The pupil asks the teacher

Once upon a time there was a very sleepy pupil and a very smart teacher. Or wait, was it a very sleepy teacher and a very smart pupil? Once upon a time there was a very smart teacher and a very smart pupil. They sat down to a battle of wits, but they lost because they couldn’t stay awake long enough to see the conclusion. No wait, they were both asleep in a dream about a question neither of them could answer. Wait, I’m going to start again. Once upon a time a student asked their teacher why they always slept through their lessons “wouldn’t it be much easier to draw conclusions on the chalkboard awake?” The teacher said to the student “I am too tired to draw your conclusions for you anymore why don’t you dream some up yourself?” No, this is all wrong. Once upon a time a student asked their teacher to tell them a story that could illustrate this lesson, but the teacher asked the student to dream up their own. After a time the student said “Once upon the time there was a very sleepy pupil and a very smart teacher. Or wait-“

Often what unschooling looks like is a series of fascinating questions. 

One of my favourite books as a child was a little picture book called Ernie Follows His Nose. It was a simple story of someone innocently following their curios nose to explore the world around them. It sounds silly in its naivety, but neatly illustrates one of the corner stones of student directed learning.

To make a crude comparison: the traditional industrial education model is structured to have a single point of authority stand at the front and deliver a lot of information that is meant to impart a series of answers which students are then graded on for accuracy. In this model questions only arise as a means to get to the end of the lesson. There is a shame for having too many questions. They gum up the flow of the knowledge machine, which is why we separate students out for learning too quickly or too slowly to improve efficency.

By contrast, unschooling dives in question first with no time to raise hands to authority. The student is at the front of the expedition actively engaged in wrestling with their personal multitudinous sea of questions “Where did that smell come from? Why did this happen? How does that work? When will this occur? Who is that? What am I?” The lessons are an accumulative experience as students gather information while following their curiosity only measuring success against their own appetite. The unschooling motto is “the world is my classroom – learning all of the time.”

I believe that to be deeply curios is to hold a simultaneous respect for rigor & whimsy. Curiosity must be nimble enough to chase after the glittering fascinating thing while also plying fastidious attention to the understanding of it. Questions manifest more curiosity manifest more questions. A healthy appetite for the unknown is essential to my creative practice & self studies.

With all that in mind here are…

Questions I am currently contemplating:

  1. What is the mind/body connection? How does this connection affect our health & growth?
  2. What is catharsis? What is its role in art, and what is its role in healing, and are the two related?
  3. What does it mean to be useful in society? Is it necessary?
  4. How do we cultivate nurturing love? 
  5. How does the expression of self impact the relation to self & the selves experience of the world?
  6. What does it mean to be androgynous? In a post-binary world would androgyny be necessary?
  7. What does it mean to be in alignment? Is the idea of a best self a subtle expression of internalized shame, and if so what does self acceptance & actualization look like beyond that?
Advertisements
Standard

Dear Devotion: my perplexing problem

I’m working on a solo piece that I, and I alone, am creating. Like a sculptor alone in the studio facing a great slab of shapeless rock holding a chisel in one hand and a vision of possibility in the other. I am both sculptor & rock. Discoverer & discovered. I am navigating my body & mind in a way that is almost completely foreign to me. Total autonomy. It’s daunting.

My body is my instrument.

From which all work emerges. All ideas are expressed. Storytelling is in my veins, sinews, synapses. I, the artist, must learn to work every angle, control every aperture, understand the mechanics to take it apart & rebuild it. As a director of self my only option is to observe passively with gentle exacting focus as the performance comes through me. Let refinement arise in the commitment to discovery within. Trust my impulses.

My mind is a double edged sword.

It has baracaded itself inside behind enemy lines over analyzing all the ways I intersect with the world. Impulses that used to feel natural suddenly appear forgin under endless scrutiny. Without specific tasks & complex problems to latch onto my mind occupies itself in the most awful ways. When the anxiety rises I can barely quell the shakes. It surges through me like lightening and lingers for days. 

My heart has not healed.

There are memories stored in the muscles of my body that flinch when eyes linger there too long. Memories that tighten in my throat when certain songs play. Memories so heavy my bones ache with the weight of them on rainy days. My breath tries to balance the precipice between the world & I, but I’m still caught holding on to things I wish I could forget. 

My presence is the piece.

