Monday, June 20, 2022

Philosophy in Action

I am not a scholar of philosophy. I was a government and religion double major at William and Mary. I never took a philosophy class. I have no memory of ever reading a secular philosophical text. Within the last few years, I have come to understand that the people in my life who I admired the most were all practitioners of Stoicism. None of them knew it.  I doubt if a single one of them had heard of Seneca, Epictetus, or Aurelius. Yet their actions, not merely their words, constantly demonstrated courage, wisdom, justice, and temperance.

I try very hard to teach through action instead of mere words. It is not always easy to do so, but I have to admit that having the eyes of so many young people boring holes into me does keep me focused on working to live an ethical life.

Often it bears out. Saturday we had a big event scheduled at the horse lot that was to be highlighted by having a professional sheep shearer come in to shear the sheep with modern equipment. Friday night we found out that she would be  able to make it out, through absolutely no fault of her own. I was concerned about rescheduling because of the amount of wool that some of the sheep had on them--too much wool to face summer heat waves.

I decided that we would assemble the sheep and explain to our guest that we would not be shearing but would be doing a presentation on the heritage breed sheep and their role in Colonial America. That was not a good solution to a teenager who believed that we had work to do and simply had to get it done. She thought that Tractor supply sold hand shears, or that maybe we could find some that Lydia owned that we had done a bit of work with, or that she would get out her sewing scissors if that was the best that we could do.

Tractor Supply had one set left. They held it for us as we rushed into town. We returned and the kids caught a Hog Island/Leichester cross ewe and gently laid her down on the blanket. Audrey got the kids in to hold the ewe down and showed them how the hand shears worked. The older kids even took a hand at using the shears. It was a tremendous learning experience. It was fun. It was hard work. 

Marcus Aurelius taught that the obstructions that are in our way can be turned into more than just something to be avoided. They can be turned into the path itself. They can be used to improve the road. As he phrased it, "The obstacle becomes the way."

And that is what happened Saturday. Instead of setting aside an educational opportunity we created a better educational opportunity. 

And at its best, that is how our program works. And at their best, that is how my young people work.

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