I, Pundit

The holiday season is upon us, that mathematically odd time of year when ads multiply, good friendships reap dividends, and politics remain as divisive as ever.  My in box and mail box swell with promises of deals so good that if I only spend enough, I can surely become rich.  Buy until you’re spent!  No money down!

The sporting goods catalogs promote insulated jackets so well that the market for down is up.  Which reminds me how our language (and corruptions of it) can bring us cheer well before happy hour.  When I hear someone say, “I am going to lay down,” I immediately visualize that person ovipositing feathers.  If those speakers realized what they were saying, I think they would be willing to lie a lot more readily.

Try to imagine this bird "laying down."

Try to imagine this bird “laying down.”

Our language simply invites word play, and as a man, I manipulate it.  I can handle words digitally (as redundant as that sounds), and I even find my arm bones humerus.  I will continue to listen to words as long as I am of sound mind. Listening is healthy—a form of aural hygiene.

I am happy to remain a beginner, for in the beginning was the Word.

The world today seems all too serious.  We need more levity, since gravity is a downer.  When experts pontificate, I tend to puntificate.  As astronomers say (or might say, if they were a little more down-to-earth), “Unless you’re the Dog Star, why be Sirius?”  Or as desert botanists say (or would say if they thought they knew the anther), “Unless you’re a cactus, why be Cereus?”  Climate change deniers seem to have a very foggy notion of how weather patterns operate; their minds could be clouded, but maybe, just maybe, they could be cirrus (or merely stratus-seekers).

Not everyone can take a joke—just ask Sony Pictures about their parody of North Korea.  But many studies show that humor elevates mood, releasing dopamine, the “reward hormone.”  It reduces cortisol, the stress hormone.  Kim Jung-on, a.k.a. Dope a’ Mean, could use some of the good stuff.  I can’t stress that enough.

Another side effect of dopamine is noticeable improvement in motivation and learning.  As a teacher, that causes my ears to perk up.  We all have had to live through the incessant, monotonous droning of “professors” who could string a lot of technical terms together in the most boring, forgettable lectures (thank heavens they are forgettable!). Discovering experiential education, as articulated by visionaries like Rudolf Steiner and as we practice at Prescott College, was as inspiring as breathing itself.

They say “a picture is worth a thousand words.”  We are visual creatures, you see, and images are at the heart of imagination.  What we see is not all we get, for “seeing” takes us on an instant journey of memories and associations.  We make sense of things through, what else, our senses.

For me, a favorite form of communication is the “slide show” (though young people may find “slide show” as obsolete at the “slide rule”—look it up if you don’t recognize it!).  The current form is a digital presentation using a program like Power Point or Prezi.  Here one can combine words and images; in a live presentation, one can more readily interact with the audience.  Frankly, it’s show biz in the form of an educational experience.

Recently I gave a digital presentation on the wildlife of Maasailand in Tanzania.  Photos of animals can charm and disarm the viewer, and the stories one tells seem more real when the participant can so readily visualize the animal involved.  However, it would be irresponsible, in a group of adults, at least, not to remind people of the various threats to wildlife and ecosystems in Africa—poaching, bush meat hunting, fragmentation of habitats, degradation of landscapes by settlement and over-grazing, pollution, and the like.  Yet I think the most effective presentations are balanced—point and counter-point, gravity and levity.  Tapping into all our emotions in an experience can intensify that experience and, one hopes, expand learning and motivate right action.

I hope to have that presentation posted on line before too long—one of the great miracles of current technology.  Until then, I will conclude by countering some of the seriousness I just introduced.  I will share some of the images and captions from my show.  The first two are shameless puns, which can stand alone, while the rest provide a light-hearted conclusion to the presentation, perhaps stimulating some endorphins.  The images carry their own messages, but I think the words, goofy perhaps at times, also remind us not to take ourselves or the world’s problems too seriously.  I hope you enjoy them!

If you enjoy experiential education with in-depth discussions enlivened by humor, then I encourage you to join me on safari in Tanzania this coming June: http://www.geolobo.com/?page_id=522



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