Friday, August 17, 2012

Parables, Good Soil, and Vision

Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?

As a teacher, I cannot help but find this verse telling. Jesus asks this of his disciples after quoting from Isaiah and sort of explaining why he uses parables to teach. The others are to "see but not perceive...hear but not understand." But those following Christ are "given the secret of the kingdom of God." Some secret, the disciples, seem to say, if we don't know what the heck you are talking about.

I teach literature every year to students who mostly do not want to read stories and poetry and have so long been conditioned to hate literature that they are actively resistant to it. And thus the joy and wonder and thrill I have in reading is lost on most of them. I try to help them along, and a few do manage, I believe, to get something out of the course. Lots of them say, "Why can't these writers just say what they mean?" I want to answer, "They do." and "Why don't any of us say what we mean?" The problem isn't really with poetry, but with communication. We can do our best to communicate what we think is important, and still not get our message across.

My students often blame the poets. But at what point should we blame the reader? At what point can we admit that we didn't listen well, or at least didn't put ourselves in a position to listen well. Jesus said, "those that were sown on good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit." How do we make ourselves "good soil," so we can hear and read well?

One of my goals as a teacher is to help my students to read well, not only the literal words in front of them, but the world around them. Because poetry is everywhere, not only in words and verses, but in our cars, our math, and in our computers and the rain and sun and the animals we love. We must take in this poetry and learn to interpret our world before reacting to it. We have to hear the parables and cultivate good soil if we ever want abundant life within.

No comments: