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CCCC 2013. Las Vegas, and the Miracle of ADHD: A Video Remix

posted: 3.25.13 by Susan Naomi Bernstein

On my recent journey to the Conference on College Composition and Communication 2013 (CCCC) in Las Vegas, Nevada, I could not stop taking pictures. The short version of my experiences is encapsulated—but far from contained—in the  below video I made from my photographs.  ADHD is like that, I have learned—an extreme concentration on capturing ephemeral sense impressions so that the afterimages stay pressed on the heart.

Once I returned to New York, creating the video —my very own Viva Las Vegas, or at least a remixed version— helped me to process those sense impressions. I wanted to remember how I felt in the desert, because the strength of the feeling remains such a significant part of the journey. The video emphasizes the disjunctions and intersections of CCCC and Las Vegas, of bright lights and literacy work.

Yet, as inadequate as words seem to express these impressions, writing also offers poses intriguing possibilities, an endeavor to encapsulate what cannot be easily confined by language. My writing process feels like an attempt to fit a kaleidoscope under a microscope—not unlike Las Vegas itself, hyper-focused and destabilizing in its intensity.

For in Las Vegas, I discovered a surprisingly deep comfort that felt similar to my experiences of midtown Manhattan at rush hour. Flashing lights, people on the run— movement never stops. The miracle of ADHD at such moments is that distraction retreats at last. In its place, I find profound solitude and clear inner focus. In perfect contentment, I can text amid the rush hour crowds or read a book on the steps of the public library on 5th Avenue at 42nd Street as the traffic whizzes past.

So it was in Las Vegas. The brightly colored slot machines and the other never-ending spectacles filled me with joy. My memory of CCCC 2013 is lit by those slot machine lights, by the play of shadows on the black and gold sign of the Riviera wedding chapel, and by vibrant desert light. Indeed the Las Vegas sun proved a welcome respite from an especially gray New York City winter. The desert sunrise illuminated the horizon with oranges and yellows that suffused the sky for hours afterward, drenching the palm fronds by the hotel pool with a sun-washed glow.

And yes—the Conference itself also remains a revelation. My video documents, in part, the Council on Basic Writing (CBW)’s all-day workshop, “Basic Writing and Race: A Symposium,” which featured Victor Villanueva’s keynote address, and “Toward a Political Economy of Basic Writing Programs.”

“Remedial is the wrong word,” Professor Villanueva challenged us. “This isn’t an illness.  Our students are already always rhetorical power players.” His words remind us to envision our classrooms beyond the apparent isolation of our local situations to imagine a more global future.

As the bright lights flood my memory, so too do memories of such encounters with literacy work at CCCC.  The delayed impact of these encounters remains yet another deeply embodied miracle of ADHD: the ability to recreate access to those moments of resilience and hope for our students, the rhetorical power players of Professor Villanueva’s vision. In the video, the CBW Symposium on Basic Writing and Race represents such an encounter. By offering this remix of images and music, I hope to foster future moments for inspiration and regeneration.

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