Tag Archives: 2005

Rereading some wisdom tonight

Rereading some wisdom tonight — Sermon on the Mount, and Conclusion to Walden.

“Judge not lest ye be judged” (or “… that you be not judged”). That’s almost all you need right there.

But it also reminds me, in thinking about humility.

Matt 7:7: “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, …” — reminds me that I do need to seek, that’s up to me, and to have the faith that by seeking (by going through the process), I will find.

And the humility — God providing for me — 6:25 through 34 — “do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself” — and Chapter 19 about not laying up treasures on Earth. See, at once that says to me don’t fret the job, just leave it.

Yet part of me says I don’t know — I am humble enough to not presume to know — what and how God is providing for me. Maybe this teaching job is where God wants me to be for now. Who am I to presume I know what’s best for myself, and that I should take such rash moves as quitting my job? Yet, Jesus does say to seek, and Thoreau talks about dreams undreamt in common hours.

M: Jesus is saying, don’t fret about the material world, and the spiritual world is always perfect.

Stories on the news — murders, crime, no longer seem to me to be stories at all. Maybe the public, the average hearer of news, does identify with the extreme tragedies — do they empathize with victims or recoil (to boo and hiss, perhaps?) at the attacker?

p. 347 Thoreau: “If you are restricted in your range by poverty, if you cannot buy books and newspapers, for instance, you are but confined to the most significant and vital experiences.”

and p. 344: “I fear chiefly lest my expression may not be extra-vagrant enough, may not wander far enough beyond the narrow limits of my daily experiences, so as to be adequate to the truth of which I have been convinced.”

[from journal of Tues., 10 May 2005, Journal 50, page 35–37]

I know that I would’ve spent more money because I was stressed

I really would like to get out of credit card debt. Getting a raise to do yearbook next year would’ve helped get me more money, and yet, I know that I would’ve spent more money because I was stressed, you know? More buying candy and treats while I worked on yearbook, or after school (as now, because I’m so damned hungry right after school). But also, I’m too tired to do dishes at night, and so we eat dinner out more. I’ve just felt exhausted this entire semester, truly, and I didn’t want that again. …

Teaching wears me out. … So if I’m not worn out, maybe I’ll be able—I’m hoping I’ll be able—to be better rested, keep up with housework, maybe even write in the evenings—I have done that only once since January (the start of semester)! I did it several times in the fall.

[From journal of Sat., 30 April 2005, Journal 49, page 9-11]

A curriculum doesn’t change for particular students if it’s a curriculum. That is its strength and its weakness.

Up at 5:15, a compromise between 5 yesterday and 5:30 normal. I’ve only got three or so things—papers—left to read. Lord willing, it’ll all be done fine. …

4-5 [period] kids [Creative Writing students] in their responses (read those last night) had lots of good things to say about how much they’ve changed in this class—lots of them said they used to not know … they would not know what to write about, sit and stare. Now they freewrite and ideas come to them—good. (My silly comments like “good” and “I’m glad.”) I wonder what impact that’ll have on the students going forward—will they really use freewriting in future writing projects? I guess it’s really up to them. I almost wrote “I hope so,” but I’m not even sure I ought to say that. I’ve given them this process—well, I’ve explained a writing process, one approach (my approach), to them about as well as I can at this point in time, and maybe that’s all I get paid for, maybe that’s all a class can do. If they use it, if it suits them, that isn’t up to me and maybe isn’t up to them either. This process likely suits some people better than others—no idea, no process, can suit every single person, right? And so it’s not really a good/bad issue whether these kids use freewriting in the future or not. Even L__ C__ wrote that every person has their own writing style.

And what A__ G__ said about curricula—who cares what curriculum says; have kids read books they like. This is exactly the problem with the whole idea of a curriculum—it exists independently of the specific person and her needs and interests. In fact, the purpose of a curriculum is to stand apart from specific students, to be resistant to changing because of the needs of individual students. A curriculum doesn’t change for particular students if it’s a curriculum. And yet, that is its strength/value and its weakness—its independence from the lives and needs and interests of particular students.

See, I know I’ve written things like this before about a curriculum, maybe not quite in the same way. It’s like the conventional wisdom about self-educating, being “self-taught,” as they usually say, which is funny, because if anybody can be self-taught at all, it sorta invalidates the need for specialized “teachers”—those who teach. You mostly teach yourself anyway, or entirely—what can any outsider do but explain questions in various ways? But the line on self-taught [people] is that they can be deep learners, learn in depth, but not usually in the breadth that “curricular learners” are. They get the breadth and the emphasis … that is the conventional mainstream view of most scholars in that discipline, whereas being self-taught, you might leave out/skip over significant (or what others deem significant parts) …

But see, maybe that’s sorta a partial truth, because if certain ideas or events in history (if history’s the discipline you’re studying ) are truly central, then nobody could escape them. The self-taught would keep seeing references to these central events/ideas and, if at all curious, which is the strength of being self-taught anyway, would follow up on those references. If you kept seeing references to Greeks and Romans in your study [of history starting in] year 1066, you’d go back and see how they influenced the results—history of civilization. All the known history conditions the history that follows it. But early in history—”pre-history,” nobody knows. It’s like we all began well into the song already. We don’t hear the first notes ending the silence. We instead hear the notes already, faintly, grow loud enough to rise to our attention and observation—a “fade-in” to the story of humanity—the history. And so, in an sense, we’re all just beginning en medias res.

And then I think about Ted Sizer and his idea about how building a curriculum is just a grad-school experience, anyway. Like the critics picking 10 best films of the year last night on Terry Gross’s “Fresh Air,” the critic’s purpose is to be controversial—that’s the only way he/she is interesting, is to make unusual picks and defend them. Anybody can pick top 10 and the critic sees more films than the rest of us. It’s only because he picks unusual picks and defends them that we listen. If he picked all blockbusters, we wouldn’t care, anyway. And so there’s some of that aspect in curriculum design—make interesting picks, stake out an argument that X & Y topics are more central to the study of chemistry (or whatever discipline) than are topics J & K.

[From journal of Weds., 21 Dec. 2005, 5:45  a.m., Journal 61, page 133-7]

Teachers there not to teach so much as to parent the students

I sensed Friday that some of my fellow teachers are there not to teach so much as to parent the students, that they see themselves in that light, as trying to provide the whole, all-encompassing, well-rounded experience for their kids—and I’m not sure that’s the best way to be, not for me, certainly. I already have enough to do and I suspect these people, these teachers who act like that, have too much to do. These are some who, like ___, are on blood-pressure drugs, etc.

People last few years have started calling prescribed drugs “meds,” which  at first seemed like childish, baby-talk truncation of “medicines”—because you often hear elementary school people say this word. And yet, now I wonder if it’s maybe an attempt to use “drugs” only for illegal drugs but “meds” for prescribed drugs, to make kids think there’s a difference there, which there may or may not be.

[From journal of Mon., 21 Feb. 2005, Journal 44, page 109-110]

Does my personality evolve?

Does my personality evolve? It doesn’t seem continuous, but discrete personalities moment to moment, and that they are different moment to moment, with goal of adapting to world? (Or is that not the only or even primary goal of personality?)

I have to keep in mind I can’t force new vision, none of that. So I let go of trying to force myself, and when I got to fence, I listened. Heard the bird again. Then thought of how I walked through the rain going by sound, eyes closed. So I closed my eyes, walked from corral fence toward the barn—and I never got out of the corral—disorienting when reopened my eyes.

[From Sat., 19 Feb. 2005, Journal 44, page 68]

Did Carse say that audiences are necessary for finite games?

Did Carse say that audiences are necessary for finite games? If no audience, no finite game?

End of time is when players know to quite playing, and audiences to quit watching. But that’s arbitrary, no real resolution there unless one winner is definitive (that is, opponent is dead).

College b-ballers and Jeopardy players, sure, they like the aesthetic of play, play for its own sake, and yet, there’s a cash inducement to enter competition—NBA career, Jeopardy winnings—why would that be? Even if players enjoy the play itself, do they need a property reason to enter a competition?

