An Andean Flute

I have had a few difficult experiences in the past several days, not the least of which has been my ill-advised zinger on plagiarism on the WPA-l.  These experiences have been difficult to internalize, resort and rearrange so that I could come out on the other side, having learned something that would help me make more sense out of my life and the lives of those with whom I intersect.

Being the kind of writer I am, I make better sense out of events by writing about them.  Whether I let anyone see the process is in many ways the subject of this blog. I began this blog simply because I was asking my students to create blogs.  When I began, I was decidedly blog innocent.  I still am significantly innocent, but through the process of writing these posts, I have learned a good deal about writing, private and public discourse and the many areas in between, and I want to try to get down this morning something of what I am learning.  One would think I would have learned more, having been teaching and writing for more years than I care to mention, but people who know me well know I’m a slow learner. My wife, Sarah, used to console me by saying at least I learn.

I ask my Life Writing students to write personal essays that they are willing to let the other nine students in the class to read.  Some of these students have been willing to edit their essays and allow me to post links to them on this blog.  Needless to say, this kind of exercise is a natural reader-oriented activity, quite a bit better than “Imagine you are writing a letter to . . . .”

I have imagined my blogging as something of the same, although exaggerated by the number of unknown readers as a consequence of my attempt to gain some kind of readership by announcing on WPA-l and with Google+.  For several reasons, I wanted to engage in the same kind of writing I have been asking my students to do.  First, I like this kind of writing–it’s how I figure myself out.  Well, I’ll stop there. It’s dangerous to try to figure yourself out in a public space. I did know it was dangerous, but I know I’m trying to discover for myself something about writing and being somewhere on the continuum from diary (absolutely private) to published book–large, unknown audience (this is all Moffett stuff).

Truthfully, I like the risk. I can’t explain why, but I do. Actually, I do know why, now that I’ve thought about it, but I’m not going to explain it. Key is resistance to a kind of enforced sterility that characterizes most professional writing. I’m not all the much different than one of my students I quoted in my last post.

But I have gotten into trouble, and now I’m trying to work my way out of it.

About fifteen years ago, I published in an online journal an article documenting/interpreting the origins of the Conference on the Theatre and Pedagogy of the Oppressed (PTO), featuring the work of Augusto Boal and Paulo Freire.  I was one of the original organizers in about 1994 or so (it is still ongoing–this year’s will be in Omaha, NE, the place of its origin.  In the article, I recounted several very difficult moments in the conference. I had occasion to reread this essay yesterday and I thought I would include here a couple of paragraphs near the end of the essay when I wrote about my decision to make public some of the problems that might have perhaps been left private, reminding me of one of my previous posts in which I wrote about crossing the line [the essay was called “The Flute”].

After multiple identity conflicts and role juggling, the advisory committee [I was a member] reconstructed itself and moved forward.  I would like to expose these conflicts because they reveal the underbelly of social relationships and the liberatory movement, but in any movement, as in any relationship, there are things one shouldn’t talk about because the public right to know conflicts with the individual’s right to privacy (a statement that is itself conflicted by the linguistic social construction of  “individual” and “public”).  There is a point at which one glosses over discomforting issues and gets on with the business of living.  Where we place that point defines us—as I have defined myself by telling you this story.
I know that in order to hear Paulo’s music through the cacophony, one has to see beyond; one has to focus not on individuals, not on class, race, or gender but on the contradictions within the system—and on the possibilities for action.  That’s what Paulo means by conscientizaçao.  I think that we also have to move beyond blame.  We have to stop blaming others and we have to stop blaming ourselves.  But it’s hard to remember that amidst the finger-pointing and shouting.

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