Pay It Forward, Further Reflections from #woosteraw

(Preface) I set up Orient Lodge over ten years ago as a place where I could consolidate much of my writing. My writing has changed style from time to time, and currently, I’m writing in a more personal style.

This weekend, I attended my college thirty-fifth reunion. They’ve always been strange events for me, since I never graduated. The college required an ‘Independent study’ (IS) thesis. My thesis was not accepted and I was told if I wanted a degree, I could write a new thesis. Instead, I left, saying that I had come for an education, and not necessarily a degree, and I had gotten my education.

When people asked for details, I would talk about a great course I had been taking on Virginia Woolf and how I had gotten very interested in stream of consciousness writing. I wrote my thesis in a stream of consciousness manner maintaining we needed to view Socrates as an anarchist. Neither the style nor the content was deemed acceptable by my advisor.

Of course like any story, that’s just part of it, and another aspect became more obvious to me at the reunion as I listened to the college president talk about the reframing of IS.

To me, IS was a test, an ordeal. Yet the college is now reframing IS as ‘mentored undergraduate research’. If my advisor had been a mentor, instead of an adversary, which might have happened if the professor that led me to becoming a philosophy major hadn’t of been on sabbatical during my senior year, things might have been very different. If there had been courses on post-structuralism things might have been very different. But that’s not what happened.

Yet I still greatly value the education I received there and the friendships that were established there. My two older daughters have both received their undergraduate degrees. One has received a graduate degree and the other will soon be applying to a graduate program.

In this twenty-first century post-structuralist world, the nature of institutions, like those of high education and religion are being rethought. They are being challenged. Some of this comes from a materialism that values careers over a liberal education.

I’ve watched as the president and board of Sweet Briar College attempt to shut it down, and I hope those trying to save Sweet Briar are successful. I’ve been tempted to contribute to Saving Sweet Briar, but funds are tight. We still need to save for my youngest daughter’s college education, and, at least as far as I can remember, I never donated to my alma mater.

However, this year, my classmates who are very involved in the college urged everyone to donate. The percentage of alumni donating is an important statistic for those analyzing colleges. So, I made a small donation when I signed up for the reunion.

At the alumni association meeting, they talked about millennials being more involved in volunteer activities than their parents were at the same age, and I thought about fundraising for millennials. A popular idea is to ‘pay it forward’, and colleges seeking to attract young donors might find this an interesting approach. Instead of donating because of what you got out of college, donate to ‘pay it forward’ to future generations of incoming students. Pay it forward to help keep expenses down. Pay it forward to build up funds available for scholarships.

I doubt my youngest daughter will attend Wooster. She seems more interested in her mother’s alma mater. Yet if we were truly a pay it forward society, and money wasn’t so tight, instead of saving for my daughter’s education, I’d be paying it forward to my alma mater, to my wife’s alma mater, and, for that matter, to my elder daughter’s alma mater and to Sweet Briar.

It seems like the same could or should apply to churches, but that’s probably a different blog post.

#rhizo15 Expanding the discussion

In her blog post, Rewilding the rhizome. Angela Brown writes about leaving a note in a library copy of Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus asking,

“What if you could find a shared exploration … “

She points to #rhizo15 and the shared exploration of A Thousand Plateaus.

Concurrent with this, Autumm Caines, in her blog post, The Living Artifact: An Open Letter/Invitation/Call for Help to the #rhizo15 Community to an open, connected, rhizomatic discussion of Jose Antonio Bowen’s Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom will Improve Student Learning.

Meanwhile, I’m reading Christian Wiman’s My Bright Abyss and Janet Ruffings’s Spiritual Direction: Beyond the Beginnings. Both are thought provoking books, and I wonder about the hashtag for the ongoing discussion of these books.

Is there a website to connect with others that are currently reading, and wanting to discuss, certain thought provoking books? Are there easy ways to find hashtags, Facebook groups, Google Groups, or other online fora to discuss these books? If not, what would it take to start such a site?

#Rhizo15 Online Associative Poetry

When I was younger and it was my turn to put the children to bed, I would grab a few poetry anthologies to read to them. I would typically start off with one poem, and then moved to another poem that was somehow connected to the first, at least in my own mind.

Years later, I would go to ‘social dreaming matrices’ where people would share dreams and associations they had to the dreams. It was a challenge to resist the urge to interpret the dreams and instead to just share associations and observations about these associations.

Now that our youngest daughter is now a teenager, we have a new activity. We will sit around the dining room table and have a ‘riff off’. One person would play a song, typically from YouTube or Spotify on one electronic device or another. The next person would then play a song related to the first, and we would go around taking turns associating one song to the previous.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about this with poetry, combining the childhood reading of poetry with the free association on dreams or music, free associating from one poem to the next in an online community.

It seems to fit nicely with the whole rhizomatic learning event I’ve been participating in and it might be a fun thing to try there. I will share this post in the Practical Discussion group on Facebook. For that group, a starting poem could be The #Rhizo15 Artifact poem I wrote for this week. One person could share a poem they associate to this poem, and then others could share poems they associate with each subsequent poem. If they really like the idea, they could start a similar rhizomatic sharing of a poem with associations in other places, which could potentially serve to start other associative poem sharing in a fractal manner.

I will also probably start a similar thread on my own Facebook page and see if either of these take off.

The #Rhizo15 Artifact

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Many paths converged
(each path a learning subjective)
out of the directed graph
of carefully measured online posts;

the content in the creators,
the content in the community,

arriving back at the initial thoughts
as foretold by Eliot
and foreshadowed by Joyce.

riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend
of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to
Howth Castle and Environs.

Along the way
we experience
the goddess
the temptress
the father,
we kill the Buddha
and get of the idea
of ‘dave’.

The ultimate boon?
An artifact?
A map?
L’objet petit a?
Perhaps an amulet
or talisman
that can assist the next hero
in their journey.

The #rhizo15 Echo Chamber

In this week’s #Rhizo15 writing prompt, Dave asks, “Must rhizomatic learning be an invasive species?” People have explored this idea, talking about echo chambers and filter bubbles, but I think people are looking at this incorrectly.

Yes, rhizomes choke out other plants, but not all other plants. They fight for resources with other plants, particularly other rhizomes. From a practical side, this past week for me is a good example of this. Normally, I write about #rhizo15 soon after the prompt comes out. However, this week, I was at a conference at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music on poetry in the church. It has been the focus of much of my reading and writing over the past few days. To stay with the rhizome metaphor, for the past few days, that conference choked out even the #rhizo MOOC.

Likewise, I believe the ‘filter bubble’ discussion is off track. I’ve long been focused on filter bubbles, especially because of my background in politics. To the extent that #rhizo15 is the only filter someone has, is the only context of someone’s online communication, then yes, it could be a filter bubble. I recognize that this could be the case for others, but I suspect it is the exception rather than the rule.

If we stay focused on formal education, it would be like saying a person is taking only one course. Yet that is not often what happens in formal education.

To return to Dave’s questions: “Are we just replacing one authority structure with another?” Yeah, perhaps. But so what? Instead, we might want to ask, is the authority structure of rhizomatic learning more or less beneficial than traditional authority structures in education? Is it more democratic? Is that a good thing? Likewise, when Dave asks, “Community as conformity?” I see this as a potentially serious issue, but I have to wonder, is rhizomatic learning more or less driven by conformity than other forms of learning?

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