Saturday, June 7, 2014

Wood Thrush Poets


5:10 AM Jun 7 West Virginia home
The wood thrush calls early Saturday morn’n,
Bird books call the song “ee-oo-lay”
While fog rolls out roses along the northern horizon,
Telling it, as those dead, some just born,
Poets and lovers do: “Seize the day.”

Sunday, June 1, 2014

june first promises



June first 
promises summer
the brilliant bloom
in early morning rays
before 
the doorway
beyond 
a darkened 
window

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Bloodroot Consciousness


Photo of Bloodroot just budding, April 6

                              Butterfly
                        sleeping
                              on the temple bell.
           
                                    Buson, ~1750
                                     in The Essential Haiku
                                     R. Haas, Ed. p.108.

      The butterfly, prime archetypal image for transformation, sleeps as if consciousness is not fully availed; perhaps the wings will spread and flight begin when the resonance with the deity sounds.
      Antonio Machado in Spain offered a similar summons a hundred and fifty years after Buson was writing haiku in Japan. Still a century ago, Machado said that all Jesus’ words were one word: Velad.  Robert Bly translates that word as “Wakeup” (Times Alone, pp. 108-109). Velad might also be interpreted as keeping a vigil, even the watch set “before the holy sacrament when it is manifested” (http://www.spanishdict.com/translate/velad ). 
      Yet more recently, but still forty years ago, Robert Ornstein in Psychology of Consciousness elaborates the resistance to coming awake: the scientific study of the possible alterations in human consciousness still evokes many misguided ideas and unfortunate opinions . . . Others reject the idea of alterations in consciousness immediately. For them, a true and agreed-on “common sense” reality exists, and anyone deviating from their version of the external reality is either foolish or “insane.”
      Ornstein references evidence that “normal” consciousness: is not stable and is not unitary at all. Both the mode and the contents of ordinary consciousness alter radically due to situational factors like hunger and other needs, and to more enduring factors such as a person’s language, training, and profession. . . we should consider the differing continua of experience that vary on one scale of arousal from sleep to full awakening, on another scale from linearity to simultaneity, and also from internal control to external. . .
      Today, our study in Good Stories aims to advance consciousness, and we assert that human progression can move toward increasing peace and justice; but this does require Waking Up! We read Brian Boyd’s interpretation of The Odyssey telling of the evolving capacity to defer immediate gratification: refusing to stay with the demi-goddess, not choosing intoxication, and not giving up on the eternal return home. In deliberately engaging the continua of experience, concrete to symbolic, of making connections internally and socially, we work toward quantum consciousness.

      Strangely enough, to wake up often means to dream, to imagine worlds that are inspired by good stories, and to play across the multiple tracks of composing digital media. Velad! Spread butterfly wings again--Spring.
April 27, 2013
July 23, 2013

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Quantum Consciousness: A Blossom at Dawn



Lenten Rose, photo on taken 3/30/14
                                                         More than ever I want to see
                                    in these blossoms at dawn
                                             the god’s face.

                                                Matsuo Bashō in The Essential Haiku
                                                            (Robert Haas, Ed. & Trans., p. 37)

         While the term quantum consciousness has recent provenance (e.g., the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has been tracking it for the past decade, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qt-consciousness/ ), its roots go back much further than the century-old scientific explorations of Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr, and others. Still, this work in quantum physics has importantly advanced the presence of this kind of knowing into our collective consciousness.  Quantum consciousness distinctively contributes to contemporary meaning-making because it resonates with and validates our vital need to come to terms with living in multiplicity and in making commitments within uncertainty.
            I believe even young children turn off schooling when their authority figures carry an outmoded consciousness. A learner’s lie detector goes off when a teacher or a text fails to resonate with the tenor of today’s reality. We are now living in a quantum age. Like the child who saw through the lie of the emperor’s new clothing, 21st century learners recognize, even if they cannot articulate, the fake in the old epistemologies and in so-called research that sounds presumptuous because it does not acknowledge the uncertainty and indeterminacy that has now been clearly pronounced in quantum study.
         The Age of Reason may have advanced civilization beyond manipulations of superstition, but educators still stuck in logical analysis risk losing the breath of creativity, the validation of feeling, the inner affirmation of intuition, and the joy of holistic apprehension. Underdressed educators include teachers who still assert that nonfiction is true and fiction is false, as well as those who are unaware of the Common Core silliness about rebalancing the distribution on this dead division. Such practices need illumination.

