Monday, January 28, 2013

Return to the Source



There is a deep irony about reading Lanza del Vasto's 'Return to the Source' whilst on a day trip to Geneva. A committed disciple of Gandhi, he founded communities in France committed to non-violence and a minimalist use of the machine! Indeed the story I finished on, half way through, is of a harrowing pilgrimage on (bare) feet to celebrate Easter Mass - a walk of 48 miles whilst fasting in the Indian sun! This he does admit was a mite fanatical with the endurance dispersing from, rather than focusing the mind on, the dying and resurrecting Christ.

His emphasis on work as in itself meaningful, especially with one's hands, is a a salutary reminder and one that I receive each time I succumb to a 'ready meal', something around which my conscience does not sit well! 

I realised this is my favourite kind of book. It is a beautifully written memoir, a fact that anchors his intellectual and spiritual search in a deeply felt and personalised reality. The fact that it unfolds in India is a happy bonus. I can assimilate both knowledge about place and time, its religious and secular life, as well as being invited to ponder its meaning, and both are offered as an invitation to a personal reformation of my own understanding and life. The content never overwhelms and is always an address (and suffused here with self-depreciating humour).

He is a 'realistic romantic' about India. He sees it very much through a 'Gandhi-an' lens -he stays with Gandhi for a period, learning to weave, and taking long walks with the Mahatma - and it is a good lens to have. He is realistic (and profoundly accurate) both about the inspiration that Gandhi's project will achieve and the diffusion rather than concentration of its lasting influence. The people will admire, take courage but not follow in the main.

He is also strikingly open - a devout Catholic himself - he stands for a genuine inter-religious dialogue and handles aspects of Hinduism with great grace and subtly - though with others his reactions are sharper (and he confesses those of an immature observer).

This is particularly true of his encounter with Sri Ramana Maharishi. He does not respond at all to the 'static' nature of his being and wisdom! Curtly telling us that active charity always trumps metaphysical truisms (even living ones)!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Down on the Farm, rather than on the Mountain top.

At my annual get together this weekend to consider the forthcoming year (at a Devon organic farm rather than on a Swiss mountain top), I went for a walk, yesterday afternoon, up to the top of one of Devon's beautifully, rounded small hills. It was like walking across the surface of a giant sponge, the ground was so saturated. I have never experienced anything like it. The patterns of our weather are changing and at every level thought and adaptation are necessary. Our hosts sheep, Gotlands, for example, can take the cold (being from Scandinavia) but not the dampness, ground wet to feet. Does our host hope for the best or cross-breed them or change them and what would answering each of those questions cost (and look like)?

While the ethereal mechanisms of global governance churn on after ever more belated remedial action on climate change, these real questions haunt each and every farmer, globally, and, lest we forget, on intelligently answering these questions, do all of our lives, literally, depend! Farmers truly are the most important people in the world which is a profoundly counter cultural message!

One of our number, down on the farm, is a distinguished student (and teacher) of complexity (as applied to organisations) and one of our conversations, over dinner last night, was on how real strategy is, in fact, done from here - from going step by step into particular actions, recognising oneself as one actor amongst many, and alert and vulnerable to what is present in the nature of things and relationships. Our addiction to 'planning' is increasingly hubris: no sooner have we planned than reality has moved and our plan is a redundant map.

It seems to me that it is increasingly important to help people find this difficult comfort with uncertainty and their ability to act from their attention, insight and values rather from their 'experience' or 'strategic vision' or 'ability to plan' - and to make resources available on the basis of our excellence in judgement rather than on what we propose to do.

That is another major culture shift but our very survival may depend on it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pursued by Buber

I cannot remember when I have lingered over a book more but Maurice Friedmann's intellectual biography of Martin Buber has continually detained me. This is partly because I am reminded and, as a result, need to think about many of Buber's texts that I have read and am struck by their continued topicality.

So, for example, I have reached the point in Buber's narrative when he arrives in Palestine to take up a position as a professor at the Hebrew University in 1938. He is both a refugee from Nazi persecution and a new entrant into a deeply felt project - that of building a Land that can be a home both for the Jewish people and for the Arab.

It is a project that to date has failed. Virtually every sentence in the text stands in judgement over both Jew and Arab in the current context. The choice between forging genuine community and settling into the antagonistic realties of political identity and conflict has been settled towards the latter, depressing, reality. Is Buber, you might ask, too idealistic? No, I think, I answer from the depths of my own intuition of what is possible for us as human beings, no.

