Archive for October, 2014

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

The question, “What are you going to be?” means something different this time of year, which is one of the many reasons why I thoroughly enjoy celebrating Halloween. Selecting a Halloween costume is terrific fun and a rare opportunity to be someone other than ourselves.

meandheather

This year, I was invited to many Halloween events (I always tell my students that I’m extremely popular). The party last Saturday was a “Saturday Morning Cartoons” theme, so I jumped in the way-back machine and dressed as Jem; she’s truly outrageous! My friend, Heather, went as Paddington Bear.

Saturated with shades of pink,  the ensemble I put together was successful enough for people to understand that I was Jem; alas, my costume wasn’t quite as good as that of the other Jem at the party, who had a more rockin’ 80’s wig. It certainly wasn’t surprising that another woman had a latent desire to be a super-cool, pink-wig-wearing rock star.

Tomorrow night, the Urban Family and I are are dancing at Beauty Bar, which is featuring an 80’s Halloween dance party. I’m going as Punky Brewster, ideally bringing her spunk and colorful layers to the dance floor. Jem seems too obvious, somehow, and the weather has turned colder.punky

Imbedded in these choices, linger decisions that adults are rarely asked to make—what else could you be? We are all diligently working on who we are, trying to become a better version of ourselves, the best version of ourselves, ideally.

Velma_Dinkley

Tricia Lunt?

At Halloween, we are enticed to explore different facets within, think of the men who dress as women (and who look fabulous in dresses, I might add). We are permitted–encouraged–to break free from our prescribed self, which is why when my friend suggest I dress as Velma Dinkely from Scooby-Doo, a childhood favorite to be sure, I turned to her and said, “but I’m Velma every day!” The glasses, the turtleneck, the sensible shoes: ask anyone who’s seen me hunt for my glasses.

On Halloween, I want to be someone else entirely.

So we reach beyond what we are to what we might be, or might have been, or might yet become. We revisit childhood and gleefully take up handfuls of sugar-coated goodness.

Halloween offers a trip down the rabbit hole, accompanied by the comforting assurance that when it’s over, we will come back to ourselves again.

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By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty. 

Thesis: Ignorance is bliss.

Antithesis: Knowledge is power.

Disturbing Synthesis: A little knowledge and a lot of ignorance is damn frightening.

The first two statements are cliches..  But, as with all cliches, there is a great deal of truth to them. What I am finding is that the third statement, though not as pithy or memorable, is no less true.  It seems like everywhere in America today, this disturbing synthesis is prevalent. The latest example is popular, and popularly misguided reactions to the ebola outbreak.

Those who are completely ignorant of ebola are not necessarily problematic. Approach them on the street and ask about the disease, and you may get blank stares and a shrug of the shoulders.  They have no worries; no concerns; no 291933-ebola-virusknowledge.  Honestly, the vast majority of Americans will never be affected by ebola, and so is it really surprising that our notoriously narcissistic selves may simply say, ‘who cares’?  Many of the ignorant may be callous, a great deal may be apathetic, but they are not dangerous.

The antithesis of this state is knowledge. An understanding of how the disease transmits, what it does to those affected, and how likely it is to spread is necessary. A realization that help should be sent to Africa is nobly knowledgeable.  Those with knowledge appreciate that there are much greater worries in this world than the highly unlikely chance of catching ebola. Knowledge, and its offspring perspective, allows an American to realize the food we put in our mouths poses a much greater threat to our health than any hemorrhagic fever.  Nonetheless, the informed American appreciates the power, and horror of disease, and the necessity of containment.  In our globalized age, a disease affecting Africa may not reach us personally, but the social revolutions, economic catastrophes, and military strife that may come as a result of the disease very well could.  Being an isolationist is not an option when it comes to fighting microbes.  Paradoxically, being self-centered should lead to a concern for the other.

It is the last, the synthesis, that should keep us up at night; it is the synthesis that must be fought against.  The happy medium between knowledge and ignorance is not all that happy, but it is disturbingly easy to come by.  Google, 24 hours news, and social media are the pushers of spin, sensationalism, conspiracies and half-truths.  The American people are the addicts.

Ebola-is-realIn a perfect world, Google allows us to find ‘truth’ in a simple easily structured search format. If you ‘google’ ebola, you will get articles from the WHO, the CDC, and the BBC.  But, accidently put an ‘h’ after ebola, and the logarithm used by the website offers you the opportunity to search ‘Ebola Hoax’.  Search that, and you start to fall down the rabbit hole.

