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Iakob Gogebashvili and his Deda Ena
The path trodden by you will survive intact and whoever strays from this path will never lay a claim to being a Georgian.
Jesus Christ, our Saviour, is twice referred to as a teacher in the Gospel. Christ was the greatest rabbi ever to walk the face of the earth. Whether before or after the birth of Christ, all civilized nations revered and held teachers in high esteem. Alexander of Macedon once said "It was my father who gave me life. But it was Aristotle who taught me to live".
There is a general recognition that Iakob Gogebashvili was Georgia's foremost teacher. This article will revolve around his life and activities. Below are some facts that put him in a more generalized context:
- Georgians pride themselves on four paramount books: the Bible, Vepkhistkaosani (The Knight in the Panther's Skin), Kartlis Tskhovreba (The Georgian Chronicles) and Deda Ena (The Mother Tongue) - written by Iakob Gogebashvili.
- There is a monument for the Mother Tongue in Tbilisi - history knows no other precedent of the nation giving the manual such an elevated status.
- Iakob is usually referred to by his first name in Georgia, which is the surest indication of people's adoration for him.
- In 1940, on the one hundredth anniversary of his birth, Iakob's remains were reburied at the Mtatsminda Pantheon of Writers and Public Figures - an honor reserved for only a limited number of illustrious names and characters.
- Iakob was the founder of the modern Georgian school and philosophy of education. He pioneered the pedagogial approach of scientific teaching in Georgia.
- His concept of an ideal Georgia was a European country inhabited by Georgians with an altered state of consciousness. He even developed a model of Georgian consciousness and set the school the task of following and strengthening this model.
- Iakob gave renewed impetus to the Georgians' long- upheld idea that freedom is the means rather than the goal and that freedom can only take on its real meaning when matched with two other notions (reason and morality) - all his books offer a way to propagate this trinity.
Iakob Gogebashvili's personality seems to hold the answer to who can be a pedagogue and what is implied in teaching. Confucius' definition of the prerequisite for being a teacher is the ability to "review the past and recognize the new". All tragedies originate from the fragmentation of time when the past, present and the future come apart; people lose their spiritual support and turn against one another. Teacher, in this context, takes on a particular role acting as a bridge between various dimensions of time. It is a teacher's primary function to gain insight, treasure and impart knowledge and moral values to the younger generation. It is a teacher who gives a clue to the meaning of a fact, event or someone's behavior. Acts of heroism, unexpected discoveries or truly ingenious inventions are often shelved to gather dust without someone evaluating their importance, recording them either in books or in memory and thus making them part of collective consciousness. It is when a concrete fact is shaped into a value, Iakob bequeathed many such values to Georgia.
Nothing unites a nation and a state so much as a language, Iakob Gogebashvili's Deda Ena (Mother Tongue) and its opening words "Ai ia" (Here's a violet) have stamped themselves in all Georgians' consciousness as indelibly as the voice of mother or teacher. This book has always been and still remains an all-important factor in cementing the complex tapestry of Georgian characters into a single identity. In this context, Iakob follows the trail blazed by Grigol Khandzteli, Giorgi Atoneli and Sulkhan Saba Orbeliani. It takes only a second to pronounce Ai ia but this second comes for all Georgians and continues to reverberate throughout their lives. Georgians may doubt the truth of everything with the exception of Deda Ena's opening words.
Why is Ai ia thought to be a stroke of genius? Why do Georgians regard this combination of two simple words as a pillar of education for their children? There are at least ten reasons for this:
1. Harmony of divine symmetry. Symmetry gives a child an early indication of the order of the universe and the need to live in peace with this harmony.
2. Mirror Principle. Ai "sees" ia as its reflected duplication in the mirror. It is the oldest way to squeeze the world into one's own self. The general belief many centuries ago was that the one who really knows himself also truly understands the world around him. An inscription at the entrance of the Delphos temple says the same: "Know yourself and you will know the Universe".
3. The book starts with an idea. Ai ia is a phrase, Iakob uses a fully formulated idea rather than a letter or a word to usher a child into the world of education. The other important aspect of the phrase is that it involves action and is dynamic, indicating not only perception but also attitude (more than one attitude!).
4. Object perception as a main principle. With the very first sentence, a child attains awareness of a perceivable representation of the universe.
5. Identification of object by name provides food for thought. Ai ia translates as "here's something called a violet". Identification is the capability to capture the essence of what the object or fact is all about.
6. Perception intertwines with beauty. Synthesis of reason and emotion translates into an experience of perceiving the world. It begets "perception aesthetics" - a concept of "wise heart" attributed to Rustaveli, which is an ideal aspect of any pedagogical system.
7. Joy of discovery coded. "Look what's here! It's a violet!" From the very beginning the book makes a child aware of the fact that reading requires efforts but these efforts are richly rewarded by the joy it brings.
8. The book awakens us to the music of Georgian speech. The perfect harmony of four vowels produces an incredibly impressive sound.
9. Outstanding graphic depiction of Georgian script. Both letters "A" and "I" consist of a perfectly curved line resembling a circle.
10. Vivid portrayal of the creation, evolution and the end of the universe. The Book of Revelation reads that God is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. The universe takes its origin from God and ends at the original beginning. Ai ia symbolically crystallizes the history of the universe (this phrase is a palindrome yielding the same text when read forwards and backwards and symbolizes the eternal return when something begins anew as soon as it ends).
Based on the above-said (or not-said), Iakob Gogebashvili and his Mother Tongue (and other books too) convey the essence of education in Georgia. "Ganatleba" - the Georgian word for education does not just point to the process of obtaining knowledge. It is rather a way to achieve spiritual enlightenment. The name (it is symbolically important that la figures in this name too) means a follower. Based on the Bible, Jacob was the second-born of twin sons. Later, Jacob came to indicate a disciple of the teachings of God.
"Ai ia" is the Georgians' chosen path to God and to Georgia. This masterpiece, so elegantly simple, figures perhaps most prominently in the history of Georgian consciousness.
Doctor of Philology
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