Monthly Archives: June 2014

Beautiful Listeners of Jazz

Soulfulness or heart does not only refer to the playing of music.  It is also important in the listener.   When those of us on the bandstand would notice someone in the audience listening from that deep place, we would tell each other that “someone is here with ears.”

Here is a short clip from an evening in Osaka.  Some of the still photos of young people engaged in soulful listening were taken by Nikolas Konstantin, a truly soulful photographer.  The tune in the background is In a Sentimental Mood by Duke Ellington.

Enjoy these beautiful faces.

Marcus Aurelius

 marcus-aurelius

Good Philosophy is a gracious gift.  The Meditations of this guy are worth a look.  Here is a sample (with my slightly poetic translation) that I read every morning:

TURN YOUR ATTENTION WITHIN–FOR THE FOUNTAIN OF ALL THAT IS GOOD IS WITHIN YOU.

AND  IT IS ALWAYS READY TO POUR FORTH.

DO NOT GIVE UP OR BE DISGUSTED OR IMPATIENT WITH YOURSELF IF YOU DO NOT ACT FROM THE BEST IN YOURSELF IN EVERY SITUATION.

BUT, HAVING BEEN DRIVEN OFF COURSE,

RETURN AGAIN TO YOUR CENTER AND REJOICE IF MOST OF YOUR ACTIONS ARE WORTHY OF YOUR BETTER ANGELS…

AND LOVE THAT TO WHICH YOU RETURN

Ph.D

Have you ever wondered why professors in so many disciplines of the arts and sciences are called Doctors of Philosophy?  What does this have to do with chemistry, or even history?  Is the title simply an anachronistic throwback to the Middle Ages?  Or is there a richer meaning here?

It is well known that the word Philosophy comes from two Greek words that combine into φιλοσοφία (philosophia), which literally means “love of wisdom.”  Diogenes Laertius tells us that the word was coined by Pythagoras (582-500 BCE) who said that only the gods were wise.  He was rather a lover of wisdom.

The contemporary usage of “Doctor” of course primarily refers to physicians.  Ph.D.’s sometime use the term in academic settings, but truth to tell I think most feel a bit fraudulent when they do so.    (In Japan, the term “sensei” applies across the board to most professionals: dentists, physicians, and teachers from kindergarten to university–as well as to Zen masters like Mr. Miyagi).

Etymologically, however, Doctor comes from the Latin word “docere” to teach, and thus originally doctor meant “teacher.”

So to be a Doctor of Philosophy is to be a Teacher of the Love of Wisdom.  Thus philosophy is more a love, a system of values, than a body of knowledge.  It is this love, according to Plato, that should animate the Academy and invigorate every discipline throughout the arts and sciences. It sets us on the road that leads beyond the confines of our illusions as he illustrates in his famous allegory of the cave.

But how many university professors are wise–or even seem to care about wisdom?  Robert Pirsig once suggested that many teachers are so smug and self-satisfied that wisdom is a threat to their ego-bound security.

One cannot teach love with words.  The love of wisdom can only be taught by loving it.  The teacher must BE what she teaches.  Sure, the facts and the information have an important place, but if they are not shared within the context of love, they are like sounding brass and tinkling cymbals, as St. Paul says.  As a teacher, I need to know my subject, but I believe that what ultimately stays with my students is the respect with which I listen to them, the attention with which I regard them, and the love I have for them and for the wonders and surprises of the subject I teach.  Ten years after the class is over, if they remember me at all, it will be for my love rather than for my knowledge.

So to be a Ph.D. is a humbling and challenging mantle.  It is also a beckoning aspiration for which I am eternally grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Children’s education] should not be in the form of compulsory instruction, because for the free man there should be no element of slavery in learning. Enforced exercise does no harm to the body, but enforced learning will not stay in the mind.
Plato, The Republic, Book VII, 536