Growing and Living Together

by Manav Agyani

In context of a new learning system I want to share some thoughts by J. Krishnamurti.  He said,

“Most of you are seeking a new system of thought, a new system of economics, a new system of religious philosophy. Why are you seeking a new system? You say, ‘I am dissatisfied with the old, ‘ that is, if you are seeking. Now I say, don’t seek a new system, but rather examine the very system in which you are held, and then you will see that no system of any kind will bring about the creative intelligence which is essential for the understanding of truth or God or whatever name you like to give to it. That means that by the following of a system you are not going to discover that eternal reality; but you are going to find it only when you, as individuals, begin to understand the very system that you have built up through the centuries, and in that system discover what is true and what is false.

So please bear that in mind – that I am not giving a new system of philosophy. I think these systems are cages for the mind to be caught up in. They do not help man, they are merely hindrances. These systems are a means of exploitation. Whereas, if you as individuals begin to question, you will see that in that questioning you create conflict, and out of the conflict you will understand – not in the mere acceptance of a new system which is merely another soporific which puts you to sleep and turns you into another machine.”

I have observed two kinds of Systems since childhood – Natural Systems and Human Made Systems. I have spent a lot of time in nature observing trees, birds, mountains, sky, stars, insects, animals, etc.  And, I have come to this understanding that the Natural ‘System’ is not a System but it’s a way that enhances life, a way that nurtures possibilities. I discovered that there is a great difference between these two; Nature’s way of growth and Human Made Systems – same as the difference between the process of becoming and the process of being; same as the difference between falling in love and being in love.

I have also spent a lot of time with human made systems such as schools, NGOs, movements, campaigns, peoples’ initiatives, etc. With these human made systems I realized that these (systems) are nothing but the mechanics to control, shape, discipline (coerced and forceful). Therefore, a few questions arose in my mind, whether the new learning system will help us transform our inner being? Whether the new learning system will resolve the conflict of what is going on between an individual and society?

History is witness that whenever any new system is created, within a period of time that system becomes more important than human being. So rather than proposing a new learning system I am in the process of exploring and transforming myself in relation to other beings, to unfold hidden meanings of life and living. I can be wrong but here the point is not about right or wrong, it’s more about developing my and your understanding so that we can explore the significance of our living and life as individuals as well as society.

On the other hand my mind is questioning the idea of ‘New’. What do we mean by the term ‘New’ in context of New Learning System? Vinoba Bhave (freedom fighter, thinker, founder of the land-gift movement) in extension to Gandhi’s thought on education coined the term ‘Nai Talim’ (badly translated as basic education). Nai literally means new and Talim (an urdu term) literally means training but if we explore the root meaning it means learning. Vinoba specifically calls it Nitya Nai talim (Nitya literally means always) and adds, “If we are going to make it (Nai Talim) a system then this will become dead. Naitalim is not a system but it’s a way of life – living”. Hence in the context of learning if we (ourselves) observe deeply then our own learning process is always new; the question in my mind right now is what is old learning then? Can learning be old? How to identify or differentiate old learning and new learning?

For the past 4 years, Sumi (my life partner) and I have been observing Qudrat (our 4 year old son). One of the important things we came to understand is Qudrat has his own pace of learning and in this process we have never interfered. Even for walking, speaking, observing things, and doing things with his hands we have never intervened in his natural ways of growing. We discovered from Qudrat that there is this innate and continuous process of growing and exploring the world in every human being and in this process (of growing and exploring) even parents should not interfere. So I was thinking what would be the New Learning System in the context of Qudrat? He has his own way of learning, exploring, discovering, unfolding his being. And this is not merely an isolated process of growing with Qudrat but every child is having his/her own process of growing. Therefore, should we seek new learning systems or should we transform ourselves into co-learners with our children – growing and living together?

Here I would love to share A Students Prayer by Umberto Maturana:

Don’t impose on me what you know,
I want to explore the unknown
And be the source of my own discoveries.
Let the known be my liberation, not my slavery.

The world of your truth can be my limitation;
Your wisdom my negation.
Don’t instruct me; let’s walk together.
Let my riches begin where yours ends.

Show me so that I can stand
On your shoulders.
Reveal yourself so that I can be
Something different.

You believe that every human being
Can love and create.
I understand, then, your fear
When I ask you to live according to your wisdom.

You will not know who I am
By listening to yourself.
Don’t instruct me; let me be.
Your failure is that I be identical to you.

I still remember the day when Qudrat opened his eyes for the first time and made eye-to-eye contact with me.  I understood what he wanted to express at the first sight. At that moment I felt, every child has their own way (I am consciously not using the term system here) to unfold their being – same as Life. And since that day Sumi and I started doing things with Qudrat; instead of finding alternatives we started growing with Qudrat.

As parents we realized that there is no need of any Alternative system. The real need is to start living what we believe in. The need is to respect and trust our child’s way of growing and learning. The need is to transform our self as co-learners with our children. Doing things together with children in day to day living is the real need. And that’s what we are doing – playing, acting, role-playing, jumping, dancing, shouting, screaming, talking, touching, observing/watching, relaxing, painting, roaming, running, cooking, working, creating different things, reading together with Qudrat. We have chosen not to divide our learning from living. We believe in learning through life and throughout life together.

I would quote here from Holt’s Freedom and Beyond, which was first published in 1972, he wrote:

“Imagine that I am traveling into the future in a time capsule, and that I came to rest, five hundred years from now, in an intelligent, humane, and life-enhancing civilization. One of the people who lives there comes to meet me, to guide me, and to explain his society. At some point, after he has shown me where people live, work, play, I ask him,

“But where are your schools?”

“Schools? What are schools?” he replies.

“Schools are where people go to learn things.”

“I do not understand,” he says, “People learn things everywhere in all places.”

“I know that,” I say, “But a school is a special place where there are special people who teach you things, help you learn things.”

“I am sorry, but I still do not understand. Everyone helps other people to learn things. Anyone who knows something or can do something can help someone else who wants to learn more about it. Why should there be special people to do it?”

And try as I will, I cannot make clear to him why we think that education should be, must be, separate from the rest of the life.

This was my first vision of a society without schooling. Since there I have come to feel that the deschooled society, a society in which learning is not separated from but joined to, part of the rest of life, is not a luxury for which we can wait hundreds of years, but something toward which we must move and work, as quickly as possible.”

And this is what life is all about – playful, creative, flowing, being, growing, relating, unfolding all the time, this is what life is doing.

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