Sleeping and not dreaming

The young ones sleep well

They fall into sleep and sleep in a shell

Still unafraid of the fading light

They dream dreams softly with their young dreaming might

Dreams of mountains un-climbed and oceans un-crossed

Of apples un-eaten and dice still un-tossed

Of lights un-lit and dresses un-made

Sleeping while dreams begin to fade

Not seeing light turn into shade

 

We envy the young the soundness of sleep

We envy the dreams, the light, and the lightness

We watch them and whisper and even weep

To see encroaching, impending slightness

To see ourselves not long ago

To hear our elders say ‘told you so’

 

Morning after

After a blast of a Thanksgiving party last night, an unexpectedly early start followed a very late finish. At 4 something this morning a strange noise woke me up, like a thud or crash or something. I was alone in the house and in complete darkness, including that present in my still-inebriated brain. I froze under the duvet and had a rapid succession of not entirely coherent thoughts: what the fk…, a werewolf, giant cockroach, masked intruder robbing me of my bottled goods and sprouting potatoes I keep for a special occasion? Not an awakening one would hope for after a night of imbibing. “Get out you stupid bastard!!”, I shouted in the strongest whisper I could muster. Finally, curiosity replaced fear and I ventured out of the bedroom to discover that Katherine’s bookcase had collapsed under the weight of education: her notebooks from Doha College fell out through the bookcase’s back passage so to speak. Some questions arose from that experience, as I noted on Facebook: What is education really for? Does anyone know a carpenter? Or have a bookcase for sale? 

 

potatoes bookcase-1 bookcase-2 bookcase-4 bookcase-5 

Lifebelt experience

I tried to explain the power of words to my students the other day. Words, I said, have power in and of themselves (paraphrasing a great writer of course), they create our reality – it does not exist in and of itself, but only through words. They sat in dead silence, but one was less dead than the others. I think her reality came into being at that point.

On a seemingly unrelated topic, I must state here for the record that sometimes one needs a lifebelt to swim to the shore when one is “not waving but drowning”. And sometimes words fail me. That’s when I go back to black and spend money on new clothes. Anyway, my friend Adina is coming over for pre-party drinks shortly. We’ll talk.

 

“A word has power in and of itself. It comes from nothing into sound and meaning; it gives origin to all things.”

N. Scott Momaday, The Way to Rainy Mountain

Lamentation on education as business

I feel uneasy, or even disturbed, at the thought of marrying education with business. The changing ethos of the educational environment simply means a more business-like approach to teaching and learning. The new organisational discourse employs terminology from the field of corporate management, not education. For example, what does the phrase “meeting expected productivity standards” mean in the context of a classroom? Or, “achieving objectives by setting challenging quantitative and qualitative goals”? Such lexical developments could lead to significant changes in the overall ideology of an educational organisation. They are also potentially contradictory to the spirit and mission of any self-respecting educational institution.

There are other developments, too, including installation of bio-metric attendance monitoring, i.e. dumb thumb-printing to clock in and out of work, just as it is done in factories. What differentiates teachers from factory workers? What’s the difference between a classroom and an assembly line? Not much? Woe to the world if that’s the case… Now, I’m going to re-heat the old brick in the wall. Has it always been like this?

school-1 school-2 school-3 school-4

 

Sitting here and thinking

That I can do it, write it, finish it, understand it and then discuss it intelligently, arguing for its main points, interpretations and conclusions. But, heavens above, I’m a woman of average cognitive capacity, whose verbal output is mostly characterised by an intense dislike of repetitions. I wonder how my students put up with it. My PhD supervisor told me that a doctoral thesis should not be a review of a thesaurus – or something to that effect. Easy for him to say. He is Irish and has the gift of the gab. I seem to remember writing an article about that once, about the Irish propensity for telling stories, spinning them out of nothing, on the spur of the moment. Their stories confirm the validity of their existence: an experience narrated is an experience shared. That commonality of life, of lives lived separately yet according to parallel plans, is what brings about a sense of human community.

I like writing, only wish it were more substantial. Here is a link to a Spectator article on insubstantial writers, flimsy, lightweight, un-earnest: http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/09/leading-writers-inhumanly-cool/

It struck me as accurately describing a phenomenon I happened upon several years ago in Poland when I started reading something by one Krystyna Kofta, a popular writer of well, stuff. Fluff. Couldn’t put my finger on it then, except for identifying a distinct feeling of un-(not dis-)satisfaction. Like swallowing cotton wool. Apparently that’s what models do to keep their weight in check. If it weren’t for the unpleasant texture, I’d try it myself. I don’t eat, I’m hungry. I eat, I’m fat. What to do? Drink? My friend suggested smoking. Must take it up. In earnest.

This is a piece of fluffy writing. I’d be good at that! No idea about the photos except for the painting – it’s by my friend Asmaa. Oh, maybe the one with the Omani flag was taken by me in 2013 when I was in Oman with family (minus son).

 

Grammar etc.

Broca’s area in the brain is responsible for the production of grammatical sentences, says Gardner in his Multiple Intelligences. But which area is responsible for making me actually LIKE grammar – in any language that I have ever studied?

Anyway, I’m posting links to these articles here so I have them handy whenever I wish to re-read them.

http://www.economist.com/style-guide/singular-or-plural

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/29/grammar-pedant-personality-type

http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2016/09/unhand-that-comma/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9381417/Its-cruel-not-to-teach-children-grammar.html