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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.

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-12-53-18And 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…

 

 

 

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’m just moving slowly through the next chapter and it’s been such a help to retrace my steps back through your post.

    I have the same reaction to you in relation to ancient roads, amphitheatres — who walked or rode here, who came by in a cart, why does this road turn west at this exact point?

    To me this book is a call to remember that we walk on deeply trodden paths.

    December 4, 2016
  2. Laura, what a splendid post. I learned a great deal from how you walked through the book, finding passages that resonated with your life and thought.

    The ruptura bit really sticks with me.

    December 1, 2016
    • Laura #

      Thank you Bryan for coming to visit and taking the time to read and comment. I am so very glad to have stumbled into this group and very much look forward to learning from and with you and the others 🙂 And I am fascinated by the interconnectedness of people. 6 degrees of separation is unfathomable, but 2 seems absolutely delightful! Hello across the pond!

      December 1, 2016
  3. thanks for that. I am at work late (as usual) setting up for a video conference tomorrow with some wonderful people in Chicago. I listened to the first breathtaking moments of that link, wow. What a monstrously wonderful place to play the cello. I have it now on my phone and will listen to it all the way home. Thank you for accompanying me on my journey (in advance? I just plain don’t know what the tense of this all is.) So appreciate your music.

    December 1, 2016
  4. Laura,

    I really appreciate your blog posts, though I confess to not appreciating how they distract me and pull me from what I should be doing. (Who gets to decide should, though?) This one in particular is a doosey.

    I love that you took snatches, sentences, ideas and let them nestle in your brain and from that process came sprouts of your own ideas and experiences. We do that, of course, but rarely do we give that natural tendency the breathing room — the percolating time — that you do here.

    Thank you.

    For the sake of clarity #1: I don’t see a reference to the book, so I’ll put it here: We Make the Road by Walking — Conversations on Education and Social Change by Myles Horton and Pablo Freire (edited by a troika).

    For the sake of clarity #2: What’s the “pig incident?”

    As you would imagine, I know Bryan. I love the man. Anyone who has the range of thinking and interests that Bryan has is OK in my book. Besides he also is kind and giving and extremely present — he has worked with some of “our” kids and has put the same energy into them as I am sure he puts to the phD “important” minds of the world that he rubs shoulders with and teaches.

    You have me intrigued enough by what you have done that I plan to buy the book and join in this cavalcade.

    But that statement brings a realization related to some of what you write, particularly, “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.”

    From a personal standpoint, I would dare to add that this quest also requires a bit of Kierkegaard. that is, that we have a balance between the past, present and future. And I, for one, am not in balance. And I fear that my curiosity, as well as my focus on what I want to do, learn, express, is a bit dormant as a result.

    In journalism, I used to call my curiosity “the little bell,” that little bell that goes off in the back of your brain to tell you that you just noticed something, heard something, learned something that is new, damnit, new. Pay attention. Go after it. Find out about it. Ask about it. …. Intense curiosity. Coming from a position of not knowing, of ignorance.

    But I, like many I am sure, steamroll ahead in my routine (confession: some of us have more maniacal routines than others) and the sound of the bell is distant (not silent, entirely, but that worries me), my curiosity snoozing, my balance insecure, my ability to express, dulled.

    So all that is what sprouted from your post. And more, I know. For that I thank you.

    But I must get back to whatever it is that I was doing. And I hope you got back to your cello, which I adore as an instrument that can fully reach so many human emotions.

    I am privileged, in my lifetime, to have witnessed uncle Frank play with cellists of little (or modest) fame but immense talent and joy. I have been front row to see Pablo Casals. I have listened to performances of David Darling (stunned to see, just 5 feet away, in one 10-bar stretch that his bow was NOT touching the strings and that he was making the notes with his mouth) and Matt Haimowitz (who I deeply respect for bringing his version of jimi hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner to a bar, of all places, where, in fact Jimi was comfortable but a cello, usually, is not AND for being such an amiable good interviewee) and Eugene Friesen (who is a Vermonter who I have NOT met, but heck, we here in Vermont feel like we have met each other just because that’s how you feel in Vermont).

    And I have listened to a bit of your playing, but not enough. (Direct me to the Laura Ritchie Musical Archive please.)

    I hope Frank’s book arrived. As someone who bumped into those sayings — a collection of sentences not unlike this post — on little scraps of paper on the kitchen counter or dining room table or mixed in with old mail or on his piano or on a shelf inside the hall cabinet or on his dresser next to his hairbrush or on his desk littered in with notes about composers or reminders about his haircutting appointment, I have to say how happy I am that he gained the energy — mostly from the friendship of a local printer/publisher — to put them all in one place so more people could enjoy them.

    cheers to you.

    gg

    November 30, 2016
    • Laura #

      Wow! What a gift! I have amended the post to include the pig incident (copied here so you don’t have to look!) 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

      and then… the reference to the book (I am grinning!) … did I ever tell you the story of how I missed getting a scholarship for my Masters because I couldn’t spell Hindemith? (yes, I really had to look it up just now!) 🙂 I typed and hesitated, and pressed publish – without putting the book reference! Thank you! (and I’v espelled Bryan’s name correctly too now!)

      and that you know Brian. I don’t know Brian! How did I get there? Seriously, a long and winding road indeed. I could tell you, but you wouldn’t believe me. (but I will anyway, because I’m a storyteller at heart) I saw a tweet that invited someone to a newly developed platform – but they politely declined, asking if it would be a place for real conversation? My curiosity was peaked, and I joined Mastedon https://mastodon.social/ In a new setting, filled with curious people from all walks of life, and someone, in and amongst the very real conversations (not small talk or pleasantries) mentioned how rewarding the first couple of chapters of the book were… and I asked if it was a real book club or a metaphorical one… and long story short, and two hours of reading for 38 pages (!) I’m here!

      Thank you as always for your thoughtful, considered, comments. I am smiling. 🙂
      Laura

      November 30, 2016
      • Laura #

        as far as playing… I am not so good at posting things and am learning… I did a local recital and some of it is here: https://wp.me/p4Ng5z-Gk I had linked some other bits to that post, but that one is the one I’d listen to. 🙂 I will have a concert in Feb (have to balance teaching/writing/playing… and gone are the days of practising 5 hours a day!) here in the UK and then again in LA. It will be super fun! -except for the nervous hours when they take the cello out from inside the belly of the aircraft! 🙂

        November 30, 2016
  5. Ah I love that first sentence. I, too, am a conversation person. I think that a product of that is the fact that I rarely move in herds but prefer one-on-one solely off of the possibility for conversation. Also I’m envious of your cello skills 🙂

    Thanks for joining in and sharing. Excited to read this over the next few weeks.

    November 30, 2016
    • Laura #

      Thank you so much Adam! A comment is worth a thousand ice creams. or something like that… It is always a wonder whether things that are written will be a form of public reflection or if someone will read them and they might touch someone. Thank you ! 🙂 I look forward to reading your posts along this road.

      November 30, 2016

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