The Genius of PJ Harvey, John Donne and Daniel Bassill

I dedicate this post to John Donne, PJ Harvey and Daniel Bassill.

I posted yesterday in a fit of confusion. I think that was my point. I wanted to share how fine the line is between noise and signal. Once the balance has been tipped toward noise it can be overwhelming to pull back from that event horizon. Similar to finding a signal on a crystal radio with a cat’s whisker.  Unfortunately, I forgot to make clear to my audience that this was a purposeful step into the madness and that I had Ariadne’s thread attached to me as I descended into the Labyrinth to meet the bull. My safety line was poetry. It has always been a powerful connecting force for me in the struggle to fine tune the noise into a signal. Daniel’s response was so honest, so true, so generous.

Well, you’ve certainly made my Friday afternoon pretty depressing.

I am sorry to have done so. What follows, however,  in his continuing comment is an object lesson in filtering the chaos and standing up straight in the face of the approaching storm.

I met with a man in Chicago yesterday, who has been successful in business, and has started one successful mentoring program and is launching a new one. As we talked and I described how we can show program design on web sites and educate potential donors and partners, he tuned me out saying “CEOs won’t take time to look at that. It’s one-on-one relationships and salesmanship that will generate their support.” Previous to that meeting I’d tuned into this conversation on Linked in, talking about how “conversation” with donors needs to replace the “Pitch, or elevator speech”. You can see my comments.

Then yesterday afternoon 3o-40 people were gathered at a meeting talking about building a “STEM program ecosystem” in Chicago. The person paid to facilitate the project spoke about goals and vision for about 30 minutes, and pointed to work being done to build similar ecosystems in other cities. She ended that part of her presentation, saying, “None of us has the time to dig into that web site, but it’s pretty informative” .

Instead of encouraging people to find time to dig through the information she pretty much said “don’t try”.

Thus, your illustrations of how much noise is flooding our on-line lives, just reinforces how difficult it is to build an on-line community of learners focused on solving difficult problems.

Thanks. Just to add to your clutter, here’s a blog article I posted earlier today focusing on building on-line communities.

It pretty much says, “I know it’s difficult, but if we don’t try we’ll never find a way.”

I’m overwhelmed that you can look at so much, and find time to create your videos and share them on your blog. I think you have a full time job, a farm, a family.

We still only have 24 hours in each day.

Keep adding your drops of observation into this ocean of ideas and distractions.

Indeed, none of us is or can be alone.  Which brings me to one of my favorite metaphysical writers, John Donne, and favorite performer, PJ Harvey.  In the video below we see her coming to terms with the British exit from the European Union just like I did with my own chaos–with poetry

And here is my small ‘response’ to what I viewed as a ‘call’ from her:



pablo (74)

If you want to follow the lyrics and annotate them try here on Genius. It is fun to be a part of the main.

And just to give props to PJ Harvey I think she addresses the issue of immigration, of striving to join the “main” here in her song “The Wheel”


And again, the lyrics on Genius embedded below:


  1. // Reply

    I loved the poem on the blog from yesterday. I had commented but my comment did not show up.

    It IS indeed so much information. HOw to pick through it all and make the experience valuable? I continue to feel it is worthwhile, but remind myself that my ambitions to do so must be pragmatic and the use of time must be well-managed.

    As you know, during the school year, I have no time to explore much, other than keeping my head above water. In times like these, though, I savor my ability to take more time with connections to folks whom I value. I think about all of you throughout the school year, and am always relieved and inspired to know that once I am again present, you all are still there.

    love and hugs…

    1. // Reply

      Make sure you check the margins to the right.

  2. // Reply

    “No man is an island.” How true. For me, the challenge has always been finding ways to connect with the many ships in the ocean of efforts to help urban youth overcome the challenges that living in areas of highly concentrated poverty places on them.

    I started this effort informally, in the 1970s, when leading a single tutor/mentor program in Chicago and seeking others with greater experience, who might offer ideas that I could borrow. When I created the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 I’d been using computers for over 10 years, but still was not aware of the Internet.

    I started going on line in 1998 and found the Cluetrain Manifesto ( ) shortly thereafter. I bought into its vision and may actions since then have been driven by that vision.

    We’re in a huge ocean of ideas, which I call the world’s largest haystack. We’re constantly looking for “needles” of wisdom, support, friendship.

    I found this article on web evangelism ( in the early 2000s, which shows your web site to be a destination that people seek out if they are interested in what you’re offering.

    My web sites and blogs are islands in this big ocean. While I try to draw people into my own ports, I’ve been highly constrained by what I can offer to attract visitors, due to lack of personal resources, talent, technology, etc. In 1998 a Chapin Hall review of the Tutor/Mentor Connection pointed out that my “low-budget communications” kept many potential supporters from taking a look at what I was offering.

    While I’ve continued to try to attract people to my pool of ideas, I’ve also made an effort to get in my boat and try to find other islands of people and ideas where others are also trying to do the same as I do. While I’ve found many web sites (my web library points to more than 2000 links) I’ve found few places where the interactions are as deep and on-going as I’ve found with you and some of the cMOOC folks I’ve met.

    I think I understood the term “learning organization” and “personal learning network” long before these terms became fashionable. Over the years I’ve learned that I need to make an on-going effort to cut through the clutter and seek out ideas of others, or places I can share my own ideas.

    When I joined the #ETMOOC a few years ago, what excited me with the participation map that they had created. That’s been duplicated in CLMOOC and a few others, but seldom used to show participation in traditional conferences and gatherings of people focusing on poverty, education, inequality, etc.

    What disappoints me is that on the cMOOC maps, I find so few from Chicago or other big cities.

    What I this means is that most folks in the non-school tutoring, mentoring, youth development field (providers, clients, researchers, media, business and donors) are still depending on face to face meetings for their idea exchanges, network building and collaboration. That still works if you’re part of the “in crowd” or satisfied with the limited knowledge this makes available to you.

    To me, they are missing out on a huge continent of ideas that are available to them if they would make just a little regular effort to seek them out.

    I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to put my archives on-line, and looking for a university/Phd student, who might want to dig into the work I’ve been doing, with the goal that my effort might offer some ideas that future generations might take greater advantage of.

    While those ideas might only represent the meager efforts of one flawed person, they show a consistent effort to bring more people and ideas together to try to solve some of the complex problems that have faced us for the past century and will continue to face us in the future.

    Your willingness to take time to look at what I write is something that I deeply appreciate and that encouraged me to continue. I hope I offer the same encouragement to you.

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