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Chapter II First Meeting
Feeling his heart beating, the teacher walked towards the classroom of firstyear secondary, where he was about to meet people from sixteen to seventeen. He was supposed to teach them maths and physics. José Luis expected more from himself.He knew that this year was to be different. His dreams were to be embodied in everyday reality. During years,he had searched deep inside of himfor the master that would be able to arouse the wisdom in his students, making them feel unique, putting them in touch with the dreams that they were afraid of, creating enough selfconfidence in themselves, so that they would not be any longer slaves of their own social masks. In this inner journey he had been conquering the qualities that he wanted to uncover in hispupils.Each step he took towards the classroom reminded him of the long road walked—he imagined himself as a conductor who knew that true harmony would be achieved only when capable of feeling each musician as unique, when capable of appreciating the qualities of each and everyone of them, and when capable of integrating those qualities into a single score. The goal would be achieved when the orchestra would continue without his conductor…His mind brought back the images of the wonderful film As It Is In Heaven,in which a genuine teacher had to start teaching making his students recognize, first of all, their own voice. The loud gibberish from the classroom traveled down the hall to meet his ears. Then he questioned himself whether he would be able to teach them without destroying a bit of theirhappiness. He wantedthe classroom to be a place of enjoyment, literally,where everybody could enjoy the fruits that knowledge and,above all, recognition bring. From the bag of magical memories he brought out one of his favorites: GérardDepardieu’s girlfriend said in an interview that when Gérard enters the room in which sheis, she feels that Life itself enters.What a way to express the one person’s joy of life! José Luis fed his body with this memory, giving it the energy he wantedfor his students. His steps became lighter, his feet made walking a dance… His hand touched the handle, he felt the door he was about to open gave way to a greatadventure,and he knew that the essence of this latter word is unable to secure any results at all. A new stage in his career had begun, the values that had been brewing inside him had to be brought out to daylight. Many of these will not be understood or accepted, but being loyal to himselfcould not wait any longer. For the first time in more than twenty years, he would entera roomwithoutamask.
‘Good morning to all of you’,said while his face was illuminated by the morning light that came in through the windows. Just a few heard his greeting, and some of them answered back. He walked through a corridor of desks towards the teacher's table. The distance seemed to become longer and the temptation to wear the mask once again appeared. Finally, he placed himself behind the table, looking at the people in front of him. They went to their seats, scanning the face and figure of the new teacher, trying to put him in a stereotype. José Luis, facing all the education he received, tried to do the opposite. He did not want to see hisstudents as people he already knew, but as a universe to explore with them. Each one of them hid a marvelous and distinct treasure. To teach them was to make them explore their own territory, and thus enjoy their own wealth. This plenty without effort, as fruitscome from flowers, would make grow the virtues that had always been in the seeds of their hearts. Beautiful thoughts! But—how to make them real in the everyday routine? ‘My name is José Luis and I’m your maths and physics teacher’, said he, being aware of the fear that both subjects often produce.‘Welcome to the magicalworld ofmathematics’. The faces were asking each other what stupid welcome this teacher had just said. ‘We’re going to talk about an universe different than the physical one, but that our consciences can visit. We live in different realities. A few minutes ago we were inhabiting the country ofour dreams. In it we can do incredible things; when we enter its domain, we leave ourlimitations outside. The sound of the alarm clock dresses us up with our heavy duties suit, and wewant to continue with the nakedness of our dreams. Well—now that I look at you, Ithink some of you are still with his or her mind in that dream dimension! A soft laughter was heard, while the teacher went to the blackboard and draw what it seemed to be a circle. ‘What’s your name?’,he asked,addressing a boy close to him. ‘Alberto’, answered the boy, shyly. ‘The name of a person must be pronounced as if it were a palace in which one inhabits; since one must be the king of his own life. Dear monarch, could you tell us once again who you are?’, he requested, trying to get in the difficult situation that he hadput his student into, remembering his own timidity, but at the same time, firmly convinced of the need forprovoking his pupil. ‘Alberto’, pronouncedhe, totally confused ashis face went as red as a sunset. ‘You need practice, but we have a whole year ahead. I was myself a very shy student and—now look at me’,said he, opening his arms wide as if he was to introduce his own show.
The rest of the class wondered whether they would also have to become kings. One thing was clear—they already had a new court jester: their new teacher. ‘Tell me, Alberto, what have I just drawn?’ ‘A circle’. ‘Are you sure? How would you define a circle?’ The studenthesitated for a moment, but finally, smelling a rat,he answered haltingly. ‘A plain figure bounded by a single curved line every point of which is equally distant from the centre’. ‘Very academic! That's right. Now look at the blackboard once more and tell me if I havedrawn acircumference’. Alberto was totally confused, ‘where was the trick?’, he wondered, ‘what have I overlooked?’,and finally he answered a hesitant yes. ‘Imagine that the chalk I hold has become a magnifying glass’,said the teacher while tracing the allegedcircumference. ‘Now, the line is wider and thicker and it is easy to see that it’s got several points closer to the centre than others. Actually I have drawn what it’s called an outer ring, that is, the area between two concentric circles. If I made a finer stroke it would be enough for me to get a more powerful magnifying glass and again, it would be thick and the equidistance would disappear. We can’t draw a circle in a threedimensional physical world, because geometric figures don’t belong to that world. It is a part of a mental universe—that of mathematics—to which we can have access with our minds. Any traveler who enters an unknown universe needs a good ship and an excellent training to conduct that ship. In our case the ship is our brain, and the training is our knowledge of the potential of our minds, our emotions, our intuition, and ultimately of all our consciousness. I invite you to learn to be pilots of your brain and explore the magical world of maths’. A great silence was made and all eyes seemed to watch a yet invisible horizon. In their minds was discovered a new space, free of cultural biases and limitations. words. ‘Do you accept my invitation?’, the voice made the silence vanished with five
Nobody dared to answer, so José Luisaddressed Alberto gently, almost seductively, ‘do you accept it?’. Like all shy people who have a great deal of stored value, the student answered clearly in a positive way.
