Setting: A large auditorium. It is the official back to school meeting of the newbies and the returning staff being held to kick off a brand new school year.
A white-haired pony-tailed, bearded man walks onstage with a big smile. He has a kind face, Jerry Garcia comes to mind. He is holding a marker pen in his left hand and goes to stand before a tripod displaying a large pad of paper. Behind him is large screen and a laptop is open and hooked up at the podium to the left of the stage. The words "Stolen Dreams" are displayed prominently on the screen.
"Hello, everybody and welcome back to school. Today we are going to be discussing the biggest problem that American schools are facing in this modern age . Just to start this discussion off I'm going to ask you to respond to the question, 'What is the main problem facing American schools today?' I'm going to give you three minutes to discuss things at your table and to reach a consensus. Are you ready? Ok, your time begins now.
A stop clock appears behind the man. He walks around the stage nervously for the time to expire. Finally, the alarm goes off, the clock disappears, and the words Stolen Dreams appear on the screen once again. The man positions himself before the writing pad and holds up the marker pen.
"Just playing. I ain't writing down shit. It's a waste of time. If you remember I asked you to identify the ONE problem that America's schools are facing, so theoretically, there should only be one answer. If there is only one answer there should be no good reason to make a list."
The man gives them time to think, then continues.
"You know as well as I do that you guys came up with a lot of different ideas as to what the problem was. However, this leads us to the another problem which is that you are all wrong."
The room suddenly comes alive; it buzzes with the sounds of people talking.
"Yeah. I said it. You are all fucking wrong. Prove me wrong who amongst you said that you didn't have clue? Raise your hand."
Man surveys the room. No one raises their hand.
"Yes, I just walked in here and called you all a bunch of dumbasses who can't even identify the main problem that you are supposed to be dealing with in order to call yourself a good teacher."
Man waits. There is a lot of anger, suspicion, curiosity, and distrust in the room. The administrators, sitting together, lean in and buzz nervously amongst themselves.
"Naw. That's not what I did. I didn't call you a bunch of dumbasses. I implied that you have been misinformed about the issue. I'll also tell that I don't think that you can be blamed for not knowing the answer, seeing that we, as a group, have been lied to for such a long, long time."
The buzzing subsides a little. Removing both the pejorative and the blame has calmed the assemblage somewhat. Many scowls have been replaced with looks of curiosity.
"I'm going to ask you an another question. When did the problem begin? Now, I know you're suspicious and are probably thinking that I'm just playing you and trying to make you look stupid again. I assure you that is not the case. I just want to make a point as to why it is so hard for people to identify the problem. Let's say I give two minutes. This time I will take answers."
The two minutes expire.
"Let's hear what you have to say."
Reluctant at first, people gradually warm to the question and begin to shout out answers, most are dates from the twentieth century, a few from the twenty-first century, and one from the nineteenth century.
"I'm sorry to say this, but, once again, you are wrong. Bear with me. I want you to consider or even pretend that I'm right. I want you to think about the implications upon the American educational system if our educators cannot identify the biggest problem that they face."
The facial expressions in the room change. It is easy to see that many of the people are doing exactly what he asks.
"I believe that the biggest problem that we face actually began when humans first appeared on this planet. We can't even agree on when that was. The differences of opinion on that range from 100,000 years to 6,000,000 years, but we aren't going to focus on this, nor are we going to argue about how it happened. All I want, is to establish the idea that the biggest problem we have with learning started with our first ancestors.
You see, their environment was an incredibly violent and dangerous one, they even lacked the ability to talk at first or to put things into coherent thought patterns, but the fact that we here gathered together is a tremendous testament to their ability to learn.
The problem as I see it, is the same one we face today, what are we supposed learn, and how are we supposed to learn it?
There has always two currents of learning, how to explain our presence on this planet and thereby reach an understanding on what the world around us actually means, and the need to develop the skill sets needed to survive in a hostile world. And how do we know it is hostile?
We always fucking die at the end.
Imagine the first people to gaze up at the heavens at night. There were no electric lights back then. The beauty of that night sky would one day move people like Beethoven to compose some of the greatest music ever heard, move Shakespeare to write exquisite poetry, and cause Van Gogh to tremble in ecstasy as he tried to capture it on canvas. And our common ancestors couldn't even tell each other what they were feeling.
