#clmooc - Exploring the Liminal Landscape

I try to wrap my mind
a tribe of connected learners
sharing their introductions
and reactions
to other introductions
with words,
and maps.

I am a new comer
to the tribe
not yet acclimated
as I look at the maps
of physical space
and mental space.

In one mind map
the word
jumps out at me.
This is a liminal space for me
at this liminal time in my life.

Connected to the word
is the question,
“How do we make meaning
when we are most confused?”
Is there any other way?

The words Beckett gave to Pozzo
echo in my mind:
“They give birth astride of a grave,
the light gleams an instant,
then it's night once more.”

All life is liminal
taking place
birth and death,
and perhaps the best we can do
is map the rhizome
spreading through
the liminal landscape.

Kidney stones, #Birthday, #Ingress #PokemonGO #CLMooc

The pains returned Friday night. It had been a few months and I was hoping that maybe the kidney stone had passed, undetected. Nope. It was a painful sleepless night, leading up to my birthday.

So, as I sat in my chair, shifting my weight, trying to find ways to get comfortable, I started thanking friends who have wished me a happy birthday on Facebook. Last time I checked, it was 378. It is interesting to think about who shared greetings. Conservatives and liberals, priests and atheists, people whose houses I went to over fifty years ago and people that I’ve only met online through shared interests, white, black, Hispanic, gay, straight, trans, cis.

After this past week, where there has been so much violence, it is good to feel connected to all of mankind.

Some friends share a link to Choir, Choir, Choir, a large group of people gathering together to sing inspiring popular music, sort like massive karaoke on steroids, people connected to one another, like at Falcon Ridge, or, I imagine, at Miranda’s Hearth gatherings. I’ve been listening to a bunch of their recordings on YouTube.

Meanwhile, my youngest daughter has started playing Pokemon Go. For those who’ve missed it, Pokemon Go is an augmented reality game played on your smartphone, where you go to specific locations in real life and interact with objects in the game there. It is based on Ingress, which I’ve been playing for years. As such, the locations I go to for Ingress are the same locations that Fiona goes to for Pokemon Go. It is interesting to see the strong popular interest in Pokemon Go, when compared to the niche geek interest in Ingress.

All of this leads nicely into Connected Learning MOOC. It starts today, Sunday July 10th and goes til August 6th. I will try to participate as much as I can, although during this period I will be on Cape Cod for a week, and later at a folk music festival for several days.

The first Make Cycle asks, “Who are we?” During this coming week, I look forward to finding out who else is participating on CLMooc. Who will I be excited to connect with? What thoughts, projects, and ideas will we want to pursue?

I’m excited about the poetry part of CLMooc. For those interested, you can read some of my poems in the Poetry section of my blog. I’m also interested in mysticism. I’m currently listening to Evelyn Underhill’s Mysticism during my commute, and reading some of St. Teresa of Avila’s The Interior Castle. All of this will probably feed into my poetry. It is fed by my religious journey in which I am exploring the possibility of becoming an ordained Episcopal priest. I’m very interested in online learning around religious and spiritual matters.

I heard about CLMOOC from RHIZO15. I’m very interested in a connectivist model of learning, the work of Deleuze and Guattari, and a bunch of other writers I lump together in the same larger group, from Lacan to Foucault. I work in social media in health care, and I’m working on an online health care professionals learning environment.

So that was my birthday, with kidney stones, and lots of interesting connections as part of my introduction to #CLMOOC 2016. I look forward to connecting.

The Idea of a #FathersDay #Rhizome

Saturday evening, at about 8 pm, Kim, Fiona, and I had finished dinner and were sitting on the deck, getting ready for the final phase of the evening, when my phone rang. It was my eldest daughter, Mairead, calling from Japan, where it was already Father’s Day.

Perhaps some fathers, especially those interested in gardening receive rhizomes for Father’s Day, maybe irises to plant, or ginger, or asparagus. I have been interested in the works of Deleuze and Guattari, and particularly around the idea of rhizome as a philosophical and educational concept.

We ended up having an hour long discussion, covering all kinds of different ideas, a very rhizomatic discussion.

It is hard to say where to start, with everything so interconnected, and it probably doesn’t matter. Instead, I will provide a little context and then try to map out some of the rhizomatic discussion.

