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Show your support | Educationforward
"Education has to change – to move forward – so that our schools and students can face the unprecedented challenges of the future, with confidence, capability and compassion.

We believe:

1. That schools should be judged on a much broader set of outcomes (e.g. students’ resourcefulness; their ability to engage with political, economic and ecological issues; their confidence with digital technologies; their enjoyment of reading) than they currently face;

2. That the voices of parents, families, and students should be central to process of education policy formulation;

3. That students who neither want, nor need, to go to university should not be made to feel inadequate or failures by an overly narrow and overly academic curriculum;

4. That high-stakes testing has gone too far, has caused too much stress and anxiety to teachers and students, and is a wholly inadequate means of assessing a student’s full range of talents;

5. That the way teachers teach should foster more than the ability to recall snippets of knowledge – the future will ask students not simply what they know, but what they can do with what they know, how they critically evaluate data, and what to do when they don’t know what to do ;

6. That the knowledge that will matter to students in the mid-21st century will be very different to the knowledge that is currently considered core – re-thinking a curriculum fit for the future is an urgent, widespread concern;

7. That providing evidence of learning has attempted to become ‘teacher-proof’, whilst teaching to the test has become endemic. We have to trust teacher judgements more and invest in their professional development;

8. That too many people cast the debate around education in binary terms, despite the growing numbers of schools whose students get good grades and develop confidence, capability and self-direction in their learning.We need to learn from these schools so that their practices can spread like wildfire;

9. That politicians should focus their energies less on cherry-picking evidence to support their entrenched views, and more on the fundamental purpose of education. We need to improve, and deepen, the quality of public debate around schooling;

10. That we live in times of turbulence and anxiety, where truth is a casualty of intolerance. Education has to help people strengthen their dispositions to tolerate uncertainty, to think carefully about complex issues, to understand the position of others and, where necessary, to disagree gracefully. This matters – not just for our communities and our children’s well-being, but for the future of our world."
education  change  sfsh  outcomes  resourcefulness  policy  schools  acadmemics  testing  standardizedtesting  stress  anxiety  teaching  learning  society  howweteach  howelearn  knowledge  tcsnmy  openstudioproject  lcproject  curriculum  purpose  schooling  turbulence  intolerance  truth  uncertainty  complexity  understanding  grace  disagreement  uk 
november 2017 by robertogreco
avoiding the high-brow freak show | sara hendren
"Oliver Sacks is probably the only author many people have read about disability at length. Sacks wrote many books with such a keen eye for description and also a literate, humanitarian lens—he was able to link together ideas in natural history, the sciences, and the humanities with sincerity and warmth, and always with people at the center. But which people? The subjects of the book, or the reader who is “reading” herself, her own experiences, as she takes in these stories? In any good book, many characters are involved: author, characters, reader. But there’s some particular tricky territory in disability narratives.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think that's it, but if I think of anything else, I'll let you know."
via:austinkleon  life  living  writing  grace  2017  success  creativity  families  brokenness  advice  parenting  howwewrite  publication  goodness  god  worship  nature  outdoors  ralfaldoemerson  death 
june 2017 by robertogreco
The Subtle Radicalism of Julio Cortázar's Berkeley Lectures, Collected in 'Literature Class' - The Atlantic
[See also:
"Julio Cortázar's Berkeley Lectures Demonstrate the Writer as Dream Professor" (Tobias Carroll, 2017)
https://theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/articles/julio-cortazars-berkeley-lectures-demonstrate-the-writer-as-dream-professor/

"Cortázar at Berkeley" (Jessica Sequeira, 2014)
https://soundsandcolours.com/articles/argentina/cortazar-at-berkeley-22708/ ]

"“What good is a writer if he can’t destroy literature?” The question comes from Julio Cortázar’s landmark 1963 novel Hopscotch, the dense, elusive, streetwise masterpiece that doubles as a High Modernist choose-your-own-adventure game. Famously, it includes an introductory “table of instructions”: “This book consists of many books,” Cortázar writes in it, “but two books above all.” The first version is read traditionally, from chapter one straight through; the second version begins at chapter seventy-three, and snakes through a non-linear sequence. Both reading modes follow the world-weary antihero Horacio Oliveira, Cortázar’s proxy protagonist, who is disenchanted with the tepid certainties of bourgeois life, and whose metaphysical explorations form the scaffolding of a billowing, richly comic existential caper. Of his magnum opus, Cortázar said, laconically, “I’ve remained on the side of the questions.” But it was the novel’s formal daring—its branching paths—that hinted at what was to be the Argentine author’s most persistent and most personal inquiry: Why should there be only one reality?

That suspicion of grand narratives—both in literature and in life—informs much of Literature Class, a newly published collection of eight lectures the writer delivered at the University of California, Berkeley in 1980. The consequent lectures—originally delivered in Spanish and translated adeptly by Katherine Silver—are erudite, intimate, charmingly fragmented, and anecdotal, covering a range of topics, from “Eroticism and Literature” to “The Realistic Short Story.” The unifying through line is Cortázar’s abiding insistence on the elasticity of literary art, the better to capture what he saw as a fleeting, contentious, and ever-fluid reality. At one point, Cortázar tells his students, “I had lived with a complete feeling of familiarity with the fantastic because it seemed as acceptable to me, as possible and as real, as the fact of eating soup at eight o’clock in the evening.” The fantastic, then, was a means of leavening the flatness of the widely accepted, or the merely prosaic. The sentiment becomes something of a refrain. For Cortázar, like his creation Horacio, the joyless—and, in cases, politically expedient—narrowing of lived possibility was forever conspiring with a larger falseness, one he called “the prefabricated, pre-established world.”

While Cortázar doesn’t explicitly explain what he meant by this, his work suggests a deep distrust of the very everydayness of life, a suspicion that it constitutes a paralysis masquerading as a soothing routine. “It occurred to me like a sort of mental belch,” Horacio says in one of Hopscotch’s lengthy internal monologues, “that this whole A B C of my life was a painful bit of stupidity, because it was based solely on…the choice of what could be called nonconduct rather than conduct.” Elsewhere, in the short story The Instruction Manual, Cortázar writes with similar misgiving, “How it hurts to refuse a spoon, to say no to a door, to deny everything that habit has licked to a suitable smoothness.” The lectures take up arms against that smoothness with a disarming candor: “Why do people accept that things are the way they are when they could be some other way?” he asks his students in a lecture called “The Ludic in Literature.” It seems a simple, even banal, question, yet it animated his work to an extraordinary degree.

By the time of his Berkeley sojourn, Cortázar was no stranger to undermining these kinds of assumptions. Indeed, for the offshoot of literary modernism referred to as the Latin American Boom—in which Cortázar played a definitive role in its 1960s heyday—a radical reevaluation of reality came with the territory. The Boom, which included the fertile works of Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes, and José Lezama Lima, among others, helped to shatter the barriers between the mundane and the fantastic. Cortázar himself brought a kind of cosmopolitan cubism to the novel in which time, place, language, even the literal text itself, became sites of contention, participation, and play. The read-as-you-like instructions of Hopscotch, then (“The reader may ignore what follows with a clean conscience”) should not be taken as mere gamesmanship or avant-garde posturing; rather, they actively pushed up against a literary realism that no longer suited the fragmented textures of contemporary Latin American life.

Widespread political turbulence was an inescapable feature of that experience, even as a concomitant concern with what it meant to be a politically engaged Latin American artist took shape beside it. A new wave of fiercely complex, narratively adventurous novels like Augusto Roa Bastos’s I, the Supreme, a barely concealed censure of the Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner, and Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Time of the Hero, copies of which the Peruvian military burned, showcased the potency of literature as a means of speaking to dictatorial power. “I think it is now clear that the inevitable dialect that always exists between reality and literature has evolved deeply in many of our countries through the force of circumstance,” Cortázar tells his students in “A Writer’s Paths,” the most nakedly autobiographical of the Berkeley lectures. Literature Class is punctuated by such candid remarks, and suggests that the sparkle and audacity of Cortázar’s work, to say nothing of the Boom as a whole, are in many ways inextricable from that tumultuous mid-century political moment. Cortázar’s mid-career epiphany that literature should be “born out of the process of the populace, the peoples that the author belongs to” arguably came out of this experience; it represented a radical awakening to a frankly political, though never crudely didactic, art. “I had to switch my emphasis to the condition of being Latin American,” Cortázar says in the same lecture, “and take on everything that came with that responsibility and that duty.”

