Category: education

deep roots make strong trees

We live in a world of instant information. Now more than ever we can access data that confirms our own beliefs; it has never been easier to live in an echo chamber. We compound our confirmation bias by simultaneously broadening our social circle to global and limiting our intake to only that with which we agree. We can have a thousand “friends” and choose to listen to only a fraction of them. Even though there’s more information than there has ever been before, we can still choose to insulate ourselves.

The instant nature of this information also means that much of it will be unfounded. It’s harder to verify. There’s little at stake when data can be made global at the click of a button the moment a thought has been had.Anonymity also lowers the stakes of sending thoughts into the world.

Anonymity also lowers the stakes of sending thoughts into the world. A twitter war with a faceless entity can make us feel entitled to express our opinions without consequence. And each side will be “right,” justified in their opinions. Divisive language happens when is anonymous emoting (because what more can we call it when no common ground or intellectual growth is sought?)

We have to do better. We have to dig deeper. We have to be open to learning that we are wrong.

An education worth having must begin with humility. It’s important to recognize bad rhetoric; there’s a lot of it out there. A voracious reader will begin to make himself less easily duped by false or manipulative talk. Exposing oneself to a broad range of thought will make for a better thinker, a more discerning human being, and therefore a better citizen of the world. We can’t expect to be good judges of our present if we are unwilling to zoom out and consider the wider context.

Reading great works from those who came before us gives us roots. The ideas of past geniuses broaden our own network of ideas. When a strong wind of someone disagreeing with us, we can take that view into consideration without fear that it will uproot our entire system of beliefs. The roots are deep enough and broad enough to take on new ideas and weigh them against existing ones. We needn’t be threatened by new ideas because we are equipped to look at them critically and with an open mind. More importantly, we have trained ourselves to learn from everything with humility.

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baby steps

Slow and steady wins the race. Action beats inaction. Taking small steps is so much more important than thinking about big steps. Sometimes I have to remind myself that tiny positive things add up and that’s so much better than stressing about making big progress (which adds up in a negative way).

I think of it like driving veeeerrrry slowly in your car: eventually you’ll get further than just sitting there revving the engine and wasting gasoline.

I have a huge project ahead of me, and it’s daunting. It’s so big that sometimes it’s paralyzing. But I know that I need to chip away at it a little bit at a time.

So I am making a bit of a pivot in the content of this blog, and I want you to know what you can expect in the future. I will still be writing about creative resistance, but it will be more along the lines of what I’m specifically encountering in my current creative projects.

First of all, if you aren’t familiar with the idea of overlapping (working a day job for financial stability while you work on what you’re passionate about on the side until it can support you), I highly recommend the book Overlap by Sean McCabe.

My passion is to make big ideas accessible to young people. I believe that the ability to think critically is one of the greatest gifts we can bestow on future generations. I’m writing and illustrating a series of young adult and children’s books making the ideas of the Great Books (Plato, Dante, Augustine, et al) super digestible. I want to normalize what used to be a standard education but has unfortunately become very rare. Everyone is capable of learning big things and no one should be scared or ashamed to be exposed to “smart people things.”

I want to get kids excited about reading through book related products, as well. Hand-lettered bookmarks, handmade book bags, and crocheted animal plushie characters that introduce kids great literary characters and their authors.

I’m making myself publicly accountable for making this vision a reality, and documenting the process. I invite you to follow along, to sign up for updates on the book release, to join the conversation in whatever way you’d like and ask questions about what makes actually doing creative things so dang hard sometimes.

It will be messy. Most things are before you get to the finished product. And that’s okay, because perfect is an illusion that keeps you from doing the important, messy things. Thanks to those who have stuck with me thus far, and thank you/welcome to those who are newly jumping in.

I invite you to make messes and take baby steps with me. 🙂

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on creating good humans

I’d like to talk about the importance of critical thinking.

Attention spans get shorter with each advancing generation. It’s the age of instant gratification and approval addiction. Digital natives run the risk of being digital dependents. We are more connected globally than ever, yet never have we been more ill-equipped and unwilling to engage with people face-to-face.

Of course, that cultural immersion in technology can certainly be an asset. Research, if filtered through a critically thinking mind, can be done anywhere at any time. The world is at our fingertips. Creativity has more possibilities than ever before. Coding has become part of the cultural language as early as preschool. There is so much good that can be done in this age that we find ourselves in.

But to do good, the tools need to be in the hands of good people.

