28 May 2014

Because We Are Giants

I suppose most of you know by now that if you read this blog, you are going to have to listen to some Lindsey Stirling whether you like it or not.

And I literally cannot stop listening to this song.

It may interest you to know that I just came back from my last speech and debate tournament in San Diego.  I didn't come back with any earth-shattering trophies like I have in years past, but some of my friends did, and that makes me feel more proud of Ourselves than if I ever won anything.

I remember when I first came to a speech tournament and speech was the only reason I was there, and the people no more than faces. By the end it was the opposite, it was those faces I missed so much and knew I was going to miss that made my heart skip, the speeches I gave had long lost that rush of adrenaline. I kinda sound like an old sport, but winning really didn't matter to me anymore. All I cared about in the end was saying something that mattered.

This song literally could not be more perfect in describing the adventures I have had in Stoa speech and debate. It's the sort of song that plays at the end credits of this crazy ride after the applause dies and the staff stacks up chairs and we pack up our things and look at each other, smiling, not saying a word, knowing that this is not the end of the story, because we are, we are, we are giants indeed.

Call it our theme song, the theme song for all speech and debate, for now and for the people who follow us. I'm so proud of us I can barely contain it.





Do you feel like you're second-hand?
Do you feel you're afraid to stand alone?
Cut away every safety net
Live your life so you won't regret the road

Feels like you're standing there so small
Just the space between the stars
Don't be afraid to risk it all
Cause we are we are

We are giants
We are giant
We are giants
We are we are
We are giants
We are giant
We are giants
We are we are

Raise your flag; Let your voice be heard
Put your heart into every word you say
All your failures' a cornerstone
Build a house with the things you've thrown away

Feels like you're standing there so small
Just the space between the stars
Don't be afraid to risk it all
Cause we are we are

We are giants
We are giant
We are giants
We are we are
We are giants
We are giant
We are giants
We are we are

Feels like you're standing there so small
Just the space between the stars
Don't be afraid to risk it all
Cause we are we are

We are giants
We are giant
We are giants
We are we are
We are giants
We are giant
We are giants
We are we are


04 May 2014

Quiet





Have you ever wondered, well I have,

About how when I say, say, red, for example,
There's no way of knowing if red
Means the same thing in your head
As red means in my head
When someone says red?

And how if we are travelling
At almost the speed of light,
And we're holding a light,
That light would still travel away from us
At the full speed of light?

Which seems right in a way,
But I'm trying to say... I'm not sure...
But I'm wondering inside my head,
I'm not just a bit different from some of my friends...
These answers that come into my mind unbidden...
These stories delivered to me fully written...

And when everyone shouts - they seem to like shouting -
The noise in my head is incredibly loud,
And I just wish they'd stop, my dad and my mum,
And the telly and stories would stop just for once.

I'm sorry - I'm not quite explaining it right,
But this noise becomes anger, and the anger is light,
And its burning inside me would usually fade,
But it isn't today, and the heat and the shouting,
And my heart is pounding, and my eyes are burning,
And suddenly everything, everything is...

Quiet...
Like silence, but not really silent...
Just that still sort of quiet
Like the sound of a page being turned in a book,
Or a pause in a walk in the woods.

Quiet...
Like silence, but not really silent...
Just that nice kind of quiet,
Like the sound when you lie upside down in your bed.
Just the sound of your heart in your head...

And though the people around me,
Their mouths are still moving,
The words they are forming
Cannot reach me anymore.



And it is quiet...



And I am warm...





Like I've sailed







Into the eye of the storm.





03 May 2014

Killing our Minds One Lesson at a Time - Part 4: Killing our Bodies

PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3

Over the course of these posts we've been looking at the dual nature of multiple interdependent worlds: work and play, physical and spiritual, reality and imagination, science and philosophy. In every single example we came to the conclusion that when these worlds are severed from each other, both are destroyed.

So what happens when we start killing our minds one lesson at a time? That's right. We kill our bodies too. And when does the process begin? The first day of kindergarten.

 The innumerable disadvantages of monopathy all stem from the way we teach the younger generation.  I don't mean to turn this into a "kids these days" rant. If anything, I would call it a "grown-ups these days" rant, because we have a completely backwards idea on whose fault it is. Children know no better than to imitate their elders. When adults complain of the younger generation, all they are seeing is a miniature version of themselves. They are the influence--they have absolutely no right to speak.

