Next Places

Posts related to my book “Next Places”

During money bubbles (“Gilded Ages”), there are certain sorts of “mind-sets” toward the world, and (every/any) one’s sense of future. What seems obvious or natural during such times – attitudes toward the world, judgments of what and who are the best and most successful people – flows in the direction of big power and big money being the proper ways of the world.

We are (about to enter 2009), just emerging from a money bubble. The bottom is dropping out of the economy all around the world – interlaced as we have become during the past 50 years or so. This gilded age has been enabled by the great rise in technological innovations, which have refocused much of our experienced world, and opened the entire globe to our thoughts and interactions.

Some aspects of the money bubble sort of mentality, which hover upon our thoughts:

Fame is really good! Money and power direct themselves to the precious few, while the rest of us think this is the natural way of the world as we try to play along with the world and people we see, and often admire or even adore. (I want a BMW to park in front of my mega-mansion!) The people who “run” the risen economy “deserve” all they can siphon from their merged corporations. Students go to college less for an education, more for a credential which will ensure their future success (and a BMW…maybe a Jaguar as they mature). This state is the proper/natural state of the world, and will go on and on…! We are all independent individuals – the government should stay out of our lives. I am motivated to succeed…and will…to. Read the rest of this entry »

Once we create the gods or transcendental concepts, after a little while they take on lives of their own in ours.  They are, they do, they become this and that; inspire us, threaten us, control us, cajole us. We beseech them, pray to them, fight them, pit them against one another. They reflect us, we reflect them. It is all very confusing.

Where does it all begin, we ask. At the beginning, we answer, no longer admitting, not realizing that the answer begot the question. No longer wanting to explore experience, the senses which are, which reveal and deceive, we decided not to grow in outlook when our bodies decided to halt growing in height.

The gods, the concepts like language and society and economy all become invisible hands, work over us and work us over. God fights Satan, and we are pawns. Capitalism battles socialism, my eyes blink arhythmically. Nature captivates culture which wards-off technology. Books are written which explain all of this: authentic texts, the word of…

Let them all fight, I think to myself, not wanting to be caught in epic wars of too-tall gods inventing intrigues. People, I think, are not all that different in the visible spectrum.

Searching for meaning, we are tempted to believe…it is not within us. The problem is in being large enough to live our lives, neither too diminished nor too enlarged, praying for bits of help or arrogating the graces of our own imagination.

My response: search for ourselves, the character within each of us which may grow to fill the longest life! Toward each of our next places…!

Change, Change, Change! Yes, Yes, Yes…

Change, Change, Change – Yeah, but…

In my office at the University where I teach, there is a poster which I look at frequently, but keep mostly hidden from others: “I touch the future: I teach.”

Now older, many years of experience in thought and in teaching, I am even less bashful. “I inspire the future : I teach.”

Change, yes: but towards what? How can we envision the futures of democracy, without probing where we are, how we got here; and where is there to go?

Where are we: emerging from another “gilded age,” a “money bubble” which has so altered the shape of democracy, that it might be powerful enough to shape our very ideas of change. How to see, how to study these so-fragile times?

How we got here? We have been part and partners in the great money bubble: our children, our students go to school less to learn how to think, or grapple with their futures. More they go because that is the “thing to do.” Not to think critically, but to work toward a credential as “efficiently” as possible. Then their futures will be “O.K.”

Envision the future?? It will take care of itself, as long as we do what we do? Think critically? Bah! Do what we’re “supposed” to do, and…

Change, change, change. The mentality of the gilded age has pushed us into ourselves on facebook and U-space. The world in which we reside shapes us so much more than we realize. We have – not thoughtfully – accepted the oligarchies of money and power which shape our very desires. As it is all collapsing – in “crisis” – my students hardly blink, as they hardly realize that the world is always, already changing. Democracy entails awareness.

How to study these so-fragile times? History can be very useful? How did the last “gilded ages” – of the late 19th century and the 1920s collapse? How did the “progressive age” take place? Explore Hofstadter’s “The Progressive Movement,” and Josephson’s “Robber Barons.” How did we move – forward – from the great depression?

How might we envision the future of democracy? Where may our “Next Places” be – both politically and personally? A next progressive era?

Education: said John Dewey – probably the most thoughtful of the progressive thinkers – and do-ers. The very idea of democracy must be rethought, and taught to each new generation. It is the future, their future, in which they need to think and act. Teachers need to be sufficiently thoughtful and “important” to be able to inspire their futures.

The gilded ages have been driven mostly by new technologies: ideas, products, and the new monies generated and then controlled by the very clever, and very selfish and greedy few. How to return the U.S. to “we the people” as we go from boom to…?

