The Illuminations workshop organized by SIDH was held between 2nd and 6th November 2022, at the Songtsen Library in Dehradun. This was the first time we were trying a workshop of this kind and we were not sure about how it would go. The feedback from the 18 participants leads us to believe that the objectives of the workshop were at least partially met and the workshop was a success. In this blog post I would like to talk about the process we followed and what surprising results emerged from it.
‘Illuminations’ is a book by Professor AK Saran in which he advocates a method of breaking out of the spell of modernity. This does not mean rejecting modernity but seeing the ill-effects at the individual and societal levels and letting us work towards a more conscious engagement. The book is divided into two parts—part 1 lays out the method and part 2 is a collection of 125 passages. The idea is that people reading through the carefully selected passages written by modern writers may be struck by one or more of them and this will help them go deeper and see through their assumptions and misconceptions about modernity.
The way our workshop was structured was that we spent a day going through part 1 of the book and laying out the context and the method we were to follow. The remaining time was spent in reading through and discussing the passages in small groups of 4-5 people and then presenting the group’s understanding to everyone else. Some things that happened during the workshop were:
– The setting of the workshop and the way it was held ensured that everyone participated in the discussions.
– The understanding of what a passage meant got built up slowly as the discussions proceeded.
– The process was highly collaborative in spite of the participants being of differing ages, educational qualifications, levels of understanding etc.
– The collaborative nature of the workshop meant that participants built up the group understanding by adding their unique perspectives to what the previous speaker was saying.
An example from the workshop will illustrate the process. The following sentence was one of the passages for study:
“A bud unfolds into a blossom, but the boat which one teaches children to make by folding paper unfolds into a flat sheet of paper.”
Think for a minute about what this can mean. The discussion among the participants yielded the following insights:
– A bud is natural but the paper boat is man-made.
– The bud unfolds by itself but the paper boat needs to be folded and unfolded.
– It is easy for us to imagine that we are ‘doing’ something as we make the paper boat but there is nothing to ‘do’ for the bud unfolding.
– In our schools we are making and unmaking paper boats without realising that the project of learning is about letting buds flower into blossoms.
We will record a YouTube video going into more details about the workshop but I hope this gives a flavour of the conversations that happened. Going by the feedback we got from the participants, the workshop was a success!