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Primarily an Educator

The bright student
and the dedicated
Mr. S is the one who reminded me of Mencius' words about man's innate spontaneity through his devotion to adding rare materials to the exhibits of the Cyber Museum I launched three and a half years ago.

Once again he brought in a large pile of photocopies of old magazine articles written by or about my father Mineo Yamamoto. I said, "I really appreciate your efforts, but I'm afraid I may not have them uploaded to the site because I don't have time, money and most importantly, enthusiasm to do so anymore." The selfless guy said, "That's no problem."

He added: "This time I have realized that your father was primarily an educator, fully dedicated one."

Among the batch of paper in front of us, there was a 1943 article in a questions-and-answers format from a magazine meant for schoolchildren. One of the questions asked of my father was: "Why and how can an airplane fly high defying the law of gravity?" He was enthusiastically answering the question by citing how a kite soars and how an atomizer works.

This is what Mr. S had in mind when he said my father was a good educator.

I have inherited from him many things including Parkinson's disease. But among other things, I owe him this particular attribute. Like him I have believed throughout my life that the only effective way to learn things is to teach them, and sometimes vice versa; most of the things I've learned have been learned through teaching. This is where the learning process of human beings differs from that of apes.

Ten years ago, I taught an MBA class at International University of Japan. I had a lot of fun teaching 30 or so foreign students there. I hope they also had fun discussing with me the use of the networked computers as an essential enabler of renovation in business. But that was only for a semester and my only experience lecturing at a higher-learning institute.

So I usually introduce myself as a businessman-turned-blogger. But to be more precise, I was born to be a fully committed educator before anything else. It always sickens me to have to deal with intellectually lazy, learning-disabled guys even when their idiocy is none of my business.

And what exactly have I taught them?

In my recent post entitled A Graveyard for the Musical Legacy of the West, I talked about the inversion of the ends and the means. In that connection I wrote the only thing that can set right the inverted value-creating chain is versatility.

Just remember that George Washington was primarily a farmer and agronomist, and Thomas Jefferson had many faces such as architect's, astronomer's and inventor's. I don't think we can expect single-minded political racketeers and tunnel-visioned political analysts to be able to reverse the ongoing process of the decline of civilization.

That is why I have always adhered to interdisciplinary subjects.

Have I succeeded so far? Only to a certain extent.

I remember educating on-the-job an intern by the name of Nathalie Guy when I was a senior manager at a Zurich-based trading company. I taught the brilliant French lady how to manage the foreign currency positions on a handmade system of my own based on Macros and VBA (Visual Basic for Applications.)

Our teacher-student relation was very fruitful because Nathalie was so enthusiastic not only about learning computer systems, forex and business as a whole but also about reciprocating.

When it came to my interaction with Japanese audiences including my bosses, peers and subordinates, it was a disaster most of the time. Simply they don't have willingness to learn. The same is more or less true with my own kids.

To borrow Wynton Marsalis's way of saying it, since they think everything has its place, they don't need to look for a new place.

I think I once wrote about Karl Jaspers, a German psychiatrist and philosopher. Although he has had little influence on my way of thinking and living, I was deeply impressed by an anecdote inserted in one of his books I read some 55 years ago. It went like this:

The director of the mental hospital is known for his unparalleled compassion toward the inmates. One day when he strolled around the garden, he spotted an inpatient casting a fishing line into the swimming pool. The director stopped by the patient. Smiling knowingly, he said, "What kind of fish do you catch here?" The madman replied: "Don't be silly, doc. You can't catch any fish in a swimming pool."

I'm inclined to classify people into four types like this:

Type 1: Bigmouths who boast they went fishing at the seaside and caught a big fish while, in fact, they went nowhere and caught nothing.
Type 2: Gripers who claim to have been out at sea for fishing but came home empty-handed; they spend the rest of their lives telling sour grapes stories, or inventing plausible excuses.
Type 3: Tricksters who admit they cast a fishing line at the poolside but caught a big fish which is actually nothing but the product of a delusion.
Type 4: Madmen who fall under the same category with Jaspers' patient.

Throughout my adulthood, I haven't known, in person, a single individual who doesn't fit any one of these descriptions.

I have just woke up from the third sleep of the day although it's still before noon. The hardest part of suffering Parkinson's disease lies with this sleep disorder coupled with disabling exhaustion. The combination of the two symptoms results in what doctors call "sleep fragmentation."

These days I've had several dreams everyday. Most of them are surreal but some are not. In relatively fathomable dreams I am always teaching people, some of whom I know in person, until my voice gets hoarse. Since the subject of my lecture there is a combination of two or more different topics from among my areas of concern, my dreams always carry a dual implication. Nobody but young charming ladies has ever gotten my message.

I don't know for sure where to classify Mr. S. Maybe he is somewhere between Type 2 and Type 3, I guess.

When I said good-bye to him at the entrance gate of the subway, I told him I am a Type 4.

I just wanted to say: "Don't frequent libraries and museums anymore to fish, or mine, materials concerning my father's accomplishments. It's not you, but me, that has started life at the point where his aspiration was aborted."

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Primarily an Educator
Authored by: samwidge on Saturday, October 09 2010 @ 04:24 AM JST

Let me see if I have this right; You went to the seaside of life and had independent children who are respected by their peers.

Looks to me like you caught more fish than anybody else!