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My Childhood in a Cult | The New Yorker
"To people who grew up in more ordinary circumstances, my childhood sounds exotic, scandalous, and fascinating. Cults are fascinating—but one thing the Manson Family and the Lyman Family have in common is the banality of daily life inside these worlds. If you live in a large group of people, there are always dishes to wash and heaps of laundry to hang up to dry. The travel plans for Venus took place against a backdrop of these everyday chores. As I like to say when I tell people about my background, “It wasn’t all acid and orgies.” (Acid was used by adults, as a tool for spiritual growth. To my knowledge, there were no orgies.) What I don’t always say is that I also had a happy childhood, or, anyway, parts of one. The young Family members sang together almost every day as we harvested strawberries or corn—Woody Guthrie songs, or folk songs like “Down in the Valley.” We foraged in the woods for morel mushrooms. Fishing was big, and every time an adult caught a bluefish or a bass I pasted one of the scales in my diary. We had dogs, goats, cows, chickens, a Shetland pony named Stardust, and a cockatiel named Charles. Older kids read younger kids stories before bed—“The Chronicles of Narnia,” “A Wrinkle in Time”—and we fell asleep in piles, three or four to a bed.

Even the mystical stuff had a mundane quality for those of us who didn’t know anything else. The Ouija board, for instance, was a regular part of our lives. Shelves were lined with notebooks containing transcriptions of the conversations adults had had with various spirits. We kids were allowed to talk to only one spirit, Faedra, and sometimes after dinner we’d gather around the board to summon her. The Ouija board was hand carved, the woodgrain beautifully polished, the pointer covered in purple velvet. Only the older kids were allowed to ask questions, and our eyes would be glued to the pointer as it slid over the smooth surface, gaining momentum, the low swish of felt on wood the only sound as we held our breath for answers. One night, one of the questions was “What does Guinevere need to learn?” The answer came back that I was a lazy little girl. After that, I cleaned every ashtray in the compound for weeks, ashamed but also secretly thrilled that Faedra even knew who I was.

It might make sense, then, that when I was told I had to leave the Family, in 1979, I begged to stay, tears streaming down my face. That night, August 25th, I wrote in my diary, “I am totally stunned and heartbroken. I am speechless. . . . I can’t live away from everything I love. I can’t sleep tonight, nothing. . . . But I swear to god I am coming back and I will be the same person. I will fight the world and get back where I belong.” Even now, it’s hard for me to write about the Lyman Family. It’s been four decades since I begged to stay, and I still care what they think."



"Then came a new frontier: school. I was nervous (because, you know, the soul thing). But I was excited, too. Accustomed to being surrounded by dozens of kids my own age, I had been cooped up in my grandmother’s house for two months. I was dying for people. I was wearing green velour bell-bottoms and a blouse with big purple flowers on it, both prized items I had sewn myself. My hair hung down to the small of my back, and I brushed it until it shone."



"Years later, when I visited the Lyman Family’s compound on Martha’s Vineyard, I noticed how everyone I grew up with looked into one another’s eyes, always. It all seemed perfectly normal again.

I was eighteen at the time. I had been out in the world for six years. In high school, I had effectively erased any signs of my childhood—I didn’t talk about it, and that made life so much simpler. A year after I left the Family, one of the more powerful adults had written me a letter. “I want you to know that you are always welcome here and that everyone misses you,” it said. A letter I received a few weeks later explained, “We work at it, striving for inner consciousness, self development on the inside instead of the outside. This life we live is not for everyone, only if you have Mel inside of you. ” When I was about to go off to college, I wrote to the Lyman Family to ask if I could visit before I went. The members welcomed me warmly, and I spent a glorious few days there. Slowly, people in the Family encouraged me to stay with them instead of going to college: this was home, they said, where I belonged. I did feel as if I were home, and, after a day or two, I thought I might not go to college after all. These people really knew me. They looked into my eyes."



"I went off to Sarah Lawrence, where I discovered that an ironic inversion had taken place. When I was in high school, I effectively erased my past; at college, my background became a valuable commodity. Everyone there tried to outdo one another with his or her wild backstories. Mine inevitably won. When people asked me where I was from and I grew circumspect, my best friend would egg me on: “Tell them about the Moonies! Tell them about the Moonies!” He couldn’t wait to see their reaction to my stories."



"For the cult members who’ve survived over the decades, it’s possible that the ideals they started with have given way to the demands of their daily lives, to the buffeting effects of the larger culture, to the familiarity of routine. Or maybe they just haven’t been found out.

There will always be people in search of what cults have to offer—structure, solidarity, a kind of hope. In the back yard of our Los Angeles compound, the adults built a wooden pyramid, big enough to hold about twenty kids, small stilts raising it a few feet off the ground. The smell of blooming jasmine surrounded us as we climbed into it at night, sat cross-legged in a circle, and sang one note all together. We would do this for hours. There were skylights in the ceiling, and we stared up at the stars as we sang. I loved those moments, holding on to the note until I thought my lungs would burst, then taking a deep breath and starting again. It felt as if we were one being, and we were proud of that. Most of all, we hoped that the spaceships could hear us, and that they would be summoned at last."
childhood  cults  belief  school  schooling  identity  2019  children  guinevereturner 
19 days ago by robertogreco
Reality — Still Processing — Overcast
"What’s real anymore?"

"We now live in an era where people can choose to believe whatever they want to believe, regardless of proof or evidence. From the Laquan McDonald trial to the film “Green Book” to R. Kelly’s song “I Believe I Can Fly” to the Nick Sandmann/Nathan Phillips encounter at the Lincoln Memorial, we wrestle with the ways that reality is contested, both personally and politically.

Discussed this week:

• "Jason Van Dyke Sentenced to Nearly 7 Years for Murdering Laquan McDonald" (Mitch Smith and Julie Bosman, The New York Times, Jan. 18, 2019) https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/18/us/jason-van-dyke-sentencing.html
• "Who is America?" (Showtime, 2018) https://www.sho.com/who-is-america
• "Green Book" (directed by Peter Farrelly, 2018) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6966692/
• "Why Do the Oscars Keep Falling for Racial Reconciliation Fantasies?" (Wesley Morris, The New York Times, Jan. 23, 2019) https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/23/arts/green-book-interracial-friendship.html
• "Surviving R. Kelly" (Lifetime, 2019) https://www.mylifetime.com/shows/surviving-r-kelly
• The Nick Sandmann/Nathan Phillips encounter at the Lincoln Memorial (Jan. 25, 2019) https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/20/us/nathan-phillips-covington.html "

[Also here:
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/31/podcasts/still-processing-reality-green-book-r-kelly.html
https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/the-new-york-times/still-processing/e/58489768
https://player.fm/series/still-processing-1785512/reality ]
jennawortham  wesleymorris  reality  perception  belief  2019  canon 
february 2019 by robertogreco
DAVID GRAEBER / The Revolt of the Caring Classes / 2018 - YouTube
"The financialisation of major economies since the '80s has radically changed the terms for social movements everywhere. How does one organise workplaces, for example, in societies where up to 40% of the workforce believe their jobs should not exist? David Graeber makes the case that, slowly but surely, a new form of class politics is emerging, based around recognising the centrality of meaningful 'caring labour' in creating social value. He identifies a slowly emerging rebellion of the caring classes which potentially represents just as much of a threat to financial capitalism as earlier forms of proletarian struggle did to industrial capitalism.

David Graeber is Professor of Anthropology, London School of Economics and previously Assistant Professor and Associate Professor of Anthropology at Yale and Reader in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. His books include The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy (2015) Debt: The First 5000 Years (2011) and Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (2004). His activism includes protests against the 3rd Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in 2001, and the 2002 World Economic Forum in New York City. Graeber was a leading figure in the Occupy Wall Street movement, and is sometimes credited with having coined the slogan, 'We are the 99 percent'.

This lecture was given at the Collège de France on the 22nd March 2018."
davidgraeber  care  caring  teaching  nursing  economics  capitalism  labor  work  employment  compensation  resentment  bullshitjobs  finance  politics  policy  us  uk  workingclass  intellectuals  intellectualism  society  manufacturing  management  jobs  liberalism  values  benefits  nobility  truth  beauty  charity  nonprofit  highered  highereducation  activism  humanrights  os  occupywallstreet  opportunity  revolution  revolt  hollywood  military  misery  productivity  creation  creativity  maintenance  gender  production  reproduction  socialsciences  proletariat  wagelabor  wage  salaries  religion  belief  discipline  maintstreamleft  hospitals  freedom  play  teachers  parenting  mothers  education  learning  unions  consumption  anarchism  spontaneity  universalbasicincome  nonprofits  ubi 
may 2018 by robertogreco
OCCULTURE: 52. John Michael Greer in “The Polymath” // Druidry, Storytelling & the History of the Occult
"The best beard in occultism, John Michael Greer, is in the house. We’re talking “The Occult Book”, a collection of 100 of the most important stories and anecdotes from the history of the occult in western society. We also touch on the subject of storytelling as well as some other recent material from John, including his book “The Coelbren Alphabet: The Forgotten Oracle of the Welsh Bards” and his translation of a neat little number called “Academy of the Sword”."



"What you contemplate [too much] you imitate." [Uses the example of atheists contemplating religious fundamentalists and how the atheists begin acting like them.] "People always become what they hate. That’s why it's not good idea to wallow in hate."
2017  johnmichaelgreer  druidry  craft  druids  polymaths  autodidacts  learning  occulture  occult  ryanpeverly  celts  druidrevival  history  spirituality  thedivine  nature  belief  dogma  animism  practice  life  living  myths  mythology  stories  storytelling  wisdom  writing  howwewrite  editing  writersblock  criticism  writer'sblock  self-criticism  creativity  schools  schooling  television  tv  coelbrenalphabet  1980s  ronaldreagan  sustainability  environment  us  politics  lies  margaretthatcher  oraltradition  books  reading  howweread  howwelearn  unschooling  deschooling  facetime  social  socializing  cardgames  humans  human  humanism  work  labor  boredom  economics  society  suffering  misery  trapped  progress  socialmedia  computing  smarthphones  bullshitjobs  shinto  talismans  amulets  sex  christianity  religion  atheism  scientism  mainstream  counterculture  magic  materialism  enlightenment  delusion  judgement  contemplation  imitation  fundamentalism  hate  knowledge 
february 2018 by robertogreco
OCCULTURE: 66. Gordon White in “Breaking Kayfabe” // Ursula Le Guin, Dragons & the Story Shape of the 21st Century
"If ya hit the ol’ play button on this one, it’s probably because of the name in the title. Gordon White is in the house. Mr. White as he’s known in the metafiction that is our current cultural narrative. But Mr. White is no reservoir dog in this story. He’s the Humphrey Bogart of High Magic, the main mage behind the oh-so-popular Rune Soup blog and podcast. You’ve read it, you’ve heard it. And if ya haven’t, well, you’re in for quite the trip on this here starship.

Gordon’s mind is a cabinet of curiosities and we pull out quite a bit of them here, including how we can rearrange our reality, the magic of fiction, artistic impulses, Game of Thrones, a game of tomes, and if ya ever wanted to hear Gordon White speak in pro wrestling terminology, well, there’s a bit of that too.

So let’s do this damn thing already and cast this pod off deep into the primordial chaos, where the protocols of the elder scrolls read more like a legend on a map of Middle Earth than they do a plan of global domination."
gordonwhite  fiction  fantasy  novels  art  makingart  magic  myth  mythology  belief  creativity  ryanpeverly  nonfiction  stories  storytelling  change  homer  bible  truth  ursulaleguin  2018  occulture  westernthought  carljung  josephcampbell  starwars  culture  biology  nature  reality  heroesjourney  potency  archetypes  dragons  odyssey  anthropology  ernestodimartino  religion  christianity  flow  taoism  artmagic  artasmagic  magicofart  permaculture  plants  housemagic  love  death 
february 2018 by robertogreco
OCCULTURE: 67. Carl Abrahamsson & Mitch Horowitz in “Occulture (Meta)” // Anton LaVey, Real Magic & the Nature of the Mind
"Look, I’m not gonna lie to you - we have a pretty badass show this time around. Carl Abrahamsson and Mitch Horowitz are in the house.

Carl Abrahamsson is a Swedish freelance writer, lecturer, filmmaker and photographer specializing in material about the arts & entertainment, esoteric history and occulture. Carl is the author of several books, including a forthcoming title from Inner Traditions called Occulture: The Unseen Forces That Drive Culture Forward.

Mitch Horowitz is the author of One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life; Occult America, which received the 2010 PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award for literary excellence; and Mind As Builder: The Positive-Mind Metaphysics of Edgar Cayce. Mitch has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Salon, Time.com, and Politico. Mitch is currently in the midst of publishing a series of articles on Medium called "Real Magic".

And it is that series paired with Carl’s book that lays the foundation for our conversation here."
carlabrahamsson  mitchhorowitz  occult  culture  occulture  magic  belief  mind  ouijaboard  astrology  mindfulness  buddhism  religion  academia  antonlavey  materialism  mainstream  intellectualism  elitism  mindbodyspirit  2018  esotericism  authority  norms  nuance  change  enlightenment  popculture  science  humanities  socialsciences  medicine  conservatism  churches  newage  cosmology  migration  california  hippies  meaning  psychology  siliconvalley  ingenuity  human  humans  humannature  spirituality  openmindedness  nature  urbanization  urban  nyc  us  society  santería  vodou  voodoo  voudoun  climate  light  davidlynch  innovation  population  environment  meaningmaking  mikenesmith  californianideology  thought  thinking  philosophy  hoodoo  blackmetal  norway  beauty  survival  wholeperson  churchofsatan  satanism  agency  ambition  mysticism  self  stories  storytelling  mythology  humanism  beinghuman  surrealism  cv  repetition  radicalism  myths  history  renaissance  fiction  fantasy  reenchantment  counterculture  consciousness  highered  highereducation  cynicism  inquiry  realitytele 
february 2018 by robertogreco
How storybook lessons impart scholastic success | University of California
"The lessons from childhood storybooks are decidedly different in China and the United States, and align with the lessons the respective countries impart in the classroom, UC Riverside research finds.

There is a widely held perception — and some research to affirm it — that East Asian schools outperform schools in North America. A recent study published by UC Riverside psychologist Cecilia Cheung skirts the link between storybooks and school performance, but asserts that the lessons taught in Chinese schools could start early.

“The values that are commonly conveyed in Chinese (vs. U.S.) storybooks include an orientation toward achievement, respect for others — particularly the elderly — humility, and the importance of enduring hardship,” Cheung said. “In the U.S. storybooks, protagonists are often portrayed as having unique interest and strength in a certain domain, and the themes tend to be uplifting.”

For her study, published in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, Cheung compared storybooks in the U.S. and Mexico with those in China.

She chose 380 storybooks recommended by education ministries in the respective countries, for children aged 3 to 11. The study considered three core aspects of learning-related qualities: beliefs (views about the nature of intelligence), motivated cognitions (achievement, determination), and behaviors (effort, overcoming obstacles).

Charming stories with divergent values

A representative Chinese storybook is “A Cat That Eats Letters.” In the book, a cat has an appetite for sloppy letters. Whenever children write a letter that is too large, too small, too slanted, or with missing strokes, the cat eats the letters. The only way to stop this runaway letter-eating is for the children to write carefully, and to practice every day. This leads to a hungry cat, because the children have all become skilled writers. (Not to fear, the compassionate children then intentionally write some sloppy letters to feed the cat).

A more typical U.S.-Mexico storybook formula is represented by “The Jar of Happiness,” in which a little girl attempts to make a potion of happiness in a jar, then loses the jar. The happy ending comes courtesy of the girl’s realization that happiness doesn’t come from a jar, but rather from good friends – including those who will cheer her up when she loses a jar.

To a large extent, Cheung and her team found the Chinese storybooks celebrated the behaviors associated with learning and hard work. Somewhat to their surprise, they found U.S. and Mexican storybooks had a shared emphasis on self-esteem and social competence.

Past studies have affirmed the important role of parents in children’s scholastic achievement, Cheung said. But few have considered the role of “cultural artifacts,” such as storybooks.

Cheung argues that storybooks play a key role in establishing the values that can help determine scholastic success. Referencing past research, Cheung said it is “conceivable that exposure to reading materials that highlight the importance of learning-related qualities, such as effort and perseverance, may lead children to value such qualities to a greater extent.”

Cheung was joined in the research by UC Riverside graduate students Jorge A. Monroy and Danielle E. Delany. Funding was provided from the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States."
us  mexico  china  stories  children  classideas  education  parenting  society  culture  2018  ceciliacheung  achievement  humility  respect  belief  beliefs  motivation  behavior  literature  childrensbooks  learning  hardwork  competence  self-esteem  books  storybooks  effort  perseverance  schools  schoolperformance  comparison  intelligence  determination  sfsh  happiness  socialcompetence  childrensliterature 
january 2018 by robertogreco
stabra (I am writing you from the future to remind you to...)
"I am writing you from the future to remind you to act on your belief, to live your life as a tribute to our victory and not as a stifling reaction to the past… We have the world we deserve and we acknowledge everyday that we make it what it is… We shifted the paradigm. We rewrote the meaning of life with our living. And this is how we did it… We let go. And then we got scared and held on and then we let go again. Of everything that would shackle us to sameness."

Alexis Pauline Gumbs, “Evidence,” Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements
vi:fantasylla  alexispaulinegumbs  socialjustice  utopia  resistance  life  living  change  changemaking  belief  history  sameness  difference  reality  revolution  activism 
january 2018 by robertogreco
My Grandmother’s Shroud - The New York Times
"When my grandmother, my mother’s mother, died in late June in Nigeria, I was in Italy, at a conference. I wasn’t with her when she slipped into a coma or, three days later, when she died. When my brother told me the news, I called my mother and other members of my family to commiserate with them. She was buried the day of her death, in keeping with Muslim custom, and I couldn’t attend her funeral. My mother, visiting friends in Houston, would also miss the funeral.

I opened my computer and began to search my folders for pictures of my grandmother. On each yearly trip to Nigeria for the past several years, I went to see her in Sagamu, a town an hour northeast of Lagos, where she was born and where she lived for most of her life. On these visits, she would say: ‘‘Sit next to me. I want to feel your hands in mine. Be close to me. I want your skin touching mine.’’ I was always happy to sit with her and to hold hands with her. Afterward, I took photos. I have photos now of her alone, in selfies with me, in the company of my mother and my aunts. In these photos, she has surprisingly smooth skin, hardly any gray hair and, in most of them, a trace of amusement. In one, especially touching photo, my wife, Karen, applies polish to her nails.

To remain close to our dead, we cherish images of them. We’ve done so for millenniums. Think of the Fayum portraits, which show us the faces of Egyptians during the Imperial Roman era with stunning immediacy. Images — paintings, sculptures, photographs — remind us how our loved ones looked in life. But in most places and at most times, portraiture was available only to society’s elites. Photography changed that. Almost everyone is now captured in photographs — and outlived by them. Photographs are there when people pass away. They serve as reservoirs of memory and as talismans for mourning.

My grandmother was born in 1928. Her given name was Abusatu, but we called her Mama. Mama’s father, Yusuf, was a stern imam in Sagamu, and Yusuf’s father, Salako, was said to have been even more severe. But Mama herself was serene and good-natured, kind and tolerant. She was deeply consoled by her religion but not doctrinaire. Of her five daughters, two (including her firstborn, my mother) married Christians and converted to Christianity. It made no difference to Mama. The family had Muslims, Christians and some, like myself, who drifted away from religion entirely. Mama loved us all. An example of her unobtrusive kindness: While I was a college student in the United States, she sent me a white hand-woven cotton blanket. I never knew why and didn’t ask. But it is to this day the most precious piece of cloth I own.

I was leaving Rome when I received the sad news of Mama’s death. She was approaching 89. The end came swiftly, and she was surrounded by family. You could say it was a good death. But why couldn’t she have lived to 99, or to 109, or forever? Death makes us protest the fact of death. It makes us wish for the impossible. I could objectively understand that it was unusual to have had a grandmother in my 40s, and that my 67-year-old mother was equally fortunate in having had a mother so long. My father was 5 when his mother died, and he has been mourning her for longer than my mother has been alive. But the grieving heart does not care for logic, and it refuses comparisons. I mourned Mama as I left Italy for New York.

I mourned her but did not, or was not able to, weep. I arrived in New York in the late afternoon, perhaps at the very moment Mama was being interred. My mother had forwarded a couple of photos taken by my cousin Adedoyin to my wife’s WhatsApp. Karen reached for her phone and showed me the pictures. They were a shock. One was of Mama, dead on her hospital bed, wearing a flowery nightdress and draped in a second flowery cloth, the oxygen tube still taped to her nostrils. Her right arm was limp at her side, and she was not quite like someone asleep but rather like someone passed out, open and vulnerable. The other photograph, which seemed to have been cropped, showed a figure wrapped in a shroud, tied up with white twine, set out on a bed in front of a framed portrait: a white bundle in vaguely human shape where my grandmother used to be. I burst into sudden hot tears.

What did these photographs open? Imagination can be delicate, imposing a protective decorum. A photograph insists on raw fact and confronts us with what we were perhaps avoiding. There she is, my dear Mama, helpless on the hospital bed, and I cannot help her. Days later, I would find out from my mother that in this first photograph, Mama was still in a coma and not dead yet. But looking at the second photograph, the one in which she is incontrovertibly dead, my thoughts raced through a grim logic. I thought: Why have they wrapped her face up? Then I thought: It must be stifling under that thing, she won’t be able to breathe! Then I thought: She’s dead and will never breathe again. Then my tears flowed.

Mama’s life was hard. An itinerant trader of kola nut and later the owner of a small provisions shop, she was one of my late grandfather’s five wives and by no means the best treated. She never went to school, and the only word she could write was her name, sometimes with the ‘‘s’’ reversed. But when Baba died more than 20 years ago, Mama moved out of his house and lived in the two-story house that my mother built her. She was a women’s leader, a kind of deaconess, at the local mosque. She went to parties, to market and to evening prayers. She lived in the security of her own house, in the company of her widowed second daughter, my aunt. In those later years, life became easier.

‘‘She has a single obsession,’’ my mother used to say, ‘‘and that’s her burial rites.’’ Mama insisted that she be buried the same day she died. ‘‘She’ll say, ‘And I must not be buried at the house,’ ’’ my mother said, ‘‘ ‘Because what’s rotten must be thrown out. And for seven days, food must be cooked and taken to the mosque and served to the poor.’ ’’ And most important, my mother said, Mama would reiterate that in a cupboard in the room next to the meeting room in her house was her robe, the one she must be buried in. It was of utmost importance to her to meet her maker wearing the robe with which she approached the Kaaba, the holiest shrine in Islam.

The hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, which she undertook in 1996, when she was 68, transfigured my grandmother. Through that journey, through her accomplishment of one of the central tenets of Islam, she sloughed off her old life and took on a new one, one that put her into a precise relationship with eternity. The year of her journey, thousands of Nigerian pilgrims were turned back, because of meningitis and cholera outbreaks. My grandmother was one of a few hundred who got through. When she returned from Mecca, many of her townspeople took to calling her ‘‘Alhaja Lucky.’’ And as though to fit the name, she wore the serene mien of someone who was under special protection.

My mother, an Anglican Christian, financed the journey, knowing what it would mean to her mother to fulfill this final pillar of the faith. But possibly, she had no idea how much it would mean. She anticipated the social satisfaction Mama would get from it but had not counted on the serious existential confirmation it provided.

In the last few years, I often thought of Mama’s pilgrimage robe. I thought about how fortunate she was to have something in her possession so sacred to her, something of such surpassing worth, that she wished to have it on when she met God. And she had her wish: Beneath the plain white shroud in which she was sheathed after she died was that simple pilgrimage robe.

I look at the various photographs from Alhaja Lucky’s last years on my computer. None of them really satisfy me. Many are blurry, most are banal. I really like only the ones of her hands: They remind me of her wish to have her hands touched by mine. But the photograph I cannot stop thinking about is the one Adedoyin took, of Mama in her funeral shroud. The image reminds me of newspaper photos of funerals in troubled zones in the Middle East: an angry crowd, a shrouded body held aloft. But Mama was not a victim of violence. She died peacefully, well past the age of 88, surrounded by family.

Nevertheless, the custom is connected. It is a reminder that the word ‘‘Muslim’’ — so much a part of current American political argument, and so often meant as a slur — is not and has never been an abstraction, not for me, and certainly not for millions of Americans for whom it is a lived reality or a fact of family. A lead headline in The New York Times just a few days after Mama’s burial read: ‘‘Travel Ban Says Grandparents Don’t Count as ‘Close Family.’ ’’ The headline was about travel restrictions on visitors from six predominantly Muslim countries. Nigeria was not on the list, but the cruelty and absurdity of the policy was vivid. It felt personal.

On the night of Mama’s burial, I lay down to sleep in my apartment in Brooklyn. I couldn’t shake the image of my cousin’s photograph. I went into the closet and took out the white cotton blanket Mama sent me all those years ago. It was a hot night, high summer. I draped the blanket over my body. In the darkness, I pulled the blanket slowly past my shoulders, past my chin, over my face, until I was entirely covered by it, until I was covered by Mama."
2017  tejucole  photography  death  memory  nigeria  aging  relationships  hajj  islam  purpose  grief  mourning  grieving  customs  objects  textiles  immigration  us  policy  connection  families  tolerance  religion  acceptance  mecca  eternity  belief  spirituality  burial  life  living  change  transformation  talismans 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Cassandra Plays the Stock Market | Quiet Babylon
"I imagined her playing the stock market. She starts buying dot-coms in 1994 and gets out in 2000. She sees the housing crisis from miles away and has sold all her subprime holding by early 2008.

But her story is a tragedy, so then I imagined her getting put away for insider trading. They don’t have any solid evidence, but no one believes her defence and the jury becomes certain she’s guilty. She’s the only person punished for the collapse of the banking system. Thankfully, it’s a white collar crime so pretty soon, she gets out. She’s like Martha Stewart.