I got a glimpse of this the other day. Riding home on the train, four adults, seemingly sane, began to discuss ebola.  There were the typical concerns and questions.  Some of the claims made were incorrect; the disease has not killed 30,000 in Africa, even though this train rider stated it was fact.  But soon things got out of hand.  One of the men shouted that ebola was actually created by the government; he stated that it was categorically true that ebola has been patented and that the government is controlling the disease.  How did he propose to prove this shocking revelation? He said to his friend, ‘give me your phone, and let me ‘Google’ it. I’ll show you!’

The tools for finding information are there for us to use.  They have the capability to provide anyone and everyone with the power of knowledge. Absolute ignorance is now, more often than not, a choice.  The problem seems to be that most people choose to collect only snippets of knowledge.  A ’30 second’ blurb here; a meme there.  Throw in a facebook status posted by a friend with some strange conspiratorial theories, and the synthesis of ignorance and knowledge is off to the races.  Though sprinting away from ignorance, we’re too often stopping far short of knowledge.

Imagine That

Posted: October 15, 2014 in Uncategorized
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By Tricia Lunt, English FacultyCreate

These last four weeks (coinciding with the beginning of this term), I’ve failed to make space for creativity in my life; my work as a teacher has claimed the bulk of my time and energy. This is problematic in several ways, and ironic in at least one: I am currently teaching two “Creative Expression” classes, yet have found little time to do so.

This is a challenge most people face. Listening to our inner creative voice can be difficult amidst the thunderous din of life’s demands, but we ought to listen, and respond.Cool!

Creativity is essential to productivity, so while I am busy being “industrious,” I would be more so if I took the time to create (as I am doing now, grading be damned). Hence, this blog, and countless others, exists. Yes, to communicate, but also to create something where once nothing was. Hence the fancy cookery flourishing in kitchens of extremely busy people (you gotta eat). Hence the whole expansive world of imaginative Lego landscapes, constructed by young and old.

Though I do not make my living through the creative arts, I practice creative endeavors to connect more fully with life, through writing and dance and art. Countless extraordinary people I love work to make time for creativity in their lives: gardening, baking, crocheting, sewing, designing, painting, crafting, sculpting, acting, playing and singing: a river of dynamic energy overflowing its banks, nourishing us all.

The struggle to create is an essential part of living, of fulfilling the promise of lifelong learning, of evolving and realizing how many vistas remain in the distance, beckoning us to keep moving forward. Undertaking an artistic journey is particularly compelling, especially when it becomes all too clear that life really is what we make it.

Back to School, RMU Fall 2014

Posted: October 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

by Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

It’s been quiet ’round the Turtle these days because it’s busy here at RMU. Faculty and students are back to meet the Fall 2014 term with fresh school supplies and eager smiles. Thus, I offer some observations about new scholastic beginnings, touching upon both the profound and preposterous.

1. After a quiet summer, RMU’s halls elevator lobbies and classrooms are overflowing.

2. All the faculty are here, working at peak energy, which means the office is abuzz with laments and laughter, and the ever-present sounds of copier and stapler.

3. The emotional roller coaster has already descended from the first hill of optimism and, as assignment due dates are missed, we are all collectively headed for the initial trough of dejection, with the inevitable good intention to climb the next hill, sisyphean subtext intended.

4. Got meetings? I know we do.

5. Paul’s jokes have re-emerged on his White Board; his humor seems sharper–and more necessary–than ever.

6. My 8:00am classes are earlier than ever this year.

7. Two field trips already, and more planned!

8. Next week is “Spirit Week,” celebrated with dress up days: RMU gear on Monday; favorite team of Tuesday: neon on Wednesday, and Throwback Thursday culminating in Homecoming, which means with some savvy planning, I’ll be able to wear a t-shirt every day: nice work perk.

9. Helping students engage in their own educational journeys is a puzzle I work on every day. Thankfully, I’m a better thinker when I am teaching. Someday, I’ll solve it.

10. Witnessing student enthusiasm, catching them as realize the joy of learning, is why teaching matters, and why I’m still here.

I leave you with this bit of educational ecstasy from Back to School, the 1986 starring Rodney Dangerfield and Sally Kellerman. The scene may be a bit inappropriate, but, then again, so am I.