“I believe something can only cohere if we have inner resonances that even we ourselves cannot articulate, until it becomes; but only after we trust enough to keep walking towards it.”
“I believe something can only cohere if we have inner resonances that even we ourselves cannot articulate, until it becomes; but only after we trust enough to keep walking towards it.”
to meet you:
The distances you have asked me to cross
Are so great – I don’t know if I can cross them
It seems to me
I am always the one crossing to meet you
It seems to you
You are always the one crossing to meet me
We have these dialogues of a million
You ask me:
Where are you?
You are not home.
Why are you afraid to turn up?
To turn up for what, I ask back.
To turn up for ?
To turn up to an absent place?
To turn up to be present
in the now?
Just like that?
But the now that you ask me
to turn up to is already a deadend
It isn’t connected to a reality
I already live in
The dreams which I know is already unfolding
Turn up to be in a reality
That is already absent of truth.
I cannot turn up
Because you are also not home.
Not for us.
Not for me.
Not for you.
You are already gone
And I am already still here, alone.
You want me to turn up
Only to face an absent promise.
So why would I turn up to an empty home?
We are both saying
the same thing.
I ask you:
Where are you?
You wander all the time
Yet it is never enough for you.
Why are you the voice of reality
asking the wanderer to come home?
And what of you?
Where are you?
You wander too
Yet you want me to do it all
To hold it all
To be the one
That stands alone
What if I am not the one
But that you are
That you are the one called
As much as I am.
Have you considered that?
You haven’t completed your dreams.
So, why are you afraid to be at home
While I wander?
While I seek the clarifications
While I think the possibilities
While I find why it is that I refuse
To be the only one waiting
Holding out for nothing
While everyone is everywhere
Seeking their clarifications
Thinking their possibilities
Sometimes in sometimes out
Sometimes present sometimes absent
No one meeting
All encounters of bumping
Into one another
But not being
For one another
Who are we?
Why do we not meet?
Why do we touch each other
and then we depart?
Bolt into the night
Blaze into the sun
But never staying
in each other’s
There is an absent sky
Vast as compassion
I understand today why
compassion has to be so vast
It is because our hearts break as much as
our distances are great.
What are we really afraid of?
That’s what we have to truly ask ourselves.
Why are we so afraid to truly meet
and let our hearts be known for what it is
That we love, simply, only, truly,
Love each other
And that for once dare to say
“I am home for you.”
And hear that spoken back
By another voice
Not mine alone.
You are a thousand miles away
A thousand years
A thousand lifetimes
And I am waiting
Waiting for you to come home
And you ask,
“What is that longing?”
“It is a longing of a great distances.”
A thousand million suns
A thousand million moons
A thousand million lifetimes
It belies the longing of
A thousand million whys
That we don’t meet
That we still can’t meet
And I don’t know why.
Nothing I can say can
reach out to you anymore.
And nothing you can say
wants to reach out to me
From nothing to nothing.
And nothing back to nothing.
We are connected really
by our emptinesses.
Our vacant hearts.
And unless we fill each other’s hearts,
With an open intimacy
of the courage of belonging
There will always be a longing
Of a meeting that could have been
But didn’t because we both couldn’t
Couldn’t bridge our singular incorruptible
Because we both didn’t dare
cross the distances.
Speak the distances.
Break the walls down.
Come together to break down
The walls that keep us apart.
co-Founder and Director
Human Engagement Studio
June 4, 2018
AUNTY PENGU’S SCHOOL OF FINE FARTS
The business about serious education, I realise, is thoroughly flawed.
It is a serious business of denying the playfulness of a child and the teacher.
The serious inquiries of education also have become too serious, and the point of it all, the joy of learning, is alas, increasingly absent – erased.
And we wonder why it is that our children and our teachers, our schools are burnout.
Fizzled. Anxious. We find ourselves as a community of practice in high performance gear, as if life is a continuous assessment and performance. Or we uncannily live a message to children that a person is simply a proxy – a measure of excellence and character, and in whom vulnerability has no place. In whom, silliness and irrelevance are simply – silly and irrelevant.
