Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Sources of Strength for Regenerative Teaching and Learning 1: Encountering Rather than Resisting World Grief

Artist: Hokyoung Kim from  New York Times, 2019 (Article Link)

Much like appreciative inquiry, regenerative learning and teaching involves cycles of imagining, designing, transformation, and emergence. I have elsewhere explored different models of emergence in transformative learning, including teaching like a hurricane or storm, like vermiculture underground in winter fallowing, as metamorphosis, and as spring bud burst (Hauk, 2011). These kinds of vibrant processes leverage ecological emergence models as templates for teaching and learning. 

Collaborative creativity and complexity dynamics catalyze complex regenerative creativity as well (Hauk, 2015). Both of these models leverage the expansive dynamics of the spiral rather than a simple iterative cycle in learning. 

In a time when the end run of reductionist linearity can appear apocalyptic and extinctive, how do teachers recircuit and reconnect for spirals and continuity? Two resources come to mind. 

 In Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're In Without Unexpected Resilience and Creative Power (Macy & Johnson, 2020), four shifts are born from reconnecting with and honoring our pain for the world. These shifts include re-perceiving a greater sense of self, a different kind of power-with, richer experiences in community, and enlarging views of time. These gifts come from reconnecting with our feelings of despair and releasing rather than repressing them. Our students are experiencing world-grief and despair about climate chaos and climate justice. Designing curriculum and approaches to create space for these experiences make the learning relevant for today's learners.

This reconnection opens up a profound  insight that what brings about these feelings is actually our connectedness with the larger cycles of life. We feel pain for mass extinction and the fate of our species because we are embedded inside of generative systems of the earth.  These activist-scholars explore how this reconnection opens up a great sourcing in creativity and a release of the deadening habits that we might have used to avoid the intense feelings. We regain time and energy because we are not continuously feeding our denial. 

How can our teaching and learning be informed by this ecopsychological insight? Malkia Devich-Cyril in adrienne maree brown's Holding Change offers further insight, "To Give Your Hands to Freedom, First Give them to Grief" (2021). They share, 

"Along my own journey, what surprised me most was the discovery that grief is not an enemy to be avoided. In fact, resisting grief led to my suffering, becoming intimate with grief led me to the lesson that grief and joy are inextricably linked. Though generations of traumatic loss can become conflated with deformed expectations, standards, and culture, grief in all its forms has the potential to bring us closer to the truth of the world, to make us more tender and more filled with delight. It is from this new kind of gratitude, this pandemic joy, that we can risk together in action, in democratic decision makin, in strategic vision. This is one part of liberation."
Future posts will explore how to create transformative space for this kind of opening to world grief and species despair.

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