Dinesh AyyappanComment

What I learned from class

Dinesh AyyappanComment
What I learned from class

At the end of our program, the 25 teachers and 3 administrators each made "Presentations of Learning". We could use any medium we wanted, and we had 5 minutes to convey what we learned over the summer. I know it's a well-worn cliche to say that teachers learn a lot from their students, but that's the truth. These kids changed our lives for the better and we can only hope that we returned the favor.

For my presentation, I wrote.


So, as you may have expected, I'm going to start by talking about Physics.

As you might not have expected, I'm also going to talk about Buddhism.

I've been learning a lot about these two ideas in the past couple of years. Physics tells me that if I spread my arms out wide, and this represents the timeline of the history of our planet, taking a nail file to my fingertip wipes out all of human history. Everybody I've ever cared about. It tells me that there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on all the beaches on our planet Earth.

It tells me that we're just a bunch of lucky atoms. That the atoms that make us have been around for a long time, that they lived in stars before they became our bodies, and that they will go on just fine without us.

Buddhism tells me that everything is connected. That there is a false distinction between life and death. It tells me to avoid attachment.

They kind of made me feel like nothing mattered. As these thoughts were conflating into an existential debate within myself in May, I decided that Finals week mattered and that I'd wait to think about it in all the free time I'd have this summer.

I was talking about this with my friend Cecily, and after explaining it to her, she just said "Well yeah. Nothing matters, so everything matters."

Wait, what? Whoa.

And with that fresh in my mind, I began the summer. Sometimes, it's better to just stop thinking about things and to just.. be. and see what happens. Follow your heart, as Frankie would advise.

A lot happened.

14 kids fell out of the sky and into my classroom. They became very important to me very quickly.

I cried when I had to say goodbye to my first block. And again two hours later with my second.

As it turns out, I think the Dalai Lama understands what happened.

"Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend - or a meaningful day."

Or, a meaningful class. They showed me that I can still feel purpose even when I am insignificant part of this gigantic, cosmic thing.

It's amazing - that the atoms in me are at least 4 billion years old. And that they don't care whether they're part of a person or a rock. There is profound beauty in that fact.

But I am here, and I am now. And I learned that this is what matters. To me.