Consider and reconsider the humanities: thoughts from Marilynne Robinson and Laura Skandera Trombley


My morning readings were connected on a fundamental level: the necessity of the humanities.

First, Pulitzer Prize winner Marilynne Robinson, in her book Absence of Mind:

The Freudian neurasthenic is not the Darwinian primate, who is not the Marxist proletarian, who is not the behaviorists’ organism available to being molded by a regime of positive and negative sensory experience. To acknowledge an element of truth in each of these models is to reject the claims of sufficiency made by all of them. What they do have in common, beside the claim to sufficiency, is an exclusion of the testimonies of culture and history.

Second, Laura Skandera Trombley, president of Pitzer College, in a speech adapted and published yesterday on The Huffington Post, drawing on a recent passenger jet flight:

It struck me that flying in a beige and white steel tube with nothing to occupy my time might be a reasonable analogy for what existence might be like devoid of the humanities. You’d live, but the experience would be decidedly lacking.

Do I need to explain how deadening and joyless it is to ride in that cylindrical tube? Do we really need to explain why poetry, art, philosophy and theater matter? Really, at what point did we have to start defending the value of knowing ourselves? Of human complexity? Of analysis? Of communication? Of meaning?

The sciences and the humanities have always been intertwined and one cannot prosper without the other. My favorite Greek philosopher, Aristotle, is properly recognized as the originator of the scientific study of life or, as we know it, biology; but he was also our first philosopher of art and theater. My guess is that Aristotle would be troubled by the way we have siloed our ways of knowing.

Takeaways:

  1. Culture and history belong at the center of any account of being human.
  2. Genuine knowing must be an act of integrating not silo-ing.

‘Whisper campaigns’ and rumors and gossip | TwistedSpeech.com


Are Republican voters in Missouri really capable of being motivated by anti-Semitic sentiments?

via ‘Whisper campaigns’ and rumors and gossip | TwistedSpeech.com.

See Russians Come Out in Droves to Mourn a Slain Putin Critic

Colin Foote Burch:

If Putin was behind this , then surely it will backfire.

If Putin was behind this , then surely it will backfire.

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If you need to leave baggage behind


If you need to leave baggage behind, remember what it looks like, so you don’t pick it up again.

Ancient Imagination: A Roman griffin in the Vatican Museum


Updated with this preamble to the photo: I’ve been fascinated with winged gods, goddesses, monsters, and other creatures, mostly from the pre-Christian era. So I will share several upcoming photos, which will include sculptures and other renderings of pre-Christian gods, goddesses, monsters, and other creatures that look a lot like Christian angels yet originate in pagan classical civilizations.

I’m curious about imagination and how it creates unreal, or at least unseen, things. What is it about the human imagination, or about ancient civilizations, that brought about these winged beings?

Maybe it wasn’t much of a step for the mind to see wings and imagine them on human bodies. Maybe — although it seems very unlikely to me — these creatures exist in some other dimension or some Platonic realm of forms. Whatever the source or sources of winged things, through the course of the past 6 years, my curiosity drove me to take hundreds of photos of ancient and medieval art, sculpture, and architecture in England, Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Italy.

A Roman griffin in the Vatican Museum; photo by Colin Foote Burch for Public Work, https://liturgical.wordpress.com .

A Roman griffin in the Vatican Museum, photographed Oct. 10, 2014.

Additional thoughts about healing and personal growth


Continuing some previous thoughts:

Forgiving someone for real damage does not necessarily heal the real damage.

Not all real damage is merely emotional.

If real damage is thought to be merely emotional when it is not merely emotional, then forgiveness will not usher in rapid healing and release.

Some real damage can be a matter of integration — concept, habit, worldview, and pattern, as well as emotions.

Imagine a teen driver accidentally bumping a middle-age cyclist off the side of the road. While the cyclist recovers, he forgives the teen driver, but the cyclist still has to heal.

More to the psychological point of this post, imagine a young man whose vulnerability is exploited by cult recruiters. The young man joins and devotes several years to working in the cult. Eventually, the young man’s eyes are opened to the true nature of the cult. He might be able to forgive the recruiters and leaders. Years of thinking and behaving within the cult’s ways and means, however, make lasting change a difficult process.

Monday morning students


One arrives without the textbook required for each day of class. 

One arrives without a pen or pencil. 

Other students arrive several minutes late. 

House meme Monday morning students

I’m not this nasty in class. Seriously. Promise.

Caution flags in healing and personal growth


I’m not going to do much explaining here. I think anyone who might benefit from these will benefit from them as they stand.

♦ Forgiving a person does not make that person safe.

♦ Healing is not a process by which I realize all things are equal.

♦ The goal of healing is not to conclude that everything is equally benign.

♦ As someone else has said, “The purpose of an open mind is to close on something.” In the case of emotional boundaries, sometimes it’s more important to make a decision rather than to exhaust all possible grounds and evidence for making that decision. Goodness knows, there’s no moral relativism in saying, “That movement or person or idea or activity is bad for me.” Others in my social circle might not see things the same way, but I’m not living everyone’s life, just my own.

American Christianity: Older and less educated


Click here to access a larger view of the following graphic from the Religion News Service, based on figures from the Pew 2007 Religious Landscape Survey.
American Christianity is aging and uneducated, according to this Religion News Service graphic and the Pew 2007 Religious Landscape Survey

A few thoughts spurred by the above graphic:

  • To expand your church, look for younger, uneducated people (see the “nothing in particular” circle).
  • Anglicans are smarter but older.
  • Ecstatic experience seems less likely among the educated.
  • Protestant evangelicals want to reach many people who are both better-educated and younger than they are.
  • On balance, Anglicans are better educated than atheists and agnostics.

Danish attitudes toward multiculturalism soured years ago, says The Economist