Sphere College Project

A New World of Learning


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A Successful Evening!

Last night we celebrated two years of Sphere College! We sponsored the film Amélie at the Colonial Theatre and had a very nice crowd in attendance. People heard about it through an article in the Pottstown Mercury, a couple of spots I did at WPAZ 1370AM (I learned last night who won the tickets by calling in to WPAZ!), on Facebook, and by word of mouth. Before the film, Frank Wolfe, poet, artist, entertainer and student in Sphere College performed a well-received opening monologue introducing the audience to him as a person and as a student. After the show a group of attendees went across the street to Artisan’s Gallery and Cafe for a discussion of the film. What a pleasure it was to celebrate two years of Sphere College!


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Two Years?

That’s right: two years! The second anniversary of Sphere College is coming up on Wednesday, April 20. To celebrate, we’re hosting the film Amélie in the Colonial Theatre at 7:30pm. Mark your calendars! Come out and enjoy this spectacular film ON THE BIG SCREEN and support a new, innovative form of education!


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It’s Here!

Tonight we celebrate one year of classes of Sphere College!

My, how time flies! We’ve come a long way, but we must keep our nose to the grindstone. Good things come to he who waits, but the waiting is the hardest part. Oh, I could go on and on listing clichés now, particularly with the help of websites that list clichés. But what we’re doing is trying to create new human experiences—the feeling of being deeply connected with one another. It will be a good day when this feeling is worthy of cliché. I do hope you’ll join us tonight and we can work on establishing the connected feeling that, in my humble opinion, is all too rare.

What exactly is it that we’re celebrating? Well, this is a milestone on a journey into something that truly has never been accomplished before. And trust me, as good of an idea it is to provide free, high-quality education to adults, it’s a seemingly impossible task to many people—particularly to many of the very people who truly have the means to make it happen! It’s surprisingly easy for us to believe that as a world society have already done it all—climbed mount everest, conquered all the lands, explored space, created all kinds of artistic expression, established that we can completely destroy the earth. Is there anything left to do?

Of course! And you know what it is: to bring people together to really communicate with each other. To learn how to be patient with one another, to understand that we all see the world in radically different ways and that instead of living in conflict and trying to get each other to see things our way (because we’re so convinced that our way of looking at the world is the right way) we can learn to experience the world through all the senses of another. If I’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that there are many, many other worlds out there to explore—our complex, beautiful, scary, wonderful world as experienced by other people—and that doing so opens us up to extraordinary experiences.

So please join us tonight, Tuesday, April 20 at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville for the Sphere College First Anniversary Celebration. We’ll have a reception at 6pm, a presentation at 7pm, the Sphere College Short Film Contest screening at 7:30, and the fantastic feature film, Living in Oblivion, a self-referential comedy with excellent acting about independent filmmaking, at 8pm. Come talk to the students about their experiences—what we’ve been doing and learning together. And find out what we hope to accomplish in the future.

Whether or not you are able to join us in person for the celebration tonight, and I know there are many who will be there in spirit, I invite you in whatever way you can to become a part our journey to chart the truly unknown territory of bringing humanity closer together.


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Letz Put Those Social Networkz to Work!

It’s tomorrow night! What??? You don’t know about the Sphere College First Anniversary Celebration on Tuesday, April 20 at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville?! You don’t know about the reception at 6pm, the presentation at 7pm, the Sphere College Short Film Contest screening at 7:30, and the fantastic feature film, Living in Oblivion, a self-referential comedy with excellent acting about independent filmmaking, at 8pm?! Well, now you do, so please join us in the celebration! And let’s all do what we can to make this a big, fun event. Use your social networkz to contact everyone on the planet and bring them out to celebrate with us. Facebook, Twitter, your own blog, texting, whatever. Yes, I mean it… do it right now before you forget! Ok, I’ll say it… pretty please?

Oh yeah, although this is primarily a celebration, we’ll also be raising funds to help the college move into a space and build the infrastructure of people who can handle the myriad tasks associated with providing a FREE education that WORKS to the huge population of adults who desire and deserve to learn! So stop by the ATM on your way so you can purchase some raffle tickets. There is a variety of items and you just may want to try to go home one of them.

FYI, here’s the press release. We look forward to seeing you there!


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We’re Almost There!

In just two days Sphere College will reach its first anniversary. We’re celebrating with an event at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville.

It’s been a rewarding, difficult, exciting, growing, bonding, and fascinating year. After the reception at 6pm I’ll be giving a speech at 7pm. I’ve been thinking a lot about the form and content of the speech. I’ve observed many speeches of this kind, but never given one.