We must continue to hope and strive for a different outcome where people can recognise each other's commonality even when we are necessarily different.

It too speaks to me in relation to today's launch of the IF campaign on hunger. If the world has enough food, why is it that many go to bed this night hungry? It is a deeply legitimate question, and the campaign ought to gather support.

And yet I realise I am deeply ambivalent about it because it does not ask anything of us - what is it, apart from protesting at our politicians and multi-national companies, what does it require us to be and do? Nothing. Where is the claim upon us of a positive witness to a world of shared meaning and work that yields a radically different outcome? It is not there.

Buber would say that we have sacrificed the opportunity to build community from the bottom up for politics and, I fear, I would agree. There is nothing of positive vision of how the world ought to be in IF that is rooted in the particular realities of diverse, concrete situations; and, thus, I fear, its impact will only be felt at the margins.

Marginalization is the curse of the current world - no doubt the assembled company at the World Economic Forum at Davos imagine themselves at the centre of something, at the 'wheel' of things and in a superficial sense they are, for the moment, but the arrogance of that particular position is being unpicked by the world - a finance system that is wholly dysfunctional, a world of resource constraint, of climate change etc etc...

There remains only the possibility of rebuilding from the place where all of us ultimately sit - our responsibility to one another that is experienced only here and now, where we happen to stand, in a diverse set of concrete particulars - here and here and here.

In reforging those linkages is our hope.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Day 21: failed resolution

I lasted seven more days than last year with my book buying 'fast'... but I succumbed to two.

The first is Thomas Merton and Buddhism from Fons Vitae excellent series on Merton's relationship with other traditions

https://www.fonsvitae.com/OnlineStore/tabid/58/pid/106/01967mb-Merton-Buddhism-Realizing-The-Self.aspx

It is a tragedy that Merton was killed when he was - in an accident on his first trip to Asia - because his deep intuitive grasp of Buddhism was on the threshold of being filled out through both encounter with key Buddhist scholars and practitioners and the proffered offering of serious practice. It is sometimes imagined by lovers of Merton, for whom his Catholicism is difficult, that he was on the threshold of shedding it and heading towards, for them, a more comfortable place, namely Buddhism. Nothing I think could be further from the truth but what was on offer was one of the most radical engagements of a Christian contemplative with the fruits of Buddhist understanding and practice, akin to Fr Henri Le Saux's encounter with Vedanta. That would have been something... but we must be content with his moving, powerful enterprises after understanding this tradition that was so close to his heart, captured beautifully here in his own photographs of the calm serenity of the Buddha's at Pollonaruwa in Sri Lanka.


The second was a reprint (as a Virago classic) of Rumer Godden's 'In this House of Brede'. This was the second of her novels to be set within a community of nuns, and she saw it as a 'penance' for the first. The first 'Black Narcissus' (her first novel) is an exercise in (powerful) melodrama - and the nuns, though beautifully drawn, tend towards the stereotypical laced with hysteria! 'In the House of Brede' is a more tempered and sober exploration of what makes a person take upon themselves an enclosed life and navigate the temptations and difficulties attendent upon it through to a balanced wisdom. I am so delighted that Rumer Godden is being reprinted and receiving the 'classic status' as I think she is one of the most underrated of 'English' twentieth century novelists. She is psychological acute, compassionate, funny and gently wise - I cannot think of a better set of qualities for a writer.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Zadok the Priest



I can think of no other piece of music whose reality belies its setting. A coronation anthem for a Hanoverian king becomes yet something other. The king is beautifully ambiguous, ostensibly King George, in reality, I suspect, in Handel's theological heart - Christ - the only King who can live forever in human hearts (if they accept him). 

Handel is a great testimony to the virtue of immigration - a German who became our, the United Kingdom's, greatest composer. An ability to assimilate whose virtues we periodically lose sight of. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Rite at 100



My favourite Christmas present (sorry mother - my pullover is great but...) was a 100th anniversary collection of thirty eight recordings (over sixty years) of Stravinsky's seminal composition (and as an 'extra' the Violin concerto under the baton of the composer himself).

This was the first piece of music I genuinely 'heard' as a seventeen year old sitting in a musical appreciation class. I went and purchased the record (a recording regretfully not included in the anniversary set) and listened to it repeatedly (so much so that my father came into my brother's room, where in his absence, I was using his record player and gave me a £5 note to 'buy another record')! Thankfully it was not at a moment when I was 'dancing' to the recording, letting the music speak in every tendon of my being (in this case literally)! That would have been too embarrassing...

