The Alterity of A School

at this dusk #3

“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?

And be.

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.

Peng-Ean Khoo
March 10, 2018

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