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Notes Towards Day 23 (Thurs, Nov. 29): Reclaiming The Tacit Dimension

Anne Dalke's picture

sara.gladwin is structuring our silence; ishin's responsible for Tuesday

* By 5 p.m. on Sun, Dec. 2, 1/2 of you (3 "J's"--jo, Owl, Uninhibited--Michaela and the "S's"--sara, Sarah, Sasha, sdane & Sharaai) have postings due --afterthoughts from this week, or questions anticipating next week; the other 1/2 of you should read these (and if you want, respond) by Monday @ 5.

* For Tuesday's class, please read "The Response" [in Spanish or English] by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, a 17th c. Mexican nun who chose life in a convent in order to have intellectual (and physical!) freedom; another complex story of chosing silence/being another kind of walled community of women

* Planning for the end of the semester
--1-3 p.m. on Mon, Dec. 17
, you will give a public presentation of your final projects (in Rhodes Dining Hall)--Sharaai, Uninhibited: this works for you?
--5-7 p.m. that evening you will come to dinner @ my place (only heard from HSBurke, Hummingbird---does this work for everybody? )
--12:30 on Fri, Dec. 21, you will submit a final portfolio, in which you will reflect explicitly on your final project, and also look back over your work for the whole semester, in all 3 classes, focusing on your participation in class, in The Cannery, and on-line; on your speaking, and writing, and art-making; on your interactions with one another and w/ the women inside; on where you have gone, and still have to go; where you have pushed yourself, and where there are still some growing edges. Guidelines for doing this are now available @ the top of the 360 home page and each of course pages (we are still refining the individual checklists for each class, but you should look this over this document now, and ask us whatever questions you have about the whole process…do that also by Tuesday, and we'll take some time to discuss it then).

--in other words: you need to get on the stitch! Speaking of which:
Jody and I need to meet for 10 minutes after class with ALL 9 of you in the Perry House Group--Esty, Johannah, Uninhibited, Michaela, Sasha, sdane, Sarah, sara.gladwin, Sharaai.

--I'm hoping that Jen's visit on Tuesday inspired you both to be more careful in trusting the resources you are using, and more creative in presenting them in ways that engage your audiences' needs and desires: her project highlighted both the difficulty of accessing the archive--and of framing/narrating/representing what you find-->how to turn a "presentation" into audience "engagement"?

--along these lines, Johanna, Michaela and I heard an inspirational, empowering talk by Jennifer Price @ HC y'day, on "The Brave New World of Environmental Art Actions"; Chandrea is working w/ others in the env'l studies classes to make "public art actions" today, to be exhibited all over campus on Friday. This work is very much akin to what Jen was talking about, and to our ongoing themes of revising old stories into newer, more socially just and accessible ones.

II. speaking of which...I want to return to our discussion of Eva's Man, unfinished last Tuesday
jhunter: Why do we need to figure out Eva's sexuality? Furthermore, why do we insist on calling this a victim's narrative and not a survivor's? I'm somewhat uncomfortalbe with the need to pathologize all of Eva's actions. We're interested in whether or not she had positive feelings about one of her sexual experiences, but the questions we have are if/when/how she was assaulted (passive language). Or, to reframe that, why a certain man raped her. This is not to deny her agency but to point out how uncomfortable I feel that we're tyring to think only about who/how "much" Eva was assaulted instead of recognizing her complicated relationshp to her sexuality as a survivor. Personally, I don't need to know the men's stories as this is Eva's. Yes, they are in complicated situations, but I'd like to recognize that this is Eva's story, and I don't need to act as another psychiatrist.

III. for today, I'd asked you to listen to the podcast about "The Last Quiet Places,"
and read two essays: Caroline Stephen's "Quaker Strongholds,"
George Kalamaras' "Reclaiming the Tacit Dimension."
Chandrea and Michaela began a discussion of the latter text on-line:

Chandrea: Does silence always have to be a bad thing?...Do I look like I'm a less of a threat if I don't speak up? Do you take me seriously? Do you think I'm oppressed? Do you think I have issues with self-confidence?...Can my silence ever be seen in a positive manner? Maybe my silence shouldn't be your problem...if I don't want to speak, I won't.

