Teachable Moment Of A Lifetime

Dear Kelly,

It’s my favourite time of the day, that golden hour when night and dawn greet each other. And now, with fall around the corner, they linger longer, coy and solemn as teenage crushes on park swings. The sun is just about to break over the skyline and burst into my study, and each time it does I’m reminded of the opening lines of Frost’s poem:


Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.


These lines always get me going, the shuddering evanescence, the fleeting nature of time, the gentle unspoken urgency to cling as long as you can to the moment.

You know, I found out that last month we had some very special days, days when the Lions Gate Portal was flung open, when Sirius was in perfect alignment with our own sun and earth. I hadn’t heard of this cosmic phenomenon until only the other day. I was describing the vividness, the strangeness of recent dreams to a friend. She smiled (mischievously, I thought) and said, “it was all the creative vibrations streaming out of the Lions Gate Portal and manifesting through you.” Such a comment, not so long ago, would have provoked from me a mocking rebuttal, or at the very least, a not-so imperceptible eye-roll. Her comment would’ve whiffed of those Walter Mercado-types, the everything-is-perfect-and-so-are-you astrologists; or those swindlers who hand out chakra cards on Bloor Street, gaze spookily into your eyes, convinced you are no more than a spiritual leper in need of their healing. To view our nearest giant star and its alignment with our own sun through anything but the lenses of astronomy, to ascribe meaning to it other than what the natural laws of physics has laid out, would have, even one year ago, lead me to recalibrate my relationship with this person. But the past is prologue, and I now accept such comments with benign indifference, even enthusiasm. So, here I am, Kelly, basking in some good vibrations still manifesting through me and hoping it is doing the same for you!

Actually, I’m curious to know how the Portal affected you this year?


Thank you for your deep and thoughtful letter and sorry for my tardy response. I’ve been in a zone, writing demonically, but not the kind of writing which brings me the kind of pure pleasure that writing to friends like you always does. But truth be told, your letter wasn’t easy to digest. I’ve had to chew on it longer than I’m accustomed, break it down into digestible bits.

Firstly, I am no longer astonished by both the sudden shifts and meandering turns on your life’s journey. For as long as I’ve known you, you’ve been like the Northern Lights, in a constant shifting state of metamorphosis, beautiful to behold. That you’ve been unravelling yourself from the “illusion of constant busyness and constant motion” during the lockdown, and that you “don’t want to go back to the way it was”, is precisely what I am experiencing as well. Many of us are. Our casual nuzzling up to one of the more disingenuous euphemisms we’ve concocted- the “new normal”- belies, I think, one of our deeply-entrenched fears: that everything is in a constant state of flux. It is insidious, this illusion that there is some higher order to things, some mythic center that holds together a world we’ve created in our own image and in accordance to our breathtakingly limited knowledge. Our only hope is to begin to view our relationship to the world, to others, to ourselves, and most importantly, to change itself, with an equanimity that likely didn’t exist for many of us even six months ago.   

There has not been much unravelling on my end. Tweaking a few habits here and there: eating, running, and sleeping better than I used to before the lockdown—that’s about it. But I have been wading deeper into myself. Minutes- and not seconds- of pure concentration has been gifted to me, allowing me to penetrate into my consciousness in ways both unexpected and affirming. I pray it stays.


And, yes, I couldn’t agree with you more: after all these years of stopping yourself out of shame or guilt or social etiquette, you do need to mobilize your voice, broaden the sphere of your influence beyond your inner circle of friends and family. There are so many seekers who have come out of the woodwork during this perilous time, seekers who have much to discover in a teacher like you. But the best teachers, as you well know, are also the most astute students. I know few lifelong students quite like you. 


It pains me how impatient we have become as learners. We’ve long known the art and science of learning has been eroding, but it feels as though we have reached its nadir, don’t you think? Too much information and therefore too many “alternative facts”. Every opinion viewed as equal to every other; each “truth” weighed only in its relation to another “truth”, with little regard for context. Everything has become mere perspective. A Nietzschean nightmare. And as for what was once deemed the "noble pursuit of wisdom", one is almost embarrassed by the idea, compelled to mutter it under our breath with the hope nobody was listening. It’s become something ridiculous, the target of mockery, like some dude with a mullet at a skinheads rally.

Modern education being what it is, with students being pumped out of learning institutions like cars from a Ford assembly plant, the soul, once the principal of a liberal arts curriculum, has been relegated to the role of custodian. It was as inevitable as it appears irreversible. We occasionally run past this custodian, nearly tripping over his mop bucket, on our way to the door after the final bell, without even the courtesy of acknowledgement. As it was at the end of the last school year, when the pandemic caught our institutions with their pants down, we see how the student has essentially been left to his own devices, with no real tools to guide him. Our public education system (and its governing bodies) has been revealed for what it is: a cumbersome beast, explicit in its inequities, with numbing lack of foresight. And today, one week before the start of school, every decision seems to be driven by resolving the “how to” conundrums: how to navigate a Google classroom; how to schedule live and virtual lessons; how to properly disinfect desks and boots; how to ensure kids are effectively (and safely) babysat in unmanageable groups so parents can return to work and bring home a paycheque. YouTubeable solutions that will never get to the source of modern education’s core sickness. Right now, school administrators and teachers everywhere have before them THE most teachable moment of a lifetime, a once-in-a-generation opportunity: to return a deeper sense of meaning to education. Any hope for the future of our learning institutions lies in the way it addresses, from the very first day of class, the strangeness and mystery that shrouds not only the current moment, but of life in general. The ABCs, SATs, Accounting 101, and even Newton’s Laws of Thermodynamics can wait. Imagine a bold vision for education, where the soul is placed once again at the center of all learning. An education system that places What-For before How-To. Imagine it for our own sake, for the sake of our relationships, the sake of our environment begging us to STOP, take stock. The alternative, which we are living now, is dangerously off-course. That we will mindlessly march into the “new normal” and signal the cataclysm we are passing through with some modest behaviour modifications and prop switches (i.e. masks, hand sanitizers, virtual classes etc.) is to not pick up what life (and Nature) is putting down. Yet just another blip in history. I fear for the next generation of students, but trust they will be much more spiritually adaptive and progressive than ours, that they will take bolder actions.

Your views on the current state of polarization in the world, how so many of us are wilfully “turning away from what nourishes us, weakening our inner balance”, really hit home with me. As a political news junkie, I suffer unnecessarily from not taking what you prescribe—“filter the negative from the water that provides life.”  I too often- and with an intensity of masochism I barely understand- mesmerize myself for hours at a time before what you accurately note as the world’s “political play”, this chimera of players who come and go, and whose performances I can barely recall after they’ve left the stage. Watching the news today is not unlike watching a high school production of a Shakespearian tragedy. Macbeth made into an endless K-drama series. And if the world’s political play today wasn’t so tragic, we might recognize it as a farce. Being a junkie, particularly during a heavy news cycle, throws everything off-balance. It counters all the good I do each day to keep my mind and body healthy—all that good sleep (breathe through the nose!), exercise, meditation. 

    Oh well, I've always known I have so much to learn- possibly my only redeeming character trait. 

    Oh oh, I gotta go, serious business. Why Is This Happening? with Chris Hayes just came on...

I do hope you and the family will continue to keep safe and healthy, my dear Kelly. Send my love to them and your mum, whom I miss dearly. I look forward to the day I can hold you all in my always inadequate embrace.


Your Humble Karaoke Cowboy