Stone Soup 2014 – Ward Mailliard

Ward Mailliard: We have a tradition, ‘Stone Soup.’ Stone Soup has turned out to be one of the more interesting stories because it has morphed over the years. I think we are ten years into Stone Soup at this point. And I had this wild notion. I was thinking. You know, the science fiction books that are like, there is book 6,7, and 8 and so on. And then they do the prequel. I was thinking what is the prequel to “Stone Soup.” Why was there was a famine? And what was that all about? Why were people starving? For those of you who don’t know, the story starts out there was a village and the people were starving in the village. And I thought what was the prequel. What happened?

So if we are using education as the metaphor. What has happened in education and what are we starving for in education? What is the famine for education? What is it that we are yearning for in education that’s not present, and why is that, and who created it and so on? So, the prequel needs to be written. I think that there is a lot of material there. So in Stone Soup while this village is starving, a shaman comes, I was also thinking it could be a ‘sha-woman’ too.(laughter) So, I figured to go gender neutral it would be a ‘sha-person’ showed up, and one of the prerequisites to learning is to welcome the stranger. The stranger is what is not present that needs to come into the community for the community to transform itself. And so, this stranger shows up in the community noticing that everybody is starving, and comes into the center of the village and says, “I know how we can feed everybody.”

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Jethro – Rabbi Paula Marcus

Paula Marcus: I was moved to share a story that comes from the Jewish tradition but since the Bible is such a core text for so many, I thought it would be worthwhile sharing this story of transition that helps build my faith and helps me understand some of the contours of what we could be experiencing during times of transition and how in fact it is better to have vulnerable opportunities than to shut down during times of transition, which is I think, for many of us counterintuitive. So it took me back to the time in my people’s history, when we were wandering in the wilderness. Forty years. God forbid it should always be that long. But forty years in the wilderness and the people had just come through a very foundational time enslaved in Egypt, just free, passing through the dry land of the Red Sea. The sea opened and there they were spit out on the shore. They had achieved freedom. They were trying to build community. So here were these folks who had been scarred by all those years of slavery and they had been thrown together in this place, the word in Hebrew for wilderness is ‘Midbar’ and it is related to the Hebrew word ‘Midabare’ which means “to speak.” So we think of the wilderness as this place that speaks a lot of voices.

Right. How did they find the ability to become a community? How did they become a people when they had just been freed and they were surrounded by conditions that, let’s just say, that are not always very forgiving, the wilderness. They want autonomy because they have been oppressed. Think of all the times in our lives when we have been oppressed. What do we want? Right. What’s the first thing when we leave the house when we are young and we go off? We want to be able to be in control of our destiny. As slaves that’s what they would expect. But also having been slaves, are dependent and who are they dependent upon, their leader, Moses.

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Spit Wad Sutras – Larry Inchausti

Larry Inchausti: When we were talking about the themes for this conference, they said, “Well you know you got a lot of stories in your books about what do you do when the leadership is gone, or when the leaders are absent or the leaders die. Then how does the community reconstitute itself?” And then, the other side of this that we are also going to talk about improvisation as one of the responses that people have to do when they are suddenly thrown in positions that they are not prepared for, or they hadn’t thought they were prepared for, and they have to get the courage to rely on their own internal resources rather than their mastery of a program or discipline or an ideology or something. Usually when this happens, their most creative work emerges or the unexpected emerges and you find that you have a subversive within the orthodoxy, or you have an orthodox within the subversive. And the order and the change turn out to not be as antithetical as people maybe, once thought.

The Map
So I thought through the books, a couple of stories that illustrate this, but before I get to what I think as a good story, I was listening to –NPR, a little while ago and I was thinking about this problem and they had a little feature about this book on the Spanish Civil War and it was women’s accounts of their experience on the Spanish Civil War, and I thought this fits right into Chautauqua. I don’t know how! (laughter)But it is a perfect story just to put on the table and we can come back to it after I give you my little riff. It turns out that this woman was in a cadre of revolutionaries on this mountain fighting Franco’s soldiers, and they were getting strafed by these airplanes, and they lost their leader. And the leader had the map as to how to get down from the mountain and so they gather together and say, “Ok, so we can’t stay up here because you know, the light is going to change, and we are going to be sitting ducks, so we have to get down the mountain and but we don’t have the map. So what do we do?”

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Implicit Curriculum – Ward Mailliard

Vivian Wright: So with that inspiration, I’d like to hand it over to Ward, to say a few words about his wild hair about the implicit curriculum. This might be more than a thought-chicken.