Competitions are so arbitrary, you know?

Why can’t we enjoy basketball-qua-basketball instead of merely b-ball as means to a competition? The way Vegas looks at things, gamblers don’t care what the game is—basketball, football, boxing, horse racing—they just want a result, a score. So games are the means to scores, to declaring winners and losers—which attitude, in a sense, dismisses inherent value of basketball-qua-basketball.

[From journal of Weds., 6 April 2005, Journal 47, page 85]

This concept of all land as property

Society in that way is a totalizing game—not allowing any other games to coexist, not as a legit possibility. They didn’t allow native societies to continue to exist because the white man had this concept of all land as property. Instead of seeing land as source, as above the human, and as more fundamental than the people (without land, we can’t live), the white man sees himself and his ideas as above the land, as outranking it, in some odd way. The logical end of this is that people wouldn’t need land at all to live, and thus the fantasies about living in space. Duh, all mere fantasies—why would you want to live apart from your source?

… This vast fiction, this set of values with the weight and reality of fiction—that is, these seem true to the people who believe them, they seem necessary, these values, this worldview, though of course it’s not, and it makes me want to really question things, see things without this set of values (because it’s probably impossible to see without any values—but why not see life from a different side?)

Civilization has done some helpful things—medicine, human rights—as long as you’re a citizen, an insider—and yet I’m reminded of John Dominic Crossan’s idea that Apostle Paul saw all civilization as hooked on the drug of violence.

Property’s silly. Think of how much sh!t people do just to protect their sh!t! Even M’s trusts & wills—deciding where your property goes, considering taxes. My god, it sure does seem a lot of work just to distribute your game pieces! You give your game pieces to your family or whatever only to help them keep playing, just like our Monopoly game, when we decided to give our properties to those we chose. What do you care—you’re dead! Really makes me skeptical about owning property, etc. And yet I must admit, I really have lived a pretty easy life because my family has always had some property. Like now, renting here is nice, nice to be on farm, etc., but if we had to rent somewhere else, not as nice. Have to live under someone else’s property rules—my god, why does everyone else take property so seriously!! Property’s only tangentially tied to survival and all that.

[From journal of Sat. 19 March 2005, Journal 46, Page 49-50]

Nonfiction: About Humans and Meaning

Humans and meaning: how once we became conscious, we also were self-conscious, and once you’re aware of things, with consciousness, you can also start asking things (does all asking imply absence?  Observation is presence, what’s here around you — but asking “why am I here?” implies or rests on a concept of you not being here, and you can only imagine not-being, you can’t experience it, of course). And once you ask, “why am I here,” it doesn’t take you long to say, there isn’t any reason — other people die and the world goes on without them. Dogs don’t ask why they’re here. They simply accept it, live within it, but once you can ask, you need to answer, and there is no answer. The only thing that can satisfy a consciousness is an immaterial (word) answer, or maybe an experience (I don’t want to discount intuition too much, but what consciousness’s development did is precisely separate us from our intuition — or did it create intuition, too?)  We need some answer, some meaning; we need to feel our lives are meaningful so we have a purpose.  Dying is, essentially, meaningless. It’s a physical act and physical acts, objects, everything in the physical realm has no inherent meaning. They just happen.

And yet, the craving for meaning opened up by the development of consciousness, of the spark of conscious awareness, that cannot be found in the physical realm. Stories, symbols, meaning — these things never die, but then they never live. Adhering to/accepting one meaning or another is arbitrary. There is no single meaning/interpretation that is necessary for any physical thing or act.  My life doesn’t mean any one thing. But somehow the quest/search for meaning seems inherent to consciousness.

Since there’s no necessary interpretation, all interpretations of or about the world are not necessary, are arbitrary, can be consciously chosen/accepted or rejected, and so, you are free to choose interpretations that seem good to you, choose theories  (in daily life but also in any realm) that seem to work, seem to produce results. One can choose positive interpretations (or stories) instead of negative.

— Mh, 7 November 2005