Monday, 19 September 2016

A story

As I was rummaging through my collection of books at home I came across this particular book, which I had in my collection only because of one particular explanation or presentation of ethics.  Most importantly it was not a book about ethics at all.  However, during my first year of Practical training when I choose to teach Philosophy of Morality, this particular narration put things in perspective, primarily for me and for most of my students as well. Besides the last para about the aspiration of a 'teacher' somehow found a resonance within me.

The context is the value of a story!
For instance, almost every student will admit - at least in theory - that love is more important than sex. But when it comes to actual practice, it's a different ballgame.  For example, "Why can't my boyfriend and I sleep together?  We really love one another." Well, I argue, in the first place you can sleep with him. Short of chaining you in the cellar, who can stop you? The real question is whether it's the best gift you can give one another.  Now that response usually makes them raise their condescending eyes toward heaven and wonder if my insanity can ever be cured.  "Of course it's the best gift you can give someone you love!" 
Well, I rejoin, you love your parents; you love people of your own sex; do you give them that gift too?  More groans. "Father, you're really dumb! There's only one person - at least one person at a time - that you give that gift to." Backed into a corner once more, I go for my last weapon: I tell a story to illustrate what I mean, in this case a true one. 
When I was born, I was a breech birth, which means I came into the world folded in half, not headfirst but rear-end first. (Usually there are some wits who capitalize on that, but I continue undaunted.) As a result, my mother was so torn by the delivery that she had to have a great many stitches.  The doctor told my father that he should stay out of bed with her for about three months. But my father, who was the kindest man I have ever known, didn't want to take even the slightest risk of causing my mother even the slightest pain. So he stayed out of bed with her for a year.  That raises the question: Which way did he show more love for her - by getting into bed with her or by staying out of bed?  Is it possible that there is an even greater way of showing love than sex? 
Perhaps not everyone in the class immediately understands what I'm getting at, but it's rare that the story doesn't make everyone of them think, make them wonder if perhaps there might be an aspect of love they haven't thought about.  As a teacher, that's my job: to make people think, to make them reassess, to make them grow - which often means leaving behind opinions that are comfortable, reassuring, self-serving.  
William J. O'Malley The Living Word: Scripture Myth  Vol. 1 (New York: Paulist Press, 1980) 30-31.

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