"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Sunday, April 28, 2013

When's the Last Time You Found Yourself in the Middle of an Unfamiliar Discourse?

A few hours ago I found myself sitting on a cold seat.  As I pulled on my coat, I realized that I was sharing an experience with thousands of people that I did not know.  All of us were huddled together with ear plugs in our ears as exhaust hung in the air; and yet I was separated from this group by one reality.  I am not a true member of the Discourse that surrounds the sport of Nascar racing.  A moment later as a yellow caution sign appeared on the screen in the middle of the track, I watched as everyone jumped up and started to either cheer or yell out in dismay.  I looked over at my husband, the reason that I was here in the first place, and watched his face as he excitedly tried to explain to me what had just occurred.  But while he patiently tried to educate me on the event and what it meant for the race as a whole, I realized that I was in the midst of a Discourse that I may never truly be a part of.

I do not say this with dismay necessarily or joy, but instead with new understanding.  My still novice literary lens really made me take a step back tonight and consider what I knew in that moment about my surroundings.  I looked at the advertisements and sponsor emblems, and struggled to recall what each of them stood for.  I took in all 43 cars and reflected on the true meaning that the numbers that adorned those cars could hold.   Those two stenciled on digits represented a person and a team; a team that fans either chose to love or hate.  Feelings that then drove them to support that driver and show their appreciation through merchandise purchased and worn to symbolize their devotion.  A symbol that, while immersed in this Discourse, could cause complete strangers to stop and speak or offer a 'fist bump' as a way of showing their mutual support and appreciation. So imagine how those fans may feel should they find a 'visitor' in their midst that may, at best, recognize one number and its associated race car driver.   Would they cast me out?  Would they wonder why I was here?

Upon further reflection I realize that I have often been privy to a conversation that is riddled with these numbers, leaving me lost in translation.  I wonder, in that moment, did they notice?  Or was I somewhat hidden because I had 'dressed the part'?  I will, in fact, usually listen to these types of conversations and try to appear interested.   I may even try and tap into the limited knowledge that I have acquired to participate or at least attempt to piece it together in my mind. But I'm afraid knowing terms like 'caution' and 'green flag' can only get you but so far….

I am, like many of you perhaps, constantly in awe of how often I am now seeing the literacy that surrounds our world in a whole new light.  And while I have learned some of the words and phrases that can be found within the Discourse of Nascar, and admit that sometimes the event that surrounds it can be a fun ride; I also realize that I may always be in this Discourse's passenger seat.


  1. I agree, Holly - my husband used to have to take reps to Nascar some years back, and it is its own discourse. He would read the paper the day of the races so that he could understand and convers regarding the drivers, etc. There is a whole social strata for Nascar. Isn't it interesting that our perspective has changed, and how we're reading our world differently?

    Joyce M.

  2. Holly, the most important thing is: did you win a lot of money? Actually, I found your thoughts about being an imposter really interesting. I guess every newcomer (or visitor, or stranger, immigrant, foreigner, outcast, marginal, etc.) has had this experience. Perhaps the very experience of being an imposter highlights the way Discourses work their power on our bodies. All of a sudden we are self-conscious, we see ourselves as "they" see us, we are no longer subjects in the world, but rather the objects of others' gaze. What makes imposters so fascinating is their meta awareness of their tightrope position on the fine edge between subject and object, between access and rejection, between belonging and being exposed as frauds!


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this post. Diverse opinions are welcomed.