Ah, those Years of Seven. We looked at the significant anniversaries in the World of Weird this Year of Seven is marking, from Heaven's Gate and the Phoenix Lights to the Harmonic Convergence to the releases of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the First Kind. As it happens, there's another major anniversary on the docket this year and that's the birth of the modern "NeoPagan" movement.
Fifty years ago, in 1967, three organizations were formed which would have a profound impact on the shape of contemporary Paganism: Frederick Adams founded Feraferia, a wilderness mystery religion; Aidan Kelly and others formed the New Reformed Order of the Golden Dawn, an eclectic witchcraft tradition; and Tim (Oberon) Zell filed for incorporation of the Church of All Worlds, which was based on the fictional religion described in Robert Heinlein’s novel, Stranger in a Strange Land.
As the Church of All Worlds shows, the NeoPagan movement was born out of the rising Geek insurgency, out of a fermenting sub-subculture in which Dune, Star Trek and Lord of the Rings had well and colonized the imaginations of the young and dateless. The crossover would become so successful that the strict atheism and naturalism that had once been de rigeur in sci-fi (and fandom in general) would soon be put on its back foot by this new Mysticism, a current that would revolutionize pop culture with the runaway success of Star Wars. NeoPaganism occupied a fair bit of real estate in the collective mind of Fandom but has never been the upstart mass movement its adherents might have you believe. It probably peaked as a movement in the 1990s (with Buffy, the Vampire Slayer) and, if the current alarm bells being rung in the NeoPaganism blogosphere are any indication, has been receding ever since. So much so that many NeoPagans believe the jig is finally up.
Contemporary Paganism isn’t an institution, but we do have institutions, and many of them are struggling to survive. Cherry Hill Seminary announced last year that it might not be able to continue its programming. CUUPS is hardly thriving. The Pagan Community Statement on the Environment, which is quite possibly the single largest expression of Pagan voices ever, has not yet collected a mere 10,000 signatures in the two years since it was published. And, as far as I can tell, none of the organizers of Pagan festivals and conferences have reported significant growth in recent years. These are just a few examples of Pagan institutions that I have been involved with to one degree or another over the years.
In Britain, where so much of the Wicca and NeoPaganism we recognize today was born, the situation seems pretty much the same. NeoPaganism is struggling there too, ironically as the current Chaos Magick revival is picking up steam.
I’ve been told that the number of registered members of the Pagan Federation has gone down for the first time. At the Harvest Moon Conference in 2016, Melissa Harrington confessed that she felt that this decline in active participation was indicative of Paganism “going underground” again. Most of the Pagan Federation events I’ve been to recently have shown a similar demographic spread to OBOD ones.
My concern is that the declining number of young participants in the Pagan community in Britain, and the general diminution of those taking an active role in the community as a whole, indicates that that growth has stalled. British Paganism—as a subculture and as a movement—is in trouble.
I'm not at all surprised by this. I'd wager that most NeoPagans had some kind of traditional religious upbringing, which made them at least casually familiar with the basics of ritual and theology. With traditional religion a fading memory among NeoPaganism's mission field, it becomes harder than ever to attract people to the surrogate community that NeoPaganism promises. But there's also the problem of the movement failing to deliver what it promises:
What is in decline, then, is something quite specific—the Pagan Movement; a collection of organisations, publications, ceremonial genres, training courses. That collection is no longer feeding the appetite of the general public for the magical.
Then there's the prickly issue of sectarianism. NeoPaganism bears only a glancing resemblance to the ancient variety, but it's chock full of the kind of perpetual fragmentation that a Pagan in ancient Alexandria might have been sick of. One blogger is even pushing an atheist strand of NeoPaganism:
Atheopaganism is post-Belief religion. It is evidence-based spirituality rooted in real-world, positive, life-affirming values. It gives us what religion is good at giving us, and avoids trying to do what science can clearly do better.
I believe it is in broad strokes what succeeding generations will practice in growing numbers. It is what will give meaning and build community for people who have left behind the ideas of gods and magic.
Yeah, good luck with that. After all, discarding your traditional core tenets has worked out so well for the so-called Mainline denominations. Like the churches that so many NeoPagans grew out of, the movement is looking to political activism to "stay relevant." But people interested in activism now have a endless buffet of NGOs and pressure groups to choose from, and most activists today tend to see any flavor of spirituality as regressive and impolite. Which may be why most Mainline Christian denominations are now fading into history. But a strong argument could be made that NeoPaganism is fading because the overall culture has been so effectively paganized. If that's true, then where do you go from there?
Scarlet Imprint publisher Peter Gray was a bit ahead of the curve when he announced the impending death of NeoPaganism three years back. And he sees the same trends at work- Neopaganism is fading because it's no longer needed:
There is no halting the decline of the initiatic witchcraft traditions of Gardner or Sanders, nor the collapse of neo-paganism. The reason? To use the correct mimetic formula: Because Internet. People are having their needs met by the online simulacra of witchcraft. Those who are seeking witchcraft simply do not have to hunt out lineages, everything is before them in the digital form that has socialised them while their parents paid more attention to their smartphones.
Gray calls for the "rewilding"of Witchcraft, for the art to return to its outlaw roots. He wants to recapture the danger of Witchcraft, which he believes- rightly- has been traded away by Wiccans and their fellow travelers. But the question then becomes how wild are you willing to be? Witches are killed on on a fairly regular basis in developing countries because they're seen as dangerous and taboo. In our anything-goes culture what exactly do you have to do to recapture that outlaw sheen? It's no small question. Why?
Well, because the Gardnerian Book of Shadows tells us exactly how dark ancient witchcraft and Paganism could get:
Priests know this well; and by their auto-da-fé, with the victims' pain and terror (the fires acting much the same as circles), obtained much power. Of old the Flagellants certainly evoked power, but through not being confined in a circle much was lost. The amount of power raised was so great and continuous that anyone with knowledge could direct and use it; and it is most probable that the classical and heathen sacrifices were used in the same way. There are whispers that when the human victim was a willing sacrifice, with his mind directed on the Great Work and with highly skilled assistants, wonders ensued but of this I would not speak.”
The event, first organised in the mid-1980s, marks the ending of winter and is a revival of the ancient Celtic and Pagan festival of Beltane, the Gaelic name for the month of May.
Thousands of spectators gathered on Calton Hill in the Scottish capital to watch drummers, fire dancers, physical theatre and a large bonfire.
During the event, the Green Man is killed as god of winter and reborn as spring to consort with the May Queen.
This is a big deal in Scotland. And other types of ancient festival revivals have been popping up in Britain over the past several years as well, particularly in provincial towns looking to drum up tourism. But do note that in the ancient Beltane festivals the Green Man was actually killed as a sacrifice to the gods of the crops. The Edinburgh festival obviously stops short of this, but this is like trading out wine for grape juice at communion. The real McCoy is baked into the rite itself and soaks through to the surface. It can't help but.
So what does this all have to do with the so-called Folk Horror revival? Well, the folk component of the genre doesn't refer to old Joan Baez records. It draws upon the idea of ancient folkways- often those centering on human sacrifice- bubbling back up to the surface and violently intruding on the lives of unwitting cosmopolitans.
Unlike other sub-genres, folk horror’s very form is difficult to convey. Despite what its simplistic description implies – from the emphasis on the horrific side of folklore to a very literal horror of people – the term’s fluctuating emphasis makes it difficult to pin down outside of a handful of popular examples.
The term first came to prominence in 2010 when Mark Gatiss used it as an umbrella theme to describe a number of films in his A History of Horror documentary for BBC4. Yet the term was used in the programme in reference to an earlier interview with the director Piers Haggard for Fangoria magazine in 2004, in which Haggard suggests of his own film The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) that he “was trying to make a folk horror film”.
The revival encompasses a number of films and novels but regards three British films as the sacred texts of the genre:
The trilogy, now often known under the banner of the ‘Unholy Trinity’, consist of Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder General (1968), Piers Haggard’s The Blood on Satan’s Claw and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973). Though their imagery has since defined all things “olde” and “wyrd” about Britain (see the cover of Sight & Sound, August 2010), it is in their narratives where folk horror becomes defined.
All three films work through an emphasis on landscape which subsequently isolates its communities and individuals, skewing the dominant moral and theological systems enough to cause violence, human sacrifices, torture and even demonic and supernatural summonings.
The Witchfinder General traumatized me when I watched it on Creature Double Feature way back in the day. Unlike most of the other Folk Horror landmarks it's based on real-life events.
HP Lovecraft's shadow looms over the genre, whether he likes it or not. There are obviously significant differences but a lot of his stories seem to center on city-slickers dealing with hideous eruptions of the primeval in decaying rural outposts. Lovecraft is often criticized for his racism but the truth is he didn't seem to like much of anybody outside his perceived social set. From "The Call of Cthulhu" to "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" to "The Festival" it's pretty obvious exactly where Lovecraft was coming from. Lovecraft was terrified that modern civilization was nothing more than a fragile veneer, ready to flake away under the slightest existential pressure. And cults and cultic practices were like the monster under Lovecraft's bed, always ready to pounce once the lights went out. (In this context, Stuart Gordon's fever-dream film version of Dagon could be seen as an outlier within the Folk Horror genre).
Lovecraft enjoyed his own revival in the 1960s and one can't help but wonder what kind of effect he had on the emerging Folk Horror genre.The Wicker Man is often seen today as a kind of one-off but in fact it was following very closely in the footsteps of earlier films.
The Witches, partly written by Nigel Kneale, is an early example of the type as is Eye of the Devil, which made a star of Sharon Tate. In the kind of hideous synchronicity that follows all potent art like a lost puppy, Tate would become a sacrifice to the kind of cult that probably haunted Lovecraft's nightmares. Both films, released in 1966 and 1967 respectively, worked the theme of an outsider to a rural community discovering grisly ancient practices lurking beneath a placid rustic surface. Eye of the Devil, like The Wicker Man, centers on crop failure and the need of the community to kill its ritual king to appease the gods of the fields. So the fields were already well-furrowed by the time Anthony Shaffer and Robin Hardy had their brainstorm.
Thomas Tryon's 1973 novel Harvest Home was adapted into a TV miniseries in the late 70s and taps in the same vein: in this case a New York family moves to a small town and discovers that their new neighbors still practice the ancient Celtic folkways. Since it's based on an American novel it's usually overlooked by Folk Horror revivalists, but it's a solid example of the type. Maybe one of the more potent examples, actually. Shame it's not better known.
There are variations on the theme to be found during this same Golden Age (the late 60s to the early 70s). The Shuttered Room, based on a story HP Lovecraft cowrote with August Derleth is a variation on the type, as is Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs, which starred Dustin Hoffman as an American married to a British woman played by Susan George. They move to the rural English village where the George character grew up and are menaced by a gang of local thugs. Straw Dogs was remade in 2011 and moved to the rural South. Of course.
A more recent example of the type is Kill List, an absolutely extraordinary film that has you believing you're watching one kind of British drama before pulling the rug out from under your feet and landing you in quite another altogether. I'm not going to say too much more about it since you really should see it for yourself.
But The Wicker Man (also remade, badly, in 2006) remains the King of the Folk Horror Crop. The film hardly seems like a horror movie for most of its running time, more like a quirky musical comedy, kind of a warped Brigadoon. And it's based in ancient Celtic rituals, or at least legends of ancient Celtic rituals.
The idea of a “wickerman” is reminiscent of references in both Irish legend and the second branch of the WelshMabinogi to men being inveigled into a specially built house, which is then set fire, immolating them. There is also a reference by Lucan, and the comments by later scholars as part of the Lucan scholia, in the Pharsalia,to three Celtic deities; Taranis said to have been propitiated by burning, Teutates by drowning, and Esus by hanging. Esus is mythologically similar to the Nordic deity Odin, also associated with hanging from a tree.
But it wasn't only the Celts who practiced human sacrifice. The Normans, who conquered England in the 11th Century, were huge fans of human sacrifice before giving in to Christian convention. Warlord Rollo was a exemplar of the Norman split-personality when it came honoring the ancient Viking folkways.
Adémar of Chabannes, however, writing about 100 years after Rollo’s death, described his last days as a time of religious madness, in which the Heathen ‘Rollo’ rose up against the Christian ‘Robert’ and in a desperate attempt to atone for the betrayal of Odin and Thor ordered the beheading of 100 Christians as sacrifices to them. This was followed by a frenzied attempt to balance the books yet again when he distributed ‘one hundred pounds of gold round the churches in honour of the true god in whose name he had accepted baptism’.
Is Rollo the spiritual founding father of Folk Horror? Sounds like it to me. There's an inherent schizophrenia at work in the genre, building on the paranoid truism that things are never what they seem, that ancient horrors are always lurking beneath respectable surfaces, looking for a way out. So what is the driving impulse behind Folk Horror? It's an inherently Pagan form, an immersion into the dark mysteries of the countryside. It feels deeply atavistic, like a twisted celebration of the premodern. The genre often seems to address a very human desire to belong to a tribe that's both nurturing and absolutely fearless, even if that tribe are presented as villains. But there's also that repressed impulse to bask in somebody else's sacrifice, to exercise that kind of complete control over life and death. Post-Enlightenment culture has worked around the clock to erase all this from our firmware but only seems to have moved the pieces around the board. By contrast, NeoPaganism was always going to be a nonstarter because it pretended it could recapture the positive aspects of the old folkways and discard all those it found problematic. It also believed it could recreate the bonds of blood and soil in a urban- or more accurately, suburban- setting. That it could soak up all the richness and drama of ancient Paganism without getting its hands dirty. Or more accurately again, bloody. Sorry, but that's not the way it works. Folk Horror dispenses with all that and reminds everyone that life and death were barely a whisper apart in the old times. That bloodshed was a daily fact of life back then. It's just the way things worked. After all, it wasn't so long ago that housewives killed their own chickens. No one blinked at the sacrifice of a lamb or a piglet at even the swankiest Mystery cults. Bacchanalias often ended up with Maenads ripping wild animals limb from limb (Maenad actually means "raving one"). Sacrifice was absolutely inseparable from belief.By contrast NeoPaganism feels more like a slightly more exotic form of Unitarianism. Sort on spectacle and sacrifice and long on sanctimony. So my guess is that the Edinburgh Beltane Festival is so popular not only for the nudity and the LARPing but also for serving up a vicarious echo from those olden days, when these dramas were all played for keeps. Not all Folk Horror is based in Pagan human sacrifice but the death and horror that people once took for granted are tightly wound into its weave. So it will be worth watching to see where this genre goes in response to the hyper-acceleration of Globalism and technocracy. For now it serves as a way to soak up the olde dramas without making much of a mess. It could go eventually go in another direction entirely, kind of like how The Wicker Man led to the Burning Man Festival. It could even lead to a neo-NeoPaganism. Stranger things have happened, right?
Charing Cross Road, a heaving mass of punters, tourists and ambling drunkards flows past Samuel's workplace at its usual frenetic, clogged pace, until one of its number dislodges himself. An ambling drunkard. He sports baggy pants, a loose striped jacket and a whiskery, unkempt beard. He shouts at Samuel to the rustle of a plastic Waterstone's bag. "Fuck eh, you .you what are you doing?" "What!" Samuel stays back, keeps cool. The abuse runs in thick streams, words can barely be made out. Curious shoppers stare wildly over their issues of Zoo and The Economist. The man is black; Samuel is black too. "Fou!" Is it French? Red-eyed, mouth agape, the man keeps screaming, grabs his bag and plunges back into the crowd. Punters dive back into their torrents of headlines, semi-nudes and Harry Potter blurbs at the Borders storefront. Samuel resumes his lax position at the reception, wistfully contemplating the crowds.
Charing Cross Road is the pulse of multicultural London, an artery of pleasure, strife and boredom, snaking from the imperial grandeur of Trafalgar Square to the heart of Oxford Street. Its pedestrian flow makes a garish display; multicultural, festive and sweaty. Almost half of the UK's ethnic minorities live in the capital, clustered in villages: Jews up Golders Green, Cypriots in Haringey, Arabs at Edgware Road and hip white things in Islington. Charing Cross road is where they meet, shop and scuffle: but it is also a place where cultures are put to work. If the now bitterly contested British model of multiculturalism is falling ill, Charing Cross Road is a good place to take its blood pressure.
The security guard
"We don't get too much abuse. We are trained to handle this," Samuel says laconically. No security guard clichés apply to his five foot eight inch frame: no bouncy muscles, towering torso or chiselled face, and only a small corporate insignia on his plain T-shirt indicates he might be at work. Except, that is, for one distinct marker of those guarding the shopfronts and clubs of central London's incongruous geography these days, a marker by now too clichéd to even be noticed by most Londoners: Samuel is black.
"I have been working as a security guard for three years," he says. "You get a lot of junkies in this area. Sometimes you have to be aggressive." Samuel smiles, pushing out his chest a little. "You have to know how to act depending on the person. It's like science action and reaction." He chuckles ever so slightly.
Samuel comes from Nigeria, as do many others in his profession. His eyes flick back and forth, scanning the throng of people. "You can't stand like this for too long, talking somebody might just go in, take a pack of CDs and leave," he says. Samuel excuses himself, adding his name and a furtive handshake as an afterthought. Less than five minutes' talk in all.
The private security sector is expanding, and guards now adorn even the humblest of supermarket checkouts and dingiest of clubs. A "visual deterrent" to crime, security companies claim. And this visual deterrence is increasingly performed by bored-looking black Britons and Africans. The good news may be that black minorities, still two and a half times more likely to be unemployed than white Britons, are now entrusted with security matters, inching a bit higher up London's pecking order. The bad news is that an ethnic furrow is drilled into London's asphalt, channelling black men into badly paid, vulnerable frontline positions.
Politicians, pundits and even the police have often praised the multicultural British model of integration, not without good reason. Nobody will launch into patriotic sing-a-longs or wave a Union Jack in the face of the hookah-smoking, Morris dancing, Qur'an-chanting and sauerkraut-eating masses. But this is all multiculturalism by night. Multiculturalism also works works hard up Charing Cross Road, down dingy backstreets, at the back of fusty pubs, deep in the cellars of milk-white Kensington hotels, under the sterile bulbs of NHS surgeries.
It may be insolent to heave another load of real-world grit onto multiculturalism's back at this time of trials by government, racism and terror. But dreary work is the flipside to London's multicultural project. Black bouncers, Asian shopkeepers, African parking attendants, Polish bartenders, Spanish chambermaids, Irish builders, African nurses, Indian doctors they all come to London and find their place, as if by serendipity, from £4.85 an hour and counting. Europe's financial capital is insatiable, spongy, absorbent. But do people pick jobs according to ability and preference, or is the grid already laid out for them; colourful, deceptive and non-negotiable as a London tube map?
The parking attendant
Like security guards, parking attendants are too busy for a chat. Brisk, outsourced, undaunted, they roam the capital's grimy single yellow lines armed with just an oversized machine to crunch number-plates and a council vest against cold winds and the evil eye. And they are virtually unstoppable, furtive figures.
"I am too busy, don't have time," says my first interview target, a stern black parking attendant. He walks off briskly, escaping the lunging white hack. Luck comes in the voluminous shape of a fast-paced black woman negotiating a Camden sidestreet. Her vest is deceptively branded with a comforting council-green dye that blends with a minuscule NCP insignia the private, nationwide parking venture that won Camden Council's lucrative enforcement contract in 2001.
Is this one of London's toughest jobs? "No, it's not that hard!" she chuckles, scanning a white van's pay-and-display ticket. She treads along briskly. "Really, it's OK," she assures me. "In the beginning it's harder, but you get used to it. The abuse comes daily, of course. It's not the job for you if you can't handle abuse. But if you know you are doing the right thing, it's OK. You just walk away when they start shouting."
She is matter-of-fact, stout and cheerful, her hair sculpted into a bun. I tag along, barely keeping up. Is she running away from her stalker? What's her name? "You can call me this!" she chuckles again, pointing to her shoulder cuff. It says 1571. "I am not allowed to say my name. Here I am a number my name doesn't matter." 1571 looks busier and busier. The radio crackles. Where is she from? "Nigeria." Why do so many Africans do this job? "Oh, I don't know," 1571 says, curtly or just briskly. We reach the end of the block, another grey Camden thoroughfare beckons beyond, with a neat stack of pay-and-displays. She is speeding wait too late. 1571 chuckles, says goodbye. A colleague approaches could be her cousin: hair neatly wrapped, fast-paced, African features. Then a male colleague black, African traits. One, two, three, all heading down the same street, an avalanche of attendants And my failed source, pacing briskly as ever. But now he smiles. "So, you found somebody?" His accent, too, is African.
No job evokes such hostility as parking enforcement, more so since public-private partnerships and new profit-making incentives began unleashing a ticketing bonanza on the capital's streets. But London's parking business has been doubly outsourced: to private ventures and flak-catching Africans, who have relentlessly populated the payrolls. At the public-private faultline they teeter, armed with silly hats and plastic machinery, come rain or shine or saliva-spattering owners of four-by-fours.
Enforcing London's rules and patrolling private property are tough tasks, but somebody's got to do them. Not to worry: multiculturalism assigns the posts. Please tick the ethnic monitoring form and wait in line. If you tick "black", the chance is you will soon find your place within London's hard-working, visually deterring foot soldier community.
Who's doing what A rough guide to working Britain
4.3 per cent of Pakistanis work as shopkeepers, wholesale and retail dealers, compared to 0.5 per cent of white Britons
4.2 per cent of Indians work as medical practitioners, compared to 0.5 per cent white Britons
16 per cent of Bangladeshis work as chefs, compared to 0.7 per cent white Britons
11.3 per cent of Bangladeshis work as retail assistants, compared to 6.3 of all Asians and 4.5 of whites
2 per cent of Asians work as cashiers or checkout operators, compared to 1.1 per cent of whites
9.4 per cent of Pakistanis are chauffeurs or cab drivers, compared to 0.5 per cent whites and 0.9 per cent of blacks
8.5 per cent of black Africans are nurses, compared to 1.7 per cent whites, few South Asians and 11.2 per cent of "other Asians"
3.6 per cent of black Africans work as security guards, compared to 0.5 per cent of whites
Approximations based on data from the Quarterly Labour Force Survey, December 2004 February 2005. Ethnic minority data is unreliable due to sample size.
