Tagged teaching

“Blurtso has another scone”

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These look delicious! said Blurtso to the cook who had just made a batch of scones. Mmm, said Blurtso, biting into the steaming pillow that was dripping with honey. The cook frowned, and continued to frown as Blurtso enjoyed the scone. I think I’ll have another, said Blurtso, biting into a second steaming pillow and letting the honey trickle down his throat. The cook scowled with a glance of hatred and fury. That calls for another, said Blurtso, taking and eating a third, and a fourth, and a fifth. And on it went, Blurtso eating and the cook scowling, until Blurtso reached the last scone which he plopped into his mouth and finished in one bite. Mmmm, said Blurtso, licking the honey off his mouth and hooves. Fine! shouted the cook, picking up the empty plate and throwing it against the wall. Now, what will you give me?! What will I give you? said Blurtso, still licking the honey from his hooves… I will give you the understanding that your reluctance to share, is more selfish than my insistence to take.

“Weohryant University” (XXVII) – Who 101

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Today’s question, said Harlan, is “Who ate the last piece of pie?”
I didn’t do it, said Emma Lou.
Neither did I, said Frank.
Why is the last piece, said Morton, more important than the first?
Or any of the other pieces? said Emma Lou.
That’s a good question, said Frank.
It’s not polite, said Chelsea, to eat the first piece, and it’s greedy to eat the last.
If you didn’t get one of the earlier pieces, said Morton, it’s not greedy to eat the last.
That’s true, said Chelsea.
Who determines what is polite, said Frank, and what is not?
Baldassare Castiglione, said Glouster, wrote a book in the sixteenth century called, Il cortegiano.
Il what? said Morton.
Il cortegiano, said Glouster, is a book that describes how an educated person should behave in Renaissance Italy.
A book that defines courtesy? said Chelsea.
“Courtesy,” said Glouster, is “behavior marked by polished manners or respect for others.”
Respect for others? said Frank. That takes us back to “love thy neighbors” and the Upanishads.
Everything that’s worthwhile, said Emma Lou, takes us back to “love thy neighbors.”
Does Il cortegiano say who gets the last piece of pie? said Morton.
No, said Glouster, but it gives an outline of courteous behavior.
There’s not much of that around, said Chelsea.
Courteous behavior? said Glouster.
Yes, said Chelsea, just this morning I was crossing the street—in the crosswalk—and a truck honked me off the road.
I know what you mean, said Morton, I always say hello to people at the bus stop, but they look at me like I’m crazy.
Maybe they’ve never seen a talking donkey, said Frank.
That’s possible, said Morton.
What is Catiglione’s definition of courteous behavior? said Emma Lou.
Castiglione, said Glouster, says that a courtesan should be familiar with classical literature, skillful in athletic competition, adept in writing poetry, able to play musical instruments, accomplished in painting, conversant on philosophical themes, and knowledgeable and graceful in dance; and should be able to do these things with “sprezzatura.”
Gesundheit! said Chelsea.
Thank you, said Glouster, that was very polite, but I didn’t sneeze. “Sprezzatura” is the art of making difficult things look easy.
How do you do that? said Morton.
Practice, said Glouster.
Oh, said Morton.
Can we practice being courteous? said Chelsea.
Yes, said Emma Lou, let’s!
Well, said Glouster, we’re already reading classical literature, so we don’t have to do that, but we’ll have to start practicing sports, poetry, music, painting, and dance.
I love to dance! said Chelsea.
O.k., said Glouster, you can teach dance.
I can whistle and chirp, said Frank.
O.k., said Glouster, you can teach music.
I have a rhyming dictionary, said Emma Lou.
O.k., said Glouster, you can teach poetry.
I can draw circles with my hoof in the sand, said Morton.
O.k., said Glouster, you can teach painting.
How about moose? said Chelsea.
Moose can teach sports, said Glouster.
What will you teach? said Frank.
I’ll teach philosophy, said Glouster.
I can hardly wait to be a courtesan! said Emma Lou.
Me too! said Chelsea.
So what’s the answer, said Frank, to the original question.
The original question? said Chelsea.
Yes, said Frank, “Who ate the last piece of pie?”
The answer, said Morton, is that it’s time to bake a new pie.