I know I'm going to sound like an old man when I say this, but one thing I just can't understand is all these kids walking around with iPads watching Cartoon Network. I see them on the bus, in the grocery store, waiting in line for ice-cream, in their own homes.  Most of them are very pale-faced, their eyes are red and glazed, and their cheeks are chubby. They don't know I'm watching them--they're absorbed in the cartoon--if you could call it a cartoon. Why are their mouths moving up and down like a ventriloquist's dummy? The vacant stares alone might give any child nightmares, but when Evil Doctor Dastardly starts turning their skin green and their eyes into spirals, I feel like throwing up.

"but kids like that stuff!" people say. No. They don't. The only difference between us and them is that they can't articulate what they don't like or why they don't like it.  I was one of those kids whom my parents had to drag to Sunday School kicking and screaming. Nobody could figure out what I didn't like about it. Part of it, I know now, was just because I was terrified of new things, but when I rally my memory, I think there something else involved.  For a long time it was too subtle to put into words, but when I go back to those old Sunday School rooms, I think I see the problem.

The art is awful.

I don't have a problem with cartoons or caricature, but this is neither.  We don't realize that the quality of art we create for children quite openly reveals our opinion of them. Whoever drew this clearly made the assumption that children will never wonder for a second what in the world is wrong with Jesus's face.

It's as crude as a child's drawing, except it is done by a grown up and possesses none of the spontaneity and charm. Something is wrong with it.  It's not realistic, nor is it deliberately unrealistic like a well-crafted cartoon. It's so close to being real...but mockingly off-putting. And drawings just like this one are splattered all over the Sunday School room. The whole atmosphere is weird...claustrophobic...you just want to get out of there.

But that weird feeling is intermixed with the excitement of games and fun, and most kids don't really notice it. However, crude art is another result of monopathy--and just as detrimental. It's separating work and play again, assuming that kids are all about fun and don't demand or require skill and hard work invested in their toys. And it's not like they can complain, either. They watch those crummy shows on Cartoon Network because they don't know anything better. That's what the business specialists CLAIM that kids like, and since when were THEY the authority on what's good for your children? Oh, that's right, they're specialists. They know everything.

I don't claim to be a child psychologist, I am only speaking from my own experience. But I'm not alone in this assertion, the author of Peter Pan J.M. Barrie agrees. In my opinion, there is no man in all literature who understands better the mind of a child.

"Doctors sometimes draw maps of [your mind], and your own map can become intensely interesting, but catch them trying to draw a map of a child's mind, which is not only confused, but keeps on going around all the time. There are zigzag lines on it...and these are probably roads in the island, for the Neverland is always more or less an island, with astonishing splashes of color here and there, and coral reefs and rakish looking craft in the offing, and savages and lonely lairs, and caves through which a river runs, and a hut fast going to decay, and one very small old lady with a hooked nose. 

It would be an easy map if that were all, but there is also First Day of School, Religion, Fathers, the Round Pond, needlework, murders, hangings, verbs that take the take the dative, chocolate pudding day, getting into braces, say ninety nine, three pence for pulling out your tooth yourself, and so on, and either these are part of the island or they are another map showing through, and it is all rather confusing, especially as nothing will stand still." -J.M Barrie

And the problem of standing still leads us to another important point.

My friend Jared teaches kids gymnastics. Often times, working with the kids is frustrating, and it's not because they are rowdy and wild, like all kids ought to be.  Jared was the kind of kid who would play Indian with his neighbors and go around "scalping" each other, who would dress up in camouflage and go crawling through the city drain pipes, who would camp out in his backyard so he could pin rabbits with a crossbow. (All of these stories are true, I swear to oath). Jared knows better than anyone that children (particularly boys) are born to be wild.  Any parent knows that...or do they?

He teaches kids from five to ten years old, and many of them don't exactly have an over abundance of energy. Most of them can't even do a full push-up, and by the first half-hour are already complaining of being tired.   When they try to stick landings, their legs collapse on each other like a cripple's legs. As his students run back to their parents arms and they lovingly plop iPads into their hot hands, he can't help from thinking, man, how did these kids get so...WEAK?

Let's go back to the beginning of these posts. In Part One, I described the struggles of a ten-year-old kid in modern day education.

"Every day he sits through eight hours of fragmented subjects that have no seeming relevance to each other."

Did you catch that? He sits. Do you know any child who naturally knows how to sit?

Watch a kid for a day. Try to catch her at a time when there's some waiting time and there are no chairs in sight. There are two things she might do: she will either squat or sit cross-legged. As unpredictable as kids are, this is probably the only thing you can guarantee about them. Why? Because squatting is the most natural of human postures. No child was ever taught to sit. Don't take it personally when they start fidgeting from at the dinner table for more than five minutes, because odds are it isn't your cooking. They really are uncomfortable--and will continue to be so until they have done it for so long that their bodies have become numb to the discomfort.