No small part of that duty was Cortázar’s project of reality-testing. Just as in his novels and short stories, that word—“reality”—appears dozens of times throughout Literature Class. Over the course of the lectures, the word accretes a kind of moral gravity until one begins to understand it as Cortázar himself appeared to: a battlefield over which opposing forces grappled for control. This was no mere abstraction. During the brutal regimes of Perón, Batista, Somoza, and others, officially sanctioned reality lost any claim to the real; rather, it served as a kind of malignant fiction in which the State was the unquestioned narrator. (The Trump administration’s insistence on “alternative facts” is only the latest iteration of this tactic.) Cortázar’s experience of this encroachment would be sporadic—he had lived in Paris since 1951—but profound. The so-called “Dirty War” saw thousands of his countrymen killed or “disappeared” in the 1970s as anti-communist death squads ruthlessly eliminated supposed dissidents. “It is in this realm,” Cortázar says to his students in the lecture “Latin American Literature Today,” “so stained with blood, torture, prisons, and depraved demagoguery, where our literature is fighting its battles.”

Cortázar’s quest for reality, then, became indistinguishable from his critique of it. In a 1976 edition of the international literary quarterly Books Abroad, he wrote, “Nothing seems more revolutionary to me than enriching the notion of reality by all means possible.” No matter what form that enrichment took in his fiction (the branching paths of Hopscotch, the visionary naïveté of Cronopios and Famas, the genre instability of Blow-Up: And Other Stories), its objective, as he suggests in “The Realistic Short Story,” was to produce “reality as it is, without betraying it, without deforming it, allowing the reader to see beneath the causes, into the deeper workings, the reasons that lead men to be as they are or as they are not.” Always something of a moving target in his work, reality, finally, wasn’t meant to be found, much less achieved. It was an endless pursuit, morally malleable, generous, radically free. “When you reach the limits of expression,” he says in another lecture, “just beyond begins a territory where everything is possible and everything is uncertain.” In Cortázar’s terms, we’ve reached Eden: the ultimate state of grace.

The classroom, of course, was another story entirely. Cortázar might have seen it as a place where official narratives, that “pre-established world,” could be nurtured and legitimized for students—an irony he was doubtless abundantly aware of as he lectured. Indeed, almost immediately one can feel him chafing beneath the authority conferred by the lectern. “I want you to know that I’m cobbling together these classes very shortly before you get here,” he says on his first day. “I’m not systematic, I’m not a critic or a theorist.” Later, in the lecture “Writing Hopscotch,” he reveals the ultimate source of his apprehension: “How can [the writer] denounce something with the tools that are used by the enemy, that is … a language already used by the masters and their disciples?” Whatever the ostensible topic of a given lecture, these evasions continue to surface like an anxious tic. Taken together, they comprise the enormously enjoyable subtext of Literature Class: the ambivalence of a great writer who seeks to interrogate the efficacy of a weapon he has no choice but to use.

… [more]
juliocortázar  radicalism  authority  2017  ucberkeley  reality  1960s  literacy  theboom  elboom  life  meaning  everyday  literature  1963  rayuela  linearity  nonlinear  1980  katherinesilver  elasticity  magicrealism  fantasy  gabrielgarcíamárquez  carlosfuentes  josélezamalima  cubism  language  latinamerica  mariovargasllosa  alfredostoessner  augustoroabastos  argentina  alternativefacts  grace  non-linear  alinear 
may 2017 by robertogreco
On losing John Berger | 226 Autumn 2017 | Alison Croggon | Overland literary journal
"Today I read that you had died.

I can’t stop the ache in my throat, the breaking pressure in my chest, even though you are no more absent to me now than you have ever been. I only knew you through your writing: novels, essays, poems – and once a letter, written in blue biro on the back of a bill, in response to one of mine.

I wish I had met you. In a way, I did: I met you through the particular intimacy you offer every reader. It’s an intimacy that always holds the necessary space. You write words with air around them, words in which another might find herself and thus find the world. Your writing always turns us outwards, to our own worlds and to the worlds in which others live.

When I think of you, I think of water. Your work wells out of broken ground and flows with increasing vigour towards an uncertain horizon; a deepening confluence of clear energies, gathering into itself all the colours of the skies it runs beneath. It’s your reticence, your fierce honesty, your humour, your courteous attention to all things. The transparencies of the self you lay down on paper. For you, everything holds the same unending miracle of being. You listen to stones and to children; you are as fascinated by the making of soup as by the complexities of art. Every thing is holy.

So often you surprise me with tears. Not because you manipulate emotions, but because you do the opposite: you invite a recognition of feeling that rises innocently through layers of scars, illuminating the present beauties that surround us always – even in the darker times, even in the darker places. Some people say you are sentimental because you are so unafraid of the naked expression of feeling, but they are wrong. You know there is no division between intellect and feeling. You understand that, just as feeling without intelligence is a reduction of human capacity, intellect without feeling is warped and truncated, a damaged and damaging thing.

For a Marxist, you are an exemplary Christian. I think the only human hierarchy you respect is from Corinthians: So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Your work is always, in the most unillusioned of ways, about love. It is love stripped of the sentimental glaze that transforms it into a lie, love that embraces without possession, love that knows how to let go, how to suffer, how to leave, how to celebrate, how to laugh. You know laughter is a resistance against the worst things.

That is why we, your readers, love you.

You are never above anything. You always insist on holding open the space of beauty, unembarrassed by its extravagance or humility, attentive to all its motley and various hues, its grandeurs, its minutiae. You understand the eye’s desire to colonise and possess, the rapacious claim the gaze makes over everything it sees, and you resist everything that means. You show instead how the eye might become a generous organ, how perception might be a conduit of quiet attention, a witness to a relationship that is always transient and mortal, a space in which everything is permitted to exist in its own time, for its own reasons.

You obey every human imperative except power. Perhaps that is what I most admire. So few of us are able to extricate ourselves from that spiritual criminality; so few of us can see the world freed from that distorting lens. Without ever claiming a lack of complicity – something that is available to none of us – you say no. Your denunciation is absolute. You chronicle the murderous, soul-killing ideologies of our time. You turn and listen to those who have no power, and you never judge them. But for those who have power, for those whose greed is closing its fist over our planet, for those whose only measure of worth is money, your judgment is pitiless.

I am so sad today, but it is a selfish mourning. It is me I mourn – the me who lived in a world where you too were breathing. You lived generously and lovingly, awake to the end. I wish we may all live so well. Now you will always exist in the present tense. Your gifts remain, not to be mourned, but to be taken and used. The world is not darker because you have died. It is brighter because you were alive."
2017  johnberger  alisoncroggon  listening  writing  marxism  christianity  resistance  learning  humility  grace  power 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Cookie Monster on the Dole - The New Yorker
"Hard times for Muppets! Sad! Me think unemployment not easy for puppet with addiction issues. Me find unemployment very triggering. Me want to ask government, “Who is real monster here?”

Colleagues bad now, too. Elmo spiral into depression and eat his goldfish, Dorothy. Pepé the King Prawn worry about deportation. Miss Piggy now glorified geisha, forced to be active listener. Only good thing is most of us newly politicized. Me is totally woke. Use new free time to rally colleagues and to dialogue. Camaraderie good! Camaraderie powerful! During long hours together in unemployment line, you can really get deep, you can really go beyond the felt.

What strange to Muppet community is Muppets always like Donald Trump. Donald Trump always somehow seem like kindred spirit. Donald Trump seem like slightly more organized Fraggle. Yes, in nineteen-eighties, on “Sesame Street,” Ronald Grump character built tower of trash cans on Oscar’s turf. Yes, other time, on special, Joe Pesci play Ronald Grump and spit on Elmo. But mocking was gentle. Mocking gentle, and plus we give lots airtime. Donald Trump like airtime. Airtime is hair time. The letter “H”!

Me trying to transition into this new life chapter with grace. Me trying to find bright side: no more pledge drives, no more feeling old when realize all favorite TV shows are sponsored by river cruises. But sometimes cloud come over me in afternoon. Cloud of realization. Cloud of sad. More reflective now. Time makes puppets of us all. Bad!

Me talk to agent about possible second career as recording artist, because me often mistaken for gravel-voiced singer Tom Waits. Me think me has everything Tom Waits has, plus me is blue. Sad songs from blue person, very good, very meta. Agent laugh. Agent say more realistic direction is recovery memoir and ted talk. Agent say more realistic direction is therapy pet who visit hospitals—“Make-A-Wish but the meter is running, hon.” Agent also say that he get call about Cookie working as kind of Swiffer—some company want Cookie as a “electrostatic stanching shammy.” Now me laugh. Me think contemporary consumerism like virus that eat brain. Me unclear about meaning of “electrostatic stanching shammy,” but me pretty sure it mean rag.

So. Me trying to be big. Me trying to reap benefits of talk therapy. Therapist point out that Cookie strong because Cookie weathered changing attitudes about eating. Therapist talk about time, in 2005, when show had Hoots the Owl sing “A Cookie Is a Sometime Food.” Stupid song. Stupid song suggesting me had no jurisdiction or agency over throbbing id. That song the beginning of the end. That the singing on the wall. Me not like that song! That song just another unseen hand reaching up the Cookie ying-yang.

Now this new government hand. It not nice like Frank Oz hand. Frank Oz smell good, have light touch. Government hand rough, like that of teen-age boy. So now me take only route available: me wage cookie hunger strike. Me get Hoots the Owl to do duet of new song, “Bye-Bye, Biscotti.” Me get outside consulting firm to create slogan: “Nom, Nom NO.” Me tell world that “C” is not for cookie, “C” is for cauterize the wound that is direct result of rapacious governing. Me get sympathetic People cover in manner of survivor of rare disease.

Meanwhile, me send message to Washington via quiet assertion of strength. Me remind government that Cookie Monster have no eyelids. Me remind government that Cookie Monster always watching."
2017  cookiemonster  sesamestreet  humor  henryalford  unemployment  grace  government 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Reviewers & Critics: Laura Miller of Slate | Poets & Writers
"In an interview with the National Book Critics Circle, you said, “I’m under the impression that most literary critics are primarily interested in writing, and while I find that subject fascinating, I am probably more interested in reading.” I find this rather intriguing, and think it’s a chief reason your writing on literary culture is so distinctive. Can you elaborate on your statement here?
We live in a time when everyone wants to write and seemingly no one “has time” to read. Everyone wants to speak and increasingly few people want to listen. People sometimes scoff when I make this observation and claim that aspiring writers read more than anyone else, but that is not my experience. I’m constantly meeting people who, when they learn what I do, always want to talk about the book they plan to write despite the fact that they seem to find no books worth reading. We fetishize the idea of being a writer in a variety of ways, most of them narcissistic. So when I meet a big reader who professes no desire to write, I think of them as a beautiful, almost mythical creature, like a unicorn, to be celebrated.

I also believe that reading is a profoundly creative act, that every act of reading is a collaboration between author and reader. I don’t understand why more people aren’t interested in this alchemy. It’s such an act of grace to give someone else ten or fifteen hours out of your own irreplaceable life, and allow their voice, thoughts, and imaginings into your head. I can’t respect any writer who isn’t abjectly grateful for the faith, generosity, and trust in that. I think there’s an unspoken, maybe even unconscious contempt for reading as merely “passive” in many people who obsess about writers and writing. Discussion of writers and writing generally bores me. But I’m always interested in why people read and why they like what they like. That’s far more likely to surprise and enlighten me than someone fretting about daily word counts and agonizing over their process."
via:austinkleon  writing  reading  howwewrite  howweread  lauramiller  2017  generosity  grace  attention  whyweread 
february 2017 by robertogreco
The Spiritual Crisis of the Modern Economy - The Atlantic
"The main source of meaning in American life is a meritocratic competition that makes those who struggle feel inferior."



"What is happening to America’s white working class?

The group’s important, and perhaps decisive, role in this year’s presidential election sparked a slew of commentary focused on, on the one hand, its nativism, racism, and sexism, and, on the other, its various economic woes. While there are no simple explanations for the desperation and anger visible in many predominantly white working-class communities, perhaps the most astute and original diagnosis came from the rabbi and activist Michael Lerner, who, in assessing Donald Trump’s victory, looked from a broader vantage point than most. Underneath the populist ire, he wrote, was a suffering “rooted in the hidden injuries of class and in the spiritual crisis that the global competitive marketplace generates.”

That cuts right to it. The modern economy privileges the well-educated and highly-skilled, while giving them an excuse to denigrate the people at the bottom (both white and nonwhite) as lazy, untalented, uneducated, and unsophisticated. In a society focused on meritocratic, materialistic success, many well-off Americans from across the political spectrum scorn the white working class in particular for holding onto religious superstitions and politically incorrect views, and pity them for working lousy jobs at dollar stores and fast-food restaurants that the better-off rarely set foot in. And when other sources of meaning are hard to come by, those who struggle in the modern economy can lose their sense of self-worth.

This system of categorizing Americans—the logical extension of life in what can be called an extreme meritocracy—can be pernicious: The culture holds up those who succeed as examples, however anecdotal, that everyone can make it in America. Meanwhile, those who fail attract disdain and indifference from the better-off, their low status all the more painful because it is regarded as deserved. As research has shown, well-educated white-collar workers also sink into despair if they cannot find a new job, but among the working class, the shame of low status afflicts not just the unemployed, but also the underemployed. Their days are no longer filled with the dignified, if exhausting, work of making real things. Rather, the economy requires—as a white former factory worker I talked to described it—“throwing on a goofy hat,” dealing with surly customers who are themselves just scraping by, and enduring a precarious working life of arbitrary rules and dead-end prospects.

And the work people do (or don’t do) affects their self-esteem. When I was talking to laid-off autoworkers in Michigan for my book about long-term unemployment, I met a black man in Detroit who told me his job at the plant had helped heal a wound—one going back to his parents’ choice, when he was a baby, to abandon him. (As is standard in sociological research, my interviewees were promised confidentiality.) “My job was like my mother and father to me,” he said. “It’s all I had, you know?” Then the plant shut down. Now in his 50s, he was back on the job market, scrambling for one of the few good jobs left for someone without a college degree. In his moments of weakness, he berated himself. He should have prepared more. He should have gotten an education. “It’s all my fault,” he said—the company was just doing what made business sense.

For less educated workers (of all races) who have struggled for months or years to get another job, failure is a source of deep shame and a reason for self-blame. Without the right markers of merit—a diploma, marketable skills, a good job—they are “scrubs” who don’t deserve romantic partners, “takers” living parasitically off the government, “losers” who won’t amount to anything. Even those who consider themselves lucky to have jobs can feel a sense of despair, seeing how poorly they stand relative to others, or how much their communities have unraveled, or how dim their children’s future seems to be: Research shows that people judge how well they’re doing through constant comparisons, and by these personal metrics they are hurting, whatever the national unemployment rate may be.

When faced with these circumstances, members of the working class often turn inward. I witnessed this coping mechanism among the workers I got to know in Michigan. One of them, a white former autoworker, lost her home and had to move to a crime-infested neighborhood, where she had a front-row view of the nightly drug deals and fistfights. “I just am not used to that anymore,” said the woman, who grew up in poverty. “I want out of here so bad.” Interestingly, she dismissed any sort of collective solution to the economic misery that she and others like her now confront. For instance, she had no kind words to say about the union at her old plant, which she blamed for protecting lousy workers. She was also outraged by what she called the “black favoritism” at her Detroit plant, whose union leadership included many African Americans.

This go-it-alone mentality works against the ways that, historically, workers have improved their lot. It encourages workers to see unions and government as flawed institutions that coddle the undeserving, rather than as useful, if imperfect, means of raising the relative prospects of all workers. It also makes it more likely that white workers will direct their frustration toward racial and ethnic minorities, economic scapegoats who are dismissed as freeloaders unworthy of help—in a recent survey, 64 percent of Trump voters (not all of whom, of course, are part of the white working class) agreed that “average Americans” had gotten less than they deserved, but this figure dropped to 12 percent when that phrase was replaced with “blacks.” (Among Clinton voters, the figure stayed steady at 57 percent for both phrases.) This is one reason that enacting good policies is, while important, not enough to address economic inequality. What’s needed as well is a broader revision of a culture that makes those who struggle feel like losers.

One explanation for why so many come to that conclusion in the first place has to do with the widening of the gulf between America’s coasts and the region in between them. Cities that can entice well-educated professionals are booming, even as “flyover” communities have largely seen good-paying factory work automated or shipped overseas, replaced to a large extent with insecure jobs: Walmart greeters, independent-contractor truck drivers, and the like. It is easy to see why white voters from hard-hit rural areas and hollowed-out industrial towns have turned away from a Democratic Party that has offered them little in the way of hope and inspiration and much in the way of disdain and blame.

It should here be emphasized that misogyny, racism, and xenophobia played a major role in the election, helping whip up more support for Trump—as well as suppress support for Clinton—among the white working class. To be sure, those traits are well represented among other groups, however savvier they are about not admitting it to journalists and pollsters (or to themselves). But the white working class that emerged in the 19th century—stitched together from long-combative European ethnic groups—strived to set themselves apart from African Americans, Chinese, and other vilified “indispensable enemies,” and build, by contrast (at least in their view), a sense of workingman pride. Even if it’s unfair to wholly dismiss the white working class’s cultural politics as reactionary and bigoted, this last election was a reminder that white male resentment of “nasty” women and “uppity” racial and other minorities remains strong.

