In Defense of Kindness in the Rhizome: A complex balance of many often opposing forces

“Reality is subjective, and there’s an unenlightened tendency in this culture to regard something as ‘important’ only if ‘tis sober and severe. Sure and still you’re right about your Cheerful Dum, only they’re not so much happy as lobotomized. But your Gloomy Smart are just as ridiculous. When you’re unhappy, you get to pay a lot of attention to yourself. And you get to take yourself oh so very seriously. ~ Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

Lots of talk in the rhizo community these days about resilience and it seems that this will be a major theme of #rhizo16 – is that what it will be called? I think here in the U.S. we hear more talk of grit than of resilience but this, for me anyway, conjures images of John Wayne, and buck up and be a man about it, and my personal favorite “you’re too sensitive”.

They used to tell me I was too sensitive when I was younger – sometimes they still do. At one point in my youth I threatened to punch the next person that told me I was too sensitive in the nose – mind you not so that I could mindlessly hurt the person out of anger but so I could make the point that their face was too sensitive. I never did that – I was just making a point. But I did find strength in my sensitivity.

I used to think that sensitivity was synonymous with weakness and fearfulness and I fought against what I was. As I got older I realized that the opposite of sensitivity was not strength or courage but rather insensitivity and that insensitivity was a lowly trait that I should try to not associate myself with.

I think the larger conversation about grit and resilience has room for sensitivity and kindness.  I’m excited to explore it come May 10th. This seems to be a complex paradoxical subject.

Last year during #rhizo15 one of the strong points that I railed against was the idea of the immortal rhizome. Making the point that the rhizome may be hard to kill but that that does not make it immortal. I suppose even then I was exploring the rhizome as resilient. It seems to me that the rhizome is always becoming … till death, and that people are learning beings … till death. The bigger question, as an individual, is to realize what I’m becoming as I learn and to keep asking is that really what I want to be.  As a member of a rhizomatic learning community I would ask – what do we want to become?

This word “we” is also a point of concern and perhaps we are shifting from a question of “We’s and Them’s” to explore “We’s and I’s” this year. There have been calls for us to shift to an emphasis on “I” language. I’ve used the word we to explore how I felt about certain practices (I just did it to blended learning a few days ago) or even the rhizo community itself but not without disclaimer because I do this to give myself agency to explore what community or practice means to me from the inside. Here I am using we from the perspective of I, which is different than speaking for we as an I. I’m a fan of I language and I think you can be creative with it and even use we with it.

Hey that’s right I did talk about Why We Rhizo didn’t I – maybe it is time to revisit that?

It does seem that I was after a diversity in voice and perspective back then. I know I still want that. I value the voice that is counter to mine. I’ve learned from that voice. There have been times when that voice has gotten loud with me, or made fun of me, or otherwise tried to make it’s point by quashing my voice or making sure that I could watch as it quashed the voice of others that I cared about. Did I learn that way? Or did I just get beaten into submission?

What is the difference between education and indoctrination?

They are both forms of change and we will see a person become something different than they were through the process of going through either of them. What sets them apart from one another?

Could it be the role of power, teacher, leader, knowledge, right etc. If these things/people are fixed and rigid it seems that they are easily pounded into us through repetition and harsh criticism of the other. This seems like prime soil for indoctrination in my mind.

For me education is more slippery, though of course I know very well some don’t see a difference in this word from indoctrination. But as I use it, education looks at multiple views and is critical yes but not for the sake of dark sarcasm, for the sake of confusing the conversation, or miring other’s points with insignificant drabble. In my view education is at it’s heart kind and is honestly looking for truth realizing that truth flexes and changes depending on context. In my mind education is sensitive but please do not confuse this with weakness or fear.

As for our curriculum? Over the last year I have learned so much and for that I’m thankful but I will remind once more that the rhizome is not immortal but merely resilient. We are leaving a legacy, our actions have reactions, and we are becoming something. I would like to ask what are we going to become?

I hope to join you but I may be becoming something else – only time will tell. I will tell you I’m sensitive. I will tell you strive for kindness.

As I consider resilience I wonder if it starts in a very old place and with something that is so much harder than it may seem by the words on the page; in the stone; or, as the case maybe, on the screen – know yourself.

I know I want to be a part of a kind critical creative community of learners who are persistent in their exploration and sensitive to the world around them. I do hope I find that again.

4 thoughts on “In Defense of Kindness in the Rhizome: A complex balance of many often opposing forces”

  1. Nice post. I wonder though. I think that becoming might be more to do with being adaptable than being resilient. Is that just wordplay? Not sure.

  2. What a wonderful post, Autumm. I believe that kindness is at the heart of resilience—kindness with the world, with ourselves, and with the interactions between the two. Without kindness, resilience can become mean. I have to learn that again and again.

    I’m reminded of Charles Olson’s fine poem “Maximus, to himself”:

    I have had to learn the simplest things
    last. Which made for difficulties.
    Even at sea I was slow, to get the hand out, or to cross
    a wet deck.
    The sea was not, finally, my trade.
    But even my trade, at it, I stood estranged
    from that which was most familiar. Was delayed,
    and not content with the man’s argument
    that such postponement
    is now the nature of
    obedience,
    that we are all late
    in a slow time,
    that we grow up many
    And the single
    is not easily
    known

  3. Agreed that kindness and sensitivity are values that must be upheld. However, there is a risk in the way you contrast indoctrination and education of ignoring a very prevalent phenomenon: the kind indoctrination.

    You say (or at least imply) that indoctrination occurs when power works through unkind, insensitive teachers who criticise harshly and insist on dull repetition and favour Robbins’s gloomy smartness, and contrast that with an education which is kind and sensitive and critical and inclusive and, presumably, indoctrination-free.

    But is it not possible to promote a culpable dogma with the greatest kindness and sensitivity?

    Your post begins with the claim that reality is subjective. That is a piece of culpable dogma. Kind and sensitive people can make it seem a cornerstone of a kind and sensitive culture, but it, arguably, is not. By supposing reality to be subjective, the objective world (which will not go away) is left in the hands of the soulless technicians for whom neither kindness nor sensitivity enter into the equation. The tearing of the world into a powerless realm of subjective meaning and a realm of meaningless power is thereby supported. And supported with the utmost kindness and sensitivity.

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