I am making a series of Aunty Pengu’s School of Fine Farts postcards to remind ourselves that we need to poke fun at ourselves. In the seriousness of life, we critically need to have perspective – a little bit of nuttiness, which perhaps is the grace of balance that we all seek. So as to release the tension of living life so terrifyingly precise, controlled and unerringly, with all the high pressure of action and contemplation, we introduce – a little bit of nonplussed fuzziness. And unpredictable – errors, and discoveries!
Aunty Pengu is about fun and laughter, and being gregarious, amidst the turbulence of the discovery of life. Life isn’t about control and suppression; life is about flow. The turns and flips, and revolutions of energy in the learning, in the being, in the presencing, in the arising, in the receding, in the disappearance, in the none, in the one, in the appearing again, in renewed strength and courage – the elusive enigma of what we know as the throes and the joy of life.
Childhood isn’t about sitting in a classroom or the dining table being a model miniature adult.
Meetings in Aunty Pengu’s School of Fine Farts are about the delicious uncontrollable, such as a fart, in good, virtuous company. Such is the true mystery of one’s very human encounter.
April 1, 2018
“At This Dusk #3”
Water-colour pencil on paper
Peng-Ean Khoo, 2000
The Alterity of A School
is the simultaneity of at least two
For my beautiful and faithful friends who hold me up in every way in my everyday research and agonies about my theory of life, everything and the universe (and don’t say the answer is that number in that book we know, please.)
I think we may have cluttered the form with the essence.
School is a form. It is a mechanism. Just like a company is a form. Just like the English language is a form.
If we are to engage seriously, we will need to understand the form, the reasons for the being.
Having understood the form, then we can speak through it, with the same energy and intent that flows through forms, which is Love.
Then there is no quarrel. It becomes an orchestra where each form sings or play its best song and colllectively, it is a symphony.
The false dissolution of all forms is the false enlightenment. It is utter destruction, the pit of all pits. Our beingness isn’t a wad of muck. Our beingness has clarity and purpose and while in quietude is in full engagement with the contemporaneous world. Formlessness without conscious meaning is the epitome and highest expression of fear – like an inner silent panic of chaos that cannot cohere a new meaning for oneself. And which in fact is a non-committal gesture disguised as “I’m home”, which insiduously may be “I have imprisoned myself in a castle of personal and isolated myths.”
Home does not have a house. It doesn’t have a roof. It doesn’t have a window. It doesn’t have a door. It doesn’t have any walls. It doesn’t need boundaries.
It sits on a field.
An open field.
It is the field itself. It has no name. It is not even nameable as the field of love.
It is life itself.
And the experience of that boundless isness is through the forms which we know. Through the engagement of that construction and deconstruction and reconstruction. Some are mushy, some have hard edges, some are imaginary, some are symbolic, some are emotional, some can move, some cannot, some can be heard, some cannot be seen, some are tactile, some slip away as soon as we have a glimpse of it but is always the form that escapes us, because it refuses to be pinned down. To be immortalised as a idol of constancy which is contrary to the field of continuous discovery. That nature which characterises the spirit of reflection, contemplation, creative expression, learning, continuation, service.
That which we call the self is perhaps that resonance of the intimacy and immensity (ref The Poetics of Space), the two extremes of possibilities, that if we do not allow the dialogics of these two states, would mean, the non-full discovery of the edges of that form which is resonating “intimate immensities”. Which, in the final analysis, perhaps the relational co-existence of the alterity of the two states, being aware of the mutual alterity, is defining the form.
In that case, it is like a spherical chamber. Where resonances and echoes make music, and in visual metaphors, where light bounces off each surface, and in mobility metaphors, where the smallest particles bounce in a tactile dance.
And the chamber?
A round field.
The order which is the resonance, the imaginable intimacy, the inner security of beingness, the sanctuary of that inner silence that can navigate the mystery of the communion. That which have voice, communication, and that which doesn’t, and yet still communicating.
