All the ages in an hour?


“Who shall say what prospect life offers to another.  Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?  We should live in all the ages of the world in an hour; ay, in all worlds of the ages.  History, Poetry, Mythology! – I know of no reading of another’s experience so startling and informing as this would be.”                                  --Thoreau: From “Economy” in Walden

Thoreau suggests that when we bring our attention fully to another person, as we do in council, then much is revealed.  He suggests that we are each vast storehouses of experience and wisdom. As a facilitator of council, I often ask students to "tell a story," only to hear in response, "I don't have any stories."  When I ask where stories come from, I'm told that they come from books and movies.

At some point, our children stop valuing the truth of their own experience.  They believe that what they perceive, through their senses, intuition, and thought, is flawed and insubstantial.  Perhaps it is when we in various ways remind them that they are incomplete, that their value as human beings will be determined by what they become, rather than what they are.  As Joseph Chilton Pearce put it, "Education will forever be broken until we stop treating five year olds as incomplete six year olds."  The "banking model" of education, that children are vessels we fill with information, also promotes this sense of mistrust in their own reality.

At some point we disengage from our own capacity for wisdom.  At some point we stop trusting our own senses.  We become alienated from ourselves.

But Thoreau seems to maintain that the experiences of others, even the youngest, reveal universal truths if we can "look through each others' eyes for an instant."  So, how do we learn this way of looking?  How do we learn to see each other in our fullness?  This is the task of the facilitator of council.  When a child holds the talking piece, we maintain that we are in the presence of wisdom.  We may be disappointed but our practice is to return again and again to this conviction.