Archive for ‘Aphorism’

March 4, 2011

Alpha/Omega…Breeding Ideas

People have currency in their day-to-day exchanges. Regardless of the unemployment rate or amount of consumer confidence in the marketplace, people think about how to make do.

Think. Make. Do.

These commonplace and everyday activities are imperative for each and all, he and she, you and me. We can and must accomplish such things daily. Within these simple imperatives, we have much to learn from one another—more than our current educational systems allow for. Likewise, we have much to teach one another—more than we give ourselves credit for.

Learn. Teach.

Three wayward warps of thinking, making, doing. Two willful wefts of learning and teaching. The fabric of community is created through the conscientious and capricious interlacing of our thoughts and activities.

Having room to think and a chance to act is less readily available than perhaps it should be. Such room is either a commodity, available at a price, or a fleeting space hard won from our daily work habits, snatched from the bustling elbows of the everyday. It is very difficult to think, make and do when constrained by our circumstances. We wait for an opening and jump at opportunities to think, make, do, and be together. Or, perhaps if we are privileged enough, we swallow the price of formal education and buy ourselves some time and space to think.

The Wayward School is the notion of school itself become wayward, and so proclaims that the seat of knowledge is to be found wherever you pull up a chair and whenever you choose to be with others who listen to and learn from one another. In backyards and living rooms, on street corners and sidewalks, in galleries and theatres, cafes and kitchens, bookstores and libraries, workshops and studios, churches and temples, community halls and board rooms, gardens and parks–we will meet and exchange thoughts, actions and projects. Together.

By teaching each other and sharing resources and ideas with one another outside of formal institutional settings such as universities, colleges and trade schools, we make the most of what we’ve already got. The more the merrier, and to that end, the Wayward School seeks to develop an expansive platform of co-operatively facilitated workshops, seminars, and community gatherings—a commonplace common space, a thinking breathing fellowship full of purpose and festivity.

We need each other now more than ever, because we work better when we work together. And so we will drift and settle and drift again to occupy the here, there, and everywhere we can find a nook or cranny to settle in…we shall gather and draw crowds…we shall expound, deliberate, and query…we shall learn new tricks and old ones too…we shall think…we shall make…we shall do…and we hope you will come and participate too.

February 27, 2011

1…Easy as Breathing

Why DO we accept a compulsory and one-size-fits-all approach to learning and teaching within our communities, one that spans time and space, ignoring the differences existing between communities (each with their own distinct circumstances and educational needs)?

Perhaps it is because the education system has always been overdetermined by the system, which is another way of saying that education (like every other thing in our contemporary world) is overdetermined by what some have called ‘complex society’. Complex society describes our contemporary circumstance, in which everyday life is dependant upon (and therefore overdetermined by) the smooth flow of manufactured goods, foodstuffs, electricity, water, etc. Add to this the effortless removal of all things filthy, dangerous, and polluting from the sphere of everyday life and we’re left with an image of society that appears incredibly efficient and smooth-running, but is deceptively easy in its operation and with machinations that are dangerously opaque.

Just get your phone hooked up, just pay rent, just go to the grocery store, just flush the toilet, just put out the garbage, just buy some shoes, just put your clothes in the machine, just turn the lights on, just go to school, just get a job, just get some exercise.

Never stop, do your best, never stop to take a rest.

Flow in, flow out; breathe in, breathe out. Feeling too stressed? Stop and take a breather. Recession getting us down? Stop panicking and holding your breath (your money), relax, let go, take deep breathes… in… out… work… spend…

Supposedly, reigning-in the system, and making it work for you is as easy as breathing. Alas, it is not. The infrastructures that support everyday life and its smooth functioning are not managed by any one person, (one person who would accept responsibility and be accountable if something went wrong somewhere throughout the supply and disposal chain). We can breath all the air we want, for it may be all we have power over (so far…even if it is polluted to high heaven).

