“And even as each one of you stands alone in God’s knowledge, so must each one of you be alone in his knowledge of God and in his understanding of the earth.”- Kahlil Gibran
I was not aware of the hymn, “How Great Thou Art,” before a Fb friend recently shared it on my “home page.” I was not prepared for the soul-stirring combination of lyrics, melody and Carrie Underwood’s dazzling talent. However, it wouldn’t have mattered if I had known about it when I was still teaching because the lyrics would not have been appropriate to share in a public school. The Biodesign Facebook page and websites, however, are not constrained by the laws regarding the separation of church and state and we are free to exercise our “illimitable freedom of the human mind.” (Galileo would say, “Good luck with that!”) 😉
The Biodesign Class began as a revolutionary approach to learning advanced biology. Lacking any model to follow, the class was originally called “Bio-X “ (as in Xperimental). Given the current pressures on education, it is not likely another experiment like this will occur.
We experimented with many learning techniques and two interrelated discoveries proved to be immensely important in the evolution of the class. One, thanks to Black Elk, was to conduct all meetings in a circle. Sitting in a circle elevated student responsibility and reduced my role as the “teacher.” It also greatly enhanced communication as everyone could see each other’s face. The other was a technique we called, “minimal philosophy.” Whenever we encountered a new word or phrase that needed clarification, we “minimalized” it. Any student could express his/her one or two-word take on it. Either a student at his/her left or right would follow in turn until the word was back to the beginning. It was a little like the “Telephone Game,” however, the process was overt and the collective definition included feeling-tone, nuance and ethos and was often better than that of Webster or Roget.
“How Great Thou Art” is a poem of gratefulness written by Carl Gustav Boberg (1859–1940) in Sweden in 1885. The melody is a Swedish folk song, which was translated into an English hymn of praise by British missionary Stuart K. Hine. Carrie Underwood has publicly avowed that her mission in life is to share God’s love. For her, performing the song becomes a personal act of praise and adoration.
The hymn, “How Great Thou Art,” provides a perfect segue to using “minimal philosophy” to distill the essence of some of the world’s great people. It was actually a lot of fun to put together.
Socrates: How philosophical Thou art.
Plato: How truthful, beautiful and good Thou art.
St. Francis: How wonderful Thou animals art.
Meister Eckhart: How mystical Thou art.
Galileo and Isaac Newton: How scientific Thou art.
Da Vinci: How mechanical Thou art.
Michelangelo: How artistic Thou art.
Shakespeare: How dramatic Thou art.
Robert Burns: How poetic Thou art.
RW Emerson: How metaphorical Thou art.
Henry Thoreau: How transcendental Thou art.
Walt Whitman: How miraculous Thou art.
Gregor Mendel: How genetic Thou art.
John Muir: How glorious Thou art.
O. Henry: How ironic Thou art.
Black Elk: Thou art a circle with no beginning or end.
Carl Jung: How synchronistic Thou art.
Helen Keller: Thou art greater than man can see or hear.
Loren Eiseley: How mysterious Thou art.
Mother Teresa: How compassionate Thou art.
Charles Schultz: How funny Thou art.
Dr. Martin Luther King: How non-violent Thou art.
All of these people have several things in common. They shared a deep sense of spirituality and saw beyond the physical, mental and material world. Each was a visionary who made a huge contribution to society by eclipsing his/her self-limiting-self-serving ego. Although, I may not be worthy of untying their shoes, it gives me goosebumps when I contemplate how profoundly each one of them enriched my life by the simple expediency of going for a spiritual walk with me.
How Great Thou Art, was voted the United Kingdom’s favorite hymn by BBC’s Songs of Praise and according to many scholars and musicologists, follows only “Amazing Grace” on the list of the world’s all-time favorite hymns.