Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Words of En-LIGHT-enment from Thomas Jefferson

Malcom Gladwell's What the Dog Saw, a collection of his essays for The New Yorker, was one of my favorite reads this summer. He has a gift for taking an every day problem, turning it on it's head and finding connections between his subject and something that seemed a world apart just a few paragraphs before. Then he draws a thought provoking conclusion one can mull over for days.

In one of his essays, he wrote about an unusual plagiarism case involving himself and a playwright with his usual incisiveness. This quote from Thomas Jefferson is still echoing in my mind months later.

"He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself, without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me."

Isn't this profound? Obviously, it has applications in my work as an educator. I have felt this happen. While it's true that teaching is a difficult and exhausting job, there is a really special thing that sometimes happens when a child truly grasps something you've offered them. When they truly understand an idea, they take ownership of it, and suddenly the spirit of both teacher and student blaze more brightly for a moment. That is en-light-enment.

And to push this concept further, I would say one should never be stingy with what one knows, or with creative power, or even with love. Because none of these things is made stronger by holding on to them. Instead, they are strengthened with use and consistent practice. Knowledge, creativity, and love all grow stronger by being shared from person to person, untill the whole world is ablaze with them.


Heidi said...

Becky, I love this post! I really like that TJ quote and appreciate your additional thoughts on the subject. I was actually thinking about this in relation to Pinterest and a blog post I was writing, and you said just what I was thinking in a much better way. I hope you don't mind, but I quoted you and linked back to your post because I thought it was really wonderful!

The Fab Miss B said...

So kind of you Heidi! I'd love to see the post when it's up- send me the link, won't you?

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