“We are standing on the shoulders of giants” I hear this quote wayyyyy too often and its more than just words, right? That’s the problem I’ve noticed in my life. We are on the shoulders of giants, yes, but we are so scared to jump off! I was at Hyatts today and saw a rack of “quotable notables”. Not sure exactly what they were but they posed as paper cut outs of Edgar Allen Poe, Albert Einstein, and Shakespeare. Its beginning to bother me. I suppose I’ve reached the point where I’m tired of quoting people, and listening to opinions and critiques. I mean, we are good, like, REALLY good at talking. But that’s where our passion too often stops. We post a million quotes on facebook from Gandhi about taking care of the Earth and then say that we care. We talk about regret and unconditional love and quote beautiful passages from the bible or Lao Tzu or Buddha or Jesus or whomever and it doesn’t change anything.
I found there has to be a point where we stop quoting and start moving. Inspiration comes to us and then, when it comes, that’s when we have to fly like the baby chick jumping the nest. I’m not against inspiration and I’m not against quoting famous people. It’s the way inspiration has become a cyclical thing where we use it to feel good and then continue our lives as if a huge opening of awareness didn’t just happen. It’s a washing machine that’s stuck in a cycle. It just keeps spinning and spinning. Yes, we are trying to get our underwear clean but we have to physically stop the machine and take our clothes out to have some fresh, clean knickers. Wow, that’s a dumb metaphor. Anyways, do you get it, though?
That’s also a point of concern with academia. We are taught a canon of famous literature. Works that are perfect and untouchable and all we can do as ‘students’ is write a five paragraph essay to critique these great works. We learn to spit back information and voila! We are fine, young, brilliant students. But we lose humanity when we do this. Writing has the ability to make an individual vulnerable, honest, to contribute to the cultural awareness around them; basically, to allow us to see each other as human. And yet, this is something that is suppressed because human empathy cannot be graded, psychological wellness cannot be graded, what we contribute to the well-being of the community cannot be graded.
Unfortunately, it comes down to money. Teachers I’ve talked to must jump through hoops of Common Core standards and they end up in a position where they must force the five paragraph essay on their students. If grades are well, then the school receives more funding. Did I mention the Common Core was created by governors and senators? And so, we are perpetuating the very system we are fighting to change.
Instead of critiquing a work, perhaps we should be considering what we can do in our lives to reflect the beautiful poetry. Instead of quoting a genius, perhaps we should be standing as a pillar, as a forerunner in our lives. Inspiration is both an ending point and a starting point. When we are inspired, that’s the point to stop caring what people think. Also, however, that must be the point where we begin a new life, where we are the ones who stand as examples to inspire others. If we are vulnerable and honest, I believe the only person we should be quoting is ourselves.