Friday, December 16, 2011

Theatre is...

Theatre is the people who are involved, the friendships that are created, the hard work you put into it, the hours of hurry-up-and-wait, the memorizing, living in a another world for just a little bit, the rehearsal, walking through the process with a great director, and the click you feel when you finally get your character.  It is the moment before you step on stage, the audience, the way a show takes off and seems to fly, the applause, the bittersweet knowledge that there is one less time to do this, and the stories of near misses and mistakes that only the actors know.  Theatre is the difference between a first show and a last show, the memories that are made, devoting yourself to something so fully that it consumes your life for a little while, and knowing that you have succeeded in making art.  That is theatre.
Theatre centers me.  Just stepping into a theatre brings a sense of calm I don’t get anywhere else.  To me, a theatre feels alive.  It is a place where stories are told and art is shared. 
Storefront Theatre has a “use what you have” mentality that appeals to me.  The act of creating out of almost nothing is a fantastic feeling.  It adds a new level to the stories that you can tell.  Sometimes, less is more. 
I know I may not be able to act throughout my whole life, but one way or another I will be involved in theatre.  It is an experience that I always want to have again and one that I will remember forever.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Saint Augustine's Confessions Part 6

In this chapter Augustine has been focusing on memory.  This brought several questions to mind.
How much of who we are is shaped by memory?  As we remember things, we change them in the act of remembering.  If we are shaped by memory, can we change ourselves by changing our memories?
Just some thoughts that have been knocking around in my head.

Saint Augustine's Confessions and Way of the Human Being part 4

As I write I often find myself slipping into a very formulaic sentence structure.  Every sentence is exactly the same and it plods along.  Once I have my ideas and arguments laid out I go back and rewrite every sentence.
It is a bit harder to do this when the ideas haven't yet fallen into place.  Instead of reworking what I have I'm erasing and writing completely new stuff.  This paper is like pulling teeth.

Saint Augustine's Confessions Part 5

Chapter 10 is labeled Memory.  I had glanced through it before and it looked interesting and so I was looking forward to reading it.

It is confusing.  I'm not sure I understood much of it.  It is laid out very differently from the rest of the book and it feels different as well.  I don't know if he changed his way of writing or what but it is harder to read.  He is also talking about things that I have never really thought about before and diving deeper into subjects that I have considered.
All in all it is a section that I feel like I have to read and reread over and over.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Saint Augustine's Confessions and Way of the Human Being part 3

Sometimes when I write papers they come very easily.  I know what I want to say and it just happens in a logical order.  Other times it is like feeling around in the dark hoping that I'll stumble across a point I want to make and then fiddling about with the ideas I have until it is in a readable order.  This paper is turning out to be the stumbling kind.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Way of the Human Being Part 3

The way Martin describes my culture in the Way of the Human Being is not flattering.  In his eyes the traditional Native American culture is superior.  They seem to have the monopoly on the perfect way of living.  He makes it sound as if they have the right idea and we are ignorant people who have lost a key aspect or being a human.  I don't have clearly articulated thoughts on this yet but there is something that puts me on edge.  Maybe because I am not a Native American, for him to completely write off my culture seems unfair.  I don't think that my culture is perfect.  Far from it!  But by writing off my culture I feel as if he is also writing off part of me.

Saint Augustine's Confessions and Way of the Human Being part 2

I have discovered a new problem.  When I try to write a paper that deals with big issues that I have also been dealing with it changes from a comparison to a opinion paper.  This will need to change.  I need to remember that I'm not writing about what I think based on what I've read from these authors but what THEY think in comparison to each other.  The first draft is very much that.  A first draft.  It will change quite a bit.  Hopefully it will turn into a actual paper as opposed to a word barf of my own thoughts.

