Compartmentalization

Now that I've finished the blogging book, I've begun reading "A Hidden Wholeness" by Parker J. Palmer. That may seem like an odd segue, like listening to Brian Eno after King Crimson, but what these two books have in common is that they are both about community.

In the first few pages, Palmer puts his finger on an important point: that we teach ethics as if it were a set of external rules, not something to be internalized. We have employee handbooks, and we have the real behaviors that people engage in. Of the many words he could have chosen to describe this disconnect, he uses "compartmentalization". People sometimes put their actions in one compartment and their principles in another.

I've only begun the book, but this makes me wonder how to reach past that barrier, across compartments, to reach a student's soul. (We are students as long as we choose to be.) I remember September 11th, and stock market crashes, the deaths of loved ones, and venerable American institutions disappearing, and I think of the sickening thud I feel when something that felt permanent goes away. When the status quo changes, a window opens, and there is an opportunity to reach the soul. And, of course, when we choose to open that window ourselves, when we choose to be students.

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Casting about for a bookmark, I grabbed a very old one from Borders in Ann Arbor, Michigan. On the back I had written this quote:
Does tolerance necessarily require a relativism that goes to the depths of men's and women's souls, depriving them of their natural right to prefer and to learn about the beautiful?
From "Love and Friendship", by Allan Bloom. Perhaps a quote from the controversial The Closing of the American Mind would have been more appropriate here.