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Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities

Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities has 50 remote-ready activities, which work for either your classroom or remote teaching.

College Seminar 2002 Forum

Comments are posted in the order in which they are received, with earlier postings appearing first below on this page. To see the latest postings, click on "Go to last comment" below.

Go to last comment

Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-08-31 13:09:26
Link to this Comment: 2462

Welcome to the course forum area for "Questions, Intuitions, Revisions: Telling and Re-telling Stories About Ourselves in the World"; we are very glad you are here. This is a place for continuing (or sometimes jump-starting!) the conversations we'll be having in our class sessions: not in "formal" writing, but as a form of "thinking out loud" so others can learn from your thoughts in progress, and you from theirs. Paul, Hayley and I are looking forward to hearing what everyone has to say, learning from all of it, and hope that you are too.

This is also a place where people beyond our classroom can listen in, and perhaps find our conversations useful in their own explorations of the world.

Let's start in thinking together by telling one another what we saw when we looked at the image on the front of our course packet. What were your first thoughts about it? Try making up, or sketching, a story about the image.


More welcome ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2002-09-01 10:31:15
Link to this Comment: 2464

Looking forward to seeing what we can make this semester, hope you too.

As Anne says, this is a sort of "half-way" place, a place to "think out loud". So don't worry about getting it "right". Writing here is part of a process of you finding out what you're thinking, so you can go on to other, maybe different thinking. And part of a process of helping others/learning from others at the same time. Enjoy.

book cover description assignment
Name: Victoria T
Date: 2002-09-02 17:00:59
Link to this Comment: 2465

This is the assignment that we were asked to do in the first day of our CSem, in which we were told to describe or tell a story about the front cover of our course book. I hope I'm posting this in the right place! I wrote about my experiences in doing this assignment.

I walked into my first college seminar today, and ten minutes into the class, we were given an assignment. Not only did we have an assignment, but it involved creative writing, the bane of my existence.
"Write about the cover of your course book. You have ten minutes."
Immediately, my mind went blank. All I could see was a box on top of some kind of a stand, a few random puzzle peices floating around, and a multicolored, almost tie-dyed sphere. At least there was some writing on the stand.
"Understanding is ??????"
"Hmmm, not much help." Already these meager observations had wasted a few precious moments of my quickly vanishing ten minutes. All I could think of was that this class had better not be entirely based on my creative writing skills or else I had just walked into a serious stressful class.
"I guess I should start thinking." This thought, of course, came five minutes into the elapsed time period and was completely useless.
Maybe the box and the cryptic writing contained some hidden meaning about my coming experiences at Bryn Mawr.
"Yeah, like the fact that they're totally unintelligible," I thought to myself, "oh well, time's up; looks like it's all still a puzzle to me!"

Victoria Thoman, Section 16

CSEM story about the picture
Name: Kristen Co
Date: 2002-09-02 18:32:24
Link to this Comment: 2466

The pieces to the puzzle of life can come from many places. They can be many colors and when mixed together form a beautiful mosaic. The ball of knowledge is indeed complex and colorful. When we take information from the pole of understanding, we question what this understanding really is. How sturdy can this pole be if it is supported by the unknown? Still we take all we can from the world and add it to our own sphere. It is never complete and grows more colorful with every new piece.

"Cover" Story
Name: Xuan-Shi,
Date: 2002-09-02 18:38:11
Link to this Comment: 2467

I see the cube to be a symbol for my mind. There are many sides to reality, as there are multiple sides to a cube. Each side of the cube represents a window of perception. Sometimes when I am sad, I look out into the world through the blue window. When I'm happy, I like to stand by the red window. The globe represents the world which constantly feeds information into my mind. My resulting reactions, emotions, and thoughts sometimes overwhelm me as strongly as the jugglesaw pieces are being hurled towards the cube. It is only human to want to have something definite to hang on to, for the sense of security, or safety. So, I have my favourite window. When I look through that side of the cube, everything falls into place. Things and people are categorised neatly into groups. I stereotyped people, or stick to old patterns of thinking. Everything outside of my window is familiar. I stand on any one side and feel the world tinting. Sometimes, I like it this way. Sometimes, it bothers me. My rigid way of perception throws me into extreme emotions. If only I were to stand in the centre of the cube, I could have a clear, rational, unjudgmental view of my surroundings. That explains why the box is supported by the pole of understanding. To be able to understand myself, the people and the world around me, I have realized, is a great balancing act. Suffering ceases with understanding that brings fresh insights. As I have gradually realized over the years, courage is not always about making the leap over the cliff, and in this case, a window. It is about standing still, at the position where you can get the best view of things, and hearing yourself amid all the noises in the chaotic world. As the Buddhist teaching go, our thoughts are like the restless waves on the ocean. We must only watch them from a distance. Then could we get in touch with our true essence, our Buddha nature. I know the feeling: you expand, and feel open and free. The vast space inside you is no longer emptiness, but peaceful solitude. I guess that is when I am present in the centre of the cube, but my universe has extended beyond the cube to encompass the sky. The act of understanding, is really about telling yourself stories in different ways, till you realize that reality is not monotone.

The cover page
Name: katie keme
Date: 2002-09-02 19:20:08
Link to this Comment: 2468

The time had come. Every piece of the puzzle knew that this day had arrived. Identities had been completed and confidance cultivated. They each had prepared for the day when they would leave the precision and uniformity of the Magnificent Box to enter the world of questions and new interactions. So, holding strong to their identity, each one wiggled a bit to loosen the hold. Finally with one great leap, the pieces fell letting go of a world of placement and reliance. Tumbling down through unknown space, unsure of their future, the puzzle pieces became just that individual pieces no longer a crux to the success of a larger entity. They were falling into, essentially, a realm of their own ambitions and goals. Now, they are able to ponder other relationships with new puzzle pieces, creating completely new ideas.

Name: samea
Date: 2002-09-02 21:34:39
Link to this Comment: 2469

The cover asks the question of "understanding is...?" and i believe the picture itself answers it. the puzzle pieces come from a circular shape that has multiple colors and it seems very unclear... therefore, it seems to represent an idea that one may be encountering for the first time. when we are first presented with an idea it may be unclear and vague at first, and we try our hardest to work with it until it is molded into something we better understand. thus, we have the box. the box consists of standard colors and is very clearly illustrated. in the same way, once an idea has been changed n molded, its true colors become clear and we are able to fit into a topic that we have come to understand more clearly

Name: Kristina C
Date: 2002-09-02 22:08:12
Link to this Comment: 2470

In the illustration, there is a colorful box that is composed completely of puzzle pieces. Though some of the pieces are missing, and the box appears to be incomplete each missing piece is connected in the sphere at the righthand corner of the picture. Though neither object (sphere and box) are completely whole, each has potential to become something better. The phrase "understanding is questioning" furthers the images on the cover as we are invited to realize how one missing piece can often be an opportunity to create and discover something completey different and exciting. Thus, it is only through curiosity that new ideas are born.

Story about Course Guide Cover
Name: Abigail Br
Date: 2002-09-02 22:10:22
Link to this Comment: 2471

My story:

I'm relieved that this cover had some words in addition to pictures! I looked beyond the art to find a question, "Understanding is ?" which caused me to look past the art that is surely 1,000 symbols rolled into one, into my memory.

From the distant echoes of my high school days (it feels like I've been away from high school for years, not months), only a few of the lessons I learned have any relevance to my life at its present stage. Oddly enough, or perhaps not, none of these lessons were learned from a textbook. Rather, the life lesson that reminded me of this cover came from my AP Biology teacher, who reminded his students not to get frustrated over difficult concepts to understand. He emphasized that the more one learns, the more questions one has about the surrounding world.

So often in grade school, we are taught that there is one simple and straightforward answer to every question. In high school, we learn that this is not the case. In fact, it often happens that the more one learns, the more confused one feels, which isn't the most comforting fact.

So, how can I relate my intellectual journey to this cover art? I suppose that the sphere represents mhy mind at is present state: ready absorb information, but lacking the know-how with which to do it. The puzzle pieces floating up slowly and steadily to complete the cube are really my sophomore and junior years in disguise. Hopefully, the cube represents me as a BMC graduate: a person who can qustion the world around her, learn a bit from her experiences, keep pondering what more there is to be known, and realize that nothing in life is an absolute truth.

So, what is understanding? That's a good question.

Abigail Bruhlmann, Section 16

Name: Jessica Ka
Date: 2002-09-02 23:03:20
Link to this Comment: 2472

The path to understanding is very puzzeling. Sometimes when you think that you nearly completely understand you may not be seeing the entire picture. If you take a step back you get to see hwere your understanding is coming from. An indecipheral mass of experiences, people, adn views all combind to shape how we understand things. We may think that we have everything figured out, then 'wham' you see something, or something happens to you that makes you question whether or not you really had anything figured out at all. This is what the picture represents to me. As you can see the picture of understanding is almost finished. A few final pieces are coming out of a collected mass of many colors which to me represents wonderment. One piece seems to fit the puzzle, but doesn't look as though it belongs. I see the jumbled ball of colors to be the experiences that we draw from with each piece contributing to our understanding.

Understanding Is ? ? ? ?
Name: jessica mo
Date: 2002-09-02 23:51:33
Link to this Comment: 2473

understanding is a multi colored cube, solid and complete.
but first, there are holes to fill in, empty spaces and unknowns, that comprosmise the strength of this box's walls. so we hatch jigsaw pieces out of this sparkling egg; they're just the right size, a perfect fit. with our cube complete, the shadows shrink away and in comes a light from above.
understanding is study, whole and enlightened.

Front Cover of Workbook
Name: Phoebe And
Date: 2002-09-02 23:52:35
Link to this Comment: 2474

There were three worlds--one red, one green, one blue. Each looked among its people to find the strongest member who would represent their world and go forth to an energy source to obtain knowledge. Once the members were selected they journeyed away from their worlds and became immersed in the energy source. Here their ideas and perceptions were shared and when they eventually returned to their worlds they had gained much insight. They not only had their original beliefs but they had the beliefs of the other worlds and the general knowledge of the power source. When they were immersed in the power source they were forced to question their own beliefs and see the value and importance of others beliefs. They then brought this knowledge with them to enlighten their worlds so all members could grow and learn.

cover page
Name: winnie
Date: 2002-09-03 00:52:02
Link to this Comment: 2475

please excuse the lack of capitalization:

the box is full of puzzle pieces. little bits of infomation and questions, and, mabye even some answers. it rests on the understanding that these pieces will come together, one piece at a time. afterall, to understand anything, you have to ask questions. even after the puzzle piece are put together, you can still see the different colors. it seems to be saying that every piece counts. no one piece is more significant than the other, nor can that piece be done without. without those pieces, a ball cannot be formed, it is incomplete and unpefect. in some abstract way, i suppose, the ball symbolizes what we've put together, what we've learned. though what we have (the puzzle pieces) is not enough. the puzzle box can always be refilled and it can be added to the ball, which stands for the analysis of all the knowledge.

Picture Cover
Name: Rachel Ste
Date: 2002-09-03 13:40:37
Link to this Comment: 2476

I think the colored square on the stand represents a person. Out of the scope of the picture, there are many other "people". The person thinks he/she has an understanding of a certain subject, hence the solid colors. However, when the person interacts with other people, small pieces of their understanding (the puzzle pieces) fall out and combine with other people's pieces of understanding, creating the colorful sphere. This sphere is a collective understanding, one that enlightens each person that contributes to it. To me, the main idea of the painting is that together, people will understand more than they can on their own.

comments on interpretation of the cover illustrati
Name: Claire Mah
Date: 2002-09-03 14:58:51
Link to this Comment: 2477

I see the cover illustration of the "Questions, Intuitions, Revisions" C-sem booklet as a metaphor for knowledge, learning, and world views in general. The falling pieces come from information gathered by person X, each color and side of the cube representing a specific genre of learning. Not all information, however may aptly be pigeonholed into one specific genre. Thus, the tidbits of knowledge fall together, overlapping and bonding together to form one sphere, a more diverse understanding which allows one to view and accomodate information and experiences with heightened awareness in a more informed manner.

Name: Adina Halp
Date: 2002-09-03 15:25:32
Link to this Comment: 2478

In the picture, gravity is pulling pieces of the puzzle into the colorful ball of confusion. The different colors represent different ideas which I strive to form, no matter how rigid, creative, traditional or eccentric they might be. It is comforting for me to know what I am thinking; my feelings, my beliefs and my understandings. But often, life doesn't work like that and I can't even understand my own thoughts. Just when the last piece of the puzzle comes into place, another piece tumbles down into colorful chaos.

This chaos is essential for human life. It keeps our minds open and our thoughts flowing. It keeps us from going crazy from boredom and narrow mindedness. When our beliefs and understandings no longer make sense, we are able to refresh our minds and see the world in new and exciting ways.

Name: Ashwini Se
Date: 2002-09-03 15:45:25
Link to this Comment: 2479

Based on the question of what understanding is lies a large depth of knowledge built into a cube. However, there's never an absolute truth and hence some parts of the cube fall off to be replaced by the depths of knowledge stored by the rest of mankind living on the globe. The different colours indicating different cultures, histories and pasts held by people of different countries, tribes, religions. Knowledge is a mass of infinite weight that cannot be properly confined to the limits of a cube because perceptions differ.

Name: Lauren Smi
Date: 2002-09-03 17:33:14
Link to this Comment: 2480

At a young age, we are forced to learn the difference between good and bad, right and wrong. Our knowledge is acquired from textbooks, interactions with others and everyday life. As we accumulate facts and idea, our mind forms a cube, and as we learn, we slowly fit together the missing spaces and gaps. Each thing we learn fits together with a belief or idea we already possessed; each thought is a puzzle piece waiting for the chance to complete our mind's cube.

Throughout life we are giving many opportunities to learn. We can learn from those around us, we can learn through the systematic educational means of classes, teachers and textbooks, or we can learn by experiencing things for ourselves. In each of these cases however, we learn by taking advantage of the resources offered to us. We learn from our environment, we draw knowledge from our peers and we experience the world. From this infinite sphere of opportunity, we learn.

Judging the Course by Its Cover
Name: Whitney
Date: 2002-09-03 17:36:33
Link to this Comment: 2481

I see the pieces falling from the box into the sphere. The box embodies tradition and all that is regimented, "right", and "safe" in our society and minds. The sphere is a collection of these ideas- a more complete way of knowing and perceiving the things we THINK are true. I see the box's stand as the idea that questions lead to concrete answers, but from these answers we can develop abstract ideas and theories, which complement to the shape of the sphere. In essence, this cover portrays (at least it speaks to me as thus) the way we collect all that we know to be true into a more complete consciousness and existence in our everchanging world.

CSEM cover writing
Name: Margaret K
Date: 2002-09-03 18:21:26
Link to this Comment: 2482

This looks like a mailbox. I'm not very good at creative writing so I will apply this picture as a metaphor of earlier childhood experiences and dreams.

My Grandfather help me get started with stamp collecting when I was about seven or eight. Each stamp was a tiny piece of information about its country of origin, like secret messages from foreign lands. They intrigued me; I wanted to know more. I began to read maps and travel books and wished I could have pen pals from all around the world. I see the pieces falling from the box as the scraps of information I gathered about different countries and their cultures. The multi-colored ball is my understanding of the world-- as each piece comes to the whole my understanding becomes more thorough, while also becoming broader and more nuanced and subtle at the same time.

Understanding ??????
Name: Molly Cook
Date: 2002-09-03 18:41:13
Link to this Comment: 2483

Shadows of understanding are stilted, blocky, untrue and incomplete. Gobs and gobs of truth muster, bring light, expose little. Magnetic and irresistable and instinctive and involuntary and addictive. Make sense of this murky, mushy, delectible, desireable thing. Make sense of it I dare you - then let go cuz its nothing, or very little, or every thing.

Once the piece in in place, it may fit and it may be sent back. or another piece falls out. steadily. flux, flood, drought. Wholeness is a myth, but we're all going to be ok.

We want to own Truth. I want to know Truth. I want to understand, have understanding, complete the puzzle...but just as soon as you think you know something, really understand it...

Cover story
Name: Beth Ann L
Date: 2002-09-03 18:43:12
Link to this Comment: 2484

The Recreation of the Nation
I have never understood the limits that have bound others. For me, it was always a mishmash of seemingly unorganized thought, ideas, and impressions which created an artful blend that scared and enthralled others. They would always notice the differences first, perplexed by my spherical shape in a world of distinct lines. Then, gradually, I began to notice too. I was different. And I saw such beauty in the controlled and always so well organized colors. And a cube! Perfecly linear. They surely lived with no fear of rolling out the door, never truely grounded. But it was through this shared acknowledgement that our worlds began to meld. We each gave of ourselves and recieved, in return, a piece of the other fascinatingreality. It was through understanding that we were separated. But it was through this same understanding that our worlds could be shared.

Understanding is ????... Hello!
Name: Ro. Finn
Date: 2002-09-03 18:51:49
Link to this Comment: 2485

Hi all,
A modest offering...
Understanding is ?????

Not knowing, AND admitting that you actually see the question marks of gaps and flaws gives rise to – through some sort of phenomenal and maybe unnatural birthing, ... that thrust of work-honesty-listening well to whatever...

Out of which comes our new selves, free falling from the rigidly predictable primary-colored existences we may have now to join and contribute in a new community, new kaleidoscopic meld...

The end-game of all that effort, a pleasing mass with blurred edges, fluid form that, we trust, will make more sense, and in any case, will surely be more appealing, more fun.

But what's really happening inside that sinister red-green-blue box? What transforming process takes place upon us to enable the Community and its continuous evolution?

c-sem picture assignment
Name: Alex Frize
Date: 2002-09-03 19:51:14
Link to this Comment: 2486

There are many different ways of viewing something, be it an object, a conflict, or an idea. The picture on the cover of our csem book illustrates this concept. The colorful puzzle pieces can be seen as falling from the square, unforgiving box to a multicultural sphere full of many colors and ideas. It could also be interpreted as the sphere exploding, the massive amount of information and different prospectives it contained couldn't be contained in one space any longer. The pieces soar up to the box, forming one solid structure, made of thousands of smaller pieces before them. Whichever side is taken, I interpret the picture as being many points of view combining to form one concept.

CSem Section 15
Name: Gwenyth Ca
Date: 2002-09-03 20:52:45
Link to this Comment: 2487

I have a few ideas as to what this picture may represent and listening to others' ideas began to change my perspective on this illustration. I really liked what I heard today in class, one idea that "the box appears to be on a pedestal." So if I go from there, in my own opinion that on this pedestal rests a box full of what we may think are solid ideas, facts we have taken for accurate and true. But it seems to me as if this box is breaking down, and these "facts" are falling from their solid foundation into a multi-colored sphere. This sphere is not on a pedestal but instead on the ground, "down to Earth" perhaps?!? The sphere may be a new understanding, blending our once separate facts, notions, ideas etc. and conceptualizing them all to form a more broad understanding. One that is not restricted by the straight lines of a boring box, but exploding from the center into a much more fluid shape. Also the colors of the two differ greatly, instead of being composed strictly of solid, run-of-the-mill colors, the sphere is filled those same colors, but mixed into brillant new hues, wholly different from their parent colors. However, there are also spaces in the sphere where no color is formed. Perhaps that is the idea that even when we gain a new understanding of an idea, there still maybe some things that we do not know, which of course...leaves room for more exploration!

ever welcoming....
Name: Hayley Tho
Date: 2002-09-03 21:13:24
Link to this Comment: 2488

Lovely to be with you all between and betwixt the revisionary spaces of this forum and our various class meetings. I recall very clearly the narrative I envisioned when I first encountered this course material and, in particular, the cover picture on the course packet.

Then and now, I can't help but approach all of this stuff as a folklorist, whatever that might mean. Even knowing what I know(?), the story I produced the other day leading my first CSEM class was entirely unlike my first tale about the cover picture. I'm persuaded, taken by both, and by others I've read and heard in this forum.

Luckily for me, mine is among the most undisciplined disciplines. I'm free to be promiscuous in my references and inspirations and forgetful (sometimes) about the stories I've met.

Looking forward to your revisions, re-thinkings and forays into undisciplined terrain this semester.


Understanding Picture
Name: Bridget Do
Date: 2002-09-03 22:07:52
Link to this Comment: 2489

Each side/color of the cube is one area of study. Red is psychology, blue is anatomy, and green is botany. As they fall off the cube and out of their strict, structured, self-contained little areas, they begin to breech the lines that separate them and combine within certain aspects of eachothers' fields. As they fall they combine with every other area and together form a perfect sphere. The end.

Name: Natalie
Date: 2002-09-03 22:40:14
Link to this Comment: 2490

The truth about this picture is that there are infinite ways to interpret what it means. It depends which way it is approached, from the top, backwards, frontwards, sideways. (backwards, in no sense meaning wrong.) The first thing that came to mind was "thinking outside the box", could I be any more unoriginal... But in actuality as our thoughts carry us outside the confines of self, society, and world, it enables us to understand more. Not to say the picture becomes clearer, for it seems a higher understanding leads to more questions (even more complexity) but this exploration, the spark that is the unknown, is what will bring us closer to perhaps the ultimate, a complete unity of sorts.

my interpretation
Name: Kate Shine
Date: 2002-09-03 23:32:53
Link to this Comment: 2491

My first thought of the meaning of this illustration was that the pieces from the sphere were moving up into the box. The word understanding and the question marks following it led me to assume that that this work explores an individual's quest to obtain understanding through knowledge of the significance of his or her experiences in the world. I see the box as the knowledge and the sphere as the experience. Before any experience can be given a significance, it must be put through the filter of the mind and given a label or a category so it fits in with the already intact personal schema of previous experience. These schema might be personally created or inherited from a wider culture, I see some as possibly being genres such as art or physics. I see the different colors in the box as representing these different schema. The box alone, however, only resembles the reality of what the multicolored experience is. No one category can encompass all of it. I see the line moving down from the box to the question marks as the attempt to move from mere subjuctive knowledge of these contrived areas to some type of more universal "understanding."

my opinion on the cover's meaning
Name: Joy Woffin
Date: 2002-09-04 00:05:00
Link to this Comment: 2492

To me the cover art means this:

The dappled, multi-colored globe represents the many people/experiences/viewpoints/pieces of knowledge that one encounters in life. Unlike many others in my class, I viewed the "puzzle pieces" as eminating from the sphere and being absorbed into the cube (rather than the other way around). In my interpretation, the cube represents one's own being/consciousness/sense of self, the many experiences we encounter throughout life are absorbed and categorized by us to shape who we are.
I also thought the significance of the "self" being on a post - with a base that has question marks on it, means that we think of ourselves as a stable and unchanging entity, but perhaps we are less "steady" than we think since we are constantly imbibing new information. The sphere of experience and the "outside" world is a sphere because a sphere will never stay stable if you place it down somewhere, just as the world and our experience is constantly changing.

Hope that makes sense to everyone.

- Joy : )

Take Two... the watercolor
Name: Ro. Finn
Date: 2002-09-04 08:09:20
Link to this Comment: 2493

Mulling over what we discussed in CSEM yesterday AFTER we wrote what we wrote about the watercolor, I couldn't let it lie. I could see the sense of it either way -- falling from the cube or floating up into it from the ball. Wanted to write the other version, so this burbled to the surface.

Take Two (aspirins?...): Understanding is ?????

The mass: all people, all possibilities -- still child-like, naïve, amorphous. Most are content to hunker down against the warm colors and soft shape, but some of us are lured away by the mountain that must be climbed.

We lock onto a path that transforms us. We molt again and again, taking on distinct form and color. We have chosen a one way ride. Innocence lost, along with the promise of all things possible? Like junkies on a new high, we float. Like junkies on an old high, we need more just to stay straight. We're hooked.

Box Mountain holds us, rattling around inside its disciplines, boundaries, constraints. No way out? Or have we gained the power to move to the challenge, the next "high"... how to think our way out and on to the next mountain.

CSEM writings
Name: Jessie Pos
Date: 2002-09-04 11:05:22
Link to this Comment: 2494

Well, I viewed the picture in more of a "picture book" kind of way-the following is what ended up on my paper.

And so the tye-dyed ball rolled on, through meadows and parks. As the ball rolled on, it grew happier, content with itself. Swirling with red and blue, green and yellow, it made it's way down the road. Suddenly, it was stuck, confused. The ball was bored with itself- "Something is missing," it said, "but I am all in one piece!" Confused, it rolled onward. Suddenly, something came into view straight ahead. The ball maoved closer and closer, and this THING came more into focus. It was not a circle, but...a square! It too, had many colors. But it was different than the ball- it's edges were pointy, and it was missing a piece.
"I know," thought the ball, "I will share some of my colors." It wriggled a few pieces loose, and away they flew. The sqare was now in focus. The square seemed whole. And the ball, even though it was missing a piece, felt whole too!

[Perhaps i need help with this, but my point was that while it can be scary to be open and to share, by sharing, we will grow and figure out who we are, and others around us will do the same.]

Name: risa
Date: 2002-09-04 13:51:58
Link to this Comment: 2495

the blue offends. it offends the red every time. greedy & persistent, blue places itself in front as much as possible. green harbors hope, without rights to it at all- pointing up- only the tall ones can ever hope to see its densely colored expanse as it perceives itself. green thinks about what it would be like to face the world at eye level instead of staring up into the empty, clear sky. red spits more pieces out. blue keeps eating them but when blue eats them and swallows, red suddenly finds them in back. a reason to cough & spit. red spits the pieces out. they shatter, fracture & crack, revealing all colors encased in each sliver. in the pieces red blue green are one, each other. but no one can see where this takes place, stuck together on a stand that will not bend, to which no one will grant a view to another.

an old story....
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-09-04 14:30:44
Link to this Comment: 2496

I promised my class my story of "Understanding is ????" (which, I confess, I wrote a year ago, when we posed this question for the first version of this CSem). Here 'tis:

for me, the box (colored so brightly, brightly and w/ beauty; i revel in the intensity of these primary colors) clearly represents academic "knowledge," the sort of "packaging" that shows up as disciplines like"biology" or "literary studies" or "anthropology," while the globe is the multiple pleasing richnesses of the world. but i really don't like the way this artist has figured the relationship between these two images. rather than "reading" what she's drawn, i'd prefer to re-draw the picture/re-arrange the interaction between the parts. i'd get rid of the stand and its label, put the box and the globe on the same level, let the puzzle pieces flow back and forth between them, in order to "say" that the rich multiplicity of the world is what feeds our academic "packages," but the sense those packages make of the world has the capacity for re-shaping it in turn...and on and on/round and round/back and forth it goes. (in the picture, as it's currently drawn, gravity works against that back-and-forth process) WOULDN'T i just like it a LOT if, before class ends in december, each of us could not just describe (as i just have), but actually DRAW our own figure of what "understanding" looks like....

Cover picture
Name: Bonnie Bal
Date: 2002-09-04 16:20:05
Link to this Comment: 2497

Our understanding of something is often not complete. Like the pieces of a puzzle, we acquire understanding a little at a time, piece by piece. There are holes in our personal puzzles, left undone, unexplored, not completed. Education and life experiences can help us to acquire particular sections of our puzzle. Difficult subjects talked about, written about, explored, lead to more puzzle pieces, and once we have them they become a part of us and are so much easier to talk about, write about, and think about in the future. We never really complete our puzzle. However, part of the responsibility of coming close to completing it is sharing our ideas, experiences, and knowledge with others. This makes for a dynamic, invigorating, and stimulating world.

What is a story?
Name: Abigail Br
Date: 2002-09-04 17:36:06
Link to this Comment: 2498

A story is an interpretation of an object, event, or idea. This interpretation can take the form of a written work, an oral telling, or even artwork. Any topic can become the subject of a story, as long as it has meaning to the author. We can compose personal stories that need not be shared with others. Stories that are to be shared however, usually are significant to the listener as well. Stories help explain the way we view the world around us. Transforming and organizing our thoughts into story form with a subject, some characters, and a central theme can help others understand what we are thinking.

An object itself, like the now famous blackboard example we used in class, is not a story. The way we see this object, its significance to our own lives, or its history of being can be shaped into a story.

Is this explanation a story? Of course not. There is no plot, no setting, no flow of interconnected events. Rather, this passage is a definition. It tries to define the word "story" which contradicts all that a story is. Rather than a definition that tells the reader what to think, a story provides a loose structure about a topic while allowing the person experiencing the story to interpret it her own way.

As the word "story" can be viewed differently by everyone, perhaps coming up with a precise definition of this word isn't as important as understanding the message of what we expeience, be it a story or not.

mow famous?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-09-04 21:44:35
Link to this Comment: 2501

Tell the rest of us, Abigail: what is the now famous blackboard example used in your class?

Understanding is questionable
Name: Mel Brickl
Date: 2002-09-05 00:22:31
Link to this Comment: 2504

Understanding is questionable.
Are the puzzle pieces making up the tower or they falling to earth? We know that earth is a diverse place full of different puzzle
Perhaps they aren't puzzle pieces at all but spirits or souls.
I believe that we come to the place, earth, to learn a lesson and complete a mission.
The more I look at this illustration, I see me leaving my neat little square plane to enter a circle which looks eclectic and jumbled.
My comfortable square (box) is being challenged -- where are my boundaries?

CSem-Reading an Image
Name: Diane Gibf
Date: 2002-09-05 05:23:01
Link to this Comment: 2506

Pieces kept falling out of the box; hard pieces, fragments, abstractions, concepts, ideas. They floated down like leaves on an autumn day. But once airborne, they became translucent, electric. Some dissolved into the atmosphere. Others were absorbed by the gravitational pull of the planet below. A core of desire, unseen burned within. Once absorbed they lost their edges - softening, blending, forming continents, oceans, depths, heights, climates and weather patterns.

What is the box? It breaks apart violently. It heaves a heavy load. The sound can be heard for miles. A world breaks apart. A new world in it's birth pangs receives it. Is the box real? Some say it has always been there and always will. Others say it isn't really there at all.

When pieces fall, does a void remain? What is behind the blackness of the places where the pieces have left shattered. What is the nature of the box? Why does it cast bits of itself like bread upon the water?
The core of the planet summons it.

Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2002-09-05 10:04:22
Link to this Comment: 2509

Don't read until you've written your own story of Sharon's picture ...

The original form of the picture is in an exhibit called Transformation at Click through the exhibit until you get to the three doors, go in the middle one, look on the right wall.

For Sharon's story of the picture, see

Is that actually a "spoiler"? How relevant is it what Sharon says she had in mind when she painted the picture?

story definitions cont'd
Name: Victoria T
Date: 2002-09-05 13:24:53
Link to this Comment: 2512

I have been thinking about our discussion in class yesterday on the definition of a story, and I've come up with a few more of my own ideas on that topic. I thik that in class we started to confuse the idea of an actual story with the idea of an object which might have a story connected to it. A computer in and of itself does not constitute a story. I think that it is possible to tell stories about the computer, its construction, uses, etc., but the computer, as an inanimate object, cannot be classified as a story. I think that something can be classified as a story when it is an effort to communicate or express emotions, events or information. Stories can be told between two people (either orally or in writing) or even within a person's mind. Something only becomes a story when it is told or interpreted by people. For example, a bookcase or a painting can tell a story if a person takes the time to look at it and interpret its meaning or history, but it is not a story just because it is there. If a person does not make the effort to interpret or express something, it isn't really a story. I think a story is a form of communication and/or expression used by humans, and without a human to tell or interpret a story, something cannot exist as a story.
I don't know how well I have just expressed myself about the nature of stories, but I hope that at least I have clarified my own personal views a little bit more.

about the famous blackboard....
Name: Victoria T
Date: 2002-09-05 13:32:56
Link to this Comment: 2513

I was just reading through the comments and noticed that people from other sections were confused about our allusions to the "famous blackboard example," so I'll try to clarify a little bit. As we were discussing the definition of a story the other day, we became engaged in a debate about whether or not the blackboard on the wall constituted a story or not. Some people argued that because the blackboard had stories behind it, or that because people might come up with stories about it, it was, in and of itself, a story. That was the basic argument, although I'm sure other people might be able to explain a little bit more clearly than I just did.

Telling the Picture
Name: Kim Cadena
Date: 2002-09-05 16:00:34
Link to this Comment: 2518

The puzzle pieces are escaping the boxy confines of their conformist starts and heading for the mixing of the sphere. As they go, they are transformed into different, more colorful pieces, but they keep the same shape because that's how they were made. The box has holes in it because it is missing community members and all that is left of them is their outlines. Some of the pieces come back and fit themselves back into the community, but most stay in the sphere. The box is on top of the understanding pillar because the box thinks that it knows, while the sphere knows that it does not know. I think that's it.

cover revisited
Name: Elena
Date: 2002-09-05 19:22:09
Link to this Comment: 2523

Before I looked upon the sphere as an exterior enigma-- something that someone else created and totally impersonal to me. Now I realize there's something more familar to it. I know these twinkling pieces, I've seen them before. Every so often I can feel them resonate in me, down to the bottom of my feet, when my spirit comes out of the dark.

What is a story?
Name: Kristen Co
Date: 2002-09-05 21:36:06
Link to this Comment: 2527

When I am asked the question, "What is a story?" I pause to think. At first it seems like a simple question and I am transported back to my grade school days for a simple answer. A story is something you read in a book. In high school, stories had a plot, setting, characters, etc, etc. After discussing this question in class and reading the assigned readings, I am lead to believe the answer is not as simple as it might seem. Sure stories can be told about anything. Any person, event, or object can be transformed into a story if there is enough meaning behind it. These things, however, are not stories in themselves. They make up the moments that Patricia Hempl discusses in her work. What I think constitutes a story is perhaps taking these moments and using them for a particular purpose. Each story much have its function, rather it be to inform, entertain, or relay a message. A story isn't constricted by length or form. It's a story if it has meaning to the one who wrote it and the audience reading it.

cover of c-sem book
Name: orah minde
Date: 2002-09-06 13:25:45
Link to this Comment: 2532

There is no understanding without questions. We cannot 'know' anything unless we inquire about it. After we have asked questions we may aquire knowlege that leads scientists and psychologists and historians etc. to develope facts. The puzzle is complete, color coded. but when we try to apply these facts, these generalizations, to ourselves the colors fade and the angles are blurred. There is so much diversity amoung individuals that it is impossible to be able to say that because something applies to John then it will also apply to Mary. So the peices that we thought we had figured out are filtered through us and are no longer facts built on understanding- for the understanding, the generalizations have been lost amidst the diversity of humanity. We must begin again with questioning. The base of all is questioning. Undrestanding can topple, and facts can topple but we will always be able to question. So we continue to build on this base, trying to aquire understanding and each time we acheive this understanding we make facts and apply them to the earth, and each time they are applied to us on earth they are no longer facts and again we must question. It is human nature to want to be on the top, to reach up to the unknown and take power. And each time the tower topples. And each time we again reach. And each time we are left scrambling for understanding in a world of diversity.

What is a story?
Name: Phoebe And
Date: 2002-09-09 12:36:47
Link to this Comment: 2568

I think that all stories rely on emotions. Even the simplest tale is suppose to evoke some kind of emotion in the reader. The fairy tale Cinderella is a perfect example. Although many people enjoyed reading it as children and watching the Walt Disney version of it without really getting passionate about the story, the story presents many important issues. The injustice Cinderella suffers at the hands of her evil stepmother and stepsisters, and the disctinction of class between the rich Prince and the poor servant, Cinderella, are addressed.

I think that a story is a described event or situation that involves a person's opinions or feelings. The author's ultimate goal is to evoke similar or different emotions in the reader and hopefully form a connection with the reader. In some stretch of the imagination, the reader should be able to relate to the issue discussed in the story.

story me
Name: Hayley Tho
Date: 2002-09-09 19:40:41
Link to this Comment: 2569

Saludos, QIR folks!!!

As you know, each week, Anne, Paul and I will ask you to respond via the forum to a question or issue generated by the materials in the coursepack and/or in class discussions.

The *most excellent* students in my section of our fabulous cluster have been engaged in inspired and ever unfinished conversation about what constitutes a "story" since late last week. We'd love to have you join and shape the discussion.

To wit, please share your current thoughts on what is a story and/or makes a story. Remember, this sharing/writing is meant to be informal, conversational and evocative, on a good day. So put away your dictionaries and aspirations to "rightness" and let us know what you really think.

As always, your thoughts and your courage in the sharing are noticed and appreciated.


A story is...
Date: 2002-09-09 19:56:14
Link to this Comment: 2570

Creativity, imagination and craft are apparent in stories. What else could keep childrens' attention as they sit around camp fires, cold and scared and sick from too many marshmallows? Stories grab attention, just as a piece of artwork provokes an immediate liking or disgust. Thus, story-telling, or story-writing, is an art form, a manifestation of expression. People flock to museums to be inspired. For a similar reason, people read stories. Stories grab readers' interest by including them in the mind of the writer. The children around the campfire listen to stories attentively because they are involved in predicting what will happen.

A Story is...
Name: Beth
Date: 2002-09-10 10:26:43
Link to this Comment: 2583

I can definitely see the logic behind the whole anything is a story. Is a blackboard a story? i would rephrase that and say a blackboard tells a story. The way you look at anything defines if it tells a story or not. it is all in your head.

What does one mean by a story?
Name: Rachel Ste
Date: 2002-09-10 14:44:11
Link to this Comment: 2587

I think of a story as a description of anything- it can be nonfictional or fictional. For example, when one of your friends says "Oh, I have to tell you a story", it's usually something that happened to them or someone they knew. However, a fairy tale for example is also another kind of story, one that would go into the category of "bedtime stories", made up stories that just kind of make you feel good and happy. And then there are so many other kinds, stories that make you scared, sad, or stories that you learn from. In general, there are no guidelines for stories, as long as someone is telling or writing anything.

Learning in School/Not
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-09-10 14:56:00
Link to this Comment: 2588

Whent the McBrides and I discussed the first paragraphs of their "lives of learning" in class today, we noticed--besides the wide varieties of interesting ways to get a story started and tease your audience into wanting "more"--a very marked pattern: NONE of these tales were located in the classroom. We're wondering what the patterns were like in the other sections, where other "generations" are speaking: are your lives of learning school-based, school-centric, or set largely in other sites, as ours are?

what makes a story?
Name: Kristina C
Date: 2002-09-10 18:41:33
Link to this Comment: 2601

I think it's really difficult to explain the what exactly a story is because it varies from person to person. I think of a story as any way through which a person expresses themself- thus not all stories are text- music and art can also be stories. Though a blackboard may not be a story in itself, a person could always generate a tale from it. While the way in which a story is told differs it is always a means of expression for the author or artist.

A story is...
Name: Gwenyth Ca
Date: 2002-09-10 18:48:32
Link to this Comment: 2602

A story is simply a written or oral expression of fictional or non-fictional events, ideas, thoughts or anything else! There is no set definition of a "story" because stories can vary so widely to many topics, and expressed in many forms. Novels, gossip, daily news, and class lectures are all stories. We probably hear hundreds, maybe even thousands of stories a day. Stories can't even be defined by their audience because wouldn't talking to your dog about your day (oh, you know you do it!!) still be a story??? Stories seem to have been around forever beginning with primitive speech and cave-wall scribblings and will continue to exist as long as humans themselves do.

What is a story?
Name: Jessie
Date: 2002-09-10 20:24:25
Link to this Comment: 2604

Stories are a specific art form, just as drawing and dance are different from one another. It is very easy to make everything seem like a "dance" or a "story," but to me, they both have their own criteria. Stories have a beginning, middle, and end to me. They require some sort of climax, or action, or action verb, to make it move along. Stories tell about or descibe places, things and people, and their subsequesnt interaction. (The cat jumped over the log.)

I think that's what I wanted to say, it wasn't a story, just a comment.

What is a story?
Name: Margaret K
Date: 2002-09-10 22:12:47
Link to this Comment: 2607

I think of a story as something kind of warm, something that you connect to emotionally. You experience an emotional connection with the author. (or maybe your subconscious does)It doesn't necessarily mean the story has to be happy; when we say "What a sad story," we have made connection to the author or storyteller, just as if we'd said, "what a great story!" or funny story or whatever. It's kind of intimate.
I see a narrative as dry version of a story, it may grab you intellectually or rationally, but it probably won't touch you way down inside. I see fairy tales more as metaphors that have overarching themes, maybe of a psychological or metaphysical nature. They instruct and/or warn us about the human condition. Folk tales are similar to fairy tales, I think, except maybe they also tell a history of culture or place. They may connect us to our past but possibly not on a personal level.
Then I think, well, where would say, mystery novels or those very cool Patrick O'Brien books fit in this scenario? If something resonates with you and you make a connection but the person sitting next to you thinks it's dry as dust, what is it? My criteria for what makes a story kind of flies out the window! Maybe my reasoning is flawed or maybe it's all subjective anyway. If it touches you, it's a story. If it doesn't, maybe it's someone else's story. I don't know! All I can say for sure is that I think a story is more than a group of sentences that moves from point A to point B and has a beginning, middle and end.
Well, I've never thought about this before. Very interesting and I'm looking forward to hearing everybody's thoughts.

what is a story?
Name: Abigail Br
Date: 2002-09-10 22:41:44
Link to this Comment: 2608

I never realized that finding a fitting definition for "story" could be so complicated. To tell the truth, i had never much thought of this definition to begin with, because this word is so simple. i guess one just assumes that one knows what it means without ever pausing to analyze it, which is what we have spent the past week doing.

I don't think this discussion can possibly culminate in a set definition of a story, and nor should it, because everyone views stories differently. one's personal experiences make stories come alive. stories are then reshaped when people re-tell the stories they have heard and add their own perspectives.

a story isn't the event, the object, or the idea, but rather the form in which these things are presented to others and to oneself. human emotions and opinions change something that merely exists to something that has a meaning all of its own.

a story is...
Name: whitney
Date: 2002-09-11 15:05:48
Link to this Comment: 2620

A story is a way of telling something. I don't necessarily think the contents of whatever is being told is integral to the definition of the word... just that there is a tapestry of things happening, concerning a central idea. stories have to do with processes- reinvention, decontruction, growth. I don't agree with the idea of a "beginning, middle and end"- stories can be neverending.

A Story
Name: Alexandria
Date: 2002-09-11 15:16:58
Link to this Comment: 2622

A story is an expression about an experiance. It could be written, oral, or visual. A story can be anything- from the reason you bought a black lamp as opposed to a blue lamp or what the first world war was fought over. Almost anything can become a story.

what makes a story
Name: Mel Brickl
Date: 2002-09-11 19:06:26
Link to this Comment: 2631

To me words, pictures and movement are vehicles for stories. ideas, emotions, past experiencs and thoughts are the guts of stories. indivual life experiences determine how we interpret and analyze stories.

Name: orah minde
Date: 2002-09-11 21:15:53
Link to this Comment: 2633

I have been thinking more about what makes something a story. In our first class discussion i was of the group that said that a blackboard on a wall is a story if seen by a person. I've changed my mind. I think that there has to be an action involved for something to be considered a story. The random house dictionary defines a story as: a written or spoken account of something that has happened. A blackboard has not 'happened.'If the line was: the cat watched the blackboard; that is a story. When a writer has to make choices, i think the writing is a story. But there is no decition making in saying: the bloackboard. Story tellers are artists and art is made up of personal decitions made by the artist.

Another idea:
Today in class we were talking about how the 'once upon a time' in a fairy tale puts us into another dimention one that is not tied down by time. The fairy tale takes place in another world. When on enters the world of the fiary tale one has to be able to beleive that mice can turn into men and men can crawl into the ass-holes of elephants. The physical constraints of this world do not tie the charachters of a fairytale down. I think this is very similar to the world of fantasy. What is the difference between the two? maybe...fantasy deals with a world in which there are supernatural characters alongside the human characters. In the fairytale the characters are humans but the suroundings are supernatural.

fairy tales
Name: samea
Date: 2002-09-11 22:36:43
Link to this Comment: 2635

i think its ... i dunno almost wrong... for someone to make fairy tales into a realistic story... or to try and translate a fairy tale into a realistic setting... because then it no longer fits the title "fairy tale" and it just steals the whole point of the fairy tale... they're meant to be magical and wonderful... and if we try to break everything down into politically correct//incorrect, or realistic//impossible then it just takes away the wonder and fantasy that everyone needs in their life... i think i already said this in class... oh well!!

fairy tales
Name: samea
Date: 2002-09-11 22:38:23
Link to this Comment: 2636

oh yea.. and about the "once upon a time" thing... i think that small brief phrase changes everything... because no longer does it take me to a different time... it takes me to a time that doesnt necessarily haev to exist in our history... in a place that doesnt reallie exist in the world... almost to another dimension that allows all the fantasy that is a part of a fairy tale//folk tale

What is a story?
Name: Kim Cadena
Date: 2002-09-11 23:56:30
Link to this Comment: 2639

A story is a narration of what happened. Beginning, middle, end, these are not necessary for a story, only some telling of what occurred. Actually, as frosh, we've been telling a lot of stories these past weeks as a way to relate to one another. Most of these stories are context-defined, a way of saying 'hey, the same thing happened to me, and here's how.' Usually, their told as just middles or beginnings or ends because the whole story is not something the people here would understand since they weren't there the first time and don't know the protagonists. Stories are histories (or verstories, if you prefer).

