Category Archives: Life & living

Pondering the rhythms and rhymes of life

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Mountain road sunset.jpegI am in the midst of bringing my thesis to life… drawing together and making sense of the collage of sometimes disparate discoveries and ruminations on theorising and practicing education. I am most interested in identifying the conditions that foster transformed perspectives on life, living and learning, in this case within the learning spaces of teacher professional development in Vocational Education and Training (VET).

I have been fortunate to find myself supported by a wise coach (and dear friend) who is helping me navigate the ‘road home’ for my thesis. We have been exploring the key values that underpin this journey to completion, and have both been intrigued by my resistances to certain terms… ‘structure’ and ‘discipline’ to name two. We are exploring the origins of my seemingly irrational response to their inclusion in my positive language bank, and considering ways I might reframe my perception of their value.

As I ponder my responses, I have this morning come across intriguing reflections from Michel Alhadeff-Jones, a fellow member of the international transformative learning community with whom I connect. In a recent blog post, Michel explores the time-related tensions that exist in our fast-paced world, most particularly related to the outcomes-driven world of education. In his article he reflects on the inclusion of Twitter and other social media platforms in our academic and personal lives, and the dichotomous impact they bring to bear… the delights of opening to new ways of seeing and engaging with the world, against the tensions and intrusions into the natural rhythms and rhymes of self:

I am experiencing mixed feelings that seem to be quite common nowadays: the excitement of discovering new people (but not necessary new ideas) and the depressing feeling that keeping up with the pace of social media runs against other rhythms of my life (e.g., the pace of family, intellectual and working lives) … to try to keep this tension alive and to question the deeper meanings it carries. On one hand, the need for novelty, fresh insights, connections and the excitement of instantaneous connections; on the other hand, the need to consolidate what is already there, to preserve oneself, and to embrace the duration of long term perspective and lifelong development.’

The problem is not so much about choosing between one or the other. The issue would be rather to learn how to regulate between openness and closure, instantaneity and duration, excitement and boredom, etc. Those are interesting “motifs de dualité” (Bachelard, 1950) that are constitutive of the everyday rhythms of our lives (sometimes we feel the need to be connected or stimulated, other times we prefer to remain on our own or quiet).

Alhadeff-Jones 2017

Michel’s rich musings have struck a chord for me related to the broader concept of creating honouring spaces for learning… a key inclusion in my PhD thesis… that connects with notions of time explored previously in my Masters:

Just as Rogers (1961) ponders the process of enabling and establishing a relationship that provides the groundwork in which the individual can cultivate their personal growth, the aim of my study was to examine the ways in which undertaking the quietly reflective process of telling the stories of one’s life might foster future growth and productivity. These same analogies relating to the idea of cultivation can be seen in M. Scott Peck’s conceptualisation of education:

“Education is derived from the Latin ‘educare’, literally translated as ‘to bring out of’ or ‘to lead forth.’ Therefore when we educate people, if we use the word seriously, we do not stuff something new into their minds; rather we lead this something out of them; we bring it forth from the unconscious into their awareness. They were the possessors of the knowledge all along.” (Peck, 1978)

To illustrate how this ‘something’ might be enabled to be led forth from our learners, I will return to the notion … of providing the ‘space’ for this process to unfold, and link it the Socratic notion of the educator as midwife. In supporting the ‘birth’ of this ‘something’ that lies within each of our learners, we also need to consider the quality of time required for them to inhabit the ‘space’ most effectively, as creating space for something doesn’t necessarily mean it will emerge. Rämo explores the Greek bifurcation of the concept of time, as it relates to the notions of chronos and kairos, (Ramo, 1999). He highlights that where chronos refers to ‘the concept of time as change, measure, and serial order’, the quantifiable, measurable aspects of passing time according to the clock in a neutral, absolute sense, the kairos notion of time relates to the ‘right or opportune time to do something’. He gives as an example a farmer’s ‘kairic’ or intuitive sense of the right moment to sow and harvest, adding that it is tied to the self-determination of the individual. Smith (1969) identifies three aspects present within the concept of kairos – the right time, a time of tension that calls for a decision, and an opportunity to accomplish some purpose. Jaques (1982) and philosopher Ramírez (1995) also stress kairos as episodes of intentions and goals, while Hammond (2007) proposes that in Hellenistic Greece, kairos denoted a time in which something could happen. He proposes a fitting or opportune time – a ‘season’, a time for ‘something’. Aristotle (cited in Ramos (1999, p312)) suggests ‘What happens at the right time (Kairos – season) is good’ and the Oxford English Dictionary (Simpson, Weiner, & Press., 1989), defines Kairos as ‘Fullness of time, the propitious moment for the performance of an action or the coming into being of a new state.’ (Miles, 2010)

