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The Radiant (Christ) Child: Keith Haring and the Jesus Movement | American Art: Vol 21, No 3
"Keith Haring's pulsating, cartoon figures are immediately recognizable to most viewers and have become emblematic of the New York art world of the 1980s. Haring's art has been interpreted as an expression of the optimistic indulgence of this period, a representation of the New York club scene as well as homoerotic currents, and a visual tool for the campaign against AIDS. But one important aspect of his youthful experience has been largely overlooked—his 1970s engagement with the Jesus Movement. This teenage encounter left a powerful impact on Haring's overall ideologies and his pictorial vocabulary, beginning with the Radiant child “tag” he left in his early days as a graffiti artist. In his brief but intense painting career, he transformed source material from this charismatic religious group's visual culture into images that were relevant to his 1980s art world. In doing so, he retooled the Jesus Movement's redemptive imagery into more pessimistic and ambiguous statements—such as his figures with holes in their stomachs—and created an expression of apocalyptic belief suited to his time."
keitharing  art  mataliephillips  2007  radiantchild  jesusmovement  streetart  religion  graffiti 
7 days ago by robertogreco
Entrevista a Gastón Soublette - Parte I: La Sabiduría Tradicional - YouTube
"Realizada en Limache el 3 de octubre de 2015 en ocasión del Premio Nueva Civilización por su contribución al estudio y valorización de la cultura y la sabiduría popular creativa.
El Galardón será otorgado el Miércoles 25 de Noviembre, a las 18.30 hrs. en el marco del Simposio Internacional 'Desafíos de la Política en un Mundo Complejo', ocasión en que don Gastón Soublette ofrecerá una Conferencia Magistral."

[Parte II: El Arte
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjn8B-aSFaE

Parte III: La Cultura Mapuche
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N27LAd906yM

Parte IV: El Conocimiento Científico
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjEj-i0dcUs

Parte V: Filosofía y Educación
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neci7LTwH_8

Parte VI: Religión y Cultura
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neyEPrRH_oQ

Parte VII: Una Nueva Civilización
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=930FCVu9_7M ]
gastónsoublette  chile  history  mapuche  science  education  philosophy  culture  religion  civilization  future  art  music  tradition  oraltradition  oral  orality  diegoportales  improvisation  wisdom  mexico  precolumbian  inca  maya  aztec  quechua  literature  epics  araucaria  aesthetics  transcendentalism  myths  myth  arthistory  2015  perú 
23 days ago by robertogreco
The Trouble with Knowledge | Shikshantar
"First Main Trouble with Knowledge and Education is Dishonesty

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

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

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

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

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



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



"Building Learning Societies

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. We need to affirm that people are the real solution, not the obstacle and … [more]
munirfasheh  education  unschooling  schooling  schooliness  deschooling  diplomas  credentials  wisdom  degrees  faith  honesty  generosity  hope  learning  howwelearn  love  loving  lving  happiness  duties  duty  development  progress  excellence  rights  schools  community  learningcommunities  lcproject  openstudioproject  grades  grading  assessment  dishonesty  culture  society  hegemony  knowledge  influence  power  colonization  globalization  yemen  israel  palestine  humanism  governance  government  policy  politics  statism  children  egypt  india  westbank  religion  cordoba  cordova  gaza  freedom  failure  labeling  canon 
8 weeks ago by robertogreco
Killing the Buddha
"Killing the Buddha is an online magazine of religion, culture, and politics. It began on November 13, 2000, when Peter Manseau and Jeff Sharlet invited readers who are both hostile and drawn to talk of God to join them in building an electronic Tower of Babel, a Talmudic cathedral of stories about faith lost and found. They named it after a saying of the Chinese Buddhist sage Lin Chi. Think of it like this:
After years on his cushion, a monk has what he believes is a breakthrough: a glimpse of nirvana, the Buddhamind, the big pay-off. Reporting the experience to his master, however, he is informed that what has happened is par for the course, nothing special, maybe even damaging to his pursuit. And then the master gives the student dismaying advice: If you meet the Buddha, he says, kill him.

Why kill the Buddha? Because the Buddha you meet is not the true Buddha, but an expression of your longing. If this Buddha is not killed he will only stand in your way.


In 2003, Utne Reader declared KtB one of the “fifteen websites that could shake the world.” Now, for more than a decade, through deaths and resurrections and few torch passings, KtB is still shaking it. In 2010, CNN said, “Killing the Buddha makes religion interesting again.”

KtB is much more than an online magazine. Under the umbrella of Margins of Faith, our 501(c)(3) nonprofit, we work to increase understanding about today’s living religions in relation to pressing social issues through public engagement and education. This includes:

• Publishing books with major presses, including Killing the Buddha: A Heretic’s Bible (Free Press, 2004), named one of Publishers Weekly’s best religion books of the year, and Believer, Beware: First Person Dispatches from the Margins of Faith (Beacon Press, 2009), which Library Journal called “shocking, exhilarating, and never dull.”
• Independently publishing pamphlets and chapbooks;
• Organizing live events around the United States, including readings, film screenings, panel discussions and lectures;
• Making space for spirited dialogue about a variety of marginalized issues, including the American prison system and LGBTQ concerns;
• Sponsoring retreats and workshops to support up-and-coming writers and artists.

We can only accomplish these things with the generous support of our readers. Please consider giving to KtB today."
religion  philosophy  culture  buddhism  jeffshartlet  petermanseau 
8 weeks ago by robertogreco
We’re Having the Wrong Conversation About the Future Of Schools
"Despite the rhetoric, modern movements to reform schools have had a devastating effect on education"



"As a full-time teacher, I don’t have a lot of time to look up from the dailiness of the job to consider something as nebulous as the “future” of education. When I do, I feel a vague unease that too many non-teachers seem to have a lot of time to do this kind of thinking.

One thing in my favor is that education reform seems to take the same basic forms, year after year. There’s the standards and accountability movement and the ongoing attempts to give it “teeth.” Then there are the tech giants peddling autonomy and self-direction in lieu of soul-crushing activities like reading The Outsiders and using protractors. And though the latter reformers are often critics of the former, the two have a lot in common.

Both represent billion-dollar industries. Both frequently co-opt a rhetoric of liberation, autonomy, and empowerment. Both can barely disguise a deep disdain for teachers and schools, especially of the “sage on the stage” variety. And both are almost exclusively headed up by white men.

These are the kind of people setting a bold agenda for the future of education.

Admittedly, us unruly American educators would have a hard time coming up with anything coherent enough to compete with the brave visions set forth by the leaders of these two industries. The very fact that such an all-encompassing solution is needed testifies to their dominance in framing the narrative around American schools. Mired in the day-to-day challenges and complexities of actually caring for and educating children, many teachers exhibit a complete failure of imagination when it comes to sweeping monolithic initiatives with pithy acronyms, eye-catching logos, and font pairings that are straight fire.

But we do need to change. Beyond the usual Alice Cooper-type critiques, we teachers have been especially complicit in the widespread marginalizing, neuroticizing, and criminalizing of our most vulnerable students. Yes, we need to stop boring future white rockstars and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. This is already well known. But, more importantly, we also need to stop harming children of color with our whitewashed curriculum, inequitable funding systems, and disparate use of punitive disciplinary measures.

Can today’s reformers help us make progress toward these goals? Or do they exacerbate, perpetuate, and contribute to the very problems we face?

Trying to pin deception, manipulation, and violence on this rag-tag bunch leaves me feeling petty and mean-spirited. After all, they’re often so upbeat and sincere, their rhetoric so humanistic and progressive. Ted Dintersmith, former venture capitalist and billionaire author of the book What School Could Be, recently teamed up with Prince Ea, who has made not one but two viral videos echoing the same message: schools must change. And on the standards and accountability side, David Coleman, “architect” of the Common Core and now CEO of the College Board, has boldly laid out a “beautiful vision” for American schools. In a field plagued by widespread mediocrity and entrenched inequities, shouldn’t we applaud any moves toward a more inspiring, inclusive future?

The problem is that, despite all the rhetoric and good intentions, both these movements have had a devastating effect on education, all while continually escaping blame for their outsized impact. Any negative outcomes are used to justify further expansion and dominance. Poor test scores and persistent achievement gaps aren’t seen as issues with the tests, but as misalignment and implicit bias on the part of teachers. Student attention deficit and boredom aren’t seen as a function of technology addiction, but rather an occasion to blast schools for their inability to fully capitalize on the promise of the digital age.

Not surprisingly, this seeming unassailable innocence reveals close links to the logics of white supremacy culture, especially the values of individualism, objectivity, and so-called meritocracy. They additionally amplify neoliberal beliefs in the absolute goods of privacy and consumer choice, thus shifting the blame away from dominant elites under the guise of “empowerment.” To borrow the central metaphor from Todd Rose’s The End of Average, they ultimately seek to style us as fighter pilots in the “cockpits of our economy,” where we must summon limitless initiative, grit, and resourcefulness just to survive.

Ultimately, their ideas are rooted in America’s original “solutions” to the problems of pluralism, wherein subtle self-effacement and silencing became stratagems for consolidating power. All of this is part of a long tradition in the United States, one that dates back to colonial times, guiding both the “Strange Compromise” of 1789 and the founding of the Common School. Although these roots may be less obvious in our day, they are arguably more powerful and moneyed than ever before."



"Ultimately, the several silences of education reform have proven a powerful gambit for privatization and profit. These industries implicitly offer themselves as neutral alternatives to our fraught political climate, much as Horace Mann’s enjoinder to “read without comment” secularized schools in a sectarian age. They also shift the onus of agency and ownership from themselves onto the student, who assumes full responsibility for finding and following their own educational path.

Whereas Mann, perhaps unconsciously, hoped to indoctrinate students into his supposedly doctrineless Unitarianism, these reformers peddle the so-called empty doctrines of individualism, personalization, objectivity, entrepreneurialism, and meritocracy—all while exacerbating inequities and deprofessionalizing teachers.

Resisting these trends starts by seeing them as two sides of the same coin. Anything that counsels and valorizes silence—before the text, the test, or even the individual student—may partake in this phenomenon. The primary effect is always to atomize: content into itemized bits, classrooms into individualized projects and timelines, and each of us into solitary individuals pursuing personalized pathways.

Among the many omissions implicit in this vision is the notion that each student has equal access to a pathway of choice. Once that false premise is established, you are truly on your own. Pull yourself up by the bootstraps, find your own personal road less traveled, dive headfirst into the entrepreneurial shark tank. Unfortunately, far too many smaller-scale reform movements espouse a similar ethos, often flooding Twitter with a toxic positivity that ignores intransigent inequities and injustices."



"None of this is intended to romanticize the educational mainstays of the past: lectures, textbooks, worksheets. But we should note how these more modern trends themselves often devolve into regressive, behaviorist, sit-and-get pedagogy.

Confronted by daunting challenges like widespread budget shortfalls, inequitable funding, increasing school segregation, whitewashed curriculum, and racial injustice, it’s no wonder we would reach for solutions that appear easy, inexpensive, and ideologically empty. At a time when we most need to engage in serious deliberations about the purposes and future of schools, we instead equivocate and efface ourselves before tests and technology, leaving students to suffer or succeed within their own educational echo chamber.

As appealing as these options may seem, they are not without content or consequences. Ironically, today’s progressive educators find themselves in the strange position of having to fight reform, resisting those who would render everything—including their own intentions and impact—invisible."
arthurchiaravalli  education  edreform  reform  history  invisibility  progressive  siliconvalley  infividualism  horacemann  2018  collegeboard  individualism  personalization  commonschool  us  inequality  justice  socialjustice  injustice  race  racism  whitesupremacy  reading  hilarymoss  thomasjefferson  commoncore  davidcoleman  politics  policy  closereading  howweread  ela  johnstuartmill  louiserosenblatt  sat  standardizedtesting  standardization  tedtalks  teddintersmith  democracy  kenrobinson  willrichardson  entrepreneurship  toddrose  mikecrowley  summitschools  religion  secularism  silence  privatization  objectivity  meritocracy  capitalism  teaching  howweteach  schools  publicschools  learning  children  ideology  behaviorism  edtech  technology  society  neoliberalism 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Sam Byers on Twitter: "Jack’s thread on Vipassana meditation is fascinating."
[referenced thread:
https://twitter.com/jack/status/1071575088695140353 ]

"Jack’s thread on Vipassana meditation is fascinating.

It’s significant, I think, that he sees it as a practice that is of value primarily when he returns to work. He likes it because it enables him to refresh and then return to doing more of what he did before.

There is no suggestion, in his thread, that he regards his personal practice as being part of any wider, more selfless contribution to life and the world. It’s simply a method of personal betterment, a hack.

He’s also, it seems, unable to let go of metrics. He wore his Apple Watch and thingummyjig ring throughout and regards the data he gleans from those devices as objectively significant - more significant, in fact, than any inner insight he might have achieved.

Throughout, there’s a distinctly macho emphasis on discomfort. He emphasises the pain of sitting, the mosquito bites, the tough guy willpower and endurance he had to summon.

He’s at pains to labour the point that this is not easy, or gentle, or something anyone can do. It’s tough, it’s gritty, it’s for the hard core.

And then he returns unchanged, determined to do even more work and, one presumes, keep getting richer.

I find this intriguing because I think it’s indicative of a very specific cultural and economic moment in which very old and very traditional belief systems are effectively ransacked for anything they can contribute to the modern cult of productivity.

No emphasis here on empathy or compassion, for example.

This doesn’t tell us a great deal about Vipassana meditation, but it tells us a huge amount about the belief system that is Silicon Valley tech-bro capitalism.

It is closed, highly individual, inward-looking, metric-driven, proud of itself.

It’s easy to see how the practice of meditation, which seems so solitary, even solipsistic, when poorly framed and understood, might be appealing as an adjunct to this world view, but the way these ideologies and practices intersect merits a lot of unpicking, in my view.

I would also say that the replies are pretty fascinating too. People are extraordinarily proud of their cynicism, and their ability to communicate that cynicism with wild hostility, as if this in itself is part of some kind of holistic world view.

When in fact those replies are just the *same* solipsistic, cynical, and very western mindset redoubled and reflected back.

So the whole exchange becomes a kind of pissing contest to see who can be most sure of themselves.

We’re right at the toxic intersection, here, of co-opted “eastern spirituality” and vapidly unquestioning capitalistic self-certainty and the result is frankly wild - just a total shitshow of confusion and anger.

Nothing new of course. Post sixties hippie capitalism is by now so entrenched as to be the norm, but the whole thing is hugely illustrative on all sides and merits a great deal more thought than, ironically, Jack’s medium will allow.

It’s also important to remember that Vipassana meditation doesn’t “belong” to Jack - it’s an ancient and significant tradition. Using that as a means to ridicule him actually just winds up ridiculing a whole big chunk of culture as an unintended consequence.

Short version: it *might not* be possible to interrogate spiritual materialism using... non-spiritual materialism."

[full text of referenced thread:

"For my birthday this year, I did a 10-day silent vipassana meditation, this time in Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar 🇲🇲. We went into silence on the night of my birthday, the 19th. Here’s what I know 👇🏼

Vipassana is a technique and practice to “know thyself.” Understanding the inner nature as a way to understand…everything. It was rediscovered by Gautama the Buddha 2,500 years ago through rigorous scientific self-experimentation to answer the question: how do I stop suffering?

Vipassana’s singular objective is to hack the deepest layer of the mind and reprogram it: instead of unconsciously reacting to feelings of pain or pleasure, consciously observe that all pain and pleasure aren’t permanent, and will ultimately pass and dissolve away.

Most meditation methods end with a goal of strengthening concentration: focus on the breath. This was not Gautama’s goal. He wanted to end his attachment to craving (of pleasure) and aversion (of pain) by experiencing it directly. His theory was ending attachment ends his misery.

Imagine sitting on a concrete floor cross-legged for an hour without moving. Pain arises in the legs in about 30-45 minutes. One’s natural reaction is to change posture to avoid the pain. What if, instead of moving, one observed the pain and decided to remain still through it?

Vipassana would likely be good for those suffering chronic pain to help manage it. That’s not the goal of course, but definitely a simple practice to help. Being able to sit without moving at all for over an hour through pain definitely teaches you a lot about your potential.

Meditation is often thought of as calming, relaxing, and a detox of all the noise in the world. That’s not vipassana. It’s extremely painful and demanding physical and mental work. I wasn’t expecting any of that my first time last year. Even tougher this year as I went deeper.

I did my meditation at Dhamma Mahimã in Pyin Oo Lwin. This is my room. Basic. During the 10 days: no devices, reading, writing, physical excercise, music, intoxicants, meat, talking, or even eye contact with others. It’s free: everything is given to meditators by charity.

I woke up at 4 am every day, and we meditated until 9 pm. There were breaks for breakfast, lunch, and walking. No dinner. Here’s the sidewalk I walked for 45 minutes every day.

The 2nd day was my best. I was able to focus entirely on my breath, without thoughts, for over an hour. The most I could do before that was 5 minutes. Day 6 was my worst as I caught a nasty cold going around the center. Couldn’t sleep from then on but pushed through til the end.

On day 11, all I wanted to do was listen to music, and I again turned to my favorite poet, @kendricklamar and his album DAMN. The greatest effect coming out of silence is the clarity one has in listening. Every note stands alone.

Myanmar is an absolutely beautiful country. The people are full of joy and the food is amazing. I visited the cities of Yangon, Mandalay, and Bagan. We visited and meditated at many monasteries around the country.

The highlight of my trip was serving monks and nuns food, and donating sandals and umbrellas. This group of young nuns in Mandalay and their chanting was breathtaking and chilling.

We also meditated in a cave in Mandalay one evening. In the first 10 minutes I got bit 117 times by mosquitoes 🦟 They left me alone when the light blew a fuse, which you can see in my heart rate lowering.

I also wore my Apple Watch and Oura ring, both in airplane mode. My best meditations always had the least variation in heart rate. When I wasn’t focused, it would jump around a lot. Here’s a night of sleep on the 10th night (my resting heart rate was consistently below 40).

Vipassana is not for everyone, but if any of this resonates with you even in the slightest, I’d encourage you to give it a try. If in the US, this center in Texas is a great start: https://siri.dhamma.org/

And if you’re willing to travel a bit, go to Myanmar: https://www.dhamma.org/en/schedules/schmahimar

Thanks for reading! Always happy to answer any questions about my experience. Will track responses to this thread. I’ll continue to do this every year, and hopefully do longer and longer each time. The time I take away to do this gives so much back to me and my work. 🇲🇲🙏🏼🧘🏻‍♂️

I’ve been meditating for 20 years, with the last 2 years focused on vipassana. After experiencing it in Texas last year, I wanted to go to the region that maintained the practice in its original form. That led me to Myanmar.

I took this time with a singular objective of working on myself. I shared my experience with the world with the singular objective of encouraging others to consider a similar practice. Simply because it’s the best thing I’ve found to help me every day.

I’m aware of the human rights atrocities and suffering in Myanmar. I don’t view visiting, practicing, or talking with the people, as endorsement. I didn’t intend to diminish by not raising the issue, but could have acknowledged that I don’t know enough and need to learn more.

This was a purely personal trip for me focused on only one dimension: meditation practice. That said, I know people are asking about what Twitter is doing around the situation, so I’ll share our current state.

Twitter is a way for people to share news and information about events in Myanmar as well as to bear witness to the plight of the Rohingya and other peoples and communities. We’re actively working to address emerging issues. This includes violent extremism and hateful conduct.

We know we can’t do this alone, and continue to welcome conversation with and help from civil society and NGOs within the region. I had no conversations with the government or NGOs during my trip. We’re always open to feedback on how to best improve.

Will keep following the conversation and sharing what I learn here. 🙏🏼"]
jackdorsey  buddhism  religion  meditation  compassion  empathy  metrics  gamification  spirituality  quantification  vipassana  sambyers  individualism  materialism  capitalism  us  self-certainty  solipsism  cynicism  siliconvalley  californianideology  ideology 
december 2018 by robertogreco
an xiao mina on Twitter: "The Silicon Valley version of Vipassana meditation is an extension of much of the US iteration of Buddhism — a lot of focus on mindfulness and individual suffering, without paying attention to the larger discourse of Buddhist e
"The Silicon Valley version of Vipassana meditation is an extension of much of the US iteration of Buddhism — a lot of focus on mindfulness and individual suffering, without paying attention to the larger discourse of Buddhist ethics focused on compassion and interconnectedness.

Which is not to say that the non-US iterations of Buddhism have some kind of perfect moral grounding (cf. Myanmar), but rather that US Buddhism takes on a distinctly US character —> individualist, capitalist, goal-oriented. We could say the same of yoga."

[referencing this thread, I think, by Jack Dorsey
https://twitter.com/jack/status/1071575088695140353 ]
buddhism  us  religion  individualism  mindfulness  interconnected  interconnectedness  capitalism  goals  morality  2018  anxiaomina  jackdorsey  vipassana  californianideology  siliconvalley 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Jonestown Part 1: Who was the Peoples Temple leader Jim Jones? - YouTube
"A documentary on the 40th anniversary of the largest murder-suicide in American history, when over 900 members of the Peoples Temple consumed a deadly cyanide-laced drink on the orders of leader Jim Jones."

"Jonestown Part 1: Who was the Peoples Temple leader Jim Jones?"
"Captivated by the charismatic style of Pentecostal and Methodist preachers, Jones became a preacher himself and founded his ministry, the Peoples Temple."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0B1sMfxWYw

"Jonestown Part 2: How Jim Jones rose to power within his Peoples Temple"
"Jones promoted social justice, racial and class equality and desegregation. But some of his former followers said he paid lip service to those ideas to lure people in."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWtH6VIfnAQ

"Jonestown Part 3: Jim Jones was 'a predator,' ex-members allege"
"Former Peoples Temple members said Jones became extreme, manipulating his congregants with blackmail and administering humiliating beatings to those who displeased him."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUrd0h8-a6A

"Jonestown Part 4: Ex-members claim Jim Jones practiced faux suicides"
"At the Peoples Temple base in California, former members said Jones would talk about planning for death and ask them whether their movement was worth dying for."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zco4jN7zouI

"Jonestown Part 5: Jim Jones sets up Jonestown compound in Guyana"
"In 1976, about 50 of Jones' followers left California to help him build his "utopia" vision deep in the jungles of the South American country."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NveT_KQeu5w

[Full video:
https://abc.go.com/movies-and-specials/truth-and-lies-jonestown-paradise-lost ]
jonestown  documentary  2018  socialjustice  history  sanfrancisco  cults  religion  race  class  desegregation  equality  gender 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Kitchen Table Cult
"Kitchen Table Cult unpacks all the things Kieryn and Hännah learned at the kitchen tables of their childhoods in conservative Christian homeschooling families. Every week we take your questions and drill down on various topics about Quiverfull, the Religious Right, and our childhoods in high-demand groups (otherwise known as cults).

We’re not surprised about the rise of Trump, Christian fascism, or evangelical white women voting for someone like Mike Pence, and we want to take you back through the beginning of it all to explain why."

[Kieryn and Hännah on Twitter and elsewhere online:

Kieryn Darkwater
https://twitter.com/mxdarkwater
https://www.responsiblehomeschooling.org/about-crhe/who-we-are/kieryn-darkwater/
https://homeschoolersanonymous.org/?s=Kierstyn+King
https://mxdarkwater.com/

Hännah Hettinger
https://twitter.com/haettinger
https://tinyletter.com/haettinger/archive ]

[Fascinating conversation with harrowing experiences. One apprehension (from Episode 1): seems to oversell public (and private) school education and doesn't mention the many, many terrible outcomes that come from it.
https://soundcloud.com/kitchentablecult/episode-one-beginning-at-the-end
https://kitchentablecult.com/2018/07/18/episode-one-beginning-at-the-end/ ]

[Some other episodes of note:

Episode Three: Diligently Taught
"Hännah and Kieryn discuss the intersections of homeschooling, race, privilege, and children's rights."
https://soundcloud.com/kitchentablecult/episode-three-diligently-taught
https://kitchentablecult.com/2018/08/01/episode-three-diligently-taught/

Episode Five: What is HSLDA? (lots of refs in post)
"Hännah and Kieryn talk with Kathryn Brightbill, Legislative Policy Analyst at CRHE about the Homeschool Legal Defense Association – what their role is in the current state of things, where they came from, and why they’ve managed to win so far."
https://soundcloud.com/kitchentablecult/episode-five-what-is-hslda
https://kitchentablecult.com/2018/08/20/episode-5-what-is-hslda/

Episode 10: Educational Neglect
"Kieryn and Hännah delve into the negative aspects of their homeschool educations, and why they are so passionate about advocating for homeschool reform. When homeschooling goes wrong, it can go very very wrong..."
https://soundcloud.com/kitchentablecult/episode-10-educational-neglect
https://kitchentablecult.com/2018/09/26/episode-ten-educational-neglect/ ] ]

[more from Kieryn
https://www.autostraddle.com/i-was-trained-for-the-culture-wars-in-home-school-awaiting-someone-like-mike-pence-as-a-messiah-367057/
https://www.autostraddle.com/author/kieryn/ ]
homeschool  education  evangelical  school  schooling  learning  neglect  unschooling  howwelearn  christianity  children  parenting  2018  fundamentalism  girls  stayathomedaughters  women  gender  hslda  sexuality  politics  religion  hännahettinger  kieryndarkwater  christofascism  resistance  activism 
november 2018 by robertogreco
The Dangers of Diluted Buddhism - Tricycle: The Buddhist Review
"Some charismatic leaders take advantage of Western misconceptions rather than correct them, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher from the UK argues."