Name: Natalie
Date: 2002-09-12 01:22:03
Link to this Comment: 2640

story: words that form in some coherent way, where molded out of a mound of clay, are characters, a place, a time, a purpose or lack there of. Perhaps these characters perform a comedy, tragedy, a romance. But what a story does is captivate its audience, it brings them into the story so that they too are living the story as it unfolds.

what is a story?
Name: Claire
Date: 2002-09-12 16:01:40
Link to this Comment: 2645

A story is not easily defined: it can be fictional or nonfictional; have a moral or not; have a finite beginning and ending or be continuous; and so on. Nearly everything around us has a story linked with it (whether it be in the form of a memory or idea or tradition etc). A series of events or a dialogue or action, in chronological order or not constitutes a simple tale which then can be fleshed out with detail to form the commonly thought of fairytale or novel.
(Phew! This really is a tricky term to describe specifically, and yes, I am glad that I don't work for Webster's!)

Defining "story"
Name: Ro. Finn
Date: 2002-09-13 06:36:28
Link to this Comment: 2655

Hi all,
For me, a story is a definite sequencing of ideas or thoughts by someone, cast in ink. Often, we consider ideas or thoughts as floating, disjoint "emblems". The writer connects her chosen emblems. When it's done well, it's more than a report of facts or views. It leaves room for each of us to make new connections of our own... or not.

Name: Adina
Date: 2002-09-13 11:14:17
Link to this Comment: 2657

A story can really be anything. It can be a short and simple book read to a child at bedtime or a complicated narrative read and studied by college students. Stories can be plucked from imaginations, or they can be actual events. They do not have to be recorded. A story can be a series of events that happened in the past, that will happen in the future, or that are happening as I write in this forum.

How I Define A Story
Name: Molly Mae
Date: 2002-09-14 22:15:20
Link to this Comment: 2680

Defining a story...At first it didn't seem obvious, I have to admit. I wondered how I would approach this seemingly complex and difficult question of How I Define A Story. My mind starts stretching to the outer limits of the most extreme and bizarre stories I've heard. If a story can include so many new ideas, so many worlds of knowledge, how can I, little old me, even dream of defining it in a few short words?

Good. I see I'm not the only one struggling. Having read a bunch of the comments above, I would now easily define a story - and I'd do so very narrowly, conservatively; with the practical matter of clear communication as my primary argument:

When I say story, or when I hear you say story, I understand it to mean the repeated telling of a sequence of events that resulted in some revelation that made it worth re-telling by means of print or picture or song or dance or word.

ta da.

a story = ?
Name: Joy Woffin
Date: 2002-09-15 00:41:32
Link to this Comment: 2681

I believe a story can be anything that takes you out of yourself and your own realm of thinking. A story puts you in "the shoes" (to be cliche about it) of another character(s) (fictional or real, human or nonhuman) - and a good story may make you question, confirm, or refine your beliefs and way of thinking about the world. No matter how frivolous, short, or simple a story is, we take a least a small piece of it with us after we read, hear or otherwise experience it, even though we may or may not remember it a week later.

Other than that, I believe the definition of a story can be quite broad, For example, I don't think a story has to follow the typical beginning-middle-end format, or even have a main character in the traditional sense of the word. For example, the history of the earth or (wo)mankind are both very meaningful "stories" that certainly do not fit the typical mold.

- Joy W. : )

What is a story?
Name: Bonnie Bal
Date: 2002-09-16 06:09:23
Link to this Comment: 2706

a story?...written words trying to express the complexities of the human heart...stratching the surface, searching for truth, looking for words to describe the undescribable, a feeling, an emotion, a corporate connection among "readers" to something beyond ourselves and mere words.

A new week
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2002-09-16 12:33:00
Link to this Comment: 2709

Interesting stories in our first week's forum about Sharon's picture and in the second week's forum about the meaning of story. Sort of interesting to compare the two too. So, here's what Anne, Haley, and I thought might be fun for the third week. You get a choice about what you want to write about here:

Choice 1:

Here's two more of Sharon's pictures (you can click on them to see them bigger). What kind of story comes to your mind from comparing the two pictures?

Choice 2:

Compare the first two forum discussions. Is it easier to write a story about a picture or a story about what stories are? How come?

What is a story
Name: Diane Gibf
Date: 2002-09-16 22:38:54
Link to this Comment: 2713

I am just wondering if it is enough to say that in a story, "something happens". For example, if I say, "It is raining." Is that a story?
I think maybe it is. Because those three words already make a story or picture in my head. And I can think of Van Gogh's painting of "Rain" that I love so much or my childhood memories of rain, or maybe "It's raining men" Or maybe I won't do any of those things and just think "it's raining". ... This makes me think about the fairy tale we read about the locust with the kernel of corn...I wonder if it was a parable about story making."A locust came and picked up a kernel of corn and flew away." Maybe that is the definition of a story. Maybe we come and pick up our kernel of corn and take it where we want it to go. Can there be a story where nothing happens? If I say "blue" is that a story? It think maybe it is because if I say "blue" blue happens. What is a minimal story? But now, "Drink Coca Cola" I don't think is a story... but maybe it is. Or maybe that is a bad example because it is already sort of an icon and so it is a story after all. But what if I say William, and you have no idea who William is and have never met him or any other William in your life.
Well then, I don't think it is a story. Because blue is something we have all shared, but William if you don't know him, well we couldn't share the experience with just his name. Is a story always words? Yes, I think that must be true. Words, spoken or written. Can a story be images? yes it can. Well, then what the images and the words have in common is "something happens". Can a story just be sounds? Oh my gosh, I think it can. I think music can tell stories as well as art. But I think I will stick to "something happens".

Week 3
Name: Diane Gibf
Date: 2002-09-16 22:57:22
Link to this Comment: 2714

Well, my initial posting was intended for Week 2 and somehow got into Week 3. So I figured while I was on the loop I would comment on the pictures and questions about writing a story about what is a story and/or writing a story about a picture. I think writing a story about a picture is easier.
Because a picture already is a story. This sequence of pictures is about a change in point of view, something revealed and understood or exposed.
And I think it supports my idea that in a story "something happens"
So that goes back to my question, if I say "blue"
Is that a story? What do you think? If I say "It is raining" is that a story? Does something have to change? Maybe blue is not enough. What if I said, "Blue... no blue" Or "It is raining, now it stopped."
Maybe "something happens' is not enough. Maybe it's more like, there is something, and then there is a change.(either in perspective, or understanding, or actual physical change.) At least, that is the story in the pictures for week 3.

No inherent stories
Name: Risa Rice
Date: 2002-09-17 11:21:52
Link to this Comment: 2717

stories do not inherently exist. it is our perception that what we are witnessing is a story that brings them into being. text/art/etc., become "story" when we allow them to penetrate us first, and in response/reflection to this we apply the term of "story" as we make the story of it. one person can look at some very abstract text or a painting and say, "that is NOT a story" and for another person, this may be the ONE story. and thus we assign that term after reflecting on what an experience of a text/painting/etc is and seeing how it measures up against our personal criteria of what a story consists. story, is then, i think, a conscious act, a making, started out of perceiving something as having certain qualities that we uniquely call "story", and then we actually make it a thing we know as a "story." it does not arrive to us as such, but may depart from us with our assigned term applied. it is not an act of recognizing some sort of "thing." i think one struggles to name what a story is because linguistically this phrase assumes the story IS indeed something,like a tree or another tangible noun when it is not, it is a conscious act of perception.

The Picture
Name: Beatrice J
Date: 2002-09-17 13:24:34
Link to this Comment: 2720

Understanding is questionable, and at sometimes puzzling. I see the earth as we know it, being replaced. The shapes and colors are placed in vivid contrast. I see the earth of softness, beauty and color being replaced by something dark, rigid, and almost unknowing. The pieces almost seem human in form. The two seem not to fit and seem to be tumbling back to Earth, while the other seems to be traveling upward toward the unknown.

Name: Beatrice J
Date: 2002-09-17 13:30:10
Link to this Comment: 2721

I see a story as something that enlightens. I see it as something that entertains. I see it as something that teaches. I see it as something to spend time with.

At other times, I see it as something challenging, something questioning, something searching, and at some time downright humbling.

Then, at other times I feel the feelings, embrace the thoughts and wish that I could have told that story.
What is a Story?

Choice 2
Name: Rachel Ste
Date: 2002-09-17 17:27:39
Link to this Comment: 2731

It is easier to write a story about a picture. As we discussed in class, there is a lot of disagreement about what a story actually is, and whether an object can be a story. Some students say that the object is not a story, but there can be a story about it. I personally do not see the difference between these two phrases. Consequently, if there is a picture, one can tell a story of or about the picture and it would be the same thing. (I don't know how much sense that makes...)
When there is an image in front of you, you can easily picture a story to go along with it. Our brain works using a combination of images and words, and when one of these is supplied for you it makes life much easier. Seeing the image instead of having to imagine it yourself makes telling a story less complicated, and the story will make sense to everyone because they see the same image as you, instead of having to try to figure out what was in your head.

telling vs. describing stories
Name: Claire Mah
Date: 2002-09-17 19:39:08
Link to this Comment: 2735

Personally, I had a much easier time creating a story for the picture (two weeks ago) than detailing the definition of what a story is (last week). I think that this was true because it seemed that whenever I began a generalized definition of the word "story," I thought of yet another form of a story which didn't neatly fit into the previous definiton. On the other hand, when looking at the picture, there was no one answer--that description didn't need to be all-inclusive/incorporate all facets of possible meanings. I'm not sure why there seems to be such a stigma to create concrete definitions for words, yet art doesn't fall under that requirement (I'm not saying that it should, but I do find it interesting). So now that I've thoroughly confused anyone who attempted to read this, let me conclude with one last opinion about today's class discussion: yes, I do believe that stories can be told about objects, however, the objects are NOT stories in and of themselves.

Name: Margaret K
Date: 2002-09-17 22:07:16
Link to this Comment: 2741

I'm choosing to answer question #2, but I wanted to say first that the two pictures brought to mind that painting of "The Lady of Shalott" in her boat by John Waterhouse. I don't quite see the connection but there it is. Our two paintings remind me of the world of fairies, mysterious and a little bit dangerous. Again, the connection there is unclear. When the rational side of my brain looks at these pictures I see lots of light and bright (yet soft) colors. To my more intuitive side they feel deceptive and dangerous. Maybe it's all these fairy tales working on my subconscious.
I think writing about what makes a story a story is much easier than telling the story of a picture. In the first instance, I'm using my brain, my rational side. It's a theory (like we talked about in class) and for me there is not much emotion in explaining a theory.
Telling the story of a picture, however, involves emotion and creation, and if you share that with other people you are giving them a look into your soul. So to back up a minute, maybe it's not the actual writing about either of these things that is easy or difficult-- it's the sharing what I've written with others. Now that I'm thinking, there can be emotion involved with theory--passion, for instance-- but it's from the mind, not the soul. Sorry to be so long and rambling and maybe non-sensical but that's the way my thoughts float by!

Story of a Picture
Name: Gwenyth
Date: 2002-09-18 00:18:04
Link to this Comment: 2742

I'd like to comment on Sharon's second picture, the one with the woman lying nude in the field. I thought this picture was significant because it represented a visual that I had already formed in my mind. I had been reading La Femme du Boulanger (The Bakers Wife) for my French class. It is about a baker's wife who'd run off with a sheperd to a small island. With the baker, she had been largely overlooked and unloved, married to a fat, ugly beast of a man! The sheperd was young, playful, very handsome, and treated her well. In one scene, a man was out fishing and saw her on this island. She was singing and lying completely nude, just totally carefree and happier than she'd ever been. This picture is exactly how I imagined this moment in the story. The woman looks so relaxed and because shes nude, it seems as if she has no cares or inhibitions at all. Sadly, in the story, the baker's wife is hauled back to the baker to continue her work in his shop. This picture is so comforting because that doesn't matter at this one blissfull moment. I know I was supposed to compare the two pictures, but this one was so striking that I couldn't possibly compare it to the other!

choice 2
Name: Natalie
Date: 2002-09-18 02:58:43
Link to this Comment: 2743

Compare the first two forum discussions. Is it easier to write a story about a picture or a story about what stories are? How come?

its like they say a photograph is worth a 1000 words. Which no doubt there is. But the thing about a photograph is that the words are not there. It is where imagination and creativity come into play. If we have a story about what stories are, we have to take those words and turn them into a picture. This, i believe, takes more imagination and creativity. In a sense working backwards. Pictures always evoke language, a word or two at least, but words do not always evoke a picture, scene, or photgraph. Rather, we use words to describe what we see. When we see an image that strikes us, we can only express our reaction through words, gestures, movement of some kind. It is our nature, but also we are taught to respond with the language we are taught as children. So therefore, taking a story and painting a picture is more often harder to do.

Name: Margaret K
Date: 2002-09-18 12:58:48
Link to this Comment: 2746

I think it is so fascinating that people see such different things when looking at the same picture. When I look at the picture of the woman I don't see blissful and carefree at all. I see despair or enchantment or maybe both. The way her body is laying (lying?) makes me think she has just crumpled to the ground with grief. Or possibly she has been overcome by some other powerful force (emotion, fairy stuff) and has fainted. I don't see her as being aware of her surroundings at this moment. But I also don't think she just took a rest at this lovely spot and fell asleep because she was tired. Something else is going on. I think those white spots in the grass are fairies and they are coming round the woman either to investigate what has happened and maybe help her or maybe because they were the ones who caused her to fall to the ground and have some plan for her. I guess it depends on whether they are "good" or malevolent beings.
Perhaps the second picture is a close-up of a piece of the first picture.

story about the 1st picture
Name: Kristen Co
Date: 2002-09-18 16:31:10
Link to this Comment: 2755

Our lives often take the form of this picture. The field up front is clearly visible. Every detail can be made out. Every blade of grass is distinct. It's up close and personal. There is even a flower. This is like our lives now. We can see it very clearly. We know where we are. We can make out the details like the blades of grass. Our today is composed of vibrant and visible colors. Our future is like the hill in the background. We see it although it is distant and unclear. It is not laid out and the picture is not as distinct, but we know that it's there and it is something to strive towards. The question comes when we look at the "field beyond." This is the mass of emptiness between our present and our future. Here the picture is unclear and fuzzy. The colors blend together into a cloud of white. We may know what we want now or even what we want in the future, but our journey there is filled with unexpected twists and turns. We can not possibly know how we are going to get from our today to our tomorrow. There are too many variables that may lead us into the unknown. Under the cloud of white there could be more flowers or there could be a bottomless pit ready to draw us under. We have no way of knowing. We must just look towards the hill in the distance and hope that as we approach it, things become clearer.

choice 1
Name: Abigail Br
Date: 2002-09-18 16:33:10
Link to this Comment: 2756

In the field beyond, what do i see? Green grass that's itchy to walk through and tall enought to hide in. What lies waiting beyond the weeds, the seeds, the swirly-swirls of blue tufty sky? A mist, a gentle fog hovers over this place like lace with a shimmering cream puff in the center. The cricket's cry and the calls of "Kaity did, Kaity didn't" echo off the vast nothingness that encompasses the lonely marsh.

But wait, in this field, this field beyond the realm of our imaginations and realities lies a woman by the cool waters of the pond, beyond the weeds, the seeds, and the swirly-swirls of blue tufty sky. The air is clear here, the water is still. Quietly she lies in a dreamless sleep that transports her beyond the field to a place where beauty is serenity and where no prince can reach to save her from this peace.

i figured i'd try a different approach, as i have grown weary of definitions that i can't word to match the complexity of my thoughts

story or story of picture
Name: Alex Frize
Date: 2002-09-18 20:04:41
Link to this Comment: 2759

I find it extremely difficult to write a story about what a story is. It's almost as difficult to me as describing a color- how do you describe green without using things that are green? To me a visual basis is very helpful. If i see a picture, a painting, even an object, I can make up a story about it. I could make up a story about the making of the picture, where it came from, what is in it now, what the artist was thinking at the time, where it has been etc. However, I was very brief on my description of what a story is. I know what a story is, it was just describing it that brought difficulty. Paintings almost always already have a story, and therefore can be interpreted. Whether the story I created from viewing the painting and the story the artist had in mind while painting the painting were the same or not is irrelevant- They are still both stories.

two pictures: A Story about the dangers of golf.
Name: risa
Date: 2002-09-18 21:55:02
Link to this Comment: 2760

Brigitte knew she shoudn't mix Campari with Valium before noon on weekdays but who knew that by the ninth tee she'd be suddenly mentally and physically overwhelmed by the heat, by the pervasive pressure from the housing association to limit her lawn to only one type of frost-hardy grass, and from the tight Italian cleated loafers that surrounded her feet like a cavalry pinching off supplies.

All Brigitte could think of was how pretty the grass looked. How vital, how fresh and moist and simple to love grass. How not complex, how not competitive, how not burdened by ambition or prestige her sudden love of the seemingly cool grass seemed to her self in her almost-religious state. Brigitte saw in the grass the possibility of melding, of union. It occured to her for the first time that something had just occured to her for the first time. She could feel the grass already just by looking at it. They understood each other completely she felt. Yes, yes, Brigitte and the grass, they knew, they _knew_. Moments later they were in wild, aerobic dialogue. It was Isadora Duncan on LSD, it was Mitzi Gaynor walking backwards out of linen slacks, it was alcohol, and heat...

It was also very brief. The Valium hit Brigitte like a cannon load of soft tissue. Luckily, the ground was closer than before, and suddenly Brigitte knew what love was. It was getting out of those loafers.

The two pictures
Name: Kim Cadena
Date: 2002-09-18 22:26:36
Link to this Comment: 2761

There isn't one specific story that comes to mind as I look at the two pictures, but they remind me of a group of stories: the Greek myths.

The first picture, in the field, makes me think of the Elysiun Fields, especially with the mystic portal thing that is happening in the middle of it.

The second picture seems to be of a nymph or dryad or naiad of some sort. I can't tell whether she is crying or sleeping next to her pool, but she and her environment are definately unearthly.

I suppose I could tell a story of the nymph fleeing through the mystic portal crying and collapsing by the pond, but I don't know why she would do that. Oh, well.

which is easier...
Name: Joy Woffin
Date: 2002-09-18 23:39:23
Link to this Comment: 2763

I think it is easier to write a story about a picture because that is a way of thinking in which we have been trained since we were very young. In fact, I would argue that one cannot even look at a picture without constructing some sort of story about it in order to understand it. This is simply the way human beings, or at least our culture, processes things.

It is difficult to write about what stories are because that is such a hugely broad and vague topic. In some ways it would seem that would make it easier, with more possibilities to explore, but we often have a hard time dealing with/talking about the abstract or metaphysical.

A picture provides a springboard for one to build their interpretation, but the questioning of a familiar term such as "story" is almost a stab in the dark, with so many possible definitions one is at a quandry where to begin.

However I find it interesting that when we discuss the meaning of "story" in a group, we are able to fine-tuned and whittle down our definitions to something quite meaningful (although there may still be disagreement on many points).

- Joy : )

a zen koan or two
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2002-09-19 07:56:12
Link to this Comment: 2766

Here's a question that emerged from discussion in our section Tuesday:

Is the answer to the question "what is a story?" a story?

And here's a related question:

Is the question "what is a story?" a painting?

"A word is worth 1,000 pictures"
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-09-19 10:07:04
Link to this Comment: 2769

I'm remembering Marguerite Duras, a filmmaker and novelist, saying that "a word is worth 1,000 pictures": because it is so "chaste," because its relative "spareness" makes it particularly inviting of engaged interpretation (for an extended faculty discussion of this possibility see Language: A Conversation. So...maybe the ANSWER to the question "what is a story?" is a picture....? Anne

story for the two pictures
Name: orah minde
Date: 2002-09-19 13:58:27
Link to this Comment: 2774

Maybe the world was not created in a week but things came into focus in that first week. All the elements were there and each day of that first day another aspect of creation came into focus. It could be as if we are watching creation from the outside and as we come closer we can see more shapes and forms. We can see detail. We not only see the light of the sun but we see the sphere of the sun. We not only see the blur that might be a body but we see the contortions and the waves of human flesh. At first there were colors: greens and blues and yellows. On the first day the yellow defined itself from all the other colors and became light. On the second day the blue seperated itself and became the water and the tan seperated itself from the blue and became land. Through the week the distinct colors were intensified and concentrated and became physical things- like the yellow was concentrated so much that the sun became. Finally on the last day all the colors merged and intensyfied and in the center of this intense color was a person.

Compare the first two forum discussions. Is it eas
Name: samea
Date: 2002-09-19 15:28:50
Link to this Comment: 2777

it's definitely easier to write a story about a picture because the picture itself tells a story and all you ahve to do is interpret it and find the words to exprses your ideas... however..... iss definitely difficult to write about what a story is.. because peoples ideas n stuff are conflicting ont his forum and the conversation is still continuing while we still havent reached any solid definition that explains a story...

choice 2
Name: Adina
Date: 2002-09-19 18:37:10
Link to this Comment: 2780

It is much easier to write a story about a picture than to write a story about what stories are. Each of us gets a different meaning or different meanings from any particular picture. As the cliche goes, a picture paints a thousand words. In a sense, a picture really is a visual story, seen in the mind and written down. On the other hand, it is almost impossible to define what stories are, let alone to write a story about such an abstract concept.

story based off of comparison of two images
Name: Elena
Date: 2002-09-19 19:09:30
Link to this Comment: 2781

And finally she collasped. Unfortunately, human determination can only stand up against the elements for so long. Her perseverance to trudge through the desert in search of rescue (and water)could not outlast the unforgiving rays of that sun. Her legs gave out and her face and shoulders greeted the ground without hesitation.

Out from a world of black and colliding pied colors appeared her bare image. It lay across the mossy earth, with soft young grass embedded in every tuck of her limbs. She felt the coolness of cloud shadows passing over her back every now and then. Nonetheless, the diamonds in her skin always welcomed the sun rays when they came out again. Though she thought of sunning her underside from time to time, the tank of water in her belly that was pacing its way through her body urged her to reconsider moving. Thus, beside the pool, this languid form resorted her attention to the preoccupation of something more appropriate, such as singing:

"Iiiii Want to soak up the Sunnnn! I got my 45 onn!...."

Name: Elena
Date: 2002-09-19 19:14:49
Link to this Comment: 2782

( I choose to write a story about 2 pictures, and not to directly answer the story question. I thought I had the shoice to do that, but that might have been Monday's assignment and not Wendesday's ? )

Comparisons: Paintings/Stories
Name: Ro. Finn
Date: 2002-09-20 21:27:30
Link to this Comment: 2812

Hi all,
For me, the woman is sleeping/dreaming in an orderly place - predictable and calm - safe, good for sleeping but not as intriguing as the scene on the left. It's blurred, fluid, not fully formed - so there's newness and potential there - unknowns, possibilities. It has a sense of depth and distance, a sense of something happening in the middle burst of light (?), a movement of clouds?, changes in the wind. The one where she lays is suffocating by contrast. Is she dreaming the painting on the left? Does she yearn for less order, looser boundaries? Or is she already in the painting on the left and we can't see her without a microscope?

BTW, I think that it's equally difficult/easy to conjure up a story about a visual image as it is to define what a story is - we have not achieved consensus in either case, nor am I convinced that it matters.

Field pictures
Name: Bonnie Bal
Date: 2002-09-21 15:31:00
Link to this Comment: 2830

two atoms casually hurled together? No, I don't think so. Two atoms could never produce such a beautiful world. This is...Genesis.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.

Though I be smart, physically fit, surrounded by friends and material possessions, if I have not you, I am like a bell without sound, an invisible ghost...a useless, lifeless, naked body beside the still waters.

Oh spirit of life; breathe in me and through me. Help me to stand. Show me the direction you want me to go. Use me, so that I may spend the rest of my days in your service.

Name: Ro. Finn
Date: 2002-09-21 17:35:03
Link to this Comment: 2831

Late flash of insight... yesterday, I asked my companion of the opposit sex to read Cinderella and Briar Rose... the Grimm versions, and the grimmer (Sexton) versions. Well...

He reported that he totally empathized with the character of Cindarella. Seems he did a lot of house-tending as the oldest child with two working parents... said he never go to "go to the ball" either. Forrest is a great cook, so it may be worth mentioning that he went out of his way to say that he saw himself picking the lentils out of the ash... without aviary assistance. He felt, in no uncertain terms, that Cindarella's father was an and the prince was a real dolt.

To quote (more or less): "If I had been the prince, I would not have let the slipper out my sight so that the step-mutha could play her surgical tricks. And then, on top of all that, he needs to be told what's going on by birds!? Gimme a break. He's no catch." Remember, he's relating to Cind-y.

With regard to Briar Rose, Forrest did not connect with any of the characters or any aspect of the story or its message(s). A blank stare. By the time he had finished Sexton's version, he was aghast and regretted that both his daughter AND SON had been subjected to these tales... very interestink!

Would love to hear reports from your guys!

Name: Diane Gibf
Date: 2002-09-22 09:30:06
Link to this Comment: 2834

What is a story? Is a picture? This is funny because it somehow reminds me of the symbol used in math for infinity. And oddly, it also reminds me of the old trick of writing... The statement on the other side is true. and on the other side of the paper "The statement on the other side is false".
And then I got to thinking that my dreams are usually pictures. I don't know anyone who dreams exclusively in words. However, I have never asked anyone who was blind about their dreams, and now I am curious. So I would guess that our subconscious synthesis of our experience and our symbols
are largely visual. And that makes me appreciate the power of visual images. Although words, dialogue and repetition of words also happen in dreams... but usually in some visual context.
Just going off on a dream tangent.
My painter husband insists that a picture is not always a story...
his answer is "no, it's a picture." But I don't think I agree.
After reading Margaret's comment about the painting she associated with the picture, I thought of the novel "Lady Chatterle
y's Lover"

Name: Kristina C
Date: 2002-09-22 13:39:36
Link to this Comment: 2843

The picture that most intrigues me is the one on the right, where the girl is lying nude on the grass. I think the scene conveys a sense of freedom and relaxation as she seems to have no inhibitions. While the other picture is also serene, in my opinion it does not communicate quite the sense of recklessness that the other one does. ( Also, I think it is a good picture to associate with Chopin's Awakening.)

Name: Diane G
Date: 2002-09-22 18:42:46
Link to this Comment: 2849

(The second picture) It also reminds me of Duchamp's piece which is at the Phila. Art Museum (I will find out the title) in which you look through a peephole and see a nude in the grass.

Also, I thought Risa's story was VERY FUNNY!!!!!!

Choose 1
Name: Phoebe And
Date: 2002-09-22 22:21:18
Link to this Comment: 2853

I see the pictures as being an extension of each other. The first one is a first impression, getting off a plane jet-lagged and trying to take in the new scenery. The background is sort of hazy and unclear because your eyes haven't been able to explore every piece of it yet. Your mind is seeking to adjust and your primary goal is to sleep not to explore when you first arrive in a foreign place. The second picture is the closer look, the day after the flight when you are well rested and ready to explore. You see people (in this picture a person) in their natural surroundings, shopping, walking around as if they are in a computer generated world, ignorant of your presence. The sleeping girl represents these people who have become so relaxed and content in their surroundings that they can go around uninhibitated. The viewer of the painting is the visitor, questioning her daily life style. When I first looked at this second painting, I was curious about her nakedness. It didn't bother me, but I was unsure of what her intentions were. Is the day hot? Does she usually doze naked? I don't know the answers because I have only been given a clip of her daily life. Similarly when travelling in a foreign country, we only observe a clip of people's life styles.

comparison of two pictures
Name: Mel Brickl
Date: 2002-09-23 09:50:31
Link to this Comment: 2855

The story that comes to my mind is one of birth and transformation/ growth. The first picture is full of energy, eclectic. You can feel it. Sort of looks painful, difficult . There seems to be some struggling and wrestling. The core of the energy field is in the solar plexis area or heart area. very emotional. The second picture which for me is the next frame of the story is more tranquil. the woman appears to be physically and emotionally exhausted. It took alot for her to arrive at this place. However her journey is incomplete. It took this much to emerge

This week's queries
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-09-23 16:54:14
Link to this Comment: 2861

Dear Questioners, Intuitives and Revisors--

Your three good fairies (or are we wicked stepparents?) have so much enjoyed reading your range of responses to last week's two questions...

that we've decided to offer you a choice again this week. We invite you either to respond to a rather "abstract" question, or to tell a more "concrete" (if fanciful!?) tale. (We'd also be curious to know if you have a sense of why/how one sort of question draws you more than another....?)

1. Friedrich Schiller wrote, "Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in the truth that is taught by life."

What do you think of fairy tales? In comparison to the "truth that is taught by life"? (Off the top of your head, in a few sentences/phrases for you and others to mull over...).

2. We'd also be interested in hearing some of the stories that we are beginning (inevitably? IS this inevitable?) to make up about one another. So, as an alternative task.... tell a (very brief!) story about (one or more of) the professors (aka fairies/stepparents...) in this cluster.

Looking forward to meeting you all on Sunday evening, when we will gather in the English House Lecture Hall, 6-8 p.m., for pizza and performances of our various fairy tales.

Professors/Fairies/Witches #1, 2, 3

deeper meaning in fairy tales than in life lessons
Name: orah minde
Date: 2002-09-24 00:07:37
Link to this Comment: 2864

A young child's mind ingests that which she sees around her. The colors flash and the towering people gawk down at her as she toddels around and begins to understand words. 'Door!' and in her head she sees a big slab of brown blocking her passage. 'Dog!' and she sees a ferocious beast, teeth glinting down at her soft forehead. 'Beautiful fairy!' and the image of a floating mother- with flowing hair sweeps into her dreams and her imagination. Sweet sounds emerge from the fairy's mouth, she sooths the child to sleep.
This child cannot yet fully express herself in words but she transfers her fears into this image of the beautiful fairy- now the fairy is a hero who can save her from everything she is scared. Before, she did not have the words to describe her fears; they haunted her mind and could not be exorcised through words. But this fairy is a heroine in the girl's head; the fairy knows about the scary monsters in the child's head, without being told.
Later, when the child can form words and can understand words, lessons are taught to her. She is taught lessons in dry words with no images. These lessons are not dancing and floating in her mind, they do not live in her mind, they live on paper and must be filtered into her. These lessons cannot captivate her mind because they are not alive.

On Fredrick Schiller
Name: Elena
Date: 2002-09-24 12:29:47
Link to this Comment: 2868

I cannot agree with Schiller's belief that the meaning in fairy tales is deeper than life's lessons. First of all, to me, there is no meaning in fairy tales. They are abstract stories used as a medium for the reader (or listener) to relate to, identify with, and interact. Only insofar as one involves oneself in a fairy-tale, can one extract meaning.

Fairy-tales work with different matter of the brain than what life's lessons teaches. I feel as though my unconscious attunes to fairy-tales whereas my logic follows life's lessons. My logic doesn't follow fairy-tales, but my unconscious does respond to life's lessons. Therefore I feel that life's lessons influence me more than these fairy-tales ever did.

response to question 1
Name: Kristen Co
Date: 2002-09-24 13:21:29
Link to this Comment: 2872

I don't know that deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales that were told to me when I was a child, but those tales did have a huge impact. Their simple lessons seemed to stick with me more then the complex lessons of life. The lessons of fairy tales seemed to embed themselves deeper into my head. The "truth that is taught by life" probably had a larger impact on my as I grew older and was able to understand it. If some largely complex secret of life were revealed to me, I would get no meaning form it if I didn't understand it. The simplicity of fairy tales enable the reader to really understand them, therefore it makes sense that a child would find more meaning in them.

Question One
Name: Xuan-Shi
Date: 2002-09-24 16:55:39
Link to this Comment: 2884

What truth has been taught to us by life? How do we know we have ever stumbled upon a truth of life? Maybe it is an illusion to think we would ever grasp the Truth of Life, that is so evasive, and at times, even incomprehensible. I personally would not make a comparison bewteen the two.

Fairytales have a subliminal effect on me. I still believe that true love exists. And love at first sight is possible. That some people do live happily after. These beliefs inject magic, and mystery into life; for there are plenty of inexplicable things that happen in the world. What has life taught me? Life taught me different things at various stages to make me a better person. Life forces me to make difficult decisions. Life makes me aware of its fragility.

Which is why it is inadequate to draw a comparison... For each individual derive different meanings from fairytales and life, and what truths we choose to take away with us and make it our own, are as telling as the things we left behind.

option one
Name: Abigail Br
Date: 2002-09-24 17:08:53
Link to this Comment: 2885

preface: option two sounds tempting, but between choosing the creative piece for the previous forum question and having recently completed the revision of my fairy tale, the creative portion of my brain is tapped, so i'll try the analytic approach this time around.

Fairy tales are not more important to me than life's lessons. Was I obsessed with them as a child? Oh yes. Did I waltz around the house pretending to be Cinderella? You bet. Was cuddling up with my mother for story time my favorite time of day? Of course. But these were childhood experiences that make for fond memories and don't carry much significance to my life today.

Though I do credit these stories with providing fodder for my sometimes zany imagination and spurts of creativity, I don't think, "Now what would have Snow White done in this situation?" when I am confronted with a problem.

The fairy tale princesses of my imagination couldn't help me when I had problems with the virtual registrar's office. The ops in Guild, however, gave me the assistance I needed. The princesses didn't teach me that when the soles of my sandals are falling off I shouldn't wear them anymore. I learned that life lesson by falling down the concrete stairs in front of the SGA office, thus entangling my keys in the railing on my descent. Don't worry - it sounds more painful than it was. :)

Life lessons are holding a jar by the lid and watching the contents spill to the floor and the jar shattering, or petting a cat the wrong way and getting scratched, or realizing that it's more special to write a letter to a friend rather than to communicate exclusively by e-mail, not that beauty will get you a prince and a happily ever after. The life lessons that shape me are things that I have experienced, not things I have read.

I'm not saying that fairy tales aren't significant or that they aren't important, I just feel that their value is providing entertainment for children. Nothing more, nothing less.

As an 18 year old big kid/young adult/adult/"you'll have to wait until you're 21 until you're a real adult" adult, whichever way you look at it, I enjoy reading fairy tales because the reading is relaxing and it reminds me of a time when life was simple and uncomplicated, unlike this unwieldy explanation that I have just provided.

Fairy Tales as lessons
Name: Jessie Pos
Date: 2002-09-25 00:11:22
Link to this Comment: 2887

While fairy tales are created for the purpose of teaching a lesson, I can't say that I have learned a lesson that has been helpful to me life from all the fairy tales that I have read. Life has taught lessons that were more enjoyable to learn (from experience, rather than reading), and lessons that are more pertinent.

The fairy tales I have read have taught that class difference can only be overcome by "marrying up," that my problems will go away with the discovery of my prince (ie husband), and that women, no matter how clever, eventually end up following the desires of men.

My "life of learning" has taught me otherwise. I have learned class difference can be overcome by friendship and honesty, that my problems will go away with hard work and perseverance, and that women and men live lives both for one another (in marriage) and by themselves, to fulfill their own desires.

Name: Margaret K
Date: 2002-09-25 21:55:58
Link to this Comment: 2901

Well, if we accept Bettelheim's hypothesis we can't really say if fairy tales have had a "deeper meaning... than in the truth that is taught by life" because they have worked on our subconscious mind. We may have understood their deeper meaning without even realizing anything had happened.

Many women have had that fantasy that "someday my prince will come and rescue me and life will be perfect, etc., etc." I don't want to suggest that certain fairy tales don't teach that-- because obviously they do-- but I think that particular idea has been taken up by our culture and rammed down our throats. Go to any toy store and check out the "girls" section: you've got princesses waiting for princes, you've got brides, you've got board games about getting dates, hell I just saw a commercial for a new "Belle" (from Disney's Beauty and the Beast) doll who says, "I wonder if he'll ask us to dance?" Why not say,"Let's ask the Beast to dance."? So I think that princess waiting on a prince--I need to be rescued--It's not good to be alone-- thing has become much bigger than it ever would have been if it was just restricted to fairy tales.

Now I'm on a roll, so here goes... one of the things Anne and I talked about in our meeting was Bettelheim's stressing that fairy tales help the child understand that he (and he did use he lot, didn't he?) would not grow up to be alone, that it seemed Bettelheim was saying that to be alone was not ok. I thought, that's not right, kids should be taught that you can be a whole person by yourself, you don't need another to be complete. Well, if we accept that fairy tales work their subconscious magic on children of a certain age, perhaps the stories need to present that togetherness idea because young children are not yet capable of understanding the concept of being "one and whole in the world." I'm not a psychologist, but maybe a child of that age would be emotionally unready for that concept.

One more point, and I know I am over-generalizing here, but to come back around to the thought that fairy tales all by themselves are not teaching women to be "ladies-in-waiting"-- if fairy tales are mostly responsible for that attitude, why don't we see more men having the idea/feeling that they are incomplete without a woman? --Because that idea is present in these stories as well-- my answer would be that once boys have gone beyond the "fairy tale age" they begin to get different messages from society while women continue to be bombarded with particular aspects of fairy tale stuff. So, for whatever reason (we all know them: patriarchial society; women will take over; God made men first, damn it; who'll raise the children; men won't have anyplace to work, etc., etc.)there is a payoff to trying to keep girls/women in that place. Could it be a........conspiracy?? (If you were in our c-sem class hopefully you'll get that joke)

Much longer than a few short sentences... sorry everybody!

goodness me!
Name: claire mah
Date: 2002-09-25 23:13:48
Link to this Comment: 2903

"Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in the truth that is taught by life."

Wow, Schiller must've been told some pretty amazing stories when he was young.

Interviewing the Heart
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-09-26 10:09:23
Link to this Comment: 2908

I'm teaching another, 200-level English/Gender Studies course called Thinking Sex." We've been thinking/talking/writing there about how to (why should we? what do we accomplish when we?) put sex into language. In the set of papers I just received, one of the students, Jenny Wade, quoted the poem Pamela Alexander proclaiming, in a poem entitled "Semiotics": "Now your heart wants an interview. It scribbles madly on the monitor, giving itself a polygraph test and failing grandly, proud that it lies." This passage is very evocative, for me, of your upcoming assignment. In asking you to analyze your fairy tale, are we asking you to "interview your heart." scribble lie...or just to tell another another form? (And hey: does your heart "want" an interview?)
Looking forward to what arises/ is constructed.

Fairy Tales
Name: Diane Gibf
Date: 2002-09-26 23:20:22
Link to this Comment: 2920

I was in the middle of posting a long comment and AOL turned me off.

Anyway, here goes again.
After listening to and reflecting on the (fairy tale)stories shared in our C-Sem class I would have to say that Bettelheim does have something to say. Many of the stories were intensely personal and revealed something about our inmost selves. I would agree that fairy tales and their images and symbols resonate with the subconscious and have psychological and even therapeutic power. I would also agree that unconscious urges like sibling rivalry, desire, oedipal urges, anger, guilt, fear can be processed through stories and symbols. From the stories given in our class, it would appear that even the act of "telling" the story has psychological power. I guess this is the whole premise of art therapy, in which inside stuff comes out so easily in drawing, painting, sculpture,drama etc. and especially but not exclusively with children.
I would not agree that I learned the more from fairy tales than from real experiences in life. Imagination and play had a large role in childhood development, in processing the world... but leaving that world of the imagination and testing abilities in concrete situations, learning skills,
interacting with people empowered me to develop further and to see myself as a capable, strong woman. Fairy tales did not do what real life has done. And, in fact, some of the messages of fairy tales had to be outgrown, analyzed and recognized as destructive rather than helpful.
Climbing and hiking up a mountain did more for me than reading Cinderella
ever could. Imagination and real experience are both essential to development, but in different ways. Imagination is still useful in processing the world around me, but from a position of empowerment, and autonomy rather than from someone else handing me a story. I can visualize and imagine and even be intuitive about a life experience of my own choosing,I can use symbol and imagery and story to do this, because the mind remains a powerful tool.(But I also have concrete ways to test my strengths and learn my weaknesses, to learn from others and their experiences. Being an adult and able to act on and in the world around me is different from the fairly powerless state of a child still subject to parents and not in control of their own lives. And I think Bettelheim makes a point about the usefulness of fantasy and stories to help a child process this and deal with her feelings of frustration and her deep psychic urges. I recognize the potential of story and symbol and imagery and it is mightier than I imagined. And I recognize a responsibility now to form better stories, and I do find the old stories like "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Sleeping Beauty" to be destructive and even insidious in their messages.
I don't mean to say that children's stories should only be light and happy and la la la..I think there is a dark side to childhood fantasy and experience which is dynamic and useful and dangerous to repress. But I think that the model for resolution of these urges needs to be empowerment of the individual and constructive strong characterizations.

fairy tales vs. truth
Name: Rachel Ste
Date: 2002-09-26 23:33:42
Link to this Comment: 2922

"Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in the truth that is taught by life."

Sure, this makes sense to me. I personally don't feel this way, but I can understand where he's coming from. Fairy tales can be skewed and interepreted to conform to anyones life. One can relate any aspect of their life to something fictional, precisely because it isn't real. As we read in Bettelheim, for example a stepmother can be equated to our own mother when we are angry, or an opening or closing line can be analyzed in any way to relate to our personal life. Fairy tales have no meaning, thus meaning needs to be created on a personal basis.
I don't know how much sense that made...

Coincidence? Conspiracy?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-09-28 14:29:01
Link to this Comment: 2966

The New York Times Magazine (August 11, 2002) had a title story called "Coincidence in an Age of Conspiracy," which my section talked about @ length last week, and which I thought might be of interest to the rest of you in our cluster. I certainly think it is a very important essay. It says, in part,

"Human beings are pattern-seeking animals...[conspiring] to make coincidences more meaningful than they really are....our brains fill in the factual blanks.....optical illusions.....prove that our brain is capable of imposing structure on the world...One of the things our brain is designed to do is infer the causal structure of the world from limited information. If not for this ability...a child could not learn to speak. A child sees a that others around him are obviously communicating and it is up to the child to decode the method. But these same mechanisms can misfire....It's why we have the urge to work everything into one big grand scheme..We do like to weave things together. But have we evolved into fundamentally rational or fundamentally irrational creatures?"

Name: Molly Cook
Date: 2002-09-28 17:57:37
Link to this Comment: 2974

I am so unreconciled with fairy tales. I wanted to believe in them so much when I was little. I identified heavily with Snow White, Cinderella, Repunzel, Thumbelina but what a disappointment it was when things didn't work out! Life was not ok for a very long time - 10 years. And the lessons of fairy tales have not held true or been helpful. Yet for some reason, I continue to try to meld my life into a fairy tale. I continue to seek the happily ever after even though I've been fooled over and over. Maybe I am hard wired from years ago. Maybe there is deeper meaning in fairy tales than in my hard knocks and that is why I keep returning to them.

Three Muses of CSEM
Name: Ro. Finn
Date: 2002-09-28 20:27:15
Link to this Comment: 2975

Good evening, All
Choices, choices... which question to answer. It's going to be "door number 2" this time around: a conjuring of the three muses of CSEM -- the peculiar notion of Paul as a muse, notwithstanding ;-)

This past Thursday, Stanley Kunitz joined my poetry class for nearly two hours of Q & A, and it was delicious, awesome, magical. He explained that it is crucial and difficult for an artist to find a community that is inspirational and supportive as she/he develops. This got me to thinking (again) about why I've come to Bryn Mawr, what I need from Bryn Mawr.

I've spent 30 years working well enough at something about which I've had little passion, and feeling very isolated even in the company of good professional colleagues during that time. I have vowed to not spend a single minute more engaged in passionless work. I classify study as just another form of work. In essence, I'm looking for my community.

That's where Anne, Paul and Haley come in. I've begun to try you on for size, imagining the daily interactions of a folklorist, anthropologist, biologist, feminist, writer, teacher, etc. And asking myself, as the fly on the wall, "Am I an engaged and happy fly or a discontented fly?" So far, my sparce mental model of Haley's world feels more right.

Haley, I see you as a deeply intuitive person, an oracle, a keeper of the flame. I see you as ethereal as you deepen your wisdom but concrete as you deliver it. For some unknown reason, I see you with a great sense of humor and a sense of the ridiculous, too. I see you as a pioneer who determines her own worth to herself and to others in the application of her work. I see you as a general systems thinker and an artist of a type, ...and then I don't see clearly any more. I'm far beyond what I can sense and need more to fuel images. Mostly, at this point, I think I'm trying to see both of us at once.

See you Sunday night!

thoughts about fairytales
Name: Ro. Finn
Date: 2002-09-29 07:20:32
Link to this Comment: 2978

Good morning,

What if... What IF ...WHAT IF

it's not the fairy tales of our youth that have made the deep and lasting impression but the memories of having been read them, having been held warmly and attended to by someone we loved.

