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10 Rules for Students, Teachers, and Life by John Cage and Sister Corita Kent

“Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail, there’s only make.”

Buried in various corners of the web is a beautiful and poignant list titled Some Rules for Students and Teachers, attributed to John Cage, who passed away twenty years ago this week. The list, however, originates from celebrated artist and educator Sister Corita Kent and was created as part of a project for a class she taught in 1967-1968. It was subsequently appropriated as the official art department rules at the college of LA’s Immaculate Heart Convent, her alma mater, but was commonly popularized by Cage, whom the tenth rule cites directly. Legendary choreographer Merce Cunningham, Cage’s longtime partner and the love of his life, kept a copy of it in the studio where his company rehearsed until his death. It appears in Stewart Brand’s cult-classic Essential Whole Earth Catalog, published in 1986, the year Kent passed away.

The list, which can be found in Sister Corita’s Learning by Heart: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit (public library), touches on a number of previously discussed themes and materials, including Bertrand Russell’s 10 commandments of teaching, the importance of embracing uncertainty, the pivotal role of work ethic, the intricate osmosis between intuition and intellect, and the crucial habit of being fully awake to everything.

RULE ONE: Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for awhile.

RULE TWO: General duties of a student — pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students.

RULE THREE: General duties of a teacher — pull everything out of your students.

RULE FOUR: Consider everything an experiment.

RULE FIVE: Be self-disciplined — this means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.

RULE SIX: Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail, there’s only make.

RULE SEVEN: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.

RULE EIGHT: Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.

RULE NINE: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.

RULE TEN: “We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.” (John Cage)

HINTS: Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything — it might come in handy later.

For more of Cage’s singular lens on life and art, see the sublime recent biography Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists , without a doubt one of my favorite books of all time.

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The Science of How Music Enchants the Brain, Animated

How harmony, melody, and rhythm trigger the same reward systems that drive our desires for food and sex.

The profound connection between music and the brain has long fascinated scientists and philosophers alike, and has even shaped the course of our evolution. The wonderful duo Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown, better known as AsapSCIENCE, breaks down music’s ability to create a state of arousal by inducing the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which also regulates the neurochemistry of love, offsetting a reward circuit similar to the one drugs exploit — something I can certainly attest to as a hopeless music addict.

In the same way that a drug-induced dopamine surge leaves you craving more, music becomes addictive — the dopamine tells your body it was rewarded and creates a desire to seek out more.

For more, see these 7 essential books on music, emotion, and the brain.

It’s Okay To Be Smart

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Dr. Seuss’s World War II Political Propaganda Cartoons

“One-tenth of your income must go into War Bonds if you hope to defeat both the Axis and inflation!”

Dr. Seuss (1904-1991) may be best-remembered for his irreverent rhymes and the timeless prescriptions for living embedded in them, but he was also a prolific maker of subversive secret art and the auteur of a naughty book for adults. Though his children’s books have already been shown to brim with subtle political propaganda, during WWII, like Walt Disney, Geisel lent his creative talents to far more explicit, adult-focused wartime propaganda when he joined the New York daily newspaper PM as a political cartoonist. Dr. Seuss Goes to War: The World War II Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geisel (public library) collects 200 of Geisel’s black-and-white illustrations, but more than half of his editorial cartoons were never made publicly available — until now. Dr. Seuss Goes To War: A Catalog of Political Cartoons from UCSD Libraries has digitized the original drawings and newspaper clippings of Geisel’s wartime cartoons, produced between 1941 and 1943. Here’s a sampling:

We’re just going to knock out the unnecessary floors designed by F.D.R., published by PM Magazine on May 18, 1942, Dr. Seuss Collection, MSS 230. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UC San Diego
Insure your home against Hitler!, published by PM Magazine on July 28, 1942, Dr. Seuss Collection, MSS 230. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UC San Diego
In Russia a chap, so we’re told, knits an object strange to behold. Asked what is his gag, he says ‘This is the bag that the great Adolf will hold!,’ published by PM Magazine on August 11, 1941, Dr. Seuss Collection, MSS 230. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UC San Diego
Spreading the lovely Goebbels stuff, published by PM Magazine on September 18, 1941, Dr. Seuss Collection, MSS 230. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UC San Diego
Tis Roosevelt, Not Hitler, that the world should really fear, published by PM Magazine on June 2, 1941, Dr. Seuss Collection, MSS 230. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UC San Diego
Boss, maybe you’d better hock me and buy more U.S. Defense Bonds and Stamps!, published by PM Magazine on December 26, 1941, Dr. Seuss Collection, MSS 230. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UC San Diego
Those Americans sure can attack… themselves!, published by PM Magazine on February 11, 1942, Dr. Seuss Collection, MSS 230. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UC San Diego

In Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel: A Biography, Judith and Neil Morgan contextualize the collaboration:

Ted was haunted by the war in Europe, and one evening in Manhattan he showed an editorial cartoon he had drawn to his friend Zinny Vanderlip Schoales, the brilliant, hard-drinking intellectual…. She had joined the patrician liberal Ralph Ingersoll when he launched the tabloid newspaper PM in New York with the backing of Marshall Field III. Zinny took Ted’s cartoon to Ingersoll and PM published it on January 30, 1941…

You, Too, can sink U-Boats, published by PM Magazine on May 24, 1942, Dr. Seuss Collection, MSS 230. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UC San Diego
Cages cost money!, published by PM Magazine on December 15, 1941, Dr. Seuss Collection, MSS 230. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UC San Diego
Don’t let them carve THOSE faces on our mountains, published by PM Magazine on December 12, 1941, Dr. Seuss Collection, MSS 230. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UC San Diego
One buck out of every 10!, published by PM Magazine on May 2, 1942, Dr. Seuss Collection, MSS 230. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UC San Diego
Join the C.B.C.!, published by PM Magazine on August 4, 1942, Dr. Seuss Collection, MSS 230. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UC San Diego
Me? I’d give my life for my country, published by PM Magazine on September 1, 1942, Dr. Seuss Collection, MSS 230. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UC San Diego
Maybe it’s none of our business… but how much are YOU giving this Christmas in U.S. War Bonds and Stamps?, published by PM Magazine on December 22, 1942, Dr. Seuss Collection, MSS 230. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UC San Diego
Wipe that sneer off his face!, published by PM Magazine on October 13, 1942, Dr. Seuss Collection, MSS 230. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UC San Diego
Time to swap the old book for a set of brass knuckles, published by PM Magazine on December 30, 1941, Dr. Seuss Collection, MSS 230. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UC San Diego

See more on the project site, then graduate to the more subtle, complex political propaganda in Seuss’s children’s books with Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children’s Literature.

Coudal

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