Impossible yet Indispensable


 Goethe tells of a Greek nobleman who was asked about the education of his children. ‘Let them be instructed,’ in that which they will never be able to learn.’ (Erich Heller, The Disinherited Mind)

 What is it that is impossible to learn and yet must be? What is unlearnable and yet indispensable? What is impossible and yet a Divine imperative?

 I believe that what is called impossible to learn but crucial to realize, is the transcendent realm or dimension - the dimension of spirit beyond the mind and senses.

 This transcendent domain is not ascertained by ordinary ways of knowing or seeing, or a conventional education.

 No. An extraordinary something else - some other approach - is required in order to come into the realm of the impossible, the unlearnable - to come into what has often been called, the realm of unknowing.

 I believe that the something else required - what will make all the difference - is the development of a certain inner capacity.

 Which is what Plato said is the goal of education. The goal of education is to acquire the ability to perceive the beatific vision. Which is the vision of ultimate reality - the domain of ultimate beauty.

 The fully educated person is someone who recognizes this transcendent realm. He has perceived the existence of an unknown or other world - a deeper or adjacent world. 

 Now, if this inner development does not occur - if one’s education is merely ordinary or conventional, then you can expect that there will be no understanding of the German nobleman’s point, or Plato’s. 

 And you won’t even care that you've missed this point since, if you’re like a lot of folk, you are too busy with all of your diversions, distractions and escapades, to have thought much about it. Caught up in everything but the search for transcendence, one's ability to behold the essential is torn apart. And thus fragmented, we see only fragments. Being partially aware, we see partial reality. We see only bits and pieces and miss the greater Whole.  

 Now, the ability to recognize that transcendent dimension, that unlearnable level of unknowing depends - I believe the nobleman is saying - not so much upon specific instruction given, but upon a certain inner attainment that enables perception. In other words, the quality of one’s inner life is pivotal. Its development is the one thing needful. 

 A proper education will therefore produce children who possess rich inner lives and who show it by being open-hearted and discerning. Properly educated, these children are able to discern the difference between truth and lies - between the real and the unreal.

 Specifically, the educated child is one who is able to perceive the noumenal realm beyond the phenomenal one. She is as well highly cognizant of what activities lead to the life-giving awareness of the noumenal realm and steers clear of anything that could block this crucial level of awareness.

 Educated children will invite into their lives those things through art, books, and music etc. that stir an awareness of the noumenal realm. And will, if taught well - hate anything that blocks or thwarts this enlivening awareness.

 These blessed children will understand the teachings of the great sages and seers that there is no clear seeing or understanding without the awakening of the heart.

 For it is only the pure in heart who are able to perceive the Ultimate, the Absolute. How blessed are the pure in heart, said Jesus, for they shall see God.

 Now, the quote about teaching the children what is impossible for them to learn, comes from the great 18th century German poet and scientist, Goethe, who was deeply disturbed that the full grandeur and wonder of reality had been eviserated of its deeper meaning by science, which was having the effect of reducing reality to particulars only and was leaving out the spiritual dimension. 

 His effort was to bring back the awareness of the mystery and wonder of the spiritual dimension at the heart of all.

 Now, it is this realm of the unlearnable and yet indispensable, which Jesus came preaching. He called it the kingdom of God, which was a spiritual realm, not a worldly one.

 Which was something of a let-down to those who wished to create a very this-worldly revolution.

 The angry mob at the trial of Jesus expressed their disappointment by shouting for the release of Barabas, the insurrectionist hero, and the crucifixion of Jesus, the other-worldly teacher.

 Jesus had looked lame compared to the action hero, Barabas, as he spoke about some mysterious (impossible) realm or kingdom of God.

 Jesus had explicitly stated that His kingdom was not to be found by exclaiming: 'Lo here! or Lo there!' For, as he said, 'the kingdom does not come about through observation.' It’s on another level entirely. 

 It is this other level that is almost inevitably left out of all business or public relations, according to the Irish poet/philosopher John O’Donohue.

 What you get so often instead is the ancient art of sophistry. 

 Sophist practice then and now is all about getting you to focus on what is possible - on what you must do to get ahead - how you must learn to sell yourself - in order to be a big success. 

 You learn at the success seminar about what ultimately will be of no value to you, but which at the seminar seems like everything.

 And so you embark upon the road to success - measuring your identity in worldly terms, leaving out entirely the spiritual dimension. 

 I have a friend who told me that she was at some success seminar and that at one point everyone had stood up to shout together something like: "Yes we can!” or, 'We can do it!’ as she sat there cringing - bless her.

 She couldn’t get with the program. Which is why she’s my friend. 

 Something protected her from all of the shenanigans - a higher knowing - from joining in with the loudly bleeting herd. 

 It was, I think, her acute awareness of that impossible realm - unlearnable yet indispensable - that saved her from going off the cliff, lemming like, with the crowd around her.

 She hated the success seminar. She couldn’t stand to hear anymore about the emphasis upon all of the goals, purposes and programs for everything. 

 She couldn’t stand to be where there were big screens, charts, endless hand-outs and loud music.  

 She had to get away from what amounted to a whole lot of razzmatazz -where there was a lot of painfully enthusiastic talk about nothing. Everyone at the success seminar together looking at the shadows on the wall of Plato’s cave, listening to the sophist cheerleader bloviating with wild enthusiasm about what is distinctive about each shadow. That greater reality - the realm of the impossible, that domain of light beyond the cave, left completely out of the picture. 

 The most vital dimension, the level of unknowing, the level of the unlearnable, left out of the proceedings entirely. What matters most, in other words, entirely ignored.

"I knew in my heart that something was missing,” when I used to lead this kind of success seminar, confesses Ron Satrape, a Pastor. "I was more of a success monger than a shepherd.” 

 His motivation? "My own need for significance guided me.” 

 My point then is to say that it’s an art to perceive the impossible, unlearnable, and yet life giving and indispensable realm. 

 The German nobleman wanted his children to be aware of that dimension, more than anything else. 

 And it seems to me, too, that the true and the best teacher, parent or friend, is aware of this impossible yet indispensable realm and is inspired by it.

 Such great beings are inspired by the impossible and wary of the focus on the possible! 

 These never forget about that transcendent dimension, so aware are they of That which exists beyond all facts, figures and calculations.

 In our best moments of insight "we learn with great joy," says Professor Louis Markos, that "there is a faculty within us that is greater than nature.

 My point is to state that the development of that capacity, that faculty of awareness, is the most important aspect of our education.

 Themis, Mathias Grassow & Jiri Mazanek, Music Infinity meets Virtues