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robertogreco : existence   20

Anderson Cooper 360° on Twitter: “You said “what punishment of gods are not gifts. Do you really believe that?” @andersoncooper, choking back tears, asks Stephen Colbert, as they discuss grief. “Yes,” replies the comedian. “It’s a gift to e
“You said “what punishment of gods are not gifts. Do you really believe that?”

@andersoncooper, choking back tears, asks Stephen Colbert, as they discuss grief.

“Yes,” replies the comedian. “It’s a gift to exist and with existence comes suffering. There’s no escaping that.”

[video]“
andersoncooper  stephencolvert  religion  belief  suffering  catholicism  punishment  2019  existence  buddhism  lifeliving  death 
29 days ago by robertogreco
Teju Cole (@_tejucole) • Fotos y vídeos de Instagram
"Is it he or is it I that experience this?
Is it I then that keep saying there is an hour
Filled with expressible bliss, in which I have
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
No need, am happy, forget need's golden hand,
Am satisfied without solacing majesty,
And if there is an hour there is a day,
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
There is a month, a year, there is a time
In which majesty is a mirror of the self:
I have not but I am and as I am, I am.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
—Wallace Stevens
from "Notes Toward A Supreme Fiction""
wallacestevens  poetry  poems  fiction  tejucole  photography  experience  being  existence  self 
august 2017 by robertogreco
Half-Full of Grace - Los Angeles Review of Books
"“You don’t have to like it. You just have to go,” I tell my five-year-old kid every Sunday when she complains about going to church. Every Sunday, even though she would prefer to stare at my smartphone, I make her go anyway.

Even though my smartphone is extremely wonderful.

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

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

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

Every Sunday, we go.

This is my attempt to explain why.

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

I live in Los Angeles. I am a screenwriter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I do know that I want it to be.

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

Church isn’t an escape from the world. It’s a continuation of it. My family and I don’t go to church to deny the existence of the darkness. We to go to look so hard at the light that our eyes water."
dorothyfortenberry  religion  belief  tradition  ritual  2017  church  catholicism  jamesbaldwin  popefrancisescape  existence  life  living 
june 2017 by robertogreco
John Berger remembered – by Geoff Dyer, Olivia Laing, Ali Smith and Simon McBurney | Books | The Guardian
"Ali Smith

I heard John Berger speaking at the end of 2015 in London at the British Library. Someone in the audience talked about A Seventh Man, his 1975 book about mass migrancy in which he says: “To try to understand the experience of another it is necessary to dismantle the world as seen from one’s own place within it and to reassemble it as seen from his.”

The questioner asked what Berger thought about the huge movement of people across the world. He put his head in his hands and sat and thought; he didn’t say anything at all for what felt like a long time, a thinking space that cancelled any notion of soundbite. When he answered, what he spoke about ostensibly seemed off on a tangent. He said: “I have been thinking about the storyteller’s responsibility to be hospitable.”

As he went on, it became clear how revolutionary, hopeful and astute his thinking was. The act of hospitality, he suggested, is ancient and contemporary and at the core of every story we’ve ever told or listened to about ourselves – deny it, and you deny all human worth. He talked about the art act’s deep relationship with this, and with inclusion. Then he gave us a definition of fascism: one set of human beings believing it has the right to cordon off and decide about another set of human beings.

A few minutes with Berger and a better world, a better outcome, wasn’t fantasy or imaginary, it was impetus – possible, feasible, urgent and clear. It wasn’t that another world was possible; it was that this world, if we looked differently, and responded differently, was differently possible.

His readers are the inheritors, across all the decades of his work, of a legacy that will always reapprehend the possibilities. We inherit his routing of the “power-shit” of everyday corporate hierarchy and consumerism, his determined communality, his ethos of unselfishness in a solipsistic world, his procreative questioning of the given shape of things, his articulate compassion, the relief of that articulacy. We inherit writing that won’t ever stop giving. A reader coming anywhere near his work encounters life-force, thought-force – and the force, too, of the love all through it.

