Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Mon 10/21/2002 7:32 AM
Random Thought: The "I's" Have It

I'm somewhere over Colorado or Kansas or wherever. Don't know what time it is 39,000 feet below me. My watch says 12:23 am, but that is Pacific Coast Time. I'm here on the red-eye flying back from a weekend of cuddling and spoiling my grand-daughter in San Francisco. I've discovered that it is true: being a grandpa is God's reward for not having strangled the kids. I also know why they call these late night flights "the red-eye." Can't sleep. I don't know why. Airplane coach seats are so plushy, roomy and comfortable. So, while I'm wide-eyed getting red-eyed and my legs are entering rigor mortis, I may as well think of answering a prodding "haven't heard from you in a while" message I got from Kenny last week. He wanted another off-the-wall word for teaching. He wants off-the-wall, I'll give it to him. I'll give him a single letter instead of a word. I'll give him an "I." I'm going to tell him the same thing I'm going to have a bunch of students at M.I.T. experience for themselves in a workshop next weekend: the "I's" have it!

Almost every artist, photographer, musician, sculptor, writer, actor, philosopher, architect, scientist, and even athlete proclaim that the "I's" have it hand and foot over anything else, including knowledge, technology, and technique. The "I's" are keys to seizing the day. They're the ignition key that turns over the creative engine. They create a "let's see" environment of experimentation, playfulness, flexibility, spontaneity, curiosity, and unorthodoxy. It's the "I's" that draw from that great storehouse of talent, knowledge, and experience. The "I's" have it in a studio; they have it on a stage; they have it in a lab; they have it in a study. Why shouldn't they have it in the classroom as well.

Oh, I almost forgot. What are the "I's?" They are: Imagination, Involvement, Imagery, Innovation, Ideas, Invention, Intensity, Incongruity, Inspiration, Interest, Inclusion, Intrigue, Intuition, Invisible, Insatiable, Insight, Individual, Investigation, Integrity.

Now, before Kenny or anyone asks, I wish I knew was how these "I's" do what they do when they do. I know I can't turn them on and off like a faucet. I know I can't call them forth at will like some sorcerer. Sometimes I think these "I's" are sneaky little critters that come out of nowhere and surprise us with a startling, staccato "boo!" Sometimes, I think they're sleepy messages that call out between thoughts like a singing telegram from somewhere to awaken us. Sometimes they're like a Parmenidian "self evident" toast that "pop up" when we're doing something mundane; at other times, they seem to go off like a loud alarm clock give us a "eureka" jolt when we're in the darndest places and least expect them; and still at other times they slowly peeked out from behind globules of "sweat."

I will tell Kenny that whatever these "I's" are, whenever they come, from wherever they come, however they come, if he weaves them into the fiber of his being, they balance work, commitment, determination and perseverance on one end of the seesaw with joy, love, wonder, humility, and gratitude on the other end. They insure that hard labor is not laborious. They surprise, encourage dreaming, draw out an awareness, forge a courage to do something unique, take dizzying leaps, unleash a daring, open the mind and heart, visualize with richness and intensity, change the way to look at things, compel an asking of "why," create a keen attentiveness, create a capacity for growth, welcome newness, keep him moving, re-choreograph, instill a spirit of adventure, enhance the ability to go beyond the norm, endow freedom, educate, offer possibilities, uncover potential, develop a thirst, sharpen listening, unbox the box, fill the place with opportunities, polish each sparkling classroom jewel, generate a joy, keep him constantly searching, place him on the edge, excite a sense of wonder, stimulate a desire to explore, stir "the juices," spark a curiosity, admire the beauty, point to the unseen, find exciting new roads on which to journey, provide the vision, summon the passion, and have him ride on thermals that soar to a higher heights of teaching and learning.

And what better place for the "I's" to have it than in a classroom. In there, as I just was reminded by the students' presentation of their sculptures for the "Rodin Project," there is so much extraordinary in the taken-for-granted ordinary, so much to notice in the often unnoticed everyday goings-on, so much to look at in the overlooked around us, such a loud drum roll to hear in the silent hum-drum, so much that's all right in the too often seen solely as all wrong.

I was listening to my rabbi say last week that holiness occurs when the ordinary becomes extraordinary, when a common moment is elevated to the unique and celebrated, when the mundane is given value, when the everyday become "the" day. It's the "I's" that's turn an ordinary classroom into a revered piece of territory. They make it one of those sacred places where all that can happen. They consecrate it as one of those holy sites where you can make a difference and change some lives.

So, I'll tell Kenny that it's the "I's" that make teaching and learning less of a struggle and more of a joy. A lot of people are in motion, but the "I's" will give him direction as well. They'll give him a kaleidoscope approach to a kaleidoscope of people. They'll take him to places no one has ever been before. They'll draw water from his deep well of strength and potential. They'll stomp on his toes and keep him hopping. They'll give him new eyes and ears, and fresh legs. They'll constantly put him in an altered state. They'll kill the "idea killers." They'll make sense out of the "it doesn't make sense." And, as Einstein said, they'll force him to attempt the absurd so he can achieve the impossible.

Then, Kenny will see that the "I's" won't let rigor mortis set in. They won't let him get stuck. They won't let him tire before he retires. They won't let him die years before he's buried. They won't let him sit in boredom, nor laze back in security, nor just stand around in complacency, nor grimace in scorn, nor wallow in despair, nor freeze in fear. They won't let him repeat yesterday. They won't let him follow the crowd.

I'll tell Kenny that it's the "I's" that will help him help himself and each student to help him- or herself find the greatness in his or her own "I's." And, I will tell him that if he trusts himself deeply enough to heed his "I's," they'll make him so rich he'll have to spell "rich" with five or six "i's."

No masterpiece, to paraphrase Salvador Dali, was ever created any other way.

         Make it a good day.


         Louis Schmier      
         Department of History
         Valdosta State University
         Valdosta, GA  31698                 /~\        /\ /\
         912-333-5947              /^\      /     \    /  /~\  \   /~\__/\
                                 /     \__/         \/  /  /\ /~\/         \
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                        -_~    /  "If you want to climb mountains,   \ /^\
                         _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -    \____

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