My summer is officially over: tomorrow I begin teaching a new course–the keynote course for the Religion and Media concentration in the MAR program. I’m so excited–not only because I still LOVE the beginning of a new school year, but also because this is going to be such a great course: my wonderful colleague, Mary Hess [professor at Luther Seminary] brings such wisdom and experience in both thinking theologically about media cultures and also in using different media technologies. I already can tell I am going to be as much of a learner as an instructor in this course [that’s probably how it always should be….].
Anyway, one of the required texts is To Know as We are Known: Education as a Spiritual Journey, by Parker Palmer [here is the Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Know-Are-Known-Education-Spiritual/dp/0060664517/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1345420301&sr=8-1&keywords=to+know+as+we+are+known+education+as+a+spiritual+journey]. I hadn’t read it in awhile, and it was such a pleasure to re-discover it.
I wanted to share a bit of it–part of the conversation in chapter one [“Knowing is Loving”] where he talks about “a prayerful education.” He describes prayer as “the practice of relatedness.” Here is what he says: “On one side, prayer is our capacity to enter into that vast community of life in which self and other, human and nonhuman, visible and invisible, are intricately intertwined….In prayer, I no longer set myself apart from others and the world, manipulating them to suit my needs. Instead, I reach for relationship, allow myself to feel the tuggings of mutuality and accountability, take my place in community by knowing the transcendent center that connects it all. On the other side, prayer means opening myself to the fact that as I reach for that connecting center, the center is reaching for me. As I move toward the heart of reality, reality is moving toward my heart. As I recollect the unity of life, life is recollecting me in my original wholeness. In prayer, I not only address the love at the core of all things; I listen as that love addresses me, calling me out of isolation and self-centeredness into community and compassion. In prayer, I begin to realize that I not only know but am known.”
Doesn’t the beauty of that just make you want to weep? That’s what he means when he talks about education as “prayerful”–not beginning or ending a class with prayer necessarily, but by being moved and called in our learning by the same Spirit in which we pray; and approaching education with the same openness, the same emphasis on relatedness, and the same love and compassion. It’s certainly true for seminary education, but it is true for so much more besides: what good is any knowledge without love? Education is a spiritual journey, one that we take together, one that never ends. I’m so looking forward to starting a new leg of the journey tomorrow!