Friday, July 20, 2012

Universal truth

"It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.” 


I have never regretted a moment under the sky; I have wasted far too many under fluorescent lights.

We are fascinated by our own noise, by our creations, by our feigned immortality. With all the noise today, with fewer private spaces left, a child has to work hard to see the universe.
(Pssst....you cannot see it through a monitor. You cannot smell it in a mall. You cannot hear it through a speaker. You cannot taste it through Doritos. You cannot feel it through a Logitech Rumblepad 2. You can immerse yourself in the human world, true, with all kinds of action to keep you busy until you die, but you'll miss out on the universe.)

We define progress by income, not happiness. We define knowledge by information, not wisdom. Most damning, we define ourselves in terms of other humans alone, erasing who we are, carved out from the clay, the air, the water, and the teeming life that lives on us, in us, through us, particles of matter dancing to the rhythm of the sun.
***

Mid-July, the edge of the bay is littered with horseshoe crab molts--thousands of these ancient critters are shedding their shells within a mile or two, pushing their way through a seam in the front, shedding their old skin.
The critters are still alive--these are just the molts.

This morning I collected a few for class, and also stumbled on a plastic toy giraffe, ridiculously bright under a slate gray sky. The giraffe was made in China, or so it says on its belly. I bet every child in our school could identify it. I bet only 1 in 10 could identify the horseshoe crabs.

What, really, can any of us know about a giraffe, a creature as foreign in these parts as a unicorn? Yet children love giraffes, not knowing it's our own images we've fallen in love with, each of us a Narcissus staring at our reflections on our screens.


Which can we know better, the horseshoe crab or the giraffe?

Narcissus could not see the life teeming below the surface of his reflection. Few of us even look today. Not one of us grasps the vastness of life that surrounds us--a spoonful of fertile soil defies our imaginations.

If teaching science matters in high school, it matters for this--we need to show our children that there exists a universe under the pool that shimmers with false beauty.

I love to show others where to find clams, literally beneath their feet, clams creating their hard shells out of seemingly nothing, taking in countless organisms themselves. Once a child has pulled a clam out of the muck, the mudflat becomes larger than the life the child once knew.

My clam skeleton graveyard, eventually used in the garden.

Before we plunge into STEM education, before we raise yet another generation unaware of where food comes from or feces go, we all need to take a few walks outside, under the sky, unplugged, away from the human noise we pretend means something.










8 comments:

Lauren Smith said...

Any suggestions for Pre-Kinder STEMS??

doyle said...

Dear Lauren,

I think the most important thing for the young'uns is to help let them see.

Grab a dandelion flower. It's yellow. Look closer, and you'll see hundreds of "T"'s making the flowerhead.

Or else just let them play with language and socialize. I am really starting to dislike the STEM push--it should be STEAM at teh very least. What's preK without art?

John T. Spencer said...

Some say that technology dehumanizes, but I've been thinking about it. It is deeply human to forget our humanity. It is deeply human to shoot toward the sky in a creative blaze and forget the terrestrial reality below.

The difference is this:

We used to have myths that kept us grounded. We forget about Icarus, stuck in our Babel babble. We think nothing of calling a board Activ and ignoring the very Promethean myth they claim to represent.

We miss engagement for entertainment. We toss around terms like connections and community without blinking once.

We need myths. Good myths. Ones that keep us grounded.

Anonymous said...

I had to go to youtube to find a video of the molting, ebcuase i anted to see what the de-shelled crab looked like. And underneath, there is - exactly the same thing. Only presumably - bigger. So here's a good pre-kinder question: how do you get a bigger crab shell inside a smaller crab shell? Should be good for the first 3 or 4 years of school.

Anonymous said...

oops sorry: typing has clearly gone west after I viewed the exciting video.

doyle said...

Dear John,

I think it may be peculiarly modern to forget our humanity, possible only in a world where we lie to ourselves about pretty much, well, everything.

Technology makes it very easy to lie to ourselves.

One reason we had the myths to explain what is ultimately unknowable.

Those who stay connected will always have myths that help hold communities together. If you don;t have a real community, a functioning iPad can be all you think you need.

doyle said...

Dear Anonymous,

That's a great question, one that can generalized.

In biology, if you need to put something bigger into something smaller, you fold it. Over and over again, that's the answer.

And the evidence for horseshoe crab "skin" folding? Look carefully at the shell of a horseshoe crab--see the mosaic pattern? The lines are where the exoskeleton was still folded before the molting took place.

I could be wrong, but at least the reasoning makes sense. Any limulusologists out there?

doyle said...

Dear Anonymous,

That's a great question, one that can generalized.

In biology, if you need to put something bigger into something smaller, you fold it. Over and over again, that's the answer.

And the evidence for horseshoe crab "skin" folding? Look carefully at the shell of a horseshoe crab--see the mosaic pattern? The lines are where the exoskeleton was still folded before the molting took place.

I could be wrong, but at least the reasoning makes sense. Any limulusologists out there?