And what if, it's also the memory of having been respected in that moment -- because, in that moment, the word "should" was not used; we were not being told what to do, we were being trusted to interpret and day dream our way through the fairytale's messages on our own, for ourselves.

How many times -- from youth to young adult --have we felt that those same people were no longer respecting us in this manner? Maybe not in so many words, but in a child's sadness and feelings of small betrayals. Where were our storytelling guides, our non-judgemental listeners, our trusting allies?

Maybe they were caught up in memories of their own interpretations and adult projections as we each drifted inevitably out of childhood.

deeper meaning question
Name: Adina
Date: 2002-09-29 10:55:56
Link to this Comment: 2980

For me, deeper meaning is in the truth taught to me by life. After childhood, I am constantly having experiences that help me in my day to day life and my perceptions of the world (I think that's pretty much the case with everyone). Even when, as children, our minds pick up general themes in fairytales and our subconsciences pick up messages, they can never be as meaningful as all of the experiences we've ever had.

Comment on my posting
Name: Diane Gibf
Date: 2002-09-29 12:02:37
Link to this Comment: 2987

First of all I recognize that in my last posting, I made the comment "leaving the world of imagination and fantasy" and I recognize that implies that I left. This is B.S. I don't believe that one can actually ever leave or that it's sequential like you leave Room A of the imagination and enter Room B of the concrete. One is an integral part of the other.
And in the example I gave of climbing a mountain, I realize that my imagination and fantasy and my whole self and all my experiences, dreams, conscious and unconscious as well as what I ate that day or thought about eating later on certainly came along for the physically exhilarating and spiritually gratifying climb... and if it didn't the question is, would the experience have been as meaningful? Or maybe I should say would it just mean something different.
Diane G.

Patterns and some questions it raised
Name: Diane Gibf
Date: 2002-09-29 12:07:23
Link to this Comment: 2988

Secondly, I had this incredible talk with Gordon this morning about pattern, coincidence etc. and it led us into discussions about the human genome, the golden triangle, biology, botany, and inevitably the nature of God. ...I asked Gordon what he thought about patterns that we find in nature and he stated,
"It's a language, like anything else". I love talking to Gordon. So I gave him the example that was bothering me about the human genome. And we wondered if the sequence of chemicals which has just been recorded and which we are now or very soon becoming able to manipulate in all kinds of ways. Whether this is actually a discovery, or a projection of a pattern onto DNA, based on the information that we now perceive. We talked about the idea that the human genome and the worm genome are like 95% similar. So it would seem that the other 5% was the luck of the draw that made you and me bipeds with a longer life span and not small grey slithery creatures.
It seems that although the human genome thing is a great advancement and takes us light years into the future, for now, it is what we have found out and so where we are at, and so our point of perception. It does not account for the possibility of more enlightenment and possible discovery of some randomness that exists in the 5% or somewhere or in the proteins themselves or the ways they hook together or some element that nobody even suspected.
Another thing, and (maybe obviously) neither of us are scientists, both of us have art backgrounds, we talked about was chrysanthemums. So I said, here is this chrysanthemum and that chrysanthemum. Anyway, Here are these two flowers which are structurally very much the same. Where is the randomness in that? And is their sameness a projection that we are putting onto them, just like their name? Or does it exist. Well it seems they are very much alike, but maybe this one grew on the south side of the plant and that one grew on the east side, maybe this bud opened before this one, maybe molecularly this one has more nutrients somewhere in it's plant experience... So that if my frame of reference was plants that have more of such and such a nutrient, this flower would be in the group and this one would not, and even when they are both called chrysanthemums. So I ask what is the metaphor for chrysanthemum? And what is the metonomy. I guess the metonomy is chrysanthemum and either plant, or flower. If I clone a chrysanthemum, do I then get rid of the possibility of randomness and have a controlled chrysanthemum which is exactly like the other one? Or is even that concept based on my own limited knowledge and abilities.

Then we talked about how the concept of the atom has changed since we were kids.
Apparently, in the beginning it was thought to look sort of like a plum pudding with chocolate chips on top. (the fact that anyone thought of atoms at all amazes me still)
Then like ten years later, some guy said they have a hard center and called it a nucleus. Then in the 20s Neils Bohr hypothesized that electrons were zinging around in little orbits like a little solar system kind of picture(metaphor). In the 40s and 50s and this is where my textbook was when I was a kid, atoms and there was this shell theory(new metaphor). In the 1960s everybody started talking about a cloud formation (another metaphor) and that you couldn't tell where an electron might be, that they were randomly highly mobile. That maybe you could tell that they were a certain level away from the nucleus and there were some predictable energy levels (my friend wendy told me this is why our eyeballs work ) Oh yes and now I think electrons look something like squashed ballons and have barbell(guess what?) kind of appearances.

All this to say at one point I might have used a metaphor of the atom and the solar system. But now I really can't because with more knowledge came a different metaphor.
And then I wonder, are our metaphors based on more knowledge? Or are they based on other things that are going on too. Like is the reason we associated the shape of the atom with the solar system because we were thinking of a Big Bang theory around that time?
So that one idea framed and influenced the formation of the other?

OK so now we have this question? Can any two objects exist in the same space? If they can, would they then be exactly alike?

Name: Alexandria
Date: 2002-09-29 13:07:07
Link to this Comment: 2989

I really believe that I got a lot out of fairy tales when I was a child. They were very easy to understand. Sometimes, I could even relate to them. True stories and lessons were often hard to grasp. THe sugary fairy tales coated a lesson and made it more pleasurable for a child to hear. THe lesson also stuck- IF you are good, the prince will rescue you. If you are bad, you will lead a life of misery. Also, Fairy tales have many true life lessons. Often, they are dramatic enough to leave and effect on the reader, sometimes better than an actual experiance. After reading the story, perhaps one won't do a certain morally bad thing, and therefore avoid the consequences.

ON the other hand, real life experiance can be better than a story. If you trip over a roadblock,then the next time you walk that way you will look for it, as you scraped yout knee the first time. You learn from experiance.

The appeal of fairy tales
Name: Phoebe And
Date: 2002-09-29 22:20:49
Link to this Comment: 3008

I have always loved fairy tales. My parents would always read them to me when I was a child. I always enjoyed going to the library and sitting down on the floor in the fairy tale aisle and reading book after book. Fairy tales are so magical and really sparked many imaginative games. If I couldn't come up with an idea for a good Barbie game when I was younger I could always turn to some of my favorite fairy tales for inspiration.

Life's lessons aren't nearly as magical. It seems that when I learn important lessons I am usually smacked in the face with the idea--the idea isn't gently broken to me or set up like a quest in a fairy tale. Besides the abruptness, life's lessons usually come one way--there is little room for variation. Although the structure of fairy tales is almost identical, the lesson is always presented in a different way. The punishment always seems rightfully given and everything turns out happily ever after.

thinking together
Name: Paul, Anne
Date: 2002-09-30 10:39:54
Link to this Comment: 3025

We enjoyed getting together with everyone Sunday evening, and look forward to our next cluster-wide meeting.

For this week's posting, we again offer you two choices:

1 - You can look back: reflect on Sunday's session (if you were able to be there) or on forum postings  to date (if you weren't).  What story from a student colleague has most  interested/affected you, and why?

2 - Or you can look forward: imagine that you painted the watercolor to the right
which is the image for the next section of our course. Stepping back from your creation: what do you see? What have you painted? What are you saying in your painting?

Enacting Ideas Physically
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-09-30 15:05:16
Link to this Comment: 3036

I came to our fairytale symposium last night fresh from taking my daughter to an inspired performance of Cirque du Soleil, so was particularly conscious of the possibilities for understanding that can be opened up when narrative ideas are enacted physically.

Because we'll all be reading Brecht's play "Galileo" together next week, I took particular note of an example of this which was mentioned in the front-page review, in the Arts and Leisure section of yesterday's (9/29/02) NYTimes, of the Mary Zimmerman production of Philip Glass's opera "Galileo Galilei," which is being performed @ the Brooklyn Academy this week. I won't be able to see that show, but write about the opportunity here in case anyone else might be tempted--it sounds wonderfully playful, in particular scene 6, in which, as Galileo lectures on the topic of

"the motion of balls on an inclined plane...several students shape lengths of string into the geometric forms he's describing and roll balls to demonstrate the physical principle he's explaining. Then, as he finishes speaking, their string-running and ball-rolling turn into what Phillip Glass... calls 'kind of a romp.' They do somersaults, skip rope, perform handstands...."

musings about mayhem
Name: Ro. Finn
Date: 2002-09-30 16:58:30
Link to this Comment: 3038

Hi Guys
Fresh (well, actually still sluggish) from the evening of fairytale enactments -- and juggling more life than usual this week (a close friend in NY lost her mother last night), I'd like to comment on a story told that has me still thinking... that of the ravage of Princess Krispie, the gluttonous hoards and Prince Treat. The enactment was totally super, and I thank those of you who put so much good effort into our entertainment. It was good to put faces to names, meet you... and to witness Paul in that awesome jester's cap.

Now to my dark musings on this story.

The story entails a mass rape, a society where chastity belts are the norm for young women of "priviledge" in order for the adults of that society to maintain untainted premium value on those goods, -- and ultimately, trickery and deception, where the prince does not rescue... at best, we would have to call it date rape. And the underbelly of the story reveals that ordinary women have no value whatsoever -- not even enough to merit a blue belt; theirs is a mass grave... emotional or otherwise. The princess gets a private demise. In its frivolity, it is doubly cutting. Not only do the characters in the story act out this system of values, we in the audience become their accomplices, because it really was light, charming and clever. Gosh.

Maybe it was the Rocky Horror Show touch (connecting with the audience by handing out sweet little things at the end), that kept me thinking about this story, I dunno... half way through it, though, I was wondering if any of the writers/actors had experienced any of what they were delivering... or known anyone who had. What was the message... the lesson that merited mayhem?

All of us use theatre, fantasy and storytelling to get past really bad things that happen in life... or things that we fear could happen -- to ourselves and to others. But this particular fantasy left me cool, a cold chill on my spine. It was celebrating mayhem.

This is not a judgement, just a lone report. And I cannot articulate for you the reasons I felt abused and saddened by it... if it all comes clear, I promise I'll let you know. And I applaud your courage for doing that story and mine for writing about it here. Peace.

reading into stories
Name: orah minde
Date: 2002-09-30 16:59:53
Link to this Comment: 3039

I enjoyed hearing the stories on sunday night. It was interesting having heard two of the stories read by the authors and then speaking with the authors today in class about their 'bellelheimian' interpratations of their own stories. One thing that we discussed in our small groups was how different phrases can be perceived and aspects can be read into the text that the author did not intend. In one person's story the phrase 'shacked up together,' was used and the other was, 'she played the lute for him.' [I may not have the exact phrases correct-i apologize to the authors.] The authors said that these two phrases were not intended to be sexual but when read by an outside audience they can be perceived as sexual. The question is: did the author really intend for them to be sexual and subconsiously make these lines ambiguous?
We all [i hope everyone does, i know i do] make those painfully embarrasing mistakes in our speech that are followed by awkward silences and then an uproar of laughter. We turn red and want the earth to open beneath us. The gigglers snicker, "what are you thinking about?" and we meakly reply that we did not intend for it to come out that way. And really we DIDN'T mean it to come out that way, but it did. Is there something in the unconsious that makes those embarrasing things come out? Did were subconsiously mean to say them? Freud would say yes. I would say no, but i'll keep thinking aboout it.

fairy tale conference
Name: Abigail
Date: 2002-09-30 17:48:05
Link to this Comment: 3045

i quite enjoyed the fairy tale conference! when i told the girls in my dorm where i was sunday night, they all wished that they were in our c-sem because it sounded like so much fun.

the fun was found in the form of mediated mayhem - the intellectual equivelant to controlled chaos :) - amid talking coins, funky hats and other assorted props, lots of laughter, and a certain sticky treat that i will never view in quite the same way again.

i thought it was interesting that the story of the rice krispie treat was told as a life of learning, a fairy tale, and an anne sexton version of the fairy tale. this is a great exercise to prove that we understood the more serious works that we read in class. to tell the truth, i was amazed that a sugery snack could even be the basis for such a wacky set of tales, but the fact that it worked proves just how creative we are!!

the varitey of tales, some funny, some serious, some sentimental, made for an eclectic, enjoyable evening.

and somebody tell me where i can get a cloak like that!! :)

Fairy Tale Conference
Name: Kristen Co
Date: 2002-09-30 18:30:36
Link to this Comment: 3046

Last night's fairy tale conference was a real treat. I really enjoyed all of the tales both spoken and acted out. I especially like the therapy session after the story with the coin. Fairy tales often have villains, but we never really get to see their side of the story. Seeing the mother as more of a victim of this evil cycle puts the story in a whole new light. Her actions are given meaning and the story all of a sudden becomes more human. I also thought that the three tales of the Rice Kripsie Treat were very creative, especially the Anne Sexton version. I never imagined a simple act such as eating a Rice Krispie Treat could feel so wrong. The best thing about this conference was that I came out with some new perspectives and insights.

Diane Gibfried
Name: DGibfried
Date: 2002-10-01 00:04:27
Link to this Comment: 3054

All I want to know is, is Sleeping Beauty still asleep?

Name: Ro. Finn
Date: 2002-10-01 06:59:19
Link to this Comment: 3056

...I don't know, Diane, but Yes, Virginia, there is a big bad wolf, and sometimes the very normal we are it.

As an aside, ever do much thinking about the word 'normal'? It could be that half the population isn't -- normal is described as being average. Mathematically, it's the arithmetic mean, ie, "the value obtained by dividing the sum of a set of quantities by the number of quantities in the set". So, if 51% of a population wear their socks to bed, they're normal? Hmm. On the other hand, biologists define normal as "functioning or occurring in a natural way; lacking observable abnormalities or deficiences." Who defines "abnormalities or deficiences"? More Hmm.

Moving on from Fairy Tales....
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-10-01 09:40:55
Link to this Comment: 3058 the next section of the course, where we will be revising one of the stories our culture tells about the nature of the world....
this "Nota Bene" from the September 20, 2002 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Ed anticipates discussions upcoming next week about creationism and the science curriculum....

'Contentious Curricula: Afrocentrism and Creationism in American Public Schools' By NINA C. AYOUB

Sociology makes for strange bedfellows in Amy J. Binder's Contentious Curricula: Afrocentrism and Creationism in American Public Schools (Princeton University Press). Afrocentrism and creationism have radically different ideologies and constituencies. But they share similarities as movements vying for influence and invoking pluralism.

Ms. Binder, a sociologist at the University of Southern California, argues that the two are more than ethnographically interesting phenomena. She hopes to help turn the sociological theory of social movements in new directions, rethinking concepts of insider and outsider, for example, and focusing on how "organizational routines" in school systems and similar institutions can help or thwart challengers. "Organizations are not the unitary, purposive, rational entities that so much of the social movements literature depicts them to be.
After a brief history of both movements, Ms. Binder describes cases in which Afrocentrists attempted to revise school curricula in Atlanta, Washington, and New York State.

Atlanta at first seems an Afrocentrist success story. In 1989, an Afrocentric "infusion" program was adopted. But teachers, she writes, were given no clear incentive to use the curriculum since it would not be covered in standardized tests. Those who disagreed with the approach could ignore it. In Washington, she argues, a similar "dilution" of Afrocentrist victory occurred when a proposal was accepted but limited it to one program in one school. New York State, in contrast, did not even make symbolic concessions. Still, the movement got a hearing. Afrocentrists, Ms. Binder argues, framed their issue in terms that had "resonance" for educators: black-student achievement in schools. Their ammunition also included accusations of "racist" or "race traitor" for their opponents, she says, and crucially, they sought to revise curricula in subjects like history that were considered "negotiable."

For creationists, science would prove far less malleable. Ms. Binder offers cases of creationists' ultimate defeats at the state level in California, Kansas, and Louisiana, and at the local level in Vista, Calif. In Vista, creationists won three of five school-board seats, but their members were eventually recalled from office in a campaign led by teachers. One of those recalled explained: "God put me in and God removed me." Ms. Binder has a less cosmic view. Christian conservatives on the board, she says, were unable to convert their political positions into institutional power. "Gaining access to the putative 'inside' ultimately bought creationists very little."

Storytelling as Destroyer
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-10-01 09:44:46
Link to this Comment: 3059

Actually? before we leave fairytales....yet another short very relevant piece ("Melange") from the September 27, 2002 Chronicle--"Memory, Once Removed":

The act of making something from what is already there always involves a simultaneous creation and destruction. While breaking the land and planting it with the seeds of Eastern Hemisphere grains resulted in a beautiful sea of amber waves, this act vanquished the native prairie plants. While the creation of the State of Israel provided a homeland for the Jews, it meant the destruction of Palestine as a geopolitical entity and as an identifiable homeland for those Palestinians whose families have dwelt there for several millennia.

While Korczak Ziolkowski's statue of Crazy Horse on his horse might well be a worthy tribute to this hero, it has ravaged the 600-foot-high granite mountain near Custer, South Dakota, into which it is being carved. In 1998, 500 tons of granite were blasted from the mountain so that work could begin on Crazy Horse's horse, whose head was 22 stories high.

Even what seems like the purest, most self-contained type of creativity -- turning the events, images, and ideas of one's life into a written story -- is a destroyer. Writing about one's memories, trimming, padding, moving them around, reshaping them until they fit a readable or "tellable" form, changes those memories in great or small ways. What the writer remembers after her act of creation is not her memory of the event that is the subject of her essay or story, but the written account of her memory.

-- Lisa Knopp, adjunct lecturer in creative nonfiction at Goucher College, in The Nature of Home: A Lexicon and Essays, published by University of Nebraska Press

The Picture
Name: Bridget
Date: 2002-10-01 13:03:24
Link to this Comment: 3062

I used to play chess with my dad. I wasn't ever that good and after about a year of it I got tired and never played again. I like this picture because makes the chess board look a lot more exciting than the boring board that I remember. I like it too because immediately when I see it I think of my dad and I like my dad.
This picture also makes me think of Harry Potter because he had an encounter with a chess game and this chess board also looks enchanted and magic is what Harry Potter is all about.
If I would have painted this picture it would have a lot to do with my dad. He taught me to play and expanded my horizens a lot as I was growing up. I think that's what the colorful cloud at the top of the picture would represent... my expanding mind. The triangles are prettier than regluar chess pieces and more colorful. That's how the pieces would be if I made my own chess set.

Cirque de Soleil run extended
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-10-01 15:15:30
Link to this Comment: 3065

I was entertaining my class this morning w/ an account of Cirque de Soleil, and several members asked whether the show in Philly was over. Got back to my office to find that the run's just been extended, should you be interested...


We are thrilled to inform you that due to tremendous audience response, we are extending the run of Cirque du Soleil's™ Varekai™ with 19 additional performances! Get tickets to see our latest production under the Grand Chapiteau in Philadelphia. Varekai is a show of astonishing splendor and energy that has broken sales records in every market it has visited since its world premiere. You won't want to miss it. Get tickets to see Varekai today!

Fairy Tale Conference
Name: Rachel Ste
Date: 2002-10-01 21:55:46
Link to this Comment: 3079

I definitely enjoyed Sunday night. It was fun seeing what the other classes had been up to and whether or not they were as loony as ours! I loved hearing fairy tales that others had written.
My favorite part about Sunday night was the reaction to my classes performances, particularly the Anne Sexton version of the rice krispie treat. Out intention in giving out the treats at the end was for people to question eating them, and to feel dirty about eating them. I never actually expected that to happen. I was so surprised that some people really did feel uncomfortable about eating them, but I was also pleased. That was the reaction we were aiming for.
Maybe next time someone is about to eat a nice rice krispy treat snack, they'll think twice! One never knows what stories are behind what one eats!! Hmm....ponder that...

A Picture, A Story; Two Pictures
Name: Beatrice J
Date: 2002-10-02 09:10:14
Link to this Comment: 3081

A Picture, A Story
A picture, a story are they so very different? Are not both trying to say something to someone? Trying to write about each can present a problem. You are trying to focus in, trying to understand what this person is trying to say to you. In both, a picture and a story, that person is seeking a release through this work, an outlet to be understood. I guess for me to write a story about a picture a part of me would be in that picture. I guess for me to write a story about a story again I would become a part of that story. Neither is easy. They call for one to become an active partner. They invite you in with words, sweet words and with colors, beautiful colors, allowing and asking you to become a part, if you so desire. Something like Life.

Two Pictures
Two pictures, four stories, perhaps more than that. Each artist is saying something. They are trying to express something to the viewer. That's two stories. Here I am trying to understand what it is they are trying to express. That's the other two stories. The first picture leaves a lot to the imagination. A serene setting, with little form, it looks like you are walking up to this scene or looking at it from a distance.

Going Cosmic
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-10-02 11:07:26
Link to this Comment: 3083

To help guide you in the transition from the internal frontier into which the study of fairy tales took the world WAY beyond, which we will be contemplating for the next few might read Carl Sagan's "Reflections on a Mote of Dust" aka "The Pale Blue Dot" Humbly yours, Anne

response to colleague's story
Name: Elena
Date: 2002-10-02 19:56:47
Link to this Comment: 3096

I'd like to share my thoughts about Nadia's fairy-tale. For those of you who weren't lucky enough to read it or hear about it, I will briefly summarize it. Three triplet girls grow up to become beautiful women. A prince comes along and they fight over him with such malevolence that an outside force, the creator of the cosmos, must seperate the sisters. The creator of the cosmos makes one the moon, the other the earth and the third the sun (right?). For the rest of their lives, the only time they ever see eachother is during a solar eclipse, which of course happens very rarely.
The reason why this story appealed to me is b/c it bordered between, what I thought, myth and fairy-tale. The idea was so original and creative that it could be a myth. Also, there was one overarching moral taught by it. But it was a fairy-tale b/c of the fairy-tale-like elements in it.
Bettleheim mentioned the difference between myth and fairy-tale. He wrote that myths were more negative than fairy-tales. Indeed, the only myths I can recall (about menitars,(sp?) rapes and oedipus,) end tragically. Whereas fairy-tales always have that happy ending.
But since Nadia's fairy-tale ends tragically, then did she write a myth?

Note regarding Rachel's post
Name: Ro Finn
Date: 2002-10-02 20:12:52
Link to this Comment: 3097

Hi Rachel.. and all other interested cluster-mates,

In reading your comment about the Sexton/Krispie fairytale, something struck me... here's a quote from it:
"Our intention in giving out the treats at the end was for people to question eating them, and to feel dirty about eating them." What struck me was your choice of the word "dirty".

That is,reportedly, how the victim of such a crime feels, but not the perpetrator. Did you mean for us all to identify with the victims? And, if so, what would we be/feel if we ate one of the treats at the end?

I'm tempted to see if you and some others of us would care to get together to wrestle with Krispie questions informally. Who knows...There may be more surprises lurking in the story as it unfolds.


CSem Meeting
Name: Gwenyth Ca
Date: 2002-10-03 00:05:11
Link to this Comment: 3099

I really enjoyed our conference on fairy tales on Sunday. I thought acting out the fairy tales made them really entertaining to watch/listen to. I particularly liked the one about the 3 stools. Everybody has something in their house thats old or beat up but holds special meaning, and hearing a unique story about such a commom idea was neat. I also liked (along with a lot of other people) the therapy session at the end of the one of the gold coin story. Again, it was was interesting to hear the other side of the story from a different perspective. Good new spin on that!
I also really enjoyed performing our fairytale. If you all remember, I was the narrator and magical blue fairy. ha ha ha. It was fun to be goofy and act everything out and make you all laugh. However, I thought at first, our fairy tale of the life of learning of the rice krispy treat was going to be pretty lame, but it turned out great and I'm glad we did it.
I hadn't read the Anne Sexton fairy tale version before that night, so it was new to me too. I thought it was really well done and Paul had the great idea of giving out the rice krispy treats afterward which provided reinforcement of the "yuckiness."
I took the extras home and the whole box is sitting on my desk. I can't bring myself to eat one yet so I gave them to my roomies and sort of laughed like I have some inside joke now. ewwwww.

Fairy Tales
Name: Diane
Date: 2002-10-03 16:10:34
Link to this Comment: 3102

In the McBride's group, among the various stories was a story of sexual abuse. It was a stark account of sexual abuse to a child and it was told from the point of view of the victim in a way that could have been the kind of account relayed to a policeman or a psychotherapist. Initially, this story was selected for presentation on the Fairy Tale Night over at English House. We (McBride C-Sem class) had problems with doing this story for several reasons, because we collectively felt that this kind of an account can have psychological consequences which we did not feel equipped to deal with (after all this was not a support group and we are not psychotherapists) and in fact that C-Sem and story telling was not the appropriate venue. Because of the way it was told, we also felt that it was "not a fairy tale".

I confess that on reading this story, I felt anger and resentment for having been subjected to this horror story. It was more than I wanted to know. It did seem like a "point of energy" so shocking and horrible and unjust that it needed more than anything to be "handled". And it felt like psychotherapy rather than a writing class. Other McBrides also voiced their unease and so we elected unanimously not to present this story.

Still, feeling the consequences of "not" doing it was also uncomfortable.. The silence was deafening. "Does Sleeping Beauty still sleep?" and it seems that she does. Was this censorship? Or were some things art and literature and other things not art and literature. And did this mean that it should not be told? I mean, where do we stand then, with the three monkeys with their hands over their ears, eyes and mouths? There had to be a way to speak the truth which this woman courageously presented to us.

Having recently attended a production at the Fringe, entitled Carmen Fenuebre, which dealt theatrically and allegorically with the horror of war, confirmed for me that it can be done. There is actually a gang rape scene in this production, with a woman in red who is tied with ropes around the waist, which is held by several soldiers on different ends of the ropes. They pull her this way and that and consequently slug gulps of wine and then spit the wine out onto her. They become more and more rowdy. Unstated, the message is clear. It was a cruel scene. (although it was actually only people pulling another person on a rope). At this point in the production I felt sick to my stomach and wanted to somehow put a stop to it. But there was power in the poetry that I believe could not have been present in a police report of a gang rape.

Do we need to be seduced by allegory in order to accept truths that are too difficult for us to grasp? Or too easy for us to deny? Is there an easy access door for the truth in our right brain?

At my desk at work, I began to make little sketches of puppets and sets that might frame this piece in some new way. Then I remembered a piece that Simon and Garfunkel wrote back in the 60s. They juxtaposed the Evening News Broadcast about the Vietnam War onto the song "Silent Night". People listened to the grim news everyday, but they were desensitized. Hearing it next to Silent Night made it ten times more potent. And I started to think "what if?"

We play some lyrical music and an all out princess steps out. She dances across the stage and softly brushes her hair and does princessy things. Then she goes to sleep on her flowery bed... all this is juxtaposed on the soft, purposeful reading of the McBride's tale.(...and then Uncle Rod called me into the basement...)
Then, when the reading is through, we each go up and put a veil over her... until she is completely covered up. We have put Sleeping Beauty to sleep and her Bedtime Story is a story of sexual abuse.

Do you think that makes the point? Some folks in the class suggested that she NOT sleep. That she somehow finally wake up.

Name: Rachel Ste
Date: 2002-10-03 22:40:49
Link to this Comment: 3108

Ro- In terms of dirty, I did mean that you should identify with the victim, and also the perpetrator at the same time. You should feel for the rice krispie treat as you tore away her blue chastity belt and "ravaged" her, and you should have felt her pain after hearing that story. But at the same time, you know how good they taste so you should identify with the perpetrator in wanting to eat the treat.
As for an informal gathering, we discussed it in class and i'm sure our professors will work out a time.
Hope that clarifies stuff!

A whole bunch of stuff...
Name: Margaret K
Date: 2002-10-04 00:16:53
Link to this Comment: 3110

When I look at this week's painting I think of Murray Head and people dressed up as chess pieces twirling around singing, "One night in Bangkok and the world's your oyster The bars are temples but the pearls ain't free" and on and on until I start screaming my head off.

Usually I come on here right away and post but I have to say I didn't really feel like writing anything this week. I have not wanted to spend much time reflecting on this whole Princess Krispie/sexual abuse story thing but it has been on my mind. So here goes with my thoughts.

I was not disturbed at first about the Krispie story--I thought it was highly entertaining--and I had no feelings one way or another about eating the one that was passed out, except maybe that homemade ones taste a lot better. It crossed my mind that I didn't experience the anticipated effect but all I really thought about after the conference was that my husband had just brought home Nascar Thunder 2003 for the Playstation2 that day and I couldn't wait to get home and kick his ass all over Pocono Raceway.

After reading Ro.'s original post I reflected a little more and began to feel uneasy. We talked a bit about this in class... I am also curious about how conscious the authors/actors were about what they were presenting. Different people have found different parts of the story alarming but for me the ending was the most upsetting. Here we have a mass rape, and when I think about the degradation and really, inhumanity of the Princess Krispie/Prince Treat interaction, all presented so flippantly, I'm horrified. Anne suggested in class today that these scenes may recognize that part of human nature we might not want to accept. I believe that any one of us is capable of killing another person in a passion or becoming enraged or whatever, but I think it's a special breed that can willingly degrade another by raping them. So, yes, anyone can be a killer, but not everyone can be a rapist. I don't believe that particular evil is in each and every one of us. And no, I'm not saying it's better to kill someone than rape them, I just see rape as being MORE alien to our humanity than murder.

So, back to my question... I can see how the Krispie class could read Anne Sexton and come up with this story. But I wonder if anyone reflected on what it was ultimately saying. It's a little scary to think about a group of women (and by this I mean all of us who were there) laughing about the rape and degradation of women. For myself, I'm disgusted not only that I laughed at the time and didn't immediately see anything disturbing enough to bring up at the meeting, but also that while driving home, when it came up in my mind I just pushed it away because I wanted to think about video games.

I wasn't present for the discussion about the abuse story but I was relieved we weren't going to do it, and I thank Ro. and Diane for speaking out, since I didn't have the courage to do so. I would suggest something a little bit different for the end of Diane's visualization of that story. I imagine that the abuse experience is what puts Sleeping Beauty to sleep, so I see the perpetrator as the one who is covering her up.(Not necessarily with blankets--they seem too comforting) Or maybe she's covering herself up as protection against the pain or from the world. I see the fairy godmother(s)(her therapist in the story) then removing the blankets one at a time as Sleeping Beauty slowly came back to the land of the living.

Name: Margaret K
Date: 2002-10-04 00:32:08
Link to this Comment: 3112

Hi Rachel,

I saw your response to Ro. when I posted my comment and I wanted to respond to what you said about the perpetrator. You said that (and my memory is bad so I'm approximating) since we know how sweet and good a rice krispie treat is we could identify with the perp how bad he had to have her. But rape is never about how good a woman looks or what she's wearing or even how she's acting. It's all about power, anger, domination.
If you guys were using Princess Krispie's beauty to justify Prince Treat's actions I hope you'll reconsider your position.

Sleeping Beauty
Name: Diane G.
Date: 2002-10-04 06:06:50
Link to this Comment: 3114

Thanks Margaret!
The intention of "covering her up" was to show what fairy tales actually do. It was to make the point that by telling these stories ... in a way we are as Anne said "inscribing" them over and over... And it put the "coverers" in the uncomfortable position of mimicing the actions of the perpetrator... (kind of like the Krispy treat activity)

But you are saying, "Let's wake that princess up!!!! And, I see your point, and I agree!!! Thanks for providing a way to do it.
Hurrah for fairy godmothers... the enemies of sleep.

Krispie Krunch Kontinued
Name: Ro. Finn
Date: 2002-10-04 06:47:58
Link to this Comment: 3115

Hi Rachel, Everybody

Thanks for the reply to my post. Actually, I wasn't envisioning a scheduled meeting of classes, just an informal get together of those of us who are interested in some more wiggling of this particular plate of jello.

Margaret, my earlier post... that the big bad wolf 'r us' sometimes, was me trying to say that all of our stories -- the sweet ones and the sour ones, the tough ones and the tender ones -- are 'normal' expressions that have risen to our surfaces. Once risen, I'm hoping it's OK with everybody if we choose to spotlight any of them and see what shows up. The more I think about it, the more I'm grateful that the Krispie story was performed. THANK YOU!

Name: Claire Mah
Date: 2002-10-04 13:18:25
Link to this Comment: 3117

Goodness. I am entirely surprised and impressed by the controversy over the rice krispy treat presentation from Sunday evening. As a part of that class, I can verify that our purpose with the story was indeed to "gross people out" when we passed out the treats at the end. We were going for that shock value, not really thinking about the story itself in depth. The cumulation of various ideas quickly thrown out created our tale rather than exacting precision drawing from combined personal experience.

However, I have been thinking about this since our class discussion on Thursday over the supposed "misunderstanding" of our skits. The other girls and I were just kidding around, creating a creepy Sexton-like version of the tale, but I have been struggling with this idea. We meant no harm, but what does it say about us as individuals and us as a part of our culture if we joke about such horrible things? It makes me feel ill to think that we have been socialized to completely ignore the atrocities and the implications thereof and use events such as rape simply to play around. I know that I can get kind of defensive about certain issues (such as mocking suicide because my cousin committed suicide 2 years ago)--I feel very uncomfortable with it. At the same time I understand that oftentimes people's only way to cope with trauma is to joke about it (ie. Nazism, Holocaust, gang fights, international warfare, etc.), and I know that if everyone is completely politically correct at all times much of humor would be sucked out of our lives, but then again, think about what's being said! As you can probably tell, I myself am still trying to figure out in my own mind what an acceptible balance would be (if one can be found...) and would appreciate any response in terms of your opinions on the subject. Thanks for plowing through all of that!

Name: Margaret K
Date: 2002-10-04 15:59:32
Link to this Comment: 3122

Hi Ro. and everyone,

I'm not sure if I understand what you mean. What I hear you saying is that anything a person might come up with in a story--or that their unconscious mind might throw in there-- is "normal", so by extension, ok (for the story at least, not to be acted upon perhaps). And then that it should be ok with everyone else, too.

I hope you didn't think I was suggesting that people shouldn't be able to choose to have their work scrutinized, because that isn't what I meant to come across. But if it's put out there the authors or even other readers have to accept that some people may NOT think it's ok.

This Krispie thing hits very close to home for me and I am starting to feel a little irrational about it. I vaccillate in my feelings about the experience. At this moment I am angry and deeply offended that someone could see such a shaming and violating act as fodder for silliness. This is where I draw the line and say, no, I don't think this is ok. Do I think the story should have been written? Of course! But once written, what kind of reflection did it inspire in its authors?

My response to the presentation has me in a complete tailspin. I will be thirty-five years old in November and I have been struggling with this issue for twenty-three years. More than half my life! Yet I laughed, too. But I didn't even see it until it was pointed out on this forum. I am so appalled at myself that I have hardly been able to sleep. I am an adult and it is my reponsibility to take care of myself. Therefore, if I felt threatened or upset by anything being presented I should have removed myself. However, it was so entertaining that it makes me think of being lulled to sleep and then being awakened by someone beating you with a stick. To say I feel re-victimized would be overly dramatic, but I certainly feel manipulated, and resentful about it. To top it off, I read that Paul suggested handing out the treats! I hope I'm mis-remembering that because please, I don't want to go there. It makes my head feel like it's going to explode.

This is why I would like to know how aware the authors/actors were of their story. Am I grateful the story was told? No. As consumers, we have a choice in what books we read, movies we see, what we do with our time. In c-sem, we did not have a choice to read Ann Sexton or not. We had to read it, no matter what the psychological fall-out might be. At the fairy tale conference, we had no idea what would be presented, and I for one resent people trying to manipulate my feelings about something that I have been wrestling with for many years and that completely altered my life forever, and not for the better. I say, that is absolutely NOT OK with me, no matter how "normal" it might be for someone else to put it in that type of story.

One last thing and then I will stop. I knew I would be challenged intellectually when I came to Bryn Mawr and that the circumstances of my situation dictated that just being here would bring up many difficult emotions. I just don't see an English class as the forum for experiments in psychology.

Draft A, due 10. 4. 02.
Name: Elena
Date: 2002-10-04 17:59:42
Link to this Comment: 3125

Elena Weygandt Draft A: Response to "Recycling the Universe..." Professor Hayley Thomas October 7, 2002 The Universe: A Story About Its Birth Some stories come about that are so radically compelling that they must be shared. In "Recycling the Universe: New Theory Postis that Time Has No Beginning or End" Richard Monastersky tells such a tale. Here, he illustrates the creation of the universe by amalgamating the stories that science has told in the past century about this phenomenon. One group of scientists in particular that he draws upon, University of Cambridge chairman Neil Turok and physics professor at Princeton University, Paul Steinhardt, dared to question the Big Bang theory and in doing so, found a plausible solution to the discrepancy that exists within this authentic notion. They came up with the story they call the "cyclic model" which, since being published, has convinced other scientists and readers to alter their perceptions about the sacred birth of the universe. Until recently, all of earthling intelligence has assumed that the universe was created out of an extremely hot and dense point that has been expanding ever since the beginning of time. In the 1980s, the physicist, Alan Guth added more details to the story by suggesting that within less than one second, the rate of this expansion, or inflation, slowed almost completely to the rate it is today, so that after fourteen billion years, the tiny patch of space has grown into what science perceives as the universe.# What the Big Bang story omits is how the initial plot of space came to resonate the amount of heat possible to cause inflation. In Turok's and Steinhardt's story about the birth of the universe, it goes through an infinite cycle of rebirths so that there are, in fact, many Big Bangs to come in the future.# By rewriting the Big Bang theory, new ideas are being tested by scientists, which, ultimately, help in attempting to further solve the answer to this great riddle. In fact, Steinhardt states that this cyclic theory is "opening us up to possibilities that we did no believe in before, including the fact that time could exist before the Big Bang." # Interestingly enough, this story came about in the area where many stories are shared-- on the train. Three scientists, Steinhardt, Turok and Burt Ovrut, physics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, traveled through England discussing the details of this version of the creation of the universe and settled upon the conclusion that eleven mathematical membranes, or dimensions, in space exist, not just four. # These seven other "branes" can move, the scientists decided.# They also agreed that there exists a "spring-like force" that pulls two branes together.# It is during this collision that the Big Bang phenomenon occurs. # This story concerns humans in the fact that when the branes approach each other, subatomic particles lose their charges and masses; so that essentially, we evaporate.# Yet Turok insists this catastrophe will not occur for billions of years. # Since the cyclic theory has no present effect upon humans, then it might seem meaningless for Turok and Steinhardt to promote it. In truth, however, this nascent outlook serves as an inspiration to thinkers in every field. Here, two scientists dared to compete against the popular Big Bang theory because they sought answers to unexplained questions, such as the force that initially caused the universe to expand at an increasing rate.# Though their story of a cyclical universe is not completely refined, it does present a plausible sketch of the creation of the universe. To them, the further committed they are to this project, the greater potential it has to influence the global consensus. It is by this ambition to convert the whole world that motivates Turok and Steinhardt to tell the story of the universe's birth the way they have worked to perceive it.

Name: Alex Frize
Date: 2002-10-05 14:52:17
Link to this Comment: 3135

In regards to Sunday-
I was very pleased with how our conference on Sunday went. However, I am sorry to find out that ourr group may have insulted someone. That was the farthest thing from our minds. Yes, we did want to gross everyone out, but never insult someone. We wrote the original Rice Krispee life of learning and laughed about it. WE then did what we had done with our own lives of learning- made it into a fairy tale and made it into an Anne Sexton Fairy tale. We wanted it to be in her style. SO thats what happened. I reallyl didnt think that anyone would be grossed out, like we had wanted. I just never relaly looked any deeper than the surface of our story. Unlike Anne Sexton's work, I really don't think that our story was meant to have any deeper meaning.
I really enjoyed hearing everyone's fairy tales.
HAve a great day everyone.

Name: Ro. Finn
Date: 2002-10-05 15:44:26
Link to this Comment: 3136

Thanks for your kind note. I, for one was not insulted by the performance, but I have this pesky habit of doing what my mother used to call "wiggling the jello." I love that you guys gave all of us something to really think about in our own ways. Frankly, more of the same will surely happen, and I'm all for it. Politeness/correctness is highly overrated sometimes.
ps.. Anne, Hayley and Paul, our white-water raftings have been expertly steered.

Reflections on what motivates re-telling stories,
Name: Ro. Finn
Date: 2002-10-05 15:47:51
Link to this Comment: 3137

This week's assignment:
Drawing on Foucault and FLATLAND, reflect on why we are both motivated and reluctant to re-tell stories. What provokes us to this activity? What prevents us from engaging in it? How does it profit us, and what are its costs?
Why are we motivated to re-tell stories? Nostalgia is the way it wasn't; "it's a way to have a thoughtful and positive relation to your own present." 1

A story is a familial 'hand-me-down', a garment of words that, with adjustments in shape and size, is made to fit its next inheritor. Every story told is irrepressibly retailored during its next reading or recital, because, for each of us, perception is colored by the context of cultures: micro-cultures, such as family; macro-cultures, such as country, race, and religion; super-cultures, such as membership as Homo sapiens on planet earth.

Stories are re-cast when we've grown past them to a point where they no longer hold true meaning, no longer can be told with impunity in the face of new knowledge. Our motivation in reshaping stories is to be able to take what is still valid from the past and port it to the present in some useful form. Knowledge seems to be born and reborn in the present, where it holds relevance by virtue of our current, collective abilities to frame it somehow.

We re-frame stories repeatedly, in order to locate and display the emblems that powerfully represent essential properties that identify us. The realities harbored within us become less literal as they emerge in space and time, based upon who we are now; the reorganized fantasies of our present are more real, more applicable, than the realities of our past.

Discontinuity arises when we recast long-cherished truths. Perhaps our reluctance to do so comes from a lack of confidence that we can safely juggle the relationship of past to present. There can be social or political risks and consequences when we strip away that which is comfortable and familiar, as was the case for the narrator of FLATLAND, who wound up imprisoned for pitching an alternate version of reality. Whatever the root cause, we use devices to effect change – to make the need for change both visible and palatable , e.g., the use of satire, such as in both THE ORDER OF THINGS and FLATLAND.

Each of these writings reflects our world as viewed through the creation of another world that is highly exaggerated. With magnifying glass held so far that the focal point inverts the image, both reorient our reality upside-down, inside out, and freshly different from what we had taken for granted. The message is that our reality is an illusion. We get to re-shape our world, our story, as a result of new insights delivered through the discovery of a fresh perspective. Just as with fairytales, it is the use of symbolism to get closer to discovery, closer to truth.

In Foucault's THE ORDER OF THINGS; the media is the message, and the message appears to be that style matters. The irony is in how he has chosen to write – an endless braiding and brocading of thought upon thought, literally taking our breath away in the task of reading one sentence.

As for content, Foucault is saying that unrelated sets of knowledge, such as biology, economics, and linguistics, use a common process by which each evolves. Each "episteme" – knowledge produced during a period of time – has, for its period, a common way of exploring and questioning what is known across these different disciplines, just as the Chinese bevy of unrelated animals became connected when they were assigned alphabetical ordering.

We're in a continuous cycle of transformations and regenerations –from what we know, to what we question about what we know to what we discover, which causes us to discard, retain, replace, reshape. It's not just about discarding fallible answers, it's about digging to enable new ways to question, new patterns to emerge. "The problem is no longer one of tradition, of tracing a line, but one of division, of limits; it is no longer one of lasting foundations, but one of transformations that serve as new foundations, the rebuilding of foundations. What one is seeing, then, is the emergence of a whole field of questions, some of which are already familiar, by which this new form of history is trying to develop its own theory..." 2

If that is the case – from metaphor to metonymy to synecdoche – where do we shape shift next?

1Source: Truth, Power, Self: An Interview with Michel Foucault - October 25th, 1982. From: Martin, L.H. et al (1988) Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault. London: Tavistock. pp.9-15.

2Source: The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969), publ. Routledge, 1972. Introduction, by Foucault.

richness ... and appreciation
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2002-10-05 17:54:01
Link to this Comment: 3138

" mediated mayhem ... controlled chaos "... "expertly steered"? Consciously, subconsciously, unconsciously?

As my kids were growing up, I felt a need for a "family rule" (in the absence of any connection to established religion), and so emerged:

Thou shalt not deliberately hurt another person

The "deliberately" was and still seems to me important. One can resolve not to "deliberately" hurt someone else, but I don't think there is any way to live and grow without sometimes inadvertently hurting someone else. And when that happens, one apologizes and learns. And so I do, and so I have. My thanks to Ro. Finn, to Rachel, to Claire, to Margaret, to Dianne, to everyone contributing to my education.

I do think that's what we're about, learning from each other ... and do think that indeed means (indeed requires) that we sometimes find ourselves saying/doing things that hurt others. Sometimes because we don't know what it means to them and, yes, sometimes because we don't know, until we've said it, what it means to ourselves. We can't get along without the unconscious, and shouldn't try. Its too rich a resource. It is, of course, also a risky one. My own feeling is that the payoffs outweight the risks, at least among people who are genuinely able and willing to learn from each other.

