Monday, September 12, 2011

Art Animates

In his conclusions regarding the development of cognition, including the role of story, Bryan Boyd (On the Origin of Stories) summarizes: “We instinctively make learning enjoyable for children by making it social, by making it play, and by making it art, by appealing to the cognitive preferences that art animates” (p. 407).

If we applied ourselves to our capacity along these lines, classroom management issues would be sufficiently attended, perhaps even extending all the way to the best we can do about world peace.

The lesson from yesterday’s ride flitted in, midway through, as most insight comes, by accident or grace, depending on how we name it.  I’d been asking for simple quality, requesting flexion to the inside, wanting the soft and light lift instead of the resistant pull.  We’ve been around enough times to know that lightness comes from a light touch, not from heavy-handed demand; but when the request yields no change, we’re told to make it clear, with the stick if necessary. 

Playing that pattern, our ride deteriorated: stronger requests produced stronger resistance.  Perhaps I tired and simply asked gently and mindlessly asked gently again, forgetting the dictated pattern that called for a stronger demand.  I woke up finding a softer bend.   Perhaps I also realized that after the first request, I’d checked myself and corrected my slumped shoulder before asking gently again. 

While I was not being coached during this ride, I’d been in conversation an hour before when the effects of our unintended cues, like dropped shoulders, had been articulated.  Maybe those echoes penetrated the formulaic and opened the grace of the immediate.

So I worked a new pattern:  0) get proper preparation, 1) ask gently, 2) if the desired response doesn’t happen, check myself and make corrections, 3) ask gently again.  Boyd says that art and the development of consciousness value pattern as well as novelty and creativity. The quality of our ride changed.  We suffused with satisfaction. 

A few minutes before, I’d almost called it a day.  We would have missed the animation, the restorative gift of artistic expression.  Perhaps the animating powers of art wait patiently for a release of old patterns held too tightly.  Perhaps the insistent preference for light, held with respect, plays about a breath away.