Ram Dass: The Vicissitudes of Devotion and Ferocity of Grace, with IMA faculty member Francis Charet. Recently I researched and wrote up an essay for publication on Ram Dass (a.k.a Richard Alpert). It focused on his personal and spiritual journey from Harvard psychology professor to experimenter with LSD to spiritual pilgrim in India to New Age guru. His journey is a fascinating one and has been the subject of a film entitled Fierce Grace that I will show that paints a portrait of a sincere and gifted spiritual teacher. After the film, I will present my research that offers an additional picture of Ram Dass’ struggle that indicates how beliefs and practices undergo a transformation from one cultural context to another and raises the issue of appropriation and authenticity.
Seeing: an erotic philosophy of visual perception, with IMA faculty member Ellie Epp. I am impressed by two things about visual perception: how much we can know by looking, and how much pleasure we can take in seeing. This two–part workshop will attempt a deep reorientation to the potentials of our human situation based on our most remarkable sense.
“Somebodies and Nobodies”: Identity and Power through the Lens of Rankism, with faculty members Celia Hildebrand (HAS) and Karen Campbell (IMA). This workshop will begin by introducing Robert Fuller’s notion of “rankism” followed by a roundtable discussion of how these ideas might apply to our community. We propose exploring Fuller’s “Eight Ways You Can Stop Rankism” and considering how we as individuals might work to increase dignity for all during the residency, and in our lives outside Goddard. We hope this approach will allow us to transcend overly– familiar narratives of identity and allow us to look at each other anew, as unique individuals, setting some of the tone for the week and inspiring other activities that will promote healthy communication.
Spiritual Insecurity: Witchcraft in Southern Africa vs. The Open Center in New York, with IMA faculty member Katt Lissard. It’s difficult to understand life in southern Africa without understanding witchcraft and how issues of “spiritual insecurity” – the dangers, doubts and fears associated with a belief in being vulnerable to invisible evil forces – relate to other kinds of insecurity in everyday life like poverty, violence, political oppression and disease. A belief in the power and presence of unseen malevolent forces as an accepted aspect of daily life might be hard for most of us to comprehend, but what if we were to examine those beliefs in relation to our own spiritual, holistic, alternative and even scientific ideas? Starting from a Westerner’s experiences with witchcraft in Africa among villagers, city dwellers, taxi drivers, professors, students, a nurse, and even an AIDS program coordinator – we’ll take a closer look at how witchcraft relates to other issues and examine “magical thinking” in negotiating our own spiritual insecurity. (video; interactive group magic; etc.)
The Identity Question, or: “Who are I?”, with IMA faculty member Lise Weil. I’ve often found that for students in this program the identity essay either points the way to a thesis question or contains the kernel out of which that thesis will sprout. I’ve noticed that the writing elicited by the question “Who am I?” tends to be both alive and deeply thoughtful. Often I’ve imagined gathering students together to share what they have learned about their own identity, and/or about identity in general, as they’ve progressed through the program. This workshop will be an opportunity to do just that. But we will also be looking at the way literary, cultural, and political notions of identity and self have evolved over the last decades, and considering our own discoveries about identity in light of those changes. E.g.: How is the question of identity complicated when the self is no longer seen as cohesive or unary? When the question “Who am I?” is supplanted (as it is in at least one contemporary narrative) by the seemingly more accurate formulation “Who am we?” or “Who are I?”
Mythopoetics, Old Stories That Tell Us Who We Are and How to Live, and New Ways to Write Critically & Creativity About It All, with Faculty Member Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg: “Poesis,” the Greek root word for poetry, means, “to make,” and in making poetic language (through poetry, fiction, drama, mixed genre), we remake language to bring the world alive in new ways. Myth, a word which encapsulates our dominant cultural narratives, tells us who we are, where we come from, and how we are to live our lives. No wonder then that poetic and myth are often irresistible to one another – historically (look at the whole oral tradition, which often uses poetic devices as vessels to hold myths), culturally (look at how cultures around the world across time combine myth and poetry), and epistemologically (look at how both poetry and myth embrace how we know what we know). Many contemporary writers continue this tradition as way to question and subvert cultural traditions by examining the cultural, religious, political and other myths of our time, and/or creating whole new mythologies that map out new stories (or recovered old stories) that show us how to live. In this workshop, we’ll look at how contemporary poets – especially women, people of color, and others who don’t hold often hold the keys to societal power – make myth and poetry together as a path toward freedom, justice, healing and visibility. We’ll also do some of our own mythopoetics.
Is Facebook a Place? Would Thoreau have a Blog?, with IMA faculty member Jim Sparrell. In considering diverse sources ranging from Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows to Thoreau, and Rebecca Solnitt, we will contemplate questions such as, what constitutes place? What are the implications of these examples of social revolution on how we think, experience ourselves, and relate to the world? What is a friend? Are we using Facebook or is Facebook using us? This workshop will emphasize the process of perspective–taking in developing and investigating relevant questions.