walking on water
(2004) by Derrick Jensen
no idea why i haven’t thought of reading this before now
a nation of slaves
one of the primary things i learned (in school) was how to kill time.. i learned also to wish away my life.. ie: can’t wait for next month to be over ..
what else..? i learned to not talk out of order, and to not questions authority, i learned to not ask difficult questions .. and certainly not to expect thoughtful answers.. i learn to mimic the opinions of teachers, and on command to vomit facts/interpretation of those facts gleaned form textbooks, whether i agreed w the facts of interps or not.. i learned how to read authority figures, give them what they wanted, to fawn and brownnose when expedient.. in short, i learned to give myself away
we don’t talk about it much but the truth is that our society values money above all else, in part because it represents power, and in part because, as is also true of power, it gives us the illusion that we can get what we want.. but one of the costs of following money is that in order to acquire it, we so often have to give ourselves away to whomever has money to give in return..
money less ness.. et al
not that teachers have money, but in the classroom they have what money elsewhere reps: power.. we live in a culture that is based on the illusion – and schooling is central to the creation and perpetuation of this illusion – that happiness lies outside of us, and specifically in the hands of those who have power
making us whales in sea world
(on slaves) far better for them to believe they’re free, because then if they’re unhappy the fault lies not w you but w themselves
it all starts w the children. if you don’t start young enough, you’ll never be able to acculturate them sufficiently so that they disbelieve in alternatives.. and if they honestly believe in alts – those not delineated by you – they may attempt to actualize them. and then where would you be
carl rogers: (teaching) seems to cause the individual to distrust his/her own experience, and to stifle significant learning.. hence i have com to feel that the outcomes of teaching are either unimportant or hurtful..
how to not teach
you can’t give what you don’t have – the only real job of any teacher, esp a writing reacher, is sot help students find themselves.. everything else is either distraction, or at best, window dressing
yeah.. i’m thinking going into that space is a distraction/window-dressing
to educe is to lead forth.. to seduce is to lead away. i wish i had suggested that our departments of ed be called, if we were honest, depts of seduction, for that is what they do: lead us away from ourselves
and the death of us
it’s far better and far less work to simply search for the good in the first place and built from there.. keeps focus on students rather than on you and your lack of credibility (on helping students find what’s already good/strong/in them rather than trying to fix what’s not so good.. as if you could)
on best teachers: one said never believe anything you read and rarely believe anting you think.. others: stars in desert, moon, laying naked in dew, walked barefoot in snow, watch falling star, take bath in fast cold river.. best teachers i’ve ever had..
but best.. a dog.. who never seemed to slow down.. he routinely ignored me.. lesson i learned.. that rules are meant to be acknowledged and then ignored.. everything that dog did, he did exuberantly, joyously, w a an abundance of life.. i can’t imagine a better teacher
tells class on first day – this is more about ie: passion than writing/credit.. if you don’t want that go to my supervisor.. we have an agreement.. i can do whatever i want and if a student wants to switch out.. he will do that.. then says ‘since it’s my experience that , as carl rogers wrote, the only real learning is self discovered, self appropriated learning, i won’ t’try to teach you anything. it’s my job instead to create an atmosphere where you can teach yourself..
that’s the new thing today.. today we can totally unleash that.. ie: get everyone out of the classroom/institution
tech as it could be..
say bs to everything.. but be happy and joyful in that process.. we continue patterns/behaviors because they’re familiar
begs ie: cure ios city
(quote from well traveled guitarist): on being w all the guitar greats.. but guitarist who’d taught him most.. was an old blues masters.. he’d asked the man to teach him how to play and the man responded ‘i can tach you everything i know in 15 min.. then you just have to go home and practice for 15 yrs..
don’t bore the reader
(in prison) – student: ‘i don’t agree w.. teaching by praise.. if i’m going to improve i need to know what may weaknesses are are as a writer’.. derrick: do you know what your strengths areas a writer? s: no d: after we find out your strengths, your weaknesses will be obvious.. doesn’t it make more sense to find and develop your strengths first
much like curiosity over decision making – what you do first matters.. and i’m thinking if we just start w curiosity.. talking about strengths/weaknesses becomes irrelevant.. actually.. no longer toxic/cancerous
it should surprise us less than it does that the educational system destroys students’ souls..