The crystallisation of this insight is a gift that I wonder why I am understanding and cognisng. It is truly a treasure and gift for my own life, and I am in awe and in gratitude for those who were able to listen to, withstand, tolerate, nurture, debate, help clarify my deep churns and held the resonating boundaries for my pedagogical inquiries. It has saved my life, the intimacy, truthfulness, and simple honesty of these friendships.
It has brought me to see my own limitations and my own potentials.
It has brought me to dare to be intimate with the limitations and the potentials and to be immense about the very same limitations and potentials as well.
It has brought me to embrace my own limitations and potentials in a way that is truly embracing. The gathering of those who were able to be with me during my deepest confusions and vulnerabilities was able to help cocoon me, cocoon my inner growth, my inner self-criticisms, self doubts, my own isolations, my own lostness, my own imprisonment of incoherence and direction, the figuring out of who am I in the midst of all the inner and outer tensions regarding all the aspects of my life.
That deep honesty of reflections and the daring to open up all wounds and the confrontations of my own fears and disappointments, that terrifying place which is necessary growth and suffering – that place turned out not to be a place of solitude in silence afterall. As I am realising this pedagogical instant and documenting this emergently, it is having a school of friends, some whom we encounter and engage briefly, alone and some together.
The laughter, the camaraderie, the madclapness of the interfaces that can surmount any challenge and that true deep – I am here for you. I am here for you. I am simply here for you. And you are going to be ok. We are going to be ok. We have each other even if everything in the world changes. Even if your heart breaks into smithereens, we can help hold you to mend, to heal, to get through, to triumph, to soar and to fulfill your life as one’s own. To find yourself again and to accept your own beauty as is. No need super-hero stuff. Just be. Hearts break and hearts can mend. And hearts become stronger. Bitterness does dissolve and in the sea, it becomes salt, tears and then it becomes sweet when the wounds have healed through insight, perspective, and choices. And then it becomes vibrant like waves, adventurous again. And maybe that is the conversion and transformation that we all seek. From that which is sweet, bitter, salty into beauty.
Courageous formless spirit of adventure in open formation.
The choice to truly let go of the past and embrace today. Open the door to dawn. And let the sun in.
Beauty, as I am discovering now, is a choice.
Let the new day begin, which is a happy heart day because life is understood as living the joy and sorrow. And not about trying to suppress one and optimise the other. There is no running away from sorrow. And joy is just right there, the alterity of sorrow.
So I ask myself this question, in the longing to build a fully inclusive forest school: The socio-ecological cultural ecosystem of that which we call a school, what are the components that make it so?
Perhaps we can start by examining the form, the construction and the deconstruction and the reconstruction of the form.
Or do we examine the persons in the space, the coming of togetherness.
What is this chamber of music that we can all sing in and hear clearly the songs of each other, and where each can speak and be heard?
Have a true place. Of participation, belonging.
What is that space that can hold us together in the dialogues of hope that is living?
That does not need a parliament of assembly in order to legally affirm our oneness?
It simply takes two.
The gathering of one school requires only one other.
So conceptually, any coming together of human persons, with this true meeting and embrace of friendship, is already providing the alterity, the resonant boundary of the other in the becoming of the self, and together, forms the social-ecological cultural ecosystem of one school.
School then is the seed of community. That seed is of friendship.
In that case, The Happy Heart School, has already long been in formation and we are simply in continuation of the expansion of such bonds of friendship into a more diverse and exciting engagements, and socio-ecological cultural ecosystem forms.
And the ecological piece? That is earth. Earth in the cosmos in 2018.
I am home.
And I no longer need a refuge, for my home is everywhere.
And my resonant greetedness is you, the stranger who is to be my friend.
And eventually, my kin, my brother or sister.
And everyone, family.
And my heart is at peace, relaxed and free, and in ecstatic joy of this simplicity of resolving this one school dilemma within myself, which truthfully isn’t at all simple to live, when in community. In theory it sounds fabulous and easy. In reality, it is confessionally tiring, agonising and downright frustrating.
