Sunday, August 8, 2010

Graduation Day!

Today I watched nine of our students graduate -- nine people who came here to Goddard College with a passion for studying something of their own design, and who, through the process of looking deep and wide and trusting where they were led, found their way to astonishing projects.

  • Mike Alvarez wrote a stunning thesis on the connections between creativity and suicide, looking at what the act of creation can mean (or not mean) for healing.
  • Jame Vincent created a collage of poetry, prose poems, fiction and dialogue along with a critical paper to study the intersections of exile, homecoming, language and creativity.
  • Bernard Carey, in studying the absence of fathers in African-American homes, ended up co-writing a play with his daughter, who he had abandoned as a child; a performance of great healing and courage.
  • Amanda Lacson took her study of mythology and love into a study of why and how we need to examine cultural stories about romantic love and into a powerful collection of poetry, prose and other kinds of writing exploring mythology and love in her own life.
  • Jaki Elmo, through the lens of speculative fiction, explored how fiction can help us navigate and see anew the possibilities of our world and she happened to write an entire speculative fiction novel along the way.
  • Angela Davis studied how mainstream European culture in the Middle Ages monster-ized the "other" -- particularly Moslems and Jews, and what this says about our time today.
  • Jenny Gundy wrote a memoir about embodiment, earth and homecoming and wrote about ecology and culture.
  • Jes Wright looked at how motherhood could be a source of liberation and creativity as well as restricting through poetry and prose.
  • Griffin Brady created the Slyboots Guide to Living and Drumming -- a curriculum based on his world-wide study of drumming across cultures.
As I watched these people give presentations in the last few days and graduate today, I felt such pride and love for their work. All of these graduates brought such bravery and vision to their work, giving themselves over to their heart's calling, what their life is leading them toward.

It was also wonderful to hear our keynote speaker, Jim Merkel, author of Radical Simplicity, speak about giving back to our community most of what was given to us, and seeing sustainability and love not as a trend that will come and go, but as a place to land and live.

What was most moving to me, however, was watching the graduates' families -- some flown in from across the U.S. and Canada -- who piled into almost all the presentations. The families became their own kind of family, getting to know each other, encouraging one another's graduating members and delighting in what all these students had achieved.

Pictures, from top, the graduates; faculty members Francis Charet & Karen Campbell with Jame Vincent; DawN Crandell, daughter of Bernard, with Ruth Farmer, IMA program director, and Barbara Vacarr, Goddard President; me and Amanda Lacson; Jim Sparrell, faculty member, and Mike Alvarez & Bernard Carey; Jim Merkel.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Nature of Consciousness: An Interview with Francis X. Charet

Francis X. Charet, faculty member in the Individualized MA program and coordinator of Consciousness Studies, speaks about the conditions of time, mind and the soul on the Single Eye Movement website. Drop by and listen to what he has to say. Here's an excerpt:

My own view is that there is a fundamental unity underlying "body" and "mind" and yet a distinction has emerged seemingly to initiate a dialectical process for the purpose of the differentiation of consciousness. Some have resisted this distinction in favor of one side or the other; there are others who have seen and experienced the unity behind it all and these are the visionaries. But to attain this level of consciousness, and not experience it as the consequence of regression into unconsciousness, is exceptional, transpersonal, and probably the work of several centuries on the collective level.

Read more here.

Speaking of consciousness, here is Francis with the very conscious Grace Paley several years ago on the Goddard campus.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Graduating Student Workshops at IMA August 2010 Residency

At each Individualized MA residency, graduating students present their studies to the Goddard community. Here are the presentations students will be giving for the Aug. 6-13 residency. Altogether, these workshops give us a sense of the scope and depth of what students do when they can design their own studies.

Crossing Into Presence: Graduating Student Bernard Carey with Visiting Scholar DawN Crandell, Haybarn Theatre. “This theater piece is about my abandonment of my daughter and the pain that it has caused her.” It highlights the struggle that millions of families are going through, all across America. The consequences of father absenteeism are too devastating to our children and the fathers themselves to let this societal ill continue to run amok in our communities. The piece explores how Bernard and DawN were able to redirect the focus of
their relationship from a state of absence to a state of presence in this eye opening autobiographical work. In exploring ways to get their message out, they have come up with an empowering way to facilitate discussion in communities around the country on the issues of abandonment, responsibility and healing between a father and his children.

