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robertogreco : faith   42

This Is How You Kill a Profession - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"Like any addict, I have to be vigilant whenever higher ed calls again. I know what it means to be a member of that cult, to believe in the face of all evidence, to persevere, to serve. I know what it means to take a 50-percent pay cut and move across the country to be allowed back inside the academy as a postdoc after six years in the secular professions. To be grateful to give up a career, to give up economic comfort, in order to once again be a member.

Part of me still wants it. That kind of faith is in my bones, and reason can only bleach it away somewhat. The imprint is still there, faint, hauntingly imprecise, all the more venerable for its openness to dreams. I worked as a college administrator for seven years after that postdoc, because I couldn’t bear to be away from my beloved community even after it had set me aside. Because I couldn’t walk away.

All cults, all abusers, work the same way, taking us away from friends and family, demanding more effort and more sacrifice and more devotion, only to find that we remain the same tantalizing distance from the next promised level. And the sacrifice normalizes itself into more sacrifice, the devotion becomes its own reward, the burn of the hunger as good as the meal. "
herbchildress  academia  labor  work  cults  highereducation  highered  teaching  colleges  universities  health  inequality  tenure  competition  faith  abuse  adjuncts  service  class  precarity  capitalism  hungergames 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Trouble with Knowledge | Shikshantar
"First Main Trouble with Knowledge and Education is Dishonesty

I do believe that one aspect which characterizes education, development and the production and dissemination of knowledge, in today’s world, is the lack of intellectual honesty. This belief is an outcome of reflecting on my experience during my school and university years and my almost 40 years of work. The dishonesty is connected to the values, which govern the thinking and practice in the fields of education, knowledge and development (mirroring the values in dominant societies and serving mainly the lifestyle of consumerism): control, winning, profit, individualism and competition. Having a syllabus and textbooks, and evaluating and judging people (students, teachers, administrators, and academics) through linear forms of authority and through linear symbolic values (such as arbitrary letters or grades or preferential labels), almost guarantee cheating, lack of honesty, and lack of relevance. (The recent reports that cheating and testing are on the rise in the Maryland and Chicago areas are just one example that came up to the surface. And of course teachers, principles and superintendents were blamed and had to pay the price.) I taught many years and put exams both at the level of classrooms and at the national level, and I labored and spent a lot of time and effort in order to be fair. But, then, I discovered that the problem is not in the intentions or the way we conduct things but, rather, in the values that run societies in general and which are propagated by education, development and knowledge -- among other venues. Thus, the main trouble with knowledge and education, is not so much their irrelevance or process of selection or the issue of power (though these are definitely part of the trouble) as it is with the lack of intellectual honesty in these areas. Giving a number or a letter to measure a human being is dishonest and inhuman; it is a degrading to the human mind and to human beings. Grading, in this sense, is degrading. It is one of the biggest abuses of mathematics in its history! Moreover, as long as the above-mentioned values remain as the governing values, education will continue to be fundamentally an obstacle to learning. Under these conditions, talking about improving or reforming education is naïve at best and hypocritical at worst. At most, it would touch a very small percentage of the student population in any particular region. Of course, we can go on putting our heads in the sand and refusing to see or care. But one main concern I will continue to have is what happens to the 80 some pecent of students whom the “compulsory suit” does not fit. Why imposing the same-size suit on all bodies sounds ridiculous but imposing the same curriculum on all minds does not?! The human mind is definitely more diverse that the human body.

Labeling a child as a “failure” is a criminal act against that child. For a child, who has learned so much from life before entering school, to be labeled a failure, just because s/he doesn’t see any sense in the mostly senseless knowledge we offer in most schools, is unfair – to say the least; it is really outrageous. But few of us around the world seem to be outraged, simply because we usually lose our senses in the process of getting educated. We are like those in Hans Christian Anderson’s story that lost their ability to see and had to be reminded by the little child that the emperor is without clothes.

Most people in the educational world (students, teachers, administrators, scholars, suprintendents, …) are dishonest (often without realizing it) either because we are too lazy to reflect on and see the absurdities in what we are doing (and just give to students what we were given in schools and universities, or during training courses and enrichment seminars!), or because we are simply afraid and need to protect ourselves from punishment or from being judged and labeled as inept or failures. This dishonesty prevails at all levels. I had a friend who was working in a prestigious university in the U.S. and who often went as an educational consultant and expert to countries to “improve and develop” their educational systems. Once, when he was on his way to Egypt as a consultant to help in reforming the educational system there, I asked him, “Have you ever been to Egypt?” He said no. I said, “Don’t you find it strange that you don’t know Egypt but you know what is good for it?!” Obviously, the richness, the wisdom and the depth of that 7000-year civilization is totally ignored by him, or more accurately, cannot be comprehended by him. Or, he may simply believe in what Kipling believed in in relation to India: to be ruled by Britain was India’s right; to rule India was Britain’s duty! In a very real sense, that friend of mine does not only abstract the theories he carries along with him everywhere but also abstracts the people by assuming that they all have the same deficits and, thus, the same solution – and that he has the solution.

Let’s take the term “sustainable development,” for example, which is widely used today and it is used in the concept paper for this conference. If we mean by development what we see in “developed” nations, then sustainable development is a nightmare. If we all start consuming, for example, at the rate at which “developed” nations currently do, then (as a friend of mine from Mexico says) we need at least five planets to provide the needed resources and to provide dumping sites for our waste! If “developing” nations consume natural resources (such as water) at the same rate “developed” nations do, such resources would be depleted in few years! Such “development” would be destructive to the soil of the earth and to the soil of cultures, both of which nurture and sustain human beings and human societies. The price would be very high at the level of the environment and at the level of beautiful relationships among people. Thus, those who believe in sustainable development (in its current conception and practice) are either naïve or dishonest or right out indifferent to what happens to nature, to beautiful relationship among people, and to the joyful harmony within human beings and between them and their surroundings. Nature and relationships among human beings are probably the two most precious treasures in life; the most valuable things human beings have. The survival of human and natural diversity (and even of human communities) are at stake here.

We do not detect dishonesty in the fields of education, knowledge and development because usually we are protected (in scools) from having much contact with life, through stressing verbal, symbolic and technical “knowledge,” through avoiding people’s experiences and surroundings, through the means we follow in evaluating people, and through ignoring history (history of people, of ideas, …). The main connection most school textbooks have with life is through the sections that carry the title “applications” – another instance of dishonesty. During the 1970s, for example, and as the head supervisor of math instruction in all the schools of the West Bank (in Palestine), one question I kept asking children was “is 1=1?” 1=1 is true in schoolbooks and on tests but in real life it has uses, abuses and misuses, but no real instances. We abstract apples in textbooks and make them equal but in real life there is no apple which is exactly equal to another apple. The same is true when we say that Newton discovered gravity. Almost every child by the age of one discovers it. (When my grandson, for example, was 15 months old, I was watching him once pick up pieces of cereal and put them in his mouth. Everytime he lost a piece, he would look for it down, never up!) By teaching that Newton discovered gravity, we do not only lie but also fail to clarify Newton’s real contribution. Similarly with teaching that Columbus discovered America …. Everyone of us can give tens of examples on dishonesty in the way we were taught and the way we teach."



"Second Main Trouble with Knowledge and Education: Lack of Connection with the Lives of the Social Majorities in the World"



"Building Learning Societies

From what has been said so far, two main approaches to knowledge and learning can be identified: (1) learning by doing; i.e. by the person being embedded in life, in one’s cultural soil. In this approach, learning is almost synonymous to living, and (2) the formal approach, which usually starts with ready pre-prepared content (usually fragmented into several subjucts, and usually put together in the absence of the two most important “actors” in learning: teachers and students). This approach also embodies tests and grades."



