Smart luck

A video of humorist Emily Levine is posted on TED and one of the things she talks about is Beauty and the Trickster. Her thoughts came from a book by Lewis Hyde, Trickster Makes This World.

When in beauty all other attributes fall way because it is a fixed state – finished. There isn’t room for spontaneity or humor. I sense there is something here for us who teach the arts. We strive for beauty (very loosely defined) and perhaps there is a contrary side to that pursuit.

What if we step out of the frame of the finished beautiful work of art or the perfect lesson plan and let the situation at hand tell us what’s next – be fluid?  I’m thinking this might feel jerky at first, unfamiliar but could pay off with wonderful surprises.

In order to be prepared for the unprepared we have to trust our self.  If we are prepared we can take advantage of smart luck – make accidents work for us. One of my favorite quotes is from Allison McGree, teaching artist with the Art Mobile of Montana, “You can’t make a mistake; you just change your mind.” She was talking to a room full of K-5 students. I think its great advice for teaching artists/arts teachers too.

To walk this fine line you have to have poise. Too prepared tips over to Beauty where there’s no room for smart luck. Unprepared careens into confusion, frustration, and at times panic.

Artists talk about letting the work tell them what comes next. Perhaps this can also work in teaching. We are totally prepared, we have a life time of expertise and we are open to possibilities we hadn’t considered.

Levine also talks about contradictions and paradox. Trickster can hold his ideas lightly which leaves room for new ideas, contradictions.

This brought me to thinking about contradictions and paradox in relation to rubrics and a student’s intention. If contradictions are where we deny another’s reality, we’ve got it figured out, we know what’s what.

And if paradox is where we allow another’s reality to co-exist with ours, can we consider having rubrics and our students’ intentions co-existing in our assessments? It’s not a choice between ‘rules’ and ‘creativity.’

Emily Levine’s theory of everything

Lewis Hyde, Trickster Makes This World


2 thoughts on “Smart luck

  1. thanks for the expression of some very difficult dynamics. Words such as, flow and free association, organic process have been used to describe the creative process.
    In terms of teaching, there is always a technical aspect melded with a sparky creative burst. This process evolves with each individual over time, emphasis on the vehicle(demands of the medium) and the idea embedded in it continually changing places.
    Teaching this complex comprehensive process and requires a keen balance and perhaps ease of moving beyond duality.

  2. Lisa,
    You have added a useful expansion to the ideas I was reflecting on. When I read your comments it occurs to me that it is very much like a dance. But then I would say that – right?

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