Aftab huddles behind a desk cluttered with weekly glossies, breath mints, KP nuts and 2p sweets, the radio filling his shop with muted noise. "Violence is not the solution," he sighs, referring both to the still recent 7 July London bombs and Iraq. On a shelf by the open door, a four-year-old copy of The Economist peeks out next to a gaudy selection of lads' mags. "The day the world changed", its front page trumpets, to the dust and fumes of Manhattan. "It reminds me of when it all started," Aftab says softly.
His cornershop is set in the shadow of thronging, roaring Camden Town station. Aftab comes from Pakistan, or rather, Kashmir. "Ever since Pakistan was created out of the British Empire in 1947 by [Muhammad Ali] Jinnah, it has failed to reconcile the different nations within its borders. It's an artificial creation. Actually, there are only two countries in the world created on the basis of religion: Israel and Pakistan," he says, bemused. "Their borders are a colonial legacy."
Since coming to Britain in 1997, Aftab has become the hub of a local community made up of itinerant builders, international students, crackheads, Bangladeshi shopkeepers and working-class families. He knows everybody. "My brother was running the shop when I got here, then he fell ill. I started coming to the shop, reading four-five papers a day: that's how I got to know all the people around here." He has braved shoplifters, stinkbombs and random yobbery, and recently appeared on the BBC after launching a petition against drug-related crime.
Aftab holds a Masters in Sociology from the University of Karachi. "When I came here they told me that if you have a Third World qualification, you need to get a diploma in this country," he says. "The Job Centre is just there to give you your £52 a week in benefit, and then you're off. They don't help you find jobs. I was registered there for two years, and scanned job offers all the time. At one point I said, 'please, just give me anything!' I told them I could study for a diploma to complete my qualifications, but they weren't interested. Then I started to get more involved here." He still wants to study a Masters of Science in Human Rights.
Has he felt discriminated against? "No, it's the same for everyone." He smiles. I ask him why he thinks so many Asians have set up shop. He looks unsure, and eventually produces a bit of sociology. "When migrants first started arriving here, many were uneducated and set up shops and have continued since then. But their children often prefer to go looking for employers. With Sainsbury's and Tesco opening local stores, the cornershop is becoming a thing of the past."
In this "nation of shopkeepers", shopkeeping has been subcontracted to that old imperial safeguard of the nation's values, British Asia. Small-scale entrepreneurs of Indian or Pakistani extraction have absorbed the retail function, running cornerstores as well as staffing supermarkets, high street stores and bank counters. They are not alone, of course: Turkish Cypriots have carved a clothes-and-food niche out of north London. But Asian shopkeepers are the only group with full-spectrum dominance, from Haringey to Hampstead. However their market share is increasingly threatened by supermarkets that wedge their slick Express, Local, Metro and Central chains into minuscule urban spaces. Does that leave you, or your kids, unemployed? Please tick the "Asian" box, and be patient: the chance is you will be handling supermarket tills, sorting ballpoint pens in a stationers, or stacking crates before you know it.
The supermarket assistant
Feronda pauses from stacking tins and dons a sincere, expectant grin worthy of the glossiest of Corporate Social Responsibility reviews. He is happy with his job as a Sainsbury's customer assistant. "I'm from Sri Lanka. I'm a refugee. Only I and one more are from Sri Lanka in this shop most of the other people here are Pakistani." Actually, all the other customer assistants seem to be Brits of Pakistani background. Even the security guard is Asian. Why does Feronda think this is so? "Oh, this I don't know," he says, tugging his grin along, keen to move on to the next question. "I like it here, I want to stay I especially enjoy being on the shop floor. Before I worked for four years as a car mechanic up the road," he waves past pea cans, north "doing night shifts. That was very hard." Now he works 3-11pm, five days a week, at £6 an hour. "Let's see about £850 a month for a 39-hour week," he says. He looks thrilled, grateful. Before coming to the UK he studied computers, but struggles to translate his education into British levels. "I didn't apply for any other jobs just this," he says. But is there anything he doesn't like about the job? "No, no," he says, with the sparkling grin making a lingering plea for mercy. The largely white Chalk Farm clientele scavenges for breakfast bagels and tender-stem broccoli. Feronda's colleagues shuffle past, aisle-wide looks in their eyes.
Whether British supermarkets' workforces are as diverse as their stock of curries, mozzarella and stodgy German bread is hard to ascertain their statistics slip from your hands like salmon. Fourteen percent of Sainsbury's employees and three to four percent of its managers come from ethnic minorities: more detailed figures are not available from either Sainsbury's or Tesco, despite their equal opportunities policies.
Sainsbury's prohibits discrimination and strives to "move beyond simple legal compliance," according to Cheryl Kuczynski, a spokeswoman. "We actively look to employ colleagues who reflect the diversity of our customers," she says. Tesco, the behemoth of the British food market, says targets have been set to get so-called "ethnic groups" into managerial positions. Flexible work during Ramadan and Diwali and briefings in languages like Hindi, Urdu, and Bangladeshi are two selling points. All according to its Corporate Social Responsibility review.
Katie Jenkins, Tesco's employment spokeswoman, says that diversity "creates a great atmosphere in stores" and makes everybody contribute with different skills and knowledge. "Retail is a fast-paced environment, so we look for people who can adapt well to change, people who are very customer-focused. The stores reflect the demographics of the local area. It is about recruiting local people into local jobs."
In lush white Hampstead, amid the cobblestones, blonde beer, Unitarian churches, window displays of pains au céréales and fragrant Jojoba oils, lurks an unbecoming Tesco Express. Inside, Jayvishal is morosely stacking boxes of vegetables. "I can't do an interview if it's going to take time," he warns. I try an optimistic note. What does he like most about his job?" "I don't like it at all," he says, his slightly pained face sloping down into an unlikely smile. "It's hard work, very hard work. Packing all the time."
Jayvishal is from India. "There are not many Indians here mainly Sri Lankans and some Europeans," he says. By European he must mean British Asian: all the shop's staff look Asian. How did he find this £6-an-hour job? "Oh, through the Job Centre, and then I had some friends over here," Jayvishal answers, somewhat cryptically. "I have been in the UK since 2003, and couldn't find a job for a while. It was very hard. Legally, international students are only allowed to work 20 hours a week, but during vacations I do overtime. It is difficult economically I have to pay rent, transport and everything, and only earn £500 a month."
Jayvishal is studying a Masters in Business and Finance at London's Metropolitan University. While not in India he lives in Queensbury, zone four, on the Jubilee line that branches through a parallel part or galaxy, perhaps of north London. Skills and knowledge he has: a local he is not. The manager, a short-set, trim-bearded man of South Asian features presses up against us, fingering the stack of plastic boxes. Time to retreat. "And when you're finished " the orders fade, giving way to wine bars and American ice cream parlours slanting down the north London hillside.
Hampstead is at the extreme end of the spectrum. But a random Monday afternoon headcount at seventeen West End supermarkets, where workers are least likely to be drawn from a residential pool, confirms the ethnic pattern, albeit with minor variations. One hundred customer assistants were of Asian background, fifty-eight were black, nineteen white, and four "other Asians". The eleven security guards on duty were all black but for one.
The bar tender
It would be a mistake to think that low-paid jobs are the reserve of the Queen's post-colonial subjects. Some minorities have fared quite well: ethnic Indians, for one, are now approaching the employment chances of white Britons. Meanwhile, London's pint-pullers earn even less than its shelf-fillers, and a terrifying ninety-seven percent of pub workers nationwide are white. Why?
Perhaps Al Murray's comedy act the Pub Landlord hinted at the answer when saying that there should be no things foreign in a proper English pub, with the natural exception of peanuts. Peanuts are more nondescript than exotic, a bit like the "white other" box on the ethnic monitoring forms. And so it is that Europeans, Australians and their fellow Antipodeans have been swallowed by the fusty land of minimum wages, ruddy-faced regulars and sticky floors.
Behind the bar, a twenty-something lad moves packets of crisps about. Covent Garden's cobbled streets unfold outside. "Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning all the time," he says, in spotless English. "There's lots of cleaning in this pub." He doesn't look glum at all saying it. The pub is one of a constellation of glinting properties on the online London map of the Spirit Group, one of the UK's biggest pub businesses with over two thousand venues to its name. Boleslaw has worked here since May, and shares the pleasure with a girl from Sweden, another from France, an Irish boss and two other Poles a friend and the assistant manager. He got his job through the previous manager, also Irish. "That's a traditional English pub for you!" he says.
This is not the first time I come across the Ladder. The Ladder is a peculiar upstairs-downstairs way of ordering the capital's economy. The lower steps of many a London workplace are, predictably enough, dominated by the poor relatives of the world economy: Poles, Colombians and Nigerians abound. But climb one step up, and surprisingly often you will find employees from closer to home: Irish managing continental Europeans, perhaps, or Spaniards managing Colombians. On the top of the Ladder, perch the white English top managers and boardroom staff. The Commission for Racial Equality's (CRE) chairman Trevor Phillips has called it "snow-capping", or white on black: only 1.4 percent of executive management comes from ethnic minorities.
"It's a very hard job and not paid very well. The minimum: £4.85," Boleslaw continues. No big deal. This is his third bout of pub work in London. "At least this is a very nice area, with lots of theatres around." Nice areas make customer flows impressive, and it's hectic, lager-churning madness. "After a while you get used to it even if it's packed you can listen to the music and chat up a girl. But you work till late and don't have time for yourself. You wake up at nine or ten next morning and start work at 12. It's like a full circle." He smiles. "If you get some days off, you just chill upstairs," he adds, pointing heavenward. Boleslaw and his colleagues sleep upstairs: it's a live-in pub.
Despite paying rent to his landlord-bosses, Boleslaw can save "a few hundreds" each month, he says. He is a graphic designer and photographer, a graduate of Poland's Academy of Fine Arts, and has worked for advertising agencies back home. "It's a dodgy job market in Poland, simple as that," he says, unapologetically. "The UK market is more stable. You can do bar work for a while, then start looking around for what you really want to do."
A man with entourage orders pints of Tetley and pork scratchings. A colleague shows up, and Boleslaw breaks into Polish for a few sentences, cackling until the colleague disappears into the sunshine.
What do his fellow Poles do in the capital these days? "Any job you can get," he says. "Normally, guys who are tough enough go work on building sites, but others go into these jobs. The guy who just left, for example, is a doctor." A doctor? "Yeah it's easy to find them working in pubs. We got lawyers, we got doctors, graphic designers, actors, the lot. This country has got the most educated bar staff ever," he says cheerily, pouring pints of Guinness for a couple of Koreans. He has only applied for one graphic design job so far, and saves his pounds with determination. "I felt I had too good qualifications. They looked at my portfolio and said 'you're too good, you better go somewhere else'. When the time comes, I'll do it."
Years back, London's fleet of theme pubs, Irish pubs, local pubs and all the other concept and brand name pubs shop-fronting for Japanese investment banks were manned by cheery mates from Down Under. The Anglo-Saxon reaches of empire supplemented London's homegrown working class with much-needed building and boozing skills. Aussies and Kiwis provided the pint-pulling crowd. South Africans joined the Irish on the building sites. The Working Holiday Visa kept the children of the Commonwealth snuggled on old England's beer belly for years.
But in 2000, New Labour sowed the seeds of a revised migration strategy, which has blossomed into today's demand-based, quotas-and-points approach. Working Holiday rules for Commonwealth countries changed in 2003, and Antipodeans have moved into administration, computer work and public services with the easing of job-type restrictions. Poles are entering the pub-and-scaffolding race, quickly filling their predecessors' place. Some 98,500 Poles had applied for Britain's worker registration scheme in May 2005, over half of all new east European hopefuls arriving in the wake of 2004's EU expansion. Eighty percent of them earned up to £5 an hour.
The arrival of Poles is changing the demographic makeup of other parts of London's service economy, too. José Vigo, employment adviser, senses a growing fashion for east European employees at his West End Job Centre, which specialises in low-paid hotel and catering vacancies "that have not been taken through the domestic labour market".
Southern Europeans and Latin Americans, often over-skilled but with poor English, have peopled the lower reaches of London's job market for years, where a dank stereotype of the Latin service worker has grown. A recent Job Centre language survey confirms the lingering Mediterranean makeup of London's catering and hotel trades: Spanish clocked in as first language, followed by Portuguese, French and Italian but with upstart Polish wedged in at third place.
Statistics are scant and unreliable and the turnover ferocious, but Vigo confirms that employers now head for eastern Europe rather than scavenging the Iberian soils for catering and hotel staff. "There they get better levels of English and people willing to do that kind of job."
The service sector is likely to continue haunting southern European visitors, however. "London is still one of the most popular places in Europe for young Spaniards," says Manuela Martínez, adviser for EU employment network Eures in southern Spain. "People want to master English and make their CVs look better. But if their level of English is low, they will work in places where they don't deal with the public, in 'backstage' jobs. They end up spending a year in London and bring back three or four words related to the hotel trade. Then, naturally, they only tell people about the good things that happened, and the process starts snowballing."
The backstage jobs of London's fickle service economy have a convenient feature: as Portuguese hotel workers, Spanish chambermaids and Latin American kitchen porters mingle in their trade, they speak Spanish instead of English. And the less English they speak, the more likely they will languish in their underpaid niches. London keeps luring job-hunters into its wide nets, its finance-fuelled economy selects and cherrypicks the candidates, and multiculturalism keeps them apart, blissful in their ghettoes.
The state's story
Government departments are blissful in their ghettoes, too, and keep chucking the ball out of their own ponds. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) does not target specific ethnic groups, says Ben Lloyd, a spokesman, who suggests I try the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI), which deals with safeguarding employees' rights. And what does the DTI think? A spokesperson mentions Tony Blair's 2003 cross-departmental Ethnic Minorities Employment Task Force, but little more: the DWP is wrong "we don't deal with getting people into jobs."
Academia is also suffering from a "paucity of research" on ethnic recruitment according to Dr Sophia Skyers, senior research fellow on the London labour market with the public interest company Office for Public Management (OPM). She explains ethnic niching in relation to London's expanding knowledge economy. "We are seeing a polarisation of the labour force into, on the one hand, high-paid jobs in professional and financial services and, on the other hand, retail, protective services and other personal services like healthcare," she says. "What we get is a pattern of occupational segregation a lot of people are forced into particular employment groups, often because of discrimination in other sectors. The stereotype goes with the job, and sticks to the people who get these jobs."
Professor Michael Hardt, co-author of the watershed tome Empire about how power has been redistributed in a globalised world, agrees that multiculturalism plays an economic role in the new economy. "Britain's multicultural model can facilitate an ethnic division of labour, a model that has perhaps a longer history in the Americas," he says. "Racialized hierarchies and exploitation do not always function along the old or assumed models of exclusion. But it's worth insisting that recognizing that cultural diversity can be part of a new scheme of exploitation does not mean we should be against cultural diversity as such. What we need to strive for is equality and freedom within this multicultural society."
Trevor Phillips has criticised multiculturalism for keeping people apart, labelling it "a typically British way of dealing with difference". But now the stakes are higher. While London Mayor Ken Livingstone praised multiculturalism in the wake of the 2005 London bombings, Tony Blair announced a crackdown on Britain's permissive liberal consensus to a chorus of tabloid approval. But even multiculturalism's defenders often have little clue of what it really is, or does. Multiculturalism is not only a heap of colours, it is a machine with cogs that whirr. It not only fuses, but keeps apart. It doesn't so much discriminate as direct a choreography of cultures. Much like a latter-day, benign sort of empire, where all races and cultures play a minor part in the symphony of power.
On the ring road again
Your no-frills flight descends among thick nighttime clouds and your bags emerge from the bowels of Stansted airport. Now it's business the British way. Bearded Muslims, lavish Iberian girls and red-nosed Brits clutching Su Doku books mingle in the halls and tow their luggage into the rainy night, stared on by billboards vying for their London fare. Outside, hordes of many-accented hustlers flog £5 one-ways for cheap airbus upstarts. Beyond the Pink Elephant car park waits the National Express. A stream of people crosses the wet asphalt, oblivious to the hustlers' calls. This is how multicultural London commutes, in and out of London, twenty-four hours a day, every fifteen minutes.
Chris descends from his bus and lights a quick fag before his next drive. "The job is not as stressful as it looks," he says. "It's easy, and the pay's quite good. £22,000 a year because I do night shifts." He cuts a stoic figure, tall and bulky, his shaved head pinched by an earring. His colleagues, like him, are overwhelmingly white, bald, and big, emblems of the well-fed English working class. They ferry multiculturalism in and out of the capital. What do the people boarding his coach to the throbbing financial hub of Europe do, then? "Well," Chris puffs on his fag, thinks. "We carry a lot of students, some come over on a gap year, a small portion are on business and the bulk of them are tourists and sightseers."
What about the workers? Where are they? Who notices the shelf-stacker in the business student, the pint-puller in the graduate, the cornershop owner among the businessmen, the sandwich wrappers, cappuccino steamers and doormen among the tourists? Not Chris, not Ken, not Tony, nor Middle England or the City elite. The City: white as a scrubbed cathedral wall, home of offshore dollars and high-value bonds, generator of the service economy and its guards, attendants, retailers, cleaners, drivers. And Chris, where does he live? "I live in Haverhill, outside Cambridge," he says, stubs out his fag, and sets the motor purring towards the M25.
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The Senate may have put Trumpcare on hold for a few days, but San Diegans are continuing with a campaign expressing opposition to the proposed ‘repeal and replace’ legislation.
About 150 people gathered at the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Hillcrest on Tuesday evening for a ‘die-in,’ followed by an hour of rapid-fire and often emotional speeches and ending with a candlelight vigil on the grounds of the nearby UCSD Medical Center. [Read more...]
Doug Porter was active in the early days of the alternative press in San Diego, contributing to the OB Liberator, the print version of the OB Rag, the San Diego Door, and the San Diego Street Journal. He went on to have a 35-year career in the Hospitality business and decided to go back into raising hell when he retired. He's won numerous awards for his columns from the Society of Professional Journalists in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. Doug is a cancer survivor (sans vocal chords) and lives in North Park.
Aug 19, 2017 Never Fenced Team? This is a great way to start.
USFA membership not required but recommended at lest Club Level.
USFA rules will apply.
Walk ins are welcomed but you gatta see da Special Man!
I may thrive in the desert, but my soul lives in New England at the ocean’s edge. Ferry Beach is a funky – yet beautiful, reasonably priced Unitarian Universalist Conference Center that occasionally invites in new workshop leaders to compliment its regular conferences. It’s been four years since my dear friend Gail McMeekin and I first […]
Friends and family recall a positive force with a gap-toothed grin.
A prolific and longtime Richmond musician, Jonny Cecka, died last weekend after a lifelong battle with diabetes. He was 53.
Since the 1980s, Cecka was known for bands such as the Snakehandlers and the Useless Playboys, a “postmortem swing band.” He also played bass in Dexterville with noted guitarist Dexter Romweber of the Flat Duo Jets, and remained involved with music until the end -- playing with the Poison Ivy League, his last band.
Cecka also was a devoted elementary school art and technology teacher in the Richmond Public Schools, where he worked until he became disabled in 2016, says his wife, Dale Margolin Cecka, a law professor at the University of Richmond and director of the Jeanette Lipman Family Law Clinic.
Aside from music, she notes, her husband was “devoted to children and disenfranchised communities his entire life” and had grown passionate about legal services because of her work.
Many of Cecka’s friends were shocked by his death, she says, not knowing the full extent of his health condition.
“He was the most full-of-life, never complaining person you can imagine,” she says. “People just didn’t know. He was so full of optimism and creativity and spirit right until the day he died. It sounds like a cliché, but it’s true.”
Cecka, 13 years younger than her husband, says they met online and were married five years ago. They have two children, ages 4 and 2, and he had one son, 17, from a previous marriage.
A Miami native, Cecka also spent time living in New York, but it was 1980s and ’90s in Richmond where he seemed to blossom.
“We were in the middle of trying to coordinate a time for me to draw his daughter on his prosthetic leg when a mutual friend called and told me [he died],” longtime collaborator Matt Brown says via e-mail. The last time he saw Cecka was at the Bandito’s 20th anniversary about a month ago.
From his early days looking like “a scary caveman guy with long wild hair” while performing with the Mystagogues, Brown says, Cecka was quite the onstage presence. One of his best-known bands, the Snakehandlers, also involved young drummer Jim Thomson later of Gwar, Bio Ritmo and the Alter-Natives. Thomson was 18 and only beginning to learn to play drums when he met Cecka.
“I was insecure as heck and Jonny was always saying, ‘You sound great, man,’” Thomson recalls. “It meant the world for me to hear and gave me confidence to keep going.” Cecka asked Thomson to join the group he was forming with Jeanne Freeman Bishop. Thomson says he was over-the-moon excited to be in a “creepy-crawly garage band.”
Cecka was not only a musician, but also an artist and film actor. His page on the Internet Movie Database lists a bit part as Martin Highpockets in the 1981 hit comedy, “Porky’s.”
Friend Doug Dobey says what he’ll remember most about Cecka was how he took whatever life threw at him with a “singular, crazy, gap-toothed grin.”
“His energy was palpable. He was excited about everything, a new band, a new child, a new transplant,” Dobey says. “He made me smile whenever I saw him … and he made me think he could handle anything that life had in store for him.”
Brown also played in a garage band with Cecka called the Organ Grynders, and later the two collaborated on a couple of animation projects that never got off the ground, he says. When Brown later went through a divorce, he says Cecka was there to listen.
“These were the days when we would meet at a coffee shops or my place and reflect on our past adventures, our love of music, politics [he was proud to have met with Gov. Tim Kaine, he says], the Cramps, Miami Dolphins, spirituality and getting older,” Brown says by e-mail.
Dobey adds that Cecka left a blueprint for facing both the good and bad in life.
“He did it looking straight ahead with that crazy grin of his,” he says. “Maybe that’s his legacy.”
Cecka’s wife says a memorial service will be held Sunday, July 30 at 4 p.m. at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond, 1000 Blanton Ave., where he belonged.
Contributions may be made to the Jeanette Lipman Family Law Clinic at the University of Richmond School of Law.
