Sunday, December 04, 2011

silence, please...

Over a year ago, I ran into a dear friend in the airport. We were each leaving on flights to different destinations. While he was leaving to take a month-long retreat in silence, I was headed off to teach a class in box making in which I would be talking a great deal and students would hang on my every word. Being good friends, we reveled in support of each others adventures.

I recently asked John if he would be willing to offer a Sunday program at our local UU Church about his experiences in silent reflection. In response he asked, how could he share the experience of silence without being silent? It is a dilemma. There are those things well beyond words, that cannot be easily expressed in language. And yes, this is related to the posts of the last couple days.

From an academic perspective, Noam Chomsky, and all, the idea is that language is the highest expression of human intellect. (That would certainly be the position an academician would take). If a matter can't be put into words, it is not of real value in the academic scheme of things. From a craftsman's view, I see other things at play. There are many things that cannot be put into words, need not be, and may be made trivial (except through poetry) by our attempting to do so. Jill Bolte Taylor's book, A Stroke of Insight describes her experience of having a stroke that robbed her of the function of the left (analytic and language) side of her brain. Being a brain researcher and watching as her left side brain function collapsed gave her extraordinary insight. Her account of her stroke is fascinating, because she describes the experience as a somewhat frightening uncontrolled entry to a state of glorious nirvana. In fact the left and right sides of the brain might provide a map for the discussion of my friend's silence if I can convince him to take part. There is a great TED talk by Jill Bolte Taylor describing her experience.

When we create educational systems with only our left brains in mind and overlook the right, we create children that early educators had described as "one-sided." If you look at today's culture, you can see the results. We have this "teach to the test" view in which a subject is not learned if it is not measured and if it can't be easily measured is of no value. To our children we have offered a world in which anxiety is the norm, little comfort can be found in the making of beautiful and useful objects, and in which their failure to find happiness through meaningful service is reasonably assured.

The strategic implementation of the hands, left and right, offers an alternate model for education. To repeat Ruskin, "no lips of man" can teach those things that are of the greatest importance, but the hands can, and where the hands lead, the heart and mind follow.

One of the things that one can learn in the wood shop is silence. And it can be required in order to do the best work. Have you listened to the plane shaping an edge? Did you know that human wisdom is best expressed not through words but through silence?

To listen to today my interview today on Inside Education with Paul Preston, Click Here.My interview on the Wisdom of the Hands begins 1 hour and 5 minutes into the recording.

Make, fix and create...

1 comment:

  1. Hi Doug, just found your blog on Unplugged Shop. You write wonderfully. Thank you for your contribution!

    Patrick Tipton