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2 By Lao Tzu

Through the concept of deconstruction, the philosopher Jacques Derrida argued we do not live in a world of binaries. Derrida contended between words that appeared to be opposites there was no space and they appeared as long/short. One cannot think of long without understanding short.

Lao Tzu made a similar argument in the first part of this poem: “is and is not produce one another.” Ted Aoki, who was an Alberta-based educator, described the essence of things as being embedded in their “isness.” In the second part, Lao Tzu spoke about a teacher being a person who teaches without a need to possess the words he/she speaks and receiving merit for their teaching.

While I was journaling this morning, I thought of teaching’s essential nature, which is less about the words we speak as teachers and the way we comport ourselves.

As a Frenchman, Derrida used the proper to describe how one comports themself. A person can have rhetoric to fool people, but they do not possess good character if their actions are improper and incongruent with their “good speech.” A person of good character is mindful of the words they use and how they sometimes betray their character.

Beauty and ugliness have one origin.

Name beauty, and ugliness is.

Recognizing virtue recognizes evil.

Is and is not produce one another.

The difficult is born in the easy,

long is defined by short, the high by the low.

Instrument and voice achieve one harmony.

Before and after have places.

That is why the sage can act without effort

and teach without words,

nurture things without possessing them,

and accomplish things without expecting merit:

only one who makes no attempt to possess it

cannot lose it.


About ivonprefontaine

In keeping with bell hooks and Noam Chomsky, I consider myself a public and dissident intellectual. Part of my work is to move beyond (transcend) institutional dogmas that bind me to defend freedom, raising my voice to be heard on behalf of those who seek equity and justice in all their forms. I completed my PhD in Philosophy of Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA. My dissertation and research was how teachers experience becoming teachers and their role as leaders. I focus on leading, communicating, and innovating in organizations. This includes mindfuful servant-leadership, World Cafe events, Appreciative Inquiry, and expressing one's self through creativity. I offer retreats, workshops, and presentations that can be tailored to your organzations specific needs. I published peer reviewed articles about schools as learning organizations, currere as an ethical pursuit, and hope as an essential element of adult eductaion. I published three poems and am currently preparing my poetry to publish as an anthology of poetry. I present on mindful leadership, servant leadership, schools as learning organizations, how teachers experience becoming teachers, assessement, and critical thinking. I facilitate mindfulness, hospitality retreats. and World Cafe Events using Appreciative Inquiry. I am writing and researching about various forms of leadership, how teachers inform and form their identity as a particular teacher, schools as learning organizations, hope and its anticipatory relationship with the future, and hope as an essential element in learning.

18 responses »

  1. This post inspired extra contemplation. Thank you, Icon.

  2. I like the last two lines “Only one who makes no attempt to possess it cannot lose it. I can think of so many ways in which this statement can apply. Thanks

    • Those lines ask me to be patient and not expect things. What is mine will come to me in its own time.

      • Thanks again. I think of many young couples who find after marriage that the husband wants to ‘possess’, or of myself when I read a scripture and can’t understand it at that moment and I yearn to ‘possess’ in which is granted a difference in the actual interpretation, but after sometimes years of going back to that scripture it suddenly opens itself to it an in a sense it has become mine at least by way of understanding.

      • I think good marriages last because there is not a sense of wanting to possess and deep trust between partners. That is hard to learn. I find when I pause, for a moment or longer, and am quiet fresh understanding arrives on its own.

  3. So much energy is lost in the striving for something which was never meant to be ours. I need so many reminders…

  4. nutsfortreasure

    Happy Easter.

  5. Pingback: Nothing Left to See Through | Teacher as Transformer

  6. True, we cannot lose what we do not attempt to possess.

  7. “Nurture things without possessing things” and “accomplish things without expecting merit”

    I read both lines and somehow I thought of good parents! How difficult it must be to pour your heart, soul, time and life into raising children just to watch become grown, rebellious and then they leave! How can they do all this without becoming a little bit possessive of them or expecting a bit of “merit” for effort!

    • That is a great example. As a parent of grown children, I experienced them coming back, as well. They go through a time when they parents do not know anything and arrive at a place where we do know something.


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