Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Managed Chaos

There's something beautiful about controlled chaos. The art of only just reigning in what is abounding with energy, variation, and uncertainty is like drawing lines in the sand where the waves should stop. This is something that takes practice, it requires its choreographer to let go of ultimate control and settle for the role of conductor of madness, praying all along that things turn out well. Managing chaos has been how I have spent much of my time this new year. On one front, my roommates and I hosted 8 other house guests and several parties. 11+ people in a 3 person apartment can only result in that beautiful disorder of which I now speak. Girls turn bedrooms into backstage areas devoted to hair and makeup. The laundry room becomes a laundromat, and the kitchen a cafeteria. Moving crowds of people in multiple cabs across the undeniable metropolis of Cairo is no small feat, it demands a grace, a calm well known to managers of chaos. Just as wind sweeps leaves off an autumn street, so is the harmony found in gently guiding disorder. I might add that my roommate Sarah is deserving of a Tony award for her epic choreography of the unknown and spontaneous this past week.
On another front, my time at work is becoming, dare I say it, slightly more enjoyable. The Egyptian high school is comprised of rambunctious teenagers eager to go against the grain, to talk, to laugh, and of course disrupt. I tried in the first term to meet this atmosphere with strict policies and unyielding boundaries. But this is to deny the natural order of the classroom. It was I who was moving against the grain. The natural order of things calls first and foremost for humor. Students notice the ridiculousness of their behavior best when I laugh at its absurdity. They notice the flaws in their questions when I correct them in jest. Such is the lesson then, that order reigns when I have less control. That as a teacher, having a pleasant and at times inspiring back-and-forth with students is only possible after I cede some power and become part of the classroom's natural chaos. And when it works, it's beautiful.
Ironically, we are watching Into the Wild in my 11th grade class in order to highlight transcendentalist themes we have been discussing. The movie advocates leaving society, things, and people behind, allowing time for ultimate self-reflection. Yet this year I have found that sometimes happiness comes from being one with the group, of embracing the people and the craziness, all while doing your best to draw ephemeral lines in front of a rising tide.

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