My sense from class, from Sunday, and from the forum is that I am in fact among such a group of people. My thanks for that too. As for the steering of this particular white-water raft ... I'm happy to grab an oar now and then but would be sometimes bored and other times terrified if Anne, Haley, and the rest of you weren't also willing to do so. Finding myself neither bored nor terrified on this particular trip, I'm glad to be along.

Draft A- retelling stories and Flatland
Name: Rachel Ste
Date: 2002-10-05 18:36:01
Link to this Comment: 3139

Rachel Steinberg
Questions, Intuitions, and Revisions
When a story is written or told, the author or speaker is retelling a story that they have heard or made up that they want to share with others. Stories are all retold, whether they have previously been told out loud or in one's head. It is unlikely that Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott was a story that had been repeated for generations, however it certainly had been forming in his head for some time. Abbott was intrigued by the idea that each dimension is a new world, and wanted his story to be heard. However, there are stories that are stated once and are never repeated again. The person who heard or read this story deemed these stories uninteresting or inappropriate, and thus a decision was made to never repeat it. It is unfortunate that these stories will never be heard again, and will be forgotten, but it is a subjective decision.
In Flatland, the square is scorned for telling his story. It is a story that is repeated every thousand years, a true one, yet no one believes it whenever it is told. The lack of proof and infrequent telling of the story make it futile to repeat it. In Flatland, new stories are looked down on, whereas in our third dimension, they are applauded. This concept is interesting to the author, and Abbott enjoys imagining a world in which ideas, among other aspects of life such as women, are scorned.
The decision to tell and then retell stories is a completely subjective one. An interesting one will be retold, an uninteresting own will die out. An interesting one will be retold, an uninteresting own will die out. In Flatland, Abbott has pondered over what it would be like if every dimension was its own small world. Each world has its own story to tell, and Abbott discusses all of them. He finds this idea intriguing, and has put it into "a romance of many dimensions" for the world to experience. This is the start of his story. When it is read, it will be told and retold to countless individuals, spoken or written. Those who have interest in it will partake in this activity while those who did not enjoy this story will put it out of their minds.
There are certain stories that are never retold. This seemingly random decision can be disappointing. At one time in life, this tale was important to someone. It may have even been the life story of someone or a truthful story about an event that will now be forgotten forever. Imagine how the original teller of the story would feel knowing that their important narrative was no longer significant, nor told ever again. This thought is a scary one, and it is questionable as to whether stories would be told at all anymore for fear of it being disregarded. Perhaps they would only write their stories down instead.
Yet this may also cause conflict. There are those who are not accomplished in the art of writing, and thus their written version of an interesting story may come out like mush on paper. So, yet again, a story would be disregarded. It is unsettling to know that one's story may not be remembered, and particularly that of one's life. In that case, has one's life been in vain if no one ever talks about them or their time on Earth again?
It is interesting how one story can be known by the entire world while another story can be known by one person and then never known again. Flatland also discusses the nature of telling stories in a context in which it is looked down on. The two extremes of retelling stories is seen everyday and by everyone, and has probably been done at least once by you and I. It will never stop, and will always be examined at one time or another.

re-telling stories; draft A
Name: Kristen Co
Date: 2002-10-05 19:24:01
Link to this Comment: 3140

What is a re-telling of a story? A re-telling could be seen as taking a story with its plot, characters, etc. and telling it from another point of view. This is what Anne Sexton does when she takes fairy tale fantasies and transforms them into nightmares. A re-telling could, however, be seen more profoundly, as bringing an entirely new truth to life. A re-telling, in this sense, would be more like a re-defining of the very world we live in. This is the vision of re-telling seen through Edwin Abbott's Flatland and the preface and forward to Michel Foucault's The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences.

Redefining a way of thinking is not an easy task, but the true challenge comes in expressing your new insight. Some might feel compelled to re-tell a story because they want to get their new idea exposed to the masses. They want others to be enlightened just as they have been. This is seen in Flatland when the square, once given the knowledge of other dimensions, wishes to share his information. He joyously declares, "Even to Women and Soldiers should the Gospel of Three Dimensions be proclaimed." (1) The truth was so apparent to him that he wanted to share it with others. In Foucault's forward, he seems genuinely excited to be revealing "a positive unconscious of knowledge" (2). He entitles his forward, "Directions for Use" and attempts to break down his ideas in order for people to understand them. He discusses his example of classification, a quote from a Chinese encyclopedia, in a light-hearted manner making the text enjoyable to read. He's trying to get the reader interested and drawn in to his idea.

Another purpose for expressing a new concept is to give others a new or different way of thinking. The article "Recycling the Universe" has little verified proof to suggest its theory is correct, but simply laying it out there gives people the opportunity to think about it. The new idea about the origins of the Earth is so extreme that without this article, many would never give it a thought. Foucault gets the cogs in our minds turning about different ways of classification and order and how they affect our thoughts and actions. In Flatland, Abbott gets his audience to think about the same things using sarcasm. The class system in Flatland is so utterly ridiculous that it makes us think about our systems of classifying people today. In Flatland, women are straight lines on the bottom of the ranks. They are forced to use separate doorways into their houses, are kept from an education, and must constantly be in motion or singing in order for people to know where they are due to their deadly capabilities (1). They are referred to as the "frail sex" and said to be "wholly devoid of brainpower" (1). Abbott makes the treatment of women so blatantly wrong that everyone can see it. However, women today are still treated in some ways like lines in Flatland. Abbott also gives us a new way of thinking by introducing the idea of multiple dimensions including ones that we have no way of recognizing.

Advantages of re-telling a story include expanding your mind and changing the world as you know it. Foucault talks about how completely new ideas drastically changed the world from the classical society to the modern one (2). He calls this the "history of madness." (2) In Flatland, once the square knew about Spaceland and other dimensions, his world was never the same again. Even after being in prison for seven years, he still held firm to his vision. Having your world change can also be a negative effect of a re-telling. If no one else lives with you in this new world, it can lead to isolation. Once you come out with a new way of thinking or a re-telling, there is no going back to the way things were. At the end of Flatland, the square was literally isolated in prison. He sees it as martyrdom for the truth (1).

Avoiding this isolation is one reason someone might not re-tell a story. This isolation would result if their new idea wasn't accepted and they were scorned or punished. Foucault seems to suggest that the reason new ideas aren't accepted is that people are so stuck within boundaries of order and classifications instilled in them by society. They are unable to comprehend the new idea within their known limits and therefore reject it (2). This is more concretely seen in Flatland whenever new ideas about different dimensions are introduced. The king of Lineland rejects the square's image of Flatland, just as the square at first rejects the idea of Spaceland and the sphere rejects the idea of any higher dimensions (1). They are unable to transcend the bounds of their senses and the order of society to admit to anything more being able to exist. In Flatland itself, the class structure is so strict that it rejected the idea of using color as identification when it was revealed that women could be mistaken for the circle priests (1).

Another reason people might reject a re-telling is if there was no physical evidence or proof. This also goes to their need to stay within certain boundaries. The theory put forth in the Recycling article, has no real credit to many because there is an obvious lack of solid evidence. In the end Mr. Turok even admits, "We know that we are faking what we hope eventually will be a complete and fully consistent mathematical theory." (3) In Flatland the theory of the women is that "feeling is believing" (1). Even the nobles' use of sight recognition is still dependant on their senses. They are not willing to accept the notion of other dimensions because it is not something they can physically prove and therefore they reject it.

The success of a re-telling of a story or innovative idea is essentially dependent on the audience's reception. This depends on the "codes of culture" that establish the basic order of man (2). The stories by Alcott and Foucault both discuss the consequences of re-telling a story. At the same time they are themselves re-tellings of traditional ways of viewing the world.

(1) Abbott, Edwin. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. 1885; rpt.
New York: New American Library, 1984
(2) Foucault, Michael. Preface and Forward. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. 1966:rpt. and trans. New York: Vintage, 1973. ix-xxiv
(3) Monastersky, Richard. "Recycling the Universe: New Theory Posits that Time Has No Beginning or End." The Chronicle of Higher Education. June 7, 2002.
(4) Many ideas also taken from class discussion

fairy tales?
Name: Jessie
Date: 2002-10-06 11:38:38
Link to this Comment: 3147

This is unrelated to the assignment for this week, but I was reading an article online that was discussing the new movie version of Pinocchio, and after spending a month on fairy tales, I found this funny. Enjoy!

"For Italians, Carlo Collodi's 1880 book, "The Adventures of Pinocchio," is more than just a classic tale for children. For generations, the story of how a naughty, headstrong puppet transforms itself into a responsible little boy has been a rite of passage, a kind of morality primer on how to grow up." (CNN)

Re-telling stories
Name: Kristina C
Date: 2002-10-06 12:40:15
Link to this Comment: 3151

In my experience, re-telling a story or sharing acquired knowledge is a very precarious action. Though it is usually first instinct to share what you know, there is also always a fear that your viewpoints will not be shared and your feelings will not be reciprocated. Thus, we are often reluctant to re-tell a story for fear that we will offer a part of ourselves to another and consequently be rejected.
In Foucault's "The Order of Things" he examines what prohibits people from both sharing new concepts and accepting change. One of the most prominent aspects of the article is his concern regarding the boundaries that keep people from seeing things in new ways; he wants to examine the " codes of culture" (Foucault, XX) that prevent mankind from embracing change and accepting the birth of new ideas. Moreover, Abbot's Flatland also questions society's inability to re-tell stories without some hesitation. A. Square is not provoked to spread the "Gospel of Three Dimensions" until he has physically experienced the "Truth" that the sphere presented to him. A. Square's inability to trust a new idea is representative of society's tendency to reject change. Throughout history such rejections have often been unjustified: people believed the sun revolved around the Earth and refused to accept the fact that such a theory was incorrect. Until the 19th century, most people believed that the world was flat and it was not until someone actually sailed without "falling of the edge of the world" that people began to accept the newfound theory that world was indeed round. As Foucault and Abbot examined "when you dare to think of the unimaginable you're classified as crazy" (Professor Thomas, 10/2/02). Therefore, it is not surprising that we are often reluctant to share new ideas or even to share those that are not new- we often refrain from re-telling stories out of fear of isolation.
However, clearly when one acquires knowledge he or she often feels obligated to spread the new found understanding. When A. Square was enlightened as to the three-dimensional world he accepted that spreading the "Truth" might cost him acceptance within society- yet he still chose to speak of the "Gospel". Cleary, we are motivated to re-tell a story in order to share our wisdom and hopefully educate others; often one must accept the risk of segregation in order to enlighten society.
While we are often motivated to both re-tell stories and refrain from re-telling stories there are clearly costs and rewards for these two actions. If one shares information that is accepted (such as the assertion that the Earth revolves around the sun) the person is rewarded with fame and is deemed an enlightener for generations to come. However if society chooses to reject the theory, the person is often "punished" by some form of exclusion. In Flatland, the enlightener is imprisoned for wandering from the norm of society and for believing something that was different. In other cases, he or she is considered insane or abnormal.
Consequently it is often terrifying to re-tell a story for there are ultimately costs associated with such a process.
While society is not always welcoming of new ideas, such theories are necessary for the evolution of civilization. As Foucault and Abbot examined, there are often unseen boundaries that prevent society from accepting change and it is society's duty to alter the "way in which a culture can determine in a massive, general from the difference that limits it." (Foucault, XXiV).

Fairy tale Conference
Name: kristina c
Date: 2002-10-06 12:55:23
Link to this Comment: 3152

Reflecting on last Sunday's conference...
The most interesting part of the gathering was how diverse everyone's fairy tales were. It's really amazing how different people's imaginations are and it made for some really well written and creative fairy tales. Also, I think the rice krispy tales made me consider how re-telling a story can often alter a viewpoint. Honestly, I'm not sure if I can ever look at a rice krispy treat in the same way- it's interesting how hearing someone's interpretation of something can change someone else's perspective so much. Overall I thought everyone had really great stories to share and the conference made me realize how even though writers may take different approaches the outcome is still just as meaningful.

Regarding last Sunday
Name: molly c
Date: 2002-10-06 16:26:42
Link to this Comment: 3157

Regarding last Sunday, I did not find myself having a very strong reaction to the entertaining little ditty about the Rice Krispie Princess. I just didn't take it very seriously and for that I think I may have lost out a little bit - on the other hand, how much seriousness did the tale warrant? I am glad that those who did have a reaction were willing to share because it has deepened my experience and made my time more valuable; but in the end I'm also glad to be able to put the story down and say, 'eh, no big deal to me personally'.
It was somewhat interesting to be drawn into a rhetorical conflict through the gift of my very own Princess-Krispie-in-chastity-belt, but that conflict would not influence my decision to eat a treat and so it was instantly moot. It struck me as a simple gimmick that generated more afterthought than fore.
I think one of the most striking things about fairy tales is that they were passed down orally for so long, evolving into tales which met the needs of listeners so precisely well because they were more fluid than the written word. That said, I think it is a bit much to compare the fanciful one-time telling of a group story to a true fairy tale, and further to read into it as such. We give ourselves too much credit!

Name: Bridget
Date: 2002-10-06 16:35:19
Link to this Comment: 3158

In his book Flatland, Edwin A. Abbott uses a hypothetical nation to demonstrate a variety of themes. One of these is the distinction between the three dimensions known to man today and the possibility of dimensions beyond. Another is the importance of knowledge versus the importance of security and tradition. A third but less obvious theme is the importance of believing in certain things which you might not be able to set your eyes upon.
The main character of the story is a square without a name and a devoted citizen of Flatland. He has a disturbing dream in which he is trapped in a one-dimensional land and tries to explain to them the notion of a second dimension, without success. At this point the reader feels a certain connection with the square because now he shares the same sense of frustration with the people in the one-dimensional land that the reader, as a resident in a three-dimensional world, has with the square himself. Trying to explain a second dimension to people who cannot comprehend such a thing is not an easy task.
Later in the story a sphere visits the square and attempts to explain the third dimension to him. The sphere has as much luck with the square as the square has with the king of the one-dimensional land. The sphere then realizes words have no effect on the square, so the sphere and the square rise above Flatland to view the insides of flat buildings and flat houses. When in Spaceland, as the region above Flatland is called, the square witnesses the third dimension, and can argue no longer with the sphere about its existence.
The experience causes an awakening inside the square. Upon returning to Flatland he desires knowledge of the fourth dimension, and the dimensions beyond it. The sphere cannot explain the fourth dimension to the square because it does not believe there is a dimension beyond the third. The square becomes frustrated again with the sphere because although he is trying to explain the logicality of an infinite number of dimensions, the sphere refuses to believe that they exist.
The square returns home, enlightened and excited to share his new data with the citizens of Flatland. He begins with his grandson, who would seem to be the most logical choice, because of his superior intelligence and open-mindedness. Unfortunately, because the square cannot physically demonstrate three dimensional objects, he can't make the third dimension apparent to the boy.
Clearly the sense of sight is very important to the population of Flatland. The sphere was the only character successful in changing someone else's mind throughout the book, because he was the only one who displayed what he was describing for the opposing party to see. Neither logic nor mathematical equations could convince anyone in Flatland that a third dimension existed, it had to be viewed.
This could be a subtle symbol of society amidst the books themes. The people in Flatland obviously don't believe in any sort of Creator or Supernatural being. Their priests are not religious leaders. They are more comparable to aristocracy or a council of elders. They don't know anything outside of their own environment, whether it be real or divine, because they have not witnessed anything outside of their own environment.
Abbot could be arguing that one who doesn't believe in something because he cannot see it is as absurd as one of the characters in his book appear. In our society today and most likely also during Abbot's life time there were a large number of skeptical people who do not believe in things like God and global warming because there is no concrete proof that either exist, and concrete proof is what such people require to believe in something.

that &*^%#!! Rice Krispy Treat thing
Name: risa
Date: 2002-10-06 16:52:15
Link to this Comment: 3159

This is a comment i should have posted a bit ago:

I for one totally felt like Paul's class really did their skit without all of these entangled thoughts about the meaning of the RK treat and simply tried to work in the style of Sexton. Why is it that having to go over and over this is its own dark re-telling? And how many re-tellings until the actual, inteneded story is gone? And what is the need to re-tell the re-telling of the interpretation of the intention that has not yet been disclosed or understood? At this point i only remember the private re-tellings of it and the story has had its power taken away by a wild co-opting that i think is stretching the meaning beyond what i feel it was meant to accomodate(as clearly indicated in several posts).

Paul's class- we who are over 30 need to remember-- is a young class; and i for one am not now going to judge them and hold them accountable for things they could have in NO WAY intuited having been alive these brief, tender years(comparatively). It is simply not okay to expect them to have this enormous vision when THAT is what they are supposed to be learning here, and maybe instead of interogating their story, we should be aksing ourselves what we would like them to know about the world and about being female and offer that to them instead of forcing them to process the worst things that can happen to those who are women. I would think carefully about what they are to infer from us from this, because if you want to talk about re-telling a story- what is the point of co-opting THEIR story for OUR damage? What service have we really done for them? And have- in making the point the processing-- shown them anything greater?

have we dragged them through this processing having changed the focus from their story to our damage? When my sister called me and told me a terrible & sad story about the Holocaust she had read about in one of her high school classes (because apparently they only tell terrible and sad stories about the Holocaust)my response was, "...yeah, but I have another story about the Holocaust that is pretty amazing.." and filled her head with vivid images of female led resistance movements, perilous episodes of courage, faultless integrity, compassion, and heroics performed by women i knew growing up and those i read about. Yeah, i could have made her process the Holocaust with me, but what would have been the point of that? Sometimes i think the re-telling is way of co-opting the power of who owns the story and i do not think this was a co-opting that broke open any system of oppression, in fact, i think this re-telling is instituting one.

I think age and expereience play out as an unfair advantage here and those of who have that should be aware that people who are younger than us cannot be forced into our paid-dearly-for consciousness. From the earliest postings one can still see that no one in Paul's class had such a far emotional trajectory anyway so now i wonder, what did this processing do for them? what have we really shown them? have we presented any alternative views of being a woman? this seems like it would be important to know if we give something to them if we expect to take them along on our processes.

Reflection on Sunday
Date: 2002-10-06 16:53:33
Link to this Comment: 3160

Sunday evening's fairy tale session was both enjoyable and difficult for me. My favorite fairy tale was the one about the five princesses. It was humorous, insightful and brimming with creativity. I waited with anticipation for it to unfold. I also enjoyed the tale about the girl whose parents wanted her to excel at one thing, but she was good at many things. I thought of my nine year old daughter and made a mental note not to push her. It cannot be denied, we can learn a great deal from one anothers stories.
I was upset and agitated at the end of the Rice Krispie Treat drama but I didn't know why. I had a difficult time following the plot from where I was sitting in the back of the room, so I concentrated on the physical actions of the characters which spoke volumes. I saw things die, I saw a cute/silly fairy telling a tale about a prince overtaking a princess. Then I saw a beautiful girl speaking about a blue/wrapper chastity belt and being "ripe." I asked, "What is this about?" and the reply was "greed." But as I was driving home on the NJ turnpike, still agitated and puzzled, I realized that the "greed" section had lasted about 3 seconds. The rest of the story was about something else that had to do with sex, young women being "taken" and "ripe." What upset me the most was how it was told in a cute/silly/flippant manner. Anne Sexton's stories are horrific but the "voice" of her work is not cute or silly.
On Tuesday I was surprised to learn that the McBrides had decided not to perform the piece on sexual child abuse. I agree it was a difficult piece to read. The first time I read it my checks got red, my heart raced and I was disturbed to distraction. It was more information than I wanted to know. I feel that way every time I watch the news and another child has been abducted, raped and murdered. In the past few years, we have seen in the media an increase in sexual child abuse stories. It is not that there are more children being abused, but more cases are being reported on national news. Critics of this say that "copycat" offenders will abduct children in order to be on television. This may be true.
But as more stories are reported each year, the actual number of child abuse cases decreases each year! It is as if the nation (our culture)is taking a stand against child abuse. Americans are talking about these stories across watercoolers and in factory lunchrooms. They are talking about how child abuse is wrong, how these stories make them sick, and the word is getting around that it will not be tolerated. Children, once thought of as second class citizens, now have a voice.

Sunday reflection
Name: Bonnie Bal
Date: 2002-10-06 17:18:25
Link to this Comment: 3161

opps! I hit the wrong button and my comments were posted without by name.

on Fairy Tales
Name: Bonnie Bal
Date: 2002-10-06 17:38:34
Link to this Comment: 3163

Please archive this with last weeks postings. Thank you!

I would not attempt to write about Paul or Hayley because I do not know them. I do not know Anne well but have spent time with her in class for a month, so here it goes...

I am struck by Anne's physical presence in our classroom and in our meetings. She raises her hands over her head, shakes them in front of her to express frustration, flutters them around the room. Perhaps she is part fairy and her arms are her wings. Her physicalness throws me offguard, and at the same time, frees me from my stuffy stiffness. She is not the ivy-watering, bow-tie professor I feared.

The freedom to "ramble" is a gift. Also I am comforted by the fact that handouts have typos, and less than perfect grammar. Coincidence?

But just when you think this fairy is all opalescence and light, she transforms into the evil stepparent, and takes the job of antagonist quite seriously. Why? make things interesting/harder, perhaps, but also because the best writers are not always comfortable, and to thrive at Bryn Mawr you must find your voice.

After twenty years of correcting Freshman papers, she must have amazing insight into the minds of 18 year old women....maybe that is why she likes Anne Sexton so much.

more on the Krispy controversy
Date: 2002-10-06 17:53:52
Link to this Comment: 3164

Honestly, to begin I was shocked that people took the Anne Sexton version of our Princess Krispy tale so seriously. My initial reponse was this:
I wonder if people remember that we wrote that version last, taking our fairy tale and coming up with a way to "Sexton-ize" it. Our class discussion of Sexton's book centered around three main points: how she turned seemingly happy endings into negative ones, how she made the stories very sexual, and how she used a lot of food imagery and related food to sex. We took these points and used them to turn our fairy tale into a Sexton tale (happy ending w/ Prince turns unhappy, act of consumption of food becomes sexual, etc.). That is why the story ended up the way it did. It was a coincidence that the main character was a food item - therefore it ended up that it was her getting sexually consumed. As the primary author of the actual poem which was read at the conference (we all came up with the ideas for the 3 pieces, then 3 people from the class went home and actually wrote them out), I apologize if I/we offended/disturbed anyone.

That said, I think the "controversy" (if it can be called that) over the tale of Princess Krispy has been an amazing example of how the audience/reader can get something from a story that the author didn't intend (or didn't THINK he/she intended). On one hand, even though we the authors did think of it as funny, I was surprised that people were laughing at the story (maybe it was "nervous laughter") because our aim was to disturb in some sense, but certainly not as profoundly as some of you have expressed. As others from our class have said, we were really surprised at the fact that our goal (people not wanting to eat the Treats) was actually accomplished.

The most interesting part of all this to me however, is that now I have gone back and thought to myself: maybe I did mean something deeper when I wrote the poem. It became a bit more clear to me when reading Rachel's comment - she wrote something about thinking about what you're eating and how you never know what has happened to that thing before it reaches your plate. As a vegetarian and passionate believer in animal rights, this statement struck a chord. Maybe when I was turning what we had said in class into the performance piece, my feelings about the cruel mass exploitations of animals used for food subconciously entered into my interpretation of the story??

Well who knows, just throwing some ideas out there. Someone mentioned having a follow-up conference or small group meeting on some of these subjects. I would certainly be up for that - after all it's not easy to convey all you have to say through cyberspace.

- Joy : )

Name: Ro. Finn
Date: 2002-10-06 18:19:03
Link to this Comment: 3165

Hi Risa,
Not believing in coincidence, your comments about WWII are amazingly timed. I'm in the midst of writing some poetry that is about the Danes during WWII and their rescue of all but a few of their 8000 Jewish countrymen. A few years ago, I did some photography in the fishing villages along the Baltic shore of Denmark. I cherish the stories and images from that experience. There are many amazing stories that need to be told. You're right.

Your points, in general, are well-taken. I'm hoping that we move on, having learned whatever we can from all that we shared, not just from the KT story. The women in our cluster seem to fend for themselves just fine, all of us. Without causing deliberate harm, I want to resist seeing older/younger as a difference that could stifle our explorations together.

rice krispy treat discussion
Name: Adina
Date: 2002-10-06 18:48:35
Link to this Comment: 3166

Often, when I call my parents from here and tell them about college, I begin my sentences, "This might sound really teenager-y, but..." to which they usually reply, "Stop saying that! You ARE a teenager."

That is the way I felt when I began reading this week's discussion. Honestly, I felt extremely guilty and a little bit stupid. But, as Risa has pointed out, we (Paul's group) really are teenagers. What we have written IS typically teenager-y, but maybe it's just part of our development as teenagers and as people. We really didn't think about the fact that our performance might offend people or trigger painful memories. For me, it was even a way of coping with Anne Sexton's poetry (that version of Rapunzel shattered my childhood memories of one of my favorite stories). By writing this entirely fantastical story, we were almost distancing ourselves from some of the cruel realities of life, whilst still being (we think) creative.

Ordering and Re-ordering the World
Name: Jessie
Date: 2002-10-06 19:23:11
Link to this Comment: 3168

so, it appears that not many of us chose to write about the painting. I was unable to attend the fairy tale conference, and I unfortunately do not understand all the drama surrounding the infamous rice krispie treat. I have been fascinated by all of your reactions, and as i ponder the next assingment-why we are motivated/reluctant to re-tell stories-i wonder if a)what happened last sunday is a story to be re-told, and b)whether conversations such as these encourage or discourage us from telling stories.
Right now, though, I need to talk about "my" painting. As chaos moves to order, the colors change from bright and interesting to more mundane, subdued. It reminds me of flying. Up in the air, during a sunset, the colors are all mixed together, fading in and out. But below, the farms and buildings are "grounded" in a sqaure and rectangular checkerboard. Excitement, for this painter, exists only in the disorder, in the chaos and beauty.

Flatland Meets Fractals
Name: Diane Gibf
Date: 2002-10-06 19:24:24
Link to this Comment: 3169

23. In Which It Snows and the Citizens of Flatland Recognize the Infinite Potential of Each Citizen for Infinite Perimeter, Self-Similarity and Chaos

Things were extremely dull in Flatland. We were settled in our pentagonal houses and the class system we had established in our two dimensional world although it provided some security and safety was stifling. One may wonder that we did not have more "intuit"ers who dreamed of other possibilities, other worlds. And in fact, I myself wondered that I had not wondered more, and especially after my discourse with my Nephew and the intervention of the Sphere from the Third Dimension and with much time on my hands, being imprisoned.

And then a phenomena occurred. It often rained in Flatland and the rain came from the North. As was aforesaid, it helped us to determine North from South. But one day, and I don't yet comprehend where the cold came from, we sensed a change in the air, even in the most temperate zone. (It is rumored from my connections in Spaceland that a butterfly fluttering it's wings in China may have contributed to this change in our weather... but these are things I do not comprehend or understand, not know what is a butterfly, or even China... having some comprehension of fluttering, because of the motion of our females).

And suddenly, particles of white substance fell from the sky above us. Falling on us and obscuring parts of our selves and our homes. Breaking us apart with whiteness.
I tried to view these particles with my eye and gradually as I fixed all my concentration on them, became mesmerized by their spectacular geometry. Before me were mirrors of my fellow citizens and myself, joined together in fantastic formations, beautiful and delicate and intricate. Triangle upon triangle, Circles with intricate and glorious perimeters, subdivided beautiful empty spaces, squares and smaller squares.
I watched in awe, as the cold prophetic white particles melted before my eye. And with my notepad, I began to sketch. There seemed to be a method here that was up to now never considered. I sketched my neighbor the triangle and began to subdivide him.
I broke him into smaller and smaller pieces, and then smaller still all contained within himself, all similar to himself, and I formulated that this dissection could extend infinitely! I traced the perimeter of one of the small white flakes in my mind. I measured it and then measured it with a smaller measure... and then with a smaller measure still...
And I was impressed by the infinite potential and dignity of each individual citizen of Flatland.
And I recognized, that this too could go on infinitely for other shapes within the confines of a circle, the area being the same, but the perimeter infinitely growing and growing in size! And as it could go on exteriorly, it could also implode interiorly.
I looked around in awe at my world quickly vanishing in white. A line who happened to be sleeping nearby was broken up by the flakes that lay flat on her so that segments of her seemed to disappear.
I then broke up a line mentally, by taking away a segment at intervals, and then smaller intervals and smaller intervals until the tiny fragments mimicked the dust that fell onto our plane that day and I recognized that this too could extend infinitely. And from this I deduced a new dignity of the line and it's infinite beauty and capacity to regenerate.

And I began to conceive of a very different Flatland, in which triangle and circle and square united in whole new societies of glorious repetitions and evolutions spiraling and twisting all over our plane and this manifested itself, in my thought, in a system of individuals who cooperated with each other magnificently and without condescension or confinement as to class or gender. The possibilities were so overwhelming, and I was so ill equipped to deal with what I was seeing, that for many years afterwards, I was unable to speak!

Note: I visited a few sites on fractals and then started to think
what if it SNOWED in Flatland. Not being a mathematician, I feel like a
primitive who has never seen fireworks!! And partly because Edwin Abbott was a schoolteacher and not a mathematician either, I had the courage to play with the idea.

Name: Margaret K
Date: 2002-10-06 20:11:50
Link to this Comment: 3170


I don't necessarily think there has been a re-telling of the "controversial" fairy tale. Maybe it's just reflection. For myself, I can read something but not "get it" until later on. Or understand how significant it is to me. I'm guessing that when you were speaking about co-opting the story you were speaking of me, so since I have already turned the focus from "their story to my damage", let me say this: I did not originally intend to put that out there and my earlier posts bear that out I think. But when you say there might be something to say other than the worst that's been done to women, what would you have me say? Just my being here illustrates that people can overcome. But how would anyone understand the concepts of overcoming or hope if they didn't know where you came from? However, it's probably an unfair question for me to ask since my intent in posting that message was not to enlighten anyone but just to relieve my own internal pressure.

As for not holding them accountable, I agree with you to a point. It doesn't mean that they should be shielded from the results of their efforts, though. But Paul, I think, should be held to a higher standard. He has lived long enough to know better, if that is your judgement criteria. And I'm sorry, there's something creepy about finding out that he suggested they pass out the treats, since we now know it was intended for us to feel dirty. Actually, I'm not sorry. I'm pissed. It bothers me to find out that someone was consciously trying to manipulate me so that I would feel dirty. Not whether they succeeded or not, just that they tried to do it. In that instance, intent is everything. Yes, I read his apology (with its justifications).

Part of the problem for me comes down to not being able to choose the c-sem I would like to take. When I read the syllabus for this course I was very concerned and spoke to Rona about it. I would never choose this as my first course returning to college, based solely on what I have had to try to put to rest in order to get here. But there you go. Nothing I could do for it.

I want to be able to say I'm sorry to people who were upset by what I wrote. But, I'm not sorry, and what I really feel like saying is
Fuck this! This whole segment of the course, from life of learning to analysis of my fairy tale was not an intellectual exercise for me, I'm glad it was able to be for some of you.

Fractals in Flatland
Date: 2002-10-06 20:25:19
Link to this Comment: 3171

Note: A friend of mine who knows a little bit about fractals informed me that there are not any square fractals that she knows of. And she also doubted that there were squares in snowflakes.
But there are fractals known as the Koch's Snowflake, Anti-Snowflake
and Cantor Dust... to which I refer in the story.
So I would change my squares in my sequel to hexagons.
When I read her my excerpt she asked if I had tried to include something of Schroedinger's Cat. That's interesting, so there may be yet another sequel. As I learn more, my point of perception changes!

Fractals in Flatland
Date: 2002-10-06 20:25:31
Link to this Comment: 3172

Note: A friend of mine who knows a little bit about fractals informed me that there are not any square fractals that she knows of. And she also doubted that there were squares in snowflakes.
But there are fractals known as the Koch's Snowflake, Anti-Snowflake
and Cantor Dust... to which I refer in the story.
So I would change my squares in my sequel to hexagons.
When I read her my excerpt she asked if I had tried to include something of Schroedinger's Cat. That's interesting, so there may be yet another sequel. As I learn more, my point of perception changes!

Fractals in Flatland
Name: Diane Gibf
Date: 2002-10-06 20:27:11
Link to this Comment: 3173

OOps I too was listed twice as anonymous...
well the previous Fractals in Flatland postings were mine.
Diane G.

Re telling a story: why and why not
Name: Beth Ann L
Date: 2002-10-06 20:34:14
Link to this Comment: 3174

"Why are we both motivated and reluctant to re-tell a story? What provokes us to this activity? What prevents us from engaging in it? How does it profit us, and what are the costs?"
To tell a story is to reach out in the hope of connecting with another human being in some way. There is an inherent hope in telling a story that you will find another person who understands what you are trying to say. Quite often, however, that connection is never found. As you tell a story, you set a part of yourself out there for pubic display. If the connection between you and another is not found, you almost feel as if that part of you is lost. However, if you never reach out there is no chance that you will connect with that other person. This is a very lonely prospect. There is an inherent hope that, even if there is no connection, someone will attempt to understand.
Retelling a story also has a "larger than you" feel to it. You are passing something on, teaching someone else a lesson which was taught to you. Perhaps it is not your story to keep to yourself. When you reach one person with a story, how many people will that person reach when they pass the story on? The possibilities are limitless.
If you tell as story that is important to you and you are not understood, that hurts. You feel alone in the world, misunderstood, estranged, and reluctant to do it again. If you never tell a story that is important to you, that hurts. You feel alone in the world, misunderstood, estranged, and it builds within yourself. Either way you are disconnected and unhappy. However, when you tell your story there is perpetually that chance that you will find someone who actually understands. This hope is not there when you keep it to yourself.
This reminds me of the excerpt from this year's diversity readings by Audre Lorde, "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action." In it she say "In the cause of silence, each of us draws the face of her own fear- fear of contempt, of censure, or some judgment, or recognition, of challenge, of annihilation. But most of all, I think, we fear the visibility without which we cannot truly live" (Lorde 29). This woman is talking about a feeling which I very much can relate to. She tells of the necessity of story telling to existence. Without it you feel incomplete. She says that "your silence will not protect you" (Lorde 28), and in a sense that is the only reason why someone would not tell their story, out of fear, in hope of protection. We will all die, whether we have told our stories or not but perhaps if we share them we might live on in some way though them after we are physically gone from this earth.
Audre Lorde was not the assigned reading but as I sat here looking at the questions which were set forth by the reading of Foucault and Flatland I was continually drawn back to her paper which I read more than a month ago. For me it explained so much of what I felt. Every tome I attempted to omit her from my paper and write on the Square's perpetual and fruitless quest for understanding through the telling of his story I was drawn back to the questions which she set forth. "What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die from them, still in silence?" (Lorde 28). Square tells his story, even as he is persecuted for it, because he has to or he will "sicken and die, still in silence."
Even when I do write, when I tell my story, I find myself hiding, unwilling to fully reveal myself. I fear that holding myself out before the world. I fear my holding back just as much though. The benefits of connecting, just once, with just one person is so great that it some how makes it worth every time you reach out and connect with no one. That does not eliminate the inherent fear that we all must live with though.

Abbott, Edwin A. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. New York: Dover Publications Inc. 1992.
Lorde, Audre. "Transformation of Silence into Language and Action." Diversity and Community at Bryn Mawr College: Readings for First-Year Students. 2002.

Name: risa
Date: 2002-10-06 21:06:34
Link to this Comment: 3176

Margaret- just so you know when i refer to "our damage"- it is collective. In the broad, huge, vast sense that it means but we wish it didn't.

one last comment
Name: Joy Woffin
Date: 2002-10-06 22:23:33
Link to this Comment: 3178

I have something else to add about the conference. In response to Bonnie's comment:
"The rest of the story was about something else that had to do with sex, young women being "taken" and "ripe." What upset me the most was how it was told in a cute/silly/flippant manner. Anne Sexton's stories are horrific but the "voice" of her work is not cute or silly."

Actually the 3rd section of our performance (the Anne Sexton style one, which was the only one that had to do with sex) was not performed in a "cute" way. We were wearing black, had the lights turned out - what is cute about that? It was you the audience that chose to laugh at our performance. We did not tell you how to react to the poem. Though we as a class were not taking the whole thing completely seriously I was pretty shocked at how people were really cracking up as I read.

Oh well. I think this subject needs to be laid to rest. All I can say is, we were talking about the eating of a Rice Krispy Treat (NOT a person) and did with our story exactly what Anne Sexton did with fairy tales - that is to take mostly happy stories and turn them into something dark and (in some cases) truly sick. Personally I know a lot of us objected to Anne Sexton's treatment of the subject and if one's problem is with her to begin with that's fine, but all we were doing was completing the assignment to write in her style. End of story.

Once again I apologize if what we did was offensive, but like Risa said, we are merely teenagers in a frosh English class. We weren't trying to make some profound societal commentary (at least I don't think we were!), and I'm really sorry this little performance seems to have caused so much turmoil. I don't want to feel guilty that we wrote/performed what we did, but I almost do now because of the drama that has arisen from it. So once again, so sorry to whomever was offended - and I think we should talk about something else now...

reluctance to re-telling stories. Draft A
Name: orah minde
Date: 2002-10-06 22:35:16
Link to this Comment: 3180

[[ i could not get the footnotes to copy into the forum. sorry. everything i used for this paper was either in Flatland, Monastersky's article or Foucault's article]]

Walking down the streets of New York City I see men with long beards and ratty, plaid shirts preaching, and passing out pamphlets, saying that they have seen the light and know that the world is coming to an end. Watching the news we hear of another child who says that she was abducted by aliens. We hear about cults that end their lives because G-d told them to. I look at signs plastered to walls with pictures of the new Messiah. What do we think when we hear about these people and see them walking down the streets of our neighborhoods? Crazy? Or enlightened? When a person stands above the crowd, writes an article, say something to the public, she is putting herself on the line and will be deemed crazy or enlightened.
In Abbott's Flatland we hear of a man who has a supernatural experience and is pulled out of his own dimension. He can float on top and see into his world. Then, he is pulled into another dimension that he never could have imagined existed. Back in his own dimension he tells of the more complex dimension and is scorned and thrown into jail: Crazy!
Another story: men in dark suits, short hair, and thick glasses, sit around a table and talk of the universe. One man says, "The universe is going through an endless series of rebirths." Another man says, "an unseen parallel cosmos hovers only a tiny distance from our own visible universe, and the two periodically collide and rebound, regenerating all of matter in process." A third gentleman says, "Our visible cosmos is like a three-dimensional sheet that exists in other dimensions, of which we remain totally ignorant." These men are the scientists of the new millennium, they sit around tables and speculate about the shape of existence, they speculate about things that cannot fit into the human mind and what do we say? Genius!
One more: a man says, "The unconscious of science is always the negative side of science- that which resists it, deflects it, or disturbs it. What I would like to do, however, is to reveal a positive unconscious of knowledge: a level that eludes the consciousness of the scientist and yet is part of scientific discourse, instead of disputing its validity and seeking to diminish its scientific nature." This same man takes on the task of writing "a history of madness...the history of the Other- of that which, for a given culture, is at once interior and foreign, therefore to be excluded [so as to exorcise the interior danger]..." This man says that madness is something within us that we do not understand, something that we try to cast out of ourselves but something that is natural to humanity. It is something that cannot be analyzed out of existence by scientists because it "eludes the consciousness of the scientist." These thoughts scare us and we envision monsters frothing at the mouth, eating our insides, and not being able to expel them. This man tells us things about ourselves that we do not want to hear. He does not travel outside of our dimension to see in; he travels inside the deep realms of the human mind and looks out through the tainted, splinter glass of the human eye. Do we call him crazy, in defense of our sanity? Or is he a genius because he understands that the only way to see a person is not from the outside, looking through a one-sided glass, but to look at a person from the inside?
These are three examples of people who have told stories, who have opened their minds to the public to be dissected and judged as genius or as crazy. All three have innovative ideas that can either be accepted or rejected by society. When people put forth these ideas they are exposing themselves to society, they are vulnerable. If they are accepted they are secure and able to continue their thought, their art, their work. If they are rejected they are left in the cold, alone, and wondering if they should continue their thought or believe a society that says they are crazy. At the end of Flatland, A-square, left to live the rest of his days in jail says, "I cannot honestly say I am confident as to the exact shape of the once-seen, oft-regretted Cube... all the substantial realities of Flatland itself, appear no better than the offspring of a diseased imagination or the baseless fabric of a dream." When one has been told that he is crazy does he believe or does he listen to his instinct? Does one blame an unaccepted innovative idea on a diseased imagination'? Or does one continue writing though locked away in a cell, hoping that one day this 'diseased imagination' will be read and finally loved? Do the shaggy men in plaid shirt live for the day when the world will end? The children, now grown, who were told the aliens were only dreams, dance when they hear that a UFO was found stranded in the midst of a desert. We live for acceptance; we struggle for love, and are willing to sacrifice dignity for the moment when a girl in the crowd shouts above the mass of dissenters, "Yes! You are right! You are a Genius!"