Interdependency is not all bad of course… it works marvellously in complex and diverse ecosystems. Interdependency, however, in a standardized system—a system that is only complex to the degree that its substance and consistency is confusing, its weights and measures arbitrary, and its “control” panel distant, well beyond our control, and perhaps automatic—leads to tremendous feelings of anxiety, fear and depression. These emotions shudder through the population of mass consumers (i.e. you, me, and everyone we know) in waves and tremors. We barely register these feelings before we quickly lock them out of our daily thinkings, makings, doings: it’s all good, things are fine, breathe in… breathe out… keep calm and carry on…

February 21, 2011

4…Making Honey

“Bees make honey from the bitterest weeds.” So the saying goes…

Here’s another: “Weeds have flowers, too”

I started saying it when I was trying my hardest to be a self-employed craft-isan, and was puzzling over what to silkscreen onto objects to make them sell. You see, when the craft fairs got saturated with owls, squirrels, deer and little songbirds, I thought I’d be clever and figure out how to elevate something less cute to the level of craft icon. I never did get around to it (and I’ve since given up trying to put my finger on the retail pulse of the crafty scene), but when I started digging a little deeper into the world of gardening, the phrase “weeds have flowers, too” developed new resonance.

Our backyard jungles, roadside grassy ditches, hiking trail forests and other habitually traversed landscapes are populated by an amalgam of intentional and unintentional varieties of plant and animal life. Weeds have a part to play that is often overlooked and under-appreciated (for a fascinating account of how, check out chapter 7, “Weeds”, of Alfred W. Crosby’s “Ecological Imperialism”). Organic gardening and permaculture design both incorporate a “live and let live” approach to certain weeds and insects, because we’ve learned that when gardeners and farmers strive to create sterile conditions or mono-culture in order to maximize production or for aesthetic concerns, we create unstable environments that require maximum upkeep and toxic “solutions” to “problems” that, on second look, were in the eye of the beholder.

Bees may be clever for transforming the “bitter” into the “sweet”, but so too does the “bitter weed” have inherent value in its ability to transform the situations it encounters. Weeds are opportunistic, and for this reason we battle them constantly, because humans are opportunistic too (except weeds are uncontrolled, and its hard to say the same for humans). Weeds make comfortable quarters for themselves in places that other species take a pass on.

We can learn a lot from bees, about making sweet tasty lemonade out of sour life lemons…about busying ourselves and doing the valuable work of making palatable something that was formerly hard to swallow.

And we can also learn a lot from weeds…about making do with what’s available…about teaming up in mutually beneficial relationships…about thriving in less-than-perfect circumstances.

We can afford to let our ideas, thoughts, and actions be a little weedy (popping up where they may, opportunistic but also collaborative, able to subsist even during dry/wet/hot/cold spells) and our attitude towards other people’s weedy ideas, thoughts and actions could be a little bee-like (taking the parts of the idea we can work with, adding it to the whole mix of available materials and concepts, transforming it into something that many can taste and enjoy… other bees, people, bears… you name it).

Making Honey from the Bitterest Weeds

“Bees make honey from the bitterest weeds.” So the saying goes…

Here’s another: “Weeds have flowers, too”

 

I started saying it when I was trying my hardest to be a self-employed craft-isan, and needed to figure out what to silkscreen onto objects to make them sell. When the craft fairs got saturated with owls, squirrels, deer and little songbirds, I tried to figure out how to elevate something less cute to the level of craft icon. I never got around to it, and I’ve since given up trying to put my finger on the retail pulse of the crafty scene, but when I started digging a little deeper into the world of gardening, the phrase “weeds have flowers, too” developed new resonance.

 

Our backyard jungles, roadside grassy ditches, hiking trail forests and other habitually traversed landscapes are populated by an amalgam of intentional and unintentional varieties of plant and animal life. Weeds have a part to play that is often overlooked and under-appreciated. Organic gardening and permaculture design both incorporate a “live and let live” approach to certain weeds and insects because when gardeners and farmers strive to create sterile conditions or mono-culture in order to maximize production or for aesthetic concerns, they create unstable environments that require maximum upkeep and toxic “solutions” to “problems” that, on second look, were in the eye of the beholder.

