Sunday, January 25, 2009

I just wanna bang on the drums all day


So this blog is intended for us all to introduce ourselves, right? Good. Hi, my name is Jessie and some days I feel like I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. Some days writing is just another chore, and something that some days I abhor doing. And sometimes I just love using non-traditional words, such as abhor. Admission is the first step to recovery, right? Also good. In an attempt to better grasp the totality of this class, I took part in the Jenbe ensemble’s meeting on Friday night
As I began to explore the service learning option for this class, I saw that I was the only student from Mary Ann’s class to show up so soon. Perhaps I misunderstood and showed up way too early. I’ll just leave and come back next week, I said. But I was eager to see what this Jenbe thing was all about, and the parents, instructors and children opened up their world to me as though I were the Pope. As I sat down in the circle to begin the evening’s classes and drum/dance practice, I realized that there is much more to the world of Jenbe. It’s not just Jenbe drums and dancing, though those were pretty impressive too.
Since I walked in a little late and stumbled onto a lesson, a speech, given by one of the leaders of the ensemble, I jumped right in without stopping to think about what I was in for. The speech was about respect: what the word means and how each of us can live the word every day. I think the term respect can be applied to us as writers and strangers who are imposing on the Jenbe world as well. Though there were some aspects of the classes I did not understand (more on that later if time permits), I sat quietly and listened to the voices of the teachers and students as they discussed non-violence. Every student got a chance to define the word, and though I was surprised at how many of them claimed to have had no idea what the term meant, I was impressed that a discussion of such a concept was introduced to and discussed with these middle-schoolers. Regardless of whether they knew the definition of the term or not, it was still discussed openly, and students began to get the gist of what non-violence means. If anyone is on the fence about joining the ensemble, I can vouch for its overall coolness. I have even thought about bringing some friends along, and I can’t wait to show up again – sweatpants and gym shoes this time, though.
Now, on to new business. I was especially taken with the readings for this week, and more specifically what Peter Elbow had to say. Even though I find the last name of Elbow to be quite odd, I do recall reading some of his work last year. Because of the name most likely, because I can’t remember a word of what I read – what I do remember is that I really agreed with his ideals, and appreciated how he worded them. Though I have always used terms that would equate cooking with writing, I just loved the heck out of how he put the idea. Ideas are constantly simmering somewhere on the stove of our minds – a lot of the time, our personal writings are left on the back burner. Some ideas would never seem to work together (like putting salt into a cookie recipe. As a child, I refused to add salt when I baked them, and wondered why they never turned out like Mom’s), but oddly enough they come together if you just bake them together properly. It’s all a matter of daring, and of chemistry.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Take a deep breath!

Oh my gosh, grad school.  I'm here, I have arrived.  And I am scared stiff.  Moreover, I'm unsure if this, here, at this time is the right choice for me.  Now, where did I put that damn panic button?  I'm sure it's around here somewhere.  Yet another thing for me to search for, as if my true path wasn't enough.  But then, what is the "true" self anyway?  Some damn thing Buddha made up most likely.  

But - continuing on, if I have learned anything over the course of my undergraduate work, and into the beginning of my graduate studies, it is that "truth" and "self" are hard to find.  And it's likely that those qualities are more slippery than anything else, because those ideas are so plastic: constantly shifting, changing and being reinvented by my subconscious.  Truth and self are much like a flying fish - slipper and damn near impossible to catch.  Hence, the flying fish bistro.  What would I even do if I ever get to that utopia of complete knowledge of who I am, what I "want", which is such an all-encompassing term that I don't think I can get my mind around it anyway.  

I read somewhere once someone's personal viewpoint of knowledge, and it still bounces around in my head when I'm having trouble with the fact that the more I learn, the more I understand that I know nothing at all.  This author/deep thinker wrote, "My personal feeling is that once we know everything we need to know in this lifetime, our time here is done.  After that, we die."  That thought is both a comfort and a curse because (yay me!) I realize that I know only a very small percentage of what I feel I should, and I have a long way to go throughout the course of my life.  The curse is that this thought sneaks up and taps me on the shoulder at different points, when I am in doubt, or I think perhaps thoughts, actions, ideals are nothing more than an exercise in futility: What is the point of all this?  All this education, all these deep thoughts, all of these dives into the icy waters of self exploration?  

The answer? Ha!  I don't know.  But my theory is that we of the word obsessed, language obsessed, thought-oriented minds are reshaping, rethinking and rewording what it is that defines "us" as a whole.  There are those around us who don't question much, and who are content to sit around, play golf or the Wii and not worry about what our reality really is, and what "it" is all about.  These blissfully ignorant people can sleep at night and feel that their work is important, and they probably have some feeling of satisfaction.  I wonder what that feels like.  Don't get me wrong, there are times when I have a EUREKA! moment and think I have grasped what it is to be a person, contributing completely, to this world at this time, and that I may have something important to say about what surrounds us.  In that moment I am Yeats, I am Morrison, I am Angelou.  I am a social commentator of the utmost import.

But then that moment pops like a cartoon speech bubble and I fall back into the abyss of nothingness.  Though, I think I misspoke there.  Nothingness suggests futility, and gives the idea that I have given up on these ideas that swirl around in my head.  That is something I have not done - I just haven't figured out how to articulate, organize, or put these contemplations to use in the most effective way.  

My hope is that grad school is a good venue for the organization of these thoughts and contemplations, but I still have my reservations that perhaps this fight is a futile one.  I am keeping an open mind.