It’s not just hard, it’s impossible, to think about what he’s given us over the years in any past tense. Everything about this great thinker, one of the great art writers, the greatest responders, is vital – and response and responsibility in Berger’s work always make for a fusion of thought and art as a force for the understanding, the seeing more clearly and the making better of the world we’re all citizens of. But John Berger gone? In the dark times, what’ll we do without him? Try to live up to him, to pay what Simone Weil called (as he notes in his essay about her) “creative attention”. The full Weil quote goes: “Love for our neighbour, being made of creative attention, is analogous to genius.”

Berger’s genius is its own fertile continuum – radical, brilliant, gentle, uncompromising – in the paying of an attention that shines with the fierce intelligence, the loving clarity of the visionary he was, is, and always will be.

***

Geoff Dyer

There is a long and distinguished tradition of aspiring writers meeting the writer they most revere only to discover that he or she has feet of clay. Sometimes it doesn’t stop at the feet – it can be legs, chest and head too – so that the disillusionment taints one’s feelings about the work, even about the trade itself. I count it one of my life’s blessings that the first great writer I ever met – the writer I admired above all others – turned out to be an exemplary human being. Nothing that has happened in the 30-odd years since then has diminished my love of the books or of the man who wrote them.

It was 1984. John Berger, who had radically altered and enlarged my ideas of what a book could be, was in London for the publication of And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos. I interviewed him for Marxism Today. He was 58, the age I am now. The interview went well but he seemed relieved when it was over – because, he said, now we could go to a pub and talk properly.

It was the highpoint of my life. My contemporaries had jobs, careers – some even owned houses – but I was in a pub with John Berger. He urged me to send him things I’d written – not the interview, he didn’t care about that, he wanted to read my own stuff. He wrote back enthusiastically. He was always encouraging. A relationship cannot be sustained on the basis of reverence and we soon settled into being friends.

The success and acclaim he enjoyed as a writer allowed him to be free of petty vanities, to concentrate on what he was always so impatient to achieve: relationships of equality. That’s why he was such a willing collaborator – and such a good friend to so many people, from all walks of life, from all over the world. There was no limit to his generosity, to his capacity to give. This did more than keep him young; it combined with a kind of negative pessimism to enable him to withstand the setbacks dished out by history. In an essay on Leopardi he proposed “that we are not living in a world in which it is possible to construct something approaching heaven-on-earth, but, on the contrary, are living in a world whose nature is far closer to that of hell; what difference would this make to any single one of our political or moral choices? We would be obliged to accept the same obligations and participate in the same struggle as we are already engaged in; perhaps even our sense of solidarity with the exploited and suffering would be more single-minded. All that would have changed would be the enormity of our hopes and finally the bitterness of our disappointments.”

While his work was influential and admired, its range – in both subject matter and form – makes it difficult to assess adequately. Ways of Seeing is his equivalent of Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert: a bravura performance that sometimes ends up as a substitute for or distraction from the larger body of work to which it serves as an introduction. In 1969 he put forward Art and Revolution “as the best example I have achieved of what I consider to be the critical method”, but it is in the numerous shorter pieces that he was at his best as a writer on art. (These diverse pieces have been assembled by Tom Overton in Portraits to form a chronological history of art.)

No one has ever matched Berger’s ability to help us look at paintings or photographs “more seeingly”, as Rilke put it in a letter about Cézanne. Think of the essay “Turner and the Barber’s Shop” in which he invites us to consider some of the late paintings in light of things the young boy saw in his dad’s barber shop: “water, froth, steam, gleaming metal, clouded mirrors, white bowls or basins in which soapy liquid is agitated by the barber’s brush and detritus deposited”.

Berger brought immense erudition to his writing but, as with DH Lawrence, everything had to be verified by appeal to his senses. He did not need a university education – he once spoke scathingly of a thinker who, when he wanted to find something out, took down a book from a shelf – but he was reliant, to the end, on his art school discipline of drawing. If he looked long and hard enough at anything it would either yield its secrets or, failing that, enable him to articulate why the withheld mystery constituted its essence. This holds true not just for the writings on art but also the documentary studies (of a country doctor in A Fortunate Man and of migrant labour in A Seventh Man), the novels, the peasant trilogy Into Their Labours, and the numerous books that refuse categorisation. Whatever their form or subject the books are jam-packed with observations so precise and delicate that they double as ideas – and vice versa. “The moment at which a piece of music begins provides a clue to the nature of all art,” he writes in “The Moment of Cubism”. In Here Is Where We Meet he imagines “travelling alone between Kalisz and Kielce a hundred and fifty years ago. Between the two names there would always have been a third – the name of your horse.”