Ok, I’ll admit it: giving speeches has never been my forte. To give this kind of speech I have to step very far outside my comfort zone. But this is exactly what I’m asking my students to do in pursuing their education, so I know I must rise to the occasion.

Actually, my greatest concern is not being able to individually thank the many, many people who have made it possible for the College to make it this far. But it is not possible for me to do this. It would end up like those Oscar acceptance speeches, where the actor or director goes on and on. It would be tedious for the audience to hear a list of names of people they don’t know. But there truly are so many people I’m indebted to who have given their time and energy to this seemingly impossible project. So I’m going to have to strike a balance. I’ll do my best.

We do hope you’ll join us for this celebration. Come, share some food with us, meet the students, meet Michael Reddy, meet the members of the Steering Committee, the Advisory Group, the Fundraising Committee, and all the other people who are supporting Sphere College in so many ways. Enjoy the entries to the first annual Sphere College Short Film Contest, and the feature film, Living in Oblivion—a comedy with some fantastic acting. And hey, why not bring a little cash so you can purchase tickets for the very fine raffle items collected by members of the Fundraising Committee, and provide some financial support the ongoing activities of the College?

We look forward to having you celebrate with us on Tuesday night!


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Passing the Baton

Really great class last night. And it was the first night I got to participate completely in the role of student!

I passed the baton to Michael Reddy, who is taking over responsibility for the Thu night class. What a relief to have someone so capable of managing a discussion! And I get to learn along with the other students. That’s a large part of the idea here: a college administration that understands that we’re all learning together.

The discussion last night was a reading, suggested by one of the students, involving the metaphor of the earth as Divine Mother. We learned a lot about Self and Other in the process.

Next up, we’ll consider masculine/feminine in the character Portia in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.


DON’T FORGET: Join us for the Sphere College First Anniversary Celebration? It’s Tuesday, April 20 at the historic Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville. Reception at 6pm, presentation at 7pm, screening entries to the Sphere College Short Film Contest at 7:30, feature film, Living in Oblivion at 8pm. Here’s the press release. Come on out! Bring friends! Bring enemies! bring random strangers!


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Transitions and Balance

REMINDERS:

Mark your calendars for the Sphere College First Anniversary Celebration on Tuesday, April 20 at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville. There will be a reception at 6pm, presentation at 7pm, we’ll screen the winners of the Sphere College Short Film Contest at 7:30, and the feature film, Living in Oblivion will be at 8pm.

The Sphere College Short Film Contest is accepting entries through April 10. Tell your film/video-making friends. Let’s see those submissions!


Nothing is static. Oh, sometimes things may seem static, but really everything is always moving, adjusting, shifting, flowing, contracting, expanding. If we are aware of the changes going on around us as they are happening then we can consciously move with them. It’s a bit like dancing. In my case, I feel like I’m dancing a dance I don’t yet know.

But I’m not the only one in this situation. Today I read a fascinating article in New York Magazine entitled “Betraying Salinger: I scored the publishing coup of the decade: his final book. And then I blew it.” I think I know a bit how the author, Roger Lathbury, felt at times. The fact that ego is the most difficult thing to transcend resonates with me. The challenge is that one must have to have a sufficiently healthy ego in the first place to make the decision to embark on a seemingly impossible journey, then figure out how to keep it in check. It’s a very fine line. But we’re all human and prone to error. The one thing we all share is that we’re all doing the best we can at every moment in time given our knowledge and experience.

So it goes with the College. As I shifted my focus of building the College to space, funding and faculty, attendance at the classes has waned a bit. There is a core group of dedicated students who come to every class. Others, I think, need the college to grow to offer more classes, have a home and generally become more substantial. So we recently made a hard decision—we consolidated the afternoon class into the evening class. On the bright side, we do have a waiting list of people interested in becoming students, and will soon be ready to start working them into college activities.

Meanwhile, we have added one imminently qualified faculty member, Michael Reddy, and we are working to solidify our agreement with another one. And we are making excellent progress towards obtaining a home for the College. I suspect there will be good news to report here in the very near future.

We also agreed that Michael will be taking on responsibility for the Thu evening class, which allows me to focus my efforts on continuing to build the college while he focuses on the quality of the class, a very sensible division of duties. To get things rolling during his transition, we are reading two articles authored by Michael: “Does Digital Dilute Materialism?”, and “Voice-only, Email, and Text–the Goodwill Squeezeplay”. Feel free to read them and post comments.