I feel like I know a lot of people who kind of see themselves as a Cassandra. I feel that way sometimes, myself. We look at the world, we notice a lot of obviously terrible decisions that people and institutions are making, we point out that things won’t go well, no one listens to us, and then things don’t go well. We console ourselves that we’d seen it coming. It’s kind of a romantic feeling. You feel like you’re smarter than most people.

I was talking to my wife Pamela about all this and she gently pointed out that in my white-collar retelling, I’d missed the whole point of the Cassandra myth. In the story, things don’t go at all well for Cassandra. Her city burns. She is assaulted and kidnapped and eventually killed by the invaders. Cassandra doesn’t get to insulate herself from the worst of it. She suffers the consequences along with everyone else.

She is bound to the fate of her people. As we are bound to the fate of ours.

It’s not good enough to be right.

A funny thing has happened in my professional circles since the election.

In the wake of these terrible events, pretty much all of my colleagues have discovered the renewed importance of whatever it is we were working on in the first place. I, of course, have discovered the renewed importance of understanding the role of fiction and speculation in shaping the future of the world. I think we should be suspicious about this.

At the place where I work — a university — there has been a particular renewal in talking about how important it is that we teach everyone more critical thinking. The feeling is that the outcome of this election is the result of people being duped, and that if they’d had better critical thinking skills, that people would have been somehow inoculated against the bad ideas, and better able to think for themselves (and vote the way we thought they should).

I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit hanging around the online communities of the kind of people we are worried about reaching here, and I am here to tell you: They are using their critical thinking skills.

They are fully literate in concepts like bias and in the importance of interrogating sources. They believe very much in the power of persuasion and the dangers in propaganda and a great many of them believe that we are the ones who have been behaving uncritically and who have been duped. They think that we are the unbelieving victims of fraud.

Which is not to set up some kind of false equivalency between sides. But I do want us to consider the possibility that we don’t need to talk across that barrier, and that it might not be possible to talk across it. That we need to consider that if it’s true that vast swaths of the voting populace are unbelieving victims of fraud, that there’s not much we can do for them. That we may need instead to work to invigorate our allies, discourage our enemies, and save the persuasion for people right on the edge.

But, again, I’m saying all of this to you as someone who has not figured this out."
timmaly  future  futurism  speculation  cassandra  2017  fraud  kazysvarnelis  robertsumrell  gigurdjieff  belief  criticalthinking  allies  persuasion  speculativefutures  predictions 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Half-Full of Grace - Los Angeles Review of Books
"“You don’t have to like it. You just have to go,” I tell my five-year-old kid every Sunday when she complains about going to church. Every Sunday, even though she would prefer to stare at my smartphone, I make her go anyway.

Even though my smartphone is extremely wonderful.

Even though our religion — like all religions — has been responsible for terrible things.

Even though I often find the whole thing nutty and tacky, like a theme restaurant or the kind of museum you visit on a road trip.

Even though, when I was a kid and was similarly dragged by my mom, I was convinced — convinced — that I would never go again of my own free will.

Every Sunday, we go.

This is my attempt to explain why.

¤
“If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him.”
– James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

I live in Los Angeles. I am a screenwriter.

Being a screenwriter in Los Angeles is like being on a perpetual second date with everyone you know. You strive to be your most charming, delightful, quirky-but-not-damaged self because you never know what will come of the encounter. Maybe it’s just a coffee. Maybe it’s the coffee that leads to a job. Maybe it’s the job that leads to a series. Maybe you’ll get career-married and make career-babies. Who knows! So, you wear flattering jeans and an expensive, casual shirt, and you smile.

This is not such a bad life. Compared to other lives that I have lived, it is, frankly, an awesome one. I am very, very happy being a screenwriter in Los Angeles, particularly in the current age of Peak TV. It’s a marvelous gig that I am grateful for.

But being on a perpetual second date can get exhausting. Constantly feeling that you should be meeting people, impressing people, shocking people (just the right amount) is a strange way to live your life. And one of the reasons that I go to church is that church is the opposite of that.

I do not impress anyone at church. I do not say anything surprising or charming, because the things I say are rote responses that someone else decided on centuries ago. I am not special at church, and this is the point. Because (according to the ridiculous, generous, imperfectly applied rules of my religion) we are all equally beloved children of God. We are all exactly the same amount of special. The things that I feel proud of can’t help me here, and the things that I feel embarrassed by are beside the point. I’m a person but, for 60 minutes, I’m not a personality.

Another thing that I value: When I go to church in Los Angeles, I am a white person in a majority nonwhite space. In a city that’s an oxymoronic 70 percent minority, that shouldn’t be a special occurrence, but it is. Even more special is that I have come with no particular agenda. I have not come to teach or volunteer or try a new (to me) cuisine or inhabit a new (to me) neighborhood. I have not even come to act as an “ally.” I have come to sit next to people, well aware of all we don’t have in common, and face together in the same direction. Halfway through church, I turn to the congregants next to me and share the peace. I wish that they experience peace in their lives. That’s it. They wish the same for me. Our words are identical. Our need for peace is infinite.

Church is a group of broken individuals united only by our brokenness traveling together to ask to be fixed. It’s like a subway car. It’s like the DMV. It’s like The Wizard of Oz: we are each missing something, and there is a man in a flowing robe whom we trust to hand that something over.

(And I know — I know — that the problem with this metaphor is that, in The Wizard of Oz, there wasn’t actually anyone with magical powers behind the curtain. I get it.)

But church is not just about how I feel or whom I’m surrounded by. It’s about faith. This part is harder for me to explain.

¤
“You pray for the hungry, then you feed them. That’s how prayer works.”
– Pope Francis (at least, according to Pinterest)

I like being Catholic because long ago, people who were smarter than me and thought about it much longer than I have time to figured out what I’m supposed to believe. All I have to do is show up and recite a long list that starts with “I believe” and ends with the title of a Mountain Goats album. Whether I actually believe all the stuff about Jesus and Mary and Light from Light, true God from true God varies. Most of the time, I do, I think. Sometimes I don’t.

The single most annoying thing a nonreligious person can say, in my opinion, isn’t that religion is oppressive or that religious people are brainwashed. It’s the kind, patronizing way that nonreligious people have of saying, “You know, sometimes I wish I were religious. I wish I could have that certainty. It just seems so comforting never to doubt things.”

Well, sometimes I wish I had the certainty of an atheist. I wish I could be positive that there was no God and that Sundays were for brunch. That dead people stayed dead and prayer was useless and Jesus was nothing more than a really great teacher.

But I believe too much, at least sometimes, to be certain about that. Sometimes I feel like I believe almost everything the church teaches and sometimes I feel like I believe almost nothing, but if I’m anywhere from one to 99 percent on the belief scale, my response is the same. If it’s more than zero, I should go to church.

I do not find religion to be comforting in the way that I think nonreligious people mean it. I do not believe that everything in my life will necessarily be all right and I certainly do not believe that everything happens for a reason. I believe that whatever kind of God exists is the kind of God who can’t or won’t interfere every time humans decide to do horrible things to each other, because humans are clearly doing terrible things to each other every day and show very few signs of stopping.

It is not comforting to know quite as much as I do about how weaselly and weak-willed I am when it comes to being as generous as Jesus demands. Thanks to church, I have a much stronger sense of the sort of person I would like to be, and I am forced to confront all the ways in which I fail, daily. Nothing promotes self-awareness like turning down an opportunity to bring children to visit their incarcerated parents. Or avoiding shifts at the food bank. Or calculating just how much I will put in the collection basket. Thanks to church, I have looked deeply into my own heart and found it to be of merely small-to-medium size. None of this is particularly comforting.

Which is not to say there aren’t parts of church that are comforting. It is comforting, for instance, to sing songs in a group. Singing alongside other people is a basic human pleasure that extends back across time and culture, and it’s a shame to me that many adult Americans only experience it before baseball games. The songs that we sing in church are many of the same post-Vatican II songs I grew up singing. They sound like they should be on Sesame Street circa 1970, and I unabashedly adore them. It is comforting to loudly sing something that has little to no redeeming aesthetic value.

It is comforting to pray. Even without full knowledge or understanding of how the prayer will be received, it is comforting to offer up one’s wishes for the world. In a time of stress and anxiety and distrust, it is comforting to be direct about what a possible alternative would look like. Someone leads the prayers every week at church and the kinds of things we pray for are both straightforward (an end to the death penalty; a living wage for all workers; safe homes for refugees; care for the planet and its climate) and very difficult to achieve, which makes them ideal subjects for prayer.

When I think about any of these things outside of church, my blood pressure skyrockets and I go into a mild panic attack. When I pray about them in church, I feel like I am doing a tiny bit to help.
Thought about with even a smidgen of rationality, prayer makes no sense. If you asked me point blank what I believe about how God picks and chooses among petitions ranging from new sneakers to the stopping of genocide, I would stammer incoherently. I would tell you, I suppose, that God has some sort of triage system that I can’t figure out, but also that anyone who wants to should pray for anything they want — why not? It seems presumptuous to self-censor our prayers for fear they are not worthy of His time. If anyone is able to structure His time efficiently, it ought to be God.

I would also tell you that, when facing a medical difficulty in one of my pregnancies to which doctors responded, “wait and see,” I asked the priest at church to put his hands on my belly and pray. I would tell you that my best friend asked her church in Indiana to pray for my pregnancy, too, and the thought of a bunch of people sending their wishes for my potential child into the air still moves me more than I know what to do with.

I don’t know if the feeling I get when I think about this is God.

I do know that I want it to be.

¤
“We say
pinhole.
A pin hole
of light. We
can’t imagine
how bright
more of it
could be,
the way
this much
defeats night.
It almost
isn’t fair,
whoever
poked this,
with such
a small act
to vanquish
blackness.”
– Kay Ryan, “Pinhole”

Church isn’t an escape from the world. It’s a continuation of it. My family and I don’t go to church to deny the existence of the darkness. We to go to look so hard at the light that our eyes water."
dorothyfortenberry  religion  belief  tradition  ritual  2017  church  catholicism  jamesbaldwin  popefrancisescape  existence  life  living 
june 2017 by robertogreco
Second Sight - The New Yorker
"Movement in the margins is not enough. Regularity becomes invisible. You switch up the moves, you introduce irregularity, in order to maintain visibility."



"The neurons in the visual system adapt to the stimulus, and redirect their attention."



"Years later, I lost faith. One form of binocular vision gave way to another. The world was now a series of interleaved apparitions. The thing was an image that could also bear an image. If one of the advantages of irreligion was an acceptance of others, that benefit was strangely echoed in the visual plane, which granted the things seen within the photographic rectangle a radical equality. This in part was why signs, pictures, ads, and murals came to mean so much: they were neither more nor less than the “real” elements by which they were framed. They were not to be excluded, nor were the spaces between things. “We see the world”: this simple statement becomes (Merleau-Ponty has also noted this) a tangled tree of meanings. Which world? See how? We who? Once absolute faith is no longer possible, perception moves forward on a case-by-case basis. The very contingency and brevity of vision become the long-sought miracle."



"The stage is set. Things seem to be prepared in advance for cameos, and even the sun is rigged like the expert lighting of a technician. The boundary between things and props is now dissolved, and the images of things have become things themselves."



"The body has to adjust to the environment, to the challenges in the environment. The body isn’t wrong, isn’t “disabled.” The environment itself—gravity, air, solidity or the lack of it, et cetera—is what is somehow wrong: ill-matched to the body’s abilities, inimical to its verticality, stability, or mobility."



"I rest at a concrete outcrop with a bunting of vintners’ blue nets, a blue the same color as the lake. It is as though something long awaited has come to fruition. A gust of wind sweeps in from across the lake. The curtain shifts, and suddenly everything can be seen. The scales fall from our eyes. The landscape opens. No longer are we alone: they are with us now, have been all along, all our living and all our dead."
tejucole  2017  margins  edges  attention  regularity  everyday  irregularity  visibility  invisibility  acceptance  belief  vision  photography  borders  liminalspaces  perception  brevity  ephemerality  adjustment  adaptability  disability  stability  mobility  verticality  body  bodies  contingency  sign  pictures  ads  images  advertising  between  betweenness  stimuli  liminality  ephemeral  disabilities 
june 2017 by robertogreco
Mookie Wilson’s Logic About Getting Out Of A Slump By Believing In Dinosaurs Is The Best Advice Ever Given - Barstool Sports
"So this picture went viral yesterday and is Exhibit A of why Mookie is so beloved, even if the entire article was a top notch parody. Mookie wasn’t the best player on the Mets but he was always happy and his name was Mookie. You have to be a real asshole (or racist) to dislike a guy named Mookie that is always happy. Whenever I have a bad blog day (which is probably even more common than I’d like to admit), I’m just gonna say I believe in dinosaurs, they believe in me, and then the dick jokes and dated pop culture references will start flowing no problem.

And if you are a hater that wants to poke logic in that quote, save your breath because it’s impossible to disprove. Either you don’t believe in dinosaurs like a weirdo (or Carl Everett). Or you believe in dinosaurs because you have a brain and they are awesome, which means they believe in you, and in turn anything is possibllllllllle."

[See also:
"Here's the full article that viral Mookie Wilson quote is from (and, by the way, it's fake)"
http://m.mlb.com/cutfour/2017/05/24/232173092/heres-the-full-article-that-viral-mookie-wilson-quote-is-from-and-by-the-way-its-fake

"Meet the Man Behind That Weird-Ass Story About Mookie Wilson and Dinosaurs"
https://massappeal.com/mookie-wilson-dinosaurs-charlie-rubin/ ]
dinosaurs  baseball  mookiewilson  1986  belief 
may 2017 by robertogreco
The Snarling Girl | Hazlitt
"Oh really, she says. Now I matter? Wrong, motherfucker: I mattered before. (Also: Nope, can’t help you write a book, best of luck.)

She’s a little trigger-happy on the misanthropic rage, this snarling girl. She is often accused of “not living up to her potential.” She is neither inspired by nor impressed with prep school. The college admissions race leaves her cold. Her overbearing mother berates her about crappy grades and lack of ambition. (O-ho, the snarling girl says, you want to see lack of ambition? I’ll show you lack of ambition!) Where she is expected to go right, she makes a habit of veering left. She is not popular, not likely to succeed. Her salvation arrives (surely you saw this coming) in the form of books, movies, music. She obsessively follows the trail of breadcrumbs they leave behind. Here is a neat kind of power: she can be her own curator. She can find her way from one sustaining voice to another, sniffing out what’s true, what’s real. In her notebooks she copies out passages from novels, essays, poems, and songs. She Sharpies the especially resonant bits on her bedroom wall. This is how she learns to trust herself, no easy feat. These are epigraphs to the as yet unwritten book of her life, rehearsals for the senior page she is keen to assemble. These stories and lines and lyrics are companionship, proof that the universe is much, much bigger than her radioactive family and rich bitch west L.A. and Hebrew school and Zionist summer camp. Behold: She is not crazy! She is not alone! She is not a freak! Or, rather: she is crazy, she is alone, she is a freak, and she’ll keep glorious company with all of these other crazy, lonely, amazing freaks.

Look at her notebooks, all in a row. They live in my study, above shelves stacked with my books, galleys, audiobooks, foreign editions, literary journals, anthologies, Literary Death Match Champion medal, and piles of newspapers and magazines in which I’m celebrated as this amazing thing: a writer. A novelist. Legit. But witness, please, no coincidence, the notebooks live above that stuff. Spiral-bound, leather-bound, fabric-bound, black, pink, green, floral. This Notebook Belongs To: Elisa Albert, neatly printed in the earliest, 1992. Fake it ’til you make it, girl! The notebooks have seniority. Here is how she began to forge a system of belief and belonging, to say nothing of a career. Am I aggrandizing her? Probably. I am just so goddamn proud of her."



"Everything worthwhile is a sort of secret, not to be bought or sold, just rooted out painstakingly in whatever darkness you call home.

Here is what we know for sure: there is no end to want. Want is a vast universe within other vast universes. There is always more, and more again. There are prizes and grants and fellowships and lists and reviews and recognitions that elude us, mysterious invitations to take up residence at some castle in Italy. One can make a life out of focusing on what one does not have, but that’s no way to live. A seat at the table is plenty. (But is it a good seat? At which end of the table??? Alongside whom!?) A seat at the table means we are free to do our work, the end. Work! What a fantastic privilege."



"Some ambition is banal: Rich spouse. Thigh gap. Gold-buckle shoes. Quilted Chanel. Penthouse. Windowed office. Tony address. Notoriety. Ten thousand followers. A hundred thousand followers. Bestseller list. Editor-in-Chief. Face on billboard. A million dollars. A million followers. There are ways of working toward these things, clear examples of how it can be done. Programs, degrees, seminars, diets, schemes, connections, conferences. Hands to shake, ladders to climb. If you are smart, if you are savvy, who’s to stop you? Godspeed and good luck. I hope you get what you want, and when you do, I hope you aren’t disappointed.

Remember the famous curse? May you get absolutely everything you want.

Here’s what impresses me: Sangfroid. Good health. The ability to float softly with an iron core through Ashtanga primary series. Eye contact. Self-possession. Loyalty. Boundaries. Good posture. Moderation. Restraint. Laugh lines. Gardening. Activism. Originality. Kindness. Self-awareness. Simple food, prepared with love. Style. Hope. Lust. Grace. Aging. Humility. Nurturance. Learning from mistakes. Moving on. Letting go. Forms of practice, in other words. Constant, ongoing work. No endpoint in sight. Not goal-oriented, not gendered. Idiosyncratic and pretty much impossible to monetize.

I mean: What kind of person are you? What kind of craft have you honed? What is my experience of looking into your eyes, being around you? Are you at home in your body? Can you sit still? Do you make me laugh? Can you give and receive affection? Do you know yourself? How sophisticated is your sense of humor, how finely tuned your understanding of life’s absurdities? How thoughtfully do you interact with others? How honest are you with yourself? How do you deal with your various addictive tendencies? How do you face your darkness? How broad and deep is your perspective? How willing are you to be quiet? How do you care for yourself? How do you treat people you deem unimportant?

So you’re a CEO. So you made a million dollars. So your name is in the paper. So your face is in a magazine. So your song is on the radio. So your book is number one. You probably worked really hard; I salute you. So you got what you wanted and now you want something else. I mean, good, good, good, great, great, great. But if you have ever spent any time around seriously ambitious people, you know that they are very often some of the unhappiest crazies alive, forever rooting around for more, having a hard time with basics like breathing and eating and sleeping, forever trying to cover some hysterical imagined nakedness.

I get that my foremothers and sisters fought long and hard so that my relationship to ambition could be so … careless. I get that some foremothers and sisters might read me as ungrateful because I don’t want to fight their battles, because I don’t want to claw my way anywhere. My apologies, foremothers: I don’t want to fight. Oh, is there still sexism in the world? Sigh. Huh. Well. Knock me over with a feather. Now: how do I transplant the peonies to a sunnier spot so they yield more flowers next year or the year after? How do I conquer chapter three of this new novel? I’ve rewritten it and rewritten it for months. I need asana practice, and then I need to sit in meditation for a while. Then some laundry. And the vacuum cleaner needs a new filter. Then respond to some emails from an expectant woman for whom I’m serving as doula. And it’s actually my anniversary, so I’m gonna write my spouse a love letter. Then pick up the young’un from school. And I need to figure out what I’m making for dinner. Something with lentils, probably, and butter. Then text my friends a stupid photo and talk smack with them for a while.

Taking care of myself and my loved ones feels like meaningful work to me, see? I care about care. And I don’t care if I’m socialized to feel this way, because in point of fact I do feel this way. So! I am unavailable for striving today. I’m suuuuuper busy.

Yes, oppression is systemic, I get it, I feel it, I live it, I struggle, I do. Women are not equal, we’re not fairly represented, the pie charts are clear as day: nothing’s fair, nothing at all, it’s maddening, it’s saddening, it’s not at all gladdening. We all suffer private and public indignities (micro-aggressions, if you prefer) big and small. It’s one thing to pause and grapple with unfairness, but if we set up camp there, we can’t get anything done, can’t get to the root of the problem. So sure, great, go on and on about how women should help other women! Rah rah, put it on a T-shirt, sell it on Etsy. Great marketing, but what’s actually being accomplished? Who, specifically, is being helped? A collection of egos shouting ME ME ME is not artistically or intellectually productive or interesting.

“Real” work is often invisible, and maybe sort of sacred as such. The hollering and clamoring and status anxiety and PR two inches from our collective eyeballs all day? Not so much. So tell the gatekeepers to shove it, don’t play by their rules, and get back to work on whatever it is you hold dear. Nothing’s ever been fair. Nothing will ever be fair. But there is ever so much work to be done. Pretty please can I go back to my silly sweet secret sacred novel now? Bye. Take care."



"Here’s what bothers me about conventional ambition, the assumption that we all aspire to the top, the winner’s circle, the biggest brightest bestest, the blah blah blah, and that we will run around and around and around our little hamster wheels to get there: most of these goals are standardized. Cartoonish. Cliché. Beware anything standardized, that’s what I would teach my daughter. Health care, ambition, education, diet, culture: name it, and you will suffer endlessly from any attempt to go about it the same way as some projected Everyone Else. You cannot be standardized. You are a unique flower, daughter. Maybe the Ivy League will be wonderful for you; maybe it will crush your soul. If the former, I will mortgage the house to pay your way; if the latter, give that shit the finger and help me move these peonies, will you? You are not defined by such things, either way. Anyway, let us discuss what we want to whip up for dinner and take turns playing DJ while doing so.

“She can, though every face should scowl / And every windy quarter howl / Or every bellows burst, be happy still.” That was Yeats.

I mean, fuck ambition, that’s where this is going. I don’t buy the idea that acting like the oppressor is a liberation, personal ambition being, in essence, see above, patriarchal. And yeah, about recognition. What about when genius and/or hard work isn’t recognized? Because often it isn’t, and what do we make of that… [more]
elisaalbert  writing  belief  2017  literature  purpose  books  notebooks  care  caring  emotionallabor  whatmatters  feminism  audience  small  slow  ambition  standardization  mayaangelou  patriarchy  liberation  recognition  success  mastery  accomplishment  sideeffects  unintendedconsequences  striving  humility  winning 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Once a fearsome murderer invaded a Zen master’s home
"It’s a funny thing about agency. People mistake it for power. Donald Trump didn’t run for office because he had agency. The Constitution attempts to secure that right for everyone, but of course it’s failed. The Constitution, in its bleak optimism, assumes that people will play fair. Agency plays fair. But power doesn’t.

In his last book, Pedagogy of Indignation, Paulo Freire offers:
I am convinced that no education intending to be at the service of the beauty of the human presence in the world, at the service of seriousness and ethical rigor, of justice, of firmness of character, of respect for differences...can fulfill itself in the absence of the dramatic relationship between authority and freedom. It is a tense and dramatic relationship in which both authority and freedom, while fully living out their limits and possibilities, learn, almost without respite, to take responsibility for themselves as authority and freedom...

The freedom that derives from learning, early on, how to build internal authority by introjecting the external one, is the freedom that lives out its possibility fully. Possibility derives from lucidly and ethically assuming limits, not from fearfully and blindly obeying them." (p.9-10) [emphases mine]

In other words, agency doesn’t so much exert itself upon others as it does float within the intersection of freedom and authority. Enacting one’s agency is always a balancing act between doing what is within your understanding of your own power and working with the boundaries of others’ understandings of theirs. It is a cooperative, chemical interaction. Freedom delimited by others’ freedoms delimited by yours.

In a classroom, this means that authority remains present. Sometimes, the authority of the teacher; but in the best situation, the shared authority of the group of learners (and the teacher). In the theatre of national politics, the agency of the president is limited by the needs of the people. This is not a system of checks and balances, though. A system of checks and balances assumes certain people have power over other certain people in specific circumstances. That’s a relationship of negotiation at best, manipulation at worst; and it’s a relationship of power.

Donald Trump doesn’t understand agency. He doesn’t understand that his will should be limited by the freedoms of others. He is not humane. He is not considerate. He is not wise. These are not the qualifications of every president, but they are the aspiration. No, they are the expectation. Yet no one expects consideration, humanity, or wisdom from Donald Trump. On both sides of the voting population, we expect rudeness, cruelty, and anti-intellectualism. This would mystify me if I didn’t recognize at least one source for this disappointing position.

For many reasons, I openly blame our current education system for the result of the election and the demise of the American president. To start, I am a critic of education, working within and outside the system to draw attention to its flaws; and therefore, the failings of the system are almost always foremost in my mind. Additionally, I have seen an alarming (deeply alarming, like finding out your child has run away from home alarming) reduction in the value of critical thinking in schools. This reduction runs parallel to an increasing emphasis on retention of information as a measure of “mastery.” I have met more than one college student and college graduate who love teachers who tell them what will be on the test, who ply rubrics to narrow the deviation from the norm, and who lecture, asking very little in the way of participation from students in the suscitation of their own education.

Education today assesses student knowledge based on their ability to repeat back. Questioning, criticizing, looking for wisdom past the usual authority—these are rare activities indeed. Even a class on creative writing—presumably a subject that grows from a student’s own subjectivity—can have rubrics, right and wrong answers, multiple choice tests.

We should want and demand more. This is not what education is meant to be. As John Holt reminds us:
Next to the right to life itself, the most fundamental of all human rights is the right to control our own minds and thoughts. That means the right to decide for ourselves how we will explore the world around us, think about our own and other persons’ experiences, and find and make the meaning of our own lives. (4)

This is the right of agency. It does not give us power over another, but it gives us mastery over ourselves. And an education that does not encourage or facilitate this agency is not an education. An education that convinces us of what needs to be known, what is important versus what is frivolous, is not an education. It’s training at best, conscription at worst. And all it prepares us to do is to believe what we’re told.

American education has worked tirelessly since the time of Skinner to make the American mind into a cipher. And when the American mind became a cipher, the Kardashians became model citizens, and Donald Trump rising up to silence the American presidency became an inevitability.

Change the way you teach."
seanmichaelmorris  agency  power  control  johnholt  paulofreire  choice  criticalthinking  authority  rubrics  creativity  questioning  criticism  education  learning  teaching  howweteach  sfsh  obedience  freedom  community  cooperation  collaboration  checksandbalances  government  donaldtrump  us  relationships  rotelearning  humanism  canon  humanrights  thinking  unschooling  deschooling  cv  belief 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Can religion be based on ritual practice without belief? | Aeon Essays
"Most Japanese reject religious belief while embracing multiple forms of ritual practice. Are they religious or secular?"



"The combination of worldly concerns with religion is not unique to Japan, of course. However, the discussion above highlights several clear discrepancies between religion in Japan and the typical associations derived from Western monotheistic traditions. So does the word religion describe what we find in Japan? Yes it does, but with one important qualification: for the concept of religion to remain a useful cross-cultural category it must be shorn of its Abrahamic assumptions and understood to refer to a range of concepts and traditions that not only cluster around supernatural beliefs, but also practices, like rituals and festivals.

Some disagree with this view, such as the religious studies scholar Jason Ananda Josephson at Williams College in Massachusetts who explained to me via email that ‘the word “religion” is a fundamentally Eurocentric term that always functions, no matter how well-disguised, to describe a perceived similarity to European Christianity’. Josephson elaborated on this perspective in his well-received book The Invention of Religion in Japan (2012), which details the various negotiations and political struggles involved in deciding what constituted religion in the country during the Meiji era. He highlights that the present-day translation for ‘religion’ in Japanese – shūkyō – is a ‘Meiji neologism’ that ‘transformed the things classified under it and the things excluded from membership’, and also explains that a big problem he has with the term ‘religion’ is that ‘it has a multiplicity of incompatible meanings’.

When I raised these points in a discussion with Ian Reader, he said that although he admires Josephson’s work, he strongly disagrees with his assessment that we should ‘jettison a term in the 21st century which has developed a set of meanings in that context because of its possible mid-19th century derivation’. He also explained that in Japan ‘there is an intellectual and political tradition that accords weight to the notion of “religion” as a category… [and this] indicated clearly that [it] is not some Western structure arbitrarily imposed… by colonial-style powers’. Reader also said that while the term can be vague, he still believes that the concept serves as a ‘viable framework of discussion and interpretation for scholars that enables them to engage… with scholars studying similar issues elsewhere’. This accords with my own experiences as a cognitive anthropologist working on large inter-disciplinary and cross-cultural projects that were only possible because we utilize a shared terminology that includes a nuanced definition of religion.

Religion is not a category of human activity that is always and everywhere clearly distinguishable from other spheres of human life. And it is also true that what would be referred to as ‘religion’ varies across eras and locations. Yet this does not make the term semantically incoherent, nor is it the case that modern usage of the term must cling to usages of the past.

The grand theories of old failed because they conceived of religion as a monolithic phenomenon that evolved linearly over time. Modern approaches do not need to endorse such assumptions. Instead, as with the definitions of religion which are currently favoured in the cognitive science of religion field, it is possible to recognise that religion does not refer to any single thing but rather to a family of related concepts that serve to identify a meaningful and circumscribed field of inquiry. We have no greater cause to abandon the term religion for its inherent fuzziness than we do to abandon other broad terms, like politics or kinship. Ultimately, we must step back from such academic minutiae and return to exploring what we find in the world by putting to use our always-imperfect analytical tools."
japan  religion  secularism  tradition  philosophy  belief  2016  religiosity  buddhism  shintoism  christopherkavanagh 
september 2016 by robertogreco
Cornel West on state of race in the U.S.: "We're in bad shape" - CBS News
[via: "Showed kids 60 Minutes with Cornel West last night. ("I'm unimpressed by smartness.") http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-cornel-west-on-race-in-the-u-s/ "
https://twitter.com/ablerism/status/711908596540379136

"+ See also West on Mandela: "a militant tenderness, subversive sweetness and radical gentleness." http://www.cornelwest.com/nelson_mandela.html "
https://twitter.com/ablerism/status/711908847695368192 ]

"Cornel West is a different kind of civil rights leader. His below-the-radar presence at racial flash points across America recently, stands in stark contrast to many of the more traditional civil rights leaders and their bright light press conferences.

Some of the new generation of African-American activists seem to be gravitating towards West, a charismatic academic scholar who doesn't lead an organization or have an entourage.

Cornel West has a message about how poor and disadvantaged Americans are being treated today and he can be searingly provocative on matters of race, never more so than when he criticizes President Obama.

Cornel West: When I call the president a black puppet of Wall Street, I was really talking about the degree to which Wall Street had a disproportionate amount of influence on his policies as opposed to poor people and working people.

James Brown: Why use such harsh language with-- showing no respect for the office of the president?

Cornel West: I tend to be one who just speaks from my soul, and so what comes out sometimes is rather harsh. In that sense I'm very much a part of the tradition of a Frederick Douglass or a Malcolm X who used hyperbolic language at times to bring attention to the state of emergency. So all of that rage and righteous indignation can lead one not to speak politely sometimes.

Eight years ago, Cornel West was a fervent supporter of candidate Barack Obama. Today, he blames the president for not doing more on issues like income inequality and racial justice. A product of the turbulent sixties, West has joined protests led by civil rights groups like Black Lives Matter. Here in Ferguson, Missouri, he was one of many arrested for civil disobedience.

James Brown: The young people who are leading the Black Lives Matter charge, you're all behind them?

Cornel West: Oh, very much so. I think that's a marvelous new militancy that has to do with courage, vision. The fundamental challenge always is will their rage be channeled through hatred and revenge or will it be channeled through love and justice. You got to push 'em toward love and justice.

James Brown: Why do you think you have that kind of currency with young people?

Cornel West: They know that I take their precious lives seriously. When I go to jail in Ferguson and say quite explicitly, "I'm old school, and I want the new school to know that some of us old folk love y'all to death" and they hear that and say, "Well, dang, you know, we might not always-- agree with this brother, but this Negro looks like a fighter for justice."

[March: This is what democracy looks like. Justice!]

Nyle Fort: I think a lot of young people really gravitate towards him not only because he's a giant of an intellectual, he is somebody that you want to be around.

Nyle Fort is a 26-year-old activist and religion PhD student at Princeton. He first saw West speak at a rally four years ago.

James Brown: The manner in which Dr. West has been criticizing the president. Your reaction?

Nyle Fort: I think it's important for us to listen to the substance of his argument. And I think that his critiques not just of President Obama, but of our current state of democracy in this country, the current state of the world, is something that we need to pay attention to.

A favorite on the lecture circuit, we were with him at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, when the crowd of 1,500 broke into applause before he said a word.

Then, for more than an hour, an extemporaneous journey filled with biblical passages and quotes from philosophers and poets about decency and virtue. All in support of West's warning about the dangers of inequality.

Cornel West: I have nothing against rich brothers and sisters. Pray for 'em every day. But callousness and indifference, greed and avarice is something that's shot through all of us.

Cornel West has diverse influences to say the least; crediting jazz giants John Coltrane and Sarah Vaughan with helping him understand human suffering. West sees civil rights pioneer, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel as one of the great treasures of the 20th century.

Cornel West: It's never a question of skin pigmentation. It's never a question of just culture or sexual orientation or civilization. It's what kind of human being you're going to choose to be from your mama's womb to the tomb and what kind of legacy will you leave.

Cornel West was born 62 years ago in Oklahoma, but grew up in Glen Elder -- a predominantly black neighborhood near Sacramento, California. He is the second of four children. His father, Clifton was a federal administrator and his mother, Irene was a teacher. They were a close-knit, church-going family.

Cornel West: I feel as if I have been blessed to undergo a transformation from gangster to redeemed sinner with gangster proclivities.

James Brown: You actually were a thug when you were a youngster?

Cornel West: Oh absolutely, I got kicked out of school when I was seven-- seven years old.

James Brown: Doing what, Dr. West?

Cornel West: I refused to salute the flag because my great uncle had been lynched with the flag wrapped around his body. So I went back to Sacramento and said, "I'm not saluting the flag." And teacher went at me and hit me, and I hit back. And then we had a Joe Frazier/Muhammad Ali moment right there in the third grade.

Clifton West: He was the only student I ever knew that came home with all As and had to get a whipping.

Clifton West is Cornel's brother, best friend and was his role model growing up. He says behind his little brother's bad behavior, was a relentlessly curious mind.

Clifton West: We had this bookmobile. And we would come out, and check out a book, and go on back in the house and start reading it. So Corn, at one point, I don't know how long it took, he had read every book in the bookmobile.

James Brown: Excuse me?

Clifton West: I don't know it had to be 200 books, easy. And the bookmobile man, who was a white guy, went to all the neighborhoods, little chocolate neighborhoods, saying, "There's this guy in Glen Elder that read every book in here."

Anecdotes like that convinced teachers to give their troubled student an aptitude test. West's recorded IQ: 168.

Cornel West: I got a pretty high score. So they sent me over all the way on the other side of town. Mom used to drive me all the way to school and then drive back to her school where she was teaching first grade.

The new school had a gifted program that challenged his mind and changed his behavior.

James Brown: Was that when you first grabbed hold of the notion that you were smart?

Cornel West: You know, I never really thought I was that smart. Because there was so many other folk in school that I was deeply impressed by. But I'll say this, though, that I've never really been impressed by smartness."
cornelwest  barackobama  race  2016  via:ablerism  love  activism  socialjustice  blacklivesmatter  generations  inequality  values  nylefort  jamesbrown  cliftonwest  eddieglaude  decency  virtue  callousness  indifference  greed  avarice  jazz  suffering  humanism  abrahamjoshuaheschel  life  living  legacy  religion  belief  ferguson  racialjustice  racism  civildisobedience  wallstreet  intellectualism  intellect  curiosity  poverty  policy  language  malcolmx  frederickdouglass  rage  indignation  civilrights  johncoltrane  wisdom  smartness  sacrifice  conformism  sarahvaughan 
march 2016 by robertogreco
The Meming of Life » Santa Claus – The Ultimate Dry Run Parenting Beyond Belief on secular parenting and other natural wonders
"By allowing our children to participate in the Santa myth and find their own way out of it through skeptical inquiry, we give them a priceless opportunity to see a mass cultural illusion first from the inside, then from the outside. A very casual line of post-Santa questioning can lead kids to recognize how completely we all can snow ourselves if the enticements are attractive enough. Such a lesson, viewed from the top of the hill after exiting a belief system under their own power, can gird kids against the best efforts of the evangelists – and far better than secondhand knowledge could ever hope to do."
2007  dalemcgowan  parenting  belief  santaclaus  skepticism  inquiry  children  criticalthinking 
october 2015 by robertogreco
more than 95 theses - frequently unobserved distinctions
"(a) Approving the outcome of a judicial decision
(b) Accepting as valid the legal reasoning in support of that outcome

(a) Believing in the need to enshrine in law a great social good
(b) Believing that that social good is already enshrined in the Constitution

(a) Believing in traditional Christian teaching on a given subject
(b) Believing that that teaching needs to be enshrined in secular law

(a) Wishing to commend to the whole society the excellence of Christian teaching
(b) Believing that legislation is the best way to do that"

[See also:“The Six Axioms of Politico-Judicial Logic”
http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-six-axioms-of-polito-judicial-logic/

"These six axioms provide all you need to know to navigate the landscape of current debates about judicial decisions:

1) The heart wants what it wants.

2) The heart has a right to what it wants—as long as the harm principle isn’t violated.

3) A political or social outcome that is greatly desirable is also ipso facto constitutional.

4) A political or social outcome that is greatly undesirable is also ipso facto unconstitutional.

5) A judicial decision that produces a desirable outcome is (regardless of the legal reasoning involved) proof of the wisdom of the Founders in liberating the Supreme Court from the vagaries of partisan politics so that they can think freely and without bias. The system works!

6) A judicial decision that produces an undesirable outcome is (regardless of the legal reasoning involved) proof that the system is broken, because it allows five unelected old farts to determine the course of society.

From these six axioms virtually every opinion stated on social media about Supreme Court decisions can be clearly derived. You’re welcome."]
alanjacobs  law  legal  constitution  courts  christianity  belief  religion  society  legislation  2015 
june 2015 by robertogreco
True Myth: A Conversation With Sufjan Stevens | Pitchfork
"Pitchfork: That’s a very Zen outlook.

SS: Well, love is unconditional and incomprehensible. And I believe it's possible to love absent of mutual respect.



Pitchfork: Considering you had a distant relationship, were you at all surprised that her death hit you so hard?

SS: Yeah. In the moment, I was stoic and phlegmatic and practical, but in the months following I was manic and frantic and disparaging and angry. They always talk about the science of bereavement, and how there is a measurable pattern and cycle of grief, but my experience was lacking in any kind of natural trajectory. It felt really sporadic and convoluted. I would have a period of rigorous, emotionless work, and then I would be struck by deep sadness triggered by something really mundane, like a dead pigeon on the subway track. Or my niece would point out polka-dotted tights at the playground, and I would suffer some kind of cosmic anguish in public. It's weird.

I was so emotionally lost and desperate for what I could no longer pursue in regard to my mother, so I was looking for that in other places. At the time, part of me felt that I was possessed by her spirit and that there were certain destructive behaviors that were manifestations of her possession.

Pitchfork: How so?

SS: Oh man, it's so hard to describe what was going on. It's almost like the force, or the matrix, or something: I started to believe that I was genetically, habitually, chemically predisposed to her pattern of destruction. I think a lot of the acting-out was rebellion, or maybe it was a way for me to… ah, this is so fucked up, I should probably go to therapy.

In lieu of her death, I felt a desire to be with her, so I felt like abusing drugs and alcohol and fucking around a lot and becoming reckless and hazardous was my way of being intimate with her. But I quickly learned that you don't have to be incarcerated by suffering, and that, in spite of the dysfunctional nature of your family, you are an individual in full possession of your life. I came to realize that I wasn't possessed by her, or incarcerated by her mental illness. We blame our parents for a lot of shit, for better and for worse, but it's symbiotic. Parenthood is a profound sacrifice.

Pitchfork: The sort of rebellion you’re talking about almost sounds like more of a teen-angst sort of thing.

SS: Fun, flirty, and 40! [laughs] I do feel like I'm 40 going on 14 sometimes. I wasn't rebellious as a kid. I was so dignified and well-behaved. But that kind of [destructive] behavior at my age is inexcusable.



Pitchfork: Did your dad and stepmom impose Christianity onto you when you were young?

SS: No, they weren't that religious at that time. We would go to Methodist church, because that's what my great grandmother attended. I was the acolyte in charge of lighting the candles, which was really exciting to me. I had this childhood fantasy of becoming a priest or a preacher, so I would read and study the bible and then make my family listen to me read a passage from the New Testament before meals—and they very begrudgingly accommodated that for a while. I was just fascinated; some of my most profound spiritual and sexual experiences were at a Methodist summer camp.

Pitchfork: As in much of your work, there are references to Christianity and mythology on this album. What does faith mean to you at this point?

SS: I still describe myself as a Christian, and my love of God and my relationship with God is fundamental, but its manifestations in my life and the practices of it are constantly changing. I find incredible freedom in my faith. Yes, the kingdom of Christianity and the Church has been one of the most destructive forces in history, and there are levels of bastardization of religious beliefs. But the unique thing about Christianity is that it is so amorphous and not reductive to culture or place or anything. It's extremely malleable.

Pitchfork: Couldn't you say that about most religions though?

SS: Yeah, but some of them are cultural and require an allegiance to a place and a code. We live in a post-God society anyway—embrace it! [laughs]

Pitchfork: A lot of people make the kind of folky music that’s on this record, but so little of it actually feels meaningful; with music this spare, emotional extremity can seem like a requirement.

SS: Yeah. Like: Don't listen to this record if you can't digest the reality of it. I'm being explicit about really horrifying experiences in my life, but my hope has always been to be responsible as an artist and to avoid indulging in my misery, or to come off as an exhibitionist. I don't want to make the listener complicit in my vulnerable prose poem of depression, I just want to honor the experience. I'm not the victim here, and I'm not seeking other peoples' sympathy. I don't blame my parents, they did the best they could.

At worst, these songs probably seem really indulgent. At their best, they should act as a testament to an experience that's universal: Everyone suffers; life is pain; and death is the final punctuation at the end of that sentence, so deal with it. I really think you can manage pain and suffering by living in fullness and being true to yourself and all those seemingly vapid platitudes."
sufjanstevens  music  belief  christianity  religion  2015  via:nicolefenton  faith 
march 2015 by robertogreco
What scares the new atheists | John Gray | World news | The Guardian
"The vocal fervour of today’s missionary atheism conceals a panic that religion is not only refusing to decline – but in fact flourishing"



"Above all, these unevangelical atheists accepted that religion is definitively human. Though not all human beings may attach great importance to them, every society contains practices that are recognisably religious. Why should religion be universal in this way? For atheist missionaries this is a decidedly awkward question. Invariably they claim to be followers of Darwin. Yet they never ask what evolutionary function this species-wide phenomenon serves. There is an irresolvable contradiction between viewing religion naturalistically – as a human adaptation to living in the world – and condemning it as a tissue of error and illusion. What if the upshot of scientific inquiry is that a need for illusion is built into in the human mind? If religions are natural for humans and give value to their lives, why spend your life trying to persuade others to give them up?

The answer that will be given is that religion is implicated in many human evils. Of course this is true. Among other things, Christianity brought with it a type of sexual repression unknown in pagan times. Other religions have their own distinctive flaws. But the fault is not with religion, any more than science is to blame for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or medicine and psychology for the refinement of techniques of torture. The fault is in the intractable human animal. Like religion at its worst, contemporary atheism feeds the fantasy that human life can be remade by a conversion experience – in this case, conversion to unbelief.

Evangelical atheists at the present time are missionaries for their own values. If an earlier generation promoted the racial prejudices of their time as scientific truths, ours aims to give the illusions of contemporary liberalism a similar basis in science. It’s possible to envision different varieties of atheism developing – atheisms more like those of Freud, which didn’t replace God with a flattering image of humanity. But atheisms of this kind are unlikely to be popular. More than anything else, our unbelievers seek relief from the panic that grips them when they realise their values are rejected by much of humankind. What today’s freethinkers want is freedom from doubt, and the prevailing version of atheism is well suited to give it to them."
johngray  atheism  culture  2015  via:anne  religion  belief  values  liberalism  christianity 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Experts and the corruption of truth! | Metaquestions
"We all need to be able to understand our first principles are probably wrong. We need to realise field testing only tells us a bit of what we need to know within limits. It is just not simple, if its simple it need to be a belief like religion and that leads to people holding onto something that is not proven. Those people will stop innovation and improvement on our global knowledge base."



"There is no short-cut, there is no final proof, we are merely allowed to see only part of what makes the universe work, we do not know gravity, anti matter, black holes or even if any of these things exist! We cannot even tell why prime numbers happen in the order they do, what we do not know is very simple things that we really should know. So how on earth could we know the big stuff? Bottom line, this game we are playing only shows us a few of the rules at any one time, things will change as we discover more rules, but they force us to reconsider all our previous moves continually and as nature shows us more rules it will force us to be humble and start again.

The number of unknowns is enormous and trying to ignore them by simply an equation, fancy word for something, a measurement or even a series of experiments is simply not enough. All together they offer an ability to start to ask, none of them offer a final answer (and never will). So don’t be an expert, be an explorer and if you are nice to your fellow explorers they may even show you ways you have not yet considered. If they talk in maths riddles and hide behind fancy papers and equations then they are safe to ignore. There is no easy answer, only more information and potentially all you know may be wrong, certainly the majority is certainly wrong, so don’t be a believer, be ready to infer new conclusions as you find out more info, which may not even look related. So look at everything and prepare for massive surprises, they will happen!

This is why I struggle to give simple answers to folk, I hate lies and part of a truth is closer to a lie that saying nothing. Many understand this position, but many don’t yet. It is interesting to see though that the experts seem to be the very people who are the believers and not explorers, when folk also realise what they know is trivial and likely wrong then perhaps things will move along faster.

In saying that I also agree that the inability to easily explain something is an indication of a lack of understanding. A quandary, well yes … Just another thing I don’t know, I wish I did."
experts  via:Taryn  2015  truth  math  science  mathematics  scientificmethod  unlearning  learning  certainty  uncertainty  understanding  belief  unknowns  limits  davidirvine 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Mary Oliver — Listening to the World | On Being
"Often quoted, but rarely interviewed, Mary Oliver is one of our greatest and most beloved poets. At 79, she honors us with an intimate conversation on the wisdom of the world, the salvation of poetry, and the life behind her writing."



"You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place in the family of things."

[Spoken: https://soundcloud.com/onbeing/wild-geese-by-mary-oliver ]
maryoliver  onbeing  wisdom  poetry  2015  poems  writing  place  religion  rumi  spirituality  life  living  howwewrite  discipline  creativity  language  process  staugustine  attention  reporting  empathy  fieldguides  clarity  death  god  belief  cancer  kindness  goodness  nature  prayer  loneliness  imagination  geese  animals  slow  posthumanism 
february 2015 by robertogreco
what what. (Science is much closer to myth than a scientific...)
"Science is much closer to myth than a scientific philosophy is prepared to admit. It is one of the many forms of thought that have been developed by man, and not necessarily the best. It is conspicuous, noisy, and impudent, but it is inherently superior only for those who have already decided in favour of a certain ideology, or who have accepted it without ever having examined its advantages and its limits … The separation of state and church must be supplemented by the separation of state and science, that most recent, most aggressive, and most dogmatic religious institution."

—Paul Feyerabend, Against Method
oaulfeyerabend  method  science  scientism  myth  philosophy  ideology  religion  belief 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Believing that life is fair makes you a terrible person | Oliver Burkeman | Comment is free | The Guardian
"If you’ve been following the news recently, you know that human beings are terrible and everything is appalling. Yet the sheer range of ways we find to sabotage our efforts to make the world a better place continues to astonish. Did you know, for example, that last week’s commemorations of the liberation of Auschwitz may have marginally increased the prevalence of antisemitism in the modern world, despite being partly intended as a warning against its consequences? Or that reading about the eye-popping state of economic inequality could make you less likely to support politicians who want to do something about it?

These are among numerous unsettling implications of the “just-world hypothesis”, a psychological bias explored in a new essay by Nicholas Hune-Brown at Hazlitt [http://penguinrandomhouse.ca/hazlitt/blog/monstrous-cruelty-just-world ]. The world, obviously, is a manifestly unjust place: people are always meeting fates they didn’t deserve, or not receiving rewards they did deserve for hard work or virtuous behaviour. Yet several decades of research have established that our need to believe otherwise runs deep. Faced with evidence of injustice, we’ll certainly try to alleviate it if we can – but, if we feel powerless to make things right, we’ll do the next best thing, psychologically speaking: we’ll convince ourselves that the world isn’t so unjust after all.

Hence the finding, in a 2009 study, that Holocaust memorials can increase antisemitism. Confronted with an atrocity they otherwise can’t explain, people become slightly more likely, on average, to believe that the victims must have brought it on themselves.

The classic experiment demonstrating the just-world effect took place in 1966, when Melvyn Lerner and Carolyn Simmons showed people what they claimed were live images of a woman receiving agonizing electric shocks for her poor performance in a memory test. Given the option to alleviate her suffering by ending the shocks, almost everybody did so: humans may be terrible, but most of us don’t go around being consciously and deliberately awful. When denied any option to halt her punishment, however – when forced to just sit and watch her apparently suffer – the participants adjusted their opinions of the woman downwards, as if to convince themselves her agony wasn’t so indefensible because she wasn’t really such an innocent victim. “The sight of an innocent person suffering without possibility of reward or compensation”, Lerner and Simmons concluded, “motivated people to devalue the attractiveness of the victim in order to bring about a more appropriate fit between her fate and her character.” It’s easy to see how a similar psychological process might lead, say, to the belief that victims of sexual assault were “asking for it”: if you can convince yourself of that, you can avoid acknowledging the horror of the situation.

What’s truly unsettling about the just-world bias is that while it can have truly unpleasant effects, these follow from what seems like the entirely understandable urge to believe that things happen for a reason. After all, if we didn’t all believe that to some degree, life would be an intolerably chaotic and terrifying nightmare in, which effort and payback were utterly unrelated, and there was no point planning for the future, saving money for retirement or doing anything else in hope of eventual reward. We’d go mad. Surely wanting the world to make a bit more sense than that is eminently forgivable?

Yet, ironically, this desire to believe that things happen for a reason leads to the kinds of positions that help entrench injustice instead of reducing it.

Hune-Brown cites another recent bit of evidence for the phenomenon: people with a strong belief in a just world, he reports, are more likely to oppose affirmative action schemes intended to help women or minorities. You needn’t be explicitly racist or sexist to hold such views, nor committed to a highly individualistic political position (such as libertarianism); the researchers controlled for those. You need only cling to a conviction that the world is basically fair. That might be a pretty naive position, of course – but it’s hard to argue that it’s a hateful one. Similar associations have been found between belief in a just world and a preference for authoritarian political leaders. To shield ourselves psychologically from the terrifying thought that the world is full of innocent people suffering, we endorse politicians and policies more likely to make that suffering worse.

All of which is another reminder of a truth that’s too often forgotten in our era of extreme political polarization and 24/7 internet outrage: wrong opinions – even deeply obnoxious opinions – needn’t necessarily stem from obnoxious motivations. “Victim-blaming” provides the clearest example: barely a day goes by without some commentator being accused (often rightly) of implying that somebody’s suffering was their own fault. That’s a viewpoint that should be condemned, of course: it’s unquestionably unpleasant to suggest that the victims of, say, the Charlie Hebdo killings, brought their fates upon themselves. But the just-world hypothesis shows how such opinions need not be the consequence of a deep character fault on the part of the blamer, or some tiny kernel of evil in their soul. It might simply result from a strong need to feel that the world remains orderly, and that things still make some kind of sense.

Facing the truth – that the world visits violence and poverty and discrimination upon people capriciously, with little regard for what they’ve done to deserve it – is much scarier. Because, if there’s no good explanation for why any specific person is suffering, it’s far harder to escape the frightening conclusion that it could easily be you next."
psychology  oliverburkeman  via:anne  fairness  injustice  victimblaming  violence  poverty  discrimination  suffering  policy  politics  individualism  religion  libertarianism  belief  nicholashune-brown  melvynlerner  carolynsimmons 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Icelandic Author Sjón on Myths and Crackpot Theories - Publishing Perspectives
"The Icelandic writer Sjón, whose international breakthrough came with his novel The Blue Fox, is a renaissance man. Sjón started his career as a poet at age 15, and took part in Reykjavik’s cultural explosion in the 1980s when “there was no hierarchy in the arts.”

He was a member of a neo-surrealist group called Medusa. “We then all became anarcho-surrealists,” he added.

It was during this period that he met singer-songwriter Björk and began his collaboration writing lyrics for her that has lasted until today; Sjón has three songs on Björk’s newly released album Biophilia. In 2000, one of his songs for Björk was used in the Lars von Trier’s film “Dancer in the Dark” and nominated for an Academy Award. Sjón went to Hollywood for the ceremony. “That was one of the experiences in my life that I can truly call surreal,” he said.

Sjón is not foreign to the world of film as he also pens screenplays. He wrote a screenplay for a film that made the rounds of horror film festivals several years ago entitled “Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre.”

“It’s a nitty-gritty splatter film, a dark comedy about innocent tourists massacred by disgruntled whale hunters,” he commented.

The Blue Fox, a story about a priest hunting for an enigmatic blue fox, won the Nordic Literary Prize and has been translated into 21 languages. Sjón is currently finishing his eighth novel, which is the last volume of a trilogy that he began in 1994. His UK publisher, Telegram Books, has world rights to his works in English. Besides The Blue Fox, Telegram has published From the Mouth of the Whale and next year will bring out The Whispering Muse (working title) that was published in Iceland in 2005 and has already been translated into six languages.

“It’s the story of an 80-year-old guy, a former editor of Fish and Culture magazine that focuses on the Nordic race and its consumption of fish. He is invited on the maiden journey of a ship exporting paper pulp from Norway to Russia. One of the crew members claims to have been on the Argo with Jason. They begin to tell each other tales,” said Sjón.

Sjón’s inspiration has always come from melding ancient Icelandic traditions with the avant-garde. “I go into pockets of Icelandic history . . . I love to bring diverse cosmologies alive on the page. I mix myths and crackpot theories together with my need to tell a story.”

Working with 17th century Icelandic texts is also a motivation for Sjón, who said he enjoys managing “the peculiarities of the Icelandic language and its twists and turns.”

This is not easy for his translators, he acknowledges, but because of his excellent grasp of English, he has been able to work closely with Victoria Cribb, his English translator. In other languages Sjón said, “of course I can’t know if the translation is good but I can tell if the person is a good translator by the questions they ask. I am open to working relationships with translators and always find a way.”

At Frankfurt, Sjón said he was enjoying meeting some of his foreign publishers for the first time from Serbia, Portugal, Lithuania and Turkey, where The Blue Fox was published last week. His experience with foreign publishers has taught him that, “it’s better to go with small publishers who are truly dedicated.”

Sjón is currently working on an adaptation of his novel The Whispering Muse for opera (his wife is a mezzo soprano) and is putting the finishing touches to his eighth novel.

In the end, said Sjón, “Man is a narrative animal.”"
sjón  narrative  iceland  myths  mythology  literature  storytelling  belief  myth  2011 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Sjón & Hari Kunzru — Work in Progress — Medium
[video: https://vimeo.com/72354976 ]
[Björk introduction: http://www.fsgworkinprogress.com/2013/08/bjork-introduces-sjon/
more: http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2013/05/16/sjon-bjork-and-the-furry-trout/ ]

"Sjón: It writes me. I’m better sticking to being visual when I write. No, but for me, to go in that direction, I actually do think most literature is visual arts."



"Sjón: I think we were typical second-wave punks. I mean, obviously, the generation that started the punk movement in England, the first punk bands—The Clash and The Sex Pistols and the Buzzcocks and all these bands—these were all kids that were quite a bit older than we were. They were born around 1953, ’55, so they were all about the anger, and they were all about … I think Johnny Rotten said it came from the liver.

We came to it as teenagers, and it’s interesting that while you can clearly see similarities between punk and Dada, this absolute nihilism, and you can say that the punks were actually fulfilling one of Tristan Tzara’s battle cries where he said, “Musicians, break your instruments on the stage.”

Just as Surrealism followed Dada, something happened when you had seen all this raw anger leading to nothing but raw anger, maybe good old Surrealism became the good and right remedy to all that anger. Like Björk said, it really felt like it fit together, and we were really looking for the revolutionary, the rebellious aspect of Surrealism.

Hari: The idea that it’s sort of dreaming and an escape from reality can be rebellious and revolutionary?

Sjón: As a good Surrealist would say, an escape into reality through dreaming. Ah!

Hari: I was thinking about Jonas Palmason in From the Mouth of the Whale. He goes to Copenhagen, and it’s this huge city filled with more things and people than he’s ever seen before. He imagines that he’s in an ancient version of the city, and I was trying to square that kind of dreaming with this revolutionary dreaming. Are they the same thing? Are they different things? Is the visionary Sjón also an escapist dreamer?

Sjón: One of the first things I learned from Surrealism is that it’s not fantasy, that Surrealism makes a very clear distinction between fantasy and the marvelous. You’re always looking for the marvelous in reality, and that’s where poetry happens. It happens when you hit upon these incredible moments in your reality. In Reykjavik, we had a city of rather small size to go walking around, but this idea of walking around, getting into the spirit, surreal spirit, and awaiting the poetic to manifest in a marvelous way in your reality—that’s very much what I’m looking for."



"Sjón: No. [Pause.] I’m really interested in how people become obsessed with ideas and how they become obsessed with certain cosmologies, and how the obsessed mind starts finding proofs of its truths. How it looks for the manifestation of these truths all around it in reality. This happens all the time—that things start to manifest if you’ve got them on your brain. They start manifesting all around you.

Hari: That’s there in all your fiction, this sense that a certain kind of attention is repaid by this. You start seeing the visionary aspect of the world.

Hari: You’re fond of mythic explanations for things that maybe other people wouldn’t use that for. I saw an interview where you started riffing on the idea that maybe 9-11 was something to do with the power of the great god Pan.

Sjón: I am actually absolutely sure that the great god Pan slipped through some sort of a gateway into our world, on that day.

We’ve been living in panic ever since. Actually, when we were in Athens for Björk’s performance of our song at the Olympics in 2004, I had direct experience of one of the gods there: One day, I was in a group that went down to the peninsula south of Athens, and there is a great Poseidon temple sitting there on a rock. As we came closer to the temple, we saw better and better what a sad state it was in. Obviously, this used to be the place of great sacrifices, 500 bulls sacrificed and burned in one day and all that, and the crowds coming to bow in front of the image of Poseidon.

I thought as we got closer, “Oh, look at you, great Poseidon. Look at the sad state you’re in.” This is how the Icelandic poet’s mind works. That’s how we think when we’re traveling.

We came to the temple and started walking around and looking at these sad ruins, but then I walked to the edge of the cliff. Who was there, who hadn’t moved and left his temple, but Poseidon? The whole ocean stretched out from the cliffs. Poseidon was still there, even though man had stopped sacrificing to Poseidon, Poseidon was still there. Then, Poseidon, of course, feeling a little bit annoyed that people were forgetting him, he moved just a little finger, his little finger a tiny bit, and we had the tsunami in Indonesia.

The myths are really about man confronting the fact that nature is always bigger and stronger.

Hari: It seems that in Iceland, there’s this particular kind of negotiation with nature that has to go on, because it’s a very unstable place, geologically if in no other way. I always think of the island of Surtsey coming out of the sea in the 1960s, and suddenly, you’ve got a new southernmost tip of Iceland that’s been generated by an undersea volcano. Is this sense that things are capable of shifting and that even the ground under your feet could potentially change, do you think this has any link to Iceland’s notorious belief in hidden folk and that sense that the landscape is actually populated with forces that are beyond our immediate understanding?

Sjón: Yes, I think we experience nature as a living thing, and a part of it is to go to the extremes of actually believing that nature has a character, or if not character, that it can manifest itself in different forms. We have folk stories about the hidden people, Huldufólk, who live in rocks and fields and cliffs, and they look exactly like us except they’ve only got one nostril. Apart from having only one nostril, they always lead a much richer and better life than those of us who have to survive above ground. They’re having musical parties all the time. They dress in silk, and whenever an Icelander gives a person from that nation a helping hand, he is rewarded with a cloth of silver or a goblet of gold. We know that the earth is rich, and we know that it’s more powerful than here, so I think when you live in a place that is obviously alive, you tend to populate it with different creatures.

For example, Katla, is this great volcano that possibly will explode fairly soon, and Katla is a woman’s name. It’s the name of a giantess. It’s more than likely that it will wipe out all the habitat that is sitting there on the beach. Man’s existence is—

Hari: Precarious."



"Sjón: I’m interested in the language of faith, and I’m interested in the literature of faith. In Iceland, like in so many Lutheran countries, the translation of the New Testament into the local language was a big moment. The church defined charity and love and all these terms.

I’ve always been interested in religious texts, not only because of the language but because I see religions as cosmologies, and I’m interested in cosmologies, and I’m interested in obsessed people and where to look for obsessed people. The best place is in religion. I think I’ve really taken advantage of the language of religion just in the same way that I’ve taken advantage of the language of myths and the world of myths.

For me, these are all attempts at explaining the same thing, which is to try to answer the question, “Is it possible that in the beginning there was nothing, and now we’re here sitting on these two nice chairs here in this Scandinavia House?”

We know that our cosmology will become obsolete, and it’s really amazing that the biggest given fact of our time is that cosmology, which is the hard science, is so unstable. I love it.

Hari: You take a real aesthetic pleasure in cosmologies, don’t you? What’s the joy of a big system, a big complicated system with lots of moving, whizzing, parts?

Sjón: My joy is the joy of the Trickster. It’s the joy of Loki. It’s the joy of the Coyote, because I know it’s an unstable system, and it will be overthrown, no matter how majestic it is. With the right little tricks, you will have an apocalypse. You will have the twilight of the gods. The gods will fight the last battle, and there will be a new world that rises up from it, and the Trickster can start thinking of new dirty tricks to topple that system."



"Audience Question: You were talking about how you enjoy cosmology and I wondered how you reconcile that with science and with your own art.

Sjón: Well of course it’s the scientists who are destroying each others’ cosmologies all the time. It’s very interesting that most people today live with a cosmology that absolutely ignores the theory of relativity, for example. Most people live as if the theory of relativity never happened because nobody understands it really.

It’s amazing how unaffected we are by these wonderful amazing things. We just continue. That’s one of the ways of overturning cosmologies: just keep brushing your teeth no matter how they say the universe was made."
sjón  iceland  harikunzru  2013  interviews  literature  poetry  davidbowie  surrealism  writing  escapism  punk  reality  björk  fantasy  fiction  nature  myth  mythology  trickster  greekmyths  obsessions  ideas  cosmologies  perspective  science  learning  unlearning  relearning  collaboration  translation  howwewrite  language  icelandic  loki  faith  belief  anthropology  hunting  geology  animals  folklore  folktales  precarity  life  living  myths 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Time After Time | Lapham’s Quarterly
"It’s possible to live in more than one time, more than one history of the world, without feeling a pressing need to reconcile them. Many people live in a sacred time—what the religious historian Mircea Eliade called “a primordial mythical time made present”—and a secular time, “secular” from the Latin saeculum, an age or a generation. Sacred time, “indefinitely recoverable, indefinitely repeatable,” according to Eliade, “neither changes nor is exhausted.” In secular time, on the other hand, each year, month, second, is a unique and unrepeatable unit that disappears even as it appears in the infinitesimal present.

To live at once in a time recoverable by a particular sacred calendar and also by a time without qualities, counted as it passes, involves a sort of mental doubling that is perhaps comparable, in the richness it grants to thought and feeling, to growing up bilingual: two systems, each complete, funny when they collide, each supplying something the other lacks, bearing no command to choose between them. Like a hamster in a Run-About Ball, we can explore an endlessly generated world freely by turning inside the vehicle of our closed and demarcated calendars."



"I’ve never been good at keeping calendars, and my family says that I am lax on anniversaries and insufficiently moved by feast days (though I do love fireworks and Thanksgiving dinner). I keep one calendar, though: one so singular and private I can’t know if everyone, or even anyone else, has one like it—though I suspect some must. It’s without dates; the occasions that fill it have no fixed number and don’t recur in any sort of chronological order. Each is a return of some long-ago circumstance in a kind of momentary entirety: the flavor, the taste, the total sensation of it; a past moment in the present. Marcel Proust [Paris, page 132] tasting his teacake was led to remember in detail an earlier, a first instance; and (I suppose) other bites of similar cakes produced that moment for him again ever after, though perhaps with diminishing intensity. For almost all of mine I can’t discover an original, though I believe an original is what I am visited by. I can’t keep them; the calendar is self-erasing.

These instants give me nothing to ponder or to celebrate; they aren’t joyful or somber, express nothing but the intensity of felt existence. Some return many times, some never again. Sometimes they have a catalyst: lately I have felt them brought on by the deeply saturated colors of certain new cars passing me on the highway, chrome yellow, cherry red, teal. What am I reminded of? What in the chaos of my interior is being drawn out, like W. C. Fields plucking just the desired document from the apparently hopeless disorder of his rolltop desk in Man on the Flying Trapeze? Maybe nothing; maybe after all these aren’t memories—discrete moments of the past drawn into the present—but rather glimpses into a timeless time in which all moments have equal standing, are therefore not moments but the signs that Terry Eagleton says accomplish what they signify. If all that can exist in past, present, or future exists now, then the time that has passed through our consciousness, flowing continuously without marks or stops in parallel with the tick of clocks, resides there still when it is gone: choosing, in effect all by itself, what we are to know of it."
time  atemporality  2014  johncrowley  staugustine  presentism  present  future  past  calendars  eternalism  memory  sacredtime  relgion  belief 
october 2014 by robertogreco
I Believe in the After-Life — Medium
"Those of you who have followed my writing over the past few years will know that I’ve moved outside of an orthodox, theist idea of faith that embraces what some have called ‘the death of God.’

One thing has bugged me about that though: the idea of resurrection is central to Christianity, so in a radical, a-theist reading of faith do we simply abandon resurrection and the idea of an afterlife?

In the face of death it is a bold move to make to refuse the platitudes that we’ll be together again at some future point. That was a very very hard conversation to have, and one that marked the extraordinary theological courage of a man who wasn’t about to compromise on the hard thinking that he had done.

Being Let Down

A few days ago I had the privilege of recording an interview with Simon Critchley, as part of a BBC Radio 4 piece I’m doing that will be aired on 23rd November. I began by asking him about his idea that all philosophy begins in disappointment — which sparked this post ‘on being let down.’

If disappointment is the beginning of philosophy, then its end is perhaps contained in Montaigne’s maxim that ‘to philosophise is to learn how to die.’ In other words, philosophy begins with a let down, and ends by preparing us for the final, greatest let down — that where we are lowered into the ground and buried.

Decreation

When I pressed him on what this philosophical lesson in death might mean, Critchley turned to Simone Weil and her idea of ‘decreation.’ He described this process thus:

The self is a thing that we have — a kind of carapace that we assume over time because of language, culture, circumstances, and we have to tear that down. We have to undo what is creaturely in us, what is given in us, in order to love.

There’s something a little bit masculine, a bit selfish about the idea of the philosophical death, which I think love challenges. Love is that counter-movement to selfishness which demands a huge amount of us.

Weil’s most famous work is called Gravity and Grace, and it struck me that this was perhaps instructive. Gravity is the acceptance of our inevitable descent into the earth, the tearing down of the selfish creature in us that will do anything to resist our finitude. Grace is what happens beyond that death of the self; it is the life that comes after gravity has done its work.

“I Believe in the Afterlife”

At this point in the interview I abandoned my careful notes. This was personal. There was something here I wanted to know. Was this perhaps a way that we could reclaim the idea of resurrection, that after this death we are somehow lifted again?

I’m still processing Critchley’s reply. I’m wary of valourising him, a man whose books have been very important in the development of my own thinking, a man who turned out to be generous in his time and thinking, generous in his self when we met. But, as I think about Nic’s death two years ago, about the family and friends who remain — and as I continue to try to work through and understand this life-after-God— I think there’s something very profound, true and helpful in his answer:

“I believe in the after-life, in so far as I believe in the life of those that come after. And those that come after most closely — kids, those you love or have been close to — you want them to go on.

“I believe in an after-life, not in the sense of a soul’s immortality, but an after-life of those who will continue and go on, and hopefully go on without entirely forgetting us.”

—Simon Critchley

This, for me, is the true after-life. We live in order that when we are gone others are equipped to go on, and to do so without forgetting us. What funds that? Love. The love that has accepted the gravity of our existence, the fact that life will end in let-down, but carries on giving.

‘Some things cannot be stolen,’ Nic painted in bold strokes of paint on one of the last pieces he created.

Our bodies are taken, our looks and sharp minds are looted, our friends, our parents — sometimes even our children.

But as all of this is wrenched away and inevitably falls to the earth, one thing cannot be taken from us, not by gravity nor any force in the universe.

Against the dust of planet love endures into the after-life, still takes the wing and lifts us, perhaps even beyond death.

Perhaps."
death  belief  afterlife  2014  kesterbrewin  simoncritchley  nichughes  grace  self  simoneweil  decreation  love  mortality  resurrection  memory  existence 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Pirates and Prodigals on Vimeo
"A conversation between Kester Brewin, Peter Rollins, and Barry Taylor on the tragedy of the pirate and prodigal son archetypes and what this means for the future church. The discussion drew from ideas presented in Kester Brewin’s latest book, Mutiny! Why We Love Pirates, and How They Can Save Us.

The Berry Center for Lifelong Learning and The Inititive for the Church and Contemprary Culture, Fuller Theologcial Seminary

Wednesday, October 24, 2012"
pirates  theology  christianity  religion  belief  2012  radicaltheology  kesterbrewin  peterrollins  barrytaylor  courage  brokenness  honesty  responsibility  otherness  humanism  empathy  perspective  understanding  life  living  death  piracy  slavery  freedom  autonomy  independence  god  liberation  prodigalson  unbelief  decay  zombies 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Gay Marriage Vs. the First Amendment - The Daily Beast
"To begin with, the First Amendment is flagrantly biased in favor of religion. As we all know, it requires Congress not to make any law “prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” What this means in practice is profound: If the beliefs you are exercising are not religious, your freedom to exercise them is not as protected by the Constitution as religious beliefs. If you like to trip on peyote because it is fun for you, or because you believe it makes you a better person, you will not receive the same legal protection as someone who trips on peyote because it is an integral part of long-standing religious beliefs to which they subscribe.

For irreligious people, this is a potential outrage of the first order. How dare the government extend special protections to religions for no better reason than that they are religions?

But for civil libertarians, whatever their degree of faith, there is cause for anxiety as well. The First Amendment implicitly requires government itself to make official determinations about what is and what isn’t a religion. No matter how necessary that may be to our constitutional framework, there is always a possibility for abuse, and in times of intense culture war, that possibility is magnified.

Unfortunately, the problem is even worse than that. The First Amendment is also biased against religion in an unexpected way. As we are all familiar, Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Sorry, theocrats! But think more deeply: Congress could make all kinds of laws that aggressively establish an ideology that is not a religion."
politics  religion  jamespoulos  2014  freedom  us  constitution  rights  freedomofreligion  firstamendment  government  fait  belief  via:ayjay  marriageequality 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Paris Review - The Art of Fiction No. 198, Marilynne Robinson
"ROBINSON
I don’t like categories like religious and not religious. As soon as religion draws a line around itself it becomes falsified. It seems to me that anything that is written compassionately and perceptively probably satisfies every definition of religious whether a writer intends it to be religious or not."



"INTERVIEWER
Ames says that in our everyday world there is “more beauty than our eyes can bear.” He’s living in America in the late 1950s. Would he say that today?

ROBINSON
You have to have a certain detachment in order to see beauty for yourself rather than something that has been put in quotation marks to be understood as “beauty.” Think about Dutch painting, where sunlight is falling on a basin of water and a woman is standing there in the clothes that she would wear when she wakes up in the morning—that beauty is a casual glimpse of something very ordinary. Or a painting like Rembrandt’s Carcass of Beef, where a simple piece of meat caught his eye because there was something mysterious about it. You also get that in Edward Hopper: Look at the sunlight! or Look at the human being! These are instances of genius. Cultures cherish artists because they are people who can say, Look at that. And it’s not Versailles. It’s a brick wall with a ray of sunlight falling on it.

At the same time, there has always been a basic human tendency toward a dubious notion of beauty. Think about cultures that rarify themselves into courts in which people paint themselves with lead paint and get dumber by the day, or women have ribs removed to have their waists cinched tighter. There’s no question that we have our versions of that now. The most destructive thing we can do is act as though this is some sign of cultural, spiritual decay rather than humans just acting human, which is what we’re doing most of the time.

INTERVIEWER
Ames believes that one of the benefits of religion is “it helps you concentrate. It gives you a good basic sense of what is being asked of you and also what you might as well ignore.” Is this something that your faith and religious practice has done for you?

ROBINSON
Religion is a framing mechanism. It is a language of orientation that presents itself as a series of questions. It talks about the arc of life and the quality of experience in ways that I’ve found fruitful to think about. Religion has been profoundly effective in enlarging human imagination and expression. It’s only very recently that you couldn’t see how the high arts are intimately connected to religion.

INTERVIEWER
Is this frame of religion something we’ve lost?

ROBINSON
There was a time when people felt as if structure in most forms were a constraint and they attacked it, which in a culture is like an autoimmune problem: the organism is not allowing itself the conditions of its own existence. We’re cultural creatures and meaning doesn’t simply generate itself out of thin air; it’s sustained by a cultural framework. It’s like deciding how much more interesting it would be if you had no skeleton: you could just slide under the door.

INTERVIEWER
How does science fit into this framework?

ROBINSON
I read as much as I can of contemporary cosmology because reality itself is profoundly mysterious. Quantum theory and classical physics, for instance, are both lovely within their own limits and yet at present they cannot be reconciled with each other. If different systems don’t merge in a comprehensible way, that’s a flaw in our comprehension and not a flaw in one system or the other.

INTERVIEWER
Are religion and science simply two systems that don’t merge?

ROBINSON
The debate seems to be between a naive understanding of religion and a naive understanding of science. When people try to debunk religion, it seems to me they are referring to an eighteenth-century notion of what science is. I’m talking about Richard Dawkins here, who has a status that I can’t quite understand. He acts as if the physical world that is manifest to us describes reality exhaustively. On the other side, many of the people who articulate and form religious expression have not acted in good faith. The us-versus-them mentality is a terrible corruption of the whole culture.

INTERVIEWER
You’ve written critically about Dawkins and the other New Atheists. Is it their disdain for religion and championing of pure science that troubles you?

ROBINSON
No, I read as much pure science as I can take in. It’s a fact that their thinking does not feel scientific. The whole excitement of science is that it’s always pushing toward the discovery of something that it cannot account for or did not anticipate. The New Atheist types, like Dawkins, act as if science had revealed the world as a closed system. That simply is not what contemporary science is about. A lot of scientists are atheists, but they don’t talk about reality in the same way that Dawkins does. And they would not assume that there is a simple-as-that kind of response to everything in question. Certainly not on the grounds of anything that science has discovered in the last hundred years.

The science that I prefer tends toward cosmology, theories of quantum reality, things that are finer-textured than classical physics in terms of their powers of description. Science is amazing. On a mote of celestial dust, we have figured out how to look to the edge of our universe. I feel instructed by everything I have read. Science has a lot of the satisfactions for me that good theology has.

INTERVIEWER
But doesn’t science address an objective notion of reality while religion addresses how we conceive of ourselves?

ROBINSON
As an achievement, science is itself a spectacular argument for the singularity of human beings among all things that exist. It has a prestige that comes with unambiguous changes in people’s experience—space travel, immunizations. It has an authority that’s based on its demonstrable power. But in discussions of human beings it tends to compare downwards: we’re intelligent because hyenas are intelligent and we just took a few more leaps.

The first obligation of religion is to maintain the sense of the value of human beings. If you had to summarize the Old Testament, the summary would be: stop doing this to yourselves. But it is not in our nature to stop harming ourselves. We don’t behave consistently with our own dignity or with the dignity of other people. The Bible reiterates this endlessly.

INTERVIEWER
Did you ever have a religious awakening?

ROBINSON
No, a mystical experience would be wasted on me. Ordinary things have always seemed numinous to me. One Calvinist notion deeply implanted in me is that there are two sides to your encounter with the world. You don’t simply perceive something that is statically present, but in fact there is a visionary quality to all experience. It means something because it is addressed to you. This is the individualism that you find in Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. You can draw from perception the same way a mystic would draw from a vision.

INTERVIEWER
How would one learn to see ordinary things this way?

ROBINSON
It’s not an acquired skill. It’s a skill that we’re born with that we lose. We learn not to do it."



"INTERVIEWER
Does your faith ever conflict with your “regular life”?

ROBINSON
When I’m teaching, sometimes issues come up. I might read a scene in a student’s story that seems—by my standards—pornographic. I don’t believe in exploiting or treating with disrespect even an imagined person. But at the same time, I realize that I can’t universalize my standards. In instances like that, I feel I have to hold my religious reaction at bay. It is important to let people live out their experience of the world without censorious interference, except in very extreme cases."



"INTERVIEWER
Most people know you as a novelist, but you spend a lot of your time writing nonfiction. What led you to start writing essays?

ROBINSON
To change my own mind. I try to create a new vocabulary or terrain for myself, so that I open out—I always think of the Dutch claiming land from the sea—or open up something that would have been closed to me before. That’s the point and the pleasure of it. I continuously scrutinize my own thinking. I write something and think, How do I know that that’s true? If I wrote what I thought I knew from the outset, then I wouldn’t be learning anything new.

In this culture, essays are often written for the sake of writing the essay. Someone finds a quibble of potential interest and quibbles about it. This doesn’t mean the writer isn’t capable of doing something of greater interest, but we generate a lot of prose that’s not vital. The best essays come from the moment in which people really need to work something out."



"ROBINSON
People are frightened of themselves. It’s like Freud saying that the best thing is to have no sensation at all, as if we’re supposed to live painlessly and unconsciously in the world. I have a much different view. The ancients are right: the dear old human experience is a singular, difficult, shadowed, brilliant experience that does not resolve into being comfortable in the world. The valley of the shadow is part of that, and you are depriving yourself if you do not experience what humankind has experienced, including doubt and sorrow. We experience pain and difficulty as failure instead of saying, I will pass through this, everyone I have ever admired has passed through this, music has come out of this, literature has come out of it. We should think of our humanity as a privilege."



"ROBINSON
Faith always sounds like an act of will. Frankly, I don’t know what faith in God means. For me, the experience is much more a sense of God. Nothing could be more miraculous than the fact that we have a consciousness that makes the world intelligible to us and are moved by what is beautiful."
marilynnerobinson  religion  sarahfay  2008  science  structure  atheism  belief  christianity  richarddawkins  newatheists  ordinary  everyday  perception  vision  seeing  noticing  observing  dignity  grace  faith  standards  mindchanging  openmindedness  thinking  writing  howwewrite  humanism  interviews  beauty  ordinariness  mindchanges 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Marilynne Robinson’s ‘When I Was a Child I Read Books’ - NYTimes.com
"Robinson grew up in Idaho and now lives in Iowa — places where, as she puts it in her new collection of personal and critical essays, “When I Was a Child I Read Books,” “ ‘lonesome’ is a word with strongly positive connotations.” In her lexicon, lonesomeness means the opposite of isolation. It envelops the mind and heart in unsullied nature, allowing focused apprehension of the miracle of creation, as when she remembers kneeling alone as a child “by a creek that spilled and pooled among rocks and fallen trees with the unspeakably tender growth of small trees already sprouting from their backs, and thinking, there is only one thing wrong here, which is my own presence, and that is the slightest imaginable intrusion — feeling that my solitude, my loneliness, made me almost acceptable in so sacred a place.”

One inference to be drawn from Robinson’s essays is that her novels contain a good deal of self-portraiture. When she was young, she seems to have been a prairie version of one of J. D. Salinger’s Glass children — except that rather than urbanity, her precociousness took the form of piety. “I looked to Galilee for meaning,” she tells us, “and to Spokane for orthodonture.” Only such a reverent child could have felt, as Ruth, the narrator of “Housekeeping,” feels when the boat she’s in seems about to capsize, that “it was the order of the world that the shell should fall away and that I, the nub, the sleeping germ, should swell and expand.” This kind of high-mindedness can appear a little chastising to those of us who would have worried about drowning.

But if Robinson writes with a devoutness that can alienate those who don’t share it, she also avers that wisdom is “almost always another name for humility.” Not only in Christian Scripture but throughout the Hebrew Bible, she finds a “haunting solicitude for the vulnerable.” Like many conservative critics, with whom she would otherwise disagree, she is angry at America for its putative betrayal of its founding principles. She condemns “condescension toward biblical texts and narratives, toward the culture that produced them, toward God.” She decries the diminution of religion as “a primitive attempt to explain phenomena which are properly within the purview of science.” But her anger arises not on behalf of some fanciful notion that America was once a monolithic Christian nation. She is angry, instead, at our failure to sustain the capacious conception of community with which, as she shows in a brilliant essay entitled “Open Thy Hand Wide: Moses and the Origins of American Liberalism,” America began — a community founded not on the premise that human beings are motivated primarily by greed, but as an experiment in building a society on the principle of love. She persists in believing that this experiment has not been futile: “The great truth that is too often forgotten is that it is in the nature of people to do good to one another.”"



"“I think we all know,” she remarks near the beginning of the book, “that the earth might be reaching the end of its tolerance for our presumptions.” In that word “presumptions” there is great force, amplified by the plural possessive pronoun that precedes it and that underscores everyone’s “inevitable share in human fallibility.” Like every good preacher, Marilynne Robinson judges others while including herself — in theory, at least — in the judgment."
marilynnerobinson  2012  andrewdelbanco  christianity  lonesomeness  loneliness  solitude  isolation  presumptions  humanism  humility  grace  religion  belief 
august 2014 by robertogreco
The First Church of Marilynne Robinson - The New Yorker
When I say that I love Marilynne Robinson’s work, I’m not talking about half of it; I’m talking about every word of it.

There are two major reasons why, although these reasons are so difficult to separate from one another that they might just as well be one. The first is the grace of Robinson’s prose. In “Housekeeping,” her first novel, the narrator Ruthie says of her grandmother that “the wind that billowed her sheets announced to her the resurrection of the ordinary,” and this kind of resurrection is as central to Robinson’s aesthetic sensibility as the Christian resurrection is to her spiritual one. Her work is filled with countless indelible descriptions of water, and these descriptions are always animated by an elemental sense of wonder about this most familiar and necessary of substances.



The second reason why I love Robinson, then, is how her writing puts me inside an apprehension of the world that is totally foreign to me, and that I have often approached with borderline hostility. (I’m Irish, so when I think about religion I tend to think about suffering and self-hatred. Or boredom and terror. Or the controlled intellectual and sexual famines the Catholic Church imposed on every generation of Irish people before my own. Or much worse things.) But even though I’m a more or less a fully paid-up atheist, I’m more drawn to Robinson’s Christian humanism than I am to the Dawkins-Dennett-Hitchens-Harris school of anti-theist fighting talk.

Perhaps that’s because Robinson’s moral wisdom seems inseparable from her gifts as a prose writer. Near the end of “Gilead,” Ames contemplates Jack Boughton, the wayward son of his friend Reverend Robert Boughton. He finds himself unable to understand Jack’s motivations, the reasons for the miserable and self-destructive life he has lead. “In every important way,” he writes, “we are such secrets from each other, and I do believe that there is a separate language in each of us, also a separate aesthetics and a separate jurisprudence.” Coming from a Calvinist minister, this sounds at first surprisingly like moral relativism, but what it is, really, is moral intelligence. He continues: “We take fortuitous resemblances among us to be actual likeness, because those around us have fallen heir to the same customs, trade in the same coin, acknowledge, more or less, the same notions of decency and sanity. But all that really just allows us to coexist with the inviolable, untraversable, and utterly vast spaces between us.”

This is not the kind of voice I normally associate with religious people, and it makes me wonder whether we might not be listening to the wrong voices. (A resolution: instead of clicking links to stories about the Westboro Baptist Church condemning, say, the Foo Fighters to the eternal flames of perdition, I’ll read a paragraph or two of an essay by Robinson instead.) In her new non-fiction collection, “When I Was a Child I Read Books,” there’s an essay called “Imagination and Community” in which Robinson discusses her conviction that the capacity to make imaginative connections with other people, familiar and foreign, is the basis of community:
I would say, for the moment, that community, at least community larger than the immediate family, consists very largely of imaginative love for people we do not know or whom we know very slightly. This thesis may be influenced by the fact that I have spent literal years of my life lovingly absorbed in the thoughts and perceptions of—who knows it better than I?—people who do not exist. And, just as writers are engrossed in the making of them, readers are profoundly moved and also influenced by the nonexistent, that great clan whose numbers increase prodigiously with every publishing season. I think fiction may be, whatever else, an exercise in the capacity for imaginative love, or sympathy, or identification.

This is a common enough belief, and it’s one that is frequently expressed by writers of fiction. It’s not an argument I am normally much swayed by, but Robinson’s fiction is an eloquent form of proof. She makes an atheist reader like myself capable of identifying with the sense of a fallen world that is filled with pain and sadness but also suffused with divine grace. Robinson is a Calvinist, but her spiritual sensibility is richly inclusive and non-dogmatic. There’s little talk about sin or damnation in her writing, but a lot about forgiveness and tolerance and kindness. Hers is the sort of Christianity, I suppose, that Christ could probably get behind. I’ll never share her way of seeing and thinking about the world and our place in it, but her writing has shown me the value and beauty of these perspectives.

I’ve always been haunted by a remark Samuel Beckett made in a letter to the Irish novelist Aidan Higgins, in which he referred to “writing style, that vanity” as “a bow tie about a throat cancer.” It’s a great line, and a stylish one (Beckett was, among other things, one of the great dicky-bowed prose stylists of the twentieth century), but its suggestion that there is something fraudulent about literary eloquence is a corrosive one. It makes such writing seem slightly contemptible, a kind of sad and futile indulgence. To me, Robinson is a powerful refutation of this idea. There is nothing fraudulent about her eloquence, nothing remotely shifty or meretricious about the beauty of her sentences. Her voice is at once sad and ecstatic, conversationally fluent and formally precise. And it doesn’t feel like a performance or a feint. It doesn’t feel like Beckett’s version of vanity. It feels like wisdom. Perhaps not the kind of wisdom I am used to acknowledging, but wisdom all the same."
marilynnerobinson  2012  grace  marko'connell  writing  literature  religion  belief  wisdom  christianity 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Meta is Murder - Mills Baker's Internet Haus of Cards
"One such principle is well phrased by Marilynne Robinson in her essay “When I was a Child,” in her collection When I Was a Child I Read Books:
"It may be mere historical conditioning, but when I see a man or a woman alone, he or she looks mysterious to me, which is only to say that for a moment I see another human being clearly."

The idea that a human seen clearly is a mystery is anathema to a culture of judgment —such as ours— which rests on a simple premise: humans can be understood by means of simple schema that map their beliefs or actions to moral categories. Moreover, because there are usually relatively few of these categories, and few important issues of discernment —our range of political concerns being startlingly narrow, after all— humans can be understood and judged at high speed in large, generalized groups: Democrats, Republicans, women, men, people of color, whites, Muslims, Christians, the rich, the poor, Generation X, millennials, Baby Boomers, and so on.

It should but does not go without saying that none of those terms describes anything with sufficient precision to support the kinds of observations people flatter themselves making. Generalization is rarely sound. No serious analysis, no serious effort to understand, describe, or change anything can contain much generalization, as every aggregation of persons introduces error. One can hardly describe a person in full, let alone a family, a city, a class, a state, a race. Yet we persist in doing so, myself included."



"One of the very best things Nietzsche ever wrote:
"The will to a system is a lack of integrity."

But to systematize is our first reaction to life in a society of scale, and our first experiment as literate or educated or even just “grown-up” persons with powers of apprehension, cogitation, and rhetoric. What would a person be online if he lacked a system in which phenomena could be traced to the constellation of ideas which constituted his firmament? What is life but the daily diagnosis of this or that bit of news as “yet another example of” an overarching system of absolutely correct beliefs? To have a system is proof of one’s seriousness, it seems —our profiles so often little lists of what we “believe,” or what we “are”— and we coalesce around our systems of thought just as our parents did around their political parties, though we of course consider ourselves mere rationalists following the evidence. Not surprisingly, the evidence always leads to the conclusion that many people in the world are horrible, stupid, even evil; and we are smart, wise, and good. It should be amusing, but it is not.

I hate this because I am doing this right now. I detest generalization because when I scan Twitter I generalize about what I see: “people today,” or “our generation,” I think, even though the people of today are as all people always have been, even though they are all just like me. I resent their judgments because I feel reduced by them and feel reality is reduced, so I reduce them with my own judgments: shallow thinkers who lack, I mutter, the integrity not to systematize. And I put fingers to keys to note this system of analysis, lacking all integrity, mocking my very position.

I want to maintain my capacity to view each as a mystery, as a human in full, whose interiority I cannot know. I want not to be full of hatred, so I seek to confess that my hatred is self-hatred: shame at the state of my intellectual reactivity and decay. I worry deeply that our systematizing is inevitable because when we are online we are in public: that these fora mandate performance, and worse, the kind of performance that asserts its naturalness, like the grotesquely beautiful actor who says, "Oh, me? I just roll out of bed in the morning and wear whatever I find lying about" as he smiles a smile so practiced it could calibrate the atomic clock. Every online utterance is an angling for approval; we write in the style of speeches: exhorting an audience, haranguing enemies, lauding the choir. People “remind” no one in particular of the correct ways to think, the correct opinions to hold. When I see us speaking like op-ed columnists, I feel embarrassed: it is like watching a lunatic relative address passers-by using the “royal we,” and, I feel, it is pitifully imitative. Whom are we imitating? Those who live in public: politicians, celebrities, “personalities.”

There is no honesty without privacy, and privacy is not being forbidden so much as rendered irrelevant; privacy is an invented concept, after all, and like all inventions must contend with waves of successive technologies or be made obsolete. The basis of privacy is the idea that judgment should pertain only to public acts —acts involving other persons and society— and not the interior spaces of the self. Society has no right to judge one’s mind; society hasn’t even the right to inquire about one’s mind. The ballot is secret; one cannot be compelled to testify or even talk in our criminal justice system; there can be no penalty for being oneself, however odious we may find given selves or whole (imagined) classes of selves.

This very radical idea has an epistemological basis, not a purely moral one: the self is a mystery. Every self is a mystery. You cannot know what someone really is, what they are capable of, what transformations of belief or character they might undergo, in what their identity consists, what they’ve inherited or appropriated, what they’ll abandon or reconsider; you cannot say when a person is who she is, at what point the “real” person exists or when a person’s journey through selves has stopped. A person is not, we all know, his appearance; but do we all know that she is not her job? Or even her politics?

But totalizing rationalism is emphatic: either something is known or it is irrelevant. Thus: the mystery of the self is a myth; there is no mystery at all. A self is valid or invalid, useful or not, correct or incorrect, and if someone is sufficiently different from you, if their beliefs are sufficiently opposed to yours, their way of life alien enough, they are to be judged and detested. Everyone is a known quantity; simply look at their Twitter bio and despise.

But this is nonsense. In truth, the only intellectually defensible posture is one of humility: all beliefs are misconceptions; all knowledge is contingent, temporary, erroneous; and no self is knowable, not truly, not to another. We can perhaps sense this in ourselves —although I worry that many of us are too happy to brag about our conformity to this or that scheme or judgment, to use labels that honor us as though we’ve earned ourselves rather than chancing into them— but we forget that this is true of every single other, too. This forgetting is the first step of the so-called othering process: forget that we are bound together in irreducibility, forget that we ought to be humble in all things, and especially in our judgments of one another.

Robinson once more:
"Only lonesomeness allows one to experience this sort of radical singularity, one’s greatest dignity and privilege."

Lonesomeness is what we’re all fleeing at the greatest possible speed, what our media now concern themselves chiefly with eliminating alongside leisure. We thus forget our radical singularity, a personal tragedy, an erasure, a hollowing-out, and likewise the singularity of others, which is a tragedy more social and political in nature, and one which seems to me truly and literally horrifying. Because more than any shared “belief system” or political pose, it is the shared experience of radical singularity that unites us: the shared experience of inimitability and mortality. Anything which countermands our duty to recognize and honor the human in the other is a kind of evil, however just its original intention."
millsbaker  canon  self  reality  empathy  humility  howwethink  2014  generalizations  morality  nietzsche  integrity  marilynnerobinson  mystery  grace  privacy  categorization  pigeonholingsingularity  lonesomeness  loneliness  leisure  artleisure  leisurearts  beliefs  belief  inimitability  humanism  judgement  familiarity  understanding 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Some thoughts on faith, pain, anger, communalism, and the Juice. (with tweets) · sahelidatta · Storify
"As a person who believes in God and values my faith, it greatly pains me how much identification with faith seems to enable communal violence and hatred rather decrease it, and seems *not* to inspire the kind of compassion, humility, and love I expect. Some thoughts, spontaneously tweeted.

I believe in God & take my faith (Gaudiya Vaishnavism) fairly seriously, often use phrase 'the juice' to describe sense of connection to God

My continuous loyalty to *my* brand of faith reflects my experience that it's juiciest for *me* yet have found juice in others' faiths too.

Often feel the complementary flavors in juice received from time spent w/ other faiths (association, scripture) deepens my love of my own

Moreover, I have even received juice in company of avowed Atheists. Truthfulness of their honesty about not tasting it often moves me.

In moments of deep sincerity, an Atheist striving for compassion, affection, humility, wonder, or service can make *me* feel closer to God

Humbled before their strength or energy or will power, and goodness, I feel grateful to them for juice & use it to pray to learn from them

If they = someone I care for, I also pray to God that one day, in this lifetime or another, *if* they want it, they can taste juice too.

I've gotten juice from association and words of faithful in many faiths--most Abrahamic branches, other Hindus, Buddhists, Shinto, Native Am

Pretty much the only one that has consistently failed to do much for me at all is Scientology. Sorry, that's just the truth.

Striking thing about anger & pride & glee of militant/nationalist/ethnocentric/doxicentric types, regardless of faith: NO JUICE

sadness on behalf of one's community and true pain about misunderstanding or mockery or attack of one's vision of God, that can have juice

But communalism and hatred -- the juice gets all dried up. it's gone, like it was never there. Often, I think it never was.

I feel my ability to taste juice is causeless gift from God, unearned, undeserved, can be taken away, especially if I choose not to want it

Whether or not I taste it in someone else's company is not a sign to me that I have understood them and can accurately judge them

But *is* a sign to me that spending time w/ them will not bring *me* closer to God, for whatever reason:perhaps a tautology, perhaps His msg

So I say this not to rag on others, but out of a troubled reflection on my now decades of cumulative experience.

Intellectual & rational & secularly-political opinions aside, my own selfish desire for Juice = huge reason I distrust religious chauvinists

Appeal to myself & anyone who groks Juice of "connecting to God" & who's angry&hurt about attack on their community or faith: ok to be upset

But in acting on our anger & pain, in using it as a tool, may we always be vigilant that it keeps us closer to God and not our worse selves.

When our identity contains labels at least superficially tied to God, too easy to serve our worst self,so identified, & pretend we serve God

When wondering if I'm really feeling close to God(vs. gratifying my ego's self-identification as someone who feels close to God) I try this:

I meditate on my belief that God has deep love for everyone, including others very different from me, with concrete examples.

"He is full in all respects, still He feels pangs of separation for every one of us, however small we may be." - my mom's Guru

"the Lord’s heart is not an ordinary heart...In spite of His supreme position, He has room for us in a corner of His loving heart."Mom'sGuru

Then I ask myself, "is *that* Lord really be pleased with me now?" if answer = no way! time to step back & reflect.

But I'm actually terrible aspiring searcher for God, & too rarely do this, never w/ enough diligence or strength. Must try more. The end.:-)



I don't know if these thoughts are useful to anyone but me, but I felt compelled to think about them and express them, and twitter helped me be careful and slow and do it in small and even chunks, and I am grateful it helped me do so, and that Storify gives me a place to keep them all together and return to them if I need to. Hope I didn't drive away too many of my followers. :-)

In case anyone is interested, my beloved late mother's beloved Gurudev was Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Maharaj, a disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, and a celebrated monk, scholar, poet, preacher and teacher in the Gaudiya Vaishnav line of Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu which is my faith of choice, both as my family inheritance and my own frequently and deliberately renewed choice. His book Loving Search for the Lost Servant is very important to me and the source of those quotes. "
sahelidatta  2014  storify  twitter  faith  pain  anger  communalism  juice  belief  compassion  affection  humility  wonder  service  religion  god  hatred  hate  willpower  goodness  atheism  respect  love 
july 2014 by robertogreco
The Afterlife - NYTimes.com
"A few months after David’s death, my wife and I attended a gathering of grieving parents who spoke lovingly of their lost ones, and then of the knowledge that their child was now at Jesus’ side. There was a light in their faces. I envied them their resurrection, and did not return.

Have I no more than these solicitations, these invitations, these letters delivered late? I do. I have memories. I have places where I feel both his closeness and his distance. And I have the all-too-brief visitations allowed in dreams. For the nonbeliever I’ve become, it is what passes for an afterlife."
via:lukeneff  belief  tedgup  parenting  distance  memory  memories  closeness  afterlife  2014 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Fantasy and the Buffered Self - The New Atlantis
"When asked by the editors of the website The Immanent Frame to summarize the key concerns of his vastly ambitious book A Secular Age (2007), Charles Taylor wrote,

Almost everyone can agree that one of the big differences between us and our ancestors of five hundred years ago is that they lived in an “enchanted” world, and we do not; at the very least, we live in a much less “enchanted” world. We might think of this as our having “lost” a number of beliefs and the practices which they made possible. But more, the enchanted world was one in which these forces could cross a porous boundary and shape our lives, psychic and physical. One of the big differences between us and them is that we live with a much firmer sense of the boundary between self and other. We are “buffered” selves. We have changed.

As Taylor makes clear, the shift from a porous to a buffered self involves a complex series of exchanges. But to put that shift in simple terms, a person accepts a buffered condition as a means of being protected from the demonic or otherwise ominous forces that in pre-modern times generated a quavering network of terrors. To be a pre-modern person, in Taylor’s account, is to be constantly in danger of being invaded or overcome by demons or fairies or nameless terrors of the dark — of being possessed and transformed, or spirited away and never returned to home and family. Keith Thomas’s magisterial Religion and the Decline of Magic (1971) specifies many of these dangers, along with the whole panoply of prayers, rites, amulets, potions, chants, spells, and the like, by which a person might seek protection from the otherwise irresistible. It is easy, then, to imagine why a person — or a whole culture — might, if it could, exchange this model of a self with highly permeable boundaries for one in which the self feels better protected, defended — impermeable, or nearly so.

The problem with this apparently straightforward transaction is that the porous self is open to the divine as well as to the demonic, while the buffered self is closed to both alike. Those who must guard against capture by fairies are necessarily and by the same token receptive to mystical experiences. The “showings” manifested to Julian of Norwich depend upon exceptional sensitivity, which is to say porosity — vulnerability to incursions of the supernatural. The portals of the self cannot be closed on one side only. But the achievement of a safely buffered personhood — closed off from both the divine and the demonic — is soon enough accompanied by a deeply felt change in the very cosmos. As C. S. Lewis notes in The Discarded Image (1964), the medieval person who found himself “looking up at a world lighted, warmed, and resonant with music” gives way to the modern person who perceives only emptiness and silence. Safety is purchased at the high price of isolation, as we see as early as Pascal, who famously wrote of the night sky, “Le silence éternel de ces espaces infinis m’effraie” (“The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me”).

In these circumstances, one might expect people to ask whether so difficult and costly an exchange is in fact necessary. Might it not be possible to experience the benefits, while avoiding the costs, of both the porous and the buffered self? I want to argue here that it is precisely this desire that accounts for the rise to cultural prominence, in late modernity, of the artistic genre of fantasy. Fantasy — in books, films, television shows, and indeed in all imaginable media — is an instrument by which the late modern self strives to avail itself of the unpredictable excitements of the porous self while retaining its protective buffers. Fantasy, in most of its recent forms, may best be understood as a technologically enabled, and therefore safe, simulacrum of the pre-modern porous self.

Before pursuing my argument, I must make two clarifications. First, fantasy itself is not a recent development but rather an ancient form (though not under its current name). What we now call “fantasy” is something closer to “realism” in the pagan world, which is populated by many powers capable of acting upon “porous” human selves. In the pagan world, success in life is largely a matter of navigating safely among those powers, which are unpredictable, beyond good and evil, and often indifferent to human needs. (Such indifference means that they can help as well as hurt, but also that their assistance can never be relied upon.) In this environment, fantastic creatures are at the very least personifications or embodiments of powers genuinely believed to exist. The realism is not strict, in that the writers and readers of earlier times did not necessarily believe in the existence of precisely such creatures as were described in their stories — perhaps not Apollo or Artemis any more than Dante’s Geryon or Spenser’s Blatant Beast, though such questions are necessarily and notoriously vexed. But at the very least the pre-modern world is one in which powers like those hold sway and cannot be safely neglected; a world in which what we would call the fantastic is an intrinsic element of the real.

Second, some of the most celebrated practitioners of modern fantasy share with their pre-modern predecessors this belief that the fictional apparatus of fantasy is a relatively close approximation to the way things really are for human beings. J. R. R. Tolkien may not have believed in Sauron, but he surely believed that there are in human history people who sell themselves to the Enemy and find themselves as a result of that decision first empowered and then destroyed. And when, at the beginning of Lewis’s Perelandra (1944), the protagonist Ransom’s progress toward a friend’s house is impeded by invisible forces who fill him with fear, Lewis was describing the work of spirits whom he truly believed to exist, though under a slightly different description, just as he probably believed that some forms of scientistic rationalism are the product of demonic influence. In short, these writers sought to present their readers with an image of an enchanted world, of selves fully porous to supernatural forces. But because they did so in genres (fantasy, science fiction) known for the imaginative portrayal of the wholly nonexistent, readers confident in their buffered condition can be delighted by those stories without ever for a moment considering the possibility that the forces portrayed therein might correspond to something real. Indeed, the delight of the stories for such readers consists primarily in their perceived unreality."



"If the technical boy is wrong, if resistance can happen, we might take comfort from what seems to me the authentic core of the fantastic as a genre, as we see it from the standpoint of late modernity: fantasy may best be taken as an acknowledgment that the great problem of the pagan world — how to navigate as safely as possible through an ever-shifting landscape of independent and unpredictable powers who are indifferent to human needs — is our problem once more. The powers now may have different names than the ones Homer or Ovid knew, but they are powers all the same. American Gods is an especially important text for this moment, because it rightly identifies technologies as gods and simultaneously sides with the older gods as being intrinsically closer to the proper human lifeworld. Imaginatively, if not in substantive belief, we are pagans once more.

What We Don’t See

But a coda is required. All that I have written so far about porous and buffered selves has followed Charles Taylor in bracketing the question of what our actual condition is. We may choose to believe that we can buffer ourselves, protect ourselves against unknown powers. But that’s a kind of wager: if the powers are real, our disbelief won’t deter them. And it may be that certain powers profit from being disregarded or treated as mere fancies. In a sonnet he wrote in the late 1930s, Auden portrayed a world from which magic had passed: “The sudden shadow of a giant’s enormous calf / Would fall no more at dusk across their lawns outside”; the last dragons and kobolds died off. The people “slept in peace.” But:

... The vanquished powers were glad

To be invisible and free: without remorse
Struck down the sons who strayed into their course,
And ravished the daughters, and drove the fathers mad."
2014  alanjacobs  fantasy  history  legibility  invisibility  visibility  belief  modernity  mysticism  magic  identity  self  protection  boundaries  unpredictability  uncertainty  supernatural  spirits  sciencefiction 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Theaster Gates Sessions now posted onto New School’s YouTube channel
"as promised, we finally got all of the clearances to post the sessions and forums pertaining to Theaster Gates’ residency.

Here is a short Highlight clip: http://youtu.be/xCnDtYMuAUw

And here are the remaining YouTube links:

Session 1 – http://youtu.be/ZtQVNsy2630
Session 2 – http://youtu.be/tyiEaQex4XA
Session 3 – http://youtu.be/BvCO1ybgZ-Q
Session 4 – http://youtu.be/PFrEWOKTGdA

Day 2, Part 1 – http://youtu.be/jtEcOg8ciIU
Day 2, Part 2 – http://youtu.be/NxmDSAumvqQ "
theastergates  shannonmattern  2013  art  community  rehabilitation  arts  chicago  urban  urbanism  migration  socialpracticeart  spirituality  belief  howwework 
july 2014 by robertogreco
More punk, less hell! - News Ausland: Europa - tagesanzeiger.ch
"Nothing in Gnarr’s youth pointed to good fortune or success. He was the late progeny of a bitter couple: His father was a policeman and Stalinist: «Pravda» came in the mail and the current head of state and party of the Soviet Union hung on the wall, albeit the wall of the broom closet. Gnarr’s mother was a conservative.

As a communist, his father never received a promotion. His endless monologues at the dinner table awakened in his son a deep aversion to politics. Gnarr also had other problems. At school, he struggled from the start and doctors declared him mentally retarded. He was short, skinny and had ADHD and migraines. He learned to write only when he was 14 and he was 16 before he could recite the months correctly. By that age, he had already made two suicide attempts and a tour of homes for troubled youths behind him.

Everyone, including himself, thought he was stupid. So when he was 13, he made three decisions: he became a punk, he became the class clown («better a clown than a dummy») and he gave up on learning at school. From then on, he read privately. And read he did, extensively: on anarchism, Bruce Lee, Tao Te Ching, Monty Python and surrealism.

Gnarr became a psychiatric nurse, taxi driver, bassist in the punk band Runny Nose, a father at 20 and at some point realized that he hated music, but liked to talk to the crowd between the songs. The impromptu speeches got longer and longer. Eventually, the side gig became his profession. Gnarr started a career as a comedian – telephone gags on the radio, stand-up, columns, sketches, TV shows.

Being a comedian was not a normal profession in Iceland. In the early days, kids at school asked his sons if he was mentally disturbed. As people became accustomed, he became famous. («Although being famous in Iceland, with 300,000 inhabitants, means very little,» as he says. «You buy a bottle of milk and presto, you’re famous».) Later, during the campaign, his competitors reminded people of his gags: such as the parody in which Gnarr portrays Hitler imagining the schmaltzy CD ‹No Regrets›. Or his success as a bald-headed, egotistical, yet touchingly awkward Stalinist on a TV show. The characters, they implied, illuminate the man.

And Gnarr shone in the roles. Professionally, he manifested a certain preference for bold hairdos and ridiculous clothes, such as a one-piece bathing suit. His conversion to Catholicism was still fresh in people’s memory as well. For months he had tried the patience of Reykjavik’s newspaper readers with enthusiastic columns praising the Pope and the church hierarchy before ultimately deciding to remain an agnostic.

On the other hand, he was a father of five, the author of a book, a comedian and an established TV star; a calm man with a wild smile – still a bit chaotic, but with a smart wife. And he had a long road behind him."



"And then came the video [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxBW4mPzv6E ], perhaps the cheeriest in the history of politics. A reworded version of Tina Turner’s ‹Simply the Best› sung by the candidates, the song included a brief, rousing speech by Gnarr that began with the words: «Fellow citizens, it is time to look into your hearts and decide. Do you want a bright future with the Best Party? Or a Reykjavik in ruins?»

The video was «not a major deal», as Proppe said later. «We’re pros when it comes to music videos.» And yet it’s the most delightful political video ever made: watching it will put you in a good mood for two hours. It excited people and attracted them. Two weeks before the election, the Best Party was polling at 38%.

That was the moment when Gnarr thought of quitting. He was exhausted and not himself. The politicians irritated him: before and after the debates, they made small talk, but in between they attacked him. He realized that although he had no idea about the issues, he had begun to act as if he did. It scared him.

After days of depression, he was lying in the bathtub when two ideas came to him. The first: «The Best Party was an idea. It had grown up, so I had to follow it. Even against my own interests. It was bigger than me. I had become a player in my own play. My freedom was gone. I was trapped. But also curious.» The second thought that persuaded him was a joke.

The final debate took place the next day. Gnarr went to the lectern and said: «We at the Best Party have always said that we would keep going as long as we were having fun. Everything has now become very serious. I hereby withdraw my candidacy for the office of mayor and the Best Party from the elections». A protracted hush fell over the room. The audience sat in silence, the other politicians looked at each other. And then Gnarr said: «Joooooke!»"



"One of the projects of the Best Party was to change the political culture. What was lacking was common decency. Gnarr says: «In the beginning I thought that the people who yelled at me in parliament were actually angry, but they’re not. As soon as the cameras are off, they want to have a beer with you». Proppe: «There are two languages: one for the public and one for behind the scenes. You can’t do that in any other workplace.» Örn: «Let me put it this way, I didn’t find any friends among the politicians. With friends, I talk about hobbies. But the politicians’ hobby is politics».

«It’s a bit disingenuous,» comments journalist Karl Blöndal, second-in-command at the conservative paper Morgunblaðið. «They see politics as theater, but then they are shocked by the theater in politics.»

In the political battles, the Best Party employed a concept from the Tao Te Ching – ‹wu wei›: never fight back, but let the attack miss its mark. And express your respect for your opponent."



"An assessment of four years of anarchist rule yields a rather surprising conclusion: the punks put the city’s financial house in order. They can also look back on some very successful speeches, a few dozen kilometers of bike paths, a zoning plan, a new school organization (that no one complains about any more) and a relaxed, booming city – tourism is growing by 20% a year (and some say that is the new bubble). In speeches, president Grímsson no longer praises Icelanders’ killer instinct, but their creativity. Real estate prices are again on the rise and the Range Rovers are back too. In polls last October, the Best Party hit its high-water mark of 38%. Shortly thereafter, Gnarr announced he would retire and dissolve the Best Party. His reason: «I’m a comedian, not a politician.» He added: «I was a cab driver for four years, a really good one even, and I quit doing that as well.»

«My question was always: ‹How do we fuck the system?›» says Örn. «And the answer was, we show that non-politicians can do the job as well. But quitting with a certain election victory within reach, that’s truly fucking the system!»

Others will keep going: they have founded the Bright Future party. Proppe has since become a member of the national parliament and Björn Blöndal, the prince of darkness, now moves in political circles like a fish in water. «It’s a lot of fun when you’ve learned how you can make a difference and you slowly get good at it. Politics is a craft.» Blöndal led the ticket for the Bright Future party in the Reykjavik elections. He and Dagur Eggertson vied to succeed Gnarr. For long stretches the polls were inconclusive, but in the end the Social Democrats won handily. Without Gnarr at the helm, Bright Future halved its result to take 15%. Eggertson now heads a four-party coalition that also includes the Pirates and the Left-Greens."

[alt link: http://mobile2.tagesanzeiger.ch/articles/10069405 ]
jóngnarr  iceland  2014  punk  politics  anarchism  democracy  ephemeral  pop-ups  taoteching  wewei  bestparty  agnosticism  dropouts  unschooling  deschooling  politicians  surrealism  comedy  catholicism  belief  religion  hierarchy  hierarchies  autodidacts  reading  self-education  reykjavík  ephemerality 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Episode One Hundred: Taking Stock; And The New
"It took a while, but one of the early themes that emerged was that of the Californian Ideology. That phrase has become a sort of short-hand for me to take a critical look at what's coming out of the west coast of the USA (and what that west coast is inspiring in the rest of the world). It's a conflicting experience for me, because I genuinely believe in the power of technology to enhance the human experience and to pull everyone, not just some people, up to a humane standard of living. But there's a particular heady mix that goes into the Ideology: one of libertarianism, of the power of the algorithm and an almost-blind belief in a purity of an algorithm, of the maths that goes into it, of the fact that it's executed in and on a machine substrate that renders the algorithm untouchable. But the algorithms we design reflect our intentions, our beliefs and our predispositions. We're learning so much about how our cognitive architecture functions - how our brains work, the hacks that evolution "installed" in us that are essentially zero-day back-door unpatched vulnerabilties - that I feel like someone does need to be critical about all the ways software is going to eat the world. Because software is undeniably eating the world, and it doesn't need to eat it in a particular way. It can disrupt and obsolete the world, and most certainly will, but one of the questions we should be asking is: to what end? 

This isn't to say that we should ask these questions to impede progress just as a matter of course: just that if we're doing these things anyway, we should also (because we *do* have the ability to) feel able to examine the long term consequences and ask: is this what we want?"
danhon  2014  californianideology  howwethink  brain  algorithms  libertarianism  progress  technology  technosolutionism  ideology  belief  intention 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Paris Review - The Art of Fiction No. 69, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
"When García Márquez speaks, his body often rocks back and forth. His hands too are often in motion making small but decisive gestures to emphasize a point, or to indicate a shift of direction in his thinking. He alternates between leaning forward towards his listener, and sitting far back with his legs crossed when speaking reflectively."



INTERVIEWER How do you feel about using the tape recorder?

GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ The problem is that the moment you know the interview is being taped, your attitude changes. In my case I immediately take a defensive attitude. As a journalist, I feel that we still haven’t learned how to use a tape recorder to do an interview. The best way, I feel, is to have a long conversation without the journalist taking any notes. Then afterward he should reminisce about the conversation and write it down as an impression of what he felt, not necessarily using the exact words expressed. Another useful method is to take notes and then interpret them with a certain loyalty to the person interviewed. What ticks you off about the tape recording everything is that it is not loyal to the person who is being interviewed, because it even records and remembers when you make an ass of yourself. That’s why when there is a tape recorder, I am conscious that I’m being interviewed; when there isn’t a tape recorder, I talk in an unconscious and completely natural way.



GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ I’ve always been convinced that my true profession is that of a journalist. What I didn’t like about journalism before were the working conditions. Besides, I had to condition my thoughts and ideas to the interests of the newspaper. Now, after having worked as a novelist, and having achieved financial independence as a novelist, I can really choose the themes that interest me and correspond to my ideas. In any case, I always very much enjoy the chance of doing a great piece of journalism.



INTERVIEWER Do you think the novel can do certain things that journalism can’t?

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ Nothing. I don’t think there is any difference. The sources are the same, the material is the same, the resources and the language are the same. The Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe is a great novel and Hiroshima is a great work of journalism.

INTERVIEWER Do the journalist and the novelist have different responsibilities in balancing truth versus the imagination?

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ In journalism just one fact that is false prejudices the entire work. In contrast, in fiction one single fact that is true gives legitimacy to the entire work. That’s the only difference, and it lies in the commitment of the writer. A novelist can do anything he wants so long as he makes people believe in it.



INTERVIEWER How did you start writing?

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ By drawing. By drawing cartoons. Before I could read or write I used to draw comics at school and at home. The funny thing is that I now realize that when I was in high school I had the reputation of being a writer, though I never in fact wrote anything. If there was a pamphlet to be written or a letter of petition, I was the one to do it because I was supposedly the writer. When I entered college I happened to have a very good literary background in general, considerably above the average of my friends. At the university in Bogotá, I started making new friends and acquaintances, who introduced me to contemporary writers. One night a friend lent me a book of short stories by Franz Kafka. I went back to the pension where I was staying and began to read The Metamorphosis. The first line almost knocked me off the bed. I was so surprised. The first line reads, “As Gregor Samsa awoke that morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. . . .” When I read the line I thought to myself that I didn’t know anyone was allowed to write things like that. If I had known, I would have started writing a long time ago. So I immediately started writing short stories. They are totally intellectual short stories because I was writing them on the basis of my literary experience and had not yet found the link between literature and life. The stories were published in the literary supplement of the newspaper El Espectador in Bogotá and they did have a certain success at the time—probably because nobody in Colombia was writing intellectual short stories. What was being written then was mostly about life in the countryside and social life. When I wrote my first short stories I was told they had Joycean influences.



INTERVIEWER Can you name some of your early influences?

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ The people who really helped me to get rid of my intellectual attitude towards the short story were the writers of the American Lost Generation. I realized that their literature had a relationship with life that my short stories didn’t. And then an event took place which was very important with respect to this attitude. It was the Bogotazo, on the ninth of April, 1948, when a political leader, Gaitan, was shot and the people of Bogotá went raving mad in the streets. I was in my pension ready to have lunch when I heard the news. I ran towards the place, but Gaitan had just been put into a taxi and was being taken to a hospital. On my way back to the pension, the people had already taken to the streets and they were demonstrating, looting stores and burning buildings. I joined them. That afternoon and evening, I became aware of the kind of country I was living in, and how little my short stories had to do with any of that. When I was later forced to go back to Barranquilla on the Caribbean, where I had spent my childhood, I realized that that was the type of life I had lived, knew, and wanted to write about.

Around 1950 or ’51 another event happened that influenced my literary tendencies. My mother asked me to accompany her to Aracataca, where I was born, and to sell the house where I spent my first years. When I got there it was at first quite shocking because I was now twenty-two and hadn’t been there since the age of eight. Nothing had really changed, but I felt that I wasn’t really looking at the village, but I was experiencing it as if I were reading it. It was as if everything I saw had already been written, and all I had to do was to sit down and copy what was already there and what I was just reading. For all practical purposes everything had evolved into literature: the houses, the people, and the memories. I’m not sure whether I had already read Faulkner or not, but I know now that only a technique like Faulkner’s could have enabled me to write down what I was seeing. The atmosphere, the decadence, the heat in the village were roughly the same as what I had felt in Faulkner. It was a banana-plantation region inhabited by a lot of Americans from the fruit companies which gave it the same sort of atmosphere I had found in the writers of the Deep South. Critics have spoken of the literary influence of Faulkner, but I see it as a coincidence: I had simply found material that had to be dealt with in the same way that Faulkner had treated similar material.

From that trip to the village I came back to write Leaf Storm, my first novel. What really happened to me in that trip to Aracataca was that I realized that everything that had occurred in my childhood had a literary value that I was only now appreciating. From the moment I wrote Leaf Storm I realized I wanted to be a writer and that nobody could stop me and that the only thing left for me to do was to try to be the best writer in the world. That was in 1953, but it wasn’t until 1967 that I got my first royalties after having written five of my eight books.



INTERVIEWER What about the banana fever in One Hundred Years of Solitude? How much of that is based on what the United Fruit Company did?

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ The banana fever is modeled closely on reality. Of course, I’ve used literary tricks on things which have not been proved historically. For example, the massacre in the square is completely true, but while I wrote it on the basis of testimony and documents, it was never known exactly how many people were killed. I used the figure three thousand, which is obviously an exaggeration. But one of my childhood memories was watching a very, very long train leave the plantation supposedly full of bananas. There could have been three thousand dead on it, eventually to be dumped in the sea. What’s really surprising is that now they speak very naturally in the Congress and the newspapers about the “three thousand dead.” I suspect that half of all our history is made in this fashion. In The Autumn of the Patriarch, the dictator says it doesn’t matter if it’s not true now, because sometime in the future it will be true. Sooner or later people believe writers rather than the government.

INTERVIEWER That makes the writer pretty powerful, doesn’t it?

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ Yes, and I can feel it too. It gives me a great sense of responsibility. What I would really like to do is a piece of journalism which is completely true and real, but which sounds as fantastic as One Hundred Years of Solitude. The more I live and remember things from the past, the more I think that literature and journalism are closely related.



INTERVIEWER Are dreams ever important as a source of inspiration?

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ In the very beginning I paid a good deal of attention to them. But then I realized that life itself is the greatest source of inspiration and that dreams are only a very small part of that torrent that is life. What is very true about my writing is that I’m quite interested in different concepts of dreams and interpretations of them. I see dreams as part of life in general, but reality is much richer. But maybe I just have very poor dreams.

INTERVIEWER Can you distinguish between inspiration and intuition?

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ Inspiration is when you find the right theme, one which you really like; that makes the work much easier. Intuition, which is … [more]
gabrielgarcíamárquez  1981  interviews  colombia  writing  journalism  truth  reality  fiction  literature  latinamerica  drawing  kafka  jamesjoyce  stories  storytelling  everyday  williamfaulkner  imagination  biography  autobiography  politics  childhood  fantasy  magicrealism  credibility  detail  details  belief  believability  responsibility  history  bricolage  collage  power  solitude  flow  dreams  dreaming  inspiration  intuition  intellectualism  translation  mexico  spanish  español  gregoryrabassa  borders  frontiers  miguelángelasturias  cuba  fame  friendship  film  filmmaking  relationships  consumption  language  languages  reading  howweread  howwewrite  routine  familiarity  habits 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Society needs more than wonder to respect science : Nature News & Comment
"The risk is that in our intoxication with the 'wonder' of science, we miss its murkiness. Or worse, we deliberately avoid asking the questions that challenge scientists and technologists about the work they do. Lose that critical perspective, and we lose the ability to take an informed view of what it is we want from science. And do we really want science coverage to vie with that witless brand of sports commentating: “He'll be disappointed with that, Brian”? Indeed, won't we all."
2014  via:anne  science  murkiness  messiness  susanwatts  wonder  criticalthinking  technology  crapdetection  belief 
april 2014 by robertogreco
BOMB Magazine — Teju Cole by Aleksandar Hemon
"TC Thank you. Halfway through writing Open City, I thought to myself that I should learn some of New York history “properly.” So I bought a stack of worthy books and started to read them. But, you know what? Doing that offended the sense of drift I relied on for my novel. The books were too systematic, too knowledgeable. So I just went back to my previous method: relying on the things I already knew, walking around aimlessly, and filling in facts and figures later as needed. The thing had to breathe, it had to drift, and it had to pretend not to know where it was going. (A dancer in mid-dance can’t think too much about her legs.)

As for cities in general: I think they might be our greatest invention. They drive creativity, they help us manage resources, and they can be hives of tolerance. In a village, you can’t stick out too much. In the city, if anyone judges you, you tell them to go to hell. So, there’s that positive side. But the other side is that they are simply so congested with material history and the spiritual traces of those histories, including some very dark events. Your contemporary Chicago is haunted by the Chicago of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the Chicago of innovation and of systematic exclusions. Rural landscapes can give the double illusion of being eternal and newly born. Cities, on the other hand, are marked with specific architecture from specific dates, and this architecture, built by long-vanished others for their own uses, is the shell that we, like hermit crabs, climb into.

The four cities I listed are simply four that were important nodes in the transatlantic slave trade and in black life in the century following. They are the vertices of a sinister quadrilateral.

AH Cities do offer spaces for uncontrollable exchanges, but then there is always controlled commerce, which not so long ago included slave markets. But cities also erase and reshape themselves in ways that are different in different places. American cities tend to erase their pasts, particularly the conflictual parts, just as they marginalize the inconvenient and unjust parts of the present—the killing and the greed are always elsewhere. Take the Bloombergian New York, the Vatican of entitlement, where glamour conceals the greed that drives (and destroys) it all.

Cities like Lagos, Sarajevo, Rio, or New Orleans, do not project a harmonious version of themselves, because they cannot—the conflict is ever present and indelible. Hence they’re uncontainable, like language or literature—no experience or interpretation can be final, no delimiting or closure ever available.

Reading your books, I have a sense that, had you taken different routes in your wanderings, a different New York (in Open City) or Lagos (Every Day Is for the Thief) would’ve emerged. Or to put it another way, there is no way to impose a self-sustaining narrative upon any city—only multiple, simultaneous plots/stories are possible. Could it be that cities are therefore more conducive to poetry, which allows accumulation of fragments and does not require narrativization? You invoke Ondaatje a lot, a great poet and wrangler of fragments, as well as Tomas Tranströmer. What does poetry do for you? Do you write poetry?

TC I rarely sit down to write a poem, not the kind you can submit to Poetry magazine or the New Yorker. But I think poetry and its way of thinking does infect a lot of my work. I certainly read a lot of it—there’s a discipline and tightness in the language that very few prose writers can achieve. So, yes, people like Tranströmer and Ondaatje and Wisława Szymborska are touchstones for me. It’s a long list: George Seferis, Anne Carson, Charles Simic, Sharon Olds, Seamus Heaney: anyone who has found a way to sidestep conventional syntax. And for this reason, I take pleasure in reading those writers whose prose also contains the elusive and far-fetched. I imagine in reading you, for instance, that you must make notes of the odd and remarkable ideas or moments in a way similar to a poet. Is poetry important to your reading?

AH Actually, I don’t make notes. I rely on memory and its failure. I do think in language and I imagine that is what poets do, except in tighter spaces, closer to the language, indeed inside it, wrangling its rhythms, uncovering its dormant possibilities. When I was coming up in Bosnia the most common distinction in literary discourse was between poetry and prose, and it was not unusual for writers to write both poetry and prose (stories/novels/essays). Consequently, if you were an invested reader, you would read poetry as well as prose. Whatever the reason for that, it foregrounded the notion of literature as made of language. The distinction was founded upon the different uses of language, and not, as in fiction versus nonfiction, upon the relation between representation and “truth.” Poetry is, as far as I’m concerned, essential to the field of literature, it is its purest form. Sadly, I’m not good at writing it (I’ve tried), but I love reading poetry."



AH I was particularly struck by the last chapter in Every Day Is for the Thief, taking place on the street of carpenters who make only coffins. There is a devotion to their work of packing people away into the void, never questioning the meaning of it all. That perhaps redeems all the other failures in Lagos, in the world, in literature. And the photo that ends the book is not only sublimely beautiful but suggests a transcendence that is beyond death, something that might be available to the carpenters/writers if they maintain their devotion for the work.

The questions: Where do you stand in relation to transcendence? Do you pursue it? Must we pursue it? Is that a way to imagine better worlds?

TC Well, open up yourself to our new overlords, Sasha. But, yes, I’m with you, particularly on the cataclysmic climate change that’s coming into view and which will cause so much needless suffering.

As for faith: I don’t believe in the Christian god, or the Muslim one, or the Jewish one. I’m sentimentally attached to some of the Yoruba and Greek gods—the stories are too good, too insightful, for a wholesale rejection—though I don’t ask them for favors.

What do I believe in? Imagination, gardens, science, poetry, love, and a variety of non-violent consolations. I suspect that in aggregate all this isn’t enough, but it’s where I am for now.
tejucole  aleksanderhemon  2014  interviews  memory  notetaking  cities  wandering  howwewrite  writing  language  poetry  representation  truth  prose  seamusheaney  sharonolds  charlessimic  annecarson  georgeseferis  wisławaszymborska  michaelondaatje  charlestranströmer  twitter  blogs  blogging  photography  religion  belief  socialmedia  fiction  literature  narration  faith  climatechange  transcendence  sashahemon  everydayisforthethief 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Wendell Berry: Letter to Wes Jackson… | UKIAH BLOG
"From WENDELL BERRY
Home Economics (1982)

[This evening, August 3rd, will be our second First Friday of Neighbors Reading at Mulligan Books downtown Ukiah, 6-7pm. We share favorite passages from favorite books around topics of community, transition, resilience, or anything else, as part of the second semester of Mendo Free Skool. We video the readings for Community TV and invite your participation. I will be reading from one of my favorite authors, Wendell Berry... passages from an essay The Family Farm, from his book Home Economics. What follows is the opening essay from that book... -DS]

Dear Wes,

I want to try to complete the thought about “randomness” that I was working on when we talked the other day.

The Hans Jenny paragraph that started me off is the last one on page twenty-one of The Soil Resource:
Raindrops that pass in random fashion through an imaginary plane above the forest canopy are intercepted by leaves and twigs and channeled into distinctive vert space patterns of through-drip, crown-drip, and stem flow. The soil surface, as receiver, transmits the “rain message” downward, but as the subsoils lack a power source to mold a flow design, the water tends to leave the ecosystem as it entered it, in randomized fashion.

My question is: Does “random” in this (or any) context describe a verifiable condition or a limit of perception?

My answer is: It describes a limit of perception. This is, of course, not a scientist’s answer, but it may be that anybody’s answer would be unscientific. My answer is based on the belief that pattern is verifiable by limited information, whereas the information required to verify randomness is unlimited. As I think you said when we talked, what is perceived as random within a given limit may be seen as part of a pattern within a wider limit.

If this is so then Dr. Jenny, for accuracy’s sake, should have said that rainwater moves from mystery through pattern back into mystery.

If “mystery” is a necessary (that is, honest) term in such a description, then the modern scientific program has not altered the ancient perception of the human condition a jot. If, in using the word “random,” scientists only mean “random so far as we can tell,” then we are back at about the Book of Job. Some truth meets the eye; some does not. We are up against mystery. To call this mystery “randomness” or “chance” or a “fluke” is to take charge of it on behalf of those who do not respect pattern. To call the unknown “random” is to plant the flag by which to colonize and exploit the known. (A result that our friend Dr. Jenny, of course, did not propose and would not condone.)

To call the unknown by its right name, “mystery,” is to suggest that we had better respect the possibility of a larger, unseen pattern that can be damaged or destroyed and, with it, the smaller patterns.

This respecting of mystery obviously has something or other to do with religion, and we moderns have defended ourselves against it by turning it over to religion specialists, who take advantage of our indifference by claiming to know a lot about it.