So interestingly, as I contemplate these resistances to ‘structure’ and ‘discipline’, I find myself returning to the roots of my original inquiry, commenced over a decade ago. Whether I consider the tensions inherent in deciding whether to be present and active in social media as an academic; the process of supporting my learners as they unpack and critique their uncontested assumptions, or the impact of the structure and discipline required to be productive and successful in my goal of completing my thesis… I have deepest knowing that fertile space must always be available for the dreaming and emergence of creativity, self-expression and previously unimagined possibilities. Fertile space inhabited by Kairos time, where ‘the coming into being of a new state’ is able to unfold.

I am reminded of Leunig’s eloquent musings:

Let it go,
Let it out,
Let it all unravel,
Let it free
And it will be
A path on which to travel.

Leunig (2017)

Perhaps it lies somewhere on the road between these…that one might ‘structure’ and be ‘disciplined’ in creating and inhabiting these fertile oases in the midst of an otherwise organised space. It is certainly something worthy of deep reflection… in Kairos time…

References

Alhadeff-Jones, M. (2017a). Time and the rhythms of emancipatory education. Rethinking the temporal complexity of self and society. London: Routledge.

Alhadeff-Jones, M. (2017b). Twitter and the experience of temporal neurosis. Retrieved from http://alhadeffjones.com/blog-autoethnography-of-a-rhythmanalyst/

Hammond, J. (2007). Living on and off the clock: Some thoughts on time management. Retrieved from www.smcm.edu/rivergazette/_assets/PDF/may07/may07/reeveschair.pdf

Jaques, E. (1982). The form of time. New York: Crane, Russak.

Joss, R. (2007). It’s not about you. Retrieved from http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/news/research/joss_you.html

Leunig, M. (2017) Let it go. Retrieved from http://www.leunig.com.au/works/poems

Miles, J. K. 2010 Restor(y)ing lives: Autobiographical reflection and perspective transformation in adults returning to study. (Master’s thesis) Monash University. Clayton.

Peck, S. M. (1978). The road less travelled. New York: Touchstone.

Ramo, H. (1999). An Aristotelian Human Time-Space Manifold: From Chronochora to Kairotopos. Time & Society, 8(2-3), 309-328.

Ramírez, J. L. (1995). Skapande Mening: En begreppsgenealogisk undersökning om rationalitet, vetenskap och planering [Creative Meaning: A Contribution to a Human-Scientific Theory of Action]. Stockholm: NORDPLAN.

Rogers, C. R. (1961). On becoming a person; a therapist’s view of psychotherapy. New York: University of Chicago Press.

Simpson, J. A., Weiner, E. S. C. (1989). The Oxford English dictionary (2nd ed.). Oxford and New York: Clarendon Press; Oxford University Press.

Smith, J. E. (1969). Time, times and the ‘right time’. The Monist, 53(1), 1-13.

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Space to breathe and contemplate life

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I’m back from a few days on the Gold Coast after presenting a paper at an education research conference and have been reflecting on my leisurely and rambling rumination whilst there …

Sitting in the cool lobby of a hotel I had the pleasure of inhabiting for the four days of my stay, I was waiting for my shuttle to the airport. I had just walked along the magnificent Queensland coast where Surfers Paradise meets the sea, and had surrendered myself to the gently rolling ocean waves.

I’m not a great fan of the area and it’s high tourist trade, but was incredibly grateful for the opportunity I’d had to engage in deeply stimulating dialogue with an international community of my peers, and to sit in my 19th floor room overlooking the panoramic vista. The setting of our research gathering amongst the proliferation of high-rise apartments of Surfers Paradise saw us bordered by the endless coast on one side and Tamborine Mountain beyond the Hinterland on the other.

It reminded me of a beautiful book I bought for my boys years ago. Where the Forest Meets the Sea by Jeannie Baker (1987) is described as a tribute to her love of Australian wilderness and fierce commitment to protecting it from destruction http://www.jeanniebaker.com/wtfms.mov Also http://www.vintagechildrensbooksmykidloves.com/2009/07/where-forest-meets-sea-guest-post-by.html. It is a book created from original artworks that depict the unfolding story of change through the imaginings of a young boy, telling the story of a place further north where the incredible Daintree Forest meets the sea. It predicts how this space where the elements and forces of nature come together might be irrevocably changed to accommodate our desire to appreciate and access such places of beauty. I remember that I took my boys into the Melbourne Art Gallery at a time when they were young and dreaming their own dreams of possibility, and we were privileged to see the original artworks for the book.

