I just finished reading The Lord of The Flies by William Golding. I guess it belongs to the list of books one should have read at some point in life, but for some reason, I had never taken the courage to do so. I had heard about it as a teenager. A friend of mine had read it and she told me it was horrible. I kept that review in my mind for the rest of my life until this Fall when I started teaching Humanities in yr10 and our first unit is about Governance. The teacher that had created the curriculum for this class had the movie version as a possible way to introduce the unit, so I decided to read the book before eventually showing the movie.
The book is about a group of boys that end up in a deserted island after a plane crash and how they try to survive. The oldest kids are around fourteen, and the youngest are six or even younger. One of the older kids is picked as a leader early on in the story, but soon conflict arises between him and another boy of his same age who sees their survival in the island differently. Things turn quite ugly, and towards the end of the book, we read:
‘Nobody killed, I hope? Any dead bodies?’
‘Only two. And they’ve gone.’
The officer leaned down and looked closely at Ralph.
Ralph nodded again. Behind him, the whole island was shuddering in flame […] For a moment he had a fleeting picture of the strange glaour that had once invested the beaches. But the island was scorched up like dead wood – Simon was dead – and Jack had… The tears began to flow and sobs shook him. He gave himself up to them now for the first time on the island […]
I couldn’t help but make the analogy between the island and the world we live in, between the boys and the whole humanity. Will we, in the near future look back and see the same destruction around us? Is this what is happening to us right now? Have we forgotten that we all are here for the same reason and that we are part of the whole? Are we so busy chasing God-knows-what that we don’t see the consequences of our actions?
I pushed those thoughts away and went for a walk. During my walk, I heard a talk with Dan Goleman on Action for Happiness about Emotional Intelligence, and throughout the walk/talk, I thought that maybe what the boys in the book lacked rather than governance was emotional intelligence. Step number one in emotional intelligence is to take the time to accept and understand our own emotions. This allows us to learn the art of taking a step back before acting out of impulse. If the older boys in the book had been able to take the time to acknowledge that they were scared and tired, they might have acted differently. What happened on the island is what often happens in human interactions, the mental creation of the ‘other’ who becomes such a big enemy that anything to ‘get rid’ of him is valid.
Over and over again, I am more and more convinced that if we are going to be able to make a change in the world, we need to start within ourselves. We have to take time to listen to our emotions, understand them, and change the behaviours that are not helping us to be in harmony with ourselves, the environment and other living beings. Feelings like fear, anger and jealousy are connected to our inner feeling of lack, of void, of insecurity which are very human. Everyone experiences them to some degree, and everyone tries to deal with them in different ways. If we learn to tap into our inner peace to fill in that void, we make the world a big favour. If we acknowledge our weaknesses and inner struggles, we are then able to accept those of the people around us. If we can show self-compassion, we can then show compassion to others.
I started wondering, how do we teach emotional intelligence to those who are not ready for it? I guess that we can start by being the example, but how can we help for example teenagers to be more aware of their feelings without it being so awkward that they push the whole idea away? Can emotional intelligence be taught or can it only be learned by own interest?