Book 8, part 2. The Rites of Love (2006)
Love, too, was teaching in the Vedruss school
What had happened to Liubomila during these years? Where had she learnt such wisdom and agility all of a sudden? In the Vedruss school.
People studied their whole lifetime in this school, from their early childhood to their most advanced age. Every year they sat for exams. The school programme had appeared right at the beginning of creation in all its minute detail and then become further enriched over the centuries. The wisdom was imparted unobtrusively The lessons were not at all like those in your contemporary schools.
You once told me, Vladimir, about a certain expression used in your society When it turned out that a child is mischievous and rude and bad habits show up in him, people would say that he was brought up by the street, that he’s been granted too much freedom.
The Vedruss people had no fear about granting freedom to their children. It was common knowledge that the system of festivals and rites was so intricately and skilfully thought through that all children were absorbed in preparation for them. Even though it seemed as though they were playing, they were actually teaching themselves various disciplines, often without the help of adults.
Examinations in the Vedruss school were like one festival or celebration after another. With their help the adults taught the children, and they themselves learnt from the children.
Take the Festival of the Koliadki, for example. During the festival days children walk about and sing koliadki to all their neighbours. The verses and melodies, along with the accompanying dance movements, were all composed by the children themselves.
Children started preparing for their performances long before the start of the festivals, eager to learn from adults, their families, their peers and the wise-men as to the best way of mastering verse composition, along with singing and dance movements.
Not all children had the same abilities, of course. Those that were not as quick to learn as others would ask their parents to tutor them. And sometimes parents found they could use their children’s thirst for knowledge to draw them into helping around the house and grounds.
A little boy might badger his grandmother, for example:
“Grammykins, dear, read some verse to me. Please do read, I beg you. I don’t want to fall behind and be worse than the rest. My friends might not take me with them to sing koli- adki next time.”
And the grandmother would answer:
“I’ve quite a bit to do. Perhaps you could help me, and then I would be able to read you some verse this evening.”
The child would be eager to help all day long and afterward would listen intently to his grandmother, and try to memorise all her verses or songs, and implore her to teach him the appropriate dance moves. Then he might implore his grandfather, and perhaps his mother and father, too, to tutor him just a little bit more. And he would be grateful to his parents when they offered him a lesson.
Compare this approach, Vladimir, with the lessons children get in schools today — in literature, let us say.
You are right, there is absolutely no comparison. The Vedruss children aspired to become poets themselves, right from a very young age.
The parade of merry festivals in the Vedruss period was a system that helped people learn about the order of the Universe and in turn teach their children the simple wisdom of life.
The wise-men were itinerant teachers and sources of infor-mation in regard to what was going on in the world. The bay- ans1 and bards, too, not only reminded people of events of the past, but gave portents of the future, commending the world of marvellous feelings or reprehending unworthy ones.
Such lessons were constantly taking place in every settlement, but nobody would ever compel their children to attend.
!bayan (pron. bahTAHN) — see footnote 4 in Book 4, Chapter 33: “School, or the lessons of the gods”. On the role of bards, see Book 2, Chapter 10: “The ringing sword of the bard”.
It was felt that each teacher himself should attract children’s attention to the stories of science he was planning to tell.
Over the centuries rules such as these helped perfect the abilities of the wise-men-teachers.
You asked, Vladimir, whether any wise-men-teachers, in an effort to attract children’s attention, would simply play some sort of game with them instead of actually giving them a lesson in science or the arts.
Indeed, if such a thing were to occur, the wise-man would be relieved of his wise-man’s status. In talking with their children at home, parents would perceive right off that the children had not been properly taught. News of his dishonourable conduct would be made known in other settlements, and no matter what community he thought to visit, he would probably be asked to leave.
Before the appearance of love within herself, the little girl Liubomilka made no attempt to attend the wise-men’s lessons or listen to the songs of the bards and bayans. The parents would not have forced their children to attend, but might drop a surreptitious hint at an appropriate occasion.