The last time we met was a few days before Christmas 2015, in London. There were five of us: my wife and I, John (then 89), the writer Nella Bielski (in her late 70s) and the painter Yvonne Barlow (91), who had been his girlfriend when they were still teenagers. Jokingly, I asked, “So, what was John like when he was 17?” “He was exactly like he is now,” she replied, as though it were yesterday. “He was always so kind.” All that interested him about his own life, he once wrote, were the things he had in common with other people. He was a brilliant writer and thinker; but it was his lifelong kindness that she emphasised.

The film Walk Me Home which he co- wrote and acted in was, in his opinion, “a balls-up” but in it Berger utters a line that I think of constantly – and quote from memory – now: “When I die I want to be buried in land that no one owns.” In land, that is, that belongs to us all.

***

Olivia Laing

The only time I saw John Berger speak was at the 2015 British Library event. He clambered on to the stage, short, stocky, shy, his extraordinary hewn face topped with snowy curls. After each question he paused for a long time, tugging on his hair and writhing in his seat, physically wrestling with the demands of speech. It struck me then how rare it is to see a writer on stage actually thinking, and how glib and polished most speakers are. For Berger, thought was work, as taxing and rewarding as physical labour, a bringing of something real into the world. You have to strive and sweat; the act is urgent but might also fail.

He talked that evening about the need for hospitality. It was such a Bergerish notion. Hospitality: the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers, a word that … [more]
johnberger  2017  geoffdyer  olivialaing  alismith  simonmcburney  marxism  capitalism  migration  soundbites  hospitality  storytelling  hope  hopefulness  utopia  hierarchy  consumerism  compassion  unselfishness  questioning  skepticism  simoneweil  creativeattention  attention  goldenrule  humanism  encouragement  relationships  friendship  equality  giving  generosity  solidarity  suffering  seeing  noticing  looking  observation  senses  kindness  commonality  belonging  ownership  thinking  howwethink  care  caring  blackpanthers  blackpantherparty  clarity  money  communalism  narrowness  alls  difference  openness  crosspollination  hosting  hosts  guests  strangers  enemies  listening  canon  payingattention  audience  audiencesofone  laughter  resistance  existence  howtolive  living  life  howwelive  refuge  writing  certainty  tenderness 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Russell Davies: The power of stickers
"There's a brilliant Swiss idea called Pumipumpe. It's just a set of stickers depicting the kind of stuff people have in their home. The idea is that you stick stickers on your mailbox in the communal hallway of your block of flats, declaring what things in your flat you're willing to share. It's brilliantly simple, solving splendidly with stickers the kind of thing people are always trying to solve with apps.

Stickers are like Minimum Viable Entities. They're just enough to demonstrate that something exists and is real, but they're lightweight and disposable and attachable in all kinds of places.

Tampon Club describes it as making it look proper. Stickers help with that."
stickers  russelldavies  2015  minimumviableentities  pumpipumpesharing  existence  tangibility  disposability  labeling  labels  tamponclub 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Interview with Sjón | The White Review
"Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Where are you from? And how did you come to write?

A: SJÓN — I was born in Reykjavík in 1962. From the beginning I read everything, from children’s books to newspapers – whatever printed material came into the house. At the age of 8 I discovered Icelandic folk stories, which is when I truly started waking up to literature. A year later, I discovered poetry. In school we were given a big collection of poetry, which was to last us throughout our school years, and I started reading this book for pleasure at home. I was reading detective novels, Icelandic folk stories, and Icelandic romantic poetry from very early on. Early reading teaches you the different possibilities of text.

