Monday, May 10, 2010

"first honors"

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The newspaper reports that my older son was among those receiving "first honors" as a senior at the high school he attends. Naturally, I am pleased as punch and proud of him even if I am not entirely sure what "first honors" may mean. Good marks, I imagine.

I congratulated my son and then I asked him if it was hard to achieve "first honors." He replied with a terse, "No." And I am not sure exactly what that 'no' means either. Immodest modesty? A statement of fact? A skeptical eye on the yardsticks used to measure achievement? I really didn't know.

But that didn't change my congratulations or pride. Within his particular realm and measured within that realm, he had done well ... and I was glad for him.

Interesting -- whether it's a Nobel Prize or a high-school "first honors," it doesn't matter so much what you know. What matters is, what will you do with what you know?

Once upon a time several years back, the Dalai Lama came here and lectured at a local college. The tickets were pretty much sold out and I didn't really have the energy or desire to try to scrape one up, so I watched a bit of his talk on TV.

Again and again and again (until I finally turned to TV off) he encouraged his audience to put their intellectual achievements to good use. Given his robes and his twinkle-y delivery, I imagine some in the audience might have imagined he was talking about something spiritual or something holy.

But I doubt that's what he meant. I don't think he was out to make a bunch of lock-step little Buddhists or a bunch of sappy, serene saints. Rather I think he hoped and encouraged the good use of good tools: Look in the tool box, see what you've got; imagine what you might do ... and then do it. If you make a mistake, correct it. That's all.

Everyone has "first honors" tools at hand. It's just a question of using them for "first honors" ends.
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4 comments:

  1. "It doesn't matter so much what you know. What matters is, what will you do with what you know?"

    Yeah, i guess I have being trying to "increase my significanse" all this time. But recetnly I have started to think; "to what end?"

    It is wonderful to be in control of learning process and IMO impossible to live without some awareness about where your foot is at the current moment

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  2. Melanie, Austin Zen Center practionerMay 10, 2010 at 1:30 PM

    What a powerful conclusion to this post:

    "Look in the tool box, see what you've got; imagine what you might do ... and then do it. If you make a mistake, correct it. That's all.

    Everyone has 'first honors' tools at hand. It's just a question of using them for 'first honors' ends."

    For some of us, the good use of good tools is a lifetime of trial and error!

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  3. Make that "for all of us" and I'd agree with you Melanie. :)

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  4. Watched a Mickael Moore film the other day and one of the unfortunate dynamics in American society that he pointed out was how our top graduates, having amassed large student loan debt, are forced to work for Wall Street and the like to payoff their debt, instead of putting their good tools to better use, like helping to make the world a better place.

    He did mention some *bright spots* in our society though, so it wasn't all doom and gloom.

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