Tuesday, October 15, 2019

To Talk And Listen And Agree

As we gather for circle time I sing . . .

Come on over to the checker board rug.
Come on over to the checker board rug.
Come on over to the checker board rug
And have a seat on the floor.

Over the years it's become a kind of ritual, with the children often singing or humming along with me. Sometimes I goof on the lyrics, replacing "rug" with "slug” or "floor" with "ceiling." The children tend to delight in correcting me, telling me "No! That's not right," laughing together as they come together which is a good way to start, even if we're going to be discussing serious matters like feelings or work on forging agreements about how we want to treat one another. 

We are always unconsciously working on becoming a community, of course, in everything we do or say with one another, but circle time is where we consciously focus on creating it, each of us having the opportunity to both speak and listen, to disagree and agree, to assume our collective responsibility for the world in which we live. This is where we actively create our world.

As animals with certain, limited, abilities to perceive, we tend to experience reality as a concrete thing, something that exists outside of us, built of undeniable facts, and this, to a greater or lesser extent, shapes and limits all of us. Since the Enlightenment, at least, the dominant view of scientists, artists, and philosophers tended toward a "clockwork" view of the universe, everything ticking along according to an as yet unknowable (but perhaps someday knowable) plan, machine-like, inevitable, unstoppable. Humans were clockworks as well, our brains, our bodies, our chemistry all subject to the immutable laws of nature. But more recently, we've begun to understand that this is not the case at all, that rather than being subjects of reality, we are in fact creators of it.

What we see is not what we see, but rather points of reflected light from which our brains create what we see.

What we hear is not what we hear, but rather waves that our ears transform into vibrations, then electricity, that we then use to create what we hear.

What we taste is not what we taste, what we smell is not what we smell, what we remember is not what we remember: all of it is our brains and bodies (which are really the same thing) creating order from chaos. 

Sometimes when I call the children over to the checker board rug, I hum the song while rapidly vibrating a finger between my upper and lower lips, speed boat style. I'm not singing the words, but the children hear them, singing along, anticipating, creating the full song from their own brains. Insisting, in fact, that I am singing the words even when I demonstrate that I'm not. They are making reality together, which is what humans do.

It's mind blowing stuff: it's hard to wrap our brains around it. I think of the young children I wrote about yesterday, those humans who are born with the wisdom of the true nature of time, living in it not as a continuum, but an ever-emerging present. The younger humans are, the closer we seem to be to perceiving the universe as it really is. Then we gain experience. We learn to instead perceive the world the way the other humans do, with it's lies of perception: we believe in what we see, hear, taste, smell, and feel, not because it is true, but rather because we've agreed that it's true.

On a day to day basis, I suppose, this all falls under the category of "true, but not necessarily useful." We are, after all, animals that have evolved to perceive the universe in a certain limited way, forever blocked from perspectives that would allow us to experience beyond our senses. Yet, if the scientists and artists and philosophers are correct, even this is a matter our own creation, individually and collectively. And looked at that way, perhaps it is useful. Perhaps it tells us that things are never hopeless. Maybe it allows us to know that change, even massive, sudden, earth-shaking change is possible, and it can happen in a moment if only we will come together on our checker board rugs to talk and listen and agree.

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