John Cage > Some rules for students and teachers

John Cage, reading at Harvard University, 1990. Courtesy of the John Cage Trust. Photo by Betty Freeman.

RULE ONE: Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for a while.

RULE TWO: General duties of a student – pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students.

RULE THREE: General duties of a teacher – pull everything out of your students.

Consider everything an experiment.

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 SIX: Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail, there’s only make.

RULE SEVEN: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.

RULE EIGHT: Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.

RULE NINE: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.

RULE TEN: “We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.”

HINTS: Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything – it might come in handy later.

Text and Image reproduced from

The Occasion of poetry/Poetry of the occasion

Stéphane Mallarmé 1842–1898, Carte de Visite

Stéphane Mallarmé
1842–1898, Carte de Visite

“In historiography the prosaic element [lies] especially in the fact that…its actual form ha[s] to appear accompanied in many ways by relative circumstances, clustered with accidents, and sullied by arbitrariness, although the historian ha[s] no right to transform this form of reality which [is] precisely in conformity with what immediately and actually happened. The task of this transformation is one in which poetry is chiefly called if in its material it treads on the ground of historical description. In this case it has to search out the inmost kernel and meaning of an event, an action, a national character, a prominent historical individual, but it has to strip away the accidents that play their part around them, and the indifferent accessories of what happened, the purely relative circumstances and traits of character, and put in their place things through which the inner substance of the thing at issue can clearly shine.” – Hegel, Aesthetics.

Text reproduced from The Poetics of the Occasion: Mallarmé and the Poetry of Circumstance, Sugano, M.Z. Stanford University Press: California 1992, pp.1 Image reproduced from