Being seen

Being envied is a solitary form of reassurance.  It depends precisely upon not sharing your experience with those who envy you.  You are observed with interest but you do not observe with interest—if you do, hospital you will become less enviable.
(Berger, 1972, p. 133)

Thanks to Eva for her response to my first ecolumn.  Actually, thanks to Eva for more than that.  In the midst of teaching full time and pursuing a doctorate in music education, Eva was instrumental in getting these ecolumns up and running.  I am thankful for her work just as I am thankful for how her thinking has broadened my own thinking.  I know not of the pleasure Eva finds in this work she is doing for MayDay; I do know that it is work I would not do well.  Somehow though, I sense it is work to which (and through which) she feels connected.

So often these kinds of engagements pass by unremarked, without “reward.”  Indeed, so much of what we do seems to go by unremarked, “unrewarded.”  However, while I can’t speak for Eva I can speak to my engagements with her, and it seems to me that a false reward, or what Eva might see as a false reward, would serve mostly to separate her from the connection she has with the work she has done.  (As I write this, it seems as if this borders on something as banal as “my reward is in the work.”  How not very remarkable that a deeply philosophical tenet of Marxism could be boiled down to such a saying…)

In terms of curriculum/assessment and pedagogy, I often think of what it means to be connected to what we do, to what we produce and how we produce.  I also consider those ways of being “rewarded” that dismiss, separate, or even discount what is taking place, versus those ways of being seen that not only validate the work/thinking I am doing, but facilitate a path to more working/thinking.

Eva’s comment on my first blog brings me the knowledge of having been heard; of being seen.  I appreciate that she read my words, but it’s more than that.  I know she has read my words and taken them further because in her comment she sees the possibility of repeated actions – indeed practices (behavioral objectives) that have been and are repeated in time – as the justification of choices.  Because of her comment I am then reminded of the work of Butler (1977) and ritualized practices; behavioral objects as performative speech acts that produce consequences governed and sanctioned by the jurisdiction of the millennium.  My thinking spins and spins, connections are made that had not been there before, all because of a brief comment, a thoughtful engagement.

What does it mean to be seen?  How can we see each other and ourselves through curriculum?  How is it that behavioral objects lead to a very particular way of “seeing,” one that feels patronizing, privileged, coerced, subjugated, not seen.

After one of my MayDay presentations, in which I was thinking through the words of Nietzsche in a way that ended up not really going where I had hoped—let’s just say it, the paper went nowhere – Eva came up to me and commented on my presentation and asked me if what I had been speaking about might also be reflected in Heidegger’s concept of eschatology.  In that moment I had a choice.  If I had been more clever I could have lied and said, absolutely, after all, Eva is a doctoral candidate and I ought to “know” more.  But I do remember choosing; choosing to see her and her knowledge and this moment as one in which my thinking was indeed being validated because here was someone who made a connection in a way that turned out to be (after I went home and did my homework) profound and provocative.

Curriculum can be found in our relationships with each other.  It is embedded in moments that often seem fleeting and insignificant, moments that serve to lead toward other moments, other ways of seeing and knowing.  Perhaps my remarks are personal, but they serve to highlight ways of engaging that have the potential of shifting what it means to know, what it means to teach, what it means to assess, what it means to be, what it might mean to see ourselves and others differently.

Berger, J. (1972).  Ways of seeing.  New York, NY:  Penguin Books.

Butler, J. (1997). Excitable Speech:  A Politics of the Performative. New York, NY:  Routledge.


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