We Are Echoes and Refections

Whenever I speak with people about openness and sharing, I feel the need to preface my philosophy by saying, “Well not everyone will feel comfortable sharing as much as I do.”  It is almost as if I am doing something wrong, and to be honest I am not sure if sharing my every thought on the Internet is the best idea. I too struggle with my own demons, and I am not so naive to think that I am impervious to a break down, much like this, at any time.

That’s the thing about all of this; we don’t really know where we are headed. Those who say they do, the experts, publish article after article presenting research to prove which ever side suits their argument best.  Each of us needs to take inventory of our  privacy and intimacy and weigh it against openness and community. Is what you consider to be private more or less valuable to you on the inside or on your sleeve? There is not right or wrong answer. All I know is that I have had some amazing experiences over the years by being open and having faith in the goodness of people and trusting in the power of creativity. I have written about the Heart of the Internet, Trust and Community,and Peaking Out From The Edges; I have spoken about Life as an Open Book; others have written about stalking me, or shared stories about my work at conferences. Even after all of this, the connections seem to be becoming more complex and sophisticated. After four years of living online, I am still surprised on an almost daily basis by the generosity of the human spirit and our need to be creative collectivity.

For every paranoid news story about the Internet that forces parents and teachers to cry privacy, I feel the need to populate the web with a story like this one- I recently discovered a great site called SoundCloud, which is a great portfolio for my music. I use the word portfolio, but my music is not anything that can be classified as professional, but it is mine and it makes me happy. Each song, like my photos, my films, my blog posts is an illustration of my journey. I am not concerned with value judgments like good or bad. Like I tell my students, learning is not about success or failure, it is about growth and change. Learning is at the heart of evolution. I suppose we could grow and learn and evolve in privacy and in isolation, but where is the fun in that. We could be scared or insecure to share any aspect of our creativity for fear of being judged, but I choose bravery instead.

Sorry. Back to the story, I have begun to upload my small catalog of recorded music. Why? Because experience has taught me that if you share yourself with honesty and passion and love, the universe will send back echoes and reflections that remind you that you are not a single lonely self, but a pixel in the larger picture of humanity. I don’t write too many original songs. I am not good at it, and I find it extremely difficult. I can take a decent photograph; I am getting better at turning a word or two, but when it comes to music- I am weighed down with doubt. I know what music does to my soul, and I know that my singing is awkward and insecure. I can hear the doubt and tension. I play with apprehension, which ironically is the opposite of what music should do.

Sorry. Back to the story, I upload music anyway. I guess in a way I want to set an example. If I ask my student to express themselves online, I cannot with a clear conscious not do the same. It takes a lot of guts to allow the world into your heart and by singing online, I am able to assuage my fear.

No words could express how amazing it feels when something that you put into the world so tenderly could sound like this:

Falling out of Cars by onepercentyellow

This is a song I wrote and sang a few years ago. I posted my version on SoundCloud a few days ago:

Falling Out Of Cars by intrepidflame

and Leslie took it and made it her own. I am not sure what this means. I am not sure I know. I am not sure if I can articulate it. I am not sure you need it explained, but there is magic in what has happened here. There is beauty in these acts. There is love. There is community.  This sharing and connection and creation brings me joy, and honestly that is all I have ever wanted. Please take these songs, the photos, the films, the text, the pieces of me and make them a part of you. We are echoes and refections posing as individuals.

Update: (This was written a few days after original post)

Of course this story didn’t end there. Once Keri Lee got wind of the project she added her own brand of loveliness.

Falling out of Cars 3 by klbeasley

Curious to see where it goes now. Take it and run….


24 thoughts on “We Are Echoes and Refections

  1. avatarJim Groom
    Twitter: jimgroom

    The thing that encourages me still about this space is so much of it is still frontier shit, so we have possibility and surprise around every corner. And while I’ve known about soundcloud for a bit, I am not going to make it integral to the weeks 6 and 7 when we we actually start doing sound. The whole internet/course radio as platform is remarkable—this is gong to be amazing when we actually start creating more and more stuff for the radio.

    Also, thinking these two songs and the story that links them a nice little set for #ds106radio

    You’re rocking in a free world, as usual.

  2. avatarPaul Bogush
    Twitter: paulbogush

    Before I start–I actually did try to comment on your Neil Young song Thurs/Fri but some computer glich wouldn’t allow it!

    Geez…you have hit so many things in this post that brings back past memories that my first response is to write a comment that would just provide therapy for myself.

