Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What Kind of Intelligent Are You?

What does it mean to be "educated"? What does it mean to be "intelligent"? Something I have learned to ask my students and other adults around me is, "What kind of intelligent are you?" I learned this from Ken Robinson, because, like Ken, I believe that everyone is intelligent, it just depends on how what you are measuring. If you measured my Math skills instead of my design skills, I would come out very average indeed.

This question, "What kind of intelligent are you?" Is often a surprise to my fine art students. They are not sure what I mean. Usually, it is phrased, "Are you intelligent?" or "How smart are you?" of "What was your ACT score?" Most people, when asked this, immediately think if they are good at Math or Science or English and then will rate themselves about a 6 or 7, or lower. Few will rate it higher.

But, how flawed is this system? How flawed is it to limit our measure of intelligence to these three subjects? What about the dancer, the painter, the photographer, the poet, the biochemist, the drummer, the singer, the interior designer?

This educational system in front of us does NOT help people find their passions, to find what they love to do, in fact, it fights against it most often, and pushes people into careers that are something they end up enduring instead of enjoying.

I am not this teacher.

I tell my intelligent actors (who are living and breathing with passion, but who get VERY little encouragement to actually work in the acting world from anyone close to them. It's always a hobby. Can you imagine if Marlon Brando just kept it as a hobby?) I tell them that if this is what they love to do, then they should do it. Drama is just as important as Math in my world. It was always more important. It's pushed aside, it's looked at as a "fun" class, a play class, an easy class--but not in my classroom. It is a study and it is challenging and it is inspiring. And I love it.

And I would say to you, just like I say to them:

Find what you love to do and do it. Find your element and do it. Most people have not. It is surprising how many people do not do what they love to do. Can you imagine what the world would be like if we were all living in our "intelligence"? It is essential to your well being and your success in life. It is essential to our well being as communities--that is my firm belief.

We all have distinctive passions and talents that will inspire us to do far more than we can imagine. So, why have people not discovered this within themselves yet? I really think it is a failed system that forces so many people through the cookie cutter educational system. What would a solution be, well, I'm working on that.

But for now, it would be fun to know more about you.

What is your intelligence?

(This is the first part in many musings in Creativity in Education!)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Follow Your Gut

Risk comes from being alive. And yet, it is something we are taught to avoid. I love taking risks, but not in any traditional sense of the word. You will never find me bungee jumping or skydiving or deep sea swimming with killer sharks or even wearing a tube top (that is a risk! I promise! I have seen it go awry!)

But you will find me changing careers, moving to unknown countries, telling people I love them even when I am unsure what the response with be, standing up for things that are right when they are unpopular, drinking the water in Mongolia, and being true to myself--even if I risk losing those closest to me.

Those are my acts of bravery. They are simple. But simple is not a bad thing.

My new mantra in life has been: "Follow Your Gut"

It's been a difficult road to traverse, because apparently my "gut" likes to take me into uncharted waters more often then the average sailor (sailors, yum). Have these things always worked out the way I expected (remember that time I was unemployed in Portugal and homeless without a dime to my name? Yep. That came from following my gut, by the way)? Obviously, my life has had ups and downs because of my desire to take on the world and experience everything. 

When you follow your gut are you promised riches and bling and unending happiness? Depends. Honestly, I think the world needs more people who have found their passion and followed their "guts" to figure out how that passion can benefit the world.

Ultimately for me, what I have learned the most, is that when you follow your gut--no matter who approves, who applauds, and who calls you crazy--you avoid the tummy ache that inevitably comes from trying to please other people's desires for you (but, God Bless them).