That said, many Americans with more stable, better-paid jobs have blind spots of their own. For all of their professed open-mindedness in other areas, millions of the well-educated and well-off who live in or near big cities tend to endorse the notion, explicitly or implicitly, that education determines a person’s value. More so than in other rich nations, like Germany and Japan, which have prioritized vocational training to a greater degree, a college degree has become the true mark of individual success in America—the sort of white-picket-fence fantasy that drives people well into their elder years to head back to school. But such a fervent belief in the transformative power of education also implies that a lack of it amounts to personal failure—being a “stupid” person, as one of the white Michigan workers I talked to put it. In today’s labor market, it is no longer enough to work hard, another worker, who was black, told me: “It used to be you come up and say, ‘Okay, I’ve got a strong back,’ and all that,” but nowadays a “strong back don’t mean shit. You gotta have dedication and you’ve gotta have some kind of smartness, or something.”



"One possible answer to the question Harrington posed about how to ease his own generation’s populist rage is the notion of grace—a stance that puts forward values that go beyond the “negatives” of the narrow secular creed and connect with individuals of diverse political viewpoints, including those hungry for more in the way of meaning than the meritocratic race affords. It moves people past the hectoring that so alienates the white working class—and, to be sure, other groups as well—who would otherwise benefit from policies that favor greater equality and opportunity.

The concept of grace comes from the Christian teaching that everyone, not just the deserving, is saved by God’s grace. Grace in the broader sense that I (an agnostic) am using, however, can be both secular and religious. In the simplest terms, it is about refusing to divide the world into camps of deserving and undeserving, as those on both the right and left are wont to do. It rejects an … [more]
victortanchen  meritocracy  2016  election  donaldtrump  capitalism  self-esteem  labor  work  culture  society  economics  losers  class  elitism  workingclass  hierarchy  richardsennett  jonathancobb  inequality  education  politics  competition  unions  status  grace  wealth  populism 
january 2017 by robertogreco
When and Why We Cry In Films - YouTube
"We might assume that the moment we cry in films is when something very sad or troubling is occurring. But the truth is rather stranger. We often break down is when things are particularly lovely."
grace  innocence  loveliness  goodness  crying  human  humans  aging  schooloflife  film  emotions  sadness  happiness 
july 2016 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
Acclaimed Toronto author Austin Clarke dead at 81 | Toronto Star
"But he was leery of taking Canadian citizenship, acquiring it only in 1981, explaining later that “I was not keen on becoming a citizen of a society that regarded me as less than a human being.”

Indeed, Clarke’s observations of the splintering of Canadian society in the ’50s and ’60s gave voice to a new version of a country in its earliest stages of becoming.

“Austin wrote our multicultural moment before we even had a language to describe it,” said Rinaldo Walcott, a professor at the University of Toronto and a longtime friend. “He was an astute observer of those social dynamics, and he was a critic of it as well.”

Clarke was bluntly critical of the endemic racism he encountered both here and at home, in Barbados, a colonial British outpost where he attended Anglican schools before coming to Canada. ‘Membering, his lyrical memoir published last year, recalls with vivid detail his daily struggles with discrimination in an uptight city of not-so-long ago.

In it, he writes of living “in the atmosphere of great physical fear, of the expectation that a policeman might shoot me — bang-bang, you’re dead, dead — of being refused the renting of a basement room, or an apartment in a public building, that I would find myself standing noticeably longer than other customers at a counter in Eaton’s store, at the corner of Yonge and College Sts., that I might be thrown out, sometimes physically, from a restaurant, or a nightclub, as Oscar Peterson was, and face the embarrassment of being told by a barber that he does not cut niggers’ hair. This is my Toronto.”

Yet in private, friends speak of a generous, passionate spirit filled with an affection for simple pleasures in life: A love of cooking, of conversation, and of music. But he was also a complicated man, whose fiery passions around issues of inequity seemed at times to chafe with his conservative Anglican beliefs.

“If you were going to have a real relationship with Austin, you had to be prepared to move nimbly,” said the author Barry Callaghan, a decades-long friend and literary colleague who in 1996 published The Austin Clarke Reader through his imprint, Exile Editions. “He was a worldly fellow, a man of elegance, a man of conservative principles, but at the same time, he could be engaged with people that most conservatives wouldn’t let into their house.”"



“When I think of special dinners here, it was also Austin that said grace,” he said. “There was no one like him, because there could be no one like him. There were just too many cross-references in his personality. He was singular.”
ausinclarke  2016  canada  toronto  race  racism  multiculturalism  life  living  conversation  grace  cross-references  worldliness  elegance  conservatism 
june 2016 by robertogreco
bell hooks: Buddhism, the Beats and Loving Blackness - The New York Times
"G.Y.: Absolutely. You’ve talked about how theory can function as a place of healing. Can you say more about that?

b.h.: I always start with children. Most children are amazing critical thinkers before we silence them. I think that theory is essentially a way to make sense of the world; as a gifted child growing up in a dysfunctional family where giftedness was not appreciated, what held me above water was the idea of thinking through, “Why are Mom and Dad the way they are?” And those are questions that are at the heart of critical thinking. And that’s why I think critical thinking and theory can be such a source of healing. It moves us forward. And, of course, I don’t know about other thinkers and writers, but I have the good fortune every day of my life to have somebody contacting me, either on the streets or by mail, telling me about how my work has changed their life, how it has enabled them to go forward. And what greater gift to be had as a thinker-theorist, than that?"



"G.Y.: Is there a connection between teaching as a space of healing and your understanding of love?

b.h.: Well, I believe whole-heartedly that the only way out of domination is love, and the only way into really being able to connect with others, and to know how to be, is to be participating in every aspect of your life as a sacrament of love, and that includes teaching. I don’t do a lot of teaching these days. I am semi-retired. Because, like any act of love, it takes a lot of your energy."



"G.Y.: You’ve conceptualized love as the opposite of estrangement. Can you say something about that?

b.h.: When we engage love as action, you can’t act without connecting. I often think of that phrase, only connect. In terms of white supremacy right now for instance, the police stopped me a few weeks ago here in Berea, because I was doing something wrong. I initially felt fear, and I was thinking about the fact that in all of my 60-some years of my life in this country, I have never felt afraid of policemen before, but I feel afraid now. He was just total sweetness. And yet I thought, what a horrible change in our society that that level of estrangement has taken place that was not there before.

I know that the essential experience of black men and women has always been different, but from the time I was a girl to now, I never thought the police were my enemy. Yet, what black woman witnessing the incredible abuse of Sandra Bland can’t shake in her boots if she’s being stopped by the police? When I was watching that video, I was amazed the police didn’t shoot her on the spot! White supremacist white people are crazy.

I used to talk about patriarchy as a mental illness of disordered desire, but white supremacy is equally a serious and profound mental illness, and it leads people to do completely and utterly insane things. I think one of the things that is going on in our society is the normalization of mental illness, and the normalization of white supremacy, and the evocation and the spreading of this is part of that mental illness. So remember that we are a culture in crisis. Our crisis is as much a spiritual crisis as it is a political crisis, and that’s why Martin Luther King, Jr. was so profoundly prescient in describing how the work of love would be necessary to have a transformative impact.

G.Y.: And of course, that doesn’t mean that you don’t find an important place in your work for rage, as in your book “Killing Rage”?

b.h.: Oh, absolutely. The first time that I got to be with Thich Nhat Hanh, I had just been longing to meet him. I was like, I’m going to meet this incredibly holy man. On the day that I was going to him, every step of the way I felt that I was encountering some kind of racism or sexism. When I got to him, the first thing out of my mouth was, “I am so angry!” And he, of course, Mr. Calm himself, Mr. Peace, said, “Well, you know, hold on to your anger, and use it as compost for your garden.” And I thought, “Yes, yes, I can do that!” I tell that story to people all the time. I was telling him about the struggles I was having with my male partner at the time and he said, “It is O.K. to say I want to kill you, but then you need to step back from that, and remember what brought you to this person in the first place.” And I think that if we think of anger as compost, we think of it as energy that can be recycled in the direction of our good. It is an empowering force. If we don’t think about it that way, it becomes a debilitating and destructive force.

G.Y.: Since you mentioned Sandra Bland, and there are so many other cases that we can mention, how can we use the trauma that black people are experiencing, or reconfigure that trauma into compost? How can black people do that? What does that look like therapeutically, or collectively?

b.h.: We have to be willing to be truthful. And to be truthful, we have to say, the problem that black people face, the trauma of white supremacy in our lives, is not limited to police brutality. That’s just one aspect. I often say that the issue for young black males is the street. If you only have the streets, you encounter violence on all sides: black on black violence, the violence of addiction, and the violence of police brutality. So the question is why at this stage of our history, with so many wealthy black people, and so many gifted black people, how do we provide a place other than the streets for black males? And it is so gendered, because the street, in an imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, is male, especially when it is dark. There is so much feeling of being lost that it is beyond the trauma of racism. It is the trauma of imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, because poverty has become infinitely more violent than it ever was when I was a girl. You lived next door to very poor black people, but who had very joyful lives. That’s not the poverty of today.

