A long and winding road
A conversation is something I relish, not chit-chat, not pleasantries, but a real conversation. I began my journey on this road slowly, because I read slowly, and actually I hear voices when I read – so a conversational book is completely perfect. My post about it is going to be notes, just because. The quotes below are things that struck me. When I was younger I used to buy two copies of books and sometimes cut out fantastic quotes. I remember both the top of p.105 of Sartre’s Being and nothingness, and p.84 of Great Expectations. That probably tells you something about me.
I found out about this book club about We make the road by walking by Myles Horton and Paulo Friere in a very round-a-bout way and decided to have a read and join in. I purposefully did not read any posts before drafting this one. Bryan Alexander is the man at the centre of the book club, and you can read his first post about it. I didn’t want spoilers as I haven’t read the book before. Saying that, after I wrote this, I then looked at half a dozen posts and thought how lovely it was that people have all sorts of insights. I have notes and resonances, and glimpses. I will have more time to write after next week, and then may develop some of the themes and will certainly comment on other’s writing, if belatedly. Time is relative and flexible, I hope. Here we go:
- “The lack of historical memory is fantastic” p.6
That is not a sarcastic statement, but fantastic in the true meaning of the word. Lack of memory, lack of context, lack of awareness. It is more than memory because for many it has never existed.
- “In order to start, it should be necessary to start.”
- “I’ve never found any other way.” p.6
Like waking in the morning and being pulled out of bed by the sun itself, reaching into your chest and lifting you into the day. That is how I wake up, and I relate to starting – because it must be, not because, well, ok, I guess… but because of some deep catalytic drive.
And the road? Yes we definitely make it by walking, and there are other times when we make the road only to discover that it was first trod thousands of years ago. …There’s this Roman amphitheatre I pass on my morning commute that reminds me of that. Who spoke here? What plays, poetry, who sat in these seats?
Curiosity and the mountain and being and incompleteness. p.11
There is something very profound in that, and I think there is something more still – First, most people try to climb mountains. They fail before they begin because they ‘try’, which is implicit failure – try and not do. I know it’s a bit Yoda, but there really is no try. Then there is incompleteness. What a joy! Really. If we were complete it would be so boring. The bit that I would (dare to) add is that the quest for curiosity, for growth is not to complete, as in to fix, something, but to augment the now.
With Myles’ description of school and life, I’m struck by how much is relatable, and even almost the same still now… when my dad lost his job and I was 16, I mowed lawns and babysat and cleaned houses and then worked in a bookstore after school. You did what you could, because you could, and there was no shame in any of it. We certainly were nowhere near destitute, but if I wanted any money I had to earn it. And for a couple of years my middle child walked 4 miles home from school every day- in her case because she had perfectly working legs and she got home faster than the bus – and she didn’t have to pay to walk, so could pocket her bus money!
I think everyone needs a pig incident, but not everyone has one – certainly not at such a young age. In the book, Myles recalls having a pig and hoping to win a ribbon from the 4H club (I was a member for 6 months, but never grew anything…alas… It is a cross between a horticultural society and Scouts.) but the family had to kill and eat the pig. Tragic, but life. He recalled:
“I started feeling very sorry for myself, and I went out be hind the barn in the clover eld. It was summertime and the moon was shining and I walked out in that clover eld and I started crying. I felt so sorry for myself. I just thought I had been mistreated. And I finally just stretched out in the clover, and I was there in the clover sobbing away, and here’s the moon and the stars out, everything was silent. Suddenly I thought how ridiculous this is. Nobody knows. The moon can’t hear me. The stars can’t hear me. The clover can’t hear me. No human beings around. Here I am feeling sorry for my self, and nobody knows it. So what’s this all about. And right there in the clover eld I decided I would never be sorry for myself again, that that was not the way to go.” p.16-7
It takes great awareness and presence of mind to realise what matters and how we use our energy. When that is understood, I think it is far more often like riding a wave than drowning under one. Where am I? Sometimes riding the crest, and often still paddling. The tide keeps coming, and there’s a new wave around every corner. There is no one answer.
I really like the bit on p.17 when he identifies that blame can be shifted to “non-personal” sources. Often identifying contributing factors to any situation, and deconstructing it can lead to learning. (I wrote a chapter about that in my book on building student’s beliefs for learning & achievement)
- “Lifeless textbooks” p.20 – haha! I remember those…
- “I wasn’t supposed to ask questions or even think about anything like that” p.29
Oooooh! I cannot go there, not now, but to say that it made me smile to read it, and in direct response to that:
- “It’s interesting that I could feel free to speak out”
Finding a mechanism to speak out in various settings, where people do feel comfortable, is a key, and that ‘comfort’ is not something that can be imposed or pre-planned. Yes, it can be facilitated, but people have to decide not to get in their own way.
Ah “context” (p.31)! It brings it back to that non-existent memory and translates from empty words into meaningful communication. Yes, when reading words you can imprint or take whatever meaning you want, but there is also the layer of intention – that I suppose is up to every reader to access or not. If not… who knows what you might be missing out on.
p.36-37 I love the sentiment of being “happy and frightened” by reading and that “there is no creativity without raptura, without a break from the old, without conflict in which you have to make a decision. I would say there is no human existence without ruptura.”
That’s a good place to stop for now, especially as I have to play my cello. –and yes, I have to start practising, because I feel that insatiable need to do it. I will finish this chapter soon…