Saturday, December 24, 2011

Fishes and Chains

Don Tomei

Fishes and Chains

Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.

I don’t fish.

But I do teach.

I teach a practice that nourishes for a lifetime.

Human existence is delineated by constraints. Like tethered beasts we strain against our limits.
Yet the spirit, ever defiant, claims infinite scope.

I once read a story about captive elephants. It said that the captors first tether an elephant’s foot with a heavy chain. For a while, the elephant tries, in vain, to escape. Eventually it gives up. After that, the captors use only a thin rope to tether the elephant. Though the elephant could easily break free of the rope, it never again tries.

Yes, the spirit can be tethered. By fatigue. By fear. By complacency. By indifference. By ignorance. By evil.

But it is never a chain that tethers the spirit. It is always a thin rope. One that we can break free of at any time.

We need only try.

My mission as a teacher is not to break the chains of my students. It is to show them that their chains are not, in fact, chains, but only light rope.

And that simply by trying, they can be free. Not just for a day, but for their lifetime.

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