         The long, though shadowy, presence of quantum multiplicity can be traced in the work of the artist, of poets like Bashō shown above who wrote in Japan in late 1600s, in the classic court jester whose role was to temper the conscience of power, and also in science. As a prime example, Darwin modeled multiplicity as he recorded levels of thought ranging from public reports on his voyage on the Beagle to his secret journals that reflected private thinking.  As portrayed by Peter Sis in a format accessible to young as well as older learners, Darwin’s work and very life would have been threatened if his edge of consciousness had been published too soon; his evolutionary knowing required multiple levels: public, private, secret.


            In contrast with Darwin’s need to hide the multiple levels, quantum physicist Richard Feynman openly acknowledges the degree of uncertainty that characterizes cutting-edge work in science: “laws are guessed laws; they are extrapolations into the unknown” (p. 24 in The Meaning of It All). I think I might have believed more in science if my teachers could have admitted how Darwin explored and how Feynman embraced doubt because then science could have resonated with the deep knowing I had inside. When researchers claim the certainty of pseudo-science and teachers proclaim exploration as absolute truth, the curtain around the Wiz of Oz goes transparent and would-be learners grow more cynical.
         As a literacy educator, I don’t want to study quantum physics much; but I contend that quantum consciousness needs to be advanced, particularly within the teaching profession at large. Reviewing basic psychology and philosophy with a quantum perspective makes a good start. For example, Robert Ornstein in The Psychology of Consciousness interweaves Idries Shah’s accounts of Nasruddin with the tricky tangle around personal consciousness. Problems often ensue if we think and act in the illusion that personal constructions must align with external reality in producing a single truth. Multiplicity allows space for variation, paradox, contradiction, and doubt. Ornstein also threads William James into the conversation blending educational psychology with philosophy and showing again the roots of multiple-layered consciousness.

            In relation to literacy education, the work of Robert Bly has been invaluable to me. Perhaps most obviously connected with changing consciousness is his News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness. Bly offers further development related to quantum consciousness through his translations and his account of the process of translating (Eight Stages of Translation).  These reveal how poets and poems are crossing levels of knowing. In an interview, Bly tells of the movement of consciousness: “by trying to translate something like that [Tranströmer], the poems come deep inside you, the images come deep inside you. . .You feel yourself, because of the work you've done on the image, invaded by the image. You feel that it has become a part of your house like someone who's moved into your house, and your house is changed then. Your house has changed because these images have come in. So that's the way I feel about translation. It's a blessing.” This movement is also evident in Bly’s Leaping Poetry and in his more recent work with the ghazal.
         In the past few years and related to this arena of literacy education, a few of us have begun mucking about into quantum storytelling.  David Boje has been forging the way in his writing, with blacksmithing, in hosting a conference, and in co-editing a volume soon to be available: Being Quantum: Storytelling and Ontology in the Age of Antenarrative.
           In a course I’ve developed titled “Good Stories: Teaching Narratives for Peace & Justice,” we practice holding multiple levels of engagement with the story and experience it in multiple modes: oral, print, & digital. Our work/play with narrative and in constructing digital media links to Bryan Boyd’s On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, & Fiction. I especially choose Boyd’s text because he builds the link between science and narrative.
          In our work/play with narrative, a major step in our engagement is Amplification. The purpose of amplification is to nurture the garden of leaps. As we engage with our developing capacity for quantum consciousness, we hold and negotiate multiple levels of knowing. Connections spark across levels with potential both to light up insight as well as to burn destructively.
         Robert Hass, cited at the beginning of these comments, points to one danger: “I think it was DH Lawrence who said that the soul can get to heaven in one leap but that, if it does, it leaves a demon in its place” (p. xv). Earlier on that page, Haas remarks on multiplicity and the relationship between Zen and haiku. “Zen provided people training in how to stand aside and leave the meaning-making activity of the ego to its own devices. Not resisting it, but seeing it as another phenomenal thing, like bush warblers and snow fall, though more intimate to us. Trying to find this quality in every haiku, however, romanticizes them and the culture they came from. It tends to make one rush to their mysteriousness and silence.”  From this multiplicity involved in an objectivity that is also subjectivity, Haas builds to the conjecture he attributed to Lawrence of making the soul leap that leaves an earth devil.
         Quantum consciousness, like haiku, offers leaps; but, like the alchemy noted in Boje’s video, it works best in tempered handling, like a blacksmith who knows the elements and loves the matter, the tools, the process, and, of course, the art produced. Quantum consciousness has a dangerous side in the rush, perhaps like Icarus lusting for the sun, like the premature leap of lovers, not yet tempered for the demands of Love.  But power always carries risk; and knowing the danger, we’re better prepared to engage the fire within quantum consciousness that tempers us to meet the challenges of advancing peace and justice.






