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Charles Louis Richter on Twitter: "The Keanu Reeves Three-fold Path: Bill & Ted: Be excellent to one another. The Matrix: Step out of your worldview and listen to those doing the work toward revolution. John Wick: Destroy those who delight in cruelty."
"The Keanu Reeves Three-fold Path:

Bill & Ted: Be excellent to one another.

The Matrix: Step out of your worldview and listen to those doing the work toward revolution.

John Wick: Destroy those who delight in cruelty.

Can't argue with this fourth aspect of the Path:
https://twitter.com/DrewGROF/status/1129416727987728384

"Speed: do not engage bad faith actors on their terms.""

[Also:
https://twitter.com/misslaneym/status/1127281519951863809

"Keanu Reeves gives the right answer to an impossible question."

video:

Stephen Colbert: "What do you think happens when we die, Keanu Reeves."

Keanu Reeves: "I know that the ones who love us will miss us."]
keanureeves  2019  life  living  wisdom  listening  cruelty  death  dying  stephencolbert  kindness  revolution  mindchanging  change  systemschange 
5 days ago by robertogreco
"The Ideal Education" - Sir Ken Robinson with Sadhguru - YouTube
"Someone said that education is a necessary evil. It is a necessary evil because there is a resident evil in the world. We have very convoluted aspirations. In the sense, largely, most part of the education is trying to manufacture cogs for the larger machine that we have built. Our children are the fuel unfortunately. We have to put them into some slot where they'll function well. And when we say the work, the world is no more about people. The world is about the economic engine that we are driving. It's become bigger than us. We have to keep the engine going. We are scared to stop it for a moment. We have to keep going. Now the problem is this that we have created a world if our economies fail we will be depressed. If our economies succeed we will be damned for good. I feel it's better to be depressed.

Now talking about the school as a way of manufacturing cogs for the machine, there are many ways to do it. Every nation has its own system. If I have to shape you into a particular shape that you must fit into a particular machine, it's a cruel process. But now we can't let the machine fail, it needs spare parts. Constantly it has to absorb and humanity is the spare parts. So our children are the fuel and the machine parts which go into this to run the larger machine. That's one aspect.

So this is why I have addressed education in three different dimensions, which people around me are still trying to grasp why these three different things? There is one form of education which is called Isha Vidhya, I think they might have showed something about that. This is for the rural masses in India where the problem is they are in a economic and social pit which they cannot get out by themselves. The only ladder for them is education. Employment generating education. But there are reasonably well-to-do people where they might have gone through that in the previous generation, but this generation need not think about how to earn my living. They have to look at how to expand who they are. So we have Isha Home School which caters to that. Because this kind of education costs money. So only people who can afford it can do that. Costs money means not like how it costs here, by Indian standards it costs money. And there is another form of education, where people are not interested in serving this machine or that machine, they want individuals to blossom, so we have Isha Samskriti where there is no academic education of any kind. They only learn music, dance, art, Sanskrit language, Kalari, which is a very .. the mother of all martial arts and classical dance, classical music, yoga, English language as a passport of the world.

So these children are a treat to watch. This is how children should have been. Just to give you a glimpse of what it is, at the age of fifteen, for three years, they go into monastic life. Compulsorily they must go and compulsorily they must come out at eighteen. They cannot continue. They'll take monastic life for three years, but after three years, they cannot continue, they have to discontinue that and get back to normal life. This is for discipline and focus. So I was to initiate this fifteen year olds and you know these sixty days, they are going through, from morning 3:30 to 9:00 in the evening, they are going through almost eight hours of meditation, varieties of Sadhana completely silent for sixty days, fifteen year old kids, totally silent. So I want to .. just another five days left for the initiation, I want to see how they are and I go there at 3:30 in the morning to see them. All these kids are just sitting like this unmoving. I just looked at them and they were literally glowing. I sat there and wept because I have never seen children like this in my life. Definitely I was not like this when I was fifteen. I was nowhere near what they are today but you can't make the entire world like that.

This is an ideal to work towards. The idea of this kind of schooling is just to develop human body and human brain without any intention. Without any intention as to what they should become. They can become whatever they want. Only thing is human body and human mind should grow to its fullest capability and attention is the main thing. An indiscriminate and unprejudiced attention is what we're trying to evolve in the children, that they learn to pay attention to everything the same way. That you don't divide the world as something as good and something as bad, something high, something low, something divine, something devil, something filthy, something sacred. No, you learn to pay the same attention to everything. This is the fundamental of this form of education. What will they do, what will they do is the aspiration, so I guaranteed them one thing. Twelve years, if you enter the school, the commitment is for twelve years. You have to.. six if you come, eighteen you can leave. So they asked me what will the children do. I said one thing I'll assure you, we will not give you a certificate at the end.

They said 'Sadhguru, what?' I said, 'Did anybody ask me what is my certification?' Only in the American embassy they asked me, you know when I almost .. about.. twenty years ago, or eighteen years ago when I went to apply for the visa to come to United States, the counsel general wanted to meet me. She was a lady. I went to meet her and she said, "Yes I know what you have done and all this but do you have a yoga certification because in America, you will need this." I said, "If I had asked for a certification from my guru, he would have killed me, so I don't have." So I said no certification because doors in the world may open little slowly for you, but when they open, they stay open. Because not because of qualification, but by competence you open doors."
unschooling  education  society  sadhguru  kenrobinson  2017  learning  children  schooling  schooliness  unlearning  certification  economics  politics  life  living  perfectionism  death  schools  purpose  depression  attention 
14 days ago by robertogreco
401(k)s, abortion, youth football: 15 things we do now that will be considered unthinkable in 50 years - Vox
[via: https://kottke.org/19/04/what-do-we-do-now-that-will-be-unthinkable-in-50-years ]

"Youth tackle football
Bosses
Eating meat
Conspicuous consumption
The drug war
The way we die
Banning sex work
401(k)s
Ending the draft
Facebook and Google
Abortion
Self-driving cars
Our obsession with rationality
Abandoning public education
The idea of a “wrong side of history”



"Some 50 years ago, in 1964, 42 percent of Americans smoked cigarettes. Smoking in bars and offices was normal and cigarettes were given to soldiers as part of military rations. Half of American physicians smoked. Ads for cigarettes bombarded the American public. That year, the surgeon general released a report outlining the health risks of smoking. Two years later, only 40 percent of Americans said that they believed smoking was a major cause of cancer.

Today, we know that smoking is bad for our health. We’ve banned smoking in most indoor public spaces. We stopped allowing tobacco companies to advertise and forced them to put warning labels on cigarette boxes. By 2001, 71 percent of the country said they recognized smoking was a major cause of cancer, and by 2017, the rate of smokers dropped to 14 percent. The habit is now looked at as a relic of the past, something we’ve come to accept as unquestionably harmful.

When we think about what common habits, social norms, or laws that are widely considered unthinkable in today’s world, a variety of past atrocities come to mind. We could point to bloodletting, Jim Crow-era segregation, and drinking and driving as being on the “wrong side” of history.

But what modern practices will we one day think of as barbaric? It’s a framework invoked frequently in political or scientific beliefs: Actor Harrison Ford recently said leaders who deny climate change are on the “wrong side of history.” President Barack Obama said Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine was on the “wrong side of history.” Filmmaker Spike Lee said that President Donald Trump himself is on the “wrong side of history.”

So what, by 2070 — some 50 years in the future — will join this group? We asked 15 thinkers, writers, and advocates to take their best guess.

Bioethicist Peter Singer says people will stop the habit of conspicuous consumption. “The ostentatious display of wealth, in a world that still has many people in need, is not in good taste. Within 50 years, we’ll wonder how people did not see that,” he writes.

Historian Jennifer Mittelstadt predicts that our volunteer army will be widely considered a mistake: “Fifty years from now Americans will observe with shock the damage to both foreign policy and domestic institutions wrought by our acceptance of an increasingly privatized, socially isolated, and politically powerful US military.”

For philosopher Jacob T. Levy, the very idea of there being a “wrong side of history” is wrong itself.

Other answers range from kids playing tackle football to expecting workers to invest in 401(k)s."
us  future  obsolescence  barbarity  draft  cars  self-drivingcars  retirement  saving  drugwar  football  americanfootball  conspicuousconsumption  capitalism  consumption  rationality  scientism  publiceducations  publicschools  schools  schooling  education  facebook  google  abortion  war  military  sexwork  death  dying  meat  food  howwelive  predictions  history  petersinger  kristatippett  jaboblevy  jennifermittelstadt  haiderwarraich  kathleenfrydl  meredithbroussard  chrisnowinski  adiaharveywingfield  bhaskarsunkara  horizontality  hierarchy  inequality  jacobhacker  economics  society  transportation 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
Orion Magazine | Beyond Hope
"THE MOST COMMON WORDS I hear spoken by any environmentalists anywhere are, We’re fucked. Most of these environmentalists are fighting desperately, using whatever tools they have — or rather whatever legal tools they have, which means whatever tools those in power grant them the right to use, which means whatever tools will be ultimately ineffective — to try to protect some piece of ground, to try to stop the manufacture or release of poisons, to try to stop civilized humans from tormenting some group of plants or animals. Sometimes they’re reduced to trying to protect just one tree.

Here’s how John Osborn, an extraordinary activist and friend, sums up his reasons for doing the work: “As things become increasingly chaotic, I want to make sure some doors remain open. If grizzly bears are still alive in twenty, thirty, and forty years, they may still be alive in fifty. If they’re gone in twenty, they’ll be gone forever.”

But no matter what environmentalists do, our best efforts are insufficient. We’re losing badly, on every front. Those in power are hell-bent on destroying the planet, and most people don’t care.

Frankly, I don’t have much hope. But I think that’s a good thing. Hope is what keeps us chained to the system, the conglomerate of people and ideas and ideals that is causing the destruction of the Earth.

To start, there is the false hope that suddenly somehow the system may inexplicably change. Or technology will save us. Or the Great Mother. Or beings from Alpha Centauri. Or Jesus Christ. Or Santa Claus. All of these false hopes lead to inaction, or at least to ineffectiveness. One reason my mother stayed with my abusive father was that there were no battered women’s shelters in the ’50s and ’60s, but another was her false hope that he would change. False hopes bind us to unlivable situations, and blind us to real possibilities.

Does anyone really believe that Weyerhaeuser is going to stop deforesting because we ask nicely? Does anyone really believe that Monsanto will stop Monsantoing because we ask nicely? If only we get a Democrat in the White House, things will be okay. If only we pass this or that piece of legislation, things will be okay. If only we defeat this or that piece of legislation, things will be okay. Nonsense. Things will not be okay. They are already not okay, and they’re getting worse. Rapidly.

But it isn’t only false hopes that keep those who go along enchained. It is hope itself. Hope, we are told, is our beacon in the dark. It is our light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. It is the beam of light that makes its way into our prison cells. It is our reason for persevering, our protection against despair (which must be avoided at all costs). How can we continue if we do not have hope?

We’ve all been taught that hope in some future condition — like hope in some future heaven — is and must be our refuge in current sorrow. I’m sure you remember the story of Pandora. She was given a tightly sealed box and was told never to open it. But, being curious, she did, and out flew plagues, sorrow, and mischief, probably not in that order. Too late she clamped down the lid. Only one thing remained in the box: hope. Hope, the story goes, was the only good the casket held among many evils, and it remains to this day mankind’s sole comfort in misfortune. No mention here of action being a comfort in misfortune, or of actually doing something to alleviate or eliminate one’s misfortune.

The more I understand hope, the more I realize that all along it deserved to be in the box with the plagues, sorrow, and mischief; that it serves the needs of those in power as surely as belief in a distant heaven; that hope is really nothing more than a secular way of keeping us in line.

Hope is, in fact, a curse, a bane. I say this not only because of the lovely Buddhist saying “Hope and fear chase each other’s tails,” not only because hope leads us away from the present, away from who and where we are right now and toward some imaginary future state. I say this because of what hope is.

More or less all of us yammer on more or less endlessly about hope. You wouldn’t believe — or maybe you would — how many magazine editors have asked me to write about the apocalypse, then enjoined me to leave readers with a sense of hope. But what, precisely, is hope? At a talk I gave last spring, someone asked me to define it. I turned the question back on the audience, and here’s the definition we all came up with: hope is a longing for a future condition over which you have no agency; it means you are essentially powerless.

I’m not, for example, going to say I hope I eat something tomorrow. I just will. I don’t hope I take another breath right now, nor that I finish writing this sentence. I just do them. On the other hand, I do hope that the next time I get on a plane, it doesn’t crash. To hope for some result means you have given up any agency concerning it. Many people say they hope the dominant culture stops destroying the world. By saying that, they’ve assumed that the destruction will continue, at least in the short term, and they’ve stepped away from their own ability to participate in stopping it.

I do not hope coho salmon survive. I will do whatever it takes to make sure the dominant culture doesn’t drive them extinct. If coho want to leave us because they don’t like how they’re being treated — and who could blame them? — I will say goodbye, and I will miss them, but if they do not want to leave, I will not allow civilization to kill them off.

When we realize the degree of agency we actually do have, we no longer have to “hope” at all. We simply do the work. We make sure salmon survive. We make sure prairie dogs survive. We make sure grizzlies survive. We do whatever it takes.

When we stop hoping for external assistance, when we stop hoping that the awful situation we’re in will somehow resolve itself, when we stop hoping the situation will somehow not get worse, then we are finally free — truly free — to honestly start working to resolve it. I would say that when hope dies, action begins.

PEOPLE SOMETIMES ASK ME, “If things are so bad, why don’t you just kill yourself?” The answer is that life is really, really good. I am a complex enough being that I can hold in my heart the understanding that we are really, really fucked, and at the same time that life is really, really good. I am full of rage, sorrow, joy, love, hate, despair, happiness, satisfaction, dissatisfaction, and a thousand other feelings. We are really fucked. Life is still really good.

Many people are afraid to feel despair. They fear that if they allow themselves to perceive how desperate our situation really is, they must then be perpetually miserable. They forget that it is possible to feel many things at once. They also forget that despair is an entirely appropriate response to a desperate situation. Many people probably also fear that if they allow themselves to perceive how desperate things are, they may be forced to do something about it.

Another question people sometimes ask me is, “If things are so bad, why don’t you just party?” Well, the first answer is that I don’t really like to party. The second is that I’m already having a great deal of fun. I love my life. I love life. This is true for most activists I know. We are doing what we love, fighting for what (and whom) we love.

I have no patience for those who use our desperate situation as an excuse for inaction. I’ve learned that if you deprive most of these people of that particular excuse they just find another, then another, then another. The use of this excuse to justify inaction — the use of any excuse to justify inaction — reveals nothing more nor less than an incapacity to love.

At one of my recent talks someone stood up during the Q and A and announced that the only reason people ever become activists is to feel better about themselves. Effectiveness really doesn’t matter, he said, and it’s egotistical to think it does.

I told him I disagreed.

Doesn’t activism make you feel good? he asked.

Of course, I said, but that’s not why I do it. If I only want to feel good, I can just masturbate. But I want to accomplish something in the real world.

Why?

Because I’m in love. With salmon, with trees outside my window, with baby lampreys living in sandy streambottoms, with slender salamanders crawling through the duff. And if you love, you act to defend your beloved. Of course results matter to you, but they don’t determine whether or not you make the effort. You don’t simply hope your beloved survives and thrives. You do what it takes. If my love doesn’t cause me to protect those I love, it’s not love.

A WONDERFUL THING happens when you give up on hope, which is that you realize you never needed it in the first place. You realize that giving up on hope didn’t kill you. It didn’t even make you less effective. In fact it made you more effective, because you ceased relying on someone or something else to solve your problems — you ceased hoping your problems would somehow get solved through the magical assistance of God, the Great Mother, the Sierra Club, valiant tree-sitters, brave salmon, or even the Earth itself — and you just began doing whatever it takes to solve those problems yourself.

When you give up on hope, something even better happens than it not killing you, which is that in some sense it does kill you. You die. And there’s a wonderful thing about being dead, which is that they — those in power — cannot really touch you anymore. Not through promises, not through threats, not through violence itself. Once you’re dead in this way, you can still sing, you can still dance, you can still make love, you can still fight like hell — you can still live because you are still alive, more alive in fact than ever before. You come to realize that when hope died, the you who died with the hope was not you, but was the you who … [more]
derrickjensen  activism  crisis  fear  hope  nihilism  love  vulnerability  survival  monsanto  weyerhaeuser  johnosborn  humans  life  living  presence  present  hereandnow  action  agency  emotions  rage  sorrow  joy  despair  happiness  satisfaction  dissatisfaction  feelings  exploitation  mortality  death  canon 
11 weeks ago by robertogreco
Jeff Sharlet en Instagram: “Wednesday night I worked on my father’s obituary. Thursday, in class, I pulled up on the projector this photograph, “Hyeres, France, 1932,”…”
"Wednesday night I worked on my father’s obituary. Thursday, in class, I pulled up on the projector this photograph, “Hyeres, France, 1932,” by Henri Cartier-Bresson. We’d read a book called H is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald, a memoir of her grief for her late father. He was a photographer. It was he who taught her how to look, to have the patience to see what Cartier-Bresson called a “decisive moment.” “Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you,” wrote Cartier-Bresson, “and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. The moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever.” // Because I was tired, because before I knew my father would die I had assigned this book about grieving a father—because for some reason I had assigned, across two courses, three books about lost fathers—I mentioned my own writing assignment of the previous evening. An obituary. I told my students the book we had just read was an obituary. An obituary, I said, should not be a recitation of facts; rather, a remembrance of decisive moments. Click. // He’s 18, in a campus movie theater with his football teammates. On screen: subtitles. The movie is French, Cocteau’s Orpheus. Bob Sharlet has never “read” a movie before. He has never, he thinks, really read at all. Now he’ll never stop reading again. // Christmas, 1991, Cairo, at a vegetable stand, seeing on a little tv at the back of the stand the Soviet flag being lowered, the end of the U.S.S.R., to which he had devoted his scholarly life—his life—and realizing, suddenly, that now he could read about anything. // A month ago Saturday.We’ve told him his prognosis—terminal, soon. He’d said he’d sleep an hour. Now he lifts his sleeping mask. He opens his eyes. “Okay,” he says. // Today, sifting through his boxes of photographs, I found this postcard. Blank. He kept it for the picture. The picture I taught Thursday. // I imagine—as I think my father imagined—Cartier-Bresson descending the stairs, noticing the rail, the steps, the curve. Stopping, stepping back. He thinks he’s waiting for a walker. Then comes the bicycle, circles and triangles and spokes. Click. And then it’s gone, forever."
jeffsharlet  writing  reading  howwewrite  life  living  howweread  2019  bobshartlet  photography  bricolage  moments  death  henricartier-bresson  teaching  howweteach  intution  memory  memories  change  decisivemoments 
february 2019 by robertogreco
Joy [Still Processing] - The New York Times
"Inspired by Netflix’s “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo,” we decide to KonMari Wesley’s Brooklyn apartment. We ask ourselves what sparks joy in our lives and examine whether Marie Kondo’s philosophy extends into the metaphysical realm.

Discussed this week:

“Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” (Netflix, 2019) https://www.netflix.com/title/80209379

“The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” (Marie Kondo, 2014) https://konmari.com/products/the-life-changing-magic-of-tidying-up

“The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter” (Margareta Magnusson, 2017) https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/The-Gentle-Art-of-Swedish-Death-Cleaning/Margareta-Magnusson/9781501173240 "
jennawortham  wesleymorris  mariekondo  legacy  2019  impermanence  konmarimethod  death  possessions  materialism  decluttering  mindfulness  scandinavia  clutter  tidying  organizing  sweden  cleaning  meaningmaking  joy  gratitude  life  living  self-awareness 
february 2019 by robertogreco
Green Burials: At the End of Life, Thinking Outside the Coffin - The New York Times
"They offer lower costs, fewer chemicals and a quicker route to being reborn — in one sense, anyway."
death  burial  2018  sustainability  environment 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Frankétienne, Father of Haitian Letters, Is Busier Than Ever - The New York Times
"Frankétienne has had prophecies of death (his own) and destruction (Haiti’s).

The earthquake that wrecked this country in January 2010? It was foreseen, said Frankétienne, the man known as the father of Haitian letters, in his play “The Trap.” It was written two months before the disaster and depicts two men in a postapocalyptic landscape, now a familiar sight in his Delmas neighborhood here.

“The voice of God spoke to me,” said Frankétienne, 75, later noting he had also long dwelt on the ecological ruin he believes the planet is hurtling toward. As for his death, that will come in nine years, in 2020, he says, at age 84. He is not sick, he says, but he has learned to “listen to the divine music in all of us.”

And so the prolific novelist, poet and painter — often all three in a single work — hears his coda. He is vowing to complete a multivolume memoir “before I leave, physically,” while keeping up an increasingly busy schedule of exhibitions and conferences.

“I am going to talk about everything I have seen from age 5 or 6,” he said recently at his house-cum-museum and gallery. “And stuff that hasn’t happened yet because I am a prophet.”

Eccentric. Abstract. A “spiralist,” who rejects realism and embraces disorder. Frankétienne — he combined his first and last names years ago — embraces chaos as a style he believes befits a country with a long, tumultuous history birthed in a slave revolt more than 200 years ago and scarred by a cascade of natural and man-made disasters.

In chaos he finds order.

“I am not afraid of chaos because chaos is the womb of light and life,” he said, his baritone voice rising as it does when he gets worked up over a point. “What I don’t like is nonmanagement of chaos. The reason why Haiti looks more chaotic is because of nonmanagement. In other countries it is managed better. Haiti, they should take as reference for what could happen in the rest of world.”

Scholars widely view Frankétienne as Haiti’s most important writer. He wrote what many consider the first modern novel entirely in Haitian Creole, “Dezafi,” in 1975, and a play well known here that challenged political oppression, “Pelin Tet.” It is a biting work from 1978 that is aimed, not so subtly, at Jean-Claude Duvalier, the son of the dictator François Duvalier and himself a former dictator known as Baby Doc, who returned here from exile in January.

Although not well known in the English-speaking world, Frankétienne has star status in French- and Creole-speaking countries and was rumored to be on the short list for a Nobel Prize in Literature in 2009.

After the quake, his works gained more international attention, particularly in Canada and France. “The Trap” debuted in March 2010 at a Unesco forum in Paris that named him an artist for peace; galleries in New York have organized shows featuring his artwork. Still, he also holds informal Sunday workshops with young artists in Haiti to talk about and critique their work.

“He is not only a major Haitian writer, he is probably the major Haitian writer, forever,” said Jean Jonassaint, a Haitian literature scholar at Syracuse University.

Frankétienne’s output, about 40 written works and, by his count, 2,000 paintings and sketches, comprises dense, baroque affairs. He invents new words, blending French and Haitian Creole. Long digressions are de rigueur. His paintings, which he says are selling particularly well these days, blur swirling blacks, blues and reds, often covered with poems.

He admires James Joyce, and it shows. “ ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ was like a crazy book, just like I write crazy books,” he said.

Still, the Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat said Frankétienne remained popular among Haitians, in part because some of his plays had been videotaped and passed around in Haiti and in immigrant communities in the United States.

“Pelin Tet,” in which the grim life of two Haitian immigrants in New York deliberately echoes the oppression of the Duvalier era on the island, is a touchstone for many Haitians, said Ms. Danticat, who grew up in the same neighborhood as Frankétienne and was, in part, inspired to write by his rise to the top.

