If I lived in the world of Lyra Belacqua in the book, The Golden Compass, my daemon would most often take the form of a wild, migratory goose. In the book, daemons are animals so connected to a human that they share feelings or emotions, can communicate, are really two parts of a whole. It’s an interesting conjecture. I would be okay with sharing my wholeness with a goose, especially one that traveled. I really would be okay with that. I might even migrate with my daemon, if necessary, or as I desired.
The Golden Compass is the first of three books in Philip Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials (the first book was published as Northern Lights outside the U.S.). These books were intended for young adult readers, but I found them apropos to adults. In fact, I’m not entirely sure I would recommend them to the very youngest readers, unless they’d faced down all of Harry Potter and maybe LOTR, too. His Dark Materials are, well, dark and more than a little frightening in ways opposite to that of Sirius Black’s death which is deeply sad but not scary. Or the way we believe Gandalf is killed–cripplingly sad but not horrifically fearful.
I often think about Pullman’s books when I see the geese roaming around the grounds where I live, on campus, wherever I wander. I hear them in the mornings and know they are calling to me. I get the migratory impulse. I could migrate annually. They are beautiful to me, and I am moved by them (and have written about them before).
But mostly I remember these books for the connection the humans have with animal daemons, and I think back to the daimon of Eudaimonia–the spirit or supernatural part of human flourishing (eu is good, daimon is spirit). And then I remember what two open educational resources gurus said about developing and working in a commons and I get all goose-down warm and fuzzy:
Bollier and these OER dudes, Schmidt and Surman, see what I saw, what I see, what I hope to always see: an OER commons that is bigger and better, faster and stronger, than any one person could be.
That is what the characters in Pullman’s book are: bigger than any one person could be, because they have their daemons. The most disturbing part of the book, and why I wouldn’t recommend it to the light of heart, is when children are ripped from their daemons, and the daemons are killed leaving the children bereft beyond sanity and only partially whole. It’s one of the most wicked and sadistic things I’ve ever read. Beautifully written but so very terrible.
For those of us in the world who understand that working with someone else, collaborators, is the zenith of our lives, it is like having a daemon, or a daimon, or a genius in the wall. And perhaps, that’s what’s attractive about a commons, about OER, about the next gen of education, of writing studies curriculum development in pods. Perhaps this is what makes the 21st century so much better than the previous centuries. That, and clean water, oh, and espresso on every corner.
Here’s to the migratory goose, then, an animal that’s been around a long time, migrating and hanging together, taking care of each other in instinctive ways. And here’s to us writers and educators who are traveling in similar ways, doing the open thing, living open, writing open, creating open, embracing open, loving open, teaching open.
May we always be like wild geese or at least fly like them.