Monday, November 1, 2010

Money as Debt

İt has been a while since my last blog. Part of this hiatus has been due to questioning the relevancy of the original intention of this blog to what seems most important to me these days. İ had started this blog as vehicle to share various musings that occurred to me as a way to provide inspiration to myself and others in the context of building on the creative endeavors in my live. İ wanted to make art and share with others what İ came across along the way, thinking that it would be useful and interesting. İ am still drawing everyday and find lots of uses for my art in my classroom at school. But talking just about art has never been a subject İ had much time for. As the worldwide global depression continues to unfold, İ find myself more and more interested in understanding this catastrophe which history tells me will change everything İ have known. These times are certainly interesting in a nod to the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times." İn educating myself about our current situation, İ discovered that my knowledge of money, that thing that drives so much of our lives,lacked much sophistication.İ discovered that most of my ideas about what money is and where it comes from have been based on disinformation. İ am certain that İ am not alone in this as were more truths about money and economics more widely known, İ believe we would not be facing what may be the worst economic crisis in history. Toward this end, İ want to recommend Damon Vrabel to you. İ think listening to what this man has to say and what he has to teach is time well spent.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Have you been standarized?

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. Ralph Waldo Emerson.

İ am of the mind that much of the conformity we walk around with belongs in the category of foolish consistency to which Emerson was referring. Toward this end, İ want to thank Alan Watt for bringing to my attention a little book called " An Anatomy for Conformity". I want to share the closing passage of this illuminating text:

How to Do İt

İf one wishes to produce conformity for good or evil, the formula is clear. Manage to arouse a need or needs that are important to the individual or to the group. Offer a goal which is appropriate to the need or needs. Make sure that conformity is instrumental to the achievement of the goal and that the goal is as large and as certain as possible. Apply the goal or reward at every opportunity. Try to prevent the object of your efforts from obtaining an uncontrolled education. Choose a setting that is ambiguous. Do everything possible to see that the individual has little or no confidence in his own position. Do everything possible to make the norm which you set appear highly valued and attractive. Set it at a level not too far initially from the starting position of the individual or the group and move it gradually toward the behavior you wish to produce. Be absolutely certain you know what you want and that you are willing to pay an enormous price in human quality, for whether the individual or the group is aware of it or not, the result will be CONFORMİTY

I recently received a message from a long time friend who just left the teaching profession after over 15 years of service because of her frustrations with the public schooling system, in large part to its overweening fixation on testing which she characterized as an interference upon the actual teaching of the schools. It is often assumed that a high quality standardized test is a reliable measure of learning which provides meaningful feedback to students, teachers, parents and administrators about student achievement and thereby providing a measure for accountability for all involved. Part of the logic underlying such testing is that the learning being measured must conform to the parameters of the test in order to be valued. Implicit in this logic,learning that falls outside these parameters is not measured and therefore not valued. To be sure, some learning may be measured in this fashion, but if we allow for individual learners and their unique needs, it is easy to see that the cost/benefit analysis of such testing endeavors favors the test makers over the test takers.İf you think of such tests in light of what İ shared earlier about how to create conformity, İ think its quite clear that tests are part of the armaments used to induce conformity and ease the prospects for control within the populace. Having been a teacher for ten years now and a student for too many years beyond that, İ am sad to admit how much İ have been involved in the machinery of conformity.
Over time, İ have become more and more convinced that such things as tests and other standardized forms within modern schooling reflect not flaws of the system merely requiring enlightened revisioning and reform but rather key features of a dehumanizing process. The negative outcomes of this process should be understood as evidence of the malevolent success of this system. İt has not been poorly designed to create an enlightened populace, but rather brilliantly engineered to pump out broken humans ready to take their appointed place. Outside of my experience in support of this view and İ would argue, in line with much of the school experience of anybody reading this, İ would like to share some relevant points raised by John Taylor Gatto in his essay, The Six Lesson School Teacher:

Lesson One: Stay in the Class Where You Belong.

Lesson Two: Turn On and Off Like a Light Switch.

Lesson Three: Surrender Your Will to a Predetermined Chain of Command.