I am terrified of loosing myself in the work. I struggle to be present in my body & mind while even still I try to clutch onto some shade of normalcy. I am not creating in spite of these challenges but because of them. I am not a blank slate waiting to be filled with inspiration, I am the spark itself. The combined force of chisel point, skilled labour, and unrealized potential hidden in plain sight. The scariest part is the idea of being seen as broken, unredeemable, vulnerable. Of being seen & being hurt again. Rather than running away though I practice radical vulnerability in the studio, but how can I leave this raw open energy in the studio when this piece is also my life’s work?

My perplexing problem.

Standard

100/50

This is the 100th post on this strange blog, and we recently welcomed the 50th follower.
Seems odd no?
I still don’t really have a clue what I am hoping to do here, and yet here we are all together. Feels kind of disturbing and special, thanks guys.
I’m far too superstitious not to celebrate these perfectly round numbers, so here is a little get to know you game. I’ve asked myself 100 questions, of which 50 are answered truthfully. Maybe if you can pick out 10 of the lies there will be prizes? Maybe the prize will be I finally finish some of the pieces I’ve been working on during this holy sabbatical thing to share with you, or finally update the web layout so it’s easier to navigate, or like fun personalized postcards?? Who knows, hard to say really.

  1. What is the trait you most deplore about yourself? Psycho slut and vapid millennial.
  2. What is the trait you most deplore in others? Unadventurous taste.
  3. What brings you down the most often? My over active imagination and under stimulated mind.
  4. Which living person do you most admire? A man in uniform.
  5. Which living person do you most despise? The person who stole my fairy wings.
  6. What is your idea of perfect happiness? enough riches to buy a boat and travel the world to never return.
  7. What is your greatest fear? That I am alternately too much or not enough.
  8. Where would you most like to live? Climax, Saskatchewan.
  9. What is your most treasured possession? My notebooks.
  10. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as your dinner guest? Searle Sneer.
  11. Would you like to be famous, and in what way? I would like to be known well enough to work abroad, but still obscure enough not to be bothered in the street. Critical acclaim without mass hysteria.
  12. Before making a telephone call do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why? No, never, I just stare at the keypad longingly imagining the whole conversation in my head.
  13. What would constitute a perfect day for you? Waking up languidly with the sun to write and yawn, followed by yoga and meditation, tea and toast, intensive work creating in the studio until two or three in the afternoon, a late lunch and a stroll through the park with a thoughtful friend, a long nap perhaps with a good book, dinner with lots of laughter and music perhaps some wine, a quiet moment when the city is silent before bed to reflect and take note.
  14. What do you regard as the lowest depths of misery? the mind that is aware of it’s own limitations and flaws but too afraid or lazy to make a go of self discovery anyways.
  15. What is your favourite occupation? Prophet.
  16. What is your most marked characteristic? A knack for making people feel at ease.
  17. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else? I make up songs compulsively while puttering around my house. I try to be merciful with other’s ears.
  18. What did you learn yesterday? How to love with out feeling broken.
  19. What is your greatest extravagance? Emotional excess.
  20. What is your current state of mind? Restless reflective.
  21. What do you consider the most over rated virtue? Punctuality and ‘busyness’.
  22. On what occasion do you lie? I never lie.
  23. What is your preferred drink? Straight scotch on the rocks.
  24. What do you most dislike about your appearance? All of it.
  25. What do you most like about your appearance? All of it.
  26. Are you good at keeping secrets? Like a steal trap.
  27. What is the last message that you sent? The more I think that I shouldn’t feel this sad the more sad I feel.
  28. Do you have any weird party tricks? Meet ya in the bathroom to find out.
  29. For what in your life do you feel most grateful? The community of internet (and now irl) women, that have started sticking up and showing up for each other in a bad ass way. Solidarity, friendship, witchcraft.
  30. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future, or anything else, what would you want to know?  Where is the buried treasure at?
  31. Is there something you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you? Dreams have a funny way of creating and satisfying desire in the same instant, my whole life is one long cycle of dreaming and procuring.
  32. What is your most treasured memory? climbing inside of my own womb to say listen to my unborn child.
  33. What is your most terrible memory? pretending to be fine.
  34. What role does love and affection play in your life? usually the harbinger of bad news.
  35. Have you made any recent acts of kindness? I gave a cigarette to a stranger.
  36. What is the quality you most like in a man? not afraid of his feminine side.
  37. What is the quality you most like in a woman? not afraid of her masculine side.
  38. Which words or phrases do you most over use? Relateable, I’m sorry, where is trouble at, I’m running late, I fucked up.
  39. What or who is the greatest love of your life? My broken heart.
  40. When did you last cry in public? This morning.
  41. How close and warm is your family? Spread around the globe, still in touch.
  42. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother? We speak regularly, share a lot, and she can drink straight whiskey better than I can.
  43. If you could change anything about the way you were raised what would it be? I would have liked to be raised on a remote island among the stars.
