There is finally the pride of thinking oneself without teachers.
The teachers are everywhere. What is wanted is a learner.
In ignorance is hope.
Rely on ignorance. It is ignorance the teachers will come to.
They are waiting, as they always have, beyond the edge of the light.*
My experience has been that life has more in mind for us than we imagine for ourselves.
When we’re open to this possibility then we are learners surrounded by teachers:
Opening hearts and minds starts the process of moving beyond our own views and agendas so that we can start to connect with one another and truly work together to create new systems.**
Not all of our teachers will be human, this is the point being made by Wendell Berry. Our greatest enemy, though, is our own pride, pride that prevents us from being lifelong learners, pride that ultimately leads us into despair:
It is despair that sees the work failing in one’s own failure. This despair is the awkwardest pride of all.*
Teachers and learners are really being helpers to one another, exploring the interbeing-ness or interconnectedness of life. Rebecca Solnit includes a story she heard at the Zen Centre in San Francisco, underlining what is the not surprising but often unnoticed element of helping running through all of life:
It’s okay to realise that life has a mysterious quality to it, it has an element of uncertainty, it’s okay to realise that we do need help, that calling our for help is a very generous act because it allows others to help us and allows us to be helped. Sometimes we’re calling for help. Sometimes we’re offering help, and then this hostile world becomes a very different place. It is a world where there is help being received and help being given, and in such a world this compelling determined world loses some of its urgency and desperation. It’s not so necessary to be so adamant about the world according to me.^
Help is a meeting of being and inter-being. When we know who we are and what we have to bring, we can bring our truest helping self to others. Perhaps ironically, this involves solitude, another element in what Berry is sharing:
We enter solitude, in which also we lose loneliness…
True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation.
One’s inner voices become audible. One feels the attraction of one’s most intimate sources.
In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives. The more coherent one becomes within oneself as a creature, the more fully one enters into the communion of all creatures.*
Whilst these wild places for Berry are Nature’s places, they also speak of the wild places that our our truest lives, places we never tame, thankfully, but where we can always enter into solitude and learning. Discovering this, we also know there exists a collective wild place where we’re curious and imaginative and creative with others, as Jen Hatmaker proffers:
The wilderness is where all creatives and prophets and system-buckers and risk-takers have always lives, and it is stunningly vibrant. The walk out there is hard, but the authenticity out there is life.^^
(*Wendell Berry, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Wendell Berry on Solitude and Why Pride and Despair Are the Two Great Enemies of Creative Work.)
(**From Peter Senge’s The Necessary Revolution.)
(^Zen monk, quoted in Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost.)
(^^Jen Hatmaker, quoted in Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness.)