Truly great teachers don't teach. They are sculptors of the soul.
We are born into the world as a block of marble. Somewhere inside of that block exists our highest self, the raw potential of our destiny. If we're open to it, the Universe presents us with experiences that work away at that block to reveal who we're meant to be.
I've experienced times when the daily grind seems to just barely chisel away at my block. And other times when huge chunks of marble get broken off. I prefer the latter, when I feel like I'm making huge strides towards becoming my highest self. And few times in my life sculpted me more than my first semester of college, when I walked into the classroom of Dr. Charles W. Spurgeon.
To say that I was a block of untapped potential when I met Dr. Spurgeon would be a euphemism for saying that I was dumb and aimless. But over the course of a semester, he presented me with ways of thinking that turned into north stars of my existence. Through Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot, and Jiddu Krishnamurti, he gave me a gift of value beyond measure -- a sense of destiny.
In the play Thomas Becket, T.S. Eliot presents us with the historical Archbishop of Canterbury, who, like the story of Jesus, knowingly sticks to his beliefs at the expense of his own life (martyrdom). He had an immutable sense of destiny, no matter the consequences. In Hamlet, Shakespeare asks us to contemplate "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." And the great Indian philosopher Krishnamurti teaches that "truth is a pathless land." In other words, there's no one way, except your own way.
Those of you that have read my blog know of my personal struggles, especially those with my sick wife. During the worst of those years, I never seriously contemplated leaving her. It pushed me to the brink of insanity at times, but my sense of destiny strengthened me and helped me push through. And while I am no Thomas Becket or Jesus, in my own way, I emerged reborn and stronger because of it.
Earlier this week I met with Dr. Spurgeon for the first time in almost 17 years. I've thought about him often, but never managed to find him. We met at an English Pub near Marymount College, my old school. I finally had the opportunity to tell him all the ways he helped to shape my life. As he nears the final years of his career, and as he contemplates all the struggles and time wasted on so many oblivious students, our lunch helped to reinforced his own sense of destiny. I took his gift out into the world and returned it at a time when he needed it most. We completed one of life's cycles -- where a teacher goes from sculptor to sculpture.