We went to do a ‘book signing’ the other day at an alternative school. The kids there don’t do well in ordinary schools and, in some cases, don’t do well at all anywhere. A friend of ours is a teacher there. We did not draw a big crowd. Maybe ten or so.
In fact, one kid had to be dragged in.
Ostensibly, I was there to talk about our book. But I first spoke about me not feeling ‘right’ in the cul de sac, feeling a bit trapped working urban, being a smidge restless for a bit of adventure and, while getting on in years, feeling those feelings even stronger. Some of the kids paid attention, most looked at the tops of their desks.
I spoke about not really needing the systems that society had to offer, at least not as much as I or most people thought we did. I spoke about being able to grow food, catch fish, build crap and conduct medical responses to my own physical problems most of the time. Of course, I admitted to living in the system most of my life and I gave credit to the ‘system’ when I used it.
I really just pointed out that I didn’t need or use the support systems as much as I used to. Nor did I want to. And I pointedly spoke a similar view about so-called education. I told them I learned better when I was interested and I was never interested while in school. All the kids were paying attention at that point. So were the teachers.
So was an ex-nurse.
I spoke about money, jobs, cost-of-living and the umbilicals of life that we don’t really notice if we are born and raised with them – such as telephones, TV, cable, cell phones, internet, roads, electricity grids, plumbing and sewage and the BIG networks of health, education, politics, employment and living that we are so enmeshed and invested in without really being aware. I spoke about the beauty of the forest and the feeling of being alive when outside even though I confessed to spending time writing my book and watching cheap B flicks at night. I guess I conveyed a sense of balance…I don’t know…I was just wingin’ it and talking about our book and our life.
Some of the teachers asked questions. One of the questions was about our dog. Sal went and brought Fiddich in. He has a presence. The classroom came alive.
I talked about rebelling, swimming against the current, taking risks, NOT planning, leaving the herd and all that ‘freedom’s-just-another-word-for-nothing-left-to-lose’ kind of stuff you might expect from a guy wingin’ it and the the kids themselves started asking questions.
On the face of it, I was a bad influence. Given another few minutes, I might have advocated dropping out of school and finding a carnival or tramp steamer to sign on with. The interesting part was that the teachers would likely have been the first to sign up!
Of course, it is easy to advocate taking alternative actions in an alternative school. Even if the teachers were NOT receptive (but they were), I could always hide behind the fact that it was, in fact, a place for alternative thinking and learning that was also in essence what the book was about. I could safely advocate risk without risking criticism or the bums rush. In effect, I was a poseur except for the fact that we had done it. I certainly had no alternatives to offer the kids (or the teachers). I could only tell our story.
But the result was that all but one of the kids got engaged. All of them asked questions (even the kid who was dragged in). All of them made eye contact and laughed at the stupid stuff (there was a lot of stupid stuff). And the teachers were surprised. The teachers were actually shocked to see the drag-in so engaged. The idea of Alternative was connecting with everyone, teachers, students, everyone. It was good.
We left and went to our car so that we could go shop at Costco. The kids went back to class. The ‘life’ moment had passed. Fleeting, like Boson-Higgs.