Prometheus (out of the cage)

Torche-Promethee-peinture

 

“When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like the squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in.”

– D. H. Lawrence.

Since the beginning of September, I’ve been officially storytelling in two very different primary schools in Paris, and despite the first moments of black despair for my little voice (sometimes, the louder you scream, the more they respect you, but I don’t like to rise my voice, so let’s change the rules of the game!), the children and I both enjoy ourselves telling the adventures of greek gods and heroes.

Sometimes, their remarks can be truly thought-provoking.

Speaking about the myth of Prometheus, who robbed Athena’s fire and a sparkle of her divine intelligence too, trying in that way to help poor humanity, left naked and defenseless by his not-so-smart brother Epimetheus – not to tell about Pandora! – one of the children asked : “But why did the gods enable humanity to reproduce itself, if men were so weak and fragile?” – “Does the woman make the man stronger?” – “Why man has to suffer in life”

It is not easy to answer to children, looking at you with demanding and curious eyes. Not easy, too, because they don’t like the idea of man being vulnerable, exposed to illness and suffering.

“Because even if humanity is naked and fragile and must struggle and suffer in life, to live is still a beautiful gift, and we have to do it the best we can, with our intelligence, warmth, hope, respect and generosity. Isn’t it great to achieve so much, starting with so little?”

Their eyes began to sparkle, as if the Pleiads were dancing in them : “Can we become gods, then?”

Let’s ask to Orpheus, Achilleus, Odysseus, Heraklès, let’s their voice travel through time to lull our hopes, soot our longing and make us shiver and laugh. Man and Life, challenge accepted!

Erika

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This is SPARTA – among other things.

A few weeks ago, while I was watching Thor, something hit me – and no, it was not Thor’s shiny armor or his bleached eyebrows. I know the movie is adapted from a comic loosely based on the Nordic mythology, which I am certainly no expert in. Watching this movie (in all its inconsistency), I was saying, gave me the desire to do a Hollywood-movies-based-on-ancient-mythology marathon. So, I called a few friends, prepared a list of amazing movies and a good meal, and there we went. That was fun, that’s for sure, but not really accurate on the mythology part, and let’s face it, for most movies, very poor in regards of the storyline. Before I say more, I want you to know that when I watch a movie, I generally like it, I am not a huge critic or anything. I actually enjoyed some really bad movies, even though I could see the big plot holes and easy way-out (like, Thor: I had a good time watching it, even more the second time with my friends… Ok, that was maybe not entirely due to the movie). However, that day (well, night), I decided I would watch these movies the way I would study stories, and here are a few thoughts on Immortals, Troy (oh, Troy, our middle-school years, we, these stupid kids at the theater …), Clash of the Titans and 300. I couldn’t get myself to watch Wrath of the Titans, the first one was bad enough, and I know 300 is not about mythology, but I haven’t seen it before, and I really wanted to. It was, um, enlightening. So here are some points I’d like to discuss.

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Studying Literature : A Call for Diversity

Some days ago, Janyce and I were talking about over-specialization in studies, and agreed in the fact that it was not such a good thing.

Here in France, young people have to choose very early, as soon as they begin high school, what direction they want to give to their life : if they undertake the scientific path, they’ll do maths, physics and biology till they die, while they’ll stop studying French Literature or Story and Geography before they finish the whole cycle of high school. Otherwise, if they choose to explore literature, they’ll have a huge amount of french and philosophy lessons, while the maths are relegated to three miserable hours per week and consist essentially in resolving problems for the challenging sales’ season. My twin sister, who attended mostly the literature class because she hated maths with all her heart, had to taste different yoghurts for her Biology lesson… while I was being overwhelmed by integrals and statistics, but had almost no philosophic courses. Our teacher of French Literature never explained to us how to write the famous french “dissertation”, saying that it was of no use for us who devoted themselves to pure science, and I was excluded from the class of History of Art, because I was in the scientific section!

