Puddles of Fun!
"Keeping knocking, and the joy inside will eventually open a window and look out to see who is there." - Rumi
Whoever came up with the expression, "no pain, no gain" needs to be summarily court-martialled. Okay, maybe not court-martialled, but certainly given a stern reprimand and a good long time out. This simple phrase has been the cause of incalculable suffering and come close to destroying one of our greatest resources of all - JOY.
If you doubt my contention, simply go to any playground where children are playing. Watch the intensity and joy with which they play - how they fling themselves headlong into games of tag, delight in splashing in puddles, building dams and rivers and pies from mud, how they will repeat an action or sing a tune countless times until some internal voice says, "I got it thanks. You can stop now." And while you're at it, notice their eyes. See how they sparkle, how focused, determined and committed they are to whatever they're doing, whether it's jumping rope, studying ants, or drawing a spaceship. Notice that falling down, scrapping knees and even getting the wind completely knocked out of them rarely stops them for long. Play is the most powerful form of learning and its fuel rods are joy.
Now contrast that scene with what is seen in classrooms around the world. Children squirming, stifling yawns, staring off into the space unable to concentrate, and so clearly bored and longing to be away that your heart aches. Every time I visit a classroom like this I want to fling the doors open and shout, "Run for your lives!"
The thing our education system seems to have forgetten is that children are born knowing how to learn. They are voracious consumers of life, and given half the chance will not only show you exactly the best way to teach them, but contribute some lessons of their own. A teacher's job should not be to impart wisdom from behind a lectern, dump data into brains so that it can be regurgitated on tests or ensure that every child learns the same thing on the same schedule. Instead, we need to be guides and co-travelers, helping each child discover and develop his/her unique abilities and gifts while learning some lessons of their own along the way.
You see, no one will ever convince me that we are here on earth to suffer, pay for sins, or justify our existence through self-sacrifice. I've heard Beethoven's 9th Symphony, stood in front of Van Gogh's sunflowers and swum with whales. I have witnessed how simple acts of kindness can change the life of a homeless person; known that all was right with the world while painting all night; and seen how a child's eyes light up when she realizes you want to hear her story.
Instead of no pain no gain, I believe we are here to remember who we really are, and that a big part of remembering involves allowing love, laughter and joy to infuse and inform our days.
I leave you with a simple but compelling message from some of the smartest people on earth - our children.
- Jena Ball
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