Thursday, August 30, 2007

The urge to "kill" the teacher?

My old friend and HP, Wayland Raven often tells his students that "there is no needs to kill the teacher. When it's time to move on, move on in peace".

We all (his students at the time) nodded sagely and tut-tutted about people being so rude when they leave a group. Truly, most of us were quite sure we would never want to leave such a warm, loving group and such a good teacher. And then, one by one, it came to be our turn to move on. Some moved on in peace. Some left amid shouting and rancor.

I have watched it happen to other friends and acquaintances, too. People who seemed very close, all of a sudden were full of fault finding and anger. Why does this happen? Why is it so hard to move on in peace when the time comes, without feeling the need to "kill" our spiritual teachers?

I think a part of it is the way we come to recognize people who have something to teach us. It's rather like falling in love, really. We see someone who seems uncommonly wise and astonishingly "together". We want to be near this person and learn what they know. We come to rely on the maturity and wisdom we perceive from them, whether through formal lesson or as living examples. These are the people we look up to. Just as in falling in love, though, we tend not to notice immediately the more "human" qualities and clay feet.

But it is our own perception of who a person is, our perception what she or he stands for, the part of his or her life that speaks to our own, that makes them stand out for us as teachers. In our desire to feed our own souls, we reshape the teacher into the person we need him or her to be and what we perceive may bear little resemblance to human to whom we attach these perceptions.

As we learn more of life’s most valuable lessons through them, teachers rise in our esteem. We be come more and more deeply attached to our perception of what the teacher represents and any indications that they may not be what we think they are cause momentary confusion, but are quickly dismissed.

Sooner or later, though, the day comes, (sooner if the teacher has done his or her job properly), when our need for the teacher diminishes. It is in that twilight of the teacher/student relationship that we begin to see the "flaws" of the teacher in the harsh light of day. It happens in love relationships, too. It doesn't have to mean the end of the relationship, if both parties are sufficiently mature. It does, however, mean that there is a fundamental change taking place. Either from "infatuation" to "mature love" or from student and teacher to respectful, amicable equals. The student eventually learns that the teacher was thoroughly human all along, but that momentary perception of the "perfect model" had us blinded to the flaws for a while, so that we would strive harder and further to reach our own spiritual goals.

When we begin to notice our teacher's flaws, the teacher may, indeed, be teaching us one last "lesson" by reflecting our own weaknesses back to us. We would do well to examine those aspects of ourselves that reflect what is most irritating about our teacher.

The mature student accepts that the illusion was his or her own and, though momentarily disappointed in the reality, expresses only gratitude for the time the teacher has spent and the lessons taught and learned. The mature teacher accepts that his or her work is complete in this relationship and gracefully accepts the students thanks without expectation.

In any case, we know the time has come to look further afield for inspiration and so, we start all over again.


Rodney Smith said...

Unrealistic expectation is the killer of so many relationships. As you say, it is the ideal we create about our teachers (or lovers for that matter) which brings us undone in the end.

Great post!!

Misti said...


Celeste said...

SO TRUE!! Thank you for that article. It makes tremendous sense.

Misti said...

Thanks, Celeste! I'm glad you liked it.