Connecting to the Creative Source
Our ancient, ancestral, creative intelligence is not stored in the intellect; though intellect is a helpful tool used to process and provide language for direct experience, the road to inspiration is paved in awe – and awe is not thought in the mind, but rather felt in the spirit and the heart. The education system is only complete when it embraces this truth and nurtures the full human experience as essential to the student’s development.
Higher education need not be confined to facts and figures - it can be sacred. In all disciplines, a connection to the Self, Source, and Earth can be encouraged for the sake of inspiration, innovation, and blissful well-being.
After completing my undergraduate degree in Multidisciplinary Studies - film, literature, anthropology, Eastern philosophy - my life became a series of adventures, odd jobs, nomadic wandering, and lots of thinking (so basically, the life of a writer.) For the next five years, I traveled and lived abroad in the Europe, South America, & Morocco. One summer night at an auberge in Boumalne du Dades, while eating fresh figs and lounging on a pile of pillows underneath the starry sky, two lovely Moroccan fellows serenaded me with live music and their promises to build me a kasbah on the moon. It was then I realized my life was a true fairy-tale - far surpassing any fiction of my creation, and I was truly blessed to be living such a poetic existence on this planet. Even so, I found myself ever-more driven to devote myself to the craft of story-telling, and after an incredible spiritual awakening (first disguised as a dark night of the soul) I buckled down and decided it was time to apply to MFA programs.
Back in the States, while waiting to hear from graduate schools, I momentarily panicked & searched for a more traditional career path. My efforts were not futile; on the very day UNLV offered me a fellowship to their International MFA Program, the CEO of a well-known travel company called to offer me a public-speaking gig with perks included a $200,000 salary and an apartment in Paris. I called an old friend and asked him, "What do I do!?" He stated frankly, "This is a 'for love or money' moment. I'm the kind of person who would take the money. You're not. You know what you're going to do." So I landed in Las Vegas. It wasn't easy at first - being in this city. But that's another story.
Part of my fellowship involved teaching undergrads two courses a semester. It was the first time I'd taught, and I realized that I wasn't awful at it. After I graduated, a colleague who taught in the Honors College asked if I could act as his teaching assistant for a course over the summer. I agreed. All went well that summer until, one morning, he grabbed me from the copy room and told me one of his students was in the bathroom with a razor blade, threatening to take her own life. I sometimes wonder if his future offer was a result of my intervention that day, because a week after I talked that student off the ledge, my colleague informed me there would be a new Honors Dean fall semester, and if my CV was planted now on her would-be desk, then when she came into office in the fall, she'd think I was meant to be interviewed to teach a course for the Honors College. I was in full support of this plan.
And it was a success. The new Dean allowed me to teach a multi-disciplinary seminar I'd created: Poetry, World & Spiritual Thought. When the semester was complete, I asked if there was any way I could continue teaching for her. She apologized and said, 'no.' Though shortly thereafter, I opened e-mails from both she & the Assistant Dean that read, "We just received your student reviews. We've never seen anything like this. Hold on..."
So though that serendipitous sequence of life events, here I am - an Associate Professor in the UNLV Honors College.
some pictures from my nomadic years...
My Teaching Philosophy
Nietzsche acknowledged the will to superficiality – an embrace of the trivial and an avoidance of anything troubling, profound, or anomalous – as a healthy impulse & natural tendency in the human psyche. The instinct toward the false & flighty protects against the chance that one might "get a hold of the truth too soon, before they have become strong enough, tough enough, artist enough to handle it." He further wrote: "It might be a basic characteristic of existence that those who know [the truth] completely would perish, in which case the strength of a spirit should be measured according to how much of the 'truth' one could still barely endure – or to put it more clearly, to what degree one would require it to be thinned down, shrouded, sweetened, blunted, falsified."
My teaching philosophy is inspired by these musings and by the belief that college students are "strong enough, tough enough, and artist enough" for a peek beyond the veils. I do my best to create a classroom environment in which students feel safe & excited to explore inner-terrains, voice questions & uncertainties, and shape new awareness. As writer Tom Cheetham brought to my attention years ago, it’s been a long time since many of us have really experienced the world. Instead, we experience a constriction of it, a selection of it, a lack of breadth & depth. We step out cautiously checking ourselves against ‘what is allowed’ and ‘what is known’. We throw a world out ahead of ourselves and move safely into it; we have found our way into a closed world and mistaken it for infinity. How can students create innovate, engaged, contemplative work when they are moving through a closed world? They cannot.
Intelligence is far greater than the ability to regurgitate information; it is the power to question & modify perception itself. In my multi-disciplinary seminars,
I necessitate content mastery along with philosophical & creative rigor. Through experiential activities, lectures, readings, & discussions, students are encouraged to gently assess their own perceptions and to dissolve beliefs that no longer serve their deepest, most truth-filled development.
Click the leaf-art below to learn more about the classes I teach, or to learn more about the Mindfulness in the Mountains meditation program.
110 & 115 will be combined into the new HON 110 starting Fall 2020, so if you're in that class, see BOTH my 110 & 115 pages!
Creative Writing Workshop:
Fiction & Poetry
A Place of Transformation: The Desert in Literature
The Fabulist, Surreal, & Innovative
Ways to Think, Ways to See