KIND THINKER OUT IN THE WORLD: an elegy for Perry Else

KIND THINKER OUT IN THE WORLD

 

Kind thinker, out in

the world, away 

from the white towers; 

down by the riv’r.

Forthright, flexible and firm — 

the three frees.

Living, in the realm

of the possible:

not ‘they should’, only

‘well, maybe we can…’ 

Else we forget, the

value of play

and the value of

his playful life.

Arthur Battram

10:26 AM, Thursday, June 12, 2014, revised 2:02 PM  Friday, September 5, 2014 , and again so the scansion is better Tuesday, September 9, 2014, 2:04 PM.

A fitting obituary is here:

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/people/obituaries/perry-else-1959-2014/2013792.article

“Work is about a daily search for meaning as well as daily bread…”

As some of you may know, I am a huge fan of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple.

(I still respect him, but I’m no longer a fan of Apple’s products. Not since MacOS 10.4 in 2005. Just so you know I’m not a blinkered fanboy.)

Now, here’s one reason why I rate Jobs, which you can file under: “Insanely Great!” his most famous catchphrase.

When the Mac was produced in 1984, he insisted, at significant extra cost, in having the names of all the engineers who designed it engraved INSIDE the case, where almost nobody would ever see those names. I was lucky enough to see them, because I once watched an engineer remove the casing. (Oh yes, circuit boards can be beautiful, why are most of them ugly?)

You can also file under: respect for the dignity of the work of other human beings.

Which leads me on to my next couple of stories.

Studs Terkel has been described as a historian and a sociologist but he prefers to call himself a “guerrilla journalist with a tape recorder.” He created controversy we’re told when Tony Blair resigned and he asked: “Why was he such a house-boy for Bush?” Studs Terkel died in his Chicago home on 31st October, 2008 at the age of ninety-six. He asked that his epitaph should be: “Curiosity did not kill this cat.”

He said:

“When you become part of something, in some way you count. It could be a march; it could be a rally, even a brief one. You’re part of something, and you suddenly realize you count. To count is very important.”

Working (1974), is his account of people’s working lives. Terkel wrote:

“Work is about

a daily search for meaning

as well as daily bread,

for recognition

as well as cash,

for astonishment

rather than torpor,

in short for a sort of life,

rather than a

Monday-to-Friday

sort of dying.”

This is an edited excerpt from the interview that opens the book:

(Mike LeFevre was thirty-seven in 1972). He works in a steel mill. On occasion, his wife Carol works as a waitress in a neighborhood restaurant; otherwise, she is at home, caring for their two small children, a girl and a boy...

“You don’t see where nothing goes. I got chewed out by my foreman once. He said, “Mike, you’re a good worker but you have a bad attitude.” My attitude is that I don’t get excited about my job. I do my work but I don’t say whoopee-doo.
The day I get excited about my job is the day I go to a head shrinker. How are you gonna get excited about pullin’ steel? How are you gonna get excited when you’re tired and want to sit down? It’s not just the work. Somebody built the pyramids. Somebody’s going to build something. Pyramids, Empire State Building-these things just don’t happen. There’s hard work behind it. I would like to see a building, say, the Empire State, I would like to see on one side of it a foot-wide strip from top to bottom with the name of every bricklayer, the name of every electrician, with all the names. So when a guy walked by, he could take his son and say, “See, that’s me over there on the forty-fifth floor. I put the steel beam in.” Picasso can point to a painting. What can I point to? A writer can point to a book. Everybody should have something to point to.”

~

taken from this PDF which I found on the net,

so you can too: StudyGuide-Working.pdf

A Study Guide Of WORKING

From the Book by Studs Terkel

Adapted by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso

Original Production Directed By Stephen Schwartz

FORT WAYNE CIVIC THEATRE

IN THE WINGS Arts-In-Education Program

PERFORMANCES FOR SCHOOLS

AND SOCIAL SERVICES

Saturday, May 8, 2009 @ 2:00 p.m.

Teacher Tom: Everyone Protecting Everyone

Teacher Tom: Everyone Protecting Everyone.

