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Tag Archives: John Dewey

Part 2, Sonnet X

Rilke wrote romantic and philosophic poetry was ahead its time. In a time, when our tools are often taken-for-granted appendages, it is essential to take time and recall the mysteries of life. I think he reminds us that the systems we create act as a machine, too.

When we take time and meditate over living, we find those extraordinary moments lifted from the ordinary. To live in proper relationship with our world and each other, is to (re)member there are always things we cannot understand.

Remember comes from the Latin, meaning call to mind and mindful. John Dewey proposed the word mind was a verb. It is a way of caring and tending to the world much like a gardener takes time to care for their garden.

The Machine endangers all we have made.

We allow it to rule instead of obey.

To build a house, cut the stone sharp and fast:
the carver’s hand takes too long to feel its way.

The Machine never hesitates, or we might escape
and its factories subside into silence.
It thinks it’s alive and does everything better.
With equal resolve it creates and destroys.

But life holds mystery for us yet. In a hundred places
we can still sense the source: a play of pure powers
that — when you feel it — brings you to your knees.

There are yet words that come near the unsayable,
and, from crumbling stones, a new music
to make a sacred dwelling in a place we cannot own.

dig in.

“find your place on the planet. dig in, and take responsibility from there.” ― gary snyder

Source: dig in.

I enjoy Gary Snyder‘s poetry and essays, which has a Zen-like view of humans and their relationship with the world. It does not exist out there as if some mysterious wilderness we travel to. Instead, the objective and subjective worlds speak to each other through our senses.

In arguing we do not live outside of the objective world, John Dewey contended humans “live in community in virtue of the things they have in common.” My view is the community includes all sentient and non-sentient beings.

When we think of ourselves as living in community with all beings, animate and inanimate, we find our place in the world, dig in, and assume responsiblity for that piece of the world and our actions.

When we think, speak, and act responsibly, we become leaders who act as stewards, serving future generations in concrete and ethical ways. We grow mindful and attentive to a world we inhabit intimately and communicate with it on a moment-to-moment basis. It is real, existing inside and outside of us simultaneously.

We need a renaissance of wonder.

“We need a renaissance of wonder. We need to renew, in our hearts and in our souls, the deathless dream, the eternal poetry, the perennial sense that life is miracle and magic”   E. Merrill Root

Source: We need a renaissance of wonder.

Tonight, I attended a dinner meeting and a recent PhD graduate presented the summary of her thesis. She used the word magic in her findings. She suggested in academia there are those who do not like that word, but it allows us to communicate with each other. When words elude us, there is something intuitive that sparks a sense of wonder and touches a person’s soul as we communicate with each other. John Dewey suggested that when we live in community we communicate and make what we value common.

Magic doesn’t fit well when we seek certainty, but the world is a magical place. When we see the snow-and tree-covered mountains in the linked post, we may not have  words to describe what we see. Moreover, we lack words to describe what we cannot see.

Quite a few years ago, we went fishing at Quesnel Lake which is a remote glacial lake in British Columbia that in some spots is almost 2000 feet deep. At one end of the lake, there are waterfalls, aptly named Niagara Falls, which cascade about 100 feet almost directly into the lake. We talked and tried to decide the source: a glacier, a lake, a spring. etc.

We anchored the boat and climbed to the top, hoping to see where the river came from. When we arrived at the top we saw the stream appeared to flow from a distant mountain, but we did not see the source. What we did experience was a spectacular view. There was something magical and wonderful (full of wonder) in that moment which overflowed with meaning for each of us.

Regardless of the source of the river and the waterfalls, each person present had a different understanding and description of that moment’s experience. Despite different descriptions, we  shared the same experience. When we described the view, we had different descriptions, which were understood by all of us who shared that experience. There was something magical and wonderful in that moment.

Roofless School

a dictionary of true mirages bird songs instead of geometry plus a clock with no hands many very magic felt pens words like primrose or rainbow painted on a huge whiteboard come into the roofless S…

Source: Roofless School

John Dewey suggested education is not preparation for life, but life itself. The poem, Roofless School, extends that metaphor to poetry.

Poets sit under the sky and experience the world in the most complete ways, but their poetry is subject to diverse interpretations. When I go back and read a poem, I find new meanings.

Each time we experience the world, we experience something new. Regardless of how familiar it seems to be, an experience can only be experienced once, in the moment I experience it. We re-experience the experience retrospectively and find new meanings in a new, reflective experience.

When I taught, I tried to begin each day fresh. It was not erasing the past, but I realized how the past informed my relationships with students, curriculum, and digital technology in the present moment. In those moments, being mindful and sensitive was paramount.

When the Shoe Fits

The Trappist Monk Thomas Merton is better known for his spiritual prose, but he was an artist and poet, as well. Eastern philosophies, including Buddhism and Taoism, inspired his writing, including his poetry, and his theology.

When we are at ease with our actions and speech, we work with remarkable dexterity. We understand technology as tools, however the etymology includes techne which is art and craft and logos has to do with speaking, discourse, and the rules that guide that speaking. Craftspeople and artists take time, gather their thoughts (become full of thought), and speak with and through their tools in creating artifacts which in turn call us to gather our thoughts in their use.

Merton’s poem speaks of the ease and knowing one’s craft so well that conversations with and through tools feel right as the craftsperson experiences tools and creating intimately. The human and their tools form a mindful and caring relationship. John Dewey proposed that mind was a verb. We mind, care for, appreciate, and attend to our tools and they respond to this mindfulness.

From the Chinese of Chuang Tzu

Ch’ui the draftsman
Could draw more perfect circles freehand
Than with a compass.

His fingers brought forth
Spontaneous forms from nowhere. His mind
Was meanwhile free and without concern
With what he was doing.

No application was needed
His mind was perfectly simple
And knew no obstacle.

So, when the shoe fits
The foot is forgotten,
When the belt fits
The belly is forgotten,
When the heart is right
“For” and “against” are forgotten.

No drives, no compulsions,
No needs, no attractions:
Then your affairs
Are under control.
You are a free man.

Easy is right. Begin right
And you are easy.
Continue easy and you are right. The right way to go easy
Is to forget the right way
And forget that the going is easy.

School Prayer

The second stanza of this poem is a great message for the world today. When we hate, we take something out of the world. The world is a place in need of love, humility. wonder, and peace.

Diane Ackerman writes a wonderful poem that offers insight into the world and with. John Dewey suggested the world is not separated into objective or subjective worlds, but is a continuous forming and conversing between the two we each engage in moment-to-moment.

What would happen if this prayer and poem began each day for us and our children?

In the name of the daybreak
and the eyelids of morning
and the wayfaring moon
and the night when it departs,

I swear I will not dishonor
and my soul with hatred,
but offer myself humbly
as a guardian of nature,
as a healer of misery,
as a messenger of wonder,
as an architect of peace.

In the name of the sun and its mirrors
and the day that embraces it
and the cloud veils drawn over it
and the uttermost night
and the male and the female
and the plants bursting with seed
and the crowning seasons
of the firefly and the apple,

I will honor all life
—wherever and in whatever form
it may dwell—on Earth my home,

and in the mansions of the stars.

Build up

Build up.

Each moment is a building block building on what was previously there. There is only place and time we can be in and that is the present moment.

John Dewey in Art as Experience described the aesthetic quality of life. We live and express ourselves under the tension and strain we live. Expressing occurs under pressure. This is not negative. Rather, it is the reality of living life in the world, acting on the environment, being acted upon by the environment, and becoming who we are not as a preplanned package, but as a naturally being and becoming.

Being present is the only place and space to be. Being present is being awake to the world in this most immediate and intimate moment.

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