‘What about the rest of you? What’s your answer?’,asked he opening his arms wide as if he was to give a huge hug to the entire class. Timidly they started answering yes and as the waves getting closer to thebeach, those answers grew stronger and louder. Smiles were to be seen announcing that joy had come into that classroom. ‘Thank you, I feel we're going to have great adventures’, said he savoring every word and looking, one by one, to all his students. ‘This is very good—marvelous—but Mathematics will remain difficult andobscure to me.An absolute load, until I finish high school’, said one the students with great disappointment. ‘You are so powerful that what you say will be fulfilled’, stopped José Luis remarking the words powerful and fulfilled. The student’s face gave way to a look of confusion. He didn’t know whether the teacher was pulling his leg or that teacher was nuts. ‘How we see ourselves is the basic tool to build ourlife. If we see ourselves with a little intelligence to understand Mathematics, they will appear to us as impossible. The way to have a higher opinion of ourselves is to learn how we are.Throughout the course we will talk about tricksto achieve this goal’. ‘We create our day to day, with a limited idea of us’, he continued, ‘and that makes us lose a lot of greatopportunities. To be masters of our life is necessary to develop our imagination. I’m going to tell you one of my favourite stories which is calledThe Power Of Imagination’: “Once upon a time there were three silkworms that ignored their future as butterflies. Their names were: Pessimistic, Realistic and Idealistic. They were approaching the time of his transformation and they began to feel the first symptoms. His voracious appetite was fading, mobility waned very quickly and finally they felt how the cocoon isolated them from the known world and its everyday security. In the dark mystery of their future, they had different thoughts: “Pessimistic told himself that he was witnessing the end of his life, and from deep inside of him, he said goodbye to good times. “Realistic kept saying to himself that all this would be temporary and that, sooner orlater, everything would be as it used to be before. “Idealistic felt that what was happeningcould be the opportunity to fulfill his most cherished dream: to fly. And he seized the dark to improve hisdream.
When the three buds opened, three things, equal and different, were shown at the same time. “Pessimistic was a beautiful butterfly, but he was dead. He had died of fear. “Realistic was a beautiful butterfly, but nevertheless, he began to crawl as a worm. With satisfaction, he thanked heaven for remaining as before: a silkworm. “Idealistic, as soon as he saw the daylight, looked for his wingsand seeing them, his heart rejoiced, and he flew away and giving thanks he started spreading his complete happiness throughout the forest”. José Luis ended the story looking at one of the windows, as if it were a large painting made on the floor by the versatile Bert from the Mary Poppins film, which will make the class go into the nearby wood. A great silence allowed to feel the magic of themoment. Every mind wandered free playing with the lights and the shadows causedby the tender morning sunshine rays when meeting the pines. The story opened the students’ imagination, creating an invisible rainbow built with the colours of each of the present minds. ‘How do you feel?’,asked the master respecting the atmosphere. Some soft coughs were heard, showing attempts to return to the already known reality. No one answered. ‘Who wants to give his or her opinion? It is very important for me your opinion because every one of you is my teacher. A person is always a connection to knowledge, although he or she is not conscious of it. If you listen truly to any person you will be able to convert his or her words into wisdom. We are used to talk to each other feeling deep inside that we are not being listened to and we do the same when it’s our turn to listen. So the talking is repeated again and again leading us nowhere. I want to travel with you, I want to—truly feel your words, I want to discover together with you the wonders of life, I want to turn classes into adventures in which we can unveil the enormous potential that we all have inside, I want make challenges out of problems, I want learn from errors—I want to celebrate everything we learnt. Why don’t we make a party from learning?’ Some laughter showing incredulity began to escape from a prison of misunderstanding respect. The students were elbowing each other. One of them took his forefinger to his temple as a sign of madness. A few remained serious hiding out their feelings. The uproar ran throughout the room with the speed of a domino effect. ‘Well! Here comes the party!’,said the teacher, opening his arms once again and smiling. The seriousness that was left soon vanished from the classroom. Laughs were freelyexpressed. José Luis walked through the desk aisles making gestures encouraging
people to a good mood. He was deeply surprised by his own performance and he gave thanks to his entire background that led him to this wonderful moment. ‘Let us all laugh! Come on! Let us laugh! Let’s fill up this room with joy and happiness!’, said he shaking his arms that wanted fly around the classroom, making the air visible. Everybody forgot where theywereescaping from Time. Some began to mourn with laughter, others writhed to the rhythm of theirteacher's hands, as if he was an orchestra conductor. And, like one of these, JoséLuis sought out the best music for each and every single one of his students, approaching their faces and gesturing in order to get more laughs out of them. Magic filled the air. ‘Let us all laugh out loud!Come on! You don’t need any reasons to laugh. Let us enjoy this great moment!Let the laughter feed your bodies! Let the brightness of your teeth illuminate your desk mates! Let your open mouths be an endless source of joy!’