“His work can speak to the most intellectual person in the society as well as the most humble,” she said. “It’s a very generous kind of genius he has, one I can’t imagine Haitian literature ever existing without.”

Frankétienne was born as Franck Étienne on April 12, 1936, and raised in the Bel-Air neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, the son of a Haitian farmworker and an American businessman, who later abandoned her.

Frankétienne’s mother worked as a street vendor — selling cigarettes, charcoal, candies, moonshine — while raising eight children.

“Since I was 5 or 6 I was smoking or drinking, but my mother never knew,” he recalled. He was the oldest, and she strove to send him to school (he, in turn, tutored his younger siblings, leading him to establish his own school).

The school he attended was French-speaking. Frankétienne initially did not know a word of French, but angered at being teased by other students, he set about mastering the language and developing an affinity for words and artistic expression.

His best-known works came in the 1960s and ’70s, and he ranks his novel “Dezafi” as one of his most cherished. Set in a rural Haitian village, it weaves cockfighting, zombification, the history of slavery and other themes into an allegory of the country’s pain and suffering.

“It is the challenge of finding the light to liberate everyone,” he said. He wrote it in Creole, he said, because that was the voice of the characters he imagined.

But Frankétienne also felt a need to assert his Haitian identity, as people often look at his fair skin, blue eyes and white hair and doubt he is from this predominantly black country.

“They might think I am white or mulatto or whatever, but I am not,” he said. “I have black features, Negro features. My mother was an illiterate peasant and she had me when she was 16. She was taken in by an American, a very rich American. The American was 63 and my mother was 16 at the time.”

Switching from Creole to English, which he is usually too timid to speak, he added, “You understand who I am now?”

After completing “Dezafi,” he was frustrated that so few of his compatriots could read it, with nearly half the adult population illiterate. He switched to plays, even if that meant irritating the dictatorship.

“Dictators are mean but not necessarily stupid, so they knew I didn’t have any readers,” Frankétienne said. “What really gave them a problem was when I started with plays.”

Other writers and artists left Haiti during the dictatorship, but he stayed as his reputation grew outside the country and human rights groups closely followed him, providing, he believes, some cover from Mr. Duvalier.

Later, he joined other intellectuals in denouncing Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the first democratically elected president after Jean-Claude Duvalier was overthrown. Mr. Aristide, he said, became fixated on power and tolerated corruption and thuggery in his administration.

“He is a ghost, too,” Frankétienne said of Mr. Aristide’s return in March after seven years in exile.

His only regret, he said, is that his work is not widely translated and better known. If he knew Chinese, Japanese, Italian or other languages, he said, he would put them in his works.

“Everything is interconnected,” he said. “We are connected to everything, everyone.”

Frankétienne added, “The only thing not chaotic is death.”"
frankétienne  haiti  2011  literature  chaos  death  writing  form  theater  poetry  creole  language  identity  education  zombies  voodoo  vodou  voudoun  slavery  history  jeanjonassaint  edwidgedanticat  babdydoc  papadoc  jean-claudeduvalier  françoisduvalier  disorder  order  nonmanagement 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Listening for Silence With the Headphones Off | Pitchfork
"After years of escaping into music, writer Mark Richardson finds out what it feels like to hear no sound at all."



"As I sat in the anechoic chamber, I thought about that other life that I once wanted, one in which I was able to master the numbers and bring hi-fi to the world, and I thought about everything that led me from there to here and all that had happened since. I looked around the room and counted my breaths for a moment, and then I tried to see what else I could hear. I sensed what sounded like ticking, and then I realized that it was my heart, and the sound seemed to be coming from a vein in my neck. I could only remember experiencing my heartbeat as a thud, but in here, it sounded uncannily like a faint mechanical watch.

I thought about silence as a metaphor for death, what it means to not be able to hear the voice of someone you love. I thought about Mike Watt still gleaning lessons from D. Boon, and Mother Teresa and God listening to each other. And then, being generally claustrophobic and wanting to scare myself a little, I closed my eyes and imagined what it would be like to be in a coffin. With my eyes shut underneath the bright light, I saw red and orange instead of black—there was still blood moving through my eyelids. I sat for a few minutes like that, seeing if I could hear more if listened harder, but the tick of my heart was it. It didn’t feel like death. It was quite the opposite. I thought about writing it all down. I opened my eyes and blinked and stood up and took one last look around, then I knocked on the door."
silence  attention  audio  music  2018  markrichardson  anechoicchambers  death 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Why, in China and Japan, a copy is just as good as an original | Aeon Essays
"In the West, when monuments are restored, old traces are often particularly highlighted. Original elements are treated like relics. The Far East is not familiar with this cult of the original. It has developed a completely different technique of preservation that might be more effective than conservation or restoration. This takes place through continual reproduction. This technique completely abolishes the difference between original and replica. We might also say that originals preserve themselves through copies. Nature provides the model. The organism also renews itself through continual cell-replacement. After a certain period of time, the organism is a replica of itself. The old cells are simply replaced by new cell material. In this case, the question of an original does not arise. The old dies off and is replaced by the new. Identity and renewal are not mutually exclusive. In a culture where continual reproduction represents a technique for conservation and preservation, replicas are anything but mere copies."
china  japan  copying  originality  evolution  copies  culture  2018  byung-chulhan  history  museums  cloning  korea  southkorea  buddhism  christianity  life  death 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Barbara Ehrenreich's Radical Critique of Wellness Culture | The New Republic
"Ehrenreich contemplates with some satisfaction not just the approach of her own death but also the passing of her generation. As the boomers have aged, denial of death, she argues, has moved to the center of American culture, and a vast industrial ecosystem has bloomed to capitalize on it. Across twelve chapters, Ehrenreich surveys the health care system, the culture of old age, the world of “mindfulness,” and the interior workings of the body itself, and finds a fixation on controlling the body, encouraged by cynical and self-interested professionals in the name of “wellness.” Without opposing reasonable, routine maintenance, Ehrenreich observes that the care of the self has become a coercive and exploitative obligation: a string of endless medical tests, drugs, wellness practices, and exercise fads that threaten to become the point of life rather than its sustenance. Someone, obviously, is profiting from all this.

While innumerable think pieces have impugned millennials’ culture of “self-care”—and argued that the generation born in the 1980s and ’90s is fragile, consumerist, and distracted—Ehrenreich redirects such criticisms toward an older crowd. Her book sets out to refute the idea that it’s possible to control the course and shape of one’s own biological or emotional life, and dissects the desire to do so. “Agency is not concentrated in humans or their gods or favorite animals,” she writes. “It is dispersed throughout the universe, right down to the smallest imaginable scale.” We are not, that is, in charge of ourselves."



"While workout culture requires the strict ordering of the body, mindfulness culture has emerged to subject the brain to similarly stringent routines. Mindfulness gurus often begin from the assumption that our mental capacities have been warped and attenuated by the distractions of our age. We need re-centering. Mindfulness teaches that it is possible through discipline and practice to gain a sense of tranquility and focus. Such spiritual discipline, often taking the form of a faux-Buddhist meditation program, can of course be managed through an app on your phone, or, with increasing frequency, might be offered by your employer. Google, for example, keeps on staff a “chief motivator,” who specializes in “fitness for the mind,” while Adobe’s “Project Breathe” program allocates 15 minutes per day for employees to “recharge their batteries.” This fantastical hybrid of exertion and mysticism promises that with enough effort , you too can bend your mind back into shape.

“Whichever prevails in the mind-body duality, the hope, the goal—the cherished assumption,” Ehrenreich summarizes, “is that by working together, the mind and the body can act as a perfectly self-regulating machine.” In this vision, the self is a clockwork mechanism, ideally adapted by natural selection to its circumstances and needing upkeep only in the form of juice cleanses, meditation, CrossFit, and so on. Monitor your data forever and hope to live forever. Like workout culture, wellness is a form of conspicuous consumption. It is only the wealthy who have the resources to maintain the illusion of an integral and bounded self, capable of responsible self-care and thus worthy of social status. The same logic says that those who smoke (read: poor), or don’t eat right (poor again), or don’t exercise enough (also poor) have personally failed and somehow deserve their health problems and low life expectancy."



"Ehrenreich’s political agenda goes largely unstated in Natural Causes, but is nonetheless central to her argument. Since at least the mid-1970s, she has been engaged in a frustrated dialogue with her peers about how they choose to live. In her view, the New Left failed to grasp that its own professional-class origins, status anxieties, and cultural pretensions were the reason that it had not bridged the gap with the working class in the 1960s and 1970s. It was this gap that presented the New Right with its own political opportunity, leading to the ascent of Ronald Reagan and fueling decades of spiraling inequality, resurgent racism, and the backlash against feminism.

The inability of her contemporaries to see themselves with enough distance—either historical distance or from the vantage of elsewhere in the class system—is the subject of some of her best books: Fear of Falling, a study of middle-class insecurity, and Nickel and Dimed, her best-selling undercover report on the difficulties of low-wage employment. At some level, it’s what all her work has been about. In the final pages of Natural Causes, Ehrenreich stages a version of this lifelong dialogue with her peers. She tries to convince them, in the last act, to finally concede that the world does not revolve around them. They can, she proposes, depart without Sturm und Drang.
Two years ago, I sat in a shady backyard around a table of friends, all over sixty, when the conversation turned to the age-appropriate subject of death. Most of those present averred that they were not afraid of death, only of any suffering that might be involved in dying. I did my best to assure them that this could be minimized or eliminated by insisting on a nonmedical death, without the torment of heroic interventions to prolong life by a few hours or days.


It’s a final, existential version of the same argument she’s made forever: for members of her generation and class to see themselves with a touch more perspective.

Despite Ehrenreich’s efforts, this radical message hasn’t resonated among them as widely as she hoped. She has, meanwhile, worked on building institutions that may foster a different outlook in the years to come. In 2012, she founded the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, an impressive, foundation-backed venture to support journalists reporting on inequality. Ever alert to the threat of social inequality and the responsibility of middle-class radicals, she served until just last year as honorary co-chair of Democratic Socialists of America—that renewed organ of radicalism for the millennial precariat. She is not giving up. “It’s one thing,” she writes, “to die into a dead world and, metaphorically speaking, leave one’s bones to bleach on a desert lit only by a dying star. It is another thing to die into the actual world, which seethes with life, with agency other than our own, and at the very least, with endless possibility.”

It takes a special kind of courage to maintain such humility and optimism across a whole lifetime of losing an argument and documenting the consequences. Barbara Ehrenreich doesn’t meditate. She doesn’t believe in the integral self, coherent consciousness, or the mastery of spirit over matter. She thinks everything is dissolving and reforming, all the time. But she’s not in flux—quite the opposite. She’s never changed her mind, lost her way, or, as far as I can tell, even gotten worn out. There’s the tacit lesson of Natural Causes, conveyed by the author’s biography as much as the book’s content: To sustain political commitment and to manifest social solidarity—fundamentally humble and collective ways of being in the world—is the best self-care."
barbaraehrenreich  mindfulness  wellness  culture  health  boomers  babyboomers  2018  gabrielwinant  politics  self-care  death  generations  perspective  socialism  inequality  dsa  radicalism  millennials  medicine  balance  body  bodies  lifeexpectancy  exercise  self-improvement  westernmedicine  feminism 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Old memories, accidentally trapped in amber by our digital devices
"Part of what humans use technology for is to better remember the past. We scroll back through photos on our phones and on Instagram & Flickr — “that was Fourth of July 5 years ago, so fun!” — and apps like Swarm, Timehop, and Facebook surface old locations, photos, and tweets for us on the regular. But sometimes, we run into the good old days in unexpected places on our digital devices.

Designer and typographer Marcin Wichary started a thread on Twitter yesterday about “UIs that accidentally amass memories” with the initial example of the “Preferred Networks” listing of all the wifi networks his computer had ever joined, “unexpected reminders of business trips, vacations, accidental detours, once frequented and now closed cafés”.

[image: screeshot of macOS wi-fi panel]

Several other people chimed in with their own examples…the Bluetooth pairings list, the Reminders app, the list of alarms, saved places in mapping apps, AIM/iChat status message log, chat apps not used for years, the Gmail drafts folder, etc.

John Bull noted that his list of former addresses on Amazon is “a massive walk down memory line of my old jobs and places of residence”. I just looked at mine and I’ve got addresses in there from almost 20 years ago.

Steven Richie suggested the Weather app on iOS:
I usually like to add the city I will be travelling to ahead of time to get a sense of what it will be like when we get there.

I do this too but am pretty good about culling my cities list. Still, there are a couple places I keep around even though I haven’t been to them in awhile…a self-nudge for future travel desires perhaps.

Kotori switched back to an old OS via a years-old backup and found “a post-breakup message that came on the day i switched phones”:
thought i moved on but so many whatifs flashed in my head when i read it. what if i never got a new phone. what if they messaged me a few minutes earlier. what if we used a chat that did backups differently

Similarly, Richard fired up Google Maps on an old phone and was briefly transported through time and space:
On a similar note to both of these, a while ago I switched back to my old Nokia N95 after my iPhone died. Fired up Google Maps, and for a brief moment, it marked my location as at a remote crossroads in NZ where I’d last had it open, lost on a road trip at least a decade before.

Matt Sephton runs into old friends when he plays Nintendo:
Every time my friends and I play Nintendo WiiU/Wii/3DS games we see a lot of our old Mii avatars. Some are 10 years old and of a time. Amongst them is a friend who passed away a few years back. It’s always so good to see him. It’s as if he’s still playing the games with us.

For better or worse, machines never forget those who aren’t with us anymore. Dan Noyes’ Gmail holds a reminder of his late wife:
Whenever I open Gmail I see the last message that my late wife sent me via Google chat in 2014. It’s her standard “pssst” greeting for me: “aye aye”. I leave it unread lest it disappears.

It’s a wonderful thread…read the whole thing. [https://twitter.com/mwichary/status/996056615928266752 ]

I encounter these nostalgia bombs every once in awhile too. I closed dozens of tabs the other day on Chrome for iOS; I don’t use it very often, so some of them dated back to more than a year ago. I have bookmarks on browsers I no longer use on my iMac that are more than 10 years old. A MacOS folder I dump temporary images & files into has stuff going back years. Everyone I know stopped using apps like Path and Peach, so when I open them, I see messages from years ago right at the top like they were just posted, trapped in amber.

My personal go-to cache of unexpected memories is Messages on iOS. Scrolling all the way down to the bottom of the list, I can find messages from numbers I haven’t communicated with since a month or two after I got my first iPhone in 2007.

[image: screenshot of Messages in iOS]

There and elsewhere in the listing are friends I’m no longer in touch with, business lunches that went nowhere, old flames, messages from people I don’t even remember, arriving Lyfts in unknown cities, old landlords, completely contextless messages from old numbers (“I am so drunk!!!!” from a friend’s wife I didn’t know that well?!), old babysitters, a bunch of messages from friends texting to be let into our building for a holiday party, playdate arrangements w/ the parents of my kids’ long-forgotten friends (which Ella was that?!), and old group texts with current friends left to languish for years. From one of these group texts, I was just reminded that my 3-year-old daughter liked to make cocktails:

[screenshot]

Just like Sally Draper! Speaking of Mad Men, Don’s correct: nostalgia is a potent thing, so I’ve got to stop poking around my phone and get back to work.

Update: I had forgotten this great example about a ghost driver in an old Xbox racing game.
Well, when i was 4, my dad bought a trusty XBox. you know, the first, ruggedy, blocky one from 2001. we had tons and tons and tons of fun playing all kinds of games together — until he died, when i was just 6.

i couldnt touch that console for 10 years.

but once i did, i noticed something.

we used to play a racing game, Rally Sports Challenge. actually pretty awesome for the time it came.

and once i started meddling around… i found a GHOST.

See also this story about Animal Crossing. (via @ironicsans/status/996445080943808512)"
digital  memory  memories  2018  jasonkottke  kottke  traces  animalcrossing  videogames  games  gaming  flickr  wifi  marcinwichary  death  relationships  obsolescence  gmail  googlhangouts  googlechat  iphone  ios  nostalgia  xbox  nintendo  messages  communication  googlemaps  place  time  chrome  mac  osx 
may 2018 by robertogreco
The Creative Process, by James Baldwin · SFMOMA
[via: https://www.sfmoma.org/exhibition/nothing-stable-under-heaven/ ]

"Perhaps the primary distinction of the artist is that he must actively cultivate that state which most men, necessarily, must avoid; the state of being alone. That all men are, when the chips are down, alone, is a banality—a banality because it is very frequently stated, but very rarely, on the evidence, believed. Most of us are not compelled to linger with the knowledge of our aloneness, for it is a knowledge that can paralyze all action in this world. There are, forever, swamps to be drained, cities to be created, mines to be exploited, children to be fed. None of these things can be done alone. But the conquest of the physical world is not man’s only duty. He is also enjoined to conquer the great wilderness of himself. The precise role of the artist, then, is to illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through that vast forest, so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place.

The state of being alone is not meant to bring to mind merely a rustic musing beside some silver lake. The aloneness of which I speak is much more like the aloneness of birth or death. It is like the fearless alone that one sees in the eyes of someone who is suffering, whom we cannot help. Or it is like the aloneness of love, the force and mystery that so many have extolled and so many have cursed, but which no one has ever understood or ever really been able to control. I put the matter this way, not out of any desire to create pity for the artist—God forbid!—but to suggest how nearly, after all, is his state the state of everyone, and in an attempt to make vivid his endeavor. The state of birth, suffering, love, and death are extreme states—extreme, universal, and inescapable. We all know this, but we would rather not know it. The artist is present to correct the delusions to which we fall prey in our attempts to avoid this knowledge.

It is for this reason that all societies have battled with the incorrigible disturber of the peace—the artist. I doubt that future societies will get on with him any better. The entire purpose of society is to create a bulwark against the inner and the outer chaos, in order to make life bearable and to keep the human race alive. And it is absolutely inevitable that when a tradition has been evolved, whatever the tradition is, the people, in general, will suppose it to have existed from before the beginning of time and will be most unwilling and indeed unable to conceive of any changes in it. They do not know how they will live without those traditions that have given them their identity. Their reaction, when it is suggested that they can or that they must, is panic. And we see this panic, I think, everywhere in the world today, from the streets of New Orleans to the grisly battleground of Algeria. And a higher level of consciousness among the people is the only hope we have, now or in the future, of minimizing human damage.

The artist is distinguished from all other responsible actors in society—the politicians, legislators, educators, and scientists—by the fact that he is his own test tube, his own laboratory, working according to very rigorous rules, however unstated these may be, and cannot allow any consideration to supersede his responsibility to reveal all that he can possibly discover concerning the mystery of the human being. Society must accept some things as real; but he must always know that visible reality hides a deeper one, and that all our action and achievement rest on things unseen. A society must assume that it is stable, but the artist must know, and he must let us know, that there is nothing stable under heaven. One cannot possibly build a school, teach a child, or drive a car without taking some things for granted. The artist cannot and must not take anything for granted, but must drive to the heart of every answer and expose the question the answer hides.

I seem to be making extremely grandiloquent claims for a breed of men and women historically despised while living and acclaimed when safely dead. But, in a way, the belated honor that all societies tender their artists proven the reality of the point I am trying to make. I am really trying to make clear the nature of the artist’s responsibility to his society. The peculiar nature of this responsibility is that he must never cease warring with it, for its sake and for his own. For the truth, in spite of appearances and all our hopes, is that everything is always changing and the measure of our maturity as nations and as men is how well prepared we are to meet these changes, and further, to use them for our health.

Now, anyone who has ever been compelled to think about it—anyone, for example, who has ever been in love—knows that the one face that one can never see is one’s own face. One’s lover—or one’s brother, or one’s enemy—sees the face you wear, and this face can elicit the most extraordinary reactions. We do the things we do and feel what we feel essentially because we must—we are responsible for our actions, but we rarely understand them. It goes without saying, I believe, that if we understood ourselves better, we would damage ourselves less. But the barrier between oneself and one’s knowledge of oneself is high indeed. There are so many things one would rather not know! We become social creatures because we cannot live any other way. But in order to become social, there are a great many other things that we must not become, and we are frightened, all of us, of these forces within us that perpetually menace our precarious security. Yet the forces are there: we cannot will them away. All we can do is learn to live with them. And we cannot learn this unless we are willing to tell the truth about ourselves, and the truth about us is always at variance with what we wish to be. The human effort is to bring these two realities into a relationship resembling reconciliation. The human beings whom we respect the most, after all—and sometimes fear the most—are those who are most deeply involved in this delicate and strenuous effort, for they have the unshakable authority that comes only from having looked on and endured and survived the worst. That nation is healthiest which has the least necessity to distrust or ostracize these people—whom, as I say, honor, once they are gone, because somewhere in our hearts we know that we cannot live without them.

The dangers of being an American artist are not greater than those of being an artist anywhere else in the world, but they are very particular. These dangers are produced by our history. They rest on the fact that in order to conquer this continent, the particular aloneness of which I speak—the aloneness in which one discovers that life is tragic, and therefore unutterably beautiful—could not be permitted. And that this prohibition is typical of all emergent nations will be proved, I have no doubt, in many ways during the next fifty years. This continent now is conquered, but our habits and our fears remain. And, in the same way that to become a social human being one modifies and suppresses and, ultimately, without great courage, lies to oneself about all one’s interior, uncharted chaos, so have we, as a nation, modified or suppressed and lied about all the darker forces in our history. We know, in the case of the person, that whoever cannot tell himself the truth about his past is trapped in it, is immobilized in the prison of his undiscovered self. This is also true of nations. We know how a person, in such a paralysis, is unable to assess either his weaknesses or his strengths, and how frequently indeed he mistakes the one for the other. And this, I think, we do. We are the strongest nation in the Western world, but this is not for the reasons that we think. It is because we have an opportunity that no other nation has in moving beyond the Old World concepts of race and class and caste, to create, finally, what we must have had in mind when we first began speaking of the New World. But the price of this is a long look backward when we came and an unflinching assessment of the record. For an artist, the record of that journey is most clearly revealed in the personalities of the people the journey produced. Societies never know it, but the war of an artist with his society is a lover’s war, and he does, at his best, what lovers do, which is to reveal the beloved to himself and, with that revelation, to make freedom real."
jamesbaldwin  creativity  loneliness  aloneness  death  birth  society  art  artists  consciousness  philosophy  imagination  reality  stability  change  changemaking  freedom 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Martin Luther King Jr was a radical. We must not sterilize his legacy | Cornel West | Opinion | The Guardian
"The major threat of Martin Luther King Jr to us is a spiritual and moral one. King’s courageous and compassionate example shatters the dominant neoliberal soul-craft of smartness, money and bombs. His grand fight against poverty, militarism, materialism and racism undercuts the superficial lip service and pretentious posturing of so-called progressives as well as the candid contempt and proud prejudices of genuine reactionaries. King was neither perfect nor pure in his prophetic witness – but he was the real thing in sharp contrast to the market-driven semblances and simulacra of our day.

In this brief celebratory moment of King’s life and death we should be highly suspicious of those who sing his praises yet refuse to pay the cost of embodying King’s strong indictment of the US empire, capitalism and racism in their own lives.

We now expect the depressing spectacle every January of King’s “fans” giving us the sanitized versions of his life. We now come to the 50th anniversary of his assassination, and we once again are met with sterilized versions of his legacy. A radical man deeply hated and held in contempt is recast as if he was a universally loved moderate.

