A New Years trigger

I had promised not to write any 2017 homilies this year given 2016’s recalcitrant machinations to last year’s goodwill messages.Sitting in my garden now however, surrounded by the aftermath of last nights New Years celebration- the abandoned empty cartridges the only reminder of the glorious though ephemeral display of an elaborately sequined sky last night coupled with the blanketed silence of snoozing revelers, – I had cause to reflect on a recent incident which I thought fitting to share on this day – one that’s often bitter sweet for me and most – pregnant with hope and cautious optimism yet wizened by weary and wary disenchantment .
Last week at the local gym, a space never failing to disappoint in the realm of psychosocial learning (the desirable weight loss yearning for moi though being the exception – hey, narcissism is fed through those air vents I swear:) with its revolving door of varied personalities as the fitness frenzy gives succor to a range of needs – from the loss of a loved one to the promise of more fulfilled life – I had chance to observe in my direct line of vision, , whilst soldiering on the treadmill, a very senior , short, wiry soul engaged in the most elegant of yoga poses. I marveled at his finesse and how he sedulously segued from one position to another.
And then he rolled over onto his tummy and lay prostrate . Just lay there…no heaving – nothing – oblivious to the beeping lights signaling circuit changes – a non stirring body amidst all round frenetic movement.
I was torn between minding my own business and intervening to check whether he was alive but thankfully after what seemed like forever, he raised his head and must have caught the look of relief that registered on my face as he then flashed a warm smile in kindred acknowledgement.
Shortly thereafter while clanging away at those unyielding machines :), I was tentatively interrupted by a friendly greeting by our playing possum yogi. He commended me on my stride on the treadmill ( I laughed inwardly because I’m quite the vagabond on the treadmill – firstly my treadmill jaunt is punctured by fumbling for the right Audio book to listen to, then the constant adjustments to the speed -treadmills do seem to get ahead of themselves don’t they?- but wasn’t going to dismiss the compliment especially when all you’ve ever heard about your gait is that you walk like a Fordsburg Kleva – the latter ‘ bounce and stoop’ due to years of being weighed down by ones towering height over your peers . )
Anyway I reciprocated the kind gesture by lauding his yoga postures and enquired after who had taught him. What follows is a beautiful message that has comforted me to no end these last two days….
It appears that his wife was a yoga instructor in her heyday who had taught him this discipline to which he ascribed his youthful 80 year old body and spirit! . He then mentioned that she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease three years ago . I could only surmise ,based on my experience of watching a movie called ‘Away from her’ (2006) and also knowing a once vibrant, articulate, multi-linguist family friend who had only recently succumbed to this condition, how devastating this illness could also be on loved ones….
Yet he displayed no sense of despair – in fact his eyes lit up when speaking about her, commenting on her striking beauty even at this age, and their joyful times spent together – theirs a marriage of 60 years! He was merely reciprocating her generosity of spirit she had shared with him all these years…and shouldered no burden .
‘Contented dementia’ was the term he used to describe her stage of Alzheimer’s and informed me about this alternative approach used to interact with patients of this disorder….You use triggers relating to past experiences of joyful memories …always using statements , never questions so as to avoid aggravating the person – so you basically use the past to make sense of the present.
He was fortunate to have a groundswell of triggers….
I drank up his words, inspired by the connection that some souls are blessed with and thankful that I had had the opportunity to be quenched by his share…
And whilst not all of us may be in the position to build memories with a particular being or a beloved , as Erich Fromm says :

“Love is not primarily a relationship to a specific person; it is an attitude, an ordination of character which determines the relatedness of the person to the whole world as a whole, not toward one object of love”
― Erich Fromm

Here’s wishing you all lots of triggers for that period of senectitude (this weeks word of the day…meaning the last stage in old age) . I just received mine!

