With college basketball coverage silenced temporarily on my in-laws’ massive television, I settle in and watch The Muppet Christmas Carol. Gonzo the Great stars as the work’s author Charles Dickens. Christmas is a time of gift-exchange, the film reminds us. It ought to be a time of global Jubilee. In Leviticus, Jubilee is a time when slaves and prisoners are freed and debts are forgiven. But darkness is cheap, and the Scrooges of the world like it. Time for their minds to encounter chain-rattling dancing Marleys. Come, all ye Scrooges — there is much to see. I’m often deeply divided in my resolve regarding education and discipline. How does one make time for these meditations while parenting? It’s a matter to which mind is applied, I suppose, a gift of attention. Do it: wash some cookie trays and settle atop a bed in a pile of pillows and read hippie modernist poet and potter Mary Caroline Richards’s Centering: In Pottery, Poetry, and the Person (1964), a book Richards published more than a decade after her departure from Black Mountain College. Through this book, Richards instructs us in how to materialize “as force in the world the unifying energy of our perceptions” (3). Discipline is something the book struggles “with, toward” (5). This is what allows it to express and convey a “whole person” — or as Richards translates, “mankind as many-membered being” (5). Richards asks us to contemplate a moral question: “How do we perform the CRAFT of life? How do we love our enemies?” (5-6). This craft requires discipline — though not a kind involving toughness, not a “tough love,” in the words of conservatives, so much as a “firm, tender, sensitive pressure which yields as much as it asserts” (9). I look forward to sharing Richards’s book in my course this spring and discussing her ideas with others.
The mind is, in the words of The Dhammapada, “the beast that draws the cart.” Mind is the primary operator, the seat of agency, occupied simultaneously by self and other. Teaching plays a pivotal role in one day’s shaping of the next. Mind in real-time recreates self and other. Our goal shouldn’t be reason asserting itself over passion. The non-human, daimonic dimension of reality is not to be tampered with. It is a realm of inexhaustible wonder. It is to be revered. A dimension of dynamic unrest: concealment, de-concealment, discovery. Good News. Truth alongside the Mountain of Seven Vultures. Can reverence and wonder co-exist with the kind of wish where you write it down and make it happen? Ralph Waldo Emerson seemed to think so. “Once you make a decision,” he claimed, “the universe conspires to make it happen.” Let us wish for Jubilee. Or whatever leads to Satchidananda. The Dhammapada, however, counsels me to conquer thoughtlessness by watchfulness. “Tell the Truth,” commands a sign on a wall. Speak a few words and then live them.