I started putting together a post full of songs to encourage, enlighten, energize and inspire people who care about education, who look at the monolith of the organized system and see teachers and children trapped in something that has developed a mind of its own. I came in contact with lots of nonconformist, creative and divergent thinkers, agreed with their criticism of the institution of schooling and its defenders. Songwriters, folk artists, comedians, writers and poets, speakers. Some of the speakers were so articulate, so professional in their communication, I was awed; I just felt, if I could only know everything that they know, quote the statistics, writers, studies that they do, get on board with that train, I could maybe be able to have a voice that matters, along with the big-league dissenters. ‘Cause I just don’t know any big ways to change the world that I can do. I just don’t know if getting into arguments (in my head, or in words) is enough. One website even invited readers to “Subscribe to the Truth.” Presents itself as an “all-encompassing educational experience that seeks to tell the greatest truth never told.” Could just get led along and conveniently indoctrinated, it seems. So nice and packaged, so centralized. Too ironic. Something tells me that in this also, small is beautiful. Small, decentralized, freely chosen, personalized, community supported dissent. Can’t even place my bets on those who justify getting dissent to be a trend, selling the t-shirt, starting the movement, all that mass stuff. It’s dangerous–has been for millennia.
George MacDonald, that beloved Scottish nonconformist preacher, storyteller, father and husband, taught this: When it comes to knowing how to live and what is right, one should start with what lies on one’s doorstep. The one thing you know you must do is where you should start. Do not be held back my thoughts such as, “But what will happen if I say that, do that, refuse to go along with that? It won’t work out; It’s not practical; I am too small; it will be misunderstood; I’d rather make a bigger impact; I’ll only hope and keep my head down until change comes some other way. I can’t help it–I need this job. I’ll just talk to a friend/keep a journal/do extreme sports to let off steam.” These are thoughts which in their collective form also have a life of their own, and this life feeds into the life of the Beast. The one thing could be as small as, Say yes, get the man his coffee, to Say no, I won’t do things that way; it’s a violation of my conscience. And the consequences, MacDonald taught, lead one to the next task, with greater courage, clarity, and conviction. Usually through suffering, at least of the death wails of a root of ego/self will, or, if we are particularly loved and honored, in broader ways, along with our heroes and the great martyrs.
I see myself as a person to whom much has been given. Therefore, Jesus said, from me much is expected. Yet here I am, like the character George Eliot describes (see “It is Too Late” post), not quite getting off the ground. In small ways throughout my life I have done so, flown a bit, and I believe even my muddled memory can recall every occasion, when I have thrilled to the knowledge that this is what I am supposed to be doing. It would be a comfort to justify everything I have done in my life, to remember these things in such terms as would give me that halo of glory, but then it comes back to the habits I picked up at home. At home we argued a lot. And we almost always argued with trends, fashions, powers, and institutions. And so I argue with myself, and can’t get away with it. Not completely. But see? Maybe I’m self-justifying after all, because I’m saying: It’s okay to do small things, quiet things, things no one really, not even you, see as significant. Oh, Bother!
I guess I just want to say, when you do those seemingly small things, I see them, I sense them, and rejoice. You are not insignificant in your small righteous doings, in your internal struggles to think and do and serve rightly. You are my hero, my heroine. And if you fall in doing right, I hope I am there to lift you back up.