It is a difficult piece to think about as it is so bound up with an entrance into a previously unknown space yet such thinking is inevitable.

It is a marker for the century that followed. It captures a world that was to mistake energy for transformation. I am reading Maurice Friedman's biography of Martin Buber, that stands for me as the exemplary intellectual biography, it is extraordinarily rich, and I have reached the First World War. Originally Buber embraced this as a moment of real decision and change, caught up in the release of that moment to imagine all kinds of possibilities, most especially for the liberation of Eastern Jewry, and slowly comes to the realisation that energy (and sacrifice) does not equate with genuine transformation. It is striking how many intellectuals fell under the same spell (and many did not awake).

In the Rite, there is that sense of an energy awakened, given a sacrificial form, and yet one that does not ultimately transform. You see a sensitive antennae of the age display forth a paradox - the necessity of energetic celebration and yet its failure to allow for a genuine breakthrough. The Rite is an alluring tragedy. Subsequently Stravinsky is to become something yet other - trying to see how to give energy a greater purity of form, that necessarily requires restraint yet avoiding constraint. It is the narrow ridge between two competing forces - energy and constraint - how can we be enthused without losing our responsibility to ourselves and our community?

It is a challenge under whose sign we still live.

My second record was Holst's 'The Planets', (written between 1914 - 1916), and, I think, the sketch for a compelling answering activity towards Stravinsky (not that I would have thought of this at the time). They are a recognition of the complexity of the soul's forces - an invitation to honour yet bind that complexity - anything that becomes 'the' force (or answer) is likely to be both an 'energy' and a 'constraint' too far. The invitation for a full life is one for an awareness of the diversity of ourselves and an honouring of that otherness both in our self and in others. It is an invitation towards a life of (to use Buber's phrase) 'holy insecurity'.

Stravinsky in the Rite focuses on the energy needed for transformation yet its form - the sacrifice of the maiden - a placing of responsibility outside ourself, a surrendering, is following an always attractive but flawed path, one that was to dominate the subsequent century. Holst's invitation is subtler - to self-understanding - and, thus, a more difficult invitation (one that Stravinsky too subsequently embraced).

In adolescence there is always the excitement of complete self-surrender - it is a necessary one - and yet one that, as you grow older, needs a different light shed on it. The tragedy of the twentieth century was that so many stuck with the surrender to the other, the energy of change even if that energy was wholly dark.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The strange habits of Rastafarian donkeys

No, I have no idea where that title came from either...

A surreal moment in my kitchen when the mind falls into neutral (while waiting upon the cauliflower cheese in the oven, hungry for dinner) and out pops an image...

However, I can see why Scottish bards would lie down in a darkened room and wait upon a boundary consciousness between sleep and waking and through which they would invite composition.

Here lies suggestiveness - and if you have an accompanying discipline of expression - something of poetry may emerge.

Undoubtedly my imagination is wholly undisciplined and I get the surreal rather than the over real (if you can forgive that coinage)! Poetry as the more than ordinarily real.

I could in a Jungian manner (as befits my past analytic encounter) play with the image.

I think I can only cope with donkeys...

For which I have a wholly positive resonance not least my beloved Eeyore with whom, in the Pooh pantheon, I am self-identified.

I was instantly reminded of the story about Nasreddin (the holy fool of Sufism) being accused of smuggling. Each time he crossed the border with a faithful donkey, the custom official searched him and his load without finding anything suspect and yet 'knew' his guilt. After several years, the exasperated custom official demands to know from him what he is smuggling, wholly convinced that he is, to which the answer is, of course, donkeys!

Donkeys are thought of as stubborn, so am I!

Now as to Rastafari...

You can see how surreal trips develop...



Sunday, January 13, 2013

Mystical territories and necessary maps

'Meister Eckhart: Mystic as Theologian' by Robert K.C. Forman is a wholly admirable exploration of Eckhart as a 'leader of souls' and addresses the question: "Were I a friar or a nun under your tutelage, Meister Eckhart, what might I be expected to experience, and what significance would it have?"

Though it predates much contemporary discussion of the nature of medieval mysticism, it reads like a healthy rejoinder to that discussion.

