Monday, January 18, 2010


Discernment is a topic that threads through a lot of my recent work.  By discernment I mean the slow (sometimes exilherating, sometimes painful) process of figuring out a life path.  Issues related to discernment are central to the Journal Project (see earlier blogs) and the work I am doing with undergraduates interested in education. 

In the Journal Project, I am trying to understand the process of discernment that I underwent during the two-year period post tenure. In the undergraduate work (Transitions in Higher Education is one title it's been given), I am trying to understand how discernment can be supported for college students interested in becoming teachers.  

In thinking about these projects, one source of inspiration has been the notion of discernment that is found in early Protestant churches in America (Congregational/Quaker and the like).  Discernment was a process of listening to diverse voices until the word of God could be deciphered.  It was a group interpretive process.  This is the impetus for much of our governmental process of debate, and it has led to such practices as the Quaker Committees of Caring. 

Tools for discernment has also been a shared focus of the two projects.  In the Journal Project, which is a retrospective work, I am seeking to understand the tools I used for my process of discernment--the journal being a major example.  Other tools include:  the arts, walking the dog, and participation in body arts--meditation and yoga.  In the undergraduate project, I am consciously trying to create tools that will serve the process of discernment.  Digital storytelling, collage, personal roadmaps, and paired interviewing are examples of some of the tools with which I have experimented. 

Over the past year, I have numerous journal entries that weave back and forth between discernment in my own case...and discernment and undergraduate prospective teachers.  What is discernment?  Why is it important?  How do we do it?  What supports the process of discernment?  How is discernment distinct from career counseling? 

Discernment is challenging and enlarging.  Even when you are dead certain about what you want to do, the path may not be straight and uncluttered.  Discernment requires integration, the movement from inner life to outer world and back again, weaving together diverse kinds of materials into new strands of fabric. 

The photo above is a piece I made at Felter's Fling August 2009, which I have used as part of a landscape art project.  To me it offers much food for thought in the area of discernment.  I'll leave it to you to think about! 
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