  44. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about? My fragile ego.
  45. What do you like on pizza? Everything has it’s time and place, but the dough is the most important part.
  46. Have you ever had a dream come true? I did, and then it turned out to be a nightmare.
  47. How often do you change your underwear? I don’t wear underwear.
  48. What do you know by heart? A bit of shakespeare, some poetry, a few rap lyrics, and a lot of nonsense.
  49. When and where were you happiest? Riding the bus for hours deep into the night by myself.
  50. Which talent would you most like to have? Exceptional cunning linguist.
  51. If you could change one thing about yourself? I would like to be a quiet sensitive type.
  52. How often do you say ‘I love you’ and mean it? Often and Always.
  53. Is there anything or anyone that you would die for? My cat.
  54. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? A double bubble comic strip.
  55. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about how you are living now? It hardly seems sudden if I have a year’s advance notice, but if I knew it most certainly I would retreat into the woods far away from society to die alone.
  56. Of all the people in your family whose death would you find the most disturbing? Why? My oldest sister because I haven’t had much of a chance to know her yet.
  57. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die? Probably in a great deal of pain, possibly delusional.
  58. Do you believe in a higher power? I am the highest power.
  59. How many times a day do you think of death? 3 – 4 times
  60. How many times a day do you think of sex? 3 – 4 times
  61. Do you put others needs before yourself? I am working on being less self effacing in altruistic impulses.
  62. What are three things you would need to survive solitary confinement? A great deal of Shakespeare, Rumi, Cohen, and Vincent memorized, sun salutations or other modified physical routines, an unanswered question.
  63.  How are the things arranged in your room? Haphazardly.
  64. How would you describe your personal aesthetic?  Manic depressive Gemini with a dramatic flare.
  65. What is the most luxurious thing you have ever bought for yourself? Either a trip to South America or my vibrator.
  66. What are your most visited websites right now? Facebook, Twitter, Slutever, Free Will Astrology, Seeking Arrangement, Dominos online delivery, WordPress, Spotify, Youtube.
  67. What are your most played albums right now? Aesop Rock – Impossible Kid, Anna Wise – The Feminine: Act 1, Astronautalis – Cut the Body Loose, Factor – Factoria, Braids – Deep in the Iris, Mitski – Lush, Kitten Forever – Pressure.
  68. What do you value most in your friends? Honesty.
  69. What do you value most in a lover? Patience.
  70. What are your favorite names? Theodore, Eleanor, Esther.
  71. What are your your favourite smells? Lilacs in the rain, my own body odour, fresh coffee.
  72. Who are your favourite writers? Herman Hesse, Sylvia Plath, Joey Comeau, Tom Robbinson, Judith Thompson.
  73. What are your favourite films? The Lobster, Ghost World, Frida, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Pi.
  74. Who do you want to see collaborate on a project? Julie Taymor, Tanya Tagaq, and Grimes create a piece split between Nunavut and Nevada.
  75. Who is your hero of fiction? Lyra Belacqua.
  76. Who are your heroes in real life? Lia Pas, Nina Simone, Isadora Duncan, Lily Baldwin, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Frida Kahlo.
  77. Which historical figure do you most identify with? Joan of Arc.
  78. How would your friends describe you? Your drive and vision inspire me to grapple with my own unfulfilled creative designs and your progressive nature forces me to question my own simplest assumptions.
  79. What makes life easier? spread sheets, automatic bill payments, do not disturb features, wifi on my phone, cloud sharing and streaming, no voicemail.
  80. What stresses you out? having to say no to good opportunities that aren’t the right opportunities, getting paid what I’m worth, small talk, unfinished business, false intimacy.
  81. What turns you on? whispered secrets, fierce kisses, gentle reminders, strong arms, wet surprises, rigorous desire.
  82. What motivates you? Insatiable curiosity, sense of competition, a lot of self torment.
  83. What is the first thing you think of in the morning? My dreams.
  84. What is the last thing you think of at night? My love.
  85. What is one thing you can’t live without? Champagne.
  86. Do you serve your money or does your money serve you? I sleep on it like a dragon.
  87. How have you changed in the last five years? I’ve become more grounded, less urgent, more charming, less charmed, more fickle, less fearful.
  88. Where do you want to be in 5 years? On the other side of the world, alone unto myself, growing my wisdom.
  89. Where do you want to be in 10 years? In bed, of a room of my own, with a young lover, and no consumer obligations.
  90. What would you tell your younger self? Spend less time trying to fix cracks, and more time breaking expectations.
  91.  Do you take people’s advice? Only what is given from the heart.
  92. What do you consider your greatest achievement? I am still here trying to make something of it.
  93. Where do you find peace? In the quiet moments between the pages or between the sheets.
  94. What is it that you most dislike? Being told to calm down.
  95. What lessons in life did you learn the hard way? Never give your pin to a drug addict.
  96. What is your greatest regret? Not learning more about my great grandmother while my granddad was alive.
  97. How would you like to die? Without much fan fare.
  98. How would you like to be remembered? A drop in the sea, the sea in a drop.
  99. What is your motto? My intensity brings me great joy.
  100. Thinking of the last question is just too much pressure for me, if you aren’t utterly sick of hearing me talk about myself by now you are free to ask the last question in the comments, or offer some of your own answers, I don’t know why I agreed to do this anymore, I’m going to go make pizza and cry in bed now (jk?) bye.
Standard