The target of that discussion was the notion of 'mystical experience' and suggesting that it was a 'foreign', because modern, category of thinking to medieval writers. Medieval mystical writing is first and foremost theology and aimed at describing the nature of things as a whole. It is aimed at explicating how we come to understand anything at all through how we are and come to be in relationship to God. It does not dwell on 'discrete experiences' that any particular person might have that are different from other kinds of experience. The trail that William James set out on in studying the 'Varieties of Religious Experience' was a false one especially when applied to medieval patterns of thought and expression.

Like much thinking this was, within certain limits, a healthy correction. It is indeed true that what is important in the mystical life is not 'discrete experiences' or 'states of mind' as these can become, as Eckhart acknowledges, simply new sources of attachment with which our fallen self can become anxiously engaged. But it simply is not true to assume that what medieval writers were principally interested in was an 'analytical' account of how the world (and especially the human person) is related to God. They were also critically engaged as curer of souls in how that relationship might be restored and what would that look like in the embodied living of each and every person restored to their true status as made in 'the image and likeness of God'.

Analysis and phenomenology are inter-related informing each other, as Forman shows, the unfolding pattern of experience made available by a progressive development in the states of our consciousness is both describable in theological terms (and context) and informs that context; and, neither is being reduced to the other - theology is not simply becoming psychology, or vice versa.

Forman trace the path of development from temporary ecstatic insight through an habitual way of being in the unity that is God to a way of being that sees all things enfolded in that unity and acts into the world from that beholding and helps explain certain difficulties with Eckhart on the way.

One, that is most helpful, and not only for Eckhart, is a distinction between mystical authors who were illuminated and then think about how they got there and authors who by following a specific path arrived at illumination. The first, like Eckhart, can be inspirational (and help you understand the territory that you have arrived at if you finally get even close) but it is the second kind you most need if you are to follow along. Eckhart, Forman suggests, is like a man who is driven to say San Francisco and deposited there but who, because he was not driving, only has the haziest notion of how he got there. I would indeed add that because Christianity is so 'grace orientated' many Christian authors fit into this first category, as would, say, the Hindu sage, Ramana Maharishi. Whereas many Buddhist authors would fit into the second as they are often painstaking students of the road atlas and the driving manual! The emphasis in Buddhism is on 'self-effort'. This, no doubt, accounts for the interest of many Christian students of contemplation in Buddhist paths (and Hans urs von Balthasar's suggestion that the early Church Father, Evagrius, is 'Buddhist' in orientation because of his focus on the 'how' of the spiritual life).

And Eckhart is undoubtedly inspirational:

"God gives to all things equally, and as they flow forth from God they are equal: angels, men and all creatures proceed alike from God in their first emanation. To take things in their primal emanation would be to take them all alike...If you could take a fly in God, it is in God far nobler than the highest angel in himself. Now all things are equal in God and are God Himself. Here God delights so in this likeness that He pours out His whole nature and being in this equality in Himself."

Imagine what potential for charity and justice flows from seeing every particularity in the world from the perspective of that unity and a perspective that is not simply 'a thought' I or you have but the fundamental way our being and way seeing spontaneously arises!

Back to the road map, driving manual and arduous practice - and the hope of grace...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Shirkers and strivers and Mr Buber


Noticing the death last September of the notable Buber scholar and translator, Maurice Friedman, was a confirmation of my desire to re-engage with Buber.

The conversation began with reading of I and Thou and a brief book by Aubrey Hodes in the library at Heythrop, when I was a student.

I was captivated with his differentiation between responding to a thing or person as an end in themselves, hallowing them, or making use of a person or thing, as an instrument. Both are necessary but the latter must be enfolded in the former. Hallowing takes precedence and shapes
instrumentality. Hallowing of the person is the basis of a dialogue that allows each participant to stand present as fully themselves, in a mutual exchange, in which is grounded the potential of understanding and peace.

Buber was a remarkable writer capable of complete imaginative clarity (as in the Tales of the Hasidim) and the most minute painstakingly obscure writings (when trying to conform to a presumed German academic standard - Kant and Hegel have a great deal to answer for).

His range was remarkable - fiction, folklore, sociology, psychology, political economy, Biblical translation and commentary and religious studies (to name a few). But all permeated, as Dan Avnon so eloquently points out (in 'Martin Buber: The Hidden Dialogue'), with a fundamental question: what does it mean for us and our society if we believe that every human person is 'made in the image and likeness of God' - radically unfathomed, each unique, each, however, only wholly real when set in a relationship, a relationship that is a dialogue, where the reality of what exists 'between' each is as real as the two persons themselves. "All real living is meeting" wrote Buber.

