Just back from a quick and intense trip to Boston, where I was on a panel with Jon Udell and Sarah Stein for a preconference workshop at UCEA 2009. I always enjoy my time with the UCEA folks. They’re open and inquisitive. They’re also entrepreneurial, a space that most university continuing education folks live in by necessity (and turn that into a virtue).
Jon spoke on computational thinking (with the specific example of calendar curation), I spoke on disruption (from millicomputing to the mother-of-all-funk-chords), and Sarah spoke on teaching and technology with a particular focus on the NCSU Virtual Computing Lab. It was a pleasure and an honor to share the podium with Jon and Sarah. Both entered my life in 2005 and both have been wonderful colleagues and friends since that time. I see them all too rarely. It was hard to say goodbye. (I’m never any good at that, anyway.)
On my way back down I-35 from the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, my mind full of the conversations and shared struggles I’d experienced at the conference, I listened to an emerging technology podcast featuring Tim O’Reilly. I was surprised and stirred by the passion in Tim’s voice, and by the complex joys and cautions he urged upon us. Then, about three minutes before the end of the podcast, I was startled to hear a poem.
The poem, and Tim’s presentation of it, resonated with me very strongly, as it obviously did with the audience at his conference. I thought of my colleagues at UCEA, and my colleagues on the panel, and my colleagues in the Twittersphere who responded so generously and insightfully to the tweets we generated during the panel.
I hope it resonates with you as well.
The Man Watching
by Rainer Maria Rilke
I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can’t bear without a friend,
I can’t love without a sister
The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.
What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.
When we win it’s with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestler’s sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.
Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.