Monday, November 21, 2016

Gratitude 2016: The Value of “And”

"Poetic thought does not separate the imaginative from the cognitive, emotion from the rational, empathy from deep investigation. It lights up all the senses and perceptions and cultivates an intense relationship with what is all around us.  It constructs thoughts that are not conformist. And this creates two important elements: solidarity and participation, both of which are the foundation of democracy."  
Vea Vecchi

Last week the above quote arrived in an email from the Reggio-Inspired Network of Minnesota announcing the study group’s next book. (Thank you very much, Lani.) Art and Creativity in Reggio Emilia is by Vea Vecchi, one of the original, and much revered, atelieristas of the schools in Reggio.

I was drawn to this brief quote, reading it once, then twice, and then for a third time. My thinking is reliably lifted and moved by something from Vea. Then the opening, “Poetic thought,…” brought to mind how the Poetry and Precision of the language of Reggio inspires and challenges me. On the third reading, the phrase, does not separate, leapt out. Working on connection in knowledge, being and becoming, it opens possibilities we don’t often explore, shining a light on the value of and.

With Vea’s invitation, we remove the limits on imagination and the cognitive working together to express, create, and innovate. We free emotion and the rational to engage and build new understanding and insight. We step back to allow empathy and deep investigation to reveal and guide choices and decisions. We are not restricted to either one–emotion–or the other–the rational in exploring and unfolding our ideas and our potential.

Grammatically, and is a conjunction that connects words, sentences, phrases, or clauses. A cognitive tool, it creates new combinations, balances incompatibilities, links unlikely pairs, and juxtaposes apparent opposites. Doing and knowing; play and learning; the individual and the group; big and small; idealist and realist; nice and necessary; past, present and future.

Science and humanities opens a third door for exploring, uncovering new insights about science and solving complex problems. An interdisciplinary philosophy like that of the Exploratorium’s science and humanities and human perception brims with and.   

The relationships museums value and cultivate with their stakeholders, members, friends, and partners, rest solidly on a belief in the power of and. Museums and their partners take on big projects that can strengthen families and help communities manage, if not solve, community challenges.

Vital to building bridges among people and creating cohesion, and connects people inside and outside of our institutions, bringing them together, sharing and co-creating. In times of dramatic or uneasy change, like now, and helps rewrite the conversation of conflict, politics, and exclusion. It advances “solidarity and participation” which Vea writes about, as "the foundation of democracy."

Resilience for individuals, institutions, and communities relies on surviving, adapting and thriving in the face of social, economic, and physical challenges. To navigate these challenges we need to manage competing demands: conserve and grow; oil and water; certainty and uncertainty. And assists us in pushing beyond the apparent limits of knowing, thinking, doing, risking.

A good use of and is not just a longer string of ands. Rather, it reveals (unseen) connections, recognizes complexity, awakens possibilities, crosses boundaries, and alerts us to promising overlaps. And brings elasticity to our thinking and makes our world richer. It is collaborative, inclusive, reciprocal, and expansive.

And for all of this, and more, I am grateful.