“Steal this thought(?)”

These are some of the values and ideals informing these pages & my teaching.  This page is a living document, which is another way of saying that i’ll edit this, changing my mind from time to time…

1)      Dispensability
Abbie Hoffman wrote a book titled Steal This Book.  In a perfect world I might well say “if you see anything you can use, take it”.  But I don’t give my services away, and my writing is copyrighted. Even so: I aim to share what I have, to in effect, put myself out of a job because everyone comes to know what i know.  I don’t know if it’s true but I heard that Chinese doctors were only paid when you were healthy, and unpaid if you were sick.  By that principle, teachers should only be paid when you’re ready to move to the next level.  We should not be building walls between disciplines, inserting hoops that we make people jump through, thereby making ourselves indispensable.  And while you’re at it, let’s talk about those psycho-therapists who have decade long relationships with their patients; does that make sense?

It does make sense if our only motive is the profit motive.

2)      Niceness
If you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all.  I believe the hippocratic oath says “above all do no harm.”  While a critic isn’t a doctor, surely the same principle applies.  If you’ve seen me at your show and I didn’t write it may be out of this wish to do no harm.   Or maybe i was just too tired.  Either way let’s be nice.

3)      Gratitude
I am so lucky to see brilliant performers onstage, in films, playing music, acting… I may not understand what they’re doing, I may not like what they’re doing, but my first sentiment is to say “thank you”.  I come from a place of appreciation, of admiration for the sacred fire I hope to see glowing in performance. Whatever i think, i must never lose sight of that gratitude.

4)      Joy
Who said learning can’t be fun?  I like to laugh and will try to make you laugh.  If I see something that makes me laugh in a performance I will laugh my head off unless I am very certain it’s wrong to laugh.  I am especially likely to laugh in a pretentious situation.  I don’t expect everyone to share my enthusiasm, but hope you’ll give me an opportunity to explain.  That’s what writing and teaching can do, particularly if there’s space for collegial discussion and space for civil disagreements.

5)      Inclusiveness
I am wary of anything that creates class distinctions.  Some teachers seem to want to preserve their advantage over their students (see also #1 above).  I want to be equal with those to whom I speak.  That also means that jargon is a no-no, unless it’s necessary.

6)      Excellence
A love of inclusiveness does not preclude excellence.  But I also believe in noblesse oblige, that old idea that –to paraphrase Spiderman’s uncle—from those to whom much has been given, much is expected.  In the old days it was the notion that being “noble” carried responsibilities to behave well.  I’d say that great artists are given special privileges in our world, but in return are expected to give.   No that doesn’t mean that I am entitled to invade their privacy.  But yes it does mean that a god-given gift should be treated with respect.  I will be especially grateful in the presence of such a gift, but in return I want to see that the gift is used wisely.  Even so I will still try to be nice & joyful even when I am tempted to be negative and sad.

12 Responses to “Steal this thought(?)”

  1. What a great course, is it only open to U of T students or is this a community program?

  2. barczablog says:

    Hello and thanks for the enthusiastic comment. To answer your question, this course is offered by the School of Continuing Studies, and has no prerequisites. Anyone can participate.

  3. barczablog says:

    OH and sorry if the responses are to an earlier –obsolete– page describing a course. As the course is underway now and won’t be offered again for awhile i thought I’d change the page.

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  7. Alan Gasser says:

    I misread one of the words you used as sacrament. Doesn’t matter which one. I like it. And I’m grateful for it. (I shared some sacred space last night with bpNichol’s poetry and some odd chant, which I sang, unrehearsed, in the Trinity Chapel, on my way to making peace with the idea of Nuit Blanche’s complicated history of exoticised over-gigantism and super-durationism.) Buddy Bill Westcott says: if you can’t say something nice, don’t say something nice.

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