It was Love that enfolded little Liubomilka in its energy In Vedruss families the appearance of love was greeted as a new member of the family sent by God to help them. And they knew how they could, in harmony with Love, make the little girl’s life marvellous. This was why the grandmother advised Liubomilka to go and study with the wise-men. Not just to study for the sake of studying, but with a specific purpose — to become the very best she could be for the one she loved. Liubomilka consented, and decided that the next time a wise-man presented himself who could teach people to sing songs with a beautiful voice, she would indeed go see him along with her friends.
But the wise-man they needed never came. Liubomilka decided she would simply go listen to the next wise-man that
showed up. She did, and began to listen to his lecture. This wise-man began talking about the specific function of various plants, the fragrances these gave off, and about how plants could be used to treat Man’s diseases.
“What do I need this for?” Liubomila thought to herself. “Indeed, this is neither here nor there — everyone knows how to treat: Mama, grandmother, sister — they all know. And even if I should learn more than anyone else about the various herbs, how will that be noticed by my intended? He’ll never notice it.”
So Liubomilka listened to the wise-man without paying too much attention. She sat there on the log simply for her girl-friends’ company And sometimes she would get up, walk out and wander about the little glade. She was glad when the wise-man ended his lecture and everyone made ready to go home.
Then all of a sudden the elderly wise-man turned to Liubomilka:
“Tell me, little girl, you did not find my presentation inter-esting?”
“It’s just that it’s really of no use to me, it does not fit in with my secret aspiration,” little Liubomilka informed the wise-man, almost in a whisper.
The wise-man-teacher broke into a faint smile. The per-spicacious old fellow knew all about little girls’ secret aspirations, and remarked:
“You know, little girl, you may be right — I can allow that this knowledge has nothing to do with you right now. After all, you are still pretty young. But for older girls I explain how they can become beautiful and create a Space of Love for the one they love. When he sees this Space of Love, he will definitely want to know who was able to co-create such beauty And he will be so excited to meet whoever steps forward as its creator. I shall also reveal to the maidens the secret of how to
weave a garland, how to prepare a tea of herbs for their beloved, and what to use in washing in the morning to make their bodies smell flower-sweet. I shall further be explaining...”
Little Liubomilka listened to the elderly fellow and began to regret more and more that she had not gone to his classes. He stayed in the settlement for more than a week. He revealed to the maidens important secrets, which she knew nothing about. And Liubomilka asked the wise-man:
‘Are you going to be staying much longer in our settlement?”
“I shall be on my way in a couple of days,” he responded.
“In a couple of days?” The little girl could not hide her disappointment. “Hmm, in two days... Then I would kindly, kindly beg of you to spend your last two nights with us.”
“I have already accepted invitations to other homes,” responded the wise-man. “But if it means so much to you...”
“Yes, I very, very much need to learn from you about the different herbs.”
Each evening the old wise-man spent his whole time talking with the love-smitten Liubomilka. He knew that the inspiration of love would help this little girl grasp the essence of the subject in a day or so, while even a year might not be enough for some others.
When it was time for him to leave, Liubomilka escorted the wise-man to the outskirts of the settlement, and he told her:
‘After me another wise-man will be coming here. He will be talking about the stars and the Moon in the skies, about the Sun and about worlds invisible to our eyes. Whoever succeeds in understanding him will be able to light a guiding star in the skies for her beloved, and that star will shine for them both for ever.
“Then along will come a wise-man who knows how to tame wild beasts — indeed, how to render even the most headstrong steed obedient to your beloved and a faithful friend to him.
‘A bard, too, should be coming to you. He knows how to write verse and come out with such songs that many people will fall in love first with the voice, then after that, everything expressed in the song. And he can also teach dance.”
“Tell me please, which wise-men should I not bother going to hear?” Liubomilka suddenly said to the old fellow. ‘After all, I can’t spend all my time listening to wise-men.”
Once more the old fellow, cleverly concealing a smile, answered the girl in all seriousness:
“Yes, you are right. If you go hear all of them day after day, then there simply will not be time enough for play. You do not need to go and hear every single one. Why, for example, would you want to learn how to draw? Or embroider clothes with ornaments and imbue them with meanings that only your heart knows? Why would you need this kind of teaching, if you have an older sister and she, I believe, will turn out to be an unsurpassed master thereof?
