academics

Navigating the in-between

I grew up in a world of binaries. In or out. Saved or damned. Black or white. Right or wrong. Heart or mind. Theory or practice. The institutions and authorities taught me how these either/or options sufficiently explained the world around me – places and people. I believed it. The certainty that was available in this approach supported my subconscious desire to avoid vulnerability.

For years, the only place I have felt truly able to engage my mind has been the academy. Not only did the academy push me to continually deepen my thinking, it supported the heart/mind disconnection. A total comfort zone for me. So, I suppose you can imagine my shock and dismay when precisely the place that had enabled my inner dichotomy was where it was challenged most.

I took the curriculum-as-living-inquiry elective for my masters because my first choice was not available. I knew the philosophical, reflexive approach would drive me crazy, but I didn’t think the other options were any better. I resolved to appreciate the challenge. Maybe I would learn something new.

I lost count of the number of times my eyes rolled as I read articles about humanness and heart in education, lived curriculum, poetic inquiry, ecological identity and métissage. It seemed I was looking at an abstract painting I did not understand. I wondered half-seriously if the writers had been high when they wrote their pieces. I mean, really, what place did these things have in the academy I had grown to know and love? The place – the only place – where my mind was nourished, and my heart was inconsequential? Was this its betrayal?

I wrestled for weeks with the two morning devotions I had to prepare. My own devotional life had been a struggle for some time. While I could hear past spiritual teachers in my mind saying, “If you don’t have an hour a day to spend in Bible study, I can’t help you”, it just did not work for me anymore. It seemed I was only hearing God clearly when I was going for a walk by the water, yet I felt such guilt for not fitting the mould. What could I say that did not require me to abdicate authenticity and integrity, pretending I was in a place I clearly was not? The answer came to me on one of my walks.

As much as a part of me holds on to my childhood world of binaries, I realized that for some time I have been living in-between, in a place of tension. Studying Aoki’s curriculum-as-plan and curriculum-as-lived, Pinar’s currere, and rhizocurriculum based on ideas from Deleuze and Guattari spoke not just to my practice, but to my personhood. The plan (binaries, rigid theology and practice) had been disrupted by the lived (my experiences and interactions with others). Though the plan sought to segment and cut-off lived experiences, like a plant’s rhizomes, they popped up elsewhere, prompting a continued consideration. Currere asked for connections between past experiences, future potentialities and present realities, positioning them within a wider political and cultural context. Who is served by maintaining a binary approach to life?

In all of this, I was drawn to Parker Palmer’s discussion of disconnectedness and wholeness. Separating practice and personhood in my devotion would be an attempt once again to avoid vulnerability, except this time the desire was not excused in the subconscious. The benefit of maintaining the binary was avoiding the uncertainty of vulnerability, yes, but at the cost of personal fragmentation and violence. A much higher price, in my estimation. The devotion suddenly came together.

Though I thought the academy had betrayed me, it had actually been a good friend. It had wounded me in the service of an ultimately good end – my integrity. A life whole and undivided. I am not there yet, but I am also not where I was. I am in-between.

Advertisements