Unveiling Aphrodite: Examining the Mythology of Romantic Love, Graduating Student Amanda Lacson. My thesis is a personal and critical inquiry into Western myths of romantic love that have guided my expectations in relationships. I investigate the stories of my intimate relationships, linking my experience to popular Western myths and fairy tale, family
myths, and lesser-known non-Western and Western myths. I examine the meaning of mythology and its connection with cultural expectations of romantic love, discovering a conflict between the storied images and my personal experience.

Through the Lens of Speculative Fiction with Graduating Student Jacqueline Elmo. Humans use storytelling as a tool for communication, creative expression, instruction, social
cohesion, and self-reflection. This workshop explores how western fiction, particularly the speculative genre, is an exercise in the human capacity to empathize, imagine, and exist beyond the dominant stories and ideals propagated by culture. Drawing from my own relationship with fiction and with works from authors such as J.K. Rowling, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Philip K. Dick, this presentation will chronicle my own evolution from a passive observer of culture to an active
commentator by means of immersion and authorship.

Suicide, Creativity, and the Self, Graduating Student Mike Alvarez. Experience the songs of Phyllis Hyman and Kurt Cobain, the photographs of Kevin Carter, screen shots from Jeremy Blake's 'time-based paintings', and much more as we examine the paradoxical relationship between suicide and creativity. What do self-destructive behaviors and creative activities have in common? Is creative work intrinsically healing? And how does the disease model of mental disorders diminish our understanding of the human meaning behind suicide and creativity? These are some of the pressing questions my presentation will address--questions that have
far-reaching implications in a time and place where the self, and its manifold human dimensions, are radically medicalized.

Constructing the Monster with Graduating Student, Angela Davis. What is a monster? How is monstrous identity constructed? What is the function of the monster? My thesis explores these questions within medieval European representations of the Other through the lenses of language, culture, location, and the body. Come for the illustrations, stay for the discussion! Are you a monster?

“Girl from the Gold Country,” with Graduating Student, Jes Wright. Come learn more about how a young woman, who grew up eating pomegranates with fool’s gold dust fingertips
and leaping off rock walls, jumped into the role of the “good” mother, and wrote her way out of it through poetry. I will discuss how motherhood, as an experience and an institution, is assumed to be a woman’s ultimate role in the United States. Drawing from Feminist Theory, I will examine the oppressive experience of the “good” mother role, the historical causes and
consequences of this role, and explain how poetry within the site of Feminist Mothering may challenge patriarchal motherhood. I will share excerpts from my memoir, Girl from the Gold Country, and present a short slide show of my journey.

Becoming Slyboots with Graduating Student Griffin Brady. Feeling Sly? Keeping your head above water in the music industry can be tricky. As an aspiring professional musician and educator you will undoubtably have to be sly and rely on every ounce of cunning and intellect that you have in order to make a living. Truth be told, music is not about money. There is a much bigger picture when looking at music as an art form to be honed and refined through a dedicated life of study and practice. As a result of these notions I have found that making a living and making a life are not always the same thing. Through my study at Goddard, I have worked hard to uncover my inner Slyboots and heal that disconnect. Come enjoy a short presentation on my process becoming Slyboots and be prepared to drum.

Exile at the Cusp of Memory, with Graduating Student Jame Vincent. Exile at the Cusp of Memory: Reflections on Exile and Creativity, with Graduating Student Jame Vincent. The threads in my study of writing and memory connect and shape my understanding of the dynamics of exile, language and place. In my presentation, I will speak of familial and cultural memories as active and continual forces.

Discovering a Sense of Embodied Home with Graduating Student Jenny Gundy. My journey began with a desire to reconnect to a once fluent and fearless voice that had gone dry. I’d hoped this voice would empower me to speak out and work toward more sustainable ways of living. My goal was to empower my self and others to live simply, in harmony with the Earth. As I studied place, bioregionalism, homesteading, and renewable energy, I realized that the effort to reconnect with my voice was really a quest for home. What made home so elusive? The global system of patriarchy, assuming an unnatural split between mind and body and humanity and
nature, causes dissociation from our selves and the larger body of nature. Furthermore, the dominant narratives about women’s lives contributed to my feelings of “homelessness” in
this culture. Eventually, I came to understand that home is an embodied state, a feeling of integration in my self, my human relationships and nature.