The first thing that occurs to me, topically in the United Kingdom, was yesterday's debate on a new Welfare Bill restricting increases on benefits and tax credits to 1% per annum for the next three years. Leaving aside the merits or demerits of such an action was the Chancellor's (Finance Minister's) attempt to separate 'strivers' (people in work) from 'shirkers' (the unemployed or that subset who are imagined, on no real evidence, not to want to work). The assumption of such language is that people are defined instrumentally and can be positioned over and against each other - and the shift from describing help as 'social security' (which is a communal good that everyone can potentially access) to 'welfare' (which is a good that is dispensed from 'us' to 'them') is another exemplar of an instrumental polarisation.

It is one that cannot, in Buber's view, stand - no one can be defined and consigned by a category in a way that excludes them from their more fundamental reality of sharing in God's image; and, the obligation of any genuine community must be to struggle to include within itself everyone (which is why Buber was a socialist) - and Buber does not doubt that struggle may be involved to realise any and every act of inclusion.

The reality that Mr Osbourne precludes is of a shared human commonwealth anchored in a shared identity that cannot be eradicated by any human categorisation. Dwelling in that identity makes community possible, indeed inevitable. It is a dwelling of which I doubt Mr Osbourne has any comprehension either as an economic or a social goal (and the two must be intertwined in any genuine community).

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Devil and Pi

When I started cinema going - many years ago - you often saw two features, between which there was an interval (and indeed after an evening performance, they played the National Anthem)!

Today it so happened I accidentally re-created the experience.

At lunch I watched 'The Devil Rides Out' (which the postman had delivered this morning) then clambered onto my bicycle to go see 'The Life of Pi' (though not in 3D).

I cannot now recall what possessed me to buy a copy of this Hammer Studio classic (The Devil...) except I remember watching it, alone, late one night in my early teens, when I still felt a residual fear of the dark. I was suitably terrorised and went to bed with the Lord's Prayer on my lips and the sheets over my head, hoping the Devil would not notice me! I am reliably informed by one who might be expected to know (Gary Lachman) that Wheatley's rendering of Black Magic ritual and the White Magic (and religious) response to it are accurate (to the cumulative imagination of those who interest themselves in such things). It is a wonderful period piece, with Christopher Lee playing against type as the hero, and highly enjoyable as I chewed my Belorussian homemade salami (thank you grannies).

Amidst the well-played romp; however, is a serious question: whose imagination do you wish to owe your allegiance to? The power that is the Devil's or that of God's and why is God's imagination apparently (at the outset) so less credible to the tempted young people than the Devil's (though like the US 7th Cavalry or the dead soldiers in the Lord of the Rings it rides to the rescue in the end)?

The film too contains a subtle theological point - goodness apparently needs human collaboration - God has no hands but these (as St Teresa of Avila puts it) where the Devil (whilst also to be summoned) seems to enjoy a fair degree of autonomy, when let out and about?

There is a similar question at the heart of 'The Life of Pi'. Pi's tells two stories about the shipwreck and the aftermath. The one is fantastic yet ennobling, the latter is full of human frailty and vice which story do you choose as being true? Why is it that the latter story is superficially more credible -  mainly I expect because it is the place from which, sadly, we commonly live - but are we not free to imagine differently and in living out that imaginative difference, live in new ways?

God is omnipresent in the Life of Pi (even his absence is a God shaped void) and God is there as a series of imaginative possibilities. By imagination I do not mean 'unreal' quite the opposite, God's realness is in the stories God makes possible for us to live - and one of those stories, Pi suggests, includes the story of his absence - the possibility of our reason achieving things on its 'own' - represented by Pi's rationalist father whose practical skills Pi puts to use on his long voyage across the Pacific. The measure of all things is not man - reason only goes so far - but the measure passes through man (and tigers...) as we consciously embody in our possibilities the stories that are God's and ours. God needs us to bring God to life in the world.

Both films, in very different ways, invite people to ponder living in God's imagination - and to recognise how spacious that is (though the way in may be narrow and demanding).

Pi in childhood tries living simultaneously as a Hindu, Christian and Muslim - and the book (more funnily and more pointedly than the film) asks why not? Why not indeed...