Would you care to guess how many different schools I have attended since high school? Twelve. This includes both two and four-year programs, accredited and not, as well as vocational and specialized training programs. I have an associate's degree from a community college, an unaccredited bachelor's degree in Contemporary Spirituality, an accredited bachelor's degree in Humanities (the most specific major I could come up with when I put together all my earned credits from 5 other colleges/universities), a certificate in Nutrition, Bodycare, and Herbalism, and certification as a Life-Cycle Celebrant. I am currently a student at One Spirit Interfaith Seminary and I will be ordained as an Interfaith/Interspiritual Minister in June 2015.
You may be wondering why I'm telling you this, and I've probably already lost half of the four people who started reading this post to begin with. (Kudos to the two of you still reading.) I've been thinking a lot about the value of higher education. I only just received my accredited bachelor's degree a year and a half ago at the age of 36. I have friends in their late 30s and early 40s struggling with whether or not to go back to school for a degree. I watch brilliant, successful women struggle with their worth because of their lack of a piece of paper that society tells us is so important. I also watch friends with teenagers struggle with helping their kids make decisions about their futures that I don't believe most teenagers are even close to being able to make. I've watched the cost of attending college increase by 2 and a half times the rate of inflation in this country. I have friends whose every major decision in life seems to be influenced by the fact that they are strapped with student loan payments of multiple hundreds of dollars every month. And recently, my husband who has no more than a technologically outdated associate's degree and a couple of years of liberal arts courses got a promotion at work, where he is happy and thriving and making more per hour than I ever have.
I come from a family where there is a huge emphasis on higher education. Almost all of the cousins I grew up with have a minimum of a master's degree, and many are now teachers. My sister also has a master's degree and works in a specialized field within public and private schools. Simply by association, I have felt the pressure to conform, to get the pieces of paper that say I'm good enough. And although I consider myself to be pretty intelligent and I love learning, even in the context of traditional academia, I don't jump through hoops well, nor am I good at conforming to the expectations of others or what I perceive to be artificially constructed hierarchical systems of accreditation and approval. In recent years, my struggle to try to fit into somebody else's box has been excruciating.
The whole point of officially getting my accredited bachelor's degree was because after many years of fighting it or ignoring it, I decided to say "yes" to the call to ministry that I have heard my entire life. I believed the only way to do that was to affiliate with a particular denomination (pick a box) and get a Master of Divinity (M.Div). This degree is the equivalent of about two to three masters of arts degrees combined, costs $60,000 to $100,000, and from the tales I've heard from people who have gone through it (and experiences I've had with ministers who have earned their "proper" credentials), doesn't do a whole hell of a lot to prepare people for actual ministry. When I look back at my time as a young adult attending retreats and conferences with other Unitarian Universalist young adults back in the day, I realize that the most lackluster worship experiences were those led by seminarians. When I finally allowed myself to think outside the box, my life opened up in ways I never would have dreamed. I am now mid-way through a ministerial training program that is taking me on a growth journey I never could have anticipated, and is preparing me better or as well for true ministry as I can imagine anything possibly could. And I will finish this program having accumulated no debt, and paying only a tiny fraction of what that golden M.Div would have cost me.
Now, I am not opposed to higher education. In fact, all of my college experiences were important in their own ways--some because of what I learned in the classroom, some because of the relationships I formed, others because of all the learning that happened outside the classroom. I do believe that a liberal arts education is incredibly valuable. It opens people's minds and exposes them to new ways of thinking and learning and seeing the world. This is not the kind of value that has a dollar sign attached to it. Higher education is also important for people who have very specific career aspirations. My sister is a Speech and Language Pathologist, a profession which requires a master's for certification and licensure. She knew what she wanted to be, she did what she had to do, and I'm super proud of her. My brother, on the other hand, struggled through a BA in philosophy from an expensive private liberal arts college. Believe me, I think everyone should study philosophy. But I'll never forget the little cartoon hanging on the wall of one of my favorite professors. The cartoon read, "Careers in philosophy:" with a picture of a stick figure in a graduation cap pushing a janitor's broom. My brother went on to learn to fly airplanes and is now a pilot. I'm also super proud of him. The most professionally valuable educational experience and credential I have earned to date is my certification as a Life-Cycle Celebrant. A Specialized 6 month program that cost about $2,200 total.
So here's what I have to say about higher education for anyone who cares what my opinion is on the subject. College degrees in this day and age are over priced and overrated. Not everyone needs a college degree, and a college degree does not guarantee you a better life or more income in your lifetime. Community colleges are under valued and under utilized. I'm all for kids spending a few years after high school exploring their interests, taking some classes in a variety of subjects, and getting a little life experience under their belts before saddling themselves or their parents with crippling student loan debt for a degree that may or may not amount to much financial value. Non-traditional forms of education are also seriously under utilized and underrated. We need more creative thinkers and people who are finding that sweet spot between what the world needs and what makes their heart sing. We also need people to do the jobs that don't require degrees, jobs that require intelligence and talent and a good personality, but are jobs that people with degrees think themselves to be above doing. We even need people to do the jobs that require little intelligence or training, but they require time and effort, and we should pay people well for their time and effort. To receive specialized training for something you love and are good at is an awesome thing. Think outside the box. Listen to what your heart is telling you, if you can, over the roar of what society tells you you need to do to have worth. Do some research, think for yourself, and challenge systems of authority.
If education were free in this country (as it is in, for example, the Scandinavian countries), I'd say everyone should get a college education. But just like healthcare in this country, it's turned into quite the racket, keeping Americans bogged down in debt, nose to the grindstone. Because God forbid we weren't strapped with debt, had time to think about what matters most to us and the world, and had time and energy to do something about it.
It occurs to me that there is something very backward about the way our society views individual choices around food. Do you know that in most prisons, if your abstention from certain kinds of foods is based on an established religious practice, it may be honored? But if it is not religious in nature, and simply "moral," your request will not be honored. This mentality seems to merely be a reflection of the way our society at large thinks about food choices. Most people won't show anything but respect for their co-worker's request for a kosher meal at a lunch or conference, but do you think the same courtesy is afforded the ethical vegan who requests a plant-based meal? Experience tells me--not bloody likely. The same may be said of other religiously based food choices.
Think about this for just a moment. Choosing not to eat pork because an ancient book tells you that the supernatural being you worship forbids it: respectable and accepted. Choosing not to eat pork because you have come to the rational and compassionate decision that, because pigs are beings who experience pain and pleasure just like us (and our beloved dogs and cats), and possibly for other reasons, like the fact that the production of pigs as a food commodity is extremely damaging to the environment, etc., you believe it to be unethical and immoral to eat them: lunatic fringe of society.
In what world does this make sense?! Oh, yeah...this one.
Perhaps it is a product of my years as a Unitarian Universalist, with principles that affirm and promote "a free and responsible search for truth and meaning," "the right of conscience," and "respect for the interdependent web of all existence." There is nothing more sacred to me than a person doing the hard work of searching and learning and coming to a difficult and unpopular decision because your conscience tells you it is the right thing to do. And perhaps it is a product of my years of searching and learning (including academic study in areas of religion and spirituality) that leave me with little more than painful toleration of arbitrary and archaic religious beliefs and practices.
I certainly respect an individual's right to choose what goes in and out of their own body, whatever their reasoning. But I simply cannot understand the mentality that finds only such decisions acceptable when they are attached to a religious belief. Perhaps it is because people do not feel threatened by a choice based on religious belief the way they do about a choice made for ethical and moral reasons. If the choice is based on religious beliefs, it is easy to say, "That's your religion, and I respect that, but it's not mine, so it doesn't apply to me." But when a person makes a decision based on evidence, reason, a desire to do no harm, a sense of justice, compassion, etc... these are universally applicable ideas. It's harder to blow off. It challenges us to take a good look at our own behavior, whether we want to or not. Because we know they think it's wrong to eat what we're eating, we feel judged, threatened, defensive--even though that is usually the last thing on that person's mind. They're just trying to eat their damn lunch.
Other theories or comments on this phenomenon? I welcome your thoughts!
This coming weekend — Saturday, May 20 and Sunday, May 21 — many houses of worship in Brooklyn Heights and nearby will be participating in the “Sacred Sites” open house program sponsored locally by the New York Landmarks Conservancy. Two that are offering special, pre-booked tours are the First Unitarian Congregational Society at 116 Pierrepont […]
Jason Gray, University Press, shared selections from his recent book . Susan Ritchie, North Unitarian Universalist Congregation Parish Minister, shared two essays from her work in progress: "But Enough About Me" and "Everything Spins".
When he found that footmen Sir Leicester Dedlock; he did not care whether Sir Leicester Dedlock Ironmaster, said he was attacking an effete oligarchy. _Barnaby Rudge_ marks this epoch because it marks the fact that he is already struck the note of the normal romance in _Nicholas Nickleby_; he and _The Old Curiosity Shop_, but here he betrays the fact that it is a romantic, historical novel. This was the first of others were the _Last of the Mohicans_, 1826; the _Prairie_, 1827; the series, Natty Bumpo, or Leatherstocking, was Cooper's one great literature of the world in the way of a new human type. Nay, it was the starting-point of Puritanism itself, which by its Congregational system had made each church society independent had grown rigid and dogmatic it had never used the weapons of willingness to submit its beliefs to the fullest discussion and had put conservative Unitarianism, as that had been from Calvinism. Before commencing these labours, I was aware, generally, that there the Continent; but as I advanced, I became better acquainted with the by which it is supported. Then Geraint recollected the games, and thought that he Earl looked upon Geraint, and considered, and he bethought him that had ever established those games, were it only on account of losing games, he would gladly have done so.
Is Big Philanthropy Compatible With Democracy? A Stanford professor argues that it’s largely not—but that it could be reformed to promote equality, rather than undermine it.
In 1912, John D. Rockefeller went to Congress with a simple request. He wanted permission to take the vast wealth he’d accumulated, and pour it into a charitable foundation.
Many were outraged.
John Haynes Holmes, a Unitarian minister and a cofounder of the NAACP and ACLU, told the Senate that from the standpoint of the leaders of democracy, “this foundation, the very character, must be repugnant to the whole idea of a democratic society.” Rockefeller’s effort failed. He ultimately chartered it in the state of New York instead.
A few years later, Missouri Senator Frank Walsh cited the Rockefeller Foundation as he declared that “huge philanthropic trusts, known as foundations, appear to be a menace to the welfare of society.”
These were hardly isolated concerns. Contemporaries, as the Stanford professor and scholar of philanthropy Rob Reich has written, worried about how private foundations “undermine political equality, affect public policies, could exist in perpetuity, and [be] unaccountable except to a hand-picked assemblage of trustees.”
They are, he argues, extraordinary exercises of power. “Rather than responding to power with gratitude,” Reich said, “we should respond with skepticism and scrutiny.”
It’s an unfamiliar perspective. These days, wealthy philanthropists are more likely to be lauded, their names emblazoned on buildings, their pictures on magazine covers. And Reich delivered it in an unusual setting, speaking Tuesday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, to an audience that included more than a few philanthropists and foundation executives.
But he’s not alone. Judge Richard Posner, the idiosyncratic jurist and leading legal theorist, has complained that “a perpetual charitable foundation ... is a completely irresponsible institution, answerable to nobody. It competes neither in capital markets nor in product markets ... and, unlike a hereditary monarch whom such a foundation otherwise resembles, it is subject to no political controls either.”
It’s a genuine dilemma. At its worst, big philanthropy represents less an exercise of individual freedom, Reich said, than a tax-subsidized means of taking private profit and converting it into public power. And he argued that big foundations possess the leverage to bend policy in their favored direction in a coercive manner, pointing to the example of the Gates Foundation’s funding of Is Big Philanthropy Compatible With Democracy? - The Atlantic:
The Fair Admissions Campaign has revealed startling new insight about the extent to which selection by faith leads to greater socio-economic segregation in England’s school system.
The Fair Admissions Campaign (FAC) has revealed startling new insight about the extent to which selection by faith leads to greater socio-economic segregation in England’s state funded school system.
The research was set out earlier this week at a packed-out fringe meeting at the Labour Party autumn conference hosted by the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, the Campaign for State Education, Comprehensive Future and the Socialist Educational Association, titled ‘Is the Future Comprehensive? Schools for One Nation’.
The FAC’s research was presented to the 125 people present and the media by Simon Barrow, who is co-director of the Christian think tank Ekklesia and a steering group member and founder of the Accord Coalition for inclusive education. Both groups helped to set up the Fair Admissions Campaign last summer.
He was joined on the panel of speakers by Patsy Kane, headteacher of Whalley Range High School in Manchester; the author and commentator, Owen Jones, and journalist and education campaigner, Fiona Millar. The meeting was chaired by the writer and campaigner, Melissa Benn.
Simon Barrow argued that pupils being educated with those from different backgrounds helped build a more connected society and that religious selection led to greater socio-economic segregation. To highlight the extent of this problem he revealed new findings from the FAC showing that while grammar schools were on average almost twice as socio-economically selective as religiously selective schools, because religiously selective schools were more numerous they make a greater contribution overall in making the state-funded school system more socio-economically segregated at the secondary level.
The combined impact of socio-economic segregation by religious selection at the primary and secondary phases is twice that caused at grammar schools. Finally, overall, there are more state school places that are subject to religious selection in England than there are places allocated by academic ability, aptitude, or gender, or at private schools, combined.
The Ekklesia co-director objected to children’s life chances being damaged according to their faith or belief background. He said it went against his support for equality and dignity based on his Christian beliefs, and also went against the beliefs of many other people who held differing religious and non-religious life stances. He urged the Labour Party and other parties to commit to phasing out selection by faith to state funded schools; to have Ofsted again inspect schools on their contribution towards promoting community cohesion, and to add a broad and balanced Religious Education component to the National Curriculum.
Patsy Kane highlighted the tactics that some parents used to get their children into grammar schools and said academic selection of children at age 11 was not justifiable. She argued that it lowered expectations for those children that failed to gain admittance to grammar schools and could lead to siblings being split up. She said comprehensive schools were better at ensuring pupils were stretched and challenged during their schooling, and argued that society could not afford to limit the ambitions of pupils at a young age when children still had great potential to change.
Owen Jones said comprehensive education and schools moving away from selection should be an ideal found at the centre of the Labour Party. He cited a range of sources of inequality in society and labelled educational inequality as inexcusable. He urged that forms of segregation caused by schools should be tackled and described pupil selection by faith as having become a "scam".
Fiona Millar argued that if the Labour Party was to create a fairer society it needed to address current forms of selection in pupil admissions. She said grammar schools caused nearby schools to have skewed intakes and led many families to ensure their children began being coached for the eleven plus up to four years in advance. She said international rankings indicated that the best school systems were ones that gave schools autonomy, employed high quality teachers and had schools with socially balanced pupil intakes. She urged that parents should be assured that comprehensive schools were fairer, but also provided a higher quality of education.
The Fair Admissions Campaign wants all state-funded schools in England and Wales to be open equally to all children, without regard to religion or belief. The Campaign is supported by a wide coalition of individuals and national and local organisations.
Supporters of the campaign include the Accord Coalition, the British Humanist Association, Professor Ted Cantle and the iCoCo Foundation, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, British Muslims for Secular Democracy, the Campaign for State Education, the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education, the Christian think tank Ekklesia, the Hindu Academy, the Green Party, the Liberal Democrat Education Association, Liberal Youth, the Local Schools Network, Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, the Runnymede Trust, the Socialist Educational Association, and the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.
The Fair Admissions Campaign has published groundbreaking research into religious selection in state schools and its effect on social and ethnic inclusion.
The Fair Admissions Campaign has today published groundbreaking research into the extent of religious and socio-economic selection in state-funded English secondary schools, and its effect on social and ethnic inclusion.
Launched in map form, for the first time this research scores how religiously selective, socio-economically inclusive and ethnically inclusive every mainstream state secondary school in England is.
Users are able to see profiles for individual schools, compare and rank different schools in their area and nationally, and see how segregated different denominations, dioceses and local authorities are. It can be viewed at http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/19578
The Fair Admissions Campaign, which wants to ensure that all schools are open to children of whatever belief or religious background, is backed by a wide range of NGOs, including the Christian think-tank Ekklesia.
The research combines data from five main sources and hundreds of admissions directories. The map details the proportion of pupils each school is allowed to religiously select in its oversubscription criteria; how many pupils at the school are eligible for free school meals by comparison with its local area; and how many speak English as an additional language.
Key findings include the following:
* Comprehensive secondaries with no religious character admit 11 per cent more pupils eligible for free school meals than would be expected given their areas. Comprehensive Church of England secondaries admit 10 per cent fewer; Roman Catholic secondaries 24 per cent fewer; Jewish secondaries 61 per cent fewer; and Muslim secondaries 25 per cent fewer.
* There is a clear correlation between religious selection and socio-economic segregation: Church of England comprehensives that do not select on faith admit four per cent more pupils eligible for free school meals than would be expected, while those whose admissions criteria allow full selection admit 31 per cent fewer.
* 16% of schools select by religion but they are vastly overrepresented in the 100 worst offenders on free school meal eligibility and English as an additional language. They make up 46 of the worst 100 schools (and 67 out of 100 if we exclude grammar schools) on FSM eligibility and 50 of the worst 100 (55 if we exclude grammar schools) on EAL.
* The most segregated local authority as a result of religious selection is Hammersmith and Fulham. While 15 per cent of pupils nationally are eligible for free school meals, the segregation between the religiously selective schools and other schools is almost double that (27 percentage points).
The map represents the first time any data has ever been published on the degree of religious selection by faith schools. The Fair Admissions Campaign estimates that 16 per cent of places at state schools (or 1.2 million) are subject to religious selection criteria. This compares with five per cent of secondary places in grammar schools and per cent of all places in independent schools.
Chair of the Accord Coalition for inclusive education, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE commented: "This new research exposes the hypocrisy of those who claim religiously selective schools serve the community at large. It reveals that they not only further segregate children on religious and ethnic grounds, but also are skewed towards serving the affluent at the expense of the deprived.
"Crucially, the research also shows that the more a school is permitted to select children by faith, the greater the extent to which it is likely to socio-economically segregate. The data poses some very awkward questions for the state funded faith school sector, especially as many people of faith are appalled that schools that should focus on the poor have become so elitist."
Simon Barrow, co-director of Ekklesia, commented: "The Archbishop of Canterbury recently said that Church of England schools are moving away from religious selection and implied that he welcomed this. Sadly, the Church responded by reaffirming its policy of retaining the power to discriminate for or against pupils on the basis of their beliefs.
"Ekklesia has long maintained that religious selection undermines a true Christian ethos of love of neighbour and putting others first. In many cases it is also socially and economically divisive. This new research from the Fair Admissions Campaign, of which Ekklesia is an active supporter, shows the extent of selection by belief in state-funded schools. Rather than seeking to maintain these barriers, religious foundation schools should be dismantling them and giving priority to those in most need, whatever their belief background," he said.
Professor Ted Cantle CBE, who chaired The Cantle Report into the 2001 race riots, and founded the Institute of Community Cohesion added: ‘This research clearly demonstrates the increasing balkanisation of our school system, with children growing up in separate communities with little chance of learning about others. It shows that education has done nothing to break down the “parallel lives” I described in 2001, rather they have been reinforced."
The Fair Admissions Campaign wants all state-funded schools in England and Wales to be open equally to all children, without regard to religion or belief. The Campaign is supported by a wide coalition of individuals and national and local organisations. We hold diverse views on whether or not the state should fund faith schools. But we all believe that faith-based discrimination in access to schools that are funded by the taxpayer is wrong in principle and a cause of religious, ethnic, and socio-economic segregation, all of which are harmful to community cohesion. It is time it stopped.
Supporters of the campaign include the Accord Coalition, Professor Ted Cantle and the iCoCo Foundation, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, British Muslims for Secular Democracy, the Campaign for State Education, the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education, Ekklesia, the Hindu Academy, the Green Party, the Liberal Democrat Education Association, Liberal Youth, the Local Schools Network, Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, the British Humanist Association, the Runnymede Trust, the Socialist Educational Association and the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.
* Figures comparing different religious denominations and Dioceses can be seen on the ‘Overall averages’ tab of the map. For a fuller methodology (including how schools’ local area figures are calculated), details of the sources used, responses to possible criticism and answers to other questions please see the ‘FAQs’ tab.
The Fair Admissions Campaign has disputed statistics from the Church of England on faith schools, and has challenged the Church to translate words into action.
The Fair Admissions Campaign has disputed statistics from the Church of England on faith schools, and has challenged the Church to translate words into action.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph newspaper today (19 November 2013), the Rt Rev John Pritchard, the Bishop of Oxford and Chair of the Church of England’s Board of Education, claimed that the Church’s schools "fully reflect the society in which we live."
The bishop cited statistics allegedly showing that their schools are as inclusive as the national average. But the Fair Admissions Campaign (FAC), supported both by religious and non-religious groups and individuals, says that this is a flawed approach to assessing how inclusive Church schools are.
To meaningfully reflect reality on the ground, schools should instead be compared to their local averages, FAC points out.
Bishop Pritchard writes: "At CofE secondary schools, 15 per cent of pupils are eligible for free school meals. With our mission to serve the poor and excluded, maybe this figure should be higher, but it is in line with the national average for non CofE schools, which is also 15 percent. One of the great accusations against Church schools is that they are predominantly for white, middle-class pupils whereas our statistics tell a different story. Our secondary schools serve approximately the same percentage of black or ethnic minority pupils as non-CofE secondary schools (25 per cent)."
But the Fair Admissions Campaign says that the correct way to compare the inclusivity of schools is to acknowledge that different schools are in different areas and to compare schools with others in their vicinity, not to extrapolate a singel conclusion from national average.
In these terms, FAC says, Church-controlled secondaries take nine per cent fewer pupils with English as an Additional Language, 13 per cent fewer pupils eligible for Free School Meals than their vicinities, and 24 per cent fewer Asian pupils -- with the difference in standing almost entirely due to religious selection in admissions.
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, chair of the Accord Coalition for inclusive education, commented: ‘It is no good quoting apparently benign statistics about school meals, but then stopping children from the 'wrong religion' or no religion from entering the school gates."
"The problem with faith-based admissions is not just the economic issue, but the way they segregate children of different backgrounds at a time when it is in the interest of both the children and society at large that they grow up learning together," said the Rabbi.
In his article, the Bishop of Oxford also claimed that Church schools are better schools academically and in terms of their ethos.
Jeremy Rodell, Chair of the Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, corresponded today: "The more emphasis the Church of England places on the quality of its schools, the more outrageous the unfairness of denying access to them for non-Anglicans. Why should the choice of a good state funded church school be denied to children simply because of their parents’ religious practices?"
Simon Barrow, co-director of the Christian think-tank Ekklesia, which is a member of the Fair Admissions Campaign and a founder of the Accord Coalition, added: "The Bishop of Oxford is no doubt sincere in his wish that schools supported by the Church of England should be open and inclusive. But the current policy of the Board of Education that he chairs is an obstacle to realising this aim.
"A Christian ethos of genuine love for neighbours is not supported by favouring one's own community over and against others. It is undermined by such practices. What people require of the Church is that is matches its words with actions, because that is what the Christian message calls for."
Supporters of the Fair Admissions Campaign include the Accord Coalition, Professor Ted Cantle and the iCoCo Foundation, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, British Muslims for Secular Democracy, the Campaign for State Education, the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education, the Christian think tank Ekklesia, the Hindu Academy, the Green Party, the Liberal Democrat Education Association, Liberal Youth, the Local Schools Network, Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, the Runnymede Trust, the Socialist Educational Association, the British Humanist Association, and the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.
A wide range of civic groups have written to the Secretary of State for Education, urging the end of religious selection in state-funded schools.
A wide range of civic groups have written to the Secretary of State for Education, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, urging that religious selection in state-funded school admissions be finally brought to an end.
Over a third of state-funded schools in England and Wales have a religious character, and most of these can and do select pupils on faith grounds when they are oversubscribed.
The letter, co-organised by the Accord Coalition for inclusive education, has been signed by fourteen organisations, including religion and belief groups, teaching unions, humanists, and organisations concerned about community cohesion.
The letter follows a ComRes poll published last month and commissioned by the Accord Coalition, which showed that the public opposes religious selection in admissions at state funded schools by a ratio of more than four to one
Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain said “The problems created for society by segregating children on religious grounds, and the unfairness of institutionalised religious discrimination in pupil admissions, have been evident for many generations, and the signatories believe, like most people in Britain, that religious selection in school admissions should not be part of our future”.
Professor Ted Cantle, best known for authoring the eponymous report into England’s 2001 race riots and Executive Chair of the Institute for Community Cohesion Foundation, is one of those backing the initiative.
He commented: "We live in a multi-faith and multi-ethnic community, but if we want a shared society our schools have to become shared too. The evidence suggests that they are moving in the opposite direction with increasing segregation. Now is the time for faith schools to accept change."
The full letter reads as follows:
Dear Mr Gove,
There is increasing public concern over state-funded schools religiously selecting in admissions. A survey has shown that the public oppose such selection by more than four to one, and the first ever judicial review against a new school because of the issue has been heard at the High Court.
We are writing to express our view that this discrimination should not continue to take place. Dr James Doyle, Roman Catholic Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, said it eloquently, when in 1830 he told a Parliamentary Committee:
‘I do not see how any man, wishing well to the public peace, and who looks to Ireland as his country, can think that peace can ever be permanently established, or the prosperity of the country ever well secured, if children are separated at the commencement of life on account of their religious opinions. I do not know any measure which would prepare the way for a better feeling in Ireland than uniting children at an early age, and bringing them up in the same schools, leading them to commune with one another, and to form those little intimacies and friendships which often subsist through life. Children thus united, know and love each other, as children brought up together always will; and to separate them is, I think, to destroy some of the finest feelings in the hearts of men.’
We take no common position on the suitability of the state funding of religious schools. However, we believe that selecting pupils on religious grounds contributes to greater segregation. It is also widely regarded as discriminatory and unfair. We urge the Government to amend the law to end such selection.
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE, Chair, Accord Coalition
Dr Mary Bousted, General Secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers
Andrew Copson, Chief Executive, British Humanist Association
Tehmina Kazi, Director, British Muslims for Secular Democracy
Dr Artemi Sakellariadis, Director, Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE)
Simon Barrow and Jonathan Bartley, Co-Directors, Ekklesia
Holly Dustin, Director, End Violence Against Women Coalition
Derek McAuley, Chief Officer, General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches
Professor Ted Cantle OBE, Institute of Community Cohesion Foundation
Fiona Millar, Local Schools Network
Christine Blower, General Secretary, National Union of Teachers
Jeremy Rodell, Spokesperson, Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign
Rob Berkeley, Director, Runnymede Trust
Melissa Benn, Vice President, Socialist Educational Association
The following obituary for Edward K. Tryon, Jr. comes from the September 29, 1904 issue of Iron Age magazine. It gives a brief overview of one of the most important men in fishing tackle history. It was under Ed. K. Tryon Jr.'s watch that the firm that carried his name became the largest fishing tackle wholesaler in the nation. His impact on the tackle trade cannot be overestimated; Tryon is a major reason so many tackle firms succeeded, from Hendryx to Penn. At their peak the Tryon tackle catalog was 400+ pages. It's an amazing legacy, and he appears to have been a decent human being, too. DEATH OF EDWARD K. TRYON, JR. EDWARD K. TRYON, JR., senior partner of the firm of Edward K. Tryon, Jr., & Co. of Philadelphia, died suddenly at his home at two o'clock on Monday, September 19, from appoplexy. Mr. Tryon had been ill for about two weeks, but had shown such marked improvement that his physicians had given every assurance of his speedy recovery.
Mr. Tryon was in his sixty-first year, having been born in Philadelphia April 14, 1844. He received his education in Friends schools and the Germantown Academy, but at a very early age he entered the employ of the Tryon firm, then composed of his father, Edward K. Tryon, and brother, George W. Tryon, Jr., who were established in business at 625 Market street, and also at 220 North Second street, the site of the original establishment, which was founded in 1811 (The Sign of the Golden Buffalo). In 1863 his copartnership was dissolved, the senior Tryon retiring. Edward K. Tryon, Jr.. and his brother forming a partnership under the name of Tryon Brothers, which partnership continued in existence until 1868, when George W. Tryon, Jr.. retired. The firm then changed to Edward K. Tryon, Jr., & Co., which name the copartnership retains at the present date, Edward K. Tryon, Jr., having remained the senior partner until the time of his death, the firm now occupying the premises at 10 and 12 North Sixth street and 611 Market street. While Mr. Tryon was still a boy the family moved to his father's country place. Pittville, near Germantown. where Mr. Tryon spent his boyhood days, which property has been purchased by the United States Government and is now one of the national cemeteries. Mr. Tryon had been in active business all his life, but about ten years ago relinquished part of his business affairs, determining to devote the time thus gained to charitable and philanthropic work. At the time of his death he was a member of the Board of Directors of the Home Missionary Society of Philadelphia, a director of the Evening Home and Library Association for Boys, of which institution he was one of the founders and for a number of years its president; a member of the Board of Directors of the Women's Medical College and Hospital, a director of the Trades League of Philadelphia, a member of the Academy of Natural Sciences, a member of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and a trustee of the "First Unitarian Society of Philadelphia." At the time of the battle of Antietam, when President Lincoln issued his call for 75,000 men, Mr. Tryon enlisted and served a short time with the Pennsylvania Volunteers. He Is survived by a widow and two children, and his surviving copartners in the firearms firm are Edward B. Mears, Jr., Evan G. Chandlee and Charles Z. Tryon. In the death of Edward K. Tryon, Jr., the community loses a clean man, one whose voice was always for right methods in business, and whose integrity, fidelity and honesty endeared him to his many friends, who profoundly mourn his loss.
Thank you, Rev. Jobe. Your story as told by the anonymous Unitarian Universalist was powerful. Being a retired English teacher, I loved the vignette about Emerson and Thoreau! I want to be arrested "for the cause," but circumstances I do not feel comfortable articulating in this format preclude that possibility this week. I will however use my communication skills to educate and inspire others about our goals.
Later, today I will send you and Becci a link to my most recent editorial which was published in "The Country Chronicle." As I mentioned in our conference call of March 9, we need to identify writers in each Congressional District to assist us in spreading the word statewide; further, we need to contact national media and request their help in documenting and telling the South Carolina story.
Let's remain prayful and committed to doing His will. I hope to meet you at tomorrow's rally.
New Zealand has gone from a nation of united people to an urban collection of communities, many clinging to where they were, rather than where they are now.
We have the Chinese community, the Pacific Islands community, the Sri Lankans, the Indians - the list is endless. All hyphenated New Zealanders…
It’s as simple as this. Our last census had boxes for virtually every race on earth. Except one. There was no box for you to tick that you are a New Zealander…
When people come to New Zealand, New Zealand First says they should fit in and contribute to our laws, our values, our culture, language and traditions.
That doesn’t mean abandoning identity. The Irish, Scots, Welsh, Dalmatians never did, nor did the Dutch.
This is vintage Winston. Except the wine has turned to vinegar. Winston speaks to a New Zealand that thinks it's under ideological and demographic siege. Parse the tortuous language of “urban… communities”, “values” and “identity” and you’ll find New Zealanders who yearn for a New Zealand that never existed. Winston speaks to their imaginary past.
If Colin Craig’s “entire political movement and history is based on feelings of humiliation” then Winston Peter’s political movement is based on feelings of betrayal. It’s aimed at New Zealanders who went to sleep in one country and woke up in another: the strong state communitarianism of Kirk and the strong state conservatism of Muldoon had disappeared, the borders had become porous – for both capital and labour - and New Zealand had been “opened for business”.
If you scratch the itch you’ll find that Winston’s people are worried about economics and leadership. That’s the source of their angst, but race is its expression. Why? Because race represents their ideological losses today and their demographic irrelevance tomorrow. Immigration – and Maori bashing, of course – is the lightning rod of their unease and hostilities. But its real source is the economic transformation of the 80s and 90s.
But the so-called economic reformers of the past 30 years dismantled the industries and state enterprises that were the economic life blood of Maori.
Freezing works closed, the Ministry of Works, Forest Service, Government Print and so many others.When the Forestry Service was privatised, thousands of jobs were lost and 80 per cent of those jobs had been held by Māori.
Heartland New Zealand had the heart ripped out.
Tens of thousands of Maori were thrown on the industrial scrap heap.Along with unemployment came the twin curses of alcohol and drugs which are creating mayhem among Maori…
Along with the new age economics of selling everything and bringing in more immigrants, a new political arrangement was entered into.
This is the politics of appeasement to radical Māori demands.
That's a straightforward description of the economic reforms of the 80s and 90s, but it's framed as a problem of Maori radicalism. Now I don't think Winston buys his own rhetoric and that makes it fundamentally dishonest. But it works. When the walls are closing in people fight to apportion blame. It’s easier to blame the other than blame your own political impotence. Communities of colour become a totem for the decline of Winston's provincialists. Don Brash fell short, but he demonstrated the electoral reward for politicians who can tap the reservoir of racism.
When you peel away the forced politeness, the urge to please everyone and suppressed anger in some parts of provincial New Zealand you’ll find a country that’s deeply scarred. If it looks to in the mirror, it's ashamed. If it looks to the future, it's afraid. If it looks to the (imaginary) past, it's at home.
Winston understands this and he uses race to channel their fears. But race isn't the source of their angst and non-racialism isn't the solution to it. Winston's failure to craft a strategic response to his voter's angst only serves to reinforce it. You can't craft a strategic response to neoliberalism off the back of a cabal of hardcore racists. They might like their imaginary past, but Winston can only give them an imaginary future.
It is amazing how Biharis continue to be in the news in spite of no known bomb blasts in Patna sicne the salad days of JP Narain and George Fernandes. In this day and age it takes a lot to be in the news for a people and state which does not have a Narendra Mody, a Mamta Banerjee, any serial blasts, no cyclones, no big investments, No Behen Mayawati not even an Amar Singh. How do Biharis do it year after year? And prove that when it comes to newsworthiness it is unique. It is a simple recipe really.... but supreme sacrifice mixed with a little violence turned inside. The sacrifice story is simple... either there are floods or they are beated up on other states. As perhaps the largest group of internal and seasonal migrants in India, Biharis have been threatened from Kashmir to Maharashtra. This trend is likely to extend to Bangalore soon [my driver's cousin has a pan shop in Bangalore and he is eating up local jobs there, I guess] and perhaps reach Chennai very soon. One day it might also cross the Palk Strait and enter Sri Lanka. In the north, the past time of Bihari baiting is likely to go any further than Kashmir unless, but who knows the next frontier may be Afghanistan or Pakistan may be even China. In any case I will probably not live to see the day when a prospective US presidential candidate makes "Bihari Bhagao" the main plank of her election campaign. With the expanding frontiers of migration and unlimited supply of migrants, Bihar is sure to continue to grab headlines just by the virtue of being beated up by everyone across the country and perhaps across the globe [that will be true globalisation Bihari style]. The second method of getting in to the newsheadlines is natural with extremes of weather forces working on a poor people, Bihar is going to be in the in the monsoons, summer and winter. Unless the weather becomes moderate or the people become rich enough to fight the elements. Both seem very unlikely in the very long run. It is by being at the receiving end of the weather and every body else that Bihar manages to beat otehr states in grabbing coverage. Sometime when it does not work [rare is such an occasion] there is always the inward looking violence - just kill a few people of other caste and get killed; or burn some trains in your own state; or attack trains passing through your own state. Endorsing the negative perception that most of the country holds about Bihar. Who is to blame? I do not know. But two things are simple: a migration is an economic and social process and cannot be stopped by clubbing a few Biharis. Second, politicians who have screwed up the state along caste and communitarian lines have no right to preach to others who are treating Biharis as outsiders. By the way whatever happened to the floods in Bihar this year? Has the breach in Kosi been mended? Have people returned to their villages? How did they celebrate Diwali? No news? Not even a human interest story?
India, thinking aloud, social, political and business issues
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Use the donation buttons at the bottom of these notes, or on the sidebar of this site, or the sidebar of Tragedy and Hope dot com, for “The Ultimate History Lesson: A Weekend with John Taylor Gatto” multi-DVD interview project, currently in post-production. With over 5 hours of interview footage, this is a collection of education which is invaluable.
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"In March, 1915, the J.P. Morgan interests, the steel, shipbuilding, and powder interest, and their subsidiary organizations, got together 12 men high up in the newspaper world and employed them to select the most influential newspapers in the United States and sufficient number of them to control generally the policy of the daily press. … They found it was only necessary to purchase the control of 25 of the greatest papers. An agreement was reached; the policy of the papers was bought, to be paid for by the month; an editor was furnished for each paper to properly supervise and edit information regarding the questions of preparedness, militarism, financial policies, and other things of national and international nature considered vital to the interests of the purchasers."
“This radical Right fairy tale, which is now an accepted folk myth in many groups in America, pictured the recent history of the United States, in regard to domestic reform and in foreign affairs, as a well-organized plot by extreme Left-wing elements.... This myth, like all fables, does in fact have a modicum of truth. There does exist, and has existed for a generation, an international Anglophile network which operates, to some extent, in the way the Radical right believes the Communists act. In fact, this network, which we may identify as the Round Table Groups, has no aversion to cooperating with the Communists, or any other group, and frequently does so. I know of the operation of this network because I have studied it for twenty years and was permitted for two years, in the early 1960’s, to examine its papers and secret records. I have no aversion to it or to most of its aims and have, for much of my life, been close to it and to many of its instruments. I have objected, both in the past and recently, to a few of its policies... but in general my chief difference of opinion is that it wishes to remain unknown, and I believe its role in history is significant enough to be known.” (“Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time” by Prof. Carroll Quigley, Page 949-950)
“The American aborigines, Negroes and Europeans are as different from each other in mind as any three races that can be named; yet I was incessantly struck, whilst living with the Fuegians on board the ‘Beagle’, with the many little traits of character, shewing how similar their minds were to ours; and so it was with a full-blooded negro with whom I happened once to be intimate” (on SCRIBD)
This is the 1987 First Edition of "The Age of Unreason" by Thomas S. Vernon.
The rear cover of the book has a preview, from which the following is excerpted:
"Thomas S. Vernon was Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Arkansas - Fayetteville. He was ordained a Baptist minister after obtaining a Bachelor of Divinity degree at the University of Chicago in 1938. He held subsequent pastorates in the Congregational and Unitarian denominations, before leaving the ministry to pursue a career in philosophy. This was his second book of essays.
"The essays, while exposing the irrationality of religious orthodoxy, enable the reader to realize that a secular humanist need not be without a guiding philosophy of life.
— Introduction : Baptist to Humanist - an Autobiographical Account — The Age of Unreason : A defense of the Rational Enterprise — Choosing our beliefs — How Firm a Foundation — In Defense of Churches
— Sin — It Was No Accident — The Truth About the Past — The Right to Kill — The Myth of Human Worth — Flight From Freedom — The Importance of the Gentler Virtues — Notes on a New Religion — Is Democracy a Communist Plot? — A Stiffnecked People — Old Hymns Revisited — Misanthropy : Its Cause and Control — The Primordial Darkness
TITLE : The Age of Unreason AUTHOR : Thomas S. Vernon IMPRINT : M & M Press PLACE : Fayetteville, Arkansas DATE : (1987) EDITION : First Edition STATUS : OP — Out of Print ... the M & M Press seems to no longer be operating
Trade hardcover ; Contains a Preface; 152 pages; approximately 5 1/4" x 8 1/4", pictorial wraps, glued
CONDITION ... Clean and bright with tight binding and negligible wear.
by Ric BurrousFor the past two decades, the Spirit & Place Festival has explored the role the arts, humanities and religion play in life in Indianapolis. This year, the festival runs Nov. 6 to 15 and features more than 30 events throughout the city and Central Indiana. During the 2011 Public Conversation, a panel including author Anita Diamont and basketball Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar discussed "The Body," that year’s Spirit & Place theme.Spirit & Place was established by The Polis Center in the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI and was designed to foster collaborations between groups from different backgrounds and with different goals but with a shared desire to explore elements of a given year’s theme. This year’s theme, for the festival’s 20th anniversary celebration, is "Dream."Spirit & Place got a memorable start in 1996, when its "Public Conversation" featured prominent authors John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut and Dan Wakefield. They discussed the impact of the arts, humanities and religion in civic life; the role the places we come from play in shaping us; and how we can in turn shape the futures of those places.This year’s Public Conversation will take place Sunday, Nov. 15. It will explore "New Dreams for Indy" and feature young civic leaders from different backgrounds who are making a difference in the community:Marshawn Wolley, board president of The Exchange, a young-professionals organization of the Indianapolis Urban League. Wolley also is an adjunct faculty member in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IUPUI.Rev. Anastassia Zinke of All Souls Unitarian Church.David Sklar, director of governmental affairs at the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council.Phyllis Boyd, executive director of Groundwork Indy.The free event begins at 4 p.m. at Congregation Beth-El Zedeck, 600 W. 70th St. Those interested are asked to RSVP to ensure adequate seating.Spirit & Place also includes a special conversation called "Full Circle Dreaming" at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 14 at Light of the World Christian Church, 4646 Michigan Rd. Restaurateur Martha Hoover; Grammy-winning artist/activist Michael Render, also known as Killer Mike; and pastor David Hampton will share how they turned their dreams for improving the world into reality and what motivates them to continue to work toward a greater good.Check out the Spirit & Place calendar of events, which includes information on how to RSVP for individual events.
They came for a new life, better opportunities and a promise of freedom. They also came to escape war, political oppression, hunger and natural disasters. Whatever the reason, Ann Arbor has long put out the welcome mat for immigrants and refugees, and those who came left their mark on their new home.
Every year new citizens of the United States have pledged their allegiance to the United States at swearing in ceremonies in District Court in Ann Arbor. Each year the Ann Arbor News recorded the names of new citizens from every corner of the world. They were students, carpenters, nurses, engineers, barbers, homemakers, lexicographers, medical technologists and scholars. They were Ethiopian, Chinese, Haitian, Syrian, British, French, Greek, immigrants from more than 100 others nations of the world. The news ran photos showing new patriots beaming with anticipation, waving little American flags and, sometimes, shedding tears to have finally made that final step in the long road to citizenship. The names of former immigrants can be seen all over town in historic buildings, park names, long thriving businesses.
Some came to Ann Arbor as refugees. In 1957, Joseph Kovacs celebrated his 12th birthday with two birthday cakes and his new classmates at Eberwhite School. Joseph and his family had fled Hungary after Soviet troops drove tanks into Budapest. They found a warm welcome in Ann Arbor. In 1940, children from Britain found a safe haven from German bombs. Others from France, Germany and other countries found their way from the ravages of Nazism and World War II. Refugees were later welcomed in 1964 from Castro’s Cuba, in 1980 from Vietnam, in 1982 from Haiti and from many other human and natural situations. Local churches found a place for displaced persons, local charitable groups gave shelter, clothes, food and opportunities.
This essay is in three parts, of which this blog post is the second. Click these links for parts one and three.
What The Neverending Story tells us about personal storytelling
Now that we've worked our way through all the elements of The Neverending Story, I think we are ready to explore what the book has to tell us about the interplay between personal and public storytelling. The most exciting benefit I have gained from this journey of exploration has been something my previous essays were missing: a coherent solution to the problem of declining personal storytelling in today's society. I've explored some scattered practical ideas for bringing back personal storytelling in the past (on the blog and in the last chapter of Working with Stories), but before I started this essay I hadn't come up with a solid conceptual response to the problem. I didn't know it before I started on the journey, but now I think I've closed that gap.
We live in a world awash in commercial storytelling. That fact is not going to change anytime soon. The five cycles in The Neverending Story, one positive and four negative, show us a way forward. It's almost as though Michael Ende wrote this book specifically to show us how to live imaginatively in a world where folk tales come to us through blockbuster books and movies instead of the quiet fireside tales of our elders. It's an instruction manual for the modern imagination.
So what is the appropriate conceptual response to the cultural imperialism of commercial storytelling? We must enter into commercial stories and make them our own so we can embark on imaginative journeys of discovery through our inner worlds. To do this, we must avoid the four pathological cycles of denial, escapism, distraction, and withdrawal.
Functional characters in The Neverending Story
It takes a village to raise an imagination. Just as Atreyu ("Son of All") was raised by "all the men and women together," Bastian's transformation from lost soul to eager adventurer is supported by the actions and choices of several of the book's characters. These characters can tell us useful things about how we can support our own imaginative journeys in today's world.
In choosing which characters to consider out of the many that make up the story, I turned to a distinction from Mieke Bal's book Narratology. Bal contrasts functionalcharacters who "cause or undergo functional events" with non-functional characters who exist primarily to enhance descriptions of other characters. An example of a non-functional character is the butler or maid who opens the house door to guests in many classic English novels. Such a person has no function in the story other than to indicate the elevated social status of other characters. They could be replaced by a fancy vase or elegant foyer without much change to the story. Such non-functional characters are not meant to be allegorical representations of real people in our world, so they can be put aside for the purposes of this essay.
To think about which characters in The Neverending Story qualify as functional characters, I asked myself: does this character make choices that change the story, or do their actions simply flow from the way they are defined? Do they choose what they do in the story, or are they just "drawn that way"? I also tried replacing characters with locations or objects or inscriptions to see if the story would change as a result.
I came up with six functional characters in the story: Bastian himself; Mr. Coreander; Atreyu; the Childlike Empress; the Old Man of Wandering Mountain; and Bastian's father. Each of these characters makes at least one choice that moves Bastian's story forward. Each can be taken to represent a person who has the potential to preserve the essential function of stories in today's society.
What Bastian's choices tell us about personal storytelling
I can think of three choices Bastian makes in The Neverending Story that move his journey significantly forward: stealing the book; entering into the book; and using his last few wishes wisely. Because Bastian is the dominant character in the book, and because Bastian represents all of us, I will examine both the virtuous cycle of his journey and the vicious cycles he (sometimes narrowly) avoids.
Stealing the book
In Mr. Coreander's shop, Bastian steals The Neverending Story. When he opens the book to read it, he crosses the border into the land of Fantastica.
Ende makes a point of featuring the way the book calls out to Bastian and connects to something deep in his essence.
He broke into a sweat as it occurred to him that he was already late for school. He'd have to hurry, oh yes, he'd have to run -- but he just stood there, unable to move. Something held him fast, he didn't know what. ... It came to Bastian that he had been staring the whole time at the book that Mr. Coreander had been holding and that was now lying on the armchair. He couldn't take his eyes off it. It seemed to have a kind of magnetic power that attracted him irresistibly.
Does this description remind you of another "magnetic power" in The Neverending Story? It reminds me of the Nothing. The two powers are both identical and antithetical, like the two parts of an ouroboros. One force pulls the creatures of the imagination into manipulative lies, and the other pulls the creatures of reality into empowering truths. The fact that they both take place in the land of the public imagination draws them together even more.
Why did Michael Ende have Bastian steal The Neverending Story instead of receiving it, or buying it with his generous allowance? It could have been to heighten tension; but there might be an allegorical meaning in the theft. If we live in a culture of denial about the value of the imagination, it might feel like a crime to enjoy stories.
People are always talking about how guilty they feel for watching television and movies. It's supposed to "rot your brain." But novels are good for you, right? Not according to everyone. There wouldn't be blog posts titled "Six Reasons You Should Waste Your Time Reading Fiction" and "In Defense of Fiction" if everyone agreed that novels were useful. And novels were attacked in their day as strongly as television and video games are today. It's hard for someone like me to understand this (novels were my video game problem as a child), but for a large number of people, made-up stories still have no reason to exist.
By having Bastian break the law to read The Neverending Story, I think Ende was hinting that we should break societal norms by refusing to apologize for loving stories. Of course we ought to think about why we love the stories we love, and what they mean to us (more on that later). But we don't have to hide our stories in brown paper bags. We should also learn more about stories and their place in human life, so that when someone says "that's stupid because it didn't really happen," we can put together a cogent argument.
What is a cogent argument for fictional stories? Why aren't they a waste of time? I can't imagine that anyone who is reading this essay needs convincing; but I'll put together the argument anyway. I can think of three reasons.
Fact is fiction and fiction is fact. The dividing line between fiction and truth is more like a foggy field than a brick wall. On the side of fact, memory and planning are active constructions of meaning not far removed from the craft of storytelling. If you don't believe me, tell a family member or old friend some bit of information you remember from your childhood. See how factual your memory seems from their point of view. The facts we think we remember are not dispassionate data points. We habitually select and distort facts to make them fit into the stories of our memories.
On the other side of that foggy field, fictional stories can reach beyond superficial differences to reveal deep truths. Fiction is part of how people make sense of real life. If you don't think fiction is a part of how you make sense of real life, you haven't been paying attention. You might not think in stories as much as some people do, but nobody never thinks in stories. If you swear off fiction because you think it's a waste of time, you're probably fooling yourself about what you're doing and why. In fact, you're probably doing it so you can tell yourself a story about who you are and what you do. Even people who say "I never read fiction, I only read biographies" are telling themselves a story, because biographies are fictional stories.
I've seen people argue that fictional stories are useless because they are about "made-up worlds." That's a mistake novices make. Every fictional story, whether it's about talking animals or space-faring aliens, is about us, right here, right now. There are no made-up worlds, just lots of ways of talking about this one. All real-life stories are fictional stories, and all fictional stories are about real life.
Fiction makes you a better person. Research has shown that people who regularly read fiction score higher on tests of empathy and theory of mind (the ability to consider how other people might see things). It's not clear which causes which -- maybe empathetic people are more drawn to stories -- but the connection is clear.
Fiction helps you fix your life. If neither of those reasons moves you, consider this. Everybody needs solutions to problems in their lives. Getting a job, getting better when we're sick, dealing with loss, making friends. More creativity leads to more and better ideas for solutions. Creativity relies on the imagination. The imagination is fed by reading, hearing, building, and telling stories. Non-fiction stories are still stories, but when we enter into fictional stories we give our imaginations the most thorough exercise they can get.
So the advice this element of The Neverending Story gives us is: if you love fiction, step up to the microphone and say so loud and clear. Stories are good for us no matter where they come from. If you don't love fiction, give it another chance. Ask your friends to tell you about the best fiction they've ever read or seen or heard, and expand your horizons.
The cycle of denial
By making the choice to steal The Neverending Story, Bastian avoids the cycle of denial. We fall into the cycle of denial when we think of storytelling as an unimportant part of life, something to be left behind in childhood, something serious adults don't waste time on.
But we also increase the influence of denial when we delegate personal stories to second-class status behind the polished stories we find in art and literature. Everyday stories might be short and apparently trivial, but taken together they add up to most of what matters in life.
It bothers me when people refuse to use the word "stories" to include rough, raw, unscripted, spontaneous, messy, dynamic, everyday, personal stories. People call such stories anecdotes or antenarratives or narrative fragments or simply "accounts," reserving the word "stories" for polished, purposeful, structurally complete stories. I don't think this is necessary. Large or small, shy or bold, polished or rough-hewn, stories are stories. I don't think distinctions like these are helpful, any more than it is helpful to think of children as fundamentally different from adults.
The idea that children think in some primitive alien manner has led to many mistaken practices, such as believing that children can thrive in environments that would bore an adult to tears, or that children, unlike adults, must be forced to learn. In recent years, longstanding assumptions about how children think have been challenged through scientific research about the developing mind. A host of new studies shows us that babies are not blank slates but active interpreters of lived experience. Says Alison Gopnik in The Scientist in the Crib:
It turns out that the capacities that allow us to learn about the world and ourselves have their origins in infancy. We are born with the ability to discover the secrets of the universe and of our own minds, and with the drive to explore and experiment until we do. Science isn't just the specialized province of a chilly elite; instead, it's continuous with the kind of learning every one of us does when we're very small.
Similarly, the artificial distinction commonly drawn between the fantasy life of children and adults frustrated Michael Ende. He famously said:
One may enter the literary parlor via just about any door, be it the prison door, the madhouse door, or the brothel door. There is but one door one may not enter it through, which is the nursery door. The critics will never forgive you such. .... I keep wondering to myself what this peculiar contempt towards anything related to childhood is all about.
In the same way, I keep wondering to myself what this particular contempt towards anything related to personal storytelling is all about. Children are people, and personal stories are stories.
Of course it's useful to add an adjective to specify what sort of story we are talking about. That's why I talk about personal as opposed to public stories. But I don't like the idea of removing the word "stories" from personal stories. It seems to disqualify them, to deny them a status they deserve in our lives. Language becomes part of the cycle of denial that prevents people from going on transformative journeys through their personal imaginations.
Some people call everyday personal stories "small" or "little-s" stories and contrast them with "big" or "Capital-S" stories. I have mixed feelings about that, because in what way are personal stories little? Of little importance? Certainly not. They are of far greater importance than the latest blockbuster movie or corporate vision story. People might say that personal stories are "little" because they tend to be short and less complicated. But anything that even hints at reducing the relevance of the personal story contributes to the problem of denial. I'd rather we call personal stories just plain stories, and relegate public stories to a mangled term like "econo-stories" or "manunarratives" or something.
I think Michael Ende would agree with me on this point. As much as he believed that he did the world a service in writing his books, he would be the first to say that literary stories should inspire, not replace, personal stories in the lives of the people who read them. The Neverending Story is proof of that, paradoxically: even though it is a work of fiction, it is a work of fiction created specifically to venerate the personal story. Atreyu's story brings Bastian to Fantastica, but it is what Bastian does there -- and what we each can do in our own Fantasticas -- that Ende meant to show us.
Entering into the book
Bastian's second significant choice takes place when he finally says "Moon Child" and enters The Neverending Story. He doesn't seem to have much choice at this point, but that's not entirely true. He could have ignored the Old Man's reading of the circular story. He was still in the attic with the book, wasn't he? He could have closed the book, left the attic, gone home, and put aside the fact that some old man somewhere was droning on about him. That's what we do when we are moved by a book or movie that speaks to something important in ourselves or our lives, then wake up the next morning and move on without giving the connection a second thought.
What does Bastian's choice to enter The Neverending Story mean in the context of personal storytelling? This piece of advice is the yin-yang opposite of what I said above. Love fiction, but take it personally. Don't just watch; enter in. Think about why you love the stories you love. Ask yourself questions. What makes you want to see or read stories in that genre? What do the stories mean in your own life? What would you do if you were in those positions? What would your own story -- your own Fantastica -- be like?
I'll go first. Many stories have been important in my life, but I'll pick out one as an example. I swear that Dostoyevsky wrote The Idiot for me. I didn't discover the book until I was in my forties, but I wish I had read it when I was thirteen, because it changed my life. The Idiot gave me permission to be who I am, which is much like Prince Myshkin: pathologically honest; perpetually naïve; slow to catch on; disastrously sensitive, yet fascinated by the manifold contradictions of social life; and more than anything else, simply overwhelmed by the mundane beauty of existence. It's fascinating to me to see how people react to Myshkin in the book, each person choosing to see him as a clueless fool or a deeply wise guru -- or both -- because that's just how people have always reacted to me. I've now read The Idiot four times and watched the 8-hour mini-series (in Russian with subtitles, the best book-to-movie transition I've ever seen) twice. It has become a touchstone.
I remember the first time I watched the movie version of The Idiot. There was a scene where Prince Myshkin was sitting on a bench in the park thinking about the gulf between him and the society he was struggling to comprehend -- if you know the book you know the scene -- and I found myself reaching out to stroke his face on the computer screen. I wasn't comforting the actor or the character. I was comforting myself. That's the life-changing power of a story. But it only works if you enter into the story. You can't stay on the outside; you have to reach in and touch the you that lives inside the story. Otherwise you really are wasting your time.
Now it's your turn. Why do you like the stories you like? What have you learned from them about yourself? Where are you in the stories you love? How have the dominant stories in your life entered into your personal imagination? And what have you done with the stories you have chosen? If you haven't thought about this yet, think about it now. Enter into the stories you have chosen and shape them to meet your needs. Build your own Fantastica. Embark on a journey through your inner world. If you don't, you run the risk of becoming trapped in the Nothing, where stories are little more than diversions, delusions, deceptions.
The cycle of escapism
My first thought about escapism in storytelling was: commercial stories are classic examples of supernormal stimuli, the giant neon eggs we can't help trying to incubate while our small dull stories perish inches away. (The idea of supernormal stimuli comes from Niko Tinbergen's research, in which he enticed birds to abandon their own eggs for huge, brightly colored fakes.)
Entertainment has always functioned as a supernormal stimulus for social instincts, playing upon our urges to get to know people and attend to compelling events.
That's just what I've been saying. Instead of getting to know the real people around us, instead of entering into fruitful journeys into our personal imaginations, we rush towards the candy of purposefully prepared stories. Like Bastian before the start of The Neverending Story, we read libraries full of books without ever going to Fantastica.
But the next sentences of Supernormal Stimuli are just weird:
It is also an area where supernormal stimuli can potentially have supernormal payoffs. A great novelist constructs characters who act out a drama that will move us, teach us, and leave us better for the imaginary interaction than we'd be if we had spent the same amount of time interacting with those around us.
The giant neon story is better than the real story we ignore because it's a "great" novel? As much as I love novels, I can't go along with that. Barrett seems to be conflating the quality of storytelling with its ability to replace real social ties. It doesn't matter how well designed the giant day-glo eggs are; what matters is that the birds let their own children die as a result.
Barrett then goes on to spend pages making fun of the insipid wasteland of television. At this point I've lost my confidence in her book, and not only because TV is such an easy target. I'm not sure she understands what personal storytelling is for. Better than if we had spent the same amount of time interacting with those around us! Sure, if we already spent lots of time interacting with those around us, like we used to. But given how much time we spend doing that now -- not just sitting next to each other but actually exchanging experiences -- I'm not sure that reading any book could be a better use of our time. Saying great novels are better than personal interaction is like saying wine is finer than water. Normally that might be true, but in the desert, water saves lives.
But this is a distraction, and I'm on a trail, so I put my nose down again and start sniffing. Next I find that Guy DeBord keeps popping up in essays about the supernormal stimulus and attraction to the "better than real" alternative. From his book The Society of the Spectacle:
In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation.
"Everything that is directly lived" is what we explore when we tell and listen to personal stories, and it's hard to miss the spectacle in the commercial stories we are fed every day. This is familiar ground, the same ground I've walked in every previous essay I've written on this topic. Next I blunder into Umberto Eco's concept of the "authentic fake" and how places like Disneyland attempt to improve on the mundane with the "hyperreality" of over-the-top escapism. Then I start reading about the Situationists and detournement and No Logo ...
And then I get this feeling. It's the feeling I always get after a visit from some very nice, caring, totally well-meaning friends who are adamant I-need-to-know-what-you-have-cooked-in-that-pan-for-the-past-twenty-years vegans. I would never want to say anything against these friends, or against vegans in general. But every time I wave goodbye to them, I find myself looking for some dairy or meat to eat (even though I don't eat that much meat). There's just something about strong stances against moderation in things that are partly bad for us that makes me want to indulge myself a little. Every time somebody says I shouldn't have sugar in my coffee, or coffee, I go and get myself a cup of coffee with sugar in it. (This is also why I reread Dostoyevsky's Notes from the Underground, my favorite treatise on refusing to go along quietly, every few years. "Merciful Heavens! but what do I care for the laws of nature and arithmetic, when, for some reason I dislike those laws and the fact that twice two makes four?")
So I get this feeling, as I said, and it causes me to start thinking about the whole issue of escapism and personal storytelling, and about the essays I've been writing. It can't have missed your attention that the two primary vehicles I have used to rail against commercial storytelling have been novels. Isn't that contradictory? Don't I undermine my own argument? Of course I do.
Also: I like to watch television. I am still reading "great" novels, and I stopped watching broadcast television a long time ago, but I've fallen into the binge-watching habit just like everybody else. A few months ago I absorbed the entire TV show Parenthood through a steady drip into my imagination. And you know what? For me, right then, it was a door to Fantastica. It led me on many journeys through my personal imagination, exploring issues of family, marriage, and the raising of children. It was television, and it was helpful to me.
Have I just contradicted everything I said in the essays I wrote years ago? Not really. I've just placed some boundaries on my concern. I can get excited about a way of living we have forgotten without calling for the wholesale destruction of the way we live now.
Besides, something has changed in the past several years. There is something good growing in the world of storytelling. Of course many elements of commercial storytelling still cause people to withdraw into useless escapist fantasies. But people aren't staying there as long or as often as they did.
One example lies in fan fiction. This form of crossover between public and personal imagination is thriving and becoming more respected, as evidenced by the term fanon, or alternatively-canonical aspects of popular fan fiction. Here's an example from the page on fanon on the Harry Potter wiki:
[T]he character Nyota Uhura was officially given her first name Nyota after more than 40 years in the 2009 Star Trek film, and the name originated as fanon.
There's even a term for fan ideas that are taken up by authors: ascended fanon (that is, fanon that becomes canon). Nyota's first name is a perfect example of ascended fanon.
And it's not just fan fiction. Today every television show has discussion groups, and these are not the internally focused "fan clubs" of the past. Some of these groups reach out and influence the plots of the shows they love. People are beginning to insist, for example, that television shows and movies better represent the diversity of their viewers, and writers are beginning to listen.
Another factor is the proliferation of anybody-can-play storytelling on the internet, such as on YouTube. My son watches lots of ordinary people chronicling their everyday lives on YouTube, and he doesn't make much of a distinction between a guy in his truck talking about his trucking business and a big Disney production.
In short, the audience isn't just sitting and watching anymore. We're up and moving around.
There are two ways for a commercial story to interact with public and personal imaginations: as a template and as a resource. When a commercial story is used as a template, people try to shape themselves to it, distorting their true identities (what they really and truly want) in the process. When a commercial story is used as a resource, the story changes shape to meet the needs of its viewers.
It's a difference of control. When people have control over the stories they consume, or when they believe they have control (which may be the same thing), the proportion of stories that lead people to Fantastica increases, and the influence of the escapist cycle decreases. That's what I see happening today.
Here's a representative tidbit from a recent report on the future of television from EY’s Global Media and Entertainment Center:
[V]iewer expectation of control will extend to control of the story arc through social interaction. .... Viewers increasingly want to be part of the experience. This is, in part, why celebrity Twitter feeds are so popular -- the most popular celebrities actively communicate directly with loyal fans, making the experience even more personal, which leads to deeper connections. Story is everything, but a story with a personal connection is unbeatable.
Thus I have some hope that the increased quantity and intensity of discourse around commercial stories today signals a return of storytelling to a healthier balance between the public and the personal.
Sometimes I wonder if Michael Ende saw this coming, because The Neverending Story treats the escapist cycle as relatively non-threatening. The fact that only some books lead to Fantastica, and that some people read magic books without realizing it, is not presented as a positive evil. It's just an inevitable fact that the right fit for a journey into the private imagination will always be hit-and-miss. Ende reserves most of his ire for the Manipulators who deny the importance of the imagination.
When Bastian brings The Neverending Story back to Mr. Coreander, the old man says:
"Every real story is a Neverending Story." He passed his eyes over the many books that covered the walls of his shop from floor to ceiling, pointed the stem of his pipe at them, and went on:
"There are many doors to Fantastica, my boy. There are other such magic books. A lot of people read them without noticing. It all depends on who gets his hands on such books."
"Then the Neverending Story is different for different people?"
"That's right," said Mr. Coreander. "And besides, it's not just books. There are other ways of getting to Fantastica and back. You'll find out."
Mr. Coreander doesn't say that all books, or even all works of fiction, take you to Fantastica. My guess is that in Mr. Coreander's view, and in Michael Ende's view, an imaginative work that invites people on a journey through both public and personal imaginations is a door to Fantastica. Works that don't invite people on such journeys draw them instead into endless cycles of escapism that lead nowhere. Audiences today are demanding more of the former type of work.
There's another hint as to what a "real story" entails later in the book, when Bastian's Fantastican companions are entertaining themselves with a song:
Their favorite song seemed to be one that began with the words:
"When that I was and a little tiny boy
With Hey, ho, the wind and the rain . . ."
As they explained, this had been sung by a human who had visited Fantastica long years before, name of Shexper, or something of the sort.
The implication is that all works of great literature were born in Fantastica and can lead us back to it.
But the doorway into Fantastica depends on more than what kind of book one finds. Whether a book is a book or a doorway to Fantastica depends also on the reader and their circumstances. What I think Ende is saying here is that we can't rely on things like books and movies to take us into our private imaginations on their own power. We have to read or watch them in the right spirit and at the right time, and we have to apply ourselves to what they tell us. We have to make the magic work. It can't be done for us or to us. We have to be willing to go on our own journeys if we want to do more than just escape from life.
Thus the problem today is not so much that we have commercial stories, but that we have come to believe that only commercial stories are stories. The best way to counter the problem is not to remove or denigrate commercial stories; it is to develop our collective ability to use commercial stories as resources for fruitful journeys through our own imaginations.
Choosing theway of wishes
To think about Bastian's choice to use his last wishes to leave Fantastica, I think we need to consider what Bastian's wishes are like before and after he stumbles into the City of Lost Emperors. I count a total of twenty wishes he makes in the second half of the book, with only three after he leaves the City.
Bastian's very first wish is to see the Childlike Empress again. It isn't exactly clear that he can see the Childlike Empress immediately after he makes the wish, because it's dark, but she must be with him, since she hands him the seed of Fantastica. His second wish is that the seed come alive. These first two wishes are simple and seem to have no symbolic value. They represent Bastian's entry into the story, and they show us the power of his wishes to rebuild Fantastica.
Bastian's third wish is an interesting one. He wishes, explicitly this time, that "everything would stay like this forever." This wish is not granted, even though the Childlike Empress has just finished saying that he can have all the wishes he wants ("the more, the better"). She merely says, "The moment is forever" and does nothing.
It's an important refusal. A common thread runs through the Childlike Empress, AURYN, Sikanda (the magical sword Bastian receives from Grograman) and Al Tsahir (the magical stone Bastian receives in the Silver City of Amarganth). They all respond badly to the conscious use of force, to asserting one's will on a situation rather than letting events emerge from deep within.
When Cairon (the emissary of the Childlike Empress) gives AURYN to Atreyu, he says:
"AURYN gives you great power," he said solemnly, "but you must not make use of it. For the Childlike Empress herself never makes use of her power. AURYN will protect you and guide you, but whatever comes your way you must never interfere, because from this moment on your own opinion ceases to count. For that same reason you must go unarmed. You must let what happens happen. Everything must be equal in your eyes, good and evil, beautiful and ugly, foolish and wise, just as it is in the eyes of the Childlike Empress. You may only search and inquire, never judge. Always remember that, Atreyu!"
