Erenlai - Displaying items by tag: school
Friday, 24 February 2012 15:20

Between progress and regression

We have a clear-cut idea of what the words “progress” and “regression” point to: a student’s marks are showing academic progress, or they indicate that he is regressing in his class ranking; economic indexes measure how much a country is growing or if it is entering recession; after a certain age, our physical and intellectual abilities are regressing… And so, we grade ourselves as we move up or down the ladder, and we measure accordingly other people, institutions and societies.

Grades, indexes and measurements are certainly useful tools. Still, they cut into reality in ways that sometimes make us blind to the complexity of the phenomena we try to assess. The very fact that my abilities are regressing can actually be a factor of maturation, of reconciliation with my personal history, my limits and my achievements if I peacefully come to terms with the transformations that age or illness impose on me. A country’s economic growth often goes with cultural and humane regression when it destroys social structure and community values. Academic tests are rarely able to assess the whole process of intellectual, moral and emotional growth that a student is undergoing. Life mixes into a whole progress and regression, as the chaff and the wheat grow together on the field. Better not to try to separate them before the time of the harvest…

Progress and regression only make sense within dynamic processes that change the one into the other - and conversely. A short-time regression often triggers long-term progress. This is the case when it comes to affective and emotional maturation: an affective setback often comes with a period of regression - the mind closes on itself, closes on its wounds. However, when and if subsumed, setbacks become a force for greater self-understanding as well as for nurturing empathy. The one who ignores setbacks and does not experience regressions runs the risk of seeing one’s success end up as one’s ultimate failure, as he has most probably lived an existence estranged from his true self.

Does it mean that progress and regression just equate? No. Ultimately, we are meant to strive for success. But the texture of success is much richer and subtler than we usually imagine. It is interwoven with the threads of our setbacks, failures and regressions, which also serve to compose the shades and nuances of one’s personal achievement. When life seems to be going downhill, let us take solace in the fact that we progress towards the realization of our true self in a way that is uniquely ours – and our ultimate triumph is the uniqueness we achieve throughout the struggles that will have shaped our life.

Illustration by Bendu


Tuesday, 17 January 2012 18:56

Studying or working: a choice always to be renewed

Is it better to further one’s study or to immerse oneself in a job? This question often haunts the new graduate. On the one hand, they are thrilled by the opportunities that their freshly acquired diploma brings with it: entering adulthood, earning an income, testing their skills at something concrete, exercising responsibilities, even if such responsibilities are modest in scope… On the other hand, they realize that they do not know much yet, that they may earn a bigger salary within a few years if they master extra knowledge and become more competent, that holding a job might soon appear to her more boring or stressful than remaining a student…  Deciding between Present and Future, between different kinds of gains and losses, and between different lifestyles is never easy, and can generate a lot of anxiety.

The new graduate may be comforted by a few thoughts:

-  First, this choice is much less final and binding than was the case in the past. Today, there are a variety of bridges that allow one to go from study to work and from work to throughout one’s professional path. Therefore, it is practical and beneficial to keep one’s intellectual curiosity always intact, and to remain ready to sacrifice one’s immediate interest at some point in order to re-enter the path of study and research.

- Work can reactivate one’s thirst for knowledge and investigation. Often, students lose interest in knowledge and research because of the way they were taught in high school or in university. Their drive towards practical and intellectual knowledge is reactivated through the problems and challenges they meet in real life: the very fact of being surrounded by technical wonders, complex social mechanisms, injustices and moral dilemmas makes one formulate anew questions that have been agitating the human mind since it undertook to both understand and master the world (while doing so through very diverse knowledge systems…).

-  New graduates may also be somehow comforted by the fact of knowing that finding the balance between study and work is a problem that plagues everyone until very late in life – till the end maybe: “Is it better for me to invest my energies into doing what I know I can do, and thus to be of immediate help to the people I care for and my family – or should I challenge myself to once again embark on the road of professional and intellectual improvement? And should I not chose to study and research just out of gratuitousness, whatever the advantages that come out of it?” Fortunately, the choice is not always so drastic, and professional life may offer time and resources for learning the trade and embarking on a progressive program of study.

So, finally, how is one to decide when confronted with such a choice? Basically, ask yourself how you feel about it. Is there in your heart a strong longing to go ahead on the road towards knowledge and research? Or does the idea of becoming someone active in society and receiving recognition for what you do reveal itself to be the most appealing choice for you right now?  If you can answer this question peacefully and without too much hesitation, just follow the desire of your heart. If not… let the answer formulate itself within your inner self. It will do so naturally, if you can avoid to be too overtly anguished by it. But always remember: when working, protect and nurture the flame of intellectual curiosity. When studying, do not close yourself in an ivory tower, and remain burnt by the desire to share with others what you are researching. And do remain aware that life will often renew the challenge, and will ask you again and again to come up with your own answer…

Illustration by Bendu

Thursday, 01 September 2011 00:00

Léo or the Letter and the Spirit

This story plays on the challenges for young children when they go to school for the first time. Mister Laflèche tries to help a pupil enjoy learning how to read and write on his first day. The letters are anthropomorphised, so as to exorcise the fear of the child. Each letter represents something meaningful for everybody, even if they are not involved directly in the western biblical culture. We have to go beyond contradictions that separate the living relationship (the spoken language) from the written language. Enjoy together with your mother, father, son or daughter.

Thank you to Nino Rota for the music and to Nick Coulson for the English translation


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