I live my life with a great deal of discipline. There are rules for food and exercise and disciplines for writing and meditating and sex, guidelines for interacting with others, daily and weekly and a few yearly rituals, all formulated by and for myself and self-imposed. I have no tolerance for restrictions imposed on me by others.
I wrote in November about a free school where students are given absolutely free rein over their time, with no tests or standards or curriculum, and where almost all students figure out what they want to learn and learn it in their own way, at their own pace. But it is only today that I have considered the corollary: perhaps I don’t need rules or disciplines. Perhaps I would be as healthy and as happy (or more), I would accomplish as much (or more), I would be as responsible a citizen and as good a friend (or better) if I let go of discipline altogether, substituting self-awareness.
Most intriguing and most occluded for me is a faint glimpse into the obvious: that my disciplines are maintained by a part of me that seeks unconsciously to set myself apart from others, to sustain a myth that I am better than the people around me.
The lesson of free schools is the power of community. It is certainly not true that any child left to his own whims will thrive and blossom and fulfill himself. When free schools are effective it is because individuals are inspired and swept up by a supportive community of people who are joyfully engaged, collectively and individually, in projects that are fulfilling and challenging. This is the environment I will seek for myself.