And how then do I choose to live this openness?
Perhaps I can only and must truly commit to tread softly, like Ken Robinson, pointing to the whispers of Yeat’s, at the dawn of a new day for me. I realise that we are not dreaming but weaving and our tapestry, our field of preciousness that will always remain hidden to the eyes and felt only through the heart (ref Helen Keller and Antoine de Saint-Exupery) is this:
“Cloths of Heaven
by W.B. Yeats
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”
And Ken Robinson closes his 2006 Ted Talk with “And every day, everywhere, our children spread their dreams beneath our feet. And we should tread softly.”
And also their parents, family, teachers, community, nation and humanity’s dreams.
Because we are it. We are the hope of humanity and earth.
We are Earth’s children.
It is strange that I suddenly say that because we had used “for Earth’s children” in our Food Forest Farm journey of discoveries as our guiding beacon.
(“For our Children’s Children” was the space of hospitality that emerged in our Moonriver Lodge journey. The thought of the inter-generational surfaces as a deep reminder that the socio-ecological cultural ecosystem is in time and since time cannot be separated from space, it becomes a spacetime ecosystem consideration.)
A school which is standardised versus a personalised school. The order of community comes to mind.
Do we order human persons in categories – by age, gender, income levels, abilities? How can we? How can we objectify each other as if we are machines? We can’t even consider that with AI, yet we unawarely have done this to ourselves and our future adults. For an order of convenience but certainly not of flourishing and discovering life to the highest intimate immensity of experiencing the actualisation of beauty in service that I feel can only truly become when there is sufficient true uniqueness, which is the alterity of existence.
So my pondering this morning is really simply: how can I facilitate this dialogue, this meeting, between us, as a school, a gathering of human persons in March 2018, and BE one school. Be a fully inclusive forest school. Live the spirit, the essence, of that one school. And it isn’t about the forms. It is about the pedagogy of alterity which is about intimate immensities, that which is the pedagogy of possibilities which Vashima taught me through my intense, intimate, immense dialogic and everyday-living-research-action-based journeying with her in her pedagogical labs of The School of Pedagogy.
And for me it is about letting go of my isolation in building The Happy Heart School but daring to open up that dream to meet the larger dreaming through the guidance and support of my friends at Human Engagement Studio.
I can live the alterity of many forms of school organisations. Because being fully inclusive for me simply means, I greet and embrace you exactly as you are, and let’s get to know each other and together, the world, a little better. And let’s make our encounter count, for the global sustainability and flourishing of our humanity in our lifetime.
Regardless of the form, you complete me. The shape of you completes the shape of me.
Only the presence of you can be the true authentic stranger to me when I am becoming fully whole. And for that deep honest presence, intimacy, care and concern, I am immensely grateful for your time, kindness, friendship and generosity of heart.
I think I may have stumbled upon Human Engagement Studio’s beacon: Tread Softly.
March 10, 2018
“At This Dusk #1”
Water-colour pencil on paper
Peng-Ean Khoo, 2000
The pedagogy of advocacy
For my dear friend and sister, Vashima Goyal, who stuck through my churns in her commitment to love, friendship, pedagogy, advocacy of the rights of the child, and her own determination to live the pedagogy of listening, the pedagogy of truth and the pedagogy of non-judgment. Thank you for wading through the multitudes of tests of patience with me and thank you for living and showing to me the necessity of tenacity and commitment to multiple perspective dialogues, pedagogical documentation and advocacy.
The beauty of discovery is that one ultimately is processing, reflecting and savouring upon the new insights within one’s own vocabulary, language, comprehension, reconciliation, consciousness, choices, actions. The greater beauty of discovery for me is when the process of this discovery involves entering into new circumstances with a friend, and eventually, discovering other friends.
And so, once again, I am entering into the dialogue regarding friendship. Sometimes we tell ourselves, “Oh! I am here because of this and that.” Or “Oh! You need help, and so I am here.” Or “Oh! This situation is really complex and I don’t really want to take this up on my own.” Or “Oh! This requires serious mindsharing and worksharing with some really, really good folks.” And so, we begin a journey of reaching out.
