It is lighter than you think!

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Rules for Students and Teachers

Rule 1: Find a place you trust and then try trusting it for a while

Rule 2: General duties of a student: Pull everything out of your teacher. Pull everything out of your fellow students.

Rule 3: General duties of a teacher: Pull everything out of your students.

Rule 4: Consider everything an experiment

Rule 5: Be self disciplined. This means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self disciplined is to follow in a better way.

Rule 6: Follow the leader. Nothing is a mistake. There is no win and no fail. There is only make.

Rule 7: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It is the people who do all the work all the time who eventually catch onto things.

Rule 8: Do not try to create and analyze at the same time. They are different processes.

Rule 9: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It is lighter than you think.

Rule 10: “We are breaking all the rules, even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for “x” quantities.” John Cage

Helpful Hints:

Always be around. Come or go to everything.

Always go to classes. Read everything you can get your hands on.

Look at movies carefully and often. Save everything; it may come in handy later. There should be new rules next week.

Corita Kent Gas Tank-1


It wasn’t John Cage who came up with this after all—it was Sister Corita Kent! I’d always thought that the best, most fabulous list of Rules for Students and Teachers (for creativity and life) came from the composer who wrote 4’33”—four minutes and thirty-three seconds of musicians being present and playing not a single note. Cage distributed the list widely (and is quoted in it), but the list originated with a peace-activist nun who was well known for creating pop art herself. She created a LOVE stamp (1985) with her trademark slashes of bright color, but the most enduring work is one I have passed on Interstate 93—and wondered about often—the Boston Gas Tank. The painting is crazy big (150 feet tall), and an exuberant, counter-cultural color splash on an industrial monolith. It was painted from an eight-inch high model created by Sister Corita in 1971. The work has been compared to a giant Rorschach test—people see in it what they want to. The stripes became controversial when people saw Ho Chi Minh’s profile and inferred a comment on the Viet Nam war that was never confirmed by the artist.

Corita Kent left her religious community in 1968 to move to Boston and focus on art that connected with the times in proclaiming a message of love and peace. The list dates from her days as head of the art department of the Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles. Every time I read it I am struck by something different. Today it is the end of Rule 9: “It is lighter than you think.” More of Christ’s light is present than I think? I may feel weary but his “yoke is easy and his burden is light-er” than I think? Maybe the list is a bit of a Rorschach test, too. I’m wondering about her play on discipline and disciple (in Rule 5). So, fellow students and teachers, what does this list mean to you?


Which of these “Rules” speaks to you in this fabulous season of Easter? Do you want to create, and put aside analyzing for later? Do you connect with the intensity of showing up and paying attention? Are you glad to find someone who tells you to read everything—because that is what you want to do anyway? Are you thrilled to follow the leader of light and life? Blessings on all of your creative adventures!

-Anne Emry

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