Views

Walking this morning along the Mystic River, I came upon this view of the distant river through some bushy trees, and I realized, again, that the river is part of an endlessly complex environment, and I was grateful to get this faraway, wide-angle view.

It reminded me that, when I was teaching, I wanted my students and I to always try to get the widest possible view of these mysteries called life and education. As we went through our days in school, I believed we needed to try our best to circumspectly see the innumerable variables that are always in operation. Yes, we had to focus on the one thing, the single task, that was before us at any moment, but we also needed to somehow keep all things in view. In this regard, I found it helpful (and still do) to imagine that I’m a powerful camera placed on a far away star. First I zoom in on the single task that is before me – let’s say a lesson on the uses of irony in a short story. At that close perspective, the task seems vitally important, and, in a sense, it is. Being the one job within reach, it deserves my maximum attention. However, as I pull the zoom slowly back, I begin to see other important things – all my students, first of all, with their fears and daydreams, and then the other students in other classes in the school, and then the town, the shopping areas, and the homes of the students, with their innumerable troubles and triumphs. I begin to realize that, while the lesson on irony is important, so are all these other thingsThen, as I keep zooming out with the camera, I see all the students in America, and then all the students in the world. I also see millions of starving and sick people, the dying and the dead, the newborn and the thriving. I see mountains and forests and seas. And when I pull back further, I begin to consider all things – the everlasting universe itself, with its limitless spinning galaxies and stars. I still see my single task – the lesson on the uses of irony – but now I also see how this task is merely a part of the boundless activity of the universe. All things considered, I realize that teaching the students about irony is, indeed, an important task, but no more important than all the other multitudinous undertakings of the magnificent cosmos we are lucky to live in.

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THE VIEW AMONG THE HILLS

(with Delycia near Claremont, New Hampshire)

It’s nothing very special.

Cars show off in style on the road,

shadows shake themselves across the land,

and trees on hills stand tall in stateliness.

The sunset says the final words

as evening comes, and quiet,

steadfast stars let softness down on us.

It’s not so special,

just our lavish world and its wizardry,

just easy miracles.

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