Usually when we are at the edge of ourselves, whether we choose to admit this to ourselves or whether we are even cognisant of this.
Reaching out is so natural to us when we were children. In fact, there would not have been a choice, as infants. So, what is it that makes reaching out so difficult as adults?
As infants and toddlers, we hardly have spoken languages that are understood by adults. And for some children, for a longer time of childhood. And for some others, their entire lives. So how did we reach out? How did we call out? How did we speak? How did we communicate our needs? And how did we tend to the needs of others? How did we understand relationship? And how did we eventually decide who is a friend and who is a foe?
In the entire mix of being in a playground of children and adults, what is going on?
What is it that we are seeking? And what is it that we as a culture are seeing and are missing? In particular, regarding relationships, and children and adults, and those who are vulnerable to being excluded and not having a fair participation, in our culture.
If we go around telling ourselves the reasons for being inclusive and justifying statistics, then we might as well extend that same reasoning for eating, drinking, toileting, or laughing. This is where it is really hitting home for me: I got lulled and trapped into reasoning regarding inclusion.
It’s a real pit that isn’t even there at all, yet I fall headlong into it, because I had favoured reasoning and arguments above all my other human innatenesses.
And that’s a really interesting observation regarding contemporary culture that is getting clearer and clearer. We speak of problem-solving before we speak of friendship.
We have stopped celebrating the coming togetherness simply for the sake of it, but instead, even when we get together, we have to have a reason for it. The elusive and illusory why. Even when I enjoy something, I am asked, “Why?” When something is enjoyable, why does one ask why?
Why has become confused with purpose. Why as a scientific inquiry is just one of the abilities of human faculties. It really isn’t the only experience and definitely not the only defining moment of being human.
So when V and I spoke about advocacy, I have initially rejected it. Advocacy for me was really about being in the pits that weren’t there in the first place. It is about falling into the lure of a mudfight and never winning, because in a fight, everyone loses.
I don’t like adversarial and rough play.
We then dialogued and exchanged our views significantly regarding oppression. We wore several lenses of pedagogical examinations. Mostly, I take them off when it gets too unusual. But I learnt the importance of this flipping of worldviews. It began for me really the very difficult task of alterity – which is the play of togetherness.
What is difficult for me is – reason. Reason had been my dominating lens.
So I take off that lens, and put on another: emptiness.
Guess what I discovered?
That was a surprise to me. For the longest time, everytime V had explained pedagogy to me, I keep responding, “That’s art to me.”
So this morning at some terrible hour that I am up when I am supposed to be asleep, I am getting this meeting of the pedagogista and the atelierista.
I was drawn to re-read my reflections in “Because of Autumn Lanterns” (and why I make art).
To give voice.
To give voice.
And songs start to flow in my head.
The freedom of expression. The multiplicity of the rich languages of a full and whole human faculty and aliveness.
As opposed to the dominant reasoning and composed and coherent articulation, which sometimes isn’t able to say anything at all, except some theory that has to be highly abstracted. It is good thinking, but it isn’t the whole song, the full story; it is academics.
And it isn’t creativity.
Creativity for me is coming home to being fully present. I don’t really know what an artist does anymore except to celebrate the immense possibilities of life, sometimes alone, sometimes with others. Mostly, it is introverted for some decision-making, and extroverted for continuous discoveries and validation.
If that is art, then an artist is simply living at an engagement of freedom, that is vibrant and alive, because non-judgment isn’t even coming up as a matter of dialogue anymore. The whole entire mind and being is available to engage, to participate, to be a part of life, community, situations, circumstances.
This whole access to life, for me, is the true liberation of the artist, who is the self.
Sometimes we mistake this for common sense, but actually, it isn’t. It is a case of a walking storehouse of barefoot and academic knowledge. Knowledge, being learnt, conjectured, lived, living experiences. And the pure energy of life, of curiosity, of just checking out things. Of the existential relational.
