Conspiracies are simply the stories we tell ourselves (or latch onto) when the factual narrative doesn't fit our world-view or feels too uncomfortable. We all have things that we believe about ourselves or that fit into our ethical code - and, most importantly, we are all willing to fight to hold onto them.
There is a difference between those personal stories, which may be detrimental to our individual well-being but are not connected to others and are not widely recognized conspiracy theories.
The dangerous piece about the latter is that outside (wealthy or powerful) "influencers" build stories around a microscopic grain of truth (without truly believing) as a means to control a group of people who are already receptive to endorsing them, even if they seem from the outside to be against their best interest. You might also recognize it as the same M.O. of cults. They target the (emotionally or economically) vulnerable folks who have already bought the narrative of fringe groups or are looking for "easy" solutions and someone to blame, as well as acceptance, connections, and a community that will welcome them.
These "authorities" frequently provide plausible explanations for why the facts or actual science behind something is a hoax. One of the most common tools is to say that scientists are "always changing their minds." Or that "the science is always changing" because they understand that "change" is a scary, triggering word.
I am here to point out that the basic definition of science includes the understanding that what we know as truth, right now, is susceptible to change as we experiment and learn more.
I don't need to tell you that conspiracy theories are dangerous. Not only are they devised to control and manipulate the way people think about particular phenomena or events, but they also provide the impetus for this group to become violent because they fully believe that their way of life is threatened. And that is, exactly, where we are now.
Thus far, I seem to have outlined this significant problem without offering any viable solutions.
When I think of those folks who embrace conspiracy theories, hook, line, and sinker - first I consider why they are susceptible to being reeled in. In most cases, it is not, as often claimed, a lack of education or science curriculum. As I comprehend the situation, it comes down to the lack of meaningful connection to a caring community.
As educators, it is our obligation to take the time to listen to and understand each person in our care. If we don't, we are partially responsible for fostering another closed mind - a person who generates (or accepts) negative stories and becomes afraid of change.
When folks can't see beyond that personal narrative that each of us lives within, it directly influences their ability to take on new challenges and invite change. They will continuously look at the world from a narrow space of defeatism or victim-hood and see everything new as a menace to their very existence.
In direct contrast, people with positive view-points are wide open to fresh ideas and are more willing to research the validity of proposed conspiracies. They also sincerely welcome adaptation to their internal stories.
This, right here, is why mentor-ship is proven to be one of the most effective tools in transforming lives and communities.
While only tangentially related to DRC, my second middle-reader book, Noah's Experiment, written over a decade ago, is edited and ready to be self-published. Except, it is missing illustrations. I was fortunate to have a "willing" artist (Ian) still living at home when I published the first book, Hawk's Surprise.
This is a call for or drawings or photographs of animals (sheep, cows, chickens, Border Collies, and cats), farm buildings (inside or outside - including barns, haylofts, equipment sheds, etc.), and hilly, forested, and farmland winter landscapes. Ideally, I need at least 14 illustrations. One will be chosen as cover art.
I will acknowledge all of those artists, with work chosen for the book, as contributors. Their names will appear on the cover of the book, as well as the title page. They will also receive a copy of the published book.
There are no age limits or other requirements. All media (drawing, painting, charcoal, colored pencil, photographs, etc.) will be considered.
Please share this opportunity within your network. Send questions and submissions (as high res .jpg) to me here. Thank you!
What Are You Good At?
What are you good at? Not surprisingly, your answers to that question are likely the same as the things that interest you - the things you like to do.
We often quibble that we aren't good at certain things because we don't have a natural gift; however, researchers have proven that innate talent is, mostly, a myth. We become skilled because we practice. Additionally, not coincidentally, those things that we practice are the ones that bring us the most joy.
Sadly, for the most part, our children don't have the freedom to discover their interests; therefore, they don't have the luxury to develop their talents. From an early age, adults guide their every activity - even play, through coercion, reward, and punishment. Whether it is an attempt to "keep up" with other kids of the same age, fear of judgment for failing as a "good," attentive, and involved parent, or of injury, children are losing out through their over-protectiveness.
Consequently, many of the kids who sit across from me during our initial meeting can not answer the title question. The responses vary from verbal stumbling, blank stares, or an embarrassed side-eye. But, sometimes, they go into detail about something they are utterly passionate about, with glowing eyes, expressive hands, and enormous grins of enthusiasm. Suddenly they stop short, place a hand over their mouth, and apologize because they realize they had been expressing their love for something that is not considered "academic." At that moment, before I can rush in to reassure them that everything "counts" - I am the unwilling witness to the draining of pure joy.
Why is our culture so very determined to shut that beautiful energy down? I have asked these questions many times before: why do we let external forces determine validity? Why is our children's worth measured by what they can "learn" in school and not by those things they love and excel at? And, why are they told they can pursue their passions after they sit through 13, 17, or 19 years of "education" - when we know that practice of a craft increases the likelihood of success and overall happiness?
Among other things, I am a writer because I love to write. I am a cook because I love to cook. I am a mentor because I take pure delight in providing the resources, standing back, and watching while kids explore all their possibilities and discover what they want to practice.
I ask again - what are you good at? What brings you joy?