When I came into my teenage years I became a huge David Bowie fan. To be a David Bowie fan in Iceland you more or less had to teach yourself English – to translate the lyrics, to be able to read the interviews in NME. My infatuation with Bowie prepared me for my discovery of modernist poetry, first in translation. At the age of 15 I found a book of Icelandic modernists from the end of the Second World War. That’s when modernism came to Iceland – and they were very much influenced by the surrealists. Somehow, I was bitten by the bug. It simply fascinated me that you were allowed to use the Icelandic language in this way, to create these incredible images and metaphors, and to present such ideas with the Icelandic language. I felt like I should be a part of it. So I started writing poetry and in a few months time I had written enough poetry for a book. I published my first book of poetry the summer I turned 16.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — You speak of an early interest in the various kinds of text, and your own writing is not easily assimilated into any single textual mode. As a writer, lyricist and poet, you move in and out of these different formats. What do you classify yourself as first and foremost, if anything? How might this resistance to categorisation link in to your interest in surrealism?

A: SJÓN — I’m a novelist who occasionally writes poetry. I write librettos, lyrics and children’s books but these are all collaborations that I do in between working on novels and poetry. One of the wonders of the novel is how easily it absorbs diverse texts. Everything that is written, whether it is non-fiction, old archives, newspaper articles, lullabies – somehow it can always find its place in the novel, and for that reason the novel became more important to me than the poem.

The novel is encyclopaedic: all of the different manners of expressing oneself in words can find their place there. In the Eighties my friends and I formed a group of surrealist poets called Medusa. Surrealism brings so much with it and one of the first things I realised when I became excited by surrealism was its link with folk stories. Surrealism is always non-academic, always looking for the source of human activity, looking into the back alleys and the darkest clearing in the forest for excitement. Somehow it was always very natural for me to bring all these different things together in what I was doing.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Your novels are hybrids – a crossbreed of narrative fiction, historical fact, myth, music…

A: SJÓN — I like my novels to be made up of different parts, realities, states of consciousness. I now see my work as realist because everything I write is grounded in at least the experience of the character, here, in earthly life. The strange things that happen in the books are what happens in people’s minds, what they experience as truth. That of course creates a hybrid, when your standard is something normalised and accepted as the only way to experience reality.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Music is a great part of this assortment – you’ve mentioned Bowie as an influence, and you have collaborated with musicians such as Björk. Do you think that words can achieve the condition of music, which has a much greater immediacy and is far less freighted with multiple meanings?

A: SJÓN — I think it’s very important to be open to influence from diverse artistic forms and forms of expression. I have been very much influenced by music and one of the routes I took to literature was through the music of David Bowie. I have worked with musicians in all fields – contemporary composers, pop artists – and I’ve worked with very diverse styles of music. But there is a huge difference between words being sung, spoken or read. The emotion that the singing voice brings to the world when sung out loud is something you cannot recreate on paper. I don’t think you should even try.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — You have spoken of realising that ‘you could take the classical string quartet as a model for the composition of THE BLUE FOX’. How did you achieve this?

A: SJÓN — I think the fact that I can take the form of the string quartet and use it as the basis of a novel is another proof of how dynamic the novel is. I’m sure that a composer writing a string quartet can learn something from a movie or the structure of film. It was music that gave me the idea of constantly breaking up the narrative. THE BLUE FOX would be a completely different novel if it were chronological. In it, there are constant cliff-hangers and repeated refrains – I’m playing with the element of two melodies that come together but never fully, only in the end finding a solution. It was very interesting that the first people who commented on the book were composers. They said it was very clear to them that I was always playing with volume of information versus text, which is the same thing they do – volume of tones versus time. You can take a melody and stretch it over five minutes, or compress it down to three seconds. They were very much aware of how I was playing with text versus information.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Does your involvement in the world of music, and the musicality of your novels, betray some sort of frustration with the limits of the written word?

A: SJÓN — No. I am in the position where I can move between those different ways of writing. For me, it is a celebration of the many possibilities given to an author. I play no instruments, my only involvement with music is in collaborations with people who know how to do it. It is a privilege to be working with these musicians and to be allowed to bring my words to their work. To hear the words sung is a wonderful present from these people."



