Arts in Education: Reading Baldwin

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I found a chair!

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As a part of the Arts in Education program that I’m entering, we have a series of readings.  I’m not sure I will journal everything this year, but one thing that I miss lately is the reflective practice that I have often had, so it is a goal to share at least some of my reflections with you, my readers.

I am struck in reading the article, “The Creative Process” by James Baldwin as found here on Black de Cool Sun’s Blog, by how nearly Baldwin’s reflection on his practice and sense of self mirrors the last few months of my life (if not longer). I have recently been reflection on how the image of who I thought I wished to be is so divergent from who I have become.

That is: I have always held myself the goal of a life with a sweet domesticity, with a beautiful stable house with a garden and a family, but the life that I’ve lived is far more wild.

Everyone but me has perceived this other wild Allida. When I talk about this dichotomy that has been particularly sharp lately, they say, “What do you mean? You have gone on adventures; you’ve always longed for broader horizons.” And I have gone on adventures: Chicago, Madrid, Florida, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, home to Michigan, and now Cambridge.

As Baldwin says, “…”[anyone] knows that the one face that one can never see is one’s own face. One’s lover– or one’s brother, or one’s enemy– sees the face you wear…” the implication being that the same is true of our own foibles and choices. As he goes on to say, “We do the things we do and feel what we feel essentially because we must– we are responsible for our actions, but we rarely understand them.”

Along those lines, much of the path that drew me here has felt surreal. My choices have led me here, to this moment of pushing my boundaries, but my comprehension of how I “dare disturb the universe” is meagre. Pushing myself and my creation out of the proverbial nest. To fly or fall, though “In a minute there is time/ For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.”*

The other pervasive feeling, perhaps the one that led me to risk this adventure in the first place, is that I feel very precarious. In this I am not alone, many people in my X-ennial generation and the ones that follow me are members of the Precariat, a term meant to describe the precarious nature of work as it is becoming in the 21st Century.

Here too, Baldwin has something to say, perhaps because the life of an artist and writer has always been a bit precarious,

There are so many things one would rather not know. We become social creatures because we cannot live any other way. But in order to become social, there are a great many other things that we must not become and we are frightened, all of us, of these forces within that perpetually menace our precarious security. Yet the forces are there: we cannot will them away. All we can do is learn to live with them. And we cannot learn this unless we are willing to the ll the truth about ourselves, and the truth about us is always at variance with what we wish to be. The human effort is to bring these two realities into a relationship resembling reconciliation.

It is a feeling both of joy and of loss as the seasons change and I migrate to new horizons. And I am actively in that moment of reconciliation between who and what I am and who and what I perceive myself to be.  The prospect of what I will learn and how I will grow and the new friends I will make are joyful. The loss of the work I have loved, has incited an introspective attempt at reconciling my outer artist-adventurer with my inner domesticity. I will miss you Ypsilanti, I will love you Cambridge!

*a second reference to the same T.S. Eliot poem,