Saint Augustine's Confessions and Way of the Human Being

While both Augustine and Calvin Luther Martin agree that reality is more than what we see just in front of our faces, they disagree on what that reality is and how we go about finding it.  Augustine sees the ultimate reality as a understanding of God and evil.  Martin sees it as a connection and balance between the earth and humans.  Both of them argue for a spiritual aspect of reality but while Augustine believes that our interactions with God are the most important, Martin sees our interactions with animal-people and the earth as the highest priority.

Saint Augustine's Confessions: Themes

Throughout the book Augustine wrestles with the idea of God.  How can our brains comprehend the massive idea of God without trying to reduce Him to a material form?  How do we perceive God?  

"How could I see this when me eye saw only the body and my mind only a construct?  Nor did I realize that God is a spirit, without parts of his whole having their own length or breadth or weight.  Any part would weigh less than the whole.  If spread everywhere, such a body would still weigh more or less in any spacial segment of it, and each part could not be everywhere, as with the spirit, as with God" 

He also thinks about how we perceive the world around us.

"I 'called up before my mind' the whole range of creation, whatever is obvious in it to our senses - earth and sea and air and stars and trees and animals - and whatever is not taken in by our senses - the high spiritual canopy and all angels and all spiritual entities.  But even the latter, like the former, I imagined as occupying some kind of place.  I made out the whole of creation as one vast physical stuff, articulated into different sorts of material bodies - the real bodies or those I imagined as the spiritual realities.  I made it out as vast, without giving it any specific magnitude (which I could not measure) but, be it ever so large, reaching a certain limit in any of its extensions.  And you, Lord, I saw as embracing and pervading all parts of this mass, but stretching far outside it on all sides - as if there were a sea everywhere, and everywhere only this boundless sea throughout the endless reaches, and in the sea a huge but not infinite sponge, totally soaked with that sea in every particle of it."

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Way of the Human Being Part 2

I am very good at immersing myself in the fictional worlds of books.  If the rules of that world say that something is true I will completely believe it within the world the author has created.  This is great if I am reading fiction.  However, when I read nonfiction this skill carries over.  I still unconsciously view the world of the book as separate from the real world.  Any idea or argument that the author introduces in the book becomes very true to me within that world.  Because of this I have a hard time taking ideas or arguments and looking at them in a critical way.  I also have a hard time transferring those ideas from the world of the book to my life.
 I have a feeling that as I read The Way of the Human Being this is pose a problem.  Problem noted and will be paid attention to.

The Way of the Human Being Part 1

As I started reading this book I was already looking for anything that has to do with Beauty/Quality.  I wasn't disappointed.

"Beauty has an older claim on us than does time; beauty was there in the beginning before time was conceived; it was inherent in the originating Word, the idea and its pronouncement.  Time is but beauty's scaffolding."

"We were created, they say, to restore the beautiful."

"The weaving-way restores the beautiful.  Beauty comes from the act itself; "man experiences beauty by creating it,"say the Navajo.  Understood is the principle that an event is nothing without human participation: there can be no beauty without our creating role in it."

"There is beauty, and, existing outside it, unconscious of it, there is time."

Ah ha!  The ongoing theme strikes again.   

Monday, October 31, 2011

Saint Augustine's Confessions Part 4

Augustine has a way with words.  Once you get past the initial difficulty of reading the older language it is beautiful.  He can get straight to the heart of the matter.

"You knew what was going on within me.  No human did.  My lips could disseminate little of it to even my closest friends.  How could I find the time or the eloquence to report all the ravages of my soul?"

This semester has been a time of looking at big questions and trying to wrap my head around them in new ways. There has been a lot to think about and the combination of reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and now Augustine is giving me a little bit a whiplash.
Augustine can put into words things that are difficult to articulate.

Saint Augustine's Confessions Part 3

As I read through Augustine's Confessions I find that there are sentences that jump out at me.  Certain things that grab my attention and resonate with things I have been feeling or struggling with.

"Two wills were mine, old and new, of the flesh, of the spirit, each warring with each other, and between their dissonances, my soul was disintegrating."

