1 March 2022
Dear Parents and Guardians,
Our chaotic world
Regrettably I am no historian, politician, or futurist, so I cannot comment with any authority on the events unfolding in Ukraine over the past few days, suffice to say that they are alarming in the extreme. Only eight months ago the insurgence that erupted in our country sent many of us lurching into spates of confusion and horror as we contemplated a world of panic amidst the destruction.
Perhaps we are not designed for chaos.
Events that are almost black-swan-like in nature are seemingly becoming more frequent. This, coupled with the alarming challenges of global warming, climate change and environmental disasters, highlight the need for us to be prepared for a scarily disruptive future.
As an educator of young people this reality presents an opportunity, albeit a difficult and complex one, to respond. It is at these moments that subjects that make up the humanities may trump the colder sciences as we seek to make sense of the world.
In preparing young minds for this disruptive world, we may consider a few ideas:
Ensuring a firmly embedded sense of self, coupled to a sense of purpose, that will stand secure in the face of the turbulent winds of change. When the world is upended, it’s easy to doubt one’s value and purpose against the backdrop of the confusion. Establishing one’s sense of purpose is an essential ingredient in being able to navigate the turbulence brought on by external forces out of one’s control. This sense of purpose, linked to one’s sense of self, can act as an antidote when the predictable pattern of life is disrupted. As parents and teachers, we can help young people identify, cultivate and celebrate character traits that speak to enduring values we see in each young person. If a young man is caring and compassionate, this is what we should encourage.
Similarly, when many South Africans’ somewhat predictable lives were shaken in July, the images of those sheltering in subway stations in Kyiv are deeply challenging as they remind me of the fragility of life in this modern era. The wild fluctuations in the fuel price as a result of this particular crisis reinforce our connectedness and our reliance upon the world as we understand it. When our world view falters, and our identity and sense of purpose are fragile, we may easily respond to a whim of the moment, and this could be to our disadvantage.
A sense of purpose anchors us.
A spiritually centred life is fundamental to our being able to withstand unplanned events, which are inevitable. Cultivating this cornerstone of living provides fresh perspective and reminds us that this world is indeed fleeting and that our fallen state is imperfect and requires faith to see beyond ourselves and beyond the oft-tragic reality of the here and now.
This spiritual cultivation also compels us to believe in the art of the possible, another ingredient essential to our thriving in times of crisis. I have noticed that we often expect the worst in difficult times, and although I would not want to be ostrich-like during a crisis, I do believe that embracing the art of the possible helps us to imagine solutions we may ordinarily overlook when confronted with a grim reality.
My sense is that we may have entered a season in our world where crises and challenges will need to be faced more frequently than in the past. Our young people need to develop a resilience and a strength of character to overcome and to believe in a better tomorrow. I have no doubt that some tough decisions await us all, but especially the next generation. My hope is that the collective education, offered by parents and teachers, will establish foundations in our young people that are strong enough to withstand the buffering of extreme events that are an almost certain probability.
I choose to be an advocate of the promise of the possible, even in the face of despair.