flowing motion

If. . . we wouldn’t be we

Posted on: April 18, 2010

If

    If freckles were lovely, and day was night,
    And measles were nice and a lie warn’t a lie,
    Life would be delight,–
    But things couldn’t go right
    For in such a sad plight
    I wouldn’t be I.
    If earth was heaven and now was hence,
    And past was present, and false was true,
    There might be some sense
    But I’d be in suspense
    For on such a pretense
    You wouldn’t be you.
    If fear was plucky, and globes were square,
    And dirt was cleanly and tears were glee
    Things would seem fair,–
    Yet they’d all despair,
    For if here was there
    We wouldn’t be we.
    e.e. cummings

Teaching the challenge of morality

I’ve spent a lot of my life teaching young adults.  Once we have gone beyond the “declarative knowledge”, the labels for things, we move on to “procedural knowledge”, getting our hands dirty.

At school, a friend of mine didn’t  like putting sulphuric acid on zinc chips  She was convinced that she could hear them squeal with pain.

In social sciences, we are required to considered to fill in forms in lieu of considering ethics.  We even go to great lengths to remove the effects of what we do from experiments.

Of course, all this is a nonsense. Everything we do affects people we do it with.  And we are affected in turn.   This is the lesson that students should learn.  They need to learn to listen and to understand how other people are affected by their even seemingly innocuous actions.

And then they must decide.  Are they going to act anyway, and why?

Somewhere buried in there is a hard lesson of life – that are our actions and circumstances don’t always reflect well on us ~ and that we are never comfortable with that.  The day that we are uncomfortable with the uncomfortable,  then we have lost it.  We should feel bad about bad stuff.

But we also have to make choices despite the fact we are not going to feel good.

I like that Cummings ends with We wouldn’t be we.  Because the journey that brought us together into this uncomfortable place is our shared journey.  Our discomfort is a product of our shared journey.  I may not like that I am in this bad place with you, but I am.   That cannot be denied.  And I have to act anyway. I just try to act thoughfully, knowledgeably, fairly.  Often I don’t even achieve that, but I try.

And that I act does not deny that all this is bad.  It’s bad.  I act.  That is.

And that it is bad does not change that tomorrow may not be bad.  With you or without you.  That is too.  It just is. And to pretend that we don’t have agonizing choices to make denies that We are We. That is bad.  Very bad.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Categories

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Last Twitter

Creative Commons License
All work on this blog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
%d bloggers like this: