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10 Rules for Students, Teachers, and Life

10 Rules for Students, Teachers, and Life by John Cage and Sister Corita Kent

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

Buried in various corners of the web is a beautiful and poignant list titled Some Rules for Students and Teachers, attributed to John Cage. The list, however, is the work of the celebrated artist and educator Sister Corita Kent and was created as part of a project for a class she taught in 1967-1968. It was subsequently appropriated as the official art department rules at the college of LA’s Immaculate Heart Convent, her alma mater, but was commonly popularized by Cage, whom the tenth rule cites directly. Legendary choreographer Merce Cunningham, Cage’s longtime partner and the love of his life, kept a copy of it in the studio where his company rehearsed until his death. It appears in Stewart Brand’s cult-classic Essential Whole Earth Catalog, published in 1986, the year Kent passed away.

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: Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail, there’s only make.
Rule 7: 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 8: Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.
Rule 9: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.
Rule 10: “We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.” (John Cage)
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.

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