Monday, February 25, 2013
What's not to love about the School of Life?
Well, put it this way:
It's in an industrial chic (read: hipster trendy) area.
In absence of formal signage, its presence is announced on the street by irridescent yellow wheelie bins with the words "School of Life" stencilled on the front.
The garden boasts succulents and herbs and old milk crates and artisan coffee sold out of a caravan. On each table is a menu of conversation options.
The building itself is a hollowed out warehouse with some plastic moulded chairs and a screen for a powerpoint presentation. There is also a pop-up independent bookstore.
Inside, the walls are adorned with [breathtaking] artwork by one of Australia's preeminent graffiti artists.
My session was titled How to Fill Your God-shaped hole. It was facilitated by Dr Leslie Cannold, who held us entirely in her thrall.
Her presentation included Fatboy Slim's Right Here, Right Now video clip and K.D. Lang's cover of Hallelujah.
She also mentioned a quote of Richard Dawkins' who, upon playing the Fatboy Slim video during his keynote address at a conference, was said to remark [something to the effect of]: "Wasn't that amazing? Once I saw that video I was struck by how awesome it was... and I felt so grateful to the people who made it. And I wanted to thank them for my awe. I think this is why humans invented a god: they felt gratitude and wanted someone to thank for all that was awesome in their world."
During the session we formed a "community of enquiry" around god, organised religion, organisations in general, atheism, spirituality, the mystery of dying, life's big questions.
Discussions during and afterwards -- especially informal chats before the session and during the break and afterwards -- included how we connected to our higher selves, how we experienced awe, how we yearned for deeper connection, how we created ritual, how we sought meaning in our daily lives.
I can't begin to tell you how heartening it was to make a new friend -- like, exchanging phone numbers and setting an intention to catch up for coffee -- on the basis of this sort of conversation.
In fact, was one of the most rich and satisfying Sunday mornings I have spent in ages. And I would recommend it highly.
PS It feel no small amount of pride in my home town that Melbourne is the first and only (so far) international outpost of the School of Life. Its future is not guaranteed but, given most sessions have sold out and many are being repeated, it does bode well for the community of enquiry we already are... and seek to be.
And I most sincerely mean that.