“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
— Jiddu Krishnamurti
Tonight, in the biweekly lecture series we have at CUNY, one of our guest speakers told us about mindfulness in education, from teachers accessing the stress reduction techniques derived from Buddhism and reinvigorated as a secular practice nowadays, to the surprisingly but clearly political usage of such techniques to pacify urban students who live a stressful life and get them to “behave in an acceptable way in the classroom” (see this example for more information, sans the political backstory), rather than to create opportunities and collaborative, co-constructed dialogue in which students can critically examine their social environment and address the oppressive and marginalizing forces they experience every day.
In the middle of our guest speaker’s presentation, as he was discussing modern mindfulness, the above quote caught my attention. The quote exemplified the belief of Krishnamurti, a world-famous educator from India (whom I’d never heard of until tonight, unfortunately), that modern existence is riddled with pain, isolation, violence, and suffering, which can be alleviated through reflection on the contents of one’s mind, not through the following of a particular religion or through intellectualizing. I will think more about this, but no matter where I land, the sentence at the top of this page holds a lot of power.
I read it to mean one of two things: either those people who seem normal, adapted, functional in this world have a lot more going on inside that we never see (perhaps we’re blind to it in our own myopia and self-involvement), or else the normal folks I’m referencing, who have internalized the requirements of this violent, darkening planet and figured out how to adjust as its inhabitants, are sicker than the rest of us who can’t accept the screams of kidnapped Yazidi girls, the tears of yet another Black mother whose son never came home, or the silence of dying dolphins in the murky aftermath of the BP oil spill, as our world’s music anymore.