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Learning to Give Birth

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Socrates often called himself a “mino,” a midwife; it was one of his favorite metaphors for the teacher.  He believed that teaching was not a matter of bestowing information upon a student, but rather coaching one through the process of giving birth to the knowledge that is already within oneself.  I think there is something to this pedagogy.  Even when one encounters “new” information, real learning and radical comprehension requires that one situate it within the complications of his/her greater intellectual framework.  Surely, that is an active and arduous process.

I feel as if I have been in labor for the past four months, trying earnestly to birth the nascent knowledge of my time at Harvard Divinity School.  There have been times in the last few weeks when I have reached out desperately for the hand of a partner, my mind amid intellectual exhaustion, my fingers tired from pushingpushing the keys of this tiny white keyboard.

“I don’t know if I can do this….” I had to keep pushing. It had never before been that hard to process, to write, to read again and again and again!

“Push!” my midwives insisted. “Keep pushing!” they encouraged. “We see this precious child within you! We see it coming! Push!”

With a sigh of relief and satisfaction, the infant arrived: ideas I had not entirely known I possessed, or at least commanded enough to reproduce in the tangible form of written word.  “It is a miracle!” I always observe with delight whenever I create something of which I can manage to be proud. “What a miracle!”

I have never birthed a human being, but I think I have a little glimpse into the patience such a strenuous labor would require, and perhaps a tiny insight into the pride experienced when holding the infant in her arms after working and waiting for so long.  “It is a little me,” she sighs, “This is my creation!” Starring down at an essay composed of so much of me, these are my words, too.


  1. Jeff Coblentz says:

    Congratulations on your new-found bundle of knowledge. I’ve just been listening to Green Day’s “Brain Stew,” which somehow seems appropriate.

  2. Theresa says:

    She’s baaack…. :). And Christie, Paulette’s daughter started the labor process last night! I love the midwife imagery…i used it to describe the “catechist” in my thesis…cant wait to catch up!

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