It’s relatively post-covid, and students are struggling to climb out of the tar-sands of disconnection. The world is in political and environmental crisis and we’re doing our Great Artists project, but it seems something else is required.
Improvisation is the tip of the physio-cognitive-fractal iceberg that organizes all things and with covid restrictions loosening, we are starting to feel the fricative inspirations of interface. We can speak, play, act, leap about, sing, touch, even breathe without fear.
Part of Montessori curriculum features Great Lessons – magnificent stories animating events that sculpt the universe. These stories are told/enacted in the early years (6 to 9) and spiral into deeper complexities as inquiry-based learning proceeds.
One of my upper elementary classes (9 to 12) is doing a body/earth systems project that involves an integrated arts dialogue between, for example - respiration/forests; digestion/wetlands; skeletal/mountains; circulation/rivers; and reproduction/nucleosynthesis (the birth of the universe). The reproduction group designed a giant body and, in the background, created magnificent chalk pastel impressions of cosmic inflation. This hovered in my mind.
The next day, I showed my junior high class a YouTube of self-styled “philosopher-entertainer” Alan Watts describing the concept of Wu Wei or non-forcing. We watched it, discussed our acrylic pours of the week before. The students described their feelings - “… The paint painted us.” “I was surprised at how easy it was…” “All the patterns and colours were so different but we were using the same paints …” etc. and then I tried a creative visualization hearkening back to the concept of creativity being a life-force event that permeated and permeates all things. My hope - to cast a drop in our cognitive bucket promoting systems change as a response to climate change and global disaster.
We doused the lights, lay down, relaxed, and imagined our breath breathing us - feeling part of a universe that was vital with self-regulating wisdom
It was going so beautifully! (After a multitude of false starts) And then, as the blissful peace descended, and the chorus of mind began to unite - a rude sound – a huge guffaw – an eruption of laughter – accusations – imprecations - and the mood was shattered. Ahhhhhh! I exploded in micro-nucleo-synthetic frustration.
“You take over,” I said, beaten. There was a pause. Then I rallied with overdramatic intensity and said, “But YOU need to rediscover that creative brilliance of a self-regulating nature that throbs in the heart and bones of us all … that we just had … and lost. Get it back. Can you?”
They were still lying in the semi-dark – was this a microcosm of the Structure Epoch, in which gravity (emotional and physical) began to prevail? It was calm and the focus had changed from forming to form.
D volunteered, “I can do this,” seconds elapsed and then he rolled out an amazing conflation of flow art, street rap, and geopolitical imaginings … in a natural progression Z took over and moved the story into present crises featuring war, doom, and beauty. It was surprising, enthralling, a Great Lesson in humility and the nucleus of new.
“Ok,” I said, sensing the time might be right to wrap it up and proceed to doing. “Do we want a happy ending?” S jumped into the void … “The world was destroyed,” he toned. “Environmental and financial collapse ravaged the planet leaving only fragments of dead memory. Nothing moved. Nothing stirred. Time … the inevitable beat of being, finally expired in a conflagration so profound that it singed the eyes of God, Gods, Goddesses” (or words to that effect) … there was silence in the classroom as we contemplated nihilism down to our toes …
“And then,” S continued … From the sky towards the ravaged earth, a tiny drop of paint fell.” It hovered above the surface.” A pause. We were in the story. Lying on the earth we had created in collaboration with the news, shared experience, our unique ability to project …
“The drop of paint landed … expanded … began to reawaken the earth with its colour. Plants grew … flowers … the air cleared … tiny animals took their place in the chain of life. And the planet was renewed.” S finished. The sense of despair that had hovered in nervous laughter as things turned dire evaporated. Everyone clapped.
Reenter the teacher … “Without speaking,” take a paper and write whatever you want, but don’t speak aloud. Just put your feeling onto the paper and don’t worry about spelling or punctuation. Let the words write you.”
And they did! Streams of consciousness flowed and so did enigmatic titles for their flow art.
We put them on the walls … a visual tribute to Chaos, Cacophony, and Creation.