 

Bees may be clever for transforming the “bitter” into the “sweet”, but so too does the “bitter weed” have inherent value in its ability to transform the situations it encounters. Weeds are opportunistic, and for this reason we battle them constantly, because humans are opportunistic too (except weeds are uncontrolled, and its hard to say the same for humans). Weeds make comfortable quarters for themselves in places that other species take a pass on.

 

We can learn a lot from bees, about making sweet tasty lemonade out of sour life lemons…about busying ourselves and doing the valuable work of making palatable something that was formerly hard to swallow.

 

And we can also learn a lot from weeds…about making do with what’s available…about teaming up in mutually beneficial relationships…about thriving in less-than-perfect circumstances.

 

We can afford to let our ideas, thoughts, and actions be a little weedy (popping up where they may, opportunistic but also collaborative, able to subsist even during dry/wet/hot/cold spells) and our attitude towards other people’s weedy ideas, thoughts and actions could be a little bee-like (taking the parts of the idea we can work with, adding it to the whole mix of available materials and concepts, transforming it into something that many can taste and enjoy… other bees, people, bears… you name it).

January 3, 2011

9…Busywork

Unsolved puzzles are ripe with meaning…you just have to decode it first. The decoding is a kind of busywork under the guise of logical sleuthing. Admittedly, word puzzles are a not-so-secret favourite pastime of mine. The puzzles that contain aphoristic words of wisdom and famous (or not-so-famous) quotations by famous (or not-so-famous) authors, or otherwise notable quotable figures, are by far the most enticing in that they are the Kinder-Surprise of pencil puzzles:  You figure out where all the letters and words go, maybe only to find yourself still scratching your head trying to figure out what to do with it…what does it all mean? Sometimes you simply can’t be sure, and sometimes you even feel a little ripped off (“I spent all that time assembling these tedious little parts, for this?“), and then, other times, the ingenuity of the thing simply makes you stop and wonder.

I find it worth noting that pencil puzzle magazines seem to be marketed at women who work at home (a/k/a “housewives”) and people between flights at the airport…in either case offering the diligent puzzle-solver a chance to pass away those otherwise “unproductive” hours spent waiting for laundry to dry, kids to wake from naps, flights to arrive, etc etc…to keep their minds “active” if you will. If stay-at-home moms, listless travellers, and any other type of person who might find themselves attracted to pencil puzzles (me, for instance) truly find their minds otherwise languishing, I don’t know that mentally taxing soduku puzzles and crosswords are necessarily the solution, though of course they do themselves contain solutions, but I digress…

Stopping and wondering is just one way we can inhabit the waiting games we play (those Kinder-Surprise exercises that can at times be few and far between or hopefully numerous enough to overlap, sometimes fitting between two and sometimes managing to subsume all) in the cracks of our daily responsibilities, that assemblage of purposeful plans and meaningful meetings in your daily agenda or smart phone that gets you through the day and follows you into the night. Busywork interrupts the “real” work that chases us (or do we chase it?). Stopping and wondering is one way to escape busywork, and somehow (perhaps it is our undying love of irony) we tend to rely on the most tedious and meaningless games and toys to provide for us the opening to make that escape.

Busywork, housework, homework, officework, yardwork, artwork…the elegant assembly of tedious little parts to form a composition that makes sense is perhaps what all work is. And by make sense, I guess I mean make useful. And when we do work that feels useless, or when we are out-of-work and feel ourselves to be useless, then no amount of busywork can quell the rising tide of frustration.

Puzzles can be solved in two entirely different modes: anti-socially and socially. Either one furrows their brow and sorts the thing out in quiet concentration, or one puts their head together with other folk and collectively chooses an appropriate solution. We at Wayward tend to prefer the latter.