"Finally, I would like to affirm -- as a form of summary -- certain points, and point out to the need of dismantling others:

1. We need to dismantle the claim that learning can only take place in schools.

2. We need to dismantle the practice of separating students from life For at least 12 years) and still claim that learning is taking place.

3. We need to dismantle the assumption/ myth that teachers can teach what they don’t do.

4. We need to dismantle the myth that education can be improved through professionals and experts.

5. We need to dismantle the hegemony of words like education, development, progress, excellence, and rights and reclaim, instead, words like wisdom, faith, generosity, hope, learning, living, happiness, and duties.

6. We need to affirm that the vast mojority of people go to school not to learn but to get a diploma. We need to create diverse environments of learning.

7. We need to affirm our capacity for doing and learning, not for getting degrees.

8. We need to affirm and regain the concept and practice of “learning from the world,” not “about the world.”

9. We need to affirm that people are the real solution, not the obstacle and … [more]
munirfasheh  education  unschooling  schooling  schooliness  deschooling  diplomas  credentials  wisdom  degrees  faith  honesty  generosity  hope  learning  howwelearn  love  loving  lving  happiness  duties  duty  development  progress  excellence  rights  schools  community  learningcommunities  lcproject  openstudioproject  grades  grading  assessment  dishonesty  culture  society  hegemony  knowledge  influence  power  colonization  globalization  yemen  israel  palestine  humanism  governance  government  policy  politics  statism  children  egypt  india  westbank  religion  cordoba  cordova  gaza  freedom  failure  labeling  canon 
12 weeks ago by robertogreco
I'm Nowhere In-between: Why we need 'seriously uncool' criticism in education - Long View on Education
"You know those t-charts that divide approaches to education into the old and the new? Of course you do. And I bet that were we both to take five minutes to reproduce one from memory, we would come up with roughly the same list. All we’d need to do then is choose a side. Or perhaps stake out a position somewhere in the middle, a blend of the two. Nothing too extreme.

Let me show you one from nearly 100 years ago. In 1925, May R. Pringle experimented with ‘the project method’, which we would now call ‘Project Based Learning’.1

[image]

I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about how we need to be critical of the list of ‘the new and modern’ because it’s always backed by a corporate push. But that’s not why progressive educators find the list seductive. The very terms themselves act as a siren call to anyone who wants a more humane education for children: creative, student-centered, open, flexible, collaboration, choice. We are told that these are the qualities that schools kill and that CEOs would kill for.

But here is the problem. What if CEOs started to call for qualities that ran against our progressive values? In a report by The Economist (and sponsored by Google), Emiliana Vega, “chief of the Education Division, Inter- American Development Bank”, describes the kind of skills that he wishes schools would instill:
“In Latin America, socio- emotional skills are a big part of the gap between what employers need and what young people have. For example, tourism companies need people who will smile and be polite to guests, and often graduates just don’t possess those public- facing techniques.”

Think about that for a minute.

But opposing this new ‘skills agenda’ doesn’t mean that I’m a traditionalist or trying to cut a middle ground. My teaching is most certainly not some kind of ‘back to basics’ or mindless self-medicating prescribed by the ‘what works’ gurus.

The ‘what works’ agenda holds it’s own kind of seduction for self-fashioned rationalists in the vein of Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett, who somehow manage to hold onto the Modern faith in science as if most of the 20th century never happened. Geert Lovink sums up that limited critical terrain by looking at the work of Nick Carr, who often criticizes technology because of the effect it has on our cognition:
“Carr and others cleverly exploit the Anglo-American obsession with anything related to the mind, brain and consciousness – mainstream science reporting cannot get enough of it. A thorough economic (let alone Marxist) analysis of Google and the free and open complex is seriously uncool. It seems that the cultural critics will have to sing along with the Daniel Dennetts of this world (loosely gathered on edge.org) in order to communicate their concerns.”

Most of the ‘seriously uncool’ criticism of the project of Modernity has exploded the dichotomies that the destructive myth of ‘rational’ and ‘objective’ scientific ‘progress’ rested on. While we might lament that teachers do not read enough research, we can’t mistake that research for a neutral, apolitical body of knowledge.

Allow me to use a famous study to illustrate my point. Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer’s ‘The Pen Is Mightier than the Keyboard’ (2014) seems to show that writing notes with pen and paper boosts retention and understanding of information compared to typing notes on a computer. In their study, the participants watched TED talks and took notes, completed distractor tasks, and about 30 minutes later answered questions. In one condition, the test was delayed by a week and some participants were allowed to study their notes for 10 minutes before taking the test. The TED talks were intentionally disconnected from any larger project they were learning about.

So rationally and scientifically speaking, we should have students take notes with pen and paper, right?

Yet, the study itself is not neutral with respect to pedagogy since it contains many in-built assumptions about how we should teach: we can say that the pen is mightier than the keyboard under the controlled conditions when students watch a short lecture once, about a topic they are not in the course of studying, when they are not permitted to take the notes home and perform more work with them, and when the assessment of knowledge uses short answer questions divorced from a meaningful purpose or complex project.

Is that how we want to teach? Would a democratic conversation about schools endorse that pedagogy?

In the lab, scientists try to reduce the complexity and heterogeneity in networks – to purify them – so as to create controlled conditions. Subjects and treatments are standardized so they become comparable. Drawing on systems theory, Gert Biesta argues that schools – like all institutions and our social life more broadly – engage in a kind of complexity reduction. We group children into grades and classes, start and end the day at the same time, in order to reduce “the number of available options for action for the elements of a system” which can “make a quick and smooth operation possible”.

Reducing options for action is neither good nor bad in itself, but it is always an issue of politics and power. So, cognitive science is no more a neutral guide than CEOs. As Biesta writes, “The issue, after all is, who has the power to reduce options for action for whom.”

Reliance on only ‘what works’ is a kind of complexity reduction that would eliminate the need for professional judgement. Biesta worries about the “democratic deficit” that results from “the uptake of the idea of evidence-based practice in education”. It’s a conversation stopper, much like relying on CEOs to provide us with the ‘skills of the future’ also raises the issue of a ‘democratic deficit’ and questions about who has power.

I’m not writing this because I feel like what I have to say is completely new, but because I feel like I need to affirm a commitment to the project of critical pedagogy, which does not rest somewhere in the middle of a t-chart. Critical pedagogy embraces hybridity over purification. Our classrooms should emphasize the very heterogeneity in networks in all their variation and glory that experiments – and corporations – seek to eliminate.2

If I’m nowhere in-between, I’m certainly not the first nor alone.

In Teaching to Transgress (1994), bell hooks tells us that “talking about pedagogy, thinking about it critically, is not the intellectual work that most folks think is hip and cool.” Yes, we still need more of that ‘seriously uncool’ critical work if education is to work in the service of freedom. hooks writes, “Ideally, education should be a place where the need for diverse teaching methods and styles would be valued, encouraged, seen as essential to learning.”

There’s lots of reason to think that the social media discussion of education is not a kind of paradise. But as hooks reminds us,
“…learning is a place where paradise can be created. The classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility we have the opportunity to labor for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom.”3
"
benjamindoxtdator  2017  dichotomies  dichotomy  spectrums  projectbasedlearning  bellhooks  criticalpedagogy  education  lcproject  openstudioproject  sfsh  hybridity  purity  teaching  leaning  unschooling  deschooling  progressive  schools  freedom  homogeneity  heterogeneity  mayrpringle  history  modernity  emilianavega  richarddawkins  danieldennett  faith  geertlovink  criticism  criticalthinking  technology  pammueller  danieloppenheimer  tedtalks  democracy  democratic  gertbiesta  systemstheory  diversity  complexity  simplicity  agesegregation  efficiency  politics  power  authority  networks  possibility  nicholascarr 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Walking While Black | Literary Hub
"Within days I noticed that many people on the street seemed apprehensive of me: Some gave me a circumspect glance as they approached, and then crossed the street; others, ahead, would glance behind, register my presence, and then speed up; older white women clutched their bags; young white men nervously greeted me, as if exchanging a salutation for their safety: “What’s up, bro?” On one occasion, less than a month after my arrival, I tried to help a man whose wheelchair was stuck in the middle of a crosswalk; he threatened to shoot me in the face, then asked a white pedestrian for help.