"In today’s Western society, where the dominant cultural systems are failing to provide explanations for life’s philosophical questions, a space has opened up that Buddhism is uniquely suited to address.

It is crucial, however, that the temptation to assimilate Buddhism to the ruling ideologies of our age—scientism, ideological fanaticism, and a ruthless self-absorption masquerading as spirituality—be resisted. Such temptations lead to what we might term “fake Buddhism.” Though this has many features, perhaps the most significant is its determination (knowingly or in ignorance) to sever the necessary connection among ethics, meditation, and wisdom—the three trainings that comprise the backbone of all Buddhist traditions. Either a free-floating meditation detached entirely from the other two trainings is formulated or ethics and wisdom are corrupted by spurious notions such as “crazy wisdom.”

Whichever the severance may be, the ground is thus created for the scandals that have plagued Buddhism in recent years and caused disillusionment for many. Unfortunately, the simultaneous disappointment all too frequently becomes resentment, and, whereas disappointment can be the first step to wisdom, resentment brings only disaster.

It is a great tragedy that nowadays many people’s connection with Buddhism bears all the tell-tale signs of a journey from credulous enthusiasm to resentment. Maybe in some cases it’s because they have embraced a phantom—a version of Buddhism that would be unrecognizable to any of our Buddhist predecessors, not to mention the Asian people who still make up the bulk of practicing Buddhists—and one, sadly, that cannot benefit them in any profound manner. One need only glance at the concerns and assumptions of vocal “Buddhists” in the West to sense that these are two very different worlds, and to wonder what “Buddhism” it might be that most Westerners have embraced.

In fact, the answer is clear. They have embraced a Buddhism largely of their own projections, albeit in some cases with some skilful prompting by the kind of Asian or Western teachers who are active in the spiritual marketplace. It is a Buddhism shorn of anything objectionable to the upscale inhabitants of London, Santa Monica, and Manhattan. It’s a Buddhism in which the moral seriousness of traditional Buddhism, a seriousness grounded in respect for others, has been amputated. In its place has been grafted the license of absolute autonomy to the self, for whom individual choice is the only arbiter of good and evil. In short, rather than abandoning self-centredness (and the other powerful gods of our age) and turning instead to Buddhism, we have found, or so we think, a religion that can accommodate them.

It is the apparently unthreatening nature of Buddhism that makes it so attractive to those for whom Christian consolations are unfashionable and restrictive. The sophisticated, well-heeled, and well-connected are excited to be the guests of honor at the Buddhist party today because they imagine that it demands nothing of them, but I don’t see much room for the ordinary, unshowy man or woman with their dirty hands and struggles.

Such a toothless Buddhism, which is only attractive because it is not Christianity, can do nothing to liberate us from the suffering of birth, old age, sickness, and death, for it leaves intact the entire machinery of self-clinging, self-cherishing, and the ensuing disturbing emotions, and here is the root of the disillusionment many come to experience so often. Such a diluted Buddhism cannot provide support and clarity when difficulties turn up, as difficulties inevitably do, and so those who become disillusioned will either return to Christianity, or embrace a total cynicism.

Another version of this disillusionment is felt by those who collapse into resentment on unmasking their chosen guides as nothing more than deceivers. In the modern Buddhist world, it is sometimes hard for neophytes to distinguish the authentic masters from the snake-oil salesmen. They have similar names, they sometimes come from the same places, and, nowadays, they’ve even got the titles. The one difference, which should be obvious (but unhappily may not be to us, owing to our inexperience in such matters, and the general newness of Buddhism in the West), is that the purveyors of snake-oil long ago cast off the shackles of fidelity to true Buddhism in word or deed. Maybe that’s why we like them to begin with—they’re flexible. Perhaps, in some way, they remind us of ourselves.

In many cases, we have embraced a spurious system that is Buddhist in name only, and, what is more, we have often embraced masters who are masters in name only. No wonder we are disappointed when we discover that Buddhism is far from what we imagined. How the truth is going to hurt when we find out how we have allowed ourselves to be deceived."
buddhism  shortcuts  religion  2018  lamajampathaye 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Teju Cole en Instagram: “⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Brushing my teeth last night, on the cusp of the hour-stutter, I asked myself how evil came into the world. Pandora, the one who…”
"Brushing my teeth last night, on the cusp of the hour-stutter, I asked myself how evil came into the world. Pandora, the one who bears all gifts, is first named in Hesiod’s “Works and Days.” A century or so later, in the 6th century BCE, unknown Hebrew authors write “Genesis,” probably while in Babylonian exile, likely influenced by the Greek story.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Pandora opens the jar. Eve eats the fruit. The misogyny in the narratives is one parallel; another is that evil enters the world through too much knowledge. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, no less than Pandora’s Jar, is a device. The lid that is sprung, the knowledge that comes streaming out like arterial blood, the one-way torrent of pain that cannot be reversed or undone. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
The one who bears all gifts... ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Too much knowledge...
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
And no going back..."
tejucole  pandora  evil  knowledge  2018  ancientgreece  greekmyths  myths  religion  bible  babylonia  misogyny 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Mary Midgley - The Gifford Lectures
"An interviewer from the Guardian newspaper once wrote that Mary Midgley ‘may be the most frightening philosopher in the country: the one before whom it is least pleasant to appear a fool’. In a series of books, particularly Beast and Man (1978), Evolution as a Religion (1985),Science as Salvation (1992; her 1990 Edinburgh Gifford Lectures) and Science and Poetry(2001), Midgley offers a trenchant critique of science’s pretence to be much more than it actually is, of the ways in which science often becomes a religion.

Perhaps appropriately, Midgley the scourge of ‘science as religion’ was born to an army and Cambridge college chaplain, Canon Tom Scrutton, and educated in a boarding school in Charles Darwin’s old home, Downe House. Perhaps Midgley’s fascination with science came from her mother’s side; Lesley Hay’s father was an engineer who built the Mersey tunnel. It was in the Downe House library that Midgley first picked up Plato, and, in her own words, ‘thought it was tremendous stuff’ (although in later life perhaps Aristotelian questions have proved more fascinating). By this time, Midgley also realised that she was not a Christian, a position her clergyman father accepted rather matter-of-factly. Nevertheless, Midgley remains convinced that ‘the religious attitude’ is essential to human thriving, and in her work has repeatedly defended the place of religious belief (rather than particular religious beliefs) against its arrogant critics from the sciences.

A number of Midgley’s contemporaries at Somerville College, Oxford, went on to achieve philosophical distinction in later life, including Iris Murdoch, another Edinburgh Gifford Lecturer, with whom Midgley became a close friend. Midgley relished doing philosophy in wartime Oxford, partly because there wasn’t ‘an endless gaggle of young men’ to offer distraction. But she considered it ‘providential’ that she did not get the post she applied for at St. Hugh’s College, and left Oxford, since she thought that the then-prevailing climate of Oxford philosophy would have destroyed her as a philosopher.

She met Geoffrey Midgley while at Oxford. They married in 1950 at Newcastle, where Geoffrey had a job. She then raised a family and did not take up a post in the Department of Philosophy in Newcastle until 1962, where she remained until she retired as Senior Lecturer when the department closed.

Midgley’s animated critique of scientism—science become religion—has been taken by some, especially scientists, as an attack on science itself. This may partly be because Midgley seems much more adept at demolishing others’ positions than in stating her own clearly. In fact, Midgley’s critique of science should be seen against her own metaphor of the philosopher as plumber: the philosopher, like the plumber, engages in an activity that civilisation depends on, but it is an activity which people only notice and require when certain rather essential workings have gone wrong. At her best, Midgley is a ‘science critic’ (using the word ‘critic’ in the way it is used in ‘literary critic’), seeking dialogue with the important activity called science to enable it to do more good and less harm in the modern world. Midgley’s contribution to this project is perhaps largely that of negative criticism. However, her friendship with and support for James Lovelock, the scientist who developed the Gaia hypothesis (that the planet earth as a whole is a living system), tells us a lot about her positive beliefs. Presumably, in Lovelock, she finds a scientific approach that is more congenial and conducive to human flourishing."
marymidgley  scientism  2018  philosophy  behavior  humans  richarddawkins  eowilson  evolution  thinking  science  religion  theselfishgene  selfishness  society  feminism  cognition  humannature  animals  sociobiology  reductionism  christianity 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Mary Midgley, 99, Moral Philosopher for the General Reader, Is Dead - The New York Times
"The biologist Stephen Rose, writing in The Times Literary Supplement in 1992, called Dr. Midgley “a philosopher with what many have come to admire, and some to fear, as one of the sharpest critical pens in the West.”

Andrew Brown, writing in The Guardian in 1981, called her “the foremost scourge of scientific pretension in this country.”

Dr. Midgley unhesitatingly challenged scientists like the entomologist Edward O. Wilson and the biologist, and noted atheist, Richard Dawkins. By her lights they practiced a rigid “academic imperialism” when they tried to extend scientific findings to the social sciences and the humanities.

In place of what she saw as their constricted, “reductionistic” worldview, she proposed a holistic approach in which “many maps” — that is, varied ways of looking at life — are used to get to the nub of what is real.

One challenge came in 1978 in her first book, “Beast and Man: The Roots of Human Nature,” based on a conference she had organized on that slippery, perennial subject as a visiting scholar at Cornell University.

She was later asked to revise her original manuscript to reflect her critical reaction to Professor Wilson’s best-selling 1975 book, “Sociobiology: The New Synthesis” (“a volume the size of a paving stone,” she wrote later in a well-received 2005 autobiography, “The Owl of Minerva”). She described the field of sociobiology as a kind of reactionary “biological Thatcherism.”

Sociobiology — the application of gene-centered theories of natural selection to the social life of organisms — was not itself overly controversial, especially, as Professor Wilson originally used it, in the study of ants and insects. Dr. Midgley, given her own interest in emphasizing humans’ animal nature — that “we are not, and do not need to be, disembodied intellects” — praised parts of Professor Wilson’s book.

What provoked her and others was his hypothesis that the tenets of sociobiology could be applied to humans. That idea, according to scholars, threatened to radically revise generally accepted notions of human nature.

“The term ‘human nature’ is suspect because it does suggest cure-all explanations, sweeping theories that man is basically sexual, basically selfish or acquisitive, basically evil or basically good,” Dr. Midgley wrote in “Beast and Man.”

In “The Owl of Minerva,” she wrote that the need to address Professor Wilson’s concepts had distracted readers from her crucial topic: “the meaning of rationality itself — the fact that reason can’t mean just deductive logic but must cover what makes sense for beings who have a certain sort of emotional nature.”

She added that “Beast and Man” remained “the trunk out of which all my various later ideas have branched.”

Dr. Midgley took pains to distinguish between the important contributions of science and the philosophy of “scientism,” in which “prophets,” she wrote, decree that science is “not just omnicompetent but unchallenged, the sole form of rational thinking.”

“We do not need to esteem science less,” she continued. “We need to stop isolating it artificially from the rest of our mental life.”

Dr. Midgley did not align herself with any specific school of thought: She wrote that moral philosophy and plain “common sense” often covered the same ground. She targeted what she saw as some of the basic errors of modern scientific orthodoxy, including misplaced objectivity, the exclusion of purpose and motive, and the propensity to depersonalize nature.

The very titles of her books — among them “Science as Salvation: A Modern Myth and Its Meaning” (1992) and “Evolution as a Religion” (1985) — and even irreverent chapter headings, like “Knowledge Considered as a Weed Killer,” conveyed her stance against what she called the “parsimonious” worldview of science.

In 1979, in the journal Philosophy, she issued a scathing critique of Professor Dawkins’s widely popular book “The Selfish Gene,” taking issue with what she called his “crude, cheap, blurred genetics.”

In that book, Professor Dawkins suggested that evolution is a product of an innate drive in genes to perpetuate themselves, “selfishly,” through the vehicle of a given species, and that the behavior of living things is in service to their genes.

Dr. Midgley explained her disagreement years later in The Guardian, writing: “Selfish is an odd word because its meaning is almost entirely negative. It does not mean ‘prudent, promoting one’s own interest.’ It means ‘not promoting other people’s’ or, as the dictionary puts it, ‘devoted to or concerned with one’s own advantage to the exclusion of regard for others.’”

She refuted the notion that selfishness underpinned all life.

“Just as there would be no word for white if everything was white, there could surely be no word for selfish if everyone was always selfish,” she wrote, adding, “Selfishness cannot, then, be a universal condition.”

In a long career as a published philosopher, Dr. Midgley addressed a great number of subjects. Evolution, the importance of animals, the role of science in society, cognitive science, feminism and human nature all came under her scrutiny.

She ranged more widely in “Science and Poetry” (2001), in which she considered the place of the imagination in human life. She found excesses of materialism and fatalism in human life, discussed the unusual compatibility of physics and religion, and approved of philosophical and metaphorical aspects of the Gaia hypothesis, which looks at the earth as a living system.

“With this book,” Brian Appleyard wrote in The Sunday Times of London, “Professor Midgley establishes herself as the most cool, coherent and sane critic of contemporary superstition that we have.”"
marymidgley  scientism  2018  philosophy  behavior  humans  richarddawkins  eowilson  evolution  thinking  science  religion  theselfishgene  selfishness  society  feminism  cognition  humannature  animals  sociobiology  reductionism  christianity 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Mary Midgley obituary | Education | The Guardian
"Philosopher who brought a sharp critical intelligence and a gift for vivid metaphor to her writing on human behaviour"



"In 1931, Mary was sent to Downe House. This progressive boarding school started in Charles Darwin’s old home, although by the time Mary was a pupil it had moved to Ash Green, near Newbury. She won a scholarship to Oxford to read Classical Greats and, arriving at Somerville College in 1938, became one of a strikingly able and forceful group of women philosophers. Elizabeth Anscombe had arrived at Oxford the year before, Iris Murdoch, who became a close friend, was an exact contemporary, and Philippa Foot arrived a year later. The work of this interesting quartet of thinkers has recently become the object of revived interest in the contribution of women to philosophy during the last century.

Mary graduated with a first in 1942 and for the remainder of the war worked mainly as a civil servant. From 1945-47 she was secretary to the classical scholar Gilbert Murray, after which she returned to philosophy, starting a thesis on the psychology of Plotinus. She tutored at Somerville and lectured at the University of Reading from 1948 until 1950.

At this point it looked as if an academic career of a familiar shape might be opening up. But instead, in 1950, she married a fellow philosopher, Geoffrey Midgley, whom she had first met in Oxford in 1945. He was lecturing at what later became the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, but was then King’s College of the University of Durham. He and Mary set up house together in Newcastle and had three sons over the next five years.

Mary turned to journalism, reviewing children’s books and novels for the New Statesman and the BBC Third Programme. She also read extensively in (among other things) psychology, anthropology, evolutionary theory and animal behaviour, becoming particularly interested in the views of such pioneers of ethology as Lorenz and Tinbergen. Her excellent autobiography, The Owl of Minerva (2005), gives a vivid account of this first half of her life.

It is unlikely that she would ever have become a professional philosopher in quite the mould of many of her contemporaries, since she had little taste for the logical and linguistic issues that were the focus of mainstream work in the 1950s and 1960s, and which remain the focus of much contemporary work. She said later that she was glad to have escaped when she did from the ambience of Oxford, finding it overly narrow and competitive.

The break in her career kept her very much aware of the need for philosophy in wider debate and, as she said herself, she was concerned “to bring academic philosophy back into its proper connection with life, rather than letting it dwindle into a form of highbrow chess for graduate students”.

In 1965 she returned to teaching philosophy, as a lecturer and later senior lecturer at Newcastle. It was not until this point, when she was over 50, that she began to publish the work for which she later became famous.

In 1980 she took early retirement to have more time to write and travel, and she was writing up to the end. Her final book What is Philosophy For? was published last month. Her work had already begun to be widely known at the time she retired, and she was invited to address numerous conferences and festivals. She became involved in campaigning for animal welfare (and for several years she chaired the RSPCA’s committee on animal experimentation), for environmental awareness and against the arms trade. She also appeared frequently on television and radio, presenting the case for animals and the environment and against scientific hubris. Her speaking and writing were always direct and vigorous and were informed by wide reading, a sharp critical intelligence and a gift for vivid metaphor. The drive of her thought is throughout sane and humane."
marymidgley  scientism  2018  philosophy  behavior  humans  richarddawkins  eowilson  evolution  thinking  science  religion 
october 2018 by robertogreco
How Mary Midgley rescued me - UnHerd
"I arrived at Newcastle University in 1983, a troubled and troublesome student, more interested in girls and nightclubs than in philosophy. At school, I had cared little for studying. I was in the bottom of the bottom set, alongside other no hopers. For me, university meant three more years of loafing about.

But there I met the Midgleys, Geoff and Mary – both considerable philosophers, and both with an extraordinary gift for inspiring wayward students. Under their care, I grew up. And graduated with a passion for philosophy and stamped forever by the desire to join the dots between abstract thought and real life. The Midgleys turned me around.

Mary and Geoff had an open house for the mixed bag of students that came within their orbit. Teaching and pastoral care and philosophy all blended together, creating an astonishing sense of solidarity amongst us all. I was the last of this generation – the University closed the philosophy department the year I left. It wasn’t financially viable, they said. It broke the Midgley’s hearts. Geoffrey passed away a few years later. Mary died last week, aged 99.

The connection between philosophy and pastoral care wasn’t incidental. Mary started teaching in Oxford, but left in 1950 and was glad to have left. She travelled up to Newcastle with a desire, she said, “to bring academic philosophy back into its proper connection with life, rather than let it dwindle into a form of highbrow chess for graduate students”. With this aim, Mary was a part of a number of extraordinary women philosophers who had met at Oxford: Philippa Foot, Elizabeth Anscombe and Iris Murdoch among them. Mary was old school. “Huzzar!” she would exclaim, if she approved of what you were saying. Not “hurrah”, not “horray”. She felt like a blast from the past, even back in the 80’s.

Professor Jane Heal, another of the Newcastle teaching staff of that era, summarised Mary’s thought admirably in the Guardian: “She identified the limitations of only trying to understand things by breaking them down into smaller parts and losing sight of the many ways in which the parts are dependent on the wholes in which they exist.”

Mary was suspicious of the idea that an explanation for something could only be found by breaking it up into smaller and smaller questions, thus missing the wood for the trees. Some explanations involve understanding what is before your eyes, open to view. Many explanations for things are hidden in plain sight. Geoff was the more conventional Wittgensteinian, urging students to appreciate that “nothing is hidden”, that the meaning of a thing reveals itself in and through the way we use it. Mary had an equally hostile attitude to reductionism. And her subject of interest was the human animal.

It was probably this distrust of reductionism that made her so suspicious of scientism – the inappropriate, as she saw it, extension of the scientific method to those phenomenon that do not benefit from it. She famously fell out with Richard Dawkins for offering what she felt to be his highly reductive understand of human beings as being driven by “the selfish gene”, as if selfishness were built into our DNA. This was Thatcherism dressed up as scientific explanation, she thought. From the perspective of the North East of England, with the Miner’s Strike devastating local communities, and the Bishop of Durham thundering from his pulpit about the evils of economic competition determining all value, Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene (published 1976) felt like the philosophy of the enemy.

Mary wasn’t obviously religious, but she had grown up in an Anglican vicarage, and to me she seemed like a fellow traveller, sympathetic to the broader Christian ethical impulse. The Midgley house felt like the very best of what an Anglican vicarage should be: welcoming, compassionate, fizzing with ideas. I arrived at university, from a broadly non-religious family, assuming that religion was simply pious mumbo-jumbo, clearly discredited by the likes of David Hume. I emerged, open to giving it a chance. I was less interested in breaking religion down into its parts where confusion and contradiction abounded. I wasn’t interested in the so-called proofs of God’s existence. They didn’t work, for one thing. And that never bothered me.

In terms of the lived experience, looking at the way God functioned in the lives of real believers, Christianity made a great deal more sense to me. Under the Midgleys, I came to see that explanation is not always like the foundations of a building, keeping it up – as if, without a proper explanation, the building falls. On the contrary, an explanation is a way of making sense of what is already there, not a way of re-arranging it. Understanding is after the fact. So St Anselm’s ‘Faith seeking understanding’ – i.e. faith is not built on understanding but goes looking for it – opened up, for me, a way of being a Christian, without having resolved any of the underlying contradictions. And that hasn’t stopped being true. For me, believing in God names a certain sort of commitment, not the conclusion of an argument.

There is a particular love that a student has for a teacher who made a difference to their lives. I was in McDonalds with my small son when I got a text to say that she had died. I felt like a bit of an idiot ordering a Happy Meal with tears rolling down my cheeks. But this was the end of an era. She was perhaps the last of a generation of moral philosophers that looked as much to classical literature and fiction as to empirical inquiry. Iris Murdoch was more famous, but Mary Midgley was every bit as formidable. Looking back, there is no way my life would have turned out like did if it hadn’t been for the Midgleys. Wonderful people. May they rest in peace."
marymidgley  philosophy  education  2018  gilesfraser  humans  reductionism  scientism  christianity  religion 
october 2018 by robertogreco
As American as Apple Pie? - Tricycle: The Buddhist Review
"Others who knew about my involvement with the movement have been harsher than A. The most telling criticisms came from those who practiced other varieties of Buddhism. They wondered where, in Soka Gakkai’s visible and frenetic public display—its conventions and parades staged in major cities, its proselytizing groups gathered on street corners or swarming over college campuses—where was Buddhist dharma? Where was the contemplation, the dedication, the struggle for enlightenment, the evidence of responsibility to Buddhist practice that has characterized Buddhism for thousands of years? Where was anything of substance in what I was doing and advocating that others do?

People in the United States and Japan who join Soka Gakkai are not often the same kinds of people attracted to other forms of Buddhism. In the U.S., Soka Gakkai appeals to a spectrum of the population in diverse economic, racial, and cultural groups. Solid demographic and psychographic information is not available, but judging by articles in Soka Gakkai’s American weekly newspaper, The World Tribune, today’s American membership includes many people living in lower-income, inner-city areas such as Detroit and Watts, as well as middle-class people living in major cities and suburbs. (African-Americans make up an estimated twenty percent of the membership, a significantly larger proportion than can be found in other American Buddhist groups.) Few avant-garde artists, writers, or scholars of contemplative bent (those who seem drawn to other Buddhist groups) appear in news coverage. Meanwhile, the testimonials of famous Soka Gakkai members—including those of Patrick Swayze, Roseanne Arnold, Tina Turner, and Herbie Hancock and assorted sports figures—have made the practitioners known as Buddhists who chant for fame and fortune.

Most people assume that Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai are the same. They are not. Nichiren Shoshu is a religion, a sect of Buddhism. Soka Gakkai is a social, political, and cultural organization. Most Soka Gakkai members practice a version of Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism regularly. Yet, although the religion owes its eight to ten million worldwide members and (apparently) uncountable wealth to the lay organization, the complex historical alliance between these affiliations has never been harmonious.

Nichiren Daishonin (Nichiren means “Sun Lotus,” and Daishonin means “great sage”), the founder of the sect, was born in Japan in 1222. He began his career as a monk of the T’ien-t’ai sect of Mahayana Buddhism. The teachings of T’ien-t’ai are distinguished by their reverence for the Lotus Sutra (Saddharmapundarika-sutra in Sanskrit). T’ien-t’ai places this teaching text a bove all others because of its emphasis on the universality of Buddha-nature and the promise that everyone—men and women alike—may attain enlightenment in this life, “as one is.”"



"Is Soka Gakkai/Nichiren Shoshu the true American Buddhism? To an observer, the practices of Soka Gakkai seem tailor-made for the American fast-food, instant-wish-fulfillment culture. You can chant for money, for a better job, for love, for any of the 108 human desires symbolized by the 108 prayer beads that Nichiren Shoshu members hold while they chant. An observer would note that Soka Gakkai practitioners spend far more time in discussion meetings and other group activities than they do in disciplined contemplation or consultation with Buddhist teachers. Because its emphasis falls on action rather than view, Soka Gakkai appeals to a broad range of Americans with varying educational backgrounds, even as it may alienate those who enjoy meditative Buddhist traditions. Without looking further, an observer might reasonably conclude that Soka Gakkai represents only a simplified version—or even a cynical perversion—of Buddhism created for American consumption. But if Soka Gakkai appeals to the American Dream, it has appealed to the Japanese Dream as well."