These neoliberal revisionists thrive on the spectacle of their smartness and the visibility of their mainstream status – yet rarely, if ever, have they said a mumbling word about what would have concerned King, such as US drone strikes, house raids, and torture sites, or raised their voices about escalating inequality, poverty or Wall Street domination under neoliberal administrations – be the president white or black.

The police killing of Stephon Clark in Sacramento may stir them but the imperial massacres in Yemen, Libya or Gaza leave them cold. Why? Because so many of King’s “fans” are afraid. Yet one of King’s favorite sayings was “I would rather be dead than afraid.” Why are they afraid? Because they fear for their careers in and acceptance by the neoliberal establishment. Yet King said angrily: “What you’re saying may get you a foundation grant, but it won’t get you into the Kingdom of Truth.”

The neoliberal soul craft of our day shuns integrity, honesty and courage, and rewards venality, hypocrisy and cowardice. To be successful is to forge a non-threatening image, sustain one’s brand, expand one’s pecuniary network – and maintain a distance from critiques of Wall Street, neoliberal leaders and especially the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and peoples.

Martin Luther King Jr turned away from popularity in his quest for spiritual and moral greatness – a greatness measured by what he was willing to give up and sacrifice due to his deep love of everyday people, especially vulnerable and precious black people. Neoliberal soul craft avoids risk and evades the cost of prophetic witness, even as it poses as “progressive”.

The killing of Martin Luther King Jr was the ultimate result of the fusion of ugly white supremacist elites in the US government and citizenry and cowardly liberal careerists who feared King’s radical moves against empire, capitalism and white supremacy. If King were alive today, his words and witness against drone strikes, invasions, occupations, police murders, caste in Asia, Roma oppression in Europe, as well as capitalist wealth inequality and poverty, would threaten most of those who now sing his praises. As he rightly predicted: “I am nevertheless greatly saddened … that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling.”

If we really want to know King in all of his fallible prophetic witness, we must shed any neoliberal soul craft and take seriously – in our words and deeds – his critiques and resistances to US empire, capitalism and xenophobia. Needless to say, his relentless condemnation of Trump’s escalating neo-fascist rule would be unequivocal – but not to be viewed as an excuse to downplay some of the repressive continuities of the two Bush, Clinton and Obama administrations.

In fact, in a low moment, when the American nightmare crushed his dream, King noted: “I don’t have any faith in the whites in power responding in the right way … they’ll treat us like they did our Japanese brothers and sisters in World War II. They’ll throw us into concentration camps. The Wallaces and the Birchites will take over. The sick people and the fascists will be strengthened. They’ll cordon off the ghetto and issue passes for us to get in and out.”

These words may sound like those of Malcolm X, but they are those of Martin Luther King Jr – with undeniable relevance to the neo-fascist stirrings in our day.

King’s last sermon was entitled Why America May Go to Hell. His personal loneliness and political isolation loomed large. J Edgar Hoover said he was “the most dangerous man in America”. President Johnson called him “a nigger preacher”. Fellow Christian ministers, white and black, closed their pulpits to him. Young revolutionaries dismissed and tried to humiliate him with walkouts, booing and heckling. Life magazine – echoing Time magazine, the New York Times, and the Washington Post (all bastions of the liberal establishment) – trashed King’s anti-war stance as “demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi”.

And the leading black journalist of the day, Carl Rowan, wrote in the Reader’s Digest that King’s “exaggerated appraisal of his own self-importance” and the communist influence on his thinking made King “persona non-grata to Lyndon Johnson” and “has alienated many of the Negro’s friends and armed the Negro’s foes”.

One of the last and true friends of King, the great Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel prophetically said: “The whole future of America will depend upon the impact and influence of Dr King.” When King was murdered something died in many of us. The bullets sucked some of the free and democratic spirit out of the US experiment. The next day over 100 American cities and towns were in flames – the fire this time had arrived again!

Today, 50 years later the US imperial meltdown deepens. And King’s radical legacy remains primarily among the awakening youth and militant citizens who choose to be extremists of love, justice, courage and freedom, even if our chances to win are that of a snowball in hell! This kind of unstoppable King-like extremism is a threat to every status quo!"
cornelwest  martinlutherkingjr  2018  neoliberalism  capitalism  imperialism  materialism  race  racism  poverty  inequality  progressive  militarism  violence  us  society  politics  policy  courage  death  fear  integrity  revisionism  history  justice  socialjustice  drones  wallstreet  finance  stephonclark  libya  gaza  palestine  yemen  hypocrisy  venality  cowardice  honesty  sfsh  cv  mlk  xenophobia  christianity  carlrowan  jedgarhoover  love  freedom  extremism 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Gravis McElroy on Twitter: "hey how about that the austin bomber was a deeply mediocre white man with the most basic-ass bone-stock conservative psuedopolitics with the reek of having been culled entirely from online comments who could have predicted"
"hey how about that the austin bomber was a deeply mediocre white man with the most basic-ass bone-stock conservative psuedopolitics with the reek of having been culled entirely from online comments who could have predicted

weird. can't figure out where he got the idea to kill random people of color from. i mean he did parrot the drivel of people who i remember even in 2000 couldn't go ten minutes without saying we should kill someone for not being white. no idea where he got this idea

https://medium.com/mammon-machine-zeal/ultraviolent-flash-games-after-9-11-b416b836f28e … i was just reading this yesterday and reflecting on how teens talked online in this era

I can tell you that a tremendous number of people, a really ghastly number, spent the entirety of their teen years not going more than a few minutes without saying or hearing "kill" directed broadly at a group of people. I was in that group.

that is to say, i was in the set of people who constantly talked about killing people

that's how we talked about everything. it was the go-to. virtually any described offense was met with the response that we should kill an entire group of people. the homeless, POC, gay people, trans people, nothing garnered more than a second or two of thought

anyone, absolutely anyone the least bit different than us - mediocre white teens - needed to be killed. It's still how people talk on 4 c h a n, a time capsule permanently frozen in 2006 with all its members permanently frozen at age 20.

nothing ever changes there. nothing changes on forums in general. the world is fixed permanently in the year that people joined the forum, because everyone on the forum has spent every day since they joined the forum on the forum.

By the way, people keep saying they remember the games in that ZEAL article. I don't, but the article still hit home because there were thousands of them. Thousands upon thousands. All indistinguishable. This is what we /did/ in that time.

there was a period in the early 2000s when the response to virtually any figure entering the media cycle was the immediate release of a complete multimedia spread including images, music and games, all depicting their death or suffering.

most of this was not in response to any kind of actual thought or emotion. there was a group-hate, where the existence of nearly anything was reason to hate it. the amount of hate in teenage boys was an immeasurable constant; we had an infinite supply of it.

why were my "peers" telling me to hate boy bands in 1999? i have no idea. nobody ever explained it, it was just assumed. this was the zeitgeist, a zeitgeist that was unexamined even by teenager standards.

but this shit was very much the root of a lot of what's going on right now. at age 12 i entered the greater growing web and was immediately inducted into a community of seething, pointless hatred directed at everything

I think I would have been a nicer person if I had been stopped from going to newgrounds. I think it made me a piece of shit and an asshole and I would have stayed that way and become a real mother fucker if not for friends specifically targeting my shittiness.

Gravis McElroy Retweeted the government man [https://twitter.com/me_irl/status/976490292948951041 ]
@me_irl
hey yeah what *was* this. i can see its roots start to emerge by like the 1970s in the form of compulsory derisive juvenile "parody" versions of absolutely everything

… I have no idea. I didn't go to school for this so I'm pretty sure someone at a university has a pretty good lock on why this happened, but yeah, it's kind of an incredibly scary part of our society that I've never seen addressed in any way.

Who told 11 year olds to start casually quipping about killing Barney? I know we weren't enjoying it. It wasn't funny or fun. We felt /compelled/, it was /expected/, and i suspect the motivations were circular with no patient zero to be found.

I can't harp on this enough: Nobody was having fun. Nothing going on on Newgrounds or anywhere else that was in this vein was fun. It wasn't entertaining. Even as dipshit kids, this whole thing was strained.

There was a formula. Nobody knew where it came from, but it seemed to have been there forever. The response to /all/ cultural phenomena was to create something deeply cynical and usually violent and we were doing it like we were punching a clock. The laughs were forced.

I can't prove this. The time has passed, and at the time I had few personal friends. But what my gut told me at the time was that nobody was having a good time, I just didn't know how to read it. Now I definitely know what those feelings meant.

Gravis McElroy Retweeted [ande dooting] [https://twitter.com/quicksilvre/status/976492376645603329 ]
@quicksilvre
Right? It felt like we grew up in an age where we weren't allowed to truly, unironically like things or people

This is exactly on point. We didn't like anything. Nobody liked anything. Nobody admitted to liking anything. Liking things wasn't cool.

And that's how we now have people in their mid thirties who are only just beginning to whisper, on social media where they're ostensibly surrounded by friends, that they /might/ like anime or fantasy novels or or or. Or anything that isn't cynical

Oh btw if you want an example of something that's very very cynical, have you considered: call of shooty

First person shooters were fuckin' *there* for us, ready to swoop in and offer the cynicism we'd been raised with. Kill everything. Blow everything up. Yawn. The nihilism we'd been taught primed the *pump* for that shit.

I always come back to this when I talk about this stuff: knowing what caused this is important because we have millions of people, no, read that again, millions of people who were injured by this and don't know it and are not getting any help culturally.

Every one of them is a problem we have to solve eventually and none of us have any idea how to do that and we have to figure it out. Because we can't just write off a whole generation, "anyone who was young and online in 2000," they are our problem to deal with now.

They are here, and they are permanently angry and hate sincerity, and we actually can't coexist with them. They are turning into nazis because they don't know how not to.

It's nice to think "oh we'll just kill the nazis" but there are more ticking-time-bomb fascists that came out of this than anyone realizes. They feel alone in the world, they don't connect with anyone or anything, they have no anchors at all. They never learned how to be happy.

The fuckface who was bombing black people in Texas probably came out of this shit. He was a little young for newgrounds specifically, but I can see the path to being "radicalized by the void," if you will. becoming a monster because you were taught that becoming a person is wrong

And you know what? The internet is the problem. The internet is a huge fucking problem and we all know it, we all know it's putting shit in front of young people that they aren't ready for. And we knew it then, our parents were right about it, just not right enough.

I don't know what can possibly be done about it. No program of censorship would be right or effective or anything but counterproductive but, fuck, we can't write this off.

In my view we have a tremendous number of dangerous broken men in this nation now specifically because of the unregulated nightmare that the web was in the early 2000s and I don't know what to do with that information but I'm not going to forget it.

that was me just a few years ago. i remember it vividly. the difference between me and Them is solely that someone managed to break through the shell and teach me that it was worth it to be a person, to not sleepwalk through life.

https://medium.com/mammon-machine-zeal/ultraviolent-flash-games-after-9-11-b416b836f28e … I'm linking this again because ZEAL deserves the credit for this thread; that article prompted a lot of thought about old memories. They post a lot of insightful stuff that benefits IMO from not being produced by a massive corporate publication."



[also: https://twitter.com/gravislizard/status/976499065461469184

Newgrounds and all those other edgy early 2000s hellholes are all Superfund sites. Sad, shitty things we look back on and say "okay, okay, we fucked up," but even as the words spill out of our mouths we are pouring soil for a new development over another toxic waste dump.

They are not places of honor, no esteemed deed is commemorated there, this thread is a message and part of a system of messages, et cetera. We need to not just skip over this. What is being created /right now/ that is equivalent to those?

https://twitter.com/gravislizard/status/976497457151451136 … also i'd like to clarify this, because I meant to, or felt like i should, or something
The fuckface who was bombing black people in Texas probably came out of this shit. He was a little young for newgrounds specifically, but I can see the path to being "radicalized by the void," if you will. becoming a monster because you were taught that becoming a person is wrong

by "radicalized by the void" I mean that there is a sort of person who does not want to be a person, who hates the idea of becoming a person and the responsibility associated with it. they want nothing more than to be left alone to be mediocre.

a lot of mediocre white men, from the person vomiting slurs on 4c han to the nazis in the street, feel that society is trying to force them to reflect on themselves and /that is what they want to stop/.

It's important to acknowledge that this is true, that their perceived struggle is real, and that our intent is to not let them live the lives they want to live because they are implicitly harmful. We do not have the luxury of apathy, it invariably results in harming the innocent.

The war being fought right now is over apathy. we all know the article by now: "I Don’t Know How To Explain To You That You Should Care About … [more]
crime  masculinity  terrorism  internet  2018  2009s  9/11  children  youth  cynicism  violence  death  emotion  hate  suffering  newgrounds  socialmedia  callofduty  nihilism  mentalillness  censorship  apathy  void  self-worth  life  care  caring  society  reflection  responsibility  personhood  evil  sexism  racism  homophobia  teens 
april 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
2097: We Made Ourselves Over
"It’s 2097 and the days of upheaval are over. A new resilience has taken hold.

Three young girls must make a decision which will affect their entire city, as well as members of their own families. The future of the city relies on their ability to embrace the unknown, face the future and act.

2097: We Made Ourselves Over takes you on a journey to the cusp of the next century. Come into a world where consciousness is transferred from the dead to the living. See molecular harvesters destroy cities and rebuild them.

In five short science fiction films – each accompanied by an interactive film for smartphones – and through live events across both Hull and Aarhus, 2097: We Made Ourselves Over explores the belief that everyone has the power to act and influence the future – uncovering the unnerving and exhilarating idea that anything is possible.

Step into the future here…"



[See also: "Film 1 Eternal Data | 2097: We Made Ourselves Over"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTT0s5hBj0k

" http://wemadeourselvesover.com

An elder has died and has left her consciousness to Hessa, one of the rulers of the city.

At Hessa's command, a tanker filled with molecular harvesters has arrived offshore.

The destruction of the entire city will start with a funeral...

Audio described version available to watch here: https://vimeo.com/236561513

---

2097: We Made Ourselves Over is the culmination of a year long project inviting residents and future experts from Aarhus, Hull and beyond to describe their hopes for the coming century.

Find out more about the ideas behind the future world and the making of the project here: http://wemadeourselvesover.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/blasttheory
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blasttheory
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/blasttheory/

2097 is an ambitious international collaboration bringing together Aarhus European Capital of Culture 2017 and Hull UK City of Culture 2017"]

["Film 2 Gellerholme First | 2097: We Made Ourselves Over"
"Hessa and the other two rulers choose the first area to be destroyed."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIqs6wKNoCc

"Film 3 The Handover | 2097: We Made Ourselves Over"
"Having begun to download the consciousness that she has inherited, Hessa prepares to step down"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4rze6bI8_M

"Film 4 Moving Out | 2097: We Made Ourselves Over"
"Hessa's mother packs her possessions as the molecular harvesters move in."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kByJfJoS7xI

"Film 5 Hessa's Film | 2097: We Made Ourselves Over"
"Hessa records the long walk through the marshes towards the new city."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qSqux-3kv0

"Credits | 2097: We Made Ourselves Over"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hy5GMEUwOQc ]
film  towatch  blasttheory  2017  2097  aarhus  hull  consciousness  funerals  death  future  cities 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Teju Cole on Instagram: “⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 1 Reality takes no time off. Year end reckoning and new year anticipation are implicitly dyed with mortality. Some of those who…” • Instagram
"1
Reality takes no time off. Year end reckoning and new year anticipation are implicitly dyed with mortality. Some of those who will die this year already know it: they are terminally ill, and the clock moves inexorably. Many of those who will die this year, perhaps most, do not know it—could be you, could be me. Death comes as a surprise. Not living till the end of a given year having lived to the end of so many years, having lived to the end of all the years one has ever known (this is what being alive means), comes as a surprise, even for the terminally ill. Nor have we mentioned the many who will live but who will have come to live in a diminished way—I speak now not only of illnesses. Given these dark potentials, what are we then to do but to love each other and to move as best as we can without fear?
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
2
I turn the year, each year, with a relief that is quickly overtaken by apprehension. As a social being, I briefly subsume these antisocial emotions under a mask of merriment. I raise my glass and cry out “Happy New Year!” with the others—and even mean it, as wish and prayer. But soon afterward, in solitude and quietness, I return to my uncertainties: that one simply doesn’t know what any year might bring beyond its reliably mixed bag of elation, cataclysm, grief, banality, and epiphany. In the presence of such an inchoate proximate future, what are we to do but to love each other and to move as best as we can without fear?
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
3
Happy New Year!"
tejucole  love  fear  optimism  2017  2018  death  future  uncertainty  apprehension  anxiety 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Raising a Teenage Daughter* — The California Sunday Magazine
"by Elizabeth Weil *with comments and corrections by Hannah W Duane
photograph by Tabitha Soren"

[from the annotations]

"Parents underestimate kids’ ability to figure out what is right for them. My parents originally thought the public arts high school where I just started would be a terrible choice, and now they understand how perfect it is for me."



"I receive, on average, a dozen book titles when I ask for a recommendation from my parents. It would be impossible to read them all. Plus, I want to choose what to focus on and file the rest away. Parents seem to need immediate return on their advice and assume no ideas get recorded for later use."



"Well, I wanted to know everything, back when that seemed reasonable, and I thought adults knew and understood everything, so it made sense to ask. Back then, all of my questions had answers."



"Adults think that kids are going to break if they hear something bad has happened. However, from a fairly young age kids know that terrible things happen, and they know when someone is trying to shelter them. It’s like when I was 4 and I found a dead robin on my grandparents’ deck, and my parents told me, “The bird is done being a bird.” That was OK, but it would have been OK, too, to just say the bird was dead. If you allow a kid to believe that things live forever, it’s going to be a worse experience later because they’re going to learn they were lied to."



"I think this is a complex point. It’s old-fashioned and sexist to think clothing is a major indicator of values. People should be able to wear what they want without worrying about others’ feedback."



"Everyone is “pretty flawed.” Isn’t the whole idea that you grow up and realize nobody is perfect and learn to live with the ways you’re messed up?"



"In my daily life, I take almost no risks. I do my homework; I’m absurdly early to most things. The mountains are the one place where I can relax and take advantage of this calm. I don’t know if I want a risk manager. I want to get better at accepting risk. It’s hard to learn, especially when your parents are cautious people themselves and you have anxiety about disappointing them. And yourself."



"I know my life is going to take some trial and error. I know I need to make the mistakes, and I know I’m going to be humiliated. I’m trying to gather up my courage. People can tell you to take deep breaths, they can tell you to close your eyes, but they can’t make you calm."
teens  parenting  daughters  2017  elizabetheil  hannahduane  annotation  families  children  childhood  death  growingup  adolescence  anxiety  adults  risk  risktaking  disappointment 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Impakt Festival 2017 - Performance: ANAB JAIN. HQ - YouTube
[Embedded here: http://impakt.nl/festival/reports/impakt-festival-2017/impakt-festival-2017-anab-jain/ ]

"'Everything is Beautiful and Nothing Hurts': @anab_jain's expansive keynote @impaktfestival weaves threads through death, transcience, uncertainty, growthism, technological determinism, precarity, imagination and truths. Thanks to @jonardern for masterful advise on 'modelling reality', and @tobias_revell and @ndkane for the invitation."
https://www.instagram.com/p/BbctTcRFlFI/ ]
anabjain  2017  superflux  death  aging  transience  time  temporary  abundance  scarcity  future  futurism  prototyping  speculativedesign  predictions  life  living  uncertainty  film  filmmaking  design  speculativefiction  experimentation  counternarratives  designfiction  futuremaking  climatechange  food  homegrowing  smarthomes  iot  internetofthings  capitalism  hope  futures  hopefulness  data  dataviz  datavisualization  visualization  williamplayfair  society  economics  wonder  williamstanleyjevons  explanation  statistics  wiiliambernstein  prosperity  growth  latecapitalism  propertyrights  jamescscott  objectivity  technocrats  democracy  probability  scale  measurement  observation  policy  ai  artificialintelligence  deeplearning  algorithms  technology  control  agency  bias  biases  neoliberalism  communism  present  past  worldview  change  ideas  reality  lucagatti  alextaylor  unknown  possibility  stability  annalowenhaupttsing  imagination  ursulaleguin  truth  storytelling  paradigmshifts  optimism  annegalloway  miyamotomusashi  annatsing 
november 2017 by robertogreco
avoiding the high-brow freak show | sara hendren
"Oliver Sacks is probably the only author many people have read about disability at length. Sacks wrote many books with such a keen eye for description and also a literate, humanitarian lens—he was able to link together ideas in natural history, the sciences, and the humanities with sincerity and warmth, and always with people at the center. But which people? The subjects of the book, or the reader who is “reading” herself, her own experiences, as she takes in these stories? In any good book, many characters are involved: author, characters, reader. But there’s some particular tricky territory in disability narratives.

It’s challenging to write about this subject for a mainstream audience, perhaps because there are so many well-rehearsed pitfall tropes in characterizing bodily and developmental differences. Descriptions of physicality, speech, or idiosyncratic movement can slide so easily into spectacle. And revealing the ways that disabled people* cope, make sense, and create joy and humor in their lives can collapse into inspiration, easily won.

I’m thinking about Sacks as I write my own words, interpreting my own many encounters with disabled people in a way that both engages readers for whom the subject is ostensibly new, and that also does justice to the integrity and singularity of those people involved. I’m trying to write about disability and its reach into the wider human experience, that is, without making individual people into metaphors. Now: those ideas might be laudable—interdependent life, a critique of individualism, all bodies and lived experiences as endless variation, necessarily incomplete in their own ways—but they are ideas nonetheless. How to make this tradeoff? How to help the uninitiated reader by saying See, see here, your life is caught up in these stakes too, but without flattening the individual subjects on whom those ideas are based?

I keep circling around this review in the LRB of Sacks’s An Anthropologist on Mars and The Island of the Colorblind—analysis of which includes his book Awakenings and could also be applied to The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat. Jenny Diski admires Sacks’s projects and his craft, but she also has this to say:
“A story needs a conclusion whereas a case-history may not have one. In fact, stories have all kinds of needs that a case-history will not supply, and Sacks is insistent that he is writing the stories of his patients, not their cases. This is not intended to fudge fact and fiction, but to enlarge patients into people.

On the other hand, he is describing people with more or less devastating illnesses— that is his raison d’être—and his explicit purpose is to generalize from these, usually unhappy, accidents of life and nature, to a greater understanding of the human condition. In Awakenings he states: ‘If we seek a “curt epitome” of the human condition—of long-standing sickness, suffering and sadness; of a sudden, complete, almost preternatural “awakening”; and, alas! of entanglements which may follow this “cure”—there is no better one than the story of these patients.’

He is offering life, death and the whole damn thing in the metaphor of his patients. And it is true that these patients and others show us what it is like, as he says, ‘to be human and stay human in the face of adversity’. But metaphors are not in fact descriptions of people in their totality. They are intentional, and consciously or unconsciously edited tropes, not complete, contained narratives.

I don’t know any kind of narrative, fictional or otherwise, that can present people in their totality, so perhaps it doesn’t matter, but Sacks is offering us people because of their sickness and the manner of their handling it. This is hardly an overturning of the medicalizing tendency of doctors. And when we read these stories, as we do, to tell us more about ourselves, we read them as exaggerations of what we are, as metaphors for what we are capable of. Their subjects may not be patients as freaks, but they are patients as emblems. They are, as it were, for our use and our wonderment. Around their illness, the thoughts of Leibniz, Kant, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Proust are hoisted like scaffolding, as if to stiffen their reality into meaning.”

