Artwork by Carson Ellis

The initiated adult is one who learns to withstand uncertainty, embody ambiguity, and straddle paradox. In dreamwork, the ability to hold the tension of the opposites is essential. We let contradictions have out their mythical argument until paradox can be held—until harmony can be struck. Until a creative third solution has a chance at appearing.

But modernity is infatuated with binary thinking: we erect and uphold opposition in politics, religion, race, gender, and perhaps most insidiously, in education itself. We begin to educate our young people in the ways of exclusion from the outset, by teaching subjects as separate from each other with an emphasis on categorization. This is a quiet, insidious form of Othering that breeds in our mental processes. We teach that whatever category we are inside, it is different, and often superior, to those outside of us. Our entire socio-economic system of power relies on this kind of factional thinking.

Imagine an education system that does not treat subjects as separate but as belonging to each other. Contextualizing a topic within the greater whole creates a ‘point of entry’ for every type of learner. For example, in the reading of a children’s story, we also learn about and practice the illustration of images; the physical binding of the book; we learn about how a tree must be harvested to make the paper upon which the story is written; and study the impact the tree’s removal has on the rest of the forest; we learn then what it takes to grow a tree, planting one ourselves; and we make up a song to help our saplings take root.

A whole year of lessons and activities could revolve around this one cycle of learning. It would require us to be present through them all, lest we miss a link in the story. During this long-form learning, we’d be intimately engaged with the environment around us, to which we are naturally indebted. We would be more inclined to preserve, replenish, and express our gratitude. In this gratitude we would better understand our own belonging. We would see more clearly the particular ways in which we might be useful to our place and people, and we would share our own gifts with a humbled sense of where they merged with the larger dance of life.

Excerpt From: “Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home” by Toko-pa Turner