"The white middle-class practitioners who follow Zen, Tibetan, or Theravadan Buddhism are wary if not downright disdainful of Nichiren Shoshu but—whether they acknowledge it or not—they are involved in a dilemma with striking parallels. The issue for them is not money but ego. In a culture where low self-esteem and depression are endemic, the question arises: “Does one have to have a healthily developed ego to give it up?” Yet many of the same middle-class, materialistically secure white practitioners of other traditions have remained hostile to Nichiren Shoshu without investigating its different economic and cultural contexts.

To traditional Buddhists the idea of a Buddhism that encourages its practitioners to chant for BMWs appears blatantly heretical, and the description of the group’s object of worship as a machine for granting wishes sounds ridiculous. Even so, the practice of Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism is not trivial, nor is its effect upon members’ lives shallow. Gongyo, the daily practice of the Nichiren Shoshu membership, consists of morning and evening recitations of the Lotus Sutra as well as chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo repeatedly.Gongyo,** which literally means “assiduous practice,” is performed while practitioners sit before theGohonzon, a replica of Nichiren’s original mandala. During gongyo, two chapters of the Lotus Sutra are recited from Chinese characters (using Japanese pronunciation) and are repeated five times in the morning and three times at night. After each reading, practitioners silently recite prayers that offer thanks for protection by the Buddhist gods, praise the virtues of the Dai-Gohonzon, acknowledge the succession of the chief priests, present a petition for world peace and attainment of enlightenment, and pray for the well-being of ancestors—all of which have parallels in the daily services of Buddhist parishes in many different Asian cultures, as well as in Japan’s Soto Zen tradition. After the final reading, members chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, usually for five or ten minutes, but occasionally for several hours. The liturgy of gongyoencourages one to clear the mind of wishes, anxieties, and other distracting thoughts so that when it is time to chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo (the most important part of the practice) the mind will be sufficiently stilled to concentrate on the Gohonzon. The goal of this “assiduous practice” is the fusion of one’s mind with the reality of the Gohonzon—it means reading the Chinese characters not simply with one’s eyes but “with one’s life”—through chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.

**Gongyo: In general, gongyo means the recitation of Buddhist sutras in fornt of an object of worship. In Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai, gongyo means to recite part of the second chapter and the whole of the sixteenth chapter of the Lotus Sutra in front of the gohonzon, followed by chanting.

The literal translation of the chant is “Devotion to the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma.” But Nichiren Shoshu provides specific interpretations: Nam—“devotion of both mind and body”—to Myoho, a word indicating that all life and death phenomena are united in a “mystic” or mysterious manner. Myoho indicates “the Mystic Law” of Renge, the lotus that reveals its seeds (its cause) as it blossoms (its effect) simultaneously—therefore, “simultaneous cause and effect.” This is invoked in our lives through Kyo, the word for dharma, sutra, or the sound of its teachings.

What Nichiren Shoshu members unite with when they chant to the Gohonzon is a depiction, in Chinese characters, of the “Ceremony in the Air,” described in the Lotus Sutra as an assembly of Shakyamuni’s disciples floating in space above the saha (impure) world. When the Bodhisattvas of the Earth appear, Shakyamuni reveals his original enlightenment in the remote past. He then transfers the essence of the sutra specifically to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth led by Bodhisattva Jogyo (Vishishtacharitra in Sanskrit), entrusting them with its propagation two thousand years in the future (our own time). Chanting to theGohonzon then both invites and affirms attendance at this assembly of bodhisattvas.

The philosophical lineage of Nichiren Shoshu purports that although the material and the spiritual are two separate classes of phenomena, they are in essence inseparable, a “oneness of body and mind.”

T’ien-t’ai sought to clarify the mutually inclusive relationship of the ultimate truth and the phenomenal world asserting with this principle that all phenomena—body and mind, self and environment, sentient and insentient, cause and effect—are integrated in a life-moment of a common mortal. Pre-Lotus Sutra teachings generally hold that all phenomena arise from the mind, but in T’ien-t’ai teachings the mind and all phenomena are “two but not two.” That is, neither can be independent of the other.

In pre-Lotus Sutra teachings, earthly desires and illusions are cited as causes of spiritual and physical suffering that impede the quest for enlightenment, obscuring Buddha nature and hindering Buddhist practice. According to T’ien-t’ai’s intepretation of the Lotus Sutra, however, earthly desires and enlightenment are not fundamentally different: enlightenment is not the eradication of desire, but a state of mind that can be experienced by transforming innate desires.

Beginning Nichiren Shoshu members establish their practice by chanting for whatever they want. I had friends who started off chanting for cheaper drugs and free money. Like them, I treated the Gohonzon as a pimp. I wanted to see if chanting would work. I set about praying for things (a summer job, a girlfriend, even a good parking spot) that would fill immediate needs or give instant pleasure. Some things I got; others I didn’t. The things I really needed—such as better relationships with people and with myself—eluded me. Nevertheless, I continued to chant. Gradually, my interest in short-term material benefits was displaced by a hunger for longer-term… [more]
buddhism  sgi  nichirenshoshu  1992  sandymcintosh  religion 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Oakland Neighborhood Sees Improvement After Buddhist Shrine Moves In - YouTube
"Residents of a once blighted Oakland neighborhood are crediting a Buddha statue installed in a median for a remarkable change."
2014  buddha  buddhism  us  religion  oakland 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Why Americans see Buddhism as a philosophy rather than a religion — Quartz
"But American secular Buddhism has also produced some unintended consequences. Suzuki’s writings greatly influenced Jack Kerouac, the popular Beat Generation author of On the Road and The Dharma Bums. But Suzuki regarded Kerouac as a “monstrous imposter” because he sought only the freedom of Buddhist awakening without the discipline of practice.

Other Beat poets, hippies and, later, New Age DIY self-helpers have also paradoxically mistaken Buddhism for a kind of self-indulgent narcissism, despite its teachings of selflessness and compassion. Still others have commercially exploited its exotic appeal to sell everything from “Zen tea” to “Lucky Buddha Beer,” which is particularly ironic given Buddhism’s traditional proscription against alcohol and other intoxicants.

As a result, the popular construction of nonreligious Buddhism has contributed much to the contemporary “spiritual but not religious” phenomenon, as well as to the secularized and commodified mindfulness movement in America.

We may have only transplanted a fraction of the larger bodhi tree of religious Buddhism in America, but our cutting has adapted and taken root in our secular, scientific, and highly commercialized age. For better and for worse, it’s Buddhism, American-style."
buddhism  us  counterculture  philosophy  doctrine  2018  sokauniversityofamerica  mindfulness  secularism  religion  beatgeneration  jackkerouac  zen  zenbuddhism  daisetsuteitarosuzuki  thichnhathanh  shakusōen  anagārikadharmapāla  paulvcarus  ernestfenellosa  williamsturgisbigelow  henrydavidthoreau  ralphwaldoemerson  soka 
august 2018 by robertogreco
An Asian religion gains popularity in the New World - Buddhism in America
"Buddhism in the United States may be a large and prolix phenomenon, ranging from ethnically defined groups which foster community and ritual to the more individualistic approach epitomised by those Seattle classes. But almost everybody who studies the subject agrees that the religion is growing. Pew, an independent research body based in Washington, DC, reckons that by 2020 the number of American Buddhists may have risen to at least 4.2 million from 3.6 million in 2010. It is also growing in public esteem; last year, when Pew surveyed the feelings of Americans towards various religious groups, the youngest cohort of respondents (aged 18-29) gave top marks to Buddhism.

Today you can find in the United States outposts of virtually every form of Buddhism practised in Asia, says Scott A. Mitchell of the Institute of Buddhist Studies in California. The faith’s first significant presence on American soil came with Chinese immigrants in the mid-19th century; newcomers from Japan arrived a few decades later. Over time, non-Asians were drawn in. After 1945, a Japanese movement known as Soka Gakkai International, favouring chants rather than meditation, gained followers in the United States, including African-Americans and Latinos. (This cuts across a stereotype which holds that most converts to Buddhism are liberal whites.)

Charles Prebish, professor emeritus at Penn State University and a Buddhist scholar, reckons that Pew’s estimates are on the low side. He also thinks that converts are gaining numerical preponderance as some Asian-Americans drift away from their family traditions and beliefs. In any case, there are some people who transcend the sociologists’ distinction between convert and “cradle” Buddhist: for example, young Americans who have grown up in deeply committed convert families. There are some prominent teachers of Buddhism who fit that description.

At its liberal edge, the boundaries of the religion, as practised in America, can be very fuzzy. For example, most Buddhists would agree that their faith’s core axioms include five moral precepts: don’t harm living things, don’t take what is not given, don’t engage in sexual misconduct, lie or consume intoxicants. But not all the Americans who call themselves Buddhist really know about these precepts, let alone practise them.

Then there is the fact that American culture, including corporate culture, has cherry-picked aspects of Buddhist life, such as the practice of mindfulness. Big corporations may employ full-time coaches on meditation which draw on Buddhist techniques. But that does not make the users of these practices into followers of Buddhism.

Still, Mr Prebish insists that the most accurate way to determine whether people adhere to that religion is simply to ask them. In his view, an adherent is someone who says, “I am a Buddhist,” and is clearly talking about the most significant part of his or her religious life.

In Mr Mitchell’s view, issues of politics and social justice are becoming a focal point for the large and disconnected Buddhist scene, prompting followers to cohere and connect more often. “There is definitely a sense of, what I should do as a Buddhist about this or that issue,” he says. There have been Buddhist initiatives in favour of the environment and against racism. Last year, a dozen or so prominent American Buddhist leaders signed a statement protesting over the effect on the vulnerable of the current administration’s policies; scores of others added their names. The authors explained that although Buddhism can take many different forms, “our commitment is to ease the suffering of all living things…” Whatever the merits of learning to meditate in a Seattle studio, that is not where the religion will stop."
buddhism  us  sgi  religion  2018  politics  socialjustice 
august 2018 by robertogreco
The Shifting Landscape of Buddhism in America - Lion's Roar
"The first wave of academic scholarship on these communities was published around the turn of the millennium, as the study of Buddhism in America emerged as a distinct academic subfield. Influential books included Charles S. Prebish’s Luminous Passage: The Practice and Study of Buddhism in America (1999), Richard Hughes Seager’s Buddhism in America (1999), and James Coleman’s The New Buddhism: The Western Transformation of an Ancient Religion (2002). One common distinction made in this early research was between the so-called “two Buddhisms” in America: “ethnic” and “convert.” According to the researchers, the ethnic or “immigrant” Buddhism of Asian Americans (what scholars now commonly refer to as heritage Buddhism) focused on communal, devotional, and merit-making activities within a traditional cosmological context, whereas the convert Buddhism of overwhelmingly white, upper-middle class practitioners was individualistic, primarily focused on meditation practice and psychological in its approach.

An early challenge to the “two Buddhisms” typology came from scholar Jan Nattier, who observed that not all converts are white, and that some convert-populated communities, such as Soka Gakkai, do not privilege meditation. She proposed an alternative “three Buddhisms” typology—import, export, and baggage—that moved away from ethnicity and race and focused on the mode by which various forms of Buddhism were brought to the U.S.

As Scott Mitchell and Natalie Quli note in their coedited collection Buddhism Beyond Borders: New Perspectives on Buddhism in the United States (2015), and as Mitchell unpacks in his Buddhism in America: Global Religions, Local Contexts (2016), there have been numerous dramatic changes in the social and cultural landscape of America since those studies were published over a decade ago. These changes, as evidenced by the Maha Teacher Council, have brought new questions and concerns to meditation-based convert communities: Who has the authority to define and represent “American” Buddhism? What is the impact of mindfulness transitioning from a countercultural religious practice to a mainstream secular one? How have technology and the digital age affected Buddhist practice? In what ways are generational and demographic shifts changing meditation-based convert communities?

My research explores these questions through a series of case studies, highlighting four areas in which major changes are occurring, pushing these communities beyond their first-generation expressions.

Addressing the Exclusion of Asian Americans

Central to the shifting landscape of contemporary American Buddhism is a rethinking of the distinction between “convert” and “heritage” Buddhisms as practitioners and scholars have become increasingly aware of the problematic nature of both the “two Buddhisms” and “three Buddhisms” typologies. An early challenge came from Rev. Ryo Imamura, a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist priest, in a letter to Tricycle: The Buddhist Review in 1992. That winter, magazine founder and editor Helen Tworkov had written that “The spokespeople for Buddhism in America have been, almost exclusively, educated members of the white middle class. Asian American Buddhist so far have not figured prominently in the development of something called American Buddhism.” Rev. Imamuru correctly pointed out that this statement disregarded the contributions of Asian American immigrants who had nurtured Buddhism in the U.S. since the eighteenth century and implied that Buddhism only became truly American when white Americans practiced it. Although written twenty-five years ago, Rev. Imamura’s letter was only recently published in its entirety with a commentary by Funie Hsu on the Buddhist Peace Fellowship’s website. Hsu and Arunlikhati, who has curated the blog Angry Asian Buddhist since 2011, have emerged as powerful voices in bringing long-overdue attention to the erasure of Asian Americans from Buddhism in the U.S and challenging white privilege in American meditation-based convert communities.

Another shortcoming of the heritage/convert distinction is that it does not account for practitioners who bridge or disrupt this boundary. Where, for example, do we place second- and third-generation Asian Americans who have grown up in Asian American Buddhist communities but now practice in meditation-based lineages? What about Asian Americans who have converted to Buddhism from other religions, or from non-religious backgrounds? Chenxing Han’s promising research, featured in Buddhadharma’s Summer 2016 edition, brings the many different voices of these marginalized practitioners to the forefront. Similarly, how do we categorize “cradle Buddhists,” sometimes jokingly referred to as “dharma brats,” who were born into Buddhist “convert” communities? Millennials Lodro Rinzler and Ethan Nichtern—two of the most popular young American Buddhist teachers—fall into this category, having grown up in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition. How do such new voices affect meditation-based convert lineages?

Rev. Imamura’s letter echoes the early characterization of primarily white, meditation-based convert communities, observing that “White practitioners practice intensive psychotherapy on their cushions in a life-or-death struggle with the individual ego, whereas Asian Buddhists seem to just smile and eat together.” It is of little surprise then that the theme of community appears strongly in the work of Arunlikhati, Hsu, and Han. Arunlikhati has most recently written about the need to create refuges for Buddhists of color—”spaces where people can find true comfort and well-being”—and shares that his dream “is for Western Buddhism to be like a family that accepts all of its members openly.” In challenging white privilege, Asian Americans and other practitioners of color have been instrumental in recovering and building the neglected third refuge—sangha—in meditation-based convert Buddhism."



"Three Emerging Turns
In my forthcoming book, I posit three emerging turns, or sensibilities, within meditation-based convert Buddhism: critical, contextual, and collective. The critical turn refers to a growing acknowledgement of limitations within Buddhist communities. First-generation practitioners tended to be very celebratory of “American Buddhism,” enthusing that they were creating new, more modern, and “essential” forms of Buddhism that were nonhierarchical, gender-egalitarian, and free of the cultural and religious “baggage” of their Asian predecessors. While the modernization and secularization of Buddhism certainly continues, there is now much more discussion about the problems and pitfalls of these processes, with some exposing the Western ethnocentrism that has operated behind the “essential” versus “cultural” distinction. This understanding acknowledges that meditation-based convert Buddhism is as culturally shaped as any other form of Buddhism. Some, drawing attention to what is lost when the wider religious context of Buddhism is discarded, have called for a reengagement with neglected aspects of the tradition such as ritual and community.

The contextual turn refers to the increasing awareness of how Buddhist practice is shaped and limited by the specific social and cultural contexts in which it unfolds. In the case of the mindfulness debates, critics have argued that mindfulness has become commodified and assimilated into the context of global capitalism and neoliberalism. Another heated debate is around power and privilege in American Buddhist communities. Take, for instance, Pablo Das’s response to Buddhist teachers’ reflections on the U.S. presidential election, in which he critiques their perspectives as reflective of a privileged social location that negates the trauma of marginalized communities. Das suggests that calls to meditate and to “sit with what is” are not sufficient to create safety for vulnerable populations, and he warns against misusing Buddhist teachings on impermanence, equanimity, and anger to dismiss the realities of such groups. Insight teachers Sebene Selassie and Brian Lesage have fostered a dialogue between sociocultural awareness and Buddhism, developing a course for the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies titled “Buddha’s Teaching and Issues of Cultural Spiritual Bypassing,” which explores how unconscious social conditioning manifests both individually and collectively.

The collective turn refers to the multiple challenges to individualism as a cornerstone of meditation-based convert lineages. One shift has come in the form of efforts toward building inclusive sanghas. Another is the development of relational forms of meditation practice such as external mindfulness. And a third expression is the concept of “collective awakening,” hinted at in Thich Nhat Hanh’s suggestion that “the next Buddha might take the form of a community,” as well as the application of Buddhist principles and practices to the collective dukkha caused by racism and capitalism.

The first generation of meditation-based convert practitioners brought the discourses of psychology, science, and liberal feminism to their encounter with already modernized forms of Asian Buddhism. With the “three turns,” previously excluded, neglected, or entirely new conversations—around critical race theory, postcolonial thought, and cultural studies—are shaping the dialogue of Buddhist modernism. These are not necessarily replacing earlier influences but sitting alongside them and engaging in often-heated debates. Moreover, due to social media and the lively Buddhist blogosphere, these dialogues are also finding a much larger audience. While it is difficult to predict the extent to which these new perspectives will shape the future of Buddhism in America, the fact that they are particularly evident in Gen X and millennial practitioners suggests that their impact will be significant… [more]
us  buddhism  religion  2018  conversion  race  identity  mindfulness  annagleig  whiteprivilege  inclusion  racialjustice  history  diversity  meditation  babyboomers  generations  genx  millennials  pluralism  individualism  accountability  psychology  converts 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Buddhism and the Brain § SEEDMAGAZINE.COM
"Many of Buddhism’s core tenets significantly overlap with findings from modern neurology and neuroscience. So how did Buddhism come close to getting the brain right?"
buddhism  neuroscience  brain  religion  science  2011  davidweisman 
july 2018 by robertogreco
To survive our high-speed society, cultivate 'temporal bandwidth' | Alan Jacobs | Opinion | The Guardian
"It is hard to imagine a time more completely presentist than our own, more tethered to the immediate; and is hard to imagine a person more exemplary of our presentism than the current president of the United States.

Donald Trump is a creature of the instant, responsive only and wholly to immediate stimulus – which is why Twitter is his exclusive medium of written communication, and why when he speaks he cannot stick to a script. In this respect he differs little from anyone who spends a lot of time on social media; the social media ecosystem is designed to generate constant, instantaneous responses to the provocations of Now.

We cannot, from within that ecosystem, restore old behavioral norms or develop new and better ones. No, to find a healthier alternative, we must cultivate what the great American novelist Thomas Pynchon calls “temporal bandwidth” – an awareness of our experience as extending into the past and the future.

In Pynchon’s 1973 novel Gravity’s Rainbow, an engineer named Kurt Mondaugen explains that temporal bandwidth is “the width of your present, your now … The more you dwell in the past and future, the thicker your bandwidth, the more solid your persona. But the narrower your sense of Now, the more tenuous you are.”

If we want to extend our bandwidth, we begin with the past, because exploring the past requires only willingness. Recently, I was teaching the Epistles of the Roman poet Horace to a group of undergraduates. Though Horace comes from a world alien in so many ways to ours – and though he would surely fail any possible test of political correctness of the left or right – we found ourselves resonating powerfully with his quest for “a tranquil mind”. Indeed, Horace recommends just what I am arguing for now: “Interrogate the writings of the wise,” he counsels his friend Lollius Maximus:

“Asking them to tell you how you can

Get through your life in a peaceable tranquil way.

Will it be greed, that always feels poverty-stricken,

That harasses and torments you all your days?

Will it be hope and fear about trivial things,

In anxious alternation in your mind?

Where is it virtue comes from, is it from books?

Or is it a gift from Nature that can’t be learned?

What is the way to become a friend to yourself?

What brings tranquility? What makes you care less?”"



"Another benefit of reflecting on the past is awareness of the ways that actions in one moment reverberate into the future. You see that some decisions that seemed trivial when they were made proved immensely important, while others which seemed world-transforming quickly sank into insignificance. The “tenuous” self, sensitive only to the needs of This Instant, always believes – often incorrectly – that the present is infinitely consequential. That frame of mind is dangerously susceptible to alarmist notions, like the idea that “2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die” – a claim that many Trump supporters accepted as gospel, without even inquiring what “die” might mean in that context.

Only a severe constriction of temporal bandwidth could make such a claim seem even possible. I did not vote for Hillary Clinton and cannot envision circumstances in which I would have done so, but the idea that her election would mean death (even metaphorical death) for conservatives and Christians is absurd. It would, rather, have meant the continuation of the centrist policies of her predecessor. The idea that the United States in 2016 was faced with a choice between Trump and Death, an idea driven by ignorance of even the recent past, also had the effect of disabling care for the future.

What will Trump’s policies do to international trade? What will they do to immigrant families, including those in this country legally? What will they do to the increasingly toxic state of race relations? What will they do to the health of the planet? The Trump-or-Death binary dismissed all those questions as irrelevant, and we are living with the consequences.

But these questions are essential, if we are to extend our temporal bandwidth into the future as well as the past. (And the refusal of them shows how indifference to the past makes it impossible to consider the future.) I am a Christian, and I have been dismayed at how easily many of my fellow Christians have cast aside their long-held convictions, merely to exchange their rich birthright for a cold serving of Trumpian triumphalism. As David French recently wrote in National Review, in an open letter to his fellow evangelicals: “Soon enough, the ‘need’ to defend Trump will pass. He’ll be gone from the American scene. Then, you’ll stand in the wreckage of your own reputation and ask yourself, ‘Was it worth it?’ The answer will be as clear then as it should be clear now. It’s not, and it never was.”

The bitter irony here is that so many American Christians, who often claim to have “an eternal perspective”, turned out, in 2016, to have no perspective beyond that of the immediate moment. They have left their own future, and that of the country they claim to love, uncared for and unreflected on. Someday, along will come some politician they despise whose personal morality will be even more contemptible than Trump’s, and they will be reduced to silence – or, if they insist on speaking out anyway, will merely testify to their own rank hypocrisy. “Was it worth it?”

Forty years ago, the German philosopher Hans Jonas, in a book that would prove a vital inspiration for the Green movement in his country, asked a potent question: “What force shall represent the future in the present?” In other words, what laws and norms will embody our care for those who come after us, including those already here and those yet to be born? But this is a question that we cannot ask if our thoughts are imprisoned by the stimulation of what rolls across our Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Pynchon’s Mondaugen comments on the personal tenuousness of those who live only in the moment: “It may get to where you’re having trouble remembering what you were doing five minutes ago.” And of course, no person so afflicted can recall, much less be accountable for, what he said yesterday, which is why those who work for Donald Trump have had to learn that yesterday’s truth is today’s lie, and today’s lie will be tomorrow’s truth.

But, again, Trump didn’t create this situation: he found in social media and soundbite TV news an environment ready-made for the instincts he already possessed, an environment in which tenuousness is less a condition to lament than the primary instrument of ultimate celebrity and ultimate power. Trump may be 71 years old, but he is the future of our collective temperament – unless we develop some temporal bandwidth. It’s best that we start now."
alanjacobs  time  attention  politics  religion  2018  donaldtrump  thomaspynchon  temporalbandwidth  horace  futue  past  vulnerability  precarity  immediacy  socialmedia  twitter  inequality  greed  longnow  hansjonas  entanglement  facebook 
june 2018 by robertogreco
You Can’t Ruin Your Kids | Alliance for Self-Directed Education
"Why parenting matters less than we think"



"What Parents Can Do
Harris moves on to tackle specific issues concerning teenagers, gender differences, and dysfunctional families. She holds fast to her thesis, marshaling massive evidence for the influence of peer groups and genetics over parents and home environment.

It’s not that parents and home life don’t matter, she constantly reminds us — they obviously do matter in the short-run, because kids do react to their parents’ actions and expectations — but rather that life at home is just a temporary stop in the child’s journey, and the parents are temporary influencers. The direct effects of parenting that you believe you observe in your kids are either (1) simply your genes expressing themselves or (2) are temporary behavioral adjustments made by children, soon to be cast off when they enter the peer world “as easily as the dorky sweater their mother made them wear.”

So what can parents do, beyond carefully choosing a peer group (as discussed above)? Harris ends her book with an entire chapter dedicated to this question.