Explore where we are, try to foresee various possibilities, then set out visions for the futures of those students whom we inspire to become truly engaged – in these times and their times – toward education and democracy.

In certain times, there is a sense of progress and riches. In such times many of us can ply our trades and offer our wares with youthful panache and virtuosity. There appears to be much work to be done, and we offer to do whatever there is and more, because we want to be in on the doing. There is room for all: the more, the merrier. We expand to the edges, to fill the space of these times, as if they are all of time.

Then, times change. Space contracts, and we have grown older. Now it is difficult to know which is what; where causes lie. Some of us, hurt, strike out in the directions we can still find, and strike inward at the past’s duped selves. We were bought and sold out of our own exuberant innocence. Digging in, we strove to get beyond the times, and beyond our former selves, to do whatever the work we had promised our selves.

Others have made fewer self-promises. No one at home, they sought causes and found them in all directions outside of themselves. The truly skilled found support in continuity: others, flushed and flashed, disappeared from view. The causes, the support, the on-goings and the going on, all exacted certain costs, and demanded certain prices. And the less self-promised paid them, lest they, too, disappear. Stronger, now, in the weaknesses of belonging.

Here we are still, together. Strong…appearing. All of us less innocent. Which of us survive until tomorrow?

…he asked me, that you don’t find the kinds of teacher you espouse, for which you are looking?” I looked up at him; quizzically, I thought.

Beyond disappointment, I thought there were some around, of those who taught well and inspired. By now, I understood and understand that teaching is too difficult for very long, except for the strongest to bear. Where, then, to look, to search? How much of my own time to devote to these explorations in the realities of every day? How to deal with the experiences of isolation which the teacher-I-am has to endure?

I found them many of those for whom I was searching in the texts and ideas of all of time: in the books, in the writings, in the history of how we got here. Augustine trained teachers and created the church which has endured for almost two millennia; and I have him, his thoughts and writings, in my house and in my office, and in my mind, and in my being. He is very present in my thoughts, so alive that I can talk and walk with him. And Plato, who thought and talked sitting down, and his student, Aristotle, who talked and thought while walking around; I have them, as well. Confucius, Aesop, the ancients. The seers and oracles and shamans of other cultures, they, too, are now available; at least in books, and in my active thoughts.

And the moderns who have shaped our thinking…? Maybe it is that I have already swallowed whatever the tears of my disappointments, thinking that tears should not be shed upon the ground of life. I wish to meet all the teachers of the world who live still, now that I can attempt to grapple with their concepts and histories, now that I am thoughtful and full of sufficient knowledge. Disappointed?

Disappointment: a concept that middle age cannot sustain and reach its own beyond.

A young man, an honor’s student, bright, quick, a kind of smartness which had sought the facts which stood in the place of knowledge, squeezing out wisdom, who said that we were the first teachers he had had whose age and experience seemed important. The world of teaching become technique impresses itself upon the young as some sense of energy, which the teachers possessed in greater abundance.

The older seemed not wiser; just older. The older, tired, worn, their lives as teachers many years beyond the hold on knowledge they had themselves gotten in the schoolings of their youth. Knowledge, itself, older, tired, lacking…We, older, still seeking and searching. Older, we came upon some synergy which hinted of wisdom, of so many year’s experience in dealing with the minds of students that a hint of talk revealed the landscapes of their inner minds, heretofore hidden, even from themselves.

We, older, trying every day in every way to understand the what of what we study, sense the growth and growing lengths of the paths by which we got to here, musing that all of this is not so clear and not so obvious to the young who have no experience with experience.

I wandered in the world, seeing what there was, guessing what there could be, and wondering. I smelled the new, damp green of spring as it appeared, and wished, each winter, that the days of snow and grey would give way. The wishing turned into meaning as I learned how to brood and to wish away whatever was, for what would be, and what I wished. The world had become stage; the people, actors in my creations; my real leaning toward grotesque, the unreal wanting to become my beauty.
I redid the mirrors to reflect my eyes’ vision. My third ear compared what I wanted with what there was, until reverberations could be refiltered to match. Awful! I learned to watch my doing. As the others saw me, I learned to see myself; what they wanted to see, I sought to be. At one point there was no watching left. I cracked, revealing nothing, no one. I was only what they thought. Now, no wiser; perhaps, wary. I try to see each flake of snow; see it fall, see it down to the snow banks of my life.
I become the painter of the silvering which backs the glass transparencies, now become its own mirror. Trying to locate what is, where I am; while still seeking for illusions. (An existential accounting for the experience of paradox in our lives!)

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