Trying, But For Real This Time

This week I started working on my Master of Fine Arts in Theatre Performance and Pedagogy at Texas Tech University. We had one class day and a few orientation meetings, so there isn’t much to say yet.

What I can say is that it’s been a pleasant beginning. The faculty, staff and other students are all quite friendly. They do what they can to help out, usually through providing some necessary bit of information. They don’t seem like they want me to feel welcome as much as they want to actually welcome me.

There is a difference. It’s nice when you’ve actually been welcomed, as I have here at TT.

The other things I’ll mention are time and money.

This sort of grad program is time-intensive. I’ll be…

taking nine hours, which translates to between 30 and 40 hours weekly of work,
working for the theatre department 20 hours a week as a graduate assistant,
working 20-ish hours a week on a show for part of the semester,
putting 30 or more hours into academic papers to submit to conferences,
and working 15 to 20 hours a week at a side gig to make ends meet.

Graduate Assistantships pay a little, but only a little. This week I realized I’ll have to find at least $200 weekly in order to make this work. That may not sound like much money, and it isn’t, but considering how busy I will already be one might feel even making that little money a bit daunting.

I certainly do.

What I realized this week was that I have never tried very hard to do anything in my life. I’ve coasted. I’ve given up when things got difficult.

I committed, this week, to not being that guy anymore.

I am not lazy. I find solutions to problems. I work hard and smart. I get done what needs doing.

For me this kind of commitment is new. But I want very badly to stick with this graduate program. That means trying harder to make things work than I have ever tried before.

In a few months, when I am making more than that $200 weekly, when I have straight A’s for the first time in my life, when I have my first grad school show under my belt and have had a paper accepted to a conference, trying hard will suddenly be second nature.

Still, there are butterflies in my tummy today. I hope I can get done what I need to get done.

Time to get to work.

How We Deal With Ignorance

What I’m pondering this morning…
 
“If we offer too much silent assent about [ignorance] — even when it seems to be doing a little good — we abet a general climate in which skepticism is considered impolite, science tiresome, and rigorous thinking somehow stuffy and inappropriate. Figuring out a prudent balance takes wisdom.” – Carl Sagan
 
There is no meaningful difference between one culturally encouraged ignorance and another. Anytime a falsehood is allowed to stand uncontested, the habit of accepting false as true is encouraged and empowered.
 
So there is no difference, for example, between one individual thinking that “Obamacare” and the Affordable Care Act aren’t the same thing and another individual thinking vaccines are bad. Both are equally rooted in wishful thinking and potentially deliberate ignorance.

This is where the notion that President Obama was a liberal comes from. It’s why he is worshiped so deeply by so many despite his atrocities around the globe and his work to serve the banking and Wall Street industries.

This is where the idea comes from that one should not take one’s children to the doctor because trusting a deity (who nobody has reason to believe exists) to heal the child is preferred.

Ignorance shackles us. We must stand against it.

BUT

We take our ignorance personally. We interpret any suggestion that our false beliefs are, in fact, false, as an attack on our character. We turn on those who shine a light on our darkness and tear into them viciously.

Many people do not wish to be educated. They cherish their ignorance. In the name of diversity they celebrate their dissent from reality. They pretend that established facts are merely opinion. They, therefore, feel justified in turning their back on anything which makes them uncomfortable.

What then? What if they are determined not to listen?

The answer is, so what? Their prideful rejection of reality doesn’t change the reality. There isn’t any point in arguing, certainly, with those who are determined to remain uninformed. But there is some value in pointing out, on occasion, the truth of any given matter.

The trick is to wait for the right moment. Listen to the conversation. Rather than make an argument, simply mention the reality. Don’t force the issue. Then allow the conversation to fade into some other topic as it will. If it seems that the ignorant person you’re speaking with is getting too emotional, divert the conversation yourself. Pushing for an argument actually only pushes the ignorant person deeper into their pride, making it that much harder for them to let go of false notions.

Again, arguing with the deliberately ignorant is futile. Don’t waste your time.

However, if a moment comes when bringing facts into the conversation seems constructive, do not hesitate to bring them up, always using gentleness and grace to maintain peace.

You Must Unlearn What You Have Learned

As this first semester of grad school begins I find myself thinking of this story. It’s essential reading for any student. We must take it to heart if we are not to waste our own time and that of our teachers.

A man visited a zen teacher to learn about zen, or so the man claimed.

As the man sat down with the teacher, he began to talk about everything he “knew” about zen. For several minutes he talked and the teacher listened.

Then, as the man continued to speak, the teacher began to pour tea in the man’s cup. The teacher poured the tea to the rim, then kept pouring as the cup overflowed.

The man jumped back to avoid getting any of the spilt tea on himself. “What are you doing?” the man asked. “The cup is full! You can’t pour any more tea in it.”

“So it is with you,” the teacher said. “How can I put any understanding in your mind if it is already so full? First you must empty yourself of what you think you know. Then you will be ready to be filled up.”