Lesson Four: Only Authorities Will Determine What Curriculum You Will Study.

Lesson Five: Your Self-Respect Should Depend on an Observer's Measure of Your Worth.

Lesson Six: You Are Being Watched.

Gatto has lots more to say about our educational system and I highly recommend reading what he has to say. İ'll be looking for ways to get out of the foolish consistency İ've found myself in.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Invitation

I have been meaning to post this poem for a while. It is one of my favorites, one that has inspired me ever since I first read it. Every once in a while, I come across something that makes me think about my life, who I am and how that is all sitting with me. This poem is one of those somethings.


The Invitation by Oriah

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon...
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

By Oriah © Mountain Dreaming,
from the book The Invitation
published by HarperONE, San Francisco,
1999 All rights reserved

Back Home

I am back from vacation and ensconced in my new domicile. The two weeks I spent with my Dad and Aunt Connie were great. My folks had expressed the desire to see Turkey off the beaten track so back roads it was. My father-in-law was a splendid tour guide, sharing so many of the little gems that only the locals know. Outside all the great sights we saw, it was also momentous for the fact that it was the first time Sinan had spent with his Grandpa Gary and Great Aunt Connie. Sinan and I are at home for a couple of weeks exploring the parks in our environs until I start back to work at the end of August. I hope this missive finds you all well.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Viva Vacation!

I will be on vacation soon so my posts will be sporadic for a while. This summer will be a momentous one as I have family arriving from the States soon for visit. I am looking forward to showing my family around some of my favorite places in Turkey and to seeing some new to me as well. Before they arrive,I am moving to a new home where I will have more room for my art. After all tha fun ends, I will begin preparing for a new teaching position this fall starting at a new school where I will have my own classroom for the first time ever! Have a grand summer!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Art Wars

Creation goes through its ebbs and flows. I like to think of the time when creation slows as a time of filling the well so that future work may be replenished. I believe that being creative means keeping a commitment to create, a disciplined approach that maintains a regular contact with the work you are creating. I don't subscribed to the notion that an artist is someone who waits for inspiration to strike and then fills the canvas with that inspiration. Rather, I find that inspiration comes out of working every day, in my case, drawing, especially when you don't feel particularly inspired at all. The common notion of inspiration is related to the mystification of artists, perhaps by themselves, where the artist is seen as some sort of magically endowed human who can do what no ordinary human can do. I think that any of the artistic avenues of creation are completely accessible to anyone who cares to spend the time needed to develop the skills related to the art form they are interested in. To be sure, there seems to be a range of aptitude whereby initially, one person may pick up the techniques of this or that art more quickly or with more ease than another, but experience shows me that the race goes not to the swiftest but to those committed to the long haul. The fact that genius exists does not mean that only genius should be considered worthwhile. While few of us will ever be like Mike, we can all learn to play the game and enjoy it for its own merits. Recently I have been in one of those chop wood, carry water times, not feeling particularly inspired in my drawing and I came across Art Wars, a website that offers periodically running contests for artists as a way to generate inspiration among other things. I entered the piece posted here as entry for the "Eyes" contest. Just like doing this blog every week has been a great boost for me artistically, I think entering in art contests such as Art Wars will be a boon to me as well.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cherry Picking

İt's cherry season here in Turkey and one of the yearly traditions in our family here is to meet in one of my wife's family cherry orchards and spend the afternoon with family picking cherries, eating some of the pickings and other delicious foods. We just came back from an afternoon of that so if you are in the neighborhood, you are welcome to come a get some of the cherries that are overflowing from our fridge. Sinan had a great time playing with one of his cousins and hated having to leave. After being cooped up in the big city, getting out into the country is such a treat. The rain has been generous around here and the fields around my wife's village are golden with grain and green with knee-high sunflowers. And of, course the cherry trees are heavy with fruit. An interesting aside about the area where the village is, it became the homeland of a group of Celts who left Southern France to be auxiliaries for the Roman legions nearly 2000 years ago. There is one hill İ have visited overlooking her village topped with a field of rocks that looks like it could have been part of some ancient fort. İ hope you avail yourselves to the opportunity of seeing such things and more when you pay me a visit.