At the request of the “Spoken Word Club,” I composed and then recited at assembly what could possibly be called a poem as an advertisement for a meeting of their club. The title (also the title of this blog) reinforced the point of the “poem,” which was about how getting together in groups over time can have positive human effects. The poem was essentially a celebration and defense of the 30 minutes we take each week to meet together.
Anyway, I’d like to deepen the point somewhat by referring to a quotation from an article I had read in a New York Times editorial the previous day. The article was about the value of going to church, and the quotation is as follows:
You must experience what can only be imagined as real, and you must also experience it as good…I want to suggest that this is a skill and that it can be learned. We can call it absorption: the capacity to be caught up in your imagination, in a way you enjoy.
Over my professional life I’ve wondered and worried a lot about the personal effects of intentional communities and the quality of experiences that such communities deliver. Schools are my kind of intentional community, and I find the above quotation particularly helpful in thinking about Lawrence Academy because it uses some of our own pedagogical patois.
Put perhaps too simply, understanding “the good” and turning it into something that increase one’s appreciation (“enjoyment”) of life must first be an actual experience (as in “experiential education”). No abstract expression of goodness and happiness or any other valuable thing will do what an actual experience of the same can do. And those experiences do not happen at random. They can be induced through practice and discipline. They correspond to the development of skills (“skill-based curriculum”)..
We assemble and gather and care for our skills and our experiences over a lifetime, but the foundation is built during these crucial years of development that we experience most strongly in high school. Another article I read recently suggested that the most “real” moments in life, the moments that define your identity, occur in high school.
So, we had better attend carefully to the way that we shape those moments together, and we had better use our imaginations and sense of right and wrong, and we had better develop our capacity to experience joy as crucial touchstones in the path to maturity. Community is the place where it all happens. Lawrence Academy is our place.
These points are subtle in times of ease, but they are crucial in times of crisis, such as the moments we have experienced locally in the weeks since the Boston Marathon bombings. At such times, we know that community is necessary to ground our sense of reality, our hope for the good, and our need to imagine a world governed not by terror, but by well-being and stability.
In conclusion, and against my better judgment, here are some of the concluding lines of my awful poem:
To be in the same place at the same time
To be a people
To laugh… when we need to
To be silent…when we need to
And now you are assembled…
Connected, gathered, collected, put together
In life…there is some assembly required.
on Thursday May 2 at 01:18PM