Archive for ‘Behaviour’

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.

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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).

February 16, 2011

5…Minds Not Made Up

We’ve been talking to lots of people these days, lots of people with lots of ideas and opinions and talents… and uncertainties and fears and ineptitudes, too. Lots of people have something to say and know how to say it. Lots of people have something to say but aren’t sure how to express it. And lots and lots of people won’t easily open their mouths to speak unless they feel they can speak with some degree of authority on the subject.

We’ve been thinking a lot about how to best facilitate conversations that are really productive but not instrumental, respectful but not PC, safe but not boring, provocative but not inflammatory. We’re now of the opinion that one way to go about nurturing such a space is to ask people to come to the discussion or the workshop or the party without their minds made up. This single all-encompassing rule can speak to all those latent desires (to know and show oneself knowing, to have principles that stand the test of time, to be heard, to be understood, to be looked up to) that tend to manifest themselves as conversation-killers. What is a dead conversation if not a stagnant discussion in which the rigidities of minds made up have occasioned still ponds (lifeless, anaerobic, idle) instead of flowing waterways (always moving, always circulating, always refreshing)? Even though this analogy can only take us so far, since even anaerobic activity is ultimately transformative and creative, we think you get the picture.

Like the Oracle of Delphi and its two entrance inscriptions, “know thyself” and “nothing in excess” (a/k/a “everything in moderation”), the line “minds not made up” shall be unwritten above the entrance to every Wayward event. Think of our adage as the unwritten inscription, compounding the Oracle’s two inscriptions to read: know oneself in moderation.

We read the relation between the two inscriptions as such: the assurances of a made up mind must be tempered by the moderating effect of the community of others; the introspective act of making one’s mind up about oneself can only ever be but a training ground for the arena of dialogue, discussion and disagreement that one enters into with others; the shared cosmos and assembly of people, place and things (the political dance of nouns) is best composed under conditions of moderation wherein minorities are not excluded from participation with the many, and neither do a select few rule over the multitude.

Having one’s mind made up, is like selective reading: passing over the persons, places and things with whom or with which one cannot find common ground (without looking a little harder); immoderately reading the social terrain for its most comfortable passages (wearing those trails thin with obsessive movement); seeking allies in friends (but never in adversaries). And those things won’t get us anywhere, so come with minds not made up and we’ll see where that takes us for a change.

Liberty and Learning

February 1, 2011

7…Worlds Beyond Words

The real and the ideal comingle every dayWords are like pointers, signposts that direct us to places. In other words, words aren’t things in themselves. Fair enough, but hey, talking never hurt nobody, right? Ok, this last part is arguable, because as the revisionist saying goes: Sticks and stones may break bones but words hurt worse than anything.

Speaking out against something that is doing harm can be a powerful defence against the word-wielding bullies in this world. Dialogue is crucial to democratic notions of equal representation. Words that become laws have the power to giveth and to taketh. Words work. And we can make words work for us.

We need to make sure to stay in the conversation, even when it flags or seems boring or irrelevant or overwhelming. No matter the variety of conversation—be it the passing “how do you do?”, or the more polarized referendums that call for “yes” or “no” votes, or commiserating about job markets and the high cost of living, or staying in touch with distant friends, or neighbourly chats over the fence, or passionate shouting matches about high stakes situations—what matters is the part where we listen to what’s being said and respond with sincerity about our own experiences.

Telling someone what you think they want to hear shouldn’t count as conversation. (You are then too far beyond their world, into what you imagine the other wants.) Saying whatever you can think of to make the other person stop talking to you because you’d rather be talking to someone else doesn’t count either. And listening only long enough to be polite while you wait for an opportunity to speak is essentially a one-sided conversation, which means you are not at all conversant with the fine art of conversation, which requires an exchange of ideas, not solely the broadcast nor reception. (You are now too far beyond their word if you place your yet-to-be-expressed word before theirs in your mind.)

Conversation is a two-way street, and so speaking up and out with any kind of sympathy requires a good deal of listening. Conversations that are one-way streets make faulty democracies. Two-way streets carry the necessary risk of collision, and keep us alert and on our toes as we navigate their complexity. Come to think, conversations can just as easily be multi-way streets, and cacophonous as that may be, it can also be fruitful.

On that note…thinking, making, speaking, doing…wayward exchanges between thoughts and actions, words and behaviours, are what make up the wayward worlds we inhabit. They don’t sit still, they are verbose mutations of ideas that came before. Thank goodness if we can still feel that we have a say in what is to come.

beyond word and world + politics =

conversation that is beyond speech (it is composed of actions and doings)

and at the same time

conversation that is beyond the “real” world (it pontificates about the ideal society)

Being beyond wor(l)ds in politics is perhaps the truest form of democratic process (an admixture of actions and words…forget about voting with dollars, we really vote with behaviours). Take for instance the indescribable pattern on your city…think of it as an emergent property of the negotiation between municipality, commerce, community, and the material substances of the earth it is all writ with and upon…think of its landscape of difference and the impossible account of its amalgamation in the written word.

Heterotopia means a multiplicity of place; heteroglossia means a multiplicity of words. If one were to take the two together, they would form a kind of matrix where difference and multiplicity of place and name are woven together – real with ideal, empirical with imagined….that generative matrix is always and ever beyond wor(l)ds because it is not word (ideal), it is not world (real), but both and between. A productive place where we re-make meaningful worlds to take up residence within.