The Eclipse and Direct Experience

Tomorrow is the eclipse. 931am in our area and we even stand a chance of seeing it according to BBC weather as there should be clear skies for 2 hours.

  • Are you going to watch it?
  • Where? How?
  • Why have you chosen to experience it that way?

It poses a dilemma for me…the kids are at school during the eclipse and so will miss the potentially once in a childhood  event, and we will miss sharing the event together.  The next eclipse of 85% is in 2026 so the kids and I should live to see it but probably not together. The next total eclipse is in 2090 which I definitely won’t make and they would be very old.

There are not so many eclipses in one’s life time..there are many RE and Maths lessons as I recall!

What to do?  I even have April’s welder’s mask sitting waiting ready to go (only for glances..along side a colander for pin hole cameras galore).

  • Are your kids watching it?
  • What will you do tomorrow?

The Daily Mail is printing stories of parents up in arms that school are keeping kids inside for health and safety reasons to prevent them from looking at the sun and burning their retina.  I can see both sides.  Some schools are allowing parents to let their children go in late so they can watch the eclipse at home…for other parents…will there be fines following?

However, it seems sad to me that kids can watch it on the TV or computers rather than being outside and having a direct experience.

Didn’t we all make pin hole cameras in 1999?  I’d just moved to Wales and remember being on the patio during the summer holidays trying to get the pin hole right. Being outside in the fresh air, not just seeing the darkness, but listening to the birds quieten and being aware of smells and sounds.  Just feeling like part of something actually happening, in the moment, and me part of it.

Isn’t this a missed opportunity? A whole week of science lessons here about the solar system?  Could it even link to RE and what ancient people thought of eclipses? Could they have been making pin hole cameras in D and T?  Investigating materials which protect against UV and infra-red?  Art, drama and music could have used it as a great stimulus for exploring and creating representations of eclipses. It’s not like we didn’t know it was going to happen is it?

I know the restraining factors which mean that most schools won’t have done any of this.  Not just Elfin Safety but ‘curriculum’, ‘exams’, ‘time tabling’ and all of these are ‘real’ pressures within schools for staff and pupils.  What a shame.

Benjamin Franklin said: ‘Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn’

  • Think of some of your most profound learnings in life…how did you learn them?

The eclipse would have been a great opportunity to involve people in a direct experience of life.

Remember when you had your first child, or your first cat or dog.  You can read all the books, watch all the DVDs, spend time with other people’s cats/dogs/children…but nothing, nothing prepares you for the direct experience of having responsibility for another living being.

Ditto sex, getting drunk, going up in an aeroplane, falling in love, going for your first job interview, facing death for the first time.  You can read and discuss any of the above…but you only really know what they are like (and then, only for you) by experiencing them directly yourself.

  • What have you learned directly about from your life?
  • What wisdom have you gained?

But then direct experience is risky.

Falling in love means we might get hurt or we might be so besotted that all we want to do is gaze at each other and not get anything else done.  Getting drunk could mean that we’re sick, lewd, embarrassing, hysterical.  Job interviews might mean we might fail or that we succeed and have to leave our friends or our city behind to accept it. Sex might be awful or mind-blowing or challenge how we see ourselves.

Direct experience means we fall out of trees and off slides, we get hit by snowballs, we crash our bikes and fall off horses.  We risk failure, pain, humiliation, injury and even death.

  • When has direct experience ended been painful? Sad? Scary?
  • Would you have avoided these experiences?
  • What did you learn from them?

Teachers risk losing their job, having students fail, not being able to see the eclipse because it’s rainy, having the kids misbehave outside when they are used to being controlled inside, having lesson plans go awry.

So let’s avoid direct experience then…it’s too risky.  Let’s watch online porn, let’s have social media relationships, let’s watch films full of death and avoid visiting the dying, let’s watch travel programs from the safety of our armchairs and get an Indian.

AAArrghh

I know you’re not the kind of people who live like that…

I know there are some things we want our kids to know about that we don’t want them to experience.  I don’t want them to experience racism, persecution, holocausts, starvation, tsunamis.  There are some things I am happy for them to learn about without them having to experience it.

However, there are many things I want my kids to experience directly.

I don’t want my kids just learning about flowers, I want them to smell them.  I don’t just want them to learn about mountains; I want them to climb them.  I don’t want them to learn about French verbs, I want them to speak to people in French…surely that’s the point. I don’t want my kids just to learn about the solar system, I want them to look up at it and watch it with their own eyes.

  • What do you want your kids to experience directly?
  • How can you facilitate it?

It’s what I want for myself too.  I don’t want to learn about peace, I want to feel peaceful.  I don’t want to learn about ski-ing, one day I would like to ski.  Last weekend, I didn’t learn about horse riding – I sat on a horse and rode it (inelegantly but all in one piece).

  • What do you want to experience for yourself?
  • How can you make it happen?
directly sitting (rather uncomfortably) on a horse
directly sitting (rather uncomfortably) on a horse

When we learn ‘about’ something, we are removed from the direct experience itself.

There is a risk to not having direct experiences.

We risk knowing lots of information, but lacking the wisdom to apply it.  We risk staying stuck in our comfort zone and living an incrementally smaller life each day. We risk being lonely, sad, frustrated.  We risk never daring to succeed in case we fail. We risk not having kids because, not traveling, not falling in love.

When we avoid direct experience and all it’s risks, we avoid life itself.

And the joke is, that we avoid risks so that we are ‘safe’, at a deep level, from death.

Voldemort: “There is nothing worse than death, Dumbledore!”

Dumbledore: “You are quite wrong. Indeed, your failure to understand that there are things much worse than death has always been your greatest weakness.”

(— Voldemort and Dumbledore before their duel in Order of the Phoenix)

Surely not having lived a rich life full of direct experiences is worse than death?

So let’s see what tomorrow’s eclipse brings…

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