Saturday, May 21, 2016

There Is No Darkness But Ignorance

-by Vanessa Lemen

"There is no darkness but ignorance." ~William Shakespeare
Philosopher Meditating - Rembrandt


We need to challenge the notion of living an unexamined life, and rise up to our full potential. There are too many of us lately that are feeling so inclined to continue to run on autopilot and in an uncritical way, and this needs to stop. There's no better time than the present to make a change and take charge of the persons we're becoming. We all should be developing and acting upon the skills and insights that we're capable of. We should not be allowing ourselves or those around us to become unreflective and complacent with the ignorance that seems to be making a place for itself in our current surroundings. It's going to do damage to ourselves and others if we continue on that way. We'll miss many opportunities to make our lives, and the lives of others, fuller and more productive.

The Astronomer - Vermeer

And teachers – as teachers, we cannot allow ourselves to be superficial, or give assignments that students can thoughtlessly do. As a consequence, this ends up discouraging their enthusiasm and motivation, and creates missed opportunities to develop their self-discipline and mindfulness. We should encourage questions, conversation, interaction, and debate, and be able to show by example the skills and insights that we've cultivated, and how this has helped us to grow and evolve and make a place for ourselves. Sure, that's not always easy, but as individuals who came to some sort of notion that we wanted to share and help others to improve as human beings, I think it's safe to say that we didn't expect this to be easy in the first place.

Russian Schoolroom - Norman Rockwell

As both educators and students in this role we play in life, we should be aware of what learning truly is, and join forces in helping to achieve the utmost that our learning experiences have to offer. Neither student nor teacher should settle on leading an ignorant or anti-intellectual life. There's no reason for that. Both should know what to expect when they're put together. Students should be ready to be challenged, informed, and inspired, and teachers should be there to give them that experience, with the possibility of receiving some of that themselves. This applies to an educational environment as well as an every day life type of situation, and both should know that life doesn't suddenly shut off when we all enter the classroom, nor does a learning experience end once we exit that classroom.

The Bookworm - Carl Spitzweg

Learning is understanding, and in order to truly gain an understanding of something, we need to accept that it may be gradual, and it will become embedded through experience and practice. To attempt to learn without being critical and thoughtful, without analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing, we're doing ourselves a disservice. If we attempt to teach or learn by mimicking or memorizing only, we'll never quite gain the understanding. We have to commit to the long term, put ourselves there, and live it. Learning is doing.

Monet's Haystacks

Learning is accepting criticism and committing to overcome ego. We all have the capacity to be self-motivated, and can thrive among a community, and collaborate too. We should be open-minded yet critical. We have the capacity to be accepting of others' points of view as well as checking for accuracy, clarity, logic, and relevance. And while searching for depth and significance, we can be humble, and check our own perception and prejudice. Learning can take place as a part of community with similar interests as well as diverse backgrounds.

In the Studio - Maria Bashkirtseff

Learning is communicating. It's asking questions, getting answers, and finding solutions. As students, it's good to let others know when or if we don't understand in order to gain a better understanding. It's important to be aware of when we don't understand, and that's why mimicking doesn't cut it. To mimic is not to understand. As teachers, we should pose the question “do you understand?” with some leeway allowed for something more than a 'yes' or a 'no' or a silent nod of the head. We all know the saying “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” As educators, we simply cannot fall into the mundane educational routine of what perhaps some of our educating predecessors have taught us. We can break that mold, and by doing so, create an even bigger community that's based on reciprocity and camaraderie rather than mediocrity and anti-intellectualism. As students in life, we should challenge our mediocre educators and acquaintances, and seek out those who strive to challenge us.

The Law Student - Norman Rockwell

Learning is identifying purpose. It's reflecting and examining ourselves, our thinking, and our motivations. Even in times of insecurity, we should not allow ourselves to succumb to self-deception, narrow-mindedness, or fallacies, but have the self-awareness to know when and if we have, and take the steps to make a change. Learning is arriving at well-founded conclusions based on problem solving and being objective. Learning is creatively thinking. It's allowing ourselves to make mistakes in order to learn from them as well. Learning is growing and evolving.

DaVinci

Learning is immersing ourselves, observing everything around us, paying attention, and listening. It's working hard, sticking to it, and never settling, while at the same time being accepting and finding common ground. We should all be able to spend time in the quiet spaces, be alone and contemplative, while also be spontaneous, throw ourselves into the mix, and eventually be able to find the quiet among that chaos. It's in our nature to be curious, intrigued, and fascinated, as well as discerning and skeptical. This should be encouraged, and not stifled. Learning is discovering, adventuring, and a whole lot of uncertainty. It's going outside of our comfort zone, and knowing that when it's tough, that that's good. This is when we need to keep going. And when we arrive at the answer we were looking for, we'll most likely find that we've created several more questions along the way that now need answering too. Learning is a journey.

