Teaching Casual Alchemy
Daniel Mack's Approach
Dan has been teaching for more than fifty years.
His very first course, The Many Faces of the City,
in 1968, guided suburban high school students through the rich ethnic areas of downtown Toronto. It was sociology cloaked in the discovery of new foods, different languages, unusual smells, colors and objects.
That is an approach he has continued throughout his teaching life: Just let people discover or resonate
with the wondrous realities around them.
Teaching is really just setting a good table; inviting people to join, to share what they know and who they are. It's creating--weaving-- a place or moment in time and space when people, in a group, can actively discover more about their own livliness and the delight of working with others. This approach trusts that learners can be partners in their own educational experience.
Dan has been a professor in graduate and undergraduate programs but always felt tired by the institutional gravity. Even as faculty at arts and craft centers, he felt workshops dampened delicate primal curiosity by the implied connection to "work", to get your tuition's worth.
His years at The Omega Institute, from 2000, have allowed him to develop a fluid balance between the need for the clarity and order of teaching about tools, techniques and materials and the equally important need for how this all "fits" into the life of the learner. This has brought him to Casual Alchemy, a form of Creative Coaching: exploring non-traditional ways of learning, to accommodate the changing needs of learners
Models and Metaphors for this approach
Haiku is the inspirational model for this group. It is short and to the point. Yet it incorporates something of the season, the Moment, something of the heart, the Personal, and something larger, the Eternal. There is a discovered Ah Ha.
The "Haiku Ginko" is an organized walk where people come together to experience the same walk through nature as the basis of the haiku they'll be writing. We've done them here in Warwick in the cemetery and in the woods. . We are both together and alone.
MORE on: Weaving Pot Luck
Experiments in Casual Alchemy
2019 Several meetings at the local library on the topic of Creative Aging A term for pleasantly cloaking the basic human need to figure out the ways through transition.
2021-2000 Workshops at Omega
2017-2001 Woodlander Gatherings
2009 a six-week on-line group for people who want to be in the virtual company of others who are making things in the Spirit of the Imagination. It emphasizes accident, coincidence, dreams and things lost and found. A group of us "associates" for six-weeks... creating a virtual alembic in which we all cook a bit differently than we do alone. It's really just a time to help yourself focus on some lingering creative interests. That's where Dan comes in as the "coach"... or weaver, helping keep your attention focussed--lightly--on tasks you've identified.
2007 Learned from the 2007 on-line Salon:
This is an Imaginal Environment and not a curriculum. People will react to it differently. People will work at different speeds and intensities and side projects and discussions between people will appear. Some people will just want to watch what’s happening; others may engage very actively. It all depends… see a record of that course at www.imaginalinstitute.com/imaginalcards.htm
We encountered the indirect nature of virtual community.
Virtual community is built in spirals, twisting up and down, in and away. Nobody is standing still in front of you for very long. The geometry is not the line, the rectangle with its sides, not the circle. Ach, that spiral. The coffee keeps spilling!
Virtual community is built in real time, not linear time.
If we all convened at a room for two hours a day for four weeks, that's one kind of community. That's a kind we've all grown up with. Clear requirements and obligations... and probably some shared rules on how to behave when we were there. In virtual community, that's not the way. We are released from that slightly medical model of behaving... "Oh, sick Students, Come Here and I will diagnose and prescribe. You shall see yourself reflected in the sickness of others and ye shall get well. Just do what I tell you. 12 steps... homework, sponsors..."
Virtual community thrives on misbehavior, on pathology. (Have people really read all the course materials?) So virtual community honors the complexity of soul-time, where nothing is really a pathology and time is not measured.
Virtual Community is viral. Beacuse the rules are altered, violated, things seep in and linger, not unlike Lyme disease. From my own on-line seminar experience in 2006, I had intense reaction to another person and it stayed with me in a way that I have found very supportive... but only a year later. Again, it reflects a shift in expected time frame. Everything does not start and end in The Course. Actually, nothing really starts in the course... it already has... and nothing really ends with the course. It can't. So the Course is a imprinted experience, waiting to become more or less active at another time.