A Disimagination Machine

People who remember court madness through pain, the pain of the perpetually recurring death of their innocence; people who forget court another kind of madness, the madness of the denial of pain and the hatred of innocence. – James Baldwin

When I was 23, I started writing about my career. Studying at The Evergreen State College, I took a program there called Prior Learning From Experience. In that course, I was convinced that since I started working with youth professionally when I was 14, my decade-long career gave me something worth reflecting on. So I wrote and wrote, reflecting on the writing of John Dewey, Paulo Freire, Michael Carrera, Grace Llewellyn, Kurt Hahn, Peter McLaren, bell hooks, and many of the authors my mentors suggested throughout my work.

A scene from Wim Wenders’ The End Of The World, a fantastic  reflection on the role of memory in our lives.

As I wrote, I found that my memories of youth work went back further than my formal work. I found stories in my memory of hanging a sign outside a hotel room for my advertising business; getting trapped in a tent at summer camp by an angry mob of boys from my neighborhood; campaigning for senior class president as an unpopular kid; and much more. This wasn’t youth work, so much as it was simply about growing up.

Claiming our memories is essential for reclaiming democracy and promoting nonviolence, as Henry Giroux shows in his latest article. My work is my attempt at doing exactly that, on many levels: critically reflecting on my own work allows me to ignite my imagination and enlivens my soul, while engaging others in doing the same allows me to fight what Giroux poetically calls the “disimagination machine”. We all have this creative capacity and responsibility.

Today, I recognize that I live in a space that’s made of my past and my future, both living in perfect tension right now. Seeing this has helped me know that my future is undetermined and that my past is constantly and consistently wide open for examination. I will know this all my life, and live this for the rest of my days.

You?

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