"I could not renounce the world to follow you when I was still undecided about your truth.  Now I knew."

"Though no one wants to sleep forever. realizing that wakefulness is the higher state, yet man puts off waking when torpor, making heavy all his limbs, smothers him sweetly in slumber, against his better sense that 'it was time to be rising'" "All I could mumble, muzzily, was: later on.  Or: Any moment now.  Or: Wait a bit.  But the any-moment never came, and wait-a-bit stretched out into endless bits."   

This last one really hit home.  
Lots of things to think about.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thoughts on Zen and the Grade System

In his search for Quality, the Narrator from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance pauses briefly on grades.  He says that grades decrease creativity and quality.  The Narrator explains that in the grade system, students learn to desire the letter grade.  The way to achieve the grade is to do what the teacher wants and because of this the system teaches the students to blindly follow the teacher’s lead.  The Narrator makes it very clear that the system trains students to refuse to work unless there is a carrot held out for them and the threat of a whip behind them.  Try to be too original and the system could punish you.  Follow the spoken and unspoken rules and you get the highly desired A. 
One of the first things the Narrator does to think his way through this idea is come up with a theoretical situation about an average student who had grown up in the system and was suddenly introduced to a school with no grades.  
This student enters his first semester of school and has a hard time finding motivation to get his work done without the push of the grade system.  There is no obvious punishment for not turning things in or not coming to class.  At the same time, without any grades, there doesn’t seem to be any reward for actually doing the work and trying to learn the material.  He doesn’t have anything from the outside pushing him to learn, his motivation has to come from the inside.  He turns in the first couple assignments because it is habit.  After a while he skips a class here or there and misses some of the material.  The next time he comes to class, things don’t make as much sense so he skips the next class.  Eventually he stops going to class altogether and drops out of school.  This student gets a job after he leaves.  Perhaps he never returns but as he progresses with his job he might want to learn more about his work.  A couple years later he decides to go back to school and this time he has an interest in what he is doing, so he throws all his effort into class and does well.  The lack of grades doesn’t hinder him the second time because he learns to gain knowledge, not a grade.  
At this point the Narrator moves from his hypothetical situation to an experiment with his students.  He withholds grades from one of his classes to see if better quality work will result.  At first the students are confused.  Many see it as an excuse to slack off because they don’t know how to learn without grades.  For them, the grade system is the only way to learn; the only way to become educated. 
The Narrator believes that the purpose of a university is to educate people.  Society benefits from educated people who know how to think creatively and make good choices with the knowledge and experience they have.  This system was set up to teach people what they need to know in order to do just that.  Society assumes that college prepares students for the real world.  In reality, if a student has grown up in the school system, he needs the real world to prepare him to get the most out of college.  Instead of the creative thought needed for college and life beyond that point, school squashes creative thinking and teaches students to follow the leader.  If the system set up to improve society by educating people actually decreases their creative ability, something is awry. 
 Because of this, the students in the Narrator’s class see the absence of grades as a breakdown of everything school has taught them.  Without grades, his students have no idea how tell if they are learning something or not.  They have never experienced any other kind of feedback.  The students are thrown into a new way of learning that they have never experienced before.  Some of students turn in work and come to class but none of the work is high quality and any involvement in class discussions is halfhearted.  The majority of the class doesn’t even show up the first few weeks. 
If the Narrator were to stop the experiment at this point it would look like the experiment failed.  The lack of grades is not producing higher quality work from the students; instead it is not producing any work at all.  One of his co-workers asks the Narrator what he is going to do with a bunch of students that won’t even bother to come to class.  He replies “Wait them out.”
   As the class goes on the students dive deeper into the class.  Conversations in class turn into actual discussions and people share their ideas.  The students begin turning in excellent work.  Some adjust better than others do but at the end of the class most of students are involved in discussions and actively learning.  The Narrator did provide them with constructive criticism and feedback on the work that they turned in.  A lack of grades does not mean stumbling blindly around trying to find the answers.
As the Narrator looks at the results of his class, he concludes that students do well without grades but only if the teacher sets some type of goal for the students.  He doesn’t know how a teacher might set that goal without reducing creativity in the classroom nor does he pursue that idea to a point where he might find an answer.  His ideal class would include students who instinctively know what quality is without him having to teach them. 
I believe he comes to the conclusion that the very act of teaching limits creativity.  He starts with the idea that a certain part of the system is the problem and concludes, without coming right out and saying it, that something is wrong with the entire system.  But instead of thinking through to a possible answer he drops the subject entirely and moves on in his pursuit of quality. 
The Narrator establishes some good points about grades and it was interesting to read about his experiment with his students but I think that his arguments are lacking.  While I didn’t need much persuading to agree about the grade system I don’t think that someone who had grown up in the system would readily agree with the Narrator.  It is an interesting subject but one that is not covered very well in the book. 
If the grade system changes, students still need some kind of feedback on how they are doing or they need the teacher to set the goal for them.  If the goal is not an A then there needs to be a concept or idea to master.  Ideally this goal should help facilitate learning and discussion.  If, at the end of the class the students are able to talk about or think about this concept in a more intelligent way and with more understanding and knowledge than they could before, then that is more valuable that an A.     
            The Narrator’s thoughts and ideas on the school system, grades, and the quality that might be found within those structures is interesting and worth thinking about but he doesn’t spend enough time on the subject to produce a sturdy argument.  

Monday, October 24, 2011

Saint Augustine's Confessions Part 2

"But he is worse off if he holds that his error is a matter of religious faith, and persists stubbornly in the error.  His faith is still a weak thing in its cradle, needing the milk of a mothering love, until the youth grows up and cannot be the plaything, any more, of every doctrinal wind that blows."

The last line really struck a cord with me.  I feel as if my faith is still very weak.  I don't know enough and the new ideas that are being presented have a large effect on me.  They can easily sway me one way or another if I am not very careful in my thinking.  I have a foundation but many of those ideas I have taken for granted without dissecting exactly what it is they are saying.  If I don't know how the things I believe effect my life then how can I add new ideas and information to that?  How would I know if they go against one another?
This is something I have been thinking on quite a bit as I learn new things and try to figure out how my faith should effect my life.

Saint Augustine's Confessions Part 1

After reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance this was hard to get into.  The way in which it is written is a bit off putting and hard to wrap your head around.  When I read sections 1-3 I was focused mostly on how hard it was to read and not so much on what he was saying.  Having now read 4-6 I can start to pay attention to the meaning of the text.
There were several things that I felt tied back to Zen.  In 4 Augustine says this:  "How can we love anything but the beautiful? What, then, is a beautiful thing or beauty itself?  What entices and satisfies us in what we love?  Can anything compel us that is not beautiful and fitting?"
This sounds like the idea of Quality in Zen.  A beautiful thing has quality right?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Clay Sculpture

The final sculpture for my 3 Dimensional Design class.  
 This is right after I finished it.  It had to dry completely before it could be fired.
 It is over 18 inches tall.
 I had a couple people tell me that they thought it looked like a heart.

 I made the pattern on the sides by pressing leaves into the clay and then going over the marks to make them deeper.

The diamond shape is not connected to the tree.
After it dried it went into the kiln and was fired.  I got a surprise when I opened the kiln after it had cooled.  The trunk had exploded toward the bottom and it wasn't going to stand up by itself.  After some quick thinking, I was still able to present.  I actually prefer the way it turned out.

