Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Tales of the Dimwald: the children

Whilst reflecting on identity and fatherhood in company, my interlocutor was expressing angst at his function that would also serve as his identity, when function was not available: that is: when he had been unable to get a permanent job as a teacher he had been unable to juxtapose this with his internal identity as a teacher.

Musings follow, would you like to know more?

Eowyn, daughter of Owain and keeper of the Dunstanane,
Twas to her that the torch of diplomacy passed.
She would treat with giants and Fae, convinced in the act of play,
Powers of speech and persuasion above others outclassed.
The warrior bairn, his golden locks set above a face so stern,
Twas to him that stewardship was gi'en.
He would patrol and police, armed with cap and felisse.
Countenance of strength and shoulders paean.

Belloch, the warlock, keeper of holly and fen,
Took it upon himself to improve the ken
Of offspring of the mighty Owain.
Charged with their education
Knower of faerie and glen
Belloch would save them from pain.

Thing is, this was very convincing.  Indeed, to the point where I agreed that identity was tied up in the job and suggested that it had always been thus - we were teachers.  However, in the careful moments since, considerably less beer-addled, there has been careful reconsideration.  Perhaps this is not as simple as it first appears.

Stories old and chronicles new Belloch did impart,
Of Kings and Honour and Learning and Art,
By example, with lessons, and illustration did start
To create in them the world apart.

Teachers, throughout history, have been many things but rarely only teachers.  They have been philosophers and artists, mechanics and engineers, scientists and questioners - but never just teachers.  My friend is one of these, playing with language and the building blocks of social interaction and allowing others, through joining him on his own journeys, to do the same through imitation.  That is what teaching is about and has been since the dawn of time.  This would indicate that he was incorrect.  It is a not a teacher that he is, rather the job, of being a teacher, allows him to more fully express his real identity as a linguist.  Nowhere was this more apparent than in observing his parenting.  And this as a purely positive thing.

But it went further.  Teaching, as opposed to being something else that people learn from, is tied up more with story-telling in history than it is with what is generally referred to as 'education'.  I am not a storyteller.  As this blog has proven, my talent for poetry and storytelling is lacking: I am too dense, too intense, and, as a consequence, I lack any tone or voice.  My playing with language is mechanical, my terminology too technical and influenced by history to actually get to the story itself.  Characters suffocate in my prose and scenes are drawn as by an architect - without colour and without emotion.  By contrast, my friend can use these things - his every utterance was laced with explosive colour and so his child, limited in vocabulary by age, was similarly blessed.

My wife passes colour to our children.  My daughter, about whom not much is in this blog, speaks with a palette that is largely influenced by that used by her mother.  Put another way: I can read a book, my wife and daughter can sing it.

In this way I am not a teacher at all.  I do not pass on the colour and passion of the subjects that I impart and I am largely unable to string together fables and legends.  Take the Dimwald itself.

I mapped it.  I could describe that map to you, scan it and upload it.  One day it will appear in these pages, that much is certain.  But it would be no more living then than it is now.  My Boy and I walk in the woods and the stories I tell are mere chronicles or pass mostly in silence.  The woods provide the colour and the song, I provide the sleeve notes and descriptive panel to the side of the masterpiece - though I lack the beauty of brevity.

So what is my identity?

Defining that from the Boy, then I am the father - the source of comfort and the template for gender-based behaviours.  The Boy associates reading, writing, sulking, walking and coldness with his manliness.  The Father is the bringer of sleep, the pusher of swings and the soaker of blows.  Passive and impassive; reflective and reflecting; placid and implacable.  This was intended to be a short note on Iron Age societal expectations of family, it seems to have sprung off on a different tangent.  Iron Age fatherhood waits for another time.

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