The television is playing in the background in the lobby, and from a distant place I can hear The Last Post sounding. Young men and women walking along the street in front of me are wearing war medals, returning from a local ANZAC Day march, and I am taken in my mind to scenes of heart-wrenching death as beautiful young lives are lost on the sandy shores of Gallipoli. Another coast, another place where the rich landscape meets the sea. Another place where the elements and forces of nature have been witness to and changed by the desires and ambitions of ‘progress’ and ‘protecting’ and promoting what is ours.

In the odd news reports that drift across from the television I hear about plans to purchase massive instruments of war that will cost billions of dollars and contribute to a culture of alienation and intimidation, and I consider how all these stories collide.

I am ruled by a government, overseeing a population, overwhelmingly out of touch with the key issues we are facing. Even as I sit in my air-conditioned lobby, having enjoyed the sights from my eagles nest perspective, waiting to board my fume-belching plane back home, I am overwhelmed by the impact of our decisions. Decisions to bulldoze protected forests; dump oil in unique marine environments; cull exquisite sharks in their homes; refuse critical assistance to people and creatures who need it most. Decisions to buy exorbitantly priced instruments of war and protect our borders from those we fear who come across the sea to share what belongs to all of us, and send them away to be imprisoned for being ‘illegal’. Decisions to support the clearing of more irreplaceable ‘spaces’ and re’place’ them with concrete jungles filled with constantly revolving editions of ever-new technology, and retire on massive tax-payer funded pensions … but we will tell those in dire peril we have no money to support them in their need.

And I wonder what we can do to change it.

In the lobby people are coming and going, some excited to be launching into their holiday adventures, others like me preparing to reenter the ongoing story of their lives. Two young sisters are using the couches as mountain ranges, climbing and navigating their way through imagined adventures.

From all corners of the world, people are going about their business, while in so many places, where the landscapes meet the sea, where mountains overlook winding rivers, where forests embrace their rich environments, the planet and her dependent inhabitants are struggling to survive due to the heartless, thoughtless, senseless decisions and actions being taken now. It is my observation that in most cases assaults on living creatures and our planet stem from our inability to open our hearts and make choices grounded in loving wisdom. Greed, fear and suspicion do not create sustainable solutions. Answers will never be found in instruments of war. Loving compassionate hearts, working collaboratively and open to each others’s truths, are the only foundation on which humane, sustainable decisions can be made for our collective future. A government working secretly at times, blindly at others in a seeming time warp is not sustainable for people, planet or anyone’s profit.

So what to do … I seem to recall a song from my childhood about shining a light in my little corner of the world … that if we all shine our light in our little corner we can illuminate the world. I guess this means we need to polish up our strengths, open our hearts and step out to use our loving influence and our compassionate example in all instances. Share whatever we can, grow whatever hope and capability is possible in our little space so that we can heal and prosper collectively … as one interconnected organism.

Now that I am home from my sojourn, I need to figure out what that next step will be for me … might just go and polish my heart and my courage while I give it some thought …

Finding the courage to move forward

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In his article ‘Which Leads to More Success, Reward or Encouragement?’, Deepak Chopra unpacks the notion of en-couraging people … supporting them to find their courage. In contrasting this approach of empowerment against the basic behaviourist strategies of reward and punishment employed by the ‘winners’ he describes so beautifully (see the counter response from one such ‘winner’ in the Comments), Chopra has expressed with such clarity an understanding very dear to my own heart.

Years ago, when I first read Viktor Frankl’s ‘Man’s search for meaning’, I was en-couraged and illuminated by his assertion that finding meaning in suffering provides the impetus we need to move forward when exposed to unimaginable realities. There are many days and many ways that we need courage to face the unknown and unimaginable, and it’s not a superficial reward or punishment needed that takes us into a primal response. What is needed most crucially is the connection to our heart … to the deepest core of our being that knows … the knowing beyond knowing. Not out of fear, but out of love and personal truth.

I am grateful for Deepak Chopra’s beautifully expressed knowing … do yourself a favour and read the article … I en-courage you …

http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20131116022900-75054000-which-leads-to-more-success-reward-or-encouragement?_mSplash=1