Ch.28 Learning to “Spin straw into gold”
Serializing Insight Experiential Colleges, how Women In Congress re-invented liberal arts college curriculum and teaching methods to produce graduates capable of redeeming-restoring SpaceShip Earth
dg-Spin straw into gold
In Chapter 28, the Writers Room offers the most daring large group learning sequence ever conceived by them.
Women’s Summer Conference 2033
The fifth day of WSC2033 event was a variety of exercises, music and activity around the theme of “Spinning straw into gold.” For readers unfamiliar with this fairy tale motif…
Anyone thoughtful about their own Inner Game of Life, especially Cultural Creative women, have a wish to make more Inner Sunshine. The fairy tale, “Rumpelstiltskin” is the best known tale where this motif is used.
Competitive males prefer to think of “enlightenment” in competitive terms. For males on the earthly stage, enlightenment is a competitive, spiritual marathon race, to be won.
For the healthy feminine, success at the Inner Game of Life, is more natural to conceive as “inner sunshine,” spinning the “straw” of the ordinary into the “gold” of wisdom.
The isolated male, left-brain “messenger” hemisphere has a skewed value system. It views our mundane, routine, daily experience, our ordinary, day-to-day thoughts, feelings and interactions — as worthless, as ordinary, as common as dry straw was in the days of kings and castles. Dry straw was used to feed animals; and also, in most castle rooms as mop, sponge and sawdust for food spills and other accidents.
Only the unburdened Self starts to wonder, “What if — the least valuable material possible — could be transformed into the the most valuable material in the human experience?”
Corrupted male Patriarchy, coming only from left hemisphere, valued only competition, wealth accumulation; and, becoming King of the Hill. Everything else in life was mere “straw” to be overlooked, neglected, ignored.
The composers of authentic traditional European fairy tales, such as Rosicrucian Fairy tale authors, were students of metaphysics. They used imaginative tales to prod audiences’ attention to the possibility of transforming their ordinary straw-filled lives, thru service, spiritual study and good works, into the “gold” of habits aligned with the Seven Virtues. Virtuous habits were the imperishable wisdom or “gold.” Fairy tale authors knew it was possible to work inwardly and creatively with our mundane human lives, to distill, glean, “thresh” virtuous habits (gold).
Several ”gold” motifs occur in fairy tales. The other common one is golden hair as a metaphor for wisdom. Robert Bly unpacks this masterfully in his Iron John book (the shorter audio book is preferred for most uses).
Since we all have “straw” to spin with, everyone can do this — yet — few “live the examined life.” By studying how Insight Seminars pioneered more emotionally coherent, accessible and fun, large group learning seminars, the Writers Room learned a great deal about how to structure college-level learning so students can spin more of their own straw, into more of their own gold.
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SIDEBAR ~ Why do so so few individuals learn to spin their straw into gold?
To a certain extent, each person must do this alone. Yet, few people attempt the inner work of “straw into gold.” Why?
Corporate-consumer mainstream culture wants everyone focussed on buying things. Sheeple-consumers, prefer to do what others tell them to do, think what others around them think; and, believe what others around them believe.
In the Heads-down Generation (2001–2035), social media, video games and celebrity worship, replaced learning lessons from your own life. For many mothers, this was a catastrophe. Their children paying more attention to screens than to each other — or to living beings of any kind.
Social media and video games are useful leisure-time time-sponges. Yet, they rarely do much to facilitate users thinking deeply about their own experience and finding nuggets of wisdom available to be found. Nor do social media and video games facilitate the practice of empathy, for learning from others. After all, the main activity of social media and video games, is typically shooting at other people with virtual guns or snarky comments. For this, Women re-deployed a phrase first used by Dr. Frederic Werthram: The Seduction of the Innocent.
The Heads-down Generation were too scared of interpersonal conflict to even participate in life. Without participating in ordinary life and relationships, you have no “straw” you can “spin into gold.”
Conference 2033 invited women to stop worrying about their children and claim more of the gold they could spin for themselves individually.
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Back to culminating sequence of Day Five of Women’s Summer Conference 2033.
‘Where Your Treasure Is’ (There Your Heart Shall Be)
Facilitator: “At your mythological level, the myths you resonate with, the ones which ring true for you, is where your heart belongs. Please consider this as you close your eyes and listen to this song.”
Mennonite choir — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkuRdRkckjU
[audience crying can be heard on the recording].
dg-Mennonite Choral Music
Facilitator: “On the individual level, myths live in us as stories, as unconscious inspirations. I want you to consider how at their most potent, myths might be living archetypes. Above our merely linear mind, archetypes as living beings. It could be, yes?
“The way human can make these archetypes more vivid and alive is expressing them in song and dance. This is what we’re going to do.”
Acoustic musicians and instruments were brought on stage, guitar, Orff wooden xylophones, flutes, several handpans (a form of steel drum instrument). First the audience was taught to sing the song all together. Then with the musicians, they rehearsed a couple times. Then a “final performance” was recorded (eventually duplicated and mailed to every graduate of the training).
Finally, the audience was taught a new Dance of Universal Peace (Sufi Dancing) based on this song. In each tent holding 500 people, all chairs were moved to the sides. Those willing to participate made big concentric circles, performed the movements as they sang the song. It was joyful.
It’s always joyful when you have a challenging task, such as spinning straw into gold, to learn you are not alone.
Audience reaction to the Insight approach
The audience easily engaged with these activities. This was heartening to the Writers Room. They had risked much in attempting this choice on content. Its success gave them hope about the Insight approach to learning. Maybe redeeming the four-year college liberal arts experience wasn’t impossible after all! WSC2033 gave them validation Writers were on a good path, replacing head-only activity with whole-body, whole-self participation.
To compose Day Five content above, Writers had to ask themselves why, since 2001 at least, most college courses, most online webinars, most telesummits, were — in terms of group process — boring exercises in listening to talking-heads-on-a-stick.
What other group process formats could replace all that spoken content, often abstract and without feeling, delivered by talking heads?
The role of cooperative-collaborative techniques
The more Writers learned about all the following, the more confident they felt about re-conceiving talk-talk, head-only education into what Rudolf Steiner had intuited yet could not yet visualize:
- cooperative-collaborative classroom
- group process learning
- student self-evaluation
- teacher-facilitator rubrics given for student assignments
- comedy improv and theater exercises.
If you don’t know about these, your presentation methods are confined to talk-talk-talk.
In the period 2000–2033, fewer and fewer academics knew about the alternative formats for facilitating classroom learning. Older teacher-professors were clueless, endlessly recycling Scholastic talking-heads group process from the 1100s. Young learners were ready for whole-body, whole-self learning. Yet in 2033 there were no teachers to lead them.
The Writers Room knew their task after writing curriculum was to devise a teacher re-training course. If your intention is to facilitate students learning from their own experience; and, from their partner’s experiences, interactive exercises are the most efficient way to facilitate. Abstract-intellectual methods and delivery had to be replaced by learning together. For curriculum writers, this required a thoro knowledge of the range of group process formats and activities; including, debates, comedy improv and theater exercises.
If your intention as a facilitator is to arrange for group agreement on a decision or action, interactive exercises of some kind are the most efficient way to achieve deeper, more coherent, more lasting consensus.