All Kinds of Classrooms

Posted by Nikole Hollenitsch on Nov 12, 2015 1:02:43 PM

A guest post by Aaron Mason; M.A. in Engaged Humanities and the Creative Life Program Alumnus; 2015

Phone with no important messageLooking back, it could have been comic. At the time though, my position hardly seemed funny. Balanced atop the desk in my tiny home office, which was also a guest room and art studio, was the phone. Through this gadget, various voices droned on, floating in another universe. Opposite from the desk stood my large wooden easel, which I put into a flat, horizontal position.

Wedged between the desk and the easel, I stood, leaned, hovered, and shifted my weight nervously. Paintbrush in hand, and sometimes a pen, or the phone when I had to pick it up, I listened to the conference call, part of my full-time work-from-home job.

Spiral colors taking shapeI paid only as much attention as I could stand to. Actually, I no longer cared whether the review committee on the phone approved the writing I adapted from their sources. What I cared about was the spiraling blue-green composition taking shape on the flowing world of the canvas. Perhaps I should have cared more about my job, because they fired me a few weeks later.

But there I was, literally stuck between work and play, dry corporate culture and water-based creativity. In retrospect, this position, the job and my bodily twists and turns as I played a risky game of multitasking, poised me for a deep dive into the unconscious at Pacifica.

Today I know that my inner artist invaded my daily routines because it was sick of being neglected. Creativity sometimes demands attention, no matter what else is happening. Jung’s unconscious is similar. That’s one reason depth psychology helps in removing creative blocks. The unconscious can stir things up precisely where and when we least want, need, or expect, and this random pulling can seem cruelly planned somehow. Our unconscious sends us signals. It wants to talk. Dare we pick up the phone? 

Finished piece by artist Aaron MasonIn this case, thankfully, I listened to the inner artist. Being fired from the job coincided with completing a painting that is still my favorite. It’s called Just Let Go. The aches of job loss after that awkward in-between-ness was what I needed to face to realize I craved something more meaningful, creative, and collaborative. So I sought out a unique graduate program for busy professionals whose creativity and ability to connect needed rejuvenation.

Not unlike that all-purpose room in which I could make a phone call, paint, and take notes simultaneously, the hybrid model of the Engaged Humanities program allows for fluidity, structure, and interdisciplinarity. The homework, personal reflection, and debates online and in person were not always easy, but the flexibility of learning while balancing life’s busy-ness was ideal.

I got to read Jung and other brilliant thinkers at any time I was free. I could listen to the weekly lectures in between doing other things. And I turned in those weekly assignments because I was anxious to read other people’s posts and enter the discussion.

Yes, those classrooms on campus just south of Santa Barbara are special, scenic, and filled with amazing people who have also taken time away from their routines to contemplate deeper questions, to experience what happens when the unconscious is allowed to sing, shout, play, cry, lecture, and restore a bit of balance. But learning also happens everywhere. Online, after graduation, in an unfinished painting, at an academic conference, even in uncomfortable situations that feel suffocating in their stuckness. Especially those, because our obstacles could be trying to show or tell us something vital, if only we are brave enough to listen.


Aaron Mason, M.A.Originally from Colorado, Aaron Mason was an East Coaster for two decades and is now moving back west. He earned his B.A. from St. John's College in Santa Fe, N.M., where he studied a core Great Books curriculum in small discussion classes. In May of 2015, Mason received an M.A. in Engaged Humanities and the Creative Life from Pacifica. He is in between official Websites but can be found on Facebook and LinkedIn. He works as a freelance medical writer and has dabbled in the visual, performing, and literary arts.

Topics: Alumni, C.G. Jung, creativity