"This view actually went against everything that I had been taught in school. The Reformation is presented in Icelandic history books as something very benevolent and it was convenient to ignore that in the first decade after the Reformation life was very difficult for the common man and for scholars. The Methodist church became very dogmatic, and everything that had to do with the old Nordic religion, with old wisdom or old medicine, was banished as sorcery. He is the only historical voice that we have speaking against this. It was an opportunity to put a seed inside somebody’s skull, and take a walk through those times with his eyes."



"The reason that I felt it right to enter this world, this state of complaint against a world going to pieces, is because he lived through the period when the Catholic Church, the only socially responsible institution, was all of a sudden taken away. In Iceland, it is a fact that the Catholic Church was the only welfare structure in the country – we had no king, no dukes, we had no one to take over the social responsibilities when the Catholic Church vanished overnight. All the monasteries were closed down, all the orphanages, the old people’s shelters – everything, overnight. And the duty that the rich had – to keep the livestock alive on behalf of the religious priests who fed the poor – that vanished too.

Jón Guðmundsson is unique in that he is the only one who wrote about this. He bore witness to a world in which man had been relieved of his duty to show charity to his fellow men. This is very much what the last decade has felt like, at least in Iceland, if not many parts of the West. With the deregulation of the economic system, social responsibility was thrown out of the window and all of a sudden the rich became richer and they had no duties any more. This is something that happened with the fall of the Eastern Bloc – the message that we were told then was that capitalism had won and communism was the dark art. The Left lost its voice, at least in Iceland. The centre Left – the social democrats – they decided to start playing along with the capitalists, which is what you would call New Labour here. The real Left was all of a sudden presented as the losers of history, even though these people had been in opposition to the totalitarian regimes in the East for decades. All of a sudden everything that began with the word ‘social’ was a dirty word. The social contract that was established in most of the West after the Second World War, was dealt the final blow."



"In times where grand narratives are needed we look to the grand narratives of our culture. In our case it is the great myths, and sometimes it is to give name to something like the panic after September 11. Myth always puts man down to size, and man realises he is just this tiny figure moving from one meal to another on his way to the grave.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Oral tradition is very much a part of myth. Is this something that can still exist today?

A: SJÓN — You have a whole continent, Africa, which has so many languages that have still not found a written form. There are places that have an unbroken tradition, stretching thousands of years back, of telling the same stories over and over again. Mostly here in the West we have lost the ability to protect our culture orally, and maybe we are in danger. What will happen when all the books have flared up and all the Kindles lost their battery power?

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Literary translation and the rise of world … [more]
sjón  2012  interviews  iceland  poems  poetry  novels  literature  writing  music  björk  reality  collaboration  surrealism  existence  humans  storytelling  davidbowie  mogenrukov  dogme95  life  living  perspective  curiosity  translation  africa  diversity  myths  myth  mythology  charity  catholicism  history  capitalism  economics  society  collectivism  interdependence  individualism  insignificance  folklore  nature  reformation  religion  magic  mysticism  enlightenment  catholicchurch  9/11  oraltradition  ebooks  books  words  coldwar  socialism  communism  jónguðmundsson  sorcery  songs  posthumanism 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Sarah Churchwell: why the humanities matter | Opinion | Times Higher Education
"The renowned scientist E. O. Wilson recently described the humanities as “the natural history of culture, and our most private and precious heritage”. The humanities are the study of what makes us human, of what it means to be human. As they penetrate every aspect of existence, they can, and should, intersect with the natural and social sciences, but literature, history, art, music, languages, theatre, film – and yes, television and computer games – are the stories and ideas through which we express our humanity.

We understand ourselves and our world through the telling of stories. Visual dramas teach us sympathy, empathy, pity, encouraging us to break out of our solipsistic shells. They explore ethical issues, ask challenging questions, inform the way we view each other. Today we live in a culture more defined by images and stories than ever before. Given this, it is vital that we approach the media, advertising and marketing discourses that influence and often manipulate us with critical thinking. We need improved communication skills; no one is born with them, and just chatting with your family and friends does not teach the precision of language needed to negotiate and reframe our complicated world. In a global age, we need to understand other societies. Anyone who has ever studied a foreign language knows that different phrases can prompt new perspectives and open our eyes to cultural values; studying foreign languages also improves mastery of our own. This rule holds by analogy more generally: when we learn about other people, we also learn about ourselves.