I wasn’t prepared for any of this. I had come from a majority-black country in which no one was wary of me because of my skin color. Now I wasn’t sure who was afraid of me. I was especially unprepared for the cops. They regularly stopped and bullied me, asking questions that took my guilt for granted. I’d never received what many of my African-American friends call “The Talk”: No parents had told me how to behave when I was stopped by the police, how to be as polite and cooperative as possible, no matter what they said or did to me. So I had to cobble together my own rules of engagement. Thicken my Jamaican accent. Quickly mention my college. “Accidentally” pull out my college identification card when asked for my driver’s license.

My survival tactics began well before I left my dorm. I got out of the shower with the police in my head, assembling a cop-proof wardrobe. Light-colored oxford shirt. V-neck sweater. Khaki pants. Chukkas. Sweatshirt or T-shirt with my university insignia. When I walked I regularly had my identity challenged, but I also found ways to assert it. (So I’d dress Ivy League style, but would, later on, add my Jamaican pedigree by wearing Clarks Desert Boots, the footwear of choice of Jamaican street culture.) Yet the all-American sartorial choice of white T-shirt and jeans, which many police officers see as the uniform of black troublemakers, was off-limits to me—at least, if I wanted to have the freedom of movement I desired.

In this city of exuberant streets, walking became a complex and often oppressive negotiation. I would see a white woman walking towards me at night and cross the street to reassure her that she was safe. I would forget something at home but not immediately turn around if someone was behind me, because I discovered that a sudden backtrack could cause alarm. (I had a cardinal rule: Keep a wide perimeter from people who might consider me a danger. If not, danger might visit me.) New Orleans suddenly felt more dangerous than Jamaica. The sidewalk was a minefield, and every hesitation and self-censored compensation reduced my dignity. Despite my best efforts, the streets never felt comfortably safe. Even a simple salutation was suspect.

One night, returning to the house that, eight years after my arrival, I thought I’d earned the right to call my home, I waved to a cop driving by. Moments later, I was against his car in handcuffs. When I later asked him—sheepishly, of course; any other way would have asked for bruises—why he had detained me, he said my greeting had aroused his suspicion. “No one waves to the police,” he explained. When I told friends of his response, it was my behavior, not his, that they saw as absurd. “Now why would you do a dumb thing like that?” said one. “You know better than to make nice with police.”"



"Walking had returned to me a greater set of possibilities. And why walk, if not to create a new set of possibilities? Following serendipity, I added new routes to the mental maps I had made from constant walking in that city from childhood to young adulthood, traced variations on the old pathways. Serendipity, a mentor once told me, is a secular way of speaking of grace; it’s unearned favor. Seen theologically, then, walking is an act of faith. Walking is, after all, interrupted falling. We see, we listen, we speak, and we trust that each step we take won’t be our last, but will lead us into a richer understanding of the self and the world.

In Jamaica, I felt once again as if the only identity that mattered was my own, not the constricted one that others had constructed for me. I strolled into my better self. I said, along with Kierkegaard, “I have walked myself into my best thoughts.”"



"Walking while black restricts the experience of walking, renders inaccessible the classic Romantic experience of walking alone. It forces me to be in constant relationship with others, unable to join the New York flaneurs I had read about and hoped to join. Instead of meandering aimlessly in the footsteps of Whitman, Melville, Kazin, and Vivian Gornick, more often, I felt that I was tiptoeing in Baldwin’s—the Baldwin who wrote, way back in 1960, “Rare, indeed, is the Harlem citizen, from the most circumspect church member to the most shiftless adolescent, who does not have a long tale to tell of police incompetence, injustice, or brutality. I myself have witnessed and endured it more than once.”

Walking as a black man has made me feel simultaneously more removed from the city, in my awareness that I am perceived as suspect, and more closely connected to it, in the full attentiveness demanded by my vigilance. It has made me walk more purposefully in the city, becoming part of its flow, rather than observing, standing apart.

* * * *

But it also means that I’m still trying to arrive in a city that isn’t quite mine. One definition of home is that it’s somewhere we can most be ourselves. And when are we more ourselves but when walking, that natural state in which we repeat one of the first actions we learned? Walking—the simple, monotonous act of placing one foot before the other to prevent falling—turns out not to be so simple if you’re black. Walking alone has been anything but monotonous for me; monotony is a luxury.

A foot leaves, a foot lands, and our longing gives it momentum from rest to rest. We long to look, to think, to talk, to get away. But more than anything else, we long to be free. We want the freedom and pleasure of walking without fear—without others’ fear—wherever we choose. I’ve lived in New York City for almost a decade and have not stopped walking its fascinating streets. And I have not stopped longing to find the solace that I found as a kid on the streets of Kingston. Much as coming to know New York City’s streets has made it closer to home to me, the city also withholds itself from me via those very streets. I walk them, alternately invisible and too prominent. So I walk caught between memory and forgetting, between memory and forgiveness."
garnettecadogan  racism  blackness  race  walking  nyc  neworleans  nola  serendipity  anonymity  fear  judgement  fatswaller  waltwhitman  kingston  jamaica  us  via:ayjay  racialprofiling  police  lawenforcement  possibility  possibilities  grace  favor  faith  hermanmelville  alfredkazin  elizabethhardwick  janejacobs  memory  forgiveness  forgetting  freedom 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Ivan Illich, "Philosophy... Artifacts... Friendship"
"Architects drafted on paper or modeled in clay, not on a screen. True, in the time of Ford's Model A, when Thérèse of Lisieux was canonized, and I was born, the instrumental artifact moved toward its apogee; it was becoming increasingly dominant in the sensual environment. But technology was still conceived as a tool for the achievement of a telos, a final cause set by its user, not as milieu. Technology had not yet redefined homo from tool-user to co-evolved product of engineering. The nature of the object was not a quandary; it was something more or less what it had been for generations. This is no longer so. The old rules for the discernment of good from evil spirits must be complemented by new rules for the distinction of things from zombies, and objects from pictures. Temperance, what the Cappadocians call nepsis, must now guard the heart, not only from real things like sweet skin and weighty bullion, but also guide one to the sound recognition of the allurements of mere images and so-called needs....

In my own pilgrimage, I engage philosophy as ancilla: on the one hand, to resist - how should I call it? - algorithmic reductionism and, on the other, to dispel the illusion that power or organization can ever enhance the practice of charity. This double conceptual shield against loving misplaced concreta, and belief in benevolent management inevitably implies the rejection of those genetic axioms from which the topology of technological thinking arises. This topology is well protected, if not hidden, by a self-image meant to give comfort to life beyond virtue and the good. The aim to make life always better has crippled the search for the appropriate, proportionate, harmonious or simply good life - hopes easily written off as simplistic or irresponsible. Only sober, unsentimental, vernacular rhetoric can possibly demonstrate the incompatibility of mathematical modeling or systems management with the quest for faith and love. The typical artifacts of our decade are at once more intimately and deviously connected to the understanding of revealed truth than hearth or arms or mill, the res agricola, res bellica, and scientia mechanica of earlier times....

In my seminars, I have seen many a student look up from the exegesis of a passage by Aelred of Rivaulx, Héloïse, or Hugh of St. Victor, and search for a correspondence in his or her own twenty-two year-old heart, and recognize what the notions related to process, field, feedback, loop, and context sensitivity have done to their grasp. At such moments of disciplined alienation, it is then possible to foster the insight that it is almost impossible for an inhabitant of "the system" to desire an I-Thou relationship like that cultivated in Talmudic or monastic communities. Following such an awakening and finding themselves at a loss to recapture this past experience, a thirst is incited....