Saturday, January 11, 2014

Fog in Mid-Winter


     Perhaps being in a fog isn’t all bad. Or maybe it’s about coming of age in the late ‘60s and now living into the far side of my own 60s that loves the oak leaves more gold in mid-winter than in lush summer or even in autumn’s splendor.  Fire. Ashes. And what’s passed through.


     The grey fog.  Sepia. Subtleties.

     It could be in the hint of a pathway into the damp grey, not so far away, and yet teasing past vision’s presumption. It’s in a quality of light beyond the silhouetted knowns.  And the presence of some who’ve already ventured there.




Thursday, October 31, 2013

Taking Literacies Back to Experience




   Each week in our Good Stories course we engage a favorite tale of mine with the selection determined by my sense of which one promises to advance our effort to compose destinies that promote peace and justice.  An early theme develops the “water of life” as the source of vitality and renewal needed for this quest.  The search for the renewal of life takes us to the dangerous ground suggested by our primary text, Brian Boyd’s On the Origin of Stories.   His subtitle points to three troublesome critters along this journey: Evolution, Cognition, & Fiction.  The question directing our path asks: How can the stories we tell and produce advance consciousness so that our inner and outer worlds increase peace & justice?


   Persons who dare approach the edge of consciousness best go prepared.  This week’s Good Story tells of Arthur, the King, entering the deep woods at that edge and being confronted by the ugliest creature even seen.  That’s what ebbs out of the unconscious, the primeval swamp where new meaning evolves shape-shifting, grotesque yet potentially gorgeous. 

   Surprise, surprise—Guess what?  This isn’t pretty to the hegemonic powers that be.  Today I travel to Tucson for my professional development and the university questions my choice.  Having considered the options of going to the traditional annual meetings of professional organizations, I decided instead that Zen Mind, Zen Horse has more to offer toward my teaching and research.  Knowing Arthur’s tale, why should I be surprised that the workplace questions my choice?  The Good Stories have warned me over and over: expect to be challenged when you venture to the edge.

   After an initial exasperation, I realized the challenge is good because it invites pulling the elephant out of the closet for persons who can’t yet smell it.  Think of the elephant as concrete experience and the room as symbolic representation.  School rooms too often act as if representations (e.g., literacy or letter-making) exist apart from the real world.  For example, classes study dystopian literature without first and repeatedly claiming the primacy of authentic real-world constructions that are growing within the individuals and their communities.  Another example that bothers me: teachers model and students are allowed to grab Google images for their digital media productions instead of constructing their own representations. To strangle literacies from experiences is an act of violence, harshly disrespectful of each person’s right to author and voice.



