Tuesdays are long days. They are the only day, in fact, that I have work and class on the same day. Even for people in my cohort this is a demanding day, but for me what with the social demands of both environments by the time I get home I am completely drained. In my Tuesday night class, since the first meeting there has been a running metaphor for the purpose of the class; dancing the dance (active participation) and being in the balcony (passive observing). It’s one of those classes with about 90 people and for the first hour it is completely directionless. Our professor asks us how we want to start and someone (or no one) takes the lead and sets the pace for the class discussion.
I suppose it is important to note that I am not normally one to be overly active nor overly passive, but definitely more of an observer by nature. I enjoy seeing where discussions can go without my interjection, and try to only contribute when I see a stalemate or a collision. I have not yet found myself contributing to my class discussion and last night I asked myself why. Certainly, internally I was forming definitive opinions about the articles being discussed and the theories being tossed around. Sometimes I disagreed and sometimes I agreed whole-heartedly but in neither situation could I find myself moved enough to leave the balcony and join the dance, why? The only answer I could come up with was “I don’t like this song.” What I mean(t) by that is, while I was enjoying the assertions and rebuttals of my classmates, it felt like running in circles. Talking just to avoid the silence.
My professor, on the first night, drew a graph and it looked pretty much like a standard bell curve. She explained that on the up slope (left side) that is anxiety that we have during times of adaptive problems (read: problems which arise because the nature of the world has changed, technical solutions are no longer valid because solutions are dependent on the entire group to learn its way to new solutions.) Often times, as a means of reducing anxiety a group will elect a leader, either formally or informally (informally being granted via expectation and trust rather than actual concrete authority) and normally the leader will put technical (temporary) solutions in place which ease the discomfort of the group. It is important to remember that technical solutions do not address the problem, they serve to reduce anxiety; but the truth of the matter is, we need anxiety. We need to step into the unknown and be uncomfortable sometimes because it is during those times that we grow. That is a very long explanation to the simple question of why I have yet to speak in class. I feel so many of my classmates are uncomfortable in the silence that their technical solution is to begin dialogue. The sole function, thus far, of our conversation has seemingly been to prove that we have done the readings, and to assert some sort of competence to our academic authorities.
I don’t like this song, but I do like this dance. I enjoy hearing other people’s opinions, and I enjoy discussing the class later with friends. I know that I will get my chance to contribute, but I want to try to move before being an observer gets too comfortable. The will of the way vs. the will of me. Where I may feel comfortable observing all semester, there are going to be times that call for me to add to the discussion. And I will have to submit to the greater will despite my own agenda. Isn’t that life? Understanding that there are always things that we are going to prefer, but knowing that something greater than yourself is waiting for you to act. Waiting for you to contribute. Waiting for you to give what only you are capable of giving.
Lately, life has felt like the ocean, rocking back and forth; that delicate balance ebb and flow.