Bless the Children with Boredom

Bless the Children with Boredom

A child walking down the street nearly bumped into me as he did something with his smartphone. In the laundromat, a brother and sister sat side-by-side; each staring at a different video. On the subway train, a boy of not more than six played a video game. None of these children was bored.

Much of my childhood was filled with long stretches of boredom. I grew up in a primitive age when television stations still signed off late at night and did not start back up again for hours. Sometimes, with only a handful of channels to watch, there as nothing that could keep my attention. I could go and knock on the neighbor boy’s front door; but he might not be there . . . or his parents might not let him come out and play. I could not send surreptitious text messages. No one could send me links to videos on the Internet. I could go and read a book. Truth be known, though – books were most often neglected companions. And my parents, as patient as they were with their son who tended to hover around adults more than most children, sometimes told me to go outside and play. Continue reading

Autumn Creativity

Autumn Creativity

As the nighttime expands with the season, it opens up more time for dreams when I am awake. In earlier times, our ancestors likely used the longer hours by the light of the fire to imagine what they saw hinted at in the flames or in the shadows they cast. It was a time for storytelling and adventures of the imagination. It is similar, I suppose, for me even in a time of electric lights and computers.

I’ve noticed for years that Autumn is the richest time for my creativity Continue reading

Our French Revolution

Our French Revolution

The syllabus prescribed that my graduate students and I would spend the three-hour class discussing the French Revolution. I’d assembled my lecture notes. I’d reminded everyone what they needed to read before class. I was reasonably certain most of us would be prepared.

Stepping in front of the classroom, I sketched out the noteworthy milestones we needed to cover in our one-class survey of a very big topic. Students busily typed on their laptops or wrote in their notebooks. I sat down on the table that served as my desk and swung my legs forward and back; waiting for everyone to give me their attention. I had an idea. It came to me as I sat there. And then, I began . . .  Continue reading

The Freedom of Folded Paper

The Freedom of Folded Paper

When I was in my teens and twenties I bought notebooks of all kinds. I saw these as the workshops for my ideas. Much of my thinking was (and is) connected with the act of writing. I liked notebooks because I could take them with me anywhere, they came in different sizes and styles, and I could even choose the sort of paper they contained — the colour, lines or no lines (or even what kind of lines).

Nevertheless, with all that freedom, I often found myself paralyzed when I poised my pen over the paper and got ready to write. Would the thoughts be good enough? Would I want to see them there later when I read through the contents of the notebook? The formality of the structure of the notebook itself added a sense of importance to what would go inside of it. Most days, I carried around a notebook and never wrote in it. The pages would get wet when I was caught in a sudden rainstorm. They would be coloured by splashes of coffee. But the words written came slowly.  Continue reading

The Usefulness of Deadlines

The Usefulness of Deadlines

Sometimes I’ve said I would love to live in a world without deadlines. And, perhaps such a world could be wonderful. But I am not always sure.

When I was in graduate school, I had two professors during the same semester. Since they were my major and minor area supervisors, this happened most semesters, in fact. One had an absolutely rock-solid deadline policy. I knew he would give extensions for hospitalization and similar extreme reasons (but not much else). The other professor believed an assignment should be turned in on time; but realized that things take their own time. Oddly enough, I had tremendous stress preparing work for both of them.  Continue reading

What Are You Fighting Against?

What Are You Fighting Against?

‘What are you fighting against?’

We were all sitting around our professor, on the floor, on drawing horses, or on tackle boxes filled with art supplies. We were in a darkened university drawing studio. A few minutes before, he had sent the model out for a break and beckoned us to join him for some philosophical reflection. This was a regular part of being his student; and it was an aspect of his teaching that most of us appreciated.

But, no one ventured a reply to his question. He had a fine intellect; one of the best I’ve encountered. It was easy to feel intimidated when speaking with him. Sometimes those who answered before he made clear where he wanted to go with his thoughts hit embarrassingly far from the mark.

‘What makes you angry?’  Continue reading