    Life is a journey. You should never be in the same place when you wake up each day, although sometimes you do re-visit places. People’s digital foot print can really reflect whether they are putting one “foot” in front of the other, or whether they are standing in place.

    It is really hard to comment on a footprint that is moving forward (honestly, as of this word, I have been writing for 20 minutes). It is also hard for a reader to comment on a post that makes them reflect…honestly, I don’t want to leave a comment on this post…I would love to walk around the whole day thinking about it…thinking about myself…thinking about my journey…forgetting about you, and applying what you have written to me.

    (writing only this paragraph after I finished the post) In America we are all about the quantity. All you can eat buffets, supersize it, the bigger the SUV the better, sending out lots of links via twitter, reading lots of links via twitter. A thoughtful comment is about quality. What I did with this comment is to choose between only reading your post and commenting this AM, or skipping the comment and reading 30 other blog posts as well. I process one thought…which really moved to processing my own thoughts, or take in many other people’s thoughts. I wonder if the short comments you were referring to on flickr are a hint to that fact that people don’t want to be slowed down by a lengthy comment. The shorter the comment, or lack of one, means the more they can consume.

    From your tweet… “why it was great or nice. What moved me? What stuck?” Let me try one of them…
    Why was this post great? It totally brought me back to a couple of experiences in my life. The first was my first blog post in which I just opened myself up and let it pour out. It was not a post of where I had been, not just a post of links or here’s a new tool, but a post about a feeling that wasn’t fully processed. It was raw. I felt naked. I felt vulnerable. I was scared. But people said nice things. People connected. I felt connected. So I did a few more…and my digital footprint started moving forward. It started to reflect my journey. But then something happened…the comments became like sponsors of journey. I started to write for my sponsors, and in some ways, I was like an indie band going pop. Problem is, I am not a pop writer. I can’t really write pop material. On a good day I might get ten visitors, and four of those were by accident. Many days…last night included…I want to quit. Sometimes I take the lack of visitors or comments as a value judgment, the number of visitors as a sign of success or failure. My grade is the length of the comments and the number or re-tweets.

    But your use of the word echo…I am trying desperately to not have the echo guide my journey. I am trying desperately to not write just so that I can hear an echo. But I still desperately want one…ahhh. I need to learn that just because there is no echo, doesn’t mean I am not being heard.

    Second experience—when I was 37 years old I decided to learn how to play the guitar. I have no musical gifts…really. And my singing…geez. But I learned three chords and messed around with a few songs. One year I decided to open the school year with a song, literally the very first thing the kids would see or hear me do is sing this original song that I wrote for them. I was scared stiff. They saw me do something that was one of the biggest risks of my life, and not do it very well…I could have skipped it, “but I choose bravery instead.” In the last few years I have put the guitar away. I play it twice a year, on the first and last day of school. The rest of the year is stays in the case because I think I simply stink at playing and singing. The day you posted your Neil Young song my wife sent me an email that simply said, “I miss hearing you play guitar.” I took it out that night, I will take it out again tonight. You might not have heard the echo of your song, but I can assure you that my family and students will.

    I think sometimes we just have to trust that the echoes of our actions are out there, even if we can’t hear them. Slowly those echoes will break down other’s feelings of insecurity, their fright, their fear of being judged, their fear of success or failure, and will eventually lead to more bravery, and more people will have amazing experiences by being open and having faith in the goodness of people and trusting in the power of creativity. “Because experience has taught me that if you share yourself with honesty and passion and love, the universe will send back echoes and reflections that remind you that you are not a single lonely self, but a pixel in the large picture of humanity.”

    1. avatarJabiz Post author

      Wow. I know how difficult it can be to leave a comment of this length and packed with so much insight in our world of mass media consumption. So thank you for taking the time to read, listen and share so much.

      I think maybe echo was the wrong word, maybe I was thinking more of a ripple. I am not saying that we writ to get validation, although I will not lie; of course it feels great to write something like this and get so many wonderful comments. Makes me feel like I have value if so many people agree with me right? But the more important thing is the effect of our actions, ideas and words on others. You seem to agree here:

      I think sometimes we just have to trust that the echoes of our actions are out there, even if we can’t hear them. Slowly those echoes will break down other’s feelings of insecurity, their fright, their fear of being judged, their fear of success or failure, and will eventually lead to more bravery, and more people will have amazing experiences by being open and having faith in the goodness of people and trusting in the power of creativity.