Ward Mailliard: I was also surprised by the end of the day, I was just like “oh”. You know, but the day was so uplifting and then coming back in here today and feeling the energy of everybody was kind of like, yeah we can do this again. I was thinking…one of the things I do in my career is state the obvious. And one of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot that Chautauqua’s always been about is the implicit curriculum. And now that term’s becoming popular so I’m gonna have to find something else.

Audience: Copyright it.

Ward: Too late. Yeah, and then it becomes a thing then it starts to get subverted. Once it becomes too orthodox, we need to find new subversions I guess. But the implicit curriculum is in every class. Humberto Maturana, who has been one of my great teachers, he’s a neurobiologist, wild thinker. He says a child doesn’t learn math, they learn living together with a math teacher. And it really occurred to me very strongly this year that the processes that we use in the classroom, the processes of engagement around learning, and the relationship between the teacher and the student, and the students and the students, the classroom in the context of the larger school, and so on. The processes and relationship are what produce the human being and the content is an excuse to be together. And I think Chautauqua in a lot of ways is a model of that; is that we have conversation starters but the real action is in being together. And the process of small group in it’s various forms, and the relational field of learning. And what Firehawk said to me is actually in some ways, the essence of it, is I asked a question that I didn’t know I had when I showed up. That, to me, is original medicine showing up. And so the unexpected, unpredictable learning that comes out of a field in which process and relationship are the key elements…so that content is in the service of process and relationship. And that’s in the service of our humanity. And then I was realizing from something that someone said yesterday, was just the word ‘humanity’, we also need to contextualize that a little bit. Which has to do with the inclusive nature of that word, that it’s not just about human beings, but it’s about everything that human beings are connected to. We need to look beyond the boundaries of this, out into that other, the everything – other. To realize that the very foundation on which we stand is all of that. And so our humanity doesn’t exist except in that inter-relatedness with nature: animals, insects, microbes, and so on. So I don’t know, maybe there’s another word – so much of this is about the language that connects us with the essence of what it is we’re trying to name.

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The Underground – Larry Inchausti

Larry Inchausti: One of the things that struck me yesterday was all these images about water, and how the water goes underground. So you have this underground stream but it finds its own limit. It got me thinking about a person that I wrote about in my book, and I teach Dostoyevsky whose great metaphor is the underground and later in his life they asked him which novel he wanted on his gravestone as his lasting contribution to the world and he said, “I don’t want you to put the names of any novels. I want you to describe me as the discoverer of the underground, of the psychology of the underground.” And so, I thought I would tell you a little story about the underground and what Dostoyevsky meant by the underground as a way of talking about some of these problems that we are going to deal with today. For Dostoyevsky the underground was the source of all human irrationality, violence and cruelty in our world and in ourselves.

It is a little bit about him and I think. When he first started out, he majored in engineering in school and he wanted to be a great writer. He translated Honorè de Balzac from French into Russian. And he wrote a kind of a breakthrough novella called “Poor Folk,” and “Poor Folk” was kind of a description of the “Ignorant Perfection of Ordinary People.” It was, what they called in the day, ‘sentimental naturalism,’ which was a kind of a celebration of the goodness of the working people and the struggling Russian underclass. And this novel made him; it opened the door to him to belong to the writer’s circle of anti-Czarist Russian activist. And so, he would go to this circle and he would read his, stories and he would also read other great Russian writers that spoke for the need of social revolution. What he did not understand, what he did not know that the group had been infiltrated by Czarist informants and they were reported to the Czarist police as traitors to the Russian government, and brought up on a treason trial.

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Improv – Ward Mailliard

Ward Mailliard: I noticed yesterday for me there were some teachings and so I woke up this morning going, “I am not really feeling complete,” and I checked in with Jordan and Jessica and because often as teachers something happens in the room that you don’t understand and you misinterpret, and what I have learned to do as a way of surviving inside my own skin is to reflect and then come back. Because you don’t always get it the first time and sometimes in the “crying out” especially those of us who work with kids, it may come out in a way that the articulation isn’t something that you can fully hear. Larry really evoked something yesterday with the story of the underground and it just kind of bubbled up into the room and then Roxanne and Jessica and David and Jordan and so it was like all of these things stacked on top of each other and I am looking at it and I am like, “That’s a complexity I am not sure I can hold.” And so I am going to avoid that for this moment, but it always catches me about 3 a.m. Whatever I try to suppress or avoid and it is like “O crap, I have to deal with this.” There is a moment of holding the group, holding newness and the part of inviting the stranger and the stranger is going to bring something strange and new. And that newness is actually the opportunity; it is the seed of an opening for a community.

