To students of linguistics,
fiction and the transcendental
romantics of the 19th c.
(Bring your laptops to class.)
PRELUDE (literally: “before play” )
Former students advise me that I might
try and indicate to you the Frame of
Minding, Attitude, Context, the
Environment, really, that might help
sustain you in the way I try to do education.
A Sustainability concern.
Or better: ENVIRONMENTAL-ism
—not your polar bears and steep slopes,
green cars or Leeds- certified-eco-dorm
environmentalism many of you major in;
but rather the mental, psychic, affective
& intellective environment that characterizes
communication, the atmosphere that shapes
play of mind, habit, classroom culture, custom,
do’s & don’ts of school room, Take-A-Course
dominant paradigmatic traditions
We swim in a school-room environment,
that is essentially dominant-submissive,
true? It’s transparent, invisible—feels
like nature and natural because we are
used to it. Do I overstate? Not saying it’s
bad, just describing what-is.
40 years ago no one I knew would have waked
in the morning and said: damnit, it’s about time
I go get my navel pierced, nipples studded or
nose maybe; tattoo the American Flag or the
Rose of Sharon on my rear-end for a couple
or more hundred bucks.
There was no ENVIRONMENT for it.
I wasn’t living in an ENVIRONMENT
where that would not only have been
an option—but seemed attractive &. desirable.
Inside my environment, I could have thought:
guess I’ll buy me some white buck shoes and
get a crew cut for crying out loud.
Environ Mental Studies &
I’m interested in this—but not in terms of
recycling, golf carts, organic gardening,
bottle-water concerns—not that there’s
anything wrong with THAT.
But it’s the Other Environ-Mentalism
that strikes me as neglected if not
ignored: the collective frame of mind.
that determines whether tattoos are
cool or poodle skirts, smoking in
restricted areas or all over the place,
and the notion 2nd hand smoke hadn’t
even been invented yet—not to mention
ADD and ADHD and Body Dismorphia
and Restless Legs Syndrome; bi-polar
was still called manic depression, small
kids roller-skated and biked without
helmets, and date rape had not yet been
diagnosed; dogs were allowed to run
unleashed in the neighborhood, etc
barking all the time. .
The Other Environmentalism
What I do depends on “argument”
in the best sense (“argo”—the shine,
Jason and the Argonauts,
City of shining lights): the word initially
signified building up a shared understanding.
Edification. Back & forth, discussion,
questioning assumptions, putting IT in
“Without Contraries Is No Progress,”
says Wm Blake. Without opposition,
Or like jazz—improvised call & response,
getting in the swing.Or like old time music:
jammingon the back porch: hodge-podge
of instruments, some good at it,some just
breaking in—who cares?
“ Whisky Before Breakfast,”
“Soldiers Joy,” “Over the Waterfall” —
nothing new here, fiddling with old standards.
Can you imagine?
8 in the morning?
School & Be Schooled.
Play & Be Played.
For me : it’s the play-of-mind itself, not
the getting something done that counts.
IN all them other classes—get something
done, and good for you: cover some ground.
In my courses: play & be played. School & be
(In my dreams, at least: I can’t claim to pull
this environment off: it’s like trying to build
an ice cream parlor in hell without doing
injustice to either hot or cold. )
School: L. schola- leisure, a leisure time.”
School” is at least “literally”
a leisure-time activity.
(You can say whether it is actually.)
Student ( Study): from Indo-European steu:
“ to be hit with a stick,”
all etymologically related: signifying just the
right frame of mind for Liberal Art
(if not liberal arts) study.
Imagine: “stupid” as primary resource for
scholarship—getting smart & smarter.
School & be Schooled. Stunning!
Goose that lays the golden eggs—
our individual and collective
stupidity. Renewable energy as
sustainable as wind turbines, local
food & better than clean coal.
What? What the? What the hell?
What the hell is that? What the
hell is that kind of a deal?
Astonishment (also linguistically
related to “stunning,” “stupid,” “student”
and “study”)—let that word stand for the
proper state of mind prerequisite to the
student of liberal art. (Not to be conflated,
collapsed, and confused with the liberal arts
—those disciplines you major and minor in,
for credits, & grades and degrees)
I introduce these notions in an effort to
FRAME my courses, contextualize and
environ-mentalize them so you won’t
confuse them with those other guys: the
dominant educational paradigm & it’s values:
what you are used to.
You are used to playing something like
hard-balls & mallets croquet, say:
some indeterminacy in the game,
but a clear structure that generates
predictable outcomes—stuff you can
measure, assess, evaluate. Deadened alive.
My courses (a central chunk ) are more like
upside down flamingos & hedgehogs where
indeterminacy reigns, unpredictability is
predictable—and all of it alive alive-o so as
to seem deadly to the orderly and holy hello
to the conscientious. .
My courses aren’t for every body but
maybe you aren’t for every body either.