Compelled to Write (and Think!)

12 02 2007

A most ingenious paradox? — In unschooling with my children there are no rules, no curriculum, no instruction. Yet we all are COMPELLED to write practically non-stop.

Which came to mind reading the latest Stanley Fish blogpost — munch on this if your palate feels so compelled (mine does!)

If a reader feels consoled or comforted, that’s all to the good, but it’s not what writing is about. Writing is about crafting sentences and building them into paragraphs and building the paragraphs into arguments and narratives. What (NPR’s Diane) Rehm and her listeners were proffering was a rationale for the act that was not internal to its demands, a rationale that could take the form of an external justification: “I write so that you will feel better or, I write so that the world will become a better place.”

Toibin was saying, I write because making things out of words is what I feel compelled to do.
. . . to locate the value of the writing either in its effects or in the verisimilitude it achieves is to grab the wrong end of the stick. . .

If you’ve found something you really like to do – say write beautiful sentences – not because of the possible benefits to the world of doing it, but because doing it brings you the satisfaction and sense of completeness nothing else can, then do it at the highest level of performance you are capable of, and leave the world and its problems to others.

This is a lesson I have preached before in these columns when the subject was teaching, and it is a lesson that can be applied, I believe, to any project that offers as a prime reason for prosecuting it the pleasure, a wholly internal pleasure, of its own accomplishment.

And if your project doesn’t offer that pleasure (perhaps among others) you might want to think again about your commitment to it.

Pass Your Plate

12 02 2007

More free food for thought:

“Public education is supposed to be the universal solution, not the universal problem.

Maybe the problem isn’t so much our schools but our own ignorance — we can’t or won’t interrelate language, learning, liberty, and leadership as Webster did so well, 200 years ago. It seems we dutifully completed our own schooling yet cannot understand the meanings most important to our own lives, liberties and pursuits, never mind anyone else’s.. .”

Culture Kitchen seconds warmed up from one year ago today

Suspend Force Feeding, Create Compelling Feast

12 02 2007

Snookers are invited to join in a new thought experiment that leapt to mind in wee-hour-of-the-morning comments.

Get to work on those entry ideas . . .you know you’ve been waiting for this day to arrive! Source material for a jump-start might include The Thinking Parent (parts one, two AND three) and

To arrive at the edge of the world’s knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves.

Or think The Deviant’s Advantage as challenger in a School Network Iron Chef grudge match against The Logic of Failure:

Common ingredient for this title match? Compulsion of course.

In his 2002 book The Deviant’s Advantage, Wacker suggests that our current society is undergoing relentless, all-encompassing change, which will do nothing but accelerate. This constant change results in an “Abolition of Context” — the inability of business and society to find commonly agreed upon reference points.

“Context is the framework, the structure, the collective common understanding that allows us to live our lives and run our businesses,” Wacker writes in his book. “Take it away and it’s all but impossible to know what’s the right or wrong action to take.”

Such a situation makes it more difficult for companies to create commercially viable, long-lasting goods and services. This environment also creates stress, anxiety and confusion for the individual. With social mores constantly shifting, people seek a “proliferation of perspectives” to make sense of the world.

Credibility, a traditionally reliable context as it has been viewed until now, is dead, Wacker says. “Knowing what other people think news means, in many layers, is more important.

Suggested grand prize protocol, for this multi-course Thinking Citizen menu of questioning compulsion? How about a knowledgeable, balanced blend of visceral, practical and emotional appeal, presented on crisp beds of regional wit and wisdom, seasoned with some secret sauce from that old family recipe —

and served not because you’re compelled to clean your plate, but because your educated palate just can’t resist a taste.