The problem with teaching is this:

The best way to teach is to convey what is true to oneself, so that one is not disseminating second hand information; one can undoubtedly best teach what one really knows to be true for oneself, and oneself is the very proof of that knowledge. If an obese person were to teach a weight-loss class, we would laugh. A poet we pay to teach us poetry would need evidence that he is, in fact, a good poet.

And yet we are told constantly that everyone is different—what is true for you is not true for me. Your first hand truth is not only second hand for me; it may be entirely wrong for me. Someone has different genes than you do—their diet and regimen would not work for you. The poet teaching you may be good, but it would be foolish to be like them—their poetry belongs to their experience and their nuanced use of language is entirely their own.

You see the dilemma. First hand is either wrong for you or shouldn’t be imitated. And second hand is well…second hand, and could be wrong for the same reasons.

And further, the more teaching fails, the more desired teaching is—the many who do not learn seek new teachers and more failure; the ‘education complex’ feeds more and more failure and the ‘teaching industry’ is unable to face the terrible truth that the self-taught are the true learners; teaching, beyond a kind of crude furnishing of information, is impossible both within and without, in both spirit and letter.

At enormous expense, degrees and diplomas are sought, diets and exercise are tried; the growing ignorance breeds more desire for diplomas and diet books; a defensive mania is ingrained to the point where the true secrets of the self-taught are entirely pushed aside as undocumented superstition, and teaching becomes so ridiculous that new subjects to teach are invented, increasing folly with folly; unable to teach, earnest teaching of what is entirely unnecessary commences, and since one cannot measure a lack, the lack is now an even larger apple the ignorant donkey chases; and in the very wake of more ignorance and folly, more certified professors, deans and experts are created: the certified certify the certified who certify in an infinite chain.

The terrible impact of the education folly is hard to see; stuck inside infinity, people “carry on” in whatever line of trade is offered, and the misery index climbs in millions of souls for causes unnoticed and unknown; ignorance is its own salve (ignorance is bliss) and ignorance among the educating and educated classes is more happy and more ignorant, still. Bad poetry grows apace, and yet imagination thrives among the practitioners of bad poetry—the social whirlwind surrounding book publications and live readings of bad poetry whirling bad poets about in a blind, eager, p.r. frenzy is the context in which bad poetry is imagined to be good. Imagination and teaching and learning roar on with full force, not abating, but increasing, even as knowledge and wisdom and pleasure and vistas to all these things fade and decline. Of course, in a few places, good teaching does manage to occur, as long as it is not too carefully watched, and sorted, and certified, and inspected.

Scarriet now offers some advice to counter this general folly.

The truly good can, and should, be imitated. This is one of the secrets of self-taught successes. There is no such thing as an excellence or a skill which does not belong to everyone. The more successful something is, the less unique it is, and the more it should be copied.  Also, a vast number of excellent things can be copied at once, and the combinations of excellence picked up will naturally combine with one’s own unique character (which is a given) —and this is all the originality one needs. Don’t buy into this idea: since you are different from the master, or the master template belongs to a bygone era, it does not belong to you. Yes it does. It’s all you’ve got. Steal it. Take it. There is no successful poem (formally excellent, moving) or successful diet (high protein, low sugar, balanced) which is not true, or not true (with very rare exceptions) to your needs.

Trust then, in the first hand excellence delivered to you. Be suspicious of all that is second hand; however, realize that a bygone era’s excellence must be second hand—therefore do not reject this kind of old excellence for being second hand, but make its excellence first hand for you.

Avoid teaching for the sake of teaching.

And that’s it. This is all the advice necessary.

You will notice that Scarriet prints original essays—and original poems by the same author. It is as first hand as we can make it.  We follow our own principle, and glory in it.


1 Comment

  1. noochinator said,

    April 29, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    “My dear fellow, you certainly are a deceitful lover, for you want to idolize me because of my wisdom, and then you yourself want to be the one person who understands me best and the one from whose admiring embrace I would be unable to tear away — are you not really a seducer?” —from Kierkegaard’s ‘Philosophical Fragments’

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