Education, and Life, are not meant to be easy.
by William Bezanson
A great many people who read this article are going to disagree with me and will want to suppress the opinions that I state here. But a few people will attune with my views and will applaud them and recommend them to others.
Ultimately, this article has a spiritual message. Read on …
Life is suffering. It is not easy. Getting prepared for life is difficult. Becoming well educated and well trained are very tough tasks.
The first of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism states Life Means Suffering. But the World certainly does not teach such a gloomy principle. And people don’t want to hear it.
My motivation for writing this article came from recent events in the western world, especially in my own province of Ontario, Canada. A recent flurry of concerns about university students finding their academic life too stressful and burdensome has resulted in calls for making life easier for them. In high schools, it has become customary for students to be pushed through to graduation so not to make them feel bad. And, shockingly, even the fun of computer gaming has been advocated by some educators recently as a valid learning model in order to build life skills, problem solving, teamworking, and so on.
I find all this very distressing. After all, we are talking about the future of society, and the World, when we tinker with fundamentals in education and development.
The specific motivation for this article comes from a superb column on December 4, 2012 by Margaret Wente in The Globe and Mail (the best columnist and newspaper in Canada, in my mind), “University’s not meant to be easy” (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/universitys-not-meant-to-...), in which she concludes, “Poor kids. We’ve bred the independence and determination out of them. And now we’re going to ask even less.”
Bingo! That’s what I have thought for many years. Back in the late 1970s when we in Ontario first allowed handheld calculators in schools I argued against that change. Many people thought that I was a Luddite, resisting new technology. But, no, I applaud the wonderful innovations that technology has wrought. What I don’t like is how we like to make things easier and easier, while ignoring underlying theory. And over the past few decades that’s what we have done: make life easier and easier for students, citizens, and society, with no requirement for increased understanding of fundamental concepts.
Calculators and cellphones and music players and handheld communications devices and fun electronic diversions… all these things, and more, are superb testimonials to humankind’s innovations in applied science, art, and technology. They all have their places in modern life. However, when they detract from humankind’s real mission in this world, they are grossly misplaced.
Let’s get our priorities right. We are not bodies. We are souls. Bodies are transient; souls are permanent. We are soul personalities, temporarily occupying physical bodies, over and over, again and again. Life is primarily spiritual, not physical. The pendulum swings between the physical and the spiritual, over the eons. And in our modern era, it has swung drastically over to the physical side.
This imbalance, evident on many dimensions, causes us to lose sight of our spiritual basis. Without proper sight, without a proper view of what’s really important in Life, without proper understanding of the Really Big Picture, without proper inner comprehension of life’s spiritual foundation, we tacitly allow that pendulum to drag us down, down further and further away from the Divine purpose of Life in this Universe.
And it’s all my fault … and yours … and yours! Every one of us who sees the big picture and chooses not to speak nor to fight vigourously against the crumbling of our society is guilty of allowing that degradation to continue happening. As Edmund Burke wrote, “All that is necessary for the triumph of Evil is for good [people] to do nothing.”
So, yes, school learning is difficult; let’s teach them that, for their spiritual development, and teach them skills and knowledge to become able to learn better. And, yes, getting prepared for life is tough; let’s show them how to get prepared, and help them develop proper skills and knowledge for flourishing. And, yes, Life means Suffering; let’s enlighten them to understand this truth, and be true leaders for them by facilitating their development of the inner wisdom to comprehend and accept such a profound philosophy.
I don’t mean to proclaim that all should be Doom and Gloom. Certainly not! There can be—and should be—a great deal of beauty and joy in life. But without the spiritual dimension to life, any joy and beauty will be superficial and transient. On the other hand, with proper balance between the physical and spiritual aspects of life, beauty and joy can be profound and permanent.
And finally, with proper physical/spiritual balance, we can all understand that education and life are not meant to be easy, and we will be better prepared to adapt to, grow from, and evolve with that principle.
William Bezanson is a retired engineer, fulfilling his passion for writing, and has published books on world stewardship, user performance-centered systems design, and mathematical beauty, most recently Abandoned Shopping Carts: Personal and Spiritual Responsibility. He is a long-standing member of a Rosicrucian order and two related initiatic, mystical orders. His mission in life it to help to bring about a Spiritual State in this Mundane World. He lives with his wife in Ottawa, Canada, and they have six adult children.
To learn more about him, visit his official website.