.Thewords were led back to freeways opened up in the air by the master’s ongoing harmonious hands movement. Sound and movement created a dance that tookJosé Luisback to his teacher desk. The teacher sat down and remained silent while watching the waves of joy that their interpretation had unleashed. He felt the beauty of the moment from serenity, forcing a faint smile. His eyes scanned, one by one, his pupils’ behaviour, trying to give each one of them their own space within him. They were going to be traveling companions during the whole year. They were going to live adventures beyond what was established till then. JoséLuis was facing the greatest educational challenge he had ever gone through.A part of him feared that things might goout of hands, that his pupils might not understand what he intended to teach them, that their parents might raise the hell out of it, that the high school principal—he couldn’t imagine how the latter was to comprehend his goals. However, he felt that part of him as peripheral, non important, right in the middle of him he noticed something very different: a power made out of passion that fuels his dreams, that told him that time had come to incarnate these dreams beyond any fears, which gavehim the strength to make him feel absolutely secure. That was the main goal he wanted for his students to discover for themselves, the essence that gave life to every human being, the power that could allow anyone to discover his or her own dreams, the light that revealed what was beyond the eye, the ear that allowed hearing from heart, the taste that allowed tasting everything, the smell that perfumed, the sun around which all our potential and actual personalities orbited. Ultimately, that that tolerates everything without making any judgments, above all beliefs, religions, philosophies, scientific theories or fears that might be orbiting. José Luiswas determined to reveal it to his students. He reckoned that there could be no real education without the learner feeling his heart, without the learner awakening to the empowerment that madehim unique, which in turn, made him one single body with the other learners. He knew there were major obstacles that would
impede hisvision, they gave the adventure which had just begun, a new dimension that made it the adventure par excellence. Given the prolonged silence of their teacher the students calmed down gradually. Silence grew as the stars in the sky: first the most luminous dare toweak the sunlight, then in a slow procession, but in a mathematical order of intensity, all the others appear. Thus, laughter diedand silence was born. The teacher maintained his silence as if waiting for the joy, still alive in the air, to penetrate into the walls, windows, floor and ceiling, and thus into the whole building. ‘It’s been a very rewarding experience, I’ve had a great time, thank you! What about you? How do you feel?’. No one dared to answer. ‘Come on! Having laughed together we deserve each other some confidence’.Said he with a comfortable lookat the whole class. Finally a smile shone from one of the desks furthest from the teacher’s. ‘I’ve never had so much fun in a maths class. Will it be so every day?’,asked a blonde girl of a cheerful look with great selfconfidence. Laughs came back. ‘That depends on all of us’, said the teacher. ‘No problem for me. The fewer mathematicswe take, the better!’, replied, as savoring his last word, the blonde girl. ‘Yes! Yes!’,sentenceda few altogether. ‘We will not do maths’,the teacher surprised his audience. A gibberish aroused all around the room. All kind of feelings appeared: joy,bewilderment, disbelief, scandal, and even fear. They all looked like comic characters. This couldn’t bereal. ‘This teacher will not last long!’, predicted the blonde girl. As the gibberishwas gradually subsiding, the eyes were being fixed upon the teacher. This remainedvery serious, spreading mystery. ‘Taking up maths is what you have been doing so far. Let's see what the outcome of that is. Raise hands those who like maths and enjoy them’.
Hesitantly, two out of twenty two raised their hands. ‘Now, those who hate them, answer without fear. Not to hide from us the truth of what we feelis the first step on the path to being the whole masters of our lives. If we are not masters of our lives what’s the point in calling them our lives? Come on, answer as freeas someone who has taken possession ofhis or her own life’. ended up José Luis, putting both hands upon his heart, and feeling in its beating his life. A dozen hands went up almost in unison. Eight more were added gradually. There were two students who didn’texpress themselves. ‘Raise hands those two that haven’t answer yet’. Just like lazy bears they raised their hands. ‘What’s your opinion about mathematics?’. A girl with a pierced lower lip answered. ‘I don’t enjoy them, but I pass the exams even with A’s or B’s. I can’t say that I hate maths—but maths and I are not very good friends’. She said this last word with a grin on her face. ‘Like people, if you give them a chancemaths can be your friend. If you feel them from the centre of which we have spokenbefore, that is from your creating centre, you’ll make them something yours, and they will be part of you. maths won’t be an outsider to you, or just a simple tool’. The teacher was thoughtful for a moment and added, ‘give them a different name that will bring them closer to you, as you would name a puppy that has just been given to you. Take a decision on how to name them letting yourself feel them. What do you think?’. The student was totally confused. He didn’t know whether her teacher was being serious or not. ‘You can give them any name, although it didn’t exist’. ‘Sure!’, answered the girl, raising her right arm and smiling, thinking that idea as something weird. ‘Not bad, I like it. It cheers us up’. ‘But—?’, said she softly absolutely perplexed. ‘Sure! Sure! Sure! Sure!’, said the teacher rising at each sure further up his two arms and voice, and opening them in the air at the end, ‘I don’t know if Pythagoras would agree with this but I love it. Congratulations!’.
