“Turn and become like children” (Mt. 18:3)

I have lived a great deal among grown-ups. I have seen them intimately, close at hand. And that hasn’t much improved my opinion of them. ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

I had a philosophy professor back in 1989 who, more than any teacher I’ve had before or after, communicated a contagious sense of wonder with a striking interest in students’ thoughts. What amazed me most is that he had been teaching this same course, he told us, for over thirty years. To undergrads! That’s nearly miraculous.

At the end of the course, I thanked him for what I had learned and expressed to him how moved I was by his freshness in teaching. “It always felt like this was your first time exploring these ideas with us,” I said. Then I added, ”How do you do that?”

Whatever else he said to me in reply, the thing I remember most from his response was his sincerity. He said something like this: “Well, son, I think it’s really because I make certain to be around children as often as I can. They always teach me something new, and remind me how to learn. The key to all education is being willing to be surprised by the new. No matter how many times you explore some idea or thing, if you ask the right questions and are really open to it you can learn something new. Right?”

Then he said, “Remember I told you all Prince Myshkin in The Idiot said, ‘Children soothe and heal the wounded heart’? Do you remember what I said about that? What they really heal is our adult dullness and boredom. And our cynicism, which is really the gangrene that forms around dead wonder.”

Now THAT is a philosopher, a friend of wisdom.

One comment on ““Turn and become like children” (Mt. 18:3)

  1. Jennifer says:

    Ahhh….I love this line from “The Little Prince’! My favourite book of all time.

    Thank you for sharing this insight from your wonder-struck professor. It made me think about ADHD, and how often kids with ADHD are sooooo curious and wonder-driven to the ppint of ignoring social conventions like sitting still in class and listening when-I-just-thought-of-something-and-I-need-to-find-out-more-right-now-or-i-will-burst! And so anyone who has spent 12+ years in a traditional classroom now how this is stamped out or at least discouraged…i wonder if this is when the gangrene begins to set in.

    Adults with ADHD — if they haven’t had the wonder squashed out of them — are the sparkliest, wondering, ever-curious , shiny people. Not that ADHD is a cakewalk — it certainly poses significant challenges, and sociall they are often derided as big kids needing to grow up, but the wonder drive in them is such a gift. #blessed

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