Character: Another “C” on the Way to Being Fully Human

We are addressing the question, “What does it mean to be human?” and we are approaching it by journeying through the “10 C’s” that I laid out in my book on education, fourteen years ago and utilized with considerable success working with inner city teenagers in our YELLAWE program.  Since that program was developed within a context of a public school system in Oakland, California, we needed to share a value system that did not rely on religious language as such.

Youths in the Chicago Wisdom Project, the next-generation program building on YELLAWE principles.

So far we have considered the following C’s: 

1. Critical thinking
2. Courage
3. Cosmology/Ecology
4. Chaos

I should add that these teen-agers had what I called “PhD’s in chaos.”  Their lives were anything but tranquil, few lived in a home with two parents or even one.  A number lived with uncles, aunts, a grandparent, or friend or on the streets.  I marveled that they showed up to class regularly and in good spirits—at least the good spirits would come out in their creative work in the class.  

A short documentary by a YELLAWE student on her interest and connection to martial arts. Uploaded to YouTube by YELLAWE.

The work of these young people was an inspiring testament to their growth in courage, critical thinking, and ability to be creative in the midst of chaos.

Fast forward to the passing of a beloved elder who navigated with courage, dignity, and grace through chaotic and historic times. The death and commemoration of the life of John Lewis has fed our entire culture with appreciation for the courage and commitment of this good man.  Many people have described him as a “saint” and it is a beautiful thing to hear wonderful stories as were shared yesterday by people who knew him well at his final memorial service.  Also to read the farewell letter that he went to all of us, knowing he was dying.  We all feel better for drinking in the nobility of John Lewis these days.

Good Morning America covered the tributes offered at Congressman John Lewis’ funeral by former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.

In demonstrating his nobility, he reminds us all of our own.  He was courageous from the time he was a very young man and committed himself to a just cause that he knew well would not be an easy path to travel.  It was a noble path and like his mentor, Dr. King, he negotiated it bravely.  He learned patience and he learned gentleness, but he also learned proper impatience and, as he put it, making “good trouble.”  This man was a man of Character.  That is another of the 10 C’s that are part of our understanding of what it means to be human.

Stephen Colbert and John Batiste reflect on John Lewis as a model of conscience, holiness, joy…and fun. Uploaded to YouTube by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

What is becoming clearer and clearer to me, when I meet or meditate on leaders of the civil rights movement such as Rosa Parks, MLK Jr., Fred Shuttlesworth (whom it was my honor to meet and work with in person), Howard Thurman and Mrs. Thurman (whom I also met in person), or John Lewis, is that the civil rights movement produced a generation of saints.  Holy people.  People of courage and character and generosity who remind us all of the nobility of our species.

Black lives not only matter.  They also often beam with a radiant light that is god-like and remind us all what it means to drink from the Source and to live generously.  Thank you, John Lewis, for being a reminder of what it can mean to be a fully human being.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human.

Banner Image: An activist invokes the words of John Lewis as public viewing hours end for his lying in state at the U.S. Capitol. Photo by Victoria Pickering on Flickr.

Did you watch John Lewis’s memorial service or read his farewell op ed in which he offered his praise for the new generation’s resistance efforts?  Do you get moved by the sense of nobility he gave witness to and that includes all of us?

The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human

The A.W.E. Project reminds us that awe is the appropriate response to the unfathomable wonder that is creation… A.W.E. is also the acronym for Fox’s proposed style of learning – an approach to balance the three R’s. This approach to learning, eldering, and mentoring is intelligent enough to honor the teachings of the Ancestors, to nurture Wisdom in addition to imparting knowledge, and to Educate through Fox’s 10 C’s. The 10 C’s are the core of the A.W.E. philosophy and process of education, and include: compassion, contemplation, and creativity. The A.W.E. Project does for the vast subject of “learning” what Fox’s Reinvention of Work did for vocation and Original Blessing did for theology. Included in the book is a dvd of the 10 C’s put to 10 video raps created and performed by Professor Pitt.
An awe-based vision of educational renewal.Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.

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