When the girls came outside, the boys chased the girls chased the boys, wildly, around and around our outdoor space, all flushed and breathing hard, chasing without catching, everyone protecting everyone.”

The way he did it, honestly sharing his opinion, not adding any judgment,and the playful shuttle diplomacy he practiced, is pure playwork.

Shame that many playworkers don’t do it like this.

This is either because they aren’t allowed to, or they haven’t been shown, or, probably, they haven’t been allowed to learn how to.

“If you have two loaves of bread, sell one and buy a hyacinth”

By way of a footnote to yesterday’s quote about creativity and art and play and magic, my page-a-day calendar today told me:

“If you have two loaves of bread, sell one and buy a hyacinth.”

It claims that this is a ‘Persian proverb’.

Hmmm, that’s what you say if you don’t really know, isn’t it? So I googled. Of course there is dispute, with some muddle-headed folk attributing it the Koran and Mohammed, and others to Elbert Green Hubbard (June 19, 1856 – May 7, 1915)  an American writer, publisher, artist, and philosopher (Wikiepeed).

The choice of hyacinth is a  clue, it’s a plant that operates as a madelaine* for me, my mum always had them on the window sill in the early 60s. Obviously not native to the UK, so let’s investigate… hmm, native to Turkey, Israel and the North-East corner of Iran. And not America. Hah – major clue..

More googlage:

“If, of thy mortal goods, thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store two loaves
alone to thee are left,
Sell one & from the dole,
Buy Hyacinths to feed the soul”
– Muslihuddin Sadi,
13th Century Persian Poet

(APB: Very Omar Khayyám )

“If I had but two loaves of bread
I would sell one of them
& buy White Hyacinths to feed my soul.”
– Elbert Hubbard
(1856-1915)

(APB: I prefer the simplicity of my calendar’s version.)

Found here on this lovely blog:

http://www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_journal_individual.asp?blog_id=5251068

Do follow the link to a lovely story of two people who love each other and a kindly florist. In my experience, most florists are lovely. I suppose you have to be: births, deaths, marriages. Must be tough haggling down the wholesale market, though.

So I think that is definitive.  Lazy writers half-remembering ‘Muslihuddin’ as ‘Mohammed’ and a DWM**, USA variety, riffing on it.

So:

“If you have two loaves of bread, sell one and buy a hyacinth.”

I like that very much.

Reminds me of an observation, which in a similar lazy way I’m going to attribute to Eno, because I’m half-remembering him talking about Sarajevo during the Serb bombing and watching a smartly dressed woman in her mid-thirties in high heels, picking her way along the rubble-strewn remnants of pavement on her way to the shops, as shots rang above her head*****.

Life without beauty? We’d rather die.

Eno was in what was then Yugoslavia to record sessions with U2 and Pavarotti (I know, weird), which produced, inter alia, the sublime ‘Miss Sarajevo‘. Spotify it, music fans: yes it contains opera, yes it is brilliant.

Pause as I go find the track. Easy, the CD was where I thought it was. Great opening to the chorus from the Bonio***, who isn’t afraid to reference and steal from the greats: “Here she comes”. The vibe of the song is very much the Velvets on the first album – think “I’ll be your mirror“, or ”Sunday morning”. There is a Velvets’ song, nagging at the back of my brain which has the specific phrase ‘here she comes’ but… no,  can’t catch it. And ‘G-l-o-r-i-ay’ by Van Morrison. Lots of fine songs about fine women walking down streets, oddly enough, eh? The other reference point, leaving the worst until last, is of course the bathetic “Doo Wah Diddy” by Manfred Mann and the Manfreds, possibly the most simultaneously egotistical and unimaginative of the 60s ‘person and the nouns’ style of group naming: “Here’s she comes, just a-walking down the street, singing doo wah diddy dum diddy do.…” And might I add: ‘zig a zig ah’, which I’m told is the Serbian for ‘couldn’t be bothered to think of a better lyric’.  (Hey, hey we’re the Manfreds, people say we’ve got a crap name…)

OK, let’s find out more about the song, the politics and the history.

Some time later.