This fracture between literature and sciences is becoming wider and wider, as the perpetual reforms of the “Éducation Nationale” go on. It is true that, nowadays, it is not possible to have a universal culture as the men of the Rinascimento aspired to, since knowledge has become so vast and apparently easily accessible, thanks to Internet, that there’s no need to study and memorize everything : google it and you’ll have an answer in a few seconds (If Plato lived today, he would have  probably started a new literary war against Internet and virtual books that cause, in his system of Ideas, the death of memory and therefore culture) . The ideal of humanism is dying suffocated by a mosaic of sectors and specializations that requires a collaboration between different specialists and often a team-work, which is now the most valuable exercise for developing amazing social skills.

Is it wise to divide and enclose human knowledge in such tiny boxes? And then we blame the younger generations, for not doing the connections between the subjects studied at school? Some people define culture as what survive in the mind after the great labor of studies and graduation, a sort of gaudily-painted cloth that covers us against the wind of oblivion and misunderstanding. Do we have still a common culture to share with strangers, a blanket to offer in those cold nights around the fire?

Well, personally, I don’t want to be enclosed in one drawer of the great research closet (yeah, I know, the analogy may be a little claustrophobic) : I desire to explore as much as I can, to step into different worlds, cultures, systems of thought, techniques and crafts.

This experience around the world will teach us to master the multi-task side of the Force, since we’ll have to plan the journeys, to draw and tell the myths, to hold properly the camera and to do the video editing, not forgetting to keep wisely the accounts and to manage to communicate in the countries for which we do not know the language (China my love)… What an adventure!

Yesterday, we had a big party at Janyce’s to celebrate our future globe-trotting for a whole year : Janyce and Lucie prepared different and delicious traditional dishes from all around the world, and we had to hit a paper-earth full of candies to free and eat them, dancing on the “around the world” playlist arranged by Lucie.

These amazing girls baked fortune-cookies too, and the little proverbs they hid in them were very funny. Some of them were almost the voice of Destiny, like the one found by Janyce : “Better to get lost than to never go”, while mine was revelatory, a pearl of Indian philosophy : “If you close your eyes, the world seems so dark.”

I want to keep my eyes wide open to see diversity and enlighten my mind. Surely, I need to learn how to read a map and not lose myself behind the corner, instead of looking at butterflies and crickets jumping from one flower to another in this incoming summer.

Enjoy diversity!

Session 1: reactions

Still waiting to see if we can publish the videos we took in the classroom… But here are two interviews: if you click here, you will hear what Mrs Isabelle Clavaron, the children’s teacher, thought of the experience, and if you click there, you will discover Chloé’s opinion, a M.A. student in Education who was present during our presentation.

And as I am very nice (no, kidding), I put English subtitles for you! 😉

Session 1: conclusions

During this intervention, questions were raised in my mind, so here are some thoughts on this experience.

First, before the session, I began doubting the choice of the myth we decided to tell. It’s a beautiful story, it’s true, but so sad. And more and more, I was thinking this was not a story to be told to ten-year-olds. I felt like the moral behind it was not so clear… But then, I thought about it and I realized that we had chosen this story for good reasons, and that yes, children would understand and appreciate it. I ended up telling the moral explicitly: it didn’t feel very warm to end the story with “and then she died, again”!

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Studying Linguistics: a call for silence.

First of all, please excuse this confused, lenghty post: I had what I thought to be a great idea, and then it got all blurry… It’s late and I’m tired, but anyway, here are a few thoughts on language and writing.

I don’t know if this is because this year comes to an end, because I just handed over my Master’s thesis, or just because I am really tired, but I really feel like making a vow of silence. Well, maybe not… Let’s say not having to talk for a while – or think, if that’s possible! Anyway, now is not the time, as I still have to help all my students finish their school year successfully, to take my last exam and present my year-long work, and to keep on working on the project. And finally, let’s enunciate the biggest paradox here: I am actually writing about not talking… Still a long way before this happens!

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