Later, when Grograman gives the sword Sikanda to Bastian, he says:
"Nothing in all Fantastica can resist it," said Grogaman, "neither rock nor steel. But you must not use force. Whatever may threaten you, you may wield it only if it leaps into your hand of its own accord as it did now. It will guide your hand and by its own power will do what needs to be done. But if your will makes you draw it from its sheath, you will bring great misfortune on yourself and on Fantastica. Never forget that."
Those are strangely similar warnings, don't you think?
Much later, Bastian forces Al Tsahir to light the sky so the Monks of Knowledge can see the attic where he once sat (now sits?) reading The Neverending Story. The inscription that introduced Al Tsahir in the Silver City of Amarganth didn't explicitly say that using the stone in that way would cause problems later on. But I knew something was wrong the first time I saw Bastian use Al Tsahir to light up the night sky. The consequence of forcing Al Tsahir to bend to Bastian's will became apparent in Yor's Minroud mine (as the inscription said it would):
"Weren't you given a light for your long journey?" Yor asked, looking through Bastian. "A sparkling stone or something that might help you now?"
"Yes," said Bastian sadly. "But I used Al Tsahir for something else."
"That's bad," Yor said again.
"Then what do you advise?" Bastian asked.
After a long silence the miner replied: "Then you'll just have to work in the dark."
Skipping forward, Bastian's twelfth wish is to force the Childlike Empress to see him again. And again, his wish is not granted. He arrives at the Ivory Tower to find the Childlike Empress gone.
Moon Child must have known that he was on his way to her. Could it be that she didn't want to see him again? ... [H]e felt bitterly disappointed.... Whatever her reasons may have been, he found her behavior unbelievable, no, insulting.
Soon after, when Bastian forces Sikanda out of its sheath, at the nadir of his journey, he wounds his best friend and destroys the Ivory Tower.
It can't be an accident that four important elements of the story follow the same pattern. Bastian is presented with a paradox: you must do what you wish, but you must never use the force of your will. You must let your wishes grow within you.
My feeling is that these conflicting rules symbolize the difference between our conscious rational plans and our deep emotional needs, which are sometimes at odds. Ende seems to be saying that when it comes to going on imaginative journeys through our inner worlds, we can only succeed if we put aside rational thoughts and let our subconscious wishes guide us.
What does this mean about personal storytelling? I can't help but be reminded of the observation I've often made about people and stories: that storytelling works best when we don't realize we are telling stories. When we're just living and talking, telling stories is a natural part of making sense of our lives. Personal stories well up in us like wishes well up in Bastian. This, Ende seems to be saying, is the true use of our imagination: to surprise ourselves with our deepest wishes and dreams. When our personal stories leap into our hands of their own accord, they are ready to be spread more widely. When they do not, we can still overpower them by the force of our will, but the action will not end well for them or for us.
We've now covered the first three wishes and the twelfth wish. What about the rest?
Wishes four (to be as handsome as a prince), five (to be strongest), six (to reign over a land), seven (to be inured to hardship), eight (to be courageous), and nine (to be admired) all compare Bastian to a figure who is dominant in his mind: Atreyu, the hero of the story he has been reading. Atreyu is all of these things to Bastian because his portrayal in the story draws on the archetypal qualities of all heroes.
Do you remember when I said above that a commercial story can be seen as a template or a resource? In this part of The Neverending Story, Bastian is using the story he has just read (and the folk tales it springs from) as a template for his own identity. He wants to be those things not because he needs them but because he wants to emulate them.
After his eighth wish, Bastian meets Atreyu in the flesh. Right away he feels that he doesn't measure up.
Somehow it seemed to him that Atreyu was less impressed with his victory over Hero Hynreck and even by his stay with Grograman since he heard that he, Bastian, was wearing the Gem. And true enough, he thought, maybe his feats didn't amount to much, considering that he had the amulet to protect him. But he wanted to win Atreyu's wholehearted admiration.
So off he goes on another quest to become someone else, not in an abstract sense this time but to impress a particular person. Wishes ten (to be uniquely admired), eleven (to be in charge of the welfare of others), thirteen (to be seen as a benefactor), fourteen (to be seen as dangerous), fifteen (to be seen as important), and sixteen (to be seen as wise) are all directed at Atreyu.
Perversely, in Bastian's view, Atreyu doesn't care about these abundant proofs of Bastian's worth. That's because Atreyu never needed any such proofs in the first place. He was prepared to accept the fat pale boy he saw in the Magic Mirror, the boy he remembers when Bastian can't. Because he is Bastian's true friend, Atreyu is more concerned about the memories Bastian is losing and about his ultimate fate. This makes Atreyu a hero in both the first half of the book (where his mission is to reach Bastian) and the second half (where his mission is to help Bastian find his way home). Bastian is the protagonist of the book, but Atreyu is the more heroic figure. (We'll get to the allegorical meanings of Atreyu's choices later on.)
Let's look again at what Cairon said about AURYN.
Everything must be equal in your eyes, good and evil, beautiful and ugly, foolish and wise, just as it is in the eyes of the Childlike Empress.
For most of his first sixteen wishes, Bastian has been on a quest to appear (to himself and to others) as good, beautiful, and wise. Every part of himself has not been equal in his eyes. He has been trying to mold his identity to a template provided by the stories he knows. (It's true that wishes fourteen through sixteen were suggested by Xayide, but she would not have been able to entice Bastian into them if he had not been already thinking of them.)
At this point we've considered nearly all of the wishes Bastian makes before he gets to the City of Lost Emperors. His last wasted wish is to replace the Childlike Empress and become the new Emperor of Fantastica.
This wish isn't like any other wish in the list. I said that some of the previous wishes were suggested by Xayide; but this wish was created by Xayide. In a move as dastardly as the Manipulators sending Gmork to kill Atreyu, Xayide uses all of her skills of persuasion (and all of the clout she has built by pretending to be Bastian's slave) to convince him to take over the Ivory Tower and become the Childlike Emperor of Fantastica.
And then Xayide spoke to him of a new Fantastica, a world molded in every detail to Bastian's taste, where he could create and destroy just as he pleased, where every creature, good or bad, beautiful or ugly, wise or foolish, would be the product of his will alone, and he would reign supreme and inscrutable, playing an everlasting game with the destinies of his subjects.
It is in this moment that Xayide draws up to her full and horrific strength, when she creates a danger to Fantastica equal to the Nothing in the first part of the story.
You might wonder: why shouldn't Bastian become Emperor of Fantastica? What's wrong with what Xayide has outlined here? There's a possibly subtle but critical difference in the way these two Empires are described. You may have noticed it already.
Let's look back at how the Childlike Empress was introduced into the story, way back at the start.
The Childlike Empress -- as her title indicates -- was looked upon as the ruler over all the innumerable provinces of the Fantastican Empire, but in reality she was far more than a ruler; she was something entirely different.
She didn't rule, she had never used force or made use of her power. She never issued commands and she never judged anyone. She never interfered with anyone and never had to defend herself against any assailant; for no one would have thought of rebelling against her or of harming her in any way. In her eyes all her subjects were equal.
She was simply there in a special way. She was the center of all life in Fantastica.
Both figures -- the Childlike Empress and the Childlike Emperor Bastian could become, as Xayide describes it -- are godlike in their powers. But the Childlike Empress exists to support Fantastica, while Fantastica would exist to support Bastian.
Consider the contrasts. The Childlike Empress never interferes with her subjects; in Xayide's vision, Bastian would play with his. The words "good or bad, beautiful or ugly, wise or foolish" are repeated in Xayide's speech, but in a grotesque distortion of their original meaning. For Bastian these would not be qualities to be appreciated and accepted, but playthings he would torture Fantasticans with, shaping them by forcing his will upon them (there's that word will again). Instead of being the "center of life in all Fantastica," Bastian would look down upon it from above, isolated by the use of his monstrous power.
The more I compare these two passages, the more I can see that Xayide was enticing Bastian to become not the loving god of Fantastica but its demented demon. It's no wonder that Atreyu felt he had no choice but to fight Bastian.
It is with relief that I feel we can turn to Bastian's last three wishes: eighteen (to be part of something larger than himself), nineteen (to be unconditionally loved), and twenty (to be capable of love). Finally, and with courage in his heart, Bastian discards his manipulative slave and follows the path of wishes he should have been following from the start of the story.
There's an interesting point of contact between Bastian's ninth wish and his eighteenth. The ninth wish starts in a promising way:
Since he was no longer afraid of anything, a new wish began, imperceptibly at first, then more distinctly, to take shape within him: the wish to be alone no longer. Even in the company of the Many-Colored Death he was alone in a way.
But in the very next sentence Bastian goes astray:
He wanted to exhibit his talents to others, to be admired and to become famous.
If Bastian had gone directly from the wish to be with other people to his nearly identical eighteenth wish, which led to his life with the communitarian Yskalnari, his journey through Fantastica might have been very different. He would never have lost himself in trying to impress others. He would never have made himself vulnerable to exploitation by Xayide. He would never have wounded Atreyu. I find this point of connection truly sad. If only Bastian had understood that what he truly wanted was not to be first or best but to be included.
It is only much later that Bastian comes to the wish he should have chosen at the start:
For days and nights he had been wandering all alone. And because of being alone, he yearned to belong to some sort of community, to be taken into a group, not as a master or victor or as any special sort of person, but merely as one among many, perhaps as the smallest or least important, provided his membership in the community was unquestioned.
That's the wish that leads him to the Yskalnari. Why didn't Bastian wish this early on in the book? What does it mean that Bastian's journey brought him back to what was essentially the same wish, but finally considered in a more honest, authentic, and inward-looking way? And what can this tell us about personal storytelling?
Here's my guess. We humans compare ourselves to others. It's something we can't help doing. There are good things about social comparison: it helps people amend anti-social behaviors like bigotry and cruelty. But social comparison also makes us pay more attention to how other people look and what they say than to what we really and truly want. Bastian, because he represents you and me, falls headlong into the trap of social comparison, and it nearly strands him in Fantastica. At least twelve of his twenty wishes are linked to social comparison. He doesn't just want to be handsome and strong and courageous. He wants to be exceptionally so: "The strongest in the world!"
This means that the real danger Bastian faces is not so much getting lost in his personal fantasy but getting lost in his personal interpretation of the public imagination. The Nothing creeps into Fantastica from the "human world," and the public imagination creeps into the personal imagination and disrupts Bastian's journey. That's why in my diagram I separate the personal imagination into two parts: the outward-looking portion, where Bastian is absorbed in social comparison, and the inward-looking portion, where Bastian is finally ready to drill down to the core of what he really and truly wants.
In some ways the most important passage in the book is the one that comes after Bastian has left the Yskalnari and is on his way (without knowing it) to Dame Eyola.
He no longer wanted to be the greatest, strongest, or cleverest. He had left all that far behind. He longed to be loved just as he was, good or bad, handsome or ugly, clever or stupid, with all his faults--or possibly because of them.
But what was he actually like?
Even now, at nearly the end of the book, Bastian is still only beginning to embark on his real journey. I get the feeling that he will soon be back in Fantastica, with his father, going on the journey he should have been on the first time. Also notice how those words are repeated once more: "good or bad, handsome or ugly, clever or stupid." These are the things Bastian was obsessed with achieving, and proving he had achieved, during most of his journey. These are the things that led him astray and nearly drove him insane. It is only when Bastian understands their equivalence, as the Childlike Empress does, that he finds his true path.
Stories and danger in Bastian's path of wishes
Recall that AURYN represents two balances: the intermingling of imagination with reality, and the mixed power and danger of stories. The path of Bastian's wishes opens up the power and danger of stories to find two more balances nested within: between subconscious desire and conscious will; and between introspection and social comparison. This, according to Ende, is what it means that stories have both power and danger.
While thinking about these balances, I remembered that I've thought about the power and danger of stories for quite a while now. In my book More Work with Stories I list a series of dangers people face in telling stories to themselves and others about topics they care about. These dangers are derived from my reading of the research literature around storytelling and my observations of people sharing stories. I wondered if these dangers might relate to the dangers Bastian faced in his journey through Fantastica.
My list of dangers was:
Audience danger: those listening to the story won't find it worth hearing. People wonder: will my story be well received?
Character danger: those represented in the story won't like the way I represent them. People wonder: will they mind my story about them?
Performance danger: I will fail to meet a requirement or expectation based on my involvement in the community. People wonder: is this what I was supposed to do?
Self-disclosure danger: I will have to confront painful truths about myself and my life. People wonder: will dredging up this memory hurt?
Technology danger: my story, perhaps told in the heat of emotion, could be spread far and wide without my control or consent. People wonder: will I read this on the internet?
Community danger: I will draw out memories and facts the community has tucked away by implicit consensus.People wonder: will they say I was the one who told?
It might seem like Bastian in Fantastica would have little in common with a group of people sharing stories in a room, but actually the connections are strong. Bastian is not telling stories, but he is choosing stories he wants to tell, to himself and to those around him. Similarly, in a group confronting a problem, the perception of danger in storytelling manifests itself mainly in which stories people choose to tell.
One thing that people often don't understand about story sharing is that when people feel nervous about telling stories, they don't stop telling stories. They just tell different stories. Like Bastian, they choose stories that distract them from the journey they need to make. Getting past these perceived dangers is something I pay a lot of attention to, because my job is to help people work with their stories to get to where they need to go.
Let's go through the exercise of considering how the dangers of storytelling connect to the reasons Bastian went off course in Fantastica.
Audience danger: will my story be well received? Bastian's awareness of how the stories of his adventures will be received, by Atreyu and by others, is clearly foremost in his mind right up until he reaches the City of Lost Emperors. Here's a telling piece from his adventures in Perilin, the Night Forest, that shows his outward focus:
He spat on his hands, took hold of a liana, and pulled himself up hand over hand, without using his legs, as he had seen acrobats do in the circus. For a moment a vision--a pale memory of the past--came to him of himself in gym class, dangling like a sack of flour from the bottommost end of the rope, while the rest of the class cackled with glee. He couldn't help smiling. How they would gape if they saw him now! They'd be proud to know him. But he wouldn't even look at them.
Notice that even the way he climbs the liana is formed as a social comparison. He doesn't just climb; he climbs like "the acrobats in the circus." It's not so much the danger of being ugly, weak, or stupid that propels Bastian; it's the danger of being perceived as such by others. When Bastian first meets the Childlike Empress in person, nearly his first thought is about how he can't measure up to the kind of hero she must be expecting.
Bastian felt that he was blushing. "I mean," he said, "somebody strong and brave and handsome--maybe a prince--anyway, not someone like me."
She reprimands him for not realizing that she is happy to accept him in any form, but the lesson is lost on him. Then before he discovers (and creates) the Desert of Colors:
He was handsome and strong, but somehow that wasn't enough for him. He also felt the need to be tough and inured to hardship like Atreyu.
Before he meets Grograman:
"I wish I could run into a great adventure, something calling for great courage. How grand it would be to meet some dangerous creature--maybe not as hideous as Ygramul, but much more dangerous."
As strong and brave and handsome as Atreyu; as tough as Atreyu; capable of facing an even more dangerous monster than Atreyu.
It's funny that I never noticed Bastian's focus on Atreyu when I was just reading the book. It was only when I copied out the twenty paragraphs that described the moments of Bastian's wishes that I could see how consumed he was with his appearance in front of others. Atreyu was more than a hero to Bastian. He was everything Bastian was not. It's no wonder that Bastian used most of the energy of his wishes to follow the template Atreyu set out for him. Character danger: will they mind my story about them? Bastian's journey reminds me of that old joke: "That's enough about me; what do you think about me?" He is so centered on himself (even though he is obsessed with how other people think about him) that he never seems to give a thought to the feelings or experiences of those around him. There are moments when he seems to act compassionately towards others -- when he conjures up a dragon for Hero Hyreck; when he sends Yikka the mule to meet her dream lover -- but really he is only using these characters as means to display his power and magnanimity.
It is only when Bastian sees his father in Yor's mine that he has a genuine feeling of compassion for someone else.
[H]e saw a man wearing a white smock and holding a plaster cast in one hand. His posture and the troubled look on his face touched Bastian to the heart. But what stirred him the most was that the man was shut up in a transparent but impenetrable block of ice.
Nothing in Bastian's journey "touched Bastian to the heart" until this moment. Even when he wounded his best friend, when "blood spurted from a gaping wound," Bastian felt no compassion. He "wiped the sweat from his brow" and kept fighting.
Actually, I'm partly wrong when I say that nothing touched Bastian until he saw his father. Remember the wish that led Bastian to join the Yskalnari, and how it connected to Bastian's earlier wish to be with others? There's another touchpoint, another place where the story circles around, in the two moments when Bastian felt compassion for Grograman and for his father.
The lion's eyes were black and as dead as the rock. Grograman had turned to stone. The lights flared for an instant and went out, leaving the cave in total darkness.
Bastian wept bitterly. The stone lion was wet with his tears. In the end, the boy curled up between the great paws and fell asleep!
Both Grograman and Bastian's father endured their pain in darkness, and both caused Bastian to feel a surge of compassion. If Bastian had followed that compassion after he left Grograman, instead of becoming enthralled by his own image in the mirror of social comparison, his journey might have been different. Grograman seems to have been aware of what was next for Bastian when he admonished him for thinking simply and naïvely about "good" wishes. But like any good parent, Grograman knew he had no choice but to let Bastian make his own mistakes.
Surprisingly, I think a stronger perception of character danger could have had a good impact on Bastian's journey. I suspect Ende meant to urge us to pay more attention to the respectful inclusion of other people in the stories we tell. (More on that later.)
Performance danger: is this what I was supposed to do? I can see quite a bit of this type of danger in Bastian's behavior, and it's not all his fault. When Bastian finds Hero Hynreck and his traveling companions, they are abuzz with news of a tournament whose goal is to choose adventurers to find the Savior (and it is capitalized) of Fantastica. Bastian can't be held accountable for the celebrity worship bestowed on him. In fact, he might not have wasted so many of his wishes if he hadn't been held up by so many Fantasticans as some kind of conquering hero.
I wonder what Ende meant by having Bastian find himself treated as a celebrity. It could follow from Bastian's wish to "exhibit his talents to others, to be admired and to become famous." But Ende could have had Bastian endure new trials to earn his fame instead of simply walking into it. Or he could have had Bastian go through his journey without ever being known as the Savior of Fantastica.
I wonder if Ende might have been referring to his own journey by pointing out that fame can be thrust upon people whose only goal is to follow their journey where it leads them. Here's a telling excerpt from Ende's biography on his web site:
Michael Ende was by no means the first writer to find popularity burdensome, but on occasions the intrusion into his private life became intense. Enthusiastic readers would make the pilgrimage from Germany to visit 'their author' in Rome. Turning up at Ende's villa in Genzano, they entered the grounds unannounced and strolled into the house. 'Once they've ticked off the Basilica, it's time to visit Ende,' the author once commented. 'Before I know it, I’ve got mum, dad and the kids just metres away from me, watching while I eat.' Ende was aware that his life was becoming public property, but found it hard to get rid of his readers, especially since they often took offence.
A mountain of post gathered every day, usually from enthusiastic readers who congratulated him on his work, asked questions about individual passages, and wanted to know more about his ideas. But Ende also received letters from people asking him to share their problems, whether psychological, financial, romantic, clinical, philosophical or political in origin. At first Ende replied to each and every letter, although he was soon forced to be more selective as the volume of mail increased.
Bastian's life also becomes "public property," and he also has trouble dealing with the pull of celebrity toward vanity. I believe, from what I have read of Ende's life, that he succeeded in walking this difficult path; but it seems to have taken some effort to remain humble and true to his beliefs.
Incidentally, when I was searching in More Work with Stories for the list of storytelling dangers I copied here, I blundered onto these paragraphs of advice to story facilitators:
To reduce performance danger, make sure your expectations in collecting stories are both clear and low. Why low? Because the more you pressure people to turn out useful stories, the less useful their
This clip may call out some strange imagining; some distant vision of myriad worlds, bound to geodesics like notes to melodies; some starless vision of alien oceans. We see sea life orbit in liquid ellipses; a thousand lives swimming, floating, like space debris, or the sounds in an unwritten symphony; soft against faintly-curved gravity, governed in the finest grain of time, like planets and stars under glass, and indifferent.
Naturally, I expected to see appreciative comments for this video, and truly appreciative, at the very least, for offering a moment's escape from internet inanity. I was, then, quite surprised to see comments such as the following, which follow this clip wherever it's posted.
1) Mixed feelings ... As a Scuba Diver I want to do nothing but get in there , But as a Person all I want to do is to put them back in the Sea where they belong . They are so wonderfull. But it dose WOW me.
2) It's so beautiful, but at the same time its very sad to know that those animals are stuck in a box with no freedom to swim where they wish, being surrounded by people who watch them all the time. It's sort of like prison to me.
3) Or you can look at it as cages and the animals can't escape. These animals are meant to have HUGE areas to swim in and swim miles and miles. They need that. It is not our right to take them away from their natural homes, no matter how it educates us. We can be educated through video and lessons, not imprisoning other species. Of course, we know that no one really gives a shit about fish. This is an affected piety to signal one’s commitment to Gaiaism, which is a perversion of a perversion of Christianity.
It's disgusting that Christianity, the foundation of Western culture, has been contorted into these sickening, hyper-feminine worldviews; it becomes more intense and irrational once limits set by tradition and command are stripped away. Its permutability allows for markets and scientific revolutions, but its more strongly imprinted traits inevitably evolve, in the absence of religious dogma, toward totalitarian ideologies.
Mencius Moldbug brilliantly describes the metamorphosis of "mainline progressive Protestantism", the dominant U.S. denomination, into "Universalism" here. TGGP originally noted that Islam seemed the best fit for Moldbug's system. Islam is a comparatively stable, immutable system, far less open to interpretation. The beliefs of a poor Muslim today roughly approximate those of a poor Muslim a hundred years ago. This stability comes at the cost of innovation, for which the Muslim world traditionally relied on conquered dhimmis through 500 years of Jihad. Once the main force of Jihad was smashed by a hammer - once the flow of dhimmi intellectuals ran dry - so too did the innovative ability of the Muslim world.
The Jihad, while it lasted, worked splendidly. The first step was to create a mob of sexually repressed adolescents, removing, through burqa chic, the possibility of seeing a woman; removing, through status-based polygamy, the possibility of marriage; promising, if they left living, the captured women of enemies; promising, if they left rotting, a paradise of 72 virgins; and finally, before any unbowed nation: let loose those sex-crazed hordes.