From a lot of research on Jared's part, he found that sitting--as ridiculous as it sounds--is almost as unhealthy as smoking. It stresses pelvic muscles, bowel movement, and stiffens the flexibility of your whole body from spine to neck .  Get up for your chair now and try to squat. If you can do it with your feet flat on the ground without falling over backwards, you are healthier than the majority of Americans. By the time of adolescence, most have completely lost their ability to squat.

But that's not the worst of it. Sitting for long periods of time is the primary cause of what is called "brain fog", the inability to focus or think clearly. Squatting is the only resting position that allows for equal distribution of blood in all areas--if you are sitting, you have to get up and move around in order to get it moving. Sitting for long periods of time stifles blood flow to your brain, which stifles production of--you guessed it--acetylcholine--which stifles productivity, period.

So not only are we providing shoddy, disconnected images of reality to the children of this generation, we are literally, physically preventing them from understanding it--by teaching them from day one to do the one thing that no human being was ever designed to do: to sit still.

Some people argue that this is what P.E. is for.  But this is where compartmentalization comes creeping up on us again.  You can't just cancel out sixteen hours of sitting by spending an hour of exercise in the gym, however rigorous. That's like eating ice-cream and bacon all day and then trying to balance it out with spinach and carrots for dessert.

Again, I am no child psychologist, nor do I want to be Mr. Fitness-Guy telling you everything you do to your body is wrong. But if we are really to take the idea of Participation to its' full logical application, we must take everything into account. We must take into account the fact that children need to wrestle and climb trees and have pillow fights and do handstands and jump on the beds. If you don't want them jumping on the beds, you had better find an alternative, because that energy has to go somewhere.

And how do we channel their pent up energy? We give them crummy art, neutralizing the basal nucleus and systematically destroying their soul. And as they grow up we get not Adults but spoiled children in suit-ties who make the same mistakes they've always made, only with more expensive consequences.  When the culprit is revealed, it's no wonder America has the second highest obesity rate in the world (the first being Mexico) and the lowest IQ out of all first-world countries. Because of monopathy, both our minds and or bodies are destroyed. Because of monopathy, America is the fattest, stupidest nation on the face of the earth.

I know I've posted this before, but this is why I love this song so, so much.




To give you a little background, this musical is based off of Roald Dahl's book Matilda, a story about a girl genius at odds with a woman named Miss Trunchbull, the maniacal headmaster of her school who believes that all children are ignorant, undisciplined little fiends.  The one grown-up in this song is her teacher Miss Honey. She's the kind of woman who really understands all of this. And let me tell you, there needs to be more people in the world like her.

I try not to think about it too much, because I am always in danger of getting tears in my eyes. Because what kills me is...you know it isn't true. You will never be smart enough to answer all the questions that you need to know the answers to. You won't ever be tall enough, or strong enough, or brave enough to fight the creatures beneath the bed.

Because those monsters don't go away when you grow up.

They never go away.

And you can hardly bear to tell them that.

But--and this is the beautiful truth--even if you told them, they wouldn't care.  They would laugh in your face, because even though you are afraid of dashing their hopes, you do not know it is them, not you, who have the gift of foresight. They are still young enough to hear the music in the stillness of a wood and the turning of a page. And in that celestial knowledge they rejoice, defiantly seeking meaning and hope in a world that insists that death is the final chapter. They see the fairies--and we tell them that fairies aren't real only because we are jealous that we can't see them too. Their eyes trace the horizon of a bright and hopeful unknown--do we dare disappoint them?

But even the will of a child can be worn down. If we keep on telling them the lie that the joy of participation is an illusion, they will eventually come to believe us. And that must never happen. Not if I can help it. Whatever you do, don't let the grown-ups tell them that. Don't let you tell them that. Because it isn't true. It can't be.


***

This technically marks the end of my "series".  If what I've been writing about has been at all meaningful to you, you are probably hoping for the obvious conclusion of it all: if we've only been putting the glass of reality back together upside-down, shouldn't there be some real integration in store for us? The answer is, yes. Mistakes aside, there have been countless scientific discoveries since 1600 that have never seen with this ancient mind-set.  What if we united the discoveries of people like Einstein and Newton with the long forgotten art of meaningfulness put back into the Greek method of inquiry?

In the future I plan to suggest such possible 
integrations.  I won't count it is part of this blog series because the ideas I am going to present are currently less solid and cohesive in my mind. Keep in mind, if Aristotle thought flies grew out of steak, I am not exempt from making embarrassing mistakes.  Exactly how these subjects work together can and will inevitably be a subject of debate. But if all these fields came together based on the common consensus that each study does indeed participate with the other, it will be the first step of real progress humanity has made for the last four-hundred years.


-The Minstrel Boy