Wow, I am impressed! All it took was for me to mention the name of the small, semi-alternative liberal arts college that I attend, and you have successfully guessed my area of study; I do, in fact, major in basket weaving!
Although I should say, I’m only using the word “major” to make this easier for you to understand. To prospective students, the admissions office will refer to areas of study as “paths” or “directions” or “cushioned, well-lit learning tunnels.” I prefer to call mine a “cragjet,” which is something I came up with during an orientation activity where we let sounds and syllables flow freely from our cores to form new terms that will describe our educational journeys so that we don’t feel confined by the prison of common associations surrounding known words. But no matter what you want to call it, I’m definitely studying basket weaving.
And I really do mean studying. Sometimes people think we’re just weaving baskets all day, but it’s far more scholarly than that. We look at the history of the basket, the history of the act of weaving, the basket and the act of weaving as metaphors, and the history of the metaphors for which the basket and the act of weaving are used. Then we write essays about these topics, print them on card stock, run the pages through a paper shredder, mix everyone’s essay shreds together, and weave a giant basket out of them as a class. This is called “collaborative intellectual basket weaving” and if you don’t understand, well, I’m not surprised.
Just to clarify: by “essays” I mean three to four pages of verse. There are no structure or style requirements, but out of courtesy to our classmates we’re asked not to use upper-case letters because they often imply shouting, and a lot of us have bad associations with shouting.
Anyway, we also discuss, at length, the perceptions surrounding the woven basket and not just from a person’s point of view. For example, how do eggs in a woven basket feel? Secure? Comforted? Or do they feel crowded? Threatened? Do they understand that the very thing that is aiding their safe transport will eventually deliver them to a kitchen, the place of their death? We consider all of these questions and many more, and then we express our answers in the form of catchy but artfully disjointed lo-fi pop songs.
Through these explorations, we learn things that most people don’t know about basket weaving. For example, it’s never about the basket. It’s always about the process of weaving a basket, or the process of thinking about weaving a basket, or just looking at your hands and knowing in your heart that a basket is possible.
Another thing: a basket doesn’t have to look like just another basket. Baskets can appear to be paintings or dances or baked goods or haircuts or tears. Some basket weavers consider the Earth to be one planet-sized basket containing many smaller baskets, which themselves contain baskets, and so on and so forth, but I shouldn’t get into that because that’s some pretty complicated basket-theory for someone as unfamiliar as yourself.
Not that I’m an expert by any means—I’ve only completed my freshman and sophomore years, after all. Next semester, I’ll get to take some classes that focus on more practical topics to prepare me for life after graduation. I’m most looking forward to a three-week intensive on the farmers’ market stand rental process and an honors seminar called “How You Can (and Why You Should) Weave Baskets in Brooklyn.” When next we speak, I’ll be sure to tell you all about it!