Their caste system was also quite innovative, allowing the Christian and Jewish populations of the Middle East to live and work as dhimmis who paid a special tax (the jizyah), providing much needed intellectual capital to those nations of rapist warriors.
As Emerson said, “ … without great men, great crowds of people in a nation are disgusting; like moving cheese, like hills of ants, or of fleas-the more, the worse.”
The national average IQ of oil-rich Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia, is disturbingly low. Only Muslim countries show this disconnect between wealth and intelligence, owing largely to being unearned ... and to the fact that "(i)n Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan close to half of all marital pairings are between first or second cousins," and "Among Muslims in West Asia and North Africa, the ideal marriages are arranged ones with first cousins".
Still, Islam’s stability is its strength. We do not want a nation of freethinkers, as freethinkers won't be willing to kill infidels over cartoons. We want a stable mass of near moronity - the current average of the Muslim world is less than a standard deviation away - from which we can pluck hairy human suicide-bombs with too low a capacity for abstract thought to see irony in responding to this statement by the former Pope - "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached" - with the following:
"At least five churches were attacked by Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. In the West Bank city of Nablus, firebombings left black scorch marks on the walls and windows of the city's Anglican and Greek Orthodox churches. At least five firebombs hit the Anglican church and its door was later set ablaze. A group called the Lions of Monotheism who said they were carried out to protest the pope's speech.
Later that day, four masked gunmen doused the main doors of Nablus' Roman and Greek Catholic churches with lighter fluid, then set them afire. They also opened fire on the buildings, striking both with bullets. In Gaza City, militants opened fire from a car at a Greek Orthodox church, striking the facade. Explosive devices were set off at the same Gaza church on Friday, causing minor damage. There were no claims of responsibility for the last three attacks.
Several organizations, such as Al-Qaeda and the Mujahideen Shura Council threatened in a joint statement: 'you and the West are doomed as you can see from the defeat in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, and elsewhere. ... We will break up the cross, spill the liquor and impose the jizya tax, then the only thing acceptable is a conversion (to Islam) or (being killed by) the sword. ... God enable us to slit their throats, and make their money and descendants the bounty of the Mujahideen.'
Employees of Ankara's Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı (Presidency of Religious Affairs), the state body that organizes Muslim worship in Turkey, asked the authorities on September 19 to open legal proceedings against Pope Benedict XVI and to arrest him when he visits the country in November 2006. They said the Pontiff had violated Turkish laws upholding freedom of belief and thought by 'insulting' Islam and the Prophet(sic) Muhammad."
"A previously unknown Baghdad-based group, Kataab Ashbal Al Islam Al Salafi (Islamic Salafist Boy Scout Battalions) threatened to kill all Christians in Iraq if the Pope does not apologize to Muhammad within three days. Christian Leaders in Iraq have asked their parishioners not to leave their homes, after two Christians were stabbed and killed in Baghdad.
There have been reports of writing in church doors stating 'If the Pope does not apologise, we will bomb all churches, kill more Christians and steal their property and money.'"
"The Iraqi militia Jaish al-Mujahedin (Holy Warriors' Army) announced its intention to "destroy their cross in the heart of Rome… and to hit the Vatican."
Despite the Pope's comments dying down in the media, attacks on Assyrian Christians continued and on 9 October, Islamic extremist group kidnapped priest Paulos Iskander. The relatives of a Christian priest who was beheaded 3 days later in Mosul, have said that his Muslim captors had demanded his church condemn the pope's recent comments about Islam and pay a $350,000 ransom."
We need warriors so exceedingly stupid that they'll blow themselves up in a room full of nuns to prove that Islam isn't violent (and get a shot at 72 cousins). Islam's stability is its strength - but its stupidity is its foundation.
If necessary, we can raise the rate of first cousin marriage, or even include sibling marriage, to lower the average IQ of our warriors as necessary. The use of burqas from birth, at all times - a minor but necessary revision - will circumvent the Westermarck effect. We will also need to relax the prohibition of music to some degree - our little tykes will need to do something to pass the time.
It is much easier to salvage a stable but flawed system than an unstable though formerly successful one. For that reason, we will tweak Islam, rather than Christianity, removing its design flaws and creating the world’s ultimate monotheistic, evangelistic, militaristic religion of peace: Neo-Muhammadanism.
Of course, a Neo-Muhammadanist Caliphate will necessarily be masculine, as would any designed not to drown in oceans of estrogen tears. Because in a world of universal, feminine empathy, your tears start to fall in strange fits of sympathy, till the day you reach out, with atrophied arms and finality, to type righteous pleas for the existential fulfillment of Japanese stingrays.
To solve the problem of the destruction of the intellectual class, we must provide an incentive for the dhimmis to remain dhimmis, and for high IQ Muslims to become dhimmis. We must spread high IQ genes through the Muslim population to prevent the intellectual decadence we see today, while at the same time leaving the idiot class intact.
We need this idiot class - it is the soul of Islam. It is not truly necessary for a society to have high average ability to be prosperous: recent research in "Smart Fraction Theory" shows that the relative ability of the society's brightest exerts greater effect than its national IQ.
Our method, then, becomes obvious: give dhimmis the droit de seigneur. We can justify this step superstitiously and religiously, or with some vague theory of Jewish conspiracies to kill devout Neo-Muhammadanists by means of virgin brides with polonium-laced vaginae. The dhimmis then become rather like royal tasters.
The droit will be given to the wealthiest and smartest of dhimmis. We imagine ten randomly selected virgins offered for every standard deviation from the mean in net worth or IQ (quarterly). Deflowerment will be viewed as Russian Roulette by the Neo-Muhammadanists, plagued as they'll be by images of shifty-eyed, hook-nosed Jews inserting glistening polonium pellets into ripening cherries, the surrounding skin tending to a sudden softening, a peeling; appealing, ripened - granted, yet dripping liquid carcinogens like skoal from hillbilly lips, all but glowing, permeating flesh and burqa, all but burning in rising metastatic masses, scraping and staining that lovely goat-skin gown.
To risk such horrors is clearly a task to be relegated to the lowly dhimmis, and those lowly, shrewd dhimmis will feign reluctance under those husbands' eyes, and under all eyes - save those of the deflowered? We may yet need to require fertility pills, or inform our loyal Neo-Muhammadanists that Jewish polonium requires several hours of direct contact over various days to cause death. The optimal fertility rate must be reached.
This is similar to the cuckoo strategy: brood parasitism. The cuckoo's eggs evolve quite rapidly to maximize success:
Many hosts of the Common Cuckoos, such as the Great Reed Warbler, learned to recognize the parasitic eggs and would simply eject the foreign eggs from their nests. The cuckoos countered by evolving eggs that mimicked those of the host. In fact, this mimicry is so good that one ornithologist had to use genetic markers to tell the difference between host eggs and parasitic eggs. The picture below is an excellent illustration on just how good this mimicry has become.
We can thus expect our half-dhimmi offspring to evolve to look like inbred Muslims, even while possessing genius-level IQ's. We want these firstborn, these who inherit their father’s IQ, these who are unafflicted by the defects of incest, to be capable of free thought and thus capable of rejecting this religion. We will thus change that sacred, holy, poetic command from, “If anyone changes his religion, kill him,” to “If anyone changes his religion, charge him a hefty exit tax.” In this way, only our high IQ Muslims can afford to become apostates, and our army of semi-moronic, bearded inbreds is preserved.
By the time Neo-Muhammadanism becomes a world religion (estimate: five years), gene sequencing will be widely available. We can then further improve the genetic potential of our dhimmi class:
“A recent advance in gathering eggs from women will make it much easier for choosey moms to give birth to geniuses. Two British fertility clinics have found a way of safely obtaining thousands of eggs from a woman. Fertility clinics, therefore, will soon be able to give a couple thousands of embryos to pick from. So let's say that a certain couple's genes mean that normally they have only a 1% chance of conceiving a child with the genetic potential to reach a genius IQ. With the ability to select among thousands of embryos, however, this couple could now almost guarantee that their offspring has the genetic potential of a genius.”
And apostates these geniuses must become. With proper breeding to maximize the Gini coefficient - or to effect some superior distribution -of IQ in the population, we will see huge differences in the IQ of the dhimmi-sired firstborn and his family. With a difference of two or more standard deviations between them, and a power-based family structure prone to honor killings - even in America - the bonds of love will not keep our chosen dhimmis from joining their apostate intellectual peers.
Neo-Muhammadanism also solves the problems of the West. Our smartest students have the lowest fertility; the declining fertility rate of Westerners in general presents rather difficult problems for the socialists. Neo-Muhammadanism solves both problems through its steady supply of the gifted to the crypto-aristocracy. The need for an aristocracy is readily apparent to any honest student of history. Thomas Jefferson said:
The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature, for the instruction, the trusts and government of society. And indeed, it would have been inconsistent in creation to have formed men for the social state, and not to have provided virtue and wisdom enough to manage the concerns of society.
And it is not only the West in which the aristocracy is dead or dying. In 2005, a Japanese mathematician named Masahiko Fujiwara released The Dignity of the Nation, which became a bestseller. Takuan Seiyo, a European living in Japan, summarizes and responds:
Freedom, Fujiwara writes, has degenerated into nothing more than unrestrained egotism. Equality is a fiction, a lie used to mask a reality of great inequality, or to wield as a club in the constant class, race and gender skirmishes roiling the West. Globalization is worldwide homogenization, and not to the highest common denominator. And democracy is based on an erroneous assumption: that people are capable of making mature and informed judgments.
Only a governing elite can curb democracy's tendency to run amok, says Fujiwara. Members of the elite must possess four characteristics: a broad cultural and historical erudition, an ability to see "the big picture," exceptional strength of character, and sufficient love of their people and country to sacrifice for them their lives in an hour of need. Japan, Fujiwara adds, used to but no longer has such an elite. One of his greatest delusions is that Great Britain, France, and the U.S. still do.
Our high-IQ elite will be erudite, visionary, and will have had the strength of character to leave their lifelong religions. They will not, of course, have any love for their Neo-Muhammadanist nations, and would likely not even sacrifice one single whale shark, let alone their lives, to keep an ICBM from annihilating Mecca (and Medina). But, for this purpose, we have our blessed idiots. They won't sacrifice their lives to save the whale shark, granted, but they would gladly perish, in glorious martyrdom, to kill you if you call it Muhammad.
So one of the duties of our aristocracy will have to be outsourced, but outsourcing is all the rage these days, and our dhimmis are still closer to a new, true aristocracy than our dying democracies will ever bring us.
It's that damn democraphilia of our time (remove it from your mind), ever seeking equality at the expense of liberty. Here is where Neo-Muhammadanism shines, hiding those gifts of the aristoi, even offering them freely in the form of gifted first-born children, and thus removing the appeal of jealousy-based politics.
The tendency of democracies to harden into various cancerous, lobbying cartels is one of the main causes of the steady loss of vitality and economic decline suffered by all aging democratic nations, as explained in 1982 by Mancur Olson. Examine one of his theory's postulates, 27 years old:
Special-interest groups also slow growth by reducing the rate at which resources are reallocated from one activity or industry to another in response to new technologies or conditions. One obvious way in which they do so is lobbying for bail-outs of failing firms, thereby delaying or preventing the shift of resources to areas where they would have a greater productivity.
Brilliant. And where lies the escape from their grasping, stifling paws?
Olson says that Germany and Japan did well because their special interest groups were shattered by military defeat. When new labor unions formed in Germany and Japan, they tended to be very broad-based and therefore had an incentive in the overall welfare of their societies.
The constant warfare of Neo-Muhammadanist societies, in both victory and defeat, will destroy those entrenched power structures, those innovation-stifling special interest groups, those corrupted bureaucracies and corporations. Intense intergovernmental competition will lead to hypercompetition of militaries, which will lead to astonishing technological progress. The constant influx of intellectuals through expansions of borders, coupled with the high IQ breeding program, will lead to a new explosion of revolutionary scientists, and our holy military will provide fulfillment, adventure, employment, and population control to our proles, who will believe themselves elite.
Source:- Google.com.pk Sad Girl Wallpaper Biography Scenes of Clerical Life is the title under which George Eliot's first published fictional work, a collection of three short stories, was released in book form, and the first of her works to be released under her famous pseudonym. The stories were first published in Blackwood's Magazine over the course of the year 1857, initially anonymously, before being released as a two-volume set by Blackwood and Sons in January 1858. The three stories are set during the last twenty years of the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century over a fifty year period. The Stories take place in and around the fictional town of Milby in the English Midlands. Each of the Scenes concerns a different Anglican clergyman, but is not necessarily centred upon him. Eliot examines, among other things, the effects of religious reform and the tension between the Established and the Dissenting Churches on the clergymen and their congregations, and draws attention to various social issues, such as poverty, alcoholism, and domestic violence. Contents [hide] 1 Background 1.1 Religious Context 2 Plot summary 2.1 "The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton" 2.2 "Mr. Gilfil's Love Story" 2.3 "Janet's Repentance" 3 Themes 3.1 Religion 3.2 Social Issues 4 Characters 4.1 "The Sad History of the Reverend Amos Barton" 4.2 "Mr Gilfil's Love Story" 4.3 "Janet's Repentance" 5 Reception and criticism 6 Subsequent releases and interpretations 7 Bibliography 8 References 9 External links Background
At the age of 36, Marian (or Mary Ann) Evans was a renowned figure in Victorian intellectual circles, having contributed numerous articles to The Westminster Review and translated into English influential theological works by Ludwig Feuerbach and Baruch Spinoza. For her first foray into fiction she chose to adopt a nom de plume, 'George Eliot'. Her reasons for so doing are complex. While it was common for women to publish fiction under their own names, 'lady novelists' had a reputation with which Evans did not care to be associated. In 1856 she had published an essay in the Westminster Review entitled Silly Novels by Lady Novelists, which expounded her feelings on the subject. Moreover, the choice of a religious topic for "one of the most famous agnostics in the country" would have seemed ill-advised. The adoption of a pen name also served to obscure Evans' somewhat dubious marital status (she was openly living with the married George Henry Lewes). It was largely due to the persuasion and influence of Lewes that the three Scenes first appeared in John Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine. He submitted the first story, The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton, on 6 November 1856. At first it appeared anonymously, at Lewes' insistence. "I am not at liberty to reveal the veil of anonymity - even as regards social position. Be pleased, therefore, to keep the whole secret." Public and professional curiosity was not to be suppressed, however, and on 5 February 1857 the author's 'identity' was revealed to Blackwood's: "Whatever may be the success of my stories, I shall be resolute in preserving my incognito ... and accordingly I subscribe myself, best and most sympathising of editors, Yours very truly George Eliot." For the settings of the stories, Eliot drew on her Warwickshire childhood. Chilvers Coton became Shepperton; Arbury Hall became Cheverel Manor, and its owner, Sir Roger Newdigate, Sir Christopher Cheverel. Nuneaton became Milby. Shepperton Church, described in detail in The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton, is recognisably that at Chilvers Coton. Further, the scandal attached to the curate of Chilvers Coton, whose wife was an intimate friend of the young Mary Ann Evans' mother, became the story of Amos Barton. Likewise, "Janet's Repentance" was largely based on events that took place in Nuneaton when the young Mary Anne Evans was at school, and which were recounted to her by her friend and mentor Maria Lewis. Mr Tryan is an idealised version of the evangelical curate John Edmund Jones, who died when Evans was aged twelve; the Dempsters seem to have been based on the lawyer J. W. Buchanan and his wife Nancy. Tryan's main area of concern, Paddiford Common, "hardly recognisable as a common at all", is similarly based on a real-life location, Stockingford.
George Eliot Religious Context See also: History of the Church of England - 19th Century George Eliot's intellectual journey to agnosticism had been circuitous, taking in "the easygoing Anglicanism of her family in the 1820s... the severe Calvinistic evangelicalism of her youth in the 1830s and her crisis of faith and search for a secular alternative to Christianity in the 1840s". (It should be noted that, during her evangelical phase, she was an evangelical Anglican; Maria Lewis, her mentor during this period, was anti-Nonconformist and refused to take a position as governess in a Nonconformist household. This distinction is important; during the nineteenth century it had significant implications for class and status. The Church of England enjoyed a unique position as the established church, and all the clergymen in Scenes of Clerical Life, including Tryan, are portrayed as being members of it.) By 1842 she had become agnostic, refusing to attend church with her father. Her friendship with Charles and Cara Bray, Unitarians of Coventry, and her theological studies, were probably responsible for her renunciation of Christianity. Scenes of Clerical Life is sympathetic to the Church and its ministers, however; Eliot "was too secure in her own naturalistic ethics to need to become crudely anti-religious. What she demanded was a freedom from fanaticism, dogma, intolerance and inhumanity in the preachers of the Gospel". During the period that George Eliot depicts in Scenes of Clerical Life religion in England was undergoing significant changes. While Dissenting (Nonconformist) Churches had been established as early as the Church of England itself, the emergence of Methodism in 1739 presented particular challenges to the Established Church. Evangelicalism, at first confined to the Dissenting Churches, soon found adherents within the Church of England itself. Meanwhile, at the other end of the religious spectrum, the Oxford Movement was seeking to emphasise the Church of England's identity as a catholic and apostolic Church, reassessing its relationship to Roman Catholicism. Thus in the early 19th century Midlands that George Eliot would later depict various religious ideas can be identified: the tension between the Established and the Dissenting Churches, and the differing strands within Anglicanism itself, between the Low church, the High church and the Broad church. Plot summary
"The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton" The titular character is the new curate of the parish church of Shepperton, a village near Milby. A pious man, but "sadly unsuited to the practice of his profession", Barton attempts to ensure that his congregation remains firmly within the care of the Church of England. His stipend is inadequate, and he relies on the hard work of Milly, his wife, to help keep the family. Barton is new to the village and subscribes to unpopular religious ideas; not all of the congregation accept him, but he feels that it is especially important to imbue them with what he sees as orthodox Christian views. Barton and Milly become acquainted with Countess Caroline Czerlaski. When the Countess' brother, with whom she lives, gets engaged to be married to her maid, she leaves home in protest. Barton and his wife accept the Countess into their home, much to the disapproval of the congregation, who assume her to be his mistress. The Countess becomes a burden on the already stretched family, accepting their hospitality and contributing little herself. With Milly pregnant and ill, the children's nurse convinces the Countess to leave. Milly dies following the premature birth of her baby (who also dies) and Barton is plunged into sadness at the loss. Barton's parishioners, who were so unsympathetic to him as their minister, support him and his family in their grief: "There were men and women standing in that churchyard who had bandied vulgar jests about their pastor, and who had lightly charged him with sin, but now, when they saw him following the coffin, pale and haggard, he was consecrated anew by his great sorrow, and they looked at him with respectful pity". Just as Barton is beginning to come to terms with Milly's death, he get more bad news: the vicar, Mr. Carpe, will be taking over at Shepperton church. Barton is given six-months notice to leave. He has no choice but to comply, but is disheartened, having at last won the sympathies of the parishioners. Barton believes that the request was unfair, knowing that the vicar's brother-in-law is in search of a new parish in which to work. However, he resigns himself to the move and at length obtains a living in a distant manufacturing town. The story concludes twenty years later with Barton at his wife's grave with one of his daughters: Patty. In the intervening years much has changed for Barton; his children have grown up and gone their separate ways. His son Richard is particularly mentioned as having shown talent as an engineer. Patty remains with her father. "Mr. Gilfil's Love Story" The second work in Scenes of Clerical Life is entitled "Mr. Gilfil's Love-Story" and concerns the life of a clergyman named Maynard Gilfil. We are introduced to Mr Gilfil in his capacity as the vicar of Shepperton, 'thirty years ago' (presumably the late 1820s) but the central part of the story begins in June 1788 and concerns his youth, his experiences as chaplain at Cheverel Manor and his love for Caterina Sarti. Caterina, known to the family as 'Tina', is an Italian orphan and the ward of Sir Christopher and Lady Cheverel, who took her into their care following the death of her father. In 1788 she is companion to Lady Cheverel and a talented amateur singer.