Drawing on Foucault and Flatland, reflect on why w
Name: samea
Date: 2002-10-06 22:46:08
Link to this Comment: 3181

In a world full of strangers where nothing is permanent and life is passing, people spend a majority of their time seeking acceptance and yearning for a sense of belonging. In an effort to ease the discomfort of such an unfamiliar environment, many people put forth an effort to familiarize themselves with their surroundings. Unknown faces can become friendly through the conventional, traditional concept of conversation. In many ways, I believe that this has everything to do with motivation to tell, and even re-tell stories.
In addition, the world is a quickly moving place, where very little, if anything at al, is eternal and in the blink of an eye, everything can change. Because of this, people are constantly seeking some sort of a name for themselves – something that will keep them in the hearts and on the tongues of generations to come. By telling stories, one can only hope that the influence, through the story itself, will be enough to make an impact on those who are listening. Hopefully then, the story will be passed on, and will continue to be told to the point where although the individual from whom it originates may be forgotten, nevertheless, the words of that person may live on.
Telling a story is an effort for one to reach out and try to find a means in which to relate to another. When people tell stories, whether they realize or not, the effort is made in a means to connect with another. By telling stories, people hope to find someone who will reach out their hand so that the two will make some sort of a connection.
Nevertheless, all these outcomes of telling stories are hopes held in the hearts of these individuals. There is no guarantee that any of this will happen. Although a negative point of view, one cannot forget that oftentimes the real world is not as hospitable as one would like to believe. There is always a chance that the stories being told will fall on deaf ears. Oftentimes, that fear will encompass the hearts of those who would rather not take such a risk, and the story remains inside the mind of the individual who cannot bring him or herself to share it. The idea of rejection is a frightening thing, and no matter what, even knowing that there is a potential risk of experiencing it is enough for people to shy away.
It's definitely harder for some to share thoughts, ideas, or stories with others basically because of a fear that weighs down their hearts. In a way, by sharing something like this, a person is taking a part of their individuality - their personality, and putting it out there, hoping that somewhere someone will accept it and take it endearingly. Nevertheless, many times just the idea of having to share so much of themselves with another is almost too frightening to bear, and people will quickly shrink away just from the idea of it. Of course there is a big risk; however, risks don't always turn out negatively. One cannot always hide from interaction because of the idea that rejection could arise. The rewards of taking a risk and the joys of having a person to connect with should be enough for people to oftentimes just jump in without cautiously testing out the waters – the result does not always have to be a negative one. Rather, in many ways, perhaps this balance of those times to take risks, and times to shrink back, maintain the order of society that keeps individuals working together at a rate in which they can exchange ideas in a peaceful undisturbed manner.

i made some changes from my first post - sorry!
Name: samea
Date: 2002-10-06 22:51:53
Link to this Comment: 3182

In a world full of strangers where nothing is permanent and life is passing, people spend a majority of their time seeking acceptance and yearning for a sense of belonging. In an effort to ease the discomfort of such an unfamiliar environment, many people put forth an effort to familiarize themselves with their surroundings. Unknown faces can become friendly through the conventional, traditional concept of conversation. In many ways, I believe that this has everything to do with motivation to tell stories.
In addition, the world is a quickly moving place, where very little, if anything at all, is eternal and in the blink of an eye, everything can change. Because of this, people are constantly seeking some sort of a name for themselves – something that will keep them in the hearts and on the tongues of generations to come. By telling stories, one can only hope that the influence, through the story itself, will be enough to make an impact on those who are listening. Hopefully then, the story will be passed on, and will continue to be told to the point where although the individual from whom it originates may be forgotten, nevertheless, the words of that person may live on.
Telling a story is an effort for one to reach out and try to find a means in which to relate to another. When people tell stories, whether they realize or not, the effort is made in a means to connect with another. By telling stories, people hope to find someone who will reach out their hand so that the two will make some sort of a connection.
Nevertheless, all these outcomes of telling stories are hopes held in the hearts of these individuals. There is no guarantee that any of this will happen. Although a negative point of view, one cannot forget that oftentimes the real world is not as hospitable as one would like to believe. There is always a chance that the stories being told will fall on deaf ears. Oftentimes, that fear will encompass the hearts of those who would rather not take such a risk, and the story remains inside the mind of the individual who cannot bring him or herself to share it. The idea of rejection is a frightening thing, and no matter what, even knowing that there is a potential risk of experiencing it is enough for people to shy away.
It's definitely harder for some to share thoughts, ideas, or stories with others basically because of a fear that weighs down their hearts. In a way, by sharing something like this, a person is taking a part of their individuality - their personality, and putting it out there, hoping that somewhere someone will accept it and take it endearingly. Nevertheless, many times just the idea of having to share so much of themselves with another is almost too frightening to bear, and people will quickly shrink away just from the idea of it. Of course there is a big risk; however, risks don't always turn out negatively. One cannot always hide from interaction because of the idea that rejection could arise. The rewards of taking a risk and the joys of having a person to connect with should be enough for people to oftentimes just jump in without cautiously testing out the waters – the result does not always have to be a negative one. However, for many, maybe it'll always just be easier to write "stories" – under the names of others or the label of "society" in the third person. Perhaps greater ease is found in pretending that those characteristics that listed about an individual's fears and concerns belong to another, and not to the name behind the paper.

flatland paper
Name: Alexandria
Date: 2002-10-06 23:35:49
Link to this Comment: 3183

Alexandria Frizell
Questions, Intuitions, Revisions
Professor Grobstein
October 7, 2002

Flatland and Why We Change Our Stories

People everywhere have been telling stories since time began. Not only do people tell stories for entertainment, they are also told for learning purposes. Children were taught by stories. We learn about our relatives and ancestors through stories passed down over generations. We also learn about each other and ourselves from stories we tell and are told. Stories change for many different reasons. One of these reasons is that the world changes and we revise theories. The world used to be "flat". It was discovered that the world is actually round, and the story changed. New things happen that change the old stories that were once told. Also, stories tend to acquire a "whisper down the lane" quality, where the story changes a little each time it is told. Perhaps our memories aren't inclined to remember every minute detail of an experience. Maybe we want the story to be different in our own subconscious. This we do not know. What we do know, however, is that stories do change.
We change stories because we ourselves change. The stories of our lives are constantly changing. New experiences are constantly happening. We meet new people often, and we see new faces on a daily basis. We are changed by those around us. Different people have different effects on us, and help us to think in new ways. These new ways of thinking create new stories.
We often revise stories. Revision is a necessary part of storytelling, as it is in opinions and in life. As we change as people, and our opinions and views of life change, our stories are revised to fit our new selves.
Flatland is a story about the changing of stories. The square, at the beginning of the book, only knows one way of life. He is stuck in his two dimensional world of lines and angles. He has never heard of the word "up". When the sphere comes and takes him to new worlds, he originally is in disbelief. He visits the one dimensional world and finds all of the people along one line, as points. He cannot fathom that these people do not understand that they can move in more than one dimension. This is ironic because he does not understand that there are more than two dimensions. He changes his story to include his new life with the knowledge of a third dimension. With this knowledge, his mind is expanded to other things. He now believes that there is a fourth, fifth, sixth dimension, just waiting to be discovered. His story changed to allow for the changing of his surroundings. He is more open minded.
The story of the point is very sad in Flatland. He is in his own little world, the only being in his existence. When he hears the square try to inform him of his sad state of existence, that there is much more out in the world besides himself, the point believes that it was his own self that said that out loud. He is the only being in the world, so therefore he is the only person who could be speaking. The point cannot change his story because he is too ignorant. If he did change his story, his life would be enriched with knowledge.
Stories change as we change. To change is an important part of life, and we revise ourselves as time passes. The stories of our lives are constantly being changed. We are always updating ourselves. To change a story is to make it better. It is about having an open mind and the willingness to accept new things.

Draft A: Foucalt and Flatland
Name: Abigail
Date: 2002-10-06 23:39:31
Link to this Comment: 3184

Abigail Bruhlmann - Csem Flatland paper - October 6, 2002

Your Perspective is in Another Dimension

It seems that here on our three dimensional Earth, small children are encouraged to make discoveries about the world around them, yet adults are ostracized if they try to do the same. Perhaps this contradiction exists because children are only capable of discovering what adults already know, and adults are expected to accept the truths they discovered for themselves as children without questioning their validity. There exists an unwritten rule somewhere, perhaps it's in another dimension, that imposes conformity, lest complete disorder erupt if one dares to question the only way of life that everyone knows and accepts. Therefore, adults fearing that they will not be understood and therefore will be ostracized from society will often suppress their childlike eagerness to make and spread new discoveries.

Why then, are some people willing to risk being misunderstood by all of their peers in their zeal to share a new idea? Failure to properly explain one's ideas certainly is a deterrent against sharing them. At times, A. Square could barely explain to himself exactly what Spaceland was, so explaining this concept to others became an even more daunting task than if he had completely understood what he was talking about. Most new ideas, though, aren't developed so that the person doing the explaining understands everything in the first place. When asked, "Where is this or that theory come from?" (Foucalt xiii) there might not be a clear answer. After all, "questions like these are often highly embarrassing because there are no definite methodological principles on which to base such an analysis." (Foucalt xiii)

When one is absolutely convinced, however, that one has an idea that will completely revolutionize one's world, the thought that other people aren't equally aware of the real truth is unbearable. Therefore, a brave person will do as A. Square did when he discovered and accepted the idea of a third dimension; he will try to change the world. The key word, though, is "accepted." One can be told of a completely different way of thinking and then one can dismiss it without another thought as utter nonsense. However, if one can actually be convinced that something outside of what one is used to exists, then this knowledge is too powerful to be contained. It is so difficult to conceptualize and believe a radically new idea that if one can actually do it, one will be overwhelmed to the point that sharing this new information will become a priority. A. Square was so amazed by the existence of a three dimensional world that he was moved to, "go once, and evangelize the whole of Flatland." (Abbott 77)

People don't just listen to new ideas and with an open mind, as A. Square and many others with the goal to "evangelize the whole of" (Abbott 77) wherever they happen to live, have discovered. Rather, it is common practice hold fast to one's beliefs because it is comforting to know how one's world works. If someone tells you that everything that you are used to and have taken for granted isn't how the "true" world really is, shock, disbelief, and utter denial will inevitably be your reaction. Without proof, how can one believe an outrageous theory? Indeed, A. Square only believed in Spaceland once he was transported there.

It is nearly impossible to accept a concept that is so abstract that even imagining it is a struggle. A. Square of Flatland is yet again the perfect example. He knew his place in life, understood how his two dimensional world was constructed, and was comfortable with his pentagonal house and linear wife. Before he accepted Spaceland as a reality, he tried in vain to make the King of Lineland understand that there is more to the world than one dimension. The King vehemently opposed his ideas as nonsense which frustrated A. Square. Ridiculously enough, A. Square was just as unwilling to accept the idea of Spaceland as the King of Lineland was unwilling to acknowledge Flatland. This complex, which would be seen as ironic in whichever dimension you live, explains the conundrum that telling and re-telling stories presents. Everyone is eager to spread new ideas, and those who are not afraid of the violent reactions that mirror their own, will follow through with their intentions. Yet at the same time, everyone seems to hold the mantra of "seeing is believing," (Abbott 54) in equal esteem to the desire to spread ideas that can't be proved.

Perhaps everyone with a new idea expects that everyone listen but at the same time, knows deep down that accepting an equally radical idea from someone else is never going to happen. It seems that all people like to understand their world. When their state of existence is challenged, their comfort zone is broken, and then there will never again be a place that feels exactly like home.

Works Cited:

Abbot, Edwin A. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. 1884. Dover Publications, Inc. New York, 1992. pp. 54, 77

Foucalt, Michel. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. Vintage Books. pp. viii

Name: Margaret K
Date: 2002-10-07 01:10:04
Link to this Comment: 3185

Hi Risa,

Thanks for your clarification and I sent you an e-mail.


You only have one more day and then it will all be gone. You guys don't have to feel guilty about your story and presentation, just be willing to hear what people have to say about it. The response it generated is more than just "drama", though, and hopefully you will all consider it thoughtfully.

Name: Joy
Date: 2002-10-07 02:25:02
Link to this Comment: 3186

I'm definitely open to people's responses, and as I said I wouldn't mind a bunch of us discussing these issues in person. And just so you know I didn't mean "drama" in a trivializing or condescending way.

- Joy

Pros and Cons of retelling stories
Name: Phoebe And
Date: 2002-10-07 03:09:04
Link to this Comment: 3187

Although excitement fills the veins of a young child who spots a uniquely colored beetle crawling on the ground, he is timid to share his discovery with his older siblings for fear that they will not believe him. After all, they didn't see the bug, did they? Why should they believe him? Should he tell his story or not?

Foucault speaks about the aspects of "linguistic signs," saying that "the exchange of goods" (x) is a major part of language. People like to share information with one another because they like to enlighten and be enlightened. Sharing stories is a way for people to form connections and be drawn together. "Frontiers are redrawn and things usually far apart are brought closer..." (x) People are often able to gain conformity, in a sense, when they share stories because the likely-hood that they are going to have something in common with another person is greater. By exposing a part of a person's life, she is inviting the person she is conversing with to share back. Foucault demonstrates this point when he is talking about the methods used by "the naturalists, economists, and grammarians" (xi). "...but, unknown to themselves...[they] employed the same rules to define the objects proper to their own study, to form their concepts, to build their theories" (xi). Foucault tells us that the potential for having similar views and thoughts is very high. Sharing stories allows these similarities to be brought out, facilitating personal connections between people.

The excitement that comes along with retelling stories is heavily discussed in Flatland. When A2 is taken by the sphere to see how the sphere views the world, he remarks, "...Behold, a new world!" (Abbott 64) He "awoke rejoicing, and began to reflect on the glorious career before [him]. [He] would go forth...and evangelize the whole of Flatland" (Abbott 77). The need to tell others not only comes from the shear excitement of the event, it comes from a deep need to be validated, to have others see the same thing that you see. To be the only one who "sees the light" is to be alone. A2 almost tells his wife about his discovery because he is so excited about his enlightenment. He ends up talking with his grandson because he expects his grandson to understand him because his grandson was the one who proposed the idea of the third dimension. He hopes to gain acceptance and understanding from his grandson. He sadly does not.

A2's rejection from his grandson shows what can happen if people tell stories to others. They can be rejected. This fear itself keeps many people from sharing. Before A2 tells the rest of the people in Flatland he "[hears] the sound of many voices in the street commanding silence...[He] recognized the words of the resolution of the Council, enjoining the arrest, imprisonment, or execution of any one who should pervert the minds of the people by delusions..." (Abbott 77). He is afraid of rejection and isolation. He experiences a similar rejection earlier in the story when he is conversing with the king of Lineland. He is unable to get the concept of the plane across to the king who is only familiar with the line.

Foucault explains why people do not readily accept new and different information as the truth. "The fundamental codes of a culture...establish for every man...the empirical orders with which he will be dealing and within which he will be at home" (xx). The king of Lineland cannot accept A2's explanations because the king is only familiar with what he is accustomed to. He cannot imagine moving up and down because he only moves left and right on the line that makes up his world. "Out of my line? Do you mean out of the world?" (Abbott 50)

Back to the question at the beginning, should the child tell his siblings about his insect discovery? Well, he certainly won't be imprisoned like A2 was. He may be laughed at and called a dreamer. If, however, he can prove to them that this bug does exist, he could gain their support and acceptance. Perhaps with this new discovery, he and his siblings will "[deviate] from the empirical orders prescribed for [them]...[and] discover that these orders are...not the only possible ones or the best ones" (Foucault xx). Perhaps they will observe the world differently.

Draft A
Name: Jessie
Date: 2002-10-07 09:47:41
Link to this Comment: 3188

I can't format my piece in this space-my computer is being fussy. Sorry I had forgotten to post in all the hubub of Spec weekend!!!
Telling stories is something that has been done throughout the ages, whether fiction or reality or somewhere in between. Flatland explains that telling stories is a necessary evil-something we all want to do and something that we all fear doing, while Monastarsky is the telling of the story that we all fear telling. The understanding of a different type of space in both works, acts as a universal metaphor for understanding different cultures and ways of being.
Monastarsky writes for the Chronicle of Higher Education about a new theory that claims that time has neither a beginning nor an end. Provoking him is the idea of making an esoteric, almost bizarre theory edible to normal human mind. He is able to safely venture outside our normal realms of thinking by not claiming this idea as his own, but rather, as someone else's. If there is ever a public out lash against an idea or event, the journalist is rarely blamed. Rather, the theorist or provocateur is blamed, leaving the journalist in a safer position to tell the stories of the other. Monastarsky takes an interesting approach to explaining this theory, that time has neither a beginning nor an end. He mocks it. Titling each section with witticisms such as "A Meeting of the Branes," he makes it clear that he too finds the findings bizarre because they are different. Perhaps he might be reluctant to be honest and humorless because it is more direct. His story is the one that we all fear telling because it is groundbreaking, one that challenges the very way we thought we saw the world.
In Flatland, by Edwin A. Abbot, A. Square attempts to understand other ways of looking at the space he occupies. As he visits Lineland and Spaceland, and lives in Flatland, he tries to understand others, and have others understand him. A. Square identifies why we often tell stories-we all want to understand the whole world. However, even he becomes frustrated, and forgets to understand the other. A. Square yells at the monarch of Lineland "You profess to see, when you can see nothing but a point! You plume yourself on inferring the existence of Straight Lines, but I can see straight lines, and infer the existence of Angles, Triangles, Squares, Pentagons, Hexagons, and even Circles." (Page 51).
Monastarsky is attempting to explain to humans who can only see beginning and end that the very place they live in has no beginning or end, without being mocked. A. Square is attempting to explain that there is more to a space than the Monarch realizes, by mocking. We all become frustrated in the process of telling stories because we cannot understand or make others understand.

Draft A
Name: Nadia Chri
Date: 2002-10-07 10:16:36
Link to this Comment: 3189

Foucault, in The Order of Things: And Archeology of the Human Sciences and Abbot, in Flatland, both discuss the topic of what telling a new/different story involves, what one risks when one does tell a new story, how people typically react to new stories they hear, and the ramifications that their reactions and his strong hold to this new vision have.

In the novel Flatland, these ideas are portrayed through the story of the narrator, a square. The narrator lives and has always lived in a two-dimensional world. He lives in flatland, unaware of the existence of a third dimension and space land. Then one day, he visits space land, realizing that a world other than his own exists, and the ground on which everything he knew had rested is shaken. His ideas about the world are completely revolutionized by his experience. When he returns, he tries to share with the rest of the inhabitants of flatland his experience of three. He feels compelled to retell others stories about space land because he feels the need to convert the others' worlds that are now so different than his to ones more similar. However, he is thought to be insane for having a view other than the conventional/accepted one and is imprisoned. It seems to the reader as though Abbott, through this story, is making a social critique on how humans are so rooted in the ways they are familiar to, in their regular order (as a result of their rigid belief in common ideas), that they believe that anything which they are not familiar with does not exist or is wrong. Abbott may be, through square's reaction to his new discovery and through the reaction of others, commenting on how we are too comfortable in our own ways, too certain of what we "know", that we do not even consider new ideas that are different that ours or ones that have no context for. This last idea, about not believing what you have no frame of reference for, is brought to our attention when square's wife says, "Feeling is believing." (Flatland, 54). Here, feeling means feeling familiar with something, in other wards having a context for it, allows us to believe it. This sets the stage for two questions which Abbott poses to the reader and which he answers. They are: What is the price one pays when one retells a story in a way others are not familiar with? What then motivates people to retell stories?. Abbott's answers to these questions can also be found in the plot. His narrator in Flatland feels the need to make others understand him by attempting to make others understand his experience in space land, an experience that has literally changed his world and that has ostracized him from the others for there is no way he can re-integrate himself into the two dimension world again. He risks however being even more ostracized as a result of his having radical ideas; he risks being called mad and put into jail because having different ideas can lead to chaos. What's most interesting is that Abbott presents in this novel a two dimensional world, a notion which the reader is unfamiliar and uneasy with. The reader thus through his/her difficulty to imagine a world that he/she has no context for understands what the author is commenting on. The reader in the beginning feels that the narrator is possibly mad because he believes that he lives in a two dimensional world. In this way, Abbott is directly asking us to look outside of ourselves.

Foucault in the Order of Things also questions what we "know" and take for granted. He starts of his preface by describing his reaction to a definition which he has read in a Chinese encyclopedia, which differs from what he is familiar with. This leads him to the conclusion that we limit ourselves to our own knowledge of things and that anything other than that is impossible. This leads him to question the process by which we classify. Classification according to him is a "linking together of things that are inappropriate" (Foucault, xvii). In the preface, he examines different example of how classifications, leading him to the conclusion that classifications which we do not question are arbitrary. At one point he says, "What is the ground on which we are to establish the validity of ... classification with complete certainty?" ( Foucault, xix). Foucault also says that the system of classification was adopted in order to establish order and that this system sets boundaries that prevent us from attempting to understand what others have to say. In fact, Foucault says that "the history of madness would be the history of the Other" (Foucault, xxiv). The preface initially seems like a justification for the form of the body of The Order of Things, a glimpse of which the reader sees in the foreword, in which the author describes how he is going to write a history of science that is different from what most readers are familiar with. It is underneath, however, a social critique of how we are too comfortable with what we "know' and how we think of what we know, with out question, as absolute. Foucault wants to show readers that if others have a vision of the world, in a manner other than that which we are used to, he/she is labeled mad. They, who see the world differently and who try to communicate to others their visions, out of need to be understood, can not be reintegrated into society because their world is so different from that of the rest of us; their visions are so radical from our certain ways, surely he/she must be mad. They are believed to disrupt the order of things. This is what Foucault believes to be the price of retelling a story, alienation from the rest of society.

In conclusion, both Foucault and Abbott believe that the price that one pays for retelling a story, in a way others are not familiar with, is possible alienation. They both however also agree that humans feel the need to retell stories, despite of the fact that they are aware of this price, because they feel the need to be understood.

Name: Phoebe And
Date: 2002-10-07 11:53:03
Link to this Comment: 3190

After taking a step back from "my painting", I see both the individuality of people and the accumulation of their knowledge. Each square of the board represents a person's personal space, a boundary that others cannot cross. Each figure represents a person and the burst that comes from each of them represents their individual thoughts, their voice. The multi-colored cloud that floats above the figures is the bank of knowledge, the common ground for these people, a melting pot of information and knowledge.

People should have their own voice and ideas, but they should also be open to what others have to say. There is so much to learn and experience. Their experiences and knowledge add to this bank of knowledge.

Exploding Holes
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-10-07 11:57:17
Link to this Comment: 3191

I wanted to say something in this ongoing conversation about the Rice Krispy Treat Fairy Tale. It seems to me that what has been playing out here is precisely the "loop" that this course intends to foreground, moving from the spontaneous playfulness of the unconscious into the more reflective work of the conscious mind and back again. I'd revise Risa's saying that we older ones had an "unfair advantage" over you younger ones, by saying, rather, that we all need one another, precisely because we do see the world differently: we need the play of those of you who are playful, and you need the reflections of those of us who have lived longer. And then we all need to "loop" back again into more--and perhaps a now altered kind of-- play.

It also occurs to me that a pair of paintings which Sharon Burgmayer made this summer, but just scanned onto the web yesterday, function wonderfully as images of what has been happening among us. My reading? That we are negotiating a landscape full of "Holes." If we are willing to explore those pits, we can be rewarded with something that will "Explode" in glorious color.

I'm learning a tremendous amount from our ongoing conversation.
For which I thank you all--

Draft A
Name: Adina
Date: 2002-10-07 13:53:16
Link to this Comment: 3194

What causes people to change their stories? What are the consequences? Write your first thoughts on the matter using Flatland. What causes the narrator to change his story?

The biggest factor in causing people to change their stories is experience. There is a strong urge to tell new stories, even when the consequences are drastic. This is definitely the case with our little anonymous Square in Flatland, whose experiences in different worlds cause him to see the universe and his world in completely new ways and land him in prison.

Before visiting Lineland, the Square has no idea that he is living in a world of dimensions. He is outraged that the Line does not understand his story. Perhaps Abbott is telling us that this need to tell stories and to be understood is an integral part of the human condition. At this point, the Square's story changes because he has new knowledge that there are other worlds out there, however boring and frustrating they may seems, and he now knows that he and the other citizens of his land are not alone.

The Square's story changes yet again with the introduction of Spaceland. He goes from accusing the Sphere of being a "Fool! Madman! Irregular!" (Flatland, 64) to treating him as a master and a God-like figure. Not only has his story of the Sphere changed, his story of his entire world has changed. He comes to realize that there are so many unknown possibilities out there, and that there very well might be a forth dimension. This is something that the Sphere cannot comprehend because he does not have the same experiences as does the Square. Like the Square, the Sphere is aware of dimensions, but unlike the square, he has not been through the awesome eye-opening experience of realizing that there is so much more out there. He does not have the ability or the resources to comprehend such concepts, and his story never changes.

The Square now has a completely different story. He sees his own world as dull and depressing because he now has the story of Spaceland, where everything is three-dimensional, new, and exciting. He cannot restrain telling this new story, and he seems to go crazy and illegally tells it until he is eventually thrown in prison. This is because the States of Flatland refuses to let anyone speak of Spaceland or try to describe other dimensions. Perhaps this is to prevent the chaos of a collective changing story. People are generally very reluctant to change their stories; they need proof. Even the Square's story did not change until he gained the experience and thus the necessary proof. If everyone's story changed, everyone might go as crazy as the square. Flatland would cease to function and would be thrown into complete chaos – but then again, the Square may simply be going crazy from the inability to tell his story. This need to tell our stories seems to be inlaid in all of us, and the chaos is not necessarily bad. Often, in the real world, lives are sacrificed for the sake of changing stories; however, this is not always the case. Collective narratives change all the time; without changing stories, we would still be living in previous centuries or millennia.

The square's story is changed by his experiences of visiting new lands. In his case the consequences are drastically unpleasant to say the least, though this is not always true with the re-telling of stories. Like the Square, we all have an undying need to tell our stories so that the world can progress in a healthy way.

Why Stories Change: In Respect to Flatland
Name: Gwenyth Ca
Date: 2002-10-07 17:08:55
Link to this Comment: 3195

We have already discussed the issue of what constitutes a "story" and concurred on the idea that a "story" can be practically anything from a lengthy speech to a passing thought. There are as many answers to the question of why stories change as there are types of stories in the world. Each story is so unique that it too has a story of how it began and evolved. History itself is an ongoing story, being written and rewritten everyday. One very important reason things change all the time and stories are never permanent is due to the search for truth. By truth I mean forgetting about what we take for granted as being real and finding out what is really out there, what really happened, the "true story." Edwin Abbot's Flatland is a novella about a story that is permanent only to those who do not seek the truth, but an ever-changing way of life to one brave Square who happens upon it.
Flatland is a series of stories about life for a series of species. Each specie accepts their way of life as being the only way to live. The subjects of Spaceland are assured of their superior three-dimensional world. Those in Flatland can not even comprehend any other directions/dimensions but those in the two dimensional world. The King of Lineland thinks the Square is absolutely absurd when explaining a new dimension. Even the Point thinks itself to be the sole inhabitant of all "space." Stories are not easily changed when the story is a concept one has believed in and lived all their life.
The Square was not a believer either when first confronted with this new idea which challenged his entire way of life. He had to be physically forced out of his world to look at everything from a different perspective and accept these new changes as the truth. When he discovered the truth, that there was another dimension altogether, there was no denying it. His story was changed forever. Then charged with the responsibility of spreading the truth, he was faced with a group of people unwilling to see reason because it was a threat. A new dimension would mean an end to their refined art of Sight Recognition, their grasp of the world, and their world itself. We come across the same situations today very often. For example, many religious fanatics will not accept or even be willing to learn about the theories of evolution. They see it as a complete contradiction to all their religion has taught them, the religion that they put their faith in to and live by. Changes in this would change the nature of their existence, much like the people of Flatland.
The phrase "ignorance is bliss" comes to mind here. It is easy to create a cozy existence just by ignoring the facts and fabricating new "easier-to-accept" ones. The discovery of the truth brings great amounts of responsibility as well. To fully accept a truth such as the one that faced the Flatlanders, one must make sweeping changes and welcome an entire new way of life. This is no doubt incredibly difficult, but it is the price of truth. The Square was imprisoned for life for attempting to enlighten others. He is well aware of the troubles truth can bring. However, stories must always change in a never-ending quest for truth. No matter what difficulties I face or burdens I bear, I can only hope my life will be a shifting story. Nothing is worse than living a lie.

slouching towards play...
Name: Hayley Tho
Date: 2002-10-07 20:58:20
Link to this Comment: 3196

I meant to post something last week, but wanted to think some more about the fact that no story is written or told until we write or hear (ourselves into) it.

And this reminds me. I left the fairy tale conference two weeks ago thinking that it wasn't like any other fairy tale conference I've ever attended and I've been to a few, believe me.

But thinking back on it, and on the conversations it has generated in the in-between time since then, I recognize it. I recognize its ludic energy, the deep and playful space generated when folks get together to give body and voice to the traditional narratives we tell and thus, re-vise in the telling. I recognize the break/through into performance.

In carnivalesque moments, like our conference, we simultaneously consent to identify with and be estranged from our everyday selves for the sake of play, knowledge, revolution, and/ or dialogue. Laughing and squirming at things we don't dare invite out loud into our day to day, at least not without some frame, often humor, to help soothe and heal.

The therapy tale, the Princess Trilogy, all of the stories spoken and performed, tugged at me, signaling to me that something significant was happening for me, in me, in and through language. They tore laughter from me, but also ripped at other things in me, I admit. That's the way of humor. It's an optimistic process of delicately matching scraps of sense and nonsense and it's always risky, uncomfortable, and ambiguous. Think that's one reason why the resolution for a joke is called a punch line?

Thanks for the provocation and conversation. Can't wait to talk with all of you about the "flexible and contingent truths" folks in my section are discovering in the science/fiction readings we're doing now.


Cursed server...that is finally back up...
Name: Kim Cadena
Date: 2002-10-07 22:54:14
Link to this Comment: 3197

Change is icky.

People are funny creatures. We don't like change, especially if it involves shifting our paradigm. We will do anything to avoid having to change our stories, even if it means ignoring new information or hanging on to ridiculous ideas. We're constantly being taught new things, but we keep telling ourselves the same stories over and over, like A. Square, since we're scared of change.

Actually, the Square didn't tell himself the exact same story repeatedly; he changed it at little based on the limited information he had, as people do. He perceived of 'thickness' before other residents of Flatland and included it in the story he told to us, but he didn't understand what it was or its application to the greater story. His understanding of three-dimensions is similar to that of a child who understands that things move in certain directions, but not the concept of vectors. He is capable of dealing with the world he sees, but not of expressing the 'truth' of the world in the right terms because he doesn't have the right terms or the right concepts.

When he gets the right terms and concepts to change his story, however, he does a very human thing and rejects them at first because it's easier to stick with the story he was telling than change his story to fit with what her knows. He violently resists the knowledge of three dimensions the Sphere is giving him, because he is unwilling to change his story of the world to accommodate more dimensions. Most people refuse to change what they believe at first, afraid that the new knowledge they are gaining will throw out the old story they know. Eventually, though, both Square and people learn that adding knowledge to their stories doesn't cause the old stories to disappear; they become part of the new story, as the two-dimensional story became part of the three-dimensional one.

Finally, the Square assimilates the knowledge of the three-dimensional world into his story and tries to spread this knowledge to others in Flatland. The circular priests stop him, because they have the same reaction to his new understanding as he originally did: fear. Unlike him, though, they not only fear having to change their stories and concepts of the world, but also the possibility that the Square's knowledge will challenge their power and control of their world. They won't allow that, so they prevent the Square from sharing his knowledge with the rest of Flatland. The priests' behavior is quite like that of the Catholic Church dealing with Galileo (maybe that's what the author had in mind?). Free thinking is a challenge to an autocratic system that requires firm belief in the rulers to survive, and belief is not fostered if it is revealed that the leaders had been getting the story of everything wrong for centuries. Besides, the priests in the story showed themselves to be masters of propaganda anyway, so it is unlikely that a changes story is a task they want to deal with spinning; it would be way too much work. The Square was sacrificed in the name of the status quo, like many a great story-changer before him.

So people do change their stories, even if they don't like to. The problem is, working at a rate of one changed story at a time is pretty slow. That's part of the reason the Square was so easily thwarted by the priests; a lack of mass media made his idea hard to spread. We are living in an age where stories change constantly, or should, at least, depending on the willingness of people to change. The possibility is there, though, and so our stories will change, even if we're scared to change them.

changing stories
Name: claire
Date: 2002-10-07 23:27:51
Link to this Comment: 3198

Have you ever changed a story? Surely you have. Everyone has at one time or another. In fact, most people change stories more frequently than they may realize. In Flatland Edwin A. Abbott reinforces the thought that from altering a brief encounter to skewing facts to changing an opinion, this metamorphosis of the 'story' isn't intrinsically good or bad.
Certain people, my good friend Lucy for instance, have a tendency to embellish stories. For example, Lucy explaining "...and then Miss Johnson took Erik's calculus book and made him run laps in the hall to make up for not changing for gym that day. And then she told him that she'd call his parents. And he told her to go ahead, because he didn't have anything good to do that weekend anyway, and he started to sing..." would correlate with a fairly uneventful phy ed class during which a student got caught unprepared. "That didn't actually happen, did it, Luc?" became frequently asked question by me and my friend Krissy when in Lucy's presence. As in Lucy's case, along with many retellings, explanations of simple events gradually become tall tales. Often these exaggerations prove harmless and merely add interest to an otherwise dull anecdote. On the other hand, "he said, she said" stories do frequently become hurtful, even slanderous. Rather than briefly relating the facts of an argument, a narrator may put a forceful spin on the conversation in order to take sides. Another illustration of this phenomenon, you may ask? Debate. One of the main purposes of debate is to portray information in a way that sways those listening/opposing. Providing a strong stand with compelling defense overcomes insecurity and security alike. Why would anyone do this? Simply stated, changing stories has, for years, remained a mainstay to cultures worldwide for the benefit of providing more "fulfilling" entertainment, for validation, or for argumentation.
Abbott cleverly discusses this idea in his book, Flatland. Because the setting and characters appear objective and far-removed, one doesn't feel personally attacked or talked down to. The mock-anthropological study format of the course which the square takes (dare I say his Life of Learning?) forces one to look more closely at our society. This square accepts, as most everyone does, that his world is the world of truth. Upon seeing the one-dimensional realm he scoffs and attempts to persuade the King to "see the light"--to realize the true nature of the world. Beyond this, a sphere takes the square under his care and, in a kind of role-reversal, the square becomes the tutee. The original philosophical arguments of the sphere do not move the square, but upon visiting Spaceland, he is intellectually converted, and even goes beyond the sphere's teachings. What are the consequences of all this revelation? Just that. Once "liberated" from popular opinion, the square (or any human on earth for that matter) strives further to achieve an even greater amount of knowledge, comprehension and ability to convey that newly discovered intelligence.
True, people change their opinions, but this does not necessarily equal weakness. Rather, change is a natural part of life, and can happen for any number of reasons. Change can enlightening, it can hurt, but change in and of itself does not by any means fit in a pigeon hole of "goodness" or "badness."

Snap, Crackle, Pop...
Name: Diane Gibf
Date: 2002-10-07 23:44:40
Link to this Comment: 3199

Snap, Crackle, Pop...

I confess that I have sinned.

In what way?

I have lied.

Ah, yes.

And I have looked at naughty pictures.


And I have had uncharitable thoughts.

I see.

Anything else?

I ate my Rice Krispie treat, I enjoyed it thoroughly... and I even licked the wrapper.

"Oh my God"

And after that, I even licked MY FINGERS!!!

And I know, I WILL DO IT AGAIN!!!

"REPROBATE!!!!. Even I cannot hold to the rule of confidence that usually prevails."
There will be an Inquisition. And you will be imprisoned with all the other snide sideways smiling, eyebrow lifting, nudge nudgers of finger lickers and chuck chucklers.
Unless Santa Krispia can find it in her heart to pardon you. But for that privelige you must walk on your knees many miles over Krispie bits and not break a single one.
You must glue Krispies to your eyelids and forehead and wear blue wrappers over your fingers as well as your eyes. You must sequester yourself away from society and meditate on your own bestial nature which causes you to laugh at inappropriate times.

As I was taken away, I could hear the soft rattle of paper coming from the opposite part of the confessional.

Disclaimer: I do not in any way support mass rapes or crimes against females or even the rest of humanity. I only wanted to confess with the help of a little satire that I did indeed eat my Krispie treat. And I do continue to eat them. And I don't know if I enjoy them more or less. But I will let you know. They are very popular at church picnics and youth group gatherings. And I would be happy to provide a handy recipe.

order and change, a story needs to be told
Name: natalie
Date: 2002-10-08 10:29:09
Link to this Comment: 3201

Order and change, a story needs to be told

"There is nothing more tentative, nothing more empirical (superficially, at least) than the process of establishing an order among things; nothing that demands a sharper eye or a surer, better articulated language..."(xix) If one is ever changing, order comes second. Our impulsive nature is more prone to chaos rather than keen and cautious awareness. If the ground below our feet is not stable, there has to be a reason. The reason for a new story! But the past is still present in our changing world; it is passed down through generations. Each mouth it passes through creates the same story with a new twist.
When there is a change the true original form is lost forever. With the Universal Color bill, it was so that shapes without angles would be shaded a specific color. Therefore, women and priests were painted half red and half green. Walking down the street anyone would be easily confused as to whether they were accosting a priest or a woman. This was a benefit for women, but the demise of the priests due to the know status of the two extreme stations. By introducing these new colors, the priests and women were not looked at the same way again.

The inhabitants of Flatland were exposed to one and only one story: one past, one present, one future. If one is born and lives their whole life in flatland, what else would they be aware? Understanding is limited when one grows up learning of only one place, the place in which one live. In the case of Flatland, it is extremely difficult to allow for understanding when the inhabitants of flatland do not know other "dimensions" exist. A make-believe story, a fairy-tale perhaps, might be able to convey the existence of life elsewhere. The problem is that the narrator tries to send out a message in such a rational, logical, mathematical way, the way in which he interprets it. However, the majority of the populace of Flatland cannot process such immense amounts of knowledge in one gulp. What comes across as radical and absurd thought of the narrator, will in the future as more and more heads turn curious or intrigued by the possibility of other dimensions.

Although he verges on hopelessness, the narrator's role in sacrificing himself to give others the understanding he possesses is a necessary one. It is in our nature to evolve, and as we do, the way in which we describe ourselves also evolves. Evolution of a species depends on the location, setting, climate, language and culture. The narrator had witnessed hands-on the lands near and far and could identify the differences among his people of Flatland and others. Why should he remain silent, a story needs to be told.

Conversation between M. Foucault, Monsieur Square
Name: Diane Gibf
Date: 2002-10-08 11:20:15
Link to this Comment: 3202

Discussion Group: Stories- Telling & Re-Telling
Time: 12:00 Midnight
PLACE: The Non Place of Language
Attendees: Michel Foucault, Monsieur Square, 50% possibly Carl Sagan and 50%Not Carl Sagan
(I just had to get in Schroedinger's Cat!)

Monsieur Square: I cannot stay long. As you know, I remain a prisoner for my radical beliefs about other dimensions.
Michel Foucault: I have been inquiring about the same sort of thing. Because I have tried to conceive of a dimension or place in which there could be "open discourse" between all sciences which would be free flowing and not tied down to causality or identities. Because one (causality) is too hard to pin down and the other (subject) is too rigid. You see I don't believe that anyone has the last word on anything.

Monsieur Square: Hmmm. That is rather what I had hoped for from the Sphere at the point where after sharing in the Sphere's revelation of the third dimension, I began to wonder about a fourth, or possibly a fifth. Things are rather partitioned out and classified quite distinctly in Flatland. A triangle is a triangle you know. And an Isosceles remains an Isosceles.

Michel Foucault: Well, that's very interesting... beause I see that you come from a world rather different from my own and yet somehow similar.

Monsieur Square: Yes, my world exists on a rather predictable plane of two dimensions. Clear cut roles are assigned to each two dimensional character in terms of class, gender, roles in society. Even the shapes ofour houses are dictated by practical requirements for safety and security. Things were rather ho-hum until I experienced a puzzling intervention of a being from another dimension.

Michel Foucault: I wonder what the significance of that intervention at your particular time in history may have in terms of all forms of knowledge and awareness available to your from your particular point in perception. And how such an intervention may have been differently understood and interpreted epistemiologically in yet another time.

Monsieur Square: Well, I will tell you. It certainly gave me a scare at first. And I scarcely believed my own experience. But I was transported out of Flatland and floated above it and was able to see it in an entirely new way and I saw that it existed on a plane somewhat like the top of one of your tables in Spaceland.

Michel Foucault: Fantastic!

Monsieur Square: Yes. And from this new vantage point my vision was no longer obscured so that I could really see the shapes of things and the shapes inside of the shapes. Because before all I could see was an edge of sorts and senses of an angle here and there. Before that my perception of the class system, our forms of reproduction, our assignments of roles and the doctrine of "Attend to your Configuration" made perfect sense. But now, it no longer does at all. I see no point in attending to any Configuration that the Circles endorse. Except to maintain the status quo and continue to suppress exploration!

Michel Foucault: "Strangely enough, man – the study of whom is supposed by the naive to be the oldest investigation since Socrates – is probably no more than a kind of a rift in the order of things, or in any case, a configuration whose outlines are determined by the new position he has so recently taken up in the field of knowledge."

You are on to something here.

Looking over the period of time in which you perceived this new insight, which led you to suppose other new insights, has a coherence which might (at least regarding Flatland) seem obvious. And this also probably contained changes and "mutations" which were necessary to push you forward.

Michel Foucault: I also believe we ought to attend to everyone's configurations and so attend to none. It seems to me that instead of tiny cubicles and rooms of egos and identities associated with knowledge, it would be far better and serve more of a purpose to find the innate order of things which exists in all of science itself.

I guess my equilateral friend, we can think about what we configure and what configures us?

Monsieur Square: Certainly my configuration has altered since I started to perceive these new possibilities.

Michel Foucault: Since Man is so young on the planet and in the scheme of Time, it seems he will reinvent himself over and over again as his knowledge increases or changes. Ah yes, I speak of another dimension. In which we change our configurations. I am excited to think about where this may finally take you and eventually all of Flatland.

Monsieur Square: For now, it has taken me straight to prison.

Michel Foucault: Be thankful you don't have a nice roly poly head.

50% Carl Sagan and 50% Not Carl Sagan: I have been enclosed in a space capsule and was floating above space, much like Monsieur Square here.l.. when the interior of my space ship exploded. There is a 50% possibility that I am alive and a 50% possibility that I am deceased. Anyway I found a nice spot to land in the blue dot parking lot.
How are things on our good old speck of dust?

Monsieur Square: What on earth do you mean?\

Michel Foucault: You don't look like Carl Sagan.

50% Carl Sagan and 50% not Carl Sagan: When the light of your planet lit up my electrons they started to swerve... and now I am quite another being. The act of observing me has changed me somehow you see.

Catagorizing the Heavens
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-10-08 18:14:49
Link to this Comment: 3215

There was an article in this morning's (10/8/02) Philadelphia Inquirer which I want to share w/ you all. It's just TOO GOOD an illustration of what Foucault has been teaching us about the subjectivity of categorization, and also--in its account of the ways in the which our understanding of the heavens continues to be re-formulated even as we speak--it offers a marvelous seque-way into our reading of Brecht's Galileo. The article is entitled "Space Object Pulls Pluto into Planet Debate":

"On the frozen outskirts of the solar system, astronomers have discovered an orbiting object half the size of Pluto....They have named it Quaoar (kwah-o-war), after a Calfornia Indian creation deity....Quaoar is not a planet--it is a Kuiper Belt object, a member of a distant realm that is just beginning to be explored....this newcomer is creating an awkward situation in the solar system....because Pluto is classified as a planet, [some astronomers] feel obligated not only to admit Quaoar, but 661 other catalogued Kuiper Belt objects....

The word planet comes from the Greek term for 'wanderer' because planets appeared to drift among what seemed to be a fixed background of stars. So, according to the Greek definition, Quaoar and Pluto are both planets, but then so are all the countless asteroids and pieces of assorted debris. Pluto...has always been a misfit, but [one astronomer] has long argued that it should remain a planet because it has its own moon and atmosphere and appears spherical....whether Pluto is called a planet [another astronomer] considered a meaningless question. 'It's like deciding to call Australia a continent and Greenland an island,' he said...

'I think Pluto is happier as a Kupier Belt object,' [said the first astronomer]. It gets to go from puniest planet to king of the Kupier Belt'....

The International Astronmical Union has rules for what you can name objects....Anything found in Quaoar's particular neighborhood must be named after a creation deity...If it were closer to Pluto, they would have needed to name it after another mythological deity associated with the underworld."

{Now: doesn't THAT account give another spin to the "strange categories" of Borges' encyclopaedia," w/ which Foucault begins his discussion of The Order of Things?


stories help us establish order
Name: Whitney
Date: 2002-10-08 20:47:44
Link to this Comment: 3218

Stories are our way of enforcing order in the world; our way of consoling ourselves in the face of confusion. We have science, religion, "truth", and "knowledge" to guard against chaos. In essence, we have created order to mask the order that we do not understand. As we begin to strip our contrived conditions and rules from the structures of ideas, we realize that there is an order to the chaos. An order that was prevalent before us, and an order that will preside after us. Our world is more than what we see.
It is human to strip things down, to simplify complexities. Stories serve that very purpose- to polarize events or ideas into two sides, two sides that are easily quantified and far enough removed from the reality of things. Thus, stories protect us from ourselves- creating archetypes to represent what we know to be true, to replace the things that are too true, to make our lives into stories separate from us.
Religion is a story that was generated to glorify and teach, and the success of this one story (or kind of stories) is a phenomenon. The success of religion lies solely in its remote relationship to life. The key here is "remote"- a story must not hit too close to home. Religion gives the people an organization, a sort of cleansing ritual, to convince themselves that there is spirituality in this world, and that they can indeed be part of it.
The most important purpose that stories serve is their ability to teach while simultaneously comforting, or entertaining. We depend on stories to teach our children about the world- gently graduating them into reality, from simplicity to complexity. The story is stripped of all personal context so that the reader may supplement their own world- in essence transplanting each story from one perception to the next. Each reader draws something different, something directly pertaining to them, from stories.
Stories are a crucial part of our development as a society. They teach and unify, and yet also mask and distort. We cling to stories because they are the only way through which we see the world; they interpret our reality for us.

retelling stories is essential...
Name: Joy
Date: 2002-10-08 23:20:12
Link to this Comment: 3222

We tell stories, not only (as some people have already pointed out in this forum) in the hopes of connecting with/explaining ourselves to others, but also to explain the world around us to ourselves and help us to understand, at least in some superficial way, our existence. For these two reasons, the telling and re-telling of stories have been and will continue to be and essential part of human history and existence. Humankind has always told stories about the things around them in an attempt to make sense of the world – hence the existence of creation myths, legendary gods and heroes, and mythological histories of every culture since writing was invented. There is no doubt that stories existed long before humans discovered a means to write them down as well.
Recognizing that these are the purposes of stories, it is not hard to understand why we re-tell stories and why our stories change. We pass down certain cultural stories from generation to generation, and these stories may evolve not purposefully, but as a result of changing values of the generations/societies/cultures that receive, and in turn re-tell them. Explanatory stories can change because an aspect of them is no longer considered truthful, acceptable, beneficial, applicable or even fashionable.
An important parallel that one can draw between Flatland and Focoult's piece is the notion that stories help us to understand existence through the categorization of the things we interpret and percieve in the world. As evidenced in both works, this categorization can take place simply as a systemic way of placing that which we perceive into convenient niches, or drawing distinctions between "different" and the "same", or that which is familiar to us and the "other".
In Flatland, A. Square takes us through the different "worlds" of dimensions. The majority of the narrative of this work thus results in comparisons between the lands and the use of these comparisons (both similarities and differences) to explain things that the reader has never experienced. When explaining different lands to the various people he encounters, he builds his stories around terms and concepts which are universal enough that both he and his audience can understand. Stories are the only thing that can accomplish the extremely important task of helping people to understand things outside of their own experience/being.
When Focault speaks of the Chinese encyclopedia and its classifications of animals, he makes us aware of the vastly different ways in which cultures view the world and place things into categories. However, we can understand how to the author/s of this encyclopedia, making such distinctions is inherently necessary in understanding the world, for we do the same, though in a quite different way.
In this way, stories can facilitate an understanding of other cultures that is essential to the harmony of the human race. If we were not able to tell stories, our existence would be futile. We could never relate to our friends what happened to us during the day, never tell about our past – there would be no such thing as the news, or books, movies, TV, and art. Likewise, if we could never change and re-tell stories, we ourselves could never change or take into account new information and points of view and form new ideas – and the human race would be hard pressed to evolve in any meaningful way.

coldest places human thought has ever reached....
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-10-11 14:09:24
Link to this Comment: 3262

Another relevant "book report": last Sunday's (10/6/02) New York Times Book Review looked @ a new biography of Charles Darwin, which put me strongly in mind of our current conversation about how reluctant we are to give up the stories which comfort us:

"It is necessary to appreciate the dislocating sweep of Darwin's achievement. The discovery of natural selection, the austere logic of reproducing systems, was only Darwin's first step....He showed how selection united ..the physical and the mental into a single fabric of intelligble mateiral causation. If one could accept the price....: our cherished mental life was a naturally selected product of organized matter, just one downstream consequence of the uncaring immensities of time and chance....

no comporimise was possible between the need for ideological affirmation and the logic of Darwin's worldview. As he explained, in a world governed by physics and seleciton, humans are a "chance," like other life forms "a mechanical invention"; there is no "necessary progression"....Most disturbing was his recongition that because natural selection gave a contingent, materialist explanation for the existence of the moral capacity, it removed any divine or cosmic endorsemnt of its products.....

Darwin went further than his contemporaries because he was less bound by the compulsion to make the universe conform to his predilections. While others rapidly turned aside, his stoicism in the face of bitter imaginative vistas allowed him to persevere along logical paths to some of the coldest places human thought has ever reached.....The will to know must have been singularly unbending in a man for whom even God's banishment or death was incidental to finding the truth....

explain the hard problem
Name: eileen
Date: 2002-10-11 21:35:26
Link to this Comment: 3266

i have to explain to my college professor in my words what the hard problem is?
help me explain.

Narratives of Closure
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-10-17 07:46:39
Link to this Comment: 3276

In the next section of this course, we'll be exploring the various ways in which cultures (like individuals, like science) tell stories about the world. An article in this morning's (10/17/02) Philadelphia Inquirer, "Professor works to debunk myths about historic events," anticipates us:
"...the complexities in history often get smoothed over as societies try to make sense of events by fitting them into simple, familiar story lines. And the facts a society chooses to forget can be just as informative about that society's values....over the last century, the camera image...has had the most powerful influence on how Americans develop cultural memories of key images 'play a vital role in the devleopment of national meaning by creating a sense of shared participation and experience in the nation.' So powerful are those images that they not only create memories but obliterate them, as evidenced by World War II veterans who have forgotten where their war memories come from--their own experiences or Hollywood movies....'memory most often takes the form of cultural reenactment, the retelling of the past in order to create narratives of closure....'"

This is a little different than where we are heading (telling stories in order to produce new ones) stay tuned! Anne

Re-telling Stories: Not on Foucault or Flatland
Name: Molly Cook
Date: 2002-10-20 22:36:32
Link to this Comment: 3287

As I attempt to understand it, stories are as inextricable from what makes us human as are food and water. We use them to communicate a message, record history, teach, and entertain. Stories occupy a large part of our time on this planet - the preparing, the telling, the listening and then the re-telling. In the case I did not miss something, this is not a complicated matter.
Further, the question of why we re-tell or revise stories is a very interesting a matter; however, I have run into obstacles in drawing on Flatland and Foucault. I shamefully admit I have not been able to understand how the story Flatland is a re-telling when it appears to be the initial telling of a story; and therefore is understood as a vehicle for communicating, recording, teaching and entertaining. Because it is written text, the retelling is no different than the original. With my personal regard to the fascinating segment of Foucault's The Order of Things, I also have a hard time understanding where the story was in this text. In what is perhaps my too-narrow view, this is not a story. It has no plot, no denoument, no re-telling of events: therefore, as best I can understand it, which may not be very well, this is no story here at all. Furthermore, The Order of Things does not appear to be a re-telling of anything, rather it is the first formal English language record of Foucault's original thought.
My failure in this assignment is therefore sealed, so I apologize to the reader for my own thickness. To draw on these two writings to answer the above questions can only be done if I create a false understanding of the assignment, which would truly defeat the purpose, wouldn't it?
I shall attempt to approach the questions, therefore, from an angle that I think I understand. I will attempt to apply them to a situation that I find highly relevant which we experienced in our very own McBride section of CSEM.

This is the story of the story we chose not to tell.
Born of the first writing exercise on the second day of classes of our first semester here at Bryn Mawr College, each student of CSEM produced a fairy tale. In our own section, the McBride section, we delighted in reading each and every story, and when the time to prepare for the Fairy Tale Symposium, it was generally agreed that we would present a particular story which had moved every reader deeply. Come symposium night, however, minds were changed. It was decided on short notice that this would not be shared after all. The vocal and articulate members of our class expressed concern that the story was too emotionally charged for a general audience, that we as responsible storytellers were not prepared to handle the potential results of re-telling this story. So the story went untold. This is a perfect example of why stories are not re-told. If content is too difficult, or cannot be understood within a measure of comfort by the teller, it is not an affective story and will not be told.
However, not telling the story also felt wrong. Again the vocal members of our class expressed a need to honor the writer's courage and her story as well. It was even said that holding back the story was possibly an error - for we chose not to expose others to the challenge we felt ourselves instead of allowing for the story to do it's work, whatever that may have been. This is an example of the potential cost of not sharing a story. The ability to find common ground, in the broadest sense, to understand one another is lost when a story is censured.
What would have been the right thing to do? What could we do to fix this situation? Ideas began to pour forth. A re-telling of the story was created through the cooperative efforts of a number of students with a mind to satisfy their own need for more subtle, symbolic language as well as to honor the tale with the same degree of respect they felt for the author.
As a result, the story was re-born in a body that the tellers felt a measure of comfort with: and I believe that is the key. The audience is taken by the hand of the storyteller to the threshold of their own imaginations.

Creationism vs. Evolution
Name: Phoebe And
Date: 2002-10-21 13:17:03
Link to this Comment: 3297

Creationism vs. Evolution Debate

People often tell stories to explain the unknown. The unknown for many is the origin of the Earth and of humans. People are not satisfied with just existing, people want to know where they came from, why they were created the way they were, and what their purpose in life is. Creationists find the answers to these questions in the Bible. The Bible explains God's purpose for creating the earth, his methods for creating it, and how people should live to come to a good end. While many people take comfort in the Bible's explanations, others are striving still to find proof. Various theories of evolution satisfy this second group's thirst.

Paul Abramson the author of the article "A Defense of Creationism" is an individual who takes comfort in the teachings from the Bible. He strongly believes that a creator created the earth no more than 10,000 years ago. Like all people, Paul wants to know and understand what his origin is. His story that offers him a satisfactory explanation to his question of origin is a catastrophic flood that covers the entire world. He hopes to gain support by trying to back up his beliefs with "scientific" proof. He finds a need to be validated because if others disagree and challenge his point of view his foundations are challenged. Like many creationists, Paul most likely was reared with these beliefs. If others disagree with them they are not only challenging the idea of creationism, they are challenging Paul's foundations. His world will no longer seem so stable.

Science is the testing factor of his beliefs. It challenges much of what Paul believes. Paul first states that "there were 6 days of creation, less than 10,000 years ago" (Abramson 1). He is immediately challenged by the book Science and Creationism. The author provides many ways that scientists have proven that the earth is much older than 10,000 years old. One way that is mentioned is the studying of stars within globular clusters. The author explains that because there are "very low amounts of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium in these stars," "they must have formed early in the history of the Galaxy" (2). The second way scientists are able to prove that the earth is closer to 10-15 million years old is the study of radioactive elements in the solar system. "Their abundances are set by their rates of production and distribution through exploding supernovas" (Science and Creationism 2).

In response to Paul Abramson's belief that the earth was created by a giant flood, science again argues back that "there [is no] evidence that the entire geological the product of a single universal flood that occurred a few thousand years ago" (Science and Creationism 4). "On the contrary, intertidal and terrestrial deposits demonstrate that at no recorded time in the past has the entire planet been under water" (4).

Paul tries to regain himself by explaining that "radio-active dates can fluctuate within different samples of the exact same specimen" (1). While this can be the case in many situations, his next few arguments make him more vulnerable to criticism. He claims that it requires "more faith [to belief in archaeological finds] than does the Bible's historical account of what happened" (1). He believes this because he thinks there are too many gaps in the history archeologists present and that evolutionists "conjure up a myriad of exceptions when dealing with the real fossil evidence we see in the world today" (1). Although there may be gaps, there is enough information to convince the average person that the earth was not formed by a giant flood. Would he have people believe a fanciful tale in the Bible about Noah and his arc over fossil finds? He goes further "out on the limb" trying to gain support when he makes a ridiculous argument about coal. He claims that because the ground does not catch on fire when a campfire is extinguished, coal and oil must have come from a flood. It is a well-known fact that coal develops in a slow fashion, taking millions of years to form. His argument about the earth only being 10,000 years old is ruined by his coal argument because obviously the topsoil doesn't catch fire. Coal is found at much lower depths, implying that it formed millions of years ago out of decaying matter.

Paul is entitled to have his own beliefs. Perhaps it is more comforting for him to belief that a giant flood molded the earth and that the earth is fairly young. When he tries to tell others his story, however, he finds that his faith alone cannot convince people of his beliefs. His faith is stronger than the "evidence" he has to share.

I think the creationist tale is a good foundation, a satisfying explanation for an earlier people who did not have the advantages of modern science. As a child, many people conjure up tales to better understand the unknown. Parents might tell their children that God is crying when it rains or that God is bowling when the child hears loud rolls of thunder. These stories are often times better understood and comforting to a child than the truth. We, however, are no longer children who deserve stories full of mental illustrations. We desire the truth.

Flatland and the Order of Things Revisited
Name: Beatrice J
Date: 2002-10-22 13:13:54
Link to this Comment: 3313



Pueblo reading digression
Name: orah minde
Date: 2002-10-24 21:23:01
Link to this Comment: 3341

at the begining of Leslie Silko's reading: language and literature from a pueblo indian perspective she says, "many individual words have their own stories. so when one is telling astory, and one is using words to tell the story, each word that one is speaking has a story of its own,too. often the speakers or tellers will go into these word-stories, creating an elaborate structure of stoies-within-stories." it is interesting to think about different layers of existence. we hear one story and without knowing it we are hearing another story simulaniously. when we listen to a person telling a story we are hearing her words but at the same time we are in the midst of her personal story. we experience a peice of her life story without knowing that we are watching it, feeling it, hearing it. sometimes, when walking down the street, i watch people and think that we are all living the stories of our lives and here on the street they are all intersecting without our noticing. i am living the sphere of my life and sitting next to me is a man who is living the sphere of his life; we touch edges and bounce away, i may never see him again but we have skewed each other. i make eye contact with a stranger on the street and have entered her sphere for an instant. i wish i could float above and see down, look at all life pulsing simultaniously- see you living beside me-see him sitting in an empty room, alone. what do things look like when no one sees them. does a tree make a sound when it falls and no one is around to hear it? what is the deepest meaning of a word? what is your deepest story? secret?
last year [when i was writing] i wrote a peice about this feeling of wanting to know the hidden things, the invisible things, the deepest meaning of a word. i will paste the peice here.

Stray Ray
Sitting here on a rock I watch the water rush towards me reaching up to me and dipping into itself away from me. It comes close and then as if it has not enough energy it falls back into itself. The water pulses up and down, towards me and then away from me. The sun glints off the water, dancing in my eyes. A loose ray blinds me and colors flash in my eyes. I sit back, relaxing in the warmth of the sun and the lapping lull of the water. The rock that I sit on is hard against my hand and I feel the grains of pebble imprint themselves in the skin.
The water is beautiful, rushing towards me and away from me, the sunlight prancing on it and in my eyes. The rock supports me. The sunlight is beautiful in my eyes and the colors it makes in my eyes are beautiful.
The water moves but I can only see it in relation to myself, rushing to me or away from me. Nature is beautiful in my eyes, but I wonder if it would be beautiful if I were not here. The rock supports me and it is hard, but it is only hard if my hand is pressing on it, it would not be hard if I were not there. I wish I could watch nature from the outside. I wish I could see the water rushing and the sunlight shining and the still rock just being.
It is hard to see beauty outside oneself. Beauty is always seen in relation to oneself.
I saw a beautiful person yesterday, walking down the street in my direction. He was walking towards me. We watched each other walk down the street, approaching. His body seemed to follow his chest, which directed his feet forward, towards me. He held his hands on the straps at his chest protecting himself from the passing strangers. We passed each other and were gone.
I wish I could see him sitting, alone, beautifully. I wish I could see him being. I wish I could watch him not watching me. I wish I could just see him being beautiful.

that's it. that's what i think about. the end of this horibly long posting.

Aspect of culture
Name: Phoebe And
Date: 2002-10-28 14:10:43
Link to this Comment: 3385

Christmas at Aunt Karen's House

It is 2:00 pm on Christmas Eve and the Anderson household is bustling with activity. Mom is downstairs putting the final touches on the riscrem, stirring the cranberry topping and putting the rice pudding in the refrigerator to chill. Dad and I am hustling upstairs, showering and changing, trying to get in the car and on our way by 2:30. The car door slams and we are on our way to Timonium, Maryland to celebrate another Norwegian Christmas with my father's sister.

We are greeted warmly by the "first-arrivers," usually my cousins Randy and Marlene and their family. We place our gifts beneath the overwhelming large Christmas tree in the living room. If I was a little child like many of my second cousins I would rummage through the ever-expanding pile of gifts, trying to find ones that had my name on them. I would also check the Christmas tree to see if my aunt had included at least one picture of me in a hanging ornament. After the children do their routine check of the tree, they dash upstairs and put on some of my grandmother's old clothes. It is amusing to remember when my cousin Julia and I were the youngest and would entertain the adults with a fashion show of grandma's clothes.

The Christmas bell jingles on the front door, signaling the entrance of my cousin Laurel and her family. A mini herd of excited children come dashing through, greeting my aunt (their grandmother) and checking out the tree. Once everyone has arrived, hot cider is dished out, the children become content with playing with each other upstairs in my cousin's old room, and the adults and teenagers settle down in the den to eat shrimp, crackers and cheese.

The rich smells of a tasty Christmas dinner call everyone from their respective places and people begin to form a buffet line. Parents get the children seated at the "kids' table" in the living room and cut up their meat and tell them to behave themselves, while the rest of the adults seat themselves at the adult table in the dining room. We hold hands and say a dinner prayer in Norwegian. Even though I am not a very religious person I still take part in the prayer because at this particular moment there is a closeness and feeling of satisfaction and security. The people around the table are so different, each with their own story. It is almost hard to believe that we come from the same family. At this one unifying moment we feel connected and our differences seem to vanish.

After the dinner plates are moved into the kitchen for washing, coffee is put on and people talk amongst themselves while waiting for dessert. A plate of assorted cookies including karumkake, a traditional Norwegian cookie that is made with an iron and is quickly rolled into a cone before it hardens, is put out on the dining room table. My mom and dad always make a batch around Christmas time, keeping some for ourselves and passing the others out at work. The cookies my parents make are always light, crunchy, and perfect, while my aunt's are soggy and bendable. Each year we try to figure out what her excuse will be. Sometimes the amount of margarine is wrong and sometimes the day is too overcast. The most important dessert is the riscrem that my mom often makes. It is rice pudding that has a wonderful cranberry sauce. Each year a whole almond is placed in one of the bowls. Whoever gets the almond becomes "Santa Claus" and gets to pass out the presents. There have been a couple of years when we had to determine who was "Santa Claus" by a different means because the child who got the nut mistakenly ate it.

The kids' table is broken down and we slowly assemble in the living room for the gift exchange. Carlo, my aunt's partner, is always the cameraman, capturing the excited and overjoyed faces of the children. The youngest child usually gets a huge gift from my aunt and her partner. After all, I am her only niece. The rest of the children are her grandchildren so she must be "grandmotherly" and spoil her darling grandchildren. It is always a large production. There are jealous glances and impatient gestures. The child that received the huge gift wants to play with it immediately even it isn't all that way put together and the other children want to take a turn.

After a while when the children's eyes get heavy with sleep, the evening is at an end. We say goodbye to one another and say, "see you next year". We all drive off to our respective houses.

Each year I analyze the gathering and vow as soon as I am on my own I will establish my own Christmas traditions. My complaints are not with the food, or the drive, or the traditions. They are with the company. The gathering seems so artificially put together. An outsider would feel like they were watching a Christmas movie because everyone has their own purpose, the children running around and playing with the assorted toys, my aunt cheerfully putting on the final touches to the Christmas dinner, and the adults chatting amiably amongst themselves. This movie even includes a delightful soundtrack of Norwegian Christmas songs and the smells of home cooking. With a closer look, however, the outsider will not hear meaningful, interesting conversations. Laurel, my cousin, gives us a soap opera-like update on what's been happening in her life, while my cousin Julia tries desperately to stay with the ever-changing trends.

I never see these people any other time of the year. Christmas is the one time that we are all thrown together in one house. I need something more, a relationship outside of the Christmas gathering. We have tried numerous times to establish a closer relationship with my cousins, but the excuses fly faster than tennis balls fly out of a ball machine.

Recently, however, I have learned to embrace my extended family. I have realized that they are the only family that I have and while I can choose my friends, I cannot choose my family. I have learned that I really am satisfied with just a Christmas visit because I don't have enough in common with them to want a closer relationship. So I have embraced Christmas at Karen's house. I have embraced the dramatic chatter my cousin Laurel has to offer, I have embraced the frantic activity of my younger cousins, I have embraced the "um-pah-pah" of the Norwegian Christmas songs, I have embraced the drama that comes every year when a child breaks one of my aunt's Santa Claus figurines, and I have embraced her efforts to hold the family together through food and tradition.

Ramadan, Through the Eyes of an Outsider
Name: Nadia Chri
Date: 2002-10-28 20:53:46
Link to this Comment: 3396

Ramadan, when it arrives, changes the entire face of the western part of Beirut. This is not just as a result of the appearance of brightly colored decorations such as the popular multicolored "fawanees", typically Arab lanterns that I had heard about in The Thousand Nights, representations of the "msaher", whom I will talk about later on, and tents pitched in front of restaurants and stores in which people sat listening to an old man strumming on the "oud", eating "manakeesh", drinking a steamy white pine flavored drink called "sahlab", blowing smoke from their narjilas, and playing "tauola", an Arabic style of chess. For readers who are not familiar with some of these terms, I was not either. I discovered them during my first visit to this land of tradition and modernity. It does not however change only the appearance of the streets but also the behavior of people.

The first time I encountered the idea of Ramadan was actually during my first night in Beirut. I had arrived late in the night and looked forward to nothing except slipping into bed. It struck me during my taxi cab ride from the airport that the city was bustling strangely for it was 3 o'clock in the morning on a weekday. We had passed many small many bumpy roads and small allies before we had reached Sadat street, where my hotel was located, right off of the well-known Hamra street. Lights were still on in apartments and if you looked closely into one, you could see families moving around, particularly in the kitchen. I found this and the long lines in front of the numerous open restaurants intriguing. I apologetically interrupted the Fairuz song "Sanarjaou Yaoumann" and attempted to ask the driver who spoke broken English what was causing all this commotion so late at night. When finally understood my question, he chuckled, lit a cigarette and answered half in English, half in Arabic, "Oh, heeda Ramadan."

I would spend the next few days trying to discover what Ramadan is and what its connection was to how busy the streets were. My discovery of this began almost as soon as I had arrived. No sooner than I had fallen asleep, I was awaken by the sound of a repetitive beating on a drum and the voice of a middle-aged man shouting in Arabic saying something along the lines of wake up, wake up. His shouts were then met by the voices of children welcoming him saying, "Marhaba ya msaher, ya marhaba." I quickly jumped out of bed wanting to see what was happening, what all the commotion was about. Was this normal? Did this have anything to do with Ramadan? Or was this only something that happens on that particular night of the year? When I looked down into the dark street, I found a man wearing a colorful robe and a fez beating a large drum, looking up at the surrounding apartments, shouting, in an attempt to wake up their residents. Then I looked up at the apartments on my street and saw people of different ages, but mostly children, standing on their balconies in their pajamas welcoming him. Once most of the apartments had lit up, the man wandered on to another street, still shouting wake up, wake up. If you listened, you could hear the dialogue between him and the children occurring in nearby neighborhoods.

Now, at 4 in the morning, people were moving as though it were midday. Unable to sleep as a result of the noise around me and my curiosity about the scene I had just witnessed , I decided to go downstairs and have something to eat. After all, I had been tempted by all the delicious food I had seen people eating on the streets, food which I would find out was typical of Ramadan such as "kalaj". Finding the receptionist in the lobby awake, sipping away at his coffee, I decided it was the perfect opportunity for me to ask about what Ramadan is. His reply was that it is one of the five pillars of Islam, in which Muslims are required to fast not only from food and water but also from bad habits such as swearing, lying, and gossip from sunset to sunrise for a month. This made sense to me but I did not understand why Muslims fasted Ramadan, how it was related to the commotion outside, what the scene I had just witnessed, and what other traditions are incorporated in it. I thanked the receptionist for his time; I didn't want to overstay my welcome.

I headed towards the restaurant that was, as all the rest around the hotel, open. I sat near a window overlooking the street, not wanting anything to happen without me knowing about it, and ordered a cup of bitter Turkish coffee, without looking at the waiter for fear of missing something. As I waited patiently for my coffee, at about 5 in the morning, I noticed an influx of men, looking clean and dressed in shorts longer than the knee coming out of their buildings heading in one direction. Where were they going? What were they going to do? I was about to ask the waiter when all of a sudden I heard the morning call to prayer coming from a nearby mosque. The waiter, having seen me engrossed in what was going on explained to me that the men were heading to morning prayer. He said that in Ramadan your good deeds are magnified and therefore praying once in Ramadan counts as though one had prayed many times some other time during the year.

Feeling tired and overwhelmed by what I had witnessed, I excused myself, asked for the bill, and retired to my room. I lay awake a while in bed wondering about Ramadan until I finally fell asleep again. I got up the next day at around noon time, feeling famished but revived from sleep. I left the hotel in search of food to eat but as soon as I stepped out I realized that although everything was still going on around me as usual, the pace of the city was much slower than it had been the night before. I found a shawerma restaurant and decided to have that. The restaurant had a few customers, not near to the number it had had during the night. The men and women running the restaurant seemed tired but at the same time driven by some other source of energy, their faith. I ordered a chicken shawerma and sat down on a stool nearby waiting for my order to arrive, feeling guilty about having to eat it in front of others who could not. Overcome by curiosity, I asked why Muslims fasted during the month of Ramadan. A short bald man that had been thumbing his worry beads replied in perfect English, "It is to appreciate what we have, what good has given us. It is to feel with the poor. When we fast, we feel what it is like to feel hungry and not be able to eat and as a result of this we give from our possessions. It stops us from taking things for granted and makes us realize that our situation can change and that just because we are wealthy now, we will not necessarily be so in the future... As for fasting from bad habits, this is to purify our souls and practice self restraint."

I thanked him for his time and feeling ashamed about eating in front of him, left. I remained in my room for the rest of the evening writing notes about everything
I had seen during the day. At sunset, I heard the sound of canon exploding and then briefly afterwards heard once again the call to prayer. I went downstairs to the restaurant to see exactly what happens when the sun sets. I saw families sitting at tables having a hearty multi-course meal. I suddenly became confused... The poor did not have soup, salad, a variety of main courses, and desert after a day of hunger; they did not eat late at night in order to sustain the day. The same waiter that had spoken to me yesterday, seeing me confused came up to me again and asked what was the matter. After I explained what had been bothering me, he nodded as though he himself had thought about this questions many times. Then he said, "It wasn't always this way. The prophet, God rest his soul, ate dates and drank water. The tradition of eating large meals at the end of a day of fasting is a relatively new one. However, eating a large meal at the end of the day does not mean that during the day you do not feel what it is like to need something and not have it. On the contrary, at the end of the day, when you have a large meal and when you eat late at night after you are awoken, you realize how wonderful it is to have what you have. "

I thought about this for a long while as everything I had seen during the past few days began to come together. There was so much I wanted to learn about this tradition; I had just learned the basics. Now I was ready to find out more...

Parable of the Sower
Name: Kristina C
Date: 2002-11-03 09:44:06
Link to this Comment: 3488

When Parable of the Sower begins, the basic story seems very familiar. As many authors do, Butler sets a story based on a young girl who is not as loved by her stepmother as her siblings, is devoted to her father and is in a situation in her life that she is trying to escape. As the novel progresses, the story begins to lose its familiarity. Unlike a typical fairy tale/basic storyline Lauren's happily ever after ending would not be there to comfort the reader at the conclusion of the novel. Much like Sexton, I think Butler wants to challenge the reader to understand reality- she wants us to see that happily ever after endings don't always happen. Often we have to settle for an ending that's simply better than what we've known.

Throughout the novel I was horrified by the images that Butler conjured through her descriptive imagery. It seemed like every chapter was more depressing and terrifying than the last. While the text conveyed pictures that were haunting, the scariest part of the book was realizing that Lauren's life is not completely impossible. Drawing a parallelism between the world we live in today and the world that Lauren is running from I realized that Butler was introducing me to the much harsher yet more realistic view of life. Overall, I found the book very distressing and poignant. It evokes a sense of reality from the reader that is painful yet powerful. Having Lauren as an empath was definitely an interesting twist on the book as it made me seriously think about what it would be like to have the same affliction. Much as Lauren did, I wondered what the world would be like if everyone could feel everyone else's pain. While it wouldn't ever be perfect, I think people could definitely learn a lot from feeling what others feel. The only thing that truly bothered me about the book was that even as the novel concluded, I was still left with a very sad and lonely feeling. Though this is part of what Butler hoped to accomplish, I closed the book feeling void of character resolution (i.e. there was no happily ever after ending)- and it seemed as if the story was not quite over as Lauren had not yet found what she had set out in search of.

Octavia Butler
Name: Jess
Date: 2002-11-04 08:40:14
Link to this Comment: 3514

It was really big challenge for me to read The Parable of the Sower, because I was fighting the whole time to understand Lauren and her philosophy on life and religion.
The book was difficult to read because it revealed the way we make assumptions about other people. As Octavia Butler introduced certain facts about Lauren, such as her name, her age and her race, it made me realize that I already had made assumptions about who the narrator was. I had constructed an image of a teenage black woman, far before Lauren's race or sex was revealed. Butler's timing was a good way to make the reader question what they thought they knew. For me, it meant questioning who each character was- I thought I knew who Lauren was, but really, nit was my gut reaction, my assumptions, rather than "fact." As for the other characters, it meant questioning whether or not they could be trusted to stay with the group.
Parable of the Sower made me upset as I read it, because it made me both fearful for the future, and fearful of the present. A superficial reading of the book would create the impression that this is fiction, something for the future that certainly couldn't happen. But closer reading shows that many of the "scary" ideas are, in fact, present in our modern society. We pay for water and we live in gated communities (sometimes with physical gates, other times with monetary and social "gates.") Interracial couples are questioned; race is viewed as a divider. Random violence creates an ever present fear all over the world, so that we now live in a world where we are too afraid to give someone the time, or share our food, or contribute to the poor around us. We eat, or we are eaten.
Octavia Butler killed almost every secondary character by the end of the book. The shock of death was magnified, and the sense of loneliness was intensified when the group was each other's only family. Until the family members were "buried" at the end, I had no sense of closure, just as the family members did. Butler was able to make the reader an "empath," and therefore I could truly understand what the book was about.

Name: Beth
Date: 2002-11-04 13:14:21
Link to this Comment: 3516

When I first read this book I found it suprisingly enjoyable. It was easy for me to read the entire thing. YEs it is depressing but life is depressing sometimes and I like books that are true to life. It made me think and I have already recommended it to some people outside of this class so I guess I think it is a good book.

Octavia Butler
Name: Phoebe And
Date: 2002-11-04 14:31:27
Link to this Comment: 3517

It was very difficult initially to read Octavia Butler's novel. I was greatly saddened by her morbid descriptions of futuristic life. I did not see hope for the people she describes and was not convinced with her depiction of Lauren. Initially Lauren did not come alive for me. She seemed to be a character from a pre-teen cartoon series or from a "Mary Kate and Ashley Movie"—too zealous and eager to break off more than she can chew. The repetition of lines like "we have to do this...we have to survive" seemed almost comical because the situation around them was so bad that any effort seemed pointless.

As a neared the end of the book, I gained more respect for Lauren and her travelers. Lauren was portrayed as strong and smart and effective in the ending sections of the book, instead of being portrayed as a zealous planner in the early sections of the book. Her second image was more appealing to me because she seemed more down to earth and less "preachy". I initially did not like her character because it seemed like she did more talking than doing. I was unsure if she was going to follow through with her plans. I also was unsure if Butler intended her character to come across in this manner or if Butler was having a difficult time "playing" a teenager. I think it is often difficult for an author to portray a young person convincingly because the author's perception of the world has changed. Butler is no longer a child. She makes Lauren come to life when she shows Lauren's struggle between her beliefs and her father's. The parent vs. child struggle convinced me that Butler could correctly portray a youth.

I thought this book offered another explanation of human "evolution" and the absence or presence of a god. We have been reading a variety of material that discussed different viewpoints of human origin and the presence of a god. This book provides another explanation. I was able to follow Lauren's "teachings" because they make sense to me. I am not a very religious person and have found it difficult to "buy" (follow) all of the teachings in the Bible because they seem out of context for me. (in a different era that is very from our own) Lauren's teachings seemed logical and neutral. All people could find support from them.

I thought it was interesting and almost unsettling how Butler makes the world regress. People become enslaved again, colonies are formed, and revolts are a common occurrence. It seemed like I was reading a history book again. This time, however, the United States' role was reversed. Instead of being one of the strongest nations, it is now like a third world country. I am curious as to why Butler chose the problems she did. They seem so vaguely familiar to the ones that have happened and the ones that are going on now.

Octavia Butler
Name: Rachel Ste
Date: 2002-11-05 15:17:26
Link to this Comment: 3541

Actually hearing Octavia Butler speak did not change my mind about the book. I loved the book before she came, and my feelings about it did not change after she finished speaking. However, I did go out and buy the sequel and Wildseed. What was interesting about hearing her speak about the book was that I learned what she was doing while she was writing and why she wrote some of the things and characters that she did. It was interesting to draw parallels between fiction (Parable of the Sower) and non-fiction (Butler's life). I was really glad that we were able to see her while reading the book.

New view
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-11-05 22:08:06
Link to this Comment: 3552

Last week's (10/29/02) Science Times had an article immensely relevant to our discussion, now a few weeks old, of the stories science tells. Entitled "A New View of Our Universe: Only One of Many," it describes a self-reproducing cosmos, a network of branching bubble universes which scientists call the "multiverse." If you'd like to know more, go to

Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-11-06 11:45:55
Link to this Comment: 3559

How about you guys go to ? The ideas being explored here seem to me immensely relevant to what's working/not in Parable of the Sower. Looking forward to further discussion-- Anne

Date: 2002-11-06 16:27:51
Link to this Comment: 3575

so we spent todays class talking about parable of the sower and i left class very upset because this book has put me into so much emotional turmoil. i said in class that i don't feel that anyone has a right to deliberatly put me into so much emotional turmoil. and i understand that butler is putting me into this turmoil to make a point: go out there and fix it, she is saying. but i can't. that's the problem- I KNOW. but the pain that she is imposing on me is debilitating me. she can't write a book that makes it seem that anything i do wouldn't help. one person cannot fix this world alone- instead of mobillizing people butler is debilitation people. i want to fix the world but she is not helping me. she is not makeing me want to godshape, or whatever she calls it. she makes me want to curl up in bed and cry not go out there and heal the world.
i feel like butler imposing this pain without being consious of her reader, not caring about her reader. i could tell her painful things too. things that would hurt her- things that hurt to hear- but i don't. why does she do it to me?
an english teacher once told me that writing is an act of violence- the writer is kidnapping the reader's time and imposing something upon the reader [in a way raping the reader. whitman]. if normal writers are being violent against the reader, and some writers are raping the reader then what is butler doing to us?????
maybe this is just a defense mechanism on my part; saying, she can't do this to me. but fuck her. seriously. maybe i have no basis for saying that but i am saying it.

Name: jessie
Date: 2002-11-07 01:44:31
Link to this Comment: 3580

Well, now that this space is personal, i am feeling a need to express some...stuff.
Yes, anonymous, we live in a screwed up world. i was doing some talking this evening with a few friends, and then i listened to this song, and i felt it was particularly relevant. Read it.

I am frustrated, because no matter what i choose to do, it seems that I can't stop myself from hurtling toward 2026, or towards the south bronx, or towards the third world. I want to know how to stop this. i knew someone who wanted to rule the world. actually be in charge. I just want to fix it. But I don't really know how. Habitat for humanity? tutoring poor kids in west philadelphia? why does it seem so trite, like such a waste of time? I have friends going into the Israeli army, trying to protect am i supposed to react to this?!? Will that stop us from entering/remaining in Olamina's world? I just don't think so.

And why am i pondering the meaning of life at 1:45AM on the CSEM forum? I suppose this is what freshman year is all about.
should it really take $37,000 to get me to question my values and my place in this world?
and, the last question of the night...where is G-d in all of this?
read the song lyrics. perhaps i'll provide answers at another point.

The News by Jack Johnson
brushfirefairytales (2001)

A billion people died on the news tonight
But not so many cried at the terrible sight
Well mama said
It's just make believe
You can't believe everything you see
So baby close your eyes to the lullabies
On the news tonight

Who's the one to decide that it would be alright
To put the music behind the news tonight
Well mama said
You can't believe everything you hear
The diagetic world is so unclear
So baby close your ears
On the news tonight
On the news tonight

The unobtrusive tones on the news tonight
And mama said

Why don't the newscasters cry when they read about people who die
At least they could be decent enough to put just a tear in their eyes
Mama said
It's just make believe
You cant believe everything you see
So baby close your eyes to the lullabies
On the news tonight

this week
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2002-11-07 09:38:52
Link to this Comment: 3584

Back into the mode of sharing thoughts in progress this week ... and a good start from the contributions above. Let's continue it, with the idea that everyone's thoughts in progress can contribute to each others' thinking ... in particular about the paper based on Parable of the Sower which is due next week. What new ideas/problems to explore are occuring to you from reading that book? from Butler's visit/talk? from thinking about the relation of all that to what we've previously read/talked about? A few thoughts about any of this will help your colleagues, and theirs in turn you, so ... Leave some, informally, as contribution to the conversation.

Paul, Anne, Haley

Paper Thoughts
Name: Alex Frize
Date: 2002-11-07 10:20:28
Link to this Comment: 3586

In my first paper on Parable of the Sower, i begain to wrestle with a few ideas about Earthseed. I compared it to other religions, spoke about a few of its concepts, and raised some questions about it. All of this I did briefly. For my next paper, I think I will expand on these topics. There is much to be said about all of them. I would also like to explore the role of the self in Earthseed as well as in other religions. Is God the same for everyone within a certain religion? How about Earthseed? Could Earthseed work as an actual religion? Would anyone embrace it? Is it necessary?
A few other things that I may dicsuss are: Is our world really spiraling downhill as rapidly as Butler portrays it? What can we do to prevent it? What was the need that created other religions? How is that similar or different then Olamina's creation of Earthseed? What is her relationship with the God her father believed in and the God she created?
These are just some random thoughts.

Enjoy Life
Name: Rachel Ste
Date: 2002-11-07 10:24:46
Link to this Comment: 3587

A lot of people are writing about how scary this novel makes the world seem. It has seemed to mobilize some people to change the world, while for others it has scared them to death. I think i fall somewhere in between. While I was reading, I was not thinking "oh my gosh, this is America". I know there is a lot of violence and injustice and poverty in our world, but I just didn't think of the novel as real life. As Butler said when she was speaking, she was struck by the news, and could somehow relate it to her story because she watches it so much, however she explicitly said that his is NOT a prediction of the world in 2026. I don't think anyone can predict what will happen to our world. Who would have thought 10 years ago that our country would be attacked severely by terrorists, but at the same time be making huge advances in medical research and other areas of technology? With good always comes bad, that is impossible to avoid. But if we live our lives dreading what may or may not happen the next day, there is no way to enjoy life ever. When the going gets bad, there is always something that can lift you up, even if momentarily. Lauren Olamina had companions and Earthseed, and everyone else would find something as well. Don't live life in fear of what is to come, but rather enjoy what is now, and work to keep life enjoyable for others in the future.

stream of consciousness :)
Name: Whitney
Date: 2002-11-07 10:25:15
Link to this Comment: 3588

well, informally, here we go... I was relieved to hear Butler speak; there is a lot of pretension surrounding her work. To clarify, I think a lot of people have a lot of theories about her ideas and her writing and it was fascinating to me to hear her speak to the contrary. We talked in class about her aversion, her complete avoidance, of all labels and generalizations. This made me think about definitions in general; how do I define myself as a person? and am I boxing myself in by accepting these labels? And then, on the flipside, in bucking labels, are you avoiding taking a stand merely to deflect the stereotypes involved? I think sometimes we need to accept the confines of generalizations in order to press further with the cause... it's a process of waying the means against the end, i guess... and a weighty one.
Aside from random diatribes, or perhaps extending upon them (ha), my paper will discuss the relationship between innocence and reality. It most often seems that innocence hinders reality; that the two are disjointed and perhaps even mutually exclusive. in class we had a discussion about the difference between ignorance and innocence- is one just a subset of the other? are they entirely different? In both Butler's Parable of the Sower and in Anne Sexton's Tranformations, innocence is something not easily preserved and too readily corrupted. Must we lose our innocence in order to fully realize our world? Is it merely a detraction from reality?

happy weekend everyone. :)

Parable of the Sower
Name: Bridget Do
Date: 2002-11-07 10:26:23
Link to this Comment: 3589

In my first paper I talked about Earthseed as a religion, and whether it would be suitable for people living today. In my next paper I'd like to look at a different aspect of the book that has been bothering me. This aspect is Lauren Olamina's step mother. She and Lauren had a very close relationship at the beginning of the book, then she said something hurtful. Without even thinking about the meaning of what her stepmother said, Lauren allows things to be normal without questioning at all. I'm wondering if she is just not the type of person to hold grudges or if she has an unparalelled sense of understanding or if she simply did not understand what her step-mother said. This is an immensely psychological topic and I am looking forward to analyzing it.

Name: Kim Cadena
Date: 2002-11-07 10:27:08
Link to this Comment: 3590

Anyone can write a dystopia. Hell, it's easy. Take one part paranoia, add one part horror, stir in a little distrust of authority, and a helping of evil technology, and voila! instant scary future. Utopias aren't quite as easy to write, but the ingredients for those are hard either: take everything you put into a dystopia, and reverse it.

Now a real future, that's tough. For every time we swear the world is going to end because XYZ has happened (see: Republicans in power) it hasn't. And even as we swear the world is getting worse and scarier and just a bad place to be, things keep on going. Hope springs eternal. In the real future, we won't have the bright, shiny, happy things of the optimists, or the dark, dank, depressing things, of the pessimists, or the grimy, messy, squalling things of the realists. We'll have the complicated, shiny, messy, dark things of our world, blue-shifted into the future as our own things of now red-shift into the past.

Things will change. The world will not end. Humans will continue to survive. And the future will be as now; life continuing as it does.

P.S. This is not my paper topic. I don't have a paper topic at the moment.

Name: Gwenyth Ca
Date: 2002-11-07 10:27:16
Link to this Comment: 3591

We've been talking about the religion of Earthseed in class and only myself and one other student agreed that it could actually be a religion. Octavia Butler herself stated that it was't "comforting" enough to be a religion. This was quite puzzling to me. I didn't know that in order to be a true religion, a set of beliefs must be "comforting." I myself am not in favor of any organized religion and would consider myself an athiest (with some questions maybe?). I always thought that religion was a way to teach people how to get along with each other on this planent, but not comfort them primarily. Earthseed puts emphasis on change and also on working together with others, as a survival method at least. Lauren Olamina and her cronies live in a much more terrifying world than we do and Earthseed seemed to comfort her plenty in the face of death, destruction, and mass suffering. Although our world does sometimes seem like that we do not have to deal with such an unbelievable amount of pain, yet we are so intent on seeking comfort from a higher force. Why isn't it possible to imagine an existence where we aren't watched over or cared for? Why must religion have this element?

Name: Lauren (Ku
Date: 2002-11-07 10:28:06
Link to this Comment: 3592

I've been doing a fair amount of thought lately on Butler's idea of Earthseed. She calls it a religion. But is it really? The idea that God is change and that such change is moldable doesn't sit all that well with me. I am not religious, so I could be wrong...but I always thought there was a bit more of a (for lack of a better word) story to a relgion. Earthseed, though, seems to be composed of only a single idea, a single tenent. It reminds me of the Star Wars idea of the Force.

I suppose I just don't understand how someone could devote their life to the idea that God is change. To me, the idea is more suited to a bumper sticker than to a belief. Entire communites based on this one notion? It baffles me. Yet, I think Butler has something, because I can't quite completely dismiss it.

Earthseed, to me, seems more like a fragment of a viable religion. It can't really stand on its own.

Earthseed as a Religion
Name: Adina
Date: 2002-11-07 10:29:00
Link to this Comment: 3593

Something that troubled me throughout "Parable of the Sower" was the classifying of Earthseed as a religion. Nomatter how I tried, I was unable to see it is one. Class discussions about whether Earthsee is or is not a religion caused me to rethink my own definition of religion. What exactly is a religion? Does it have to involve praying? How would Earthseed compare to humanitartian religions such as Ethical Culture, Unitarianism, and Quakerism? Is religion, then, simply a way of making sense of the world in which one lives?

thoughts on the "Sower" paper
Name: Claire Mah
Date: 2002-11-07 10:29:25
Link to this Comment: 3594

I (tentatively) plan on further investigating hyperempathy as encountered by Lauren Olamina. I intend to examine how hyperempathy impacts Lauren's life, and also how those emotions are linked both to my own life and experiences and the life and experiences of Octavia Butler. Some further questions: do everyday activities lead to glimpses of hyperempathetic feelings or does it require larger, more extreme or detrimental events? do we even reach that level of hyperempathy in this day and age? have I encountered any kind of "sharing?" how did Octavia Butler come up with this notion of hyperempathy? did her upbringing influence her life view and how does is her own story reflected in that of her characters? has she experienced it herself? (and hopefully I'll be able to discover some answers in all of this rather than being overwhelmed by more questions!!)

my thoughts on Parable of the Sower
Name: Kate Shine
Date: 2002-11-07 10:30:24
Link to this Comment: 3595

First I just want to say that I love Jack Johnson! And I think that song is really relevant. After reading Parable of the Sower I've watched the news a couple of times and it was almost like for the first time the things the newscasters were talking about really hit me-they are really real, and it scares me. I can definitely see the parallels to the book when I watch the news. It seems the uncontrollable evil of human nature is always finding new ways to manifest itself. But people are often so apathetic, including myself.

Why do we desensitize ourselves? Is it possible to "resensitize" ourselves? And what can be really be done to make the world better? It does seem that the world is on track to become the way Butler describes, and in the book Lauren tries gives up on saving the earth and tries to come up with her own way to survive it and move past it. But is founding a new colony on another world the answer? Are we past the point of being able to salvage the earth or at least some valuable part of it?

I am especially affected by this recent issue with the sniper. My grandfather was at a post office in his neighborhood just a few minutes before someone was shot there. He said he hasn't felt as powerless since the Second World War. He hides between the car and the pump now when he gets his gas.

Deep Play
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-11-07 16:28:02
Link to this Comment: 3596

The McBride section had a rich conversation today, taking off from Butler's novel and the posting from Anonymous(tell us who you are! we want to thank you!) about whether religion/starting a new religion/believing in religion/following a religion (or refusing to follow one) constitutes deep play. The definition of deep play continues apace in our class; we are now divided between those who think it is defined by the fact that there are NO consequences outside the game (claiming that, when there are, it ceases to be play) and those who follow Bentham in insisting that it is precisely the dire tangible (even immoral) consequences, the chance, the risk, the potential for REALLY getting hurt, that MAKES it deep play. I'd promised my class two references to facilitate further thinking, and thought the rest of you might find them useful also. The first is a bibliography of the work of the feminist theologian Mary Daly . Beyond God the Father is the early book that made her reputation and it's the one in which she suggest we might think of God as a verb--as action--rather than quibbling over what noun, what gender to use.... The second is an essay called Play, Games, Sport, and Athletics," by Donald Siegel, which might help us get a better grip on "play"-- for which I am grateful to you all-- Anne

Octavia Butler Link
Name: Diane Gibf
Date: 2002-11-10 22:23:53
Link to this Comment: 3642

Just thought I would post this link to another interview with Octavia Butler. After hearing her talk the other night, I just felt like I needed to try to understand her a little better.