Before the student could recover back and answer, the master, gazing theentire class, asked, ‘Who is the other person who neither likes nor hates maths?’. A tall boy shyly raised his hand, expecting the worst. Would the teacher want to laugh at him? Could he dodge what was coming up? ‘I’d like to hear your opinion’. ‘It’s very similar to hers’, said he trying not to get involved in the conversation. After a moment that seemed an eternity to the boy José Luis had been staring at,the latter smiled. ‘Your opinion is very important to me. I need it if I want to do my work. In order to get to somewhere without getting lost, it is clearly essential to know where one starts. Knowing where we each can get through the year is knowing far more than us and our environment. The class has to be a creation of all of us. We are going to be responsible for what we do and for what we don’t. I ask you please to tell us your opinion. I won’t ignore it’, said the teacher nodding his head. The student squirmed his mouth, then exhaled trying to relax. After a slight lisp,said, ‘Mathematicsare always hard to me, no matter the effort I make to understand them. I can’t hate them because—sincerely—I want to master them. I can’topenly saythat I love them because they made me suffera great deal. So I'm sort of even with them. I can’t say anything else’. Replied the boy trying to avoid what it looked like a painful issuefor him. ‘Do you realize that you have said three times “I can’t”. Without noticing it, you are denying your own power’. The boy began to regret his talking and he started to look around the class fearing to be the target of a show where his privacy would be displayed. He went red. The teacher was aware of this and slowed down. ‘What I’m talking about is for all of us’, said he looking around and not paying attention on the situation created with his tall student. He put his right hand on this boy’s shoulder and gave end to his embarrassment. ‘Nobody has more power to deny ourselves things than us. The fear of not getting what we want slowly diminished the safety of our ego, increasingly limitingouractions. We begin then to live on I can’t and not on I can. It grows in us the victim we keep on feeding with our fears. And that victim makes us believe that thecircumstances and the others are to blame for ourunhappiness—anything but to accept our own responsibility. We feel guilty and we get our sentence: jail. We are trapped in the oldest
jail there is, that of the blame. In it we are both the inmate and the guardian. Curious paradox! Don’t you think?’, said he looking for something morethat a reply. Some whispers were heard that tried to bring normality to a class seeking the security of familiar surroundings. The teacher allowed these whispers to continue in the same and natural way with which a TVviewer allows commercials on TV. While the students relaxed, José Luis drewon the blackboard what it looked like our solar system: clearly distinguishing the sun at its centre and the Earth in its orbit. Other planets appeared more blurred. ‘Each of us is like a planetary system and its star. The planet most showy, most famous, most apparently full of life—the equivalent of our beloved Earth—represents our ego, the dominant figure in our present. The sun would be what I mentioned earlier as our centre, the heart of the mystery we are. The remainingplanets, satellites, comets and other celestial bodies would be possible personalities, hoping they would beconsciously inhabited but which nevertheless influence us in our daily lives. The egoreceives their qualities, coming to embody some of them. For example, mythologically,Venus represents beauty and art; Mercury, intellect and communication; Mars,thespirit of a fighter; Jupiter, joy; Saturn, stability; etc. Thus, each star of our psyche represents some specific forms of power to act in life. They’re all different but even so, they all have one point in common,one centre in common: the sun, more precisely, we can call it theBeing, what keeps our real identity no matter the different roles we play in life—’. A raised hand stopped the explanation. ‘What you're talking about—isn’t it called astrology?, Said a girl sincerelyinterested. ‘Nonsense’, said a skinny boy with twinkling eyes. A dialectical battle broke out about considering astrology as a superstition or as anuseful knowledge. Some intervened with passion while others just watched. The teacher wrappedup with his silencethe situation his words had previously unleashed. After a few minutes, some students, taking advantage of the situation, began to introduce games such as throwing papers at each other, which have nothing to do with the discussion going on.José Luis was forced to put order in the classroom. ‘I would answer the question raised by your mate’, said he trying with his gestures and voice to calm things down. ‘It’s a good remark that you did. It wasn’t my intention to introduce you to astrology’.
‘Why not? We'd rather get out of boring topics every day’, saida small girl with rotundity while scattering his gaze throughout the class in a defiant tone. ‘I like the courage you show, I appoint you as a volunteer to tell us when the class is getting soporific’. added José Luis also defiantly. The girl's face showed confusion and answered to the challenge. ‘I can‘t be appointed as a volunteer!It’s a contradiction!’. ‘Maybe, but for me it’s a contradiction too to be learning and be bored. And you willagree with me that this happens constantly in schools. Contradiction is part of our daily life, we observe the attitudes of our loved ones and that of ourselves. We use a lot of energy in contradicting ourselves, energy that we might use in achieving the thingsthat really matter to us. By appointing you a volunteer I want you to take on theresponsibility of your own desire. This is always the first step to achieving it.Also, I need help from someone who has the courage to say what others are thinking and dare not to express it. The best recognition of your work will take place when people were also able to speak up. Then I will appoint you as a volunteer for something else’. He concluded with a smile that brought up an open laugh. The girl thought very quickly, and with a smile which suggesteda great intelligence, she began to approvethe just heard words. ‘Shall you be volunteer?’. ‘I accept the contradiction because I don’t want to contradict my desire of not being bored any more in class’, said she laughing, sharp gesturing with her right hand, while fixing her eyes on the happy teacher. ‘Very good!Let us all welcome a such a strong decision as that. Thank you!’. The teacher invited others to followhis applause. Many students looked at each other not knowing what to do, while others decidedto be carried away by their teacher’s enthusiasm. Slowly, the clapping filled the room. ‘What’s your name, dared lady?’. ‘My name’s Ana’, said she firmly. ‘Ana, are you bored now?’, asked José Luis ironically. ‘Absolutely not!’. ‘You have a pretty name and a magical one’.
