We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.
– John Hope Franklin
Today, for my run, I put 60 minutes on the clock and ran wherever for an hour. I did the same thing yesterday.
Pace and distance didn’t matter; I was worried about the run. Both days, I ran routes I’d hesitate to call straightforward. Yesterday’s, in particular, included more staircases than I’d ever knowingly include in a route were I planning for distance.
Yesterday, though, I came to some staircases and understood they would be part of the run.
I wasn’t trying to solve the problem of how far or how fast. I knew I would be running and let that happen.
This is the same reason I like Star Trek. No matter what problems they faced episodically, the missions of the crew from any iteration of the Enterprise was to boldly go where no one had gone before.
I wasn’t exactly hitting warp 9 on my runs, but I felt kindred.
This is the same reason I asked the instructor of my newest grad school module if I could forgo coming up with a problem statement for my course project and focus on trying new stuff. My instructor told me to message him separately after explaining we needed measurable goal lest my work appear to be innovation for innovation’s sake.
It was all I could do in that moment not to reply, “I’m a fan of that.” Instead, I told him I was worried about getting lost in a deficit ideology about education. I wanted to try something new.
When I was younger, I called it play.
I didn’t sit with my toys in front of me and think, “Now, what’s the problem I’m trying to solve here?”
Sure, kid life must have been full of its fair share of dilemmas, but I didn’t play for the purpose of solving them. I played to play.
I’ve no doubt I was able to solve many of those problems because of play – because of the time away from my problems that playing involved and because playing in a non-problematized world let me develop skills without worrying about transference or application.
In one of my favorite episodes of The West Wing, Rob Lowe’s character Sam Seaborn is explaining to Chief of Staff’s daughter why it was important for the government to send a probe to Mars.
“Why?” she asks.
His answer is why I decided to run nowhere in particular and what I’d like to guide my course work:
‘Cause it’s next. ‘Cause we came out of the cave, and we looked over the hill and we saw fire; and we crossed the ocean and we pioneered the west, and we took to the sky. The history of man is hung on a timeline of exploration and this is what’s next.
I want to solve the problems in my classroom. I want to improve my teaching. I also want to remain passionate about ideas and where they can lead. I want always and forever to have the freedom to ask, “What’s next?”