G.Y.: How is the poverty of today different?

b.h.: Let’s face it, one of the things white people gave us when they gave us integration was full access to the tormenting reality of desire, and the expectation of constant consumption. So part of the difference of poverty today is this sort of world of fantasy — fantasizing that you’ll win the lottery, fantasizing that money will come. I always cling to Lorraine Hansberry’s mama saying in “A in Raisin in the Sun,” “Since when did money become life?” I think that with the poverty of my growing up that I lived with and among, we were always made to feel like money is not what life is all about. That’s the total difference for everyone living right now, because most people in our culture believe money is everything. That is the big tie, the connecting tie to black, white, Hispanic, native people, Asian people — the greed and the materialism that we all invest in and share.

G.Y.: When you make that claim, I can see some readers saying that bell is pathologizing black spaces.

b.h.: As I said, we have normalized mental illness in this society. So it’s not the pathologizing of black spaces; it’s saying that the majority of cultural spaces in our society are infused with pathology. That’s why it’s so hard to get out of it, because it has become the culture that is being fed to us every day. None of us can escape it unless we do so by conscious living and conscious loving, and that’s become harder for everybody. I don’t have a problem stating the fact that trauma creates wounds, and most of our wounds are not healed as African-Americans. We’re not really different in that way from all the others who are wounded. Let’s face it — wounded white people frequently can cover up their wounds, because they have greater access to material power.

I find it fascinating that every day you go to the supermarket, and you look at the people, and you look at us, and you look at all of this media that is parading the sorrows and the mental illnesses of the white rich in our society. And it’s like everybody just skips over that. Nobody would raise the question, “why don’t we pathologize the rich?” We actually believe that they suffer mental illness, and that they deserve healing. The issue for us as black people is that very few people feel that we deserve healing. Which is why we have very few systems that promote healing in our lives. The primary system that ever promoted healing in black people is the church, and we see what is going on in most churches today. They’ve become an extension of that material greed.

G.Y.: As you shared being stopped by police, I thought of your book “Black Looks: Race and Representation,” where you describe whiteness as a site of terror. Has that changed for you?

b.h.: I don’t think that has changed for most black people. That particular essay, “Representations of Whiteness in the Black Imagination,” talks about whiteness, the black imagination, and how many of us live in fear of whiteness. And I emphasize the story about the policeman because for many of us that fear of whiteness has intensified. I think that white people, for the most part, never think about black people wanting to be in black only spaces, because we do not feel safe.

In my last book, “Writing Beyond Race: Living Theory and Practice,” I really wanted to raise and problematize the question: Where do we feel safe as black people? I definitely return to the home as a place of spiritual possibility, home as a holy place.

I bought my current house from a conservative white male capitalist who lives across the street from me, and I’m so happy in my little home. I tell people, when I open the doors of my house it’s like these arms come out, and they’re just embracing me. I think that is part of our radical resistance to the culture of domination. I know that I’m not who he imagined in this little house. He imagined a nice white family with two kids, and I think on some level it was very hard for … [more]
bellhooks  2015  georgeyancy  buddhism  christianity  spirituality  religion  race  class  patriarchy  racism  classism  mentalillness  money  greed  mentalhealth  society  capitalism  consumerism  materialism  domination  power  gender  feminism  idenity  listening  love  humor  martinlutherkingjr  cornelwest  allies  influence  homes  intellectualism  theory  practice  criticalthinking  pedagogy  writing  children  unschooling  deschooling  teaching  howweteach  oedagogy  solitude  workinginpublic  publicintellectuals  narcissism  healing  malcolmx  blackness  whitesupremacy  abandonment  betrayal  anger  masculinity  markmcleodbethune  resistance  safety  whiteness  terror  wealth  imperialism  inequality  pathology  poverty  truth  truthfulness  sandrabland  thichnhathanh  activism  estrangement  everyday  humanism  humanization  humility  grace  change  changemaking  transformation  canon  empowerment  composting  desire  lotteries  lorrainehansberry  araisininthesun  culture  trauma  sorrow  leadership  psychology  self-determination  slow  small  beatpoets  jackkerouac  garysnyder  beatpoetry  ethics 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Fred Rogers: Look for the Helpers - YouTube
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."

[See also: http://www.snopes.com/radiotv/tv/scarynews.asp
http://www.fredrogers.org/parents/special-challenges/tragic-events.php ]
helpers  help  hope  fredrogers  catastrophe  grace  humanism  tragedy  care  caring 
november 2015 by robertogreco
The Terror of the Archive | Hazlitt
"The digitally inflected individual is often not quite an individual, not quite alone. Our past selves seem to be suspended around us like ghostly, shimmering holograms, versions of who we were lingering like memories made manifest in digital, diaphanous bodies. For me, many of those past selves are people I would like to put behind me—that same person who idly signed up for Ashley Madison is someone who hurt others by being careless and self-involved. Now, over a decade on, I’m left wondering to what extent that avatar of my past still stands for or defines me—of the statute of limitations on past wrongs. Though we’ve always been an accumulation of our past acts, now that digital can splay out our many, often contradictory selves in such an obvious fashion, judging who we are has become more fraught and complicated than ever. How, I wonder, do we ethically evaluate ourselves when the conflation of past and present has made things so murky?

*

Sometimes, I aimlessly trawl through old and present email accounts, and it turns out I am often inadvertently mining for awfulness. In one instance—in a Hotmail account I named after my love for The Simpsons—I find myself angrily and thoughtlessly shoving off a woman’s renewed affection because I am, I tell her, “sick of this.” I reassure myself that I am not that person anymore—that I now have the awareness and the humility to not react that way. Most days, looking at how I’ve grown since then, I almost believe this is true.

Yet, to be human is to constantly make mistakes and, as a result, we often hurt others, if not through our acts then certainly our inaction. There is for each of us, if we are honest, a steady stream of things we could have done differently or better: could have stopped to offer a hand; could have asked why that person on the subway was crying; could have been kinder, better, could have taken that leap. But, we say, we are only who we are.

We joke about the horror of having our Google searches publicized, or our Twitter DMs revealed, but in truth, we know the mere existence of such a digital database makes it likely that something will emerge from the murky space in which digital functions as a canvas for our fantasies or guilt.

That is how we justify ourselves. Our sense of who we are is subject to a kind of recency bias, and a confirmation bias, too—a selection of memories from the recent past that conform to the fantasy of the self as we wish it to be. Yet the slow accretion of selective acts that forms our self-image is also largely an illusion—a convenient curation of happenings that flatters our ego, our desire to believe we are slowly getting better. As it turns out, grace and forgiveness aren’t the purview of some supernatural being, but temporality—the simple erasure of thought and feeling that comes from the forward passage of time."



"The line between evasiveness and forgiveness, cowardice and grace, is thin, often difficult to locate, but absolutely vital. It seems, though, that our ethical structures may slowly be slipping out of step with our subjectivities. If we have abandoned the clean but totalitarian simplicity of Kant’s categorical imperative, instead embracing that postmodern cliché of a fluid morality, we still cling to the idea that the self being morally judged is a singular ethical entity, either good or bad. It’s common on social media, for example, for someone to be dismissed permanently for one transgression—some comedian or actor who is good at race but bad at gender (or vice versa) to be moved from the accepted pile to the trash heap. If our concept of morality is fluid, our idea of moral judgment is not similarly so.

That notion of self assumes morality is accretive and cumulative: that we can get better over time, but nevertheless remain a sum of the things we’ve done. Obviously, for the Bill Cosbys or Jian Ghomeshis or Jared Fogles of the world, this is fine. In those cases, it is the repetition of heinous, predatory behaviour over time that makes forgiveness almost impossible—the fact that there is no distance between past and present is precisely the point. For most of us, though, that simple idea of identity assumes that selves are singular, totalized things, coherent entities with neat boundaries and linear histories that arrived here in the present as complete. Even if that ever were true, what digitality helps lay bare is that who we are is actually a multiplicity, a conglomeration of acts, often contradictory, that slips backward and forward and sideways through time incessantly."



"Is the difficulty of digitality for our ethics, then, not the multiplicity of the person judged, but our Janus-faced relation to the icebergs of our psyches—the fact that our various avatars are actually interfaces for our subconscious, exploratory mechanisms for what we cannot admit to others or ourselves?

