Transforming the World by the True Word

This week, finding myself hungry to read something that would stimulate my mind and spirit, I pulled Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire off the shelf.

In grad school, I had this book as required reading for a comparative education class. But one seldom has time to give readings the slow, close read they deserve in grad school. Paulo Friere is a writer whose every sentence is so packed with meaning it demands reflection and meditation. We spent only one or two classes discussing him, but I felt like I could have spent an entire semester discussing nothing but Freire’s ideas.

Central to Freire’s educational theory was the role of dialogue in the educational process.  Education that transforms, Freire believed, could not be a one-sided impartation of information from the superior to the inferior. Rather the teacher must approach as a learner, and the student must also become a teacher. For this interaction to take place dialogue is essential.  This dialogue, if genuine (and only if genuine), would have a humanizing effect on both the teacher-student and the student-teacher.  He wrote:

As we attempt to analyze dialogue as a human phenomenon, we discover something which is the essence of dialogue itself: the word. But the word is more than just an instrument which makes dialogue possible; accordingly, we must seek its constitutive elements. Within the word we find two dimensions, reflection and action, in such radical interaction that if one is sacrificed – even in part – the other immediately suffers. There is no true word that is not at the same time a praxis. Thus to speak a true word is to transform the world.

By contrast “an unauthentic word” is one that that neglects either reflection or action, thus is “one which is unable to transform reality.”  “Human existence,” Freire declares, “cannot be silent.”  And to attempt to silence another is, in fact, “dehumanizing aggression.”  Therefore it is only in genuine dialogue, where one both speaks and listens, hears and is heard, that transformation occurs.  These thoughts have profound implications on how we teach, not only in our schools, but in our communities of faith, in our homes, and in our charities and other social service organizations.

What is necessary for this dialogue to occur?  Freire points to five elements: profound love, humility, intense faith, mutual trust, and hope.  Without these dialogue cannot occur.  But these deserve their own full attention at another time.

Author’s note: Speaking of dialogue, my blog posts usually flow out of dialogue.  This one was inspired not only by picking up Freire this week, but also by conversations with my husband as I read him quotes, and exchanges with my fellow blogger Peter here and here.


Been Writing (almost) every day!

The following was originally written on the website, under my goal of “Write Every Day”.

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve been on this site… sorry to all the people who’ve cheered me that I’ve ignored.

Anyway, regarding this goal, I have now been doing this for some months – maybe at least 3 months straight. I started by making sure I wrote in my journal at least 4 pages if I didn’t write on my other projects. That led to writing 31K+ words in the past month, on a novel for which I’ve had the idea for years. The original idea came to me in high school, and then about 6 years ago, I got a whole framework for the story. Now, for the past month, I have actually written good portions of it.

It will need a lot of work in the second draft, but I have already reviewed a few chapters, and I feel it has promise. Even if it doesn’t – is unpublishable or something – right now I don’t care because I am having a blast writing it. I’ve long had a sort of love/hate relationship with my writing. I love it, but it also was grueling at times.

This experience, on the other hand, has been pure joy. I think it’s because I really have been able to turn off the “inner critic”, and not worry about if the writing is good or not (until I’m ready to assess all that), but instead just enjoy myself discovering the narrative and the characters as I go. I have never written a novel before, but have read of novelists describing their characters like little autonomous living beings who don’t always do what they want them to do. That is the part that is so interesting for me: I have this general direction I’m going in, but as I write stuff comes out that surprises me. It’s fun, like watching a movie. It’s coming out of my imagination, but it’s deep from my imagination at times, so even “I” don’t know what’s going to happen until it does. Weird!

I guess I’ve experienced this before in other creative works, when I’m in the “trance of writing” as Eric Maisel puts it, BUT I think the phenomena becomes much more pronounced in a longer piece of fiction where the characters have more times to act and develop.

One last observation: I believe the act of writing every day for two months was a direct cause of this creative burst now, even if it was forced, and even if it was just random thoughts in my journal. The act of free writing anything somehow turns on a part of oneself. The “task oriented” me, thinks it doesn’t count if it’s something I’m writing for “my eyes only”, but the creative side counts everything because she knows she works best when she is allowed to come out and play every SINGLE day!