Khahtee V Turner
Glimpsing Higher Law
Over the course of the last several weeks throughout the Day The In Field we read and reflected on the life and practices of the great transcendentalist, Henry David Thoreau, as well as on his days during the building of his house on Walden Pond and his life there. When reciting from the text to the children, there were times when it was difficult to not become tickled by their clear lack of engagement as they squirmed and mentally drifted off from trying to hold attention to 3 plus long flowery paragraphs of Thoreau's description--the way a billowing leaf in the wind meets the sunlight and the unbuttered bread crumbs upon his table, only to hint at the shadow of a bird in flight meeting the same streak of luminescence somehow through the consequential and coincidental nature of life. Gosh, geez, is life different now! But, some big part of Thoreau's belief system, intentionality, and perceptive practice does seep in so deeply and affectionately into our young Field stewards. They admire him as an adventurer and one who sought goodness, simplicity, and truth through nature. They are excited as we direct them to go into their own Still Quiet Place ( a weekly practice in the Field when children take to their solitary place in nature to draw, journal, or observe nature alone) and find for themselves those magical streaks of light that do touch our senses and open our awareness there. Our study of nature and our annual study of Thoreau during the Day in the Field always gives birth to the exploration of the larger question of what are human rights? and what is justice for all? In this standard inquiry of our school we reflect on the purpose of the Day in the Field, and the definition and devotion of a transcendentalist--finding that voice, truth, and higher purpose in the beyond of a natural environment. Ah, this is why Thoreau posited for so long on that leaf and that shadow of the bird, the stillness and quiet and place in that moment also ignited and fed his intuition. For Thoreau and many transcendentalists, nature in particular led them to an insight, compassion, and feeling of connectivity to the life that allowed them to act, live, and protest the laws of the currently establish government. It led them to an deeper understanding, or as Thoreau coined it, a "Higher Law," one that came from trusting their own inner voice about what is truly just, what should be protected for all, and what might be possibly eternal regardless of the formed and upheld mandates of the status quo. A Higher Law that comes from the practice of being a part of, observing, and marinating in nature's elements in one's own still, quiet place.
Higher Law is our higher truth.
Thoreau was born from an abolitionist family, and this Higher Law as well as his upbringing led him to know slavery to be wrong, to write public Pleas for the emancipation of slaves, to be incarcerated for his anti-slavery ideologies, and to risk his own freedom to shuttle those escaping to freedom and risking their lives for the scant possibility of living with human decencies granted to their days. For Thoreau, to be connected in depth to nature was also to be able to stand justly in that Higher Law, regardless of the self sacrifice, and to be in solidarity with the pursuit of freedom for all human beings. Through the Day in the Field, we nurture this sensibility and awareness in the children of the power of nature and their own connection to their own Higher Law, to not merely accept what we are told is just, to not just do what everyone else is doing, but to reflect on fairness and justice holistically, and from within. I hold this in the highest pride as a reflection on the eternal importance of our school, the philosophy to which we are committed, and the extraordinary growth and opening that occurs as a result of this weekly practice. This practice lives on with the children, through all seasons, through all weather, as they find their relationship with a truth beyond books and standard law. Highest within their growing wells of innate light and goodness is a nourished capacity to think and see deeply, and to do the right thing without question, because yes, they are basking long enough in the elements to unequivocally know! With this reflection, I am also reawakened in the most important mission of our school, to stand true and unshakable in the way that we educate, guide, and inspire the development of the young mind to go on creatively, powerfully, lovingly, and with benevolent vision for the world while supported by that ongoing Still Quiet Place.