Life Education in the Philosopher’s Caf? - Develop Life Energy in the Give-and-Render

The third session of the Philosopher’s Cafe in Degui Academy, held by the Dharma Drum University School of Life and Living, invited high school teachers who’d been nurtured to teach the course of Life Education.

This session was co-hosted by both the Life Education Center and the School of Life and Living, Dharma Drum University.  It was meant as the start of a series of “Advanced Courses of Life Education-Philosopher’s Cafe”for the North, Middle and South Areas. 

Attendees got the basic ideas of the operation model for the Philosopher’s Cafethrough the explanation of the host, instructor Aries Gu.

The purpose of Philosopher’s Cafeis to provide a comfortable, relaxing, and safe atmosphere and space, for every attendee to look at concerned issues at this very moment of his/her own life journey. Attendees are supposed to apply rational philosophical thinking, learn how to listen, empathize, and focus on the chosen topics along the process. They also express their own ideas openly based on every participant’s contribution to the ddialogue, and discuss the topics thoroughly.

In the beginning, instructor Aries Gu did not pre-set the topic for this session of the Philosopher’s Cafe. However, he came up with a thoughtful question for these seed teachers of Life Education —“When we are in the classroom, teaching the course of Life Education, which one is more important, life or education?”

The attendees all recognized that life and education should be merged together, in order to carry out broad and dynamic dimensions in the process of teaching and practice. Based on this consensus, instructor Gu guided them further to point out that the Philosopher’s Cafewas a part of a practical exercise in philosophy.  All this was to emphasize the fact that philosophy has established a tradition of contemporary humanistic education, that it values the influence on human life in the first place, that it is just like education which inspires students to explore and analyze the pattern and the meaning of life, and that it corresponds exactly with the spirit of Life Education.  

Instructor Aries Gu asked attendees to temporarily forget about their roles as teachers, to make it silent inside themselves, think about what were the issues they cared about the most in their daily life, and let different voices emerge from their hearts. Instructor Gu helped trigger the thoughts by providing interesting discussions between oneself and one’s loved ones such as “take, eat well; give, sleep well”, and the theme of “Give and Take”.

Having come up with many different topics one after another, the attendees found out that, regardless whether it was about family life or campus work, it was all related to “interpersonal relationships”, and all included the consideration of the balance between give-and-take.

At last, it was determined to take “Give and Take”as the core concept, and to discuss topics such as “Ways to Purify One’s Mind”, “Marriage, Love, and Sex”, and “Parent-Child Relationship”.

In the process of the dialogue, around 20 attendees focused on listening to each other, sharing their thoughts enthusiastically in the discussion, and giving feedback. By playing the multiple roles of teacher, parent, or son/daughter these teachers dug out a lot of their own struggles and doubts from within. For example, some realized they spent all their energy on solving a student’s problems, but then ignored the depression of their husbands, children, or themselves. Some were energetic and vital in their teaching, but impatient to their own children. Some had devoted themselves a lot to students and their family, but couldn’t sleep well at night. Some felt lost when people around them couldn’t feel and appreciate their devotion.

The participants reviewed the snapshots of their life continuously in the process of narration, and tried to move on with rational thinking to discuss the possibility of change. Participants gained a lot from all these exercises and it included the following aspects: how to turn giving into the basis of happiness, reflection on the topic of gain-and-loss, being alert all the time for interpersonal give-and-take issues, spotting problems, to be able to think genuinely, and ways and feelings to openly express one’s own inner voice.

As a conclusion, the instructor pointed out that the results from the reflection and learning in “The Philosopher’s Cafe”was not the final goal. The important thing was to open an interactive process of discussion so that each participant gets the life experience of caring, understanding and examining. At last the attendee’s feedback stressed that through this dialogue and communication, they could better understand and empathize with their partner’s life stories, they had discovered a mutually supportive strength and the entire process had recharged their energy for the future Life Education work.  (Recorded & reported by Su Tin Huang)