      And to see people write post, or play guitar, or share more because of something I shared…that is why I do it. The comments are great for my ego, but the opening of up of human insecurity and fear is what matters to me. I’ll touch more on this in Melanie’s comment, but I hope to help people find confidence in tapping their creativity.

      Thanks again. I am so pleased and honored to know you are reading and following my journey. I respect your work greatly and am doing the same. So when you are not sure, know this. Although I don’t always comment, I look forward to your every post and read them all.

  3. avatarMike Kaechele
    Twitter: Mikekaechele

    @Paul and @Jabiz

    I read all of you guys posts and enjoy your rawness and honesty. I often don’t comment because I don’t feel I can add to what you are saying. I don’t like to leave the generic “great post” comment. It can be intimidating to engage in conversations like these and I often feel that I lack both the words and prose to participate.

    I also agree that sometimes I am too busy (my fault) to fully contemplate what a post is saying. If I did that more I would have more to say in response. I do know I usually feel uplifted by these kind of posts because I see the humanity and struggle of others. It validates my own struggle and desire to be heard, RT’d, and commented on. I don’t think it is vanity but a desire to connect deeply with other souls that drives me to these spaces. These conversations are as real as any I have face-to-face.

    I just do not know very many people in the “real world” who engage in these conversations. That is why I feel jealous of the people who seem to go to every edu-conference and get to make connections in person. I can’t stand Twitter this weekend or during ISTE because I want to be a part of it so bad.

    1. avatarPaul Bogush
      Twitter: paulbogush

      Funny you wrote what you did…I had your post that you wrote about “shame” open for a few days and started writing a comment a few times, never felt as though I was adding to the conversation…but it was in my head for days echoing.

    2. avatarJabiz Post author

      I agree it can feel intimidating to just jump right in, but sometimes just admitting that we don’t know what to say, but that we are here is the first step. We don’t always have to add something new to the conversation, but it is nice to be noticed and say I am listening. People often complain that twitter and other social media are destroying deep thought, but I agree that we often find nuggets of it hidden here in blog comments.

      We link together a stronger chain of community with every interaction not matter how small. Even this exchange has brought me closer to you and Paul.

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  5. avatarMelanie

    “If I ask my student to express themselves online, I cannot with a clear conscious not do the same. It takes a lot of guts to allow the world into your heart and by singing online, I am able to assuage my fear.”

    Aside from sharing a lovely piece of yourself through music you do give your students (and colleagues) a view of the emotional side of creating that I find it often left out by those who don’t do so regularly (as artists). When teachers at the high school level approach a subject like writer’s craft they often do so from a place of form and mechanics. As you know – and articulate above – “personal” emotionally resonant expression – comes with a whole other set of challenges, few of which are every addressed in school. Because school is a space that nullifies the lived experience, the curriculum of the hallway and everything else that isn’t “appropriate” … but in the process of dealing only with the appropriate, we relegate so much that is essential to art and personal expression to a null curriculum.

    As well, we ask students to “share” their hearts and minds but don’t question or examine the consequences of that act in a context of assessment, evaluation, power and contrived social groupings (by age, grade, level, subject, etc – as opposed to natural communities of friends or colleagues that develop around authentic, self selected interests or goals). However we as teachers play it down, the giant microscope of assessment is very real to the learner. We can give them every good reason to feel safe to share but they know, in the end, their work will be graded. And has a very real impact on what they choose to tell us. They are keenly aware and observant of what the teacher holds up as meaningful and valued and either strive to reflect that back or else shut down under the weight of an impossible – or undesirable – set of criteria (i.e, when the teacher’s idea of meaningful expression isn’t the same as the student’s idea of meaningful expression for example).

    Finally, some of us just don’t want to share our hearts and minds in public – or in a group that we haven’t self selected. What we feel good telling our close friends or even Live Journal subscribers we may not say in a context of assessment.

    You model something very essential here: the courage to open one’s heart – and explain why that matters to you. In doing so you can help your students (but also your colleagues) understand more about the more interior (and difficult) side of creating that often eludes those who don’t dig deep inside – or cant’ find reasons to share what’s there.

