Busy week at work. What day is it? Tuesday, even so. Emails crossing strike zone, many high, many low. Simultaneity is the complication. Batter facing several pitches at once. Never allow the emails to discombobulate. Filing them is easy. Drag and drop to “filed away.” Where they will never be seen again unless you go searching. Unless there is a FOIA request. Either I have not after a decade adapted to WPA rhythms, or WPA rhythms have not after a decade adapted to me. Mid-semester fire sale. Fire sale is a metaphor for frenzy and chaos. Only in this metaphor the fire that sent up smoke and flame that led to discounted goods now on sale (is this what fire sale even means?) is also a hair on fire scenario sale. Hair on fire is also an incendiary metaphor, only it’s more urgent because hair fires are significantly more urgent and potentially more harmful than ordinary fires. All of these fires are metaphors and should be taken with a grain of salt, which is an idiom for douse of baking soda, or water, or some other extinguishing matter.
I’ve continued to draw, albeit more slowly. More than five hours into this-here, Lift #23, something like a masked, anthropomorphized mandala subjected to the annoyances of serpentine figure. A dragonfly knows to conjure and contain fire. And so: Put more care into each line. Erase and redraw. Get it just right. Wabi sabi, too, though, so do not chase perfectionism. Zoom in. Make junctures that touch.
The world’s exhaust and sparks, it’s a noxious lot right now. Just gonna leave it be that. Pandemic and high amperage outrage because George Floyd should still be alive. Ahmaud Arbery should still be alive. Breonna Taylor should still be alive. Feel that heartache. Anger and outrage. Empathize. Listen. Notice those closest who can use a hand, a place to stay, a dollar, a break. Pass forward what few dollars I can spare into the relief of others’ pain. Sit, dwell on ways of sorting through all the more there is to say, all the more there is to act upon, what it will take to forge ahead. Encourage healing. At your pace. Stay focused and patient-persistent and good.
Tenth of May, Mother’s Day; therefore, a Mother’s Day drawing, like when I was ten, nine, eight, seven, six. I’d have drawn then for grandmothers, too. Especially noteworthy this time, this Mother’s Day, a meta-holiday (like double-rainbow) for its being the 23rd Mother’s Day since 1997. That’s the year my mom died and also the year when I was 23. As half-lives to radiation (gratitude and shout-out to Marie Curie), are HRRs to the death of parents. Maybe? (Pandemic fills us with second-thoughts…on second thought…on second thought…on second thought.) HRR radiates a couple of ways, a measure of heat, as in Heat Rate Release, a measure of heart, as in Heart Rate Recovery. Visceral equilibrations, change evens out over time, entropy and upheaval labor fatigued, grow quiet. Pain settles. Heat cools. Hearts still.
Decided naw, no need to finesse this into the bestiary series, let it be the one-off that it is, a different brush, layers, a game of forms, rotations, illusions of intergenerational-familial integration that never really were especially integrated. But my mom, she always knew that and helped me understand with okayness the kindness of a particular way–a way I’m still thankful not to have forgotten these twenty-three years since, the lastingness awesome of her parenting, such a last-lasting gift to share.
I’ve held for what months or longer this excerpt from Ram Dass, posted at Revoked some time before they shed space suit for some alternative astral way of being around. On contentment as method:
In yoga, one of the methods is called ‘contentment’. That’s not a goal, that’s a method.“Words of Wisdom,” Ram Dass, Revoked, August 14, 2019
I can be content this moment, and the next moment I’m moving toward something else. When I am here I am content, when I am here I am content, when I am here I am content. So even though you are going to change something the next minute, that doesn’t mean you change it out of discontent. It changes because it changes.
That is the basis that you do everything in yoga.
Contentment as method. Contentment as above-path, quagmire hovercraft; in yoga, yes, I can find this. The good enoughness of a pose right now. The satisfieciency of this, here-now, floor and mat, gravity and breath. With contentment as method, for work (research, teaching, administrating), for non-work and all that it entails, there is in this relief from straining and striving. Go sit on a shelf, goals. Agency is fatiguing and sometimes needs quieted. Contentment says enough, have an exhale and a pause, surrender to the entropy, have a break from so much reaching.
I am teaching a research design class this semester. And too, of course, we’ve been visited by a pandemic, which has meant IRB suspensions, workaround-thinking, making do, resignation to changes that are out of our hands. We shift online. We Zoom. We grant flexibilities such that everyone can to the extent possible adapt and adjust. Lives are different from waking until sleeping again. Yoga intersperses, walking yoga, reading yoga, cooking yoga, Netflixing yoga, and relationship (the most difficult of yogas). And, too, research goes on–wondering and inquiry that sometimes involves others and sometimes involves only writing, processing, sorting things out. I’ve been thinking a lot about the friction (that edge, almost touching) between career and contentment, between inquiry and contentment, between rhetoric (as compositional, making, striving for change) and contentment. About motive(s).
