Why Teach? Why Write?
From Robert Bausch on Facebook, reprinted with his permission: It's about what he thinks we are up to as teachers and writers:
Recently I showed my students in a humanities seminar the black and white film The Miracle Worker. Some wanted to know why I thought that film was appropriate for such a class. Why did I choose that particular old film for a principle discussion of what our studies were going to be about? This is what I wrote to my students:
The film is about teaching, and being a student, as somebody mentioned in our discussion, but that is not why I chose it. At one point in the film, Annie Sullivan says, “You can see five thousand years back in the light of words,” as she tries to “awaken” Helen. She says Helen’s soul, her personality, is buried in her, “like water underground.”
It strikes me that we are all most fortunate in that we were not buried alive when we were born. We have the gift that Annie is trying to give Helen: The ability to see and know beyond our own physical experience “five thousand years back” if we want to. I hoped the film might inspire you not to squander such an extraordinary gift. If you do not look back with wonder and awe, if you do not continue to look up and beyond your own corporeal existence, then in a very real sense, you are not much different from Helen Keller before Annie saved her.
The world is offered up to you every day that you are willing to open your eyes; this class is a small beginning, a brief and very general introduction to the long correspondence human beings have been having with themselves since the very first story tellers, sculptors, painters and musicians enthralled a group of people with their art. I hope this course will be the first step in unlocking whatever creative energy you may have buried in your own life, and like the “water underground” that Annie talks about in the film, your capacity for wonder will come to the surface again. That’s what an education should do for you. It is not training, not preparation for economic survival or future success—although education can and has provided such things. Education is preparation for spiritual and psychic survival, pure and simple. It is a training ground for the seeing and knowing few who make extraordinary use of the gifts Helen Keller did not have. It is where you develop who you are to the fullest sense, sometimes in spite of the mundane demands of daily life.
I selected the Miracle Worker, then, not because I wanted you to be aware of the “worker,” in the title, but so you would understand and come to appreciate the “miracle.” The “miracle” is not that Annie finally breaks through and teaches Helen, although that is part of it. The “miracle” is what Annie wants Helen to be able to learn so that Helen will be Helen, and not just a pet that needs to be housebroken. It’s a miracle you have been engaging in and can engage in every day.
Categories: enhancing creativity