In the study of theology, ecclesiology was my preferred subject; and, within this discipline, liturgy. Liturgy, like ecclesiology, is concerned with sociogenesis. It inquires into the continued embodiment of the Word through rituals. Necessarily, these rituals often center on objects like tables, tombs and chalices. So, my interest in these so-called sacra led me to the theory of instrumentally used objects. I pursued the nature of the artifact in the belief that understanding would deepen my insight into virtue in our epoch, especially the virtue of charity. Therefore, the love of friendship, philia, as practicable under the social and symbolic conditions engendered by modern artifacts, has been the constant subject of my teaching. For me, finally, philosophy is the ancilla amicitiae."
sensorium  ivanillich  1996  via:ayjay  technology  objects  artificat  charity  friendship  organization  power  goodness  enough  well-being  theology  ecclesiology  liturgy  sociogenesis  systemsmanagement  management  faith  love  temperance 
july 2015 by robertogreco
The New York Times > Magazine > In the Magazine: Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush
"In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''"

[Ron Suskind, the writer, is quoting of Karl Rove.]

[via Adam Greenfield's newsletter 01 July 2015]
ronsuskind  reality  georgewbush  karlrove  2004  2002  empires  us  imperialism  via:adamgreenfield  faith  certainty 
july 2015 by robertogreco
more on the "Californian ideology" - Text Patterns - The New Atlantis
"A brief follow-up to a recent post [http://text-patterns.thenewatlantis.com/2015/05/pynchon-and-californian-ideology.html ] ... Here's an interesting article by Samuel Loncar called "The Vibrant Religious Life of Silicon Valley, and Why It’s Killing the Economy." [http://marginalia.lareviewofbooks.org/the-vibrant-religious-life-of-silicon-valley-and-why-its-killing-the-economy-by-samuel-loncar/ ] A key passage:
The “religion of technology” is not itself new. The late historian David Noble, in his book by that title, traced its origins in a particular strain of Christianity which saw technology as means of reversing the effects of the Fall. What is new, and perhaps alarming, is that the most influential sector of the economy is awash in this sea of faith, and that its ethos in Silicon Valley is particularly unfriendly to human life as the middle classes know it. The general optimism about divinization in Silicon Valley motivates a widespread (though by no means universal) disregard for, and even hostility toward, material culture: you know, things like bodies (which Silva calls “skin bags”) and jobs which involve them.

The very fact that Silicon Valley has incubated this new religious culture unbeknownst to most of the outside world suggests how insulated it is. On the one hand, five minutes spent listening to the CEO of Google or some other tech giant will show you how differently people in Silicon Valley think from the rest of the country — listen carefully and you realize most of them simply assume there will be massive unemployment in the coming decades — and how unselfconscious most are of their differences. On the other hand, listen to mainstream East Coast journalists and intellectuals, and you would think a kind of ho-hum secularism, completely disinterested in becoming gods, is still the uncontested norm among modern elites.

If religion makes a comeback, but this is the religion that comes back....

More on this later, but for now just one brief note about bodies as "skin bags": in the opening scene of Mad Max: Fury Road, Max is captured and branded and used to provide blood transfusions to an ill War Boy named Nux. Nux calls Max "my blood bag." Hey, it's only a body."
alanjacobs  californianideology  samuelloncar  2015  davidnoble  christianity  siliconvalley  technology  technosolutionism  faith  economics 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Two sentences that perfectly capture what it means to be privileged in America today - Vox
"Giridharadas's point is particularly salient now, as Robert Putnam's book about the growing fissure between upper- and lower-class America is a hot topic in political circles. Toward the end of his talk (around the 16-minute mark), he hammers home the point that there are two Americas, and that many people who reside firmly in the more privileged version don't even realize it.

"Don't console yourself that you are the 99 percent," he says. "If you live near a Whole Foods; if no one in your family serves in the military; if you are paid by the year, not the hour; if most people you know finished college; if no one you know uses meth; if you married once and remain married; if you're not one of 65 million Americans with a criminal record — if any or all of these things describe you, then accept the possibility that actually, you may not know what's going on, and you may be part of the problem."

Harsh as that sounds, Giridharadas gets at an important point that Putnam also echoed in a recent interview with Vox: as the highest and lowest incomes in the US move further apart, well-off and low-income Americans also know less and less about each other and what it truly means to be from another social class. Indeed, only 1 percent of Americans consider themselves upper-class. As economic segregation grows, it plays a part in keeping people from climbing up the social ladder."

[YouTube link for Anand Giridharadas's talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8i-pNVj5KMw ]

[Response from Connor Kilpatrick:
“Let Them Eat Privilege: Focusing on privilege diverts attention away from the real villains.”
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/04/1-99-percent-class-inequality/

"By forcing the middle class to divert their attention downward (and within) instead of at the real power players above, Vox and Giridharadas are playing into the Right’s hands. It’s an attempt to shame the middle class — those with some wealth but, relative to the top one or one-tenth of one percent, mere crumbs — to make them shut up about the rich and super rich and, instead, look at those below as a reminder that it could all be much worse.

[…]

Even when the income of the one percent (mostly the bottom half of that select group) is derived primarily from high salaries (as opposed to returns on investment) it’s far more likely to be reinvested in shares, bonds, and real estate — and of course elite educations and other opportunities for their children — than the income of the middle 40 percent, who have hardly anything left once the bills are paid.

That means that even with nothing more than a killer W-2, the salaried lower half of the one percent still have the means to consolidate themselves as an elite class while the rest of us are immiserated.

When a cut in capital gains taxes is paid for by hiking state tuition and slashing social services, the one percent benefits while the vast majority of the 99 percent loses. When a new law is passed making it harder to organize a union or wages are squeezed to ring out higher and higher corporate profits, it’s the one percent — and their investment portfolios — that benefits and the majority of the 99 percent who loses.

It’s real winners and losers — not a state of mind and not a “culture.” And it works like this:

[chart]

What’s bad for you economically is probably good for them. That’s why the rest of us will have to come in conflict with this tiny elite and its institutions if we’re going win a more just and egalitarian future for ourselves.

By substituting class relations for an arbitrary list of “privileges,” Vox is attempting to paint a picture of an immiserated America with no villain. It’s an America without a ruling class that directly and materially benefits from everyone else’s hard times. And this omission isn’t just incorrect — it robs us of any meaningful oppositional politics that could change it all.

It’s a conclusion that, despite Vox’s endorsement, plays into conservatives’ hands. Like the journalist Robert Fitch once wrote, it is the aim of the Right “to restrict the scope of class conflict — to bring it down to as low a level as possible. The smaller and more local the political unit, the easier it is to run it oligarchically.”

So why turn inward? Why argue over who’s got the sweeter deal and how we’re all responsible for the gross inequity of society when it’s not that much more than a tiny sliver of millionaires and billionaires at Davos sipping wine and rubbing shoulders with politicians?

Let’s try worrying more about knowing thy enemy — and building solidarity from that recognition. “Check your privilege?” Sure. But for once, let’s try checking it against the average hedge fund manager instead of a random Whole Foods shopper."]
anandgiridharadas  inequality  privilege  2015  race  military  employment  work  labor  drugs  addiction  poverty  education  marriage  class  robertputnam  politics  secondchances  religion  islam  mercy  forgiveness  grace  us  humanism  segregation  lifeexpectancy  healthcare  faith  civics  law  legal  capitalpunishment  deathpenalty  raisuddinbhuiyan  markstroman  connorkilpatrick 
april 2015 by robertogreco
True Myth: A Conversation With Sufjan Stevens | Pitchfork
"Pitchfork: That’s a very Zen outlook.

