May 01

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Create Yourself

A shop.  A book.  A drink.  A funeral.  In recent days, all four have combined to challenge me to journey further on my voyage of self-discovery.

The Coop bookshop in Boston services Harvard University.  It is a cheerful shop full of students doing assignments using books they don’t want to buy, and wannabe students buying books they don’t understand.  Among the shelves of knowledge and opinion was a sign that read:

Life isn’t about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself.

How true.  There can be an assumption that all that we need to discover is found within ourselves.  This ego-centricity limits enquiry to a singular source and an inadequate topic.

We need to recognise that outside the orbit of our lives lie riches beyond imagination.  What the unknown author of the sign was suggesting is that we need to venture outside and journey into the mottled world of good and bad.  We need to select appropriate experiences to build the person we should be.

The book.  It was written by someone who is probably the leading educational thinker at the moment.  Howard Gardner invented the concept of multiple intelligences.  At a recent gathering, he talked about a recent passion – something that was different to the educational theory and teaching pedagogy that typified his usual life.  Howard Gardner talked of truth, beauty and goodness – a trilogy of virtues that forms the title of his latest book.

In an educational world riven with empirical measurement, accountability reporting and soulless assessment, Howard Gardner has come out with a book on truth, beauty and goodness.  Amongst its many recommendations, Gardner urges his students to keep in their school bag, books on Maths, English and also a book on themselves, in which they record what they find to be true, beautiful and good.

Gardner said that within this personal log, there could be thoughts about novels, films and conversations that were interesting.  There could be a description of favourite music; who wrote it, why, when and what impact it had.  Gardner urged his students to become collectors of impressions.  Favourite paintings, interesting sculptures, incredible feats, notes on the achievements of amazing people, a description of an ideal meal.  The list of possible reflections is endless, but its purpose is clear – that a boy learns to discover his own opinion, his own voice, his own comment on what is true, beautiful and good.  Gardner was not the first to think of this:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. – Philippians 4:8

The drink was quaffed in a Germanic hunting lodge, just north of Boston, USA.  It was the home of Dan Brown – author of The Da Vinci Code.  This gifted story-teller has not always been kind with his treatment of the Catholic Church, but in a moment made mellow by fine wine and the security of being within the womb of his study, he confessed that two questions still haunted him:  How did we get here, and what should we do?  These are two excellent questions.  Here was a man, a very successful man, who was still searching.

The funeral was of a close friend of mine.  Helen loved music and more than once frustrated her teachers at school by the constant distraction wrought by a song on the wireless or a show on the television.  At the funeral were a large number of her friends (we ran out of Orders of Services), many of whom had worked with Helen at 2GB and the ABC.  Helen was a much respected producer of many shows, including Sentimental Journeys on the ABC.  She took a journey that led her to make a career out of what most thought was a liability.

The lives of our children, need to be seen as a quest – a journey on which they discover their interests, realise their skills and find what is true, beautiful and good.  This will not happen if they only look within themselves.  They have to look beyond, into a world that is, at the same time, both terrible and wonderful.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.timhawkes.com/create-yourself/

1 comment

  1. Katrina McDonald

    It gives me great joy to know that we have a headmaster who sees that education,( and life!) should be way more than maths & english, and that we are all students on this journey, no matter our age. Thanks for sharing your thoughts,Tim

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