Mairead left for college when she was fourteen, heading off to Mary Baldwin College in Virginia. She explore several different majors and ultimately ended up getting a degree in history from University of Connecticut before heading off to teach English in Japan, and then enter graduate school there.

From time to time, we get the opportunity to talk about her studies, and this evening was a good example. She talked about a presentation she gave in her seminar which is being led by a professor very interested in Guattari. Mairead mentioned to him that I was interested in Guattari and he asked if I was a history professor or something like that. She said something like, no, he’s just weird that way. He said that he would like to meet me some time, and I hope that will work out.

I remembered meeting one of Mairead’s Asian Studies professors at Mary Baldwin. We had joke beforehand about how she should teach me a phrases to say to him, introducing myself, but instead of being a proper introduction, being the sort of phrase that someone might convince someone else to say, as a joke. So, Mairead taught me how to say “Hi. I’m weird” in Japanese. I didn’t know what she had actually taught me to say, but I figured it was a good thing to do, so I said it to the professor, who raised an eyebrow as I said it.

This evening, Mairead who only knew rudimentary Japanese at that time, told me that she might not have used the best word for “weird”. The word she taught me had connotations of “deep” and “mysterious”.

One of the ideas that came up in our discussion this evening was one that people who don’t speak multiple languages and travel circles where different languages might be spoken are unlikely to encounter, the decision of what language to talk in.

It seems there are many factors that go into this decision, in terms of the context of the discussion, the content, the participants, the goals, etc. I guess the closest I get to that is deciding, especially in my work role, whether to write something as an email, a tweet, a Facebook post, a blog post, or some other format. Perhaps it is something we all have to decide in terms of whether we call someone, text them, send them an email, a Facebook message, or many other options.

It made me think of a Group Relations conference I attended in Holland back in about 2000. It led to a brief digression to talk about Wilfred Bion, S. H. Foulkes, and Melanie Klein. We talked briefly about psychoanalysis, Object Relations, Group Relations, and Group Analytics. We did not digress as far as Jacques Lacan which could have brought us all the way back to Guattari.

The Group Relations conference was international and was supposed to be in English, but at one point, some of the participants rebelled and chose to speak in Dutch, leaving me and some of the other international speakers out, or “othered”.

I also spoke around recently listening to a recording of Evelyn Underhill’s 1911 book Mysticism. We went off on a brief tangent about Underhill, Tolkien, and hobbits. Evelyn Underhill did write to C.S. Lewis, who was a friend of Tolkien. It is curious to wonder if Tolkien knew Evelyn Underhill. I suspect he did.

Thinking about Underhill’s work, it is interesting to think about how our approaches to realism, idealism, pragmatism, etc shape our thoughts about the transcendent. It is even more interesting to think about this in terms of how the language we speak or choose to speak shapes our thinking. Mairead spoke of the choice on language in a multi-lingual setting as being automatic, and I thought of how Underhill spoke of some of the writings of the mystics as being automatic. A tangent we didn’t get off onto was Jackson Pollack and automatic painting or approaching Pollack from a context of Deleuze and Guattari

Mairead recounted writing a paper about some female Christian mystic back when she was in junior high school. We had a good discussion around women and mysticism. We talked about how this might relate to the education available to women in the middle ages, their relationship to the dominant power structures of the time, how it related to other forms of expression, particularly in the arts.

This led to an interesting discussion about the relationship between religions and power structures. We talked about the established church verses the counter-cultural church. Mairead spoke about a Buddhist friend who had visited the United States during one of the Gulf Wars and was shocked to find Christians that supported war, since there was a strong relationship between Christianity and pacifisms in Japan. This led to talking about Buddhists that were not pacifists in Japan, which may seem equally hard to fathom for American’s that have a strong association between Buddhism and pacifism.

Perhaps the interesting relationship isn’t between pacifism and specific religions, as it is between pacifism and how the religion relates to the power structures of the culture. Perhaps pacifism is more about a rejection of the use of violence by the dominant power structures to maintain power, and so established religions are less likely to be pacifist and counter-cultural religions are more likely to be pacifist.

It was particularly interesting to think about this in terms of the discussions about Islam, and particularly some of Donald Trump’s rhetoric, and Obama’s response.

