Friday, November 20, 2009

Day 57 (Round IV) "In the trenches": tears edition

I see a lot of tears in my job. Mostly they are those of others, and most of those others are young people who, as I've blogged before, are being buffeted, many for the first time, by the storms that every life brings. Tears of joy, relief, connection--and also of sorrow, loss, fear, disappointment, and so on.

But I don't weep much, myself. Partly it's because the idea that Dr Coyote could weep, if promulgated amongst the general student population around here, would probably be somewhere nearly as disorienting and distressing as thinking that John Wayne (that pandering, posturing, draft-dodging, war-mongering asshole who is nevertheless an icon in Texas) could weep.

But more significantly, it's because my job is to maintain a compassionate, but dispassionate, sense of perspective--and to supply that for the young people under my care who, precisely because of their youth, may have trouble supplying same for themselves. One of the only profound statements that appears anywhere in the entire corpus of Robert Heinlein, a great storyteller but a self-aggrandizing, sexist, knucklehead elitist almost as bad as Ayn Rand, and a closet fascist as well, is in the opening pages of Starship Troopers (a good yarn which the fucker wrote to try to justify prolonging the war in Korea and which was made into a beyond-awful film), in which his legendarily hard-assed Drill Instructor, Sergeant Zim, says, of the raw recruits under his care:

"We must not hate them. We must not love them. We must teach them."

I might nuance that: I'd agree that, as their teachers, we damned sure can't hate them (and if we do, we are fundamentally failing at our professional and ethical obligations). It's a profound truth nevertheless.

We maybe can love them. But that love has to be, paradoxically enough, objective. It must be separated from the more conventional understandings of love, in which the one-who-loves does so, in part, because s/he expects or anticipates that love to be reciprocated.

And that desire for reciprocal love cannot be any part of our personal, professional, or ethical mechanism. If we're teaching them because we want them to love us back, we are again failing at our professional and ethical obligations.

"We must not hate them. We must love them only without expectation or payoff. We must teach them."

But I can say that the times that I do weep, privately and without expectations of payoff or comfort, are when I actually believe that I might have helped someone.



Mac Tíre said...

"But I can say that the times that I do weep, privately and without expectations of payoff or comfort, are when I actually believe that I might have helped someone."

You'll never really know how much you did and how much you do, or how much your students are sublimely grateful for it.

sunshine said...

I second Mac's statement of gratitude, only to add that some of us would never have made it this far without that perspective, objective love, and standard of excellence you model so well. Gassho, y beloved Sensei.