Frankly, we live in a divisive time, with the internet serving as an incubator. We can express opposing views behind the protection of a screen. I think there’s a danger of an empathy disconnect when you can’t physically be in the presence of the person with whom you are communicating. If there’s no face on the receiving end of your words, it becomes easier to speak to them like they are not a human being worthy of love and respect.

Respect and empathy must be taught and nurtured. It is everyone’s responsibility to raise up the next generation. It takes a village, as they say. I feel very passionately that we need to foster strong critical thinking skills in our young people well before high school, and certainly before they are old enough to vote, especially when there is so much bad rhetoric being thrown around; especially in an age where there is so much uncredentialed information readily available, an age in which anything can be counterfeited.

Training virtuous people with discerning minds is the key to a better world.

We need kids who are too smart to be duped by bad rhetoric and propaganda, and who have a willingness to work hard in the pursuit of truth. It is my dream that we raise up generations who are so wholeheartedly pursuant of goodness, truth, and beauty that it doesn’t occur to them to be selfish or litigious or lazy.

I want to see a generation rise up who have learned skills with their hands, who are scrappy and don’t feel naked without their electronics and the internet; a generation both content with solitude and silence and delighted by intimate in-person fellowship.

who live for the good of others;

who humbly seek truth and are open to all viewpoints;

who know why they believe what they believe;

who aren’t combative about their beliefs or their identity, and whose identities are not wrapped up in socioeconomics or gender labels or race or social media presence;

who see others for their spirit and character rather than societal labels;

who seek responsibility and shun excuses;

who wish to improve their character every day;

and who are motivated by love and commonality rather than our differences.

It’s never too early to teach kids how to be good citizens of the world, and you don’t have to be a parent or educator to be an influence. Children notice and absorb everything. They see how people treat one another, and will love or hate in the way that they consistently see those around them loving or hating.  They will pick up habits that they are rewarded for.

So read a lot, in front of and with your kids (or your friends’ kids). Encourage them to ask questions. Praise them for being polite. Let them play in a whole lot of different ways to explore what their gifts and interests are. Take an active interest in their individual learning style.

We need people in the world who can think for themselves and love others. Don’t think any idea is too big for them; give them the chance and they will rise to the occasion and become good people.

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the necessity of art

We need art, and never more so than in times of cultural stress. Art can be the Virgil and Beatrice to our Dante, taking us by the hand and leading us through purgatory to enlightenment. It can help us:

Escape our reality

Art can be an escape from reality when reality becomes too much for us to bear. We can immerse ourselves in another world of someone else’s imagination, adding our own to it, until we forget our everyday anxieties. What a joy it can be to take a momentary romp through a vision other than our own!

Confront our reality

It can evoke positive feelings, or it can provide catharsis. 

Catharsis (from Greek κάθαρσις katharsis meaning “purification” or “cleansing”) is the purification and purgation of emotions—especially pity and fear—through art[1] or any extreme change in emotion that results in renewal and restoration. It is a metaphor originally used by Aristotle in the Poetics, comparing the effects of tragedy on the mind of a spectator to the effect of a cathartic on the body.

While catharsis is essentially the opposite of “good feelings,” it helps us uncover good feelings by purging us of anxiety, fear, etc. We are restored to good emotional health when we cleanse ourselves of pent up extreme emotions. We participate in emotions vicariously by creating or consuming art, without having to act out negative emotions in the real world. Art creates a safe place to express our emotional spectrum without the direct consequences we would otherwise incur by enacting those emotions.

Gauge our reality

Art can be a metric of the state of the world we live in. It can hold up a mirror to our culture and reflect back either beauty or ugliness. It can be a welcome reminder that there still is beauty to be enjoyed in the world. However, when there is a proliferation of ugly art, it’s a good sign that something is going sour within the culture at large. Art acts as a canary in a coal mine, or the symptom that lets us know it’s time to go see a doctor. When nothing beautiful is reflected back in the art created within a culture, it’s time to address the issues that culture is facing.

Reshape our reality

Art is a powerful educator, especially when other systems (such as government, schools, and other cultural institutions) fail. A work of art can often speak volumes more than any textbook. Someone’s creation gives us a look inside another point of view. Our view of the world is expanded every time we participate in someone else’s experience. We do so profoundly with each song we listen to, book we read, film we watch, painting we admire.

 

When we look back at any past civilization, what tells us most about what it was like to live and breathe within that culture is the art they left behind. Art both shapes and is shaped by the culture in which it is created. We are experiencing a new era, and the art made in this era will undoubtedly leave a strong impression of our culture for following generations. We must, therefore, make the most truthful art we can, and lots of it.

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