Monday, April 24, 2017

Worship & testify

Things I believe in: serendipity, coincidence, the brain's ability to create connections where they may or may not exist.

That's why, when I happened to pluck a dusty Bruce Hornsby CD off the shelf on Sunday and noticed a track called "Sneaking Up on Boo Radley," my students and I gave the track a spin 48 hours later as part of studying To Kill a Mockingbird. That's also why after two online interactions connected me to this text and this one in the past week, I'm slicing about them now.

Six days ago, math educator Dan Meyer reminded me (and anybody else reading his blog) to "testify." The context for this exhortation was advice to educators who present formally, but I took the charge to apply to any interactions with learners. Each time in front of students, for example, to what truths must I testify? This bar feels high and essential and worthy.

"Testify!" was still pinging around my skull almost a week later when a #BFC530 Twitter chat pointed me to author David Foster Wallace's 2005 commencement address at Kenyon College. It's called "This is Water." Near the speech's end, Wallace tells the imminent graduates: "You get to decide what to worship... There is no such thing as not worshiping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship." (7) Of course, there's religious worship, but that's one type among many. The challenge, Wallace warns, is that outside religion, "pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive." (7) Worshiping, it turns out, tends to elevate absurdly lofty ideals.

Cue, the connecting brain, which concludes: In worshiping, I aspire, knowing I must inevitably fall short; in testifying, I tell stories of the journey, so that others may learn and progress farther down the road.


  1. A homerun for you tonight, Brian. I love the comparison and the examples you give.

  2. You are the quintessential connected educator Brian- taking bits and pieces of the brilliance you read/ listen to/ watch and threading it into your own understanding. I love this post, too. I also love the idea to testify- it does smack of importance and honorable work! Now you have me thinking about what I worship...

  3. Telling stories of the journey is what this is all about.

  4. This is an excellent post that has me remembering a Sunday school lesson from when I was in middle school. Our teacher had a poster that said, "If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?" That phrase has stuck with me over the years, and I have stretched it beyond its original religious intent.Substitute "teacher" , "writer", whatever for "Christian". There is your testimony, your worship.

    1. Good story. Making me realize the multiple meanings wrapped up in the word 'conviction.'

  5. YES Brian... I'm with Kevin. The stories need to be told :) And thanks always for reading my posts and responding with tender thoughtfulness.