DRC has increased the number of SLU students, from the Community Based Learning Program, who are facilitating remote sessions, from nine to twelve over the past week. Thanks to these new folks, we have added some very cool sessions to our already full calendar - including another Animal Geek Club for all of our animal obsessed peeps, a character and setting development session, as a companion to our drama class, and we are re-working our make-up tutorial class to include body painting techniques to create a double header with the new cosplay class where participants are able to fully develop their characters image.
Everything in our schedule represents the direct requests of our student members. If you are seeking a way to take control of your own education - get in touch. Deep Root Center accepts new members throughout the academic year.
Getting Real With All the Feelings
Yesterday, my brother Pete, the grower and producer of Rel Hemp products, put out a request for comments on his social media posts asking the question, "what is your purpose?" I wanted to respond to his question but couldn't. Let me explain. On any given day, everything I write, whether it is a response on a post, a letter or email, or this blog, needs to run itself through the filters in the depths of my subconscious before it comes out. I can try to write in the moment, but whatever spews forth is utter crap. And truth be told, the exercise is mentally excruciating.
However, in this particular case, it was more than my typical process at work. I realized last evening when I tried to write this piece (and came up with total shit) that I felt like a Play-Doh fun factory had squeezed me into a useless, limp pile of emotionally charged mush.
Take your pick: anger, rage, fury, irritation, agitation, bitterness, contempt, disgust, frustration, grief, horror, embarrassment, resentment, shock, hurt, dread, loathing, and vengefulness. These are just a few of the emotions that have cycled through this brain in the past twenty-four hours, and those stacked onto the already long list, which included: uninspired, anxious, disengaged, listless, discouraged, and overwhelmed.
Beyond the obvious - a national shit-show that proved that someone is, quite literally, capable of getting away with murder, as long as they produce an alternative story, filled with lies, that millions can and will adopt as truth. I also learned of another peripheral tragedy that was, in hindsight, most likely caused by incredibly stupid, holier than thou, and irresponsible (possibly criminal) leadership. And to top it all off, this pandemic has rendered me (us) into a place of ambiguity, stagnation, and restlessness.
I understand what my purpose is in "normal" times. I know why I used to fly out of bed at 5 am ready to take on the world. But for someone who thrives on inventing new ideas and who flourishes when things are in flux and the process of morphing, this is soul-sucking. I am that person who, absolutely, needs the stimulus and upheaval of change.
And as a direct contradiction, yes, I am also an introvert who appreciates orchestrating all of that from my quietly remote "nest."
The unknowing and uncertainty feeds my restlessness and inability to focus. How can I drive the next thing for DRC when none of us knows what to expect in the next week, month, or year?
And more importantly, what can I do to generate enough personal excitement through this lassitude and all of the other "feels" to construct something concrete, worthwhile, and doable, which may only be tangentially related to Deep Root Center?
Oh, I know, as "they" say, "this too shall pass." And, I will figure out how to get myself motivated and kicked into "high-gear" eventually.
Come to think of it - I can almost feel the creative juices begin to simmer and bubble. Maybe, this is what I needed - to acknowledge and be honest (to you and myself) about my feelings of intense anger, impotence, inadequacy, and defeat.
In the next week or so, we will be rolling out short social media video clips taken from interviews of our kiddos, parents, and me when Liam Crossen Films was here gathering footage in November. I will share them here, and on our website, as well.
Happy Valentines Day (for those who celebrate)!
A question for the ages. Most likely asked by the parents of these artists. When at age five, they littered the house with minuscule pieces of paper cut from colorful magazine pages to glue onto a poster board.
Or, when now-famous authors read everything they could get their hands on, including the cereal box while eating said cereal at the breakfast table.
Or the engineers, builders, and trades people who spent hours every day building with Legos, magnetic rods, or craft sticks, various cardboard boxes, and hot glue. (We won't mention the number of vacuums and other electronic devices they tore apart to discover how they work.)
Or the medical professionals, fascinated with the Grey's Anatomy textbook and incurable diseases from a very early age.
Or the working musicians, who memorized every lick and lyric from their favorite rock band while beating the life out of their first cheap guitar.
And now parents are asking this very question of their kids while they engage in multi-player virtual games. Can we even begin to guess what skills they are attaining or where it will take them?
None of us know what this world will look like or what jobs will be out there when our kids are old enough to enter the workforce.
However, understanding that statement as undeniable truth doesn't stop us from judging how our kids spend their time.
The blatant hypocrisy is dumbfounding. We want our kids to develop self-motivation but punish them for focusing on (practicing) the things we don't deem valuable. And, as adults, we would never accept someone telling us how to spend our time.
The universal argument about balance, the one that I have used more than I would like to admit, is not valid when you understand that balance means something different for each one of us.
As I articulated earlier this week, what if equilibrium is simpler - a fleeting sensation that comes and goes seemingly without logical explanation? What if it has nothing to do with the work, play, rest cycle? But, instead is the moments in between where we find our bliss - our reason for being.
You and I can not determine those moments for anyone besides ourselves, even if they are our children (or students).
*This post was inspired by this article, which I can only imagine was written by a once frustrated parent who asked the title question.
Our "Why" video inspired some lovely comments this past week. Here it is again, in case you have not had a chance to view it, yet. This is encapsulates our Mission Statement in a way that I will never be able to explain through the written word, here.
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