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September 6, 2020: Teaching and Passion

My father taught high school science and math. I once remarked to him that I thought this was odd, given that his main interest in life was literature. His response was that he never wanted to teach a subject that he was passionate about, this being of course literature.

I thought I understood what he was getting at after several years of teaching (primarily) freshman composition. As I learned, my job involved teaching the 25 or so students in my classes that writing could be a meaning making activity. I worked at getting students away from the “In today’s society . . .” meaningless

Camel at the blessing of the animals

drivel. I found that I could instill passion, at best in three out of every twenty-five students. If I’d had the opportunity to teach upper level writing courses, I might have stuck with it. But I tired of being in the trenches.

Now I’m teaching a horse/human body awareness class, on Sundays, at a local arena. I have to say that my father was wrong – it is possible to teach something one feels passionate about, the caveat being the students must also feel similarly. This is so in this instance.

No one is pretentious, competitive, or out to show what their $100,000,000 horse can do. It’s just a group of individuals wanting to better communicate with their much-loved horses. And so, I am both working hard to assist them in this endeavor and enjoying the journey.

I am seeking ways of making the communicative bond between horse and rider stronger, for with strength comes understanding, and with understanding comes a more equitable relationship. I came to this conclusion two years ago, when I had the good fortune to attend the Blessing of the Animals, at St. John of the Divine Cathedral, in Harlem, NY. This was on Feast of St Francis.

After a most amazing service that lasted two hours, the animals were led down the church aisle. There were camels and cock roaches and cats and cockatiels, and yes, even a cobra. The animals were taken up onto the altar where they all stood companionably as they were blessed.

I was so overwhelmed that I began to bawl – the tears were streaming down my face. I saw in the animals’ eyes love, compassion, kindness, innocence. Yes, I thought, animals do have souls. Right then I decided to continue my animal related studies, with a focus on teaching others ways of making their animal’s dignity and respect a heartfelt priority.

And so, I now listen to horses and dogs, and tell those who might be dubious, what these animals are saying. I have come to realize that it does not matter if I am anthropomorphizing, just as long as the message that’s seemingly coming from the animal is either “thank you for treating me kindly,” or “please treat me more kindly.”

To this end, if say the recalcitrant horse takes ten steps, I will suggest he be praised by the one in charge to call it good. Or if say, the head shy mare takes the bit, I will suggest she be praised and for the one in charge to call it good. Or if say, the horse chomping on her bit and flinging her head around stops for just a second, I will suggest she be praised and for the one in charge to call it good.

The catchall phrase is quit while you are ahead. This way, we assure that the animal in question is been treated in a fair and equitable fashion. Then, maybe, just maybe, the next time the recalcitrant horse will take twenty steps, the head shy mare will take the bit and stand still for bridling, and the one chomping will cease chomping altogether. This is because we have fostered a willing attitude in abandoning our set agenda.

This is a really tall order. However, I cannot at this point in time think of any more noble endeavor. These animals give us the world. We need to reciprocate.

Next: 247. 9/7/20: Petey

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