Posts Tagged ‘call of duty’


October 4, 2014

Sometimes it does feel like our sailing and travelling adventure has come to a full stop. We have embedded ourselves to such a degree into the thick and sticky web of Swiss normality that at times I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to escape it again. But at closer inspection that is not the case at all. While thanks to my birthright we have had access to the ‘inner circle’, the cream of the society, we continue to live like flashy butterflies at the very edge of things. A row of shiny red and white flower petals serves as a garden bench from where we look in awe at the immense tapestry of the most frenetic activities imaginable that passes before our eyes.

While certainly at the mercy of modernity’s pulse with its slew of abstractions, the job of an educator is a timeless one, where the appearance changes continuously but its essence stays eerily still. The process of shaping human beings and equipping them with whatever they might need for their journey through the treats, tricks and travesties of life is a complicated affair, one that needs absolute dedication, but also one humongous degree of flexibility. There are times in the demanding trade of classroom showmanship when you have to follow strict guidelines, sometimes down to the very letter of the fine print, but at the same time you might find yourself directing a spicy confrontation with an unruly teenage spirit who happens to have no sense whatsoever of fitting into anything, and you must do that without losing any of your sympathy.

My students have the mandatory school years behind them but for one reason or another have not yet found a fitting place in the tightknit world of the adult workforce. Their peers have gone off to start an apprenticeship in a local business where they learn a profession by which they all hope to be able to earn enough financial security and bring up their own family. A few have even gone off to compete with the strenuous demands of higher education, where they will be tested to the core and only if found fit will have access to a material wealth inaccessible to the vast majority of the population. So the tenth school year is a curious kink in the educational landscape of the Canton Bern purposely built to catch the late bloomers to give them one last chance to jump on the bandwagon of an acceptable professional career.

I was fortunate enough to have landed on a kind of a bandwagon myself, being firmly embedded in a groove laid down by a long lasting family tradition. Both my parents were educated teachers and on my mother’s side the pedagogical trade goes back to at least one further generation. My grandfather was a happy chap with sparkling eyes and a very gentle soul, and always with a loving word for us back when we were kids. I remember him surrounded by clouds of exotic smelling smoke from his ever-present pipe at the yearly Christmas celebrations. He fought for social justice with intelligence and passion, and had a definite musical vein. I tuned my very flesh into his parting soul when doing night watches at the bedside as a freshman in college. There his tired body was withering away under the cruel menace of prostate cancer. Painfully slow the life force retreated from his desiccated body and far behind his glassy morphine saturated eyes a torch lit that has provided steady guidance for me through many a dark night.

But to say that teaching runs in our vein sounds a wee bit cheesy and some people would love to jump on that argument with revenge to decry the inborn arrogance in our family lines. The fact is that for the next six months I’ll have a dozen and a half youngsters under my wings and I’ll do twists and turns and many other spiritual circus acts to help them to the necessary tools for their survival in modern society’s merciless catch as catch can. A very complex task is awaiting me in those mottled school halls up on a hill at the outskirts of Langenthal and to round up this short reflection it will not at all be unlike the crossing of very vast and very wavy stretches of unruly oceans we have honed our skills at over the last five years or so. The sense of adventure must certainly prevail and guide my actions once the doubts will come and try to cloud my reasoning. Routine, as much as it is a requisite brought forth by the structure of an orderly educational institution, is the enemy of all living things. It must be broken up and transcended so that the necessary changes, like possible instant insights and raving revelations illuminating those growing minds, can play out freely unhindered by stiff rational limitations.

Adventure cannot be delegated to some remote island deep in the distant seas. It is the salt of life in every day’s doing and undoing. Lifting the chokehold of habit, normality and indifference the real purpose of our actions lies bare and visible, touchable, drinkable, breathable. Unsettle your self and let the drama of reality unfold, engage and expose, live and love, if you happen to know what I mean!