OH, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!
Rudyard Kipling’s epic poem identifies a fundamental tenet of meeting at the crossroads of our journeys: all persons are equal regardless of life circumstances. We bring to those connections only what we have with us. All else stands naked in the light of our intersection. What we bring to those crossroads is a choice.
The same holds true in every educational setting. We have choices in how we approach those crossroads, how we enter, how we interact, how we leave, and where we go after. We can choose to bring the baggage of our prior understanding with us, or we can choose to leave it behind.
As educators, we can exert influence on those crossroads by representing a positive, unadulterated, and reaffirming experience. Or we can allow our charges to enter the scene with the weight of all their past experiences blinding them to the transformative power of those connections. How we prepare our students prior to entering those crossroads is as important as the learning experience itself.
The Japanese call this “ba” or “basho”. It is the concept that the place of learning impacts on the ability to describe experience based on dichotomies of subject–object, idealism–realism, or experience–reality. “Ba” also provides a means to overcome the biases that we bring to learning based on these dichotomies. It is being epic. It is going beyond the stage. It is cleansing the pallet. It is opening one’s mind to possibilities that are not pre-defined in either black and white or shades of grey, but vibrant color.
I feel a great swell of pity for the poor soul who comes to that crossroads looking for trouble. Their senses closed to the possibilities that surround every encounter. It takes both teacher and student to overcome obstacles of ignorance. This too is a choice and one that should be cultivated for one to succeed at making the best of each encounter. It is the highest gift that one can give to oneself to embrace the full spectrum of possibility rather than allowing those few to drag everyone else into the pale of myopic self-absorption.
Recognize this in yourself and others and every crossroad will be an experience to be welcomed, not a cross to bear.
— Kevin Feenan