At the beginning of March we had an amazing fall of snow.
In the space of half an hour we had about four inches. A village friend said to me later that he had never seen snowflakes so big – he described them as being the shape and size of feathers – and this is from someone who has lived in this village for eons. The flakes certainly were bigger than any I have ever seen, and they were the shape of feathers, those downy feathers you get from chickens and ducks, and in no time at all the hill that I can see from my study window was covered with people sledging.
It was just as well that they took advantage of it, because within a few hours (unlike the incredible pictures that I have seen from the east coast of America and Canada this year), the snow was all gone. But it was quite magical while it lasted and also quite magical because it didn’t last.
Like February, March has been a month of sunshine and shade, both in terms of the weather and in terms of my life, although the month has definitely ended on a high.
The darker side of this month has been around my experience of and thinking about the meaning of ‘open’ in the online environment. I have always had reservations about how ‘open’ to be online, and this month’s happenings confirmed for me that ‘less is more’. I received some very good advice from a friend who said ‘…. everybody gets to have an opinion or ask a question, but they aren’t automatically entitled to a response’. I have remembered that many times this month, but I am also saddened by the increasing number of people who seem to be subject to online abuse. When I first started to work online, more than a decade ago, we always used to say to the students – ‘Remember that there is a human being on the end of your post and always believe, at least initially, in their best intentions’.
But of course every cloud has a silver lining, or some clouds have silver linings, i.e. along with the dark side comes the sunshine and this experience of having difficulties with ‘openness’ online is now feeding into three research papers, all with people I really respect and enjoy working with.
Also this month I have, with my friend and research colleague, Frances Bell, had a presentation proposal accepted for Liverpool John Moore’s Teaching and Learning Conference in June. I expect we will be blogging about this nearer the time. I am really pleased about this, not least because Ron Barnett, who I have long admired, will be speaking on the second day of the conference.
But the highlight of this month has been the four-day course about the Divided Brain featuring Iain McGilchrist, that I attended this month in the Cotswolds, UK. I have written a series of blog posts about this. This was a wonderful course. I had already read McGilchrist’s book (some parts very slowly word for word, other parts more lightly), but the seminars over four days made it all fall into place. I could see many, many connections between Iain’s work and my own life, work and recent thinking. I am amazed that when I look back through this blog many of the posts relate to some of the ideas discussed in Iain’s seminars. It was really good for me, this month, to hear someone of Iain McGilchrist’s standing reaffirm my understanding that we need both dark and light experiences to have a full, rich and embodied view of the world. As I have written before on this blog, ‘dark’ experience is needed to clearly see the ‘light’. The overall message from the course was one of optimism. Iain McGilchrist was optimistic, feeling that despite our apparent increasing tendency to allow the left hemisphere to dominate our view of the world, (a manipulative, decontextualised, inanimate, abstract and static view), mankind has, in history, overcome this before and will again, allowing a more empathetic, understanding, holistic, open and embodied view of the world to come into being.
I too am feeling more optimistic as we move into April.