A blog about imaginative learning
Escaping from the mundane to a moment of meaning--to something almost magical...
All of us seek to find this sort of magic in some way--something mysterious and meaningful about life--moments that say “there is something more to all of this.” There are many ways to experience a moment of inspiration-a moment that gives us a new insight-wakes us up to see anew the world, our work, relationships, and this journey called life.
There are moments in life when one seems to step out of time and experience a deeper reality at work in this world. Stop! This idea is powerful, and we must consider it for a moment. I believe it lies at the heart of education, or what I like to call Imaginative Learning. Moments of insight, of seeing the world inside out, are moments that become part of us in a way much deeper than most rote learning in school classrooms.
Recently I helped run a Bilbo Baggins Birthday Party Festival. Each year we put on a Bilbo Fest, to give it a shorter name, at the Riverside center for imaginative learning. Some may snicker at this and think it’s a bunch of larpers (live action role players) trying to live out an epic fiction, but there is something else going on. The idea of re-living a story together is one of the deepest longings of man--it’s why we have memorials for our country, or the dead, or why we gather to remember a great mystery of life like birth, marriage, Christmas, Easter. It's why we have drama! There is something innate in human beings to memorialize stories in a way that in a sense brings them back to life, so that we can re-experience the richness of that story.
These moments are more powerful than one might think at first.
There are all sorts of festivals out there these days, from craft beer fests, to October fests, Autumn fests, and the list goes on. Like any word, due to the associations we have, there can be a lessening of its meaning. Just like someone might react to the word storytelling in a way that lessens the transcendent import of that word.
No matter what one may think of festivals, it is a reality that cultures all over the world have them, and have them in order to enter into a memory or story that in their ordinary workday life they cannot. These festivals can express a deeper reality in a way that borders on the experience of another world. Why do we celebrate and have festivals? Why take the time to set up elaborate celebrations, memorials, parties?
Josef Pieper who inspired me greatly with his book “In tune with the world: a theory of festivity” delves deeply into the reality of festivals, and what they say about man and his longing to memorialize and relive a story, or mystery.
So often in education, we place so much emphasis on classroom learning, memorization, content, preparation for tests, and the rigamarole of what the system has told us is vital for education, that we forget the moments of inspiration, that can be some of the most powerful educational experiences.
During the Bilbo Baggins fest there is true merry making--feasting, singing, dancing, dramatic portrayals of the story under lights stringing from great trees, vignettes in the old forest, fireworks, and a fellowship of people who find the story one that gives hope.
Some say that when they were at the festival there was a feeling of almost entering into this world--of reliving it.
Festival, and moments of transcendent meaning, are part of imaginative learning. We all want to experience a meaningful story, and though many teachers try to convey story in the classroom, through Q and A, and essays, there is nothing akin to the festival memorializing of a story--when for a brief moment our imagination glimpses an epic narrative that speaks of hope, fellowship, and a joyous end that dispels the darkness around us. These memories of festivals can become core memories, rooted deep in the heart of the young, so that as they grow they will remember that a world looks like packed full of meaning, adventure, romance, beauty, fellowship, and the idea that there is more to life than meets the eye.
Great festivals are meant to open up a portal in a sense to a greater meaning of life, and for a moment take us by the scruff of the neck, make us look out, and say “look at that vista!” We are not meant to just get by, but live fully, and bring to life in the most magnificent ways we can, the memories, stories, and mysteries that remind us what this journey is all about.