Thursday, July 17, 2014

needle & thREAD: Why Kurt Vonnegut Would Like Community Knitting

needle and thREAD Okay, so I am so cheating on this meme of telling my readers what I have been sewing and reading lately. I haven't done any knitting or sewing or handcrafted anything in a few months!  But I have been doing lots and lots of reading...of writer Kurt Vonnegut. After my husband and I drove out from New Jersey, I have spent the past week in Indianapolis at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in downtown Indianapolis at a workshop called "Teaching Teachers How to Teach Vonnegut."

Perhaps the most wonderful aspect of the workshop has been connecting with professionals who teach in a wide range of settings; I teach students with special needs at a large suburban high school and this week's colleagues included: a man who teaches international students at a private school in Singapore; my friend Meredith, who teaches largely poor, first generation community college students; a veteran teacher of farmers' children on the outskirts of Indianapolis, a teacher of deaf high school students,  a man with a law degree who runs an International Baccalaureate program at a public high school in Franklin, Tennessee and a young lady who teaches at a swank private middle school in Indianapolis. The way we teachers, strangers to one another on Monday,  all rolled up our sleeves and helped one to improve our teaching was nothing short of miraculous.

This week and last I have been reading lots and lots of Vonnegut. My favorite book of his remains Slaughterhouse Five, a satirical novel about World War II that I read and absolutely did not understand in high school. Now that I am well into middle age, the novel makes perfect sense.

"There isn’t any particular relationship between the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time."

On my way out of the city today, I stopped for an iced soy latte at a cozy coffee shop called Calvin Fletcher's  in the historic Holy Rosary Neighborhood at the edge of downtown Indianapolis and right be the on ramp to I-70 East.  While I waited for my latte to be prepared, I saw a basket full of knitting and a  handwritten sign. How awesome is this.

This was the perfect ending to my days in Indy, immersed in conversation with teachers and scholars about Kurt Vonnegut. I think he'd really embrace the idea of the community knitting. Vonnegut was a novelist and an essayist whose spoke out against wars and totalitarianism and the rise of materialism in American society. In a collection of essays published in 1999 called Palm Sunday (he was not a religious man), Vonnegut wrote: 

"What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”

― Kurt VonnegutPalm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage

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