Freud said that we endlessly repeat past hurts, forever re-enacting the same patterns in a futile attempt to patch the un-healable wound. This, more than anything, is the terror of the personal, digital archive: not that it reveals some awful act from the past, some old self that no longer stands for us, but that it reminds us that who we are is in fact a repetition, a cycle, a circular relation of multiple selves to multiple injuries. It’s the self as a bundle of trauma, forever acting out the same tropes in the hopes that we might one day change.

What I would like to tell you is that I am a better man now than when, years ago, I tried my best to hide from the world and myself. In many ways that is true. Yet, all those years ago, what dragged me out of my depressive spiral was meeting someone—a beautiful, kind, warm person with whom, a decade later, I would repeat similar mistakes. I was callous again: took her for granted, pushed her away when I wanted to, and couldn’t take responsibility for either my or her emotions. Now, when a piece of the past pushes its way through the ether to remind me of who I was or am, I can try to push it down—but in a quiet moment, I might be struck by the terror that some darker, more cowardly part of me is still too close for comfort, still there inside me. The hologram of my past self, its face a distorted, shadowy reflection of me with large, dark eyes, is my mirror, my muse. And any judgment of my character depends not on whether I, in some simple sense, am still that person, but whether I—whether we, multiple and overlapped—can reckon with, can meet and return the gaze of the ghosts of our past."
navneetalang  archives  internet  memory  grace  forgiveness  circulation  change  past  present  mistakes  ashleymadison  twitter  email  privacy  facebook  socialmedia  dropbox  google  secrets  instagram  self  ethics  morality  judgement  identity 
september 2015 by robertogreco
Grace by Joy Harjo : The Poetry Foundation
"I think of Wind and her wild ways the year we had nothing to lose and lost it anyway in the cursed country of the fox. We still talk about that winter, how the cold froze imaginary buffalo on the stuffed horizon of snowbanks. The haunting voices of the starved and mutilated broke fences, crashed our thermostat dreams, and we couldn’t stand it one more time.So once again we lost a winter in stubborn memory, walked through cheap apartment walls, skated through fields of ghosts into a town that never wanted us, in the epic search for grace.

Like Coyote, like Rabbit, we could not contain our terror and clowned our way through a season of false midnights. We had to swallow that town with laughter, so it would go down easy as honey. And one morning as the sun struggled to break ice, and our dreams had found us with coffee and pancakes in a truck stop along Highway 80, we found grace.
   
I could say grace was a woman with time on her hands, or a white buffalo escaped from memory. But in that dingy light it was a promise of balance. We once again understood the talk of animals, and spring was lean and hungry with the hope of children and corn.
   
I would like to say, with grace, we picked ourselves up and walked into the spring thaw. We didn’t; the next season was worse. You went home to Leech Lake to work with the tribe and I went south. And, Wind, I am still crazy. I know there is something larger than the memory of a dispossessed people. We have seen it."
via:anne  joyharjo  pomes  poetry  nature  multispecies  grace  understanding  animals  communication  language  interspecies  human-animalrelations  human-animalrelationships 
may 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
The Web’s Grain by Frank Chimero
"We’re building edgeless environments of divergency. Things are added in chaos, then if successful, they expanded further and further out until they collapse and rearrange. This is probably why responsive design feels so relevant, maddening, and divisive: its patterns mimic the larger patterns of technology itself.

What we build is defined and controlled by its unresolvable conflicts. In responsive design, it’s the text and image conundrum I showed earlier. In other, more grand arenas, there is capital versus labor, or collective control versus anarchic individualism. In technology, I believe it comes down to the power dynamics of convenience. To create convenience—particularly the automated convenience technology trades in—someone else must make our choices for us.

In other words: the less you have to do, the less say you have.

Up to a point, swapping autonomy for ease is a pretty good trade: who wants run the math on their accounting books or call the restaurant to place a delivery order? But if taken too far, convenience becomes a Trojan Horse. We secede too much control and become dependent on something we can no longer steer. Platforms that promised to bring convenience to a process or intimacy to a relationship now wedge themselves into the transaction as new middlemen. Then, we’re left to trust in the benevolence of those who have the power to mold our dependencies. Citing a lot of the concerns I mentioned earlier, those people are less responsible and compassionate than we had hoped. In pursuit of convenience, we have opened the door to unscrupulous influence.

You could say that our current technological arrangement has spread out too far, and it is starting to look and feel wrong. Fortunately, we can treat this over-expansion just like everything else I’ve mentioned. We can draw a line, and create a point of reassembly for what we’ve made. We can think about how to shift, move, and resize the pieces so that they fall back in line with our intentions. This power is compounded for those of us who make this technology.

But this is not a technological response. It is an explicit act of will—an individual’s choice to change their behaviors about what to use, where to work, what to adopt, what to pay attention to. It is simple mindfulness, that thing which needy technology makes so hard to practice. And it starts with a question: what is technology’s role in your life? And what, really, do you want from it?

As for me? I won’t ask for peace, quiet, ease, magic or any other token that technology can’t provide—I’ve abandoned those empty promises. My wish is simple: I desire a technology of grace, one that lives well within its role.

How will we know that we’re there? I suppose we’ll look at what we’ve built, notice how the edges have dropped away, and actually be pleased it looks like it could go on forever."
frankchimero  davidhockney  joinery  web  webdev  internet  responsive  responsivedesign  design  technology  grace  clarity  simplicity  complexity  dependencies  edges  purpose  adaptability  divergency  thisandthat  convenience  autonomy  control  influence  responsivewebdesign  webdesign 
march 2015 by robertogreco
I Believe in the After-Life — Medium
"Those of you who have followed my writing over the past few years will know that I’ve moved outside of an orthodox, theist idea of faith that embraces what some have called ‘the death of God.’

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

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

Being Let Down

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

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

Decreation

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

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

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

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

“I Believe in the Afterlife”

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

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

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

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

—Simon Critchley

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps."
death  belief  afterlife  2014  kesterbrewin  simoncritchley  nichughes  grace  self  simoneweil  decreation  love  mortality  resurrection  memory  existence 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Mary Beard Takes On Her Sexist Detractors
[Alt URL: http://www.newyorker.com/?p=2715385 ]

"Finally, Beard arrived at the contemporary chorus of Twitter trolls and online commenters. “The more I’ve looked at the details of the threats and the insults that women are on the receiving end of, the more some of them seem to fit into the old patterns of prejudice and assumption that I have been talking about,” she said. “It doesn’t much matter what line of argument you take as a woman. If you venture into traditional male territory, the abuse comes anyway. It’s not what you say that prompts it—it’s the fact that you are saying it.” Such online interjections—“ ‘Shut up you bitch’ is a fairly common refrain”—often contain threats of violence, a “predictable menu of rape, bombing, murder, and so forth.” She mildly reported one tweet that had been directed at her: “I’m going to cut off your head and rape it.”"



"Beard’s ancient world can seem, at least on the surface, rather like the more urban and liberal parts of our own. Her Rome is polyglot and multicultural, animated by the entrepreneurialism of freed slaves in overcrowded streets. At the same time, Beard warns against the danger of smoothing away the strangeness and foreignness of Roman life. Her latest book, “Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling, and Cracking Up,” which has just been published, is an engaging exploration of what made the Romans laugh—bad breath, among other things—but it also explores dimensions of Roman sensibility that have become elusive to us. Beard observes that there is no word in Latin for “smile,” and makes the striking suggestion that the Romans simply did not smile in the sense that we understand the social gesture today. […] Beard’s popularizing bent is grounded in a deep knowledge of the arcane, and she gives new insight into the hoariest of topics, according to Elaine Fantham, a well-known Latinist who is a generation Beard’s senior. “If you are a Latinist, you are always being asked to talk about Pompeii,” Fantham says. “When Mary does something, it is not old hat. It becomes new hat.”"



"Gill’s review of “Meet the Romans” had been a turning point, Beard explained. “That is when it became kind of a personal calling, because I spoke out and said, ‘Sorry, sunshine, this is just not on,’ ” she said. “The people who read the Mail are middle-aged women, and they look like me. They know what he’s saying. For all the very right-wing, slightly unpleasant populism that the Mail trades in, its readership is actually people who know an unacceptable insult when they see it. They’ve got gray hair. He’s talking about them.”"



"In another highly publicized incident, Beard retweeted a message that she had received from a twenty-year-old university student: “You filthy old slut. I bet your vagina is disgusting.” One of Beard’s followers offered to inform the student’s mother of his online behavior; meanwhile, he apologized. Beard’s object is not simply to embarrass offenders; it is to educate women. Before social media, she argues, it was possible for young women like those she teaches at Cambridge to enjoy the benefits of feminist advances without even being aware of the battles fought on their behalf, and to imagine that such attitudes are a thing of the past. Beard says, “Most of my students would have denied, I think, that there was still a major current of misogyny in Western culture.”