then quotes gatto in gratitude.. and then dewey.. et al.. on how this was the purpose from the beginning.. from 1888 up to 1906 rockefeller ed board’s reasons for putting money into compulsory public schooling: ‘in our dreams.. people yield themselves w perfect docility to our molding hands.. the task set before ourselves is very simple.. we will org children..and teach them to do in a perfect way the things their fathers/mothers are doing in an imperfect way’.. – those in charge could not have been clearer
william torrey harris, us commissioner of ed from 1889-1906: ’99 out of 100 students are automata, careful to walk in prescribed paths, careful to follow the prescribed custom. this is not an accident but the result of substantial ed, which, scientifically defined, is the subsumption of the individual’
harris added: ‘the great purpose of school can be realized better in dark, airless, ugly places.. it is to master the physical self, to transcend that beauty of nature. school should develop the power to withdraw from the external world’
no wonder we all hate school.. and the fact we do.. is a very good thing.. it means we’re still alive
herman hesse: i wanted only to try to live in accord w the promptings which came from my true self.why was that so very difficult
who are you
there’s really only one question in life, and only one lesson. this question is whispered endlessly to us form all directions. the moon asks it each night, as do the stars, it’s asked by drops of rain that cling to the soft ends of cedar branches and by teardrops that cluster at the fold of your nose or the edge of your mouth.. frogs, flowers, stones, pieces of broken plastic, all ask this of each other, an of themselves, and of you.. the question: who are you? the lesson: we’re born or sprouted or hatched or congealed or we fall from the sky, we live, and then we die or are worn away or broken or disperse into a river, lake or sea..ripples flowing outward to bound back form the far shore.. and in the meantime, in that middle, what are you going to do? how are you going to find, and be, who you are? who are you and what are you going to do about it
fittingness et al
if modern industrial ed – and more broadly industrial civilization – requires ‘the subsumption of the individual’.. that is , the conversion of vibrant human beings in to ‘automat’ that is, into a pliant workforce, then the most revolutionary thing we can do is follow our hearts, to manifest who we really are. and we are in desperate need of revolution.. , on all scales and in all ways.. w’ere killing the planet/each-other/ourselves
it is only thru the most outrageous violations of our hearts/minds s/bodies that we are inculcated int o a system where it can be made to make sense to some part of our twisted and torn psyches to perpetuate a way of being based on the exploitation, immiseration, and elimination of everyone and everything we can get our hands on
who are you.. who are you really?.. beneath the trappings and traumas that clutter and characterize our lives..we could not live the way we do unless we avoided that question, trained ourselves and others to avoid that question, forced others to avoid placing that question in front of us.. and in fact attempted to destroy those who do..
i’ve asked this question for several years now, (if given millions of dollars.. would you stay in school) and maybe 5 or 6 students total have said they would stay.. same with would you get/keep a job.. same (as for money) if found out only had a limited time to live
when kids ask him: wouldn’t change a thing if got more money.. but if had year to live.. ‘i’d write nonstop.i’ve got a list of books in me, and i don’t want to die w a couple of them still there.’
(after a lady in audience is trying to help mother of 15 yr old know what to tell child vs ‘stay in school and get a job’)
this made me think of what some of the ancient greek philosophers called the point of life: eudaimonia. it’s commonly translated as happiness, but i believe a more accurate translation would be fittingness: how well your actions match your gifts, match who you are..
it becomes our task to remember our gifts, our task, and to realize them, w the help of guiding spirits, or daimons. thus eudaimonia, which literally means’ having a good guardian spirit’..
(talking to a group of 15 yr old boys): 2nd thing i’d tell my 15 yr old self – you have one life and there’s almost nothing more worth fighting for than to figure out what you want – not what yo’ve been told you want by parents/teachers/pastors/advertisers/army-recruiters.. but what you want – and then pursing that if it takes you to he ends of the earth and to the end of your own life
#1 regret of dying
another thing i wish i’d told them.. but i did not because the language didn’t come to me until later.. and that is that i regret my mistakes of timidity more than those of reckless ness; actions undone more than actions done. regrets have never come from following my heart into or out of intimacy, no matter the pain involved, but when, because of fear, i didn’t enter or leave when i should have. regrets have come when fear kept me form my heart.. i wish i would have told them that this has been true not just w women, but w everything
i also to l them ‘i sometimes think timidity is destroying the planet as surely as greed, militarism, and hatred; i now see these as aspects of the same problem. those in power couldn’t commit routine atrocities if the rest of us hadn’t already been trained to submit
so is that timidity?.. or did those supposed to’s.. of school/work.. turn us into shell less whales in sea world..? i’m thinking many didn’t have the opp to listen deeper.. i don’t know.. again: if you imagine a shell less turtle..
and the next thing: you’re not crazy, the culture is crazy.. ie: pay less attention to eco infra than pro sports.. value money over living things.. spend most of waking hours working jobs they’d rather not do
graeber job less law et al
and another thing – it’s ok to be happy.. to live your life exactly the way you want.. it’s ok to not/never get a job.. find what makes you happy and fight for it.. dedicate your life to discovering who you are
it will be very hard.. and you’ll make a million mistakes, and you’ll pay for them all, but the hard parts will be your hard parts, they won’t be hard parts other people have imposed on you for their own reason or maybe for no reason at all..
