I am captivated by how museums galleries and libraries can embody people and place
empathy and altruism2
care and conversation
a place of stillness3,4
a sense of the slow
for anyone who wanders in
even when they have to close for the night the warning bell seems mellow
the security guard apologetic
I am also captivated by how a physical space could allow
and in a time where we have been forced to revisit what it means to be human6 I wonder if we can simultaneously remake a building
so they represent
the same limitless time and space7
can we refashion buildings so they represent
and stand for and
to stand for
and stand up
for the things that truly matter8
I wonder if a university can serve as captivating gathering story9
a collection institution that collects people too10
draws them in
brings them together
be the place
where you and I
where we summon what’s best in us11
where we grow
And I wonder if they represent – can represent – could represent – and touch – everything you and I – we – care about. Become spaces that drip with ideas and metaphor5 and meaning. Purpose and hope. With the long arc of time12. With the uplifting vigour of possibility. Places and spaces with visceral weight. Keys. With the keys. With an air of – perhaps presence of – perhaps sense of
Could universities make us lean in13. So we bear witness5. Be witness14,15. Be present. This collection of physical buildings and connections. Filled with physical and metaphysical artefact16. Philosophical dreams17. That jolt us out of our preconceived notions18,19. Give us new ways to look at the world16,20. Bricks and mortar morph into living breathing being – story21 – stories. Narratives and knowledge our bodies understand even when our minds do not5,16.
i wonder if these institutions
have the potential to light a fire
under thousands of people
who have all the fuel they need
but often need a hand
7. Reynolds Barre
13. Lewry in Scolaro
19. Dove in Masciotta
Initial prompt was a discussion on john. a. powell’s ‘large circle of human concern’. In addition to a student messaging me, “It’s ok I get it. Onto the next batch”. I had apologised for the delay in responding. Telling him I had been swamped wrapping up the semester. This course was finished. This was – at one point – part of the piece of writing I titled, ‘perform | angst’.
Sometimes I have students introduce themselves as their s-number. Their student number. Like, “Hi I’m s4023456”. As if that will make it easier for me to identify them. In the swarming sea of people shuffled at high speed towards …. well I guess the door. Often they’re right. I use that number to search for them in messages and emails. To find out if we have ever met or connected in some way.
A student once wrote on one of those course evaluation forms, “he cared about us as people”. But sometimes I feel like I don’t have the time.
I think the higher education should slow down. Become a courageous example to the world. Be a place of stillness. Deep reflection. Allow us time – and make it safe – to just lean in. Become the stationary philosophical dream.
A former student stuck the note to my door during the pandemic. As far as I know it is still there.