Beard’s zest for the online fray seems indefatigable. If there is a newspaper comments section excoriating her, readers may be surprised to come across comments from Beard, defending herself. If there is a thread praising her on Mumsnet, a popular British site for parents, she may pop up there, too, thanking her admirers. When she feels that she has been misrepresented in a newspaper article, she takes to her blog to explain herself further. If she gets into a Twitter spat, it is likely to be reported on by the British press, to whom she will give a salty, winning quote. When asked by the BBC what she would say to her university-student troll, she replied, “I’d take him out for a drink and smack his bottom.”

There is, she acknowledges, an irony in the imbalance of power: as a prominent scholar, she does have a voice, however unpleasant the threats to silence her may be. Most of her Twitter detractors are grumbling to only a handful of followers, at least until she amplifies their audience. She has discovered that, quite often, she receives not only an apology from them but also a poignant explanation. After she published the genitalia photograph on her blog, the man who ran the site where the image had originally appeared wrote her a long letter. “He explained his personal circumstances—he was married with kids—and he said how he should never have done it, in a way that was very eloquent,” she told me. After a “Question Time” viewer wrote to her that she was “evil,” further correspondence revealed that he was mostly upset because he wanted to move to Spain and didn’t understand the bureaucracy. “It took two minutes on Google to discover the reciprocal health-care agreement, so I sent it to him,” she says. “Now when I have a bit of Internet trouble, I get an e-mail from him saying, ‘Mary, are you all right? I was worried about you.’ ”

The university student, after apologizing online, came to Cambridge and took Beard out to lunch; she has remained in touch with him, and is even writing letters of reference for him. “He is going to find it hard to get a job, because as soon as you Google his name that is what comes up,” she said. “And although he was a very silly, injudicious, and at that moment not very pleasant young guy, I don’t actually think one tweet should ruin your job prospects.”

At the same time, Beard questions a narrative in which her troll is recast as her errant son and she takes on the role of scolding but forgiving mother—a Penelope who chastises Telemachus for being rude, then patiently teaches him the error of his ways. “There is something deeply conservative about that reappropriation of errant teen-ager and long-suffering female parent—it is rewriting the relationship in acceptable form,” she says. “If I said to my students, ‘What is going on here?’ and they just came out with a happy-ending story, I would be very critical. I would say, ‘Haven’t you thought about how the same sorts of gender hierarchies are written in different forms?’ ” Despite this analysis, she feels emotionally satisfied with the outcome. “Some of these adjectives we use, like ‘maternal’—try putting ‘human’ in there instead,” she told me on one occasion. “If being a decent soul is being maternal, then fine. I’ll call it human.”



"Her wrongness lay not in her political position, she explained to me, but in the language she chose to express it. Beard believes that there was a very brief moment after 9/11—“a kind of extra-ordinary rhetorical aporia”—when there was not yet a consensus about how to define the attacks, and that this gap had firmly closed in the interval between her composing her contribution and its publication, two weeks later. In the years that followed, she added, “we have constructed a series of ways in which we can disagree about 9/11 without it being hurtful.” Beard remains in occasional contact with some of the people who were angered by the L.R.B. essay, and feels grateful to all those who engaged with her rather than demonized her. Through listening, she made herself heard."



"I was an intellectual control freak, and Greek was quite good for that—you could be good at it. You could master it.” She appreciated the ancient languages precisely because nobody spoke them anymore. She told me, “Part of the pleasure of knowing Latin is that you don’t have to learn to say, ‘Where is the cathedral?’ or ‘I would like a return ticket, second class, please.’ You actually get to the literature. You don’t always have to be making yourself understood.”"



"As Beard continued through the basement, her eye fell on a dozen Roman tombstones arrayed against a wall, in a gloomy half-light. They were from a site on the Black Sea, and each was engraved with a standardized image of the dearly departed. “They look horrible, don’t they?” she said. “It’s good to come along and say they are awful. You are so trained to admire them. At school, the older the object is the more respect you were supposed to give it. But you can look at them there, all piled up, and they appear to be what they are: mass-produced, not very good gravestones. Thank God the ancient world was democratic enough that it turned out crap.”"



"In “Oh Do Shut Up Dear!,” Beard’s lecture at the British Museum, she referred to one of the very few occasions in Roman literature when a woman is permitted a public voice. After Lucretia, the wife of a nobleman, Conlatinus, is raped by Tarquin, a royal prince, she denounces her rapist, then kills herself to preserve her virtue. This rape story, as told by Livy, sets into motion the founding of the Roman Republic: Lucretia’s defenders swear that hereditary princes will no longer assume privileges through violence. In her lecture, Beard acknowledged that it is easier to document ways that women have been silenced than it is to find a remedy to their silencing. (Virtuous suicide is not an option.) The real issue, she suggested, is not merely guaranteeing a woman’s right to speak; it is being aware of the prejudices that we bring to the way we hear her. Listening, she implied, is an essential element of speech."
trolls  internet  twitter  listening  feminism  rape  academia  gender  history  ancientrome  2014  commenting  web  online  socialmedia  materalism  empathy  civility  behavior  grace  humanism  discourse  classics  ancientgreek  latin  hibrow  lowbrow  culture  democracy  cultureproduction  power  marybeard 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Paris Review - The Art of Fiction No. 198, Marilynne Robinson
"ROBINSON
I don’t like categories like religious and not religious. As soon as religion draws a line around itself it becomes falsified. It seems to me that anything that is written compassionately and perceptively probably satisfies every definition of religious whether a writer intends it to be religious or not."



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

INTERVIEWER
How does science fit into this framework?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

INTERVIEWER
Did you ever have a religious awakening?

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

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

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



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

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



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

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

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



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



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

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

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



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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lonesomeness is what we’re all fleeing at the greatest possible speed, what our media now concern themselves chiefly with eliminating alongside leisure. We thus forget our radical singularity, a personal tragedy, an erasure, a hollowing-out, and likewise the singularity of others, which is a tragedy more social and political in nature, and one which seems to me truly and literally horrifying. Because more than any shared “belief system” or political pose, it is the shared experience of radical singularity that unites us: the shared experience of inimitability and mortality. Anything which countermands our duty to recognize and honor the human in the other is a kind of evil, however just its original intention."
millsbaker  canon  self  reality  empathy  humility  howwethink  2014  generalizations  morality  nietzsche  integrity  marilynnerobinson  mystery  grace  privacy  categorization  pigeonholingsingularity  lonesomeness  loneliness  leisure  artleisure  leisurearts  beliefs  belief  inimitability  humanism  judgement  familiarity  understanding 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Academic Kindness
"A record of unsolicited kindness, unexpected goodwill, and excessive generosity in academia."
kindness  grace  academia  via:anne  highered  highereducation  goodwill  generosity  moreofthisplease 
february 2014 by robertogreco
More on Capon - The Calvinist International
“Grace cannot prevail … until our lifelong certainty that someone is keeping score has run out of steam and collapsed.”

[Quote via: http://lacockrel.tumblr.com/post/67951439475/robert-farrar-capon-quoted-by-rachel-marie-stone ]
grace  robertfarrarcapon  scorekeeping  competition 
january 2014 by robertogreco
Have you ever come across a description of someone and thought, "If I could do ANY thing, be ANY way, this is it"? - what what
"EB White, writer of what are almost certainly the best pig stories ever put to paper*, was once described as exemplifying “eloquence without affectation, profundity without pomposity, and wit without frivolity or hostility” - as well as “creative, humane and graceful.”

I don’t know that it gets any better than this.

* Death of a Pig (1948) and Charlotte’s Web (1952)"
ebwhite  writing  pigs  affectation  eloquence  profundity  pomposity  wit  frivolity  hostility  grace  humanity  creativity  aspiration  annegalloway  2013 
december 2013 by robertogreco
▶ Nelson Mandela's Speech. - YouTube
"The day he got out, he could have rested, or showboated. But he gave a measured speech full of practicalities:" —Charlie Loyd https://twitter.com/vruba/status/408718995919888384
nelsonmandela  via:vruba  southafrica  apartheid  leadership  reconciliation  1990  grace  restraint 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Homily for April 3, 2011: 4th Sunday of Lent
"The priest said: “I have to ask you: what happened in there?”

And the beggar stopped in his tracks, still amazed at the experience. “He asked me,” the man said, “to hear his confession.  I said to him, ‘But I’m not a priest anymore.  I’m a beggar.’  And the Holy Father took my hands in his and looked at me and said, ‘So am I.  We are all beggars before the Lord.’”

