An Experiment With Freedom
I got involved in educational matters while doing my Engineering degree. In fact I dropped out for a year to be with children and “taught” in a primary school. The most important issue seemed to me lack of free thinking in us due the strong conditioning we undergo at schools, in society, by parents etc. To me being with children also meant to look at my own de-conditioning process.
This was in 1983. Later from 1985 to 1988 I studied at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. Here I felt even our sense of beauty is being conditioned. I started addressing fundamental issues related to learning, creativity, originality spontaneity, role of culture etc from this time. After I graduated from NID I decided to live in rural tribal areas in order to address my own deschooling/decolonising and de-conditioning) process. I have lived in Nagaland, rural Bengal, Orissa etc working with the traditional crafts people trying to imbibe what ever I can and taking care not to impose my notions. Over a period of time I have evolved a methodI call DO NOTHING METHOD which actually means the name itself - just let things happen. From 1993 onwards I have been living in a potter’s colony in Kerala. As a collective process we have developed several products which if you are interested can see at the site www.kumbham.org
I have been doing lots of things with children. 2 years ago I adopted a child. I am not going to send her to school as she is already learning. The reason why I went to live with rural tribal communities is because through what is called education I felt one is being culturally up-rooted. Our world views are totally altered . Most importantly our intuitive abilities get destroyed and distorted through education. Today, after nearly 15 years of spending time with so called illiterate people I feel through education one becomes ignorant and arrogant. Only totally ignorant and moronic people can bring the planet to present condition through their development and planning. Just in about 200 years the so called modernity with its so called knowledge has succeeded in bringing the mother earth to near destruction. The ecosystem people has been tending the earth for centuries with their knowledge system
I feel the biological element in knowledge which prevents creation of destructive knowledge is destroyed by the domination of reason over intuition. Reason is after all of the self/ego where as intuition is of the collective /life force. I would like to share some of the personal experiments I did to address my conditioning process. In the field of beauty I stopped reading the theories and simply immersed in doing/making things - of course without planning. I realised that we have lost the ability to sense true beauty as factors like fashion/theory/status/pretension etc come in our way. So I tried to reject thought from coming in between my feeling and beauty. That is, to become completely honest.
From 1991 to 2000 I stopped all kinds of reading. All kinds of theories/especially newspapers and magazines etc except letters. This helped to do a thorough cleaning. The last book I read was Walden Pond. At that time I was living in a very small village in Orissa, around people doing things/learning creating knowledge and I had been wasting time on looking for knowledge in the wrong place. Only in authentic living there can be knowledge. The Educated people all over the world think alike. So living with rural tribal communities helped me to look at the world differently and use intuition and experience to create and redefine knowledge.
The do nothing method I wrote about is actually to protect from”Modernity”. I got this name from a farmer in Thirunelveli (Tamil Nadu) where he has a farm called Do Nothing Farm, where what he did was to fence the farm from other interferences so that the nature does the remaining work. So is the case with children. It is we who are going wrong and it needs real attention not do harm the child with our so called good intentions and love. In the rural/tribal situation children are totally left free and explore the world on their own. One big difference I see is in the way feeding is done. A rural child eats alone by the age of 2 and does the activities at home and work place by 4. To the modern mind doing things at home is labour but to the rural child it is part of growing up. Learning and playing are not two separate activities.
The modern systems alienate the child. Not only the children but also the adults. Modern houses are not friendly to child. Children like to take part in all the activities of parents, especially the kitchen work. Usually till the age of 4 the children do not get to see how cooking is done and the children are excluded from other related activities Each household in rural tribal situation has all the basic knowledge needed for survival. How to cultivate, how to build, how to make things and basic medical treatment. What education has done is to devalue all this and accept the western notions of poverty, health, development etc. Today the globalisation is further taking away whatever knowledge is left with ordinary people through their readymakes etc.
I have been documenting most of the activities of children especially their games; the toys they make etc. One most important aspect of their games is that they develop all the faculties of a true learner. The senses are sensitised, they get to plan, do things; body balancing is done. This is where I see the biological aspect of learning/knowledge at work. It seems it is the nature that has evolved these things.
As part of my own exploration I did a retreat with friends on how to start the de-conditioning process. At that time I called this “Against the tyranny of reason”. This was a three day retreat where we deliberately stopped planning, thinking etc and led a some what irrational life. Also we tried to spend time with heightened sense awareness. I have interacted a lot with people doing natural farming and nature cure and the basic notion they hold is that it is nature that does things and we need to let that happen. Forest is not man made. Nature does it in the most appropriate manner .
Similarly in health nature does the curing if we allow the life-force/nature to cure. It doesn’t take any PhD scholar to understand that life sustains life and multi-speciality hospitals are not needed for this. This is true of learning also It is a natural process.