Name: Jessie
Date: 2002-11-11 00:21:48
Link to this Comment: 3649

Well, it's been really fascinating to see everyone's reactions to all the emotional turmoil of the past few days.

I was about to use the word post...perhaps octavia butler is asking us to think ahead, and say..Pre.

Anyway, post-election, post anonymous postings, I think I have my answer. It is time to start to question...hopefully we are doing this with our paper. But Butler has rocked me to my core, and this has all stopped being about the book, and started being about the world and where we live. Time to question why and how we act the way we act.
I can't do this right now, but perhaps butler has her own criteria for how to qualitatively evaluate the why and how. judge what is "right." it would be interesting to see. is that the purpose of religion? culture?

I'll stop now, and go to bed. I'm glad this forum is here, and I am REALLY excited to understand tacit knowledge (not to jump ahead) and to ask questions of those around me for the next paper...force them to stop acting tacitly and being acting knowingly.

Professors Thomas, Grobstein and Dalke (Haley, Paul and Anne?),
Thank you for so carefully crafting this class and this curiculum. I appreciate it more than I can express.

finshing butler
Name: orah minde
Date: 2002-11-11 17:43:45
Link to this Comment: 3674

now that it seems that we have almost finished with our trecherous butler section of the class i guess i will post some final thoughts.
i loved reading the lyrics to jack johnson's song, posted by jessie, i love music and think in terms of music [always have a song tickling the tip of my tongue]. another song that reminds me of johnson's haunting lyrics is 'silent night' redone by simon and garfunkle- they sing the silent night song in perfect harmony and at the same time they have a news broadcaster in the background reporting the news of the time: lenny bruce is dead, 42 yrs. old, national guard is being called out to fight against mlk, nurses murdered, vietnam war protests, nixon says that 'unless there is a substantial increase in war efforts the US should look forward to another four years of war.' this haunting song speaks to a world in turmoil. the news broadcaster speaks of murder and drug over doses and long lasting wars. a world wrecked in turmoil, but at the same time there is a glimmer of hope. there are people out there who are fighting for justice, and though they are being arrested and murdered they are still out there screaming for peace and justice. there are good people out there, who are being muffled by pleasant lullabies, but if they continue screaming and dying for what they beleive to be truth eventually they will be heard, and songs will be written about them, and they will inspire people, like me, to desire to change this world and live in hopes that when i leave this world it will be different, better.
i am willing to dedicate my life to making this world a better place. but i can't do it alone. is there anyone else out there who is passionate about this world, passionate about living??? i have a beat in me that compells me to write and be listened to, and to listen, and to save, and be saved. we all need to do is help each other or else this world will be destroyed and we will all sink together into the laziness that caused the destruction to come about. i think back to the 60s and all the change that took place then. who was it that made that change happen? it was the college students. it was college students getting themselves arrested because they beleived in something. it was the college students screaming passionatly into crowds. they loved life and loved this world and were willing to sacrifice everything to preserve the beauty that they saw in the world. now, i'm not suggesting that we copy our parents [the last thing i want is to become a boring copy of my parents] i think that we need to learn from their example. our parents are old now and all that spunk that they once had has turned into wrinkes and tired bags under their eyes, they are old and soon will be giving the world over to us. the world is ours. what are we going to do with it? it is our job, we are the new generation, to make sure that this world does not crumble into the dust that lauren olamina walks upon. one of the most debilitating aspects of butler's novel is that she makes it seem that lauren is taking on the whole world, wanted and needing to fix everything. i don't think anyone solely can fix the world, but we, the generations of the nineties [or whatever generation we are], must go out there and decide that we are not going to shread each other apart. we must make a concious effort to preserve the beauty of this world and the people who live within it. if we don't then the destruction of the world will be on our shoulders for the rest of eternity.

robert frost says:
some say the world will end in fire,
some say ice.
from what i've tasted of desire
i hold with those who favor fire.
but if i had to perish twice,
i think i know enough of hate
to say that for destruction ice
is also great
and would suffice.

lauren olamina's world in the year 2026 is burning. and frost's prediction of fire is coming true.
i beg of you my friends, my generation, my sisters, to make sure that frost is proven wrong. don't let the world end in fire or ice. don't let the world ever, ever end. the world is too beautiful for death, too beautiful to end.

Where the rules don't all make sense
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-11-12 18:53:38
Link to this Comment: 3706

The McBrides and I had another pretty amazing conversation today, "finishing off" Butler. I'm hoping that Molly will post her idea about the way scarcity operates in the novel ("there isn't enough to go around; there isn't room for extra; there is no recognizable love")and that Ro. will post hers about deep play as a gendered activity (men are willing to take the risks it involves; women aren't). What I want to mention here is a passage I was led to from our faculty discussions on Emergence. It's from Steven Johnson's book of that title, and seems particularly relevant as we make our way, here, from fairy tales, via Butler's invitation to "create our own religion," to figure out the rules we are going to live by in a changing world, to our upcoming exploration of "tacit knowing."

Johnson begins by describing a Nintendo game that was a favorite of my son's a few years ago, Zelda: Ocarina of Time: "The plot belongs squarely to the archaic world of fairy tales--a young boy armed with magic spells sets off to rescue the princess....what you're supposed to do...takes hours of exploration and trial and error....But if you see that opacity as part of the art...then the whole experience changes: you're exploring the world of the game and the rules of the game at the same time....

I think [this generation has] developed another skill, one that almost looks like patience: they are more tolerant of being out of control, more tolerant of that exploratory phase where the rules don't all make sense, and where few goals have been clearly defined. In other words, they are uniquely equipped to embrace the more oblique control system of emergent software. The hard work for tomorrow's interactive design will be exploring the tolerance--that suspension of control--in ways that enlighten us, in ways that move beyond the insulting residue of princesses and magic spells."

Me again
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-11-12 21:34:29
Link to this Comment: 3709

As you read the Lakoff chapters for our next class, you might want to check out a faculty discussion on this material, held last spring: Language Working Group.

more finishing
Name: HST
Date: 2002-11-12 21:35:14
Link to this Comment: 3710

I don't think Johnson is totally off the mark. I do believe this generation, which is not mine, but mine all the same, kinda--whatever that means--is indeed privileged with the ability to understand something about the fictitiousness of boundaries and of gate-keeping, of all exclusionary categories. Indeed, they may be "more tolerant of being out of control, more tolerant of that exploratory phase where the rules don't all make sense, and where few goals have been clearly defined."

At the same time, like the rules in Zelda's world, or the Sims, or in Animal Crossings--all contemporary versions of "The Game Of Life," it's still all about knowing (the rules), about being able to discern and delineate what's pure and what's dangerous, what belongs inside the perimeter and what doesn't. Whatever the cost. Tabulated by gender, to be sure, but tabulated all the same.

And that hasn't changed. The fact is, revising the story, embracing the denied, going out on a limb, even if that limb is longer than it used to be, thinner than it used to be, or configured in cyberspace, etc.--costs. It just does. Deep play again.

It costs Lauren and it'll cost us as we venture out, venture forward. Pero, no worries. Like Lauren, we know thisis all about gathering your water and your humanity about you (however others, trapped in their stasis, might judge you), about making peace, making room for change, si?

Glad we're on this journey together.


More emergence
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-11-13 10:20:26
Link to this Comment: 3715

As you've probably noticed from my recent postings, my current guiding insight is that of "emergent systems." I've just finished
Steven Johnson's Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities,and Software, and want to share one passage that seems PARTICULARLY relevant to this course we're negotiating together on Telling and Re-Telling Stories:

"Narrative has always been about the mix of invention and repetition; stories seem like stories because they follow rules that we've learned to recognize, but the stories that we most love are ones that surprise us in some way, that break rules in the telling. They are a mix of the familiar and the strange: too much of the former, and they seem stable, formulaic; too much of the latter, and they cease to be stories. We love narrative genres--dectective, romance, action-adventure--but the word generic is always used as a pejorative....

that battle over control that underlines any work of emergent software, particularly a work that aims to entertain us, runs parallel to the clash beween repetion and invention in the art of the storyteller. A good yarn surprises us, but not too much.... great [web] designers...are control artists--they have a feel for that middle ground between free will and the nursing home, for the thin line between too much order and too little. They have a feel for the edges."

Any more deep play, anyone?

More emergence
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-11-13 10:20:43
Link to this Comment: 3716

As you've probably noticed from my recent postings, my current guiding insight is that of "emergent systems." I've just finished
Steven Johnson's Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities,and Software, and want to share one passage that seems PARTICULARLY relevant to this course we're negotiating together on Telling and Re-Telling Stories:

"Narrative has always been about the mix of invention and repetition; stories seem like stories because they follow rules that we've learned to recognize, but the stories that we most love are ones that surprise us in some way, that break rules in the telling. They are a mix of the familiar and the strange: too much of the former, and they seem stable, formulaic; too much of the latter, and they cease to be stories. We love narrative genres--dectective, romance, action-adventure--but the word generic is always used as a pejorative....

that battle over control that underlines any work of emergent software, particularly a work that aims to entertain us, runs parallel to the clash beween repetion and invention in the art of the storyteller. A good yarn surprises us, but not too much.... great [web] designers...are control artists--they have a feel for that middle ground between free will and the nursing home, for the thin line between too much order and too little. They have a feel for the edges."

Any more deep play, anyone?

Deep play
Name: Margaret
Date: 2002-11-14 15:55:33
Link to this Comment: 3737

Ok, Anne, since you asked for more deep play...

The other day in class we were discussing Ro's paper about deep play and gender. It was noted that women seem to be less involved in this kind of high stakes risk-taking than men. I suggested that perhaps women have been involved in deep play, just not in the same arena as the men, but I don't think anybody really agreed with me. (Hopefully I'm wrong) I thought about it some more and I came up with two examples where I believe women are engaging in deep play, but the stakes are not money or power over others.

There are some HIV-positive women who have given birth to HIV-negative babies. In spite of their condition these women have decided to breastfeed their babies. The risks there are extremely high! They could infect their babies with a disease that could kill them; some have had their children taken away from them by the courts. There is very little support for women who choose to do this. They (and their children) also run the risk of becoming pariahs.

I also think about the earliest homeschooling families. Not many people would consider homeschooling risky today, in fact many would say it provides a superior education. However, early on, people did indeed have their children taken from them for attempting to do this. I did read in Home Education magazine as recently as last year about a homeschooling mother (in VT, I think) who was going through a court battle to try and prevent CPS from taking her children. And it was all because she was homeschooling.

These examples don't involve high stakes money or influence for those taking the risks, although you could argue that they have opened the way for others and were influential that way, particularly the homeschoolers. But they do take an even bigger risk than those involving money or power; they risk their children's lives.

Anyway, maybe I just missed the point about deep play.

Language Play
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-11-15 11:49:22
Link to this Comment: 3744

Oh, no, Margaret, you understand deep play very well indeed. These are GREAT examples!

The McBrides and I also had a great time, yesterday, describing different forms of tacit knowing. Engaged particularly by Mel's descriptions of working as a dental hygenist for Alzheimer's patients, we began to speculate in particular about whether, as we age, we lose first our conscious knowledge, and then, eventually, even our bodily knowledge (of when or how to spit during a dental cleaning, for instance). Our conversation reminded me of two stories, inspired by our reading of Lakoff, which I told our Language Group last spring. I thought you all might enjoy reading them, so I reproduce them here:

Language Play: Two More Test Cases

April 15 , 2002

[If] Lakoff's right in his claim that our thinking is bodily-dependent/sensorily-determined, what difference does it make? (for the history of philosophy, for our understanding of that history, for its future? more generally, for our uses of language?) ....

Here are two short ("real-life") applications which have already occured to me.

After the Language group meets on Monday afternoons, I visit an elderly friend, Dorothy Steere, who is dying. Dorothy speaks, I now know from reading Lakoff, directly from the unconscious, and her speaking is very labile--she leaps quickly from one statement to its counterclaim, or to another completely unrelated one (often using completely nonsensical words), often before she has finished a single sentence. Today I had made a circlet of marsh marigolds for my hair, thinking it would please
and amuse her--which it did. But she kept reaching out to touch it and say, "I love your pink . . . row." Occasionally she would add: "I love your pink row . . . . yel . . . low." This refrain (which she repeated numerous times while I was there) reminded me,of course, both of Stanlaw's essay on the evolutionary sequence of color nomenclature, and of Lakoff's description of color as an embodied concept: not just a reflection of an external reality, but the result of the evolution of our bodies/brains. So now I want to know what happens when we become senile: Does Dorothy now "see" yellow as pink? Has she just "lost" the word for what she still "sees" as the same color?

This "evolution" (or de-volution) made me think differently about a conversation Mark Lord and I were having as we left today's session.... We had been toying w/ the idea that each of us feels "most real" either when we are encountering a space of possibility--something about to happen, but not yet realized--or when we have an awareness, in a moment of fulfillment, of its transitoriness (as in a point of connection w/ another human being,
which we know will end soon). Paradoxically (?), those moments which "feel" to both of us most "real" are NOT those which are most stable/secure, but just the opposite: those that are unstable, about to change. I'm thinking now that a metaphor marks just such a moment: it is a link that is tenuous, an analogy which both gestures towards what is the same ("my love is a red red rose") and towards its difference (my love is NOT....); it only works because the two terms ("tenor" and "vehicle") are both like
AND not; it both compares and indicates the limits of the comparison.

There is (likewise) something very "real" about my encounters w/ Dorothy, in which language is used so unpredictably, so tenuously, so . . . playfully. That's where the "real" world is, neither "out there" nor "in here," but in that connection, in that tenuous, unstable play between . . . what I think I perceive and what I think I know (and can say) about it.


Subject: On Losing Categories (the World?)

April 24, 2002

... I was intrigued, in our discussion of language last week, not only by the inevitability of our categorizing ...but also by the
strong disjunction/paradox I saw between Lakoff's claim that, though our thinking is shaped by our bodies, what we think is not necessarily (or at least we cannot know if it is) a reflection of the world outside ourselves. I think we were trying to cross that divide, at the end of our session, by playing w/ the notion that a metaphor expresses the relationship, is the analogy between what we experience internally and the sensory imput we receive. This capacity to "metaphorize" never context free, but it is also not entirely context dependent; the "categories of our mind are not those of the world."

My visit to Dorothy this week seemed to me another playing out of this paradox. I could hear weaving in and out of my conversation w/ her not only Lakoff's claim that the ability to categorize is inherent, impossible for neural beings like ourselves NOT to perform, but also [Elaine] Scarry's reflections on the "counterfactual" process of "imagining flowers" (which she described as a "mimesis of perception," of the sensorily present). What I am really wondering, though, is whether Dorothy's fragmented
musings might tell us anything "new" about Pinker's claims about the "language instinct."

Dorothy is very hard of hearing, so we communicate by my writing out what I have to say. She reads what I have written, then responds in speech (so one variable, in the story upcoming, is certainly the legibility of my writing). Anyhow: this Monday I placed a bouquet of lilacs in a vase on Dorothy's table, then wrote on a piece of paper lying in front of them, "These are lilacs from my yard." Running her finger under the flowers, and along the words I had written, Dorothy read, "These are daisies from
my yard." A few minutes later, she read the line aloud again, this time decoding it as, "These are daylilies from my yard." A few minutes after, she read and revised once again, "These are lilies from my yard." When I asked her directly, "Dorothy, what kind of flowers are these?" she responded, "It's lavender." Although she couldn't remember the name for lilacs , she seemed still, at this point in our conversation, to be recognizing the category "flower" and (or @ least) its appropriate color category.

But then, as our conversation turned to food, she reached out, took hold of the bouquet, and said, "I want to eat these, they look so good." A bit later she commented that she had never seen this color before. When I asked her what color it was, she said, "It's gentle....these get very quiet" (they WERE a very pale shade of lilac). She seemed to be sliding @ this point into a wonderful sort of jumbled synesthesia.... What struck me most was that only one sense was missing from the range of those Dorothy was giving voice to. Although she'd mentioned sight (flower and color names), taste ("eat"), touch ("gentle") and sound ("quiet"), her descriptions had omitted the one sensory perception that is most remarkable about lilacs, and was certainly a characteristic of those I had brought: their very strong smell.

When I asked her directly, however, what the flowers smelled like, she said, "It's a smell that I can't remember SEEING before...." and (a little later), "Have you ever TASTED that kind of thing before?" When I wrote that it was very familiar to me, she responded, "It's known to you, it's known to you? I don't recall it now..." and then (a little later), "I'm interested in things different from anything else. For instance, I have never seen anything like this before, and that makes it very interesting."
Dorothy seemed to havehad moved, by the end of our conversation, from a clear recognition of, if not the individual flower before her, both the category "flower" and its appropriate color name, through a synethesic description of its qualities, to an awareness that she had no categories available to her @ all for recognizing/describing what she was seeing. Several other comments she made along the way reinforced this impression: "My eyes get very hard, these old eyes," she said; and later, in
response to a note from a friend, "Baby goats. What kind of animal is that?" Finally, when I wrote that I needed to get back to work, to serve champagne to our senior theses writers, she reached out, gathered the lilacs in her hands again, and said, "Champagne? Are these champagne?"

Most of my questions about this very-evocative conversation have to do w/Lakoff's description of the sensory basis of our thinking/categorizing/metaphorization. Is it because Dorothy's sensory imput has so diminished that the "appropriate" words are no longer available to her to describe her experiences of perception? Is she speaking so fully from her unconscious at this point in her life that the categories formed by our conscious mind--such as the separation of the five senses one from another (?) are not operative for her anymore? How would Pinker, Scarry, Lakoff "make sense" of this story? How do you?


Name: Ro. Finn
Date: 2002-11-15 15:12:45
Link to this Comment: 3745

Hi all
Anne had asked us to post a short abstract of what we wrote for assignment #3. I focused on the phenomena of deep play. Paul, I understand that you are responsible for that piece being included in the coursework. BRAVO, and thanks! My problem is that I want to continue down that particular path, and there are too many other distractions -- like assignment #4, for instance :-)

I tried to distill a minimum set of criteria to test for evidence of deep play. There are many other key characteristics involved, but here's what I gleaned as the essential elements:
1) The rules or tenets of the game are part of the traditions of the community, and there is a connection between the community's attitudes and the game. For example, for Balinese cockfighters and their audience (the men of the community), the fight makes abstractions such as death, masculinity, aggression, pride, etc. concrete and gives a language to Balinese attitudes about these aspects of life.
2) The more money (or material stuff) at risk, the more status there is at risk. The deep players wield significant influence in their community. They dominate and define the game, just as they dominate and define the society in which the game takes place. As with the Balinese cockfight, the material risk does not make the play deep; what happens as a result of taking such a risk makes the play deep. It sets the stage for shifts in social status to flow back and forth between the community and the game. For this reason, the game must be public; witnesses from within the community are necessary ingredients, because the flow of status and power is ultimately granted or withheld by them.
3) The deeper the game is, the greater the emotional investment. Players and avid spectators are immersed, live in the moment, have a heightened awareness and sense of purpose. Deep play makes meaning. Social passions are enacted. It feels compelling and necessary.

Then, I explored (albeit superficially) three situations in which I think I see deep play:
1) founding a religion, as Olamena does throughout Butler's novel,
2) engaging in "hairy" teaching methods. (We could argue that requiring us to read Parable of the Sower" qualifies), and
3) a social hobby -- I used the cat (show) fancy.

What struck me is that deep play can exact a significant toll on people not involved in the game. I tried to understand what motivates some of us to play deeply. My hunch is that we do so in order to live more fully, make more meaning, and earn more authority.... the latter, to effect change.

There's a lot more meat on them bones... if only we had time and talent to go after better understanding. For example, it may be that deep play is often the purview of male players. How much is one's wilingness to engage in and succeed at deep play interwoven with one's ability to gain power in several other aspects of our society?
Good stuff.

The "tacit" - on making room f
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2002-11-15 15:18:12
Link to this Comment: 3746

Here's an interactive demo that helps to cement the idea that there are indeed spaces within the brain that we don't know about: Seeing More Than Your Eye Does. We talked about it in our section, and others may want to try it out as well.

As for what you can do with that space ... have a look at The Brain's Images: Reflecting and Creating Understanding. Can sometimes be a little scarey to know we don't know all we know ... but there's gold in them thar hills.

Date: 2002-11-15 15:36:31
Link to this Comment: 3747

I'll keep thishort. But I have been reading the forum, and i find it fascinating that the frosh sections of the class are struggling with very different issues than the mcbride sections. while orah and i are stuck, dealing with our fears of a world of mass destruction, the mcbrides, anne and dean thomas (HST? haley?) have moved on to deep play-the forces that shape our crazy world. do the mcbrides and the others with more life experience have more hope that it will be ok? do they know it will be ok? I want to move on from butler, and i'd like to know how others did it.

I drove through west philly wednesday, and I have never been so struck. for all those who said that octavia butler's world doesn't exist, drown down lancaster ave. see the houses of lower merion and the main line turn into the barely standing houses, with the gates on the windows and doors...ok, so i have gates on my windows and doors at hoe...but this was something more. any advice on how to live a life knowing what reality exists outside our walls?

one more thing....i noticed thatdean thomas used spanish in her posting...and i know she knows the translations of pero and si. I have often found thatother languages carry more resonance for me-do they do the same for other people?

that's enough for one day. have a good weekend,

play is the thing?
Date: 2002-11-16 00:26:37
Link to this Comment: 3751

I was out sick on Wednesday and so my section hasn't yet had the chance to talk tacit knowing. You all (other sections) seem to be having wonderful conversation, putting to good use your now explict knowing that all performances--linguistic, cultural, scientific, molecular even?, etcetera--are corporeal to some lesser or greater degree;indeed, it's niced to hear others talking about ontology as embodied in the most radical sense. I'm jealous, but my section will have lovely things to say come Monday. It always does.

Seriously :), in the in the mean and in-between time, I'd like to ask a question, perhaps make a plea for playfulness in play. To wit, etic--that is, external categories, context-distant I(academic) taxonomies aside--doesn't deep play need to fit some local, some insider's version of PLAY? By that I think I mean an awareness of Jouissance, a conscious prickle of pleasure, of time-out of timeness even when, especially when that "real" pleasure is painful, illegal, taboo, fleeting.

Don't get me wrong. Long live the author; boo, hiss to claustrophobic, monological interpretations. Who is an "insider" anyway?

On the other hand, something in me wants to balk at the idea that anything, everything we (who's that?) might read as subversive, dialogical, dialectic or as "deep," is playful. It seems to me somethings, to some folks are deep, opaque, conflicted, risky and not at all to be played with, not at all playful, however they might appear to those of us/you peering over shoulders, reading into the lives of folks we/you keep in play.

Playas always know whaz up, that the game is afoot; players don't necessarily, tacitly or consciously. So are they playing or are we?

Bon weekend to all,


(and Jessie, you're right. British and Guyanese English are my first languages. But often I can't find the US English words that convey what I mean and BE and GE are equally coy. So I resort to Spanish or French, often a mixture of each, to channel what is on the tip of my tongue and also what's behind it).

reply to "HST" ;-)
Name: Ro. Finn
Date: 2002-11-16 06:26:02
Link to this Comment: 3752

I agree with you that not everything that is deeply risky can be labeled deep play. Play - some competitive or daring act - is involved. And it is stimulating to the point of probably being addictive.

One of three criteria I chose to use as a test for labeling an act deep play is the notion that the players and spectators are immersed, caught up in the moment, have a heightened awareness and sense of purpose... that It feels compelling and necessary. The thrill of engaging in it (publicly ) seems to be important .

Basically,I saw the essential ingredients as:
- even odds, i.e., no edge that suggests you're going to win,
- extreme material investment (money, job, house, physical safety, etc)
- an audience to grant status (or not) beyond the play -- in the community,
- an exhilarating lure of the "game" that brings the best players back, again and again to make extreme emotional investments in the deepest plays,
- symbols surrounding the play that reflect (and, therefore, teach) the attitudes of the community.

I could instantly see striking similarities between the cockfight and the cat fancy, having participated in instances of such deep play myself (years ago). I can tell you that the rush was overwhelmingly compelling.... and was created from having an audience, rules and rituals among us, and a deep connection in that community as a result of our common (tacit?) understanding of the symbols involved.

One McBride's reply to Jessie
Name: Ro. Finn
Date: 2002-11-16 06:43:17
Link to this Comment: 3753

Hey Jessie,

You wrote: ".... while orah and i are stuck, dealing with our fears of a world of mass destruction, the mcbrides, anne and dean thomas (HST? haley?) have moved on to deep play-the forces that shape our crazy world. do the mcbrides and the others with more life experience have more hope that it will be ok? do they know it will be ok? I want to move on from butler, and i'd like to know how others did it."

"..any advice on how to live a life knowing what reality exists outside our walls? "

My first reaction is to want to give you a hug '-) And my second is to resist the urge to speak for "the mcbrides" or with any kind of assumed wisdom. We're all in this together.

The only thing I will say -- my view alone -- is that Butler got to write her story and you will get to write yours. From each, I'm going to take what I can put to good use.

S**T happens. And every time it does, I try to grab it by the tail as a gift. So, grab Butler by the tail, thank her for the pain -- which leads to thinking/ feeling/ growing, and come on forward with us.

Hopefully, I'm not sounding too pompous or other generational ;-) It's pre- coffee.
ps... speaking of coffee, if you wanna talk over a cuppa, ... holler.

homeschooling as deep play
Name: Diane Gibf
Date: 2002-11-16 09:21:36
Link to this Comment: 3754

Regarding homeschooling being deep play. I have thought about it.Certainly people are very invested in their children's education. And this is true of homeschoolers and public and private school folks as well. Anyone attending an Open House at one of the local public schools can definitely see similar elements of parents being "deeply" engaged in this endeavor. As a homeschooler, and a person who has moved in and out of various homeschooling communities, I have seen many versions of homeschooling.
In Pennsylvania, there is a state mandate that homeschoolers must be supervised by a state approved evaluator (someone who is a certified psychologist or teacher). This evaluator must review the objectives of the homeschool as well as the portfolios presented at the beginning and end of each year consecutively. The report of this evaluator as well as the portfolios (portfolios are reviewed differently in each district, some superintendents do not require them) are presented at the end of the school year to the Public School Superintendent who looks them over and keeps a file of the child's progress. If, at any time, any of these folks think that the homeschooler is not getting a good education, more information can be demanded and the homeschool program can be further scrutinized. Homeschooler's portfolios contain objectives, syllabi and samples of work from the entire year. Also included are information from trips, projects, awards.
People homeschool for all kinds of reasons.
Some homeschoolers make the choice because the public schools available to them are actually dangerous and tragically inadequate. It is in the interest of their children's physical and emotional safety that they choose to educate at home.
Unschoolers are people who do not believe in formal education. They believe (and it is interesting that this is often also demonstrated) that children learn from their families and environments and from being challenged to exist in the "real" world with people other than their peers. They insist that when a child is interested in something, there really can be no limit to how far they will go to "learn" about it. (It is their feeling that very often in public schools and mass education – this "interest" or desire is suffocated.) And, as responsible supervisors of their children's education, they attempt to provide all kinds of learning experiences.
Religious groups were probably a big population among the first people to homeschool. They do so because they take their faith very seriously and want their values re-enforced in their children's education. Making choices about what their children hear and see is a big part of their involvement as parents and it even goes as far as choosing science and math books which re-enforce their beliefs about creationism and our place in the universe. I see the "deep" involvement but I am not seeing the "vicarious" benefit. Their programs are often exceedingly well planned out. Great care is given to choices of curriculum and activities. Most of these children are satisfying the curriculum requirements of the state or district... and then some.
Mass education is not the "best" alternative for everyone and as we have seen, has it's shortcomings. Some homeschoolers are just looking for ways that their children can remain individuals and nurture a love of learning that may be compromised by days of crowd control and supermarket style packages of information and ideas. Even in the best public high schools, the system of peer grouping leads to cliques and stereotyping. For example, both my sons and daughter took part in Shakespearean productions each year that they homeschooled. I doubt that they (my sons, in particular) would have felt comfortable stretching in this way if they were in public school. (especially my older son who was exceedingly shy). I don't mean to imply that the schools would not have provided the opportunity, but I think their peer groups might have made it difficult. They also worked in research labs, built canoes, competed at the Science Fair on the national level and wrote poetry and made art, as well as studied AP English, English Lit, Pre-Calc, Computer science,chemistry, biology, etc. All three of them have thanked me for homeschooling.
I know young people who homeschooled and are now doing graduate work in microbiology and I also have friends who homeschooled and are now married with children and working in a trade, or choosing not to go to college. So it is not a guarantee of the pursuit of "higher" education nor is it an impediment to fulfilling this desire.
If anything, it is an effort to make both choices respectable and devoid of stigma.
A lot of folks worry about socialization of homeschoolers, but there are many "emergent" homeschool communities out there and with a little effort and some mileage on your car, even the most remote family can get to plays, youth groups, dances and co-op classes. My daughter is a social butterfly and belonged to three youth groups at one point. And there can be a real strength in this involvement of the whole family and the broader community in the educational process.
My little expose' on the homeschooling experience proves that my family is a prime example of the "deep" involvement of the endeavor. And any homeschooler would agree that the stakes are high. Most view their children's education as a high priority. There is "risk" involved, in that you can make a wrong choice or your child may not thrive. The same risks (and others) exist for anyone who sends their child off on a big yellow bus. And there are families who do not homeschool successfully. Some find the demands on time and money are too great for their family to continue. Or situations may arise such as a change in the family's situation with regard to jobs, health etc. which may force them to make a different choice. Certainly, there are alternatives to homeschooling. You can easily put your children back into public or private school.
What I am failing to see is the "irrationality" of it and this raises another question for me. Homeschooling has evolved as a "rational" choice. Most people choose to do it after serious consideration of the consequences and after evaluating the resources they have available for such an endeavor. There are safeguards and systems in place. (Penna. Homeschoolers is a powerful lobby in PA which is headed by the Richmans and offers an accredited and respected (by just about any college including ivy league and the military academy's and also including PHEAA ) diploma program. It is one of the options available to people who want to provide a decent education for their children.
I would agree that the early homeschoolers were taking a risk. They risked confrontation with the law, and because of their persistence managed to change and better define the laws regarding educating children at home. In that sense, it would be deep play. It would be deep play as much as going against any established idea of a system, and practicing what you believe and working to change the system. I think, at least in our state, that the risk has diminished. Although, the defining and re-defining of the homeschooling story is an ongoing thing. And, each state has different rules and requirements. Some are lax and some are still restrictive. Maybe this effort to bring homeschooling into acceptance as a credible alternative of education is the "deep play" Margaret is talking about.
If anyone wants to know more about homeschooling in PA you can go to A book about unschoolers is the "Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to quit school and get a real life and education." By Grace Llewelyn

Name: Diane Gibf
Date: 2002-11-17 09:51:54
Link to this Comment: 3762

My paper on deep play is actually on religious martyrdom. I think we are supposed to post something on our ideas for the third paper on the posting area. So I am going to do that.

I just wanted to say that I wrote about homeschooling as a response to Margaret K.'s proposal that homeschooling is deep play. As a homeschooler of three children (now in college) I just felt I had to respond and maybe inform a little about homeschooling and my own experience.

I think it is interesting as an "emergent" system. In that there are something like 23,000 homeschoolers in Pa. as of Spring 2002.

Religious Martyrs, Suicide Bomber and Deep Play
Name: Diane Gibf
Date: 2002-11-17 10:15:31
Link to this Comment: 3763

Religious Martyrs, Suicide Bombers and Deep Play

"Like other suicide martyrs, Mazen left a last will and testament, he told his mother, "Don't cry for me. These words are painful. I shall greet you at the gates of paradise." He said these words just before he was killed in a suicide attack on an Israeli compound.
Droge and Tabor propose the following five characteristics of religious martyrdom in their paper "Sacrifice of Self" which studies religious martyrdom in several cultures.
1. The martyr's death reflects situation of opposition and persecution.
2. The authors view their deaths as necessary, noble and heroic.
3. These individuals are often eager to die, indeed, in several cases they end up directly killing themselves.
4. There is often the idea of vicarious benefit resulting from their suffering and death.
5. The expectation of vindication and reward beyond death more often than not, is a prime motivation for their choice of death.

Bentham defines deep play as "play for which the stakes are so high that in a utilitarian sense it is irrational to play." Characteristics of religious martyrdom establish it as the deepest form of deep play. Religious martyrs display an eagerness to play for the highest stakes and through their own deaths, to have the hope of gaining social recognition and spiritual rewards including eternal life.
As a Catholic, my own faith has a culture of religious martyrdom which parallels the recent religious martyrs/suicide bombers of the present day. In my paper, I want to establish that religious martyrdom clearly is deep play. I also want to discuss and compare the culture of religious martyrdom in my own heritage with the cult of the Shaheed.

"Sacrificing the Self: Perspectives on Martyrdom and Religion" Edited by MargaretMcCormack Oxford Univ. Press 2002
"A Noble Death: Doge, Arthur J. 1953"

Name: Margaret
Date: 2002-11-17 20:07:26
Link to this Comment: 3769

Hi Diane,

I did mean those maverick homeschoolers of not too long ago--those who were the first to buck the system. Now that homeschooling is pretty much universally accepted there isn't much risk involved. Of course, there are those whose ideology won't allow them to put their kids in school for any reason, so they are taking something of a risk, I guess, but they have so many resources outside the traditional school system that it hardly seems like it.

As far as having hope for the future, my faith in God is really the motivation there. And I stand by the old adage, "Faith without works is dead," so I am as involved in my community as I can be. I am the coordinator of my church's soup kitchen outreach and on the 7th of every month we prepare and serve a lunch time meal to approximately 220 people in Wilmington who might not otherwise have anything to eat. Habit For Humanity is another place I volunteer. I vote!! I help out in my son's classroom whenever I can. I do various other short-term things as they present themselves. I also agree with that catch-phrase, "Think globally, act locally," so much of what I do is based in my own community, although I support larger causes, too.

I think orah said it-- we have the power to change things. We do! We have the RESPONSIBLILTY to do it! I think Butler's book was a damning indictment of those of us who can do something but choose not to. It can be depressing sometimes. There is so much injustice in the world. I voted, yet George Bush was elected anyway! In the city of Wilmington there are 2600 families living in substandard housing. That's families--the actual number of people is much higher. Yet Habitat New Castle County can only build/renovate 11 houses a year! They hope to be completing 25 houses a year starting in 2005. It doesn't even scratch the surface but if more and more people would get involved who knows what could happen!

The other thing I promised myself I would do is speak out when I see something that isn't right and not let myself be silenced by either intimidation from those I disagree with or by the apathy and indifference of others. That's hard and can be very lonely sometimes and I don't always succeed. Being accepted to Bryn Mawr is such a privilege and I hope to use my education here to focus myself and learn to use my voice--speaking or writing--to succeed more than I fail in this and to try and make a difference in the world. My husband is always teasing me that I am too much of an idealist but I sincerely believe this: if people would stop saying "things will never change" or "it won't make any difference, so why bother?" and get off their asses and DO SOMETHING, it will make a difference and things WILL change!

Well, hopefully I don't sound as preachy as I think I do. My apologies if I do.

"Attending From"
Name: Anne, Hale
Date: 2002-11-18 15:39:51
Link to this Comment: 3779

This week, while you're gathering data for your project on tacit knowing, we'd like you to post your thoughts about this *new* painting by Sharon Burgmayer (you can click on it to make it bigger):

What do you think this painting is saying that Sharon Burgmayer doesn't know she knows? In Polanyi's language, what was Sharon "attending from" when she made this picture?

Looking forward, as always, to hearing your thoughts--

Anne, Haley and Paul

Reproducing Packet
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-11-18 17:07:34
Link to this Comment: 3781

When Paul, Haley and I met this afternoon, we realized, to our chagrin, that the remainder of the readings in the packet were missing their bottom "inch" of text. After a brief fling w/ the idea that we could have you experiment w/ "tacitly apprehending" what was omitted....I took the originals back to Professional Duplicating. They will re-copy the second half of the packet @ no charge. I'll pick them up tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon, and leave a dozen copies outside each of our offices by 4 p.m. You can fetch 'em as/when you get the chance--

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Name: orah minde
Date: 2002-11-19 13:34:12
Link to this Comment: 3788

I know the most beautiful thing is sunlight on water. Each fleck of light is so fleeting and yet the reflection pulls the sun into the water and holds her captive until she rests in the west. She wakes upon the world and imidiatly she is captive again on the water. She is stretched and spead, and broken into splinters of beauty upon the water and not until she arrives in the west can she again be whole. The water takes the beauty of the sun and rips it into sharp slivers that flicker and die in an instant, the water sucks the sun in and shatters her into fleeting life, each day. i sit, each day, feeling the heat of the sun and her broken reflection on my skin, and each day i know that the shattered sun, sprawled and pained on the water, is the most beautiful thing.

Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-11-19 15:59:28
Link to this Comment: 3796

There was an interest, in my class today, in Lakoff's discussion of color, and I promised further reading on the topic. You might check out

Color by Sharon Burgmayer

Color Theory from Brown University

Seeing Color from University of Aberdeen


Unconscious Thought
Name: Kim Cadena
Date: 2002-11-19 19:19:16
Link to this Comment: 3797

Found this while looking for a paper topic. Go and try it out. The results might surprise you.

Project Implicit

Discussion on Deep Play from class today...
Name: Molly Cook
Date: 2002-11-20 00:01:49
Link to this Comment: 3801

Today we again discussed the matter of Deep Play in class. I have found this concept very exciting to explore because it liberated my way of making decisions. Sometimes I have been paralyzed from doing things that could potentially garner benefit because of my fear of possible negative consequences. The idea that my decisions should be playful makes the dire-ness of consequences less pressing. It also opens the door to discussion of ideas - playing with ideas. On this matter I have to agree whole-heartedly with Haley. Playfulness is very important.

Our class discussions have led away from the matter of playfullness however, and we have explored more sinister questions of Deep Play in suicide bombing, war actions, suicide as a result of mental illness and pornography. It was argued that because participants in these acts were taking a calculated risk with regard to their beliefs that it constituted a 'play': a leap of faith.

I disagree, but only now realize my reasoning is personal. Let me explain. There has been a tacit assumption in our discussions that Deep Play is a desireable practice; that we can use this concept in our approach to assignments, our studies, our lives. It is therefore, at least partially, virtuous. This is agreeable to me. However, if that is the case, and if suicide, war and pornography are forms of Deep Play, it follows that there is also some virtue in suicide, war and pornography. Because my ethical code tells me that these things are wrong to a large degree, I must eschew any concept that ambiguously affirms them.

The concept of Deep Play, therefore, only has value to me if it is closely pared with my personal ethical code. Unfortunately, not everyone follows my personal ethical code and even so, my code isn't complete. Many people in this world do not have a sound enough grasp on 'the rules' to know when and where they can be pushed. Without this paring of Deep Play and Ethics, are we adequately challenging ourselves to do what is right? know what is right? However much I appreciate the liberation Deep Play has introduced to me, I recognize that it cannot be a guide for my behavior.

Name: Abigail Br
Date: 2002-11-20 08:16:31
Link to this Comment: 3803

I suppose knowing to sit still while watching the soft glow of the moon and its wavy reflection in the water is a form of tacit knowing. It just seems appropriate that nature in its purest, simplest, and most beautiful form just needs some r-e-s-p-e-c-t, minus the jukebox. Just as knowing to watch the spectacle is tacit, this is also the reason why the girl sits quietly on the shore instead of chasing after the reflection or the moon itself. She isn't thinking about any of this while sitting in silence. She just does what comes naturally, which leads me to think that if we analyze every aspect of life, we might lose sight of what is truly important and we'll miss the beauty that lies beyond the greedy grasp of our words.

Name: Beth Ann L
Date: 2002-11-20 13:45:12
Link to this Comment: 3804

When I view this painting in relation to tacit knowledge I think of the different ways individuals would interpret it. It takes a certain level of tacit knowledge to conclude that this is sunset, or a full moon. Or if a person were to say that the character was dispondent or simply resting, or perhaps meditating. No matter what you interpret to be the events within this painting I believe that it takes a certain amount of tacit knowledge to identify what is held within it.

Name: Bridget
Date: 2002-11-20 14:14:37
Link to this Comment: 3807

The colors of this painting make me think that it's during the day, but the sun is low on the horizon, which makes it either morning or evening. I guess the idea of clear day makes it more comfortable and takes away some of the mysteriousness of the biblical pool where Jesus healed people, but the sun has to be where it is because it's the focus of the painting. Depending on how religious the painter is or how religious her subconscious is it could be a symbol of God or hope or cheerfulness. If the person and the tree are covered the painting looks very cheerful. Why is the tree bare if flowers are blooming? That part of the painting makes it look more mysterious. That the person is sitting on a branch that clearly fell off the tree seems very symbolic but I can't really describe what I think it means.

Check it out
Date: 2002-11-20 14:16:05
Link to this Comment: 3809

picture analysis
Name: Kristen Co
Date: 2002-11-20 18:03:44
Link to this Comment: 3824

I think the painter is "attending from" her desire to be in a setting such as this one. She longs to sit on the banks of the water surrounded by beauty and nature. She creates this detailed world with the big purple flowers, the family of turtles crawling up a branch and glowing yellow sun reflected in the water. She then attempts to put herself in that world, but she knows that will never happen. The person in the picture has no real attributes. There are no clothes, or facial features, or hair. The desolate human can not even look up to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Is this out of shame or fear? Although the painter longs to be in such a beautiful place, she knows that it is only a dream and she could never make it there.

Name: alex
Date: 2002-11-20 20:03:13
Link to this Comment: 3825

In the picture, the sun seems to be melting, the figure looks as if its neck is broken, and the flowers look as if they are dying. Perhaps this is relevant tothe setting of the sun, the death of day. THis is quite the depressing view. NOw, what could be said about the artist from this picture? Perhaps she doesn't like the coming of night, maybe she likes dawn better. Maybe there is something inside of her that needs to come out, and through the painting of this picture she released some energy. Perhaps the artist is depressed herself.

a tiskit, a tacit
Name: HST
Date: 2002-11-20 20:21:28
Link to this Comment: 3826

Today, I was stressed, cranky and inarticulate—not at my professorial best by any stretch. Apologies to my students for being so colicky;--) I definitely could have used a day or 10, in the sun on the banks of some tropical island in the Caribbean, where the trees are blooming, every part of their being pulsing up and out, and the flowers can chose to be butterflies—that, is across the way from Sharon Burgmeyer's sitter.

The bright spot of the day was that I had begged Paul Grobstein for a working definition of tacit knowing and (being the wonderful person he is), he shared the following:
"tacit knowing?everything going on inside us that we don't know is going on inside us."

I thought, solid!! As in finally, a solid foothold on what tacit knowing might mean and consequently, how it might be manifested in ways we can now see (since we're now looking). Background: my students and I had left our last meeting more confused than enlightened about Polanyi's theory. But armed with Paul's definition and Anne's (mighty goddess is she) short hand that "tacit knowing?implicit knowledge?instincutal behavior," I felt confident about our ability to break through this conceptual haze.

Not so much. Sigh.

So, fellow QIR folk, if you would share your understandings of tacit knowing with me, with my students, I'd be ever so grateful.

And if you can say something about how you are thinking about making a claim, telling a story about the data you've collected on tacit knowing, that would be schway as well.

Your most humble servant,


P.S. I'm watching "Medical Detectives" on TLC as I write this and just heard that some folks are genetically pre-disposed (and others emphatically not) to smell cyanide—is that an example of tacit knowledge?

Name: natalie
Date: 2002-11-20 20:29:26
Link to this Comment: 3827

I will resist reading others comments before I release my own intangible take on this beautiful painting. First off, I don't think we will be enlightening Sharon to what she didn't know she was "attending to" in the painting. I think she attended to all that she could as much as she could. What I discover by using my own body and mind is my own personal perception. It can never be Sharon's. It may be that, she had similar aims. For the human condition causes a contingency of empathy and thus elements of our essential nature are soulfully connected. But back to the painting, two words come to mind when I ponder this piece, eternity and brokenness. It doesn't seem fit that the two words assemble that well. Nonetheless, I fear the sun has become the very sustenance and destruction of this paradise. It is the life source; it produces life, light, and warmth. Yet, the white body is broken. The purple flowers to the left are broken. The broken branch looks as if it is a scorched aardvark seeking hydration. It looks like paradise is waiting for something, rather has been waiting for something for a long time. The white body limps fatigued, and motionless. The flowers reflect the same energy or lack there of. Even though there is so much water surrounding the island, the sun absorbs all of the remnants the trees try to muster into their veins. The tree on the right is not blooming. It is stark and bare. The sun is immense as it is slowly disintegrating the life it first began, while the sea also is eating away at the shoreline. Although this moment of utopia seems endless in beauty and peace, it is more or less verging on its own demise, the slow and near death of human, botanical structures, land and sea. The sky is in the background of the picture, yet consumes the most space. What is the sky, but a void expanse of stardust and wind? Is that the ultimate utopia, emptiness??