Some things that parents do — like teaching language to their young children — don’t hurt. That means that the child “does not have to learn it all over again in order to converse with her peers — assuming, of course, that her peers speak English.” Harris continues:

The same is true for other behaviors, skills, and knowledge. Children bring to the peer group much of what they learned at home, and if it agrees with what the other kids learned at home they are likely to retain it. Children also learn things at home that they do not bring to the peer group, and these may be retained even if they are different from what their peers learned. Some things just don’t come up in the context of the peer group. This is true nowadays of religion. Unless they attend a religious school, practicing a religion is something children don’t do with their peers: they do it with their parents. That is why parents still have some power to give their kids their religion. Parents have some power to impart any aspect of their culture that involves things done in the home; cooking is a good example. Anything learned at home and kept at home — not scrutinized by the peer group — may be passed on from parents to their kids.

Religion, cooking, political beliefs, musical talents, and career plans: Harris concedes that parents do influence their kids in these areas. But only because these are essentially interests and hobbies, not character traits. If you had a personal friend living with you for 18 years, their favorite meals, political beliefs, and career plans might rub off on you, too.

If your kid is getting bullied or falling in with the wrong crowd, you can move. You can switch schools. You can homeschool. These actions matter, because they affect the peer group.

You can help your kid from being typecast in negative ways by their peer group. You can help them look as normal and attractive as possible:

“Normal” means dressing the child in the same kind of clothing the other kids are wearing. “Attractive” means things like dermatologists for the kid with bad skin and orthodontists for the one whose teeth came in crooked. And, if you can afford it or your health insurance will cover it, plastic surgery for any serious sort of facial anomaly. Children don’t want to be different, and for good reason: oddness is not considered a virtue in the peer group. Even giving a kid a weird or silly name can put him at a disadvantage.

In Self-Directed Education circles where “being yourself” is holy mantra, such “conformist” concessions can be looked down upon. But Harris encourages us to remember what it is actually like to be a child: how powerfully we desire to fit in with our peers. Be kind to your children, Harris suggests, and don’t give them outlandish names, clothing, or grooming. Give them what they need to feel secure, even when that thing feels highly conformist.

Harris offers just a few small pieces of common-sense advice. There’s not much in the way of traditional “do this, not that” parenting guidance. But her final and most significant message is yet to come.

Saving the Parent-Child Relationship
My favorite quote from The Nurture Assumption introduces Harris’ approach to thinking about parent-child relationships:

People sometimes ask me, “So you mean it doesn’t matter how I treat my child?” They never ask, “So you mean it doesn’t matter how I treat my husband?” or “So you mean it doesn’t matter how I treat my wife?” And yet the situation is similar. I don’t expect that the way I act toward my husband today is going to determine what kind of person he will be tomorrow. I do expect, however, that it will affect how happy he is to live with me and whether we will remain good friends.

While a spouse and a child are clearly not the same — a spouse has a similar level of lifetime experience to you, they are voluntarily chosen, and they (hopefully) don’t share your genes — Harris holds up marriage as a better relationship model than one we typically employ as parents.

You can learn things from the person you’re married to. Marriage can change your opinions and influence your choice of a career or a religion. But it doesn’t change your personality, except in temporary, context-dependent ways.

Yes, the parent-child relationship is important. But it’s not terribly different from a relationship with a spouse, sibling, or dear friend. In those relationships we don’t assume that we can (or should) control that person or how they “turn out.” Yet with children, we do.

Implicit in this analysis is a powerful message: Children are their own people, leading their own lives, worthy of basic respect. They are not dolls, chattel, or people through whom we might live our unfulfilled dreams. Just because parents are older, have more experience, and share genes with our children doesn’t give us long-term power or real control over them. That is the attitude that leads to the bullying, condescension, and micromanaging that scars too many parent-child relationships.

But while she calls for relinquishing a sense of control, Harris isn’t onboard with highly permissive parenting (what some call “unparenting”) either:
Parents are meant to be dominant over their children. They are meant to be in charge. But nowadays they are so hesitant about exerting their authority — a hesitancy imposed upon them by the advice-givers — that it is difficult for them to run the home in an effective manner. . . . The experiences of previous generations show that it is possible to rear well-adjusted children without making them feel that they are the center of the universe or that a time-out is the worst thing that could happen to them if they disobey. Parents know better than their children and should not feel diffident about telling them what to do. Parents, too, have a right to a happy and peaceful home life. In traditional societies, parents are not pals. They are not playmates. The idea that parents should have to entertain their children is bizarre to people in these societies. They would fall down laughing if you tried to tell them about “quality time.”


The message again is: Think of the parent-child relationship more like that of a healthy friendship or marriage. Hold them to a normal standards. Be frank and direct with them. Don’t worry about constantly entertaining them or monitoring their emotions. And whenever possible, Harris, says enjoy yourself! “Parents are meant to enjoy parenting. If you are not enjoying it, maybe you’re working too hard.”

In the end, Harris wants to free us from the guilt, anxiety, and fear that plagues so much of modern parenting, largely bred from the “advice-givers” who have convinced us that parenting is a science and you’re responsible for its outcomes:
You’ve followed their advice and where has it got you? They’ve made you feel guilty if you don’t love all your children equally, though it’s not your fault if nature made some kids more lovable than others. They’ve made you feel guilty if you don’t give them enough quality time, though your kids seem to prefer to spend their quality time with their friends. They’ve made you feel guilty if you don’t give your kids two parents, one of each sex, though there is no unambiguous evidence that it matters in the long run. They’ve made you feel guilty if you hit your child, though big hominids have been hitting little ones for millions of years. Worst of all, they’ve made you feel guilty if anything goes wrong with your child. It’s easy to blame parents for everything: they’re sitting ducks. Fair game ever since Freud lit his first cigar.


Take care of the basics. Give your kid a home and keep them healthy. Connect them to positive peer groups. Teach them what you can. Build a home life that works for everyone. Try to enjoy the person who your child is. Do your best to build a bond between child and parent that will last for a lifetime. This is what Judith Rich Harris says we can do.

But when it comes to influencing your child’s behavior, personality, attitudes, and knowledge in the long run: stop. Recognize how little impact you have, give up the illusion of control, and relax. We can neither perfect nor ruin our children, Harris says: “They are not yours to perfect or ruin: they belong to tomorrow.”"
blakeboles  parenting  children  nature  nurture  environment  naturenurture  genetics  relationships  respect  peers  conformity  social  youth  adolescence  religion  belonging  authority  authoritarianism  marriage  society  schools  schooling  education  learning  internet  online  youtube  web  socialmedia  influence  bullying  condescension  micromanagement  judithrichharris  books  toread  canon  culture  class  youthculture 
june 2018 by robertogreco
DAVID GRAEBER / The Revolt of the Caring Classes / 2018 - YouTube
"The financialisation of major economies since the '80s has radically changed the terms for social movements everywhere. How does one organise workplaces, for example, in societies where up to 40% of the workforce believe their jobs should not exist? David Graeber makes the case that, slowly but surely, a new form of class politics is emerging, based around recognising the centrality of meaningful 'caring labour' in creating social value. He identifies a slowly emerging rebellion of the caring classes which potentially represents just as much of a threat to financial capitalism as earlier forms of proletarian struggle did to industrial capitalism.

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

This lecture was given at the Collège de France on the 22nd March 2018."
davidgraeber  care  caring  teaching  nursing  economics  capitalism  labor  work  employment  compensation  resentment  bullshitjobs  finance  politics  policy  us  uk  workingclass  intellectuals  intellectualism  society  manufacturing  management  jobs  liberalism  values  benefits  nobility  truth  beauty  charity  nonprofit  highered  highereducation  activism  humanrights  os  occupywallstreet  opportunity  revolution  revolt  hollywood  military  misery  productivity  creation  creativity  maintenance  gender  production  reproduction  socialsciences  proletariat  wagelabor  wage  salaries  religion  belief  discipline  maintstreamleft  hospitals  freedom  play  teachers  parenting  mothers  education  learning  unions  consumption  anarchism  spontaneity  universalbasicincome  nonprofits  ubi 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Michael Wesch – Unboxing Stories on Vimeo
"2015 Future of StoryTelling Summit Speaker: Michael Wesch, Cultural Anthropologist

A pioneer in digital ethnography, Dr. Michael Wesch studies how our changing media is altering human interaction. As an anthropologist in Papua New Guinea, Wesch saw firsthand how oral storytelling worked for much of human civilization: It was a group activity that rewarded participation, transformed our perceptions, and created a changing flow of stories across generations. Reading and writing replaced oral storytelling with linear, fixed stories. Upon returning from Papua New Guinea, Wesch created the 2007 viral video hit Web 2.0...The Machine Is Us/ing Us, about the Internet's effects on our culture. At FoST, he’ll explore how our evolution from a literate culture to a digital one can return us to collaborative storytelling, resulting in a more engaged, participatory, and connected society."
michaelwesch  stories  storytelling  anthropology  2015  papuanewguinea  humans  civilization  perception  connection  participation  spontaneity  immersion  religion  involvement  census  oraltradition  oral  wikipedia  society  web2.0  media  particiption  conversation  television  tv  generations  neilpostman  classideas  web  online  socialmedia  alonetogether  suburbs  history  happenings  confusion  future  josephcampbell  life  living  meaning  meaningmaking  culture  culturlanthropology  srg 
april 2018 by robertogreco
'An oasis of calm': Quakers broadcast 30 minutes of silence | Media | The Guardian
"It’s not the most obvious subject for a podcast, but a group of young Quakers in Nottingham have recorded their 30-minute silent meeting so as to share their “oasis of calm” with the world.

In an episode of the monthly Young Quaker Podcast, called the Silence Special, you can hear a clock ticking, pages being turned and the rain falling, as the group meets and sits in silence at the Friend’s Meeting House in Nottingham.

Quakerism was founded in the 17th century by the dissenter George Fox during the years of Puritan England. The group’s meetings are characterised by silence, which is occasionally broken when someone present feels the urge to speak, say a prayer or offer a reading.

The idea for the silent podcast first came from Tim Gee, a Quaker living in London, who was inspired by the BBC’s season of “slow” radio, which treated audiences to – among other things – the sounds of birds singing, mountain climbing and monks chatting.

Gee said he had wanted to “share a small oasis of calm, and a way to provide a moment of stillness, for people on the move”.

Jessica Hubbard-Bailey, 25, from the Nottingham Young Quakers, who recorded the podcast, said they had jumped at the opportunity to broadcast something “immersive and unusual”. She added: “We have very different ways of worship to most people of faith and we thought this was a really unique opportunity to give people a little slice of what the Quakers do. Also, we are really good at being quiet because we’ve made a practice of it and I think that is of value. These days everyone is so busy, everyone is working all the time, so it’s really valuable to have the opportunity to sit down once a week and just be quiet and listen.”

Hubbard-Bailey, who was brought up as an atheist but became attracted to Quakerism for its egalitarian principles, said that the podcast had had a good reception, with nearly 400 uses of it.

“I think that makes it the biggest Quaker meeting this year technically,” she said. “I’ve had one couple say that they’ve listened to the silence episode and are going to go to a Quaker meeting for the first time this Sunday. We’ve also had some people saying ‘oh, I’m not sure about this, seems like a bit of a waste of time’. But I think that’s really indicative of how we as a society view silence and stillness.”"
quakers  silence  sound  2018  via:subtopes  religion  georgefox  slow  slowradio  radio  atheism 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Survival of the Kindest: Dacher Keltner Reveals the New Rules of Power
"When Pixar was dreaming up the idea for Inside Out, a film that would explore the roiling emotions inside the head of a young girl, they needed guidance from an expert. So they called Dacher Keltner.

Dacher is a psychologist at UC Berkeley who has dedicated his career to understanding how human emotion shapes the way we interact with the world, how we properly manage difficult or stressful situations, and ultimately, how we treat one another.

In fact, he refers to emotions as the “language of social living.” The more fluent we are in this language, the happier and more meaningful our lives can be.

We tackle a wide variety of topics in this conversation that I think you’ll really enjoy.

You’ll learn:

• The three main drivers that determine your personal happiness and life satisfaction
• Simple things you can do everyday to jumpstart the “feel good” reward center of your brain
• The principle of “jen” and how we can use “high-jen behaviors” to bootstrap our own happiness
• How to have more positive influence in our homes, at work and in our communities.
• How to teach your kids to be more kind and empathetic in an increasingly self-centered world
• What you can do to stay grounded and humble if you are in a position of power or authority
• How to catch our own biases when we’re overly critical of another’s ideas (or overconfident in our own)

And much more. We could have spent an hour discussing any one of these points alone, but there was so much I wanted to cover. I’m certain you’ll find this episode well worth your time."
compassion  kindness  happiness  dacherkeltner  power  charlesdarwin  evolution  psychology  culture  society  history  race  racism  behavior  satisfaction  individualism  humility  authority  humans  humanism  morality  morals  multispecies  morethanhuman  objects  wisdom  knowledge  heidegger  ideas  science  socialdarwinism  class  naturalselection  egalitarianism  abolitionism  care  caring  art  vulnerability  artists  scientists  context  replicability  research  socialsciences  2018  statistics  replication  metaanalysis  socialcontext  social  borntobegood  change  human  emotions  violence  evolutionarypsychology  slvery  rape  stevenpinker  torture  christopherboehm  hunter-gatherers  gender  weapons  democracy  machiavelli  feminism  prisons  mentalillness  drugs  prisonindustrialcomplex  progress  politics  1990s  collaboration  canon  horizontality  hierarchy  small  civilization  cities  urban  urbanism  tribes  religion  dogma  polygamy  slavery  pigeons  archaeology  inequality  nomads  nomadism  anarchism  anarchy  agriculture  literacy  ruleoflaw  humanrights  governance  government  hannah 
march 2018 by robertogreco
OCCULTURE: 52. John Michael Greer in “The Polymath” // Druidry, Storytelling & the History of the Occult
"The best beard in occultism, John Michael Greer, is in the house. We’re talking “The Occult Book”, a collection of 100 of the most important stories and anecdotes from the history of the occult in western society. We also touch on the subject of storytelling as well as some other recent material from John, including his book “The Coelbren Alphabet: The Forgotten Oracle of the Welsh Bards” and his translation of a neat little number called “Academy of the Sword”."



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

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

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

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

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

And it is that series paired with Carl’s book that lays the foundation for our conversation here."
carlabrahamsson  mitchhorowitz  occult  culture  occulture  magic  belief  mind  ouijaboard  astrology  mindfulness  buddhism  religion  academia  antonlavey  materialism  mainstream  intellectualism  elitism  mindbodyspirit  2018  esotericism  authority  norms  nuance  change  enlightenment  popculture  science  humanities  socialsciences  medicine  conservatism  churches  newage  cosmology  migration  california  hippies  meaning  psychology  siliconvalley  ingenuity  human  humans  humannature  spirituality  openmindedness  nature  urbanization  urban  nyc  us  society  santería  vodou  voodoo  voudoun  climate  light  davidlynch  innovation  population  environment  meaningmaking  mikenesmith  californianideology  thought  thinking  philosophy  hoodoo  blackmetal  norway  beauty  survival  wholeperson  churchofsatan  satanism  agency  ambition  mysticism  self  stories  storytelling  mythology  humanism  beinghuman  surrealism  cv  repetition  radicalism  myths  history  renaissance  fiction  fantasy  reenchantment  counterculture  consciousness  highered  highereducation  cynicism  inquiry  realitytele 
february 2018 by robertogreco
The Goddesses of Venus
"Last year, Eleanor Lutz made a medieval-style map of Mars. As a follow-up, she’s made a topographical map of Venus. The features on Venus are named for female mythological figures & notable women and Lutz provides a small biography for each one on the map. Among those featured on the map are:

Anne Frank
Selu (Cherokee Corn Goddess)
Kali (Hindu Goddess, Mother of Death)
Virginia Woolf
Sedna (Eskimo Whose Fingers Became Seals and Whales)
Ubastet (Egyptian Cat Goddess)
Beatrix Potter
Edith Piaf

Here are the full lists of the craters, mountains, and coronae on Venus."
maps  mapping  women  eleanorlutz  mars  venus  myths  mythology  myth  history  biographies  biography  2017  infoviz  religion  science  space  astronomy 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Why Would Anyone Consider Christianity Today?
"I’ve been a Christian most of my life; raised in the faith since before I could remember, and serving as a local church pastor for the past twenty years, much of that time here in the American Bible Belt.

Though it is a fairly tenuous connection these days, I am still tethered to my religious tradition by a combination of present personal conviction, along with the spiritual muscle memory of my past—and right now it honestly feels like more the latter than the former.

There is an attrition to my joy lately. I find it more and more difficult with each passing day to outwardly claim this faith because of what that declaration now immediately aligns me with in the eyes of the watching world. It now aligns me with transphobic politicians and Muslim-hating celebrity evangelists and perpetually oppressed Christmas warriors. It now aligns me with gun-toting preachers and damnation-wielding social media trolls and predatory Presidents. It now aligns me with the least-like-Jesus stuff I can imagine.

To some people, this is all Christianity is—which as a professed Christian now makes me a jackass by association. These people believe they know me. They believe that know my politics and my passions. They believe they know how I feel about gay marriage and immigrants and women’s rights. They don’t realize that I am sickened by this thing professing to be Christianity too. They don’t know that I am as burdened as they are to resist its damage. They don’t see that I totally get that this monstrosity claiming to be of Jesus would be unrecognizable to him—that he would be as horrified by it as they are.

I know that I am primarily still a Christian primarily because I have always been a Christian; because I know what I know about Jesus, and I can see when people are stealing his identity and bastardizing his legacy. I know when they’re twisting the Scriptures to subjugate people, when they’re fashioning God in their own bigoted image, when they’re slapping a veneer of religiosity on something with no redemptive value. I’m able to see the frauds and the false prophets because I’m experienced the real and the beautiful of this faith—but not everyone has, and so I don’t blame them for rejecting it all. It is profoundly reject-able.

At this point, I don’t know why anyone would choose Christianity if they weren’t already a Christian. If all I had to go by was this homophobic, power-hungry, bullying, bitter thing I see running amok every day in America, I’d run from it to. If following Jesus meant signing-up for this, I’d have no interest either.

The American Bible Belt Evangelical Church has become the greatest argument for someone not becoming a Christian, for them rejecting organized religion and never looking back.

But there are other expressions of this faith here, though they may not have the megaphones and megachurches. There are loving, inclusive, beautiful communities filled with people of compassion and generosity and mercy. There are men and women of faith in every corner of this country who are striving to emulate Jesus and who are rightly embarrassed by the hatred perpetuated in his name.

We believe in loving our neighbor as ourselves.
We believe in welcoming the outsider and the outcast.
We believe the table is open to anyone who comes hungry.
We believe compassion is our highest aspiration.

They are millions of Christians who reject the bigotry that you reject, who are sickened by the hypocrisy you are sickened by, who condemn the violence you condemn, who deeply grieve over the hatred you grieve over.

Maybe these things aren’t enough for you to reconsider your aversion to organized religion, but hopefully it will be enough to let you know that people like us are standing with you; that many of us who claim faith in Jesus have no interest in this kind of Christianity either—because we know Jesus wouldn’t either.

Be encouraged."
johnpavlovitz  christianity  us  2017  religion 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Street Naming Controversy--1909 - FoundSF
"The commission sought to address the confusion of numbered streets in the established area of the city versus the numbered avenues in the growing sections west of the cemeteries and the sparsely populated southern section of the city designated as "avenues, south." They worked at finding distinct names for all the numbered or lettered streets. In the Richmond and Sunset districts they devised a full set of Spanish names to conform to an alphabetical pattern for each of the numbered avenues. The scheme called for First Avenue to become Arguello, Second Avenue to become Borcia, Third Avenue to become Coronado, continuing for all 26 letters of the alphabet. Starting with Twenty-seventh Avenue, the streets would be designated by male or female saints, starting with San Antonio and ending with Santa Ynez at Forty-Seventh Avenue. Unable to find Spanish saints with names beginning with K, Q, W, X or Z, they chose first Alcatraz, then Ayala for Forty-eighth Avenue and La Playa for Forty-ninth Avenue.

For the east-west streets in these neighborhoods that were lettered, two breaks in the alphabetical pattern were already in place. "D" Street had already been made an extension of Fulton Street from downtown and the development of Golden Gate Park had eliminated streets bearing the letters E, F and G over thirty years previously. Since there were three minor streets named for Lincoln, the commission wanted to change the names of those streets and rename "H" Street to honor President Lincoln with the more prestigious thoroughfare that bordered the park. The commission then chose eight names for the remaining streets in the Sunset District as Ignacio, Joaquin, Kaweah, Linares, Moncado, Noriega, Ortega and Pacheco. They had only to name the first eight streets, because the Parkside Realty Company had already been using the last eight names, Quintara, Rivera, Santiago, Taraval, Ulloa, Vicente, Wawona and Xavier streets for the area it was developing. In the Bayview District in the southeast corner of the city, an alphabetical sequence of names commemorating patriotic military or civic heroes were suggested for both the numbered avenues and lettered streets.

When the San Francisco Chronicle first published Charles Murdock's ideas of changing the numbered avenues to names a year earlier on October 4, 1908, there was no notice taken by the neighborhood newspapers. The suggestion was speculative and suggested names of explorers, generals or statesmen for avenues in the Richmond, Sunset and Bayview. On November 8, 1909, the Commission on the Changing of Street Names submitted its suggested changes to the Board of Supervisors for first reading and it got an immediate reaction. All the daily newspapers showed full support for the changes. The Examiner published the entire list for all the public to read. The Call's editorial said, "some of the suggested Spanish names may be a little difficult of negotiation by the American tongue" but suggested that the city schools could address that problem as part of the history curriculum.

Topsy-Turvy Town

The Chronicle showed its support with the argument that "if we are ever to emulate our enterprising neighbor, Los Angeles, in attractiveness" employing "musical Spanish names which our history entitles us to appropriate" might even bring in tourist dollars to San Francisco. Despite the positive spin given by the newspapers, the idea of changing all the numbered avenues in the Richmond and Sunset Districts to Spanish names brought immediate negative reaction from the residents of those neighborhoods. Yet when the Board of Supervisors met one week later to address the street-naming issue, the two offended western neighborhoods argued that the names were so repugnant that if approved the "avenues" would forever be known as "Spanish Town." The Spanish "heroes" were vilified as robbers and freebooters and Spain was called "one of the worst nations that ever tyrannized over the human race." There were comical attempts at saying the "unpronounceable" names of Xavier and Ximenes.

Despite the heated rhetoric, the Board voted twelve to five in favor of the changes, and over 250 street names were altered as recommended. When this news got back to the Richmond and Sunset districts, action was immediate. The Richmond had the oldest continuously operating neighborhood improvement club in the city and had been fighting the downtown bureaucracy for years to get services. They were politically savvy and would not tolerate being treated like squatters out in the sand dunes. Since the earthquake and fire, the district had experienced tremendous growth, and most of the new residents were homeowners. They were a force to be reckoned with. The neighborhood newspaper, The Richmond Banner, editorialized on November 19: "If the wishes of the twelve of our "patriotic" supervisors are carried out, our Sunset and Richmond districts will soon be known as the Spanish Town of San Francisco, and 'The Spanish will then have taken San Francisco' notwithstanding Dewey's victory at Manila Bay several years ago."

The editorial contrasted the twelve who voted for the name changes against the five "true Americans" who resisted the proposal to "Spaniardize" the districts. "The people of Sunset and Richmond are fully aroused and will never submit to the insult and injustice heaped upon them by the majority of the Board of Supervisors." In closing, the editor pledged, "Sunset and Richmond districts will stand together and fight this miserable surrender of American names to a finish." The districts didn't have much time to "fight." The commission was to decide quickly, since it faced dissolution at the end of December and the new P. H. McCarthy administration, which would take office in January, had a labor agenda and may not want to waste time on frivolous street-naming. A week of public and private meetings in the Richmond and Sunset districts brought results. Lobbying and pressuring of public officials brought the naming commissioners to a special Saturday meeting to hear the concerns of the neighborhoods.

The following morning the Examiner reported that "thirty-five thousand residents of the Richmond and Sunset districts arose en masse yesterday and voiced such a protest against having the names of their avenues and cross streets changed, that the commission was forced to capitulate." Bowing to the pressure, the Commission agreed that the avenues could remain unchanged except for First Avenue and Forty-ninth Avenue and the alphabetical cross-streets would be the only other western district streets to be renamed, except for the Geary Street extension. The name of Point Lobos was removed from most of the Richmond, but would be given to the curving road that extended from Fortieth Avenue to the Cliff House.

The indignation rally scheduled for the next afternoon at Richmond Hall was turned into a huge victory party for the Richmond, but was bittersweet for the Sunset. Neither neighborhood would lose its numbered avenues, but there was still the issue of the un-American streets to deal with. The Sunset District felt it wasn't getting a fair shake, since it had sixteen streets to be renamed while the Richmond only had three. At the Board of Supervisors' meeting on the next day, the spokesmen for the Sunset Improvement Club presented the argument and pleaded for names of Americans "that reflect glory and luster upon our civilization." Additional speakers made it clear that the two western neighborhoods, through their efforts in fighting the attempt to make wholesale changes to their numerical avenues, were now unified and supporting each other for the next round.

