Pin It

Esteemed Reader for November 2012 

click to enlarge Protagoras
  • Protagoras
Esteemed Reader of Our Magazine:

Anyone who has been a parent, or cared for babies beginning to grow, perceives the undeniable uniqueness of each child. The traits and qualities of their persons first make a general appearance, and then gradually come into focus as the child grows. Witnessing this multifoliate unfolding makes theoretical questions of nature versus nurture disappear like mosquitoes in a hurricane.

The qualities of the essence of a person (essence meaning their innate pattern or unconditioned being, as in the French être, “to be”) is what makes her unique. Like mixtures of different proportions of ingredients, they comprise what she is, and determine the special blend of emanations she is meant to produce in the practice of her life.

This is not to be confused with the simulacrum of uniqueness foisted by a society more concerned with appearance than substance—one in which we are trained to believe the collection of skills, knowledge, and even choice of brands are what set us apart from the crowd. No, this emphasis on the conditioned and learned is the dis-ease of the epoch, which, judging by its effect, is designed to overwhelm and even abolish the inborn essence, the nature, the seed of true potential of each unique being.

Indeed we live in a dark time when we can count on the names of things to actually signify the opposite of what is meant in practice.

Take, for instance, what is called education. The word comes from the Latin root educare—“to draw out”—suggesting that real education begins with noticing and then acknowledging the innate qualities, strengths, proclivities, and most importantly, interests of a child; and only then offering opportunities and knowledge to develop capacities and capabilities in response to what the child’s creative self is drawn to. In other words, real learning begins with interest and native ability, and only then are tools provided to help the person glorify her essence, by learning what she is meant to learn, and doing what she is meant to do.
Meanwhile, what we see in the conventional education of children is a practice of forcing as much data that can fit in their tender brains, and training them to repeat it like so many talking parrots. Not only is the being or essence of children not seen, valued, or developed, but indeed it would seem that there is a conspiracy to kill off the inherent uniqueness, creativity, and otherwise exterminate interest in children as quickly as possible before it becomes too dangerous to the machine.

Looking at the results of “education,” what we see is the production of people who know how to stand in line; will follow orders; and believe and regurgitate what they are told about themselves and the world by “authorities.” Which is to say, judging by its effects, the intention of conventional education is not to develop the inherent uniqueness or special purpose of individual beings, but to homogenize, control, and then insidiously paint a veneer of individuality comprised of a meager multiple-choice set of descriptions and consumables that the pitiable “educated” can falsely claim as their own.

The tragedy (and terror, if we are to feel the full brunt of it) is that the most accomplished among us, the most respected in this upside-down society—our revered scientists, academics, politicians, artists, and, of course businesspeople—though full of well-organized ideas, techniques, skills, and abilities, are not themselves. They may appear animate, but in reality are undeveloped or dead within.

An old Greek philosopher named Protagoras famously said “Man [meaning human beings] is the measure of the world.” This has meanings on different levels, but most importantly it means that the world has significance in light of our own individuality. We know the world not through data about it, but through what we are—living in and through essence.

It is important to imagine the qualities that a person established in his own mature individuality embodies. For instance, a person who has come to be who he is is not concerned with the judgments of others against him. He has nothing to prove. He is aware of and connected to others, but not out of fear they may not give him what he wants, or fail to recognize the picture he holds of himself. He is an individual—one who not only knows who he is, but more importantly, is who he is. His life is a creative self-motivated fulfillment of his inborn pattern—but mature, like a good, ripe cheese or a well-aged whisky.

A person with a real, stable individuality is truly unique, without trying to appear so. She is empowered from within to follow her interest and expend her creative force with an understanding that her unrepeatable being has a purpose in the scheme of the cosmos and she is not compelled to be anyone’s master or anyone’s slave; she does not need to dominate or submit to have a sense of existence. It is not a relative existence. Her existence is her own.

Speaking of...

  • Jason Stern discusses the true meaning of an education.

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • The Route to the Tomb

    Like most of the once burgeoning religious sites in Uzbekistan, this one was empty save the sweeper. After 70 years of Communism and a new government intent on keeping sects and fundamentalists out of the country, the madrasas are closed and people stay away from the mosques other than on important holidays.
    • Nov 1, 2015
  • Esteemed Reader

    Jason Stern writes about a brief encounter with profound wisdom at the post office.
    • Feb 1, 2016

Hudson Valley Events

submit event

Latest in Esteemed Reader

  • Esteemed Reader
  • Esteemed Reader

    Jason Stern chooses to be kind in the new year.
    • Jan 1, 2017
  • Esteemed Reader
  • Esteemed Reader

    Jason Stern, writing in honor of the life of singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen (1934-2016).
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • Esteemed Reader
  • Esteemed Reader

    Jason Stern on unconditional love and the self.
    • Nov 1, 2016
  • More »

Related to Esteemed Reader

  • Esteemed Reader
  • Esteemed Reader

    Jason Stern writes about a brief encounter with profound wisdom at the post office.
    • Feb 1, 2016
  • More »

More by Jason Stern

  • Esteemed Reader

    Jason Stern chooses to be kind in the new year.
    • Jan 1, 2017
  • Esteemed Reader

    Jason Stern, writing in honor of the life of singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen (1934-2016).
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • Esteemed Reader

    Jason Stern on unconditional love and the self.
    • Nov 1, 2016
  • More »

Hudson Valley Tweets