Perhaps it isn’t the future that we live for, or the past that we are reminiscent about. It is about this dropping of the lenses of dominance or even needing any lens at all times. While it is important to have an inquiring mind, it is actually a whole mind that is already present that truly prepares and fulfils one’s calm and joyful readiness for full and whole participation.
And the language of wholeness and the vocabulary of that wholeness can risk sounding like a cacophony of gibberish, if we keep insisting on the linearity of lenses, dialogues that are monoculturally sequenced, and the insistence of comprehension in the midst of the discovery.
I don’t know if pedagogy is this, but my search for pedagogy has led me to arrive here. At the meeting of emptiness or of full embrace of wholeness. And my advocacy is simply, allowing the voices of life to be, to speak, to be silent, to listen. To participate or not. To make choices. Or not. To be happy or not.
And I guess that leaves me entering into spaces, which have now been converted by my inner mind as playgrounds. Spaces of discoveries. And interestingly, the subject matter (for example the search of pedagogy) isn’t the matter at hand anymore, but the friendship or the potential friendship. The coming together of those who otherwise would not have been together. And the simple curiosity, participation and enjoyment of this somewhat serendipitous yet choiceful natural dance of life.
What is my advocacy again? Because I had actually been convinced of this through my dialogues and discoveries with V, I would like to state my advocacy. My stand is the advocacy of full inclusion, but wholly. Not segmentally, not clinically, not adversarially. And definitely not in power play politics. “I don’t like rough play” is my firm stand for participation for myself. Especially when it is subtle and manipulative. My playground is about the true playground of friendships and joyful camaraderie.
When encountering adversities, I would really prefer to problem-solve and create possibilities rather than attribute blame or go into despair.
My advocacy is more about the full and whole embrace of life.
The joy of the discovery of being alive and finding the voice and the daring to speak one’s own gives me tremendous satisfaction regarding the journey of life as a human person in community and in historicity. I am not sure about mind or not anymore. I have shed my identity as an artist and also my media of expression, I realise, just this morning. Because when the pedagogista truly meets the atelierista, interestingly, it no longer makes any more sense to say, “This is this and that is that”.
And what is full inclusion for me?
Freedom to speak and the freedom to be one’s own, without the paraphernalia.
Because this is the true highest dignity of a human person fully authentically alive living a whole human life.
Thursday, February 22, 2018
“A duck and a dog having an afternoon nap”
Digital drawing, 2017
And so I write another poem about grace. This time about receiving grace. Words are tricky. Some people want it to be another word. Some claim the words to particular truths and are unrelenting about words being words that can mean different things to different people.
Grace is one such troublesome word. So is Compassion. So is Meher. They don’t mean anything to someone who hasn’t yet come across a need for awakening. Awakening is yet another troublesome word.
Spirituality is even worse. Psychological crises seem to be better received.
So, something of the heart is at unease, and we call it restlessness.
Something is amiss and we think it weird. We think it lacking. We think it needs to be fixed. With medicine, philosophy and all kinds of healthy and well-being ideology.
Perhaps there is simply no isms except for the reality that is being experienced. We take our chances. We take it in concrete. Or we take it with a narrative that we can stomach. Or we take it, otherwise we run out of road. No more pathways to the narrative of life. Or we run out of roads, period.
I used to write some cool poems. But now, I write some terrifying blunt words that actually terrifies no one except myself, for its stark inexistential truth or dilemma.
One can stay here or one can find another meaning.
One can stay here and perish or one can find another meaning, and live.
Strangely, as much as I would like to stay here and see what life actually delivers, I run yet again and take another mental parachute.
And call it life. Perishing in one’s mind is terrifying to the mind.
The mind seeks the power of narrative.
Yet it is actually powerless about life.
The flow of life just flows.
We can’t control it. That’s what most terrifying.
But how does that matter anyway? Regardless of how our minds frame our worldviews, life flows anyway.
It’s interesting we’ve made it all work so far. We are better at coordinating than one imagines. The long and short of it is that we can only hold our own sanity, and it isn’t through narratives nor a mental worldview.