Stiffening their reality into meaning! It’s a cutting and exact criticism, especially when it seems that Sacks was utterly sincere in his search for human and humane connection—with these patients as clinical subjects and in his engagement with readers.

Diski hints at the pushback Sacks got from scholars in disability studies, too; scholar Tom Shakespeare took a swipe at him as “the man who mistook his patients for a career,” calling his body of work a “high-brow freak show.” And when I re-read Sacks’s New Yorker essay, excerpted from the Anthropologist book, on autistic self-advocate Temple Grandin, I see a little bit what Shakespeare meant. There is something of the microscope being employed in that encounter, and somehow we walk away fascinated but maybe less than conjoined to Grandin’s experience. It’s rich with connection and with pathos (in a good way!), but there’s distance in it too. So—it’s not perfect.

And yet: people read and loved that book, saw themselves in it. And Grandin went on to write several books in her own voice, to have a wide audience for her work and wisdom. The visibility of autistic self-advocacy has been greatly amplified since Sacks’s writing about it. (And yet—also—Diski says that Sacks has a way of making meaning out of disability that’s essentially a wonder at the human body via its ailments, as in “My God, we are extraordinary, look how interestingly wrong we can go.”) Is there a way to affirm the extraordinary without ending at: there but for the grace of god…? Without ending with gratitude that we don’t share someone’s plight? I want readers to come away uncertain: about where there’s joy and where there’s pain, about how they might make different choices, ordinary and extraordinary choices, if handed a different set of capacities in themselves or in their loved ones.

But can a writer really calibrate that level of nuance? Lately I’m thinking that I can only write what I can write, knowing that it will be incomplete and partial in its rendering.

I want a world full of disabled voices, people telling their stories in their own ways, with their own voices intact. But I also want a world of people to read about the collective stakes inherent in disability—and not just the rights issues that are being ignored, urgent as they are. I want people to see that spending time thinking about disability is an invitation to see the world differently, and to locate one’s own experiences differently. Not to erase the particularity of any one person’s very material experiences, but to help remedy the invisibility of disabled experience outside the inner circle of people who talk to one another, who know that these issues are important. And some audiences will need some interpretation, some cognitive-linguistic bridges to understand the import of disability—its wonder, its overlooked importance, and yes, even its lessons, if we may call them such. Lessons without moralizing, lessons without abstractions.

*Yes, “disabled people,” not “differently abled” or even always “people with disabilities.” There’s no one right answer or moniker, but soon I’ll write a short piece on why “disabled people” is a preferred term among many activists."

[See also this response from Alan Jacobs: http://blog.ayjay.org/writing-by-the-always-wrong/ ]
sarahendren  oliversacks  disability  2017  diversity  morality  moralizing  difference  humanism  individualism  interdependence  variation  jennydiski  conclusions  case-histories  sickness  sadness  suffering  life  death  storytelling  narrative  tomshakespeare  templegrandin  pathos  correction  autism  self-advocacy  meaning  meaningmaking  uncertainty  joy  pain  grace  writing  howewrite  voice  invisibility  visibility  erasure  experience  alanjacobs  disabilities 
july 2017 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
Anne Lamott: 12 truths I learned from life and writing | TED Talk | TED.com
"Number one: the first and truest thing is that all truth is a paradox. Life is both a precious, unfathomably beautiful gift, and it's impossible here, on the incarnational side of things. …

Number two: almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes — including you. …

Three: there is almost nothing outside of you that will help in any kind of lasting way, unless you're waiting for an organ. You can't buy, achieve or date serenity and peace of mind. This is the most horrible truth, and I so resent it. But it's an inside job, and we can't arrange peace or lasting improvement for the people we love most in the world. They have to find their own ways, their own answers. You can't run alongside your grown children with sunscreen and ChapStick on their hero's journey. You have to release them. It's disrespectful not to. And if it's someone else's problem, you probably don't have the answer, anyway. …

number four: everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy and scared, even the people who seem to have it most together. They are much more like you than you would believe, so try not to compare your insides to other people's outsides. It will only make you worse than you already are.

Also, you can't save, fix or rescue any of them or get anyone sober. What helped me get clean and sober 30 years ago was the catastrophe of my behavior and thinking. So I asked some sober friends for help, and I turned to a higher power. One acronym for God is the "gift of desperation," G-O-D, or as a sober friend put it, by the end I was deteriorating faster than I could lower my standards.

So God might mean, in this case, "me running out of any more good ideas.

While fixing and saving and trying to rescue is futile, radical self-care is quantum, and it radiates out from you into the atmosphere like a little fresh air. It's a huge gift to the world. When people respond by saying, "Well, isn't she full of herself," just smile obliquely like Mona Lisa and make both of you a nice cup of tea. Being full of affection for one's goofy, self-centered, cranky, annoying self is home. It's where world peace begins.

Number five: chocolate with 75 percent cacao is not actually a food. …

writing. Every writer you know writes really terrible first drafts, but they keep their butt in the chair. That's the secret of life. That's probably the main difference between you and them. They just do it. They do it by prearrangement with themselves. They do it as a debt of honor. They tell stories that come through them one day at a time, little by little. When my older brother was in fourth grade, he had a term paper on birds due the next day, and he hadn't started. So my dad sat down with him with an Audubon book, paper, pencils and brads — for those of you who have gotten a little less young and remember brads — and he said to my brother, "Just take it bird by bird, buddy. Just read about pelicans and then write about pelicans in your own voice. And then find out about chickadees, and tell us about them in your own voice. And then geese."

So the two most important things about writing are: bird by bird and really god-awful first drafts. If you don't know where to start, remember that every single thing that happened to you is yours, and you get to tell it. If people wanted you to write more warmly about them, they should've behaved better. …

Seven: publication and temporary creative successes are something you have to recover from. They kill as many people as not. They will hurt, damage and change you in ways you cannot imagine. The most degraded and evil people I've ever known are male writers who've had huge best sellers. And yet, returning to number one, that all truth is paradox, it's also a miracle to get your work published, to get your stories read and heard. Just try to bust yourself gently of the fantasy that publication will heal you, that it will fill the Swiss-cheesy holes inside of you. It can't. It won't. But writing can. So can singing in a choir or a bluegrass band. So can painting community murals or birding or fostering old dogs that no one else will.

Number eight: families. Families are hard, hard, hard, no matter how cherished and astonishing they may also be. Again, see number one. …

Nine: food. Try to do a little better. I think you know what I mean.

Number 10 — grace. Grace is spiritual WD-40, or water wings. The mystery of grace is that God loves Henry Kissinger and Vladimir Putin and me exactly as much as He or She loves your new grandchild. Go figure.

The movement of grace is what changes us, heals us and heals our world. To summon grace, say, "Help," and then buckle up. Grace finds you exactly where you are, but it doesn't leave you where it found you. And grace won't look like Casper the Friendly Ghost, regrettably. But the phone will ring or the mail will come and then against all odds, you'll get your sense of humor about yourself back. Laughter really is carbonated holiness. It helps us breathe again and again and gives us back to ourselves, and this gives us faith in life and each other. And remember — grace always bats last.

Eleven: God just means goodness. It's really not all that scary. It means the divine or a loving, animating intelligence, or, as we learned from the great "Deteriorata," "the cosmic muffin." A good name for God is: "Not me." Emerson said that the happiest person on Earth is the one who learns from nature the lessons of worship. So go outside a lot and look up. My pastor said you can trap bees on the bottom of mason jars without lids because they don't look up, so they just walk around bitterly bumping into the glass walls. Go outside. Look up. Secret of life.

And finally: death. Number 12. Wow and yikes. It's so hard to bear when the few people you cannot live without die. You'll never get over these losses, and no matter what the culture says, you're not supposed to. We Christians like to think of death as a major change of address, but in any case, the person will live again fully in your heart if you don't seal it off. Like Leonard Cohen said, "There are cracks in everything, and that's how the light gets in." And that's how we feel our people again fully alive.

Also, the people will make you laugh out loud at the most inconvenient times, and that's the great good news. But their absence will also be a lifelong nightmare of homesickness for you. Grief and friends, time and tears will heal you to some extent. Tears will bathe and baptize and hydrate and moisturize you and the ground on which you walk.

Do you know the first thing that God says to Moses? He says, "Take off your shoes." Because this is holy ground, all evidence to the contrary. It's hard to believe, but it's the truest thing I know. When you're a little bit older, like my tiny personal self, you realize that death is as sacred as birth. And don't worry — get on with your life. Almost every single death is easy and gentle with the very best people surrounding you for as long as you need. You won't be alone. They'll help you cross over to whatever awaits us. As Ram Dass said, "When all is said and done, we're really just all walking each other home."

I think that's it, but if I think of anything else, I'll let you know."
via:austinkleon  life  living  writing  grace  2017  success  creativity  families  brokenness  advice  parenting  howwewrite  publication  goodness  god  worship  nature  outdoors  ralfaldoemerson  death 
june 2017 by robertogreco
The Instagram Obituaries of the Young Manchester Victims - The New York Times
"Teenage girls rarely get control, not in life and certainly not in death. Teenagers document their lives — and, frankly, so do adults — because it gives them a kind of agency over their own narratives. No one gets to tell you what your story is if you tell it yourself. The very things we throw back at teenage girls as noxious self-indulgences, from selfies to the recording of daily minutiae, are the things we look for when unexplainable tragedy hits.

No one is better equipped to speak for you, even after your death, than you. Through photos and posts and inside jokes, these people born in the 1990s and 2000s who died far, far sooner than anyone could have predicted wrote their eulogies for us. The details are often slim and seemingly irrelevant — and ultimately, only represent a curated version of themselves — but they’re a reminder that these were real people we lost."



"Death leaves people feeling panicked and powerless. It’s easy, then, to use someone’s final published moments as proof of something: That they were a good person, or that they were troubled, or that there’s any meaning to be mined from the wreckage of loss. After Manchester, we’re doing the same to the young victims who left us a record of their lives. It’s not solely to let them regain some control of their own narratives, but it’s also for us: Maybe, by looking at what they spun out into the world, we can get some respite from the chaos, too."
instagram  socialmedia  2017  machester  identity  control  narrative  storytelling  agency  obituaries  scaachikoul  death  mourning  meaning  powerlessness  panic  life  living 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Teju Cole en Instagram: “When someone dies whom we love, a relative, friend, or hero, the losses have something in common, though the intensity naturally varies. (I cannot speak to the death of a lover, which seems to be something else again—but perha
"When someone dies whom we love, a relative, friend, or hero, the losses have something in common, though the intensity naturally varies. (I cannot speak to the death of a lover, which seems to be something else again—but perhaps even there, there is this commonality.) What they have in common is this: there was this other who helped us in a particular way, and now this other is gone, and the help they gave has gone with them. To be bereaved is to be bereft. It is to be deprived. In mourning, in addition to raw grief, there is the loss of help. There used to be complicity, a task (an emotional task, for instance) that two people accomplished together. Now one, the survivor, no matter how reluctant, must do it alone. This is why one aspect of loss is a feeling of suddenly being forced to "grow up." It is not only a hollowing sadness that demarcates grief, it is the knowledge that what two used to do, whatever that was, whether or not it was even given a name, whether or not it was reciprocal (in the case of heroes it rarely is), one now must do alone. In the zone of your complicity with the one you love, this relative, friend, or hero, you are a child. Possibly you are children there together. Death compels you to put away childish things, and always too soon."

[also from Teju Cole on day of John Berger’s death: https://www.instagram.com/p/BOxl2gejlXz/ ]
tejucole  death  loss  childhood  grief  mourning  deprivation  complicity  togetherness  2017  johnberger 
january 2017 by robertogreco
BBC Four - John Berger: The Art of Looking
[video currently available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3VhbsXk9Ds ]

"Art, politics and motorcycles - on the occasion of his 90th birthday John Berger or the Art of Looking is an intimate portrait of the writer and art critic whose ground-breaking work on seeing has shaped our understanding of the concept for over five decades. The film explores how paintings become narratives and stories turn into images, and rarely does anybody demonstrate this as poignantly as Berger.

Berger lived and worked for decades in a small mountain village in the French Alps, where the nearness to nature, the world of the peasants and his motorcycle, which for him deals so much with presence, inspired his drawing and writing.

The film introduces Berger's art of looking with theatre wizard Simon McBurney, film-director Michael Dibb, visual artist John Christie, cartoonist Selçuk Demiral, photographer Jean Mohr as well as two of his children, film-critic Katya Berger and the painter Yves Berger.

The prelude and starting point is Berger's mind-boggling experience of restored vision following a successful cataract removal surgery. There, in the cusp of his clouding eyesight, Berger re-discovers the irredeemable wonder of seeing.

Realised as a portrait in works and collaborations, this creative documentary takes a different approach to biography, with John Berger leading in his favourite role of the storyteller."
2016  johnberger  documentary  towatch  simonmcburney  michaeldibb  johnchristie  selçukdemiral  jeanmohr  katyaberger  yvesberger  waysofseeing  seeing  looking  noticing  biography  storytelling  skepticism  photography  rebellion  writing  howwewrite  collaboration  canon  conspirators  rebels  friendship  community  migration  motorcycles  presence  being  living  life  interestedness  interested  painting  art  history  france  belonging  place  labor  home  identity  work  peasants  craft  craftsmanship  aesthetics  design  vision  cataracts  sight  teaching  howweteach  attention  focus  agriculture  memory  memories  shit  pigs  humans  animals  childhood  perception  freedom  independence  storytellers  travelers  nomads  trickster  dead  death  meaning  meaningmaking  companionship  listening  discovery  understanding  sfsh  srg  books  publishing  television  tv  communication  engagement  certainly  uncertainty 
january 2017 by robertogreco
EXTRACT FROM 'MURAL' - YouTube
"John Berger reading from 'Mural' by Mahmoud Darwish"

[via: "No one exactly dies/ Rather souls change their looks and address" –Darwish died 5 years ago today. Berger reads him: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fromy11082A ]
johnberger  tejucole  2008  mahmouddarwish  video  death  change 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Meetings: John Berger In the Library - from ‘A Jar of Wild Flowers’ | Blog | London Review Bookshop
"On the shelves under the small section of the local library labelled ‘Sociology’, I found John Berger’s book Ways of Seeing. The book foregrounds how the relationship between what we see and what we know is never settled. I was then, in my teens, trying to decide if I wanted to study the rather unknown subject called Sociology at A level. Stoke library, in Coventry, was a familiar space. My family were regular visitors. We lived a minute’s walk away. As children we frequented it at least three or four times a week. Within this fan-shaped building there were different zones. The children’s room consisted of fiction as well as the important general-knowledge and reference- based encyclopaedic tombs used for homework. This room led off from the more adult room carrying general knowledge and reference books, as well as fiction in several languages, including Urdu, Punjabi and Gujarati.

The neighbourhood and the city of Coventry became a work mecca for arrivants from the British ex-colonies in the period between the two world wars and especially the post-1945 period. It was considered a boomtown for employment and training in engineering and the car industry. Reflecting some of the interests of the arrivants – who were, before they even knew it, settling into the city as ‘home’ – the library started stocking a ‘multicultural’ collection, including a large selection of Asian vinyl records and cassettes. In time, following on from changes in music technologies, this collection shifted to CDs and DVDs. In the zone leading off from the central room, which carried these items as well as local reference materials and fiction, one walked into a space with further adult books, sitting under authoritative labels such as ‘History’. Though the shelf space was much smaller, nevertheless the subject ‘Sociology’ was granted the recognition of a heading, reassuring a teenager that sociology was becoming a proper subject to study.

Finding John Berger’s Ways of Seeing in this section added to the intrigue of a somewhat esoteric subject with an ‘ology’ attached to it. The only other ology I knew of then was biology. While the classifications in biology of the human and plant world appealed to me, I knew I was not heading towards a scientific specialism. Interestingly, the books in our home, in a room which became a study with shelves, consisted of scientific works, on chemistry, physics, maths, technical drawing. This was the (male) educational tradition in the family. As I held John Berger’s Ways of Seeing in my hands, I doubt if I understood much of it. I still remember, though, that what impressed me was the form. The compilation of the book from words, paintings, advertisements and statements was fascinating. The very emphasis in the title on ways of seeing spoke to me more than the commentary on specific historic paintings. Little did I know then that this kind of compilation was a million miles away from what was considered proper or authoritative sociology. Neither did I know then that I would never actually be taught Berger."



"Interiors of learning don’t have to become museumified. Libraries are very specific domains where the private thoughts and interaction with a range of reading materials occurs in public. They are public-private rooms of research as well as writing. For years, scholars, researchers and writers continued to visit the same circular room of the British Library in London, just as Karl Marx had done when he penned his own writing tomes. The public library in Manchester carries on this tradition too. Thus these public-private rooms of research and reading continue to be forms of heritage which are in Stuart Hall’s terminology ‘living archives’ – archives which breath, grow and invite engagement.

It is in the tradition of the living archive that I would like to return to the fan-shaped library in Coventry. If Berger had visited and sat at the circular table with the newspapers and magazines from different countries, he would have found a tall elderly Asian man, with a full head of hair, pulling newspapers up close to him, while setting his glasses on and off, between nose and table. Depending on which year Berger visited the library, he would have found either just his coat hanging on the chair, or one walking stick, or two walking sticks, or a zimmer frame nearby, or a wheelchair. Each of these aids characterised his ageing as well as the resurgence of injuries endured during wartime in Burma in his younger years in the Second World War as a recruit to the Indian British Army.

Herein, I have become, in Berger’s sense, Death’s Secretary. I am referring to my father, Sawarn Singh. He started visiting the local library several times a day after he retired. He actually retired twice, first in the seventies when he left the night shift on the Ford assembly line and then again in the mid eighties from his job as an attendant at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. In contrast to his time at Ford, in the museum he walked the much grander, and cleaner, corridors across several floors. As nighttime security guards, he and his co-worker took tea together while sharing the hourly walk through the gallery as a security check throughout the night. Sculptures by Barbara Hepworth and penny-farthing bicycles as well as halls of transport items filled the large space they kept guard over. Six-foot canvases of Lady Godiva naked on horseback, painted by John Collier (in 1898), craned the necks of viewers walking up the grand staircases.

If Berger had sat at the table in the library my father visited he would have found a collage of materials that contributed to my father’s ways of seeing. His own compilation of Ways of Seeing would have been a bit different from the one Berger assembled. He kept company with an eclectic mix of reading materials. He read the Daily Jang Urdu newspaper, the weekly Punjabi Des Pardes, as well as the tabloid Mirror. In fact, at times he cut out from the English papers to share with his family advertisements for products –possible items to buy – which promised an easier life. These might be slip-on shoes, elasticated trousers or a Ford car, on which he was entitled to get a discount as a former employee. His routine consisted of regularly checking out Urdu novels from the library to read at home, especially before bedtime. Romantic and adventure stories comprised the ever-changing books in his bedside drawer. Not wanting to feel the weight of material items in his care, he usually limited himself to taking out two to three books at a time. Towards the very last years of his life he would continually throw items away, avoiding what he perceived as the stress of having to look after stuff. In contrast to Proust he was not into making snuff out of stuff.

When he passed away in 2013 (aged 94) the library staff, a good number of whom were South Asian, sent a message saying that they would miss his presence: for them he had become a part of the furniture for at least twenty years. Rather like the long-gone mother who appears in Lisbon in Berger’s Here Is Where we Meet, the staff might look up from their counter only to see Sawarn Singh’s large frame walking in, leaning in on his zimmer frame, with his greeting smile – the outline of his trace bearing a ghostly presence and reminder of his loss. The architectural emplacement of the body in the built environment like all architectures gives way to the play of time. Should Berger also come back on this occasion to Stoke library, he might trace a line drawing of Sawarn Singh, offering us a portraiture. He has often painted to shed light on the labour and life of welders, steelworkers, fisherman and performers.

If Berger had come to the table in Stoke library he would not only have met Sawarn Singh reading and holding in his hands very different materials to those Berger sifted through to make Ways of Seeing. He would have also have met a man handling pen and paper, as a person who wrote, somebody who made sentences with words without being a formal writer like Berger; a common relationship to pen, paper and word of working-class men and women. In the library, letters were penned on sky-blue airmail paper for ‘home’. Now and again my father would lend a writing hand to those fellow travellers to the mother country in need of a letter ‘home’. Sitting at the table in the library he occasionally wrote shayari (poetry in Urdu), to be later recited among other older Asian men who met weekly with food and drink in a local school annexe. Since his death, I have been told by some of his poet friends (Prem Sharma and Ram Krishan Prashar) that he wrote – in Urdu, the language of his schooling – his life story, something akin to a memoir or autobiographical notes. As a family we are yet to stumble across them. Herein we are quite literally tasked with being Death’s Secretary. Such is the stuff that meetings with people and their materials are made of."
johnberger  2016  nirmalpuwar  death  waysofseeing  libraries  learning  museums 
january 2017 by robertogreco
VersoBooks.com: John Berger: The dead help the living to resist in Palestine
"I am among not the conquered but the defeated, whom the victors fear. The time of the victors is always short and that of the defeated unaccountably long. Their space is different too. Everything in this limited land is a question of space, and the victors have understood this. The strangle- hold they maintain is first and foremost spatial. It is applied, illegally and in defiance of international law, through the checkpoints, through the destruction of ancient roads, through the new by-passes strictly reserved for Israeli settlers, through the fortress hilltop settlements, which are really surveillance and control points of the surrounding plateaux, through the curfew which obliges people to stay indoors night and day until it is lifted. During the invasion of Ramallah last year, the curfew lasted six weeks, with a ‘lifting’ of a couple of hours on certain days for shopping. There was not even enough time to bury those who died in their beds.

The dissenting Israeli architect, Eyal Weizman has pointed out in a courageous book that this total terrestrial domination begins in the drawings of district-planners and architects. The violence begins long before the arrival of the tanks and jeeps. He talks of a ‘politics of verticality’, whereby the defeated even when ‘at home’ are being literally overseen and undermined.

The effect of this on daily life is relentless. As soon as somebody one morning says to himself ‘I’ll go and see –’ he has to stop short and check how many crossings of barriers the ‘outing’ is likely to involve. The space of the simplest everyday decisions is hobbled, with its foreleg tethered to its hind leg.

In addition, because the barriers change unpredictably from day to day, the experience of time is hobbled. Nobody knows how long it will take this morning to get to work, to go and see Mother, to attend a class, to consult the doctor, nor, having done these things, how long it will take to get back home. The trip, in either direction, may take thirty minutes or four hours, or the route may be categorically shut off by soldiers with their loaded submachine guns.

The Israeli government claims that they are obliged to take these measures to combat terrorism. The claim is a feint. The true aim of the stranglehold is to destroy the indigenous population’s sense of temporal and spatial continuity so that they either leave or become indentured servants. And it’s here that the dead help the living to resist. It’s here that men and women make their decision to become martyrs. The stranglehold inspires the terrorism it purports to be fighting."

[See also:

"Hold Everything Dear: Dispatches on Survival and Resistance
by John Berger
https://www.versobooks.com/books/2155-hold-everything-dear

A powerful meditation on political resistance from one of the most original and influential thinkers of our times

From the War on Terror to resistance in Ramallah and traumatic dislocation in the Middle East, Berger explores the uses of art as an instrument of political resistance. Visceral and passionate, Hold Everything Dear is a profound meditation on the far extremes of human behaviour, and the underlying despair. Looking at Afghanistan, Palestine, and Iraq, he makes an impassioned attack on the poverty and loss of freedom at the heart of such unnecessary suffering. These essays offer reflections on the political at the core of artistic expression and even at the center of human existence itself."]
johnberger  palestine  death  dead  resistance  2015  israel  eyalweizman  overseen  undermined 
january 2017 by robertogreco
The Creepy World of Bruce Conner | by J. Hoberman | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books
"“It’s All True,” the title of the Museum of Modern Art’s powerful retrospective of the American artist Bruce Conner (1933-2008), comes from a letter Conner wrote to one of his gallerists in the aftermath of his only previous museum retrospective, organized by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 1999:
My work is described as beautiful, horrible, hogwash, genius, maundering, precise, quaint, avant-garde, historical, hackneyed, masterful, trivial, intense, mystical, virtuosic, bewildering, absorbing, concise, absurd, amusing, innovative, nostalgic, contemporary, iconoclastic, sophisticated, trash, masterpieces, etc. It’s all true.

How about “sinister,” “creepy,” and “indelible”? As a fifteen-year-old Pop Art aficionado wandering through the Whitney Museum’s 1964 Sculpture Annual, I discovered Conner’s work in the form of the assemblage Couch. There was no warning. It was like rounding a corner and bumping into Death or seeing the title Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! on a 42nd Street marquee. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Claes Oldenburg’s rough, pillowy Soft Wall Switches (one of the only other pieces I remember from the show) was something I could understand as art. Couch was something else—a derelict remnant of a nightmare haunted house. Conner took a moldering, paint-spattered, wax-encrusted Victorian divan and managed to imbed it with a child-sized mummy. The simulated, decomposed corpse was nestled into a corner. On closer inspection, it looked as though it might have been strangled."



"Conner largely abandoned assemblages in the early 1960s. It’s sometimes said that if he had continued in this mode (and continued to exhibit in New York) he would now be bracketed by Rauschenberg and Johns but in fact Conner was too anarchic and contrarian a personality to be easily assimilated into the art world. From making objects, he switched to graphic work. These include intricate drawings, sometimes called mandalas, that were variously redolent of Rorschach tests, amphetamine, and the Cabala; as well as ghostly photograms, photographic work and collages documenting San Francisco’s late 1970s punk scene, and, in the late 1980s, a series of found engraving collages reminiscent of Max Ernst’s. Mainly, however, Conner made movies, some of which, like the 1978 film set to Devo’s “Mongoloid” or the 1981 piece scored by David Byrne’s “America is Waiting,” could be seen as art-world music videos—a form that Conner more or less invented."



"If “3 Screen Ray” is a triptych, Crossroads is an altarpiece. Shown in a museum, it seems like an exemplary—and rare—instance of twentieth-century religious art. Like A Movie, Crossroads is entirely fashioned from found footage, namely previously classified US government documentation of the first post World War II atomic test at Bikini Atoll during the summer of 1946.

The footage, some of it originally shot in super slow motion at 8000 frames per second, has been selected and organized but in no way manipulated, save for the addition of a soundtrack. (An audio collage fashioned by Patrick Gleason on a Moog synthesizer gives way to a dreamier drone composition performed on an electric organ by Terry Riley.)

Crossroads consists of twenty-four shots, ranging in duration from a few seconds to a final one of six and a half minutes, during which time appears to stand still. The movie’s dozen or so billowing mushroom clouds—fantastic geysers of vaporized water erupting a mile high out of the ocean, often the same explosion film from differing angles—are a sort of visual mantra. The word “awe-inspiring” barely communicates the cumulative sense of wonder and dread. To sit through Crossroads is to experience what the poet Frances Ferguson called the “nuclear sublime” or appreciate why, after the successful Trinity test of the atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer might have recalled a passage from the Bhagavad-Gita: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”"
bruceconner  2016  crossroads  jhoberman  bikiniatoll  jrobertoppenheimer  film  death  terryriley  patrickgleason  moog  sountrack  art  sfmoma  moma  inkblots 
december 2016 by robertogreco
The Architect Who Became a Diamond - The New Yorker
"Barragán was a devout Catholic, and his work is characterized by a mixture of opulence and abnegation. “Where do you find more eroticism than in the cloister of a convent?” he once asked. His buildings are mostly residential, with anonymous perimeter walls that protect modestly sized but lavish interiors. Louis Kahn recalled that, in the sixties, he asked Barragán to help him design the courtyard garden at the Salk Institute and flew him out to San Diego to see the site. Barragán took one look at the expanse of concrete and said, “You are going to hate me, but there should be no tree here,” and went home, forsaking a commission from one of his most famous living colleagues.

Tall, blue-eyed, and bald from a young age, Barragán lived beautifully and tyrannically. He wore English sports jackets, silk shirts, and knitted ties; he had a Cadillac and employed a chauffeur. He enjoyed melon halves drizzled with sherry, and was known to have his maid prepare entirely pink meals. An architect friend recalled being disinvited to tea on several occasions because the light in the garden wasn’t right.

“You have no idea how much I hate small things, ugly things,” Barragán told the journalist Elena Poniatowska. “Yet the fragility of some women moves me.” Though he never married (and is thought by some to have been gay), his taste in women was particular: willowy, dark, with, as Poniatowska put it, “the big, hollow eyes of someone who has suffered.” Women recounted trying to lose weight in the weeks before visiting him. Barragán was generous with gifts, bringing small tokens of appreciation—silver boxes, flowers, packages of dates—even to casual lunches. He spoke gently and smiled often. He liked to read Proust, listen to classical music, and fantasize about the Russian gentry. Famously private, he despised his contemporaries’ infatuation with “uninhabitable” glass houses and thought that shadows were “a basic human need.” His work, likewise, was hidden: the residences were often within gated communities, the fountains protected by private courtyards. If there is a recurring criticism of Barragán, it is that he was undemocratic. He spent Sundays at an equestrian club, and when someone accused him of “only designing homes for rich people,” he allegedly replied, “And horses.”

I met Andrés Casillas, an architect now in his eighties who was a protégé of Barragán’s, at his home, an hour and a half from Mexico City. He had perfectly coiffed white hair and wore a fine cashmere sweater. His home had an austere, siesta-like feel that was unmistakably Barragánesque. He spoke slowly and with exaggerated gallantry. “This is stupid to say, but Barragán was a gentleman,” he told me. Casillas talked about meeting Barragán for the first time. He was eight years old, and had wandered around the “magical” garden of Barragán’s house for half an hour, after which Barragán presented him with a small glass of rompope, an eggnog-like liquor prepared by nuns. “I left absolutely mesmerized,” he said.

The hypnosis was by design. Barragán believed that architects should make “houses into gardens, and gardens into houses.” He made blueprints premised on surprise and an almost perverse protraction of pleasure. Low, dark corridors open into blindingly bright rooms with church-high ceilings. Floor plans only gradually make themselves evident to the visitor. He called it “architectural striptease.”

Walking through Barragán’s home, which was declared a unesco World Heritage site in 2004, one feels a sense of coercion, and Barragán himself never completely disappears. Keith Eggener, an architectural historian who made a pilgrimage to Barragán’s house soon after he died, recalled his impressions with the hesitant laughter of someone who’s embarrassed to tell the truth. “Even when it was run-down, it was a ravishing house,” he said. “I remember having this feeling of really wanting to spend the night there—not just to sleep in the house but to sleep with the house.”"



"In 2002, as an artist in residence at the Rijksakademie, in Amsterdam, Magid began noticing the large number of surveillance cameras in the city—anonymous gray boxes, mounted on everything from the corners of buildings to coffee-shop awnings. One February morning, she went to the police headquarters and explained that she was an artist interested in decorating the municipal cameras with rhinestones. She was directed to the appropriate police administrators, who told her that they did not work with artists. She thanked them and left. A few weeks later, Magid returned, armed with business cards and a corporate-speak sales pitch, presenting herself as the Head Security Ornamentation Professional at System Azure, a company that she had made up. The police not only allowed her to bedazzle the cameras but even paid her a couple of thousand dollars. “I realized that they could not hear me when I spoke as an artist,” Magid later said. “This had nothing to do with what I proposed but with who I was.”

The impish venture touched on a theme that Magid has returned to again and again, in increasingly ambitious ways. Her aim with most of her work is to humanize institutional power structures, subtly undermining them while adhering to the letter of their regulations: exploiting legal escape clauses and other red tape, and forging relationships with civil servants. She has ensconced herself in the Dutch secret service and been trained by a New York City cop. She once got members of a surveillance team from Liverpool’s police force to direct her through a public square with her eyes closed. In 2008, she told me, a Dutch government official warned her that she was considered a national-security threat. Though she cares deeply about how her work looks, she has less in common with other artists than with people whose jobs are not typically thought of as artistic: spies, investigative journalists, forensic experts.

Magid’s work can seem like a series of extended pranks, but when I suggested this to her she was aghast. “No!” she exclaimed. She laughed but seemed genuinely distressed. “I hate mean-spirited work,” she said. “It’s about the engagement. A prank doesn’t engage. A prank is: you throw something in and watch what happens. This is a commitment.” Still, people often ask Magid why anyone ever agrees to collaborate with her. She has said that she thinks it is “due to some combination of vanity, pride, and loneliness.”"



"Magid heard about the archive by coincidence: her gallery in Mexico City, Labor, is across the street from Casa Barragán. “It intrigued me as a gothic love story,” she has said, “with a copyright-and-intellectual-property-rights subplot.” In early 2013, Magid contacted Zanco through an intermediary, to introduce herself as an artist working on a project about Barragán, and asked if she might visit the archive. Zanco replied that she was “completely unable to allow access to the collection, nor be of any help to third parties.” A few months later, Magid sent a handwritten request, explaining that she had an upcoming show on Barragán in New York. She invited Zanco to curate pieces from her archive for inclusion. She signed off, “With Warmth and Admiration.” Zanco declined to collaborate, and warned, “I trust you would make yourself aware of the possible copyright implications of any sort of reproduction, and clear the related permissions, procedure and mandatory credits.”

That November, in Tribeca, Magid produced an exhibition about the impasse, “Woman with Sombrero,” which later travelled to Guadalajara. The show was a multimedia installation, with images of Barragán’s work, slide projections, and an iPad displaying the correspondence between Magid and Zanco. Objects were placed in teasing juxtaposition, in a way that suggested connections and narratives without insisting on them. Copies of books that Barragán had sent to various women lay on a bedside table that Magid had fabricated based on one of his designs. In what a press release described as “flirtation with the institutional structures involved,” Magid went to extreme lengths to stay just the right side of copyright law. Rather than reproduce Barragán images from Zanco’s book, for instance, Magid framed a copy of the book itself. The show was written up in the Times, and the article was not flattering to Zanco. Magid was quoted asking, “What’s the difference between loving something and loving something so much that you smother it?”

After the Times took an interest, Magid and Zanco’s correspondence became friendlier—either because Zanco now appreciated Magid’s work or because she realized that anything she wrote could end up as material in future shows. “Thank you for your company,” Zanco wrote at one point. “I feel definitely less lonely down in the archives.” The tone of their letters became familiar but measured. At no point did Magid mention her plan to make a diamond out of Barragán.

Magid agrees with those who argue that the Barragán archive should be open to the public and returned to Mexico, but she insists that this is not her focus. “If that’s what my intentions were, I don’t think I’d make art,” she told me. “I’ve always called the archive her lover. To marry one man, she negotiated owning another man, whom she’s devoted her life to. It’s a weird love triangle, and I’m the other woman.”"



"Magid was disconcerted; she’d expected Zanco to be alone. She followed Zanco in. Fehlbaum was there, seated, his back to a glass wall, and greeted her warmly. Zanco sat down beside him and gestured for Magid to take a seat across from them.

“I brought you this,” Magid said, taking a bottle of champagne from her bag. It was wrapped in an announcement of her St. Gallen show. Zanco removed the paper and thanked her. For the next hour, over lunch, the three of … [more]
2016  jillmagid  luisbarragán  architecture  art  archives  performanceart  laurapoitras  film  bureaucracy  institutions  casaluisbarragán  barraganfoundation  federicazanco  switzerland  guadalajar  mexico  mexicocity  mexicof  df  sfai  sanfrancisco  death  copyright  elenaponiatowska  pranks  engagement  performance  loneliness  journalism  alicegregory  mexicodf 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Raina Telgemeier's Graphic Novel 'Ghosts' Takes On A Tough Topic For Children : NPR
"Raina Telgemeier's new graphic novel Ghosts is about death. But it's written for children.

Telgemeier tells NPR's books editor Barrie Hardymon that stories serve as a way to begin difficult conversations. "Stories are such a powerful way of communicating ideas and in comforting people," she says.

Telgemeier has been writing and drawing graphic novels for years. Her 2010 memoir Smile recounts what it was like to be teased by other children face after losing two front teeth in sixth grade and wearing "embarrassing headgear," braces and "even a retainer with fake teeth attached."

In 2012, Telgemeier's Drama told a "colorful tale of teenage intrigue, but this time the mad crushes and mood swings take place among the stage crew of a middle-school theater production," said NPR's Glen Weldon, who called it "an unabashedly sunny, funny and warmhearted read."

Her latest graphic novel Ghosts is about two sisters, middle-schooler Catrina and little sister Maya, who has the incurable lung disease cystic fibrosis. Their family has just moved to a new town on the Northern California coast where their parents hope the cool sea air will help Maya breathe.

The town turns out to be full of ghosts — and Maya wants nothing more than to befriend them, though her older sister can't accept that Maya may soon join them. The story carries themes of acceptance, packed with imagery of the town, its ghosts and its Day of the Dead celebrations.

Telgemeier talked with NPR's Barrie Hardymon about broaching difficult topics with children, why she likes skeletons, and the similarities between characters and real people in her life."

[See also: https://boingboing.net/2016/10/04/ghosts-raina-telgemeier-upbea.html

"YA graphic novelist Raina Telgemeier is a force of nature; her Babysitters Club graphic novels are witty and smart and snappy; her standalone graphic novels are even better, but her latest, Ghosts, is her best to date: an improbably upbeat story about death, assimilation and cystic fibrosis.

Catrina doesn't want to move to Bahia de la Luna in Northern California; she's a So-Cal kid and she loves her middle-school friends. But the sun only shines 62 days a year in Bahia de la Luna, and that's important for the health of her little sister, Maya, who has cystic fibrosis.

Realistically, everyone knows that Maya's illness will kill her someday, and maybe someday soon. Practically speaking, they put it behind them, adapt, try strategies for making the most of their time together. So they move to foggy northern California, where Cat and Maya go looking for friends -- and find them, sorta.

Carlos is a local kid in Catrina's grade, and he specializes in giving ghost tours. That's fertile ground, because there are really ghosts in Bahia de la Luna, who come through in the thin places, like the old Spanish Mission, and who are decidedly friendly -- and, if you can give them a little of your breath, they get decidedly lively. The problem is that Maya doesn't have any breath to give -- her first encounter with the friendly spirits sends her to the hospital.

Catrina tries to make it work. She makes more friends, stays clear of the ghosts, gets settled in at school. But the ghosts won't stay clear of her -- they keep manifesting around the house, where Maya is now on a respirator full-time.

The change of location, and the family's friendships with Carlos's family, triggers a long-overdue discussion with Maya and Cat's mother about her own Mexican heritage, the difficult times she had with her mom, and how much of their family heritage disappeared when their grandmother died.

As Halloween and the Dia de los Muertos approach, all of the story's threads begin to gather, heading for a conclusion that seems like it could be wrenching and/or terrifying -- but rather than going for a cheap scare or cheap tears, Telgemeier pulls off an ending that is emotionally complicated, nuanced, and, if it's a little sad, it's also equally joyous. It's a stupendously executed tale, and handles difficult themes related to culture, assimilation and chronic illness in children, and when I finished reading it to my eight-year-old yesterday, we were both riveted."]
classideas  graphicnovels  rainatelgemeier  death  2016  ghosts  california  norcal  books  socal 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Eerie Photos of 'Dark Tourism' Sites Around the World
"Museums and memorials around the globe reveal histories of death, indignity, and destruction."
museums  memorials  death  indignity  destruction  2016  via:namhenderson 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Do Crows Hold Funerals for Their Dead?
"Many who have heard the melancholy cry of the mourning dove might wonder: Do birds grieve for their loved ones?

For this Saturday’s Weird Animal Question of the Week Emilie Bouef commented via Facebook: "I heard that ravens do some kind of funeral when one of them dies. I’d love to know more about this."

Calling to each other, gathering around, and paying special attention to a fallen comrade is common among the highly intelligent corvids, a group of birds that includes crows, jays, magpies, and ravens, says Kaeli Swift, a Ph.D student in environmental science at the University of Washington. (See "Are Crows Smarter Than Children?")

But it doesn't necessarily mean the birds are mourning for their lost buddy. Rather, they're likely trying to find out if there's a threat where the death occurred, so they can avoid it in the future.

In a study published recently in the journal Animal Behaviour, Swift found that American crows associate people seen handling dead crows with danger, and can be wary of feeding near such people."
crows  corvids  birds  multispecies  animals  wildlife  culture  behavior  death  funerals  2015  nature  kaeliswift  intelligence 
july 2016 by robertogreco
The Tail End - Wait But Why
"It turns out that when I graduated from high school, I had already used up 93% of my in-person parent time. I’m now enjoying the last 5% of that time. We’re in the tail end.

It’s a similar story with my two sisters. After living in a house with them for 10 and 13 years respectively, I now live across the country from both of them and spend maybe 15 days with each of them a year. Hopefully, that leaves us with about 15% of our total hangout time left.

The same often goes for old friends. In high school, I sat around playing hearts with the same four guys about five days a week. In four years, we probably racked up 700 group hangouts. Now, scattered around the country with totally different lives and schedules, the five of us are in the same room at the same time probably 10 days each decade. The group is in its final 7%.

So what do we do with this information?

Setting aside my secret hope that technological advances will let me live to 700, I see three takeaways here:

1) Living in the same place as the people you love matters. I probably have 10X the time left with the people who live in my city as I do with the people who live somewhere else.

2) Priorities matter. Your remaining face time with any person depends largely on where that person falls on your list of life priorities. Make sure this list is set by you—not by unconscious inertia.

3) Quality time matters. If you’re in your last 10% of time with someone you love, keep that fact in the front of your mind when you’re with them and treat that time as what it actually is: precious."
death  life  relationships  time  scale  perspective  2015  timurban  visualization 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Birth of Thanaticism | Public Seminar
"I don’t know why we still call it capitalism. It seems to be some sort of failure or blockage of the poetic function of critical thought.

Even its adherents have no problem calling it capitalism any more. Its critics seem to be reduced to adding modifiers to it: postfordist, neoliberal, or the rather charmingly optimistic ‘late’ capitalism. A bittersweet term, that one, as capitalism seems destined to outlive us all.

I awoke from a dream with the notion that it might make more sense to call it thanatism, after Thanatos, son of Nyx (night) and Erebos(darkness), twin of Hypnos (sleep), as Homer and Hesiod seem more or less to agree.

I tried thanatism out on twitter, where Jennifer Mills wrote: “yeah, I think we have something more enthusiastically suicidal. Thanaticism?”

That seems like a handy word. Thanaticism: like a fanaticism, a gleeful, overly enthusiastic will to death. The slight echo of Thatcherism is useful also.

Thanaticism: a social order which subordinates the production of use values to the production of exchange value, to the point that the production of exchange value threatens to extinguish the conditions of existence of use value. That might do as a first approximation.

Bill McKibben has suggested that climate scientists should go on strike. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its 2013 report recently. It basically says what the last one said, with a bit more evidence, more detail, and worse projections. And still nothing much seems to be happening to stop Thanaticism. Why issue another report? It is not the science, it’s the political science that’s failed. Or maybe the political economy.

In the same week, BP quietly signaled their intention to fully exploit the carbon deposits to which it owns the rights. A large part of the value of the company, after all, is the value of those rights. To not dig or suck or frack carbon out of the ground for fuel would be suicide for the company, and yet to turn it all into fuel and have that fuel burned, releasing the carbon into the air, puts the climate into a truly dangerous zone.

But that can’t stand in the way of the production of exchange value. Exchange value has to unreel its own inner logic to the end: to mass extinction. The tail that is capital is wagging the dog that is earth.

Perhaps its no accident that the privatization of space appears on the horizon as an investment opportunity at just this moment when earth is going to the dogs. The ruling class must know it is presiding over the depletion of the earth. So they are dreaming of space-hotels. They want to not be touched by this, but to still have excellent views.

It makes perfect sense that in these times agencies like the NSA are basically spying on everybody. The ruling class must know that they are the enemies now of our entire species. They are traitors to our species being. So not surprisingly they are panicky and paranoid. They imagine we’re all out to get them.

And so the state becomes an agent of generalized surveillance and armed force for the defense of property. The role of the state is no longer managing biopower. It cares less and less about the wellbeing of populations. Life is a threat to capital and has to be treated as such.

The role of the state is not to manage biopower but to manage thanopower. From whom is the maintenance of life to be withdrawn first? Which populations should fester and die off? First, those of no use as labor or consumers, and who have ceased already to be physically and mentally fit for the armed forces.

Much of these populations can no longer vote. They may shortly loose food stamps and other biopolitical support regimes. Only those willing and able to defend death to the death will have a right to live.

And that’s just in the over-developed world. Hundreds of millions now live in danger of rising seas, desertification and other metabolic rifts. Everyone knows this: those populations are henceforth to be treated as expendable.

Everybody knows things can’t go on as they are. Its obvious. Nobody likes to think about it too much. We all like our distractions. We’ll all take the click-bait. But really, everybody knows. There’s a good living to be made in the service of death, however. Any hint of an excuse for thanaticism as a way of life is heaped with Niagras of praise.

We no longer have public intellectuals; we have public idiots. Anybody with a story or a ‘game-changing’ idea can have some screen time, so long as it either deflects attention from thanaticism, or better – justifies it. Even the best of this era’s public idiots come off like used car salesmen. It is not a great age for the rhetorical arts.

It is clear that the university as we know it has to go. The sciences, social sciences and the humanities, each in their own ways, were dedicated to the struggle for knowledge. But it is hard to avoid the conclusion, no matter what one’s discipline, that the reigning order is a kind of thanatcisim.

The best traditional knowledge disciplines can do is to focus in tightly on some small, subsidiary problem, to just avoid the big picture and look at some detail. That no longer suffices. Traditional forms of knowledge production, which focus on minor or subsidiary kinds of knowledge are still too dangerous. All of them start to discover the traces of thanaticism at work.

So the university mast be destroyed. In its place, a celebration of all kinds of non-knowledge. Whole new disciplines are emerging, such as the inhumanities and the antisocial sciences. Their object is not the problem of the human or the social. Their object is thanaticism, its description and justification. We are to identify with, and celebrate, that which is inimical to life. Such an implausible and dysfunctional belief system can only succeed by abolishing its rivals.

All of which could be depressing. But depression is a subsidiary aspect of thanaticism. You are supposed to be depressed, and you are supposed to think that’s your individual failing or problem. Your bright illusory fantasy-world is ripped away from you, and the thanatic reality is bared – you are supposed to think its your fault. You have failed to believe. See a shrink. Take some drugs. Do some retail therapy.

Thanaticism also tries to incorporate those who doubt its rule with a make-over of their critique as new iterations of thatatic production. Buy a hybrid car! Do the recycling! No, do it properly! Separate that shit! Again, its reduced to personal virtue and responsibility. Its your fault that thanaticism wants to destroy the world. Its your fault as a consumer, and yet you have not choice but to consume.

“We later civilizations… know too that we are mortal,” Valery said in 1919. At that moment, after the most vicious and useless war hitherto, such a thing could appear with some clarity. But we lost that clarity. And so: a modest proposal. Let’s at least name the thing after its primary attribute.

This is the era of the rule of thanaticism: the mode of production of non-life. Wake me when its over."
capital  capitalism  porperty  well-being  2015  mckenziewark  civilization  society  consumerism  death  thanaticism  latecapitalism  neoliberalism  thanatos  jennifermills  thatcherism  billmckibben  climatechange  economics  politics  politicaleconomy  exchangevalue  privatization  space  biopower  thanopower  gamechanging  socialscience  knowledge  disciplines  non-knowledge  humanities  universities  highered  highereducation 
october 2015 by robertogreco
What the Living Do - 94.04
"WHAT THE LIVING DO

by Marie Howe

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven't called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It's winter again: the sky's a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat's on too high in here and I can't turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I've been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss--we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless:
I am living. I remember you."
death  poetry  poems  mariehow  living  life  everyday  yearning  1994 
october 2015 by robertogreco
An Undertaking on Vimeo
"Michael Yates’ passion for working with wood arose from the wood’s accessibility, its palpable presence and the hope that his efforts would last. But when his grandmother requested that he build her casket, the stability of oak collided with an evocative “conversation” with impermanence, death and the inevitability of absence. In spite of his initial fear and resistance due to our culture’s steadfast avoidance of the D-word, Yates eventually agreed to build the casket and began the real work of constructing a genuine relationship with life, death and sawdust.

See more at darkrye.com
Follow us on Twitter twitter.com/darkryemag
and Instagram instagram.com/darkryemag "

[via: "Just showed this video to students as a perfect example of #ethnography about, through *and* for #design: https://vimeo.com/83513993 "
https://twitter.com/annegalloway/status/649345214063185920 ]
via:anne  wood  death  culture  michaelyates  design  ethnography  video 
october 2015 by robertogreco
HUMAN Extended version VOL.1 - YouTube
"What is it that makes us human? Is it that we love, that we fight ? That we laugh ? Cry ? Our curiosity ? The quest for discovery ?

Driven by these questions, filmmaker and artist Yann Arthus-Bertrand spent three years collecting real-life stories from 2,000 women and men in 60 countries. Working with a dedicated team of translators, journalists and cameramen, Yann captures deeply personal and emotional accounts of topics that unite us all; struggles with poverty, war, homophobia, and the future of our planet mixed with moments of love and happiness.

Watch the 3 volumes of the film and experience #WhatMakesUsHUMAN.

The VOL.1 deals with the themes of love, women, work and poverty.

If you want to discover more contents, go on http://g.co/humanthemovie (https://humanthemovie.withgoogle.com/ )

Filmmaker and artist Yann Arthus-Bertrand spent 3 years collecting real-life emotional stories from more than 2,000 women and men in 60 countries. Those emotions, those tears and smiles, those struggles and those laughs are the ones uniting us all. Watch the 3 volumes of HUMAN on YouTube and experience #WhatMakesUsHUMAN

“I dreamed of a film in which the power of words would resonate with the beauty of the world. The movie relates the voices of all those, men and women, who entrusted me with their stories. And it becomes their messenger.”"

[The YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJy4nUo1D4R3hlcP8XCLX9Q ]

[See also:

HUMAN Extended version VOL.2
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShttAt5xtto

"The VOL.2 deals with the themes of war, forgiving, homosexuality, family and life after death."

HUMAN Extended version VOL.3
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0653vsLSqE

"The VOL.3 deals with the themes of happiness, education, disability, immigration, corruption and the meaning of life."]
documentary  via:aram  2015  yannarthus-bertrand  love  life  living  human  humans  poverty  war  homophobia  domesticabuse  marriage  relationships  international  happiness  women  disability  education  corruption  meaningoflife  families  family  homosexuality  forgiveness  forgiving  death  afterlife  immigration  migration  disabilities 
september 2015 by robertogreco
The Last Photo | PhotoShelter Blog
"Ever since junior high school, I was the kid with the camera. And many years later, I’m still the guy who shows up to every life event with camera in hand to document the lives of my friends.

I used to carry around a hulking DSLR, but the weight bothers me, and the large size feels too intrusive for the everyday. I don’t want to interrupt life by taking photos, I simply want them to remember the fractions of a second that end up representing curated slices of life.

Within my archive of hundreds of thousands of photos, there are many that represent the last photo I will ever take of someone or some place. Some of these photos are inconsequential. They might capture a blurry stranger in the background, or perhaps a one-time friend forged through a glass of wine in a distant land.

Then there are the ones that matter.

***

There is a strange inflection point in life when more people you know are dying or getting sick than getting married and having kids. Suddenly, the act of taking a photo isn’t about eliciting FOMO and instant nostalgia on social media, but rather a tiny memorial of all the experiences that make up a rich life.

This doesn’t mean the act of taking a photo should be morbid. Perhaps it means that in a world where the avalanche of images has rendered so much photography worthless, there are still photos that are priceless. And for the photographer, not only is the image valuable, but so is the memory of taking the photo.

***

[photo]

The guy in the back with the pencil. That’s B and this is high school trigonometry taken with my Olympus OM-4. I remember the class vividly because Mrs. Field was a great teacher, and the class often felt celebratory. It was math, but we were having a good time.

B was a funny, cool kid. He was a senior when I was a junior, and at the time, the difference seemed interminably large. We were never friends, but there was always a sense of camaraderie in that classroom. After the year ended, B graduated, and he would otherwise be a footnote in my memory except for one thing.

That summer, he died.

People often say that teens feel invincible. I’m not sure this is accurate. I think that they simply don’t think about death because they haven’t encountered it. There is no point of reference. They have a whole life ahead of them. At least they’re supposed to.

B was the first kid I knew who died, and although I remember being floored by such a notion then, it didn’t affect me the way that it does now. Now I think about the tragedy of a life unfulfilled. What would he have become? Something exceptional? Something average? No doubt, something important to someone else, as he was on his last day.

This last photo is nothing. It’s a photobomb before photobombing was a thing. He’s not even supposed to be in the picture. Yet, there he is. The last photo is everything.

***

[photo]

Sara was one of my first hires in the early days of Web 1.0 at HotJobs. Despite an uncertain start, she blossomed, and became a big part of the department. Eventually she married, and she asked me to photograph her wedding. She moved to Seattle with her husband, and started work as a project manager.

People move, life carries on, friendships fade. But one day I got a call from our mutual friend Amanda, who urged me to go visit Sara.

I hadn’t seen her in years, and she somehow found herself with Stage 4 colon cancer at the age of 35. It was the type of dire situation that led us to plan an early Christmas, and the day before we were set to celebrate, we gathered in her bedroom to shoot the breeze.

Sara’s friend, Jennifer, grabbed my camera and shot the last photo. Not even cancer could restrain her booming laugh; her skeletal frame still capable of supporting her huge grin.

The last photo is a happy one. I remember it because John was there. Declan was there. Amanda was there. V was there. Sara smoked a joint to ease the pain before it became legal. It was good to be amongst old friends – even one last time.

***

[photo with caption “My grandfather on his 100th birthday”]

Grandparents are a shield against mortality.

With them, two generations of life stand before you — your parents and their parents — protecting you from the uncertainty of death. Once you lose your grandparents, life feels more precarious.

I am fortunate. All my grandparents lived into their 90s or 100s. My maternal grandmother was the last. For years after her husband died at 100, she lived quietly in a room adjacent to my parents’ in Honolulu. Although she had slowed physically, her mind was still sharp, and I would sometimes find her in the yard doing leg lifts.

In a world of overconsumption, hers was simple. No need for anything, save her television and La-Z-Boy. She tried pizza for the first time around the age of 90, and loved it. But other than that, her life had a predictable rhythm that was rarely interrupted.

Then one day, my father found her straining to breathe. The doctors think she suffered a heart attack. The paramedics took her to the ICU, but we finally brought her home for hospice. What was supposed to only be a week, stretched to several months — she was always resilient.

This isn’t the last photo I took of her. But it’s the one I am willing to share. A wave of wiry, salt and pepper hair of a woman who lived a simple, yet tremendous life. The last photo will not be one of pain and suffering. It will be dignified. What a fabulous head of hair!

[photo]

Fujiko Murabayashi passed away in 2015 at the age of 99.

***

Despite how it sounds, I don’t obsess over the last photo. If anything, these photos simply remind me to live a full life. They have meaning beyond the over hashtagged, hyper-curated lives displayed on social media because these images have little relevance to anyone besides me. Yet, they are most important to me — a personal treasure of pixels representing the lives that graced mine."
photography  memory  loss  allenmurabayashi  nostalgia  death  life  grandparents  friends  relationships  mortality  acquaintances  living  via:markllobrera 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Denali on Vimeo
"There's no easy way to say goodbye to a friend, especially when they've supported you through your darkest times.

Made possible by Patagonia
Generous support from: First Descents, Ruffwear and Snow Peak

In order of appearance: Ben Moon & Denali
Producer: Ben Moon // Moonhouse
Directed / edited / written: Ben Knight // Felt Soul Media
DP: Skip Armstrong // Wazee Motion Pictures
Second Camera: Page Stephenson
Co-Writer: Katie Klingsporn
Wet Camera: Justin Harris
Sound Recordist: Jim Hurst
Music Supervisor: Ben Knight and Chris Parker
Sound Mix: Justin Harris
Narrated by: Ben Knight

Music by: Chihei Hatakeyama, Images of a Broken Light — chihei.org
Music by: Odesza, It's Only [feat. Zyra] In Return, odesza.com, courtesy of Counter Records 2014

Still Photographs by: Ben Moon, Lisa Hensel, Carli Davidson, Miranda Moon, Vivian Moon, Jean Redle Dawn Kish, Lisa Skaff, Pete Rudge, Kristen & Ian Yurdin, and John Sterling"
animals  pets  dogs  human-animalrelations  human-animalrelationships  2015  benmoon  companionship  death  multispecies 
june 2015 by robertogreco
The centripetal force of life
"I don't quite know what I'm doing to myself these days. Last night was an episode of The Americans in which a marriage was ending, another family was trying to keep itself intact, and a young boy struggles to move on after his entire family dies. This morning, I watched an episode of Mad Men in which a mother tries to reconcile her differences with her daughter in the face of impending separation. And then, the absolute cake topper, a story by Matthew Teague [http://www.esquire.com/lifestyle/a34905/matthew-teague-wife-cancer-essay/ ] that absolutely wrecked me. It's about his cancer-stricken wife and the friend who comes and rescues an entire family, which is perhaps the truest and most direct thing I've ever read about cancer and death and love and friendship.
Since we had met, when she was still a teenager, I had loved her with my whole self. Only now can I look back on the fullness of our affection; at the time I could see nothing but one wound at a time, a hole the size of a dime, into which I needed to pack a fistful of material. Love wasn't something I felt anymore. It was just something I did. When I finished, I would lie next to her and use sterile cotton balls to soak up her tears. When she finally slept, I would slip out of bed and go into our closet, the most isolated room in the house. Inside, I would wrap a blanket around my head, stuff it into my mouth, lie down and bury my head in a pile of dirty clothes, and scream.

There are very specific parts of all those stories that I identify with. I struggle with friendship. And with family. I worry about my children, about my relationships with them. I worry about being a good parent, about being a good parenting partner with their mom. How much of me do I really want to impart to them? I want them to be better than me, but I can't tell them or show them how to do that because I'm me. I took my best shot at being better and me is all I came up with. What if I'm just giving them the bad parts, without even realizing it? God, this is way too much for a Monday."
parenting  cv  fathers  jasonkottke  children  self-doubt  humans  humanness  relationships  friendships  fatherhood  families  kindness  matthewteague  death  health  cancer  marriage  selflessness  love 
may 2015 by robertogreco
— some news
"The meaning-making machinery of the mind is, like life itself, grotesquely ceaseless, operating at normal speed in times of trauma. But resisting the drive to “redeem horror by transforming it into existential wisdom” —in Kundera’s words— seems appropriate, because part of mourning is refusing to accept that a loss can be redeemed. (Although I will accept that, too, eventually)."



"I spend a little while every day now on the phone with lawyers, or people at the coroner’s office, or other officials who balance their bedside manner against the need for efficient processing of such messes. Our friends have been deeply supportive, of course; everyone has, and this is very often so in periods of anguish. It’s all very moving and complicating; it changes the way the world looks and feels to be reminded intimately of the comings-and-goings of persons just like oneself, full and irreducible and now never to be understood; and all the people surrounding them, bearing grief and distracted from the rhythms of life by bereavement, fear, pain; and then all those around them, supporting them and helping, giving time and attention and so on. Anyway I know everyone knows these feelings, but right now, they partly suffuse our lives, even as our lives begin to go on and we find happiness again in the usual minutiae, are carried along like everyone else by time away from the excruciating moment."
death  mourning  millsbaker  2015  milankundera  meaningmaking  life  living  happiness  grief  bereavement  fear  pain  dying  mortality 
april 2015 by robertogreco
You’re Not Any Cooler than Jesus or Muhammad | On Being
"“What are you going to do when you grow up?” A torment we pose to children.

“What are you going to do after graduation?” The torment we impose on the most vulnerable of young adults. This insufferable question is one that is posed to my students, and most young people in this country over, and over, and over again.

20- and 21-year olds are confronted with it constantly. “What are you going to do with that major?” “Yeah, but how is that going to help you in the real world?”

I am amused by it, because it assumes that they (and we) are in fact going to grow up. I see a lot of people who have never grown up around me. It is not that they are child-like. They are just… un-grown-up.

Education used to be different. Before education was about acquiring a set of skills, before it was preparation for a job, it was a meditation on the meaning of life and death.

Before education was about being pre-medicine, pre-law, pre-business, it was about becoming human. Education was about becoming. It was a meditation on death, on mortality, and on life. More than that, it was a meditation on living. Living well. Living beautifully.

Education was a meditation on what it means to be human, on knowledge of the self, and our connection to the human community and the natural cosmos.

Now, we expect 21-year olds to figure out their place in this world when most of us supposed adults have no clue where we fit in. We expect them to bring their educational journey to a zenith. We expect them to be applying for jobs, graduate and professional schools, and internships. Many of them are dealing with figuring out the most important romantic relationships they have had in their lives. And we expect them to sort out all of these important decisions at the same time.

How many of us supposed grownups have sorted these things out? And how many of us have negotiated these decisions gracefully and simultaneously? How many of us know who and what we are? Who among us knows the worth of our own soul?

So what do we have to say to the 21-year-old college students, and to the still-not-grown up? Here are a few words of compassion: Relax, my dear. Breathe deeply. You are loved.

The career is what you do in life. But the key question is who you are as a human being.

It doesn’t matter to me who you work for in your life. I wanna know what gives meaning to your living. It doesn’t matter to me where you live. I wanna know what you are living for. It doesn’t matter to me what school you went to. I wanna know what values you are living by, how you are serving the ones who have loved you, and how you are treating the most vulnerable people in your community.

I want you to be generous with yourselves.

I remind my students that Jesus didn’t become Christ till he was 30. And then I tell them: “You ain’t any cooler than Jesus.”

I show them that Siddhārtha Gautama was 35 when he became awakened as The Buddha. And I tell them: “You ain’t any more enlightened then the Buddha.”

I tell them that Muhammad didn’t become the Prophet till he was 40. And I tell them: “You ain’t any more luminous than Muhammad.”

If it took these luminous souls till 30, 35, 40 to sort out what they were going to do with their lives, what makes you think you’re gonna figure it all out by 21? Or 25? For that matter, if you’re in your 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and you still feel like you’ve got some ripening to do, be patient and kind with your own self.

Be patient.
Be generous.
Take it slow…

It’s not about getting “there.”
It’s about the path you are on
And the company you have on the path.

You have immense power and beauty
There is a light within you
That shines bright.

The only way for you to abandon that power
Is to think you have none.

The only way you can hide your light under a bushel
Is to occupy yourself with decisions that are the task of a lifetime.

Breathe,
My friends,
Be kind to one another
And to your own selves
Hold each others’ hands
And let’s walk together
Never alone
No, never alone.

There is a light within you."
omidsafi  2015  education  religion  purpose  onbeing  life  meaningoflife  morality  death  living  well-being 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Los Frikis - Radiolab
"How a group of 80’s Cuban misfits found rock-and-roll and created a revolution within a revolution, going into exile without ever leaving home. In a collaboration with Radio Ambulante, reporter Luis Trelles bring us the story of punk rock’s arrival in Cuba and a small band of outsiders who sentenced themselves to death and set themselves free."
losfrikis  cuba  punk  1980s  luistrelles  radioambulante  radiolab  2015  revolution  music  hiv  death  vladamirceballos  jesúsalbertodíaz  gersongovea  luístrelles  yohandracardoso  bobarellano  history  aids  defiance  liberation 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Old Piece — Medium
"I can see a lot of places where editing would have benefited that piece—it slides around. It’s squishy. But it also has a gentle quality, and it’s filled with secrets and animated GIFs and setups that pay off a few thousand words later. I worked in it pretty steadily over a series of nights. I should have been working on other things. But in the end it does what it’s supposed to do, which is: It tells a story that no human being has ever told before. This sounds dramatic but it’s not actually that hard to do. It’s actually your job, as a writer, to go: Has anyone ever told this story before? No? Good."



"First thought: I’m horrible at perceiving any difference between technology and “other” parts of life. This has been a source of difficulty in my life when I work for places, like magazines, that see the Internet as something “separate.” So it’s so weird to me that readers felt they had to choose one or the other. “Technology” and “emotion” are broad, meaningless categories and in no actual opposition—but man do people put a lot of store in them.

Second though: If people are reading what I’m writing and insisting on dividing it into “tech” on one hand or “emotion” on another, then I must be doing the same thing in other categories of my life. There is some range of human experience that I am not perceiving because I can’t imagine that anything could—well, what? What meaningless threshold am I upholding as sacred? I wonder what nonsense categories I’m utterly committed to. And how do you even begin to perceive that part of yourself?"



"Then we went into the memorial service, which was at the Elks’ Club. His long-time partner Sandy was there, and she remembered me after I introduced myself — I hadn’t seen her in 20 years—and said, Oh my, he was so proud of you. It’s so good to see you. I’m so glad you came. He was so proud of you. So those are the words that will echo. Which is why you always go to the memorial service. You let go of the sense of loss."
paulford  love  2015  perspective  pov  technology  emotions  life  death  categories  categorization  meaningmaking  howwewrite  whywewrite  writing 
march 2015 by robertogreco
How Training a Wild Hawk Healed One Woman's Broken Heart
"Helen Macdonald was at home in Cambridge, England, when she got a phone call saying her father, Alisdair, had died suddenly of a heart attack on a London street. The news shattered her world, propelling her into a vortex of raw grief.

As she struggled to come to terms with her father's loss, she began to have dreams about goshawks, the wildest, most temperamental of the hawk family. An experienced falconer since childhood, she decided to buy and train one. Her memoir of that experience, H Is for Hawk, must be one of the most riveting encounters between a human being and an animal ever written. 

Talking from her home near Newmarket, England, Macdonald describes why Hermann Göring loved hawks, what links the Turkish word for penis with a hawk's ideal flying weight, and how training a goshawk took her to the edge of madness but eventually gave her peace—and a new kinship with other people."





"All my falconry books said they're very sulky and infuriating, never behave well, never do what you want them to do. They'll just ignore you and fly off. And the more I read about this, the more it seemed that the writers were talking about hormonal women. It was never the falconer's fault that the bird had flown off. It was always something indescribable inside the hawk that had made them do that.

But I started looking at very old falconry books, ones written in the 17th century, and discovered that goshawks were perceived very differently then. They were seen as creatures you had to court. You had to be very patient and treat them right to make them love you. I thought that was very interesting. It was a window onto gender relations, not just goshawks. "



"I started writing a journal after my father died. I was trying to stitch the world back together. I didn't know who I was any longer or what the world was about. Writing was a way of trying to make it come back. And then that world had a hawk in it. So I did keep a diary. I also kept a hawking notebook, which was very technical. Lists of weights and weather, and things like that. In the end, I didn't really use them very much for writing the book. I remember all that year with astonishing clarity. It's all very present still."



"Part of the reason for writing the book was to uncover that dark history and say, We use animals as excuses. We say, Hawks are powerful and prey on things weaker than themselves. But that's not an excuse for humans to do the same thing. The big lesson of the book is that the natural world is full of minds that are not like our own."
helenmacdonald  2015  interviews  books  hawks  birds  multispecies  human-animalrelations  human-animalrelationships  hermanngöring  alisdairmacdonald  falconry  goshawk  thwhite  hawking  lists  writing  howwewrite  whywewrite  grief  death  relationships 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Jon Hall: acceptance of mortality
"In the face of impermanence and death, it takes courage to love the things of this world and to believe that praising them is our noblest calling. Rilke’s is not a conditional courage, dependent on an afterlife. Nor is it a stoic courage, keeping a stiff upper lip when shattered by loss. It is courage born of the ever-unexpected discovery that acceptance of mortality yields an expansion of being. In naming what is doomed to disappear, naming the way it keeps streaming through our hands, we can hear the song that streaming makes." —Joana Macy, from her book A Year with Rilke.
mortality  rilke  joanamacy  courage  afterlife  impermanence  ephemerality  death  ephemeral 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Life After Death : NPR
“The world is starting to forget about Ebola. The village of Barkedu can’t.”



"At first glance, things were looking up. The weekly market had just reopened.

The health clinic, too.

Hunters were heading back into the forest. This hunter said he still avoids monkeys and bats, animals that are considered reservoirs for Ebola.

Large gatherings were safe again. Life seemed as if it were returning to normal.

But the more we talked to people, the more we realized the story wasn’t that simple. Ebola caused trauma and disruption that will stay with Barkedu for a long time to come.

We talked to farmers who can’t feed their families. Students who have missed school. A doctor who was nearly run out of town. And the woman who was left to care for many of the village’s Ebola orphans."
ebola  africa  libera  sierraleon  guinea  2015  death  disease  trauma  aftermath  storytelling  photojournalism  multimedia  barkeu  loss  photography 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer - NYTimes.com
"A MONTH ago, I felt that I was in good health, even robust health. At 81, I still swim a mile a day. But my luck has run out — a few weeks ago I learned that I have multiple metastases in the liver. Nine years ago it was discovered that I had a rare tumor of the eye, an ocular melanoma. Although the radiation and lasering to remove the tumor ultimately left me blind in that eye, only in very rare cases do such tumors metastasize. I am among the unlucky 2 percent.

I feel grateful that I have been granted nine years of good health and productivity since the original diagnosis, but now I am face to face with dying. The cancer occupies a third of my liver, and though its advance may be slowed, this particular sort of cancer cannot be halted.

It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can. In this I am encouraged by the words of one of my favorite philosophers, David Hume, who, upon learning that he was mortally ill at age 65, wrote a short autobiography in a single day in April of 1776. He titled it “My Own Life.”

“I now reckon upon a speedy dissolution,” he wrote. “I have suffered very little pain from my disorder; and what is more strange, have, notwithstanding the great decline of my person, never suffered a moment’s abatement of my spirits. I possess the same ardour as ever in study, and the same gaiety in company.”