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Balmy musical nights

written 10/08/2015

It all started on a 12 string G11 flourish which moi identified immediately as the opening chord of a “Hard Days Night”…the ear ain’t so bad after all I reckon;-) . Got no work done tonight/this morning despite my best intentions, now that the laptop morphed into a karaoke monitor and beckoned me to lampoon Peter Framptons signature helium wail on “Show me the way…”kwa ,kwa, kwa, kwa…I’m impressed at my rendition despite my exposed mondegreens courtesy of the online lyrics 😉. The maestro then suggests “Don’t play that song for me” by Ben E King (ok… I can take a hint) but the signature base sequence reminds me of “Stand by Me”… and I can’t help but think of the Kaapse Klopse doing a parody of this many moons ago in a previous life …or was it the Bosmont Trio…to which the erstwhile hippy-turned-suburban-lounge artist protests, that this was performed by the Becker street Kulture Desk. Ha! Anyway the fingers then hearken to Third World’s “Now that we found love what are we gonna do” followed by Marleys, “Natural Mystic” leading onto the Burning Spears “Ghost of Marcus Garvey” , accompanied of course by the requisite commentary on the life of the former Jamaican revolutionary ( by maestro /polymath never missing a beat to spread his wealth of facts and trivia;-) . Love these #JukeBoxGuitar sessions and can’t wait for balmy nights to croon the dust away. Fitting then to conclude with Earth, Wind and Fires ”September.” #Melodical Journals

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A Summer Place

Didn’t really know my mom as she had passed on about a year after I was born….So my dad was somewhat startled, to say the least, when I exclaimed, many years later , upon hearing this piece , how I loved this song….’cos , as it turned out , was my moms favorite too! Beautiful piece to waltz along to…hence not surprisingly they were great (dashing )ballroom dancers too so I’m told…harmonizing together to persevere through some pretty tough times later …And thus so I wish for my daughter(s) and son that same ineffable elegance in ardour and timeless , sustaining amour…. ..#feelingNostalgic for simpler times. (16/12/2014)

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Written a week before John Berger’s demise(22-12-2016)

I could never quite articulate the immense comfort I’d experience as a kid, from watching my father – a mechanic by trade (but more a visual artist at heart), fix things. His intent gaze, throbbing vein on his temple and spectacles perched purposefully on the crook of his nose – all summonsed to provide meticulous attention to detail as he sought to repair an appliance for our home or assemble a carburettor for a waiting family anxious to hit the road , filled me with an inexplicable sense of security. 

Later this feeling would extend towards my brother as I witnessed , with begrudging admiration, his mechanical exploits in assisting with similar needed tasks at home…

And then in more recent years, the feeling evolved into intense allure when observing a lover straining every sinew at a DIY task or a repair job (Not to diminish at all the potential titillation of high-brow conversation for me…🙂  It was more the selfless immersion in an act for… the collective good ??  An extreme extrapolation I’ll admit…But with hindsight I reflect now that I perceived this focus to be different (and hence significant) from say that of the focused attention applied when pursuing a higher art form like for e.g. playing an instrument or writing, of which the benefit may, by and large, be purely for an individualistic pursuit…

Here it was a response to a call to action for an altruistic purpose that I found to be so potently stirring…and captured so powerfully and eloquently in this passage from John Bergers book’ From A to X – A story in letters ‘… as the narrator Aida recounts a memory of her imprisoned lover. The juxtaposition of the impending military operation encroaching on them and her lovers mechanical prowess ( he is later imprisoned as an insurgent) is captured in such a searingly beautiful manner:

‘… In your left hand an electric screw driver, small as a wren with several beaks. Occasionally you tapped with it. I could see – for it was visible in your shoulders – that you were not only following wires, you were tracing the thinking process by which men had conceived and then constructed that machine.
In the main streets shots were being fired.
Let’s try this, you whispered. And I suddenly took in that with man-made machines there are circuits of ingenuity which can be shared between minds. Like poetry is shared. I saw this in the back of your hands.
No words have ever been reassuring to me as your hands were at that moment. We could hear their orders being shouted through a loud hailer in the main street. You looked up, directly at me, you nodded. And then winked with one of your sore eyes. ‘