They had the intuition though that it was something bigger than they could understand. Jung says intuition is the precursor to consciousness as it always leaves a dissatisfied feeling that something needs to be better understood. It was that night sky that produced the yearning in mankind to know more, to better understand, and the desire to explain it in words, in paint, in clay, in music, in stone, and in the ability to just know what it all means in scientific terms too.
Yet, there were always snakes around and the need to make a living. Mastering the skills to perform the needed daily activities took valuable time away from contemplating the meaning of existence. It eventually led to the splitting of consciousness into two separate streams.
To our ancient ancestors life was a whole as was their consciousness. They knew that there were bigger things, transcendent things way beyond the power of their understanding, and so they created myth to explain these things in order to pass what they had intuited down to future generations. They knew that the myths had to explain the human condition of being caught between the infinite sky above and the firmament beneath their feet, the ground where they would eventually come to rest.
One day, a scientist named Galileo told a Papal legate about the new field of consciousness called science and his belief that the Earth circled the Sun, and the legate, one Cardinal Bellarmine, said Galileo was acting the fool and said, "Come act a fool around me and I'll plant you like tree, soak ya ass with up gas and burn ya fo free." Well, maybe not in them exact words. In truth, Bellarmine tried to warn Galileo not to push the heliocentric theory so hard. But Galileo felt strongly that scientific proof trumped the scriptures and kept on pushing.
Galileo walked out the building mumbling to himself, went and told his homies, and eventually Galileo's scientist buddies went on strike and started carrying signs that said something like, "NO MORE MYTH! ONLY SCIENCE FROM NOW ON!" This split the consciousness of the human race into two warring camps, one guided by a materialistic outlook, and the other guided by a spiritual perspective, one focused outwardly on the furrows and the snakes, the other focused on the skies and the inner self.
The little war was passed down for generations and grew very nasty until the people on the side of materialism gained an advantage and decided to remove every vestige of spiritual belief from society. They called their little movement secularism and they paraded around like day-glo peacocks, so proud of their accomplishments and the decision to branch out on their own.
The problem is when you only got one part of the Big truth, you ain't got any truth at all, not even half. Irregardless, for the better part of the last four hundred years we have been told that those transcendent diamond covered skies could be reduced into fitting inside a science textbook, and because of this we have lost a lot of our ability to wonder, just because some people in lab coats are more pleased with their ability to reduce bits of the universe into chalkboard equations than in their ability to sit in slacked jaw amazement of the overwhelming beauty of creation.
Some scholars assert that empirical science sprang out of our first ancestors' longing for artistic expression, philosophical truth, and spiritual meaning. Some scholars tell us that there is no God, but can't seem explain the concept of infinity in the least, or at least, explain mankind's desire for a meaningful existence. They say it is merely enough to be alive, and we shouldn't need it to mean anything. Yet, we do.
Modern people seem to arrogantly think that we know so much more than our ancestors. Truth is we don't really. We gained a lot helpful facts and data, and a whole lot of beneficial devices and knowledge, but we lost a great deal too. The ability to wonder and to stand in total awe of creation is a great loss. This is not to say that we can't feel wonder about what science reveals to us, but many scientists are still trying to break it down in spoon sized pieces which makes it kind of like trying to eat the entire buffet at the Wynn in Vegas by yourself, one spoonful at a time. Some things just need to be appreciated in their entirety, like the human participation in an infinite universe.
We will never know what the Ancients knew until we once again understand that there is only one river of consciousness, one river of truth, and that this river contains both the small and the large, everything in between, the spoon sized bite of cheesecake, the whole buffet, infinity and mortality, the ability to see and grasp the smallest of things as well as the ability to envision truths so large that we'll never be able to explain them.
Our schools will never function the way that they should as long as our teachers are foolishly ordered to lecture on and on about how to kill snakes, build houses, manufacture plastic vomit, and plow the ground, but, at the same time, also told to never mention the transcendent impact that infinite time and space has upon our daily lives."
And with that, the bearded man quit talking, put down the marker pen, waved to the assemblage, and slowly waddled out of the building like Charlie Chaplin, softly singing to himself,
"There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night
And if you go no one may follow
That path is for your steps alone."
The crowd sat there in stunned silence, until the 10th grade science teacher in the rear of the room, the recent divorcee who fancied himself somewhat of a player, mumbled a bit louder than he intended,
"What the fudgesicle was that all about?"