Contentment as method (in yoga) risks hinting at passivity. In one way of approaching this (perhaps too difficult, perhaps needlessly difficult) pose, motive lapses, disperses. Contentment seems to abandon motive, doesn’t it? I’m not interested in sketching an argument with Ram Dass; no jousting at evacuated space suits. Where’d they go? But I am wondering about that something-more, the fire whose heat is felt in yoga as in motive as in inquiry. Contentment, too, draws on some kind of spark that is not exclusively passive. I have enough, yes, and I am enough, yes. This here-now is enough, yes. And then some–always a paradox. Even so, wonder and inquire, reach and breathe.
Contentment as method, it’s qualitatively helpful. But fire as method, too, grasps at something important about how that change happens. Not another definition of agency (we are reading about agentic shift this week, fittingly). Not necessarily fire as raging with destructive force. But a striker strip, a spark, heat and flame and combustion, immolation as method. Fire as method. What does your research turn to ash? What does your research raise up from the embers? Fire as above-path, quagmire hovercraft; in yoga, yes, I can find this. And sometimes in research. The potential and ever-rising heat of a pose right now, in spite of being human.
Didn’t have time enough in Indianapolis to attend any of the sessions about threshold concepts, but I did hear about them in hallway and dinner conversations. I’d encountered the phrase before in this article, but at #4c14, it seemed like an awful lot was coming up threshold concepts, seemed like there’s a growing gusto for this sort of thing. Threshold concepts as their own sort of threshold. The oncoming threshold concept turn.
Home-ish now from the convention, tonight I was reading to Is. before bed, near the end of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, a book we’ve been chipping away at for, I don’t know, a month or more, every other bedtime. Harry and Hermione are advancing “Through the Trapdoor” (the 16th chapter’s title), in front of them a dead troll:
“I’m glad we didn’t have to fight that one,” Harry whispered as they stepped carefully over one of its massive legs. “Come on, I can’t breathe.”
He pulled open the next door, both of them hardly daring to look at what came next–but there was nothing very frightening in here, just a table with seven differently shaped bottles standing on it in a line.
“Snape’s,” said Harry. “What do we have to do?”
They stepped over the threshold, and immediately a fire sprang up behind them in the doorway. It wasn’t ordinary fire either; it was purple. At the same instant, black flames shot up in the doorway leading onward. They were trapped. (285)
Is. interrupted here to ask, “What’s a threshold?” And, attempting with a weak shrug to reach across connotations both referring to door trim and limits, I said, “It’s something like an edge, a boundary.”
That thresholds trap, enclose, bound, constrain, pen up, etc. and that they simultaneously, by doing so, protect, focus, and intensify a domain is at least part of their paradox. And I should be clear that I look forward to learning more about this idea emerging in service of disciplinary bona fides. But I’m also wondering where the idea (toward common disciplinary articulations) maps onto or butts up against rhetoric, which seems especially with invention and memory to by constituted by a kind of thresholding–if we can verb TC for a second–the re-articulations that themselves ignite and also extinguish flamewalls like the ones sandwiching poor Harry and Hermione in Rowling’s narrative telos.
Just wondering now which narrative telos “our” threshold concepts will flamewall in and flamewall out. Wondering how (im)permeable and how burning-hot the flamewalls will become and how much will char in their proximity.
The unfamiliar process taught me a great deal about collaborative drafting
that I didn’t know before. Often it seemed like dabbling on the edges,
often like plunging in–designations that captures the uncertainty I felt
at times, the turn-taking, and the refreshing experience of opening a Google Doc
to find that someone else had poured an hour’s worth of smart work into the
manuscript since the last session. Sure, I’ve read a little bit about
collaboration, talked about it, even asked students to work together, but until
now I can’t honestly say that I’ve undertaken anything quite like this before.
When I first saw the above photograph turn up via TriangleTriangle’s RSS
feed, I was at a point when it cried out: There’s this raging fire to put out.
My colleague was intensely engaged in knocking out the flames while I was, like
the pumpkin shopper standing in the foreground, basically shitting around. So
many pumpkins! I’d flagged the photo for its commentary on collaborative
writing–something I was both doing and also thinking of blogging about–and its
significance shifted. Not an all reversal of studium and punctum
here, but an identity-urgency, an itch: I, too, sought a turn on the ladder.
Turn after turn came later, authorial identifications shifted as if caught in a
turn-style, and the chapter draft took shape, coming more or less solidly
together. This has left me thinking about collaborative writing as worth trying
a few more times for the way I now conceive of the process via something like a
post-dialogic dual occupancy, standing in the foreground (Which pumpkin?) and on
the ladder, happily and at once.