Wednesday, August 30, 2006

KNOWLEDGE THAT BEGINS IN LOVE

EDUCATION FOR CURIOSIY AND CONTROL? Parker Palmer challenges the core of mainstream educational process and institutional goals in his 1983 book To Know As We Are Known (reissued in paperback in 1993 by Harper San Francisco). He points out that education applied exclusively for curiosity or control are leading us down a self-destructive path. “If curiosity and control (which is power tending toward corruption) are the primary motives for our knowing we will generate a knowledge that eventually carries us not toward life but death.” He cites nuclear physicists’ laments in the documentary "The Day After Trinity" and others.

KNOWLEDGE ARISING FROM COMPASSION. Palmer believes that a knowledge that originates in compassion, or love, needs to be explored and integrated into our teaching and learning processes at every level. This knowledge base is not a soft, sentimental virtue, not a fuzzy feeling of romance, but “tough love, the connective tissue of reality.” Unlike curiosity and control that distance us from each other and the world, “a knowledge that springs from love will implicate us in the web of life, it will wrap the knower and the known in compassion, in a bond of awesome responsibility as well as transforming joy, it will call us to involvement, mutuality, accountability.”

RECONCILING THE WORLD TO ITSELF. Palmer writes: “The goal of a knowledge arising from love is the reunification and reconstruction of broken selves and worlds. A knowledge born of compassion aims not at exploiting and manipulating creation but at reconciling the world to itself. The mind motivated by compassion reaches out to know as the heart reaches out to love. Here, the act of knowing IS an act of love… In such knowing we know and are known as members of one community, and our knowing becomes a way of reweaving that community’s bonds.”

PRAYER AS A GATEWAY TO SUCH KNOWLEDGE. In developing this capacity, or beginning to go to the core of this way of knowing, of seeing, of interacting, Palmer challenges us to pray. That’s right, prayer is an essential component in transforming our knowledge base from fragmenting and divisive applications of knowledge. Palmer writes “The mind immersed in prayer no longer thinks in order to divide and conquer, to manipulate and control. Now, thinking becomes an act of love, a way of acknowledging our common bonds and assuming our rightful role in the created community.”

BEYOND FACTS INTO TRUTH. He continues: “As long as we stay locked in a closed logic, allowing self and world to circle each other in an endless quest for power, we have little choice but to dominate or be dominated. But when we know self and world from the vital center touched in prayer, and when our prayer allows us to be known, then we are free from the cycle of dominance, free to love the world, each other, and ourselves. And education in transcendence prepares us to see beyond appearances into the hidden realities of life, beyond facts into truth, beyond self interest into compassion, beyond our flagging energies and nagging despairs into the love required to renew the community of creation.”

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