The Board essentially had thrown the street naming to the neighborhoods. The historian from the commission, who had championed and researched the names of Spanish explorers and pioneers, was so incensed by the compromise that he resigned to protest the capitulation. Now the horse-trading for street names was on. Anza had true historical significance to San Francisco's origins and was agreed to by all. "B" Street became an extension of Turk Street. "C" Street was Starr King for a while, but they kept alphabetical order and settled on Custer, for the "hero" killed at the Battle of Little Big Horn. Lincoln Way met with everyone's approval. Ignacio remained on the list at first reading, rejecting Irving for fear of confusion with Irwin Street.

John Jay, statesmen and first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, was decided upon for the next street in the alphabetical sequence. Two American generals, Kirkham and Lawton, were chosen next. Moraga seemed acceptable to the residents because he'd been Anza's lieutenant and first commander of the Presidio. Noriega had been a commander of the Monterey Presidio so that seemed close enough to stave off local opposition. Ortega, as a scout who was credited with the discovery of San Francisco Bay, relaying the news to Portola, made him a logical choice for a street name. Pacheco, while only a foot soldier in the Anza expedition, at least had stayed on as an early settler in the area.

The remaining names had been chosen by the powerful Parkside Realty Company and were already in use, but one name was objected to. Xavier had been a source of pronunciation controversy, so it was decided to break the alphabetical pattern and move to the next letter. Yorba had been a sergeant in Portola's expedition of 1769, and with those credentials, was a better choice to be honored with a street name. First Avenue's new name was unsettled between Arguello and St. Francis Boulevard. La Playa, Spanish for "the beach," was adopted without "avenue." Before the Board met on November 29 for final reading, some negotiation had taken place in the commission because Balboa and Cabrillo had been restored and Irving and Judah, originally proposed for the Bayview District, were substituted now for Sunset District streets. The Sunset had stood its ground and settled for Lincoln Way and four "American" names for streets "I" through "L."

There was no more … [more]
sanfrancisco  1909  streets  names  naming  richmonddistrict  sunsetdistrict  spanish  español  roads  bayview  hunter'spoint  religion  nationalism  classideas 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Making the Garden by Christopher Alexander | Articles | First Things
"Up until that time, I had accepted the academic, positivistic, scientific philosophy and practice of my youth. I had been trained in physics and ­mathematics, and assumed, virtually as part of my educational birthright, that these scientific disciplines could be relied on, and that I should not step outside the ­intellectual framework that they provided. But to solve the practical and conceptual problems in architecture, I now embarked on a study of a series of concepts that, though formulated more or less within scientific norms, nevertheless opened ways of ­thinking that were highly challenging to the academic ­establishment:

• Wholeness
• Value, as an objective concept
• Unfolding wholeness
• Connection with the inner self
• Centers
• Structure-preserving transformations
• Degrees of life

I introduced these concepts and a few others only because I found them essential to the task of thinking clearly about the life of buildings. Yet they were almost undefinable within the terms of contemporary scientific thinking. This was true to such a degree that even raising these topics as matters for discussion in professional architectural circles caused raised eyebrows, obstructive reactions, and little sincere effort to get to the bottom of the issues."



"I would like to summarize our work by explaining this new kind of empirical complex in the following way. In any part of what we call nature, or any part of a building, we see, at many levels of scale, coherent entities or centers, ­nested in each other, and overlapping each other. These ­coherent entities all have, in varying degree, some quality of “life.”

For any given center, this quality of life comes about as a result of cooperation between the other living centers at several scales, which surround it, contain it, and appear within it. The degree of life any one center has depends directly on the degrees of life that appear in its associated centers at these different scales. In short, the life of any given entity depends on the extent to which that entity had ­unfolded from its own previous wholeness, and from the wholeness of its surroundings.

When one contemplates this phenomenon soberly, it is hard to imagine how it comes about. But what is happening is, in effect, that life appears, twinkling, in each entity, and the cooperation of these twinkling entities creates further life. You may view this phenomenon as ordinary. Or you may think of it as the Buddhists of the Hua-Yen canon did, when they viewed it as the constantly changing God-like tapestry that is God, and from which life comes."



"My life began with childlike faith. After then going through the dark forests of positivistic science, to which I gladly gave myself for so many years, I was finally able, through contemplation of the whole, to emerge into the light of day with a view of things that is both visionary and empirical.

It is a view that has roots in faith, and from it builds bridges of scientific coherence towards a new kind of visionary faith rooted in scientific understanding. This new kind of faith and understanding is based on a new form of observation. It depends for its success on our belief (as human beings) that our feelings are legitimate. Indeed, my experiments have shown that in the form I have cast them, feelings are more legitimate and reliable, perhaps, than many kinds of experimental procedure.

It is in this way that I was led from architecture to the intellectual knowledge of God. It was my love of architecture and building from which I slowly formed an edifice of thought that shows us the existence of God as a necessary, real phenomenon as surely as we have previously known the world as made of space and matter."



"What is new is the discovery that the so-called subjective, or inner, view of things is no less objective than the objective or mechanical view of things. When questions about the subjective are asked carefully, and in the right way, they are as reliable as the experiments of physics. This understanding has led to a new view of experiment that uses the human being as a measuring instrument and leads to reliable, shared results when properly done."



"As I have said, grasping the wholeness, awakening our ability to see it and to adhere to it—these are all profound and often difficult. In order to understand these operations from a practical and mathematical point of view, we need to be guided by an inner voice, and I believe that voice is tantamount to a vision of God. Thus, although it is formless and shapeless, nevertheless it is this vision of God that draws us on.

That new vision can become a new source of inspiration and motivation. I call it new not because it is at root genuinely new. Of course it is not—it is ancient. But it is entirely new in our era to take such a thing with full seriousness, and to be able to derive from it well-fashioned, scientifically endowed conceptions of what is needed to heal a given place. It will not be governed by money or profit; it will not be governed by social politics; it will be governed simply by the desire and firm intention to make beauty (which is to say, true life) around us.

Perhaps that sounds as though it is not solid enough for sober and enlightened action. Quite the opposite is true. The vision of God we hold in our inner eye, which we draw from the hills and mountains, from the cities, towers, and bridges, from the great oak trees, and the small and tender arbors, from the stones and tiles that have been carefully laid, it is that which is God, and which we encounter as we try to find a vision of God in the world. It guides us, as if with a certain hand, towards a future which is yet more beautiful.

The capacity to make each brick, each path, each baluster, each windowsill a reflection of God lies in the heart of every man and every woman. It is stark in its simplicity. A world so shaped will lead us back to a sense of right and wrong and a feeling of well-being. This vision of the world—a real, solid physical world—will restore a vision of God. Future generations will be grateful to us if we do this work properly.

Taking architecture seriously leads us to the ­proper treatment of tiny details, to an understanding of the unfolding whole, and to an understanding—mystical in part—of the entity that underpins that wholeness. The path of architecture thus leads inexorably towards a renewed understanding of God. This is an understanding true within the canon of every religion, not connected with any one religion in particular, something which therefore moves us beyond the secularism and strife that has torn the world for more than a thousand years."
2016  christopheralexander  architecture  urban  urbanism  design  wholeness  value  spirituality  god  religion  enlightenment  beauty  aesthetics  form  shape 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Ephemeral Urbanism: Cities in Constant Flux - YouTube
urbanism  urban  cities  ephemerality  ephemeral  2016  rahulmehrotra  felipevera  henrynbauer  cristianpinoanguita  religion  celebration  transaction  trade  economics  informal  formal  thailand  indi  us  dominicanrepublic  cochella  burningman  fikaburn  southafrica  naturaldisaters  refugees  climatechange  mozambique  haiti  myanmar  landscape  naturalresources  extraction  mining  chile  indonesia  military  afghanistan  refuge  jordan  tanzania  turkey  greece  macedonia  openness  rigidity  urbandesign  urbanplanning  planning  adhoc  slums  saudiarabia  hajj  perú  iraq  flexibility  unfinished  completeness  sustainability  ecology  mobility 
october 2017 by robertogreco
My Grandmother’s Shroud - The New York Times
"When my grandmother, my mother’s mother, died in late June in Nigeria, I was in Italy, at a conference. I wasn’t with her when she slipped into a coma or, three days later, when she died. When my brother told me the news, I called my mother and other members of my family to commiserate with them. She was buried the day of her death, in keeping with Muslim custom, and I couldn’t attend her funeral. My mother, visiting friends in Houston, would also miss the funeral.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the night of Mama’s burial, I lay down to sleep in my apartment in Brooklyn. I couldn’t shake the image of my cousin’s photograph. I went into the closet and took out the white cotton blanket Mama sent me all those years ago. It was a hot night, high summer. I draped the blanket over my body. In the darkness, I pulled the blanket slowly past my shoulders, past my chin, over my face, until I was entirely covered by it, until I was covered by Mama."
2017  tejucole  photography  death  memory  nigeria  aging  relationships  hajj  islam  purpose  grief  mourning  grieving  customs  objects  textiles  immigration  us  policy  connection  families  tolerance  religion  acceptance  mecca  eternity  belief  spirituality  burial  life  living  change  transformation  talismans 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Rachel Held Evans on Twitter: "The folks you're shutting out of the church today will be leading it tomorrow. That's how the Spirit works. The future's in the margins."
"The folks you're shutting out of the church today will be leading it tomorrow. That's how the Spirit works. The future's in the margins."

[See also: "Imagine that: the margins as holy places.
The world turned upside down."
https://twitter.com/KaitlinCurtice/status/884496381049790464 ]
margins  outsiders  religion  rachelheld  2017  church  christianity 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Half-Full of Grace - Los Angeles Review of Books
"“You don’t have to like it. You just have to go,” I tell my five-year-old kid every Sunday when she complains about going to church. Every Sunday, even though she would prefer to stare at my smartphone, I make her go anyway.

Even though my smartphone is extremely wonderful.

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

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

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

Every Sunday, we go.

This is my attempt to explain why.

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

I live in Los Angeles. I am a screenwriter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I do know that I want it to be.

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

Church isn’t an escape from the world. It’s a continuation of it. My family and I don’t go to church to deny the existence of the darkness. We to go to look so hard at the light that our eyes water."
dorothyfortenberry  religion  belief  tradition  ritual  2017  church  catholicism  jamesbaldwin  popefrancisescape  existence  life  living 
june 2017 by robertogreco
'Ramadan In L.A.' Seeks To Combat Islamophobia With A Month Of Interfaith Iftar Celebrations: LAist
"It should come as no surprise that the most diverse metropolis in America is also home to an incredibly diverse Muslim community. "The Muslim community [here in Los Angeles] is the most diverse in terms of their ethnic backgrounds in the United States," Shakeel Syed, Executive Director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, told KPCC in 2015. "So they come from all continents, all places." There are an estimated 500,000 Muslims living in the region, making the greater Los Angeles area home to the second largest concentration of Muslims in the nation, according to the New York Times.

Amidst a climate of increased Islamophobia and hate, Southern California's vibrant Muslim community is preparing to celebrate Ramadan, a holy month of fasting that begins on Friday evening. Ramadan is the most sacred month of the year for Muslims, who commemorate it by fasting everyday from sunrise to sunset. The daily Ramadan fast (observation of which is considered one of the five pillars—or duties—of Islam) is broken each evening with Iftar, a celebratory meal that's often eaten with other members of the community.

Last year, shortly after the San Bernardino shooting and the subsequent rise in anti-Muslim sentiment, two organizers joined together to address the climate of fear and hate. Communications consultant Marium Mohiuddin had already left her job at the Muslim Public Affairs Council to start her own business, but she remained active in the interfaith world when she was approached by Karen Mack, the executive director at LA Commons, a local community-based arts nonprofit. Mack and her organization wanted to do something to combat Islamophobia, but she wasn't sure of the how or what. The two met for a coffee, and after a single cup they'd come up with the idea for what would become Ramadan in L.A.

Ramadan in L.A., which launched last June at the start of Ramadan 2016, is a series of community Iftars where individuals of all faiths can break bread and engage in dialogue and fellowship during the holy month.

"We're really trying to really target Islamophobia and anti-Muslim rhetoric, and see what can we do change the conversation," Mohiuddin told LAist. "With everything going on recently, I think there's so much misinformation about Muslims and Islam, generally. And people come together around food."

"It's not a place for lectures and speeches," Mohiuddin said. "It's about art and poetry and music, and it's a way for non-Muslims to go into a space where they can learn about Islam and Muslims and feel empowered to take part in any of these dinners throughout the month."

"A lot of people are really wanting to come together and to partner—it's not just a mosque here or a mosque there," she explained. The series has more than 20 sponsors, including non-Muslim faith groups, humanitarian and professional organizations, and LGBT groups. The County of Los Angeles Commission on Human Relations is also co-sponsoring this year's Ramadan in L.A.

Dinners will be held throughout the L.A. area, and the idea, according to Mohiuddin, is that "people from across L.A. County are welcome to attend any, and are encouraged to participate."

Mohiuddin explained that Iftar is about far more than just breaking a fast. "To me, it's a time when I know I'm going to see everybody. It's a time of people coming together and it's a time of reverence—not just for the community and friendships and people, but also what you're doing and committing to [with the fasting]. You're committing to a kind of state of being, because fasting almost like a state of meditation," she said.

Ramadan in L.A. will kick off on Friday at Barnsdall Park with an interfaith Iftar from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Events will continue throughout the month, spearheaded by different organizations and in locations across the L.A. area. Most are free, though some require tickets and have a small fee.

The Inland Valley Interfaith Working Group for Mideast Peace and Temple Beth Israel will be hosting their community Iftar on June 5 at Temple Beth Israel in Pomona. Admission is free, though RSVPs are requested.

On June 7, NewGround, a Muslim-Jewish partnership, will be holding their community Iftar at Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Koreatown. Tickets, which include dinner, start at $40.

More of the events can be found on Ramadan in L.A.'s website. [https://www.ramadaninla.com/ ]"
ramadan  losangeles  2017  religion  food  islam  iftar 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Ignite Philly 15: Ariell Johnson - Diversity in Comics - YouTube
[See also:

"An Interview with Ariell Johnson, Founder of Amalgam Comics: “Everyone Has the Right to Have Their Story Told”"
http://blacknerdproblems.com/an-interview-with-ariell-johnson-founder-of-amalgam-comics-everyone-has-the-right-to-have-their-story-told/

"Why Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse Owner Ariell Johnson is a Superhero in Her Own Right"
https://www.blacksci-fi.com/why-amalgam-comics-coffeehouse-owner-ariell-johnson-is-a-superhero-in-her-own-right/

"First Black Woman to Open Philly Comic Shop Talks Diversity"
http://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/first-black-woman-own-east-coast-comic-shop-talks-diversity-n492151

"Meet Ariell Johnson, First Black Female to Open Philly Comic Shop | She's the Boss S3E5"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIE9rEg8uE0

"Shoot the 5: Ariell Johnson"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAW5w3GNXcw

""All The Way Up" Geek Girl Edition"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dL6y93N7I0E ]
arielljohnson  comics  diversity  2016  race  religion  stereotypes  humanity  humans  difference  prejudice 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Prison Dispatches From the War on Terror: American Explains What Drove Him to Extremism
"Because jihadists are aware that most Muslims are against their ideology, they believe that the only chance for them to succeed is by making the world hostile and inhospitable for all Muslims. If that happens, they believe Muslims will unite behind them in an apocalyptic fight against what they say is a modern-day crusade against Muslims. The jihadists like telling Muslims that non-Muslims will never be their friends. Unfortunately, the present political rhetoric is confirming their words in significant ways. Today in America, many Muslims feel that they are one major terrorist attack away from mass deportation or an internment camp. It seems like it doesn’t matter whether American Muslims share the ideology of jihadists or not, they are still guilty by association."



"Jihadists often don’t realize that the reason other Muslims are rejecting them is not because of a fear of the authorities, coercion, or lack of religious devotion — it’s because their ideology and tactics are in fact reprehensible to most Muslims. These young people who are susceptible to extremism need to know the real reasons that others are shunning them. They also need to hear narratives that address reality and the real problems that exist in the world. But this requires treating them as humans who are open to dialogue and not simply monsters. It also means that Muslim communities must be treated as partners by governments and not as enemies, so that young people can speak about political topics without fear of spying and intrusive surveillance. When a young would-be jihadist sees other young people rejecting extremism as a response to problems, but at the same time not shunning politics altogether, it will make them start to doubt their position."



"The way terrorism has been approached by the government and society has also helped the jihadists in their strategy. Ironically, a group can become legitimatized when a world superpower acknowledges them by publicly declaring a war against them. Another foolish strategy is the excessive use of “targeted” killings, and then announcing these killings as though they are a form of trophy hunting. For an ideology that thrives on immortalizing its martyrs, those announcements are damaging. It’s better to make such deaths look like they are the result of a power struggle within a terrorist organization. Finally, a big problem is that in America we tend to celebrate infamy and gangsterism in our media culture. When our coverage of terrorism is sensational, we end up depicting these terrorists the way that they want: as mysterious, enigmatic, and scary figures. We should portray them instead as misguided people who are being fooled and taken advantage of, to take away the cool factor. Once our “terrorism experts” realize that they are mostly dealing with young and misguided human beings, they will be more effective."
jihadists  muslims  islam  religion  extremism  extremists  2017  murtazahussain 
march 2017 by robertogreco
Robert Coles — The Inner Lives of Children - | On Being
"DR. COLES: Which I think is what I’m trying to say here as I speak with you, as I go back to my parents and to my childhood and try to recapture some of that spirit that I knew as a boy.

MS. TIPPETT: It’s interesting to me that those words you used, “questioning spirit,” and not a conventional religious sense are also qualities that you found in children and even in children who came from homes in which the tradition was much more set.

DR. COLES: That’s a very good point you’ve just brought up. Children are by nature questioning. I mean, I know it as a pediatrician and a child psychiatrist. I know it as a parent. I think we all know that children are questioning. And I think there is no doubt that a lot of the religious side of childhood is a merger of the natural curiosity and interest the children have in the world with the natural interest and curiosity that religion has about the world, because that’s what religion is.

MS. TIPPETT: Right.

DR. COLES: It’s our effort in this planet as creatures who have a mind and use language to ask questions and answer them through speculation, through story-telling, to explore the universe and answer those fundamental questions: Where do we come from? What are we? And where, if any place, are we going? And those fundamental questions inform religious life and inform the lives of children as children, and that merger is a beautiful thing to behold when you’re with children.

MS. TIPPETT: You know what’s nice about what you just said to me too, is I suddenly realized that what you discovered in speaking with these children and listening to them is not only revealing about childhood but it’s revealing of an aspect of religion which we probably don’t pay as much attention to as we should.

DR. COLES: That’s the great tragedy, isn’t it?

MS. TIPPETT: Yeah.

DR. COLES: Because after all, if you stop and think about Judaism, the great figures in Judaism are those prophets of Israel, Jeremiah and Isaiah and Amos. They were prophetic figures who asked the deepest kinds of questions and were willing to stand outside the gates of power and privilege in order to keep asking those questions. And then came Jesus of Nazareth who was a teacher. You might call him the migrant teacher who walked about ancient Israel — now called Israel, Palestine, whatever, the Middle East — seeking and asking and wondering and reaching out to people and daring to ask questions that others had been taught not to ask or even forbidden to ask. And this kind of inquiring Jesus, this soulful Jesus, searching for comrades and, let’s call them in our vernacular, buddies. They were his buddies, and they were willing to link arms with him in this kind of spiritual quest that he found himself, shall we say, impelled toward or driven toward. I don’t want to use driven in any psychoanalytic way …

MS. TIPPETT: Right.

DR. COLES: … but just in a human way. And this was the rabbi, the teacher, the exalted figure, a descendant, really, of Jeremiah and Isaiah and Amos. It’s that prophetic tradition of Judaism which is so profound and important and which the Christian world is, at its best, the beneficiary of.

MS. TIPPETT: Right.

DR. COLES: Now, both in Judaism and Christianity, of course, there are rule setters, and at times they can be all too insistent, some would say even a bit tyrannical. But in any event, the spirit or religion, I think, is what children connect with.

MS. TIPPETT: Right.

DR. COLES: The questions, the inquiry, the enormous curiosity about this universe, and the hope that somehow those answers will come about, which is what we do when we kneel in a church and sit and pray in a synagogue or whatever.

[Sound bite of music]

MS. TIPPETT: Also what I think you’re getting at there and what is also in this compatibility between children and religion also has something to do with, I mean, there’s something mysterious in it as well, something about the mystery of those questions.

MR. COLES: Mystery is such an important part of it. And mystery invites curiosity and inquiry. You know, Flannery O’Connor — talk about a religious person, she was Catholic in background but she was beyond Catholicism; she was a deeply spiritual person. And she once was talking about the kind of person who becomes a good novelist, hoping that she would be included in that company but not daring to assume that that had happened. But once she said, beautifully — it’s in her letters if the listeners want to get one of her books. It’s called, The Habit of Being — but in one of those letters she says, “The task of the novelist is to deepen mystery.” And then she pauses and she says, “But mystery is a great embarrassment to the modern mind.” And there’s our tragedy, that we have to resolve all mystery. We can’t let it be. We can’t rejoice in it. We can’t celebrate it. We can’t affirm it as an aspect of our lives because, after all, mystery is an aspect of our lives.

We come out of nowhere, don’t we, in the sense that we’re a total accident. Our parents met. There’s the accident. And, you know, we’re born. Obviously, we come from someplace physiologically. And then comes the emergence of our being, which is the psychological and spiritual emergence of our being that takes time, experience, education of a certain kind with parents and neighbors and teachers and relatives and from one another humanly. And this slow emergence of our psychological being and our spiritual being is itself a great mystery. And mystery, you bet — mystery is a great challenge. It’s an invitation, and it’s a wonderful companion, actually."
robertcoles  kristatippett  children  religion  2009  mystery  curiosity  questioning  neoteny  questionasking  askingquestions  judaism  christianity  catholicism  flanneryo'connor  wonder  parenting  spirituality  inquiry  rules  teaching  teachers  howweteach  interestedness  interested  childhood 
february 2017 by robertogreco
The Art of Resistance | Commonweal Magazine
"Writing in the aftermath of the fall of communism, John Berger, the world’s preeminent Marxist (patience, dear readers) writer on art, faced the apparently decisive and irreversible victory of capitalism. Rather than concede defeat and join in the triumphal chorus heralding the end of history, Berger drew an unlikely lesson from the ostensible cessation of the old hostilities. In the conclusion of Keeping a Rendezvous (1991), he studied a photograph of people assembled in recently liberated Prague and discerned in their faces both elation and a dread that an even more primordial conflict was in the offing. The class struggle, he now suggested, partakes of a broader and deeper contest over ways of being in the world. “The soul and the operator have come out of hiding together.”

For two centuries, Berger explained, the soul’s longings had been perverted or marginalized in both capitalist and socialist societies, identified with or subordinated to the imperatives of material progress. Yet humanity “has great difficulty in living strictly within the confines of a materialist practice or philosophy. It dreams, like a dog in its basket, of hares in the open.” Heir, for many, to the hope once contained in religion, Marxism had been the secular abode for the soul; but with the dialectic of “historical materialism” now discredited by history, “the spiritual,” Berger observed, aimed “to reclaim its lost terrain,” surging through fundamentalist and nationalist movements. At the same time, the poor were being “written off as trash” by the soul’s implacable adversary, “the operator,” the forces of pecuniary and technological utility united under the aegis of capital. For Berger, art remained not only a potent weapon against injustice but also an enclave for the qualities of the soul. In a powerful letter to the miners who unsuccessfully resisted Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s attempt to close down mines in 1984, Berger wrote:
I can’t tell you what art does and how it does it, but I know that art has often judged the judges, pleaded revenge to the innocent and shown to the future what the past has suffered, so that it has never been forgotten. I know too that the powerful fear art, whatever its form, when it does this, and that amongst the people such art sometimes runs like a rumor or a legend because it makes sense of what life’s brutalities cannot, a sense that unites us, for it is inseparable from a justice at last. Art, when it functions like this, becomes a meeting-place of the invisible, the irreducible, the enduring, guts and honor.

Characterized by the lack of a credible alternative to the glittering imperium of capital, the ensuing twenty-five years have been the Age of the Operator: neoliberal economics, a hustling ethos, the divinization of markets and technology, the hegemony of a consumer society given over to spectacle and fueled by debt. As Berger writes in his latest book, Portraits (Verso, $44.95, 544 pp.), “the future has been downsized,” restricted to the mercenary parameters of finance capital and digital technocracy. Neoliberal capitalism fulfills the “strange prophecy” depicted in the hellish right-hand panel of Hieronymus Bosch’s Millennium Triptych: “no glimpse of an elsewhere or an otherwise.” The poor—and increasingly anyone outside the gilded circle of “the 1 percent”—are indeed “written off as trash,” detritus of the quest for efficiency, human refuse piling up not only in Calcutta, Mumbai, or Mexico City, but also in Palo Alto and San Francisco, where the technocrats of Silicon Valley dispossess workers from their homes to build mansions scaled to their colossal self-regard.

