A Counter Narrative
GO TO THE MOON AND BACK
I wanted to understand what happens during the process of ‘Unlearning’ that takes place in my educational project. I wanted to experience it my self. I needed to GO TO THE MOON AND BACK, and so I went on an imaginary trip in the middle of the night. This is a personal story that explains what happened; it is meant to give shape to the unlearning in order to grasp what is happening during this process. This story does not need to be fully understood. It is not an end product but rather a continuing journey.
It took me a while to wake-up at the moon. I went on the journey quite unprepared, I simply went in the spur of the moment. That meant I didn’t have time to ask people to join me in the trip. I had to do everything myself: the take-off of the space shuttle, the steering and the landing. When I woke up I realized that probably something had gone wrong. I saw that the shuttle was still ok but that there was a small cloud of smoke coming out of the engine. This was an immediate relief; it meant that I could somehow still return to reality and my family.
I did feel quite different however. I had an unfamiliar feeling, from a while ago, not sure what it was. I decided to neglect this feeling and continue with the procedure of GO TO THE MOON AND BACK, and I took the thing -my thesis- I wanted to unlearn, out of my pocket. Stumbled I discovered that instead of the printed paper I found a handful of dust in my pocket. How could that have happened? It took me a while to recover from this; how can I unlearn then? I think the paper of the thesis got burned while something had gone wrong in my landing on the moon. Then I felt something remarkable in my pocket. It was moving and it felt alive.
I took the thing out my pocket together with the dust. It was a little creature. It woke up. I think the crash of the shuttle made it vast asleep as well.
The creature started talking first. It asked me “What do you love?” I thought that was a bit strange. It didn’t ask my profession or my name? It seemed a very good question though, so I said: I love dust, I love working with people, I love pirates, and I love Bucky Fuller in a way… I wanted to add a lot of things, but the creature intervened. “Ahhh that is why you look like a pirate. You are a pirate.”
Ai, did I become a pirate on the moon? Is that the feeling I couldn’t understand? I became the pirate again; you have to know that I decided a couple of years ago to be a pirate when I heard the story of my Piscaer-ancestors to have been pirates sailing in the Portuguese waters centuries ago. The fact that the 2 first pirate women were called Anne Bonny and Mary Read (so Anne and Mary) sailing as dressed up boys on the ship of Jack Rackham, the first gay pirate captain, reaffirmed that feeling of being a pirate. Reading ‘Operation Manual for Spaceship Earth’ by my friend Bucky as he described the change makers to be the ‘Great Pirates’ because they were free to conquer new territories and therefore able to develop new visions to sustain an ecological earth, made me because of being a pirate myself fall in love with Bucky’s thoughts. Before I was able to think this through the creature said: “I’m Amator. You think too much! Does it matter how you became the pirate and what it means? Does it matter how come you found me ‘Amator’ in your pocket?” “ It is…I think …” I replied him, “that is because I’m really tired. You know my baby daughter Robin has been a bit ill the last week, and I did not sleep for nights.” “Shhh” Amator said. “You annoy me with your stupid excuses, look where you are now.” I’m on the Moon, I replied. “But sorry I forgot to ask: Who are you?” The creature replied. ” I’m love.”
It all made sense: Amator in my pocket, created out of the dust from my burned thesis. Becoming a change maker as a pirate myself. Imagining in this journey GO TO THE MOON AND BACK an ‘Operation Manual’ for that ‘Spaceship Earth’ I saw floating as a small particle in the immense galaxy. Fantastic. Even the context of Nicolescu’s understanding of transdisciplinarity made sense from the moon. As he described cooperation necessary in order to overcome our complex issues by crossing the boundaries of the disciplines and operating in the field beyond these disciplines, where this field is described as the intergalactic vacuum that is full with particles needed to materialize a tangible cooperation. This became very visible from my position on the moon. I saw clearly that ‘this vacuum is far from being empty: it is full of substance.’ I felt I was floating and attracted to the surface of the moon, in the same way the moon was floating and attracted by the earth. I felt like a planet myself and I felt the invisible power of attraction, and made me understand how the disciplines as entities are able to interact and cooperate because of the vacuum in between them, I felt a necessity of transdiplinarity otherwise the disciplines would not be able to relate to one another.
This moment felt as if it embodied all of my research. It opened the possibility of connecting all small particles that never would have seemed connected in my thesis. I felt liberated; I understood the ecology of my thesis, where even the unforeseen is connected.
I asked Amator if it wanted to join in my quest of unlearning in GO TO THE MOON AND BACK. This seemed like an incredible journey.
What? Amator answered that first it was already on the moon and didn’t want to go back to earth. It asked me why I wanted to GO TO THE MOON AND BACK. I kindly explained about my research and that I think design can relate to ecological issues when designers learn within design education how to be an expert designer with ecology in their DNA. And that design needs to experiment and speculate with alternative ideas in transdisciplinary cooperative setting like a City Lab (this facilitates a safe and yet real place). But this requires learning how to be a Pro-Am (professional-amateur) in a specific field. I explained also that there is an urgency to teach within the framework of an academy how to ‘learn to unlearn’ because it enables people to operate in the fluid boundaries of the professional and amateur context. I explained the entire conclusion described in my thesis even though I was completely flabbergasted by its rejecting answer.
