Archive for ‘Thinking’

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 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 6, 2011

6…Dream Worlds

"Those youngsters will throw their lives away..."“Those youngsters will throw their lives away…drawing things that never were.”

-Grandpa Simpson

“The Simpsons” may not be a reality show, but… it does tend to ring true.

Grandpa Simpson’s lament is the self-same of many who don’t quite see the value in imagination, or the “creating” part of “creativity”. They forget that thinking tends to have practical, purposeful ends. Even industrial capitalism in all its instrumentality, once figured more as a dream and less as a reality. Now it is a nightmare, the alpha/omega of ingenuity and all of ingenuity’s disastrous side-effects…

But come again? How many ways can we read (and heed) Grandpa Simpson’s cry? Is he himself oblivious to the worth of those youngster’s activities? Or does he see the dreamers and drawers as making triumphant but ultimately wasted efforts to imagine things differently? Or, might he be fearful that his progeny will naively place too much faith and expend too much energy in a bankrupt profession that society consistently devalues?

More to the point, just how does he imagine their (our) time would be better spent?

If one draws things “as they are”, one’s claim to truth will eventually be overturned or, at the very least, subsumed by the multitude of conflicting claims to truth. In this sea of conflicting claims, does a contested truth amount to a “thing that never was”? Or is truth a non-euclidean space, wherein two truths (or more) can easily co-exist (no matter how contrary they seem)?

If one opts out of drawing anything at all, what imaginative space would be left and in what ways would cultures (the majority being so steeped in the representational world of the image) be affected?

If one draws only schematics, that can and will be materialized, is one not then a designer of a “new world” within which others must then live, with no hope themselves of imagining other versions unless they can be sure enough (and by sure, read: privileged) that their vision will in fact become a reality?

But I’m not drawing a picture here of things that never were. These “what ifs” are true to life as far as I see it.

And, truthfully:

We need youngsters to keep drawing themselves out of tight spots, and imagining things that have not come to be, and following lines of flight however fanciful they appear.

We need to come to the table without our minds made up, and without being so quick on the draw (so to speak!) to dismantle the other stories being told or worlds being imagined or images being pictured.

We have all been youngsters once, with tremendous capacities for “divergent thinking” and its haphazard genius. Those youngsters (or youngsters-at-heart) who still see multiple answers to all of life’s questions have a story to tell that is worth hearing, they have a drawing that is worth drawing—regardless of its worth in the marketplace.

RSA Animate, check it:

“Changing Education Paradigms” Sir Ken Robinson

“Smile or Die” Barbara Ehrenreich

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.

January 21, 2011

8…Gestural Linguistics

Antiquated Sign Language AlphabetUse your words. Talk with your hands. Talk to the hand. Let me hear your body talk. Words cannot describe. More than words can say. Take my breath away. Leave me speechless.

A word is a gesture, a thought-form in the ether, a movement between minds. A physical vibration in the throat, writhing through the thick conductive air, exciting the fluids in the ear canal of an other to reverberate. Sound becomes signal, becomes sign, through the hand-holding efforts of neurons, axons, synapses and dendrites…to name but a few. A word takes many physical forms and collaborative efforts to become conceptual.

One picture says a thousand words, and the language our bodies make speaks volumes. Non-verbal communication is the dominant mode, if not the hegemonic (i.e. preferred one).

Countless conversations buzz and vibrate and gesticulate in us and around us every moment of every day…we tap in to but a few. Many thousands of informative, but ultimately useless, messages bombard us, in excess of the signals and cues we actually need to make it through any given day, vying for our consumptive attention with diminishing returns. It’s easy for judgement to get clouded in such a blitzkrieg.

But think about the pleasure of comfortable silence between friends, and how much that means. Think about the wordless glance across the room with a potential love (or a sworn enemy), and how much that means. Think about the way bees wiggle and dance for one another, and how much that means. Think about the chatter of birdsong, and/or the lack thereof, and how much that means. Think about the aroma of fermenting fruit, and how much that means. Think about the smell of burnt toast, and how much that (might!) mean. Think about the touch of another’s hand on your forehead, your shoulder, your hip, and all the different things each can mean.

We inhabit worlds beyond words, populated by signals not signs. Electromagnetic, elemental, audible, aromatic, chemical transmissions between animate and inanimate forms, themselves comprised of cacophonous arrangements of sensory perceptions, of sending/receiving animate and inanimate forms.

We have all sorts of ways to describe the act of communicating without words, but very few spring to mind to describe the ability to “listen” to wordless things. (Intuition or sixth senses don’t nearly cover it.) How might we more readily acknowledge and appreciate in our everyday experience that which is outside of verbal expression? In other words, how might we place more trust in and show more respect towards the whole of the sensible world and the myriad ways it informs our everyday experience?

Let’s talk about it…and let’s think about it, make things about it and do it, too.

January 3, 2011


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.

December 20, 2010

10…Easy does it.

I have to keep reminding myself… it’s one of the things I do at the same time as a bunch of other stuff, too much other stuff.  Reminding myself to do one thing at a time has become yet another thing on my list of too many things to do!


Right now, there is so very much to do, which is just as heartening as it is overwhelming. So many ways to get involved in this, that, or the other…so many things to get done…so much to learn, so much to remember, so much to put into action. And it’s all worth it, which makes it hard to choose where to rest one’s attention. Attentuating our efforts and thoughtfulness might be about the single most pressing piece of business on the agenda.

And so it bears repeating, ONE THING AT A TIME, because we are under siege from our own good intentions and everyone else’s intents and purposes too, so we need mantras like this to help us stay the course, I suppose, to help us slow down and think, really think, about what we are doing.