It is about the silence and openness and daring and trust of receiving. Of allowing. Of truly simply being. Being a human person at the depth of its feltness is a very exhilarating joy of existence. Because the gratitude is so huge. The grace so unfathomable.
The awareness of one’s personal, subjective identity and culture in the entire myriad of eternal cosmological existence is completely astounding.
That’s my wonder.
The awe I feel is strangely met with my own feeling of awfulness. Maybe that’s when the small self meets the big self.
Self being sense of identity. One in the world culture, one who is continually existing.
I have one touching the earth right now. One timeless, and one completely engaged with human society. And one typing this.
How many presences of minds must we be able to integrate.
I think we just get fatigued and overwhelmed in general. So we simply just need to centre, go back to something simple. Something real. Something non-thinking. Something less complex. Something that is simply about just getting into the focus of life so that such consciousness of complexities don’t need to surface to be addressed and integrated.
Or maybe it is not possible. If we ignore one aspect, perhaps, it will keep knocking on the door to be understood.
What if we remove any a priori belief system of existence?
Perhaps we will truly begin to discover only after we dare to shed this a priori narrative.
It’s the brain and the structure of human language, cognition, emotions, feelings, responses, behaviours and commitment.
It’s the brain. The joy is there. The suffering is also there. Stay with both.
Don’t overthink it.
co-Founder, Human Engagement Studio Pte Ltd
November 1, 2017
DOCUMENTATION is not pretty pictures of engaged children. Rather, it CAPTURES the THINKING PROCESS. What MOTIVATED to begin, continue, change direction? What were the BREAKTHROUGHS, the PIVOTAL REMARKS or ACTIONS? How did they SOLVE the PROBLEM? The goal is to ENABLE whoever reads a panel to UNDERSTAND what the child ATTEMPTED and how they went about it, to see STIMULUS, PROCESS, and OUTCOME.
The silent scream of speechlessness
The anguish of being unheard.
The disconnect with language
An island of isolation.
Alone in a world abuzz with sound
Struggling to be heard
He is special they say
He will be fine.
But a mother’s heart won’t give up
Feels the pain beneath the poise.
With every waking thought
She seeks to find
Equally helpless she is
In her search.
Knocking every world to understand.
From science to religion
No stone is left unturned.
Answers in the earth
Equally helpless is the earth
In silent screams of speechlessness
It is torn apart.
From the ravages of disasters
To the savaging of mankind.
Pain remains Unspoken.
Urban jungles in glossy glass
Replace seasonal hues
It is special they say
Everyone will be happy and rich one day
The anguish of a mother
In a progressive world, unspoken.
Salute to the courage of my friend PEK
15 April 2017
Photo credit: Voices of Children Project
“We undermine intellect of children and their capacity to fully participate given the opportunity and environment to thrive.”
-Vashima Goyal, Co-Founder & Director, Human Engagement Studio
The beauty about working with friends is: they let you get away with – nonsense. Because they love and trust you, you fly. And then you realise, you’ve flown ahead. And then you fly and rest on a lamp-post, like this hornbill suddenly sighted in urban Singapore.
UnSpoken was birthed entirely because of a mother’s longing for a serious education for her son, who has yet to be understood by the world at large. And it is really birthed, because she found friends who believe in serious education for her son, and his friends.
We are inaugurating UnSpoken on April 19th, 2017 Auditorium at 10 Square, a most amazing venue partner. Our hearts are eternally grateful to all who made UnSpoken possible.
a Human Engagement Studio project, 2017
in collaboration with 10 Square @ Orchard Central
coming together to play
and documenting our discoveries
I never felt that play per se actually connects. I am not sure but I think, the connection we seek is –friendship. Not even relationship. We are somewhat in relationships and are subtly aware of relationships most times, but the times when we feel isolated is more the lack of someone who is interested in what we are interested in. Someone who is as excited about the area of exploration of life as we are. Someone who is committed enough to learn the content matter, the necessary skills. Practise them to mastery for the intense discovery that awaits just round the corner to be found. Someone who is equally intrigued and piqued. Someone who isn’t in competition with us, but together in play with us to discover what is next. To discover with integrity what is to be revealed. Someone who dives into the mystery of the time-space-content that we are curious to discover. Someone who doesn’t suddenly abandons the search of the discovery, leaving us going – what did I say, do? What happened?