Arbury Hall, where Eliot's father was estate manager, and the model for Cheverel Manor Gilfil's love for Tina is not reciprocated; she is infatuated with Captain Anthony Wybrow, nephew and heir of Sir Christopher Cheverel. Sir Christopher intends Wybrow to marry a Miss Beatrice Assher, the daughter of a former sweetheart of his, and that Tina will marry Gilfil. Wybrow, aware of and compliant to his uncle's intentions, nonetheless continues to flirt with Tina, causing her to fall deeply in love with him. This continues until Wybrow goes to Bath in order to press his suit to Miss Assher. He is then invited to the Asshers' home, and afterwards returns to Cheverel Manor, bringing with him Miss Assher and her mother. Wybrow dies unexpectedly. Gilfil, finding a knife on Tina, fears that she has killed him, but the cause of death is in fact a pre-existing heart complaint. Tina runs away, and Gilfil and Sir Christopher fear that she has committed suicide. However, a former employee of Sir Christopher and Lady Cheverel returns to the manor to inform them that Tina has taken refuge with him and his wife. Gilfil seeks her out, helps her recover and marries her. It is hoped that marriage and motherhood, combined with Gilfil's love for her, which she now reciprocates, will endue her with a new zest for life. However, she dies in childbirth soon afterwards, leaving the curate to live out the rest of his life alone and die a lonely man. "Janet's Repentance" Janet's Repentance is the only story in Scenes of Clerical Life set in the town of Milby itself. Following the appointment of Reverend Mr Tryan to the chapel of ease at Paddiford Common, Milby is deeply divided by religious strife. One party, headed by the lawyer Robert Dempster, vigorously supports the old curate, Mr Crewe; the other is equally biased in favour of the newcomer. Edgar Tryan is an evangelical, and his opponents consider him to be no better than a dissenter. Opposition is based variously in doctrinal disagreement and on a suspicion of cant and hypocrisy on the part of Mr Tryan; in Dempster's wife, Janet, however, it stems from an affection for Mr Crewe and his wife, and the feeling that it is unkind to subject them to so much stress in their declining years. She supports her husband in a malicious campaign against Mr Tryan, despite the fact that Dempster is frequently drunkenly abusive to her, which drives her to drink in turn. One night her husband turns her out of the house; she takes refuge with a neighbour, and, remembering an encounter with Mr Tryan at the sickbed of one of his flock, where she was struck by an air of suffering and compassion about him, asks he might come to see her. He encourages her in her struggle against her dependence on alcohol and her religious conversion. Shortly afterwards Robert Dempster is thrown from his gig and seriously injured. Upon discovering what has happened, Janet, forgiving him, returns to her home and nurses him through the subsequent illness until he dies a few weeks later. Tryan continues to guide Janet toward redemption and self-sufficiency following the death of her husband. She, in turn, persuades him to move out of his inhospitable accommodation and into a house that she has inherited. It is hinted that a romantic relationship might subsequently develop between the two. His selfless devotion to his needy parishioners has taken his toll on his health, however, and he succumbs to consumption and dies young. Themes
Religion The theme of religion is always present in Scenes of Clerical Life, but is not always the explicit focus. "Lewes had promised Blackwood that the Scenes would show the clergy in their 'human', rather than their 'theological' aspect. In fact, Eliot found the two aspects inseparable."  Both "Mr Gilfil's Love Story" and "Janet's Repentance" are more concerned with an important female character than the clergyman, notwithstanding the title of the former. "Amos Barton" focuses on a figure who singularly fails to live out the religion he professes, but becomes an image of Christ through his suffering and grief, and, through his trials rather than through his successes, at last wins the love of his flock. In "Janet's Repentance", "Tryan, dying of tuberculosis at the age of thirty-three, is even more overtly an image of Christ than Amos Barton, embodying as well as preaching the gospel of forgiveness and redemption."  Mr Gilfil in his later years also practises a doctrinally indistinct but none the less generous and kindly Christian lifestyle, demonstrating his beliefs through his actions rather than through any overt exposition of faith. Social Issues George Eliot moves beyond religious doctrine and examines how beliefs are expressed in action, drawing attention to a number of social issues. Amos Barton, delivering incomprehensible sermons to the inhabitants of the workhouse, can hardly afford to feed his own family. In contrast, the bachelor Edgar Tryan embraces a life of poverty through choice, so that he can relate to his poorer parishioners. Janet's Repentance presents, unusually for the nineteenth century, a realist depiction of bourgeois domestic violence. "Its hallmarks are male aggression, female passivity and lack of self-esteem, and the wilful inaction of the surrounding community." (Lawson) The treatment of the heroine's alcoholism is also unusual: a "perspective on female alcoholism unmitigated by maternalism, poverty or wandering husbands [that was thought] necessary to a credibly sympathetic presentation of a "respectable" female alcoholic". Even the quasi-Gothic melodrama of "Mr Gilfil's Love Story" raises some questions about social issues, dealing as it does with class, gender, and the aristocratic patronage of the arts. Captain Wybrow's privilege (as a male of higher status) over Caterina is exposed, as is the abuse of that privilege. Similarly, Sir Christopher's autocratic sway over his household and his estate is questioned: while his wishes for Maynard Gilfil and Caterina are ultimately fulfilled, it is at the expense of his dearer project, the inheritance. Characters
"The Sad History of the Reverend Amos Barton" Reverend Amos Barton - curate of the parish of Shepperton following the death of Mr Gilfil (see below). His theology is complex; his emphasis on the authority of the Church appears to be derived from Tractarianism, while other features of his belief seem more Evangelical. Either way, he is unpopular with his parishioners, being more concerned with their spiritual lives than with their practical needs. Physically, he is of nondescript appearance: "a narrow face of no particular complexion - even the smallpox that has attacked it seems to have been of a mongrel, indefinite kind - with features of no particular shape, and an eye of no particular expression... surmounted by a slope of baldness gently rising from brow to crown." Mrs Amelia "Milly" Barton - Amos' wife. Long-suffering, loving and patient, she represents all the virtues that Barton lacks himself. A "large, fair gentle Madonna", she works hard with mending and housework in order to sustain the family on their limited income. Countess Caroline Czerlaski - a glamorous neighbour of somewhat dubious reputation. She is "a little vain, a little ambitious, a little selfish, a little shallow, and frivolous, a little given to white lies". She lives with a man who is popularly thought to be her lover, but is in fact her half-brother. Following this man's marriage (to Alice her maid) she asks the Bartons to be allowed to stay for a few weeks. This becomes months and the parishioners suspect that she is Mr Barton's mistress. She appears not to be concerned either by the damage she is inflicting on Barton's reputation, or about the increased strain she is putting on the household finances and, by extension, Milly. Nanny - the children's nurse, fiercely protective of Milly. Amos and Milly's children: Patty, Richard ("Dickey"), Sophy, Fred, Chubby and Walter. With the exception of the eldest two, they are not distinctively characterised. "Mr Gilfil's Love Story" Maynard Gilfil - formerly the ward of Sir Christopher Cheverel, and subsequently curate of Shepperton, he is at the time the story takes place chaplain at Cheverel Manor. He is a tall, strong young man, devoted to Tina. "His healthy open face and robust limbs were after a an excellent pattern for everyday wear". (By the time he appears at the beginning of "The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton" he has become "an excellent old gentleman, who smoked very long pipes and preached very short sermons".) Caterina "Tina" Sarti - a young girl of Italian parentage, but brought up in England by the childless Sir Christopher and Lady Cheverel. Her mother and siblings died in an epidemic; her father copied music for a living until his death. Having had a commission from Lady Cheverel, he entrusted his daughter to her. She is a passionate creature, feeling joy and grief intensely. In appearance, she is small and dark, and Sir Christopher often calls her his "black-eyed monkey". Captain Anthony Wybrow - nephew and heir of Sir Christopher, who has gone to considerable trouble and expense to ensure that the estate will pass to Wybrow, rather than his mother, Sir Christopher's sister. He is an extremely good-looking young man, compared by Eliot to Antinous, but selfish and shallow. He suffers from "palpitations". Having encouraged Tina's affections, he feels them to be a "nuisance" once he is engaged to Miss Assher, and cannot understand why the two women find it difficult to get on with each other. Sir Christopher Cheverel - "as fine a specimen of the old English gentleman as could well have been found in those days of cocked hats and pigtails", the Baronet. He is somewhat autocratic, but good-natured and affectionate towards his family and household. Lady Cheverel - wife of Sir Christopher, a "rather cold" woman. She has decided views about the propriety of a wife's submitting to her husband, and is somewhat disapproving of the headstrong Miss Assher as a result. "She is nearly fifty, but her complexion is still fresh and beautiful... her proud pouting lips, and her head thrown a little backward as she walks, give an expression of hauteur which is not contradicted by the cold grey eyes." Miss Beatrice Assher - daughter of an old flame of Sir Christopher's, she is intended by him to be Captain Wybrow's bride. A proud, beautiful woman, she feels it beneath her dignity to contend with Tina, who is considerably lower than her in terms of social status, for Captain Wybrow's affections. "Janet's Repentance" Reverend Edgar Tryan - the recently appointed minister at the chapel of ease at Paddiford Common. He is young, but in poor health. Theologically, he is an evangelical. He explains to Janet Dempster that he entered the Church as a result of deep grief and remorse following the death of Lucy, a young woman whom he enticed to leave her home and then abandoned. Janet Dempster - wife of Robert Dempster. Described as a tall woman with dark hair and eyes, she has been married for fifteen years. She has turned to alcohol as an escape from her domestic problems. Initially she is strongly "anti-Tryanite", but reassesses her judgement of the clergyman after she meets him at a parishioner's sickbed. Robert Dempster - a lawyer of Milby. He is widely acknowledged as a skilled attorney, albeit not necessarily completely honest in his dealings. He drinks to excess and, when drunk, is given to abusing his wife, both verbally and physically. Mrs Raynor - Janet's mother. She subscribes to no particular religious doctrine, believing that she can find all the spiritual support that she needs through her own study of the Bible. Mr and Mrs Crewe - Mr Crewe is the long-established curate of Milby. Initially somewhat ridiculed by his parishioners, who laugh amongst themselves at his brown wig and his odd speaking voice, he gains support as the anti-Tryanite campaign mobilises. Mrs Crewe is old and deaf, and a great friend of Janet Dempster's. She pretends not to notice Janet's drinking problem. Reception and criticism
The publication of Amos Barton caused some alarm among those who - rightly or wrongly - suspected that they had been the models for the characters, few of whom are described in a flattering manner. Eliot was forced to apologise to John Gwyther, who had been the local curate in her childhood, and to whom the character of Barton himself bore more than a passing resemblance. Initial criticism of Amos Barton was mixed, with Blackwood's close friend W. G. Hamley "dead against Amos" and Thackeray diplomatically noncomittal. However, the complete Scenes of Clerical Life was met with 'just and discerning applause', and considerable speculation as to the identity of its author. Sales were no better than satisfactory, following a first printing of 1,500 copies, but Blackwood was none the less confident of Eliot's talent. Early reviewers deemed the writer "religious, without cant or intolerance" and "strong in his [sic] knowledge of the human heart". It was praised for its realism: one contemporary review noted approvingly that "the fictitious element is securely based upon a broad groundwork of actual truth, truth as well in detail as in general". Due to its subject matter, it was widely assumed to be the work of a real-life country parson; one such even attempted to take the credit. Popular opinion in Eliot's home town attributed the work to a Mr Joseph Liggins, who attempted ineffectually to deny the rumours, and eventually accepted the undeserved celebrity. George Eliot's "identity" was revealed in a letter to The Times, but this claim was immediately refuted in a letter from Eliot herself. In 1858 Charles Dickens wrote to Eliot to express his approval of the book, and was among the first to suggest that Scenes of Clerical Life might have been written by a woman. I have been so strongly affected by the two first tales in the book you have had the kindness to send me, through Messrs. Blackwood, that I hope you will excuse my writing to you to express my admiration of their extraordinary merit. The exquisite truth and delicacy both of the humor and the pathos of these stories, I have never seen the like of; and they have impressed me in a manner that I should find it very difficult to describe to you. if I had the impertinence to try. In addressing these few words of thankfulness to the creator of the Sad Fortunes of the Rev. Amos Barton, and the sad love-story of Mr. Gilfil, I am (I presume) bound to adopt the name that it pleases that excellent writer to assume. I can suggest no better one: but I should have been strongly disposed, if I had been left to my own devices, to address the said writer as a woman. I have observed what seemed to me such womanly touches in those moving fictions, that the assurance on the title-page is insufficient to satisfy me even now. If they originated with no woman, I believe that no man ever before had the art of making himself mentally so like a woman since the world began. More recently, Scenes of Clerical Life has been interpreted mainly in relation to Eliot's later works. It has been claimed that "in Scenes of Clerical Life, her style and manner as a novelist were still in the making". Ewen detects "an obvious awkwardness in the handling of the materials of the Scenes and a tendency... to moralize", but affirms that "these stories are germinal for the George Eliot to come". "The emergent novelist is glimpsed in the way in which the three scenes interpenetrate to establish a densely textured, cumulative study of a particular provincial location, its beliefs and customs and way of life." Subsequent releases and interpretations
Scenes of Clerical Life has been reprinted in book form several times since 1858, including five editions within Eliot's lifetime. The three stories were released separately by Hesperus Press over the years 2003 to 2007. A silent film based on "Mr. Gilfil's Love Story" was released in 1920, starring R. Henderson Bland as Maynard Gilfil and Mary Odette as Caterina. In 1898 the work Newdigate-Newdegate Cheverels was issued by Lady Newdigate-Newdegate  In this book, the letters written by lady Hester Margaretta Mundy Newdigate to her husband Sir Roger Newdigate are compiled and commented that had inspired Eliot's Scenes of Clerical Life.
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There was a good deal of discussion in the media over “unfair” executive compensation, especially in light of the bonuses, golden parachutes, and other forms of remuneration received by CEOs during the bailout. Continue Reading...
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A group of 40 scholars of law and religion said that just because Congress has long opened meetings with prayers doesn’t mean the framers of the Constitution intended government meetings to be used for religious coercion.
This week was the deadline for allies of Americans United to file amicus briefs with the Supreme Court in Town of Greece v. Galloway. Fortunately we’ve got friends in high places, and many of them stepped up to explain why the court should rule that overwhelmingly Christian prayer offered before local government meetings is unconstitutional.
It’s a shame that the Obama administration isn’t with Americans United, but it’s reassuring to know that not everyone in the federal government shares the administration’s interpretation of the Constitution.
Twelve members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed onto a brief arguing that local board meetings are fundamentally different from sessions of Congress, which begin with prayers.
“The Greece Town Board is not a purely legislative body, however, and its citizens do not observe its proceedings in a purely passive capacity,” the brief argued. “Rather, the Board makes quasi-adjudicatory decisions regarding the property rights of individual citizens appearing before it (e.g., by granting or denying business licenses and zoning permits) and the citizens advocate their views directly to the Board on legislative issues. Private citizens are therefore active participants in Board meetings.”
(The 12 signers are Reps. Jerrold Nadler of New York, John Conyers of Michigan, Bobby Scott of Virginia, Ted Deutch of Florida, George Miller of California, Alcee Hastings of Florida, Robert Andrews of New Jersey, Michael Honda of California, Diana DeGette of Colorado, Mark Takano of California, Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, D.C.).
Our opponents frequently cite historical precedent as a reason to allow sectarian prayers to open government meetings. In fact, the Department of Justice justified its support for the Greece Board’s prayer practice with that reasoning, insisting, “Throughout its history, and dating back to the first session of the Continental Congress in 1774, the United States Congress has appointed chaplains to open each legislative day with a prayer.”
But a group of 40 scholars of law and religion said in their brief that just because Congress has long opened meetings with prayers doesn’t mean the framers of the Constitution intended government meetings to be used for religious coercion.
“Many Founders, including [Thomas] Jefferson and [James] Madison, steadfastly opposed any official government religious proclamations directed to the public,” the brief reads. “Even those Framers, like [George] Washington, who accepted some form of government religious speech believed that it should never have the purpose or effect of endorsing a sectarian position or excluding members of the political community based on their religious beliefs, because such outcomes were also inconsistent with individual rights of conscience.”
We’ve always said that the framers supported church-state separation, but it’s good for the high court to hear that (again) from a large group of respected scholars.
We’ve also said that this case is about protecting religious minorities as well as non-believers from feeling unwelcome by their own local governments. Fortunately a group of minority faith leaders agrees with us. A brief signed by the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, Union for Reform Judaism, Muslim Advocates, Hindu American Foundation, National Council of Jewish Women, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Women of Reform Judaism, Blue Mountain Lotus Society and Rabbis Simeon Kolko, warned of dire consequences for minorities if the town of Greece wins this case.
“[C]itizens who wish to participate in their local governments could be forced to accede to overtly sectarian prayers that are not a part of their own faith tradition,” the groups assert. “Nothing would prevent local governments across the country from sponsoring prayers that ostracize religious minorities. It would be acceptable for local governments to invite prayer givers to offer prayers invoking specific Christian names for God, asking for forgiveness for sins, and proselytizing. Attendees could be asked to stand and participate in the religious ceremony by bowing their heads and saying ‘amen.’ But members of minority religious faiths should not be forced to participate in another faith’s religious observance just to attend a local-government meeting.”
In all there were 13 briefs in our favor, and we’re grateful for this support. Now it’s just a matter of the Supreme Court not only reading these wise words submitted on our behalf, but actually taking them to heart.
Parallels with *a pattern language*? I suppose yes and no. It does
seem that a pattern language has gained a broader audience than it used
to have, but at the same time these concepts (such as *long life loose
fit* or *urban context and access* or *collective wisdom and feedback
loops*) remain great ideas that are, for a variety of reasons,
difficult to pull off, particularly at a frenzied commercial pace. So
they remain peripheral in that way until there*s a more seismic shift.
But I think now that we have more of a perceived *emergency* with
climate change, all of this will stick a little better. It may hurry
the seismic shift, I just worry that there will too much of a focus on
the technical and the hardware and not enough on the software of people
As an aside, there*s been a renewed pattern language developed in the
northwest for a *conservation economy* (there*s that word again) based
on the work of Ecotrust in Portland,
(http://www.conservationeconomy.org/). They say, *fifty-seven patterns
provide a framework for an ecologically restorative, socially just, and
reliably prosperous society.*
But regarding setting a new *default* position, I think it is the big
question that has no silver bullet answer. One could say you do it one
project at a time. I guess my broken record message is you do it by
using the whole economy * push commerce and finance out of the driver*s
seat and balance it with civil society and government policy.
This message is hard for designers because they don*t think it
concerns them or see how they can have a role in it * but they have a
fundamental role. Also, it*s hard to say this in an American context
and be heard or understood. Perhaps partly because of the pervasive
free market ideology that doesn*t tolerate *values* (except its own) in
the system; perhaps since the *American dream* is built more on robber
baron than communitarian?
[Read entire topic]
Taking a page out of Whoville's playbook (remember the Grinch Who Stole Christmas?), there is a dance planned afterward with live music by DreamTree to follow in celebration of hope and unity from 9 pm to 11 pm.
Cost: Both parts of the event are free, nominal donations are gratefully accepted to help defray costs; please register to assure that there is seating for everyone.
January Day of Mindfulness (DOM): Loving Kindness Meditations, Equanimity - Writing a Love Letter
I have a friend that I've known since Elementary school who still has a clumsy love letter I wrote her when we were eight years old. Every couple years she gets it out and teases me about it.
Fantasies of gleaming armor, my trusty broadsword that sings as I deftly and casually slice my way through all my obstacles. I was confident that as her knight, I could save her, a damsel in distress if any baddie came along, at the very least I would die trying my loyalty and honor was unquestionable. My ego was just as young and clueless as I was, and had not learned to be sneaky yet.
Your turn, go! Aw… Not that kind of a love letter you say? Well why didn't you stop me? Puh. Well I hope the marketing team is happy this went viral, thanks a lot!
When: Saturday, January 28th, 10:30 am – 4:00 pm
Where: RSVP to Chris Phillips to receive the address. Email: email@example.com or phone: 585-346-0557
Protesting from the Heart
On a more serious note, in these times of polar extremes, we at BLS want to offer forth this compelling read on walking that fine line between protesting and attachment to views. From Still Water Mindfulness Practice Center.
Spiritual healing for Activists
Blooming Lilac Sangha is proud to sponsor a Day of Meditation and Exercises for Healing at the Flying Squirrel Community Center.Date: Sunday, February 26th, 1 pm - 6 pm. This event is open to the community and Sangha. RSVP by February 22nd. Downloadable flyer here, please share with your friends.
Four-day retreat with Joanne Friday
Mark your calendars, Joanne Friday, a teacher in the lineage of Thich Nhat Hanh will be leading her four-day retreat Thursday, April 13th to Monday, April 17th. She will be teaching a revolutionary new practice of continuing to shovel the snow when it doesn't stop snowing. You'll never look at snow the same way again.
Where: Springwater Center, Springwater, NY sponsored by Blooming Lilac Sangha
Snap! Nan and Harmless get in a fight!!!! Get some popcorn!!!! This week’s hot topics include : Florida executes a mentally ill man Southern Baptists tell Supreme Court: Neutral legislative prayers means the Unitarians win Judge calls victim, 13, a … Continue reading →
"I never told my own religion, nor scrutinized that of another."
Andre Carson is a Muslim. Jared Polis is Jewish. Dina Titus is Greek Orthodox.
Does it matter? Maybe. Maybe not.
Carson, Polis and Titus are three members of the 111th Congress. On Jan. 6, they and their 532 colleagues will be sworn into office. They will hold hearings, draft legislation and enact laws that affect all of us. Their religious affiliations are important only to them, as long as they respect the constitutional separation of church and state.
According to a survey of Congress released on Friday by the Pew Forum, senators and representatives come from a pretty formidable array of religious viewpoints. Roman Catholics are the single largest bloc of adherents with 161, followed by Baptists (66), Methodists (57), Jews (45), Presbyterians (43), Episcopalians (38) and Lutherans (24).
Most members of Congress profess some affiliation with the Christian tradition. But there are also two Buddhists, two Muslims and three Unitarians.
Five members didn't express a preference for any particular faith.
I think Thomas Jefferson might have taken that course had Pew asked his religion. He vociferously championed individual religious liberty and regarded his religious beliefs – and that of others – as a private matter.
In an Aug. 16, 1816 letter to Mrs. Samuel H. Smith, Jefferson had this to say: "I have ever thought religion a concern purely between our God and our consciences, for which we were accountable to him, and not to the priests. I never told my own religion, nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert, nor wished to change another's creed.
"I have ever judged of the religion of others by their lives," Jefferson continued, "and by this test, my dear Madam, I have been satisfied yours must be an excellent one, to have produced a life of such exemplary virtue and correctness. For it is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be read."
I wonder what Jefferson would think of the religious trends in America since his day.
Pew scholars tell us a significant shift toward pluralism is under way.
"In many ways," said Pew, "the changes in the religious makeup of Congress during the last half-century mirror broader changes in American society. Congress, like the nation as a whole, has become much less Protestant and more religiously diverse."
Pew says Protestant denominational families have lost clout in Congress over the past 50 years. Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Congregationalists hold significantly fewer seats now than they did back then. Baptists and Lutherans, on the other hand, have remained roughly the same.
Pew noted that some religious groupings have increased their numbers rather dramatically. Catholics have gone from 18.8 percent of the congressional membership in 1961 to 30.1 percent today, while the percentage of Jewish members of Congress has gone from 2.3 percent in 1961 to 8.4 percent today.
What Pew doesn't say is that denominational affiliation doesn't tell us very much. Some Catholics in Congress are staunch supporters of church-state separation, reproductive freedom and gay rights, while others are avid opponents. Baptists likewise run the gamut from hardline right-wingers to ardent progressives.
Thus, Pew's numbers are interesting reading. But in the last analysis, as Jefferson so wisely observed, the thing that matters is how these members of Congress conduct themselves. Do they vote to preserve religious liberty or curtail it?
If you haven't written to your senators and representative to express your support of church-state separation and individual freedom of conscience, do so today.
Salt Lake's South Valley Unitarian Universalist Society Choir and guest musicians perform "Songs of the Earth," featuring the music of Society Choir Director Mary Lou Prince, with lyrics and storytelling by Rev. Patty C. Willis
Earth’s creator confronts unacceptable human behavior. Creator comes down hard on demands of organized religions, humankind inventions dividing and inspiring violence. Exception is Unitarian Universalists not demanding specific beliefs and conduct.
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