Thinking is a scion of feeling, one of the senses, a metaphorical, symbolic realm filled with the vibrant colors of awareness, the smells of memory, the voices of inspiration, the touch of knowledge, and the light of clarity.
This teaching assignment that compelled students to take a pro-Nazi position against Jews was obviously a bad mistake, but it is one in which we all of us (especially those in the Jewish community) need to demonstrate compassion and forgiveness to the teacher. Justification of hatred is not something that is legitimate in a class teaching students how to think, especially in a classroom of teenagers. Yes, we can justify any horrible action or idea through reasoned argument, but humanism and our ethical principles have to intervene at some point. At the same time, the teacher was probably not intending to promote antisemitism and hatred, but rather the opposite. Further, all the time we permit actors in theater and film to portray Nazis (think Ralph Finnes as Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List or Bruno Ganz as Adolf Hitler in Downfall [Der Untergang]), and we want them to do so in a convincing fashion. In fact, we applaud them for it and give them awards. This is not an easy topic, and it’s one where all of us can go astray. Let this event not be an opportunity for recrimination and shouting, but a teaching moment.
A fascinating story that illustrates the precariousness of Jewish cultural heritage:
http://www.forward.com/articles/137521/ (via Dianne Bazell)
Whoopee! This should be fun for faculty and students, as they deal with anger management issues in classrooms.
I have been to Delphi three times, twice with other graduate students, faculty, and archaeologists, and again later with Dianne, my wife, who was then a graduate student herself. In 1986, Dianne and I visited Delphi so that we could share travel in Greece together. It was that third time that Delphi became a magical place for me, full of wonder and deep feeling. We spent three days there, enjoying great food and scenery, with Mount Parnassus majestic in the background. Yet it was during our visit to the archaeological site, with our Blue Guide (and other guide books), methodically going over as many stones in as much detail as we possibly could, when we encountered the sacred character of this site. Anybody who watched us would think we were somewhat compulsive, trying to figure out the location of as many details in the Blue Guide as we possibly could. We spent hours and hours identifying the monuments, thinking about their organization and layout, and reflecting on the religious nature of the place (including the Sybil who apparently ingested hallucinogenic gases to open her up to cosmic forces). Somehow, as we read painstakingly through this rather dry book, the Dephic energy arose almost out of the ground itself suffusing us. We did not go there looking for something, seeking some kind of mystic message, Rather, it was by studying and observing, and relating to each other that (even when we did not fully understand things) we unexpectedly felt what it was to be in a holy place.
A NEW DAY
© 2010, Dr. Laurence H. Kant
Essay for the Evolutionary Envisioning Circle of the Annual Great Mother Celebration, September, 2010
A new day emerges, as so many have in millennia past. Once, after we foraged and gathered, we became hunters. Once, after we hunted, we became farmers and shepherds. Once, after we lived in villages and small enclaves, we became city dwellers. Once, after priests and kings ruled, leaders came from the people. Once we did not know what was on the other side of the ocean; now we can not only travel there by boat or jet, but we can be virtually present on other continents when we’re secure at home half a world away. Once we thought that mass violence and genocide were normal; now we don’t. Once we did not even have a word for genocide; now we do.
Each time we move a few steps closer to the land of Eden, where, amidst friendship, dance, love-making, study, and work, we will dine again with God, the Source of All That Is. The sparks of fire that scattered at creation slowly come together to create a flame that lights our world in times of dissolution and chaos. We move from confusion toward knowledge, from fear toward courage, from despair toward hope, from separation toward unity, from pieces toward wholes.
What is wholeness? In Hebrew and Arabic, shalom/salaam connects to a Semitic root that means “whole” and “complete.” Some say “peace,” but that’s only part of the story. In its mystical sense, shalom/salaam really means interconnected oneness. It is that place where difference and oneness coexist, where each being finds its own unique purpose and self-expression as part of one planetary tableau, one eternal poem, one cosmic body, one collective consciousness, one Source.
During the shift, the ego (the I) recedes, and the authentic person emerges from its mother’s womb. The true self, the person You truly are, takes its place in the chariot palace, near the blazing wings of the multi-headed cherubim and the flashing heat of the serpentine seraphim. There it dines with other new-born true selves to seek wisdom in the new Temple of Knowledge and Love. Feminine and masculine energies, whose significance we assumed we understood, reveal unexpected meanings to thinking bodies and heart-filled minds. Days of pleasure and collective communing finally allow a slumbering species to shed its ego hide and put on a healing garment of shared awareness.
