I Am My Own Student

I was recently asked by an acquaintance about why I write. You will have to take my word for it, since I alone can see my website statistics, that my reach, in the case of my weekly messages, does not exceed my grasp. In other words, my audience is extremely limited.

Therefore the why I write question would appear to be valid as I have no substantial audience to admire my work. And I agree about its validity, but for a different reason. When asked, I had no easy answer for why I do this. The question subsequently took on what was probably an unintended diabolical life beyond its validity, thereby attaining the status of being truly haunting. No matter how much time elapsed from the day of my inquisition to the present moment and no matter how many other activities were available to me in supplying convenient distractions, the question continually intruded on my thinking as I lacked that simple and above all honest resolution.

I started writing a web log when I was an employed administrator at a nonprofit organization. My reasons were clear enough then. I needed to have free access to my audience of members, donors and other influencers as opposed to limiting myself to the house organs controlled by people not always aligned with my thinking. I needed the free rein in order to advocate for my governance philosophy of providing vision, transparency and accountability concerning the organization I managed. Otherwise, all three goals were at the mercy of those who were in opposition to me, even though passive in the absence of face-to-face aggression, if I remained content to subjecting my messages to their wielding complete editorial indiscretion. Anyone interested who had internet capabilities could know the why of my actions as well as the customary what, when, how and where of them.

When I retired, I continued writing and posting messages, somewhat out of habit and somewhat to satisfy the personal joy I get from the process. So if the euphoria of composition is a private indulgence, why not just keep a diary or journal? Why go public? The answer to that question has come to me in a convoluted way, but just in time to quality as a resolution coinciding with the start of a new year.

I am a reader as well as a writer and both seem to come at a plodding pace. If I have read many books it is due to my persistence and my advanced age, which has produced a significant catalogue of completed good (and not so good) reads. And it is to my most recent come to closure reading endeavor that I owe a debt of gratitude for helping me understand myself in my daily pursuit of the written word; my own as well as the words of others.

The book in which I found some intellectual as well as emotional salvation is entitled While It Is Day, the autobiography of Elton Trueblood. A noted author, teacher, pastor and philosopher of Quaker ancestry and allegiance, he divided the story of his life into different themes as opposed to a strict adherence to the chronology of years and experience. Each theme constituted a chapter in his book, one of them focusing on his formal education. He wrote with regards to the twenty-eight year period of his student status that it was the longest “chapter” of his life. And then he concluded But of course it never really ended. I hope to remain a student as long as I live.

Pondering those words I found my own resolve as to why I write and more specifically why I submit to this weekly pattern of messages and postings. Step one was the realization that I, too, hope to never stop learning. As miserable of a student as I was through all of my years of primary and secondary education, I eventually matured into someone who values knowledge and became willing to submit to the discipline of acquiring this openly accessible treasure. Reading remains my primary means of attaining it. However, to make the leap to the writing aspect of my public pursuits, there has to be a step two or corollary to the desire to learn. And what I have found is that I have a need to teach.

This need has been present all my adult life as seen in the way I raised my children, guided staff and volunteers at work, and in the ongoing habit of writing these messages. The discipline of writing drives both the learning and the teaching processes. This message provides a good example. Seeking knowledge about the philosophy of Elton Trueblood obviously informed the content of this message. And if anyone cares to delve into the backlog of my messages, the evidence will be clear that so much of what I write is inspired by the intellectual path laid down by others.

As a teacher, I am my own student. What I acquire in the way of knowledge is always internalized to some degree as I value the personal benefits such information brings in forming my character and thereby my practices and performance. But I cannot rest content in hoarding what I believe to be true. Just as I sought to guide my children at home, my staff at work, and all other acquaintances through example first and instruction when necessary, I will continue to write these messages even if the size of my audience remains in the single digits. There is joy to be found in both the acquisition and in the sharing. Writing is my means for doing so.

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2 Responses to I Am My Own Student

  1. Arthur R Belanger says:

    As long as “there is joy to be found in both the acquisition and the sharing…” reading is my means for doing so.

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