Michaela: you totally captured my thoughts, and I think, more than likely, those of several others of our classmates....At the same time…I think it's a little ironic that you even have to explain your silences through speaking up! (online)….You don't owe us anything….I don't think you need to feel pressure to explain yourself.

This exchange is a reminder of the first section of the course, on speaking and being silent in class. This last section shifts the focus from the question Chandrea and Michaela discuss--whether we have the right to remain silent/whether we owe one another speech--to whether we might learn better/differently/other if we engage, systematically, in the discipline of silence. This is less about choosing to be silent in class than about practicing silence, using silence as a way of understanding.

The language of these texts is religious--Christian Quakerism on the part of Caroline Stephen, Eastern mysticism on the part of George Kalamaras. I don't want us to get caught up in that--whether we are religious, whether we think of ourselves as spiritual. You can read all the "God" language as metaphoric--as a conventional way of saying, how can you open yourself to insight that comes from some place beyond language? That isn't mediated by words? How can you learn without talking and listening to others talk? How can you get to a place beyond your individual self, where you are united with the larger world, in a sense of understanding?

Kalamaras quotes Tillie Olsen when he says that he is speaking "not of 'the unnatural thwarting of what struggles to come into being'...rather of those 'natural silences...that necessary time for renewals, lying fallow, gestation, in the natural cycle of creation'...avenues for deeping the authority of one's voice and vision."

One of the concepts that he thinks being silent, getting 'beyond thought' might open us to is an awareness of that "competing tendencies reside in a state of simultaneity: they are always at the same time separate and united, this and that...the Self is always at the same time both itself and other" (p. 6).


a more expansive perception of rationality, including the
nonconceptual, not bound by the categories of thought

having a direct experience of the divine ground of being

Eastern contemplative practices center on two concepts:
the material world as we know it is ilusory...bliss awaits the practitioner
...who can...quell...attachment to outward sensory experience...and
at the core of all experience lies a condition of paradox.

III. So let's experiment with the practice
There is a traditional Benedictine practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer, intended to promote communion with God, called "Lectio Divina" (divine reading); it's a way of reading that treats Scripture as the living word, rather than as a text to be studied. You don't analyze the passage, but try to enter into it; you don't doubt or question it, but try to believe it, to live it, to experience it.

We really need Linda-Susan to lead us in this practice (which is her own; she is a Benedictine nun); but it seemed to me that we needed today to try and practice what Kalamaras describes, rather than talk about or analyze it. So, here's your passage (from Kalamaras):

"competing tendencies reside in a state of simultaneity: they are always at the same time separate and united, this and that...the Self is always at the same time both itself and other"

And here's another:
"the material world as we know it is illusory...bliss awaits the practitioner
...who can...quell...attachment to outward sensory experience."

Traditionally Lectio Divina has 4 separate steps:
, meditate, pray and contemplate.

It is generally recommended to prepare for Lectio Divina, in order to achieve a
tranquil state of mind: sit quietly, in silence, recite a mantra to calm yourself.

Then: read the passage, slowly and gradually, four times, each time with a slightly different focus.

Next: meditate and ponder the passage. Don't try to assign a meaning to it, but just hold it lightly, gently, consider it from various angles. Don't analyze the passage, but keep your mind open, to allow inspiration and understanding to come. Don't dissect it; try to enter it.

Pray (Caroline Stephen is helpful here: this is not about making requests, but communion, loving conversation).

Finally: contemplate (allow yourself to be entered by the truth of what you have read).

Repeat this with the second passage.

[NOT to discuss!]

If you are interested, see The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society
Michelle Francl, Quantum Theology