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



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

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

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

Pitchfork: How so?

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At worst, these songs probably seem really indulgent. At their best, they should act as a testament to an experience that's universal: Everyone suffers; life is pain; and death is the final punctuation at the end of that sentence, so deal with it. I really think you can manage pain and suffering by living in fullness and being true to yourself and all those seemingly vapid platitudes."
sufjanstevens  music  belief  christianity  religion  2015  via:nicolefenton  faith 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Sjón & Hari Kunzru — Work in Progress — Medium
[video: https://vimeo.com/72354976 ]
[Björk introduction: http://www.fsgworkinprogress.com/2013/08/bjork-introduces-sjon/
more: http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2013/05/16/sjon-bjork-and-the-furry-trout/ ]

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hari: Precarious."



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

It’s amazing how unaffected we are by these wonderful amazing things. We just continue. That’s one of the ways of overturning cosmologies: just keep brushing your teeth no matter how they say the universe was made."
sjón  iceland  harikunzru  2013  interviews  literature  poetry  davidbowie  surrealism  writing  escapism  punk  reality  björk  fantasy  fiction  nature  myth  mythology  trickster  greekmyths  obsessions  ideas  cosmologies  perspective  science  learning  unlearning  relearning  collaboration  translation  howwewrite  language  icelandic  loki  faith  belief  anthropology  hunting  geology  animals  folklore  folktales  precarity  life  living  myths 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Junot Diaz - Art, Race and Capitalism - YouTube
"Despite what we think, we're more isolated and atomized than ever before. […] The fact is that most poor people are more segregated and isolated than they've ever been. […] There's something really bewildering about the fact that we feel so rhizomatically interconnected to people, but we've never been more isolated. Classes no longer come into contact with each other in any way that's meaningful. I look at my mom and people are like “oh, she's that old generation.” My mom had more interclass contact than the average person has today. Because these great barriers — what we would call the networked society in which we live — hadn't been put into place yet. Think about how much public space my mother inhabited where she was going to encounter people from different cultures and different classes every day. There's almost no public space left at all. And any public space that we have is so patrolled and under so much surveillance and has been schematized and culturalized in certain ways that we're not really coming into contact with anyone who isn't like us. […] You basically encounter people in your network. So that if you are of a certain class, that's who you're encountering in the village. If you come from a certain educational background or from a certain privilege, that's who you're encountering in Williamsburg, these quote-unquote diverse spaces."

[via: http://botpoet.tumblr.com/post/103750710570/you-gotta-remember-and-im-sure-you-do-the

quoting these lines: “You gotta remember, and I’m sure you do, the forces that are arrayed against anyone trying to alter this sort of hammerlock on the human imagination. There are trillions of dollars out there demotivating people from imagining that a better tomorrow is possible. Utopian impulses and utopian horizons have been completely disfigured and everybody now is fluent in dystopia, you know. My young people’s vocabulary… their fluency is in dystopic futures. When young people think about the future, they don’t think about a better tomorrow, they think about horrors and end of the worlds and things or worse. Well, do you really think the lack of utopic imagination doesn’t play into demotivating people from imagining a transformation in the society?”]
junotdíaz  capitalism  race  class  segregation  dystopia  utopia  hope  faith  humans  2013  humanism  writing  literature  immigration  life  living  classism  activism  ows  occupywallstreet  punk  hiphop  compassion  identity  failure  guilt  imperfection  politics  self  work  labor  courage  howtobehuman  forgiveness  future  oppression  privilege  society  change  changemaking  futures  schools  education  business  funding  policy  resistance  subversion  radicalpedagogy  burnout  teaching  howweteach  systemschange  survival  self-care  masculinity  therapy  cultureofcare  neolithic  optimism  inventingthefuture  humanconstructs  civilization  evolution  networkedsociety  transcontextualism  paradigmshifts  transcontextualization 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Paris Review - The Art of Fiction No. 198, Marilynne Robinson
"ROBINSON
I don’t like categories like religious and not religious. As soon as religion draws a line around itself it becomes falsified. It seems to me that anything that is written compassionately and perceptively probably satisfies every definition of religious whether a writer intends it to be religious or not."



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

INTERVIEWER
How does science fit into this framework?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

INTERVIEWER
Did you ever have a religious awakening?

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

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

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



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

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



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

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

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



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



"ROBINSON
Faith always sounds like an act of will. Frankly, I don’t know what faith in God means. For me, the experience is much more a sense of God. Nothing could be more miraculous than the fact that we have a consciousness that makes the world intelligible to us and are moved by what is beautiful."
marilynnerobinson  religion  sarahfay  2008  science  structure  atheism  belief  christianity  richarddawkins  newatheists  ordinary  everyday  perception  vision  seeing  noticing  observing  dignity  grace  faith  standards  mindchanging  openmindedness  thinking  writing  howwewrite  humanism  interviews  beauty  ordinariness  mindchanges 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Some thoughts on faith, pain, anger, communalism, and the Juice. (with tweets) · sahelidatta · Storify
"As a person who believes in God and values my faith, it greatly pains me how much identification with faith seems to enable communal violence and hatred rather decrease it, and seems *not* to inspire the kind of compassion, humility, and love I expect. Some thoughts, spontaneously tweeted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

In case anyone is interested, my beloved late mother's beloved Gurudev was Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Maharaj, a disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, and a celebrated monk, scholar, poet, preacher and teacher in the Gaudiya Vaishnav line of Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu which is my faith of choice, both as my family inheritance and my own frequently and deliberately renewed choice. His book Loving Search for the Lost Servant is very important to me and the source of those quotes. "
sahelidatta  2014  storify  twitter  faith  pain  anger  communalism  juice  belief  compassion  affection  humility  wonder  service  religion  god  hatred  hate  willpower  goodness  atheism  respect  love 
july 2014 by robertogreco
BOMB Magazine — Teju Cole by Aleksandar Hemon
"TC Thank you. Halfway through writing Open City, I thought to myself that I should learn some of New York history “properly.” So I bought a stack of worthy books and started to read them. But, you know what? Doing that offended the sense of drift I relied on for my novel. The books were too systematic, too knowledgeable. So I just went back to my previous method: relying on the things I already knew, walking around aimlessly, and filling in facts and figures later as needed. The thing had to breathe, it had to drift, and it had to pretend not to know where it was going. (A dancer in mid-dance can’t think too much about her legs.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

What do I believe in? Imagination, gardens, science, poetry, love, and a variety of non-violent consolations. I suspect that in aggregate all this isn’t enough, but it’s where I am for now.
tejucole  aleksanderhemon  2014  interviews  memory  notetaking  cities  wandering  howwewrite  writing  language  poetry  representation  truth  prose  seamusheaney  sharonolds  charlessimic  annecarson  georgeseferis  wisławaszymborska  michaelondaatje  charlestranströmer  twitter  blogs  blogging  photography  religion  belief  socialmedia  fiction  literature  narration  faith  climatechange  transcendence  sashahemon  everydayisforthethief 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Education Rethink @edrethink: Lost and Found
"I lost my faith.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know that some would say that I'm not a "real" Christian anymore (what with my doubt about Hell and my belief in universal grace). However, grace is the only thing that makes sense. Redemption is the only story that works. I may not be a "real" Christian anymore, but I don't care. I'm banking on the hope that God is crazy about us and wants to spend forever with us. If that makes me a heretic, I'm okay with that."
johnspencer  religion  faith  belief  evolution  2014  christianity  christians  freedom  jesus  atheism  agnosticism 
march 2014 by robertogreco
A Formula for Happiness - NYTimes.com
"Social scientists have caught the butterfly. After 40 years of research, they attribute happiness to three major sources: genes, events and values. Armed with this knowledge and a few simple rules, we can improve our lives and the lives of those around us. We can even construct a system that fulfills our founders’ promises and empowers all Americans to pursue happiness."



