Meditating on character building as an important aspect to being human, I recall how Buckminster Fuller is said to have valued “the power of personal integrity as a force in the world, available to each of us, that transcends our ‘position’ in life, our particular abilities and skills, and the specific circumstances in which we find ourselves.” Only such a force was “capable of steering humanity towards the realization of a world that truly works for everybody.”
Our culture has been teaching its own version of character for five thousand years according to David Korten. “Faced with the organizational challenge of dealing with growing population densities, our forebears made a choice for the dominator relations of Empire. A self-destructive era of warfare, greed, racism, sexism, and suppression of the higher orders of human consciousness followed.” (p.254) Do we want to pursue and teach our children to pursue the values of the Empire? Or do we want to pursue the values of a whole Earth Community?
Character building is about developing moral citizens. Morality is not something subjective as the modern era often claimed—it is about community, its survival and sustainability. It is about service, justice and compassion—not about passivity and taking for granted or hoarding.
Ernest Becker felt that some people “may be content to live in a scientific world, and only a scientific world—but most people also want to live in a moral world; and we know only too bitterly that so far science has hardly helped this broader ambition….What we need and have wanted…is nothing less than a solution to the problem of community, of social morality, of ordered society. This is the great abyss at the heart of modern life that opened up with the decline of the mediaeval cosmology….” (67)
John Lewis reminded us of what morality means in his final farewell op ed in the New York Times. There he praised protesters from “around the country and the world [who] set aside race, class, age, language and nationality to demand respect for human dignity.” Growing up amidst “government-sanctioned terror” as a child, he heard Dr. King say that “we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice” and how “each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out.” There he found his vocation.
Lewis urged the young to “also study and learn the lessons of history….the truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time.” A plea not to ignore the wisdom of our ancestors. He urged people to “answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe,” while laying down “the heavy burden of hate at last and let peace finally triumph over violence, aggression and war.” A Gettysburg address for our time. Short, simple, true and a road to character.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human, pp. 138-140.
Queries for Contemplation
Take a phrase from Lewis’s talk and be with it.
Let it wash over you and through and through you. Let it transform you.
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.