Reaching across the academic divide

44 years ago I enrolled in an Introduction to Philosophy class offered by my local community college. One essay I read asserted that my life was filled with choices and I would always have to choose. Even refusing to choose was itself a choice.

Today is Day 2 of the new school year and the Hum 110 conflicts of last year have already reasserted themselves. Because absolutely nothing in my academic training qualifies me to opine on the ideal Hum 110 curriculum it is tempting to turn my back on the dispute and gaze upon the sabbatical year stretching out before me.

And yet, just 2 weeks ago I swept away by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s production of The Odyssey. The opening scene was electrifying. A bored Reader fails to mumble her way through the first 4 lines of the poem. She tries again, and then, from nowhere, a Muse appears and grabs the Reader. A shock runs through them both. Commanded by the Muse, the Reader elevates her voice, and her voice that commands our attention. Mortals, take heed. Ancient conflicts between people easily forgotten, but who among us can look away when these same conflicts splash across the daily news? Merely mortal, we cry out in agony to this goddess or that god, but do they hear our cries?

Meditation teacher Jack Kornfield, in “Truth and Reconciliation Begins with Us” (Trike Daily, 19 Aug 2017), writes:

In spite of the surfacing of so much conflict and pain, I am still hopeful.

There is a magnificence to the human spirit as well as a dangerous and destructive side. Difficult times can ennoble us, and call forth new levels of dedication and care for our lives, our families, our communities, and this precious globe.

He concludes with a novel four-line version of “metta” practice that seems very appropriate for times like these.

May you be free from hate.
May you be free from fear.
May you be free from ignorance.
May all beings be safe and protected.

Metta, I should add, is translated as boundless friendliness or loving kindness. It is a form of meditation that is designed to cultivate ‘metta’ towards ourselves and all beings. Learn more at Opening the Heart (25 June 2016).

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