Welcome to the World of Literature: Where Are We Going?
Updated: Jun 1, 2021
An open letter to students and teachers
“We have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us. The labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero path. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god. And where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. And where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.”
Our stories are populated with heroes. Always with the hero examples, we work to slay the ego--the true dragon which rather than empowering us is a hindrance, an abomination to any growth or progress. Ego is a secondary self--seeking only to control rather than to serve.
The Western idea of the Dragon merely guards the ego. He does not use or even understand the treasure: gold, beautiful maidens, knowledge. He can merely maintain what is present, not what is potential. And it is in the service of the potential that we as teachers are called. This suggests that pursuit of and allegiance to the ego tends to freeze our identities, preventing us from seeing and living and experiencing the world beyond what we can comfortably call a purpose. The dragon chokes creativity and adventure. Consider how much of this could describe what passes for education these days.
“When the goals of the Self are the only goals a culture makes available, spirited men and women will address them with the energy that they would have applied to the aspirations of the Soul. The result is lives that are massively frustrating and not a little ridiculous. People become heroically dedicated to middle-class ends—getting a promotion, getting a raise, taking immeasurably interesting vacations, getting their children into the right colleges, finding the best retirement spot, fattening their portfolios. Lives without courage, contemplation, compassion, and imagination are lives sapped of significant meaning.”
-- Mark Edmundson Self and Soul
If you pay attention, close attention, to the literature and stories we will encounter, you will learn continually about yourself. Some of it you will like and find delight in, other encounters will take you to the border of anxiety and despair. How you navigate these extremes is yours to determine. Our classrooms are, in a very real sense, a labyrinth demanding our participation and choice. The collected stories that comprise the curriculum can be of help. The choice to listen and actively participate is ours alone to make or to refuse to make. But make no mistake, it is a choice, just as our education is our choice to claim. Be present.