About 200 years ago in North America
people were avid readers and debaters.
Almost everyone could write and read,
including North Carolina.
In 1835, the English politician Richard Cobden announced that there was six times as much newspaper reading in the United States as in England.
And they are said to have grown
and have learned
from their daily debates at the common breakfast table.
As children of the most literate nation on earth,
they learned to read well, as early as five to eight years old,
and they read what everybody else read,
complex and relevant and allusive, news and novels and poems,
despite a lack of schooling,
despite of working
in the coal mines.
Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day.
In all this hardship and extreme working conditions
they did not lack meaning,
they did not have to choose between a plastic toy and a tablet.
They did not suffer the Imposter Syndrome.
Sam Blumenfeld wrote in his book, The New Illiterates: One day she found her three-year-old working his way through a text alone at the kitchen table, reading S-am, Sam, m-an, man, and so on. »I had just taught him his letter sounds. He picked the rest up and did it himself. That’s how simple it is.« said his mother.
In 1867 an eight-year old girl wrote: »I’m a trapper in the Gamer Pit. I have to trap without a light and I’m scared. I go at four and sometimes half past three in the morning and come out at five and a half past. I never go to sleep. Sometimes I sing when I’ve light, but not in the dark, I dare not sing then.« John Taylor Gatto, New York City Teacher of the Year 1989, 1990 and 1991, commented: »She could write so eloquently with no formal schooling at all.«
Then, during the Second Industrial Revolution
with the advent of forced schooling
all over the world
as a next step
forests became wood yards
fish became fish stocks
humans became human resources
they learned to be perfectly indifferent to all that.
Instead of in the coal mines
they learned to spend their days
in brightly lit pits,
in front of brightly lit panels,
inside ergonomically shaped workstations,
still convinced of what was required,
afar from the rhythms of nature.
They learned to distrust each other,
and were conscientious enough
to give each other good reasons to do so.
They learned to do work that had no meaning to them,
and buy things because someone else said
„I bought that too!”
They lived in an endless search for meaning
But the pain just kept flaring up,
no matter what they tried.
despite all the hard work
and all the discipline
and all those tears
and all those sacrifices
it looks like as if the floods and the wildfires can’t be stopped
and as if the honey bees and the birds and the fish are not making their comebacks
and as if
and most other creatures
might not even survive 50 more years.
Should we go ahead?
Or should we change?
What should we do?
Whom should we ask?
While waiting for an answer, as a next step,
why not allow ourselves to feel again,
to read again,
to love again,
to trust again,
to care for others and help them heal,
as this is the thing we humans can do
honey bees can make honey,
and clams can clean water,
and fish can swim and birds can fly.
and start with lying down on the belly.
And roll one leg to draw up its knee,
and let everything else respond
and take it from there.
A simple, somatic lesson in crawling.
Why not find out
– discover –
that we are not born as blanks,
that we don’t have an empty hard drive for a brain and for a soul
on which just about anyone
just about anything.
With a gentle bend of a knee,
and a roll of the pelvis,
and a push with one hand,
and a turn of the head,
we can reconnect, and recollect
We might even allow the fish stocks to grow back,
and the honey bees to be just bees,
and the wildlife to have their mountains and plains and rivers and forests.
It might be as simple as that.