Education* for a Better Me

I just got a year’s education in 5 days.  My choices may have been skewed and selective, but courtesy of the local independent film festival I immersed myself in documentaries of all shapes, sizes and subjects.  And every film made me think.

I must confess…I am not a newshound.  On a day-to-day basis, I intend to stay up with current events, but instead I keep myself busy with the state of my own tiny universe without looking up or out to what is going on in the wider world unless it touches me and mine.

Cases in point:

I remember clearly getting my head out of the diaper pail in the early-seventies and being appalled by the Vietnam War.  It’s indicative of my sad lack of awareness that in those days that my children were entering their pre-adolescent years when I looked up.  Hmmm…  I was probably concerned that they might be called to war as they matured.

The aids epidemic was personal to me because I visited my daughter who lived in San Francisco in the late seventies and early eighties.  I didn’t know or understand much of it at the time, but I new enough to be frightened and saddened.

But there are huge gaps in my historical memory.  World changing events weren’t even a blip on my personal radar.

Nowadays the annual festival has changed my way of being in the world.   Following a weekend of film, film, film; conversation, conversation, conversation; and thinking, thinking, thinking; I am armed for the coming year.   Sometimes my newly acquired knowledge of history and current events causes small adjustments in my life.  Sometimes it only opens my mind.

Cases in point:

I have turned my thermostat down two more degrees after learning about extracting natural gas through the process of hydraulic fracturing.  At least, until the chemicals in this process can be included in the Clean Water Act, I choose to lower my consumption of this necessary commodity.

After seeing the results of oil use this year and last…I am now (in addition to walking everywhere in my home town) buying a bus pass.  I can get myself to the neighboring town by pooling resources with all of the other riders.

My concern over the boondoggle (my description) of the fence between the U. S. and Mexico has emerged from vague awareness to outraged dismay that it continues to drain our resources while endangering lives.  What’s the answer?

I am once again frustrated and chagrined over the wastefulness of our government as it refuses to acknowledge its failures and gigantic continuing mistakes surrounding destruction in Louisiana.  The time-honored practice of awarding huge projects in a system of  political reward rather than efficient management is self-defeating morally and economically.

My chest is still a bit swollen with pride in the Hawaiian children learning their own language and singing the songs that bring back their history.  And I am amazed at the tenacity and fortitude of teachers and administrators who can through prodding, encouragement and generosity of spirit teach their students to artistically express  their lives.  These young people slam poetry that speaks to the hearts of their peers and unites them in competition and common emotions.

My hope is renewed by teachers in Israel who accept children of all immigrants, teach them a common language in order that they all share in learning for the sake of education and for life.

I am chastised in my wastefulness as I watch (once again) an entire village of people  who make their living pulling recyclable materials from huge landfills of garbage.  The art they created was a visceral demonstration of our universal humanity.

Most of all, I am reminded of my privileges and better schooled in ways that I can enjoy my life without damage to others.  And my heart is expanded.

Yes, I am better educated this week.  And, as always, this changes me for the better.


*In most cases, links are to documentaries that can currently be viewed.

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