And like everyone else in the world, I’ll continue to do my best at every moment in time given my knowledge and experience.


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Inspiration

People sometimes ask me where I get my inspiration to pull off a seemingly impossible task—you know, founding a free college for adults 21 and over who are not a good fit for the current model of higher education. When they ask I usually talk about the film Man on Wire. In this film, Philippe Petit decided that he was going to do a tightrope walk between the nearly completed World Trade Towers. This film has long been one of my primary sources of inspiration.

But this recently changed a bit. I took a friend of mine to visit his PO (probation officer). I was in the waiting room for quite some time while they were meeting. At first I was annoyed that I was being forced to watch a video that was playing, and that I wouldn’t be able to block it out of my mind. But the video showed people training job seekers who had been previously incarcerated how to find open positions, fill out their applications—including the question: have you ever been convicted of a crime (hint: the answer is yes), fill out the “If you answered yes” line, conduct themselves and answer questions during interviews, and generally the attitude with which they should approach the job market. They said things like “You’re going to have to fill out 50 applications before you even get an interview. So what are you going to do? Fill out the applications.” It made me think deeply about people going into a job explaining the circumstances around an incident that landed them a 10-year jail sentence, and trying to build the trust required to be hired for a position. Could I overcome the obstacles myself if I were in that situation? They seem almost insurmountable.

So now I look at the throngs of people who, in the current economy, undertake the seemingly impossible task of overcoming prejudice against ex-convicts, going from business to business asking to fill out applications, doing the hard work of filling out the applications honestly, waiting for the phone to ring, and doing their absolute best when they go for an interview in front of someone who is going to ask them about why they went to jail, all in hopes of landing a job and becoming a more highly functioning human being. Raising the funds for a new college in a difficult economy, or tightrope walking between the World Trade Towers seem almost easy in comparison.

I find these job seekers inspirational. I want to do what I can to help.


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Game Theory

A Brief Introduction to Game Theory:

At any given moment each of us has an infinite number of choices of actions we could take. We subconsciously project what we believe are the likely outcomes of each action based on a combination of our knowledge, experience and our innate ability to accurately project. We subconsciously place probabilities on each of these outcomes, and also place values on each of these outcomes representing our desire. This desire is called our ‘utility function’, and varies widely from individual to individual also based on our experience and proclivities.

Board games can be modeled using probability and statistics. Often it is assumed that one player’s win is at the other player’s loss. Such a framework is called a win-lose game, or “zero sum game”. But by reframing we can transform a win-lose game into a win-win game. For example, I could play a game of chess with you, and not care so much whether I win or not, but just enjoy playing the game no matter who wins. (This is good for me because I’m not a very good chess player.) This reframing is effected by a conscious change in my utility function.

It seems to me that humanity today is a bit too entrenched in the win-lose mentality and we would do well to get a bit better at reframing our interactions in life as win-win situations. We all have the freedom of choice to do so.


Don’t forget to spread the word about the Sphere College Short Film Contest! Submissions will be accepted until April 10!


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Film Contest Under Way!

The first annual Sphere College Short Film Contest is officially under way! Entries will be listed on the Film Contest page as they are received. The contest is open for entries through April 10, so there’s time to conceive, execute and upload entries. So far there is only one entry, so there’s plenty of opportunity here for fame and fortune! Winners receive cash prizes and a viewing on the big screen at Sphere College’s First Anniversary Celebration on Tuesday, April 20 at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville. So encourage your filmmaking friends to get working on their entries!

There are so many positive things happening with the college these days it is difficult to recount them all here. And in fact, for many of them it would be premature, but I look forward to letting you know about them as the deals are sealed.

I would also like to take a moment to thank all those who have been responding to the call for support. Contributions are coming in regularly now and they help us in many ways. Here are just a few:

  • defray direct costs of operating a small but growing college
  • demonstrate community support to the students who have been committing energy to their education
  • demonstrate faith in the success of this nonstandard educational model to others who are considering helping out financially, but would be more comfortable if they see others take the lead first

Let me reiterate: if you’re hesitating to contribute because you think your gift may be considered too small, no one will think that. Any amount is greatly appreciated! If 10,000 people give at least $10, we will be able to hire faculty, secure space, hire administrative staff and purchase supplies. We will then be in a position to turn our energies to seeking grants from the many foundations that wish to support innovative adult education programs. So visit the DONATE! page, make a contribution, and encourage other like-minded individuals to do so.

And hey… get out there and enjoy the weather!