A few weeks ago, I was assigned a book to read and told that I was required to produce one response to my reading a month. Initially, I thought it would be interesting to write what would essentially be a book report, but then I remembered that I was never terribly good at writing book reports. On top of that, I was a little frazzled when the book I was given seemed to be for teachers because I am in no way a teacher. For this reason, I thought drawing comparisons to my life and tango would be difficult. When I actually dove into Parker J. Palmer’s The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life , I was pleased to find that his book is filled with profound truths which are all encompassing.
While reading The Courage to Teach, I found myself going over passages multiple times and stopping every few pages in order to reflect on what I’d just read. Even as I was gaining deep insight into the beings-who-make-it-their-duty-to-pass-on-knowledge, I worried about finding something to relate to. Then, like magic, a theme appeared before my very eyes.
From the very beginning, Palmer stresses the importance of striking a balance between the inner and the outer. The outer consists of techniques, tips, tricks, methods, etc., which can be learned and applied in attempts to make the job successful. The inner, on the other hand, must be discovered through painstaking and continuous self-reflection. While Palmer gives the merits of the outer its due, he also takes great length and care to highlight the perils of an imbalance of the inner.
First, Palmer splits the inner into three parts, consisting of the intellectual, the emotional, and the spiritual. Then Palmer warns, “Reduce teaching to intellect, and it becomes a cold abstraction; reduce it to emotions, and it becomes narcissistic; reduce it to the spiritual, and it loses its anchor to the world. Intellect, emotion, and spirit depend on one another for wholeness.”(4). If this quote was to be rearranged in such a way that it’s profundity remained intact and some form of the self replaced a few words, would it not hold true? Furthermore, would it not transcend the realm of the teacher to become a life altering, life sustaining, life enriching mantra?
Unfortunately, I ignored my inner for a long time (if this is the second blog your reading from me, then you know I call this time of my life the silent years). Running away from the painful self-reflection necessary to maintain a healthy inner, reduced me to emotion. This resulted in denial fueled narcissism, followed by confusion and anger. Although maturity facilitated significant repair of my inner, I must name tango, and the warm embrace of the tango community, and my tango mentors for helping me to continue on this trend.
Making tango apart of my life has caused me to ask the tough questions. Questions like, will I allow fear to steal another opportunity from me, or, can something I genuinely enjoy be the way I make my living? These are answers that only my inner (and a few well planned/placed actions) can provide.
My inner landscape is a mostly uncharted terrain, filled with lots of bumps and sudden drops and it will call for me to gather my intellect, check my emotions, and unleash my spirit. Traversing the mysteries of my inner will not always be smooth but I think I’m going to enjoy this ride.
Palmer, Parker J. The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1998. Print.