“Weohryant University” (XXVI) – How 101

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Welcome, said Pablo, to “How 101.” Today’s question is, “How are you?”
I’m fine, said Chelsea.
So am I, said Morton.
Me too, said Emma Lou.
I’m a little thirsty, said Frank.
So am I, said Glouster.
Now that you mention it, said Morton, I’m a little hungry.
So am I, said Frank.
I’ve got an itch behind my left ear, said Chelsea.
My right front paw is a little sore, said Emma Lou.
Do you think my tail is too short? said Morton.
My feet are too big, said Glouster.
Your tail is longer than mine, said Chelsea.
My quills aren’t very shiny, said Emma Lou.
My feathers are shiny, said Frank, but my beak is too sharp.
I wish I could swim, said Morton.
I wish I could fly, said Chelsea.
I sink like a stone, said Morton.
I float, said Emma Lou, even when I try to dive.
I think I have a sty, said Frank, in my left eye.
My paw is sore, said Emma Lou.
My back is stiff, said Morton.
One of my feathers is split, said Frank.
My left ear is bothering me, said Chelsea.
I suppose we’re all one day closer to death, said Glouster, than we were yesterday.
Yes, said Emma Lou, that’s true.
What was the question? said Morton.
The question, said Glouster, was “How are you?”
I’m fine, said Morton.
So am I, said Chelsea.
Me too, said Emma Lou.
I’m a little thirsty, said Frank.
So am I, said Glouster.

“Weohryant University” (XXV) – Who 101

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Welcome to “Who 101,” said Harlan. Today’s question is “Who’s responsible?”
Responsible for what? said Morton.
I didn’t do it, said Emma Lou.
Neither did I, said Frank.
“Responsible,” said Glouster, means “being the cause or explanation; able to answer for one’s conduct and obligations; able to choose between right and wrong;” and, “marked by accountability.”
It’s not always easy to choose between right and wrong, said Chelsea.
Why not? said Frank.
Because what’s wrong for me, said Chelsea, may be right for someone else.
Like what? said Morton.
Like the color green, said Chelsea.
The color green? said Frank.
Yes, said Chelsea, the color green looks terrible on me, but it might look lovely on someone else.
Sometimes it’s also difficult, said Emma Lou, to answer for your conduct.
What conduct? said Frank.
Instinctive conduct, said Emma Lou. How can you answer for actions that are performed without thinking?
That’s true, said Morton, when I see a pumpkin pie, I can’t be held responsible for my conduct.
Or a shiny worm, said Frank.
Or a minnow, said Glouster.
Is there anything for which we can be held responsible? said Chelsea.
We can be held responsible for how we treat our friends, said Frank.
What about our enemies? said Chelsea.
Jesus, said Glouster, said we should love our enemies.
He didn’t mean cats, said Frank.
What if our enemies want to hurt us? said Chelsea.
An “enemy,” said Glouster, is “someone who is antagonistic to another, often seeking to injure, overthrow, or confound an opponent.”
You can love your enemy, said Emma Lou, without loving what they do.
Maybe you can convince them, said Chelsea, to act differently.
Yes, said Glouster, to act responsibly.
Even if that responsibility goes against their instincts? said Morton.
Maybe, said Emma Lou, responsibility can inspire us to alter our instincts so we can get along with others.
That, said Glouster, is called “social responsibility.”
“Social responsibility?” said Morton.
Yes, said Glouster, the responsibility that enables societies to exist, that enables individuals with different desires to live in harmony.
I like social responsibility, said Morton.
So do I, said Chelsea.
I don’t think cats are capable, said Frank, of social responsibility.

“Weohryant University” (XXII) – What 101

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The question for today’s class, said Blurtso, is: “What is the difference between sympathy and empathy?”
Sympathy and empathy? said Morton.
“Sympathy,” said Glouster, “is a relationship between persons or things wherein whatever affects one similarly affects the other.”
And empathy? said Chelsea.
“Empathy,” said Glouster, “is the capacity for experiencing as one’s own the feelings of another.”
That sounds like the same thing, said Frank.
Both words, said Glouster, come from the Greek word, “pathos,” meaning, “suffering, emotion, passion.” In Greek “sym” means “with” and “em” means “in.” So sympathy is “suffering with” another, while empathy is “suffering in” another.
I still don’t understand, said Morton.
Isn’t that the same as compassion? said Emma Lou.
“Compassion,” said Glouster, is “sorrow or pity aroused by the suffering of another.” It is derived from the Latin words “com” or “with” and “passion” or “suffering.”
So “compassion,” said Emma Lou, is the Latin equivalent of the Greek word “sympathy.”
Exactly, said Glouster.
That still doesn’t tell me, said Morton, the difference between sympathy and empathy.
Both words, said Glouster, imply a relationship, or “oneness” between the subject and object, between the “sympathizer” and the other.
Just like in the Upanishads, said Emma Lou, and the Tao Te Ching. Both books talk about the oneness of all things, that separation is just an illusion.
The gospel of Matthew, said Glouster, says “love your enemies.”
Does it say you and your enemies are one? said Emma Lou.
Not exactly, said Glouster, but it goes on to say, “I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
That’s pretty much the same thing, said Chelsea.
The gospel of John, said Glouster, says, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Isn’t that compassion? said Chelsea.
“Compassion,” said Emma Lou, is feeling someone else’s pain as your own. The way to do that is not to see others as separate from you.
One hundred fourteen of the one hundred fifteen verses of the Quran, said Frank, begin with “In the name of Allah the compassionate, the merciful…”
Ommmm, said moose.
What? said Glouster.
I think he said “Ommmm,” said Frank.
Ommmm (phonetically “aum”), said Emma Lou, is from the Upanishads, it is the monosyllable which contains all syllables and all sounds. It represents the oneness underlying multiplicity—the non-duality of “Brahman” beneath the dualism and illusion of “Maya.”
The illusion of Maya? said Morton.
The illusion that we are not all one, said Emma Lou.
So compassion, said Frank, is recognizing—beyond the illusion of separation—that we are all one?
Exactly, said Emma Lou.
I still don’t understand, said Morton, the difference between sympathy and empathy.
Think of it this way, said Glouster. When someone is suffering because of a specific situation, but you have not experienced that situation yourself, you can only sympathize with them, but if you have experienced that same situation, you can empathize.
That’s very confusing, said Chelsea.
Yes, said Morton, I feel exactly the same way.