We veered over to touching on R.G. Collingwood’s Idea of History as well as a discussion of one of Mairead’s classes where different professors come and lecture on different methods of research. It made me think of a class I took on Marx back in my college days, not the Marx of the Red Scare, but the Marx of Philosophy, History, Economics, Sociology, Political Science, and more. This provided another chance to return to the thought of Guattari, but instead, it was time to end to phone call and attend to other stuff.

A Pre-Modern Brotherhood of Post Structuralists

The latest class in the Poetry in America series has started, Modernism, and the first poem being explored is In a Station of the Metro.

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

The discussion forum starts off with

“his first attempt to write the poem resulted in a thirty-line draft; his second, six months later, was half that length; the next year, Pound produce the haiku-sized final draft.”

We are then asked, “How does Pound's poem accomplish so much with so few words?”

Pound’s poem’s power comes from compressed comparison. The comparison is implied and a verb isn’t even needed.

Pound kept whittling away at the poem until he was down to just fourteen words (not counting the title). Why stop there? Why not keep going until you get down to just two words to compare and contrast, “Faces : Petals”? Down to one word, “Apparition”? Or no words, like John Cage’s 4’33?

What is it that makes poetry poetry? Especially if we abandon the subject, structure, and sonance of earlier poetry? Are we reduced to just comparison?

It makes me think of Billy Collins’ poem, “The Trouble with Poetry: A Poem of Explanation”

In Collin’ poem, we find:

And how will it ever end?
unless the day finally arrives
when we have compared everything in the world
to everything else in the world,

As we think about what it is that makes poetry poetry, I think about my own writing. Why do I write like I do? How does this relate to modernity, capitalism, and the industrial revolution? Is it time for the next phase in poetry? Post Modern? Post Structural? Or, perhaps like our Pre-Raphaelite predecessors, a return to some of the beauty of previous art, perhaps a Pre-Modern Brotherhood of Post Structuralists?

Subsequent thoughts: As I go through the comments in the course, one person writes:

the poem first invoked memories of Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"

I respond:

I like comparing the Pound's crowd to Whitman's crowd. The apparition of these faces in the crowd; how curious you are to me!

Many of the other comments focus on apparition, particularly the ghostly aspect, and it makes me think of Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem Wraith

Benedict and Deleuze

The super bowl really didn’t hold my attention, so I headed off to bed early. But now, in the middle of the night, the meatballs and bean dip sit uncomfortably in my gut and I cannot sleep. After tossing and turning for a bit, I get up and try to write.

I don’t have a burning desire to write, like I often do. Instead, I am writing simply because it is what I do. Not only was it Super Bowl Sunday, but it was the last Sunday of Epiphany. We had a Baptism and our Annual Church Meeting.

The priest did a great job of tying the Baptism to the readings about transfiguration and focused on our own individual transformations. The annual meeting was upbeat and we all ate together afterwards as a church family.

I chatted briefly with our Seminarian. She spoke about how different Ash Wednesday was after she had started her discernment process. I commented about how even the Baptism felt very different. I looked at the child being baptized. I wondered what his life would be like, how God would touch him. I thought back to my own baptism, when I was a child. What was it like? For me? For me mother? For the minister? For godparents? What did they think would be come of me?

Phrases like “Changed from glory into glory” and “if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation” come to mind. I think back to my poem about Lent, “You have entered unchartered territory”.

I have not settled on my Lenten discipline for this year. Will I try to write a poem a day? What will I do with my personal devotion time? How do various study groups fit in? I keep stumbling into a few different ideas that seem at odds with one another.

One is the ‘Rule of Life’. It keeps coming up in different Lenten studies. I’m eager to jump into this, but waiting for Lent and for the studies to begin. Concurrent with this is my interest in the unknown, the unknowable, the unexpected, the unchartered territory. I think back to my readings about rhizomes, connected learning, and digital pedagogy.

Where does the Rhizome and the Rule of Life meet? How do I hold Saint Benedict and Gilles Deleuze in my mind together? It stirs a longing in my soul, to bring together these two thoughts in the midst of daily life.

I stumble across Deleuze’s essay Immanence and start reading the introduction. How I long to spend time reading it and finding others to discuss it with, in the context of the Rule of Life. Yet in a few hours, I will need to get on with my daily life.

I spend a little more time, looking at audio files I could download and listen to on my commute, but now I must try to get some sleep.

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