Six Lessons Learned from Starting GCAS

imagesIt’s been one year since I cashed in my early retirement in order to start a new school that by August became known as, The Global Center for Advanced Studies (GCAS).  Here are six basic lessons I’ve learned.

Lesson 1:  For the most part, “multiculturalism” as presented in privileged spaces in universities in the States is a farce and toxic.  Actually engaging with otherness, diversity, poverty, and struggles outside these elite posh spaces of universities not only does not exist but the sterilized presentation of other cultures, ethnicities, histories and so forth is a mockery and just insulting.  Universities have taken on a zoo like effect in which the student is able to engage with otherness but from a safe distance that, by definition, neutralizes issues like poverty, women’s struggles, and political resistance, turning them into pleasantries.  What this means is that otherness is really just a projection of one’s own privilege–the other is violently turned into the same.

Lesson 2:  Just because a theorist or professor writes about global inequality, poverty or is a self-proclaimed “feminist” or some other “ist” doesn’t make them an advocate for justice and equality.

Lesson 3:  There is a need to create a space in which education can no longer hide behind the Ivory-Tower walls of privilege and protection.  We live in a world in which we are all part of each other, but to truly be part of a global community we need to be able to share in each other’s struggles and joys.  We need to hear voices from different parts of the world in which struggles are happening.  In this way, one’s own presuppositions are challenged and a new form of a wider consciousness opens up so that actions and ideas are not disjointed from each other but work together to better our world as we draw strength from each other.

Lesson 4: By creating educational classrooms in different parts of the world in which struggles are taken place a real from of knowledge and action comes to the fore creating a solidarity among each other.  Strength is found, joy is discovered.

Lesson 5:  Diversity and inclusion is necessary for education to thrive.  By diversity, I mean most especially, economic diversity–class representation in ratio to how the world is divided with the majority of the world’s population steeped in poverty struggling each day for basic needs: food, clean water, shelter.  A school should be devoted to health above all:  health for our planet, health for each person, health for communities working together to make our planet a safe place to dwell.

Lesson 6:  Starting a non-profit school is very difficult and for it to survive there must be a community that supports it from it’s missional and materialist point of view.

Let’s unite to really believe in education and action not just continue paying $50,000/year to protect students (and faculty) from really confronting the world’s lack of health.  Learning the truth of the real issues will only bring us joy as we organize ways of living well in community otherwise known as Planet Earth.



The Great Surge in the Creative Power of Spring

Ishtar Vase (Louvre)

Ishtar Vase (Louvre)

We are motivated by surges of energies, intensities of desire, and great unexplainable joys that flow through our bodies at unpredictable times.  Spring marks such surges of the creative powers, a power to create, creation itself.  And yet, although the spring season is predictable, like a repeating pattern, it contains in itself a power of surprise.  Often the creative process takes on a life of its own as if you are the one entering a holy space.  It is like writing a story in which you have a vague idea of where the plot is heading, but as it unfolds the end-point shifts on you, and you are forced to follow it wherever it leads.  The master is turned into its opposite: a slave to the story.

One of my favorite ballets is Stravinsky’s Le sacre du printemps translated in English as The Rite of Spring, but a better translation might be The Sacrifice of Spring in which Russia was united by a mystery and great surge of creative powers embodied in the season of Spring.  And here you can start to see the logic:  Spring (that great season that gives forth life) is the very thing that is sacrificed.  To give birth is death, in death there is life (Easter).

Easter is celebrated in Spring, the precise date of which was decided on in the year 325 at the famous council of Nicaea.  There they decided that Easter would fall on the 1st Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox (March 21).  The central symbolization of Easter in Christian terms is significant:  Jesus alights from the tome of death (i.e., Winter season) and is born anew (Spring season).  The tome here is representative of a woman’s womb.  And the pagan roots of Easter too are significant –arriving from the goddess of fertility, love, war and sex, Ishtar.

Stravinsky’s The Sacrifice of Spring enacts a contradiction because, after the first part, The Adoration of the Earth, comes the second, The Sacrifice. Here a young woman is chosen and she proceeds to dance herself to death.  To spell this out bluntly: The surge of the creative power of spring in the ballet that gives life can also take life.  This is the power of being overjoyed, where something is so pleasurable that this very pleasure can kill you.  This paradox unfolds in the act of sex, which as the French call it, Le petite mort “the little death” –you know that feeling of transcendence that arrives after a “life-force” surges forth.  Roland Barthes described Le petite mort as the feeling one should get after reading great literature.  In any case, you can see that in moments of ecstasy there is, at the same time, terminal moments of death.  This is embodied in Ishtar who is at once the goddess of love and of war (the two are often indistinguishable); or, to but it differently: In the very moment of birth–where new life happens it is often times the most fragile time of life.

But too notice, and this is where Stravinsky’s revolutionary musical style is important to identity, that the surge of a paganism (a celebration of the power of life) can quickly go too far.  The early 20th century certainly was a time in which the celebration of being liberated from a certain “God” gives birth to new creative formations that invent new and never before known possibilities.  Think of Nietzsche’s powerful insights.  I admire Stravinsky for this, and even Freud for discovering the “unconscious” and even Vaslav Nijinsky’s dances (which Stravinsky hated).  For me these dances in the ballet are so full of possibilities–they led themselves to going beyond the limits into death itself.  Stravinsky, “The Rite of Spring” part 2

Enjoy your Spring (but not too much!)