaching.
Thank you, Michael, for opening a door. Okay, maybe it’s not a door to a library, but certainly it is a door to an opportunity for so much more discussion.
The convergence of Charlottesville with hurricanes Harvey and Irma brought me to think of your use of the library metaphor in your last blog. Hate as fuel for political action has burnt down many a library across the globe. Natural disasters have done the same damage. No library is a completely safe repository of knowledge, experience or dreams. They are temporary shelter for things we fear to lose.
Houston brought this home recently and Irma is threatening to echo that lesson. Things, beautiful things, are at risk of being lost to the stupidity of hate, or the deleterious fortunes of nature. In addition, life can be lost, hope made impotent, safety destroyed and faith abandoned.
These losses are more likely if: we never read the books in the library; or if we lived our lives by the whims of others; or if hope was grounded in the ephemeral, the digital, the fleeting sensual; of if safety was present only at the service of those not a risk, those who made money and took power by creating and playing on fear; or if faith was solely petitionary, asking for favors and trinkets and self-validation.
But if we have lived a life of deliberate participation and mindful acceptance, if we manifest hope in the face of catastrophe, if we admit that our safety is only as assured as it is for all, if our faith is undaunted by disappointment and failure, and if we read the darn books, all that is truly important to us cannot be taken away or lost to nature or hate.
The assets we have in life are not the things we own, or who possesses us. Our valued aspects of self are the results of living and loving, not consuming or even learning. They are in the ways we live, if only we stop and recognize how we are doing that.
You speak frequently of creating a culture of learning in the family. I have openly taken issue with that thought. It implies that until we make a concerted effort to do so, there is no culture of learning in a family. This is wrong. We are creatures with an inherent ability and need to learn. We do it all the time and throughout life. There is no need to create a culture of this, it is happening all the time anyway. The sins we commit against this learning nature are to not recognize that it is happening, and/or to surrender that nature for promises of other rewards.
We are constantly patrons in the library of living. What we don’t always have is the company of others in that process, the permission from authorities and experts to learn, the encouragement to demonstrate those assets we have. The wanton destructive winds of storms and the calculated destructiveness of human hatred deny the fertility of sharing what we know.
The culture of promoting human assets is to build our dwellings and communities well wand with wisdom; to eradicate the utility of hatred by cultivating healthy connection between all persons.