We evolve. As individuals and as species, we all evolve. I look back at the last decade and besides the obvious aesthetic and sometimes superficial changes, and setbacks and advancements which I experienced, I note the evolution of my capacity for critical thinking.
When I go back to my ramblings from 2007-2010 for example, I often cringe, but I see the nascent signs of what was to come in so far as clarity and development of my personal philosophy; how I view life and the dynamics, issues, topics and situations which I experience.
I felt deeply then as I do now about justice/injustice, equality/inequality, and many other subjects. In 2010 I went back to school, taking four culture and art related courses at Mesa Community College. After one semester I was hooked and headed to Arizona State for full time immersion in some good old Humanities.
Specifically I looked to satisfy my hunger for knowledge, to improve how I think about my own world view, add coherence and clarity; build a stronger foundation (even at my…ahem…advanced age). I have always endeavored to “walk the talk”. But if I wanted to “walk more upright”, I needed to improve the “talk”. That’s what education means to me; a continuing opportunity. Where and how I apply the ongoing results of my education remains besides the point. Achieving my own potential is the utmost importance.
Now as I contemplate which classes to enroll in for my 3rd grad school semester beginning in August, and begin coalescing my personalized “Plan of Study” (POS), I am much more aware of how my academic experience of the last 4-5 years has impacted me and evolved my thought processes. I’ve enjoyed being liberal in choosing my classes and indulging in my passions, but it is time to bring it into focus.
My classes and interests have included African Studies, African American Studies, Human Rights, Science, Religion, Manifestos, Hate Speech, Radical Writings, Literary Theory, Global Justice, Film & Media Studies, Ethnic and Cultural Conflict Studies, Che Guevara and Cuban/Caribbean/Latin American Studies.
How I think about each of them has evolved significantly over the years. Not that I have radically changed my mind on any of them, only that I have become better equipped to think critically and discuss the issues which relate to them. It is now a deeper and more thorough process. My thinking is not founded on what I hear on TV or radio or read somewhere on the internet. It is quite rewarding.
One of the greatest rewards of “higher thinking” is my ability to avoid comment, debate or argument with those “knee-jerkers” who react through shallow emotion and simply have no idea what they are talking about. I no longer concern myself with the need to enlighten anyone on any particular subject which I may have acquired some “expertise”- unless by their request. Instead I go along happily, knowing that what I know suffices for me on my own journey.
There is however one personal issue which I have given much consideration lately; that is: my photographs. Some of the images which were taken five-plus years ago makes me cringe today. I have internally debated whether or not to remove them, apologize for them, or whether I am just over-reacting. I am focusing especially on those images I took in Ghana in 2007.
I have been complimented often on them. I have sold many prints of them. I have amazing memories of my brief journey there. But what do these images symbolize? What was I seeing? What was my intention?
Do these images support the (now repulsive) narrative of the “exotic”? Do they promote the (now abhorrent) Western, romanticized view of the “other”? Do they seek to solicit modern, neo-colonialist sympathy toward (stereotyped) “African” children? For me to take pride in the imagery I present – if only to a few viewers – means to know that I am “walking the talk” – my talk. But I am not the same guy I was in 2007 when I traveled to Ghana. Sure I was aware of the concepts of imperialism, colonialism, the slave trade, injustice, etc., but my critical thinking was nowhere near as competent or engaged as it is now.
Besides more awareness, I am more knowledgeable in history, as well as theories and concepts. I have developed and improved my thought-processes for critical thinking. Whatever I decide, or how I feel, regarding my previous work, it honestly reflects where I was, physically, intellectually, emotionally. I endeavor to honor the promise that my projects will always “walk the talk” through my “vocabulary” of that moment.
From somewhere temperate,