By P. Susan Jackson.
I am on my knees. I am not sure if it is in prayer or in total anguish. Another shooting in our sister-country to the South. Another tragedy too big to comprehend and loss of life so horrendous as to be truly unfathomable. I receive a text from my daughter; she is at a vigil downtown, a show of support for the victims, an assembly to demonstrate and to stand in cohesive community, to say “we are here”. I sit quietly thinking, proud of her, glad that she stands tall, glad that she reaches out, but find myself thinking: what have we taught our children?
Casals, the pre-eminent cellist, answers:
The second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again and what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel? You must work, we must all work, to make the world worthy of its children.” ― Pablo Casals
How do we help to make the world worthy of our children . . . As we contemplate that question today in June of 2016, we are tasked with helping our children make sense of this world, and, in particular, recent events.
In an act of vile and incomprehensible hatred dozens are slain by a man “who remained calm after the attack”. We are left to wonder how this act of horror occurred, to speculate in abject shock about the circumstances that can generate such horrific and senseless disregard for the inviolability of human life.
And our gifted children in particular – our sensitive and aware uber- learners – how are they making sense of this atrocity? How do they sleep at night and dream of a future that has coherence and hope? For they know all too well that:
A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive. (Albert Einstein, 1954).
In this statement Einstein appeals to the most essential of human compassion, the very compassion that is over-flowing for the victims of this truly horrifying event.
A compassion that would not use visual representations of people – including a person’s perceived racial or ethnic identity – as a major marker for how they interact with them, and could not register specific gender or sexual orientation as intrinsically unequal. A compassion that pledges an incontestable and full-bodied liberty should we fully embrace it. A fierce compassion that wraps its arms around the human family – in all its wild variance – and summons the truest, deepest, unconditional love.
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.
“Compassion is the radicalism of our time.” Dalai Lama XIV
How do we create those nurturing and stimulating environments that will facilitate this full-bodied compassion in all of our children: where their ideas, feelings and thoughts are understood, and truly and deeply valued? How do we design and deliver programs that stretches the boundaries of their intellects while also engaging their hearts in meaningful ways?