On Saturday I taught four girls how to crochet. I know that seems like a really small thing, but I’d forgotten how exhilarating it can be to watch someone learn to do something new. They did beautifully, and were very excited: after the first little wristlet I had them do, two began hats and one began a scarf: they really believed they could tackle bigger projects – and I believe they can, too; they were great!
Isn’t it silly, how much a simple transference of knowledge can mean to two individuals – both the teacher and the student? One of the girls asked when I learned to crochet, and I said probably when I was about their age, in girl scouts. And isn’t that cool, that someone taught me all those years ago, and maybe got this same little thrill – and now I’m passing it on, and maybe someday they’ll be teaching their own – or someone else’s daughters – how to crochet?
One of the counselors told me one of his campers told him, “I like it here, because here I don’t have to be mean. Here it’s cool to be nice.” I so want to believe in the multiplicative effect – that 10 kids who learn here that it can be cool to be nice will each carry it to 10 of their friends when they get home, and it will spread. But instead I suspect that it’s like that rumor game we played this evening: over time and people, something gets lost in the translation and you have to come back for a refresher course.
Which is the lovely thing about crocheting: the stitches are really simple, and will yield the same result 15 years from now that they yield now; kind of the same way that 2 and 2 will still equal 4, not just 15 years from now, but 100 years, or a thousand years.
Perhaps wisdom is a little like that; like crocheting and math – the truths that emerged for one wise man in the desert in one century are really no different than the truths that emerged for another centuries later. The wisdom Rumi and Hafiz observed in the world is the same wisdom that informs the poetry of Mary Oliver today. These truths , unlike the rules and assumptions that humans create when they start organizing religions, are timeless, and hold true whether the Bible is only available to clergy, in Latin, or women are ordained, or homosexuals get to be bishops…
I think – especially now that I’m older – the timeless truths are really the only ones I’m interested in. I don’t need to know how many angels you think can dance on the head of a pin, or what movie star slept with whom. But show me a crochet hook and a ball of yarn, or a poem that awakens my heart to new wisdom – then I’ll know we’ve got something!