"So don’t bet your well-being on big one-off events. The big brass ring is not the secret to lasting happiness.

To review: About half of happiness is genetically determined. Up to an additional 40 percent comes from the things that have occurred in our recent past — but that won’t last very long.

That leaves just about 12 percent. That might not sound like much, but the good news is that we can bring that 12 percent under our control. It turns out that choosing to pursue four basic values of faith, family, community and work is the surest path to happiness, given that a certain percentage is genetic and not under our control in any way.

The first three are fairly uncontroversial. Empirical evidence that faith, family and friendships increase happiness and meaning is hardly shocking. Few dying patients regret overinvesting in rich family lives, community ties and spiritual journeys.

Work, though, seems less intuitive. Popular culture insists our jobs are drudgery, and one survey recently made headlines by reporting that fewer than a third of American workers felt engaged; that is praised, encouraged, cared for and several other gauges seemingly aimed at measuring how transcendently fulfilled one is at work."



"Along the way, I learned that rewarding work is unbelievably important, and this is emphatically not about money. That’s what research suggests as well. Economists find that money makes truly poor people happier insofar as it relieves pressure from everyday life — getting enough to eat, having a place to live, taking your kid to the doctor. But scholars like the Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman have found that once people reach a little beyond the average middle-class income level, even big financial gains don’t yield much, if any, increases in happiness.

So relieving poverty brings big happiness, but income, per se, does not. Even after accounting for government transfers that support personal finances, unemployment proves catastrophic for happiness. Abstracted from money, joblessness seems to increase the rates of divorce and suicide, and the severity of disease.

And according to the General Social Survey, nearly three-quarters of Americans wouldn’t quit their jobs even if a financial windfall enabled them to live in luxury for the rest of their lives. Those with the least education, the lowest incomes and the least prestigious jobs were actually most likely to say they would keep working, while elites were more likely to say they would take the money and run. We would do well to remember this before scoffing at “dead-end jobs.”

Assemble these clues and your brain will conclude what your heart already knew: Work can bring happiness by marrying our passions to our skills, empowering us to create value in our lives and in the lives of others. Franklin D. Roosevelt had it right: “Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.”

In other words, the secret to happiness through work is earned success.

This is not conjecture; it is driven by the data. Americans who feel they are successful at work are twice as likely to say they are very happy overall as people who don’t feel that way. And these differences persist after controlling for income and other demographics.

You can measure your earned success in any currency you choose. You can count it in dollars, sure — or in kids taught to read, habitats protected or souls saved. When I taught graduate students, I noticed that social entrepreneurs who pursued nonprofit careers were some of my happiest graduates. They made less money than many of their classmates, but were no less certain that they were earning their success. They defined that success in nonmonetary terms and delighted in it.

If you can discern your own project and discover the true currency you value, you’ll be earning your success. You will have found the secret to happiness through your work."
happiness  work  2013  arthurbrooks  income  money  success  life  living  purpose  genetics  values  faith  family  community  unemployment  mentalhealth  via:lukeneff 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Messages The City Wants Us To Hear – The New Inquiry
"Some excerpts from Timothy “Speed” Levitch’s Speedology (2002)

1. The Fastest Way to Adventure is to Stand Still

Boredom is an illusion. Boredom is the continuous state of not noticing that the unexpected is constantly arriving while the anticipated is never showing up. Boredom is anti-cruise propaganda.

2. The City as Autobiography

We are not visitors, tourists, nor inhabitants of New York City; we are New York City. The city is our moving self-portrait and a living art installation carved out on an island of rock, even the cracks of the sidewalk are crying out on the topic of our lives. The city is a profound opportunity to understand ourselves.

3. This is No Time for Historical Accuracy

Nothing I say can possibly be defended. I am not interested in being right or wrong; my priority is to be joyous.

As a tour guide, I approach history the same way Charlie Parker would approach a jazz standard. I am not here to recapitulate the notes exactly as they were composed but to find myself within the notes and collaborate with what has been before me to chase after everything I could ever be. My study of history is mostly an attempt to impress women.

4. Fear is Joy Paralyzed

Society— the greatest self-hatred the earth has ever witnessed— is a mediocre improv comedy piece we’re all living despite ourselves, one that would be impossible without fear effectively taking on ingenious disguises throughout the adventure of each and every day […] We do not have agendas, agendas have us.

5. Gregariousness is Great

New York City is a summoning of souls and a tribal ceremony of collected ancient agonies and conflicts brought to a new landscape for healing. A New Yorker is someone who runs wild with healing.

6. The Soul is the Only Landmark

Salvation is seeing everything as it already is.

7. Being Alive is Sexy

The world is an involuntary orgy.

8. What is Created is Destroyed

Many decry the destruction of Pennsylvania Station, the great beaux arts railroad terminal that was knocked down and replaced by the fourth Madison Square Garden. They ask, “If the city is a great teacher, why would it destroy a great building and put a lousy one in its place?” the answer: Pennsylvania station was too beautiful. The anecdote may be a catastrophe from a preservationist’s point of view, but it is a masterpiece from a dramatist’s. It’s just the way Tennessee Williams would have written it. Many will then ask, “Why is the city issuing forth these dramas?” The answer: the city wants to entertain us.

9. The Most Significant Thing About Suffering is That We’re All Doing It

[…]

10. Our True Selves Are the Greatest Parties Ever Thrown

You are a better party than you have ever been to. […] To live in a city is to realize that life is a procession of different versions of ourselves that we meet over time. Evolving is the meeting between who you were and who you just became.

11. Having Faith in Humanity is Supposed to be Fun

Fun is active faith. Faith is the celebration of “I don’t know.” The city is a bravely unfolding movie entertaining us so effectively we are hypnotized by it. The movie is a comedy about mammals in a movie taking the movie seriously and deciding it is a tragedy.

12. I Am Not Getting Laid

I want to make it clear, from the beginning, that I am not currently getting laid as I write this and this fact colors everything I say. It’s the one statement that makes perfect sense of Nietzsche’s work.

Bennett Miller’s 1998 documentary, The Cruise is one of the greatest films ever made about New York City."
boredom  cities  nyc  history  accuracy  fear  joy  society  life  living  2010  timothylevitch  speedology  2002  suffering  humanity  faith  nietzsche  bennettmiller  destruction  creativity 
november 2013 by robertogreco
Peace is The Way Films
"THE SECRET OF THE 5 POWERS

3 Superheroes of Peace use the 5 Powers of Faith, Diligence, Mindfulness, Concentration and Insight to change the course of history and inspire millions around the world. Planting seeds of peace in the deep mud of war. 

The documentary weaves powerfully illustrated comic book animation with contemporary and historic footage that follows the lives of Alfred Hassler, an American anti-war hero, Vietnamese peace activist Sister Chan Khong and Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh, whom Dr.  Martin Luther King Jr, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. 

The film also reveals the story of the powerfully groundbreaking, yet largely unknown, 1958 Martin Luther King Jr "Montgomery Story" Comic Book Project, initiated by Alfred Hassler and Martin Luther King Jr,.  A comic book that has been secretly changing the course of history around the world, to this present day."
film  peace  chankong  thichnhathahn  alfredhassler  martinlutherkingjr  faith  diligence  mindfulness  concentration  insight  history  activism  classideas  srg  edg  vietnam  vietnamwar  buddhism  nonviolence  mlk 
july 2013 by robertogreco
On quack cancer cures, and "alternative medicine" as religion - Boing Boing
"today, he explores the idea of "alternative medicine" as a faith-based religion.