‘if they give you a piece of lined paper.. write the other way’ – possible authors: ray bradbury, william carlos williams, ee cummings, juan ramón jiménez
the most important writing exercise
there are a hundred people inside each of us who can write.. the bitter, lonely, happy, tired, ecstatic, gleeful, angry.. all have strong opinions.. and all inside each one of us.. unfortunately , the only one who can’t write is the one we wear on our faces all the time.. the polite one. the bland one.. the one who wants approval. the one who wants a grade. .. that one can’t write worth a damn..
writing is really very easy.. tap a vein and bleed onto the page. everything else is just technical
i say to the class – let go.. no really let go
jules henry quote on hs and the grading system.. and how american culture would fall apart w/o engendering feelings of inferiority and worthlessness
grades are a problem.. on the most general level, they’re an explicit acknowledgement that what you’re doing is insufficiently interesting or rewarding for you to do it on your own.. nobody ever gave you a grade for learning how to play, how to ride a bike, or how to kiss.. grades are a cudgel to bludgeon the unwilling into doing what they don’t want to do.. an importan instrument in inculcating children into la lifelong pattern of subservience to whatever authority happens to be thrust over them
how am i just now reading this
more specifically as it relates to writing, it struck me immediately as absurd, immoral, and counterproductive to ask people to write from the heart, and then give them grades: (ie of writing of abuse being courageous but them c-)
early in my book – the culture of make believe – i spent a couple very fun weeks researching and ruminating on the precise relationship between hatred, contempt, entitlement, and threats to that entitlement before the answer came clear, partly thru a quote .. by nietzsche ‘one does not hate when on can despise’.. so long as entitlement can be maintained thru tradition, philosophy, economics, the school system, and so on, those in power merely feel contempt for those they exploit.. but threaten that entitlement, and watch the lynchings begin..
we could probably see the same thing on a much smaller scale in the classroom.. so long as student defer at all times to teachers, everyone gets along fine. but if students begin to question the teachers’ or admins’ authority too seriously, the smile on the face of this form of social control starts to become a tad brittle
smaller scale?.. or large.. isn’t this where it mostly begins..?
i’ve sometimes taken to saying ‘most of my decision are wrong’ because usually when i’m heading in the right direction there are no decisions to be made..
the trick to editing.. and this is also true of the giving of advice, and perhaps it’s true of all of lie – is to find out where the other person’s heart resides, and then to help him or her get there..
quiet enough to here.. et al
imagining we can and we need to.. do better today.. perhaps that’s the new thing w tech.. it can listen to every voice everyday.. so that .. that’s in each heart .. each day anew.. is what guides us all thru the day.. ie: tech as it could be..
imagine going to a conference on whatever is closest to your heart – for me it would be a bunch of people who want to bring down industrial civilization
the editor has one and only one job: to help the author write precisely what the author wants to write in the best way possible… the editor’s job is not to try to get the author to write the piece that the editor whats the author to write..
everything i’ve said about editors applies equally to teachers..
we perceive the entire hierarchy in school exactly opposite to how it really is.. you are the reason we are all here.. what do you want to do
jules henry: to think deeply in our culture is to grow angry and to anger others; and if you cannot tolerate this anger, you are wasting the time you spend thinking deeply. one of the rewards of deep thought is that hot glow of anger at discovering wrong, but if anger is taboo, thought will starve to death
jerry farber: in school we learn to be good little americans – or frenchmen .. or russians.. we learn how to take the crap that’s going to be shoveled on us all our lives. in school the state wraps up people’s minds so tight that it can afford to leave their bodies alone.. repression? you want to see victims of repression? come look at most of the student sat san diego state college, where i work. they want to be told what to do. they don’t know how to be free.. they’ve given their will to this institution just as they’ll continue to give their will to the institutions that engulf them in the future
i kept thinking how easy this work really is, and how if my student shad consistently been accepted and loved for who they are by the adults in their lives – by their parents, teachers, school counselors, members of their churches – i would have had to get a real job (after talking about accepting/treating everyone unconditionally)
and aren’t i pushing an agenda too, simply by my choice of what we talk about in class?
