An Exploration of Sacred Parenting and Education

Lessons from Godel, Escher and Bach

In parenting on February 21, 2012 at 12:47 am

Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one. Nietzche

The relationship between Godel, Escher and Bach continues to fascinate me every time I think of it. I don’t intend to give a comprehensive intellectual explanation here, a book by Douglas R Hofstadter of that title does it very well. I’ll just like to share my reflection on the metaphor it brings to my consciousness. Without getting too technical, Godel a Mathematician proved an incompleteness theorem. In Layman’s terms no system is complete; to prove it you have to go out of the system. Escher, drew pictures in which he seemed to capture higher dimensions flowing into each other on 2D paper. Bach has a composition in which if you take the tune, invert it, flip it you still get the same tune. In essence, they’re all saying the same thing in different ways; systems transcending the very structures which hold them. In the words of Einstein “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it”.

What does this have to do with parenting and relationships? I was reminded of this today while I was reflecting on a very insightful comment somebody had left a few days ago. She wrote how her mother had a hard childhood and passed it on to her. Trying to rid herself of anger now is quite hard. I can totally empathise as I had an emotionally very difficult childhood too. So my question is, especially to those of us who may still harbor some resentment (be it hidden) towards our parents, what’s the chances we wont repeat the same mistakes even though we profess to do otherwise? I spoke with a dervish who had spent a number of years on the path. He confessed he still made many mistakes he felt his father had made even though he promised himself he will never repeat. In some ways it seems to have become a part of our conditioning.

My answer today (and I’m really interested to read your answer too) would be by making room for high levels of consciousness to come and work itself through us, by making the relationship one a conscious and reflective one. For this to happen I feel a container or vessel can be very useful. We have the salat prayer and zikr which are containers to hold the light we bring and can use them to work with our darkness. The beauty of these practices, for me, is they can be done both individually and collectively. May be going for a walk in a forest together or by ourselves, retreating to a cafe or even using a blog can also serve as a container. Such daily retreats in which we withdraw from the ‘external word’ are different to distractions, diversions or escapist moments for me. One of the differences is they create the space for contemplation and reflection (tafakkur and taddabur). I had a moment today while sitting in a cafe. I felt as though my two year old son had given me some signs which I hadn’t fully read or recognised today. When we go to the park play area, being the adventurous spirit he is I normally let him get on with his explorations for some time and join him every now and then. He seems to enjoy his freedom. Today, he came and sat with me in my lap without playing around much. May be he wasn’t feeling too well? I then accompanied him and he seemed to want to spend most of his time on the swing which is rare. Later during the day, I had taken my wallet from him, very gently, as he was emptying it out. Being the impulsive two year old he is, he normally doesn’t hold anything back. A few minutes later he started to cry. I gave him a kiss and a cuddle and he was quite. However, it wasn’t until later in the cafe that I felt ‘could there be an unmet need of his here’? Something my wife and I may need to explore together or lookout for tomorrow. The point being had I not had this time, this container to reflect, it may not have occurred to me as promptly or even at all about the possible connection between these two events today.

In our Tradition there is a Hadith about the Faithful being mirrors to the Faithful; Waldorf talks about how the child imitates everything around them. They are our best mirrors, and it’s painful when you see in them the exact replay of what you dislike most in yourself! That was always an incentive to keep on with the inner work.” Patzia González-Baz In this process, I would like to suggest, children mirror our states back to us as Patzia reminds us and in the process can also help elevate our state as we become more conscious of this mirroring process. Sometimes a person’s life story can be a mirror for us which is why I feel it can be so useful to share our truths here, whatever our background may be. It takes great courage to meet our Shams, to look at a mirror and meet the false with something more Real. The process becomes so much easier, I feel, if we bring sincerity into the equation.

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  1. Thank you for reminding us of the importance of making time to reflect. Many people I know don’t take reflection as a serious task and spend very little time doing it themselves. They don’t see what is accomplished by sitting still and staring out into the wall or whatever, but for me contemplation is the stuff of life and a source of endless knowledge.

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