We started with the following poem."KEEPING QUIET" BY PABLO NERUDA
Now we will count to twelve
we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the earth,
and let's not speak in any language;
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
Now I'll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.
—from Extravagaria (translated by Alastair Reid, pp. 27-29, 1974)
It yielded a conversation which contained the material below.
Here is what we talked about today: the Man who saved the Cathedral at Chartres, in France. Some soldiers might emplace a machine gun in the steeple tower; he crept into the vaults and crypts to discover if there was a chance to save the cathedral from destruction. Are we, then, creators and protectors and liberators, or forces of malevolence and destruction? Thoreau, who went to the woods to live deliberately and suck out the marrow of life; He built a cabin there, to live for two years and front the facts of life. He had two chairs, one for him, one for a guest. What is "deliberate living," or a deliberate life? Anika said she had a goal to live or spend time in Japan--that's her goal, a "cathedral" she is making of her life brick by brick. But is she pursuing that goal deliberately, is she taking steps to make it happen? YEs, she is learning Japanese and she studied a Japanese religion last year, Shinto. So she is living deliberately, with a clear purpose. Will, who went on a road trip to swim in every great lake with his family; His goal was to swim in all the Great Lakes. At the end, when he had swum in the last lake, how did he feel? He didn't want it to end. Maxine's grandfather, who built castles and cities in the sand at the beach with her when she was little and her sisters were tanning, and the older Maxine, who led her grand-father into the water by the hand; Is this a kind of leadership, where the younger ones come of age and can see that ones above them and behind them will need help? Who will build sand castles with Maxine's cousins? Maxine will, if she can remember what it meant to her when her Grandfather built them with her. Leeya, who with Rosemary considered all the places in her house where her feet had never touched; windows never looked out of; who then wondered, what does it mean when you are 79, and have a disease, to still be traveling the world, and learning all you can. Wren, who temporarily lost her soul because she could not be honest; and who found that she was not "being" when she did not follow her own wish to live with purpose; Hadley, who knew the spirit of her father was alive because the image and truth of his holding colorful balloons was reenacted by her; Aidan, who found what it was like to conquer his own mountain, and complete a story to his satisfaction, and who found himself energized and inspired and leading when he worked on the Rube Goldberg Machine--when he felt it was all RIGHT; Anika, who did not go all the way in last year because she was unsure, and who held back, and did not show her full self; who has an idea of living deliberately to construct her own "cathedral," brick by brick; who has ben anticipating this speech because now is the change to get it right, and who from time tom time touches a "Utopian" state of mind, which comes and goes of its own accord; Eutopia--the "good place"; Utopia, no place, an imagined state of perfection, when all is as it should be, all is in balance; Doing the thing with whole self, whole "ass", as opposed to being "half-assed" and uncommitted. Getting all the meat off the bone, and drinking the marrow: Tal learning new things at Chartres, and eating the food before him to have the whole experience; Marina realizing she can see the world as a blessing also and not only a curse; Finally, we mentioned the school building, the one that houses us. It is a temple of sorts, the place that holds us, and needs to be taken care of. The man who saved Chartres took care of that cathedral in the middle of war, at complete risk of his own life. But this was only the first step he took, as he continued in battle, and soon after died, and is honored every year to this day, because the people of the town of Leves and the city of Chartres remember him as the man who gave his life for their life. This, we must believe, is an honorable life, one well lived. How must we live, how should ew live, in order to one day say, "I lived a good life, I sucked out the marrow, I discovered what life is, I lived honorably and courageously and joyfully?" Or, as Matisse said at the end of his life, "It is enough."
And then we made a list of all the "ways you should live." Examples from class:
--I should live by always walking in new places where my feet have never been
--I should love by immersing myself in the depths of life
--I should live like Thoreau did at Walden: I should live deliberately, and suck out the marrow of life
--I should live like my Grandmother--still learning, pushing past what is uncomfortable, and going to new places--staying young and curious always
--I should live like my Grandfather--helping the generations grow up.
--I should live being aware that I am young once only.
--I should live knowing that I am lucky and that I should discover what the essential facts of life are
--I should live being aware of when I felt like I was doing it perfectly, and strive to do it like that always...
--I should live by being brave and courageous to go "behind the lines" to save beautiful things from being destroyed.
We want to ask the biggest questions we can. We create an environment in which the thing we MUST do is ask big questions, or "good questions." The best questions are ones that have no immediate or easy answer; which can be asked from a variety of perspectives; answers to which will change over time and through experience; which are stubborn and persistent, which can not necessarily be answered in day, a week, or a year. We want them to be comfortable asking big questions, and we want them to learn how to keep asking the questions, venturing answers, and trying again. Eventually, we want them to begin to formulate their own questions.
Their speeches are attempts to begin to venture answers. The speeches are also how they set their course; make agreements with themselves or the school and their peers; and how the evaluate where they are and where they want to go; and the speeches are how they introduce themselves to each other, begin to reveal who they are and who they want to be.
The speeches do not have any particular form, except that we wan them to be authentic, personable, funny, touching, tender, and filled with aspirational power. The speeches must be filled with stories or scenes of past experience. That is, one may know how one wants to live: but HOW did one come to know or believe that? What experience, good or bad, led to that knowledge. What in life has been instructive, or inspirational, or life-changing, which guided one to the understanding one now holds? The more feeling and passion the speeches reveal and show, the more filled the school will be with living spirits.
We will begin reading the speeches this Wednesday. We will begin making sculptures this week as well, and setting our course with the first Utopia projects and presentations. And we will get deeply into The Red Pony which, on the surface, seems simple, but in fact has folds and waves of richness and depth.