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

"The longer I study alternative medicine and alternative medical systems, the more it becomes clear to me that they show far more similarity to religion than they do to science. It’s true that alt-med apologists dress up their beliefs in language that sounds scientific, but when you scratch the patina of scientific language off, it doesn’t take long to find the religious imagery, often facilitated by the more conventional religious beliefs (i.e, Christianity) of the believer. We see the same thing with respect to evolution denial. So why not with denial of scientific medicine? A nonscientific world view that is based on faith in things that can’t be seen is often not confined to church."
faith  religion  alternativemedicine  science  belief  2012  xenijardin  medicine  quacks  cancer 
august 2012 by robertogreco
Months to Live - With Faith and Friends, Convent Offers Model for End of Life - Series - NYTimes.com
[Notes and emphasis by @litherland, I agree.]
A convent is a world apart, unduplicable. But the Sisters of St. Joseph, a congregation in this Rochester suburb, animate many factors that studies say contribute to successful aging and a gentle death — none of which require this special setting. These include a large social network, intellectual stimulation, continued engagement in life and spiritual beliefs, as well as health care guided by the less-is-more principles of palliative and hospice care — trends that are moving from the fringes to the mainstream.
“We approach our living and our dying in the same way, with discernment,” said Sister Mary Lou Mitchell.
Few sisters opt for major surgery, high-tech diagnostic tests or life-sustaining machinery. And *nobody can remember the last time anyone died in a hospital*, which was one of the goals in selling the old Mother House, with its tumbledown infirmary — a “Bells of St. Mary” kind of place — and using the money to finance a new facility appropriate for end-of-life care.
*** “Hospitals should not be meccas for dying. Dying belongs at home, in the community.” ***

Wow:
Dr. McCann said that the sisters’ religious faith insulated them from existential suffering — the “Why me?” refrain commonly heard among those without a belief in an afterlife. Absent that anxiety and fear, Dr. McCann said, there is less pain, less depression, and thus the sisters require only one-third the amount of narcotics he uses to manage end-of-life symptoms among hospitalized patients.
eldercare  via:litherland  life  living  hospitals  death  faith  religion  nuns  endoflife  aging  community 
april 2012 by robertogreco
The Danger of Cosmic Genius - Magazine - The Atlantic
"Einstein could not make change…bus drivers of Princeton had to pick out his nickels & quarters for him. We dimmer bulbs love to seize on tales like this…comforted by the notion of the educated fool. It seems only right that some leveling principle should deprive the geniuses among us of common sense, street smarts, mother wit…

Having myself grown up in Berkeley, where Nobel laureates are a dime a dozen, I certainly know the syndrome: mismatched socks, spectacles repaired with duct tape, forgotten anniversaries & missed appointments, valise left absentmindedly on park bench. Yet hometown experience did not prepare me completely for Dyson. In my interviews…he would sometimes depart the conversation mid-sentence, his face vacant for a minute or two while he followed some intricate thought or polished an equation, & then he would return to complete the sentence as if he had never been away. I have observed similar departures in other deep thinkers, but never for nearly so long."

[via: http://ayjay.tumblr.com/post/1554470717/having-myself-grown-up-in-berkeley-where-nobel ]
climatechange  environment  physics  science  freemandyson  georgedyson  2010  genius  childhood  alberteinstein  concentration  thinking  parenting  biography  religion  faith  belief  sustainability 
november 2010 by robertogreco
Marriage, Memories, and 'The Morning News' - Rachael Brown - Culture - The Atlantic
"I find memory unsettling. It's dishonest, it's erratic, it's open to interpretation. Courts no longer trust eye witnesses to determine convictions—that's pretty much my approach to memory. And yet, it's the only machinery we've got. We have to believe in our memories. We have to have faith in them, even when we know how frequently they're wrong. When something robs us of that faith, it can be terrifying."
memory  forgetting  rosecransbaldwin  youlostmethere  meaning  inaccuracy  interpretation  faith  interviews  books  2010 
october 2010 by robertogreco
Stephen Colbert: A Catholic Witness - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan
"what Colbert said touched me deeply. Here's a man that stands up to most in his profession, a lot of the press, puts himself in a very vulnerable position and does what he reads in the bible: Stand up for the poor and powerless. It gives me a glimmer of hope for religion"
stephencolbert  religion  christianity  faith  poor  caritas  empathy  catholicism  power  thechristianessence  truechristianity 
september 2010 by robertogreco
Sacred (ugh) Link Thread - Noteworthy and Not
"Nobody owns 9/11 and the World Trade Center site is not hollowed ground. Slate.com<br />
<br />
Everything is sacred or nothing is sacred … which is it?<br />
<br />
The taming and domestication of religious faith is one of the unceasing chores of civilization. Hitchens at Slate.com<br />
<br />
A “think on these things” piece … religious practice tempered/changed by law and social condemnation.<br />
<br />
and from a review of Nomad, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali in The Globe and Mail:<br />
<br />
"… many in the West are unwilling to make the distinction between a respect for the right of people to practice a religion within the law, and an exaggerated respect for the religion itself. Ayaan Hirsi Ali rightfully pours scorn on the fellow travelers of obscurantism."<br />
<br />
and finally from Salman Rushdie:<br />
<br />
"The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas - uncertainty, progress, change - into crimes.""
bettyannsloan  relgion  salmanrushdie  ayaanhirsiali  progress  change  conservatism  conservatives  culture  obscurantism  respect  classideas  religion  faith  belief  society 
september 2010 by robertogreco
Author: More teens becoming 'fake' Christians - CNN.com
"The study, which included in-depth interviews w/ at least 3,300 American teenagers btwn 13 & 17, found that most American teens who called themselves Christian were indifferent & inarticulate about their faith.<br />
<br />
The study included Christians of all stripes—from Catholics to Protestants of both conservative & liberal denominations. Though 3 out of 4 American teenagers claim to be Christian, fewer than half practice their faith, only half deem it important, & most can't talk coherently about their beliefs, the study found.<br />
<br />
Many teenagers thought that God simply wanted them to feel good & do —what the study's researchers called "moralistic therapeutic deism."<br />
<br />
Some critics told Dean that most teenagers can't talk coherently about any deep subject, but Dean says abundant research shows that's not true.<br />
<br />
"They have a lot to say. They can talk about money, sex & their family relationships w/ nuance. Most people who work w/ teenagers know that they are not naturally inarticulate.""
teens  youth  faith  christianity  belief  religion 
august 2010 by robertogreco
Charter for Compassion
"The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves…

We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies."
activism  charter  collaboration  community  ethics  empathy  compassion  life  humanity  global  religion  faith  philosophy  ted  karenarmstrong  classideas 
august 2010 by robertogreco
How facts backfire - The Boston Globe
"In the end, truth will out. Won’t it?

Maybe not. Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger."
truth  facts  psychology  politics  democracy  culture  philosophy  politicalscience  neuroscience  biology  brain  cognition  bias  belief  behavior  faith  information  media  mind  science  research 
july 2010 by robertogreco
Welcome to the Possibilium
"Possibilianism is a philosophy which rejects both the idiosyncratic claims of traditional theism and the positions of certainty in atheism in favor of a middle, exploratory ground. The term was first defined by neuroscientist David Eagleman in relation to his book of fiction Sum. Asked whether he was an atheist or a religious person on a National Public Radio interview in February, 2009, he replied "I call myself a Possibilian: I'm open to...ideas that we don't have any way of testing right now."...

