"Nothing Without Joy"

There is nothing like a 48-hour stretch of inspiration, intellectual provocation, and intense, joyous learning to make the world new again.

"Nothing without joy" said Loris Malaguzzi. This idea was one of the many beautiful touchstones of a truly remarkable gathering of people at "The Arts and Passion-Driven Learning", an institute run by the Silk Road Project and Harvard University School of Education.

I was fortunate to be a part of an incredible community of musicians, teaching artists, and educators in a weekend devoted to talking about and exploring the idea of learning that is driven by deep emotions, and how the artistic process is a powerful learning model through which other disciplines can be explored.

I don't even know where to begin - so many powerful ideas, so many personally revelatory moments.  I just know that my whole world view has taken a re-orientation, and I am startled by the force of this new mental order. One major idea is that the approach to learning that artists can inspire and share (of constantly higher standards and constructive critique) is one that could fuel both a stronger educational model (see Expeditionary Learning - amazing!!) and create a wiser, more sensitive, more empathetic world.

I can't explain succinctly how this has exploded the rather limited (albeit personally important) sidebar in which I previously viewed the role of arts education as distinct from the "essential" subjects, but it is a major mind-shift. Arts-integration no longer sounds to me like a nice idyllic dream for those with the privilege - it sounds like a crucial approach that could both save the kids who can't multiply, and lift humanity into our next higher level of evolution.

As with everything the Silk Road does, a magical space of open-ness, experimentation, and inclusivity permeated the institute. Yo Yo and others talked about how passion inspires generosity - people want to share the things they are excited about - and I felt the passion, generosity, and concern for community intensely all weekend. The over-arching themes: Engagement, Connection, Collaboration and Community, were delved into in deep and diverse ways.

Admittedly, I went into the weekend thinking of it as more of a gig - I would go teach my workshop on music and storytelling, see some friends, and then duck out to get back to the other work I need to squeeze in. However, once I stepped into the faculty meeting on Friday afternoon, a circle of chairs for some 25 people, and heard Steve Seidel speak, I knew this was not just a job or a gig: this was another world - one of passionate, generous, intellectually-provocative sharing - that was a beautiful model for the rest of the real world. I gladly shuffled my weekend so that I could be at the whole institute and drink of this community. What a gift!