The politicians and corporations telling us that the humanities do not matter are, by no coincidence, the same people who think of us only as workers and consumers, not as citizens or individuals, and who strip away our human rights, one by one. It is the wealthy who insist that we should seek only to work: we don’t need the humanities, they tell us, all we need is to labour in a marketplace that will enrich them, not us.

If we agree that the humanities do not matter, or fail to challenge this assessment, we are colluding in the very practices that reduce our humanity, that impinge upon all the other ways in which we can enrich our lives, our abilities to express our creative individuality. Until we reconsider what it means to lead a truly satisfying life, what the ancient Greeks considered the “good life” – who are by no coincidence the people who invented the study of the humanities – we should not be surprised if we have the politicians and plutocrats we deserve. Why should any politician seek to challenge the source of his (rarely her) power?

The humanities conserve and safeguard those aspects of our being that intersect with the meanings of human existence beyond industry. A certain playwright was said to love humanity as a concept but to have less time for human beings. The same can be said of our so-called leaders, whose lofty rhetoric in support of humanity is belied by their contempt for the study of the humanities. That said, as the historian James Truslow Adams wrote some years ago, it is absurd to think that the powerful will abandon their power “to become spiritual leaders of a democracy that despises spiritual things”.

There is a story that may be apocryphal but is illustrative. Supposedly, Richard Dawkins was once visiting an art gallery in Florence, and as he left was heard to ask, “But what’s all this art for?” Regardless of whether Dawkins actually said it, this question articulates a widely held view among the instrumentalists and technocrats who decide our society’s priorities. Last year it was revealed that scientific studies had “proven” that reading made people more empathetic. At last, some book lovers cried, what we always knew has been proven: book lovers are better people! Anyone who has spent time in a literature department might challenge this jolly notion, but I agree with the critic Lee Siegel, who responded by defending his right to love books regardless of whether they “improved” him. Let me answer the question: what’s all this art for? It’s for us.

When we stopped being citizens and began to think of ourselves – or rather, each other – only as consumers, we relinquished thousands of years of human development. How can we sustain our civilisation if we don’t understand how it works? How can we interpret Magna Carta and defend our rights if no one reads Latin? How will we protect our own laws? How can we hope for transcendence in a secular age if we give up on beauty? Even in instrumentalist terms, the humanities represent 5,000 years of free research and development in what it means to be human. I think we should make use of that.

The humanities are where we locate our own lives, our own meanings; they embrace thinking, curiosity, creation, psychology, emotion. The humanities teach us not only what art is for, but what life might be for, what this strange existence might mean. What kind of humans would think that the humanities don’t matter? We need the advanced study of humanities so that we might, some day, become advanced humans."
humanities  2014  sarahchurchwell  eowilson  humanity  culture  literature  art  history  language  languages  stories  storytelling  theater  film  music  socialsciences  videogames  tv  television  humans  capitalism  policy  politics  markets  richarddawkins  technocracy  technocrats  instrumentalists  leesiegel  secularism  thinking  criticalthinking  thewhy  why  existence  existentialism  purpose 
december 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
Buddhist Economics
"(From an article by the economist E.F.Schumacher in Resurgence magazine, 1968)

"The Buddhist point of view takes the function of work to be at least threefold: to give a man a chance to utilize and develop his faculties; to enable him to overcome his ego-centeredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence. Again, the consequences that flow from this view are endless. To organize work in such a manner that it becomes meaningless, boring, stultifying, or nerveracking for the worker would be little short of criminal; it would indicate a greater concern with goods than with people, an evil lack of compassion and a soul-destroying degree of attachment to the most primitive side of this worldly existence. Equally, to strive for leisure as an alternative to work would be considered a complete misunderstanding of one of the basic truths of human existence, namely, that work and leisure are complementary parts of the same living process and cannot be separated without destroying the joy of work and the bliss of leisure.