I’ve always loved the lyrics, and I’m pleased to discover, thanks to Wikipedia, that Bonio*** says the song is his favourite. I think it might be his best, praise be to Eno. Great tune, killer arrangement, and superb, clever, twisty lyrics.  Love the way he plays with ‘beauty queen’ and turning to Mecca****, for example. It’s probably too much to claim his words are Joycean, but they are sharp, profound, surreal and allusive, loving and dark. It is worth reading the whole lyric, find it here:

http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/Miss-Sarajevo-lyrics-U2/F599D4161F63665F48256896002E7E49

It’s also worth reading the wikipedia entry about the song, from which I pulled this quote:

“… the dark humour of the besieged Sarajevans, […] surrealism and Dadaism are the appropriate responses to fanaticism…”

Characteristics obviously reflected in Bono‘s lyric. Well done, dubliner.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miss_Sarajevo

So …

“If you have two loaves of bread, sell one and buy a hyacinth.” 

That’s nothing if not surreal.

Why not tulips or daffodils? Good question. They don’t grow in Persia, and they don’t usually come in a pot- so they don’t persist, unlike the hyacinth. You can save a bulb after it has flowered, letting the leaves soak up the sun’s energy, and at the end of the summer you can store it, for a new bloom next spring. A hyacinth is a sweetly-scented investment for a poor person who has a small glut of bread and is desirous of both beauty and a bargain. And Yugoslavia is not that far from Persia, on opposite edges of our Middle East.

Indeed:

“Surrealism and Dadaism are the appropriate responses to fanaticism.”

s-hiya synth 1

~

I persist here;

in Cameron’s blighted

and pleasant

land.

I’m off to the shops

now –

I’m lucky:

I have bread;

and I must buy

a hyacinth.

~

~

~

~

FOOTNOTARY (PUBLIC):

*Google it, and the word Proust, dear younger readers.

**Dead White Male.

***Yes, of course I know his name is really Bono. Well actually it isn’t, it says ‘Paul David Hewson’ on his birth certificate (thanks, Maggie at the Dublin registrar’s office).

****Mecca: in the 60s we knew Mecca as merely the name on the front of bingo halls and ballrooms. The Mecca organisation puts on Miss World. C’mon, smile.

*****’Shots rang above our heads’. Firstly this is a true story, and there really were snipers on the roof tops. She really was in mortal danger. Fuck you, Death, I’m going shopping. Sometimes Death backs off out of respect, and she persists. Secondly, well spotted, yes, I’m making partial quotage from ‘Heroes’ on the second of Bowie’s trio of Berlin albums – not produced by Eno, as media tart and poet Simon Armitage, in a radio show about Oblique Strategies last week had it, but by the criminally-sidelined Tony Visconti, who produced the majority of Bowie’s oeuvre, sleevenote fans. Such a great line, those shots ringing overhead from other  totalitarian and different circumstances.

________________________________

AUTHOR’S NOTE TO VISITORS: a tedious note from a writer who craves courtesy and receives it from the vast majority of his lovely followers: please note that I have changed my copyright and now require you to seek my permission to republish my work. Drop me a line, I will usually say yes: arthur.battram.plexityATgmail.com

(You’ll have to copy that email and replace the AT with @ . If I didn’t do the AT thing, my email would be harvested by spammers. Sorry for the inconvenience).

THE ART OF HELPING: Why is he drunk? What should I do? What I? What do?

subjaptrain

THE TRAIN CLANKED and rattled through the suburbs of Tokyo on a drowsy spring afternoon. Our car was comparatively empty – a few housewives with their kids in tow, some old folks going shopping. I gazed absently at the drab houses and dusty hedgerows.

At one station the doors opened, and suddenly the afternoon quiet was shattered by a man bellowing violent, incomprehensible curses. The man staggered into our car. He wore laborers clothing, and he was big, drunk, and dirty. Screaming, he swung at a woman holding a baby. The blow sent her spinning into the laps of an elderly couple. It was a miracle that the was unharmed. Terrified, the couple jumped up and scrambled toward the other end of the car. The laborer aimed a kick at the retreating back of the old woman but missed as she scuttled to safety. This so enraged the drunk that he grabbed the metal pole in the center of the car and tried to wrench it out of its stanchion. I could see that on of his hands was cut and bleeding. The train lurched ahead, the passengers frozen with fear. I stood up.

