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This evening, the Walt Whitman class I have been taking online comes to an end. As a final exercise, we were encouraged to write a poem in the style of Whitman.
Last night, I went to the opening of "A Body in Fukushima" at Wesleyan. It is a powerful show, that I highly recommend. As I thought about the show, and thought about my assignment for the Whitman class, I thought it would be good to writemy thoughts about the show, al a Whitman.
A Body in Fukushima
Who were you that rode your bike to the train station, now abandoned to the radiation?
Who were you that steamed your rice, in a cooker now too hot with a different type of heat?
Who were you that mended the boats, the boats damaged by the tsunami, the boats that can no longer be repaired?
Who were you that danced by the one ton bags of radioactive dirt or photographed the dancer?
And those of you in years past who helped build the nuclear power plants. You saw Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Did you not worry that those promises of prosperity to your impoverish properties would be empty?
It is all part of a giant dance of survival, the deals we make to escape mind numbing subsistence work. But sometimes, the deals go bad.
Now, the cherry trees, that your ancestors nurtured so lovingly, bloom each spring, but the radiation keeps away the visitors, keeps away the former inhabitants. Their flowers, their smells, their beauty hidden behind the warning signs.
And what can we learn from the photographs? And what will those who come many years hence, after the radiation has decayed, what will they learn?
Tomorrow is the last day of the online class on Walt Whitman I have been participating in. We’ve read sections of his poems and been given things to think about
think about how hearing Whitman in song affects your understanding and interpretation of Whitman's words as they appear on the page.
It sounds like a homework assignment and doesn’t set my mind wandering.
On Sunday, the church I attend will have its annual meeting. Prior to the meeting, we’ve been invited to think about two questions.
1) We are now at five years with a new Rector. There have been many transitions in those five years, many new things. What new, different, exciting enhanced ministries do you see coming out of this parish over the NEXT five years?
2) In our fallen, rapidly-changing world, what do we believe God is calling us to be/do as a Christian community of faith, as p part of the Body of Christ, in this time and place?
These are important questions as we think about how we will spend our time and money. They are questions I’ve been tempted to write a long response to.
These are the things I’m thinking about as I stop at “A Body in Fukushima”, an exhibit at Wesleyan. This is another experience deserving much more though, and a well written response. There are issues of art and politics, things that I find echoed in discussions on social media.
Perhaps, all of this is woven together into some larger construct.
I’ll spend some time thinking about all of this, hoping that I’ll get a glimpse of the larger construct, but now, it is time to sit quietly pondering.
And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out.
This is how David Foster Wallace introduces his famous 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon College, “This is Water”.
Yet I have to wonder, is it really the ‘liberal arts education’ that does this? Can we get this without going to a liberal arts college? I’m taking a MOOC right now about Walt Whitman. Reading Walt Whitman breathes a little life into the day in, day out existence. So does a sacred scarf, a beautiful sunrise, and a few moments of silence in church.
Today, I spoke with my daughter Miranda and her efforts in the arts as it relates to tiny houses. I’ve seen people talk about the difference between tiny houses, RVs and mobile homes. Some of the discussions have talked about sustainability, others about supporting local artisans. Yet perhaps the big question is, how much art is there? How much of whatever David Foster Wallace was speaking about that keeps us from going through life unconscious?
I spoke with a homeless friend this evening. I know people who are looking at tiny houses to address homelessness. For some people, a tiny house, any sort of a house, is about having basic needs met, the physiological and safety needs from the base of Maslow’s hierarchy. Many people I know who live in nice houses, view their houses in this way. Yet what if our houses were meeting our needs of esteem or self-actualization?
It may seem to many that these sort of houses are reserved for the very rich who can have their dwellings designed by famous architects and built by master craftsmen. Yet this may be where the tiny house movement has some of its most important appeal. If you focus on form and function, and not on how many square feet a McMansion takes up, you can have a house that is a work of art.
Housing: Conceptual art and interactive sculpture, a chance to live deliberatively.
On the way home from work today, I listened to an article on NPR, Bored ... And Brilliant? A Challenge To Disconnect From Your Phone. It asked the question
Are we packing our minds too full? What might we be losing out on by texting, tweeting and email-checking those moments away?
The article talks about a study which found
the participants came up with their most novel ideas when they did the most boring task of all — which was reading the phone book
Yet they seem to conflate daydreaming with boredom. Being busy reading the phone book is very different from daydreaming. Indeed, playing casual games on a cellphone may be closer to reading the phone book than being disconnected. I find most casual smartphone games pretty boring.
They are suggesting a project which will “will collect stories and provide tips for keeping your phone at bay”.
It seems particularly ill conceived to me. I spend a lot of time on my cellphone and on top of that I spend even more time on my laptop. I would suggest that my use of time is, perhaps, a more beneficial approach towards fostering creativity.
I spend time connecting with people via social media. Listening to what others are talking about, searching for new ideas. I visit sites like Open Culture. Today, I watch a video they share of Patti Smith and David Lynch Talking About the Source of Their Ideas & Creative Inspiration. It seems much more interesting than trying to keep access to other ideas at bay.