Thursday, April 10, 2008

Jesuits: Not Stupid

The Jesuit's famous motto for education is this: "Give me a child for his first seven years, and I'll give you the man."

Whenever I have a boring school-related function, I sit in my chair and ruminate on the profound truth in this statement.

Today, for instance, I attended an entrance ceremony at my Buddhist pre-school. There was a whole lot of speeches, chanting, gong-ringing, bowing, praying, more bowing, and incense. The priests' heads were shiny and freshly shaved (and waxed?). They wore brilliant persimmon robes.

Halfway through the ceremony, I glanced around the room. Nary a smile in sight. Not on the children, not on the well-dressed young mothers, not on the tight phalanx of be-suited video-camera wielding fathers, and not even on the priests! Nobody really looked like they wanted to be there, and yet all felt compelled to go through the motions.

Why do we torment ourselves like this? Why not take five minutes to say a prayer to Buddha, then bring out a clown to do a 20-minute act, pass out refreshments, and call it a day? EVERYONE would enjoy that about 1000 times more than a staid traditional ceremony, I bet.

My theory is that all our our weird traditions and social compulsions have been taught so early that they're completely hard-wired in our brain. Education and tradition trump practicality.

I'm not some sort of church-burning anarcho-nihilist, mind you, I just feel like we can acknowledge that our traditions are largely symbolic, and it would be much more satisfying for all involved if we minimized them a bit and emphasized ceremonies people actually want to attend. Who's with me on this?

I know this post is barely scratching the surface of a topic too vast for 100 books, but it's always on my mind after school ceremonies. What you've been taught in your childhood is who you are. But to what extent, and can we recognize and overcome that programming?

5 comments:

-d said...

And when you are across, will you continue to carry the raft on your head?

Sam said...

Kids need to be forced to sit through long boring things that they hate. It teaches them discipline and prepares them for the work force. Parents need to be there to set an example. Monks need to be there to make everyone feel guilty for not wanting to be there. It's all very important.

Nate said...

But who makes the monks feel guilty? WHO WATCHES THE WATCHMEN?

-gsss said...

Yeah, silly shock troops of the Reformation being onto something. Then again, Michael Apted took the phrase and ran with it in the 7up series...

Nate said...

When I saw your comment I thought "who the hell is...ah, 7-up. Gotcha."