Release from Tutelage, Part II

Year of Release from Tutelage, Part II

By John Taylor; 2006 July 01

Yesterday we discussed the prime directive for year one of the principle planning decade, the involvement of everyone on earth in reflection, be it Ad Hoc and informal or some sort of regular meditation program incorporated into each of the subsequent planning years. Although the main activity of this year is ethereal contemplation that does not mean that there will not be concrete goals to aim for as the Liberation from Tutelage Year rolls around each decade. Indeed the goals of the more practical later years of the decade -- such as promotion of education and economic adjustment -- are not ends in themselves but means to one end: to free up time and energy in peoples' lives, to enable a modicum of happiness, health and leisure. Insofar as the examined life that Socrates and other great teachers modeled as the apex of human existence requires such a measure of well-being, filling practical goals will naturally serve the ends of this year of contemplation. But necessary as they are, they are not sufficient.

The sufficient condition of an examined life is a life-long, systematic investigation of truth. While a teacher cannot steer the specific direction of this search without compromising the student's autonomy and freedom, experience does show that an examined life can be taught, although primarily by example. That is why the promotion of the arts is a central goal of this year, and first among all arts, the theatre. Consider this testimony about the early development of one of the Twentieth Century's most influential seekers, Mohatma Gandhi,

"But on the whole the boy was not remarkable; according to his own testimony, at any rate, he showed no great aptitude for study. He was extremely shy through his early years and used to run to and from school to avoid talking to anybody. One episode of his childhood seems to have made a great impression: it was a performance he saw by a traveling dramatic company of the play Harishchandra, based on a great story in the Mahabharata epic. It narrates the sufferings and ordeals of a king of old who sacrificed everything for the truth. Only a few days before his death, Gandhi told me this story at considerable length. As a child he used to act out Harishchandra to himself, he said, "times without number." The idea of the truth as supreme good was thus early implanted, and was to become, in time, a central idea governing almost every region of his thought." (Vincent Sheean, Mahatma Gandhi, Reader's Digest Great Biographies in Large Type, Vol. 5, Pleasantville, NY, 1989, p. 12)

The world's major religions and cultures can offer dozens of stories of genius that can be made into plays similar to Harishchandra. These would be performed locally and in special venues internationally throughout the Year of Liberation from Tutelage. Like the religiously rooted theatre of Ancient Athens, attendance at the theatre festival would be obligatory; it would be the duty of every world citizen to support it, and most particularly those who would benefit from them the most, children and youths, would be obliged to attend.

Gradually a canon of the most effective and inspiring plays for annual drama festivals would evolve, but those that I would specially single out for the goals of Year One, the Year of Investigating Reality, are a series of plays that I propose be written and performed everywhere about the life and death of Socrates. These would include almost the entire text of Xenophon's Memorabilia, as well as special episodes treating of Plato's allegory of the Den, Plato's Symposium, and of course the trial and death of Socrates. All of philosophy, as has been famously said, is merely a set of footnotes to this great teacher's biography, so it is of capital importance that the main story to which the footnotes refer be made well-known to all possessors of a mind. Drama can carry this flame directly to each new generation while at the same time periodically reminding adults to come back and re-examine where their own lives and careers are taking them.

A major value coming out of this year is an appreciation for "quality time" alone and in silence. At the same time, though, this activity is useless unless lessons learned then are shared with others in constructive conversation. This means, broadly, allowing for more opportunities for dialogue in the average person's daily routine. I would therefore envision philosophers and animators "embedded" in the plays, who would immediately afterwards lead discussions and seminars with spectators. These would match make a mentoring program in reflection and meditation for younger spectators, of which I will speak more later.

The general goals of this year are more general and amorphous than most years. Possibilities that spring to mind are: To improve access to nature, since time spent in natural surroundings almost compels reflective thought; to beautify the built environment and guarantee a measure of rest, recreation and leisure as a fundamental human right; to increase the diversity of human contacts and the variety of recreational pursuits, and to improve friendships.

While all these are eminently desirable, a goal is not a goal unless it can be measured and assessed. What are the primary, most memorable measures of success for this year? Lists of statistics, important indicators that they may be, are not personal and dramatic enough. So the big question for the year of liberation from tutelage is: What can be taken as the prime indicator of a free thinking society? I am suggesting two things. One, a royal family as model, and two, a reduced number of human hours spent behind bars. Strange as it may sound, these two go together.

Every place should have a figurehead family to take the brunt of fame, to act as lightning rods of public opinion, to attend and bless public ceremonies and official functions, and thus allow officials and administrators to do their unglamorous jobs in peace behind the scenes. The American Presidency, which combines both roles, asks more of one person than is healthy or reasonable to expect of a mere mortal. The conflated job involves contradictory role playing, which only worsens the reputation of politicians as professional deceivers. Most important, the institution of monarchy has another, less obvious role relevant to the Year of Liberation from Immaturity.

Take the British royal family and their much publicized marriage difficulties throughout the Twentieth Century. These were not just personal tragedies, they raise an important question: If the royals, with all the prestige, wealth and all the human resources of society at their command cannot raise children who grow up to raise their own loving, happy, united families, what hope is there for ordinary families scrabbling for their daily bread? This question alone is enough to keep the likes of me in a quandary for an entire ten year cycle.

Let us imagine a royal family chosen in the first place for its success in working the meditation, the mystery plays and philosophical discussions of Year One. These would be busy, successful, famous people, but they would not, by definition, be the sort of celebrity who sacrifices personal relationships for career. Everything, the best and the worst, would be En Famille.

Once they are raised to royalty, all attention in regional media would center upon how the children in the royal family grow up, how they develop their own examined life -- and what does an examined life mean but constantly being examined, first by oneself, then by the body politic in the form of parents, and finally carrying one's own examinations, that is, rewarding and disciplining one's own children in turn? These children would be raised according to the best curriculum and program of rewards and punishments available. It would be dynamically updated by the world's best educators. Most important, it would all be in the public domain, so that any other family, no matter how poor, could easily follow along.

Here is where the second indicator kicks in. No lover of freedom can feel entirely free and easy as long as even one person in the world is enslaved or caged like an animal. A life squandered behind bars is a latent threat to freedom everywhere. And, needless to say, the best way to keep people out of prison is to avoid crime before it happens, that is, to educate the poorest along with the elite, to raise every child to be a just, law-abiding citizen. It is a good motto: "No child left behind." This would mean that every convict in prison (along with his family, preferably) will automatically have to undergo the same rigorous discipline program, the very examinations and sanctions that the heir to the throne bears under. To ask anything more or less than that would be hypocrisy on the part of all of us.

As the first family prospers and the number of inmates drops, individuals will be propelled a great distance along the path of happiness and an examined life. As that happens society will find itself every more solidly established in peace, freedom and prosperity.

John Taylor

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