"Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. In effect, the people who change our lives the most begin to sing to us while we are still in darkness. If we listen to their song, we will see the dawning of a new part of ourselves."
Existential Intelligence is the sensitivity and capacity to engage questions about human existence – how we got here, whether we have a purpose, and whether there is meaning in Life. Existential intelligence embraces the exploration of aesthetics, philosophy, religion and values like beauty, truth, and goodness. A strong existential intelligence allows human beings to see their place in the big picture, be it in the classroom, community, world, or universe.
First proposed by Howard Gardner, existential intelligence is one of nine theorized intelligences and is considered to be amoral – that is, it and the other eight categories of human intelligence can be used either constructively or destructively.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
I’ve been reading a great book entitled Shop Class as Soulcraft, by Matthew B Crawford. A white collar think tank guy, Crawford chucked it all to open a bike shop specializing in vintage motorcycle repair. He surveys historical twists and turns in the gradual separation of skills and labor into blue collar and white collar jobs, and in the process makes a strong case for the intrinsic value of learning to do something well. To choose to practice fine craftsmanship.
“Craftsmanship entails learning to do one thing really well, while the idea of the new economy (current social trend) is to be able to learn new things, celebrating potential rather than achievement.”
That pretty much sums up one of the concerns I have about my field – that is, textiles and surface design. What about refinement? What about craftsmanship?
Don’t jump my case. There is a huge indy craft movement out there – if you aren’t aware of it, check out Handmade Nation, or spoonflower.com or just Google indy craft movement and see where it leads you. This is GOOD. Making SHOULD be taken back from an elitist art world that's been pushing the self-serving notion for about a hundred years that most of us aren’t artists, won’t ever be artists and shouldn’t even try. A little bit of rebel energy is exactly what we need here. Every human's birthright is the flush of pleasure and adrenaline that accompanies the experience of making. Let’s just take art out of the equation entirely. It’s only a word anyway.
We all have to start somewhere. Yes, students copy teacher’s work. It’s a basic step in the learning process. Yes, some people never get past derivative, and some people never get past pre-packaged commercial products – paint by numbers, embroidery kits, and quilt books that dictate where and how much fabric to buy in order to copy the pattern to the letter. The proliferation of pre-packaged kits for children is horrifying. And what a shame. Because self esteem comes from jumping off into the creative unknown. Even if it doesn’t work out perfectly, it’s still yours and it’s still ok. And you can do it again. And get better. It just takes practice.
Consider. We are fortunate to live in a time and culture where we can have and do just about anything. Magazines arrive daily, packed with new approaches, fun things to try, new twists on old materials. Go, go, go. Collect them all and win a prize. Try this – you’ll be finished in an afternoon. And then try this – it’s fast and easy. Fast and easy. Fast and easy. Yikes.
I want thought. I want practice. I am a teacher. I see myself even more clearly as a guide. I don’t want to shut down anyone’s creative impulse and I don’t want to shut down the fun. But I’d love to slow things down.
And I do want to keep focus, and craftsmanship and refinement in the picture.
Consider. Anyone who writes for the public and/or teaches has a huge responsibility to monitor the levels of self-interest that fuel an essay. So I’ve thought long and hard about whether it's fair to be critical of the fun and easy approach. Isn’t it ok if it gets people started? Won’t people eventually long for depth and breadth in their process?
Maybe. I've realized it's not for me to judge. But it is for me as the public guide I espouse to be, to stand firm in my belief that refinement is good. Finding your own visual voice is good. Learning to do one thing really well is excellent.
Remember the old adage – "You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find the handsome prince?"
Gee just writing that phrase gave me the creeps. It’s so sexist and dated. But the basic premise is true. Human beings have preferences and until you try out a lot of stuff you don’t really know what your preferences are. But once you do know what they are, there is merit in sticking to them. It’s the basis of good mental health to know your center and honor it. That might mean sticking with one thing and getting good at it. Going for the achievement of something really fine, just for the enjoyment of the challenge. Something perfectly crafted in an imperfect world.