Saturday, November 11, 2017

Looking Backward, Going Forward



As I begin to transform my old website Owldroppings into a more complete exploration of the concerns that show up in this blog (which will become a component of a newly realized Owl’s Farm: The Website), I keep running into questions about what I really want to think and write about.

After all, I’m about to turn seventy, an age I never thought I’d reach. So what does a seventy year-old former academic, wannabe political economist, sometime philosopher of technology, lapsed archaeologist, retired art and design history teacher, and compulsive writer do with what remains of her life?

Early on in my musings I realized that I want to stop being so grumpy. Even though I don’t have grandchildren, my siblings do, and so I do have a small genetic investment in the future. It might behoove me, therefore, to begin to consider better alternatives than seem to be available in the present political moment.

Owl’s Farm: The Blog has always been about utopia. It was inspired by two of the best utopian thinkers I ever ran across: William Morris and Yi-Fu Tuan. Morris was a celebrated designer and an early socialist, and Tuan is a humanistic geographer with a profound understanding of place. Both developed creative visions of the notion of home, which led to my explorations into its many meanings.

As I searched for a focus for the new iteration of the website, I realized that it still had to be about education, and should still embody the “teaching philosophy” I was required to articulate for my annual evaluations as a college instructor.  But it also needs to spend less time on the current state of education and more on locating what could improve it—especially since there are good models available.

In addition, instead of just complaining about current economic conditions, perhaps I should focus on locating bright spots on the horizon, like alternative energy solutions or promising community developments.

The website should also continue to provide resources for the curious, since former students still occasionally use it for the links. I’ll also archive my topical essays for courses I taught (not just art and design history, but philosophical perspectives on food, anthropology, culture, and the Arts and Crafts movement), and see if I can stay on top of issues relevant to them.   

All along this blog was meant to be an adjunct to my novel, More News From Nowhere. That, too, is in the process of being revised somewhat—now that I have the time to revisit its reason for being.  As a lifelong interdisciplinarian, I want to use the novel (and others in various stages of development) and the blog(s) as outlets for the results of curiosity. It’s often difficult to compartmentalize my many interests, but occasionally I can focus on a single aspect (museums, for example) and develop lines of inquiry that can be labeled. Hence: Owl’s Cabinet of Wonders. Other attempts (like The Owl of Athena, a blog on educational concerns) kept leaking into The Farm, and so were abandoned (although they, too, will be archived on the revised site). 

The ultimate aim now is fun—as much as is possible in this moment. I’m too old to keep wasting time being a complete curmudgeon. I can’t promise that I won’t ever go off on another grumpy rant again, or that sarcasm won’t sneak into my commentary on life, the universe, and everything. I am by nature a cynic, in its original sense. I’m dog-like: suspicious, reluctant to trust without reason (see my post from The Owl of Athena on the topic). But also both faithful and curious, and willing to explore new ideas and approaches.  

And yes, I can be a cranky old bitch. But I’ll try to do more Frisbee chasing and romping around in the garden, and less grousing. I hope what I’ll have to offer is interesting, entertaining (in a very broad sense of the word), thoughtful, and educational. I also hope it will provide a sense of hope for the future, and tools for building more of a eu-topia than an ou-topia. I’d rather that we move toward a good place than continue to imagine what can only be a no-place, a place possible only in the imagination.

Wish me luck.

PS: owlfarmer.com is “live” but practically devoid of contact. Design work will progress as I have time, depending on concurrent pursuits.

Image note: The photo is of Mount Whitney, taken in the Alabama Hills outside of Lone Pine, California, during our winter trip in 2015/16. Whenever I stayed with my Grandmother, I could see a more distant version of this image from her living room window.