From the Buddhist point of view, there are therefore two types of mechanization which must be clearly distinguished: one that enhances a man's skill and power and one that turns the work of man over to a mechanical slave. How to tell one from the other? "The craftsman himself", says Ananda Coomaraswamy, a man equally competent to talk about the Modern West as the Ancient East, "the craftsman himself can always, if allowed to, draw the delicate distinction between the machine and the tool. The carpet loom is a tool, a contrivance for holding warp threads at a stretch for the pile to be woven round them by the craftsman's fingers; but the power loom is a machine, and its significance as a destroyer of culture lies in the fact that it does the essentially human part of the work". It is clear, therefore, that Buddhist economics must be very different from the economics of modern materialism, since the Buddhist sees the essence of civilization not in the multiplication of wants but in the purification of human character. Character, at the same time, is formed primarily by a man's work. And work, properly conducted in conditions of human dignity and freedom, blesses those who do it and equally their products. The Indian philospher and economist J.C.Kumarappa sums up the matter as follows:

"If the nature of the work is properly appreciated and applied, it will stand in the same relation to the higher faculties as food is to the physical body. It nourishes and enlivens the higher man and urges him to produce the best he is capable of. It directs his freewill along the proper course and disciplines the animal in him into progressive channels. It furnishes an excellent background for man to display his scale of values and develop his personality.""
efschumacher  buddhism  economics  1968  labor  work  existence  anandacoomaraswamy  craft  jckumarappa  purpose  freewill  leisure  artleisure  leisurearts  meaning  meaningmaking 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Creaturely Poetics
"Simone Weil once wrote that “the vulnerability of precious things is beautiful because vulnerability is a mark of existence,” establishing a relationship between vulnerability, beauty, and existence transcending the separation of species. Her conception of a radical ethics and aesthetics could be characterized as a new poetics of species, forcing a rethinking of the body’s significance, both human and animal. Exploring the “logic of flesh” and the use of the body to mark species identity, Anat Pick reimagines a poetics that begins with the vulnerability of bodies, not the omnipotence of thought. Pick proposes a “creaturely” approach based on the shared embodiedness of humans and animals and a postsecular perspective on human-animal relations. She turns to literature, film, and other cultural texts, challenging the familiar inventory of the human: consciousness, language, morality, and dignity. Reintroducing Weil’s elaboration of such themes as witnessing, commemoration, and collective memory, Pick identifies the animal within all humans, emphasizing the corporeal and its issues of power and freedom. In her poetics of the creaturely, powerlessness is the point at which aesthetic and ethical thinking must begin."
books  animals  animalstudies  via:anne  anatpick  vulnerability  film  literature  toread  poetics  identity  speciesidentity  simoneweil  existence  power  freedom  humans  ethics  aesthetics  powerlessness 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Larry Yang: Buddha is Culture
"None of us can bypass cultural experience. It is part of each human existence and to not be mindful and deeply aware of our cultural characteristics will prevent a deeper experience of interconnection and relatedness, which is critically important to experiencing that which is beyond the ego. We go through our cultural experience; we go through the 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows of this lifetime; we cannot go around them. We go deep into the layers of our experience to see what is beyond it. We cannot simply say that it doesn't exist, or isn't important, or isn't the Dharma. All of it is the Dharma."

[via: https://twitter.com/ThisMoiThisMoi/status/401421436864053248 ]
culture  experience  larryyang  buddhism  dharma  2012  existence  humans  realatedness  ego 
november 2013 by robertogreco
A prayer beneath the Tree of Life - Roger Ebert's Journal
"Many films diminish us. They cheapen us, masturbate our senses, hammer us with shabby thrills, diminish the value of life. Some few films evoke the wonderment of life’s experience, and those I consider a form of prayer. Not prayer “to” anyone or anything, but prayer “about” everyone and everything. I believe prayer that makes requests is pointless. What will be, will be. But I value the kind of prayer when you stand at the edge of the sea, or beneath a tree, or smell a flower, or love someone, or do a good thing. Those prayers validate existence and snatch it away from meaningless routine."