In passing, I thought, like Ang Lee, its director, that the book was unable to be filmed, which is true, but the film is nevertheless a highly enjoyable and creditable attempt, and meanwhile stands four square on its own terms. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Structural limits



For one of the twentieth century's most influential anthropologists, Claude Levi Strauss did precious little field work and none of it would count as immersion into a particular culture. He was a theorist in a nineteenth century manner - absorbing vast quantities of material in his library and weaving from it a set of idea laden expositions that became recognised, unhappily for Levi Strauss, under the collective rubric of 'structuralism'.

Having read Patrick Wilcken's exceptionally well-written and informative intellectual biography of Levi Strauss (Claude Levi Strauss: The Poet in the Laboratory) that paints a vivid portrait of the man, his intellectual development and his context, I think I would remain hard pressed to say what 'structuralism' is (or possibly was). But, at heart, Levi Strauss did have a compelling core intuition that the human mind seeks order and that ordering (at one level) depends on binary thinking that focuses on the relationship (and difference) between things. Famously, for example, Levi Strauss' discussions of the 'raw' and the 'cooked' and it is in manipulating these binary relationships (often below the level of conscious thought) out of which is spun the complexity of a culture - whether mythologies, kinship patterns or the particular decoration of cooking pots.

Levi Strauss' analogy was a musical score where a certain set of rules (that could be analysed) generates an infinite variety of actual pieces of music but all of which can be illuminated through an understanding of the commonalities of their patterning.

The problem, it appears to me, is that Levi Strauss assumed that this particular way of seeking order was the 'primary' or indeed 'only' way of doing so; thus, anomalies to his binary structuring, within the ethnographic record, tended to be airbrushed out which he, and his biographer, tend to describe as 'nitpicking' but how much picking can a fabric takes before it falls apart? But, more importantly, it does not finally work on its own grand theoretical terms. Levi Strauss was fascinated at how music, for example, generates a whole field of felt meaning from the basic rules of ordering (which, as it happens, are n't binary either) but failed to notice that this very field of felt meaning was not simply in the ordering rules but between the rules, the generated music and the audience. It was in the field of which the listener is a dynamic participant not simply in the rules or the listener's understanding of the rules (of which he or she may, in fact, have none) and music finally only matters because it is heard and lived.

The self that Levi Strauss hoped to erase from the equation - leaving one simply with the elegantly analysed rules is instead an integral part of any patterning.

This tendency of a part of the mind to achieve necessary objective ordering and yet immediately, and falsely imagine it is the only possible ordering, is brilliantly investigated in Ian McGilchrist's 'The Master and His Emissary' (see http://www.iainmcgilchrist.com/) and brings us back to the critical question that Levi Strauss simply evades - what is the nature of the mind that is knowing and how flexible is that mind to achieve different levels of knowing? Any ordering is a skilful means for addressing certain questions, an enterprise after a particular kind of knowing, but not necessarily the only means. The relationship between the means adopted and any notion of the truth of things remains in abeyance in Levi Strauss - indeed he thought it a redundant question - but in adopting only one manner of ordering, he left so much 'surplus' reality unaccounted for that the question is very much still alive and kicking!

It is a question that, ironically, the indigenous people Levi Strauss was busy studying would have taken for granted - they are notable pragmatists - this is knowledge we need but recognise others might need different knowledge and beyond any particular ordering may be deeper unities to which we may have access if we access different states of consciousness. It is one we seem to have inordinate difficulty with in these three provincial centuries (to quote Yeats) with addressing at all. This taken for granted has become 'erased' (to use a post structuralist expression) and our mind has arbitrarily limited its own structuring (and indeed potential restructuring)!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

It All Turns on Affection

'It All Turns on Affection' is the Jefferson Lecture delivered by Wendell Berry in 2012. This is a lecture offered by the National Council for the Humanities and is described as "the highest honor the federal government confers for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities."

In offering it to Wendell Berry, the NCH demonstrates that it has a sense of irony... at least...

The resulting essay sets out a vivid contrast between 'boomers' and 'stickers' in the unfolding narrative that is America. The former, dominant tradition, focuses on what is profitable, what can be extracted for maximum, current, monetary value. The latter, minority tradition, focuses on love of place and what might arise from affectionately subordinating oneself to the disciplines of living in a particular place.

The latter is the place of truth.

http://www.neh.gov/about/awards/jefferson-lecture/wendell-e-berry-lecture

Wild Geese Overhead: Where does reform begin?

"Wild Geese Overhead" is an atypical novel for Neil Gunn. It is not set in the Highlands that were his home but in Glasgow. It is...