American Compulsory Schooling: An Essential Disillusion
For many people it takes a major wake-up call, some deep disturbance in their personal world schematic, to begin to awaken them to the truth of this existence. To sense and see that the story they were provided from their parents, their culture, and their clergy doesn’t quite align with their personal experience nor with what they observe in the world.
In Western society, from a very young age we are conditioned to invest our thoughts, our time and our energy into pursuing things, experiences and situations that we are told will satisfy us with security or pleasure or peace. We are materialistic. We are sold and entrained with many lies before we reach an age of reason, before we can even identify the various sources of these data inputs as truthful and healthy or as false and destructive. We see our parents buying the story, most of them without any serious questioning, so we buy it too. Our parents use the story to construct the parameters and even the precious milestones of our childhoods. We grow up chasing things, acquiring, collecting, competing. Consuming, owning, achieving, opposing. We become adults who are trained to externalize every last ounce of our power, to be disconnected from intuition, and to later apply onto our own offspring the same ignorant method of quantifying one’s value, forcing their worth to be tied up in their grades and their ranking, their status, and in how well they can jump through arbitrary hoops without complaint. We don’t ask who is putting the hoops there, or why children are becoming less literate, and less humane. We don’t investigate anything for ourselves as we’ve been trained to await instruction from the teacher, the boss, or the media, like helpless children. One of the lies we absorb is that grown-ups are developed people and that we automatically become grown-ups just by getting older.
So much is left unspoken, unacknowledged, and left to disintegrate in the silence of inattention and darkness. From the parenting models to the school curriculum to the television programming, so much of what enables a human being to function with honesty and integrity is either distorted or simply left out. So much of what it takes to fortify a healthy society has been alarmingly forgotten or shamed into the shadows. From confident communication to regulating emotions, the so-called authority class gets a big F for not showing up. There is no one faction to blame for this failure of education; we failed collectively when we went along with making school compulsory and handing off to the State the responsibility of raising the next round of adults. And then we handed the reigns to groups with interests not remotely based on fortifying maturity and critical thinking, but on diminishing the ability to think for oneself.
The solution is for each individual to recognize and outgrow each defunct system that they awaken to.
It is the collapse in the illusion that allows room in the mind for other possibilities, and hopefully truth, to enter.
Many people will live to the end of their days and never question anything, their thickened skin keeping out the sensations of being violated or misused as a human being, their willpower depleted from atrophy, and their mind content with the escapist amusements of pop culture. Others who sense a disturbance may be conditioned to suppress it and/or internalize it, while some blame only external causes for their experience, unaware of the vastness within, the choices that are within, unaware of the false beliefs and the attached meanings that are thoughts and ideas, and not truths. It is all a distortion of real feelings and real needs which mostly go unseen and unmet.
Those who have experienced at least one essential disillusionment – be it through awakening to the “education” of our school system, to history, to medicine, or to the newest religion of science – they have opened their mind to a journey that leads within, and those who follow it shift their perspective onto an additional, expanded plane of awareness, one that releases them from the old lies, labels and cages, and allows for the creation of a new schematic of reality, one built on honest truth and powered by intuition. They are free to build a schematic that points their life path in the direction of creativity, expression, love, compassion, warmth and truth. They are free to exist outside the constructs of competition, duality, scarcity, fear and terror. They are liberated from the lie that they are a mindless unit of society, that they are born in sin, or that they owe some sort of sacrifice, pain or guilt to some entity. Those who have awakened to their truth can experience a deep knowing, a state of trust and peacefulness, stillness and awe and gratitude at experiencing this amazing life. It is not some blissful detachment, some emotionless existence, not at all. It is facing all of it, facing the pain, the upsets, the shadow and the lie, it is facing it, with honesty and vulnerability, and transcending it, not by resisting but by surrendering, with a calm and fearless knowing of what awaits on the other side. It is not a stagnant happiness, immunity to sadness, or even continual peacefulness; it is, fluidly, many moments of joy, of love and connection, of truth and contentment, and of horror and pain and anger, it is all of it, fearlessly. It is understanding fully that while pain and loss are unavoidable, suffering is a choice. This is living an awakened life.
I feel like I’m channeling my inner Gangaji today. What a blessing and a treasure, this moment.
It is a fairly new luxury on this planet for most of us to not be utterly, physically enslaved and to have the time and mental space to look around and notice that there is more to the story, there is more to the history, there is more to you, to me, to us. It is an enormous privilege to be able to awaken. In the most essential way, it is a choice to look at the truth.
What will we do with this privilege of truth-knowing? Compete to be the best at it? Give ourselves a ranking system so we know who is more important, or who is “qualified” to speak about it? Attempt to measure it and standardize its features, fit it into words inside a textbook and then test the children on their memorization of it? This would be a naive mistake, and the opposite of progress, to take our little box of reality, of physics and logic, and try to fit it onto this vastness that is truth.
When disillusionment is experienced, it is a moment of choice – a chance to open up to a new perspective that is inclusive and expansive, and to a life path that takes time for stillness and self-reflection, for fearless self-inquiry. And although the messenger, the vehicle of the teaching, might be some violent event or extreme loss causing immense grief, the lesson hidden in the message, if honestly explored, contains total liberation from the fearful ideas we attach to the event. There is typically a long-running story we tell ourselves about our victimization, our pain, and our helplessness. It is a learned perception of the world and our place in it. It is who we think we are, but it is not who we truly are.
If there is one common denominator to my own experiences of disillusionment, it is the presence of a silent thievery of self-knowledge, and thus an unspoken denial of access to authentic empowerment, progress or sovereignty. Thievery isn’t the right word, even though it does feel like I’ve been burgled. The truth is that it is always a choice to give away our power, to believe what we are told, to do as we are instructed, and to stay so busy and swept up in our day-to-day lives that we devolve away from our inherent ability to investigate, to imagine, to sense our own truth. Were we taught to “choose” this mindless hustle-mode by our parents and by society, by our teachers? Yes! Isn’t that messed up? Yes!!!
Some people simply don’t want to know what’s beyond the illusion. They are fearful because they imagine that by facing the truth there will be an impossible reality waiting for them, a reality of worthlessness, or enslavement and victimization, or some intolerable emptiness, an ocean of despair waiting to devour them. This is conditioning, to fear the inquiry. But on the other side of the fear is knowledge of the Self. There is stillness and awareness that is always present, and it is this awareness that best represents who you truly are. It is not to be feared but to be explored, expressed and lived. The trust in oneself to be capable of facing the truth is authentic empowerment. The awareness and ability to observe thoughts and emotions as they come, and to consciously choose to experience or release them, to be the driver of your existence is authentic sovereignty.
In summary, it is honest self-inquiry and the subsequent knowledge of the Self that unfolds the development of intuition and integrity, courage and capability.
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of compulsory schooling in America, you’ll enjoy the book Weapons of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto.