12 March 2010

being what you are

recently I spent a friday night with some good friends in a lovely pub type restaurant in halifax. the thing that really set this evening apart from other pub type adventures I have had would be the accessories that my friends brought along. on the large table that we occupied there were at least 3 coloring books (with large numbers of crayons), a buddha board on which you paint with water and finally a chess board one which at least one epic game of chess was played. I did not partake in the game of chess myself as I do not have the attention span for such endeavors but that is the item that I want to focus on.

on my last post a friend commented about the nature of understanding people through the stereotypes that we form about people and the way that people will change to become like the way they are perceived. this is the same friend who is responsible for delivering the chess board to our night out and from whom I have learned a lot about chess and other things interesting. while I don’t disagree with what he had to say about people in his comment I am going to take it in a bit of a different direction.

people are like chess pieces.

also people do not know they are chess pieces.

the second point is the part where confusion and problems stem from, a clear understanding of the first point would improve the lives of people at large significantly. the problem is one that runs deep in people, to their very cores. culturally there is an attitude that anyone can do anything that they put their mind to if they have enough focus and determination. I will flatly suggest this is a lie. like pieces on a chess board people are different, not entirely unique, and in some cases different people can accomplish the same task albeit with varying degrees of success. I am in no way insinuating that there are classes of people and that some are better than others by suggesting people are like chess pieces. any good chess player, as my friend has taught me, knows that all pieces are valuable. I am also not saying that there is never a case where someone drastically changes their lot in life to become something else, in chess terms a pawn that reaches the opposite side of the board becomes a queen, one of the most dynamic pieces in chess.

the US army really had it right for a while with their slogan “be all that you can be.” this is a slogan that suggests that every person is already something and they should be that and nothing else. the most obvious case of this in my life is teaching. I have had a number of conversations with people about the state of education and education training and heard a number of complaints about how the program doesn’t do x, y, or z to get you ready to be a teacher. having been through the ed program and with some, albeit not much, teaching experience I have come to a simple conclusion. when you enter an education program you either already are a teacher or you aren’t. the one or two years that you spend in that program are not going to magically make you become a teacher because you learned the right things. if you already are a teacher it is a program that will make you a better teacher, much like putting cookie dough in an oven will make delicious cookies but putting applesauce in an oven will just make a mess. there is nothing wrong with applesauce, or in this case people who aren’t naturally teachers, but they don’t belong in a teaching program.

it has taken me almost 25 years to figure out that at heart I am a teacher, even still when I look back over the past ten years I can see that I had an understanding of that at some subconscious level as many decisions were impacted by my passions for teaching. deep down we all know whether or not we are a bishop that can move infinitely in a finite number of directions or if we are a knight or is never quite going in a straight line. until we really take the time to own what we are we cannot truly be happy in all aspects of our lives. the pursuit of joy and happiness requires us to know who we are, and knowing who we are requires us to understand what we are.