‘Why?’,asked Ana in perplexity. ‘Magical because if you read it from left to right says the same thing as if you read from right to left: Ana’. ‘I already knew that. It only has three letters. That’s very easy!’. ‘It is well known this phrase “Madam, in Eden I’m Adam”. This has more than three letters’,the teacher smiled as he wroteit on the blackboard.‘Can anyone tell me how this phenomenon of obtaining the same result when reading from left to right and from right to left is called?’. This created a silence that broke a few moments latera redheaded boy, wearing a blue scarf tied around his neck. ‘Are we going to take on language lessons in maths as well? We already have enoughhours of language!’. ‘For me there are no watertight compartments in knowledge. Everything has to do with everything. I know that most of you might have a boring concept of language, mathematics, history, etc. Things can be boring or great fun, it all depends on how weapproach them. Discover for yourself the magic behind all! It can be a lot of fun! What's your name?’,asked he creating an atmosphere of mystery. ‘Tony’, said he sweetly. ‘And what’s the name people uses when calling you up?’. The student was totally confused. ‘Well—Tony as well’. ‘Notice that these are two very different questions.Do you call yourself up?’. ‘No, what’s the use of that?’. ‘When someone calls you up, it means that at least there are two people: you and the one talking to you. If you address yourself as Tony, you’ll have no choice but to divide yourself into two: the speaker and thelistener. This is very important to observe your own mind and to know yourinside world. Tonyis no more than a character that playfor others but you're much more than thatcharacter. Remember the image of thesolar system, the ego that you projectoutwardsis only apart of the whole. Try to call yourself when you're alone, and watch your thoughts later.Discover and know your character, feel that you can write your scripts, it will make you feel freer and more creative. You can even use a different name to call yourself. What doyou reckon?’, asked José Luis with mischievous eyes.
‘People would think I was nuts!’, said the boy, opening his eyes wide and thus filling with an intense blue all the room. ‘No, if you didn’t tell anybody. It is a personal experience’. After a few moments of thinking, the boy replied, shaking his head as they do in India when they want to say something and someone who doesn’t know the gesture thinks it’s a no, ‘I’ll think about what you’ve said—but now I’ll keep calling myself Tony —if I ever decided to call myself—of course!’, he concluded with an open laugh. The class began to laugh, imagining the scene of Tony talking to himself. The teacher approachedhis desk and waited for them to calm down. ‘Well, there’s a question in the air. What’s the name of those words or phrases that are read either way left-right, right-left? If we apply that condition to numbers thename is better known’,the teacher wrote on the blackboard a number: 8448. ‘What are these numbers called?’. ‘Palindromic numbers’, several voices responded at unison. ‘Why?’. A chorus of silence was felt. ‘All words have their history, their hidden charms. To know this and to live this truth allows us to turn ourselves mysterious and interesting whenever we pronounce those words or phrases’, the teacher let the silence prolonged his last words. ’Palindromiccomes from two Greek words “palin” for againand "dromic" for racing. So, it literally means racing again. We can say that is a number at the beginning of a race and the same number at the counter race. It’s funny how, despite the intrinsic richness a language has, it has to borrow words from other languages. Languages, like people, need each other to enrich themselves’. The teacher, after a short hesitation, he looked at Ana and said, ‘we still have something unsolved—what’s the name of words or phrases that behave like palindromic numbers?’. Ana’s eyes fully opened, letting out a light that revealed some candy pupils, which gave a sweet touch with her defiant look when she said, ‘are you asking me?’ ‘Yes’. ‘Well—I don’t know—let me remember—that was from last year’. ‘It starts with “pa”’. The girl, with her gestures, suggested that the key had been useful.
‘Palindro’. ‘Almost right!It’s palindrome’,answered the master moving towards the black board and grabbing a chalk. Watching the teacher turning around, Ana opened her mouth and drew a huge “O” in the air. José Luis wrote two words and went on explaining them. ‘Palindrome comes from two Greek words “palin” meaning again, by a second time, and "drome",race. Altogether we could interpret it as to start again the race. When we finish reading Ana, starting from its end, we can go and read back exactly the same’, he concludedwatching Ana and smiling to her. A hand wasraised decisively from one of the last tables, the blonde girl’s, who had predicted the mad teacher a short working life. ‘You’ve already explained to us why the name Ana is magical, but why is it pretty?’, asked she emphasizing the last word and with a mischievous expression. ‘”Pretty” is an adjective that expresses among other things love, and it is full of the simplicity of the language of plain people’. ‘What!Are you calling me plain people? Unsophisticated?’, said Ana in a sudden anger. ‘In any case it would be me the only unsophisticated person here for I am the one who has pronounced the word’,settled down the teacher. The class remained quiet. After a while the teacherbroke that silence with just a smile. ‘I was born in Barcelona and I've lived here all my life. I like it but it is not enough. Imiss the town I wasn’t born in’. ‘How can you miss something you've never lived in?’,asked the redheaded Tony amazed. ‘We live in many worlds. In one of them I am from a small country town. I enjoy sunrises, open spaces, nights full of stars, rivers and their charms, woods that surround it, simple life, to stop time—‘. ‘And—do you live in many of those worlds?’,asked a boy mockingly from the furthest desk from the teacher’s. ‘In manymany of them a year’, answered the teacher totally convinced. A few soft laughs began to appear, accompanied by discrete elbowing.
