The 5 Enemies

Now back in Canada – I’m getting some time to just sit with a book and ponder. Mostly because it has now been one week of wicked weather – snow blinding and the banks are so high, you don’t know where the yard ends and the house begins.

One benefit to this has been revisiting my “children”, my books. Today, I picked up Thomas Merton’s “The Way of Chuang Tze” and thought about the tao while I loosened my bowels in a nice warm washroom. His famous story of the 5 enemies.

I’ll quote it verbatim – it is so insightful. (and has some application to my previous blog post about – “bad teachers”. But at the end, I’ll apply the 5 enemies to education/teaching. As a way of showing the ways we have the wool pulled over our eyes and off our backs as we are fleeced so innocently.

The 5 Enemies (I believe the copy right has lapsed, so I’m safe 🙂 )

With wood from a hundred year old tree

they make sacrificial vessels

covered with green and yellow designs.

The wood that was cut away

Lies unused in the ditch.

If we compare the sacrificial vessels with the wood in the ditch

we find them to differ in appearance:

One is more beautiful than the other.

Yet, they are equal in this: both have lost their original nature (my italics).

So if you compare the robber and the respectable citizen

you find that one is, indeed, more respectable than the other:

Yet they agree in this: they have both lost

the original simplicity of man.

How did they lose it? Here are the 5 ways.

Love of colors bewilders the eye and it fails to see right.

— think of how teachers use the latest gadgets. Think of the trash heaps of over priced technology. The dazzle of the next technique. Think of how we as teachers forget the core message and objectives and instead reach for the glittter and show. Think of how so much schooling is about keeping up appearances and grades and not focusing on the important stuff of character and right livelihood.

Love of harmonies bewitches the ear and it loses its true hearing.

— Do we listen to our students, to their needs? Do we get overwhelmed by the messages of those above, so sweet they are to our ear. No child left behind, student’s first, teach every child, progress, differentiation, standardization. Don’t we march to the pied pipers tune? Do we try to do too much and thus, end up doing very little? Are we deaf from all the pronouncements of a “crisis in education”. Why can’t we listen to that child inside us?

Love of perfumes fills the head with dizziness

— How often do we make decisions for our career and job and not our students. How often are we filled with authority and power when we know this is a moat that keeps student’s out of the castle of learning? How often do we “play” the part of a teacher, loving ourselves for ourselves while the whole rat race marches towards Gomorrah?

Love of flavors ruins the taste.

— It is so easy to just keep doing what you are good at, isn’t it? So comfortable. But what about the taste of the classroom – hasn’t it gone stale? Why aren’t we listening and refusing that flavor?

We love it when our class is working fine, each day finished on time and all is well. But what of the flavor?

Desires unsettle the heart until the original nature runs amok.

— When was the last time you laughed and played with your students. Rolled on the carpet with them? What has become of our initial spirit that was there that first week as a teacher? How has our desire got in the way – when will we as a teacher, let go? Let go and just learn instead of prepare to learn.

These five are the enemy of true life.

Yet, these are what “men of discernment” claim to live for.

They are not what I live for:

If this is life, then pigeons in a cage

have found happiness!

Chuang Tze

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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