And God bless you (blessings from a semi-agnostic who has no answers about spirituality mean a lot these days, yes?). And I bless you too, bless you that you will figure out what it is you are meant to be doing on a daily basis and then DO NOT WAIT. Start now. Start. Begin. Right now. Stop reading. Go. Get to it. Follow your gut.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Martha's Vineyard Epiphany about Same Sex Marriage

Sometimes things make so much sense in my head that I forget others feel challenged by certain ideas that I find very easily acceptable and natural. I live in this beautiful liberal land (yes, even in the midst of Utah) where people I talk to and see on a daily basis and give my attention to all have similar open minds. We recycle. We prefer fair trade over free trade most days. We know that women and men deserve equal pay, and that old fashion gender roles are something that do not define us. We love to vote and eat things like quinoa salad and shop locally. It's a happy place, this little land I've created. So, I find it funny that I had a very simple epiphany in the midst of Martha's Vineyard two weeks ago.

It started out by doing a photo shoot. I get into my groove during that creative time and it is one of my favorite ways to connect with people. My couple was Megan and Linda: the first lesbian couple I have ever photographed. It is funny because during similar shoots I've done of same sex couples, other photographers have asked me how I "pose" my couples. I always thought that was a funny question. One that I simply responded to with "I pose them the way I pose all my couples in love." Why should there be a difference? Both of these ladies were glowing and fabulous and happy and secure and completely in love. The love was deep and respectful and delightful and funny and kind and passionate. They have been together for four years and their wedding is scheduled for next October. They told me the story of their proposal and of their courtship and of the night they fell in love. That photo shoot was one of the most amazing and simple I have ever done. There was no bickering. There was no uncomfortableness. I said, "Be in love, kiss, hold each other." And that is exactly what they did without a hint of awkwardness that sometimes creeps up in straight males not used to being in front of the camera (though I love you boys).

This was completely, utterly, without a doubt normal to me. I did not think it weird or different or threatening or against God. I did not think it awkward or uncomfortable or worry who would see the photos and not hire me because I am so "liberal". And my epiphany came when I realized that we have a whole world out there that does not feel the same way that I do. Most of this beautiful and blessed country that I live in will not acknowledge this marriage between these women. That is the reality and indeed a large percentage of the US population finds such a union threatening and ugly and wrong and perverted. And my epiphany kept going when I had the very simple thought of: "Well, if they could just see what I am seeing right now, then everyone would change their minds. They would see that Love is Love and that it isn't different when it is shared by people different from them. Love is the same." And this may seem simplistic. But it made sense. And so, that is what I will do. And it may be small. But the photos I post will show you, no matter what, that love is love. 

And Utah, be prepared for change.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Book of Mormon Girl--First 2 Chapters

I was lucky enough to get to spend some time with Joanna Brooks last Thursday. I photographed her with her book, and she kindly gave me a signed copy that was completely unexpected and sincerely sweet of her. She is just a good person. She is a smart person. She is a person that knows what to say and how to make people feel understood.

Since I have not actively participated in the Mormon church for the last little while (besides haphazard blogging with the Exponent), I had sort of forgotten that the world sees Mormons as a peculiar people. Most of those "peculiar" behaviors are no longer part of my life, but some of them are and always will be. However, with the upcoming election, I am being reminded of all the ways that "outsiders" look at my family and see their peculiar behavior. I vacillate between agreeing with the world (it's just green tea people!), and wanting to explain some things more clearly when the world gets it wrong (no, there is no practice of polygamy in the church today). 

I snuggled down this week to start reading the memoir. In the past year, I've only read one other book dealing with Mormonism and that was Elna Baker's The New York Regional Singles Mormon Halloween Dance. After reading that, I had to call my good friend and have a long, frustrated, sad cry. I identified with the Elna's story so exactly that it caused me to feel such loss and such remorse over distancing myself from my Mormon-ness and also extreme frustration that I was still awkward and unknowingly unsure about how to participate in the regular world outside of Mormon identification. I felt, quite honestly, that it would have either been easier to stay (which it most certainly would have been). I questioned why I put myself and my family and my friends through my disassociation and extreme doubt and rabid vocalization of my dissatisfaction. But that's the thing with dissatisfaction, it's hard to keep it quiet.

