I swam in the ocean last night
and other fun adventures
Hello, hello, hello.
What a short two weeks its been! I must admit to you I have been in over my head with busybody-ing work.
Oh you didn’t know? I am a busy body, from a long line of busy bodies who, to relax, find projects that require you to be seated and call it leisure.
Anyway! Some of my “leisurely” activities this week involved reading/starting to read a couple non-fiction books about new scientific findings, marxism and trauma for a future project. Yeah, just some lighthearted topics for your Wednesday, huh.
But this all has me thinking, almost obsessively, about the idea of “important,” versus good and entertaining art. Is “important” art good art, by default, even if it does not inspire or provoke any sort of emotions within you?
I’m reminded of growing up in the Memphis City School system, being forced to read and watch all sorts of snooze-fest books and films I couldn’t dare name now, that were given to me because someone decided they were important. I was not impacted by any of them, wasn’t inspired, or entertained, or non-a-that. And perhaps the worst thing, is whatever I was supposed to learn from them, I did not.
Juxtapose that to my time in college as a Film studies major, when film and writing professors helped me discover Jean-Luc Godard, Richard Linklater, Julie Dash, James Baldwin, Alice Walker…All of which moved me. Each of these artist’s works have in some way shifted my thinking and inspired my writing to this day.
The difference between my high school and college experiences? Pleasure. I enjoyed myself more often, I enjoyed my teachings, I enjoyed my teachers. I looked forward to learning and so I arrived ready to soak up all the goodies offered to me.
Scientists have found that enjoying your food while you eat can lead to better digestion, better nutrition absorption, and less overconsumption. It seems to me the the same is true for education.
Now I should note, I did not like school, even during college. I chose a degree I knew I could like, so that I would not be tempted to drop out. I know. But, I’m sure some of you were far more into school and, therefore, far more likely to remember much more of it. But as for the young folks like I was, who have not learned yet how fun learning can be, I wonder how they’re doing. I wonder all the time.
I hate that having fun is undervalued in schools. Instead of infusing fun into course work it seems the most important thing is high test scores, and tell me, quick, how much do you remember from the last test you took?
I say all this to say that good teachers are important. Even an “important” though boring book or film can become fun under their instruction.
And also, when you’ve left school for good, and life becomes your teacher, and you its assistant, are you making sure fun is a part of your curriculum?
It’s a thing I must remind myself constantly. I love to learn, but I have about the same attention span I did as a kid. Having fun is the only possible way I retain any of the knowledge I’m consuming.
So, I enjoy reading out loud to myself sometimes, especially with poetry. I often play background music while I study (I’m on a house music tip lately). I pick topics I’m super intrigued by, and read educational memoirs on broader topics to give me an entry level understanding of the thing before I delve in deeper (see: Born a Crime, to learn more about apartheid). When I don’t feel like reading, I watch wild ass documentaries about amazingly random things. Always a good time.
When I am not having fun, I pause and reassess, because at this point I know trying to learn while having a mediocre time simply doesn’t work for me.
So, yes, having fun is not just pleasurable. It’s…
Ya’ll, I had to do it!
Subscribe to JASPER for free bi-weekly posts in your inbox, every other Wednesday.
I have been thinking so much lately about all of the brilliant writers who have shifted my thinking, inspired my writing and improved my flow over the years. I wrote this poem because of them, and my admiration for the tradition that is inspiration and the dirty work of creating.
Editing is divine
I swam in the ocean last night
And returned with a bag
Full of poems
They are a mess
Of muck and mud
But when I am finished
They’ll shine bright enough
To guide another someone
To the sea
Finally, a couple weeks ago I wrote about grief, being trans and aging into your parents for one of my favorite Substacks, Oldster Magazine.
My dad passed when I was 29. I'm now 32. Thanks to weekly testosterone shots, I'm aging into his spitting image, and though I cherish that now, I wasn't always so happy about it.
The subject matter is a bit more melancholy than I like to write here, but if you are feeling sentimental, or introspective, or perhaps dealing with your own versions of grief and mourning you may find this an interesting read.
P.S.: I’d love to hear about ways ya’ll have fun while you learn. I’m constantly thinking of new and better ways to retain information, so hmu or comment below.
Thanks for reading!