07 January 2011

Let's Just Speak as Men and Women

This week started off a new semester of teaching for me, and there's an element of reinventing the wheel every time a new semester starts.  The first day is usually given over to pointing out that some statements demand more attention than others, that the absence of "one right answer" doesn't mean that there aren't better and worse answers, and that just because one happens to think something doesn't mean that one is immune from critical feedback from others.  For some, this is nothing new. For others, this is a revelation.  For yet others, this is a threat.

The first day of class is also a learning experience for me, as new faces and minds make themselves known.  Some try to be clever.  Others use big words.  There's usually at least one smartass.  Some think they're in a different world, perhaps like the one student yesterday who began to offer a comment but stopped himself short and said, "I don't know how to put this philosophically, but...."

I had the student hold his thought while I announced to the class that it was perfectly fine, in fact downright expected, that we conduct our business speaking as everyday men and women and that the point of doing philosophy was not to speak another language but to speak our own more clearly and intelligently.  The student was relieved to hear this.

Of course this happens in Zen, too, and I have seen all kinds of cases where someone starts speaking "Zenese" when plain ol' English would do the job.  And, of course, the point of Zen is not to live a different life but to live the life we have more clearly and with greater insight.

I'm not so sure that many who practice would be as relived to hear this as my student was!

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