Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Five Star Student

In thinking about the teacher ratings, I recalled something Augie said once: "Finding a good teacher is not a problem. There are lots of good teachers. Finding good students -- that's the problem." His point, I think, is that it is rarely the teacher that is the limiting factor on a spiritual seeker's quest. The student is ultimately responsible for the results of his spiritual effort, and, as Rose said, "Results are proportional to energy applied."

So, if it's fair for the students to rate their perspective teachers, it's equally fair for the teachers to rate their students. Criteria would include:

  • Consistency of effort. Does the student show up regularly for meetings, meditations, and other activities? Or is their attendance spotty, or overly dependant on other factors?
  • Understanding. Does the student display an understanding of the teaching? Can the student correctly articulate the teachings, and demonstrate their application in their daily life?
  • Selflessness. Does the student simply show up to take what the community has to offer, or do they contribute to the overall effort to sustain the community and the teaching?
  • Dedication. Does the student ever dedicate themselves to an in-depth study of a particular teacher or teaching, or does she perpetually float from one teaching to another, without making a commitment to the path?
  • Humility. Can the student, as they say in the movie biz, "take direction?" Are they willing to listen to the teacher, take all advice under serious consideration, and even take some advice on faith, even when it doesn't immediately make sense to them? Or is the student "full of themselves," unwilling to change their ways or acknowledge any authority beyond their own ego?
  • Character. Is the student reliable? Dependable? Trustworthy? Are they capable of making a decision and carrying it out? Or are they flighty, dissolute, or have their head up their ass?
  • Stability. Does the student live a life that has sufficient stability to support a spiritual life and practice? Or is their continual crisis and drama that interrupts any consistent effort?

What if the students showed up with similar report cards of their capacity as students? Would the teachers still be willing to work with them? The teacher, after all, can have just as much investment in the student as the student has in the teacher, and just as the student doesn't want to waste time on a bogus teacher, the teacher doesn't want to waste their effort on a hopeless student. I remember Andrew Cohen saying, "I always make the mistake of taking the student more seriously than the student takes themselves seriously."

I also think the two ratings will feed into each other. I will be much more inclined to accept a rating of a teacher if it's coming from someone who is recognized as a good student. A student's credibility will be enhanced by working with a highly regarded teacher.

If all of this seems unlikely, bear in mind that some dating services now allow members to rate their dates and leave comments. Should we expect less seriousness in our spirituality than in our choice of mates?



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