Sculptural Response

This is a project that was done a while ago but I forgot to share it with you.  It is a response to a short play we read in Theatre Production.  
 Made out of paper and foam.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance part 9(The final post on Zen)

I have finished Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  Over all, I enjoyed it.  It made me think in ways that I had never experienced before and brought up ideas that had never occurred to me.  It was very enjoyable in some parts and very hard in others.  The story of Phaedrus and the Narrator was captivating and drew me along because I wanted to know what would happen to them.  The mixture of narrative and Chautauqua  felt very balanced in some parts but over all the Chautauqua took over the book.
When I was reading it I noticed that I was having a hard time thinking critically about the arguments presented in the text.  When I read a book, especially fiction and this felt very much like fiction, I totally except the rules of that world.  Since the arguments made sense in the Narrator's mind and world, I had a hard time seeing how it might not be true in the real world.  This is something that I think I got better at as I continued reading but it is still   a struggle.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance part 8

I'm not quite sure what I think about the epilogue.  It seems rather like a normal epilogue up until the point where the author starts to talk about Chris's death.  He begins to wonder where Chris has gone.  He decides that it is the pattern of Chris that he misses. 
In my mind this reduces Chris down to a sort of object and not a creation of God with a soul.  
He talks about wanting to know where Chris will reappear.  He then moves on to talking about his daughter that was born after Chris died.  The way that he talks about her unsettles me.  He must love her but he talks about her as if she is the reappearance of Chris and not her own person.   
There is just something about this that really unsettles me.  I can't quite put my finger on it.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance part 7

The end of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is rather confusing.  Phaedrus seems to come back and have a conversation with Chris.  There is not much that is said about what actually happened.
Did the Narrator become a ghost much like Phaedrus was at the beginning?  Did the two personalities meld in some way?
Something that was very interesting was that the Narrator seems to acknowledge that he wasn't living a quality life.  He simply existed for Chris and his wife.  If it were up to him he would just sit and not interact with anybody.  It seemed like when Phaedrus was erased the personality that replaced him was two dimensional where Phaedrus was three dimensional.  As if had a stronger more real personality replaced Phaedrus the Narrator wouldn't have been able to hold it together even that long.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance part 6

As you near the end of the book several thing begin to stand out.  The writing becomes more chaotic and a new theme is introduced.  This idea that in order to understand Quality you have to leave the rational world because Quality exists outside and above our rational way of thinking.  It is made clear that Phaedrus did just that.  He completely abandoned all reason and rationality.  He ignored his wife and child and chose to slip away into chaos and madness in pursuit of his goal.
I don't understand how a man could be that driven toward one thing even if that thing means the end of himself.  He abandoned his wife and child!  How could someone throw them self into something like that?  What end did he want to accomplish?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance part 5

I feel like there are  more things than you can count that you have to form an opinion about.  Political issues, religious issues, philosophical issues, and many more.  I feel overwhelmed sometimes because I don't know where I stand on many of these things.  
Because of this, I used to think about each thing individually. For each issue, I would figure out what I thought and move on to the next one.  What I knew, but didn't realize, is that these issues all interconnect.  If I come across new ideas and they change my view point on one thing, then other things might change as well.  
This makes me want to spend hours just sitting and thinking about what I believe and how that affects my position on various subjects.  
In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance this changing of ideas and positions has been an ongoing theme throughout the book.  The narrator starts with one view and then narrows it down, discovers new aspects or ways of thinking about it, changes views because of this new information, and discovers new aspects again.  He is not afraid to find a new viewpoint that might be better.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wood Sculpture

Made up of individual triangles stacked on top of each other.
We used 23 cans of spray paint to coat both the inside and the outside.
I admit it, we are the cause of global warming.
It is a little over 12 feet tall.
If you happen to be in Carlson Tower before Monday, October 3rd take a look.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance part 4

"The past exists only in our memories, the future only in our plans.  The present is our only reality.  The tree that are aware of intellectually, because of that small time lag, is always in the past and therefore always unreal.  Any intellectually conceived object is always in the past and therefore unreal.  Reality is always the moment of vision before the intellectualization takes place.  There is no other reality."

