Is suffering necessary to reach breakthrough understanding?
If knowledge is gained by breaking shells from the outside, while understanding is gained by breaking the shells from the inside, what then are the right environments for both?
In Breaking the Shell that Encloses Your Understanding, David Casey compared Benedictine and Jesuit approaches to education; the former being about creating loving environment, while the latter being about discipline and punishment.
He observed that learning about oneself may require some pain. Peers may willingly or unwillingly be sabotaging such deep learning—through a "hundreds of tiny subterfuges"—out of fear that if an individual goes so deep, one day it will be their turn to reciprocate.
Benedictine, loving environment, is a prerequisite for creating an opportunity to break the shell of understanding. Jesuitical style might be necessary for capturing that moment to truly break out of it. In Casey's view, the external adviser is the most capable to help with the latter.
His observations strongly resonate with me.
As a martial arts instructor I strive to create a Benedictine environment 90% of the time. I encourage and motivate students, compliment their patterns when done well, give feedback without insulting or demeaning them, and so on and so forth.
But from time to time, there comes a moment they become stuck. Perhaps it is a fear of doing a jumping roll—"what if I break my neck?"—or lack of confidence in their own self-control—"what if I injure my training partner?"
Then comes the time for me to push; to force progress. This doesn't come out of vacuum. I know my students; each and every one of them; I know what are they capable of.
Moments like these are rare, but pivotal. They are important to both the student and the teacher. What's a little bit of suffering for such breakthrough progress?
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