“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all” Aristotle

I recently read this story on one of the blogs I follow “find your Sanctuary.” Every week I receive these beautiful moments written by Terry Hershey where he preaches that we need a place to refuel, we need to rest, we need to pay attention, we need to breathe and we need to just be. In one of his weekly moments in my inbox this story was included: “A Zen Roshi is dying. All of the monks gather (an eagerness restrained) around the deathbed, hoping to be chosen as the next teacher. The Roshi asks slowly, where is the gardener? The gardener, the monks wonder aloud, he is just a simple man who tends the plants and he is not even ordained. Yes the Roshi replies, but his is the only one awake. He will be the next teacher.”

This story really spoke to me about society today. We live in a world where our senses are deadened by consistent noise. The noise comes at us in every waking moment and the result is that we never rest. Our minds and our beings are fuelled by self-sabotaging thoughts essentially berating ourselves that we are not good enough. Those thoughts are usually carried by society’s unrealistic goals of having a lot of money, owning the best car, the best house, the highest education, the best job, the right clothes and the right look. Writing that sentence exhausts me, we can’t possibly live up to all of those expectations. The reality is that not everyone has the same access to any one of the things I mentioned above and education is just one of them.

I work in education except as a teacher once told me, I’m one of the uneducated ones. I work in the field of support. I am an office manager in a high school and as a support worker, like all of my fellow support workers, we support every niche and cranny in that school. Just like support beams in a building that no one ever thinks about, we are the weight-bearing supports that bridge the values, policies and integrity of our counterparts and ultimately support the structural integrity of all. I would say that support staff are “awake” as we see all and we move between the shadows and understand that our work is done behind the scenes, often unrecognized and never credited.

The uneducated comment is true. In conversation with a teacher, she said that I was uneducated because I did not have a post secondary education, in other words, I did not have a degree, therefore she did not consider me educated. Limited thinking I would say and it concerns me that as an educator she feels that the measure of a human being’s worth is in the degree they obtain. My response to that comment is that I am educated and always will be educated as I believe education has nothing to do with the piece of paper one holds; I believe education is about being in a continual state of learning and that education is present in every moment and in every being we meet on our journey called life.

Like the monks in the story above, this teacher lost the lesson. Too busy worrying about the right car to drive, the right house to own and the right clothes to buy to establish the look only worthy of the educated. My question is this; what about the souls who can’t afford the same kind of education, or the souls who choose to work and educate themselves through experience, or the souls that by the time they work the three jobs they have to pay for their rent and their food simply don’t have the energy for education. Are they not smart or good enough to have what the educated have? It is interesting to me that in many cases of the elite ones, their parents paid their way and they have no idea what it’s like to pay their own way.

This is a sad commentary on society and I sincerely believe that the attitude that I wrote about above is the downfall we are seeing through the pandemic. It’s not necessarily the “educated” that has kept our economy rolling through this Covid. Yes the healthcare workers have continued to push through this difficult time and put themselves at risk as we all work through this global epidemic. However, the support workers of society, the unseen beams that support the structural integrity of society are working behind the scenes to ensure all have the essentials we need to get through this challenging time. The “blue collar” workers in the truck drivers, the grocery store employees, the department store employees all the employees that you can possibly think of who are working behind the scenes to keep this economy moving. It is this structural support that has put food on our table even when the pandemic was at its worst and people were fighting over toilet paper, cleaners, meat and anything else they considered essential; the workers of the world just kept slogging through the difficult times while many of us griped about working in the comfort of our homes protected behind our computers and zoom meetings without much thought of what some of our fellow human beings were facing.

Education has failed us as we have educated minds but we have failed to educate hearts. Personally, I can tell you the amount of times I have walked by educated ones who don’t have the time or day to say hello or a simple smile as they walk by, yet in the very next moment I see them nod and say hello to a member of the educated ones. I always share a private laugh because it is in the moments of grace that we learn the most. My work with a hospice has taught me about life as I work with souls transitioning from this life to the next and the most important lesson I have learned in life is from the lessons taught to me by hearts of the dying. No one talks about their education, their houses, their cars or their clothes as they face death. It is in this learning from the heart that I have gained the most profound lessons. Ironically, there is no fancy piece of paper that confirms my education, nor is there a document that says I am good enough to get a fancy job. However, as I continue to walk this journey called life, I have found the lessons I have learned from the heart journey with me as I step forward and place my foot on the solid foundation of the stepping stones before me. It is the message from each and every soul’s heart that I take with me on my chosen path forward.

Society preaches that the path I have chosen is the wrong path as there are no fancy riches on the path in front of me. Like the gardener the Roshi designated as teacher, it is in the simple things that we continue to ignore that there is so much to learn from. As long as we learn from the heart, teach from the heart and recognize that all souls have value, I don’t believe that this is the wrong path to take and I hope that I can be awake enough to ignore society’s pull to ideas and ideals that have nothing to to with matters of the heart.

Johanne Fraser

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Just taking one step at a time and writing about the simple pleasures that make me smile.

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