[see also: http://www.vimeo.com/12543623 ]
possibilianism  atheism  davideagleman  faith  learning  philosophy  religion  science  longnow  life  uncertainty  tcsnmy 
july 2010 by robertogreco
Secret of AA: After 75 Years, We Don’t Know How It Works | Magazine [via: everyone] [Jonah Lehrer responds: http://scienceblogs.com/cortex/2010/07/alcoholism.php]
"It’s all quite an achievement for a onetime broken-down drunk. And Wilson’s success is even more impressive when you consider that AA and its steps have become ubiquitous despite the fact that no one is quite sure how—or, for that matter, how well—they work. The organization is notoriously difficult to study, thanks to its insistence on anonymity and its fluid membership. And AA’s method, which requires “surrender” to a vaguely defined “higher power,” involves the kind of spiritual revelations that neuroscientists have only begun to explore.
addiction  alcohol  alcoholicsanonymous  alcoholics  aa  alcoholism  faith  culture  medicine  psychology  behavior  religion  recovery  community  anonymous  history 
july 2010 by robertogreco
Losing My Religion / The Christian Science Monitor - CSMonitor.com
"It wasn’t reaction to his stories, per se, that most distressed him, he says, but the fact that Christians who were in a position to stand for principle and clean things up, regularly chose to turn a blind eye to dishonesty, corruption, and hypocrisy.
religion  faith  christianity  journalism  atheism  hypocrisy  humanism 
december 2009 by robertogreco
Defending The Faith, And Morality, Of NonBelievers : NPR
"Humanism is a bold, resolute response to the fact that being a human being is lonely & frightening. Humanism means taking charge of the often lousy world around us & working to shape it into a better place that we know we cannot ever finish the task...a progressive life-stance or a progressive philosophy of life that w/out supernaturalism, w/out anything magical or supernatural, affirms our ability & our responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment, aspiring to the greater good of humanity...good without god...that struggle, that process of trying to live the best life that we possibly can for ourselves and for all human beings and for the sake of the natural world that surrounds us and sustains us and that we have put in danger...emphasis is not on the without god, everyone has something that they disbelieve...emphasis of humanism is really on what we do believe, it’s on the good & our pursuit of the good, & our determination to be good with others and for others."
gregepstein  humanism  religion  atheism  prayer  judaism  christianity  culture  faith  ethics  morality  sherwinwine  humanisticjudaism  2009 
december 2009 by robertogreco
The Meming of Life » My cover is blown
"The enemy of humanism is not faith. The enemy of humanism is hate, is fear, is ignorance, is the darker part of man that is in every humanist, every person in the world. That is the thing we have to fight. Faith is something we have to embrace. Faith in God is believing, absolutely, in something with no proof whatsoever. Faith in humanity means believing absolutely in something with a huge amount of proof to the contrary. We are the true believers." - Joss Whedon
josswhedon  belief  faith  humanism  atheism  humanity  evil  hate  fear  ignorance  philosophy  morality  dalemcgowan 
april 2009 by robertogreco
Freeman Dyson, global warming, biotechnology, evolution, science and religion | Salon Books
"For me, religion is much more about a community of people than about belief. It's fine literature and music. As far as I can tell, people who belong to my church don't necessarily believe anything. Certainly we don't talk about that much. I suppose I'm a better Jew than I am a Christian. Jewish religion is much more a matter of community than it is of belief, and I think that's true of us Christians to a great extent, too."
freemandyson  religion  christianity  atheism  richarddawkins  evolution  technology  climatechange  science  belief  community  biotech  physics  ecology  environment  climate  life  philosophy  future  faith 
march 2009 by robertogreco
Losing My Religion | csmonitor.com
"A freshly born-again Christian, Lobdell was a husband, father, and journalist who saw evidence of answered prayer in his own life as well, a life that he felt had been transformed by faith. Covering the religion beat was the perfect job for Lobdell – until the day that his work began to destroy his faith.
religion  faith  atheism  books  williamlobdell  journalism 
march 2009 by robertogreco
Unitarian Universalism - Wikipedia
"The flaming chalice is a widely used symbol for Unitarian Universalism. Unitarian Universalism (UUism) is a theologically liberal religion characterized by its support for a "free and responsible search for truth and meaning." Unitarian Universalists do not share a creed; rather, they are unified by their shared search for spiritual growth. Unitarian Universalists draw on many different theological sources and have a wide range of beliefs and practices. Both Unitarianism and Universalism trace their origins to Christian Protestantism and thus Unitarian Universalism has its historical roots in the Christian faith."

[Compare with: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universalism AND
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unitarianism AND
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Universalist ]
christianity  belief  atheism  spirituality  religion  unitarianism  universalism  reason  philosophy  faith 
november 2008 by robertogreco
Obama's Fascinating Interview with Cathleen Falsani - Steven Waldman
"I retain from my childhood & experiences growing up a suspicion of dogma...I'm not somebody who is always comfortable with language that implies I've got a monopoly on the truth, or that my faith is automatically transferable to others...[on praying] Its' not formal...I think I have an ongoing conversation with God. I think throughout the day, I'm constantly asking myself questions about what I'm doing, why am I doing it...Jesus is an historical figure for me, and he's also a bridge between God & man, in the Christian faith & one that I think is powerful precisely because he serves as that means of us reaching something higher...I find it hard to believe that my God would consign 4/5 of world to hell...would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with Christian faith to...burn for all eternity. That's just not part of my religious makeup...[sin is] Being out of alignment with my values...when I'm not true to [myself], it's its own punishment"

[via: http://beyond-school.org/2008/11/21/god-obama-and-me-annotations-of-bos-2004-interview-on-his-religious-beliefs/ ]
barackobama  religion  interviews  politics  life  spirituality  belief  constitution  truth  faith  government  christianity 
november 2008 by robertogreco
God, Obama, and Me: Annotations of BO’s 2004 Interview on His Religious Beliefs | Beyond School
"He studied philosophy, religion, politics, history, literature in college. He was seeking wisdom....while I don’t share Obama’s views about many things below, I do admire that he seems to have gone through the hard work of reflecting his way to those views, instead of just believing the things he was taught by parents, preachers, and all teachers of old dogmas in his life....Put another way, the interview below is an example of that other (rightfully) sacred cow of modern education, project-based learning - with a vengeance. Because the project was a life-long one, and so authentic it had nothing to do with assignments and grades - nothing to do with school at all. It had everything to do with authentic learning for its own sake, learning for the highest purpose of all: a life of wisdom...We’ve got a life-long learner as our next president. Happy days are here again."

[See interview at: http://blog.beliefnet.com/stevenwaldman/2008/11/obamas-interview-with-cathleen.html ]
barackobama  religion  spirituality  learning  wisdom  life  happiness  clayburell  belief  faith  unschooling  deschooling  alternative 
november 2008 by robertogreco
Big Think - We Are What You Think
"This is a digital age, one in which a wealth of accessible information empowers you, the citizen-consumer. But where is the information coming from? How accurate and unprocessed is it, really? Ask yourself this: how empowered do you feel debating a telev
academia  activism  community  economics  engagement  education  faith  influence  innovation  interviews  knowledge  leadership  learning  lectures  philosophy  media  online  policy  politics  reason  science  socialmedia  socialnetworking  socialnetworks  theory  thinking 
january 2008 by robertogreco
Godchecker.com - Your Guide To The Gods. Mythology with a twist!
"We have more Gods than you can shake a stick at. Godchecker's Mythology Encyclopedia currently features over 2,850 deities. Browse the pantheons of the world, explore ancient myths, and discover Gods of everything from Fertility to Fluff with the fully s
archaeology  saints  folklore  faith  myth  myths  stories  greek  history  world  religion  reference  database  mythology  gods  encyclopedia  tcsnmy  education 
october 2007 by robertogreco
Magical Thinking: Why Do People Cling to Odd Rituals? - Psychology - The New York Times - New York Times
“why do people create this illusion of magical power?... in part it’s because we are constantly exposed to our own thoughts, they are most salient to us” — and thus we are likely to overestimate their connection to outside events."
psychology  religion  science  children  development  brain  faith  magic 
january 2007 by robertogreco

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