The Operator remains in the saddle, riding humankind; but with anger and dissent on the rise—Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, Bernie Sanders and Black Lives Matter here at home—the Soul may be gathering strength to embark on another, more enduring reclamation of terrain, and, if it does, John Berger will deserve our attention as one of its greatest contemporary prophets. Renowned and even beloved as both novelist and art critic, Berger has also become an unlikely moral and metaphysical sage. “You can’t talk about aesthetics without talking about the principle of hope and the existence of evil,” he declared in The Sense of Sight (1985). Not that his revolutionary spirit has withered; that flame is lower but remains incandescent. But Portraits, a miscellany from his career as a writer, records the evolution of this “principle of hope”—a reference, no doubt, to Ernst Bloch, the closest thing to a theologian ever produced by the Marxist tradition. Like the other two panels of Bosch’s triptych—The Garden of Eden and The Garden of Earthly Delights—Portraits offers “a torchlight in the dark,” a glimpse of an elsewhere or an otherwise, a way of seeing the visible world that Berger might agree to call sacramental.



BERGER WAS BORN in 1926 in London, the son of a middle-class Hungarian immigrant from Trieste and an English working-class suffragette. As a youth growing up in Oxford, he drew and painted for relief from his “monstrous and brutal” education at a local private school. He also read anarchist literature and ardently embraced the radical left; yet unlike most anarchists, Berger felt no visceral hostility to religion. As he told the Guardian in 2011, since his teenage years two convictions have “coexisted” within him: “a kind of materialism,” as he put it, along with “a sense of the sacred, the religious if you like.” This coexistence has never felt anomalous to him, even when “most other people thought it was.” Indeed, the philosopher of whom Berger has been most fond is not Marx but Baruch Spinoza, whose monist ontology sought to overcome the Cartesian dualism of matter and spirit.

Conscripted at the age of eighteen, Berger spent World War II stationed in Belfast. After the war he enrolled in the Chelsea School of Art and exhibited in London galleries. While working as a teacher, he began writing reviews for the New Statesman, Britain’s flagship left periodical. In the early years of the Cold War, Berger embraced Marxism (despite his aversion to Joseph Stalin). He even maintained that, until the Soviet Union gained nuclear parity with the United States, left writers and artists should support Moscow. In the late 1940s, Berger made a deliberate decision to set aside his painting and embark on a career as a writer.

Although the New Statesman published his essays for more than a decade (some of which he collected in 1960 as Permanent Red), Berger was its most beleaguered contributor. Adamantly pro-Soviet, he wrote for a magazine that opposed Stalinism. (In his controversial 1958 novel A Painter of Our Time, Berger hinted his support for the Soviet suppression of the Hungarian Revolution.) Where the New Statesman reflected the broad sympathy toward literary and artistic modernism characteristic of liberal and social-democratic intellectuals, Berger championed realism and called for art that would “help or encourage men to know and claim their social rights.” His profoundly ambivalent view of abstract expressionism challenged its celebration by most Western intellectuals as a token of “free expression.” Although he marveled at Jackson Pollock’s formal skills, Berger argued that the drip paintings registered a collapse of “faith” in the visible world that heralded “the disintegration of our culture.” Berger asked strikingly traditionalist questions for an enfant terrible of Marxist criticism. “How far can talent exempt an artist,” he asked, who “does not think beyond or question the decadence of the cultural situation to which he belongs?”

With judgments and questions like these, Berger found himself “fighting for every sentence,” not only against his editors and skeptical readers but also against curators, gallery owners, and art critics. (One less-than-enthusiastic review of Henry Moore earned him the everlasting enmity of Sir Herbert Read, then Britain’s most respected critic.) Berger railed helplessly as the London cultural establishment—like that of New York—transformed modernism into an aesthetic for corporate suites and an emblem of Western individualism.

Weary of his travails among the London intelligentsia, Berger left England in 1962 and lived an itinerant but productive life on the continent for the next fifteen years. He published studies of Picasso and cubism as well as several other volumes of essays on painting, sculpture, photography, and politics; chronicled, in collaboration with the photographer Jean Mohr, the life of a country doctor in A Fortunate Man (1967); wrote several screenplays, including Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000 (1976), a wise and sympathetic story about disappointed radicals; and authored three novels, including G. (1972), a political and erotic bildungsroman that won him the Booker Prize. Berger promptly caused an uproar when he donated half of his prize money to the British Black Panthers (the Booker fortune having been amassed, he pointed out, through the exploitation of Caribbean slaves) and used the other half to fund a project on the condition of migrant workers that became A Seventh Man (1975). Whatever one thinks of his politics, there can be no denying that Berger is a writer who acts on his convictions.

But Berger’s most enduring achievement from this period was his landmark BBC television series Ways of Seeing (1972), notable if only because it disseminated a radical perspective to a mass audience. Published in book form in the same year, Ways of Seeing was a response to another television milestone, Civilisation (1969), hosted by Sir Kenneth Clark, doyen of the British art establishment. Loftily indifferent to social and political context, Clark’s parade-of-masterpieces approach to the history of Western art epitomized the patrician didacticism that Berger loathed. Focusing … [more]
johnberger  resistance  eugenemccarraher  2017  communism  capitalism  marxism  spirituality  anarchism  religion  materialism  sacredness  neoliberalism  mutualaid  craftsmanship  materiality  pleasure  convivilaity  soul  revolution  waysofseeing  art  artists  peasants  biography 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Can religion be based on ritual practice without belief? | Aeon Essays
"Most Japanese reject religious belief while embracing multiple forms of ritual practice. Are they religious or secular?"



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

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

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

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

The grand theories of old failed because they conceived of religion as a monolithic phenomenon that evolved linearly over time. Modern approaches do not need to endorse such assumptions. Instead, as with the definitions of religion which are currently favoured in the cognitive science of religion field, it is possible to recognise that religion does not refer to any single thing but rather to a family of related concepts that serve to identify a meaningful and circumscribed field of inquiry. We have no greater cause to abandon the term religion for its inherent fuzziness than we do to abandon other broad terms, like politics or kinship. Ultimately, we must step back from such academic minutiae and return to exploring what we find in the world by putting to use our always-imperfect analytical tools."
japan  religion  secularism  tradition  philosophy  belief  2016  religiosity  buddhism  shintoism  christopherkavanagh 
september 2016 by robertogreco
Austin Kleon — “That airport state of mind.”
[quoting: https://longform.org/posts/longform-podcast-75-george-saunders ]

"You know when you’re saying goodbye to somebody at the airport that you love and you get all soft? You’re like, “Oh my god, I hardly knew ya.” You know, that kind of feeling? What if that’s the truth? That that times ten is the mode that we should exist in all the time? Then another day you’re just yourself. There’s a big gap between those two people.

So, my regret would be how much time did I spend in that regular, old, stupid habitual mindset of taking everything for granted, as opposed to this exalted state of being super-tenderized to the people you care about.

I’m guessing that, you know, if there’s a heaven, it’s that at the airport times ten or twenty or a thousand.

The regret would be that you, like a lunkhead, spent so much time in that normal state. “Oh, I wonder what I’m going to do today? I hope my book is selling! How do I look? Oh, I’m going bald.” That mode is habitual, but we know from the occasional foray into it, that the other mode is possible.

[Congratulations, By The Way] basically says: “Hurry up! Take my advice, hurry up, try to get into that higher state while you can.”

How do you do it? I don’t know I’m stupid. I’m like a latecomer. But there’s these thousands of years of spiritual traditions that wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

A lot of times in our culture there’s this de facto humanist swagger that says, “Oh yeah, Religion. We used to do that shit.” But my advice would be, to anyone who wanted it: reconfigure your understanding of “Religion,” and make it exactly that which will give you that airport state of mind more often. And then go into the existing traditions and cull through them to make it that. Or to try to find the authentic elements of those traditions that are really about that. Cos that’s really what they’re about."
austinkleon  georgesaunders  spirituality  religion  2016  heaven  humanism  truth  softness  love  immediacy 
july 2016 by robertogreco
The oppression of silence
"And then I explained to him how naive we were, that the world did know and remain silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must -- at that moment -- become the center of the universe."
politics  humanity  eliewiesel  neutrality  science  persecution  oppression  complicity  2016  bystanders  race  religion  dignity  humanism  via:lukeneff 
july 2016 by robertogreco
TempleOS - Wikipedia
"TempleOS (formerly SparrowOS or LoseThos in development) is a biblical themed lightweight operating system created over the span of a decade by programmer Terry A. Davis. The software is a x86-64 bit, multi-tasking, multi-cored, public domain, open source, ring-0-only, single address space, non-networked, PC operating system for recreational programming.[1] The operating system was designed to be the Third Temple according to Davis and uses an interface similar to a mixture of DOS and Turbo C. Davis describes the operating system as a modern x86_64 Commodore 64 with C in place of BASIC.

History

Davis was born December 1969 and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia since the mid-1990s.[weasel words] Development for TempleOS began in 2003 after Davis suffered from a series of manic episodes that left him briefly hospitalized for mental health issues.[2][3]

Davis is a former atheist who believes that he can "talk with God" and that God told him the operating system he built was God's official temple. According to Davis TempleOS is of 'Divine' intellect due to the inspired nature of the code. According to Davis, God said to create the operating system with 640x480, 16 colors display and a single audio voice. The operating system was coded in a programming language, developed by Davis in C/C++ called "HolyC". The OS runs a file system called "Red Sea".[4]"
operatingsystems  via:ablaze  sparrowos  templeos  os  bible  terrydavis  religion 
july 2016 by robertogreco
BOMB Magazine — Ned Sublette by Garnette Cadogan
"Musician turned musicologist Ned Sublette unravels the histories and sounds that shaped New Orleans, our most “American” city."



"GC You end the book with the Mardi Gras Indians. They’re not merely your coda—they’re an index. They embody New Orleans’s uniqueness, and stand as a powerful and poignant metaphor of persistence—in the face of constant battering and challenges from without and frustrations from within.

NS They embody black New Orleans’s insistence on connecting with its past—in a society that did everything possible to erase the people and their history. To the extent of giving them one-way tickets out of town to forty-some different states in 2005.

GC And they [the Mardi Gras Indians] make this connection largely through their music, which has long functioned as a shield against erasure.

NS Music in New Orleans is a way of resisting one’s own erasure. Mardi Gras Indians were out there in their suits representing in 2006, at the first Mardi Gras after the flood, representing not only for their own neighborhood, but for the entire city.

GC In the book that you’re working on now, The Year Before The Flood — which, by the way, is not about the flood but about the rich cultural traditions of modern New Orleans — you make a similar claim about the city’s hip hop artists.

NS There are remarkable correspondences. There’s a number by the Hot Boys, from their album Guerrilla Warfare, with B.G. chanting: “Dem boys at war / I said dem boys at war / I said dem niggaz from Uptown / dem boyz at war.” The Mardi Gras Indians don’t use the N-word, but apart from that, it could practically be an Indian song. Black art is constantly transforming, but the continuity is there. The Mardi Gras Indians—like the Abakuá of Cuba, like hip hop—are very much a manhood cult. Expensive new suits, beefing over territory—although what the Mardi Gras Indians do is a highly ritualized theater of beefing that emphasizes diplomacy. When you go see a Mardi Gras Indian practice, and they practice challenging and battling, despite the theatrical aspect, they get so into it that you might wonder if they’re gonna take it outside and settle it. There’s the cultivation of a violent aura to chase away those who might otherwise try to take it over. Despite the occasional white megastar, hip hop in the main has remained pretty much impervious to takeover by white artists. It has many layers of encryption and elaborate security systems that make it hard to copy.

GC It’s also interesting to note the commonalities between New Orleans hip hop musicians and those within the city’s venerable brass band jazz tradition, not to mention the Mardi Gras Indians—these are all intensely local musical traditions.

NS It’s intensely local, and it’s the same community. Soulja Slim’s mom was in the Lady Buck Jumpers, and his stepfather was leader of Rebirth. Everybody’s got a relative who’s in a Social Aid and Pleasure Club, or is a Mardi Gras Indian or something. Until they boarded up the projects and tore them down this year, they were all living in the same projects. I went on the Revolution Social Aid and Pleasure Club second line this spring, one of the best second lines I’ve ever been on. How’s this for a recapitulation of New Orleans history? It began in front of Congo Square and ended at the rubble of the newly demolished Magnolia Projects.

GC Geographically connecting the reputed fountainhead of jazz with…

NS The fountainhead of R&B! Because right by the Magnolia Projects was the Dew Drop Inn, the great black showplace of New Orleans in the ‘40s and ‘50s, crucial to the formation of rhythm and blues."
2008  neworleans  music  history  nedsublette  garnettecadogan  havana  us  reggae  cuba  funk  slavery  south  race  religion  haiti  nola 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Why Trump voters are not “complete idiots” — Medium
"1) The US is bifurcated into two (actually a few more, but at the highest level only two). There are the “elites” and there is everyone else. These two Americas are segregated, culturally, socially, geographically, and economically. They have gotten more segregated over the last 40 years.

The growing income inequality is one measure of this. Yet it is more than that. The elites have removed themselves physically. They cluster in certain towns (NYC, LA, Northern Virginia, Boston) and within those towns in certain neighborhoods. They dress differently. They eat differently. There is a culture of elitism.

The best single measure of elitism I see is education, the type and amount. A Harvard professor of sociology is more similar (despite different politics) to a Wall Street trader, than either is to a truck driver in Appleton, Wisconsin, or a waitress in Selma, or a construction worker in Detroit.

If you earn your money using your intellect (like Jonathan Chait), you score high on elitism, and you probably view the world very differently from a man driving heavy equipment in Birmingham, Alabama, who uses his body for labor. Or a guy flipping burgers in the Bronx.

2) The elites by and large control things. They control the money. They control the rules on how you make it. They also control the social capital. They set/define what is acceptable, what is allowable, and what is frowned on. (In snazzy academic speak: The elites define what is valid cultural capital, and have defined it to further empower themselves)

Given these two assumptions I use a simple model, borrowed from finance, to explain voting decisions. (If you don’t want math, jump to the bottom conclusion section.)
This is a graph of how I see value vs. elitism in the US. Value is not just economic. It is social. It is a measure of how society sees someone. How it measures their validity, both economically and socially.

[graph]

It is roughly a two-tiered system, with a big jump up at X. The jump up can be seen in data on income versus education, with the jump at college education.
Yet it isn’t confined to just education. It is about where someone lives. What they like. How they dress. What they do for a living. An African American kid growing up in the Mississippi Delta is far to the left of that X. So is an insurance salesman in Kentucky. Or auto mechanic in South Buffalo.

To the right of the X is pretty much anyone with a graduate degree. All bankers, folks in tech, folks in journalism, etc. Anyone who primarily uses, or needs, post-college training, regardless of if they have it.

That graph is the “payout function” one has in mind when choosing a candidate.

That payout function is the same regardless of the candidate. Where a voter lies on that graph (to the far left, in the low value zone, or to the right of the X), is largely self-defined. It is how they think the world values them.

When choosing a candidate few voters can be certain what a candidate will deliver for them. Each voter can, however, draw a mental distribution of possible outcomes.
So, they might view themselves as starting far to the left of the jump up

But the candidate they vote for will hopefully move them way to the right — Where exactly they cannot know, but they can draw a rough distribution.

The candidate can do this by changing what the definition of elitism is (Math aside: They can also change the value function. But I am holding one thing steady.)
There are two things going on. One is the center of the distribution, the other is the width.

The center is the mostly knowable things. The width of the distribution, or the uncertainty, is the unknowable. The volatility.

How does a voter chose a candidate? They come up with a probability-adjusted valuation. They multiple the chance of each outcome versus the value of that outcome. The result is one number. They chose the candidate that maximizes that number for them.

1) Voters in the lower tier want to move to the higher tier. For African-Americans that means supporting the Clintons, who have spent 40 years working to convince African-Americans they will work for them, socially and economically. They may not like where they start, but Hillary is clearly working for them.

Many working class whites presently don’t feel they have that. In the past they voted the same as elite Republicans, who they saw as sharing their values, and would move them higher.

That hasn’t happened. Economically or socially. The bailout of Wall Street (and in their view, acquiescence on social issues like gay marriage) was the final blow.

Frustrated with broken promises, they gave up on the knowable and went with the unknowable. They chose Trump, because he comes with a very high distribution. A high volatility. (He also signals in ugly ways, that he might just move them, and only them and their friends, higher with his stated policies).

As any trader will tell you, if you are stuck lower, you want volatility, uncertainty. No matter how it comes. Put another way. Your downside is flat, your upside isn’t. Break the system.

The elites loathe volatility. Because, the upside is limited, but the downside isn’t. In option language, they are in the money.
To put it in very non-geeky language: A two-tiered system has one set of people who want to keep the system, and another that doesn’t. Each one is voting for their own best interests. (Yes, there are always altruistic people. But…..)

Where do most of the press and elites get it wrong? They don’t believe that we live in a two-tiered system. They don’t believe, or know they are in, the top tier. They also don’t understand what people view as value.

When the Democrats under Clinton in the early ‘90s shifted towards a pro market agenda, they made a dramatic shift towards accepting the Republicans definition of value as being about the economic.

Now elites in both major parties see their broad political goal as increasing the GDP, regardless of how it is done.

This has failed most Americans, other than the elite, in two ways. It has failed to provide an economic boost (incomes are broadly flat), and it has forgotten that many people see value as being not just economic, but social. It has been a one-two punch that has completely left behind many people.

For many people value is about having meaning beyond money. It is about having institutions that work for you. Like Church. Family. Sports Leagues.

In addition, the social nature of jobs has been destroyed. Unions provided more than just economic power, they also provided social inclusion.

You can scrap this entire analysis as silly if you want, but please try and understand the core point missing from much of the current dialogue — large parts of the US have become completely isolated, socially and economically.

Kids are growing up in towns where by six, or seven, or eleven, they are doomed to be viewed as second class. They feel unvalued. They feel stuck. They are mocked. And there is nothing they feel they can do about it.

When they turn to religion for worth, they are seen by the elites as uneducated, irrational, clowns. When they turn to identity through race they are racists. Regardless of their color.

The only thing they can do, faced with that, is break the fucking system. And they are going to try. Either by Trump or by some other way."

[See also:

"Why Trump voters are not complete idiots. Part two: What should Hillary do?"
https://medium.com/@Chris_arnade/why-trump-voters-are-not-complete-idiots-part-two-what-should-hillary-do-7cfcbd7aa19e#.wfihrtumd

"Trump as a scam"
https://medium.com/@Chris_arnade/trump-is-a-scam-21315584bac6#.o1yo2iauj ]
chrisarnade  2016  donaldtrump  politics  us  fascism  anger  society  elitism  education  religion  unions  economics  election  socialcapital  classism 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Few quick thoughts on Brexit — Medium
"Brexit is pushback against huge social and economic changes that have devalued a great many people.

They are changes that have demanded many people give up long standing notions of who they are, what is their place in the world, and questioned how they find meaning.

That same anger, and the reasons for it, is here in the US also.

I work with addicts these days and have spent the last five years driving all across the country, spending weeks/months/years in places many live in, but few visit. Places filled with poverty and addiction.

What I learned is that addiction is on the same spectrum as suicide. It is a slower form, but comes from the same place.

It led me to one of the first books to study suicide, by Émile Durkheim who wanted to understand why people would kill themselves.

He suggests people needed a sense of integration and regulation, to feel part of something that worked. They needed strong bonds to larger society. Without that, they often took their own life. He called that sense of isolation or disruption, Anomie.

I see Anomie wherever I go. The things that used to give people meaning: Their work, their union, their family, their church, their bridge club, their elks club, whatever, have been eroded. And often mocked.

We over the last 50 years have replaced that, and now demand that people be valued by their intellect, and their wealth. We have further diminished whole groups of people by increasing the amount we reward the new and few “winners.”

To make things even worse, we often outright mock anyone who can’t keep up, or doesn’t fit in with the new order. We call them dumb. Idiots. Religious freaks. Rednecks. Thugs. Hoodlums. Ghetto trash. White trash.

The language we use to talk about those who have been left behind is rife with nasty attempts to turn them into lesser humans. We use the tactics of racist, and apply it to economic losers.

And often they respond by joining racist groups. Or latching onto racist policies and agendas.

Which makes it easier to demean them, because racism is bad. Bad. Bad. Bad. And as a kid of a German Jew who barely made it out of Nazi Germany, as a kid who grew up in a small southern town. As a kid who had our car windows shot out (while his dad was in it!) because my dad was a “Nigger loving Jew”. Yes racism is awful. Bad. Disgusting. Nasty.

But racism, and fascism, are very successful scams that sell to the desperate. Fascism understands that people want to feel valued and integral part of something larger. Racism is, sadly, the easiest and cheapest way to do that.

So, yes push back against the racism. Loudly.

But offer something else, a way for others to feel included. Provide a process, other than getting an education in an elite school, that gives people meaning, solidarity, and value.

Simply saying they are not valid, or lesser, or they are stupid. Or they are idiots. That is racism’s ugly cousin elitism, so don’t turn it into a fight of the ugly. You think that is going to help people feel included?

If you hate racism, then you really really really should hate any economic and social system that creates and rewards massive inequality. Because when you get that. You get racism.

And that is the system we have built and now have. That is the system that most everyone screaming about the dumb racists is part of, usually supports, and wins from."
elitism  racism  politics  us  uk  brexit  chrisarnade  2016  anger  inequality  understanding  winners  losers  winnertakeall  economics  society  integration  regulation  community  belonging  addiction  suicide  émiledurkheim  isolation  disruption  anomie  work  rednecks  religion  ostracization  fascism  desperation  rejection  inclusion  inclusivity  socialinequality  economicinequality  incomeinequality  classism 
june 2016 by robertogreco
On technology, culture, and growing up in a small town
"Rex Sorgatz grew up in a small and isolated town (physically, culturally) in North Dakota named Napoleon.
Out on the prairie, pop culture existed only in the vaguest sense. Not only did I never hear the Talking Heads or Public Enemy or The Cure, I could never have heard of them. With a radio receiver only able to catch a couple FM stations, cranking out classic rock, AC/DC to Aerosmith, the music counterculture of the '80s would have been a different universe to me. (The edgiest band I heard in high school was The Cars. "My Best Friend's Girl" was my avant-garde.)

Is this portrait sufficiently remote? Perhaps one more stat: I didn't meet a black person until I was 16, at a summer basketball camp. I didn't meet a Jewish person until I was 18, in college.

This was the Deep Midwest in the 1980s. I was a pretty clueless kid.

He recently returned there and found that the physical isolation hasn't changed, but thanks to the internet, the kids now have access to the full range of cultural activities and ideas from all over the world.
"Basically, this story is a controlled experiment," I continue. "Napoleon is a place that has remained static for decades. The economics, demographics, politics, and geography are the same as when I lived here. In the past twenty-five years, only one thing has changed: technology."

Rex is a friend and nearly every time we get together, we end up talking about our respective small town upbringings and how we both somehow managed to escape. My experience wasn't quite as isolated as Rex's -- I lived on a farm until I was 9 but then moved to a small town of 2500 people; plus my dad flew all over the place and the Twin Cities were 90 minutes away by car -- but was similar in many ways. The photo from his piece of the rusted-out orange car buried in the snow could have been taken in the backyard of the house I grew up in, where my dad still lives. Kids listened to country, top 40, or heavy metal music. I didn't see Star Wars or Empire in a theater. No cable TV until I was 14 or 15. No AP classes until I was a senior. Aside from a few Hispanics and a family from India, everyone was white and Protestant. The FFA was huge in my school. I had no idea about rap music or modernism or design or philosophy or Andy Warhol or 70s film or atheism. I didn't know what I didn't know and had very little way of finding out.

I didn't even know I should leave. But somehow I got out. I don't know about Rex, but "escape" is how I think of it. I was lucky enough to excel at high school and got interest from schools from all over the place. My dad urged me to go to college...I was thinking about getting a job (probably farming or factory work) or joining the Navy with a friend. That's how clueless I was...I knew so little about the world that I didn't know who I was in relation to it. My adjacent possible just didn't include college even though it was the best place for a kid like me.

In college in an Iowan city of 110,000, I slowly discovered what I'd been missing. Turns out, I was a city kid who just happened to grow up in a small town. I met other people from all over the country and, in time, from all over the world. My roommate sophomore year was black.1 I learned about techno music and programming and photography and art and classical music and LGBT and then the internet showed up and it was game over. I ate it all up and never got full. And like Rex:

Napoleon had no school newspaper, and minimal access to outside media, so I had no conception of "the publishing process." Pitching an idea, assigning a story, editing and rewriting -- all of that would have baffled me. I had only ever seen a couple of newspapers and a handful of magazines, and none offered a window into its production. (If asked, I would have been unsure if writers were even paid, which now seems prescient.) Without training or access, but a vague desire to participate, boredom would prove my only edge. While listlessly paging through the same few magazines over and over, I eventually discovered a semi-concealed backdoor for sneaking words onto the hallowed pages of print publications: user-generated content.

