Storing this here for later

Creative People sometimes Make no Sense

If I add this article (click photo and link above) to my bookmarks then it will, quite literally, become one of the hundreds of bookmarks I have added over the years.  I am a book-marker and no bones about it: I love to save a good thing for later.  Be it a compelling website, an inspiring or informative article, a list of the top 50 (or even 500) books/authors/typefaces, I really like the idea of holding on to them and tucking them away for a less inspired, less-informed period of life.

Not to be outdone by the interwebs, I do this with real stuff, too, like storing cards my mom sent me whilst I was in college (or just living in Seattle) alongside the neat-o bulletins from the Episcopal church and the  bar napkin with the finely-crafted logo on which my husband wrote an anniversary haiku.  Okay, the latter example is sentimental for a whole lot of other reasons, but the bulletins and concert tickets and Valentine’s cards are of a piece.

And so, to marry form and function, content and style, I post this entry alongside a list of paradoxes often exhibited by the creative individual (among whom I count myself one).  It’s a coarsely-curated list but it’s more than tolerable as a guide for understanding the oddities of those who aren’t linear or, if linear, inconsistently so.


What we may have left undone

Forgiveness is the perfume the trampled flower casts back upon the foot that crushed it.

-Attributed to Shakespeare, Mark Twain, and a variety of clueless blog writers

For many years this quote, several poems, an oil-pastel portrait of our Scottish terrier, and a string of daisies adorned our upstairs bathroom.  These gems, the first of which appeared circa 1986, were drawn directly onto the original 1963 yellow-and-white wallpaper by my sister and myself as a protest against the paper’s perceived ugliness.  The bathroom has long since been updated and stripped of its character-filled wall adornments but this particular quote–provided, I believe, by my friend Jill–is one of the few that remains for me, to this day, a source of humility and something worthy of my consideration.

We have all done selfish things, naughty things, things we wish we hadn’t done and hope will disappear, but few of us have learned the solidarity of forgiveness that must needs follow these behaviors.  We have all lost our tempers, we have lied and stretched the truth to fit our needs, we have ‘left things undone’, so to speak, and we have very often shirked what little responsibility we have truly been given on this earth.

Most of us, if not each of us, barring the psychopath or the deranged, have felt remorse, sudden and uncomfortable, creep up on us as we shoulder the guilt of an unwise action. That sense of righteousness or pride that led us to our un-right action is, if we are fortunate, followed quickly by a flash of despair over what we have done.  We wish it were not so and, instead of begging forgiveness, often we follow the lie or the theft or unkindness with yet another round of the same.  We long to ask forgiveness but our pride prevents us: we do not know where to begin because we think we are still the flower when really, we are the foot.

And because we have deceived others, we know what it is to sit at the receiving end of such unpleasantness and even cruelty.  We have been stood up, we have been dumped, we have been lied to or stolen from or hurt by someone–likely many someones.  We have been broken into, in one way or another, and we have not always acted in accord.  That is, we have indeed acted in accord–but not like the flower.  For when a foot, shod or bare, tramples a flower, breaks its stalk, and removes its petals the flower does not and cannot trample back.  The wild exception is the blackberry cane, but even then the fruit it bears is sweet, purple and forgiving.  No, the flower bends and is sometimes broken, but it often will, when carefully and curiously examined, cast upon us a fragrance.  This is what is meant by in accord.

So often the inclination of our heart is not to release anything akin to perfume when the boot comes down upon us.  Instead our first response is to weep angry thoughts and sharpen hardened words and to be, in a sense, the blackberry vine sans fruits.  We dagger our feelings into each other and into ourselves because we have been wounded and we want to wound in return.  When hurt by someone’s selfishness, unkindness, lack of thought, or lack of understanding we weep, and we also harden.  Soon we are behaving unkindly ourselves and crushing the beautiful blooms around us, simply because we reacted like a blackberry vine and not a flower.  If forgiveness is the perfume then peace must be the fruit.  And it is for these fruits that we work and are known, as the disciples of the Christ who called us be in the tiresome, troubling world, but not of it; to be, as it were, the flower and not the foot.

Sir Ken Robinson and the ongoing question of creativity

Part 1: Sir Ken Robinson I first heard of Ken Robinson back in ’08 when I was sharing TED Talks with my Academic Writing classes and my Media, Culture and Society troupe. For the most part, neither set of suburban youth was really lit on fire by the Creativity Expert from across the Pond, but to be fair, when I shared the same Talks with my Sophomore Endeavor students the following year, there was a small but measurable reaction—and positive at that. I cannot recall if Ken came to me or if I discovered him among the tags (Education, Creativity) on the TED Talks website—which is, I have to say, extremely ADD-inducing. But whatever method it may have been, once Ken Robinson was in, he was going to be hard-pressed to find his way out of my head.