Sense of humor

It hit me hard like a slap in the face. My cheeks stung, my neck felt hot, and my stomach churned icy and nauseous. I gripped the edge of my seat. “I can’t believe they just did that” my partner whispered in my ear, but it sounded hollow and far away. My mind was racing looking for a way out of the theatre without drawing attention to myself, but there was no way out.

This is what a panic attack feels like. As an artist with a penchant for provocative material this sort of visceral reaction might have been something I would welcome had it been intended to serve the work rather than for cheap laughs. 

Satire (noun) the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

Often I hear that we’ve done our job as artists if our audience leaves the theatre having felt something, good or bad, the worest thing is to leave your audience impartial. But what is our responsibility then to take care of our audience after we’ve put them through this emotional rollercoaster? How do we as artists create a space that is safe for our audience in order to build trust in our ability to lead them to these scary places in the work? And when is it ok to use potentially buried trauma to illicit a reaction, good or bad, from our audience to satisfy our own egos?

I left the theatre as quickly as possible. I wanted to get out of there and away from these people who were laughing and joking to their cars in. How did that make it in to the show? Why are people laughing? What year is it? “It’s like blazing saddles except it’s not the 70s anymore that shit isn’t funny” my partner was fuming. I couldn’t think, I could barely speak. Every touch, every uncomfortable silence, every cutting remark flashing through my mind. I wanted to scream. I didn’t scream then it’s too late to scream now.

Depending on what statistics you are looking at either 1 in 4 to 1 in 6 women  and 1 in 6 to 1 in 8 men will experience sexual assault in their lifetime. The number is significantly higher for the aboriginal community, trans folks, and sex workers. But we also know that a lot more go unreported so the number is likely higher. As a theatre artist looking at even a small 100 seat theatre it is basically a given that there are several people in the audience who have directly or indirectly through a close friend or family member experienced sexual assault. To flip that number on it’s head there are probably several people in the audience who have sexually assaulted someone whether or not they identify their actions as rape. So the question becomes not only how do we honor the silent survivors in our audience, but what kind of example do we want to make of the aggressors?

“I want to keep creating comedy that is, as my old improv teacher would say, at the top of our intelligence or higher. It’s easy to fall into the trap of just cranking out things that are good enough to sell.” – Tina Fey [Oprah, 2009]

It’s hard to write good satire. No surprise, Tina Fey knows a thing or two about how to do it right. As stand up comedian Selena Coppock says “[rape jokes] must be written with imagination, thoughtfulness, and awareness of societal systems and privilege. Some rape jokes are great — they don’t re-victimize the already-victimized characters in a rape dynamic.” By offering that element of surprise not only is the punchline  more interesting, but less problematic by shifting blame away from the victim. It is important to note that there are still folks that will find it triggering regardless of how progressive the rape joke is. 

The next day I woke up angry. If I had been made to feel that way how many others had suffered through in silence? Why did I feel like I owed the show an air of good humor? It had not been good humor. It had been incredibly damaging and out of place. I had made the same sort of excuses for the production as I did for my original attacker, but I didn’t have to. In the dark theatre I may be held witness to any sort of awful thing, but in the real world I had a voice and I could start the conversation to create change.

Theatre artists are dependant on our audience; therefore it is important that we are concious of their experience through out the creation process, and allowing that space for critique and discussion throughout. I acknowledge that this experience is unique to me and this incarnation of this production, but it stands that the questions raised are applicable more broadly. I don’t have answers yet. I’m not looking for an apology. I would like to see us collectively tackle these difficult questions and hold each other accountable in the work as colleagues,  and as a community in how we care for one another.

Standard