Accomplishing the type of openness necessary to get to the essence of a phenomenon is a hard task. We are blinded by what we are familiar with, regarding the phenomenon. I find myself perpetually casting down my hopes, dreams, expectations, and desire to prematurely label what I saw during those years teaching the Great Books class. As Moses prematurely took a step towards the burning bush in order to understand why it was on fire but did not burn, in this process of gaining a phenomenological understanding of my students’ lived experiences, I have often stepped forward with my shoes still on and my mind still shaded by what I “think” is taking place. However, I heed the voice of Heidegger 1965), “To think is to confine yourself to a single thought that one stands still like a star in the world’s sky.” I stand still. I wait. I listen. I take my shoes off. I open the blinds of my mind and let the light of the phenomenon shine in. I do not let the problem of phenomenology plague me, as van Manen warns:
The problem of phenomenological inquiry is not always that we know too little about the phenomenon we wish to investigate, but that we know too much. Or more accurately, the problem is that our ‘common sense’ pre-understandings, our suppositions, assumptions, and the existing bodies of scientific knowledge, predispose us to interpret the nature of the phenomenon before we have even come to grips with the significance of the phenomenological question. (p. 46)
My students and I will sit down, maybe take our shoes off, relax in a chair or couch, and I will open the blinds of my mind in order to let their light shine into my thoughts, as they share their lived experiences of reading Great Books literature with me.
the future dr. nika