    I only ask that teachers continue to be mindful, respectful and aware that not all of our students or colleagues are teaching in “safe” spaces/communities where our guiding vision, practices or identities are particularly supported. Spaces where sharing our true selves may come at a risk. That decisions to “not” share aren’t always based on a ‘lack of confidence’ or insecurity. I only say this because I often meet socially, culturally or politically privileged teachers who don’t get why their students won’t “open up” a bit more with their writing. Teachers who may not even reflect on their own power versus that of their students. Or how their context as an assessor/evaluator or power holder mediates what their students wish to tell them. What if a student doesn’t even like or trust you? then what? We must never assume that the friendly, equitable and creative space we work hard to create is experienced as such by every student. Or that in creating the conditions that might inspire *us* to share, we necessarily achieve this with a child whose lived experience of sharing comes with very different consequences than our own. Though this is where your story, in particular, could be very useful Jabiz. Dont’ know how much you can share about that but I do think it’s valuable to convey in some way – that sharing sometimes DOES come with risk and what does it mean to face that risk and decide to share anyway? Or choose not to.

    I’m currently developing a transmedia unit for some students at an alternative school. And I’ve realized that transmedia offers a place to inscribe existing characters drawn from other worlds and stories with deeply personal narratives (should we wish to do so) but at the same time with little risk because we’re not, ostensibly, talking about “ourselves.” I asked a youth the other day if he felt that the Halo fan fiction he read had any sort of emotional resonance or if the writers put something of themselves into their stories and he said that the best fan fiction was exactly that: personally connected. So while we may choose to tell some of our stories via or through other media, that does not make it less “personal” an expression. And perhaps this might be a key to teaching to transgress and offering ways for our students to unpack themselves with less risk of it being about “me” or “I” but about me or I via role play.

    1. avatarTodd Conaway


      Your comments about transmedia and personal expression and separating the “I” is really powerful and thoughtful.

      I think that masks offer a good analogy to what we can do with digital media. You can become something or someone different in a public space. As many have known in ceremonies and in healing, a mask can help us take a step deeper inside our psyches and return “to the real world” with a better sense of self. Hopefully.

      Yesterday I did as I said I would and purchased my 13 year old daughter her own domain. I made it her first and last name as I said I would. It was interesting to talk with her about why I chose that and not her YouTube username or let her her decide what it should be. When I speak to teachers about internet safety and usernames I tell them that it is no wonder we sometimes see the internet as a world full of strangers. It is if everyone is “surferdude2756” and we have created that ourselves.

      This conversation looks at a really important part of what the internet can offer. And I think you are right in noting that even when we are “masked” we are who we are, it is just a tool to help us find more of us. But I also think that we need to share our “real” human person. As this class has done for many students in the course, it had asked them to create a presence in this space that “echoes or reflects” them.

      We are all stories to someone, fiction or non.

      1. avatarJabiz Post author

        Masks, real, identity? These questions can be so tough, but with these tools that allow us to remove our masks and build identities online, it seems a shame not to. Love, love, love this line:

        We are all stories to someone…

    2. avatarPaul Bogush
      Twitter: paulbogush

      “Finally, some of us just don’t want to share our hearts and minds in public…”
      Just a guess here…I bet most people who “share their hearts and minds in public” probably have uttered those same words before they started. But at some point, for some reason, a little leaked out. They fretted, they worried they shared to much, they felt vulnerable…and then one of two things probably happened. People supported them, or commented that they were wrong. Those that got the support continued on to leak a little bit more each time and found and connected with others that either felt the same things, or who were also on a similar journey.
      There is huge value to sharing it in public. I always question whether my journey is a righteous one…inevitably someone else has my back and keeps me going. I am not teaching in a “safe” space. I cannot share anything in school that I would share online. I would become a walking target. Online is my safe place. But it is only recently that I have trusted my online place.
      The online market for “sharing your heart” is a small one. This blog, Mike’s blog, and other blogs of people who I feel let their hearts out in their posts is a small one…just checked, Mike and Jabiz, geez, like 70 people per day! That is still big-time for someone like me 😉 but so very small in comparison to some blogs that just share links and get 1000’s of hits everyday. Ok, maybe I am a bit jealous that someone assembles top ten lists and gets lots of fame and fortune or others give their thoughts on others and get 1000’s of hits and I try to push, poke, and prod with posts that sometimes hurt when I write them and I am lucky to get 5 visitors a day…15 when Mike or Jabiz tweet out the link 😉
      I guess the key is to find that small group of folks who do share their hearts in public and use them as a support group. For me, doors opened on my journey that would have been previously missed because of these people. I do think it is tricky to find them, but worth it…even if you just read their blogs without leaving a comment!
      Let me introduce you to someone else on the same journey, Bill Genereux, who blogs at http://billgx.edublogs.org/ (geez, 93 hits a days, how do you guys do it!) I hate to name names, but I always look forward to anything he writes on my posts, and many, many times he has written a phrase, left a book title, or a link that has opened a new door for me.