That's the ghastly term we use (or avoid using) today for non-professional writing submitted by readers. What was once a letter to the editor has become a comment; editorials, now posts. The basic unit persists, but the quantity and facility have matured. Unlike that conspicuous "What's on your mind?" input box atop Facebook, newspapers and magazines concealed interaction with readers, reluctant of the opinions of randos. But if you were diligent enough to find the mailing address, often sequestered deep in the back pages, you could submit letters of opinion and other ephemera.
I eventually found the desire to express myself. Using a copy of Aldus PhotoStyler I had gotten from who knows where, I designed party flyers for DJ friends' parties. I published a one-sheet periodical for the residents of my dorm floor, to be read in the bathroom. I made meme-y posters2 which I hung around the physics department. I built a homepage that just lived on my hard drive because our school didn't offer web hosting space and I couldn't figure out how to get an account elsewhere.3 Well, you know how that last bit turned out, eventually.4"
jasonkottke  kottke  rexsorgatz  2016  rural  internet  web  isolation  connectivity  change  subcultures  media  culture  childhood  youth  teens  socialmedia  college  education  universities  highered  highereducation  midwest  cv  music  film  television  tv  cable  cabletv  cosmopolitanism  worldliness  urban  urbanism  interneturbanism  1980s  northdakota  minnesota  homogeneity  diversity  apclasses  aps  religion  ethnicity  race  exposure  facebook 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Has the Internet Really Changed Everything? — Backchannel
[See also: http://kottke.org/16/04/on-technology-culture-and-growing-up-in-a-small-town ]

"How have decades of mass media and technology changed us? A writer returns to his remote hometown — once isolated, now connected. And finds unexpected answers."



"In the Napoleon of the 1980s, where I memorized the alphabet and mangled my first kiss, distractions were few. There were no malls to loiter, no drags to cruise. With no newsstand or bookstore, information was sparse. The only source of outside knowledge was the high school library, a room the size of a modest apartment, which had subscriptions to exactly five magazines: Sports Illustrated, Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, and People. As a teenager, these five magazines were my only connection to the outside world.

Of course, there was no internet yet. Cable television was available to blessed souls in far-off cities, or so we heard, but it did not arrive in Napoleon until my teens, and even then, in a miniaturized grid of 12 UHF channels. (The coax would transmit oddities like WGN and CBN, but not cultural staples like HBO or Nickelodeon. I wanted my MTV in vain.) Before that, only the staticky reception of the big three — ABC, CBS, NBC — arrived via a tangle of rabbit ears. By the time the PBS tower boosted its broadcast reach to Napoleon, I was too old to enjoy Sesame Street.

Out on the prairie, pop culture existed only in the vaguest sense. Not only did I never hear the Talking Heads or Public Enemy or The Cure, I could never have heard of them. With a radio receiver only able to catch a couple FM stations, cranking out classic rock, AC/DC to Aerosmith, the music counterculture of the ’80s would have been a different universe to me. (The edgiest band I heard in high school was The Cars. “My Best Friend’s Girl” was my avant-garde.)

Is this portrait sufficiently remote? Perhaps one more stat: I didn’t meet a black person until I was 16, at a summer basketball camp. I didn’t meet a Jewish person until I was 18, in college.

This was the Deep Midwest in the 1980s. I was a pretty clueless kid."



"“Basically, this story is a controlled experiment,” I continue. “Napoleon is a place that has remained static for decades. The economics, demographics, politics, and geography are the same as when I lived here. In the past twenty-five years, only one thing has changed: technology.”

Photog2 begins to fiddle with an unlit Camel Light, which he clearly wants to go smoke, even if it is 8 degrees below zero outside. But I am finding the rhythm of my pitch.

“All scientific experiments require two conditions: a static environment and a control — a testable variable that changes. Napoleon is the static environment; technology, the control. With all else being equal, this place is the perfect environment to explore societal questions like, What are the effects of mass communications? How has technology transformed the way we form ideas? Does access to information alone make us smarter?”

“How am I supposed to photograph that?” asks Photog2."



"As we discuss other apps on his home screen — YouTube, eBay, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo — I realize that my line of questions are really just attempts to prove or disprove a sentence that I read on the flight to Dakota. The sentence appears on page 20 of Danah Boyd’s book, It’s Complicated, a study of the social lives of networked teens:
What the drive-in was to teens in the 1950s and the mall was in the 1980s, Facebook, texting, Twitter, instant messaging, and other social media are to teens now.

I cannot shake the sentence, which seems to contain between its simple words a secret key, a cipher to crack my inquiries into technology and change. Napoleon didn’t have a drive-in in the 1950s, or a mall in the 1980s, but today it definitely has the same social communications tools used by every kid in the country. By that fact alone, the lives of teenagers in Napoleon must be wildly different than they were 20 years ago. But I lack the social research finesse of Boyd, who could probably interrogate my thesis about technology beyond anecdote. So I change the topic to something I know much better: television."



"Whether with sanguine fondness or sallow regret, all writers remember their first publishing experience — that moment when an unseen audience of undifferentiated proportion absorbs their words from unknown locales.
I remember my first three.

Napoleon had no school newspaper, and minimal access to outside media, so I had no conception of “the publishing process.” Pitching an idea, assigning a story, editing and rewriting — all of that would have baffled me. I had only ever seen a couple of newspapers and a handful of magazines, and none offered a window into its production. (If asked, I would have been unsure if writers were even paid, which now seems prescient.) Without training or access, but a vague desire to participate, boredom would prove my only edge. While listlessly paging through the same few magazines over and over, I eventually discovered a semi-concealed backdoor for sneaking words onto the hallowed pages of print publications: user-generated content.

That’s the ghastly term we use (or avoid using) today for non-professional writing submitted by readers. What was once a letter to the editor has become a comment; editorials, now posts. The basic unit persists, but the quantity and facility have matured. Unlike that conspicuous “What’s on your mind?” input box atop Facebook, newspapers and magazines concealed interaction with readers, reluctant of the opinions of randos. But if you were diligent enough to find the mailing address, often sequestered deep in the back pages, you could submit letters of opinion and other ephemera.

This was publishing to me. My collected works were UGC."



"“What are your favorite apps?”

This time my corny question is fielded by Katelyn, another student who my mother suggests will make a good subject for my harebrained experiment. During her study hall break, we discuss the hectic life of a millennial teenager on the plains. She is already taking college-level courses, lettering in three varsity sports, and the president of the local FFA chapter. (That’s Future Farmers of America, an agricultural youth organization with highly competitive livestock judging and grain grading contests. It’s actually a huge deal in deep rural America, bigger than the Boy and Girl Scouts. Katelyn won the state competition in Farm Business Management category.)

To the app question, she recites the universals of any contemporary young woman: Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest. She mentions The Skimm as a daily news source, which is intriguing, but not as provocative as her next remark: “I don’t have Facebook.”

Whoa, why?

“My parents don’t support social media,” says the 18-year-old. “They didn’t want me to get Facebook when I was younger, so I just never signed up.” This is closer to the isolationist Napoleon that I remember. They might not ban books anymore, but parents can still be very protective.

“How do you survive without Facebook?” I ask. “Do you wish you had it?”

“I go back and forth,” she avers. “It would be easier to connect with people I’ve met through FFA and sports. But I’m also glad I don’t have it, because it’s time-consuming and there’s drama over it.”

She talks like a 35-year-old. So I ask who she will vote for.

“I’m not sure. I like how Bernie Sanders is sounding.”

I tell her a story about a moment in my junior civics class where the teacher asked everyone who was Republican to raise their hand. Twenty-five kids lifted their palms to the sky. The remaining two students called themselves Independents. “My school either had zero Democrats or a few closeted ones,” I conclude.

She is indifferent to my anecdote, so I change the topic to music.

“I listen to older country,” she says. “Garth Brooks, George Strait.” The term “older country” amuses me, but I resist the urge to ask her opinion of Jimmie Rodgers. “I’m not a big fan of hardcore rap or heavy metal,” she continues. “I don’t understand heavy metal. I don’t know why you would want to listen to it.”

So no interest in driving three hours in the snow to see AC/DC at the Fargodome last night?

“No, I just watched a couple Snapchat stories of it.”

Of course she did.

While we talk, a scratchy announcement is broadcast over the school-wide intercom. A raffle drawing ticket is being randomly selected. I hear Jaden’s name announced as the winner of the gigantic teddy bear in my mother’s office.
I ask Katelyn what novel she read as a sophomore, the class year that The Catcher in the Rye was banned from my school. When she says Fahrenheit 451, I feel like the universe has realigned for me in some cosmic perfection.

But my time is running out, and again I begin to wonder whether she is proving or disproving my theories of media and technology. It’s difficult to compare her life to mine at that age. Katelyn is undoubtedly more focused and mature than any teenager I knew in the ’80s, but this is the stereotype of all millennials today. Despite her many accomplishments, she seems to suppress the hallmark characteristic of her ambitious generation: fanatic self-regard. Finally, I ask her what she thinks her life will be like in 25 years.

“I hope I’ll be married, and probably have kids,” she says decisively. “I see myself in a rural area. Maybe a little bit closer to Bismarck or Fargo. But I’m definitely in North Dakota.”

I tell her that Jaden gave essentially the same answer to the question. Why do you think that is?

“The sense of a small community,” she says, using that word again. “Everyone knows each other. It’s a big family.”"
internet  technology  rexsorgatz  2016  isolation  cv  web  online  culture  distraction  media  film  music  quietude  publishing  writing  worldliness  rural  howwelive  thenandnow  change  community  smalltowns  schools  education  journalism  books  censorship  fahrenheit451  raybradbury  thecatcherintherye  jdsalinger  newspapers  communication  socialmedia  snapchat  facebook  instagram  pinterest  theskimm  news  danahboyd  youtube  ebay  yahoo  twitter  videogames  gaming  subcultures  netflix  teens  youth  connectivity  childhood  college  universities  highered  highereducation  midwest  television  tv  cable  cabletv  cosmopolitanism  urban  urbanism  interneturbanism  1980s  northdakota  homogeneity  diversity  apclasses  aps  religion  ethnicity  race  exposure 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Cornel West on state of race in the U.S.: "We're in bad shape" - CBS News
[via: "Showed kids 60 Minutes with Cornel West last night. ("I'm unimpressed by smartness.") http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-cornel-west-on-race-in-the-u-s/ "
https://twitter.com/ablerism/status/711908596540379136

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Brown: Doing what, Dr. West?

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

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

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

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

James Brown: Excuse me?

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

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

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

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

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

Cornel West: You know, I never really thought I was that smart. Because there was so many other folk in school that I was deeply impressed by. But I'll say this, though, that I've never really been impressed by smartness."
cornelwest  barackobama  race  2016  via:ablerism  love  activism  socialjustice  blacklivesmatter  generations  inequality  values  nylefort  jamesbrown  cliftonwest  eddieglaude  decency  virtue  callousness  indifference  greed  avarice  jazz  suffering  humanism  abrahamjoshuaheschel  life  living  legacy  religion  belief  ferguson  racialjustice  racism  civildisobedience  wallstreet  intellectualism  intellect  curiosity  poverty  policy  language  malcolmx  frederickdouglass  rage  indignation  civilrights  johncoltrane  wisdom  smartness  sacrifice  conformism  sarahvaughan 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Shirky: A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy
"So, Part One. The best explanation I have found for the ways in which this pattern establishes itself, the group is its own worst enemy, comes from a book by W.R. Bion called "Experiences in Groups," written in the middle of the last century.

Bion was a psychologist who was doing group therapy with groups of neurotics. (Drawing parallels between that and the Internet is left as an exercise for the reader.) The thing that Bion discovered was that the neurotics in his care were, as a group, conspiring to defeat therapy.

There was no overt communication or coordination. But he could see that whenever he would try to do anything that was meant to have an effect, the group would somehow quash it. And he was driving himself crazy, in the colloquial sense of the term, trying to figure out whether or not he should be looking at the situation as: Are these individuals taking action on their own? Or is this a coordinated group?

He could never resolve the question, and so he decided that the unresolvability of the question was the answer. To the question: Do you view groups of people as aggregations of individuals or as a cohesive group, his answer was: "Hopelessly committed to both."

He said that humans are fundamentally individual, and also fundamentally social. Every one of us has a kind of rational decision-making mind where we can assess what's going on and make decisions and act on them. And we are all also able to enter viscerally into emotional bonds with other groups of people that transcend the intellectual aspects of the individual.

In fact, Bion was so convinced that this was the right answer that the image he put on the front cover of his book was a Necker cube, one of those cubes that you can look at and make resolve in one of two ways, but you can never see both views of the cube at the same time. So groups can be analyzed both as collections of individuals and having this kind of emotive group experience.

Now, it's pretty easy to see how groups of people who have formal memberships, groups that have been labeled and named like "I am a member of such-and-such a guild in a massively multi-player online role-playing game," it's easy to see how you would have some kind of group cohesion there. But Bion's thesis is that this effect is much, much deeper, and kicks in much, much sooner than many of us expect. So I want to illustrate this with a story, and to illustrate the illustration, I'll use a story from your life. Because even if I don't know you, I know what I'm about to describe has happened to you.

You are at a party, and you get bored. You say "This isn't doing it for me anymore. I'd rather be someplace else. I'd rather be home asleep. The people I wanted to talk to aren't here." Whatever. The party fails to meet some threshold of interest. And then a really remarkable thing happens: You don't leave. You make a decision "I don't like this." If you were in a bookstore and you said "I'm done," you'd walk out. If you were in a coffee shop and said "This is boring," you'd walk out.

You're sitting at a party, you decide "I don't like this; I don't want to be here." And then you don't leave. That kind of social stickiness is what Bion is talking about.

And then, another really remarkable thing happens. Twenty minutes later, one person stands up and gets their coat, and what happens? Suddenly everyone is getting their coats on, all at the same time. Which means that everyone had decided that the party was not for them, and no one had done anything about it, until finally this triggering event let the air out of the group, and everyone kind of felt okay about leaving.

This effect is so steady it's sometimes called the paradox of groups. It's obvious that there are no groups without members. But what's less obvious is that there are no members without a group. Because what would you be a member of?

So there's this very complicated moment of a group coming together, where enough individuals, for whatever reason, sort of agree that something worthwhile is happening, and the decision they make at that moment is: This is good and must be protected. And at that moment, even if it's subconscious, you start getting group effects. And the effects that we've seen come up over and over and over again in online communities.

Now, Bion decided that what he was watching with the neurotics was the group defending itself against his attempts to make the group do what they said they were supposed to do. The group was convened to get better, this group of people was in therapy to get better. But they were defeating that. And he said, there are some very specific patterns that they're entering into to defeat the ostensible purpose of the group meeting together. And he detailed three patterns.

The first is sex talk, what he called, in his mid-century prose, "A group met for pairing off." And what that means is, the group conceives of its purpose as the hosting of flirtatious or salacious talk or emotions passing between pairs of members.

You go on IRC and you scan the channel list, and you say "Oh, I know what that group is about, because I see the channel label." And you go into the group, you will also almost invariably find that it's about sex talk as well. Not necessarily overt. But that is always in scope in human conversations, according to Bion. That is one basic pattern that groups can always devolve into, away from the sophisticated purpose and towards one of these basic purposes.

The second basic pattern that Bion detailed: The identification and vilification of external enemies. This is a very common pattern. Anyone who was around the Open Source movement in the mid-Nineties could see this all the time. If you cared about Linux on the desktop, there was a big list of jobs to do. But you could always instead get a conversation going about Microsoft and Bill Gates. And people would start bleeding from their ears, they would get so mad.

If you want to make it better, there's a list of things to do. It's Open Source, right? Just fix it. "No, no, Microsoft and Bill Gates grrrrr ...", the froth would start coming out. The external enemy -- nothing causes a group to galvanize like an external enemy.

So even if someone isn't really your enemy, identifying them as an enemy can cause a pleasant sense of group cohesion. And groups often gravitate towards members who are the most paranoid and make them leaders, because those are the people who are best at identifying external enemies.

The third pattern Bion identified: Religious veneration. The nomination and worship of a religious icon or a set of religious tenets. The religious pattern is, essentially, we have nominated something that's beyond critique. You can see this pattern on the Internet any day you like. Go onto a Tolkein newsgroup or discussion forum, and try saying "You know, The Two Towers is a little dull. I mean loooong. We didn't need that much description about the forest, because it's pretty much the same forest all the way."

Try having that discussion. On the door of the group it will say: "This is for discussing the works of Tolkein." Go in and try and have that discussion.

Now, in some places people say "Yes, but it needed to, because it had to convey the sense of lassitude," or whatever. But in most places you'll simply be flamed to high heaven, because you're interfering with the religious text.

So these are human patterns that have shown up on the Internet, not because of the software, but because it's being used by humans. Bion has identified this possibility of groups sandbagging their sophisticated goals with these basic urges. And what he finally came to, in analyzing this tension, is that group structure is necessary. Robert's Rules of Order are necessary. Constitutions are necessary. Norms, rituals, laws, the whole list of ways that we say, out of the universe of possible behaviors, we're going to draw a relatively small circle around the acceptable ones.

He said the group structure is necessary to defend the group from itself. Group structure exists to keep a group on target, on track, on message, on charter, whatever. To keep a group focused on its own sophisticated goals and to keep a group from sliding into these basic patterns. Group structure defends the group from the action of its own members."
clayshirky  2003  groups  communication  culture  norms  groupdynamics  wrbion  rituals  laws  rules  behavior  constitutions  lcproject  openstudioproject  structure  groupstructure  religion  worship  sfsh  ritual 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Here's Why Uniqlo Is Poised To Nail The Muslim Fashion Market
"Japanese basics magnate Uniqlo is releasing a line of "modest fashion," including hijabs, in American stores later this month.

The line is a collaboration with Japanese-British-Muslim designer Hana Tajima, who successfully launched a similar line of modest Uniqlo garments in Southeast Asia last year.

Uniqlo x Hana Tajima will officially launch on Feb. 26, and is affordably priced from $10 to $60. It includes traditional Islamic garments like the hijab, kebaya, and jubbah, but also loose-fitting Western items like skirts and long-sleeve tops.

Tajima told The Huffington Post she wanted to provide a variety of garments because "modesty varies from person to person -- it's not just about hijabs, it’s about finding looser silhouettes, more coverage, longer hems and sleeves."

Uniqlo will be the latest brand to target Muslim women, following the footsteps of Dolce & Gabbana's line of abayas and DKNY and Mango's "Ramadan collections." But its effort seems like the best one yet, for several reasons.

For one thing, its designer is actually Muslim. Tajima, who is 29, converted to Islam when she was 18. Her father is Japanese and her mom is English, and this cosmopolitan background may inform her conception of the Muslim world as a diverse population, rather than a monolith.

That's why the Uniqlo line includes so many different options for "modest wear." There are three different head-covering options: a traditional scarf-like hijab, a form-fitting "inner hijab" to be worn inside looser garments, and an "inner headband" that is like a cap for keeping hair covered and in place. That's an attention to useful detail that's practically unforeseen in mainstream Muslim fashion offerings.

The collaboration also capitalizes on the signature strengths of each partner: Uniqlo is known for its high-performance technical fabrics, and the hijabs and headbands are made from "Airism," a breathable, moisture-wicking fabric designed specially for the collection. You can imagine the practical implications of a high-performance headscarf in places like the Gulf countries, where hijabi women often contend with 100-degree-plus temperatures.

"Uniqlo's fabric expertise was literally the first thing I thought of when they approached me for the collection," said Tajima. "Since Muslim fashion tends to involve more fabric, it’s especially important that those fabrics are breathable."

Plus, Uniqlo's advertising campaign includes both Muslim and non-Muslim women, unlike Dolce & Gabbana's glossy campaign, which featured only white models, as HuffPost has written previously. The model Yuna is Malaysian Muslim, while the other model is not, Tajima told HuffPost.

Finally, at risk of stating the obvious, it's a feat for a collection of "modest fashion" to be both modest and fashionable. Although the offerings are diverse, they do have options to cover ankles, neck, hair -- or not. But a Muslim woman could find suitably modest clothes anywhere; the reason to try Uniqlo's is that they're actually chic. They're made in a lush palette of marigold, taupe and avocado-green; the skirts and dresses are elegantly draped; and the patterns are subtle and wearable.

It took the fashion world a few tries, but we're going to go out on a limb and say Uniqlo just showed the fashion world what a Muslim fashion collection should look like in 2016."
uniqlo  fashion  2016  design  religion  islam  muslims  hanatajima  hijab 
february 2016 by robertogreco
What to do when you're not the hero any more
"Let's not get carried away here. These stories and retellings are still exceptions. Women are still paid less, respected less and promoted less at almost every level of every creative industry. For every Jessica Jones there's a Daredevil, whose female characters exist solely to get rescued, provide the protagonists with some pneumatic exposition, or both. For every Orphan Black there's Mr Robot and Narcos and you know, sometimes I wonder if perhaps I watch too much television. The point is that what we have right now isn't equality yet. It's nothing like equality. But it's still enough to enrage the old guard because when you've been used to privilege, equality feels like prejudice.

The rage that white men have been expressing, loudly, violently, over the very idea that they might find themselves identifying with characters who are not white men, the very idea that heroism might not be particular to one race or one gender, the basic idea that the human story is vast and various and we all get to contribute a page - that rage is petty. It is aware of its own pettiness. Like a screaming toddler denied a sweet, it becomes more righteous the more it reminds itself that after all, it’s only a story.

Only a story. Only the things we tell to keep out the darkness. Only the myths and fables that save us from despair, to establish power and destroy it, to teach each other how to be good, to describe the limits of desire, to keep us breathing and fighting and yearning and striving when it'd be so much easier to give in. Only the constitutive ingredients of every human society since the Stone age.

Only a story. Only the most important thing in the whole world.

The people who are upset that the faces of fiction are changing are right to worry. It's a fundamental challenge to a worldview that's been too comfortable for too long. The part of our cultural imagination that places white Western men at the centre of every story is the same part that legitimises racism and sexism. The part of our collective mythos that encourages every girl and brown boy to identify and empathise with white male heroes is the same part that reacts with rage when white boys are asked to imagine themselves in anyone else’s shoes.

The problem - as River Song puts it - is that 'men will believe any story they're hero of,' and until recently that's all they've been asked to do. The Original Star Wars was famously based on Joseph Campbell's "Hero's Journey", the "monomyth" that was supposed to run through every important legend from the beginning of time. But it turned out that women had no place in that monomyth, which has formed the basis of lazy storytelling for two or three generations: Campbell reportedly told his students that "women don't need to make the journey. In the whole mythological journey, the woman is there. All she has to do is realise that she's the place that people are trying to get to".

Which is narratologist for "get back to the kitchen" and arrant bullshit besides. It's not enough to be a destination, a prop in someone else's story. Now women and other cultural outsiders are kicking back and demanding a multiplicity of myths. Stories in which there are new heroes making new journeys. This isn't just good news for steely-eyed social justice warriors like me. It also means that the easily bored among us might not have to sit through the same dull story structure as imagined by some dude in the 1970s until we die.

What does it mean to be a white cis boy reading these books and watching these new shows? The same thing it has meant for everyone else to watch every other show that’s ever been made. It means identifying with people who don’t look like you, talk like you or fuck like you. It’s a challenge, and it’s as radical and useful for white cis boys as it is for the rest of us - because stories are mirrors, but they are also windows. They let you see yourself transfigured, but they also let you live lives you haven’t had the chance to imagine, as many other lives as there are stories yet to be told, without once leaving your chair.

This isn’t just about "role models". Readers who are female, queer or of colour have been allowed role models before. What we haven’t been allowed is to see our experience reflected, to see our lives mirrored and magnified and made magical by culture. We haven’t been allowed to see ourselves as anything other than the exception. If we made it into the story, we were standing alone, and we were constantly reminded how miraculous it was that we had saved the day even though we were just a woman. Or just a black kid. Or just - or just,whatever it was that made us less than those boys who were just born to be heroes.

The people who get angry that Hermione is black, that Rey is a woman, that Furiosa is more of a hero than Mad Max, I understand their anger. Anyone who has ever felt shut out of a story by virtue of their sex or skin colour has felt that anger. Imagine that anger multiplied a hundredfold, imagine feeling it every time you read or watched or heard or played through a story. Imagine how over time that rage would harden into bewilderment, and finally mute acceptance that people like you were never going to get to be the hero, not really.

Then imagine that suddenly starting to change. Imagine letting out a breath you’d held between your teeth so long you’d forgotten the taste of air.

Capitalism is just a story. Religion is just a story. Patriarchy and white supremacy are just stories. They are the great organising myths that define our societies and determine our futures, and I believe - I hope - that a great rewriting is slowly, surely underway. We can only become what we can imagine, and right now our imagination is being stretched in new ways. We're learning, as a culture, that heroes aren't always white guys, that life and love and villainy and victory might look a little different depending on who's telling it. That's a good thing. It's not easy - but nobody ever said that changing the world was going to be easy.

