Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ramblings around the point

Last week and this week, I am being paid to study pressing social issues and the way a good education in mathematics can be corrective. Does early math education close the gender gap? Yes. Does early math education enfranchise people? Yes. Does it make us whole and better citizens? Yes. Can I effectively insert Reasoning Mind into the political conversation about math education? I hope so. I'm writing philosophy and research papers and dry statistical analysis... then, in my spare time, I'm reading about the education crisis.

And they said they didn't teach job skills at UChicago.

Thursday night I took my first yoga class since Chicago. The lady was an odd one; she made disclaimers about silliness, etc., apologizing for the fact that we may look or feel a little ridiculous in a moment. I thought she was referring to the pretzel-like fashion in which we were about to twist ourselves up. Nope. She proceeded to tell us to balance on our forearms and our toes and 'sploosh out the negativity.'

She was right. It was weird. It was also rather glorious, because she then proceeded to encourage us to 'make those splooshy noises, now,' which is not something I ever thought I'd hear in a yoga class, but this is Texas.

Friday night, Dave Matthews was in town. We got there rather early and walked over to the pavilion from the free parking (only in Texas is there free parking at a massive corporate-style concert), but in the indecision about whether or not to take my bag with me into the venue I managed to leave my ticket in the car. I told the guys I'd call them when I back and retraced my steps to the car, only to discover that my phone was still at work. There were people literally pouring alongside me on their way into the venue. How the hell was I supposed to find three dudes on a blanket in a sea of dudes sitting on blankets?

(This is when it occurred to me that outdoor concerts have been happening since long before cell phones, so there was a decent chance it was all going to work out.) I walked back. There were Wes and Alex, directly in sight of the entrance, sitting at the edge of the Sea of Bros. I think cell phones have seriously damaged my generation's ability to meet people, function in large public places, and to keep their engagements.

Saturday: Tarkovsky made a film called 'Andrei Rublev' about a 15th century Russian Orthodox icon painter by the name of Andrei Rublev. The entire thing is a series of tangents which take place for little to no obvious reason, and much of the action in the film isn't relevant to the story being told -- or at least, it didn't seem so when I watched it, though the more it sits with me the more connected it all seems. Perhaps this is what is meant by the facility of the human mind to build stories out of disconnected pieces.

The point is, this film was in black and white and shades of gray and brown; most of it took place in what looked like a field of mud or dirty grass punctuated by large puddles; and both the people and the icons seemed flat, dirty; like they were draped in bits of elephant skin. The horses were always upset about something, probably the mud, and were prancing about like nobody's business. This film was three hours long.

But then, the last five minutes was a series of shots in full color of Rublev's paintings, today, unrestored, gorgeous, dimensional, shaped. It was breathtaking. The last thirty seconds showed three horses at the edge of a pure blue shallow lake, drinking and grazing in a field of the most perfect marsh grass I have ever seen.

It hit me like a ton of bricks that the entire film could have been incredibly visually stunning, only I was too caught up in the colors -- or lack thereof.

Art should do this more often.

People really spoke this weekend at Quaker Meeting. They spoke about gratitude and perspective and stillness and purpose, about bringing peace from within out into the world. There was something that tugged at me in a way which felt like roots as I was sitting and listening to these people speak from some higher stillness. In listening I was not pulled out of or away from myself in the least; I think I know now what it means to say, "You speak my mind," but it was more than that, there was a sense of lightness there.

The rest of the weekend involved cheesecake and Whole Foods as a zen experience and an episode with a taco at a birthday party which I unintentionally crashed, but now it's time to get to work.

None of what I've written this morning seems to have much of a purpose except that all of these things were rather lovely and I want to share them; luckily for me, that's the point of this here blog. I think I am starting to take more time to appreciate things because they are, not because there is necessarily a punch line. I don't want my life to have a punch line, and I don't know how it all fits together, but it has been a good couple of days in Texas.

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