      1. avatarJabiz Post author

        You said, “I guess the key is to find that small group of folks who do share their hearts in public and use them as a support group. For me, doors opened on my journey that would have been previously missed because of these people. I do think it is tricky to find them, but worth it…even if you just read their blogs without leaving a comment!”

        Yes, yes yes. Thanks for the intro. Looking forward to it. Leave the numbers for the consultants; we are here for bigger things. We are here to change ourselves and by learning from our experiences help students to change the world!

        By the way, I shared too much had major repercussions and chose to share more anyway….I am stubborn that way.

    3. avatarJabiz Post author

      You always bring up such salient points. You are right in many aspects about identity, safety, sharing, school, assessment etc…I am simply trying to figure it all our both as a learner and as a teacher. I often refer back to myself as a terrified, shy young boy and ask if I had the freedom, support, and encouragement to be more open and share, and if I had the tools. I could have avoided a lot of pain and self-destructions. I know that is only my story, but I was as you described seldom safe in any environment. I was a recluse and not very outgoing, but this fire that you see slowly burning up the Internet was there. I just tended it alone.

      I guess I want to help others not have to bear the burden of solitude and fear. You are right that not everyone wants to share, I guess my question is why? I am trying to understand the concept of privacy. Everything you see me do is an exploration of that idea.

      But thanks for reminding me that everyone, my students included are on their own place within the continuum.

  6. avatarAnna Varna

    Your post and Paul’s comment have really made my day. This idea of being echoes and reflections, of trying not to be in the same place every day, resonates with me, and I need time to think about it, I need to go walking and think about it again and again. At the same time I want to go and blog about it too, so many ideas spring up.
    This is what I love about being open and sharing: it is scary at moments and you never know what it is going to bring you but during the five and a half years I have been doing this journey (I first started a book blog in 2005) I only have good things to remember. People are essentially kind, I am sure now.
    Keep sharing Jabiz…

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  8. avatarmonika hardy

    soul space. great way to wind down my day. grazie.

    i echo paul’s echo:
    if you share yourself with honesty and passion and love, the universe will send back echoes and reflections that remind you that you are not a single lonely self, but a pixel in the large picture of humanity

    you’ll do it once with both of your voices.. yes?

  9. avataronepercentyellow
    Twitter: onepercentyello

    Thanks so much for this amazing response! Sometimes I simply jump into things and only consider in retrospect how they may be perceived. There were moments yesterday when I wondered why I felt I could take someone’s perfectly awesome original song and take the license to transpose and rerecord it as a response. (I transposed and recorded it with my friend Sean Hillaby on banjo, by the way). Then I read this post and the twitter conversation around it reminds me of the magic that I feel when I come together with others to create.

    This question of ownership of our muses, our creative products, even our ideas is one that I ponder repeatedly. When I reposted Jabiz’s song I wasn’t sure of the license to put on it – so I copied how he put out his original. I wondered if he’d be upset that I had changed his song, or messed it up somehow – so I sent it back to him directly for review. I have posted this song under my own online persona of ‘onepercentyellow’ but now this is possibly also a band name that includes my friend and fellow musician, Sean – how do I acknowledge his amazing contribution?

    There are so many stumbling blocks to sharing our creative selves honestly. If we can continue to create spaces where responsible use means acknowledging those involved in making something, perhaps we’ll create more supportive communities that encourage more play.

    Thanks for the echo.

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  11. avatarJabiz Post author

    Thanks to everyone for your contributions. This has already been a very important conversation and I am glad to be gathering a posse to move forward both in song and thoughts!

  12. avatarClint H
    Twitter: chamada

    There is so much going on in the post and comment thread! I’m particularly struck by @Melanie’s point about not assuming that our own ability/willingness to share will always translate into a similar ability/willingness in those that we teach or work with. But we can only lead by example and have no expectations of immediate reciprocation. When people are willing, they will share what they are comfortable with.

    It also always brings a smile to my face to think that I was there when all these wonderful people met up in person and jammed the night away on a patio in Shanghai…

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  14. avatarLavette Dawoud

    My spouse and I stumbled over here from a different page and thought I might check things out. I like what I see so i am just following you. Look forward to looking over your web page for a second time.

  15. avatarfashion style
    Twitter: fashion style

    Faculty and staff have not received base salary increases since November 2007. Consequently, according to the College, faculty salaries currently rank in the seventh percentile of the school’s peer institutions — the state would like to raise them to the 60th percentile.


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