‘And why would you, for example, go and learn how to instil feelings of kindness in a shirt you sew — a shirt that will protect its wearer from many ills?
“Or learn how to make fresh porridge with love for your dear ones, which will satisfy not only their flesh but their soul as well? The taste of that porridge will be unsurpassed. But that is something that can be done to perfection by your sister’s friend who lives next door.
‘And when you want to obtain a beautiful dress or shirt to present to someone as a special gift — a gift that will arouse everyone’s elation — you can always ask your sister and she will come up with a marvellous creation.
‘And if, in the end, you want to treat someone to an ex-traordinary dish of porridge or kvass, you can always ask your sister’s friend.”
“/ shan’t ask anybody/” Liubomilka suddenly blurted out, even stamping her foot, quite forgetting herself. “Those are my rivals!”
“Rivals? In what way?” the old fellow asked in all seriousness.
And Liubomilka did not blush but responded:
“There’s this boy — he’s the best of the bunch, only he doesn’t pay any attention to me, ’cause these dingbats managed to grow up ahead of me. They kept smiling at him all the time. I saw it when they danced the khorovocf at the ka- pishche. And I’m supposed to present him with a shirt my sister made? And kvass prepared by her girl-friend? No way! Never/”
“But why should it not be that way? You say he is the best of all the lads.”
“He is the best. That I know for sure.”
“Then answer me, why should not the best lad receive the very best shirt as a gift, and the best porridge, and kvass besides? And...” The old wise-man paused, and very quietly, almost to himself, he added: “I think it is only just for him to have the best bride of all.”
“BrideГ Liubomilka’s cheeks flushed.
“Yes, bride,” replied the wise-man. “Indeed, should you not wish him only good? Let him have the best bride of all!” Liubomila looked at the wise-man, not able to utter a word. She was filled with feelings which set her on fire. And
suddenly she began running off. But after a short distance she stopped, turned around, and cried out to the wise-man:
“I agree. He does deserve to have the best bride of all. And that bride will be me'
Liubomilka eagerly paid a visit to every wise-man that came to the settlement thereafter. She was always the first to arrive and the last to leave, and the wise-men could hardly believe the surprising questions she asked. She memorised in her head everything the men of wisdom said. In a learning situation this is possible only when a child not simply attends the classes, but actually comprehends where he will apply the knowledge received.
When instruction proves too gruelling for the pupil, it can be counterproductive. When a Man has a specific goal that can be mastered through the study of various disciplines, learning for him becomes an exhilaration, and the assimilation of knowledge proceeds a hundred times faster.
And when love enters into the equation, the resulting effect is unsurpassed. Love is capable of scanning the thought of any wise-man. Just a few words spoken by the teacher can be sufficient not only to explain the whole subject to the pupil in the blinking of an eye, but even beyond that, to further engage his thinking.
Love — a great energy, the gift of God — was paramount in Liubomilka’s instruction.
Back at home the little girl followed her Mama and grand-mother’s dinner preparations with great eagerness. She had them explain all their actions in full detail, and tried her own hand at creating various dishes. And the little one came up with some rather unusual creations.
Once at Maslenitsa a group of relatives had come to join in a meal. Two stacks of pancakes stood on the table — one of them cooked by the girl’s mother and grandmother, the other by little Liubomilka herself. The guests found her pancakes much tastier than the others. And this now-not-so-little girl watched from a far corner of the room as her stack of pancakes began disappearing faster than the other.
When the whole family sat down to the table on a weekday, Grandfather would be the first to taste the cabbage soup from a wooden spoon. And he would say:
“I know for certain who made this soup. It has a pleasant and tender taste that no one else can match.”
“Hear, hear!” the girl’s father added. “Not only does it contain flowers from unusual herbs, but there is feeling in it.” Little Liubomilka found learning the disciplines no chore at all. In her life she became a craftsman without peer. She herself blossomed into an extraordinarily beautiful woman.
From the first wise-man she had learnt without realising it the truth of great love: if you wish to be close to God, become a goddess yourself.