So, I could see spending a lot of time unpacking this narrative of the underground and I think that could be the subject of an entire Chautauqua, and we are moving into the completion today and I think that is going to be a part of the completion story and I am going to trust that that will be held in the completion story, but I wanted to acknowledge the cry and Walter Brueggemann, who, if ever you really want to “get” the Old Testament, read Walter Brueggemann I never thought the Old Testament had anything to do with me. And one time when I was going to Cincinnati, Peter said we are going to have lunch with Walter Brueggemann and I had no idea who he was, and he says, “he is an Old Testament Scholar,” so I better read one of his books so that I know something. We did not talk anything about the book, I think it was much more mundane like about tuna fish sandwiches or whatever it was they were having for lunch. But in that, in that Exodus story, and I think this is a perennial story and Rabbi Paula touched on an aspect of the story, that if we understand that when we are laboring in the land of Pharaoh, which he qualifies as the place of incessant productivity. This is because the way the Jews became slaves was in the time of famine, they had to sell first their animals, then their lands and then themselves to Pharaoh in order to eat, and when they finally reached a point when they had to leave, they had to go into the wilderness, which was the place with no support and all there was, was ‘mana’ (food) which was sufficient to the day and you could not pile up, you know it was only sufficient to the day. We just had each other. So when we leave the endless productivity of the land of Pharaoh, there we are in the wilderness and in some ways Chautauqua is a way to come together in that wilderness for support and inspiration and it is sufficient unto the day, the ‘mana’ is sufficient unto the day. One of the issues was that when they finally got to the promised land, they recreated empire under Solomon and so the form survived even though the personalities changed, and the question is how do we create the new forms, and one of the forms of education is the teacher as the ‘knower’ and the student as the ‘learner’ and in essence, that recreates the hierarchy of Pharaoh, the higher authority to whom we must all surrender, and what it does is that it absents the creativity of the community from the process. How do we bring that back and so connecting with the story this morning of the community rising, Shakti rising. Shakti to me is a term that is both feminine and universal. Because Shakti means energy, so the energy rising through the community to reinvigorate, re-instill the authorship of our own lives. It is a powerful thing when we suddenly take responsibility for what happened, and I think, taking responsibility for your response to what happened. Sometimes you have to say, “I don’t know. I don’t know what to do.” And that was the story that Rabbi Paula was telling and sometimes we have to listen to the stranger and the stranger may come from a totally different everything, you know.

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Student Reflections

Ward Mailliard: I’m curious if some of you who are the Mount Madonna student contingent, would actually feed back to this community of learners – what struck you, or touched you, or awakened in the process of the engagement of all of us together, and to maybe to take a sampling of that to help us understand what the heck we were talking about. But we want to hear your voices and hear – just hear the sound of the texture of your experience that’s been happening in the process of us being together.

Quincy Mitchell: I’d actually like to address what Vivian said to us this morning, if that’s alright – because I think what she said really spoke to my experience with this year’s Chautauqua in particular. Vivian refereed Angeles and Peter as the headliners – I had a similar word for them which is “Superstars”. And I think what happens in a community like this, where you find yourself suddenly without your superstars, I think there’s two things that have to happen. And the first thing is, the community has to appoint more superstars before they’re ready to make that appointment, and the superstars have to accept that appointment before they’re ready to. And I think, over the course of this Chautauqua we’ve built about 5-6 more superstars. So whether we’re hearing from Peter next year, or Gary, sign me up. Whether we’re hearing from Peter next year, or Jessica, sign me up. Whether we’re hearing from Peter next year or Beth, sign me up; because everyone here is a superstar and it’s just fantastic.

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The House of Meaning – Larry Inchausti

Larry Inchaushti: Ward and I have been challenged to come up with these anecdotes and these stories and I have got a short one today because I think it summarizes more of my response or how I feel a little bit about Chautauqua and ideas and my role is telling these stories.

Vàclav Havel was the first president of the Czech and Slovak republics but before he became President of the Czech and Slovak republic, he was a dissident playwright, who was in jail under the eastern block soviet regime and he wrote all of his plays from jail and they were anti-establishment, attacks upon the Soviet occupation of the Czech and Slovakian republics. And then he became the leader of what we call the Velvet Revolution and became the President of the Czech and Slovak republic. And it was the first time you had a playwright or an artist as President of a major European country and when this happened, after this happened, he suddenly had writer’s block and fell into a deep depression because as long as he was under siege, he had access to his creativity and his purpose and he could write and he had lots to say and then he became President and he was just blocked. He could not write any more and he did not know what to say. It was sort of like I know what I have to say until now you have got the mike. What do I say now that the other people are listening to me?

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