In enters The Book of Mormon Girl. I sat down on Friday and read three pages. Those pages, so beauitflly and poetically and precisely written to paint the life of a Mormon girl. Those pages that will mean completely different things to Mormon people than they will to non-Mormons. Those pages that evoke smells and sounds and memories of a good life, of the beautiful traditions, and the wholesome goodness that defined my childhood.

I shut the book.  I was not sure I could go there again. Not sure I wanted to bring up the feelings of loneliness and unbelonging that come when I see my happy Mormon friends attending their church meetings. The feelings of being misunderstood, or being perceived as a sinner or lazy. The feelings that come up and that I must process and address so that I can keep living an authentic life.

Saturday night I worked through another chapter, and I mourned not feeling a part of the only community I have ever really known. I thought I had processed through these emotions, but that is the funny thing, your childhood never goes away. Even if I thought I had put enough distance between who I am now and who I was as a Mormon--I'm not sure it will ever go away.

I shut the book.  I was feeling uncomfortable. I was imagining the life I could have had as a Mormon. The life I had always imagined having, which looks nothing like the fabulous life I am living now. 

Sunday morning, I opened it again and kept on going. Through Joanna's descriptions of her childhood, I returned to my childhood. I felt the love of my grandmother as we would sit on a church pew together. I remembered the special day that my father baptized me and gave me the gift of the Holy Ghost through a special blessing. I remembered feeling so wanted and loved by a kind Heavenly Father. I remembered when Jesus was a pivotal person in my life. I remember wearing plaid jumpers and having no bigger desires then to live a life pleasing to God. I remember a time when I never, never let a curse word pass my lips (hard to believe!)

It was like all the perfect and happy and warm and comforting moments of being Mormon flashed through my head in little vignettes painting in pinks and golds. With all the good memories, it gets easy to forget the bad ones, the ugly ones. I wanted to make excuses for all the hurt and pain that I suffered and that millions of women and men of all colors suffered. It made me want to forget that I care about gay marriage and equal rights and patriarchy, and personal freedom and choice. It made me go deep into my heart space to ask myself if I should be Mormon again ( I still check in about once a year).

Tomorrow. I'll tackle chapter 3.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Accepting The Things I Cannot Change

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

It was when I first started attending AA with my brother that I heard the "Serenity Prayer". After listening to people talk through their addictions and struggles, we would hold hands with the stranger next to us and say, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."

Whenever I have recited this prayer, my mind has always,always lingered on "God grant me the courage to change the things I can." For someone who loves constantly pushing myself to heights and horizons I could have never dreamed reaching, this is the part that spoke to my personality.

I never thought about the other half of this prayer. Never. It was not in my vocabulary. It was not in my mind set. I had never had a situation that I could not change for the better. To even give thought to, "Accept the things I cannot change," was something I was incapable of doing. I am D'Arcy. I always have the power to change things I do not want to accept. I have the power to change myself. I have the power to choose my path. I have the power to decide where I live, what I do, who I have relationships with, how I see myself.

If I just cannot accept the fact that Marriage Equality is not granted to everyone right now--then I will not accept it, and I will work to change it. If I cannot accept the fact that women currently earn less then men. I will not accept it and I will work to change it. Everything had a solution, or at least a part that I could play in the solution.

Everything can be changed. At least. I could work to change it. 

Accept it? NEVER.

Until Patience.

Having Patience in my life made me realize that there are a few things I cannot change.

I cannot change who her mother is.
I cannot change what her mother has done to her.
I cannot change the things that she saw when her mother was high.
I cannot change how her mother will raise her.
I cannot change her father or his drug addiction and apathy.
I cannot change how the system works.
I cannot change the decisions her parents made.
I cannot change the harm they caused her.
I cannot change the fact that she does not understand what is going on right now, and that she is scared and fragile and lonely and confused and that she thinks I have abandoned her.
I cannot change her life in the ways I want to change her life.

I cannot accept these things.
And yet I must.

The lesson and the peace lie in the acceptance.

I cannot change this.