BY GERRY CHIDIAC
Lessons in Learning
The American rapper GZA hit the nail on the head when he said, “Live a life full of humility, gratitude, intellectual curiosity, and never stop learning.”
This is one of the greatest keys to happiness. No person has all the answers to life’s mysteries, yet each of us plays a part in solving the mysteries of life.
In my career as a teacher, and now as a writer, I am hopefully less a person who dispenses knowledge than one who draws out wisdom. In order to be a good teacher and editorial writer, I must be on a constant quest for truth. Though I know that I will never arrive at a complete understanding of the truth, each day I draw closer.
I have been a “social justice warrior”, in the least pejorative sense of the word, for my entire adult life. A definition of “woke” appeared in a 1962 edition of the New York Times. African American writer William Melvin Kelley told is it means, “well-informed, up-to-date.” That being the case, I hope everyone tries to be “woke”. If we did, we wouldn’t fall for the mythology of the corporate media or for fake news
I am very clear about what I want in life. I want a better world. I want a world where every child can grow up in peace. I want a world where no child is hungry. I want a world where every child can get the best healthcare and education possible. I want a world where every child can achieve their greatest potential.
I know that this will not be achieved in my lifetime, but I also know that “the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice.” I know that we can only draw closer to this goal if we continually seek truth, even when it is inconvenient. I know that humility is the only way to draw closer to truth. All of us are wrong sometimes, and that is okay.
We can only find the answers to the problems of the world if we are willing to humbly seek answers to our questions. Holocaust survivor and witness Elie Wiesel said, “In the word question, there is a beautiful word – quest. I love that word. We are all partners in a quest.”
I often tell my students that my goal is not to tell them what to think, my goal is to teach them how to think. I want them to always be asking how to make the world better and to recognize the essential role that each of them plays in achieving this goal. I do not know how that will be achieved, but I do know that it will take the collective effort of all people of goodwill. I see my students and readers as people of goodwill.
I am not naïve to the fact that there are selfish people in the world, that there are sociopaths who care only about the accumulation of wealth and control. I also know, however, that the collective conscience of good people, who make up the vast majority of humanity, is much more powerful.
It is therefore essential to understand the anatomy of genocide. All pain inflicted on our neighbours, from bullying to harassment, from corruption to genocide, begins with the same mindset. If we are willing to ask uncomfortable questions, we can understand this mindset and we can recognize it. Then we can effectively respond to it and remove the threat.
That is the answer my quest has brought me to thus far.
Each of us is on a journey. If we have the humility to challenge our worldviews, if we can listen to others and assess their perspectives in the quest for truth through continual learning, we can find the solutions to the problems of a troubled world. In doing so, we find meaning and happiness.
Gerry Chidiac is an award-winning high school teacher specializing in languages, genocide studies and work with at-risk students. Check out his website here. Find him on Facebook. Or on Twitter @GerryChidiac