Life is not really so difficult if you just follow the instructions.

"How Can We All Get Along?":
A Conversational Search for Comraderie

Shdaimah /Dalke

A dialogue arising out of Writing Descartes...

Building Two-Way Bridges:
A Conversation about Gender and Science

One Friday afternoon, two mothers (one with grown children, one with little ones) went walking--and talking. As the walk ended, the younger mother asked the older one, "Do your children get along? How can we raise our children, so that they will be friends with one another when they are adults?"

That walk continues here, as Anne gives an account of the connections she and Corey made between their experiences raising children and their academic work as activists, academics and web-weaving-women, asking repeatedly how we can all get along.

My daughter Lily made the first contribution to this conversation. When a colleague told me that she thought that my kids are able to travel so far, so easily, because I had made them feel so safe at home--I ran that idea by Lily (thinking, inside, that they travel so far in order to ESCAPE me). After some thought, she replied that I

  • had not offered false comfort (so the awfulness of the world didn't surprise them, as it did their more cosseted friends)
  • had been very critical of others (so they walked into a room not thinking "will this situation like me?" but "do I like this?" -- and feeling free to walk out if they didn't-- in other words, able to make their choices not because they were trying to please others, but based on their own preferences), and
  • had always expected them to do the hard thing, not to make the easy choice.

This was a little hard for me to hear, the first time through, but I've come to be glad about my daughter's description of my legacy to her: I understand her to mean that I taught her not to expect the world to be otherwise than hostile; gave her permission to be guided by her own internal gyroscope; and nudged her always to be open to alteration. On the other hand...

Lily later divided our family into two groups. The first of these

  • doesn't need to talk in order to think
  • doesn't need to say what they think
  • doesn't need to "expose their network" of associations to others; and
  • has a more highly developed sense of privacy.
The second group includes "those who need to talk, in order to think, need to tell others what they are thinking....and are inclined to "hang their underwear where their neighbors can see it." It's her mother's contribution that it may be precisely this (latter) sort of public talk-show that enables us both to get along and move along together: a very particular kind of showing and talking, the sort that Serendip showcases.

Ann Dixon, a new companion of ours in the world of mothering, and--as co-founder of Serendip--by-far our senior in the world of the web, said that she "used to think Serendip was about science." During the past few years, as she's seen its coverage expand to include both art and literature, she's found herself looking for a new way to describe Serendip's aim and scope. Its original "welcome" statement explained that

Serendip is a gathering place for people who suspect that life's instructions are always ambiguous and incomplete. Originating in interactions among neurobiologists, computer scientists, business people, and educators, Serendip is both an expanding forum and a continually developing set of resources to explore and support intellectual and social change in education, in social organization... and in how one makes sense of life.

Seeing, through Ann's eyes, that the center of Serendip is its playground, and that the site, as a whole, is "about uncertainty," Anne also thought she saw a connection between a) and b): because life and our understanding of it is always uncertain--and incomplete, the best way to "go about it" is

to create in our classrooms and on-line spaces of structured play where, if deliberative self-censure happens less frequently, we might arrive at some unexpected places, worth examining....where the process and productivity of ongoing and ever-revisable conversation...becomes an open and constantly edited record both of the conversations we are having with one another and those we are conducting with ourselves, within our own many of us a profound sense-and a record--of ourselves as thinking, re-thinking, ever-revisable beings. (The Grace of Revision, the Profit of "Unconscious Cerebration," or What Happened When Teaching the Canon Became Child's Play).

Along with the essay on revision, Anne called up pages (and pages) of shared exploration of what Serendip is "about," in the form of (at least) five recent dialogues--with Emily Madsen, Anneliese Butler and Elizabeth Catanese (Bryn Mawr students who have participated in Serendip's forums), Paul Burgmayer (a high school math teacher who was certified in Bryn Mawr's Education Program), and Wil Franklin (a Bryn Mawr Biology Lab Instructor):

Pulling in, too, reflections generated this summer in the Working Group on Information--to a human story-teller, information is something that changes in a story the degree of uncertainty about something....There is no "information" unless there is such a change (information is not an intrinsic property of anything; it is fundamentally relational)

--and then"squeezing" down all this "expansion," Anne offered a (trial) description of what Serendip is "about":

Conceived with an awareness that life is not a closed system, Serendip is a website that explores the pleasures and productivity of uncertainty, by facilitating connections among ever-expanding numbers of contributors.

Mightn't this be a good way for teaching (all of) our children "how to get along"?


See on-line forum for continuing conversation and to leave your own thoughts.

| Writing Descartes Home Page | One Woman's Exploration | Descartes Forum | Science in Culture | Serendip Home

Send us your comments at Serendip

© by Serendip 1994-2004 - Last Modified: Friday-1-Oct-2004 19:11:33 EDT