‘In one of them I sail on a spacecraft, discovering new worlds. In another one I aman old native American who knows how to listen to people and nature—‘. ‘Do you mean that you are imagining all that?’,strongly interrupted Ana. ‘Yes, as in the tale of the three butterflies—’. José Luis suspended his speech, and looked out the window closest to him, to the wonderful forest lit by the morning light. Suddenly, he saw a white butterfly coming towards the window. ‘Look out! Look out! Through the window!,’he exclaimed signaling with his hand and approaching the window. ‘There’s a butterfly in the forest and it’s coming to us!’ Half of the class was trying to peek up from their seats. The bravest headed toward the show. The star of the show landed on the bottom of the window, and displayed two beautiful white wings. The crowd around it didn’t seem to intimidate it. ‘This is Idealistic, no doubt’, said the teacher never taking his eyes off the butterfly. The class gathered around the window surrounding the teacher, forming a circle with its centre in the beautiful wings, which are illuminated by the intense gazing at them.Time stopped, andall breathed the same feelings. A bang, as in another class next door, abruptly brought reality to the group. The butterfly flew away, and the students’ eyes went with it in its wandering among the trees. The teacher invitedthe students to feel. Having achieved that, he continued his speech. ‘This butterfly has come to illustrate our story, has entered into it. It arrived at theright time. The coincidence in time and space is called synchronicity’. ‘Bah! It was just good luck’, claimed a boy that remained seated during theevent. ‘What's your name?’,asked the teacher kindly. ‘Alex’,answered he roughly. ‘What’s good luck for you?’. ‘Something that is unpredictable, occurring by any chance’.
‘Unpredictable and occurring by any chance are two different things. Predicting anearthquake one month before it happens can besomething impossible today but that doesn’t mean that it occurs by any chance. I agree with you that I have not planned this consciously. Thebutterfly appeared just at the right time. However, I am truly convinced it was not by any chance. The things we can’t explain are part of the magic of life. Without them, science would be meaningless. If we only trust in what we thinkto understand, what is reasonable, what is widely accepted, we’re missingafundamental part of life. We can explore the unknown to our knowledge through imagination, as did Idealistic in the story. One can’t be a real scientist without using imagination beyond what it’s established. I wish you all you can enjoy a true scientific spirit, which is the reason I said we won’t do maths’. ‘What will we do then?’,asked Alex. ‘Investigate, as scientists, mathematics’. ‘But—the ones we're going to do were already investigated long ago!’saidAlex incredulously. ‘Yes, by others, not by you—You’ve always seen mathematics as something alien, distant. In many cases, you’ve felt them as a nuisance, since they constantly reminded you your alleged limitations’. ‘Alleged—’,bitterly interrupted the big boy the teacher had made him noticed overuse of “I can’t”. ‘Limitations are always alleged as there’s a big part of us that we don’tknow. To accepta particular limitation is as saying that—looking at a crowded skyof stars—life can’texist on any other planet besides Earth. Scientifically, this would be a true presumption, in the same way as thinking that would be a complete nonsense. Youralleged constraints are an invitation to explore your inner territory’. ‘These territories are like the worlds in which you imagine you're the captain of a spaceship space—or anything else without a real sense’, replied the skeptic Alex slyly. ‘Don’t you like adventures?’. ‘We must keep our feet on the ground, unless we wanted to live misadventures’, sentenced he. The teacher watched him in silence, and after a moment's hesitation, he replied. ‘I reckon that sentence is not yours. Am I wrong?’. ‘You’re right. My father says it to me a lot of times, and he learned it from his father. It really helps me not to foolish mistakes’,he answered proudly.
‘You were one of the two people who raised their hands when I asked who liked maths. Weren’t you?’. ‘Yes’. ‘What does your father think of them?’. ‘That they’re the most important subject at high school’. ‘Have you found out why?’. ‘I suppose that you, as our maths teacher, will explain to us—if we go down to them instead of talking about other matters—of course!’, claimed he ironically. The teacher smiled at Alex, taking hisspeech as an educational challenge. ‘Can the fish come to understand the meaning of water without ever leaving it and comparing it to air or vacuum?’, the teacher continued without waiting for an answer. ‘Nothing can be understood without relating it to something else. All science isessentially relationship. One can spend a thousand years just studying mathematics, and not understand their role inhis or her own life. Everything is important, because everything is connected to everything’. José Luis finished turning his eyes to the nearby forest and letting a long silence reign in the classroom. After a minute, he went up to the boy whom he had been speaking to before Alexinterrupted them. ‘I’d like to know your name’, said he softly. ‘Tim’. ‘A straight name—no hiding in it—It sounds joyful. I congratulate you for having it’. ‘Thanks!’, said the boy cheerfully. ‘We left it in your inner territories, how much there is to explore—inyour hiddentreasures—’. ‘We haven’t talked about treasures’, Tim interrupted in an unusual confident manner that showed his opening up to the new teacher. ‘Everyone has treasures, but not many know it’,said he involving his sentence with an air of mystery, ‘I noticed your nervousness the first time we spoke. In order to make the tension disappear you did something that to Dr. Caycedotook him long to find out. He was a physician, neuropsychologist, who created avery important
