Sunday, June 22, 2008

mo' metta

I got another C, which got curved to a B. I'm still way below the class average, and just barely above the requirement for my loan forgiveness program. I'm studying relentlessly, and still I beat myself up for not doing better. So, where is the love and compassion for myself?

There was this dude named Paulo Freire. No relation to Paula Abdul, though he danced a mean tango. Freire was a Brazilian educator, quite famous amongst circles of pedagogy. His most famous work is "Pedagogy of the Oppressed." A real revolutionary was this hombre. He went out into the remote villages of his country to teach the poorest of the poor how to read, such that they could use that tool to rise above the oppression of their government and foreign interests. Unfortunately, they have a lot of rainforest in Brazil, which in modern times, has made their lives quite the living hell. Oops, this is about reading.

One would think the people would embrace this man and his offer of empowerment. However, their reaction to learning to read was, "Why do we need to learn how to read? We are just farmers who eat what we grow. We don't need to read about things that don't affect us." So he taught them to read by starting with farming, and things that mattered to them because they needed to know about them in order to survive and maybe even thrive. And so on.

This is, of course, a simplification of what happened, but it demonstrates an example of what I'll call utilitarian learning. Learning something because it will be
useful to one's life.

And suddenly I realized the same is true for me. The reason I switched from the engineering program to the technician program 25 years ago was because I didn't see how taking all those math classes would help me do what I wanted to do, get my hands on cool electronics stuff. And I'm good at math! So I became a technician instead of an engineer, and instead of figuring out how to design things, I figured out how they worked after someone else designed them. And I was damn good at it. So good that I was made an engineer. And I was pretty good at that. I wanted to get damn good, so I tried to take some classes, but could never finish them. I preferred learning how to program by studying someone else's code and figuring out what they did and then trying that. Much more fun than sitting in a classroom!

So now I'understand that this is what I need most, to apply what I'm learning as I'm learning it. It's basic and essential to teaching practice, though not always easy or practical to implement. We're starting clinicals next week, so when we learn about something in the classroom, we'll get to see it and use it in the hospital. I hope.

A Buddhist principal is that with understanding we can experience compassion and love. Metta is the practice of having love and compassion for others and for one's self. Having compassion for patients will often require having an understanding of their situation. The same is true for this macho nurse. Macho nurses need love too, ya know.

Now I really get what the Buddha meant when he said, "Mo' metta is betta!"

Or something like that.


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