“Weohryant University” (XIX) – Where 101

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Today’s question, said Harlan, is: “Where did it go?”
Where did what go? said Chelsea.
It was here just a minute ago, said Morton.
I didn’t take it, said Emma Lou.
Neither did I, said Frank.
Do you mean “ubi sunt”? said Glouster.
Ubi sunt? said Morton.
“Ubi sunt,” said Glouster, is Latin for “Where are they?” It comes from a Latin poem that begins, “Ubi sunt qui ante nos in mundo fuere?” which translates: “Where are they who, before us, existed in the world?” It was a common theme in medieval poetry, and was most famously expressed by the French poet, François Villon who asked, “Où sont les neiges d’antan?” or “Where are the snows of yesteryear?”
The snows of yesteryear? said Morton.
I don’t like snow, said Chelsea.
Neither do I, said Frank.
I don’t mind it, said Emma Lou, so long as I’m not far from my den.
Why would anyone worry about last year’s snow? said Morton.
It’s a metaphor, said Glouster, for all the things you’ve lost in your life.
Lost? said Chelsea.
Yes, said Glouster, the things you had in the past that you no longer have.
The things I’ve eaten? said Morton.
Yes, said Glouster, and the friends you’ve lost, and your lost youth.
My lost youth? said Chelsea.
Yes, said Glouster.
I’m not going to lose my youth, said Chelsea.
Of course you are, said Glouster.
Really? said Chelsea.
Yes, said Glouster.
In that case, said Chelsea, I don’t like “ubi sunt.”
Crows live forever, said Frank.
They do? said Morton.
Sure, said Frank, crows, or “ravens”, and nightingales, and even some other birds.
Are you sure? said Morton.
Yes, said Frank, just ask Edgar Allen Poe and John Keats.
Who are they? said Chelsea.
They are poets, said Frank, who wrote about birds who live forever, birds who travel from heaven to earth to hell and then back again.
Have you been to heaven and hell? said Chelsea.
No, said Frank, not yet.
I don’t want to go to hell, said Morton.
Heaven and hell, said Glouster, are metaphors for, “the realm of the dead.”
I don’t want to go there either, said Morton.
Maybe, said Chelsea, that’s where the “ubi sunts” are.
I know a song, said Frank, about “ubi sunt.”
What’s it called? said Chelsea.
It’s called “The Ashgrove,” said Frank, and it has a blackbird in it.
How does it go? said Chelsea.
I don’t remember all the words, said Frank, but it’s about a woman who loses her lover and looks for him in an ashgrove.
Does she find him? said Chelsea.
No, said Frank, he’s buried beneath the green turf.
Is that a metaphor for “the realm of the dead”? said Morton.
Yes, said Frank.
Why doesn’t the blackbird, said Chelsea, fly to the realm of the dead, talk to the dead lover, then return and talk to the woman so she can have a sense of closure?
That’s a good question, said Frank.
What’s closure? said Morton.
Closure, said Chelsea, is talking with your ex-lover until you have nothing more to say.
Why would you want to do that? said Morton.
Because, said Chelsea, if you say everything you have to say, you can stop thinking about him when he’s gone.
So he doesn’t become an “ubi sunt”? said Morton.
Yes, said Chelsea.
I would like to be an “ubi sunt”, said Emma Lou.
So would I, said Glouster.
Why? said Chelsea.
Because, said Glouster, I don’t want to be forgotten.
Being forgotten, said Emma Lou, would be like a second death.
Maybe it’s a good thing, said Morton, for people to go around asking “ubi sunt?”
Why? said Chelsea.
Because, said Morton, it keeps the dead from dying.

“Weohryant University” (XVIII) – What 101

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As you answer today’s question, said Blurtso, I would like you all to remain completely silent. The question is: “What is that sound?”

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That’s all for today, said Blurtso.