relaxationmethod, used in many hospitals around the world and sports training, also it teaches students to improve performance and neutralize nerves before dreaded exams. Hewalked for over two years throughout Japan, Tibet and India studying how thesecultures faced nerves, lack of concentrationand so on. He incorporated everything he learned in the East tohis prior knowledge of hypnosis and created a new techniquehe called Sophrology. This word made out of three Greek words’, the teacherwrote on the blackboard, ‘“sos”, balanced, harmonious, “phren”, unity of mind and body, and “logos”, study. Thus, we can translate sophrologyas the study of harmony betweenmind and body. That harmonyyou lose when nerves take hold of you in an exam’. ‘I don’t remember having used anythingto eliminate my stress’. ‘Just before telling your relationship with maths, you twisted your mouth and then released the air you were holding up, exhaling a long sigh’. ‘So what?’. ‘Stressingmusclesand then exhaling through the mouthis one of the techniques used in Sophrology. It's like stretching the bow and then shooting the arrow. This leavesthe bow relaxed. You wasn’t aware of what you did, the wisdom of the body did it for you’. ‘Well—after releasing the arrow, I was still nervous’. ‘Because you reloaded the bow. Your fears imposed themselves again upon your body.This is like a much sophisticatedcar with many automatic mechanisms, at the end it will do what the driver wants to. We’ll talk about all this throughout the year’. them. The teacher made a gesture to indicate that he was going to speak to all of
‘I want to awaken you to the scientific spirit. Our society has been advancing in technology—oddly enough—without developing a scientific spirit among its population. That is clearly seen in the fact that only a few research, and each of these does so in a narrow and determined field of knowledge. At the end what just a few discover turns out to be an act of faith for the large majority of people. Theinvestigations which are outside the accepted orthodoxy lack of financial support andthose who develop them are marginalized, and even caricatured. It's an old situation that is being repeated throughout our history. Unamuno said scientifism condemnsthe ridiculous, as the Church used to condemn to the stake. The words ending in “ism”may be indicating a desire to impose your ideas or feelings onto others. Examples arecommunism,socialism, fascism, agnosticism, skepticism, vegetarianism, spiritualism, etc.’.
‘You’ve forgotten one: “gradism”. That is the obsession of wanting to impose the idea that grading is the mostimportant thing at high school’, interrupted the girl who asked the teacher to explain why Ana was a magical name’. The teacher looked intently at the student and smiled with an expression of approval. ‘There is no such word in the dictionary. It is a great opportunity to start our ownclass dictionary. Inventing words is a great enjoyment and fun. What’s your name?’. ‘What’s the name I call myself?,said she joyous and provocative. The teacher laughed openly and spread his joy to others. ‘Okay! What is your name?’. ‘Blanca. Are you going to say something about my name?’. ‘It's a symbol of purity—’. ‘I’m not sure if I like the idea of purity—’. ‘There are two ways of looking at the word: from the head, in which duality governs, or from the heart in which integration is the guide’. ‘From the perspective of the first, everything has its opposite—that’s called duality—, everything is divided into good and bad, beautiful and ugly, useful and useless, pleasant and unpleasant, black and white, and so on. When this is applied to people, we come into judging and as a consequence we make ourselves or others feel guilty, opening a path to repression of thoughts and feelings’. ‘That's the yin and yang, isn’t it?’,exclaimed the girl with the piercing to whom the teacher had given the advise of calling maths another way. ‘What’s your name?’, asked the teacher, changing the way of asking in order not to open a new dialecticalfront, and making clear his intention with a naughty smile’. ‘Sara’. ‘Indeed, the yin and yang would be an example of duality’, the teacherwent to theblackboard and drew the famous oriental symbol representing the bipolarity of life. ‘Notice that the circle is divided into two identical areas, seedshaped, one black and one white. The mostsurprising thing is to discover that within the white area there’s a small black circle, and vice versa in the dark area. Sara, how would you interpret this?’.
After hesitating a moment, despite knowing the answer, she said proudly, ‘although it might not be seen at a first glance, it means that, no matter what, the yin is inside theyang and vice versa. For instance, in Star Wars,inside the good men lies the ability to become bad’. ‘Bravo! Congratulations!’,said José Luis nodding, ‘Maybe that's why it’s been shaped as a seed. We have the potential to be one thing or another.It depends on the seed thatwe want to plant in every situation. Thank you, Sara’. ‘Let’s go back to purity. From the point of view of the head, of the reason, in yin and yang, situations and even people can be divided into pure and impure. This approachhas been used by religion and morality. But as Sara told us, the impure would be within the pure and all the way around. This is what causes the socalled confrontationbetween good and evil which is behind so many struggles in daily life, and behind the endless wars that plague our history. Thus yin is confronted against yang, and vice versa which makes them inseparable. They are tworelated concepts and thereforegood people in a determined society can be considered bad in another determined society’. ‘In our class, we that get bad grades, we’ll be the best then?’, interrupted Blanca ironically. Several students supported with gestures the courage of their partner. The teacher let the situation calm down heading towards a window, and leaning with his right arm on its frame. Behind it appeared the forest. Staring at infinity he made thefollowing question to his class, ‘can you tell me which trees, of those out there behind me, are the best and which ones the worst? Which are the most important trees for theforest? Which ones would you cut down?’. A great silence was made once again in the classroom. The eyes were fixed at thewindows. There wasn’t any answer at all. ‘All trees are equally important.In every one of them the forest is alive. However, there aren’t two alike, that is why all of them are so essential. In my class grades will not be used to divide pupils into good and bad. Each of you can enrich theothers. All we have to do is to find out a way to do it. Will you help me in this commitment?’. Another silence—after a minute, the teacher addressed Blanca pointing her with his forefinger. ‘Will you help me?’. Blanca was surprised and leaving her usual brash asidefor a few seconds during which she didn’t know what to answer, said, ‘If you tell me how—’.
