Philosophy of Education

I went to school to learn. That may seem self-evident. It should be self-evident. But it is not.

As I reflect back, I see that many of my colleagues did not go to school to learn–at least, that was not their primary objective. I remember asking one of my Harvard English professors why it was that hardly anybody in class asked questions or even spoke. The distressing reason was that the students wanted to make a good impression on their professor. Silence is less risky than asking a question that could indict the interlocuter. But I asked a lot of questions when I didn’t understand something, or when I disagreed with an interpretation. I was less concerned with the way I looked than I was concerned with learning.

I remember talking with a professor at a wine and cheese social. We were talking about students who try to ingratiate themselves with influential professors. It happened to be an influential professor I was talking to. He told me that it is so obvious when students try to do it. Then he exclaimed, “You’re not like that, David!” Never have been.

My academic major was not calculated to lead to a tenured faculty position. Were I interested in an academic career, I would have been an English major, or would have majored in scriptures, or ethics, or history, or any number of well-established academic disciplines. But I majored in religion and literature. There were only two major universities in the US that had religion and literature majors. Not a promising discipline to major in.

But I wanted to learn about modes that express meaning. I believe that two leading ways humanity has expressed meaning are religion and literature. I already had a B.A. in philosophy. I achieved my aim of learning about meaning. I learned about poetry and about religions and they taught me about meaning in life. And, more importantly, I learned how to continue my learning after school. And I continue to learn, even in these, my senior years.

I am not commending the path and approach I took to education. I was never tenured, never had much of an academic career. But I’m at a stage in life when many of my friends are done with their careers. So it’s all in the past with all of us. And, finally, in these my senior years, I am happy with the learning I have pursued and continue to pursue, and the subsequent life I have cultivated and now live.

ABOUT

And what about content?—As when we talk

To each other and don’t deconstruct our meaning

We talk about things to each other

And don’t use artistic language

About

Time was words were about.  I’m not so sure

Poetry is invested in about

About anything

I certainly have other interests

Than only words in themselves

As when I talk to others and don’t use

Artistic words

I try to use the best words to

Express meaning

And when I do it well, there is no explaining

Come to think, I guess I’m done

Writing words about words anymore

I certainly have other interests

Like writing

About

REMEMBRANCES OF ICONIC CHICAGO

I remember old, green copper and concrete lighthouses,

Green algae seaweed patched concrete water level lighthouse bases,

Water-worn wooden posts standing at angles in front of them

We floated past on the Chicago River tour boat that afternoon

They render in my mind more than

 

the iconic Chicago skyline,

the angular, massive, stainless-steel Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park,

the Aquarium,

The Sears Building we went up in to the observation floor,

The Green Mill Speakeasy where Al Capone used to hang,

 

As does the folk art that covered the walls on all three floors in The House of Blues

A shrine, it seemed

I remember one set depicts images of folk shot with bullet holes, bleeding

Every folk in the paintings shot, in that African-American artwork’s neighborhood

I remember the second-floor stage with nine world religions symbols across and above it

Symbols captured in language in the central iconic image above the stage

 

UNITY IN DIVERSITY

ALL ARE ONE

 

The burning heart on the ground-floor stage curtain

Iconography like the Catholic Sacred Heart

(Yes, I remember, too, the disappointing blues band there in iconic Chicago)

Taking home rather the impression of a visit to a shrine

 

As does a black man at Buddy Guy’s who remembered me from The House of Blues last night

Joined us at our table tonight, with funny jibes, japes, and jabs

While his wife smiled and shook her head sometimes

 

As does the personal appearance of Mayor Lori Lightfoot on the 4th of July

At an outdoor concert in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park early evening

Seeing her more memorable than the event itself

And now in Canada we see Mayor Lori Lightfoot on TV and smile at each other

 

(Maybe the free Picasso “Untitled” in Daley Plaza)—Carol liked it perhaps the best

 

Of course, I remember the patient, eager, hour’s wait to get into the Art Institute of Chicago

Paying extra for a special exhibit I now forget

Waiting in line to just view certain paintings:

“Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare,” by Monet

“American Gothic”

And me being the only one in a whole exhibit room of early Christian art

(Part of me is glad that the proximity of religion

Hasn’t let Christian art be considered art in the same sense as Monet’s Impressionism)

 

Carol and I talk about what we remember

We talk about the trip

Things that meant, what Chicago meant

Chicago meant

Science and Religion

The great thing about the virtual world is that it connects people of like and differing minds all over the planet.  I visited the site of a blogger who liked one of my posts.  He wrote about science and religion.  He said that he values science exclusive of religion.  Science will teach truth, he writes, religion is made up.  I would like to respectfully dissent from this view.  A few definitions need to be made.  Science doesn’t teach truth.  It teaches fact.  Religion teaches truth.  Facts are verifiable, but they are meaningless.  Truth may be disputed, but only truth has meaning.