I have been lucky enough to live past 80, and the 15 years allotted to me beyond Hume’s three score and five have been equally rich in work and love. In that time, I have published five books and completed an autobiography (rather longer than Hume’s few pages) to be published this spring; I have several other books nearly finished.

Hume continued, “I am ... a man of mild dispositions, of command of temper, of an open, social, and cheerful humour, capable of attachment, but little susceptible of enmity, and of great moderation in all my passions.”

Here I depart from Hume. While I have enjoyed loving relationships and friendships and have no real enmities, I cannot say (nor would anyone who knows me say) that I am a man of mild dispositions. On the contrary, I am a man of vehement disposition, with violent enthusiasms, and extreme immoderation in all my passions.

And yet, one line from Hume’s essay strikes me as especially true: “It is difficult,” he wrote, “to be more detached from life than I am at present.”

Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life.

On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.

This will involve audacity, clarity and plain speaking; trying to straighten my accounts with the world. But there will be time, too, for some fun (and even some silliness, as well).

I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.

This is not indifference but detachment — I still care deeply about the Middle East, about global warming, about growing inequality, but these are no longer my business; they belong to the future. I rejoice when I meet gifted young people — even the one who biopsied and diagnosed my metastases. I feel the future is in good hands.

I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure."
cancer  death  life  neuroscience  living  oliversacks  2015  legacy  individuality  davidhume  health  dying  mortality  audacity  clarity  goodbyes  perspective  humanism  privilege  adventure  consciousness 
february 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
Only Air and Light Remained | On Being
"Two days later, there it was: the giant maw, like a barely calmed volcano — a dark hole, mouth of loamy outcropping. Two large shovels stood vertical, spiked into the mound of earth beside the grave. The family lined up in pairs to take a turn at scooping up a bit of soil and tossing it down the pit, atop the coffin. Some of my older relatives needed assistance.

I was the last to go. My hands immediately registered the heft of the shovel’s thick handle and leaden pan. I pitched all my weight forward to dig in. The shush of blade sliding through soil was punctuated by the tick and rattle of blade hitting pebble and rock. I dropped my shovelful onto the coffin, and it landed with a thump.

I immediately plunged in again. Thump. And again. Thump. And again and again and again and...

One of my aunts called out to me, "It's okay, Doug. Put the shovel down," as if I had lost my senses and taken up a weapon or stepped out onto a window ledge. Maybe I had. I must have made quite a sight, in my charcoal-gray suit and dark-brown derby shoes, driving and shifting furiously, heaving the soil and heaving with sobs.

I continued without breaking rhythm, arms churning, tears streaming down my face. Through my blurred vision, I could make out the two gravediggers stand up bone-straight but hold their discreet distance. This job was mine to do; he was my grandfather. I would not leave it to strangers to complete this portion of his burial.

Funereal rites define themselves largely as a string of successive handoffs and hidings. We enlist undertakers to maneuver our dead and stash the bodies out of view — under sheets, in cloistered preparation rooms, often in shut caskets. Through our proxies, we hinder the flesh’s decay with formaldehyde and methanol, and disguise the skin’s discoloration with dye and thick makeup. Then we have clerics direct our obsequies, whose language will tend to dissemble through euphemism or obscure through foreignness. We conclude with gravediggers (now grave fillers) effecting the ultimate concealment.

Our rituals of death let us off the hook. I pinned myself back on.

Asking others to finalize my grandfather’s interment felt to me like a disavowal of the man Papa had been. By packing him even more tightly within his already sealed coffin, I engaged in an act of closing that levered an odd sort of opening; I acknowledged what we most want to deny.

My act didn’t discomfit my aunt — and many of my other relatives, I learned later — simply because of its refusal to collude in what Knausgaard describes as our “collective act of repression.” It discomfited because of its recognition of the corporeal, as opposed to the conceptual, aspect of death. It is death’s physical side that makes us the most deeply uncomfortable.

Eventually, a cousin of mine — never one to appear outdone — joined me with the second shovel. And soon the mound was gone. Only air and light remained."

[via: https://twitter.com/jonerichall/status/552638605688975362 ]
2015  death  douglasdanoff  burial  funerals  rites  handoffs  hidings  concealment  avoidance  onbeing 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Killed By Police - 2014
"Corporate news reports of people killed by nonmilitary law enforcement officers, whether in the line of duty or not, and regardless of reason or method.

Inclusion implies neither wrongdoing nor justification on the part of the person killed or the officer involved. The post merely documents the occurrence of a death."
police  lawenforcement  homicide  death  2013  2014  injustice 
january 2015 by robertogreco
THE NARCISSUS FLOWER (poem) - Rita Dove - USA - Poetry International
"The mystery is, you can eat fear
before fear eats you,

you can live beyond dying –
and become a queen
whom nothing surprises."
poetry  art  poems  ritadove  fear  life  death  via:sha 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Twine, the Video-Game Technology for All - NYTimes.com
"One of the most prominent and critically acclaimed Twine games has been Howling Dogs, a haunting meditation about trauma and escapism produced in 2012 by a woman named Porpentine. The gameplay begins in a claustrophobic metal room bathed in fluorescent light. Although you can’t leave, you can “escape” once a day by donning a pair of virtual-­reality goggles. Each time, you’re launched into a strange and lavishly described new world where you play a different role: a doomed young empress learning the art of dying; a scribe trying to capture the beauty of a garden in words; a Joan of Arc-like figure waiting to be burned on a pyre. And each time you return to the metal room, it’s a little dirtier and a little more dilapidated — the world around you slowly decomposing as you try to disappear into a virtual one.

“When you have trauma,” Porpentine says, “everything shrinks to this little dark room.” While the immersive glow of a digital screen can offer a temporary balm, “you can’t stay stuck on the things that help you deal with trauma when it’s happening. You have to move on. You have to leave the dark room, or you’ll stay stunted.”

When I first met Porpentine outside a coffee shop in Oakland, Calif., she was wearing a skirt and patterned knee socks, her strawberry blond hair pulled back in a small plastic barrette. We decided to head to a nearby park, and as we walked across the grass, she pivoted on one foot — an instant, unconscious gesture — and did a quick little spin in the sunshine. When we arrived at a park bench, one of the first things we talked about was trash, because her Twine games teem with it: garbage, slime and sludge, pooling and oozing through dystopian landscapes peopled by cyborgs, insectoid empresses and deadly angels. In Howling Dogs, the trash piles up sticky and slow; in other games, like All I Want Is for All of My Friends to Become Insanely Powerful, tar floods the room suddenly from an indistinct source. Forget pretty things, valuable things: Porpentine’s games are far more interested in what society discards as worthless."



"Many people describe a sort of catharsis that they feel when they play Porpentine’s games. There’s a sudden sense of relief that something important but taboo has finally been acknowledged in a game, and perhaps has left them feeling less alone in the process. So many mainstream games are power fantasies, designed to deliver the bliss of limitless violence. Porpentine’s games tend to be poetic meditations on the scars that violence leaves behind, beautiful but claustrophobic landscapes that thrust players into positions of powerlessness and challenge them to work their way out."



"“The amount of people who have access to the engineering education required to be in programming is very, very small,” says Anna Anthropy, a game developer whose book “Rise of the Videogame Zinesters” helped put Twine on the map in 2012. “And even within that, there are a lot of ways that people are filtered out by the culture.” Anthropy has taught Twine workshops to everyone from 9-year-olds to 70-something retirees who had never played a video game in their lives, and she says they picked it up with equal ease. “If you’re someone who hasn’t played a lot of video games and you’re handed this tool where all you need to do is write, maybe you’re just going to write something about you,” she says. “Maybe you’re going to write something about your pet. There’s no reason you have to create something that’s about space marines.”

The beauty of Twine is that you can make games about almost anything. Over the last several years, it has also been used to create a memorial to a dead brother, a cannibal dating simulator, a 50,000-word interactive horror tale about being trapped in a spacecraft with a lethal alien. One of Anthropy’s most moving Twine games, Queers in Love at the End of the World, lasts only 10 seconds. The moment it begins, a timer starts counting down to an unspecified apocalypse; that’s all the time you have to say goodbye to your lover before the world disappears. There’s a poignant desperation in the brief experience that cuts to the heart of grief — the sense that you simply didn’t have enough time with the person you loved. Rather than offering closure, the game leaves you empty and aching by design."
porpentine  games  gaming  interactivefiction  videogames  twine  2014  laurahudson  annaanthropy  suicide  death  margins  if 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Three Uncertain Thoughts, Or, Everything I Know I Learned from Ursula Le Guin | Design Culture Lab
"One.

In her 1969 novel The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K Le Guin writes, “The unknown, [...] the unforetold, the unproven, that is what life is based on. Ignorance is the ground of thought. Unproof is the ground of action . . . [T]he only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next.”

If the only certainty is death, then to deny uncertainty is to deny life.

My work (creative? social science?) is vital not in the sense of being necessary or essential, but energetic, lively, uncertain. In a short 2006 piece in Theory, Culture & Society, Scott Lash argues that the classical concept of vitalism has re-emerged in the face of global complexity and uncertainty, manifesting itself in cultural theory that acknowledges that “the notion of life has always favoured an idea of becoming over one of being, of movement over stasis, of action over structure, of flow and flux.”

In my research I take seriously the idea that what I am seeing, doing and making is emergent; I cannot know how — when, where, for whom or why — it will all end. I can only live with, and through, it. This means I do not want to convince others that I am right. (Have you ever noticed that Le Guin’s stories unfailingly explore ethics and morality without dealing in absolutes?)

I only — as if this were a small thing! — invite you to accompany me for a while, and see what we can become together. This is just — as if this too were a small thing! — one way of knowing the world.

Two.

In a 2014 interview for Smithsonian Magazine, Le Guin explains that the future is where “anything at all can be said to happen without fear of contradiction from a native. [It] is a safe, sterile laboratory for trying out ideas in, a means of thinking about reality, a method.”

My work makes things, and explicitly makes things up, in some near or far future. I practice different worlds.

Fictions and futures give me (you? us?) space to move, and be moved. This is the space of utopia, but not an idealist utopia set against a pessimist dystopia. Fictions and futures are literally no-places: real but not actual, and always vital. I feel as though I thrive in these spaces, both grounded and reaching toward the sky, open to the elements, potential.

But here’s something I’ve learned: I can’t make up anything and expect it to work. The stories need to resonate. And that means they need to be internally coherent and consistent, plausible. So I locate others and myself empirically, ethnographically. I look to the hopes and promises that bind us together, to the threats that rip us apart, and I look to the expectations that constrain and orient us along particular, but not certain, paths.

And then I imagine it (me, you, us) otherwise.

Three.

In her 2007 essay “The Critics, the Monsters, and the Fantasists,” Le Guin clarifies “although the green country of fantasy seems to be entirely the invention of human imaginations, it verges on and partakes of actual realms in which humanity is not lord and master, is not central, is not even important.”

My imagination has sought out this vital, “green country of fantasy” by focussing on possible futures for multispecies, more-than-human, agents. But I’ve yet to be successful in my quest to avoid anthropocentrism. (My dragons remain stubbornly human!)

Still: I follow Donna Haraway’s argument, in 2007’s When Species Meet, that “animals enrich our ignorance.” When I look at people and technology and design and everyday life with — and through — animals I am never more uncertain about what they all mean. To take animals (and other nonhumans) seriously forces me to let go of many preconceptions, even when I fail to imagine a plausible alternative.

But perhaps that uncertainty is only appropriate, too."
annegalloway  2014  ursulaleguin  unknown  uncertainty  unproven  certainty  death  life  scottlash  vitalism  complexity  culture  theory  morality  ethics  absolutism  knowing  unknowing  future  futures  fiction  worldbuilding  process  method  making  speculativefiction  designfiction  ethnography  imagination  utopia  dystopia  potential  fantasy  invention  design  anthropocentrism  multispecies  donnaharaway  ignorance  technology  preconceptions  posthumanism 
october 2014 by robertogreco
We Are All Living Among the Dead
"My father loved high-end stereo equipment. After he died, I kept seeing one of his old radio tuners from the 1980s in my mind. For my whole life, I'd been listening to his broadcasts — but now, when I moved the knob to tune the station frequency, there was nothing. The signal had ended. But I kept trying to tune it anyway, wanting to hear him apologize, or say he loved me, or list the ingredients in what he was cooking for dinner. There is only static, though. Static forever.

I think our fantasies of zombies and ghosts are ways of explaining this feeling, this sense that the dead are still out there broadcasting and walking around. Just because someone has died doesn't mean they don't continue to shape our lives.

Will was an electronics geek and environmentalist, who combined these passions to create a large intentional community in California called Regen Co-op. Many Co-op members worked with Will at the small business he ran, which helps people transition to solar energy and electric cars. Here is a classic moment with Will, doing a how-to about creating a car charging station in Sausalito, CA: [video]

It's thanks to Will that I have an unholy number of solar panels on my roof and a strange assortment of LEDs in pretty much every light socket in my house. At his funeral, which was packed with colleagues and friends and activist co-conspirators, I heard many people talk about how Will would live on — not just in their hearts, but in their electrical wiring and energy systems. Will changed our infrastructure. He is dead, but he is still here, in the power I send back to the grid on sunny days.

But how can we bear to live among the dead? I think this is also a question posed by ghost stories, which are usually full of pain and horror. How do we cope with all the missing people, the fantasies we have of them, when there's work to be done and people still living all around us? I wish the answer were as simple as burning the ghost's bones with a pinch of salt, after hanging out with the Winchester brothers on Supernatural. If only it were as easy to dispatch my sadness as it is to shoot a zombie straight through the eyes.

Sure, there are comforting rituals and the slow erosion of pain with the passage of time. That's not enough. I think the only thing to be done is to admit that the dead live with you forever, and to find some way to make room for them — while still leaving plenty of space for the people who have survived with you. I carry my dad's wallet with me every day, with his old teacher's union card in it. And right now, I am sitting under an LED light that Will installed. These are just small material things, but they represent a lot more than that.

They are my promises to the dead that I will survive, and I will take them with me into the future. I will make their jokes for them; I will cook the recipes they taught me; I will fight to save the Earth alongside their ghosts. This is about keeping up the good fight for all of humanity, but it's also about the little struggles just to stay hopeful after a sad year. So I will take their memories out to see Guardians of the Galaxy, and I'll invite all you survivors to come along too. Those of us who remember the dead are all the dead have left; and that is why we honor them by sticking together, by staying alive together, so that every haunting becomes a possible future.

Hey you, out there — please stay alive with me. There are no zombies to fight. We only have each other."
death  memory  memories  time  immortality  ghosts  2014  annaleenewitz  mourning 
october 2014 by robertogreco
On Being Let Down: iPhone 6 and the Politics of Disappointment — Medium
"And what we see now is, I believe, the opening of another sigh of great disappointment. Religion, drugs, space travel and digital culture: all of it has let us down. All of it left us disappointed.

***

It runs deep.

Capitalism promised great leisure and riches. We have been let down.

Politics promised great change. We have been let down.

Look at the fall-out from the Scottish referendum on independence. Look at the young men going to fight with IS. Look at political apathy and the overriding sense of cynicism. We are living in an age of almost universal disappointment.

In the 1580s Montaigne wrote that ‘to philosophise is to learn how to die.’ He could perhaps have written that it was to learn to deal with disappointment. Death, at its core, presents itself as the fundamental disappointment: after all that, is this it? Dust, rising for such a short while, only to return to dust?

The key question of our time is then this: how can we move beyond disappointment? In Montaigne’s terms, is there life after this death? Once we have faced up to the inevitability of our fall back into the earth, how do we then live? It’s to this question of resurrection — this ‘rising again’ — that Getting High turns as it concludes. The book is something of a memoir too in that this journey through religious, hedonistic, technological and political disappointment — and beyond — is a very personal one.

I don’t want to say too much more here — I’ll save your disappointment for when you read the final version — but suffice to say I believe that there is hope. But before that hope there what I believe we must do is get beyond denial. To accept not just that the iPhone 6 is disappointing, but that every other one will be too, and that all of these devices, all of our contrivances, all of our gadgets, all of our grand schemes and plans, all of it is going to let us down, just as certainly as we will be let down on straps into a hole in the ground some day, just as certainly as we will watch others being let down too.

The Apple is rotten; the promise of omniscience and immortality has turned out to be false. So then, how shall we live?"

[Also posted here: http://www.kesterbrewin.com/2014/09/26/on-being-let-down-iphone-6-and-the-politics-of-disappointment/ ]
kesterbrewin  2014  disappointment  capitalism  latecapitalism  meaning  meaningmaking  consumerism  materialism  hope  montaigne  philosopy  change  politics  religion  purpose  emptiness  iphone  iphone6  death  mortality  omniscience  immortality  micheldemontaigne 
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
An Emphatic Umph: Death and the Afterlife
"The other day, I was spending time with a friend and every time I chuckled, she'd say, That's your brother! That's his laugh! Think about what an insane thing that is to say. I wasn't quite sure I knew what she meant at that juncture but I do know the experience of being possessed by my brother. Usually, I feel it when I'm holding forth. Oh, lord, when I was teaching, I'd be mid-lecture when all I could hear, all I could feel, was my brother spouting — sprouting — up through my mouth, a kind of Ouija board.

My brother lives in Manila, in the Philippines. But he also lives right here — in me, as me, with me, at least a little. My sister is dead and she, too, lives right here — in me, as me, with me. Death, the Philippines, across town, it doesn't matte: our possession of and by other people transcends time and space, transcends body and ego. This can, of course, be to our dismay. I have familial forces working in me that I'd like to dispel. In fact, in order not to be a total asshole of a father — the key word here being total — I have to wrestle, stifle, and muffle the paternal voices that live in me, that live as me, that haunt me all the time.

We live with ghosts. This is not some supernatural thing, some mystical claim. Events are not discrete. When something happens, it doesn't just begin then end. It continues to happen more or less. This is called, amongst other things, memory. Memory is not a card catalog of snapshots. Memory is the presence of the past, here and now. It's my tying my shoe, craving rice noodles for dinner, knowing the way to my son's school. It's also the smell of my childhood house; it's falling into a pile of dog shit at the ever sad PS 165 playground and then my five year old ass being asked to strip for a bath by the Jamaican nanny I could never understand; it's the wide, radiant, true smile of my sister as well as her confused, sad, skinny face days before she died; it's the daily screaming of my parents that still echoes in my skull. It's everything that's ever happened to me and is still happening to me, right here, right now.

We are events, each of us. We continue just as the things that happen to us continue. Sure, they seem done and gone but they — but we — persist in various ways, as echoes and sentiments, as shadows and gestures, as scars and dreams."
danielcoffeen  douglain  death  2014  kierkegaard  ghosts  afterlife  religion  buddhism  meaning  meaningmaking  living  consciousness  williamsburroughs  nietzsche  foucault  jacquesderrida  paulricoeur  pauldeman  marclafia  memory  softarchitecture  lisarobertson  mortality  aubreydegrey  immortality  events  experience  time  memories  writing  transcendence  deleuze  plato  michelfoucault 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Beyond the border: the US's deadly immigration crisis | World | The Guardian
"Texas has become the deadliest state in the US for undocumented immigrants. In 2012, 271 migrants died while crossing through Texas, surpassing Arizona as the nation's most dangerous entry point. The majority of those deaths didn't occur at the Texas-Mexico border but in rural Brooks County, 70 miles north of the Rio Grande, where the US Border Patrol has a checkpoint. To circumvent the checkpoint, migrants must leave the highway and hike through the rugged ranchlands. Hundreds die each year on the trek, most from heat stroke. This four-part series looks at the lives impacted by the humanitarian crisis."
border  borders  us  mexico  texas  centralamerica  death  2014  via:vruba  riogrande  riobravo  brookscounty 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Delaware becomes first state to give executors broad digital assets access | Ars Technica
"Delaware has become the first state in the US to enact a law that ensures families’ rights to access the digital assets of loved ones during incapacitation or after death.
Last week, Gov. Jack Markell signed House Bill (HB) 345, “Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets and Digital Accounts Act,” which gives heirs and executors the same authority to take legal control of a digital account or device, just as they would take control of a physical asset or document.

Earlier this year, the Uniform Law Commission, a non-profit group that lobbies to enact model legislations across all jurisdictions in the United States, adopted its Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (UFADAA). Delaware is the first state to take the UFADAA and turn it into a bona fide law.

While some states, including Idaho and Nevada, have some existing provisions pertaining to limited digital assets for heirs, they are not as broad as the new Delaware law. For now, the state's version of UFADAA only applies to residents of Delaware, one of the smallest states by population and land area. If other states don’t follow suit soon, people creating family trusts could conceivably use this Delaware law to their advantage, even without residing in Delaware. However, even though many tech companies (including Twitter, Facebook, and Google) are incorporated there, they will not be affected by the new law."
delaware  law  legal  digital  death  2014  via:alexismadrigal  legacy 
august 2014 by robertogreco
‘Not Nothing’ Tries to Capture the Artist Ray Johnson - NYTimes.com
"The Siglio book, edited by the poet Elizabeth Zuba, spans most of this history. The first entries, from the mid-1950s, are pure text, blocks of single-space typed prose. Gertrude Stein’s cut-and-paste approach to language is an obvious influence, jazzed up by Johnson’s penchant, verging on compulsion, for associative wordplay and puns.

Even when his work was text-intensive, though, he had an eye alert to shaping it visually. In a second 1950s piece composed of lists of isolated phrases — “Virginia gets tomahawk,” “regards têtes” — he slanted the lists diagonally across the page and turned half the phrases upside down, a graphic that could have been realized only by a radical reimagining of what a typewriter could do.

Johnson had his art heroes — Joseph Cornell, Kurt Schwitters, Allan Kaprow, the Fluxus founder George Maciunas — whom he acknowledged in his correspondence work, placing their names alongside those of pop stars, art world potentates and personal friends. Name-dropping, if that’s what this was, is a recurrent feature of Johnson’s art, but it’s different than Warhol’s celebrity chasing.

Like Warhol, Johnson had an appetite for glamour and the politics of who-knows-who. But he was impatient with hierarchy. Warhol was a worshiper, Johnson a collector, a cataloger. In his work the same plane of importance is occupied by Marcel Duchamp, Anita O’Day and Toby Spiselman, a Long Island friend. It’s hard to imagine Warhol heading up an Anna May Wong fan club, but Johnson did. There’s a sense that for him all names are equivalent in value, are all collage elements, all “nothings,” or rather somethings, equally useful and even soothing in their sameness.

This is not to say that Johnson’s correspondences are embracing and warm. “Every letter I write is not a love letter,” he once wrote, and he wasn’t kidding. Wary distance was Johnson’s default position. When writing to people he didn’t know — Jacques Derrida, say — he could sound jumpy and twisty or haughty. Even in letters to close friends, like the historian William S. Wilson, his most astute biographer, Johnson tended to dance around difficult, intimate subjects.

He would almost certainly have leveled a cool stare at the 21st-century interest — amounting to a faith — in collectivity, collaboration and social practice as utopian models. Mail art, on the surface, looked democratic, nonelitist, even populist; theoretically, anyone could join in. Yet Johnson’s reports from New York Correspondence School meetings speak of members who were summarily banished from the roster for some infraction or other. Johnson himself, in what feels like a punitive spirit, dropped people from his mailing list. Was such policing meant to be tongue-in-cheek, mocking how the real world operated? Impossible to say. Johnson wore ambiguity like a shield.