It is a match of passion. A match of let’s have fun together. Of let’s play together. A meeting of deep service.
The gathering has to have such qualities to hold. To bind.
But the binding loose, without having the need to formalize rules of play.
Trust, camaraderie. I got your back, you got mine. I am not alone.
Being in a group doesn’t mean you can’t be alone.
You can be on your own and never feel alone and truly, isn’t.
And you can be known by many, yet you feel lonely.
What do children who are predominantly seeking to play and discover with integrity need?
And eventually, the children’s gifts are known to society. They are the gifts of grace. They inspire because they have triumphed over so many obstacles. Unnamed by us, because we have not experienced such struggles ourselves. And this space can only be revealed, named, by them, to us.
And so, I have humbly named this project UnSpoken. In anticipation of the gifts of dignity that only the children can confer to me. Because they are older than I am. Having walked a much deeper journey of humility, patience, tenacity and grace than I am able to. But because of their being, I am inspired to live deeper than I would previously have been able to imagine the possibility.
I have included in here my inquiry about education:
April 6, 2017
A RESEARCHER’S INQUIRY
As I reflected further during the ground preparations for UnSpoken, and during the deep dialogues as Human Engagement Studio, I started to realise I had missed out democratic exchanges or in a very big way, it is about citizenry. The way I approach learning is very much hypothesis-based and then testing it out. So I realise why now when I work in a group, it becomes very challenging or mis-interpreted. And so, I started to pull out these various threads, and am committed to examining and learning these a little more carefully, patiently, and gently. Because human engagement isn’t abstract and it isn’t about objectification, but about feelings, sensitivities, support and care.
a human engagement researcher
April 15, 2017
A POET-ARTIST’S INQUIRY
There is a part of me that absolutely loves poetry, art, music, drama and theatre. I have been longing to explore this in a very big way. What intrigues me most about is the voices of pre-verbal/non-verbal children and adults. How do we truly hear their voices? And how do we speak back? And how do we dialogue together? I am not content with just a choreographed symphony. I am about hearing deeply and having real heart-to-heart conversations and connections.
My feeling about this is that we have to move. We need to speak in space. Integrating space is the most realistic form of communication as we are living in 3D, in gravity, and in a cultural conception of time. I also feel the rest of the media and its rich compositions of communication will emerge if this freedom is permitted, and not misunderstood.
But before we label communication as art or dance or song or poetry or even voice, I feel there needs to be this waiting, and allowing for emergence, of what the form itself wants to be named. I feel perhaps we are too eager to name the forms, having too much art theory and art history thinking, canonisations, references and education. I feel perhaps that finally, I am finally ready to listen, mutually “jazz” and compose – live. And with others.
It takes a very strange courage and defenselessness, but I am realising it is because I am still hanging on to dear life to my acquired forms of communication and art expressions. And that, freedom of creative expression isn’t so much about the recognised form, for me, but about being authentic to the truths that need to be heard, understood, and if I am the speaker, then I speak. In however and whatever manner that it can be heard and understood. And my own real, real necessary learning, is to speak in a way, that is allowing dialogues, non-violent; that is peaceful, gentle. And harmonious.
And the content, absolutely precious, because it is the seeds of new friendships, and the encounter, a communion of our heart hopes. And the communication, when “spoken” honestly, is actually an embrace of each other, with the truthful integrity that only a true friend can offer each other.
And what does that embrace do? It is the embrace that sometimes we cannot give ourselves. There are always places that our self-compassion cannot forgive or journey on our own within. And so, a friend comes along and embraces us, for exactly those moments we can’t walk on our own.
So, art for me, has in a sudden turn, become about friendship.
April 15, 2017