The coming of age for a hobbit.
Is to live long enough.
Not quite Roger Daltrey, but two very simple lines that contain thousands of thought-calories. A moment on the lips followed by a lifetime in the wit. Chapter 33 is a brief, but concentrated, shot of wisdom. We are told that whilst it is an intelligent person who understands others, it is a wise person indeed who knows themself. We are told that whereas we need brute strength to control other people, we need real strength to control ourselves. If you know that you have enough, you have everything that you will need. Constantly forging on takes a lot of willpower; staying where you are means that you will keep your position; respecting the limits is always appropriate.
Now what could he be talking about?
There are some gems in this short Chapter/Verse of the Tao Te Ching, but they appear alongside lines that seem to tell you to abandon all drive and settle down to stagnate. Once again, we have to give Lao Tse credit and, recognising the totality of his message, accept that his words may not be as immediately apparent as they might appear. Essentially, the call is for introspection. Why? Because the only thing that we can be really sure about (or fairly really sure) is how we feel about things. Looking inside, we can spot what we believe to be truths. Looking at others and the exterior world, we can only hypothesise. True knowledge is within you. But it’s bloody difficult to find. To echo David’s quote, “The Eye cannot see itself.” Which makes it even more difficult to discover the Great Truths hiding behind one’s pancreas.
The second verse, where we are instructed that it is better to stay put and abandon all efforts to gain more, needs to be read in the context of the first verse. LT appears to be advocating a life of least resistance and maintaining the Status Quo. But anyone who is familiar with lyrics such as, “And I like it, I like it, I like it, I like it, I li-i-i-like it, li-i-i-like it,” will realise that somebody of the stature of Lao Tse was never going to have much time for the Quo.
Instead, I think Old Lao is saying that the constant drive for more (more papers, more titles, more materials, more knowledge) is distracting us from the source of real enlightenment which can only be found within (and, ironically when we are without…). A pause as you reflect on what that means for us as teachers and what it means for learners and what it means for education. E-ducare – the drawing out.
One of the arguments that raises its head over at Dogme is whether or not dogme is only available to the experienced teacher who has had the benefit of being educated by the non-dogme arsenal of coursebooks and prescribing methodologies. I am going to speak for LT and argue, “NO!” It is the prescribing methodologies and non-dogme arsenal of coursebooks that actually make it more difficult to teach dogme. Why? Because they define what “real” teaching is and set up something like Dogme as unreal teaching. How can it be teaching if it doesn’t have a plan? How can it be teaching if it isn’t measurable? How can it be teaching if it doesn’t employ any resources? It’s just winging it. Real teaching needs thought and careful planning and syllabuses and curriculums (syllabi and curricula if you extend your pedantry to dead languages). And books and…the list is endless. And so dogme is forced to define itself by what it is not.
For LT (well…for me, and by extension, LT) dogme is probably better practiced by the teacher who knows nothing and who hasn’t be trained. They have no preconceptions about how it should be done. They just know how it’s done and reflect post facto on how it was done. In other words, they do without and they look within. And they draw out their teaching from within. Because it is their teaching, based on their values and their beliefs, the idea is that it will be as good as it can be (always assuming that they are doing the job because it appeals to them, and not for the money and many perks). This is how one develos self-awareness (and therefore wisdom); this is how one overcomes one’s own foibles (and therefore becomes strong); and the person who looks within instead of without will endure. And when they die, they will have squeezed a whole lifetime into the preceding years. And that, sez Mr Tzu, “is enough.”