What will wholeness mean for evolving human culture? “Conformity” means a mass of individuals forming a collective mega ego (an I). Genuine “community” means a critical mass of individuals building a whole that transcends the individual egos and creates a collective Higher Self.
The events we see on our television sets and computer monitors—boiling, jittery delirium and tumult accompanied by earth’s eruptions, swirling storms, and disappearing ice—signal a shift from one age to the next. There will be many more such shifts in the future. But, for now, at this moment, our twenty-five-hundred-year sojourn at the inn of familiar habits, nations, and institutions has ended. Dying structures make way for new. Another day of travelling begins toward another inn on the road circling back and forward from and toward Eden. Here, in another time long, long ahead, we will be able to eat of both trees—of life and knowledge—but with experience enough to do so as humble partners of the Source, adult co-creators, sharing in the miraculous birthing of new worlds.
The Source created Torah before creating the world. Learning preceded producing.
Deep knowledge takes us to a place where knowledge itself begins to evaporate into infinity. That’s when we eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge once again.
What do I know? No/thing. And that’s everything.
This is inspiring. New York city has introduced a massive healthy food program that will affect children’s food choices not only in NYC, but throughout the country.
Every move we make, even the mistakes, fit into a pattern of meaning and purpose, which reveals itself in time through wisdom.
The British Trade Union Movement has been co-opted by anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian activists, committed to ending the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.
As in most things, practicing what you will be doing at a given time is excellent preparation for actually doing it.
If you are opposed to academic boycotts and divestment (now frequently aimed at Israel) , please forward this to anyone you think might be interested.
This satirical skit is hilarious. I’ve been laughing all day. It shows how wisdom is a lot less likely to take hold at the age of 16 than at the age of 66. Unlike music or science prodigies, individuals usually develop wisdom only with time and experience. (Via Dianne Bazell and Greg Davis)
This is a momentous development, making the art of the great museums available to anyone with an internet connection. It will have a profound impact on world culture, erasing many geographical and socio-economic boundaries. (Via Nelson French)
The past provides the experiential data out of which we create wisdom.
Robert Reich notes the fundamental difference between the economies of the US and China: China has a plan, and we don’t. This hands-off approach has characterized both Democratic and Republican presidential administrations. In general, the US relies on faith in the free market place, while China assumes that the government must make careful plans to advance its interests. Consequently, the Chinese invest heavily in green industries, even when there is no immediate profit and cost is high, because this technology is the future. Whoever controls it will have an enormous advantage in global competition. The US engages in talk, but not much action.
The US has an almost magical faith in the free market. It’s almost as if the US believes that simply reciting an ideological creed will guarantee economic success.
The US still has one advantage: the deep creativity and inventiveness that marks our culture. Americans do not rely on the past and on tradition, but look for new and original ways of doing things. This has always carried the US through before, and I hope it will continue to do so. But can the US rely on this, while others make plans?
The whole issue relates to an even more fundamental matter. Will human beings rely on ideology or on practical, integrative approaches to solve problems? Ideology is pure theory, ideas separate from concrete reality. Communism, Marxism, radical free market capitalism, absolute pacifism, religious fundamentalism, and postmodern theory all fall into that category. They are ideologies rather than evidence-based methods. Significantly ideologues exist on both the left and right. among both the secular and the religious. Even when something contradicts the theory, followers of the theory simply ignore the data, because fundamentally day-to-day life is messy, confusing, ambiguous, contradictory, and therefore too difficult to interpret.
While the US has recently been primarily concerned with ideas about what should work, the Chinese and others are approaching matters pragmatically, testing for what actually does work. The US would do well to return to its historical roots in pragmatism and develop more of a balance between theory and practice.
“As state universities cut back on humanities programs, LaGuardia Community College in Queens, N.Y., is going in the opposite direction. At LaGuardia, philosophy is king and challenging the stereotype that four-year colleges are for intellectuals and community colleges are for career training” (via Dianne Bazell). Humanities offer students training in how to analyze, to think, to synthesize, and to transform themselves in a fast-past, changing, world. Humanities also give students a chance to think about what matters, which is is a crucial skill for employees, organizations. and enterprises that must reinvent themselves. (Via Dianne Bazell)
You do not acquire wisdom without making mistakes.
“The constant stream of stimuli offered by new technology poses a profound new challenge to focusing and learning” (via Nelson French).
If interested in my teaching syllabi, please see the page, “Teaching: Syllabi” under “Larry Kant”: http://mysticscholar.org/larry-kant/teaching-syllabi/
More on language study in universities: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2010/12/06/27110/. See my blog post from yesterday: http://mysticscholar.org/2010/12/05/cutting-languages-in-universities/
This is exactly the wrong direction that universities are taking. In a time when globalism is the watchword, how can universities cut language study? Doing so is obviously parochial and short-sighted. French, which is at the chopping block in many places, is the only language spoken on every continent, 119 million people speak it as their mother language, another 65 million are partly French speakers, and there are over 56 Francophone states and governments. Of course, other languages such as German, Italian, Greek, and Latin are essential for understanding who we are as human beings in the West. People who study these languages are much more likely to study other languages (Chinese, Hindi, Arabic, etc.) and be able to operate in a global environment.”
“And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at sunset”: Gen 24.63.
(Meditation means both “meditate” and “study” in Jewish interpretation and bears both connotations here, along with “stroll.”)
Each of our lives is a sacred story. Learn how to tell it so that others may learn.
We live each of our lives not only for ourselves but to teach others.
How many lifetimes does it take to learn a lesson? As many as it takes to learn the lesson.
Wisdom involves the heart and mind joined as two tributaries flowing into a great river.
Wisdom takes time and energy. It does not happen according to schedule.
This comes via John Harrison. I can really relate to this one: very representative of the importance that Jews place on analysis and thinking.
“After months of negotiation with the Soviet authorities, a Talmudist from Odessa was finally granted permission to visit Moscow. He boarded the train and found an empty seat. At the next stop, a young man got on and sat next to him. The scholar looked at the young man and thought, ‘This fellow doesn’t look like a peasant, so if he is no peasant he probably comes from this district. If he comes from this district, then he must be Jewish because this is, after all, a Jewish district.’ ‘But, on the other hand, since he is a Jew, where could he be going? I’m the only Jew in this district who has permission to travel to Moscow. Aahh, wait! Just outside Moscow there is a little village called Samvet, and Jews don’t need special permission to go to Samvet. But why would he travel to Samvet? He is surely going to visit one of the Jewish families there. But how many Jewish families are there in Samvet? Aha, only two – the Bernsteins and the Steinbergs. But since the Bernsteins are a low, terrible, family, such a nice looking fellow as this young man must be visiting the Steinbergs.’ ‘But why is he going to the Steinbergs in Samvet? The Steinbergs have only daughters, two of them, so maybe he’s their son-in-law. But if he is, then which daughter did he marry? They say that Sarah Steinberg married a nice lawyer from Budapest, and Esther married a businessman from Zhitomer, so this must be Sarah’s husband. Which means that his name is Alexander Cohen, if I’m not mistaken.’ ‘But if he came from Budapest, with all the anti-Semitism they have there, he must have changed his name. What’s the Hungarian equivalent of Cohen? It is Kovacs. But since they allowed him to change his name, he must have special status to change it. What could it be ? He must have a doctorate from the University. Nothing less would do.’ At this point, therefore, the scholar of Talmud turns to the young man and says, ‘Excuse me. Do you mind if I open the window, Dr. Kovacs?’ ‘Not at all,’ answers the startled fellow passenger. ‘But how is it that you know my name?’ “Ahhh,” replies the Talmudist, ‘It was obvious.'”
Wisdom: Knowing whom, what, where, when, how.
Close reading does not mean just words, but images and experiences as well.
Our legacy is not money, power, buildings, or books, but rather the core energy that we release from ourselves into the universe.
Someone once said, “God is in the details.” That’s why observation, research and scholarship, and study are fundamental.
Learning from experience leads to wisdom.
Meditation, study, dreaming, praying: moments when time and the I depart and the Source enters.
Wisdom arises from the inside.
Humility is the beginning of wisdom.
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