There may be proof for the existence of quarks.  I don’t know; I’m not a scientist.  But as I watch television news programming about racial injustice in the US, a quark doesn’t matter all that much to me.  But the words of the Hebrew prophet Amos do, “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (5:24).  The Big Bang occurred 13.7 billion years ago.  Fact.  But it doesn’t tell me how to treat my fellows like Jesus does, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31).  Chemical salts are made by ionic bonds.  Fact and provable.  But that won’t tell me the nature of my own consciousness as do the Upanishads.  ” Whoever knows the self as “I am Brahman,” becomes all this universe” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10).  

I respect scientific inquiry and science explains the physical world–as far as it goes.  But in the realm of human relations, and in the matters that matter to me, I prefer religion.

 

WHAT MATTERS IN THE CHAMBERS OF MY HEART

I played my heart out one sunset flag lowering

Playing taps on trumpet at church camp

How I held that long, lingering note till my breath nearly ran out

It moved everybody—children surrounded me at chapel afterward

Moved me too, I felt it all, feel it still, I’m there, now—44 years later

 

I had played solo trumpet in filled concert halls

Been interviewed on radio about it

But that doesn’t hit me now

Like sunset, flag lowering, at church camp

 

I played trumpet duets that I’d composed

Before and after evening chapel at church camp

44 years ago, and it pleases me now to be there again

 

I played bass at a church Convention worship service

I see the drummer lean forward to look at me

After a drum solo to get in the groove again

I’m there, 5 years ago, even now

 

I played bass in packed bars, jazz clubs, hotel dance floors

Church Convention sits with me more pleasantly, now

 

Then there was Memorial Day at the family trailer campground

Mom and dad and children danced on the cement floor

Mom sang along with the ‘50’s Little Richard song

We played Monkees for a boy who saw them on Nickelodeon TV

And it sits with me like church, 33 years later

 

COVID-19 affords me much time, much occasion to reflect

Success deconstructs in reflecting over a life well-lived

It sits as a matter of what means to me

And meaning is not a matter of acclaim or money

Church and family camping echo pleasantly

Through the chambers of my heart

And sit well with me in reflections of COVID-19

EARLY COVID-19

My distance and loneliness

In a poisoned world

My amusements and study

Grow vapid and I wonder

What to do in all this

In my state of shock, my enervated will

I can’t bring myself to do anything

Struggle with the clock that doesn’t seem to move time

Distancing, social isolation, and loneliness

How strange commercials from the old days seem

Tight social groups at cafes, parties, mobs at pop concerts

And New York city streets like a ghost-town

I try to wrap my mind around it all

What it all means, what it will mean

The economy, unemployment, isolation

How long?  What it all means

Shops shut down, restaurants, businesses

And all those workers unemployed now

The number of incidents rises, the death toll

They say weeks, probably months of this

Then we will emerge—but to what?

The scar COVID-19 will leave on the world we used to know

For now, the greatest love means isolation

ETUDE

I paint with words the colors of my moods

In language, I play the notes of my soul

With nouns and verbs, I construct structures of meaning

The script that is scene and act of my life’s issues

And if I am true, my words are yours

Poetry that is about language only

Means nothing to the ages

Word play, alliteration, assonance, rhyme and rhythm

Are scholastic toys unless vehicles of meaning

When dancing language denotes reality

Poetry is loved and lasting

TIME

Time

Something to be filled

Not enough of

Passes unnoticed, unpondered

Work, family, sleep

Filled fulfilling aspirations

Perfecting, learning, creating

Time

How we fill the time we have

Young people chase their dreams

My friends who partied with me

When we were young

Went to school, found a career, retired

–I’ve watched whole lives

Career, family, retirement, death—

And it all means, has meaning

Means a lot

Some just get by

Passing time

Pastime, time passed

Time management

Time: “My most precious commodity”

Not enough ours in the day

Racing the clock

The Reaper

Time, pastime, time passed

Time out

CALENDAR AND SOUL

And the calendar marks another

Year, month, day, hour, minute, second

Calendar and clock

Time and the soul’s time

Long ago, a crushed career, crushed future, crushed life, carved time in my soul

Giving my soul relations

Before and after, what I am now, since

Pain

And moments at church camp, church, with pastors, watching the sun, stars, synergy at interfaith

seminars

Mark states in my soul, relations

To the material world

Calendars and clocks

Year, month, day, hour, minute, second

To meaning, moment

Revealing and retreating, manifesting and hiding

Holiness

And Blessed time with a beloved

Grandparent, parent, brother, sister, child, grandchild

Friend, colleague, fellows, congregation

Leaving lasting moods measuring remaining

Movements of the soul

Community

Meeting the world, a world of people

Success, triumph, embarrassment, achievement and failure

Summa Cum Laude, Harvard, Ph.D. articles published, a book, professor, pastor, money, poverty

Personal achievement, recognized success, successes

Status

Time marking—soul and calendar

Year, month, day, hour, minute, second

Pain, holiness, community, status

Measuring, containing, marking time

Age and state

Time and the soul

Another year today

And all that has made me