Recently I was privileged to have the opportunity to hold Socrates Cafes with groups of middle school students in Ft. Worth, Texas. At one of our rich give-and-takes, students 12 and 13 years old were invited to take part, as equals, with their teachers over lunch to explore a question proposed by one of them: “Is it possible to reach enlightenment?”
Listen in to one of them, Grace (a fellow Greek!), who posits that “enlightenment is the full understanding of what’s going on with everyone.” While in her estimation this is never fully attainable, what matters to Grace is the heartfelt attempt. As she puts it, “we can try to achieve it,a nd in the process, you grow to kind of feel for the human family.”
If only all of us could take part regularly in dialogues with people of Grace’s age. They have a malleability of mind, a depth and breadth of insight and unique experience springing from their special and singular stores of wisdom. But at least I can share a snippet with you.
I assert in The Philosophy of Childing that we older folks need to: join forces with our youth, give them far greater rights to self-determination, so they can take part more as equals in civic engagement, public problem solving, conflict remediation. Their unique flexibility, immersive empathy, acute social conscience, make them ideal for remedying the woes that we adults have created ceaselessly throughout human history. Hopefully many of the dialogues in the book demonstrate that.
Just listen a time or two to the wisdom of Grace. Listen with all your heart and mind. And just perhaps you’ll agree with me that ours would be a far more enlightened, reasonable, and connected world if we’d open it up to full participation by our younger counterparts.