May 6th, 2014
With both my parents being artists I was raised a little different than most people. I would say I was a bit of a wild child. I was always taught to love nature, be gentle with animals and respect every human being. As I got older and all of these things became unacceptable in a traditional society, I became part of the system because I felt pushed into or sucked into it.
Before starting my Community – Based Learning and Action class, I had no idea what to expect, I didn’t even know what the class was going to be about. After reading the course description, I thought we would be discussing everyday issues that occur in our society, volunteering options and thinking about how terrible the system we live in is. I believed we were going to spend all of the classes talking about the problems our planet faces; such as social injustice, diversity, racial division, endangered animals, and the terrible future that awaits our children. And yes, so we did. All these issues were talked about in every class, but more importantly, we also spoke about some positive changes that can occur. Learning about the problems our planet is facing can be hard.
I found many of the reading topics frustrating to even hear about and found myself becoming very vulnerable to the planet’s suffering. Noticing how much of our Earth’s destruction can’t be undone, is definitely my biggest frustration. I found myself getting angry at the people around me, I felt alone fighting a useless battle trying to explain my concerns.
I learned that the first step for change is to bring out the problems and learn about its source. If we keep avoiding the terrible reality, than how can we take action? I find it hard to be faced with the “ugly” truth about the world around me, but once I learned about the devastating impact of humans on mother earth, I can no longer ignore it. “Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul” (Edward Abbey). A couple of weeks into the semester I began to deal with my frustrations and do something about it; I was more conscious of my actions and how much time I spend building excuses to not care. Change can be uncomfortable! It can mean giving up things we are confortable with, but don’t need. It is a conscious balance of what we want at the moment and that we truly need.
At the “Awakening the Dreamer” symposium, something started to shift in my being. I started to remember my connection with nature. I felt a switch from “me, me, me” to the question of what can I do—what can I contribute? Julia Butterfly Hill asked “Where is away?” in one of the videos at the symposium. I started thinking about what I can do as a consumer. Recycling is decent, but what can I do to expend less. I am more conscious of all the waste I produce.
For one of the classes, we had Ann Parker visit and interact with us in order to further open our minds to the idea of what sustainability is. It was this dialogue that enhanced my interconnectedness of art and sustainability. The class with Ann Parker was very refreshing. Sustainability is a subject that is often talked about, but I feel like its not clarified in detail unless you actually study this or something related to it. For me having a sustainable lifestyle is a subject that I tend to classify into an ecological corner. Having Ann share her view and knowledge on the subject definitely shaped my idea of sustainability in everything, she explained how we are all interconnected in every part of life with the spiral chart and using stories from her own life.
During class she had a fun exercise for us to do; we divided the class into different interest groups like: visual arts, writing, nature, psychology and yoga. The practice was for every group to share how we each think sustainability fits or can be part of our subject. I was chose the visual arts group, in that group we talked from A to Z about the possibilities of art being a sustainable matter. It was very interesting to hear what everyone had to say, I was very guilty about the background of my art materials but I also felt very happy to hear all these wonderful ideas from people with the same interest that care enough to want a change. After sharing a little about what materials we each work with we began to think of natural- impact free materials that we could use to substitute them. For example we talked about the idea of changing paints for natural dies, also we came across the idea that we would all like to have a class where we could research more about this subject, we want to learn how to make our own materials or find how to change them to less harmful ones. As artist we get attached to an idea about how we want our pieces to look like, but changing the materials would also mean changing our comfort for what we want (natural paint can be very dull).
Watching “A Place at the Table” made me feel disconnected from reality. It is amazing how the government covers hunger and the struggle to eat in America in such a comprehensive and understandable manner. I have always been concerned with the amount of food waste that the U.S. encounters, but how is it possible that, with all of the resources readily available to feed the entire nation, fifty million people have food insecurity? How is it possible that, according to “A Place at the Table,” one out of four kids is hungry? “If another country was doing this to our kids we would be at war”. This quote made me think about what is considered “security”, there are millions of dollars spent in weapons to protect this country yet there are starving kids who because of malnutrition can’t develop properly, kids who have the potential to grow up and do great things. Kids are the future of this country, so what will happen if there is not a change? Educating people is imperative. Kids in this country are not the only ones who need to be educated on how to change their own – or others’ – circumstances, it is the adult population that needs to be focused on. It saddens me to know that for so many people every day is a struggle just to eat. What has to be done for this system to care? Even though it is heart breaking to face reality, it makes me appreciate more and be grateful for what I have.
The book Active Hope brings up a lot of mixed feelings for me. Reading about the destruction we carelessly support every day in our lives is devastating. The three stories in the book describe the different realities in the present societies. Reading about the possibilities to keep what we still have is enthusing; knowing what the consequences in different realities are is a big step for change to begin. Now I know that I can be part of this massive shift just by opening myself to the world.
Before coming into this class, I have always been known as the mediator. Whether this means being there for my friends or simply being the active listener in my community – I am the one that has the quiet yet meaningful opinion that can contribute to nearly any conversation. As an active listener, I always try to hear people out before making any judgments. This mindset has led me to further understand who I am and what I want to be involved with for the future.
I want to work towards being involved with where everyday resources come from. Strengthening the community by being involved first hand, interacting on a regular basis with a dysfunctional environment, and educating with a net-zero footprint are all areas of life I will forever be invested in enhancing.
A Place at the Table. Dir. Lori Silverbush, et al. Los Angeles, California: Magnolia, 2013. DVD
Derechinsky, Sisa. E-portfolio, reflection blogs
Eds. Awakening the Dreamer Symposium. Naropa University. Boulder, CO. 1 Feb. 2014
Macy, Joanna, and Chris Johnstone. Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy.
Novato, Ca: New World Library, 2001. Print
Parker, Ann. Personal conversation. 2014