‘Sometimes I will tell you; some other times you will expose your ideas; and many other times the ideas will emerge by themselves. Is this OK?’. ‘Very good!’,said the student recovering her usual ease. ‘This goes for everybody as well. I expect your help’. ‘We haven’t finished yet with my name!’, said Blanca. ‘That’s true!From the point of view of the heart—’. ‘Now we’re going to get romantics!’,said Alex, with gestures addressed to the whole class expressing he had enough. ‘I think the heart to which I refer is not where you're thinking. I ask you to be patient. After my explanation I would appreciate your opinion’,the teacher said with a sincere smile on his face. Alex relaxed and allowed his teacher to continue. ‘The point of view of the heart is responsible for integrating, in contrast to that of the reason that is to analyze, to divide, trying to understand, through the parties, how’s the realitywe live in. There are many ways to divide reality in order to understand it. For instance, in a class we could divide students by gender, hair colour, birthplaces, heights, grades—’,the teacher smiledwhen he pronounced this word,‘— etc. Our sciences have abused of the analysis, marginalizing integration. The physical heartpumps blood to all parts of the body without judging the role of each of them. Theheart to which I refer does the same. There can only be true integration respecting all parties. Let’s take afootball team. If we want the best out of it, first of all, we’ll have to respect each and every one of its players in a same way. None is more important than another. That’s why behind every winner team there must be a heart that had achieved integration earlier’. ‘To contemplate the purity of the heart we don’t need the contrary –impurity— toexist as it happens with the reason because the heart is watching from way beyond duality. For theheart white is not the opposite of black, but the sum of all colours’,José Luis remained silent, allowing the imagination of their students catch his lastwords. Alex took the opportunity to look at his watch and realized that there wereonly a few minutes left. With a shy gesture of disapproval, which wasunseen,he missed out the words of the teacher who continued his speech addressing to Blanca. ‘Thus, from the heart, your name would represent the purity of a rainbow. From the reason it would be the opposite of black. Which one do you prefer?’. Blanca’s deep blue eyes looked so intense to her teacher that they closed all other senses. Her thinking had become her looking. She tried to peer through her
teacher’s mind and understandwhere all those words came from. She slowly opened up the closed senses and tried to give an answer. ‘I've always liked rainbows. I love to carry them inside my name. Thanks!’, she said this last word full of colour and wrapped in sincerity. ‘It would be nice if all of you were delighted with your names’,said the teacher addressing the whole class,‘can you imagine that just saying your names the magic cave in which all your treasures are hidden would open up and the one calling you could be able to see them all? How would it be his or her look?How would he or she receive your words?—’. ‘That only works with “open sesame” ’, burst out Blanca ending the imagining. The teacher smiled while thinking how to answer back. ‘It would be like that if we had stolen the treasures as the forty thieves. I mean the type ofwealth that it is lost if it is not given away’. ‘If I give you something, I can well forget it definitively’, sentenced Alex, assuming he had wasted his first class with the crazy teacher. The teacher suddenly went to the student and held out his right hand. ‘Give me your hand, as if we were presenting one another. Hi, my name’sJosé Luis. What’s yours?’, said he very politely. The student was totally confused, but to avoid further ridicule he cooperated with the teacher but without much enthusiasm. ‘Hi, my name’s Alex’,he said shaking hands. The teacher shook hands with the boy tight but warmly. With a big smile he said ‘It's a pleasure!’. Slowly, he withdrew his hand and walked a few feet away,‘what have we given each other?’ asked he insidiously. Alex decided to cut it off using his humour. He didn’t want to discuss any longer with his teacher—besides the lesson was almost over—, ‘I've not given you anything, I’ve recovered back my hand!’,he put up his right hand, waved it so all could see it, and laughed out loud. ‘And I have mine!’, added the teacher mimicking the gestures and the laughter of hispupil. The room was filled with laughter as the light filtered through the woods touched successively each of the windows. When the laughing went down the teacher continued talking.
‘There are many things you can give in a greeting. Look at the word itself! It comes with friendliness. It can be a great remedy to give out sincere happiness and friendliness. To greet someone is a great opportunity forbeing felt, and for revealing a glimpse of our qualities. Don’t think, just feel— Reciprocal smiles can light up thefaces, with a light that overwhelms all defects, searching for the other as he or she truly is. You can convert a greeting in a magic moment, in which you can be healed and at the same time heal the other—all in just a few seconds!’. These latter words reminded the teacher that he had a limited period of time for his first lesson. He watched the clock and saw that he had only a couple of minutes left—just enough time to say goodbye. now’. ‘Closing a process is as important as opening it. We have to finish the lesson by ‘Do we have to shake hands once more?’, said Alex half worried half happy. ‘No! To wish you something will do! It must be something that motivates you’. ‘You’re not going to give us homework to do, aren’t you?—Not on our first day! —No one does it!—’, expressed Sara while her piercing brightened every word she said. ‘Don’t worry! It’s not my intention’,he repliedsmiling. The teacherstood at the window that offers a greater perspective of the classroom and ended up saying, ‘I wish you a year full of adventure and discovery, where you can uncoverthe enormous treasures hidden in each one of you. I hope it's fun— see you tomorrow!’.
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