I was young then, some 20 years ago, and in pretty good shape. I’d been putting in a solid eight hours of aikido training nearly every day for the past three years. I like to throw and grapple. I thought I was tough. Trouble was, my martial skill was untested in actual combat. As students of aikido, we were not allowed to fight.

“Aikido,” my teacher had said again and again, “is the art of reconciliation. Whoever has the mind to fight has broken his connection with the universe. If you try to dominate people, you are already defeated. We study how to resolve conflict, not how to start it.”

I listened to his words. I tried hard I even went so far as to cross the street to avoid the chimpira, the pinball punks who lounged around the train stations. My forbearance exalted me. I felt both tough and holy. In my heart, however, I wanted an absolutely legitimate opportunity whereby I might save the innocent by destroying the guilty.

This is it! I said to myself, getting to my feet. People are in danger and if I don’t do something fast, they will probably get hurt. Seeing me stand up, the drunk recognized a chance to focus his rage. “Aha!” He roared. “A foreigner! You need a lesson in Japanese manners!”

I held on lightly to the commuter strap overhead and gave him a slow look of disgust and dismissal. I planned to take this turkey apart, but he had to make the first move. I wanted him mad, so I pursed my lips and blew him an insolent kiss.”All right!” he hollered. “You’re gonna get a lesson.” He gathered himself for a rush at me.

A split second before he could move, someone shouted “Hey!” It was ear splitting. I remember the strangely joyous, lilting quality of it – as though you and a friend had been searching diligently for something, and he suddenly stumbled upon it. “Hey!”

I wheeled to my left; the drunk spun to his right. We both stared down at a little old Japanese. He must have been well into his seventies, this tiny gentleman, sitting there immaculate in his kimono. He took no notice of me, but beamed delightedly at the laborer, as though he had a most important, most welcome secret to share.

“C’mere,” the old man said in an easy vernacular, beckoning to the drunk. “C’mere and talk with me.” He waved his hand lightly. The big man followed, as if on a string. He planted his feet belligerently in front of the old gentleman, and roared above the clacking wheels, “Why the hell should I talk to you?” The drunk now had his back to me. If his elbow moved so much as a millimeter, I’d drop him in his socks.
The old man continued to beam at the laborer. “Whatcha been drinkin?” he asked, his eyes sparkling with interest.

“I been drinkin sake,” the laborer bellowed back, “and it’s none of your business!” Flecks of spittle spattered the old man.

japanese-persimmon“Oh, that’s wonderful,” the old man said, “absolutely wonderful! You see, I love sake too. Every night, me and my wife (she’s 76, you know), we warm up a little bottle of sake and take it out into the garden, and we sit on an old wooden bench. We watch the sun go down, and we look to see how our persimmon tree is doing. My great-grandfather planted that tree, and we worry about whether it will recover from those ice storms we had last winter. Our tree had done better than I expected, though especially when you consider the poor quality of the soil. It is gratifying to watch when we take our sake and go out to enjoy the evening – even when it rains!” He looked up at the laborer, eyes twinkling.

As he struggled to follow the old man’s conversation, the drunk’s face began to soften. His fists slowly unclenched. “Yeah,” he said. “I love persimmons too.” His voice trailed off.

“Yes,” said the old man, smiling, “and I’m sure you have a wonderful wife.”

“No,” replied the laborer. “My wife died.” Very gently, swaying with the motion of the train, the big man began to sob. “I don’t got no wife, I don’t got no home, I don’t got no job. I am so ashamed of myself.” Tears rolled down his cheeks; a spasm of despair rippled through his body.

Now it was my turn. Standing there in well-scrubbed youthful innocence, my make-this-world-safe-for-democracy righteousness, I suddenly felt dirtier than he was.

Then the train arrived at my stop. As the doors opened, I heard the old man cluck sympathetically. “My, my,” he said, “that is a difficult predicament, indeed. Sit down here and tell me about it.”
I turned my head for one last look. The laborer was sprawled on the seat, his head in the old man’s lap. The old man was softly stroking the filthy, matted hair.