Amator then rudely interrupted me again and explained me that it thought it was a lot of rubbish what I was saying. First Amator thought cooperation didn’t make any sense. Did I not go to the moon and landed kind of safely all by myself? Did I not do that incredible difficult task alone? Amator asked me to have a good look at that fragile earth and think about the time that it has been floating there with all of the activity happening on its surface. It reminded me that humans developed and invented things and learned for millions of years without the notion of ‘design’ or ‘academic education’, and that humans had been able to address complex problems by a principle of adjusting in order to survive; in other words evolution.
I was shocked, all my research sucked up by the vacuum of space. The research felt unneeded. But strangely I knew that this was a consequence enclosed in the research all along. As Rancière introduced me to his thoughts of “universal teaching that has existed since the beginning of the world”.
The moment of euphoria I just had was completely gone.
“Shit”, I got really angry at Amator. Maybe it wasn’t polite to get so mad at ‘love”, but I didn’t care anymore, I mean this creature that called itself love was a real asshole, not polite, very rude, saying what it felt, not thinking about consequences.
Now that I’m writing this down I do feel a bit ashamed, I was even throwing things at Amator. But it didn’t seem to hurt it in any way. The moment I hit Amator with a big chunk from the shuttle it disintegrated into a thousand small particles. I couldn’t see what was a part of Amator, or a star. Even the earth disappeared in the Amator ‘cloud’. It was as if all the particles of ‘love’ merged with everything else. It felt pleasant. I think I also got infected with these particles.
Amator started talking again, almost like an inner voice. The tone was very different however. Kindly Amator questioned: “Is this what you meant when you explained me that we should be experts as well as amateurs? It is not me Amator fighting against the experts? But you and me, we are the same? And by integrating our ‘loves’ with expert knowledge we allow all to be different individuals? ” “Yes!” I answered; I felt what I’ve been talking about in my thesis. Embodying this knowledge made me aware of this notion beyond anything that I understood when I was only thinking about it. Feeling and loving layered the knowledge and created a whole new universe of understanding. But I could only have reached this by interacting with Amator beyond a ‘professional cooperation’ because I was only able to get so mad at Amator since I was first of all responding to it guided by my loves for topics. Operating on the fluid boundaries between the professional and amateur context creates new knowledge.
“I unlearned my thesis!” I shouted so loud as if the Amator in me wanted to reach with the waves of the sound through the vacuum of space the ‘reality’ of the earth again, I even actually did touch with the waves of my sound ‘reality’. This made me realize I couldn’t go back yet. I wasn’t finished; I realized I had to follow the procedure of GO TO THE MOON AND BACK. Next step was to ‘reflect’ back on earth in order to understand the consequences of what I’ve just unlearned.
What does this mean for the ‘reality’ on earth?
Good thing about being a pirate is that you always carry a telescope. I zoomed in at the earth. First I noticed that the particles of Amator also got attached to the surface of the earth. I zoomed closer and closer and got amazed by the beautiful colours and vibrancy the Amator particles added to the objects of reality and gave everything a unique identity. I remembered myself to not get lost in this beauty but that I needed to finish the task. I started the ‘reflecting-procedure’. First I concluded: “Everything is so unique and precious that it needs to be cared for, in any possible way we can.” I zoomed in even more, and discovered that all those individual objects had an urge to connect to each other. As if the particles that Amator released wanted to unite again. I saw things cooperate in a very natural way. Each unique thing had something specific to offer. Some objects merged into something completely remarkably new. I observed a ‘principle of reproduction’, a creation of new knowledge.
Reflecting on this made me realize that this image and this journey showed in essence the potential of my research, where if we could start cooperating beyond the boundaries of the traditional disciplines and embrace to be a professional as well as an amateur we could create new knowledge that is urgently needed to tackle our ecological issues.
However that what I was seeing was not reality itself. It was a speculation of how it could be. I was still imagining this journey.
Amator whispered in my ear: “I know that reality does not look like that at all. It is not a coincidence you found me so many miles from the earth, alone on the moon. I didn’t want to GO TO THE MOON AND BACK with you because I feel more and more disconnected from that earth. I feel unwanted, and unneeded. People wanted to be experts since the industrial revolution. Fitting the machinery as a professional to earn a living. Nobody wanted to be amateurs anymore.”
I had to think about what Amator whispered and knew I had to convince it to come back with me to earth, not only because of the potential, but also because of a changing reality in which people do not need to be educated anymore for ‘workers’. Automation can take over a lot of professional human jobs. It creates a space for humans to do the things they love. By merging expert knowledge and skills to amateur affections people can learn how to be change makers. This seems relevant in order to be better equipped to deal with our ecological issues. These urgent ecological issues are in great need for new approaches, narratives and ideas. Maybe that makes Amator dare to come back to earth again?
“Well … Amator; I understand it is a risk to return. And that it is a challenge as I ask you to even start cooperating with ‘experts’ and ‘institutions’. But how about, if I would join you in this risk; and allow for you to merge as a counter narrative in my ‘expert’ thesis. We can then both create a safe ground to land upon.’
Amator agreed, and so we joined forces and traveled through the vacuum of space and landed very softly on the safe ground of this counter narrative.