The Alchemist - Thomas Wyck

Learning is losing. Learning is finding. It's seeking the new and unknown when we do find our comforts, and knowing we can return to them if we need to. Learning is knowing we might not return because our journey may take us elsewhere, but knowing that our mind can take us anywhere as long as we continue to learn. Learning is expanding, not limiting. It's multi-faceted, not just specialized. Learning crosses boundaries, and cross-platforms. It's not just formed on rights and wrongs, or on templates, instruction manuals, and how-to's. Learning is recognizing that our best results have come from the what ifs, hows and whys.

The Apostle Paul - Rembrandt

We should never stop learning, and should encourage cultivation.
We owe it to ourselves and to others.

Peanuts

22 comments:

  1. The expanded print version of this topic coming soon...I hope. :)

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    1. soon, not so sure.. but sometime, maybe.. heh..

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  2. Thank you Vanessa! Really appreciate your thoughts. Definitely a humble reminder to push through the comfort zones and past the days in which we feel idle or lazy. Struggling with our art is a good thing. The life of a student is a marathon, not a sprint. I always look forward to your articles and paintings. Tell the gang hi for me :)

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    1. hi Miles. Glad to hear what you take away from this post, and that you're enjoying the articles and paintings. Thank you! Many times, the struggles are what produce the best work. :) I'll tell the gang hi, for sure!

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  3. Vanessa, you've expressed a lot of deeply felt ideas about the value of learning and the dangers of anti-intellectualism. May I ask what experiences in your life brought on these thoughts? What's going on in the world that concerns you and makes you want to write this?

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    1. hi James. Thank you for the thoughtful comment. Ron and I talk about these types of things so much, and so it's not necessarily anything new, but new as a post, yes. The experiences that bring on these thoughts range in scope and subject, anywhere from something that happened in a class to watching the world news or politics to personal adversity and life changes which tend to bring on the contemplative calm-in-the-chaos states of being when I go within and try to really look deep and find the undercurrent of what's really causing a stir in my soul. All of which many who might read this have experienced in their own way, and so each person who may read it can interpret it differently as far as where it comes from. I'm aware that I kept it vague in terms of reasons, but I suppose that's similar to my paintings' meanings and inspiration as well. Ron and I were talking about this post since I've posted it, and we were saying how we always have so many other articles that stem from the ones that end up on the blog. This one may have spawned quite a few more, actually. I really had to narrow it down (which is so often the case, but a bit more for this one). I could see having quite a great dialog about this with you (and anyone who'd like to join in). I may answer a bit more extensively either here in another comment, or maybe in another blog post in the near future. I'd love to hear your take on it as well. Thanks again!

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  4. "...it's safe to say we didn't expect this to be easy in the first place." That's a fair summary.

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  5. I believe punitive environments become pathological, and if you study Buddhism, you'd think one would be in agreement. The concept that supports this ideal is the 3 emotional poisons according to Buddhism.

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    1. Steve Jobs was quite contrary to that belief, even though he claimed to be a practicing Buddhist. His success was brief and egocentric.

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    2. yes, being conscious of and to not allow oneself to be affected by the kleshas (especially the 3 poisons) would be in alignment with my article above. Also, in regards to the video, my hope is that all who view it can see past it being an advertisement for Apple, and listen to it for the what it's saying. The words are actually not Steve Jobs' words, but were written by Rob Siltanen and modified by Ken Segall for the purpose of copy for the ad (or more importantly, as inspiration to the viewer/listener).

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    3. The whole point of teaching is to alleviate the ignorance, not oppress the individual. Darkness can be perpetual if the mindset is continual by both the ignorant and the oppressor.

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    4. Yes, again, glad to know we are in alignment on this.

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    5. Learning is about correlative thinking not emotional catharsis. Can catharsis be the cause of anti-intellectualism? Can the quest to feel good over ride the need to understand? From my personal experience with family and others anger often impedes our quest to understand and take risks in understanding:
      http://buddhism.about.com/od/basicbuddhistteachings/a/anger.htm

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  6. Looks like I have just discovered Carl Spitz. Wow. Thanks!

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    1. Oh yeah, I've seen that happen, assuming we're talking about same Carl: https://youtu.be/JqN67bSxXVQ

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    3. Had to delete a duplicate post, but I'm more inline with Chuck Close's philosophy about inspiration is for amateurs and opinions are like a'holes, everbody's got one:https://youtu.be/JqN67bSxXVQ

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    4. I really wanted to put up the Chuck Close video. Now my mistake is forevermore. https://youtu.be/GxR3ELuZjLw

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  7. The confusion is there's Carl Spitz and then there's Carl Spitzweg.....but that's one of those critical thinking things that people get upset with.

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    1. ONes a Hollywood dog trainer, the other is 'the' artist.

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