helen keller: security is mostly a superstition. it does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. avoiding danger is not safer in the long run than outright exposure. life is either a daring adventure, or nothing
giving up control
if we learn nothing else from the horrors of the holocaust, vietnam, and the ongoing destruction of the planet, we should learn that blind obedience to authority or tradition is far more problematical than any questioning a person might do.. don’t you think?
the task teachers face is to find their own way of teaching, on e that manifest who they are..
seems strange to be so bold about all this.. and then assume that teaching is ok.. odd (to me) place to draw the line
what else i am suggesting: that no matter the subject matter ostensibly being taught, the real point is to help the students find themselves, and to find their own passion.. anything else is to lead them astray, to do them actual damage
i think being in the classroom.. and being called students.. is enough .. for actual damage
who are you again
falling in love
i’m continually amazed/horrified at how seemingly bright, intelligent parents do this incredible job at home w their little ones, so careful about their care providers and diet and media exposure, and then just had them over to the system at 5 yrs old.. it’s this huge blindspot. and the justifications are equally amazing.. i liken it to the phenom of parents who deliver their children to the hands of their abuser.. then on mother’s crying dropping kids off at school
this all leads toe the question i’ve been so carefully avoiding throughout this book. it has to d w whether we should attempt to work w /in our rotten system or whether we should try to tear the whole thing down
there’s another way.. no tearing down involved..
i hate industrial civilization.. i hate the wage econ.. i hate industrial schooling because it commits one of the only unforgivable sins there is: *it leads people away from themselves, training them to be workers and convincing them it’s in their bet interest to be ever more loyal slaves, rowing the galley that is industrial civilization ever more fervently – enthusiastically, orgiastically – to hell, compelling them to take everything and everyone they encounter down with them.. and i participate in this process.. i help make school a little more palatable a little more fun.. as student are trained to do their part in the ongoing destruction of the planet, as they enter the final phases of trading away their birthright as the free and happy humans whey were born to be for their roles as cogs in the giant industrial machine or worse, as overseers of the giant factory/enslavement camp we once recognized as a living earth. doesn’t that make me, in essence, a collaborator? hell, drop the in essence
yeah.. all that.. and ie: costello screen/sevice law et al
rober jay lifton in the nazi doctors.. made it clear that many of th physicians working at concentration camps such as auschwitz attempted to make lief as comfortable as they could for their charges, doing everything in their power to save inmates’ lives, except the most important thing of all: question the auschwitz reality, that is, the atrocity inducing superstructure under which they operated.. the fact that industrial ed murders souls instead of bodies doesn’t reduce my culpability.. it’s as if ‘m putting soft cushion on the benches of the galley so the slaves don’t hurt their poor bums.. but also for participating in the larger processes that train the overseers: as much as i may wish to pretend i’m helping to take down civilization, when i teach as a uni i’m actively training the future technocrats who will prop up civilization and who, by simply doing their jobs a swell and perhaps as good heartedly as i do mine, will commit genocide the world over and eviscerate what still remains of the natural world..
as raul hilberg described so aptly in his the destruction of the european jews.. the the vast majority of the perpetrators of the holocaust neither shot nor gassed their victims: they wrote memos, answered telephones, went to meetings.. they did their own little jobs in larger bureaucracies that did not have as their function anything so indelicate as mass murder, but rather were merely max ing production and min in cost (by using slave labor).. freeing up land.. protecting homeland security by imprisoning/killing those considered threats.. this deathly system needs us all
teaching at prison brings this question into even sharper focus. every time i walk thru the gates i’m helping to support the largest prison system in the world.. and also the most racists.. but i know too.. many have told me explicitly and repeatedly that our classes are the only things they look forward to all week, the only things that keep them sane
we need both reform and revolution
responsibility w/o freedom is slavery.. as we see. freedom w/o responsibility is immaturity
i don’t know.. ie: responsibility ness et al
on end of class and kids saying.. you’re like all the others.. you still grade us (check marks) and you still take roll
i’m happy. they get it. everything in this class has been aiming toward this moment, this rejection on their part of my authority.. this is the point. i want to chuck the check marks and give them all 4.0s
one student: ‘you’re great. but your’e trying to fit yourself – and fit all this acceptance and all this teaching us to care about ourselves – into this whole other system based on coercion, and that’s just ridiculous.. ‘
walking on water
last assignment: walk on water (aka: do the impossible)
the tragedy of industrial schooling is made all the worse by the promise of ed, the promise of drawing us out, leading us forth..