Words and Pictures is a film about two high school teachers, one a painter struggling with the onset of rheumatoid arthritis, and one a writer, struggling with alcoholism. They become provocateurs of each other’s flagging creativity, and eventually end up falling in love. The film isn’t very strong so wait for the video. Even though I have a ton of respect for the leads, Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen, their characters are caricatures and the plot is predictable.
Still there was a scene that stayed with me. When the art teacher meets her new students she lets them know that she is not their friend. She is their teacher. She’s serious about art and she expects them to be serious as well. When she see the art of the most talented student, she acknowledges that it is a skillful work, but that it’s lacking heart. She can’t see the student’s soul being expressed. What she says, if I remember correctly is: “It’s not your best work.”
The student is devastated, but the teacher remains resolute. It made me cast my mind back over my life and ask who are the teachers who had the wherewithal to take me seriously enough to expect more from me? It saddened me that I couldn’t think of a single educational experience where a teacher cared enough to challenge me to “plus etre”, to more being. However, I do remember sports coaches who expected more from me. I remember my baseball coach, during one practice, when we were turning double plays, telling me that I simply had to find a way to put more velocity on the ball on my throw to first. That’s all I needed. Admittedly, I was a highly motivated athlete, but this particular coach conveyed, in every sport he coached, that he was expecting more from us.
Coaches, mentors, and teachers are not meant to be our friends. Their role isn’t to soothe our egos, but rather to push us to realize our full potential. In an evolutionary worldview, these people embody in personalized form, the sacred, evolutionary current that is aimed at more, deeper, and higher expressions of self and community. What is wanting to emerge is the New Human, what Jesus called the “son of the Man” or the child of the Human One.
Sadly, this is translated as the Son of man in the New Testament, which is both inaccurate and misleading. In orthodox Christianity, it became synonymous with the Son of God. But the Gnostics came closer to the true meaning of the metaphor (based on Ezekiel’s vision). Ezekiel had a vision that the one seated on the divine throne was in human form, incalculably beyond the existing human condition, but nevertheless functioning as an archetype of the true Human. The Human was divine. It seems that around the time of Jesus, this archetype was bursting forth from within the consciousness of the human species, and within Jesus himself.
The Human One, once seen and integrated, brought forth new powers to go beyond existing limitations of the human condition to bring forth the New Human, of which Jesus was a primary (but not the exclusive) exemplar. Jesus himself functioned as a catalyst ( teacher, mentor, or elder) to constellate this archetype in his disciples, and through his disciples the world. He wasn’t primarily a friend, he didn’t suffer fools gladly, he wasn’t particularly a friendly kind of guy. He took his disciples more seriously than they took themselves. We are to take each other far more seriously as embodiments of the New Human.
The teacher in the film I mentioned was not shaming her student. She was simply saying, “there is an untapped dimension within you, which until you access it and express it, you will never be fully human”, (and by inference, you will never realize your divine nature—made in the image of the Human One. Of critical importance is that the teacher followed up with the student by offering to resource her. She would show the student the way to access these untapped potentials. Jesus did the same. And if we’re serious about being evolutionary communities we need to start taking each other more seriously, and then resourcing each other to become the humanly divine beings which is our destiny.
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