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Vygotsky’s voices

The Wits School of Education in conjunction with the Graduate Center recently hosted their Key Word/Key Thinkers programme focusing on the work of Lev Vygotsky. I was fortunate to attend these proceedings and record two of the speakers’ talks Viz. Jill Bradbury on Signs and Subjectivity and Rashad Bagus on Vygotsky on the Zone of Proximal Development using an Olympus Universal Recording device .This relatively unobtrusive device (which I suspect was a welcome relief to the lecturers as it captured their talk without hindering them in the least)provided extremely good sound quality. I recorded the talks , then converted it to MP# using Audacity and was able to easily upload on the KEWL system and embed into my blog as shown below.

Apart from being sufficiently  humbled by both Prof Ian Moll’s challenging presentation, which looked at Vygotsky’s work through a cultural historical theoretical lens paradigm, as well as  the complex discourse that emerged post the speakers presentations (prompting  me to use Google Scholar and immerse myself in the plethora of scholastic works on Vygotsky) ,  I was further encouraged to pursue my imminent research proposal through a Vygotskian lens focusing on the subject of Facebook as a cultural artefact which influences the formation of identity and so assists in learning,  This was inspired by  Dr.  Jill Bradbury’s presentation on Signs and Subjectivity in which she touched on concepts such as Audience and Relationality, the Temporal Self, Development of the Self through the Narrative etc.

Dr. Rashad Bagus talk on the Zone of Proximal Development included a discussion of the Russian words such as obuchenie and lichnost and the difficulty in translating these words rendering a misinterpretation of Vygotsky’s work  by many Western scholars.  Bagus’s concluding talk colluded with that of his colleagues’ earlier ones in sounding the death knell to my leisurely weekends as I realized the enormity and complexity of the task that lay ahead .

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Obscene Routines

Another Sunday morning heavy with years of tension
and Mother superior again solos an interminable promotion
Does her own ‘lassie’ kata –
loyalty ‘chugi’ for the spawn However ‘tactless’ to the pater
SHE is there,mowed down with a heart forlorn …
Dojo pulsating with kin and kicks Punching the Bushido code through colored strips
Rectitude, courage, benevolence
Gi, yuki, Jin
Paradoxical engagements with no
If it ain’t pulled in…
Back in the nest, makoto and meiyo are whispers of a distant virtue
That sealed a vow moons ago and and whose absence now hurts you. ….So Rei’s fly’s the coop.
No big budget spender she,
A salaried bourgeosie.
With the bitter taste of a promise deceived that spikes the daily soup.

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Twitter In Classrooms

For my Masters research report, I decided to focus on the potential of  Twitter in Higher Education to promote critical thinking skills. Tall order, you may say ..and yes it is proving challenging…especially since the first year class I’m focussing on are first time Tweeters and the course I’ve elected to work with ends in two weeks time!! So not much time to assess real learning as I still need to get students into the practice of tweeting…..That said I’m using this blog to record random thoughts and observances as I  explore this modality of teaching and learning.

The uptake , up until today, has been pretty bleak….This I ascribe to students not  being active Tweeters and thus struggling to get into the tweet of things ( which flies in the face of recent studies suggesting the 21st century learner as being digitally wired and online collaborators of note ). Maybe this is a South African characteristic( after all we only  boast  about 55 000 of Twitter users) and thus  access issues is a big culprit here. Indeed found out that though our University boasts various WIFI hotspots we don’t have this utility in the lecture halls!

Then again maybe it was the way I introduced the study, mentioning that their participation was voluntary and would have no impact on their grades …hence no one tweeted! An issue for exploring student  motivation perhaps?

Today though once we had the backchannel live in the classroom , students started tweeting. Do I ascribe their participation now to the visual feedback in the classroom or to the fact that the lecturer urged them to participate by mentioning that  important questions would be posted ??Mind boggles…. but wish I could have separated the variables to deduce which were the motivating factors! Anyway guess I’ll have to find this out via the questionnaire I intend for them to complete…if they will i.e:)

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