This seems a really fine way of cutting it.  Why is it worth it to think about these things?  Do they help us understand the world around us?
Does thinking about the past, present, and future this way redefine how I act or how I live?
Does it matter?
I'm not sure.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance part 3

Instead of talking about a quote or piece of text that really grabbed me, I wanted to talk about the scenery.  Especially in this part the scenery matches what he is talking about in the Chautauqua.  As he gets closer and closer to Phaedrus's breaking point in the Chautauqua, he and his son get closer and closer to the top of the mountain.  
There is an interesting point where they get above the tree line and he wants to head back down.  At the same time in the Chautauqua he leaves Phaedrus's line of thought and heads off on his own.  He is scared to pursue the things that destroyed him in the first place.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Theatre Production: Little Room

In Theatre Production we made our first scale models.

 Little rooms.  1' = 1/4'' scale.
 They have a window and a door.
A little person lives inside.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: Response 1

Hey Afreen,
In your post you mentioned your reaction to the slightly fuzzy beginning of the story.  I came to almost the same conclusions.  I think Phaedrus used to be him.  He doesn't have a split personality, he has a old and a new personality.
I do agree with you about the motorcycles.  While I feel that I am learning quite a bit more about how they work,  the reason I am interested in the story is the mystery of what happened to him.  I want to learn what happened.
Even though I want to know, it feels slightly rude to keep prying into why he is who he is.  Yes, it is in a book, but it is written in such a way that you have to pry to find out.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance part 2

"Quality... you now what it is, yet you don't know what it is.  But that's self-contradictory.  But some things are better than others, that is, they have more quality.  But when you try to say what Quality is apart from the things that have it, it all goes poof!  There's nothing to talk about.  But if you can't say what Quality is, how do you know what it is, or how do you know that it even exists?" - Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Is he right?  Is defining Quality really that hard?
I can provide many examples of why one thing is better than another, but is that quality or opinion?  Maybe quality is in the eye of the beholder.  This would make sense because then we would all define it differently.  There wouldn't be one definition of quality.  You might think that one movie is better than another.  I might disagree completely.
If that is the case then the definition of quality would be something like this.  Quality is your opinion of how much better one object/idea is than another. 

How would you define quality?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

On Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance part 1

"If all of human knowledge, everything that's known, is believed to be an enormous hierarchic structure, then the high country of the mind is found in the uppermost reaches of this structure in the most general, the most abstract considerations of all.
Few people travel here. There is no real profit to be made from wandering through it, yet like this high country of the material world all around us, it has its own austere beauty that to some people make the hardships of traveling through it seem worthwhile." - Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Reading this book is both something I look forward to and dislike at the same time.  It is a book that lulls your mind into a basic story and then hitting it with huge ideas.  I feel very stretched.  Every time I put it down I have new information to try and assimilate into my world view.  There are many things in here that I'm not sure I agree with but don't have enough information to say why.  Like he says in the quote above, I feel as if I am at the uppermost country of my mind.  These ideas he is bringing up make sense on some level but don't on others.  I haven't ever thought about scientific theory, personality, and motorcycles as being connected before.   I don't understand everything that is going on in this book but my hope is that I will find some austere beauty.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Plugged In

What is with the term “plugged in”?  I have been hearing it frequently.  People use it when they are talking about clubs, groups, and organizations.  For example: “I got plugged into choir” Or “You should get plugged into theater”.  
It makes me think of a lamp.  A lamp needs electricity to provide work.  It needs to be plugged in.  If I am the lamp then the activity/group is my electricity.  The problem I have with this is that a lamp doesn't give anything back to the electricity.  When we are a part of a group it is not just providing our needs but we are giving back to the group.  There is a give and take.  
If we go into a group setting expecting to have our needs met and not have to give anything back then we are doing a disfavor to both ourselves and to the group.  Instead of “plugged in” can we say “involved”?  I know it is a small thing but small things show a larger mindset.  
Let’s start to change it.