The Master of Eighth Grade

I got a late start in my education. I went to school through kindergarten and lost interest in school when my parents didn’t make me go anymore. I just didn’t see the point in all that preachy school stuff. The “real world”, as I defined it at the time, had much more to teach me. I saw school as a crutch for people who couldn’t handle the “real world” well.

But as I got older, I started to come up against limits to what my pragmatic “real world” approach could do for me. I experienced frustration and self-doubt. Gradually, I awakened to the fact that I needed school to broaden my horizons and that I needn’t shun the “real world” just because of my schooling.

So I had some catching up to do. And I was a quick study. A model student. So much so that I got wrapped up in my image as a good student. That became me.

I reached the eighth grade and that was my best year so far. I was the best student I knew. I got to know the eighth grade material so well that I started to help the teacher teach the other students. I actually taught some classes. I had authority and status. And that status made me even more attached to the truths that I taught in eighth grade to the other eighth grade students. So I stayed in eighth grade and taught eighth grade because I was good at it.

I became the master of eighth grade.


You know of course that I’m lying. No, of course, I have a graduate degree in “real life” (whatever that is.)

The story above is an analogy of my spritual life to date. It explains as closely as I am able the spiritual malaise I felt Saturday night around a campfire at a retreat where I was helping to…. teach…spiritual truths….to eighth grade students. Sigh.

At the climax of the retreat I was giving, when all of the retreatants were experiencing the closeness to God the retreat was designed to elicit, I was feeling far away. On the outside looking in, remembering the excitement of new spiritual progress. Of the “beginner’s mind.” Of not knowing instead of being one who “knows.” Or has deluded himself that he knows.

Actually that’s not fair. I am not a hypocrite. (At least not in that sense.) I believe in what I teach. The eighth grade level spiritual truths that I have attained have served me and my family well and when I get up to talk about them I depend with my whole heart on their truth and utility in this spiritual life.

But I am the still just the master of eighth grade. And ninth grade scares the shit out of me.

I have some unlearning to do.

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