I learned that from Harry Potter."
lauriepenny  privilege  feminism  starwars  2015  capitalism  inequality  gender  religion  patriarchy  whitesupremacy  madmax  josephcampbell  monomyths 
february 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
The Radicalization of Luke Skywalker: A Jedi’s Path to Jihad | Decider | Where To Stream Movies & Shows on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant, HBO Go
"With the imminent release of the new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, many theatergoers are re-watching the original movies to reacquaint themselves with those stories from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. This time, however, they may find themselves surprised by how much the film’s characters and themes echo the current War On Terror.

While some have put forth persuasive arguments as to why the Galactic Empire were actually the good guys and the Rebel Alliance bad (an explanation by Jonathan V. Last can be found here, and an excellent follow-up by Sonny Bunch here), the recent online discussion tends to be on a more macro level, discussing galaxy wide events and surrounding the Empire’s struggle to restore safety and order to a star system overrun by space terrorists.

A more focused study, however, is needed to truly understand that the Star Wars films are actually the story of the radicalization of Luke Skywalker. From introducing him to us in A New Hope (as a simple farm boy gazing into the Tatooine sunset), to his eventual transformation into the radicalized insurgent of Return of the Jedi (as one who sets his own father’s corpse on fire and celebrates the successful bombing of the Death Star), each film in the original trilogy is another step in Luke’s descent into terrorism. By carefully looking for the same signs governments and scholars use to detect radicalization, we can witness Luke’s dark journey into religious fundamentalism and extremism happen before our very eyes.

When we first meet Luke Skywalker, he’s an orphaned farm boy with barely any friends, living with his Aunt and Uncle, and wanting to join the Galactic Academy like all the other guys his age. You see, Luke didn’t become a space terrorist overnight, but he did exhibit signs that would make him a prime candidate for terrorist recruiters. The process of radicalization, as described by Anthony Stahelski in the Journal of Homeland Security, notes terrorists tend to:

• Come from families where the father is absent (check)

• Have difficulty forming relationships outside the home (check)

• Be attracted to groups offering acceptance and comradeship (checkmate)

Luke is just the kind of isolated disaffected young man that terror recruiters seek out.

Obi Wan — a religious fanatic with a history of looking for young boys to recruit and teach an extreme interpretation of the Force — is practically salivating when he stumbles upon Luke, knowing he’s found a prime candidate for radicalization. Stahelski notes terror groups place a focus on depluralization, stripping away the recruit’s membership from all groups and isolating them to increase their susceptibility to terrorist messaging. Within moments of meeting Luke, Obi-Wan tells Luke he must abandon his family and join him, going so far as telling a shocking lie that the Empire killed Luke’s father, hoping to inspire Luke to a life of jihad.

Shocked and confused by this onslaught of terrorist brainwashing, Luke hurries home only to find the charred corpses of his aunt and uncle. The Empire’s accidental harming of Luke’s Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen can be directly compared to the casualties of President Obama’s drone campaign, whose body count terrorists capitalize upon for recruitment. This is precisely what Obi-Wan does, preying upon Luke’s emotional state to take him under his spell and towards a life of extremism.

Obi-Wan whisks Luke off to Mos Eisley using a Jedi mind trick to bypass security, knowing full well he likely appears on numerous terror no fly lists. After contracting a local drug smuggler for transportation, Obi-Wan and his newest Skywalker recruit are off. They are soon captured, however, and attempt an escape which culminates in a battle between Obi-Wan and Vader. During the fight, Obi-Wan notices Luke watching, and seeing an opportunity to fully inspire Luke to radicalize, says a Jedi prayer while committing suicide. Can you think of any other groups who try to inspire terrorism by yelling a prayer before a suicide attack?

Once Luke escapes and regroups with a terror sleeper cell, he joins them on an attack mission. As he nears his target, hearing Obi-Wan’s words in his mind, Luke closes his eyes, says a prayer and bombs a space station, killing everyone aboard. Young Skywalker has proven himself a quick study in the ways of armed religious extremism.

As the Empire Strikes Back begins, Obi-Wan appears to Luke as an apparition and gives him clear instructions on continuing his radicalization. Luke is ordered to travel overseas to receive training and religious instruction from Yoda, an extremist cleric who runs a Jedi madrasa on Dagobah.

Yoda accepts Luke into his religious “school,” teaching Luke Jedi fundamentalism and guerilla warfare. Like many extremist mullahs, Yoda demands total adherence to his strict interpretation of the Force and seeks to strip Luke of independent thinking. Yoda’s push to radicalize Luke, rob him of an identity, and instill obedience are apparent when at various points he instructs Luke to “Clear your mind of questions,” “Unlearn what you have learned” and, most grimly, “Do, or do not, there is no try.” The Jedi know it is imperative to force mindless devotion in warriors they recruit for their holy war. Armed with new combat training and cloaked in a hardline religious fervor, Luke leaves Dagobah, impatient to put his terror training to use.

In Return of the Jedi, we see a darker, hardened Luke, fittingly dressed in black and eager to use violence as a tool to enforce the twisted “judge, jury, executioner” value system of the Jedi. During a rescue mission, Luke exhibits their extremist binary worldview of “if you aren’t with us, you’re a viable military target” when he blows up Jabba’s barge, killing every man, woman, and child on board. Excited by so much bloodshed and mayhem, young Skywalker seeks to assassinate the Emperor and even his own father (!) if they won’t convert to Luke’s extremist interpretation of the Force. Luke enters the Death Star, hoping to gain martyrdom if he is killed. As Luke’s insurgent friends successfully bomb their target, Luke succeeds in killing the Emperor and, eventually, his own father. Luke’s path to radicalization is complete, his bloodlust sated … for now.

With Darth Vader the final casualty of Luke’s jihad, Obi-Wan and Yoda have succeeded in catching yet another young man in their web of Jedi extremism. As is now evident, Star Wars is clearly a cautionary tale of the dangers of radicalization, and how even a seemingly harmless young man who kept to himself on Tattooine can become the terrorist next door."
starwars  radicals  radicalization  culture  2015  jihad  politics  perspective  lukeskywalker  extremism  religion  indoctrination  brainwashing  psychology 
december 2015 by robertogreco
The fanatic, fraudulent Mother Teresa.
"I think it was Macaulay who said that the Roman Catholic Church deserved great credit for, and owed its longevity to, its ability to handle and contain fanaticism. This rather oblique compliment belongs to a more serious age. What is so striking about the "beatification" of the woman who styled herself "Mother" Teresa is the abject surrender, on the part of the church, to the forces of showbiz, superstition, and populism.

It's the sheer tawdriness that strikes the eye first of all. It used to be that a person could not even be nominated for "beatification," the first step to "sainthood," until five years after his or her death. This was to guard against local or popular enthusiasm in the promotion of dubious characters. The pope nominated MT a year after her death in 1997. It also used to be that an apparatus of inquiry was set in train, including the scrutiny of an advocatus diaboli or "devil's advocate," to test any extraordinary claims. The pope has abolished this office and has created more instant saints than all his predecessors combined as far back as the 16th century.

As for the "miracle" that had to be attested, what can one say? Surely any respectable Catholic cringes with shame at the obviousness of the fakery. A Bengali woman named Monica Besra claims that a beam of light emerged from a picture of MT, which she happened to have in her home, and relieved her of a cancerous tumor. Her physician, Dr. Ranjan Mustafi, says that she didn't have a cancerous tumor in the first place and that the tubercular cyst she did have was cured by a course of prescription medicine. Was he interviewed by the Vatican's investigators? No. (As it happens, I myself was interviewed by them but only in the most perfunctory way. The procedure still does demand a show of consultation with doubters, and a show of consultation was what, in this case, it got.)

According to an uncontradicted report in the Italian paper L'Eco di Bergamo, the Vatican's secretary of state sent a letter to senior cardinals in June, asking on behalf of the pope whether they favored making MT a saint right away. The pope's clear intention has been to speed the process up in order to perform the ceremony in his own lifetime. The response was in the negative, according to Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, the Canadian priest who has acted as postulator or advocate for the "canonization." But the damage, to such integrity as the process possesses, has already been done.

During the deliberations over the Second Vatican Council, under the stewardship of Pope John XXIII, MT was to the fore in opposing all suggestions of reform. What was needed, she maintained, was more work and more faith, not doctrinal revision. Her position was ultra-reactionary and fundamentalist even in orthodox Catholic terms. Believers are indeed enjoined to abhor and eschew abortion, but they are not required to affirm that abortion is "the greatest destroyer of peace," as MT fantastically asserted to a dumbfounded audience when receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.* Believers are likewise enjoined to abhor and eschew divorce, but they are not required to insist that a ban on divorce and remarriage be a part of the state constitution, as MT demanded in a referendum in Ireland (which her side narrowly lost) in 1996. Later in that same year, she told Ladies’ Home Journal that she was pleased by the divorce of her friend Princess Diana, because the marriage had so obviously been an unhappy one …

This returns us to the medieval corruption of the church, which sold indulgences to the rich while preaching hellfire and continence to the poor. MT was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction. And she was a friend to the worst of the rich, taking misappropriated money from the atrocious Duvalier family in Haiti (whose rule she praised in return) and from Charles Keating of the Lincoln Savings and Loan. Where did that money, and all the other donations, go? The primitive hospice in Calcutta was as run down when she died as it always had been—she preferred California clinics when she got sick herself—and her order always refused to publish any audit. But we have her own claim that she opened 500 convents in more than a hundred countries, all bearing the name of her own order. Excuse me, but this is modesty and humility?

The rich world has a poor conscience, and many people liked to alleviate their own unease by sending money to a woman who seemed like an activist for "the poorest of the poor." People do not like to admit that they have been gulled or conned, so a vested interest in the myth was permitted to arise, and a lazy media never bothered to ask any follow-up questions. Many volunteers who went to Calcutta came back abruptly disillusioned by the stern ideology and poverty-loving practice of the "Missionaries of Charity," but they had no audience for their story. George Orwell's admonition in his essay on Gandhi—that saints should always be presumed guilty until proved innocent—was drowned in a Niagara of soft-hearted, soft-headed, and uninquiring propaganda.

One of the curses of India, as of other poor countries, is the quack medicine man, who fleeces the sufferer by promises of miraculous healing. Sunday was a great day for these parasites, who saw their crummy methods endorsed by his holiness and given a more or less free ride in the international press. Forgotten were the elementary rules of logic, that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and that what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence. More than that, we witnessed the elevation and consecration of extreme dogmatism, blinkered faith, and the cult of a mediocre human personality. Many more people are poor and sick because of the life of MT: Even more will be poor and sick if her example is followed. She was a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud, and a church that officially protects those who violate the innocent has given us another clear sign of where it truly stands on moral and ethical questions."
2003  motherteresa  christopherhitchens  poverty  catholicism  cotholicchurch  religion  sainthood  popejohnpaullii  beatification  india  corruption  biography 
december 2015 by robertogreco
NOWNESS Shorts: Swimming in Your Skin Again | NOWNESS
"Inventive American filmmaker Terence Nance’s experimental short is based on the work of musician and producer Norvis Jr, a fellow audio-visual auteur. Set in the hot and humid swamps, churches and coastal oases of South Florida, this magical, surreal tale engulfs pop culture and spiritual ritualism, channeling the nurturing convictions of love and relationships. From his defiant short films and dance performances about police brutality, to celebratory music videos for The Dig and Cody Chesnutt, back to his extraordinary debut feature film An Oversimplification of Her Beauty—which saw Jay Z pull up an executive-producer’s chair—Nance is one of the most vital young directors working today."

[on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/148378118
and YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQHUjMtZpE4 ]
terencenance  2015  film  norvisjr  culture  religion  ritualism 
december 2015 by robertogreco
World's first combined mosque-synagogue-church to be built in Berlin - The Express Tribune
"A church which was built in the middle of Berlin in the 13th century and destroyed in World War II, is likely to be rebuilt as the world’s first all-in-one church-mosque-synagogue, called the House of One.

Though the property belongs to the church, authorities hope to build a sacred spaces for Jews, Muslims, and Christians, rather than just a chapel.

“They had to face the question of what do we do with this ground, and what do we want to give back to the city — what do we need in this time?” says Frithjof Timm, a theological speaker for the House of One.

According to Tim, the idea behind the project was to bring the people of the area together, regardless of their religion.

“The minister had the vision that there could be a table on this former parking lot,” he said. “People from different religions could sit together, and eat together, and be together.”

In order to include as many people as possible in the project, the minister, along with a rabbi and an imam decided to launch a competition to design a building that would simultaneously include sacred spaces for people belonging to all three religions.

Further, the way Tim explained it, the project seemed like a practical decision for several reasons. Berlin, a place where not many religious people exist, the speaker said “We don’t have that much money to keep a new church alive. We don’t have so many Christian people to fill up a new church.”

However, he added, House of One will also serve as a symbol of what Berlin is currently – a city where once Adolf Hitler signed death warrants for 6 million Jews, has now become a city with the fastest-growing Jewish population in the world. Further, he claimed, with the increased number of refugees coming to Germany, it also serves as a home for Muslims.

According to the design of the building, everyone will enter through the same front door and while there is a central common space, there will be three equally sized (but differently shaped) spaces for each religion.

“We have only one entrance in the building,” Timm said. “So everyone who is going to pray—whether Jewish or Muslim or Christian—has to use this one entrance. The entrance leads to the common room, and from the common room there’s a stair going up to the second floor and then you decide which way you go.”

Reports suggest that while some individuals from the Muslim community have opposed the idea, majority of them are in favour of it. A reason for this may be that according to the plan, each of the assigned spaces respects orthodox practices, with a given place to perform ablution in the mosque, Muslims will also have separate spaces for men and women to offer prayers in the synagogue.

“Being in the building doesn’t mean anyone has to change anything about their own faith, Tim said while adding, “If you’re not afraid to look around and see what are the other religions are doing, it can enrich your life and your faith.”

The organisation began collecting funds last year and have so far only raised about €1 million out of €43 million needed (a basic version of the design would cost €10 million).

“We hope this will shine out in the world—that this will go out to the world and be a sign to bring more peace between people,” Timm said. “Especially at this time when war comes from Islamic State, and after what happened in Paris.”"

[Also here: http://www.fastcoexist.com/3054043/berlin-is-trying-to-build-the-worlds-first-combined-mosque-synagogue-church ]
religion  judaism  islam  2015  christianity 
december 2015 by robertogreco
The world wants more 'porous' cities – so why don't we build them? | Cities | The Guardian
"People of all classes, races and religions come and go in intense and complex Nehru Place. But while Delhi’s electronics market is every urbanist’s dream, it is not the sort of space most cities are building"



"Recently I tried to buy an iPhone in Nehru Place, an open-air electronics market in Delhi where goods that “happen to fall off a truck” are sold for 30%, 40% or 70% discounts – whatever cash you have handy. My iPhone turned out to a damaged dud, but I didn’t really care; the experience of going to Nehru Place was eye-opening. It’s a completely porous spot in the city, people of all castes, classes, races and religions coming and going, doing deals or gossiping about the small tech start-ups in the low offices which line the square; you can also worship at a small shrine if you’re so minded, or find a sari, or just lounge about drinking tea.

Nehru Place is every urbanist’s dream: intense, mixed, complex. If it’s the sort of place we want to make, it’s not the sort of space most cities are building. Instead, the dominant forms of urban growth are mono-functional, like shopping centres where you are welcome to shop but there’s no place to pray. These sorts of places tend to be isolated in space, as in the offices “campuses” built on the edge of cities, or towers in a city’s centre which, as in London’s current crop of architectural monsters, are sealed off at the base from their surroundings. It’s not just evil developers who want things this way: according to Setha Low, the most popular form of residential housing, world-wide, is the gated community.

Is it worth trying to turn the dream of the porous city into a pervasive reality? I wondered in Nehru Place about the social side of this question, since Indian cities have been swept from time to time by waves of ethnic and religious violence. Could porous places tamp down that threat, by mixing people together in everyday activities? Evidence from western cities answers both yes and no.

In Dresden, last year’s Pegida demonstrations against the Muslim presence in Germany turned out to be by people who don’t live anywhere near Muslims in the city; indeed, who know no Muslims. There again, in a study of several US cities, the American social scientist Robert Putnam’s researchers found that the farther away white Americans live from African Americans, the more tolerant they become.

Against this latter logic of separation stands Paris. The Islamic banlieus of Paris are separated from the centre by the ceinture, the ever-clogged ring-road around the inner city; so, too, in Brussel’s Molenbeek district, from which many terrorists come, is a disconnected island space. As the sociologist Willlaim Julius Wilson has shown, such physical islands breed an inward-looking mentality in which fantasy about others takes the place of fact bred of actual contact – as true, Wilson argues, of the black ghetto as it is of Christian Pegida.

I am uncomfortable about debates over separation and inclusion which move almost seamlessly to citing violent, extreme behaviour as evidence for or against. Which is why Nehru Place is a better example to think about this issue than Molenbeek. Everyday people are going about their business with others unlike themselves, people they don’t know or perhaps don’t like. There is what might be called the democracy of crime here, as Hindus and Muslims both sell illegal electronics; a wave of violence would clear off customers for both. Getting along in this way isn’t particular to India, or to open-air markets. Numerous studies show that in offices or factories that adults of different religions and races work perfectly well together, and the reason is not far to seek.

Work is not about affirming your identity; it’s about getting things done. The complexity of city life tends, in fact, to breed many identities for its citizens as workers, but also as spectators at sports events, as parents concerned about schooling or patients suffering from NHS cuts. Urban identities are porous in the sense that we are going in and out of lots of different experiences, in different places, with people we don’t know, in the course of a day. When pundits opine on the difficulty of difference, they flatten identity into a single image, just one experience. The modern economy can flatten identity when it sells people on the idea that gated, homogeneous communities are safe, (not true in fact), builds shopping centres only for shopping, or constructs office campuses and towers whose workers are sealed off from the city.

If the public comes to demand it, urbanists can easily design a porous city on the model of Nehru Place; indeed, many of the architects and planners at the Urban Age events now unfolding in London have made proposals to “porosify” the city. Like Nehru Place, these larger visions entail opening up and blurring the edges of spaces so that people are drawn in rather than repulsed; they emphasise true mixed use of public and private functions, schools and clinics amid Tesco or Pret; they explore the making of loose-fit spaces which can shift in shape as people’s lives change.

I don’t believe in design determinism, but I do believe that the physical environment should nurture the complexity of identity. That’s an abstract way to say that we know how to make the porous city; the time has come to make it."
cities  richardsennett  2015  urban  urbanism  porosity  nehruplace  delhi  india  complexity  sethalow  dresden  roberputnam  sociology  paris  brussels  molenbeek  williamjuliuswilson  christianpegida  race  religion  design  urbandesign  london  publicspace  flexibility  change  adaptability  crosspollination  diversity  markets  community 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Cathedral-in-the-Clouds
"Cathedral-in-the-Clouds is a digital art project. A cathedral in virtual reality forms the home of an ever expanding collection of virtual dioramas intended for contemplation. Many of these dioramas are inspired by religious imagery but the experience does not require faith. The dioramas are individually distributed, for free, via a variety of media."

[See also: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/taleoftales/cathedral-in-the-clouds-contemplation-in-the-digit

"Virtual dioramas to contemplate ancient religious themes in real-time 3D, created by avant-garde indie studio Tale of Tales.

We are Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn. We’re a wife and husband team working out of Ghent, Belgium. We’ve been making videogames together — as Tale of Tales — for the past 12 years. This new project, however, is a little bit different.

Our vocation has always been the arts. And with Cathedral-in-the-Clouds we want to return to some of our original inspirations for working with interactive media — as expressed, for instance, in the Realtime Art Manifesto.

We think of Cathedral-in-the-Clouds as an ever expanding collection of virtual dioramas depicting scenes created for contemplation. The individual pieces will be available in a variety of digital media (downloads, web, apps, video, etc). Or they can be explored together in virtual reality (VR) in the eponymous cathedral. The subject matter for the dioramas is inspired by the medieval art that we find ourselves surrounded by in our home town of Ghent in Flanders.

Despite of being atheists, we can’t help being intensely moved by some of the religious art made during the Gothic and Renaissance period. These experiences can’t convert us to Christianity but they do make us think about universal themes as kindness, self-sacrifice, patience, empathy, love, and so on. We feel they make us better people. These experiences are intense and often accompanied by tears. And they last! They stay with us, become part of us, tremendously improve our lives on this planet.

We're looking to transfer the intense experiences we sometimes have in museums to cyberspace and the comfort of our living rooms.

We love visiting museums and churches in search of these experiences. But it’s not always convenient to do so. And since there’s all this wonderful technology now, it really shouldn’t be necessary anymore. We should all have works of art in our pockets or on our laptops, for when the mood strikes, or when we need a moment of calm and focus. On top of convenience, computer graphics running in realtime are not confined to 2D static images anymore. Now we can create scenes that are three-dimensional and alive (and still fit in your pocket and can be shared generously)!

Each individual diorama in the virtual cathedral consists of a box that houses a life-size virtually sculpted body. Often the body of a saint, or the Virgin Mary or Jesus Christ himself. The way that they are depicted always refers to some ancient tale. But don’t worry, we’ll make sure to explain the context of each piece, in case you’re not familiar with this particular part of the story.

The dioramas are alive. Air flows, light shifts, insects scurry around, wind affects clothes, chests move when breathing, and so on. Accompanied by subtle, immersive sound effects. In many scenes an event will slowly unfold, from a beginning to an end. This should help you take the time needed for the contemplative effect. These are not casual experiences! They are a form of meditation that require a certain state of mind that may take some effort or concentration to achieve. But it’s so very much worth it! Such experiences can be life enhancers, sensation multipliers. They open our eyes and help us embrace and enjoy existence as it presents itself. ]
taleoftales  art  arthistory  vr  virtualreality  religion 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Oliver Sacks: Sabbath - The New York Times
"I had felt a little fearful visiting my Orthodox family with my lover, Billy — my mother’s words still echoed in my mind — but Billy, too, was warmly received. How profoundly attitudes had changed, even among the Orthodox, was made clear by Robert John when he invited Billy and me to join him and his family at their opening Sabbath meal.

The peace of the Sabbath, of a stopped world, a time outside time, was palpable, infused everything, and I found myself drenched with a wistfulness, something akin to nostalgia, wondering what if: What if A and B and C had been different? What sort of person might I have been? What sort of a life might I have lived?

In December 2014, I completed my memoir, “On the Move,” and gave the manuscript to my publisher, not dreaming that days later I would learn I had metastatic cancer, coming from the melanoma I had in my eye nine years earlier. I am glad I was able to complete my memoir without knowing this, and that I had been able, for the first time in my life, to make a full and frank declaration of my sexuality, facing the world openly, with no more guilty secrets locked up inside me.

In February, I felt I had to be equally open about my cancer — and facing death. I was, in fact, in the hospital when my essay on this, “My Own Life,” was published in this newspaper. In July I wrote another piece for the paper, “My Periodic Table,” in which the physical cosmos, and the elements I loved, took on lives of their own.

And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the supernatural or spiritual, but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life — achieving a sense of peace within oneself. I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one’s life as well, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest."
2015  oliversacks  sabbath  religion  work  rest  life  tradition 
august 2015 by robertogreco
G O S P E L  O F  T H E  T R E E S
"The Bible is a story about trees. It begins, or nearly enough, with two trees in a garden: the Tree of Life, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The pivotal event in the book comes when a man named Jesus is hanged on a tree. And the last chapter of the last book features a remade Jerusalem: “In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” If you understand the trees, you understand the story.

The words and images here are presented in no particular order: this is a mosaic rather than a narrative. Clicking on the arrow at the top right of each content page will take you randomly to another page on the site.

Also, this mosaic is a work in progress: more text and images will be added to it over time.

This site is one of the lesser fruits of the Project on Lived Theology. I am greatly indebted to Charles Marsh, the founder and Director of PLT, and to the other members of the Virginia Seminar, who have greatly enriched my life in recent years. Further support for the site has been provided by the Faculty Development Fund of Wheaton College.

My name is Alan Jacobs. Any text and images on this site that are not explicitly credited to others are created by me.

The site is designed by my very talented friend Brad Cathey. Hosting is by Highgate Cross."
trees  alanjacobs  religion  bible  theology 
july 2015 by robertogreco
more than 95 theses - frequently unobserved distinctions
"(a) Approving the outcome of a judicial decision
(b) Accepting as valid the legal reasoning in support of that outcome

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

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

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

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

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

1) The heart wants what it wants.

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

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

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

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

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

From these six axioms virtually every opinion stated on social media about Supreme Court decisions can be clearly derived. You’re welcome."]
alanjacobs  law  legal  constitution  courts  christianity  belief  religion  society  legislation  2015 
june 2015 by robertogreco
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