[via: http://blog.frankchimero.com/post/5639441270/many-films-diminish-us-they-cheapen-us ]
terrencemalick  film  prayer  rogerebert  art  culture  media  life  space  nature  existence  meaning  meaningmaking  meaningfulness  2011 
may 2011 by robertogreco
The Soul of Web 2.0 | the human network
"This is the essential starting point for any discussion of what the Web is, what it is becoming, and how it should be presented. The individual, with their needs, their passions, their opinions, their desires and their goals is always paramount. We tend to forget this, or overlook it, or just plain ignore it. We design from a point of view which is about what we have to say, what we want to present, what we expect to communicate. It’s not that that we should ignore these considerations, but they are always secondary. The Web is a ground for being. Individuals do not present themselves as receptacles to be filled. They are souls looking to be fulfilled. This is as true for children as for adults – perhaps more so – and for this reason the educational Web has to be about space and place for being, not merely the presentation of a good-looking set of data."

[via: http://willrichardson.posterous.com/quote-of-the-day-mark-pesce ]
markpesce  sharing  internet  socialnetworking  social  iteration  regulation  contribution  connecting  open  facebook  twitter  web  online  openness  williamgibson  streetuse  design  user-centered  self-directedlearning  communication  existence  edtech 
november 2010 by robertogreco
Viktor Frankl: Why to believe in others | Video on TED.com
"In this rare clip from 1972, legendary psychiatrist and Holocaust-survivor Viktor Frankl delivers a powerful message about the human search for meaning -- and the most important gift we can give others."
psychology  idealism  life  meaning  philosophy  ted  education  tcsnmy  expectation  beliefinothers  optimism  viktorfrankl  humanity  human  existence  1972 
may 2010 by robertogreco
Stanley Kubrick - Wikiquote
"The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death — however mutable man may be able to make them — our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light."
stanleykubrick  universe  darkeness  meaning  fulfillment  indifference  life  humanity  human  quotes  hostility  existence 
december 2009 by robertogreco
Bunchberry & Fern: Learning Styles: fable-ous and tragic
"Here's a post/comment thread on Stephen Downes' blog where he has a lot to say on the subject of Learning Styles - or, more accurately, he criticises Daniel Willingham's 'facile treatment' of the subject on YouTube (and, elsewhere, Making up Facts). Like, Howard Rheingold, Stephen knows a thing or two about crap detection. Here are his own Principles for Evaluating Websites, for example, written in 2005. It's obviously something he's been thinking about a fair bit.*

But even if Stephen Downes is right and Daniel Willingham lying and facile (this is a very big 'if') then, surely, the dozens of Learning Styles Inventories can't all be right. But neither can they all be wrong? A practitioner who ignores all new ideas until they're 'scientifically proven' runs the risk of sabotaging innovation. Who are we to turn to?"
learning  information  learningstyles  cognition  cognitive  rationality  studies  science  existence  communication  stephendownes  howardrheingold  crapdetection  literacy  danielwillingham  education  research  howardgardner 
november 2009 by robertogreco
Our Lives, Controlled From Some Guy’s Couch - New York Times
"if you accept a pretty reasonable assumption of Dr. Bostrom’s, it is almost a mathematical certainty that we are living in someone else’s computer simulation"
computers  future  life  mind  philosophy  religion  singularity  technology  simulations  science  matrix  artificial  virtual  virtuality  theory  evolution  neuroscience  visualization  existence  perception 
august 2007 by robertogreco
Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?
"... at least one of the propositions is true: 1 human species is likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage; 2 any posthuman civilization is unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history 3 we are liv
academia  mind  artificial  simulations  computer  computing  consciousness  theory  technology  philosophy  science  matrix  evolution  neuroscience  visualization  virtuality  singularity  scifi  futurism  existence  religion  perception  debate 
august 2007 by robertogreco
just to get super (22 February 2007, Interconnected)
"abstract with the purpose of existence for a moment, the purpose of existence is this: To occupy time and space. In short, things which don't occupy time or space, aren't."
biology  life  space  time  existence  birds  dinosaurs  mattwebb  2007 
february 2007 by robertogreco

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