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Archive for August, 2007

Only Connect

I was on the phone with the help desk, waiting for the technician to see my tablet through its network connection, so that we could straighten out some sort of problem with my new tablet pc’s wireless connection. And I had just begun a blog entry titled “Only Connect” to be based on this EM Forster quote:

“Mature as he was, she might yet be able to help him to the building of the rainbow bridge that should connect the prose in us with the passion. Without it we are meaningless fragments, half monks, half beasts, unconnected arches that have never joined into a man. With it love is born, and alights on the highest curve, glowing against the gray, sober against the fire.” (from Howard’s End)

And then I saw a connection between two very different blogs I was reading, both of which mentioned “capuchins” in different ways: Andrew’s vacation
when he was at Luray’s Rescue Zoo, and in my new favorite blog, Bibliodyssey

in a post about Surinam. The monkey is the connection between these two far-apart spots on the planet, and the internet connects me to the places, the animals, the blog writers and new knowledge–and as I make the connections, I create new knowledge and connections in my own brain. I am left with ideas and questions I want to explore about monkey habitats, trading of exotic creatures, and then the connections to the human “trade” that Bibliodyssey looks at in its arresting images.
I am obsessed right now with odd connections and coincidences, and how the internet seems to embody the possibilites in a new way. And this is the perfect example: I wasn’t looking for monkeys, but I found, in a few minutes reading, this odd coincidence, and a million thought sparks that fly off from the collision of the two blog worlds.
I will be asking my Core students to work on individual blogs this year, to make connections to the texts we will be reading. I have this theory that everything is connected, and that somehow seeing the connections is what makes us care. That is: it is a legit question for those students to say “Why should I care about Neitsche”–but what they don’t know is that THEY are the only ones who know the answer to that question.

And, as EM Forster so beautifully conveys, the connections we make are the essence of our humanity, connecting our inner beast to our inner monk, our passions to our ideas, and making us whole.

I remember Claudia Emerson speaking at UMW’s Student Academy and explaining how her independent study student made what seemed to her to be “random” “non-scholarly” connections in her blog about Sylvia Plath, and that these posts that seemed insignificant turned out to be the seeds of the most amazing work she did. This is my inspiration for using the blogs in the way we will use them. But it is a kind of leap of faith. I am not preplanning hidden connections; I am stepping out of the realm of scholarly writing and discourse, and asking the students to let whimsy, synchronicity and coincidence lead them to deeper understandings of our classic texts. I am excited for the adventure of it all. I hope it will help them find the “rainbow bridge” Forster describes.

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