On Learning and Mishna

Picasso painting ceramics.

“We’re all creatives here, we’re all born artists. Some people are artists of business, some people are artists of composition.” -Kanye West lecturing at Oxford University.

Since my early childhood I was immersed in rites and traditions that had an impact on my learning experience. Very often, religious education was a matter of indoctrination: a rather acritical acquisition of a given worldview. Since I was led to believe I was a heir of that tradition, I was also made responsible of keeping its particular truth alive, regardless of my disconnection from a truth I could not behold.

To believe, you don’t have to see anything; something must happen instead. Believing out of indoctrination can be volatile and dangerous. Such beliefs do not belong to you; you cannot truly embody them. You don’t believe in something you’re passionate about. You believe that which you understand because it can become part of you.

True learning is believing. It has to do with unfolding your own possibilities through guided practice. A guide does not have to be a teacher. It can be a book or any other object or event that puts something else in place, or some form of otherness. No other will ever reveal your truth. Truth is that which makes sense to you as a singular human being, so do not expect sense to come from someone else; but since learning requires a guide or reference, do not pretend to find sense by yourself either.

I found a synthesis to these apparently contradictory theses in that very place of contradiction which is the encounter. A madrich, someone who studies and practices Mishna, found my teaching experience to be an embodiment of some of its main principles. In turn, I found the madrich’s understanding of learning to embody the truth of my practice as an artist guiding the artist in other people. As Pablo Picasso once put it, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

10 Things I Have Learnt From Teaching

  • Listening -not teaching- makes the teacher.
  • The way to knowledge is inside the learner as a ball of string.
  • There is no lack of knowledge; there are needs to know.
  • Teachers don’t have maps; they will show you how to find yours.
  • One person, one truth: accept diversity and you’ll be wiser.
  • Pointless is meaningless. Have a purpose. (This is also true for improvisation.)
  • To be spontaneous, let the whole body think.
  • A life grounded in rituals is a life with a ground.
  • Why not? guides creation. What if? guides change.
  • We know nothing until we can share it.
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