As the train pulled away, I sat down on a bench. What I had wanted to do with muscle had been accomplished with kind words. I had just seen aikido tried in combat, and the essence of it was love. I would have to practice the art with an entirely different spirit. It would be a long time before I could speak about the resolution of conflict.

Terry Dobson

”I found this on the web, but it closely follows “A Kind Word Turneth Away Wrath” by Terry Dobson in ‘Aikido and the New Warrior’ edited by R. S. Heckler. The book chapter reads better; what follows sounds like a early draft. —SAP

and I found it here, says APB:

http://omlc.ogi.edu/aikido/talk/others/dobson.html

Craft and Managerialism: the magisterial contribution of the Sennster

http://newhumanist.org.uk/1733/craft-works-laurie-taylor-interviews-richard-sennett

Just after writing the last piece on Craft and Playwork I found this piece on Sennett by Laurie Taylor. (Boy am I glad it was after!).

I’ll freely admit that I have struggled to read Sennett (just recently I failed with ‘Together’ and ‘The Craftsman’ ) Thankfully the often populist Laurie Taylor has read him, so we don’t have to. What is often glib within the confines of his 28 minute Radio 4 show ‘Thinking Allowed’, is here simple and clear and personal. bravo.

Go read it.

Speaks more truth about playwork and managerialism than a platoon of PhuDs.

Some nuggets:

”Workers like Janet (skilled booker of guests for radio) are expected to play along with this fiction, to display continually that that they get along with others in the workplace. She is required to manipulate her appearance and performance in such a way as to lead others to believe she is a model of cooperation. And it’s her ability to do this – to go along with the fiction of teamwork – which determines her promotion prospects and indeed the whole of her future career. It is no longer enough to do your job well; you also have to constantly demonstrate that you possess a full set of people skills: you have to show that you are a “nice person”.“

”What unites his writing and his practice is the philosophy of pragmatism. He explains to me that he came to this through reading “a wonderful book” by John Dewey called Art as Experience. “It took the aura of inspiration out of the arts and went back and looked at what is actually happening. It asked whether an artist is any different in kind from a bird or a beaver building a nest or a set. The answer was ‘no’. There’s a great continuity in practical ideas.” According to Dewey art should be part of everyone’s creative lives and not just the privilege of a select group of artists.

“This theme is taken up in The Craftsman, where Sennett argues that we place too much emphasis on the idea of spontaneity and originality in art and by so doing devalue its craftsmanlike qualities. “We are,” he insists, “far too riveted to this notion of inspiration, of genius, of the idea of the single lone creator, the near-madness of artistic creation. As Dewey said, it is just an ordinary activity.”

”But the particular appeal of pragmatism to Sennett lies in its insistence that we address the world as we find it, that we do not have recourse to grand overarching theories about how it might or should be, or concern ourselves with looking for absolute truths. We have to start from where we are and make those interventions that improve the quality of our shared lives.“

An interesting item on the difference and advantages…

An interesting item on the difference and advantages of two different approaches.

As someone with a foot in both camps (playwork, SF) I’m interested in discovering what within playwork can be seen as SF-like. In particular, I’m interested in things that a playwork approach affords you, that more specific approaches like behaviour management, don’t.

”I went on in service training on a couple of years ago, though not with the originators (!). It struck me that if an alcohol worker was working with say a man with issues around drinking, and the worker used , then sooner or later the man would be talking about alcohol, and generating reasons to manage the drinking. If the worker used SF they would elicit his goals for an involvement, e.g. staying with his partner, keeping his flat, whatever, and the worker would work entirely with that goal. In the SF approach the man might still end up managing alcohol better, but it would be in order to serve the goal for change he had brought to the work. Given this difference I would assume that SF would be more effective because it used the motivation related to a goal for change that mattered to the man, compared to where the goal was the worker’s goal. I couldn’t see any advantages [this] would have over SFBT, though when I saw interviewing I was impressed by his engagement skills.“

John Wheeler to SOLUTION-FOCUS list
show details 10 Oct (2 days ago)