Just a few more on the Road and Wheel before I move on…

I think I have probably about worn this wheel down into the road.  But Berry had two more ways of comparing these views and so I will treat each rather quickly in this post.

First, there is the “Road’s” desire for the new, the unique, and the original.  What’s behind is gone.  What is new is cool, interesting, and engaging.  There is no time for the past.  Everything is in the future.  The “Wheel” thinking person looks ahead as well, but by looking back he better sees the future, and in that future he sees renewal, the recurring.  In education, this has had severe consequences on both sides.  The Road path has led educrats to seek a new technique, new material, new ways of learning around every curve.  Meanwhile, the wheel thinkers have sought to renew the old in new ways.  Man is basically the same, so the same things must be taught, learned, and loved.  But the old idea fit to the new day is basically the same.  The Road cannot tell if it is the same or different: it only cares that it is new.  And then Quohelet’s phrase, “There is nothing new under the sun” comes thundering in and those on the Road have to hold their ears.


Second, and finally in this long list of comparisons, The Road seeks only life.  The here and now, this life, my life, is all that is considered.  But the Wheel must consider both life and death.  This is not it.  There is more than just this life.  There is the life before and after mine.  There is for some a life beyond this life (by some I simply mean that some people believe in life hereafter, others do not – as a Christian I certainly believe in such).  I believe that for both WB and myself this is the summary comparison.  Mention the end of the road to those on the Road and they grow nervous, perhaps even angry.  Why bring that up?  But mention death in the context of life to one viewing things with the Wheel and you get quite a different reaction: one of peace, unity, harmony, understanding, perhaps even joy.  And you can’t teach from either point of view without causing the same reactions in your students as you would have.  So for the Road, youth, long life, health, etc. are key ideas.  For the Wheel, it can include such considerations as how to die well, how to pass on things beyond our own life.  We can plant trees, invest in the millennium, and the like.  I think WB’s poem is the best way to end this extended meditation of the Road and Wheel:

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

(from Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” from The Country of Marriage, copyright © 1973 by Wendell Berry)


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