Riposte 4

One day [Montessori] was watching a child of about five years composing the numbers 1 – 100 with the number frame. . . . To Montessori it seemed a dreadfully slow and long-drawn-out business. So, thinking she could help the child to arrive more quickly at her goal — which she took to be the number 100 — she began asking her to compose some numbers further on, skipping out others to accelerate the process. The child submitted to her suggestions for some time with quiet patience, obediently doing what she was asked to do. Then, as if she could stand it no longer, she said, politely but firmly, “Please will you go away and let me do it my own way.” . . . . “I felt justly rebuked,” said Montessori, “for my stupidity. I had made the mistake of thinking the child’s interest lay in getting to the end of the process and not in the process itself.”

. . . .The inner rhythm of the child’s life in some ways resembles that of a mystic; for both may be said to live in a sort of “eternal now.” The contemplation of the mystic does not produce anything practical outside himself — it is an end in itself — and the end is self-perfection.

– E. M. Standing, Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work

[Tzu Kung] saw a lone old man working on his land. The man had prepared the ground and had drawn water from the well and was carrying a jar of water to pour on the earth. Huffing and puffing, he was using up much of his strength and yet had little to show for it. Tzu Kung said, “There are machines which can water a hundred fields in one day, for very little effort but with much to show for it. Wouldn’t you like to have one, Master?”

. . . . The gardener was furious, then laughed and said, “I have heard from my teacher that where you have machines, then you get certain kinds of problems; where you get certain kinds of problems, then you find a heart warped by those problems. Where you get a heart warped, its purity and simplicity are disturbed. When purity and simplicity are disturbed, then the spirit is alarmed and an alarmed spirit is no place for the Tao to dwell. It isn’t that I don’t know of these machines, but I would be ashamed to use one . . . . Off you go, Sir, and do not disturb my work!”

The Book of Chuang Tzu, Martin Palmer, Tr.