Welcome. This blog site places before you a remarkable man, Charles Beck, an artist and teacher. This monthly series of stories begins by describing Charlie’s ways of being in the world, through my encounters with Charlie in the last decade of his life first as my colleague, then mentor and finally or rather for ever as my dearest friend. Year two of this blog expands to include my own hopefully and enduringly perspectives on art, on teaching and of a certain slant on life inflected by Charlie. ~ Peter London

Love and Like

 unconditional love is the teacher’s responsibility only …" ~ Peter

Perhaps not every discipline of knowledge is so well studied and practiced under the shaping influence of unconditional love, as are the arts. (Although we have never witnessed a classroom where unconditional love has not enhanced the quality of teaching/learning, no matter the subject and no matter the student.) In the practice and the teaching of the arts, unconditional love of the teacher to the student appears to be a fundamental necessity. Why?

Because love is the exact relationship that an artist has with their art form. You simply can not like painting, composing, dancing, singing, acting, enough and stay the course that any art form requires of its devotee. Why is that? Not simply because of the long hours and meager financial rewards of their practice, as true as that is. Not even because every art form requires years of technical and intellectual practice and mastery. But more essentially, because only unconditional love of the chosen art form allows its practitioner access to the unique joys of unselfconscious creation. The creativity I speak of here elevates one to a plane of experiencing oneself and the world as finally joined, deeply belonging together, of finally coming home, utterly alive. Unconditional love draws both parties closer to each other than any other form of emotional or intellectual or spiritual affection. It is this degree and kind of intimacy that finally bridges the abysmal gap between the solitary self and all the rest of creation. Unconditional love is the bridge that spans the gap. That same quality of relationship between the artist and their art form ought to animate the relationship between the art teacher and the art student.

We are well aware that the subject of love concerning the proper relationship between teacher and student may be quickly misread given the violation of trust that alarmingly appears between any person vested with authority over those in their care. Therefore we take careful pain to describe what we intend by our declaration that the office of teacher is best served when the teacher fully assumes the responsibilities of caring for the intellectual and spiritual well being of their students within a relationship of unconditional love. And, importantly add, that unconditional love is the teacher’s responsibility only, not the reciprocal between the student and the teacher. On the contrary, all the student owes the teacher is serious regard, earned only after the teacher has demonstrated trustworthiness. More of this latter.

Like would seem the more proper relationship between teacher and student than would be Unconditional Love, but we claim otherwise for the following reasons:

Like (and its sister, dislike) is a most familiar state of relationship between any “other” and ourselves. We are joined to our friends, cloths, jobs, foods, and what have you, along this like/dislike axis. Taste, preferences, all cultural and social sensibilities derive from our ability and penchant for assigning degrees of like to all the features of our world. This seems only proper, and consensual preferences provide the stability and typicality all societies require.
But like as the form of relationship between teacher and student brings with it all the deficits described above.

Therefore we believe that when one assumes the office of teacher, here, love must be the dominant quality, for all the rewards described above.

Now we may return to why the same quality of unconditional love between the student and the teacher is undesirable. Unconditional love requires of its practitioner a level of maturity, restraint, and responsibility that is exactly commensurate with the power vested in the authority of a teacher. The student has no such powers, has no such responsibilities for the well fare of the teacher or even of their peers in learning. The have come to receive, not yet to give.  Therefore the student’s proper relationship to the teacher and their peers is to take them as seriously to the same degree that they have been taken seriously. That will suffice for the able teacher, and for their companions in learning.

The student must in fact exercise conditional regard for the teacher, not taking on faith or trust anything given without the utmost careful scrutiny and comparative alertness.

~ Peter London

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