I drove to Hamilton, N.Y., last December to take part in the funeral service for the Rev. Coleman Brown. Coleman, who had taught at Colgate University, had the most profound impact of all my teachers on my education. I took seven courses as an undergraduate in religion. He taught six of them. But his teaching extended far beyond the classroom. The classroom was where he lit the spark.
My condolences to Chris Hedges upon the loss of his wonderful teacher.
My most influential teacher was my mother who died when i was 16 but who’s constant refrain while I grew up, “Well what do you think?”, still echoes to this day. I was not taught so much how to think but to question and analyze; “as James Baldwin wrote, the ability to drive ‘to the heart of every matter and expose the question the answer hides.’” My whole life has been the joy of always discovering something new to contemplate and enjoy.
“Preachers, like artists, care more about the truth than they do about news.” I admire and learn from all who care more about the truth than anything else. Although I’ve learned from religions I only try to practice the simple religion as stated by the Dalai Lama. “This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”
The whole world is my lifelong classroom and through self examination I have learned to be more understanding and kind and have made my personal life and hopefully, in some way, the world “a more human dwelling place” as Baldwin noted.
Chris, if I may be so informal, you get it!
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keep it up, teach! you may be the only “island” these children have to keep from drowning in a world of conformity and low, rote expectations. :O)
The western notion of ego, conflated with 3rd and 4th generation commodified identity seems to be the yardstick for both ‘upward mobility’ in the mechanistic and material power hierarchy of ‘culture’. Its front-loaded by privilege, veiled by history written by ‘winners’ etc. It is like being shoved down a tube and excreted out the other end for the marginalizing ‘landfill’.
I’ve begun to look at ‘ego’ as sort of a fulcrum nexus between inner and outer, seen and unseen, past, present and future, mystical and material (which is apparently ultimately mystical considering observations in quantum physics). Some fear that the world is doomed and venture guess on how and when that will be. Funny thing about releasing the notion of ‘ego’ from its cultural constraints is that its possible to explore alternatives to how materialism grabs the past, shoves it into the present and demands that it be carried into the future. Time does not exist. It is a tool to measure processes and introduce layers onto the communications about an acculturated trope about relational qualities of existence that keep getting ripped from relational contexts and shoved into the tube of ‘ego’. The short circuit institutionalizes immorality and calls it necessity - because the institutional would evaporate without doing so. Ironically the institutions survive not despite but because of people like Rev. Coleman Brown and so many unsung souls spinning and weaving the energizing relational integrity with every breath. In an old sufi observation - like recognizes like - that, to me, is the beauty of a great teacher. Seeing the unseen relational integrity, perhaps otherwise known as the sacred and love, hearing, tasting, feeling the dynamics of the whole.
A favorite quote from Doris Lessing: “Armies of angels could rise up out of the waves, but if you’re looking for a one-eyed giant you could sail right through them without feeling so much as a freshening of the breeze”.
Yes, my case was the same. Although I was not watched quite as closely, my students would put the word out about my teaching and it would get back to the Department. This would sometimes result in a call to the carpet, and sometimes result in a termination of my 1-2 year contract at semester’s end. I moved on but my pay scale would remain at the floor level with each new hiring.
It’s one thing to be a teacher with a name, it’s another to be just another teacher. When we hear about the “greats,” they are invariably famed persons who are not likely to be questioned. We rarely hear about the tightly controlled mortals who truly comprehend and express what critical thinking means. So, for us the limitations can be pretty severe and mentally and physically debilitating, often ending in departure from the profession.
In other words, I was inspired by the BIGS, but was treated like the SMALLS. In my experience, the gulf betwixt is almost as huge as the current income gap.
My younger brother recently reminded me of a passage in the Brothers Karamotsov where the scurrilous old man was talking with one of his sons about a former acquaintance:
“Why do you denigrate him so father?”
Old man Karamotsov: “Some years ago I played a dirty trick upon that man, and I have not been able to stand the sight of him ever since then.”
This, in a nutshell, is the anti-Iranian hysteria of the United States. The best piece by Hedges in some time.
The mind is useless
Without the heart
Would that every school district had someone like professor Coleman establishing curricula and classroom standards…with compassion, generosity of spirit, intelligence, and genuine caring for teachers and students alike. What a utopia that would be.
The love and respect for the professor by his student, Hitchens shines brightly throughout this eulogy. What a blessing to have such a kind, wise mentor!
Hello? It’s Chris HEDGES.
Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. There is no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school.
Chris, Your courage and dedication to the truth is an inspiration for all who come into your purview.