Ken was not proposing solutions; rather, he was posing scenarios in which we are allowing our youth to live beneath their potential. What he presented were entries, beginnings, and tunnels that stretched a hundred miles deep and many journeys in length—right into what I knew would be my life’s pursuit, if not my soul’s endeavor. I sensed that my life held something greater in store for me. And I knew, too, the truth of the old adage: Good is the Enemy of Great. In a sense, the ideas and concepts he shared in his Talks were—are—the very things that had been taking root in my own mind back before I became a teacher. He talked sense; he talked truth.

He was unafraid of pointing out the great ills of our system, and of our good intentions. Watching him, it was as if my dichotomous heart broke and soared over and again: I listened as he explained to an educated, bright, influential audience the perils of locking a child’s potential up in a classroom filled with curriculum and expecting that child to soar. Not only had I seen this in my youth, experienced the great divide between the Honors Students and the Shop Students, but I unwittingly became part of it when I accepted my first job at a huge suburban high school. In a sense, I was both exonerated and annoyed. This social divide between the creators and the moneymakers had caused me such grief, such strife, and such friction on my education journey that I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear there was a better way, or even that someone agreed with me; it would be too painful. And yet, there was much to learn here (and according to my Masters Degree program, I am a lifelong learner). I longed to hear more, and yet I was tired of hearing it: I wanted to be the one saying it.

September 19, 2011

Harvard?  Grad School?  What the heck?

It began last spring or early summer when I began to entertain the idea of a graduate degree in education. It was before we started looking for a house and I was rather itching for a new project (which the new house has since scratched. Thanks.). I looked at the HGSE website and grew tremendously excited about the idea, not exactly of Harvard, but of the degrees they offered there and the courses of study the school had to offer.

Then, life went on and I think I tossed out the papers I had printed, though they still could be in some education files somewhere at home in Snohomish (Ha! Projects.). Essentially I discarded the idea in favor of the belief that Harvard was just too far away, in all the major aspects: It was across the country and my life and family are here in the West; it is ghastly expensive and we just bought a house and have two kids in college; I am not the grade-and-GRE girl, never have been, and Harvard leads the way in ranks, which makes my chances of getting in quite incrementally small.

But two things happened, within days of each other, or perhaps within the same day, and it is these two things that have led me to my interest in Harvard (or shall I say, an Ed Degree altogether).

The first was a dream. Yes, literally. I was dreaming. I woke up that Wednesday or Thursday morning with something of a premonition in my mind. It was comforting and I didn’t care to disturb it and so I told no one what had unfolded in my head in the breaking hours of a cold SW Alaskan morning. In my dream I was at a school. In my dream it was clearly and unequivocally a college although it looked more like the Italian town of Spoleto. Somehow I knew it was Boston, I kept referring to it as Boston. Someone in the dream told me it was Boston and I was a bit surprised. Why would I be dreaming of Boston?

But I suppose the attachment makes some sense when I say that not long before I woke up I had a dream-conversation with a person whom I believe to have been my mother. It went like this:
Me: This is… Harvard.
Her: Yes.
That was it. And the way I said “This is Harvard” wasn’t a question; it was a realization. Her reply was exactly the same thing, with more emphasis, as if she were saying: Affirmative. This is Harvard. I had no idea what to make of it all.

Then, the next night, or that night, for nights run together here in Pedro Bay, I was sitting around reading Facebook posts and feeling as though my tether on my intellectual life was growing frail and about to falter. With such a tenuous tie to intellect I posted these two statements:
There seems to be nothing to say tonight. Perhaps that is a sign that I should listen, instead of speak.
I want to open my own school.
I expected nothing from either of them, as it is so rare that anyone besides my husband comments on anything I put up on the wretched site. But comments I did receive, and earnest ones at that. So earnest, in fact, that I took them for a good omen and have not looked back since.

Now, twenty-one days later, Harvard has propelled me to join mailing lists, read blog posts, begin research, and begin studying for the GREs. Ugh. Thanks, Harvard. But it has also prompted a certain amount of pragmatism, as I really don’t see myself a) moving to Cambridge and b) getting in.

So optimism + pragmatism = New School.

However, that is fodder for a future entry. Tonight I have analogies and linear geometry to study. Toute suite!