What a delight to read Radical Presence, at once so refreshingly immediate and yet far reaching in its implications.
Radical Presence is a book about our lives as well as our work, suggesting that the "secrets" of good teaching are the same as the secrets of good living: seeing one's self without blinking, offering hospitality to the alien other, having compassion for suffering, speaking truth to power, being present and being real. These are secrets hidden in plain sight. But in an age that puts more faith in the powers of technique than in the powers of the human heart, it takes the clear sight and courage of someone like Mary Rose O'Reilley to call "secrets" of this sort to our attention.
Radical Presence asks, "What might happen if we frame the central questions of our profession as spiritual issues and deal with them in light of our spiritual traditions?" The basis of O'Reilley's remarks is not religious; it is pedagogical. She does not preach; she shares. Writing of the human condition, O'Reilley places herself first in line, not as an ego or leader but as a friend and guide. Over the course of her journey, she seeks to discover what spaces we can create in the classroom that will allow students the freedom to nourish an inner life.
This is an important book that will have a significant impact on the way educators view teaching and learning. O'Reilley writes, "Some pedagogical practices crush the soul; most of us have suffered their bruising force. Others allow the spirit to come home: to self, to community, and to the revelations of reality. [This book] is my own try at articulating a space in which teacher and student can practice this radical presence."