Buddhism, Astronomy, Poetry. Education at its best.

September 09 2014

Hello Listservers,
This is not a typical email, but try and read through it. There's a poem at the end. It will all make sense (hopefully)!
Somebody who I'm close with once read me a six word memoir that went something like; 'Religion is meaningful, irrational, convince me.'
I agree with the first two parts of his statement, but this idea of convincing doesn't always sit well with me. Religion does grant meaning in regards to providing a context for social interaction as well as life-cycle meaning to the human condition.
I also firmly believe that belief in the divine is to a certain extent irrational, because of a few inherent contradictions (good things happen to bad people etc). However, the attitude of the last two words of “convince me” is not necessarily the best way to go about approaching religious, education, and honestly any sort of education.
I worked as a writing tutor. I had one student who would bring in these fantastic conceptual ideas like explaining how conservation and awareness of nature can even extend to outer space. His ideas were great, but his writing organization could have used some work. I couldn't just hit him over the head with a blunt instrument of thesis statements. Teachers and tutors should not (usually) be barbarians. We need to practice finer arts of swordsmanship, and lead our students into understanding how to be better people, or better writers (if the two aren't the same thing already).
In other words, we can't settle for just trying to convince people of certain things (the existence of God, how to be better writers, chemists, teacher, thinkers, vikings) we have to lead them to the proper understanding of truth. This can be done through didactic methods such as leading the class through questions. It can also be achieved through interaction with artistic mediums that relate to the source materials. I took a poetry course and astronomy simultaneously. During that semester, I tried to incorporate elements of astronomy into my poetry as well as try and interpret poems through the lens of astronomy. I think educators when writing curriculums need to foster a cross-flow between subjects.
As an Orthodox Jew, I would like to speak about Buddhism and how it can help us understand my approach to education. There's an idea of prajnaparamita in Mahayanna Buddhism. It refers to the perfection wisdom and deals with what truth really is. I won't get into that stuff so much, but basically it means that there is an understanding of reality that goes beyond deep conceptual knowledge. Most buddhism will say that the world is only first hand experience. Concepts and ideas are all second hand. While I think the Buddhist sense of ultimate knowledge goes deeper than how I am applying it, the message of multiple levels to truth is still applicable to teaching. While we can't always give our students first hand experience (Edgar Allen Poe can't teach the class or read his work anymore) we can help make the experience of a classroom a more inviting,engaging, and enjoyable place for students.
I'm a senior in college majoring in English, and enjoy thinking about and discussing these things. If anyone has actually read through this entire piece, or can refine my understanding of Buddhism, poetry, religion, atheism, astronomy, or anything mentioned in this email please message me at [email protected]

An excerpt from an astronomy poem.

...Like the sun in the cold winter day
shine and pull the earth close to your light
lifting hopes like live wires
and just sit tight and fight...

Thanks,
Max
[email protected]
Queens, New York


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