What impresses me about it, however is the insistent practicality implicit in it. If we are up against mystery, then we dare act only on the most modest assumptions. The modern scientific program has held that we must act on the basis of knowledge, which, because its effects are so manifestly large, we have assumed to be ample. But if we are up against mystery, then knowledge is relatively small, and the ancient program is the right one: Act on the basis of ignorance. Acting on the basis of ignorance, paradoxically, requires one to know things, remember things— for instance, that failure is possible, that error is possible, that second chances are desirable (so don’t risk everything on the first chance), and so on.

What I think you and I and a few others are working on is a definition of agriculture as up against mystery and ignorance-based. I think we think that this is its necessary definition, just as I think we think that several kinds of ruin are the necessary result of an agriculture defined as knowledge-based and up against randomness. Such an agriculture conforms exactly to what the ancient program, or programs, understood as evil or hubris. Both the Greeks and the Hebrews told us to watch out for humans who assume that they make all the patterns."

[via Charlie's newsletter 6, 5 http://tinyletter.com/vruba/letters/6-5-hills ]
wendellberry  via:vruba  1982  mystery  science  random  patterns  patternsensing  zoominginandout  religion  belief  myth  myths  information  perspective  perception  modernism  indifference  ignorance  local  global  knowledge 
march 2014 by robertogreco
I Didn't Go to Church Today by Ogden Nash | The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor
"I didn't go to church today,
I trust the Lord to understand.
The surf was swirling blue and white,
The children swirling on the sand.
He knows, He knows how brief my stay,
How brief this spell of summer weather,
He knows when I am said and done
We'll have plenty of time together."
poems  poetry  2007  via:austinkleon  church  religion  gob  belief  ogdennash 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Education Rethink @edrethink: Lost and Found
"I lost my faith.

Lost is the right word. I know that other people speak of the process as if they tossed it aside. However, that's not how it happened to me. My faith sort-of evaporated for me. It was so slow I didn't see it happening. The moments were tiny and never felt significant at the time.

I think it started when I was holding a newborn and loving the child so much that I couldn't fathom sending anyone I love to a place like Hell. I just couldn't see a loving God doing this. Then there was the longterm effects of studying science and realizing that I couldn't justify the seven day literalist creation. It didn't help when I met really good atheists whose lives were not the mess that I was told they would be. Add to this all my gay friends who, I was sure, were created that way and I was starting to rethink everything I was taught.

It was more than that, though. I remember praying to a God who would never answer back and knowing that trying to "look" for an answer felt about as silly as reading tea leaves or jumping across the carcass of a goat. At least the Magic 8 Ball answered backI continued to pray and to read my Bible and to go through the motions, but it felt . . . gone. That assurance that I had felt before, that sense that I had the answers, was gone. Totally gone.

I hit a point where I couldn't justify it anymore. I wasn't an atheist. I wasn't anti-Christian. The truth is that I was agnostic. I didn't have the answers anymore. More than anything else, I missed my faith. I missed believing that God was present. I missed having an answer instead of waiting in agnosticism, unsure about what's real or true.

I'm not sure how long this period lasted. I just knew that it evaporated. I wasn't depressed about it. I wasn't hopeless. Unlike all the warnings about "backsliders" I didn't go on a crazy sin binge. The truth is that it felt lighter. I felt, for the first time ever, like I had the freedom to go explore.

Then it happened. There were little moments that caused me to reconsider my agnosticism. It started with realizing that, to my core, I believe that there is a spark of the divine in people and that they are inherently valuable and that they are also totally broken. I couldn't shed what I believed about humanity. It was the only story that still made sense.

Then there were all the times when I read fiction with the hopes of escaping what I believed only to be drawn toward the stories of redemption and the battle between good and evil. It hit me that the ultimate archetype that I was drawn toward was the Jesus story. I'm sure he didn't intend it this way, but The Ocean at the End of the Lane drew me back toward my belief that God is a loving parent.

I remember re-reading the Bible with open eyes and realizing that there were things that it wasn't quite so clear about (including Hell). I kept finding myself being drawn to those stories, even when I wasn't sure how historically accurate it was.

Somewhere in the midst of it, I remember reading about the Pope and being drawn toward him and thinking, "If you like the current Pope, you'd probably be crazy about Jesus." I found myself quoting scripture in moments of crisis and realizing that it wasn't a crutch so much as a part of me that I couldn't shed. It was true. I was a new creation and the old was gone and I had changed and even though I didn't have all the answers, I was still crazy about Jesus.

So, I came back. To what, exactly, I wasn't sure. I just knew that the Jesus story was the greatest story ever told and that even if it felt crazy, I wanted it to be true. Maybe that's what hope meant. Maybe it wasn't about being absolutely sure that your belief is true, but rather holding onto the story, continuing to be drawn to it even when it sounds too good to be true.

Looking back on it, I don't think I lost my faith. I think I grew out of it. I don't think it evaporated on me, so much as it slipped away from me. My conservative evangelical background became the skin that I stepped out of like a snake. I realize now that I never left the faith. It's just that it evolved on me when I wasn't paying attention.

I know that some would say that I'm not a "real" Christian anymore (what with my doubt about Hell and my belief in universal grace). However, grace is the only thing that makes sense. Redemption is the only story that works. I may not be a "real" Christian anymore, but I don't care. I'm banking on the hope that God is crazy about us and wants to spend forever with us. If that makes me a heretic, I'm okay with that."
johnspencer  religion  faith  belief  evolution  2014  christianity  christians  freedom  jesus  atheism  agnosticism 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Victorian Occultism and the Art of Synesthesia | The Public Domain Review
"Grounded in the theory that ideas, emotions, and even events, can manifest as visible auras, Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater’s Thought-Forms (1901) is an odd and intriguing work. Benjamin Breen explores these “synesthetic” abstractions and asks to what extent they, and the Victorian mysticism of which they were born, influenced the Modernist movement that flourished in the following decades."



"These sorts of underlying associations between words, colors and sounds were precisely what motivated Thought-Forms. In other words, the book was about synesthesia. The illustration of the music of Mendelssohn reproduced above, for instance, depicts yellow, red, blue and green lines rising out of a church. This, Leadbeater and Besant explain, “signifies the movement of one of the parts of the melody, the four moving approximately together denoting the treble, alto, tenor and bass respectively.” Moreover, “the scalloped edging surrounding the whole is the result of various flourishes and arpeggios, and the floating crescents in the centre represent isolated or staccato chords.” Color and sound had become commingled.

Yet Leadbeater and Besant intended not only to visualize sound, but to demonstrate their distinctive psychic gifts: the ability to detect spiritual “vibrations” of ideas, emotions and sounds as visual forms. This, in other words, was a sort of spiritual synesthesia, as much a religious act as a neurological one."
synesthesia  art  history  occult  religion  anniebesant  charlesleadbeater  benjaminbreen  mysticism  modernism  belief  color  sound  perception  via:alexismadrigal 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Morals Without God? - NYTimes.com
"Over the past few years, we have gotten used to a strident atheism arguing that God is not great (Christopher Hitchens) or a delusion (Richard Dawkins). The new atheists call themselves “brights,” thus hinting that believers are not so bright. They urge trust in science, and want to root ethics in a naturalistic worldview.

While I do consider religious institutions and their representatives — popes, bishops, mega-preachers, ayatollahs, and rabbis — fair game for criticism, what good could come from insulting individuals who find value in religion? And more pertinently, what alternative does science have to offer? Science is not in the business of spelling out the meaning of life and even less in telling us how to live our lives. We, scientists, are good at finding out why things are the way they are, or how things work, and I do believe that biology can help us understand what kind of animals we are and why our morality looks the way it does. But to go from there to offering moral guidance seems a stretch.

Even the staunchest atheist growing up in Western society cannot avoid having absorbed the basic tenets of Christian morality. Our societies are steeped in it: everything we have accomplished over the centuries, even science, developed either hand in hand with or in opposition to religion, but never separately. It is impossible to know what morality would look like without religion. It would require a visit to a human culture that is not now and never was religious. That such cultures do not exist should give us pause."

[See also: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mind-reviews-bonobo-and-atheist/ ]
animals  atheism  ethics  philosophy  religion  belief  fransdewaal  via:anne  sciene  evolution  morality  primates  relationships  giving  brain  denbosch  hieronymusbosch  life  living  darwin  altruism  empathy  pleasure  charity  inequity  inequityaversion  dogs  2010  charlesdarwin 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Richard Lloyd Parry · Ghosts of the Tsunami · LRB 6 February 2014
[As Erin says, "This essay on Japanese ghost narratives following the tsunami is extraordinarily humane." https://twitter.com/kissane/status/430081609560518656 ]

"When opinion polls put the question, ‘How religious are you?’, the Japanese rank among the most ungodly people in the world. It took a catastrophe for me to understand how misleading this self-assessment is. It is true that the organised religions, Buddhism and Shinto, have little influence on private or national life. But over the centuries both have been pressed into the service of the true faith of Japan: the cult of the ancestors.

I knew about the ‘household altars’, or butsudan, which are still seen in most homes and on which the memorial tablets of dead ancestors – the ihai – are displayed. The butsudan are black cabinets of lacquer and gilt, with openwork carvings of lions and birds; the ihai are upright tablets of black polished wood, vertically inscribed in gold. Offerings of flowers, incense, rice, fruit and drinks are placed before them; at the summer Festival of the Dead, families light candles and lanterns to welcome home the ancestral spirits. I had assumed that these picturesque practices were matters of symbolism and custom, attended to in the same way that people in the West will participate in a Christian funeral without any literal belief in the words of the liturgy. But in Japan spiritual beliefs are regarded less as expressions of faith than as simple common sense, so lightly and casually worn that it is easy to miss them altogether. ‘The dead are not as dead there as they are in our own society,’ the religious scholar Herman Ooms writes. ‘It has always made perfect sense in Japan as far back as history goes to treat the dead as more alive than we do … even to the extent that death becomes a variant, not a negation of life.’

At the heart of ancestor worship is a contract. The food, drink, prayers and rituals offered by their descendants gratify the dead, who in turn bestow good fortune on the living. Families vary in how seriously they take these ceremonies, but even for the unobservant, the dead play a continuing part in domestic life. For much of the time, their status is something like that of beloved, deaf and slightly batty old folk who can’t expect to be at the centre of the family but who are made to feel included on important occasions. Young people who have passed important entrance examinations, got a job or made a good marriage kneel before the butsudan to report their success. Victory or defeat in an important legal case, for example, will be shared with the ancestors in the same way.

When grief is raw the presence of the deceased is overwhelming. In households that lost children in the tsunami it became routine, after half an hour of tea and chat, to be asked if I would like to ‘meet’ the dead sons and daughters. I would be led to a shrine covered with framed photographs, toys, favourite drinks and snacks, letters, drawings and school exercise books. One mother had commissioned Photoshopped portraits of her children, showing them as they would have been had they lived: a boy who died in primary school smiling proudly in high school uniform, a teenage girl as she should have looked in a kimono at her coming of age ceremony. Here, every morning, she began the day by talking to her dead children, weeping love and apology, as unselfconsciously as if she were speaking over a long-distance telephone line.

The tsunami did appalling violence to the religion of the ancestors. Along with walls, roofs and people, the water carried away household altars, memorial tablets and family photographs. Cemetery vaults were ripped open and the bones of the dead scattered. Temples were destroyed, along with memorial books listing the names of ancestors over generations. ‘The memorial tablets – it’s difficult to exaggerate their importance,’ Yozo Taniyama, a priest and friend of Reverend Kaneda, told me. ‘When there’s a fire or an earthquake, the ihai are the first thing many people will save, before money or documents. People died in the tsunami because they went home for the ihai. It’s life – like saving your late father’s life.’

When people die violently or prematurely, in anger or anguish, they are at risk of becoming gaki, ‘hungry ghosts’, who wander between worlds, propagating curses and mischief. There are rituals for placating unhappy spirits, but in the aftermath of the disaster few families were in a position to perform them. And then there were those ancestors whose descendants were entirely wiped out by the wave. Their comfort in the afterlife depended entirely on the reverence of living families, which had been permanently and irrevocably cut off: their situation was as helpless as that of orphaned children.

Thousands of spirits had passed from life to death; countless others were cut loose from their moorings in the afterlife. How could they all be cared for? Who was to honour the compact between the living and the dead? In such circumstances, how could there fail to be a swarm of ghosts?

*

Even before the tsunami struck its coast, nowhere in Japan was closer to the world of the dead than Tohoku, the northern part of the island of Honshu. In ancient times, it was a notorious frontier realm of barbarians, goblins and bitter cold. For modern Japanese, it remains a remote, marginal, faintly melancholy place, of thick dialects and quaint conservatism, the symbol of a rural tradition that, for city dwellers, is no more than a folk memory. Tohoku has bullet trains and smartphones and all the other 21st-century conveniences, but it also has secret Buddhist cults, a lively literature of supernatural tales and a sisterhood of blind shamanesses who gather once a year at a volcano called Osore-san, or ‘Mt Fear’, the traditional entrance to the underworld.

Masashi Hijikata, the closest thing you could find to a Tohoku nationalist, understood immediately that after the disaster hauntings would follow. ‘We remembered the old ghost stories,’ he said, ‘and we told one another that there would be many new stories like that. Personally, I don’t believe in the existence of spirits, but that’s not the point. If people say they see ghosts, then that’s fine – we can leave it at that.’

Hijikata was born in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, but came to Sendai as a university student, and has the passion of the successful immigrant for his adopted home. When I met him he was running a small publishing company whose books and journals were exclusively on Tohoku subjects. Prominent among his authors was the academic Norio Akasaka, a stern critic of the policies of the central government towards the region. These had been starkly illuminated by the nuclear disaster in Fukushima: an industrial plant erected by Tokyo, supplying electricity to the capital, and now spitting radiation over people who had enjoyed none of its benefits. ‘Before the war, it used to be said that Tohoku provided men as soldiers, women as prostitutes, and rice as tribute,’ Akasaka wrote. ‘I had thought that that kind of colonial situation had changed, but after the disaster I changed my thinking.’

Hijikata explained the politics of ghosts to me, as well as the opportunity and the risk they represented for the people of Tohoku. ‘We realised that so many people were having experiences like this,’ he said, ‘but there were people taking advantage of them. Trying to sell them this and that, telling them: “This will give you relief.”’ He met a woman who had lost her son in the disaster, and who was troubled by a sense of being haunted. She went to the hospital: the doctor gave her anti-depressants. She went to the temple: the priest sold her an amulet, and told her to read the sutras. ‘But all she wanted,’ he said, ‘was to see her son again. There are so many like her. They don’t care if they are ghosts – they want to encounter ghosts.’

‘Given all that, we thought we had to do something. Of course, there are some people who are experiencing trauma, and if your mental health is suffering then you need medical treatment. Other people will rely on the power of religion, and that is their choice. What we do is to create a place where people can accept the fact that they are witnessing the supernatural. We provide an alternative for helping people through the power of literature.’

Hijikata revived a literary form which had flourished in the feudal era: the kaidan, or ‘weird tale’. Kaidankai, or ‘weird tale parties’, had been a popular summer pastime, when the delicious chill imparted by ghost stories served as a form of pre-industrial air conditioning. Hijikata’s kaidankai were held in modern community centres and public halls. They would begin with a reading by one of his authors. Then members of the audience would share experiences of their own: students, housewives, working people, retirees. He organised kaidan-writing competitions, and published the best of them in an anthology. Among the winners was Ayane Suto, whom I met one afternoon at Hijikata’s office."
japan  ghosts  belief  religion  humanism  2014  death  tsunami  richardlloydparry  kurihara  buddhism  zen  storytelling  exorcisms  stories  tohoku  masashihijikata  kaidan  kaidankai  writing  grief  mourning  supernatural  norioakasaka  reverendkaneda 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Kitsune : Man’s first attempts at making his own decisions...
"Man’s first attempts at making his own decisions are called divination. Examples are the studying of omens, watching the stars, throwing and studying sticks and bones (sortilege), ‘reading’ animals’ intestines, etcetera. These are all methods that project the will of the gods, who were still thought to exist, into the external world. So decision making was in this phase a process that took place in the world, not in the mind."
— 

Artikelen van Erik Weijers - Summary [http://www.erikweijers.nl/pages/translations/psychology/the-origin-of-consciousness/summary.php ]

"I love this. Decision making in the world, not in the mind. And although as it is described here, this transitional phase in man’s cognition is behind us, in many other ways it of course isn’t.

The description of the origin of consciousness described here also jibes in many ways with what I’ve been reading in Metaphors We Live By."
karsalfrink  erikweijers  divination  decisionmaking  history  consciousness  animism  cognition  metaphors  everyday  omens  starts  astrology  sortilege  religion  belief 
january 2014 by robertogreco
Philip Pullman interview: the ‘religious atheist’ – Peter Jukes – Aeon
"In a rare interview, Philip Pullman tells us his own origin story, and why the great questions are still religious ones"



"For 12 years, the pupils of an ordinary Oxford middle school must have had one of the most astonishing educations in the country. The classroom gave Pullman a space to learn as well as perform. ‘It was like being given the keys of the Rolls-Royce,’ he says of teaching the Classics. ‘When I’m reading, I’m looking for something to steal,’ he continues, confiding that his own daemon or animal familiar would be a thieving magpie or raven. ‘Readers ask me all the time the traditional question “Where do you get your ideas from?” I reply: “We are all having ideas all the time. But I’m on the lookout for them. You’re not.”’"



"‘I like to say I’m a complete materialist but…’ Pullman allows himself an English teacher’s dramatic pause, ‘matter is conscious. How do I know that? Because I’m matter and I’m conscious.’ Once again, Pullman opts for complexity and nuance, and you can hear the same dislike of hierarchies in his critique of some popular science. ‘What you often get in people of this stripe (and Brian Cox — the TV physicist — goes in for it as well), is a sentence of the formula “X is no more than/just/merely/nothing but Y.” For example: “The world is nothing but the action of molecules” or “Love is merely the movement of electrons in the brains.” Sentences of that sort are nearly always mistaken,’ says Pullman. ‘I would prefer they were put in the form of “Love is a movement of electrons in the brain, among other things.”’

‘Among other things’ would be a great motto for Pullman’s ambivalence (or should that be multivalence?) about matters of belief, fiction and science. He is of the old school of secularism which holds that faith should be kept out of the public sphere, but still refuses the kind of inquisition that seeks to root out mistaken beliefs: ‘What you feel and believe are private to you and belong to nobody else,’ he counters. ‘What you do in the public sphere is what’s important.’"
philippullman  2014  interviews  religion  belief  ambiguity  nuance  love  science  hierarchy  hierarchies  writing  howwewrite 
january 2014 by robertogreco
Two quotes for 2014 | Magical Nihilism
"from Freedom by Daniel Suarez:

“Where ancient people believed in gods and devils that listened to their pleas and curses — in this age immortal entities hear us. Call them bots or spirits; there is no functional difference now. They surround us and through them word-forms become an unlock code that can trigger a blessing or a curse. Mankind created systems whose inter-reactions we could not fully understand, and the spirits we gathered have escaped from them into the land where they walk the earth—or the GPS grid, whichever you prefer. The spirit world overlaps the real one now, and our lives will never be the same.”

“But doesn’t this just spread mysticism? Lies, essentially?”

“You mean fairy tales? Yes, initially. But then, a lot of parents tell young children that there’s a Santa Claus. It’s easier than trying to explain the cultural significance of midwinter celebrations to a three-year-old. If false magic or a white lie about the god-monster in the mountain will get people to stop killing one another and learn, then the truth can wait. When the time is right, it can be replaced with a reverence for the scientific method.”

See also Julian Oliver’s talk. Again.
http://timoarnall.tumblr.com/post/40012610155/julianoliver "
mattjones  danilesuarez  2014  gods  devils  technology  belief  fairytales  falsemagic  magic  myth  truth  science  scientificmethod  spirits  spiritworld  systems  understanding  bots  julianoliver 
january 2014 by robertogreco
I'm an atheist so why am I a committed Quaker? – Nat Case – Aeon
"I contradict myself. I am an atheist and committed Quaker. Does it matter what I believe, when I recognise that religion is something I need?"



"If you are really going to be part of a community, just showing up for the main meal is not enough: you need to help cook and clean up. So it has been with me and the Quakers: I’m concerned with how my community works, and so I’ve served on committees (Quakerism is all about committees). There’s pastoral care to accomplish, a building to maintain, First-Day School (Quakerese for Sunday School) to organise. And there’s the matter of how we as a religious community will bring our witness into the world. Perhaps this language sounds odd coming from a non-theist, but as I hope I’ve shown, I’m not a non-theist first. I’ve been involved in prison visiting, and have been struck at the variety of religious attitudes among volunteers: some for whom the visiting is in itself ministry, and others for whom it’s simply social action towards justice (the programme grew out of visiting conscientious objectors in the Vietnam era). The point is: theological differences are not necessarily an issue when there’s work to be done."



"How can we do that? How can I do that? Submitting to something I am pretty sure doesn’t exist? How can I bow down to a fiction? I did it all the time as a child. Open the cover of the book, and I’m in that world. If I’m lucky, and the book is good enough, some of that world comes with me out into the world of atoms and weather, taxes and death. It’s a story, and sometimes stories are stronger than stuff.

Maybe part of the trick is realising that it doesn’t have to be just my little bubble of fiction. I can read a novel, or I can go gaming into the evening with friends. I can watch a ballet on a darkened stage, or I can roar along to my favourite band in the mosh pit. I hated school dances with a passion, yet I have been a morris dancer for 23 years now: I just had to find the form that was a right fit. I don’t pray aloud, or with prescribed formulas. But I can ask Whatever-There-Is a question, or ask for help from the universe, or say thank you. And now that I’m in a place with a better fit, sometimes I get answers back. And so there I am, a confirmed skeptic, praying in a congregation."



"A year and a half ago, our family began worshipping with a smaller Conservative Friends group. Conservative Friends are socially and theologically liberal but stricter in adhering to older Quaker practices. The group uses the Montessori-based Godly Play curriculum for the children: it’s all about stories. Every session begins with a quieting and a focusing. The leader tells a story from the Bible or from the Quaker story book. Then ‘wondering’ questions are asked that spur the children to reflect on what’s going on, and what they would do in the same situation.

I wish I’d had this great programme as a child. The teacher is a good storyteller who clearly loves the kids, and they love the stories and the time with their friends. To me, it’s such an improvement on school-style lessons. It says: this is a different kind of knowing and learning — this is not about facts and theories you need to learn, but about the stories we want to become part of your life.

I love facts and theories, the stuff of the world. I spend most of my life wrestling and dancing with all this amazing matter. As the Australian comic Tim Minchin says in his rant-poem ‘Storm’ (2008): ‘Isn’t this enough? Just this world? Just this beautiful, complex, wonderfully unfathomable world?’ And yes, it’s enough. We don’t need to tell lies about the real world in order to make it magical. But we do still need impossible magic for our own irrational selves. At any rate, I do.

Because I don’t feel stuff-and-logic-based explanations deep down in my toes. There are no miracle stories of flying children there, or brothers reborn into the land where the sagas come from. The language of ‘stuff is all there is’ tells me that I can — even ought to — be rational and sensible, but it doesn’t make me want to be. ‘Atheism’ tells me what I am not, and I yearn to know what I am. What I am has a spine, it’s a thing I must be true to, because otherwise it evaporates into the air, dirt and water of the hard world.

Maybe I — we — need to start small, rebuilding gods that we talk to, and who talk back. Or just one whom we can plausibly imagine, our invisible friend. Maybe part of our problem is that we don’t actually want to talk to the voice of Everything, because Everything has gotten so unfathomably huge. George Fox, the founder of Quakerism, didn’t have to think about light years, let alone billions of light years. The stars now are too far away to be our friends or speak to us in our need. Maybe we could talk to a god whom we imagined in our house. Maybe we could ask what is wanted, and hear what is needed. Maybe that god would tell us not to tramp over the earth in armies, pretending we are bigger than we are, and that dying is OK, because it’s just something that happens when your life is over. Maybe we would ask for help and comfort from unexpected places, and often enough receive it and be thankful for it.

Maybe we need to name that little god something other than God, because maybe our God has a boss who has a boss whose boss runs the universe. Maybe we name this god Ethel, or Larry, or Murgatroyd. Maybe there is no god but God... or maybe there just is no God. And maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe we just tell stories that ring true to us and say up-front that we know they are fiction. We can let people love these stories or hate them. Maybe imagining impossible things — such as flying, the land where sagas come from, God — is what is needed. Maybe we don’t need the gods to be real. Maybe all we need is to trust more leaps of the imagination."
philosophy  quakers  atheism  2013  natcase  religion  belief  literature  fiction  skepticism  stories  storytelling  listening  learning  life  magic  wonder  truth  logic  trust  imagination  community  committees  myth  myths  josephcampbell  robert  barclay  via:jenlowe  everyday  quaker 
august 2013 by robertogreco
Paris Review - The Art of Poetry No. 91, Jack Gilbert
"He failed out of high school and worked as an exterminator and door-to-door salesman before being admitted, thanks to a clerical error, to the University of Pittsburgh. There he met the poet Gerald Stern, his exact contemporary. Gilbert started writing poetry, he says, because Stern did."



'INTERVIEWER: Do you think it’s important for American writers to live abroad?

GILBERT: At least at some point—so you have something to compare to what you think is normal, and you encounter things you aren’t used to. One of the great dangers is familiarity."



"INTERVIEWER: Did being removed from the literary community benefit you?

GILBERT: Sure.

INTERVIEWER: What did you like most about it?

GILBERT: Paying attention to being alive. This is hard—when I try to explain, it sounds false. But I don’t know any other way to say it. I’m so grateful. There’s nothing I’ve wanted that I haven’t had. Michiko dying, I regret terribly, and losing Linda’s love, I regret equally. And not doing some of the things I wanted to do. But I still feel grateful. It’s almost unfair to have been as happy as I’ve been. I didn’t earn it; I had a lot of luck. But I was also very, very stubborn. I was determined to get what I wanted as a life.

INTERVIEWER: Do you think that your idea of happiness differs from most people’s idea of happiness?

GILBERT: Sure. I’m vain enough to think that I’ve made a successful life. I’ve had everything I’ve ever wanted. You can’t beat that."



"INTERVIEWER: Did school influence you as a young writer?

GILBERT: No, I failed high school; I got into college by mistake. I failed freshman English eight times. I was interested in learning, but I wanted to understand too, which meant I was fighting with the teachers all the time. Everybody accepted the fact that I was smart but I wouldn’t obey. I didn’t believe what they said unless they could prove it.

INTERVIEWER: Was your defiance—your resistance—ultimately an advantage?

GILBERT: Yes and no. It takes much longer if you have to find it all and do it all for yourself. My mind was not available for the impress of teachers or other people’s styles. The other arts were important to me. At one time I was working in photography with Ansel Adams. He offered to help me with my photographs if I would help him write his books, which was fine until we ran short of money and the woman I was with finally said she was tired of cooking pancakes.

INTERVIEWER: How did you get involved with Ansel Adams?

GILBERT: I was teaching a class and some of his students got to know me. I wish I’d been able to continue working with him, but it was either him or the woman. I chose the woman. After that I went to Italy and everything went into my falling in love for the first time. I did some painting there and won a fourth prize. I wish I had continued with painting and photography—novels too. But I was excited.

INTERVIEWER: What was Ansel Adams like?

GILBERT: Very German.

INTERVIEWER: Have you ever looked to other writers for inspiration?

GILBERT: I liked many writers but never found a teacher."



"INTERVIEWER: Do you think this has anything to do with the fact that so many poets come out of M.F.A. programs and go right on to teach?

GILBERT: If I answer that I’ll get into a rant, but I’ll tell you—I think poetry was killed by money. When I started out, no poet in America could make a living in poetry except Ogden Nash. And he did it with light verse."



INTERVIEWER: You taught in universities very rarely, only when you had to—just enough so that you could travel and write. Do you think writing poetry can be taught?

GILBERT: I can teach people how to write poetry, but I can’t teach people how to have poetry, which is more than just technique. You have to feel it—to experience it, whether in a daze or brightly. Often you don’t know what you have. I once worked on a poem for twelve years before I found it."



"INTERVIEWER: What, other than yourself, is the subject of your poems?

GILBERT: Those I love. Being. Living my life without being diverted into things that people so often get diverted into. Being alive is so extraordinary I don’t know why people limit it to riches, pride, security—all of those things life is built on. People miss so much because they want money and comfort and pride, a house and a job to pay for the house. And they have to get a car. You can’t see anything from a car. It’s moving too fast. People take vacations. That’s their reward—the vacation. Why not the life? Vacations are second-rate. People deprive themselves of so much of their lives—until it’s too late. Though I understand that often you don’t have a choice."



"INTERVIEWER: It sounds like even in your San Francisco days you sustained a rather remote life away from others. Is solitude important for you?

GILBERT: I don’t know how to answer that because I’ve always lived a life with a lot of quiet in it—either alone or with someone I’m in love with."



"INTERVIEWER: Is being childless good for a poet?

GILBERT: I could never have lived my life the way I have if I had children. There used to be a saying that every baby is a failed novel. I couldn’t have roamed or taken so many chances or lived a life of deprivation. I couldn’t have wasted great chunks of my life. But that would be a mistake for other people. Fine people. Smart people."



"INTERVIEWER: Do you keep to a work schedule?

GILBERT: No, I have an approximate rhythm, but I don’t like the idea of anything creative being mechanical. That’ll kill you. On the other hand, if I was not satisfied with how much I’d written in a year, then I would set out to write a hundred poems in a hundred days. I force myself to write poems even though I don’t approve of it because it does keep something alive. So I guess I have a little bit of a pattern that I live by. For instance, the other day I woke up at one in the morning and worked until four in the afternoon. I do that a lot. I can do that because I don’t have to accommodate anybody but me.

INTERVIEWER: So discipline is important to you?

GILBERT: Yes, because I’m lazy. If you have it in you, you want to create, but I won’t force myself—because it’s dangerous. People who are organized are in danger of making a process out of it and doing it by the numbers."



"INTERVIEWER: What’s your relationship with the contemporary literary community now?

GILBERT: I don’t have one.

INTERVIEWER: Does that bother you?

GILBERT: No. Why? Why would it bother me? Those people are in business. They’re hardworking.

INTERVIEWER: Don’t you work hard?

GILBERT: Not in the same meaning of the word hard. I put in a lot of effort because it matters to me. Many of these people who teach would do anything not to teach. I don’t have any obligations. I don’t have a mortgage. These people are working hard at a great price.

INTERVIEWER: I’m struck by how rarely I see your poems in anthologies and how 
often I see the same poems by other poets over and over again. Do you think there’s a disadvantage to spending most of your life abroad or outside of literary circles?

GILBERT: It’s fatal, which is all right with me.

INTERVIEWER: Do you ever feel any professional antagonism toward other writers?

GILBERT: Them toward me or me toward them?

INTERVIEWER: You toward them.

GILBERT: No.

INTERVIEWER: Do you feel it from them toward you?

GILBERT: Sure. I contradict a lot of what they’re doing. I don’t go to the meetings and dinners. I don’t hang out."



"INTERVIEWER: Have you ever followed a particular religion?

GILBERT: Presbyterianism. Till I was about seven, I guess. My mother never went to church, but she was a believer. She loved God and believed God would be good to her. She sang when she cleaned the house on Sunday mornings.

INTERVIEWER: Do you consider yourself religious now?

GILBERT: I’d like to be. I think I’m very religious by temperament. I think it would be a great comfort to believe. But you don’t have a choice. Either you believe or you don’t. It’s not a practical matter. Religion is a beautiful idea, but I don’t have a choice.

INTERVIEWER: Where does your preoccupation with mythology and the gods come from?

GILBERT: Careless reading. I never read mythology or any fiction as if I were in a class. Myths give shape to what I feel about the world and my instinct about what I’m looking at. They inform what I think about the past."



"INTERVIEWER: Have you ever thought of writing your memoirs?

GILBERT: Yes. Every once in a while someone asks to do it for me. Sometimes I’m interested because I’ve forgotten so much of the past and I like the idea of walking through my life. What’s more, it’s a profound experience to be with people from my past again. To be with my memories. Things that I thought I’d forgotten all of a sudden become visible, become present.

INTERVIEWER: Like a film?

GILBERT: Different than that. It’s more like a feeling rising from the tops of my knees. Then I start remembering. It’s complicated; a child seldom remembers anything before he’s four years old. I just wonder how much I know, how much I’ve been through, that I no longer remember."



"INTERVIEWER: Does the United States—Northampton—feel like home to you now?

GILBERT: No, I don’t have a home. Not anymore. When Linda’s not teaching anymore we’ll probably leave this lovely Massachusetts world for another fine world. To be happy. Very happy."
jackgilbert  jackspicer  allenginsberg  anseladams  poems  poetry  writing  howwewrite  teaching  learning  dropouts  education  life  living  happiness  loneliness  solitude  quiet  love  children  parenting  community  purpose  experience  travel  livingabroad  expatriates  business  mfa  mfas  obligations  work  labor  howwework  relationships  inspiration  geraldstern  familiarity  difference  routine  process  success  photography  ogdennash  aging  death  organization  laziness  schedules  interviews  parisreview  nomads  nomadism  belonging  place  memory  memories  forgetting  religion  belief  myths  reading  howweread  mythology  sarahfay  idleness 
may 2013 by robertogreco
Troy Jollimore – Godless but good
"Principles are useful, perhaps, but only as rules of thumb, practical guidelines that hold for the most part, but to which there will always be exceptions. At the foundational level, ethics is built not on a system of rules, but on individual human beings who possess character, judgment, and wisdom."
ethics  principles  judgement  troyjollimore  2013  humans  humanism  antoniodamasio  religion  morality  belief  goodness  behavior  theory  experience  secularism 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Millsin' About [On Ricky Gervais's "Dear Religion… Yours, Science" tweet.]
"“Religion” isn’t a person; “Science” isn’t a person, and it especially isn’t a snarky person who believes in a specious, facile, tit-for-tat reckoning of evils and goods, since —after all— it is science which gives us the laser-guided missile, the atomic bomb, the crematoria gases, the bombers. It was indeed science’s race for ways to kill that gave us NASA —far more important than Neil deGrasse Tyson or even Neil Armstrong is Werner Braun— but the point is that this is not a methodologically sound analysis."

"But here’s the shit of it: the real basis of most of the mass violence in human history is something even more ubiquitous than religion. It is political-categorical thinking: the subsuming of humans into groups, the stripping from these groups of their “humanity,” the development of oppositional and “othering” rhetoric, etc. etc."
humor  antagonism  belief  thisandthat  rhetoric  humanism  rationalism  materialists  violence  neilarmstrong  neildegrassetyson  generalization  generalizations  grouping  snark  science  religion  rickygervais  2012  millsbaker 
october 2012 by robertogreco
A whole magazine of this, please « Snarkmarket
"Seriously, imagine this magazine. (And when I say “magazine” I obviously mean “website.”) It would be so different from anything that’s out there today. It wouldn’t be people trying to convince you of things. (This is the usual mode of, say, The New York Review of Books—although props to them for publishing Nagel on Plantinga.) Nor would it be people ironically infiltrating different belief systems. (This is the mode of a lot of narrative journalism today, and it’s super entertaining! You know: “I spent six weeks hanging out with these crazy people and here’s what I saw.”) It would be… brains at work. Call it The Grappler. An engine of empathy. I don’t know. It would probably have a readership of 300 people but maybe that’s okay."

[Alexis Madrigal comment: "All hail that which does not scale! All hail that which does not scale!"]
saulwurman  intimacy  small  scale  externalization  debate  belief  thomasnagel  longnow  alanjacobs  ianbogost  www.www  wwwconference  intellectualexcercises  understanding  writing  ideas  magazines  comments  snarkmarket  2012  thegrappler  perspective  empathy  robinsloan 
september 2012 by robertogreco
The Church of Assisted Belief - DWFE
"DWFE propose the formation of The Church of Assisted Belief (C of AB) as a way to offer non-believers the chance to explore an experience that is currently allied with organised religion. Neuroscientists have set out to uncover a possible neurological basis for religious belief. Their experiments have explored the idea that feelings associated with religious convictions have a physiological foundation, and they have attempted to replicate such feelings within a controlled environment."
michaelpresinger  neuroscience  religion  mattward  design  art  belief  dwfe 
september 2012 by robertogreco
Why Not Be Jubilant? - Lapham’s Quarterly
"The secret of success is concentrating interest in life, interest in sports and good times, interest in your studies, interest in your fellow students, interest in the small things of nature, insects, birds, flowers, leaves, etc. In other words to be fully awake to everything about you & the more you learn the more you can appreciate & get a full measure of joy & happiness out of life. I do not think a young fellow should be too serious, he should be full of the Dickens some times to create a balance.

I think your philosophy on religion is okay. I think every person should think, act & believe according to the dictates of his own conscience without too much pressure from the outside. I too think there is a higher power, a supreme force, a governor, a something that controls the universe. What it is & in what form I do not know. It may be that our intellect or spirit exists in space in some other form after it parts from this body…"
interestedness  nature  balance  fathers  1928  appreciation  happiness  belief  religion  presence  noticing  wisdom  living  life  whatmatter  parenting  letters  jacksonpollock  interested 
september 2012 by robertogreco
On quack cancer cures, and "alternative medicine" as religion - Boing Boing
"today, he explores the idea of "alternative medicine" as a faith-based religion.

"What we are doing (or trying to do)," writes Orac, is to rely on science rather than faith."

"The longer I study alternative medicine and alternative medical systems, the more it becomes clear to me that they show far more similarity to religion than they do to science. It’s true that alt-med apologists dress up their beliefs in language that sounds scientific, but when you scratch the patina of scientific language off, it doesn’t take long to find the religious imagery, often facilitated by the more conventional religious beliefs (i.e, Christianity) of the believer. We see the same thing with respect to evolution denial. So why not with denial of scientific medicine? A nonscientific world view that is based on faith in things that can’t be seen is often not confined to church."
faith  religion  alternativemedicine  science  belief  2012  xenijardin  medicine  quacks  cancer 
august 2012 by robertogreco
Saheli Datta - Google+ - (I found out about the Wisconsin Gurdwara shootings in the Zurich airport…)
"If I have children, I do not want them to have to experience that traumatic loss of security…to feel afraid & alienated in their own homes, their community centers, their houses of worship…I believe it is my duty towards my future to confront attacks like these, & ponder what might be done to prevent them in the future. It may be pointless, & I'm not attached to anything I do on this front succeeding. Duty without attachment is a motto I aspire to. But I still feel I have to try. You might be tempted to ignore me—because it's depressing, b/c you don't visit houses of worship anyway, or your houses of worship never seem threatened, or b/c it seems pointless. If you consider yourself my friends or well-wishers, & have stuck it with me this far, here is my request to you: if you think one day you'd enjoy pressing "+1" on pictures of the children I might have, then please consider lending your support to my effort to figure out how to live in a society where I feel like I can have them."
gurdwara  us  wisconsin  2012  attachment  duty  children  violence  freedom  belief  religion  society  sahelidatta 
august 2012 by robertogreco
The American Scholar: My Atheism—An Interim Report - William Deresiewicz
"But gradually, at first unwillingly, over the last 10 years or so, something began to change. Not my atheism—that isn’t going to change. To paraphrase Marilynne Robinson (leave it to a believer to find the perfect way of putting it), I’m a categorical atheist. Says a character in Gilead, “I don’t even believe God doesn’t exist.” God, in other words, is a meaningless concept. But my feelings about religion—those have begun to change."

"I no longer divide the world between believers and nonbelievers. I divide it between fundamentalists of both kinds and (for lack of a better word) liberals of both kinds. Liberal Catholics, Reconstructionist Jews, various kinds of mainline Protestants: people who understand religion the way that I understand art, as a source of spiritual wisdom and moral guidance, not literal truths about the physical world. The content of my atheism hasn’t changed. What’s changed—what continues to change—is the way that I live it."
2012  moralguidance  morality  wisdom  spirituality  liberalism  fundamentalism  belief  religion  atheism  williamderesiewicz 
july 2012 by robertogreco
Millsin' About
"A senior editor and columnist for the BBC Music Magazine disliked his experiences with religion and religious people as a youth, as many an English boy has done. He became and remained an atheist. And he always found little to like in Bruckner.

Then one day, listening to one of the late symphonies performed in concert, to his surprise he found himself transported. He could not associate the emotion with anything but religious belief and wrote that he began to wonder if he had not ever really understood religion.

This is an anecdote.

— Dad."
sensemaking  emotions  bruckner  2012  atheism  anecdote  belief  anecdotes  religion  millsbaker 
july 2012 by robertogreco
‘Why don’t you people ever seem to live near churches?’
"Scalia isn’t a cafeteria Catholic, he’s a concierge Catholic. Invention and choice shape his spirituality, after which he seeks out the “one true church” that will reassure him that what he has invented and chosen is traditional, right and proper, and that his particular inventions and choices are normal and normative."
via:tom.hoffman  antoninscalia  catholicism  christianity  religion  conservatism  ideology  belief 
june 2012 by robertogreco
DAILY SERVING » Summer of Utopia: Interview with Ted Purves
"I feel like a project is successful if we have had substantive encounters with people, if we have created spaces where a kind of exchange—whether it’s family history, or talking about why something should or shouldn’t be in an art museum, or sometimes it’s just swapping recipes—some form of animated or engaged dialogue comes out, or some sort of story emerges. It means we learn something, a story can be brought forward from that, that’s when things are successful. Another high-five moment comes when there is something compelling to look at. A lot of times when you see a social practice show, it’s either a room full of crap to read, or it looks like a place where they had a party and you didn’t get to go. I’ve been to a lot of those, and they’re not satisfying! You either wish they had just printed a book you could take home and read in your own chair—because it’s not very comfortable to sit in a museum—or you wish that you’d been at the party."

[via: http://randallszott.org/2012/05/25/ted-purves-aesthetics-social-practice-personal-economies/ ]
urbanism  rural  cities  urban  suburban  suburbia  suburbs  belief  via:leisurearts  democracy  alteration  change  perception  lemoneverlastingbackyard  wrongness  weirdness  glvo  openendedness  seeing  art  aesthetics  fruit  dialog  publicspaces  publicspace  workinginpublic  disagreement  decisionmaking  debate  negotiation  unplanning  thebluehouse  temescalamityworks  susannecockrell  sharing  2010  overlappingeconomies  capitalism  economics  utopia  thomasmore  socialpractice  tedpurves  dialogue 
may 2012 by robertogreco
Ask Chris #81: Scooby-Doo and Secular Humanism - ComicsAlliance | Comic book culture, news, humor, commentary, and reviews
"Scooby-Doo is a cartoon about kids looking for truth.

Michael Ryan recently wrote a really interesting article that suggested the decision to keep real monsters off of Scooby-Doo was originally done in order to appease parents who wanted something that was just scary enough to keep a kid's attention without being so scary that they wouldn't actually get "excited." They wanted to have the fun of monsters without the consequences of having to deal with nightmares…the televised equivalent of a Nerf Dracula, taking something that was supposed to be scary and blunting it down until the the big reveal at the end of every episode, which would show kids that the monsters they were scared of were just normal dudes.

…whether or not it was the intent of the creators, what they ended up with was something that went far beyond that idea.

Because that's the thing about Scooby-Doo: The bad guys in every episode aren't monsters, they're liars."
scooby-do  secularhumanism  humanism  skepticism  askingquestions  reason  curiosity  thinking  fear  tv  television  parenting  children  criticalthinking  belief  truth  cartoons  rationality  2011  glvo  questionasking 
december 2011 by robertogreco
Visipix: Mangas by HOKUSAI, Katsushika (1760 - 1849)
"This started one of the most ambitious projects in art: Teaching us all how to see things with our own eyes

Visipix.com publishes here the complete 15 volumes in facsimile quality. This is a world premiere in the internet

The success of western culture is based on the 'Enlightenment': Think with your own brain, find your religion in your own heart. I go that far: I prefer to be wrong with my own brain - and do my darndest to learn, especially learn from others - than to blindly depend on somebody else's belief. We learn this from Socrates, Luther, Lessing, Kant, Popper and others.]

What the western culture achieved verbally, Hokusai does visually. Artistic genius and wise teachings are well balanced. Nothing could be more difficult."
art  japan  illustration  manga  visual  hokusai  katsushikahokusai  graphic  via:preoccupations  1800s  1700s  noticing  learning  enlightenment  belief  balance  teachings  srg  edg  glvo 
september 2011 by robertogreco
The Blog : How to Lose Readers (Without Even Trying) : Sam Harris
"Many of my critics pretend that they have been entirely self-made…seem to feel responsible for their intellectual gifts…freedom from injury & disease…fact that they were born at a specific moment in history. Many appear to have absolutely no awareness of how lucky one must be to succeed at anything in life, no matter how hard one works. One must be lucky to be able to work. One must be lucky to be intelligent, to not have cerebral palsy, or to not have been bankrupted in middle age by the mortal illness of a spouse.

Many of us have been extraordinarily lucky—& we did not earn it. Many good people have been extraordinarily unlucky—& did not deserve it. & yet I get the distinct sense that if I asked some of my readers why they weren’t born w/ club feet, or orphaned before the age of 5, they would not hesitate to take credit for these accomplishments. There is a stunning lack of insight into the unfolding of human events that passes for moral & economic wisdom in some circles."

[via: http://lukescommonplacebook.tumblr.com/post/9573656199/ ]
culture  economics  policy  money  taxes  politics  samharris  objectivism  libertarianism  luck  unlucky  life  illness  bankruptcy  society  religion  belief  selfishness  wisdom  class  wealth  incomegap  wealthdistribution  warrenbuffett  2011  sharing  socialism  democracy  goodfortune  morality  success 
august 2011 by robertogreco
Bought some US stocks
"What I am saying is that I believe in me, and I believe in you and I believe in elbow grease, objectivity and history. Did you see the recession coming? Did it announce itself and tell you the date it would arrive? No, it did not. Nor will recovery. So quit whining. Pessimism is for losers."<br />
<br />
[Don't really agree with much other than this line.]<br />
<br />
[via: http://daringfireball.net/linked/2011/08/07/delaney via http://www.danielmarkham.com/posts/bought-some-us-stocks ]
pessimism  optimism  belief  objectivity  history  ingenuity  workethic  hardwork  recession  finance  money  jobs  2011 
august 2011 by robertogreco
RSA Animate - Choice - YouTube
"In this new RSAnimate, Professor Renata Salecl explores the paralysing anxiety and dissatisfaction surrounding limitless choice. Does the freedom to be the architects of our own lives actually hinder rather than help us? Does our preoccupation with choosing and consuming actually obstruct social change?"
culture  society  psychology  choce  renatasalecl  anxiety  socialism  communism  capitalism  regard  socialchange  change  belief  pretext  rights  paradoxofchoice  ideology  consumption  perception  presentationofself  guilt  satisfaction  opportunitycost  loss  yugoslavia  sexuality  inadequacy  selfmademan  celebrity  psychoanalysis  lacan  freud  submission  bulimia  anorexia  workaholics  failure  ideologyofchoce  politics  sociology  fear 
august 2011 by robertogreco
Why the truth will out but doesn’t sink in « Mind Hacks
"Maybe it was genuinely the ‘fog of war’ that led to mistaken early reports, but the fact that the media friendly version almost always appears first in accounts of war is likely, at least sometimes, to be a deliberate strategy.

Research shows that even when news reports have been retracted, & we are aware of the retraction, our beliefs are largely based on the initial erroneous version of the story. This is particularly true when we are motivated to approve of the initial account…

More recent studies have supported the remarkable power of first strike news. The emotional impact of the first version has little influence on its power to persuade after correction, & the misinformation still has an effect even when it is remembered more poorly than the retraction.

Even explicitly warning people that they might be misled doesn’t dispel the lingering impact of misinformation after it has been retracted."
politics  science  psychology  research  brain  news  firststrikenews  journalism  influence  misinformation  propaganda  retractions  osamabinladen  iraqwar  war  misleading  media  persuasion  reporting  belief  mindchanges  2011  truth  mindhacks  via:preoccupations  rethinking  unlearning  learning  mindchanging  bias  mindhanging 
may 2011 by robertogreco
Message to American Atheists - Christopher Hitchens - AA Conference, via Pharyngula - RichardDawkins.net
"The cheap name for this lethal delusion is religion, & we must learn new ways of combating it in the public sphere, just as we have learned to free ourselves of it in private.<br />
Our weapons are the ironic mind against the literal: the open mind against the credulous; the courageous pursuit of truth against the fearful & abject forces who would set limits to investigation…Perhaps above all, we affirm life over the cults of death & human sacrifice & are afraid, not of inevitable death, but rather of a human life that is cramped & distorted by the pathetic need to offer mindless adulation, or the dismal belief that the laws of nature respond to wailings & incantations.<br />
As the heirs of a secular revolution, American atheists have a special responsibility to defend & uphold the Constitution that patrols the boundary btwn Church & State. This, too, is an honor and a privilege…"
atheism  christopherhitchens  death  religion  secularism  us  policy  jefferson  belief  2011  constitution  law  separationofchurchandstate  church  state 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Tell Your Students That if They Cheat, God Will Smite Them - Tweed - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"“Taken together, our findings demonstrate, at least in some preliminary way, that religious beliefs do have an effect on moral behavior, but what matters more than whether you believe in a god is what kind of god you believe in,” Mr. Shariff said. “There is a relationship: Believing in a mean god, a punishing one, does contribute to cheating behavior. Believing in a loving, forgiving god seems to have an opposite effect.”"
cheating  religion  schools  academia  belief  forgiveness  2011 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Spencer's Scratch Pad: Smaller Stories
"We want to believe in huge stories w/ insurmountable conflicts, bravely heroic protagonists & settings that are other-worldly…fairy tales & legends, but we want those stories to be placed w/in the non-fiction section of our bookstore…movie…"based upon a true story"…

We want to believe in these big stories, because we are convinced that our own stories are too small. All too often, the "small stories" are too subtle, too nuanced & too authentic for us to celebrate. What's the drama in pushing your daughter on the swing after realizing that you've been devoting too much time to work? Where's the inspiration in learning how to handle conflict without yelling or falling apart?

However, what if the most triumphant stories are the humble ones? What if the life-changing narratives are filled with small acts of courage & incremental moments of character development? …when you admit that you are broken and choose love over bitterness anyway?"
johnspencer  gregmortenson  truth  fiction  belief  humility  small  scale  simplicity  sustainability  otherworldly  inspiration  narrative  storytelling  2011  smallmoments  character  nuance  supersizedheroes  neighborsizedheroes  family  whatmatters  everylittlebitcounts  human  humanscale 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Hot Stuff: Is the Kool-Aid wearing off? - Smiley & West
"The administration has to straighten its back up and say: “This is what we believe. This is our vision.”"
barackobama  tcsnmy  administration  vision  belief  purpose  clarity  management  focus  cv  tavissmiley  cornelwest  2011  policy  decisionmaking 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Caterina.net» The Truth About Zombies
"After watching The Truth about Zombies, I learned things about zombies I didn’t know. People in Haiti, where Voudoun is practiced, fear zombification more than they fear zombies. Zombies are fairly harmless, since they are ppl who have been poisoned so that they suffer paralysis, but with total consciousness and awareness. But what was most interesting to me was that zombification is a form of capital punishment visited upon ppl who have done some harm to people in the community, but who have not been served by the justice system. So it is a punishment meted out by an extra-legal Voudoun justice system. The adjudicator, in addition to zombifying the perp, takes their will, their “petit bon ange”, and keeps it in a bottle."
zombies  edg  srg  caterinafake  religion  belief  voodoo  haiti  voudoun  vodou 
march 2011 by robertogreco
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