Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Intellectual Jones

Oh man. It's so damn hard for me to get out of my head. I had this meeting yesterday with some Waldorf educators regarding supporting my son's growth during a time that he's struggling. I was frank about some of the things I've been saying to him to motivate him. They have been working and have been an improvement over my former tactics of overpowering him. (Just the thought of my huge physical and vocal self going toe to toe with his little physical and vocal person gives me shameful shivers. I'll accept the progress I've made, that's for sure, even if it doesn't meet Steiner ideals.) My son is intelligent, relying much on his mind to make sense of the world. With much of what he expresses, it's very easy to forget that he's just turned eight.
I was the same type of kid. People treated me with adult expectations and communicated to me in a manic mix of reason enforced by hysteria. I recall a lifelong yearning to be understood on a very basic level. Yet it seemed that I was either ignored or shut down, both of which amount to abandonment. Even though I'm not abandoning my son, I feel like I'm repeating the sins of my parents. With the further exception that I continually seek ways in which I can improve supporting him rather than putting it on him as my parents did to me. "What's wrong with you?" is something I heard very regularly throughout.
The teachers at his school suggested we use more pedagogical stories to guide Henry. Parables and fairy tales -- metaphors to stop feeding his intellectual need for control and power. I understand the wisdom in this approach. I also understand that it's not a switch I can flip and start spinning yarns about whatever challenge presents itself. Funny thing is that it's very similar to my approach to teaching acting, using metaphor as a way into the work to remove the shackles of our intellects trying to figure everything out. I recall spending half of a three hour class session discussing metaphor with nearly everyone unable to come up with simple analogies for their scenes or even just something to do as a simple unrelated improvisation. It really does speak to the negative effects of mass media on simple storytelling. We're crippled by the jingles and catch phrases of advertising and the structure of television shows and mainstream movies. It's all situational stuff related to personality. There's nothing but impressions based on superficial preoccupations. Even heavy stuff like murder or rape is rendered insincerely, mostly by its ubiquity as a plot device in the case of the former.
Before I digress into an indictment of television, I just want to say that for all my railing against such media and its mind-numbing effects, I too am a victim of those effects. I want to be less cerebral, yet letting go of the protection and comfort it offers me is daunting. As it is for my son and my students. Funny thing to accept - that by letting go of our intellects, we will become more intelligent.

Jonesing for reason,
Signore Direttore

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