      
I choose Zen Mind, Zen Horse because it returns literacy to authenticity through hands-on engagement with horses, coached by persons (including a neurosurgeon horseman and a doctor in psychology) who recognize that “our left hemisphere, armed with its overwhelming power of speech, remains wary of its reticent, emotive, and mute counterpart on the right [hemisphere of the brain]” and that “the horse also shows us the joy that comes from living with the bare truth of our selves” (pp. 6, 287 in Allan Hamilton’s Zen Mind, Zen Horse).
    
  Good Stories is part of the University’s I-Series program where tending to Big Questions are prominent.  Our course connects literacy with meaningful personal and social change.  To do this, students learn to work with stories across four levels of explanation.  Brian Boyd develops these as universal, local, personal, and particular.  We elaborate the universal level by finding resonance with archetypes in traditional tales (cf. Marie Louise von Franz, Interpretation of Fairy Tales).  As indicated in the subtitle of our course, Teaching Narratives for Peace & Justice, the construct of power takes center stage.  Across time and literature, the horse best provides the source for understanding the archetype of power, as evident in the term, horsepower. 


   My research informs the fundamental connection of literacy with meaningful pro-social personal and significant organization change (that is, peace & justice), and it comes in expanding my experience with horses and in the subsequent articulation of those experiences into courses like the Good Stories class and programs like Reins of Power that I have provided for teachers on several occasions. 

   That’s a brief on how the Zen Mind, Zen Horse program informs my work in literacy education, and it suggests the direction I think professional development needs to head.  While I don’t expect many educators will find their way to a living horse, I’m encouraged with the emphasis given to the Maker Movement and how it’s infused into prototype opportunities such as the Connected Learning MOOC featured by the National Writing Project this past summer.

Happy trails, y’all.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Morning Fire


October 23, 2013.  
Overnight low temperature upper 30s.  
Definitely cool enough for building a 5AM fire in the wood stove. 
   My fire-starting skills are pretty good: dry twigs over a crumpled half sheet of newspaper, loosely arranged in a sort of lean-to against split maple or oak, plenty of circulation space.  A single match almost always suffices to initiate a cheerful, warming blaze; but this morning, after the third attempt with lots of smoke, only smoldering sticks filled the firepit with more smoke.  It’s like the chimney’s blocked, I considered; and then a thought flickered by: check the control for airflow.  I always leave it wide open but just maybe it wasn’t.  Somehow it had been moved all the way down!  When I ran it full throttle, the fire leapt like a pent-up horse loosed on the range. 
   An Emily Dickinson poem flickered to mind: “the horse that scents the living grass/will be restrained with a shot/if at all.”  Not sure about “restrained” but it goes something like that.
   My thoughts also still simmered with the meeting yesterday afternoon with teachers at Hickory Elementary about blogging, about making our heart maps that stir up the fire for teaching, about connected learning that brings in the airflow of public spaces, making relationships with like-minded pros, with tuning into the joy of expression.
   What is it in this metaphor of fire starting that wants to ignite our sometimes-darkened classrooms?  In my college class yesterday, we looked at the tendency of any culture or any individual to seek out confirmatory information and to suppress stuff that might make wildfires.  How has the airflow of exhilarating inspiration been shut down, probably without us even knowing the gate onto living grass waits right at our fingertips, perhaps where we see only walls.  Like the high-stakes exams.  Like the way things have been.  Like the curriculum that has to be covered.  More smoke.  Dulled out eyes.  Crumpled drafts of worksheets, asbestos prompts, irrelevant readings, mandated assessments. 
   We can keep striking matches but the fire of inspired learning cannot blaze up until we open the shutters onto the free range and let the airflow from authentic passion rush through.

P.S. I’m realizing that one way I almost unconsciously leave the airflow shut down happens when my morning begins with checking email, tweetdeck, facebook, latest scores, or morning news.  Rumi’s breeze at dawn and predawn musing off the breath of dreams get stifled by such externals.  I promise myself to love inspiration above the ease of mediated stuff.  I promise to start my day respecting Life.

PPS. Emily’s poem:        
The Life that tied too tight escapes
Will ever after run
With a prudential look behind
And specters of the Rein—
The Horse that scents the living Grass
And sees the Pastures smile,
Will be retaken with a shot

If he is caught at all—