Human Salvation Lies in the Hands of the Creatively Maladjusted | An Excerpt from Creatively Maladjusted by Theodore Richards
[T]o create a new narrative for our civilization we must transform our way of looking at the world. This is an educational issue. Western civilization has been built with knowledge. An educational approach that emphasized abstract knowledge has enabled us to manipulate our world in remarkable ways. In the form of ecological destruction and a culture of meaninglessness and alienation, we have reached the end of this paradigm. This book has been about Wisdom Education. What does the world we create from this educational paradigm look like?
No one can precisely say what a contemporary wisdom civilization would look like. We have examples from the past and can imagine the future, but there is no contemporary example. Rather than thinking of what outcomes we want, I believe it is best to focus on that which is most meaningful in the present. In the case of a school, this means creating a nurturing, creative, joyous, inspiring place. The specifics of what comes forth will be uncertain, but it will certainly be better than what we have now. We cannot know the outcomes we seek; for in an organic process, those outcomes are partly determined in the process.
I am arguing for no specific outcomes in education. Rather, I am suggesting that if we can inspire our youth to create the right myths, we can give birth to a wisdom civilization. This means we must educate our children holistically, connecting their psyche and the world at large; connecting their bodies and their minds; connecting theory and action; and tying it all together through their creative expression.
While our youth can and will create these myths, they need and want guidance. We can offer some values and some metaphors from which to proceed. While we cannot tell another’s story, we can suggest what we might want to learn from that story. For example, if I hear a song on the radio that glorifies crass-consumerism, violence and misogyny, I can criticize it. The oft-heard defense that “this is my experience” is a cowardly cop-out, a failure to confront the demons of our culture, consumerism and violence. That same experience can and should be told. We need to hear the stories of violence in our communities. But we do not have to glorify the violence.
The youth are not to blame. They have not experienced rites of passage to help them become men and women. It is the responsibility of the older generation to make sure they do. And when they do, they will have the strength to truly confront their demons, not to submit meekly to them.
It is my hope that the stories told by the next generation, my daughter’s generation, will be stories of integration and connection rather than of alienation and individualism. That is not to say that the experience of isolation is not something to be addressed. Humanity is enduring a profound transition. This, the story of our lostness, must be told. But it must be told in order to overcome it, not to reinforce the values of “rugged independence.”
From the creative expression of our interconnection, we can begin to be more compassionate. We are connected not only internally—mind, body, and soul—but with one another. We are connected temporally to our ancestors, who in turn connect us to the entire world.
The work of the mythmaker is to tell us who we are. Just as the myths of the Modern school tells us we are machines or prisoners or consumers, a new myth can tell us something else entirely. Ultimately, this identity can reveal that we are really not that different, not that separate from one another. Your suffering is mine; the destruction of a forest is the destruction of a part of me.
Dr. King believed that “unmerited suffering is redemptive” because his worldview was based upon the notion of the “Beloved Community”, an interconnected web of relationships that defines us. Our redemption is found not in some abstract doctrine about the suffering of a man millennia ago, but of the insight that our own suffering allows us to have compassion for another’s. We are redeemed—that is, we awaken to truly know who we are—when we recognize that our authentic identity is found in relationship. In a culture which values independence over interdependence—just as King discovered it valued segregation over integration—we cannot be saved by conformity. Education must be subversive.
Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.
Look for Creatively Maladjusted March 9th on Amazon.com, B&N and right here, in the Hiraeth Press bookstore.
Creatively Maladjusted will also be available in Kindle Edition! Along with Theodore Richards’ award-winning book Cosmosophia: Cosmology, Mysticism and the Birth of a New Myth!