Contemplative Pedagogy: “Eat it immediately.”

This post is part of an ongoing series on Contemplative Pedagogy which often focuses as much on the absence of language as on its form.

In his book Meditation in Action, Chögyam Trungpa writes: “…one usually finds that books, teachings, lectures, and so on are more concerned with proving that they are right than with showing how it is to be done.”  He laments the increasingly fast pace of the modern world, “The world is moving so fast, there is no time to prove, but whatever we learn, we must bring it and cook it and eat it immediately.”

I once asked an astrophysicist friend, “Do you ever think about what will happen once we get to Mars?  For instance, what will their religion be with no Bethlehem?”

He laughed, “No. We never think about those things. They tell us ‘I want this to go there’ and we make it go there.” This is an example of “eating it immediately,” doing something “right,” but with no thought about the meaning or consequences of what is being done.

Trungpa continues, “If we go somewhere on foot, we know the way perfectly, whereas if we go by … car or aeroplane we are hardly there at all, it becomes merely a dream.”

Isn’t getting a B.A., an M.A., or a Ph.D. dream-like? We tumble over ourselves writing so that our advisors will find what we offer them to be “right,” stuffing sprawling ideas into a tidy little box ready to be signed, sealed, and delivered. And that’s that. So little of what we write in our dissertations proves to be useful later on.

We are dealing with a warming, overpopulated planet where more and more powerful arms are being disseminated throughout the citizenry, where wars are popping up continually in places we have never heard of, religious wars which appear not to affect us but are in fact, very dangerous to us. We should be thinking more deeply than ever because the consequences of our decisions could be fatal. Yet our education system fails to nurture deep thought, and cannot absorb the sometimes controversial or revolutionary results of sustained deep thought.

That is why it is important to slow down the process. Read fewer books, but better. Write from the heart. Expand the range of sources. Listen to each other.

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