“Ocean Meditation” from Wednesday, October 11, 2017. General Studies 1181: Presence and Mindfulness. Angelo State University.
Whiteboard from today’s English 2307: Introduction to Literature and Creative Writing class on the small topic of the basis of human suffering (from a Buddhist perspective) and the role art (poetry and short fiction in our case) plays in helping us sort out and understand the emotional worlds that we develop in response to that suffering.
We have been reading Chogyam Trungpa’s Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior about the difference between the rising and setting sun attitudes that represent impermanence-change-courage-imperfection-life-transformation-community and permanence-no-change-fear-perfection-death-cocooning-isolation, more fully elaborated upon in chapters six “The Dawn of the Great Eastern Sun” and seven “The Cocoon.”
At Angelo State, I am teaching a freshman seminar for 25 students under the title “Presence and Mindfulness.” This is a 1-hour 8-week course for new students.
The photo above captures the whiteboard drawings I completed today as I lectured on two ways in which we behave toward ourselves, others, and the world, with consciousness or without.
Today in class, I wanted to contrast these behaviors with their opposites to help my students see the consequences of falling into the dream state of an unconscious life.
Ultimately, I argued, the value of contemplation practice is the development of a wakeful attitude so that we can activate our moral imaginations as we develop our decision-making capabilities, as well as our confidence, to further encourage ourselves to not fall asleep on ourselves, others, and the world.
I am putting together a collection of aphorisms I’ve composed over the last 8 years or so. And like always, I’m interested in including illustrations in the book to accompany the words on the page.
I asked an artist colleague at school if he’d be interested in doing some illustrations. He said that he didn’t think he’d have time, given all of the other projects he had underway. He suggested that I do them.
Well, that led me to my iPad Pro, the Apple Pencil, and Adobe Draw, a fairly simple drawing app. The drawings below are intended to be included in the collection, titled One Kind of Recording.
I’m now pretty hooked on this drawing app and using my iPad for drawing.
Here below is a self-portrait that I’ll use for my homepage and other profile images.
Here are the books I’ll be using in a 4 week special topics course planned for this summer. We’ll start with Geary’s The World in a Phrase on aphorisms, move to the meditations of Marcus Aurelius in The Emperor’s Handbook, next on to Pablo Neruda’s questions, then a survey of haiku, and finally a survey of sonnets.
One purpose of the course is to investigate, appreciate, and practice examples of the moral imagination in the smallest of the literary genres.
Another purpose is to practice the kind of reading, attention, and reflection required of big ideas in little packages.
We might also get into some proverbs, fables, tweets, and memes. Oh my.
Here below are 18 paper Buddhas my students and I created today in my GS 1181 class on presence and mindfulness. The purpose of this simple exercise of stacking three paper balls was to demonstrate the focus, patience, and balance necessary to complete most tasks. For more on this lesson, see this earlier post.
Self-portraits on index cards from students on first-day of class yesterday in English 1301: Freshman Composition:
And from English 2307: Introduction to Literature and Creative Writing:
I distribute index cards at the beginning of each class and ask students to write their names and the date on one side and draw an image on the other. These cards have two purposes. I use them to track attendance, and I use the drawing exercise to help them dispel distractions and begin to focus on the work of the class to come.
As for the images, I ask them to draw all sorts of things, some related to the work of the class or what they did over the weekend or something related to their major or the weather. What they draw is ultimately not as important as the act of drawing and the focusing of their attention.
At the end of the course, I return all of the index cards from the semester to the students as one way for them to review their journey through the class.
Opening this week and running through March 11 in the Carr EFA Building will be an exhibition titled “Four Hands” that displays collaborative work from the last three years by my daughter Myra Musgrove and me. Myra is an artist and illustrator living in Brooklyn, NY, and she will be in San Angelo this week to visit a number of art classes and then attend the gallery reception and talk Thursday, February 25 at 3:30 in Gallery 193.
This exhibition includes a large scale comic of my poem “My Song,” illustrations and poems from my recent poetry collection Local Bird from Lamar University Press, a co-authored academic article in comic format, and three other large scale digital prints of co-created comics. In addition, QR codes are on each gallery image label that provide links to further description of each image on display.
Much of this collaborative work previously appeared in print. The 24 panel comic “My Song” appeared in a four-page spread in InkBrick.
The poems and illustrations appeared in Local Bird.
And the 12 page comic article “Drawing is Learning” originally appeared in the Journal of the Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning.
I’d like to thank Dr. Randy Hall in Visual and Performing Arts who curated and supported this exhibition from the beginning. And Dr. Chris Stewart, Chair of VPA, who has been very helpful throughout as we printed and framed the pieces to be included.
I’ve also included the poster for the exhibition below. This poster was designed by Dr. Ben Sum also from VPA at Angelo State. Their added collaborative efforts have helped make this exhibition a reality.
I want to especially thank my wife Marie-Clare for her inspiration.
Over all this project reflects my interest in collaborative work inside and outside the university community. I hope to be working soon with colleagues in the art program on developing a comic studies minor program. I am currently co-editing an anthology of poetry and fiction on the topic of Texas weather with a colleague in my own department. And I hope to create other collaborations with colleagues at Angelo State on an Angelo State Arts and Humanities Festival as both a recruitment event and the promotion of Angelo Stage as a cultural center for this region of the state.
And here is the soapbox Don Scott in Facilities Management at Angelo State made for me so my students would have a place to stand as they performed their poems in class.
Here is the syllabus for the course.
More on the class here.
*”Poet warriors” is a term we used in class based on our reading in Pema Chodron’s The Places That Scare You wherein she describes the Buddhist concept of bodhichitta, the courageous and open-hearted consciousness necessary for authentic understanding and engagement with each other and the world. Studying and writing poetry in this course were the paths we used to develop that kind of consciousness, or what is traditionally known as “the moral imagination.”