Occasionally, though, we see him let down his guard, as in a 1975 letter: “I just can’t take it. Overload. My history is too much for me. By the way, the big emotional event of the year is the departure of Richard Lippold with a young Italian.”

For all the zany exuberance surrounding Johnson’s role as mail-art webmaster, there’s a lot of darkness in the book. Death is a running theme, in Johnson’s tight-lipped bulletins on the demise of artists (Albers, Eva Hesse) and weirdly repeated mentions of dead cats. He describes, with gusto, crushing insects in his apartment, and recounts, with bizarre hilarity, the killing of a rooster he witnessed at a boozy art party. His attitude in the telling is beyond irreverence, close to delight.

But was it really? Any conclusions drawn about Johnson’s psychology from his writing must be provisional. He was a master at covering his tracks. Even friends like Mr. Wilson, a frequent presence in his correspondence, felt they barely knew him. He might as well have been the E. T. that he sometimes looked like. We read the correspondences of artists and writers in search of some truth beyond what they give us in their work. But the only sure truth about Johnson is the work: pioneering, stimulating, witty, angry, exasperating and like no other. If there’s a lot we can’t know, that’s O.K. Mystery is part of his beauty and his lastingness."

[See also: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:31e2f33614a6
http://kaleidoscope-press.com/2014/06/readray-johnsons-bookspublished-by-siglio-press/
http://sigliopress.com/book/not-nothing/
http://sigliopress.com/book/the-paper-snake/ ]
rayjohnson  collection  catalogs  lists  namedropping  hollandcotter  104  elizabethzuba  blackmountaincollege  bmc  mailart  art  overload  nothings  happenings  concretepoetry  poetry  writing  letters  fluxus  georgemaciunas  allankaprow  josephcornell  kurtschwitters  hierarchy  horizontality  death  irreverence  newyorkcorrespndenceschool  collectivity  collaboration  socialpracticeart  collectivism  ambiguity  2014  books 
august 2014 by robertogreco
David Foster Wallace's Unfinished Novel - and Life - NYTimes.com
[Quoted here, but never bookmarked. Thanks, Nicole, for resurfacing.
http://robertogreco.tumblr.com/post/6839277872/unfinished-brian-eno-and-konrad-glogowski ]

"Fortunately, one of the human brain’s many tricks is that it automatically finishes unfinished things. This is remedial psychology — Sensation-Perception 101. If we see part of a circle, our mind closes it. If we see part of a word, our mind fills in the mssng lttrs.

Something analogous happens, I think, with unfinished novels: we always end up finishing them with something. We fill in the blanks, unconsciously, with what is closest at hand: the gestalt, the legend, the vibe, the tone, the aesthetic of the author in question. This is, after all, part of what a great author does: he trains us not just to receive his vision but also to extend it — to read the world (its landscapes, people, events, texts) in the peculiar way that he would have read them. He infuses the world, almost like a religion. (After a few Dickens novels, everything starts to look Dickensian.) So it makes sense that we would carry that vision through to an author’s own last work.

This explains an uncanny aspect of unfinished novels: the way their real-life back stories usually seem like something the authors themselves might have written. Max Brod’s famous nonburning of Kafka’s unpublished writing, for example, only reinforces one lesson of the unincinerated work: that the suffering individual is no match for the big bullying system of the world. Similarly, Nabokov’s “Original of Laura” (the blockbuster unfinished novel of 2009) played out like something out of “Pale Fire”: a mysterious manuscript written on index cards, squirreled away from the public for decades, then released with an elaborate apparatus that makes you wonder, slightly, if the editors were actually crazy. The publication of Roberto Bolaño’s “2666” (the blockbuster posthumous novel of 2008) mimicked a Bolaño story: porous and unresolved, with the tantalizing possibility that there’s still more of it secretly out there somewhere, getting ready to leap out at us and unsettle everything. It’s as if an author’s unfinished work is his last and best (or the least improvable) fiction."



"These complications are further complicated by the fact that it’s hard to even talk about how “unfinished” “The Pale King” is. The book is a collation of material that was left in Wallace’s office at the time of his death — 12 polished chapters stacked neatly on his desk, the remaining hundreds of pages scattered through notes and files and disks in various stages of revision. All of which is yet further complicated by the fact that, in his finished work, Wallace always used incompleteness, very consciously, as a narrative tool. (“Infinite Jest” ends nowhere, with a million big questions unresolved.) A truly unfinished Wallace novel, then, is exponentially hard to chart — it’s as if Picasso had accidentally tipped a bucket of blue paint over the corner of one of his blue-period paintings. How do we distinguish between intentional and unintentional blue? What does unfinished unfinishedness look like?"
davidfosterwallace  2011  samanderson  unfinished  thepaleking  cocreation  writing  death  incomplete  unknowing  notknowing  posthumous  novels  books  publishing  vladimirnabokov 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Michael Wesch at Pasadena City College - YouTube
[Questions that burn in the souls of Wesch's students:
Who am I?
What is the meaning of life?
What am I going to do with my life?
Am I going to make it?]

[See also: http://mediatedcultures.net/presentations/learning-as-soul-making/ ]
education  teaching  michaelwesch  identity  cv  soulmaking  spirituality  why  whyweteach  howweteach  learning  unschooling  deschooling  life  purpose  relationships  anthropology  ethnography  canon  meaning  meaningmaking  schooliness  schools  schooling  achievement  bigpicture  counseling  society  seymourpapert  empathy  perspective  assessment  fakingit  presentationofself  burnout  web  internet  wonder  curiosity  ambiguity  controversy  questions  questioning  askingquestions  questionasking  modeling  quests  risk  risktaking  2014  death  vulnerability  connectedness  sharedvulnerability  cars  technology  telecommunications  boxes  robertputnam  community  lievendecauter  capsules  openness  trust  peterwhite  safety  pubictrust  exploration  helicopterparenting  interestedness  ambition  ericagoldson  structure  institutions  organizations  constructionism  patricksuppes  instructionism  adaptivelearning  khanacademy  play  cocreationtesting  challenge  rules  engagement  novelty  simulation  compassion  digitalethnography  classideas  projectideas  collaboration  lcproject  tcsnmy  op 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Discover The Road — Join a Community of People Who Wonder...
"Hi, my name is Kirk Wheeler. Discover the road is about finding a path in the chaos and learning what it means to live an authentic life. You can learn more about my reasons for starting this journey here: The First Step.

I don’t have all of the answers, but I believe that together we can learn how to ask better questions. An ongoing list of ideas on how to do just that can be found at the Rules of the Road."



"Question everything. … Do not let perfect be the enemy of good. … There is no failure, only feedback."



"Question everything. … Make progress. … Embrace the journey."

[See also: https://soundcloud.com/discovertheroad
http://www.discovertheroad.com/podcasts ]

[Listened to this one "On Chaos, Zen, Love and How To Remain Loyal To The Mystery" (several of the tags used for this bookmark are for that specific podcast:
https://soundcloud.com/discovertheroad/episode-10-stuart-davis-on-chaos-zen-love-and-how-to-remain-loyal-to-the-mystery
http://www.discovertheroad.com/podcast/stuart-davis ]
via:ablaze  interviews  creativity  podcasts  life  spirituality  kirkwheeler  impermanence  death  questioning  stuarddavis  meditation  well-being  living  chaos  balance  multitasking  messiness  resilience  presence  sleep  self-knowledge  uncertainty  progress  questioneverything  skepticism  change 
june 2014 by robertogreco
CONFESSIONS OF A FUNERAL DIRECTOR » Tibetan Sky Burial: 36 Photos
"What you are about to see is disturbing. If you are sensitive to violent images, please do not view these photos.

[photos]

Via the always authoritative Wikipedia:

"Sky burial (Tibetan: བྱ་གཏོར་, w bya gtor), lit. “alms for the birds”[1]) is a funerary practice in the Chinese provinces of Tibet, Qinghai, Sichuan andInner Mongolia and in Mongolia proper wherein a human corpse is incised in certain locations and placed on a mountaintop, exposing it to the elements (mahabhuta) and animals – especially predatory birds. The locations of preparation and sky burial are understood in the Vajrayanatraditions as charnel grounds.

The majority of Tibetans and many Mongolians adhere to Vajrayana Buddhism, which teaches the transmigration of spirits. There is no need to preserve the body, as it is now an empty vessel. Birds may eat it or nature may cause it to decompose. The function of the sky burial is simply to dispose of the remains in as generous a way as possible (the source of the practice’s Tibetan name). In much of Tibet and Qinghai, the ground is too hard and rocky to dig a grave, and, due to the scarcity of fuel and timber, sky burials were typically more practical than the traditional Buddhist practice of cremation. In the past, cremation was limited to high lamas and some other dignitaries,[2] but modern technology and difficulties with sky burial have led to its increasing use by commoners.[3]"

[via: http://warrenellis.tumblr.com/post/88407041348/confessions-of-a-funeral-director-tibetan-sky-burial ]
death  tibet  burial  nature  buddhism  mongolia 
june 2014 by robertogreco
The ghost in the machine
"In racing video games, a ghost is a car representing your best score that races with you around the track. This story of a son discovering and racing against his deceased father's ghost car in an Xbox racing game will hit you right in the feels."

[See also: http://jalopnik.com/son-finds-his-late-dads-ghost-in-a-racing-video-game-1609457749 ]

[Update 16 Apr 2016: Now a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCtSgb-b7zg ]
death  ghosts  digitalghosts  kottke  digitaltrails  memory  games  gaming  videogames  xbox  2014 
may 2014 by robertogreco
FASST on Vimeo
"Ezra died the evening of May 24, 2014.
Shot and edited by Sam Newman (samueldnewman.com)
Additional footage by Keef (vimeo.com/madebyhand)
Music: "As I Roved Out" by Sam Amidon (samamidon.com/)
Special appearances by Georges Rouan and Sketchbook Crafts (sketchbookcrafts.com)
For more information, visit fastboycycles.com and teachingcancertocry.com "
ezracaldwell  bikes  biking  life  living  death  craft  film  video  documentary  cancer  2014 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Made by Hand / No 5 The Bike Maker on Vimeo
"A project from bureauofcommongoods.com, Made by Hand is a new short film series celebrating the people who make things by hand—sustainably, locally, and with a love for their craft.

Our fifth film turns to bike maker Ezra Caldwell (Fast Boy Cycles), who was diagnosed with cancer in 2008. When the cancer threatens to shatter his love of bikes, Ezra survives by documenting his illness as thoroughly as his craft."
ezracaldwell  2013  bikes  biking  life  death  illness  living  fastboycycles  making  craft  responsibility  irresponsibility 
may 2014 by robertogreco
In this pet cemetery, the phantoms are all still waiting to please | MinnPost
"Inspecting these epitaphs, you begin to see that people’s relationships with their pets are much different from those with their human relatives. The inscriptions on these headstones seem somehow more personal, more loving, more nakedly yearning and emotional than what you typically see on human headstones. There often are thoughtful and moving elegies on human headstones, but there often is restraint.

Walking through the rows of graves at Memorial Pet Cemetery, you come across outpourings of tender devotion that you never would see expressed so freely with humans: “Faithful.” “Darling.” “Precious.” “Thank you for making us happy.” For a guide dog named Smokey: “Thank you for devoting your life to my welfare and safety.” Something about the relationship with a pet frees people to discuss their love and affection in a more unmediated, expressive way.

Many lingering questions
For all this expressiveness and great love, there also is uncertainty.

There are a lot of “?”s listed as the year of birth, as well as some educated guesses where the specifics weren’t known (“Fall 1959” ventures one). You start to understand how these animals came into their owners’ lives. An impressive many have specific dates of birth, which makes you think either the animals were well-bred, with records and certifications available, or perhaps they were part of the litter of another pet, and the owners marked the specific calendar day. But many of these pets don’t have dates of birth. If Laddie or Buddy or Freckles showed up on your doorstep, you could take them to the vet and make a guess as to their birth date, but it’s otherwise unknown.

The sadder corollary to this is that many graves don’t list dates of death. I come across a grave for Richard and Gaia, born 1955 and 1956 respectively. “Two gallant poodles,” exults the headstone. A photo of the pair is attached, but has faded and cracked into illegibility over the decades. Richard and Gaia’s parents are noted as a colonel and his wife, and immediately, I picture a post-war scene of a military man in full regalia, back from the war, driving a roadster around the suburban streets of Roseville or Richfield or Bloomington, his gallant poodles with their heads out the window, tongues wagging.

But the scene gets sadder when Gaia is considered. Richard died in 1969 at the age of 14 – not bad for a poodle – but we don’t know when Gaia died. Gaia’s date of death is left blank. What happened to Gaia? Is she buried here? Did she outlive the colonel? Did the colonel and his wife bury her elsewhere, or did they forget Gaia entirely? Did they not want to pay for the second engraving? It’s hard to know.

Gaia is not the only pet without a date of death carved into the headstone. There are other phantoms. In my rain-soaked, chill-racked brain, I begin to consider the possibility that, hmm, maybe these pets are still alive, 40 and 50 years old. Maybe they’re a little worse for wear, but still doddering across the den to their food bowls as their masters look on and smile. But I know that’s just denial of the sad fact that pets’ lives are, in human terms, short. If you have a pet as a child, it’s almost guaranteed that the pet will die many, many years before you. Maybe it’s that fleetingness that drives people’s unvarnished affection for these companions in death."
pets  relationships  2014  via:anne  death  epitaphs  companionship  andysturdevant 
may 2014 by robertogreco
porpentine and preservation (with image, tweets) · anarchivist · Storify
"Discussing Porpentine's game "Everything you swallow will one day come up like a stone", preservation, and agency"



"This game will be available for 24 hours and then I am deleting it forever.
You can download it here until then.

What you do with it, whether you distribute, share, or cover it, is up to you.

Suicide is a social problem.

Suicide is a social failure.

This game will live through social means only.

This game will not be around forever because the people you fail will not be around forever.

They are never coming back.

This game’s title:

Everything you swallow will one day come up like a stone

This game’s title when you feel uncomfortable with the topic of suicide and would rather indefinitely forestall your inevitable confrontation with reality:



Anyways, this is dedicated to Sasha Menu Courey & all the others.

CW: Rape, suicide, abuse"
death  games  suicide  porpentine  2014  ephemeral  ephemerality  preservation  legacy  forever  mortality 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Rebecca Giggs – Cherry tree season Japan
"To the credulous outsider, sakura is primarily an aesthetic experience. The blossoms are utterly captivating — as is observing the glee of other people, who pose and gaze amid the trees. The stereotype is as seductive as it is condescending: here is an innocence, we might believe, now lost to Western environmentalists, delighting in the seasons and seasonal change. The enjoyment of sakura is that of being reacquainted with the thrill of meticulous observation. How often does the opportunity to dwell on simply looking at trees present itself to the ordinary urbanite? No one thinks it peculiar in Ueno Park to bend a switch of blossom and inhale its faint perfume.

For hard-headed environmentalists, sakura might be seen as nothing more than the mawkish appreciation of natural beauty. Why talk of these common and decorative trees, when icebergs, polar bears, a dozen small types of amphibian and old-growth forests face the real possibility of extinction, in our lifetime? One might sooner look to ikebana, the Japanese custom of flower-arranging, or even bonsai — trees made miniature with tourniquets and topiary — to garner knowledge about how Japanese people engage with nature. There, at least, we see evidence of an active engagement with natural objects, and an attempt to use botany as a study of environmental relationships. Sakura, on the other hand, seems at once too passive and too sentimental to sustain fruitful analysis.

But to interpret sakura and the conventions of hanami as mere acts of aesthetic indulgence is to miss the full significance of the season. Sakura flowering is brief. To the Japanese people, the cherry-blossom season is properly understood as a contemplation of transience in human life. To celebrate sakura is to mark the fleet-footed passage of time: from the traditions of flower-viewing begun in Japan’s classical history to the embodied time of personal histories and, inevitably, individual mortality. As Motojirō Kajii exclaims in his story ‘Under the Cherry Trees’ (1928):
Dead bodies are buried under the sakura! You have to believe it. Otherwise, you couldn’t possibly explain the beauty of the sakura blossoms. I was restless, lately, because I couldn’t believe in this beauty. But I have now finally understood: dead bodies are buried under the cherry trees.


Beauty, as always, is in step with the death drive. Ultimately, it is this aspect of the sakura tradition that yokes environmental imagination to concepts of deep time, past and future. For, of course, sakura is an acknowledgement that we are each others’ environment; that our communal relationships with each other, with our social pasts and futures, determine how we value the world of trees. Sakura reinforces a set of environmental values in which people — and people’s ethical regard both for one another and for other natural objects — are central. After all, human beings were always ‘natural objects’, despite environmentalism’s focus on wild spaces, creatures and trees. In an age of systemic climate change, the grandeur and mystery of all that we call ‘nature’ is indelibly tinged by human presence. Sakura is founded on an analogous commingling of environmental and cultural information — yet it resists hubris, melancholia or sentimentality.

Leaping from branch to branch in Ueno Park are jungle crows — a heavy, large-billed Asian species of corvid — whose burgeoning population caused Tokyo’s governor in 2009 to call for crow-meat pies to become the city’s special dish. The birds shake down showers of blossom and leave the boughs bare. The season is over. Sakura’s meditations on human transience bond the Japanese people tightly to those future generations whose claim on the experience of cherry trees will be not just seasonal, but perpetual. Behind the beauteous enjoyment of these flowers lies an appreciation of environmental imagination we would do well to recoup."
2014  japan  rebeccagiggs  sakura  hanami  transience  life  death  beauty  cherryblossoms  trees  spring  environmentalism  sustainability  environment  sentimentality  melancholia  hubris  culture 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Demons by Candelight
"I grew up with frequent power outages and load-shedding, especially during the summer time. Dark evenings without power were a special time for children. The candle-lit hours on porches and balconies were a strange mix of an ethereal kind of intimacy, beckoning darkness, and thoughts that retreated from both sunlight and electric lights.

You could do nothing useful during those hours. There was no TV or radio. Reading was difficult. Candle-lit meals tended to be either quick, simple affairs whipped up in semi-darkness, or leftovers. Families who turned the blacked-out evenings into family time generally sat out on the porch. Adults would use the time to tell family stories to children. Teenagers and some couples would stroll up and down the street, occasionally stopping to chat with neighbors. Younger kids would run around squealing and playing, seemingly possessed by the strange euphoria-inducing forces leaking in from another world. Or they would huddle together and try to scare each other with ghost stories.

Even back then, having never experienced cold northern climates, I instinctively knew that the Scottish word fey, born of cold foggy highlands, and which I had only encountered in books, was somehow the right word for the charged pre-Monsoon summer air around me."

***

To a great extent, our existence is framed by the kinds of light that illuminate it. The work/life balance is really a sunlight/electricity balance. Half our waking hours are framed by sunlight, the other half by electric lighting.

If the medium is the message, the message of sunlight is survival and work. Despite emerging lore around hacker all-nighters and owl-work, we are not a nocturnal species, or anywhere close to becoming one. We conduct our affairs in the harsh and unforgiving light of the sun. Sunlight is much too valuable to waste on non-essentials, so it is a light that keeps our mind on practical details. Even apparent leisure activities have a plugged-in-and-present quality to them, with a clearly definable value proposition that can be linked to survival. We save our slow strolls for sunrises and sunsets. Exercise in broad daylight is vigorous and energetic; for health.

The message of electricity-powered evenings on the other hand, is one of active and practical reflection, of learning from our own lives and the lives of others, through television and the Internet in particular. We review our own game-tapes, in solitude or in conversation. We take in and discuss news of distant wars and local traffic accidents, integrating them into the backdrop of our own stories.

Where work leaks into the night, it tends to be the heroic component. Programming or writing sessions driven by the steady energy of flow conditions. Or heavy-lift efforts to conquer piled-up mountains of tax paperwork. The banalities of life — calling customer support, going to the post office, holding meetings — those are for sunlight hours.

But candlelight hours enforced by blackouts are neither sunlit nor electrically lit. Candlelight is a light of disconnection and isolation; of forced intimacy and reflections easily avoided at other times. Of forced sensory presence in the here-now, rather than a sought-out and self-imposed retreat from life.

It is the difference being wanting to learn to swim and being dumped unceremoniously into the deep end. For adults unused to radical disconnection, candlelight can bring forth more lurking horrors than the supernatural imaginings of children.

Such people, unable to handle ascetic slowness for even a couple of hours, buy generators."



"I learned recently that our ancestors did not sleep as we did. Before street-lighting (first oil and gas, then electric) became common in the 1800s, apparently humans tended to sleep in two sessions, eight hours spread across two sessions within a twelve hour period between sunset and sunrise. Between first and second sleep, people apparently lived a third life that was distinct from the work of daylight between dawn and dusk, and the life of evenings until first bed-time.

I suspect the period between first and second sleep was something like what we experience today during blackouts. The link above mentions several interesting things about the period, and references a few books I plan to read."



"Stillness is the third space between spaces of action and reflection. A space that vanishes if life becomes too frictionless and reliably provisioned."



"Stillness is the other side of sacredness, the experience and contemplation of transience, letting go and irreversible loss. The practice of accommodating emptiness. In the presence of the demons who represent the work of our lives that must be done before we are done."



"There is a new kind of stillness creeping back into our lives. The dim glow of smartphone screens is more like candle light than electricity or sunlight. It is a warm bubble of connected hyper-intimacy we carry around with us through both days and evenings.

Sometimes, when I look up from my smartphone and unplug momentarily from Facebook and Twitter, I get the same sense of unreal other-worldliness that I used to get looking out at the urban landscape of a blackout.

Darkness is a relative thing after all. Even the brightest-lit scene seems dark when you become sensitized to what you’re not seeing. Walking about, glancing up from the small screen, I realize that I am surrounded by darkness. People whose lives are opaque to me. Trees I know nothing about until I try to identify them on Wikipedia. Docked ships with invisible stories attached, which I cannot see unless I look up a ship-tracking site. And somewhere in the universe of unexplored information, lurking demons of our digital selves who can wander invisibly even in the brightest sunlight, stewards of debts we did not know we were accumulating.

The demons of our smartphone lights are perhaps more powerful than the demons of candle light. Because until recently, we weren’t even aware they existed.

Now we do. We know they’re out there. We know they represent unrecognized debts to ourselves. More work-of-life items for our to-do lists. And that, I suppose, is what makes the age of the Internet a new kind of enlightenment.

The light of smartphones is a weak one today. It is not always on or all-powerful in relation to the universe of digital information, the way electric lighting is in relation to physical darkness. Using a smartphone feels like using a flashlight during a blackout. I often hop back and forth between offline and online worlds, googling birds and ships I spot, restaurants I walk by. Soon, I suppose, I’ll learn more about people I see through my AR glasses, whenever those become cheap enough for me to buy. Those will perhaps be the electric bulbs of our time, replacing the smartphone candles we stumble about with today.

Much of the darkness being lifted today only reveals a world of new banalities. But hidden among those there are new debts to fill moments of stillness.

When augmented reality finally hits our world in earnest, another layer of darkness will be peeled away. Demons that lurk today in the darkness of smartphone-level connectedness will retreat.

And we will come to cherish newer kinds of unexpected and unscheduled darkness."
death  darkness  light  venkateshrao  2014  candlelight  history  energy  electricity  sleep  community  technology  stillness  blackouts  consciousness  slow 
march 2014 by robertogreco
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