The man tried to explain that he was not in good standing with the Church. But the pope said: “Once a priest, always a priest.  I’m the Vicar of Christ and the Bishop of Rome. I can re-instate you now. ”

Well, the beggar couldn’t refuse.  And at that moment, in that room, he heard the confession of the pope.

The beggar-priest had barely finished offering absolution before he dropped to his knees in tears.  “Holy Father,” he said, “will you please hear my Confession?”  And he did.

When they were done, the pope told him to return to the Church where he had been begging, and report to the pastor.  He would serve as a priest there, with a special ministry to the poor of Rome.

And that is what happened. It is said that the beggar who heard the pope’s confession still serves at the church in Rome.

“We are all beggars,” the pope said.  Like the man in today’s gospel.  So, this Lent, ask yourself: what am I begging for?  Maybe we are begging for compassion.  For mercy.  For peace of mind.  Maybe we are hungry for love.  And like the beggar in the gospel, we may also be blind – craving clarity, and understanding.  Wanting simply to see.

But in the middle of our begging, in the middle of our darkness, Christ touches us — and our world is flooded with light.

This gospel is about discovery.  One man receives the gift of sight.  As the story unfolds, light dawns, and with each confrontation and each conversation, he gains more understanding of just who gave him that gift.  At the end, for the first time, he sees — really sees.

I think the priest-beggar was also given the gift of sight – the ability to see anew who he was and what he was meant to do.  Whether he realized it or not, he was begging for more than money.

He was begging for grace.

But aren’t we all?"
grace  popejohnpaulii  via:ayjay  2011  gregkandra 
november 2013 by robertogreco
Laurie Anderson's Farewell to Lou Reed | Music News | Rolling Stone
"Like many couples, we each constructed ways to be – strategies, and sometimes compromises, that would enable us to be part of a pair. Sometimes we lost a bit more than we were able to give, or gave up way too much, or felt abandoned. Sometimes we got really angry. But even when I was mad, I was never bored. We learned to forgive each other. And somehow, for 21 years, we tangled our minds and hearts together."



"Last spring, at the last minute, he received a liver transplant, which seemed to work perfectly, and he almost instantly regained his health and energy. Then that, too, began to fail, and there was no way out. But when the doctor said, "That's it. We have no more options," the only part of that Lou heard was "options" – he didn't give up until the last half-hour of his life, when he suddenly accepted it – all at once and completely. We were at home – I'd gotten him out of the hospital a few days before – and even though he was extremely weak, he insisted on going out into the bright morning light.

As meditators, we had prepared for this – how to move the energy up from the belly and into the heart and out through the head. I have never seen an expression as full of wonder as Lou's as he died. His hands were doing the water-flowing 21-form of tai chi. His eyes were wide open. I was holding in my arms the person I loved the most in the world, and talking to him as he died. His heart stopped. He wasn't afraid. I had gotten to walk with him to the end of the world. Life – so beautiful, painful and dazzling – does not get better than that. And death? I believe that the purpose of death is the release of love.

At the moment, I have only the greatest happiness and I am so proud of the way he lived and died, of his incredible power and grace.

I'm sure he will come to me in my dreams and will seem to be alive again. And I am suddenly standing here by myself stunned and grateful. How strange, exciting and miraculous that we can change each other so much, love each other so much through our words and music and our real lives."
laurieanderson  loureed  partnership  companionship  marriage  life  wisdom  love  forgiveness  emotions  friendship  2013  sadness  living  happiness  grace  death  obituaries 
november 2013 by robertogreco
The prime mover — The Sea of Fog — Medium
"when you move through the world believing the best about people at all times. Jim’s beliefs became self-fulfilling prophecies, because he told people these things he believed about them—great things, improbable things—and they believed him. (You wouldn’t think so, but it requires tremendous courage to tell people great things about themselves, particularly in private. Amplified accolades at retirement dinners are easy; whispered appraisals across the desk divider are not.)

Grace: when you extend an offer of allegiance to everyone around you. Jim’s allegiance was not the allegiance of what can you do for me, nor was it the allegiance of you will bring honor to my house. Instead, it was the allegiance of… we are here together.

We are here together. You could call it a low bar; I call it an open door. And the fact that it was so plentiful made the fierceness and durability of Jim’s support even more remarkable. Basically, it made you feel like you’d won the lottery…"
encouragement  toaspireto  accolades  allegiance  enthusiasm  optimism  trust  grace  jimnaughton  2012  robinsloan 
december 2012 by robertogreco
Aporia. Writing and lesser things by Mills Baker. Friendship.
"1. Before real friendship comes lucid self-awareness…

2. But we do not deserve the consolations of friendship if they are based on misrepresented or misunderstood expressions of selfhood…[or] secret needs…

3. Know yourself or know none, know nothing, disappear…high school as I remember it was mostly the exchange of blinded and unarticulated selves for approximations of friendship…

4. …it is necessary to be mercilessly ‘objective,’…with oneself: do not admit into evidence subjectively sympathetic excuses, do not contextualize one’s own actions with justificatory narratives…be endlessly ‘subjective,’ again so to speak, with others: imagine anything and everything one can to excuse them, explain them, understand and love them…

5. When I have been lonely, I have thought of myself subjectively and others objectively. This is the only real means to the self-pity which defines loneliness: to think of oneself as the world…

6. Friendship is something one exercises, like compassion; it is a solitary choice, requiring the approval or affection of no one at all. Every desire which seeks a psychological state as its result should be suspected of superficiality at least, but in the case of those who seek friendship as an antidote to loneliness, it is not merely a vice but a countermanding of what’s sought. One is not a friend, of course, when one’s friends are means to an end: means to escape solitude, tools rather than accomplices.

(To consider: “Friendship should be a gratuitous joy like those afforded by art or life.” What sort of joys are those? What does it mean that they’re gratuitous?)."
listening  understanding  grace  simoneweil  2012  wisdom  happiness  relationships  selflessness  love  highschool  loneliness  friendship  millsbaker 
june 2012 by robertogreco
Tilda Swinton Discusses Her Career - NYTimes.com
"“For me that is grace,” she says of her character’s dumbstruck confusion in the face of her irrevocably altered life. “I am really interested in silence. In inarticulacy also, which isn’t the same as silence. As a performer I like looking at the gaps between what people want to communicate and what they can communicate,” she adds. “I love good filmmaking that isn’t just about really proficient writers of dialogue, who think that everybody’s really articulate and everybody can hear each other really well. That doesn’t feel true to me, actually. I mean, that’s a fantastical universe.”"

[via: http://snarkmarket.com/2011/7583 ]
realism  reality  believability  filmmaking  articulation  inarticulacy  silence  grace  2011  film  writing  tildaswinton 
january 2012 by robertogreco
One dish is served free -- with gratitude -- at Cafe Gratitude | Daily Dish | Los Angeles Times
"There’s one dish at Café Gratitude, the new vegan restaurant on North Larchmont Boulevard in Los Angeles, that stands out from the others. It’s called the I Am Grateful bowl. Piled high with shredded kale, quinoa, black beans and garlic-tahini sauce, it's filling, flavorful, healthful and free.

That's right. $0. The cafe says it’s the "community supported grain bowl" and lists the dish's suggested value ($7) but doesn't require payment. You can order the dish and pay nothing or something, or pay the suggested value and add a donation for those who can't pay. It doesn't matter how much is in your wallet."
food  free  grace  gratitude  losangeles  restaurants  cafégratitude  2011 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Chaos Theory at Play in the Middle School: A Redeeming Vision | Santa Fe Leadership Center
"…rarely do I make it to the end of day & look back at a purposeful, sustained march…In spite of ability to adapt to unexpected & turn surprise into teachable moment, teachers…are often uncomfortable w/ change & uncertainty…there may be something inherent about middle schoolers that requires, even dictates, a more flexible, free flowing style of management…There is probably no age group in a greater state of flux & transformation…In some ways, life in MS may mirror…world of quantum physics.…random events that seem to defy pattern & determinism…relationships btwn students, teacher & parents give meaning to our action…in seemingly endless series of encounters…saving grace, redeeming motif that makes it all worth it is the quality of the relationships & one’s ability to alter & affect life in MS by the humanity, kindness & humor one brings to each new crisis/encounter/situation."

[Linkrot workaround: http://santafelead.org/464/ ]
middleschool  cv  teaching  learning  quantumphysics  chaostheory  predictablity  messiness  tomrosenbluth  relationships  tcsnmy  lcproject  slowlearning  slow  flexibility  growth  adolescence  pedagogy  flow  structure  planning  education  unpredictability  humor  grace  kindness  connectivism  connections 
january 2011 by robertogreco

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