Ways of knowing become ways of living

As mentioned yesterday, Teachers College Record devoted their entire September 2006 edition to contemplative practices in education. Some interesting initial gleanings:

On page 1744, Arthur Zajonc quotes Parker Palmer as saying that “every way of knowing becomes a way of living…,” and this is very similar to a quote from Robert A. F. Thurman on page 1776: “Education in any particular culture builds up a worldview, constantly reinforced by symbols and images that are contemplated throughout life.”

Zajonc introduces students to love as a way of knowing: studying someone or something with respect, gentleness, and empathy, as much as possible from its or their own perspective rather than judging it through ours. He contrasts this with the objectifying, control-seeking way of knowing that happens when we see the someone or the something as separate from ourselves. He posits contemplation as a means to perceive directly–rather than reason abstractly about–the person or thing you would like to know.

Personally, I find that children, in their concrete ways of knowing, are excellent direct perceivers. Part of the great pleasure of spending time with them and taking their observations and interests seriously is that they remind you to do it, too, and thereby remind you what really matters. But I digress.

Back to Thurman. He mentions that contemplation is not missing from our culture but its largest provider, television–inducing a calm, one-pointed trance– generates sensory dissatisfaction [research has found people are more depressed after two hours watching TV than they were before they tuned in]. Worse, he says much of it imprints anger and violence, and creates confusion and deluded materialism. He suggests transferring contemplative energies to focus on what we really value. You may already engage in some valuable contemplative activities like yoga or tai chi. Stick with what works for you and your family.

Incidentally Robert A. F. Thurman’s little book on Anger can come in handy for parents…and others.
Thurman, Robert A. F. Meditation and education: India, Tibet and modern America. Teachers College Record Volume 108 Number 9, 2006, p. 1765-1774
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12680, Date Accessed: 9/18/2006 8:40:25 AM

Zajonc, Arthur. Love and knowledge: Recovering the heart of learning through contemplation. Teachers College Record Volume 108 Number 9, 2006, p. 1742-1759
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12678, Date Accessed: 9/18/2006 8:38:54 AM


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