Smelling Cyanide
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-11-20 20:29:43
Link to this Comment: 3828

Yep. 'Tis Tacit.

Name: Margaret
Date: 2002-11-20 21:36:35
Link to this Comment: 3829

Just a few thoughts about tacit knowledge.

As my c-sem classmates know, when I was 24 I spent six months as a farrier's apprentice, learning to shoe horses and do some blacksmithing and welding. Polyani's concept of indwelling made a lot of sense to me when I thought about how I learned to use a hammer, first in shoe-making and progressing on to little animals, leaves and flowers. If I thought about it too much I would have a very hard time getting the metal to do what I wanted. If I "let it flow" I had great success. Although I didn't think it consciously at the time I understand what he means about these external objects becoming part of your being. But it also was somewhat particular. With my 2lb hammer I did my best work and easily got into that "flow" thing. With a 1lb or a 4lb I was very distracted by the feel (too light, too heavy) and finished projects with difficulty. Also, while I slipped easily into a rhythm while working with metal, I couldn't hammer a nail into wood to save my life!

Then I was thinking about animals and tacit knowing. When you pick up a horse's foot it automatically redistributes most of its weight to the other three legs--although there are those who prefer to lean on the farrier! Anyway, I believe this redistribution is tacit knowledge, right? Well, there was one horse we used to do that didn't know how to do this. If you picked up his foot he would fall over! Two of us would have to lean against him and hold him up while the third would lift the foot up and work on it. This horse was about ten years old and had always been like this; my teacher had been working on him for the horse's entire life. He was mentally sound and fine in every other way except this. I would guess that there was some sort of problem with his brain function but it seems so strange that it would only manifest itself in this one particular way.

Interesting, I think!

random thoughts on deep play
Name: risa
Date: 2002-11-20 23:19:03
Link to this Comment: 3831

per request i am going to go back over some of the things i found out about deep play and rambled on in class about in my special, vague way.

more importantly than the things i found out was my process and reaction to deep play and the things i had found out about its practices. after i came to understand how deep play was defined i felt like it was this term that was applied liberally. a little too liberally. so i struggled with what was "deep". it felt like this bizarre form of white priveledge in the sense that there is no risk so great that if i lost everything i wouldn't have access to all of the material goods i needed. if i gambled and lost and damaged myself, there would still be care available to me, so i saw deep play as something that people of a first world culture of luxury could in no way partake outside of a little summertime x-games. the idea that we can even risk anything, that truly CANNOT be replaced, that there is no possibility of replacement and that would really mean the difference between surviving and not seems very slim to me. if i lost my life my family would still eat. if i lost my family i would still eat. in other words, loss of one thing does not consititute loss of everything in a culture where resources are plentiful to the point of luxury.
after that rash of reaction i started poking around on google. what was called "deep play" that wasn't porn was Diane Ackerman, porn for your soul. her words are warm honey. and more warm honey until you are a little sick with the indulgence. but she said, "deep play should really be classified by mood and not activity. it testifies to "how" something happens, not "what" happens"-she also calls it in ackerman-speak "transcendent play" and here is a little list of my favorite words before i was sick of it:

rapture, ecstacy, relish, whole, thrall, small brilliant space, gorgeous fever, lustrous, keen- and talked about "having a love affair with the world." "the day's fulfillment" now you see: spiritual porn. it sounded delightful. i wanted some. i cried a lot. i hadn't even remembered the word "rapture" existed until then. it was balm and i was bleeding.

i will admit the state of my being dictated both my reactions and my desires. my heart was a bad accident at which i could not stop staring. so then i thought:

what would the gamble look like that would ever make me want to love another human again? i mean, how big would the possible payoff have to be in order for me to even attempt it and might it be possible there is no reawrd large enough? and what sort of bullshit is it to call everything "deep play? you know-like how much further can it be devalued? and if the risk is really there, then it is always there, and that seems like an awful lot of horrible stress, so what is the point of even trying it and putting this big epic label on it?
i don't know if it works yet to turn to that which you reject for the answers you might need, so forgive me if it turns out i have no clue how to make this all make sense- but that is waht i kind of did. i wanted to give diane ackerman a chance. so i read on, " play is to risk, to risk is to play."

i cried again. becaue when you love you think you are playing, and when that love is gone, you think you were risking. but you are talking about the same thing. point goes to Diane Ackerman.
i have thought a great deal about love and loss, the only two conditions i have ever existed in for any great length of time in the frame of deep play, of risk and reward. about attachment and suffering, about play and achievement. risk is only risk because someone is attached to an outcome. if you don't care, there is nothing to lose. liberating for me in that nice california buddhist way. but then for me it came down to a question of living, loving, and loss. i think maybe i thought i could choose love again- you know- the grand and noble risk for the grand and noble payoff- but it really seemed like all signs were pointing to knowing when to stay down on the mat because life is about to kick my ass if i even try to get up so if i was smart i'd play dead. i haven't come to any greater understanding/conclusion about deep play per se, but it has made me examine risk...and risk makes me wonder about love-

diane ackerman, in a less oozy moment asks, "how does one wipe the mental slate clean, choose to be...wholly open to the world?"

oh, were that all it would take.

Name: Diane Gibf
Date: 2002-11-21 05:39:23
Link to this Comment: 3833

In Sharon's picture, it is night just before dawn. For me the sphere is the moon and the thinnest band of light at the horizon is the coming day. The water is pregnant. In fact, I feel the scene is full of expectancy, tension and it is sad too. The light and the water are interacting... the water is breaking apart the light into little pieces. One tree is an evergreen, strong and vital. The other is broken and appears to have died. They oppose each other on the canvas. . There is tension between the two trees. The figure has a moonlit pallor. It is seated on the broken piece of the dead tree. It is ghostly and at the same time larval. It is unformed and undefined, like unmolded clay. But there is a weighted stillness about it that bothers me. This weighted stillness fights with any ideas I may have about the figure "waiting" or moving in the future. Life and flowers and strength seem to be on the left bank. There is a body of water between the figure and vital things, flowers, green trees. Dormancy and barrenness are on the right. But in the foreground of the picture, they almost touch. A fallen branch extends its "fingers" into the water... a broken stalk leans a purple flower into the water. Something about the water also seems figurative to me. It seems like a mother. Like it offers a space of rest, a time where stillness and immobility can happen. But it is also the means for the two worlds to connect. Somehow time seems to be an element in this picture. The breaking up of the light, the coming dawn, the full moon.

Reflections on painting
Name: Ro Finn
Date: 2002-11-21 06:37:48
Link to this Comment: 3834

Let's see: One tree is dead, the other has life, leaves, turgor. She sits on a dead log under dead limbs, stooped over as if to mimic the dead tree... but, look, there is a broken dead branch that is bridging into the water and acting as a support for a congregation of turtles.

And then, there's that title, "The Pool of Bethesda" -- site where Jesus reportedly healed a man who had been suffering for nearly 40 years. He asks the man to forget about all of society's "should's", do's and don't. He asks him to think only about whether he WANTED to be healed.

I think that the artist is in a place where she had decided that she wants to be healed. She is located with the dead tree and stump, but basking in warm light from a benevolent sun. It feels as though it is rising, not setting. The flowers she loves are prominent, almost too large in scale for the other things in the painting. Even the dead tree is painted to reflect (and absorb?) the sun's warm light.

But what about those turtles? Is she feeling the tugs and turmoil of menopause... the demise of her own fertility along with a new birth of her own self "on the other side of that bridge"?

Inquiring minds want to know!!!

Name: samea
Date: 2002-11-21 15:06:08
Link to this Comment: 3836

i dont know exactly what she was trying to say through this painting really... all i know is wherever that painting was done... i would like to be there... the peace and serenity of the sun glistening off the water... i can practically hear the silent splashes of the ocean as it gently hits the shore... the occasional call of a passing bird... and through it all... i could ignore it if i wanted to.. sitting there on a log... choosing to be a part of the environment that surrounds me... or deciding to ignore it altogether and be wrapped up, instead, in my own little world... instead... im here at guild... with the sound of the airconditioning blowing harshly above my head and the clicking of the other keyboards keeping me awake... oh well... for the brief moment where i was a part of the picture... the only emotions that arose was.. well... sigh....

Random thoughts
Name: Xuan-Shi
Date: 2002-11-21 22:01:55
Link to this Comment: 3840

The sun shines on all things on earth, illuminating the products of destruction, renewal and growth. It is symbolic as a source of hope to the defeated, who seek to bask in its warmth to drive away the terrible cold of isolation and loss. Only when everything is taken from her, does she realize the impermanence of the artifical and seek to connect with the natural. Contemplative? Frustrated? Helpless? A downcast head trapped in the midst of turmoil searching for answers within, confined to the shores she finds herself in. So near and yet so far--How deep is the water? What lies underneath its serene surface? Does she remembers how to swim? She assumes a rigid posture and faces the other shore. Is she unwilling, or is she scared? The baby turtles swim onto the lifeless shore, symbolic of life reaching out to her and intruding into her space. But she pays no attention to the life and beauty around her, refusing to lift her head up towards the sun.

nude on shore
Name: Elena
Date: 2002-11-22 17:43:41
Link to this Comment: 3849

Burgmayer paints a giant moon hovering over a lake to encapsulate that spendid moment. She probably painted this scene from memory. It's stayed in her mind without her making the conscious decision to file it away in there. At one time or another, the vastness of a lake and the sky above it penetrated her subconcious. She paints a horizon with no measurements. Or, rather, something else inside her, who was attending to that severe deliniation, guided her brush. The painting says that Burgmayor is fascinated by the phenomenom of size. The horizon, sky and lake span infinetly while her own body, a tree, and the flowers by her side, are contained. She knows this fact, but it does not become a thought.

Burgmayer is the (asexual) nude figure on the shore of the lake. In a meditative position, this person attends to the rhythems of the current and all the life that flourishes by it-- the swaying reefs, hungry fish and melodious frogs. In the brush, nocturnal animals set out from their hidden dwellings. So much lives at once. Even in this peaceful setting, it is impossible to focus only on the moonbeams penetrating her skin.

Name: Kristina C
Date: 2002-11-23 09:59:17
Link to this Comment: 3853

As I look at the painting, emotions are swirling inside me. Something in the way the colors are represented, the form of the figure looking out at the sunset- depresses me. I see trees that are decaying and a once vibrant and beautiful sun is setting for the night. How is it that I can simply look at a painting, interpret it, and absorb moods from it? By examining and internally analyzing the portrait, we are doing something that is only tacitly known to us. How do I observe the painting? I don't know. I can't express it in any words- and moreover, words would not be sufficient. I could not form enough sentences to convey how it is that by only looking at something that feelings can be conjured. It is, according to Paul Grobstein "everything going on inside [me] that [I] don't know is". How do I know to look deeper than the surface of the painting to find what lies behind it- no one has instructed me to- but something inside of me that is indescribable is learning and absorbing at a rate that I can neither explain nor comprehend.
Though I do not know what the artist "knew" when she was painting her portrait, I can assume that she did not think of each specific movement that accompanied each specific stroke of the paintbrush. If she had, she would have encountered difficulty, as often the larger picture loses meaning when we focus on the specifics.

Sharon Burgmayer's "new" painting
Name: mel Brickl
Date: 2002-11-24 16:57:58
Link to this Comment: 3862

When I first saw the painting in CSem my reaction was one of serenity and meditation. I felt warm and relaxed. I think initial response was because that is how I feel while watching a sunrise over the water.
When I enlarged the image on the conputer screen and then printed it, I had a very different reaction. The painting seems to be cut in half by the sunrise. On the left you have life; the tree, the sea grass, the flowers and the frog. On the right side of the picture there is death and decay. The tree is rotting and falling apart, the figure is pearched on a broken limb. The family of turtles are traveling on another fallen limb. The figure, possibly a self portrait of Sharon, is caved in on itself, hairless transparent and sexless.
I think that what Sharon doesn't know she knows is that the time has arrived for her to make the transition. Her old sense of self and her world is dying. She is an alien in her own body. Although she may be frightened her eyes are now opened and she must proceed or die too.
I also thought that her color of the sunrise was interesting. I went to the link Anne put up on color by Sharon. In it she expresses, "yellow is not a color, it is an event, not a thing, quality."
On the link Metamorphosis her caterpillars have morphed into beautiful colorful butterflies.
Sharon doesn't look strong enough to have leaped with the frog to the other island. The family of turtles are on their way to float her across on their backs, their shells.
In Polanyi's language Sharon was "attending from" her emrergence of her new self. The color yellow which also stands for biology and perception as well as the definition of yellow as stated earlier are signs of this. To cut her pcture down the middle is also a sign with death/life flanking each side. The turtles are the help she will need from her friends.

Burgmayer Painting
Name: Jessie
Date: 2002-11-24 20:23:56
Link to this Comment: 3865

Sharon Burgmayers painting conveys a very Octavia Butler-esque idea. The person sitting on the log is looking downward, as if she is looking into herself-a very introspective position. There are plants living and dying simultanueously, things feeding off one another-all signs of change and renewal. Perhaps all Sharon knows is change. The sun, sitting on the horizon, could be setting or rising, but I see it as setting, closing the sad day that has left the person looking pale and thing, and giving them night to restore and to have a new day ahead. Either way, it is bringing a change-the only constant left in that world.

I believed the sun was setting, and I wondered why. It occured to me that always assume the sun is setting, because my fondest memories of the sun on the water was at summer camp, where the sun would reflect on the water like that. The sun setting does not carry the normal, sad lierary intonations. (I don't mean intonations, I just can't think of the right word.)

"Actor Forgets His Lines"
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-11-24 22:20:40
Link to this Comment: 3866

One of my McBrides, Bonnie Balun, is describing her "tacit" paper what it is like to perform extemporanously. I was reminded of her project last night, when I went into the city to see a collaboration of the Wilma Theater and the Philadelphia Orchestra: "Every Good Boy Deserves Favor." It was an interesting production, on many counts...not the least one being that Saturday's performance did NOT repeat Friday's, as reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer:

"Forgetting lines happens to the best...Who really knows the reason? To anyone who has been on stage w/ much to do, not knowing what to do next, the experience is like the centipede stopping to think which of its many legs it should move--and becoming paralyzed. Quick recovery is possible. Or not. An actor spooked by the experience is cast out of the world of that character and into the cold, w/ no protection..."

Tacit knowing, in this account, is not just what we know that we don't know we know. It's also what we know that, called to our conscious attention, we cease to be able to perform...

Now: WHAT will happen as a result of your writing this next set of papers? What of what you know that you don't know you know will you cease to ... ?


Name: jessie
Date: 2002-11-24 23:12:55
Link to this Comment: 3869

hi, orah and i are chatting, and we are going to write back to back posting bc that is what we do anyway. we are both perplexed by the idea of interpretation. Neither of us really understand how to interepret...isn't that the whole point of tacit knowing? I realize polyani has a language in which to do so...attending to/attending from...but i don't know how to "own his language," as my teachers used to tell me.

The lesson for next time is not to figure this out 9 hours before the paper is due...but at least i figured it out. let's discuss in class tommorow.

What is interpretation?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-11-25 11:17:13
Link to this Comment: 3873

We know things, tacitly, Jessie, that we don't know we know. We bring them into consciousness, make them "known" to our thinking selves...and THEN we can interpret them, give them an explanatory framework, a story that "makes sense of them"--perhaps in order, eventually, to change them.

Along this line, a cautionary tale. The NYTimes Book Review featured an essay this Sunday (11/24/02) called "Defending Dr. B": a review of a new autobiography, Rising to the Light: A Portrait of Bruno Bettelheim, by Theon Raines. Turns out that. in interviews w/ his biographer, the man who taught us all about the therapeutic power of fairy tales

"withheld meaningful details--alternately talking about his life in the abstract, distanced manner in which he wrote about it, and delivering canned (and sometimes questionable) anecdotes familiar from earlier biographies....He was unwilling to discuss his first marriage, his relationships with his children or his months at Dachau and Buchenwald. Raines interprets this opacity with racidal charity, insisting that Bettelheim is protecting his privacy, refusing to revisit a painful experience or modestly avoiding bragging. A less charitable intepretation might be that Bettelheim kept his stories vague in order not to trip himself up...."

Bettelheim committed suicide three days after these interviews ended. Raines shaped them into a worshipful biography, one that attempted to repair Bettelheim's damaged reputation; the reviewer thinks Raines didn't succeed, that such debunkings are "perhaps necessary correctives, reminders that even the most charismatic intelligence is no guard against human weakness."

The sense I make of this story is that refusing to consider one's tacit knowledge can be...deadly.


What is interpretation?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-11-25 11:17:27
Link to this Comment: 3874

We know things, tacitly, Jessie, that we don't know we know. We bring them into consciousness, make them "known" to our thinking selves...and THEN we can interpret them, give them an explanatory framework, a story that "makes sense of them"--perhaps in order, eventually, to change them.

Along this line, a cautionary tale. The NYTimes Book Review featured an essay this Sunday (11/24/02) called "Defending Dr. B": a review of a new autobiography, Rising to the Light: A Portrait of Bruno Bettelheim, by Theon Raines. Turns out that. in interviews w/ his biographer, the man who taught us all about the therapeutic power of fairy tales

"withheld meaningful details--alternately talking about his life in the abstract, distanced manner in which he wrote about it, and delivering canned (and sometimes questionable) anecdotes familiar from earlier biographies....He was unwilling to discuss his first marriage, his relationships with his children or his months at Dachau and Buchenwald. Raines interprets this opacity with racidal charity, insisting that Bettelheim is protecting his privacy, refusing to revisit a painful experience or modestly avoiding bragging. A less charitable intepretation might be that Bettelheim kept his stories vague in order not to trip himself up...."

Bettelheim committed suicide three days after these interviews ended. Raines shaped them into a worshipful biography, one that attempted to repair Bettelheim's damaged reputation; the reviewer thinks Raines didn't succeed, that such debunkings are "perhaps necessary correctives, reminders that even the most charismatic intelligence is no guard against human weakness."

The sense I make of this story is that refusing to consider one's tacit knowledge can be...deadly.


Name: Phoebe And
Date: 2002-11-25 12:50:24
Link to this Comment: 3876

I think the paining reveals a lack of confidence in the artist. Everything in the painting is full of life and is painted using rich colors. The person sitting on the log is white and pal, lacking all signs of life. The artist could be making a reflection to how she feels inside. Perhaps she feels dead and insignificant. All life around her is exciting and interesting. She feels that she has nothing to contribute.

The comments of others or her perception of others could be the second term that she "attends to" and her reactions to her perceptions could be the first term that she "attends from". When she sees others achieving she feels insignificant. She is "attending from" this insignificance.

the (non-tacit) story of bethesda
Name: Sharon Burgmayer
Date: 2002-11-25 13:23:15
Link to this Comment: 3877


Anne asked me to provide my story of "the pool of bethesda". A link at the bottom of this posting will take you to that story.

It's been great fun all year to have your readings of my different paintings. "fun" doesn't in fact capture it though. It's been enlightening, provocative, affirming, confirming and moving. You've been revealing my tacit knowledge all along, in fact, with your readings--and not unfrequently with some surprising ideas for me to contemplate!

Try adding onto your tacit stories this conscious one:


a link that works!
Name: Sharon Burgmayer
Date: 2002-11-25 13:29:32
Link to this Comment: 3878

well, that didn't work.
try this instead:

bethesda story

"Attending From"
Name: Bonnie Bal
Date: 2002-11-25 13:50:34
Link to this Comment: 3879

Have you ever been to an open casket funeral? When you look into the casket, the body lying there does not resemble the person you knew. The life and spirit has left the body and all that remains is the ashen/chalky casing. The body sitting on the log in this painting reminds me of the bodies I have seen at open casket funerals, devoid of life and spirit.

Contrast that with the incredible energy and power you feel when seeing a magnificent sunset. I lived in Naples, Florida on the Gulf of Mexico for twenty years. I never tired of seeing the extraordinary sunsets there. There is nothing ashen or chalky in a sunset. The sky fills up with a vibrant kaleidoscope of color that changes dramatically with every inch that the sun gets closer to the water....every shade of red, yellow, orange, blue, purple,.... If you are fortunate enough to be sitting near the water, you hear the waves caressing the beach and you feel the powerful pull of the tide. You smell the depths of the water as the warm breeze blows soft upon your cheek. The palm trees sway. Looking into the horizon you see only water and sky, no outside distractions. At this moment you feel the power of nature around you and you feel it within you.

Why? How can this be? Who is the giver, the sustainer and the taker of life? You cannot say, but you "know." The same spirit and energy that sets the sun is also available to you.

Sometimes we do not own this. And maybe this is what Sharon Burgmayer is trying to capture here. Sometimes we turn our backs on our life, we put our heads down and refuse to look at the sun, we refuse to live life to the fullest, we may even lose the will to go on. "Do you want to get well?" Jesus asked the invalid at the Pool of Betheseda in John 5:1-15. We must allow the mystery and beauty of this question to resonate within our being and listen for the answer.

This Woman . . .
Name: Beatrice J
Date: 2002-11-25 14:33:57
Link to this Comment: 3881

This Woman seems complete in her aloneness. She has Nature, Beauty, creation, and God right there with her.

Name: risa
Date: 2002-11-25 22:48:34
Link to this Comment: 3884

i have wanted to comment on sharon's painting for a few days now but really haven't been able to. so i sort of asked myself why i haven't been able to and i think i have just felt like i really couldn't access some "reading" of anything she would not have already known. it seems pretty straight forward to me in the sense that i didn't feel i could have unearthed anything that wasn't already overt and intentioned. i felt a litte idotic about this, because i felt like i SHOULD be able to come up with something but i didn't. "contemplative androgynous, seemingly nude figure at water's edge by moonlight" is hardly the insight i was hoping for and to have read each and every detail i felt unneccessary because everything seemd to be accounted for. okay, enough, i am even boring myself now. i have to go finish my paper regarding my own superpower: "Gaydar"- the tacit knowledge of us fancy-pants queers. syand back and watch the glances fly.

Name: natalie
Date: 2002-11-25 23:23:08
Link to this Comment: 3886

Who says its a woman on the log?!?!?!?!

It could be a man for all we know....
I guess thats what bryn mawr will do to you... hehehe

How bout "being" or "human".

"It" seems pretty void of characteristics, maybe its supposed to represent all people, not just one sex or another.

Words, Science and the State of Evolution
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-11-26 15:02:28
Link to this Comment: 3890

I thought you all might be interested in an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education this week (11/29/02), entitled "Words, Science, and the State of Evolution," by Lawrence M. Krauss, which is available online @ this address . It continues the discussion we were having several modules ago (!) about the creationism/evolution debate in education, but adds to it a very pointed query about the imprecision of language--and its consequences for scientists in particular:

"In many ways, words are a scientist's enemy. They lack the precision of numbers, and their potential ambiguity makes them ill suited to describe or help predict physical phenomena. Opponents of science can also use words to confuse matters when it comes to scientific education."

For more on the range of language use (science aiming for the particular and transparent, humanities to the evocative and allusive) see two earlier conversations, one among CSem profs on "The Two Cultures" and another in the Language Working Group on the same topic.

Just doing my job as the English prof in the bunch!

Unlearning the Tacit is Hard
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-11-26 22:58:45
Link to this Comment: 3896

Okay, okay, so I know it's not good forum etiquette to write twice in a row...but I'm just trying to tie up *all* loose threads before I go away for four days...

& want to pass on to you all a website Ro. just passed on to me: it's Storytelling: A Scientist's Perspective: John Seely Brown: Unlearning the Tacit is Hard!!!!. This is a story about Brown's (re-)learning to manuever a motorcycle, an experiment in trying "to bring the tacit to the explicit," @ the end of which he observes that "getting at that, and bringing that up to the surface so that you can do something about it is incredibly is almost impossible to get hold of [tacit knowlege], reflect on it and work with it....part of the power of actually creating a framework that our mind seems to understand. You can at least begin to think about how to challenge some of this type of knowledge that is tacit."

You can learn more about John Seely Brown and a talk he gave on "Learning, Working and Playing in the Digital Age" at

Have a great Thanksgiving! (and I'll try to keep my thoughts to myself while you do).

Bethesda and Vygotsky revisited
Name: Ro Finn
Date: 2002-11-27 08:51:52
Link to this Comment: 3897

Sometimes I think that this Bryn Mawr "boot camp" is about learning the fine art of mulling... and I don't mean wine. '-)

After reading Sharon's explanation of her new painting, Pool of Bethesda, I found myself disappointed with my out-of-context interpretation. Our interpretations were all over the gym. Some of them may have randomly hit closer to home for her.

In this week's assignment (observations etc on collected data), I referenced Vygotsky: "to understand another's speech, ... we must understand his thought,...we must understand his motivation," and I proposed that tacit knowledge may be best articulated if we engage "understanding" people to form the right questions.... questions that can prompt us to "get down" on our tacit knowing.

I can't help wondering what questions and insights we would have offered to Sharon if we had done the exercise knowing (i.e., understanding her thought and motivation) beforehand.

Have a great Thanksgiving!
ps... yes, Anne, I'm quoting the reading I couldn't find useful to the exercise :-)) So, what else is new!

Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-11-27 11:39:25
Link to this Comment: 3899

So I lied...I'm NOT keeping my thoughts to myself after all (can't stand to!)

I'm feeling the need to defend the last posting assignment: my rationale was that, if you had known beforehand about Sharon's intentions in painting, you would have felt bound by those, unable to go exploring the rich ways you did, digging for what she did NOT know she knew.....

Anyhow, on to another (related) topic! Margaret had lots of questions about universal grammar, and Molly lots of other questions about the comparative sophistication of different languages, during our class discussion of Pinker's essays on The Language Instinct on Tuesday--questions which I passed them on to Eric Ramey, our resident linguist and organizer of the faculty working group on Language. Eric's reply was very helpful to me, and thought might be of interest to the rest of you, so I pass it on:

"Universal Grammar provides the principles that allow specific grammars to be built. I think its most useful to think of UG as providing a type of alphabet that allows a learner to build a grammar of a language. So of course Chinese and English have different grammars but the principles of how grammars work are the same. All languages have syllables (even sign languages), intonation patterns, syntactic rules, etc. and UG provides the principles to guide a learner in how to figure out the ambient language that they are exposed to.

[Whether some languages are more complex than others]
"is a very difficult question because we don't have a complete analysis of any language. To really answer this question we would not only want to have complete analyses of at least two languages but then also some metric on how to measure 'complexity'. Specific parts of a grammar can look more or less complex. Some languages differ in how many phonemes they have. English has around 50 and !Xhosa has about 140. Does this make !Xhosa more complicated? Who knows? The problem is that simplicity or complexity in one area (like phonology) may interact with other areas (like syntax or morphology) and cause them more simple or complex. To really answer this question we have to measure 'complexity' over the entire grammar. From the sketches of partial grammars that we already have all languages appear to be immensely complex....

The question about how well studied a language is is also very important. Understudied languages I don't think give a representative sample of how complex/simple they are. Very short sketches of grammars rarely cover enough of the grammar to give an impression of exactly how the language really works.

[I also shared w/ Eric Ro.'s observation that it might be more useful /interesting for her to study Black English or American Sign Language than French:]

"Either of these will provide a nice case study to show both the similarities of all languages and also how they vary. Black English is probably more accessible (but has larger social hang ups) because researchers have identified specific ways in which it differs from Standard English. So we can add/delete/modify a particular rule of Standard English and derive Black English. Let me know and I'll give you a few articles about the grammatical features of Black English.

Sign Language would also be interesting to look at but because it feels so exotic it may be difficult to see the similarities. This is primarily due to the switch in modalities (sight and movement vs. hearing/speaking) but there are very surprising cross modal similarities once the switch in modes is normalized for."

responding to bonnie
Name: orah minde
Date: 2002-11-27 17:25:08
Link to this Comment: 3902

dear bonnie,
no i have never seen an open casket, ashen face, pried expression, helpless, beaten body. i have seen a young human soul fighting with slashing teeth and pained anger to stay alive. you'd think that the yellow light of a hospital would drain a girl of fighting power. those doctors don't understand the healing power of nature, so they screw in yellow light bulbs that make me stand rigid over a hospital bed. But little girls can teach lessons that i shiver when i realize that they know enough to teach these lessons. and i wonder where such young souls learned such power.
have you ever been to the desert, bonnie? seen the night sky stretch above and slowly curl around to the groud, scouping you up like a mama whale her young? have you ever seen the a seemingly calm sea meet the sky in the distance as two lovers fitted like spoons, perfect? have you seen the sea rage, the sky burst? and have you ever shivered and known that the human soul is like a fading flame compared to the blazing fire of nature?
but i've seen a young soul stranded in a hospital bed swell so great. i've seen a young soul stand against this powerful nature. i've seen her walk accross the water to the place where the sky and the water meet. i saw her and she said: NO, I WILL NOT DIE. I WILL NOT BECOME THAT GRAY LIFELESS BODY IN A WOODEN CASKET. she told nature she wouldn't and challeneged the power of nature and she won. where does that power come from in the young girl? where does the power to defy nature, God, come from? and if nature is the allmighty, why is it that humans have not yet been smothered by the sky and the sea?
i leave you with a quote: [by JP Donleavy. from his book 'the ginger man']

He was walking down the slope side of the bridge past this broken building, a straight dark figure and stranger. Come here till i tell you. Where is the sky high and the winds soft and moist and warm, sometimes stained with sun, with peace so wild for wishing where all is told and telling. On a winter night i heard horses on a country road, beating sparks out of the stones. i knew they were running away and would be crossing the feilds where the pounding would come up into my ears. and i said they are running out to death which is with some soul and their eyes are mad and teeth out.
God's mercy
On the wild
Ginger Man.

my love, orah minder

Yes, but...
Name: ro finn
Date: 2002-11-28 08:11:44
Link to this Comment: 3903

Anne wrote:
"I'm feeling the need to defend the last posting assignment: my rationale was that, if you had known beforehand about Sharon's intentions in painting, you would have felt bound by those, unable to go exploring the rich ways you did, digging for what she did NOT know she knew....."

I do not disagree... I need an English word equivalent to the Japanese word, Hai. :-)

Let me try to explain where I am coming from...
The work of this segment was centered on speech and language as they relate to cognitive activities. So the painting presented a new and interesting angle beyond speech. The exercise was to unearth for Sharon what she did not know she knew. As we performed it, a very interesting set of results occurred. What I dug out of the painting left me personally dissatisfied. I did not feel connected with Sharon's tacit knowledge. I felt distanced from it, as if there were a dark screen between us.

From this whole segment, I have come away with the hunch that Vigotsky was maybe onto something enormously applicable... that understanding speech requires knowing the "speaker's" thought and motivation. I am suggesting that it would ALSO be interesting to perform the assignment as "understanding" helpers. Now that we understand her thoughts and motivations, the quality of what we interpret may not be as rich and varied, but may be more useful to Sharon as that which she did not know she knew.

I spoke with a member of the Knowledge Mgmt Group of Phila. who is going to work with me to set up some experiments with a women's group in the area. We discussed the idea of using art-based elements in the experiment. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thank you for the idea!

Name: xuan-shi
Date: 2002-11-28 19:56:55
Link to this Comment: 3905

Okay, when I first looked the painting I thought I saw a moon. Out of curiosity, I scanned through the comments of other course mates and realized that many thought they saw a sun. I decided it would be stupid of me to have mistaken the sun for the moon. Guess my tacit understanding was trying to tell me something which I have consciously chosen to ignore, for fear of being different ... because others (other voices) must surely be right. Umph. What good would tacit understanding be if we do not have trust in it to guide us along in life?

Thoughts on thoughts
Name: ro
Date: 2002-11-29 07:33:35
Link to this Comment: 3906

xuan-shi wrote:
"Okay, when I first looked the painting I thought I saw a moon. Out of curiosity, I scanned through the comments of other course mates and realized that many thought they saw a sun. I decided it would be stupid of me to have mistaken the sun for the moon. Guess my tacit understanding was trying to tell me something which I have consciously chosen to ignore, for fear of being different ... because others (other voices) must surely be right. Umph. What good would tacit understanding be if we do not have trust in it to guide us along in life?"

Question: Is it sun or moon?
Very interesting train of thought. I think we need to learn how to trust tacit knowledge. It can be wrong. It can be revised as we learn a better answer. Or it can be reaffirmed. Either way, from such a revisiting, it becomes more trustworthy. Yes? No?

No hope in the colorless night
Name: Molly
Date: 2002-12-01 08:46:23
Link to this Comment: 3918

This is a tricky one - trying to articulate what the artist doesn't know she knows. From a semantic perspective, I can't possibly know, in the first place, what she DOES know because I don't know her. Further to that, knowing what I tacitly know is a bit of a conundrum - I can only have an idea about that, a clue, a partial picture. Faced with this difficulty, I am still able to articulate some knowledge about the artist from the painting.

The most striking thing about this picture, and about many of Burgmayer's pictures, is color. The colors used here are decidedly suppressed, but at the same time they interact very harmoniously and evoke a sense of vibrance (blue and green, no matter how muted always look like life). Without this quality, if the painting were not colored, I find it depressing and uncomfortable to look at. This is because the character on the log appears frozen and suicidal and because the image of the glowing orb is so overwhelming I'm not sure where to look for respite (I see despair, but not hope). The flowers and turtles and out-of-reach tree are not enough to keep my interest - they are in the periphery. They seem irrelevant to the character's suffering. The careful and dimensional color invites me to keep looking though. It is almost soothing.

It is the juxtaposition of a scary image and hopeful, living, beautiful color - sending two different messages. The sum of these messages equals hope beyond hope - the desperate survivor's leap of faith.

Name: Jessie
Date: 2002-12-02 01:56:57
Link to this Comment: 3929

well, after finishing my hebrew and csem and religion and gobs of work early in the morning, I, being the psycho I am, came onto the forum, and looked through the archives for my old work. I am very disappointed that I didn't take advantage of this wonderful thinking space...I was talking with Orah earlier (surprise surprise) and we discussed the forum as a safe space. and it is, so I thank you all for this.

as for Sharon's work...I'm a bit in shock that I "got it wrong" (like Oliver Sack's patients?) but I am pleased, because I found a way to connect with the painting. I too, love light and water and their intermingling, and it was was a nice change of [tacit] pace to think about the moon as a beautiful light. As our light has changed from summer to fall to winter, and my habit have changed, I am concious of light and my love for it.
Light as the one constant? or change? perhaps I am still stuck on Butler. comforting, in a sick and twisted way.
anyway, enough incoherence for once. good night!

Response to Ro
Name: xuan-shi
Date: 2002-12-02 19:14:22
Link to this Comment: 3932

Question: Is it sun or moon?
Very interesting train of thought. I think we need to learn how to trust tacit knowledge. It can be wrong. It can be revised as we learn a better answer. Or it can be reaffirmed. Either way, from such a revisiting, it becomes more trustworthy. Yes? No?

Well, it's ironic. Considering that we do rely heavily on tacit knowing to function in life, we probably trust that it would not fail us. In the first place, many of us won't even question its presence if we are not "made" to pay attention to it (paper assignment). Then we become perplexed, wondering why it is important to get acquainted with our tacit side. How useful is it?? I have revised my answers to this question countless times since we first start reading the Polanyi article. Sometimes, the famous teach us the most simple lessons in life, reveal to us things we never think to question because it seems so mundane. Tacit knowing is such a thing.

Name: ro finn
Date: 2002-12-02 22:24:39
Link to this Comment: 3933

 xuan-shi wrote"
Sometimes, the famous teach us the most simple lessons in life, reveal to us things we never think to question because it seems so mundane. Tacit knowing is such a thing.

And sometimes, we learn from our fellow class-mates. I'm thinking a lot about what you wrote. Thanks! :-)

to be or...
Name: HST
Date: 2002-12-02 22:51:24
Link to this Comment: 3934

Meant to post this last night, but it resonates for me/us even more now. As usual, I couldn't keep my mouth shut even though Orah and Jess were the "teachers" today. Sorry, ladies. I couldn't not speak to the question of whether BEING resides in the "deep structure" of our tacit/unconscious knowing, or in our ability/impulse to playback that knowing as "surface structure" or if it is some admixture of those elements and more.

I got there because Sacks's suggestion that one can re-incarnate oneself, transform one's subjectification, disavow one's neurobiological identity and revise the structures of tacit knowing withi/in a particular role, flow, or performance intrigues and disturbs (?) me.

There is a movement in modern folkloristics that understands identity as process, as being in flux and emergent in embodied performance. I happen to embrace this theoretical and methodological position.

And yet, I hesitate at the idea that one can "forget" TO BE Tourettic and in that dis-remembering, not BE Tourettic: that one can so profoundly attend away from BEING parkinsonian,so as to not know how to perform parkinson's disease anymore.

Can what we know (explicitly), what we believe, fundamentally alter our being? Or can it only change the stories we tell about ourselves? Are those different things? Anyway, all of that reminded me of poem a friend recently sent to me because the cartoon references reminded her of me.


...and these are only some of the things I believe
By Staceyann Chin

Imagination is the bridge
between the things we know for sure
and the things we need to believe
when our worlds become unbearable

So I know the way my tongue feels
wrapped around a sliver of East Indian mango
I know it reminds me of a time of giant breadfruit trees
skinned six year-old knees
and pungent pimento seeds drying on a sheet of galvanized zinc

I know the sounds I make during sex
know them because my lover makes them for me
when she wants to remind me that I am not always in control

I also know if you are black/ male and Mobile America
the police will pull you over- especially
if you drive an expensive car

I know if you speak differently from the rest of the crowd
chances are your contemporaries have already made fun of you

We all know this world is difficult
because we each have to live here
and in this time of schoolboy bullets
biological warfare and kiddie porn
it takes guts to believe in any God
so I practice on believing in the smaller things
till I am able to make room for the rest

I begin with believing there's a Santa Claus
except I believe Saint Nicholas is a holiday transvestite
and I believe in monsters lurking under the bed
because they give our children something to conquer
before the world begins to conquer them

And I believe in the steady inflation of the tooth fairy
donate more than one nickel to that cause
because a dime under a pillow makes it easier
to endure the loss of a molar
prepares for the greater loss of a teacher
or a mother to the NYPD

And I believe in the identity of the Easter Bunny
believe he's the same person as Bugs Bunny
which means being schizophrenic isn't always bad
means when I'm tired of being a black feminist poet
I could go rally for rights of the new age transsexuals
get them an interview with Rosie O'Donell or Oprah
I believe I could find them a few friends right there on Sesame Street
and contrary to popular belief
I believe Bert and Ernie are straight
believe they're just waiting for the right girls to come along
but I believe Kermit the Frog is a closet Dyke
and that's why he has issues with pushy lesbians like Miss Piggy

And I believe most lovers
will lie to you eventually
and though I believe two wrongs don't ever make a right
--sometimes slashing his tires makes you feel better

and I believe Dharma and Greg are funny
but only if they make you laugh
and I believe Pinky and the Brain are revolutionaries
because-every night-they try to take over the world
like them, I believe there will always be something to fight for
and I believe everyone should believe in something
anything - if it helps you make it through the day
so I believe in Ashanti spirits
in spite of what the pragmatists say
I believe in unbelievable phenomena
like telepathy and karmic shape-shifters
crafting futures from the moon
I believe in that elusive world peace
I believe if I believe - it really could come soon
and I believe in unexpected and capricious friendships
I believe in trusting with the tenacity of a fool

And I believe in believing everyday
-and for as long as we can-
I believe we should believe in something we don't know for sure
acknowledge the range of possibilities
unlimited by what we see
move reality with imagination
we decide what our destinies will be

a tacit life... oh no.
Name: natalie
Date: 2002-12-03 01:41:50
Link to this Comment: 3935

In response to the last message:

Can what we know (explicitly), what we believe, fundamentally alter our being? Or can it only change the stories we tell about ourselves? Are those different things?

How are the two separate? At all?? Mind and body are connected. We don't completely control our minds or our bodies. Therefore, the thought of no longer performing Parkinson's disease is impossible. It takes much more than will power or a certain mind-set to rid oneself of such things. Yes, we have power over how we act; however, we do not have power over how nature takes its course.

LIFE IS NOT JUST A STORY. Or (how we tell stories or how stories change). You can tell a story about life, but life is not just a story. A story is completely penetrable; this life leaves us mere mystery and things unknown. Life is not just a story or belief: it is a breath, a handshake, a kiss, a stab wound. Life is not a passive word; it is an action word. If a human lived in a box, of course the world would be a fabrication of his/her mind, but if they were to literally step outside of the box, certain absolutes would astound him/her. He can walk, move across the ground (whether grass, desert or rocks...) he can see the changing seasons, the sun and the moon. Like the rest of humanity, he can see with open eyes, he can explore, he can discover LIFE: the action gallivanting, burning, and charging around us.

Oh and ladies, in reference to tacit knowledge and the painting. Don't ever get down that your perceptions were "wrong". But admire the UNIQUE nature of each of our minds. How, that our different perceptions of the same picture evoke diverging grand and/or grave emotions, ideas, or thoughts. The whole idea of tacit knowing is that there is no right or wrong outside of your own mind. For it is right for you. But as for your colleague or peer it may be the complete opposite. THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG within the painting. It is a personal discovery, one that you decided to share or keep to yourself. But you know you want to share it because it is truly exciting to see how we all see it differently. And it is enlightening to think of new things that you would never have noticed otherwise. I did not know of the "moon", or the turtles or of making the pale figure a woman. And most of all, it is quite an adventure to travel the path of the artist herself!! Thank you Sharon!

i may have just contradicted my own words, you'll have to forgive me, I can't help but think outloud.

Lakoff Lecture: Please Come!
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-12-03 11:13:11
Link to this Comment: 3936

George Lakoff (whose Philosophy in the Flesh we read together in mid-November) will be giving a talk this Sunday Dec. 8th at 7:00pm in Carpenter 21

The Brain, The Mind, and Language
Why They Matter in Personal Life, in Politics, and Throughout the Academic World

Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, and Cognitive Linguistics are presently esoteric disciplines that most people know little about. Yet they are utterly transforming our understanding of virtually every aspect of our lives - especially our personal and political lives. They also have transformative implications for virtually every academic discipline. This lecture will be an overview for a general audience.

Laikoff lecture
Name: ro finn
Date: 2002-12-04 07:43:05
Link to this Comment: 3952

Yes, would not miss this one! I'm bringing a someone who is expert in knowledge management... looking forward.

Anne, you had mentioned that his Monday activities on campus might also be accessible ... still true? If so, logistics, please.

Re-telling the Story (of Menopause)
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-12-04 15:08:08
Link to this Comment: 3966

Another historical/cultural story retold and revised (perhaps of particular interest to the McBrides?!):

A Special Lecture by Judith Houck
University of Wisconsin-Madison
"The Social History of a Biological Process, Menopause,1897-1980"
Sponsored by The Center for Science in Society :

5 December, Thursday
4:00 PM, Park Building, Room 338
3:30 PM, Refreshments, Room 338

Judith Houck is assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin Madison with appointments in the departments of Medical History, Women's Studies, and the History of Science and the Center of Women's Health and Women's Health Research. Her research centers on the history of women's health. She is currently finishing a book on the history of menopause, tentatively titled, More than Hot and Bothered: Women, Medicine, and Menopause in America, 1897-2000. Her next project focuses on the women's health movement
in the United States, 1969-2000.

For information, please contact Tomomi Kinukawa at

Re-telling the Story (of Menopause)
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-12-04 15:08:20
Link to this Comment: 3967

Another historical/cultural story retold and revised (perhaps of particular interest to the McBrides?!):

A Special Lecture by Judith Houck
University of Wisconsin-Madison
"The Social History of a Biological Process, Menopause,1897-1980"
Sponsored by The Center for Science in Society :

5 December, Thursday
4:00 PM, Park Building, Room 338
3:30 PM, Refreshments, Room 338

Judith Houck is assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin Madison with appointments in the departments of Medical History, Women's Studies, and the History of Science and the Center of Women's Health and Women's Health Research. Her research centers on the history of women's health. She is currently finishing a book on the history of menopause, tentatively titled, More than Hot and Bothered: Women, Medicine, and Menopause in America, 1897-2000. Her next project focuses on the women's health movement
in the United States, 1969-2000.

For information, please contact Tomomi Kinukawa at

fairy tales and Flatland
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-12-04 21:39:30
Link to this Comment: 3974

This note from a McBride who took (an earlier incarnation of) this CSem last year:

This week's New Yorker (12/9) has an article by Gopnik on fairy tales and the NYR of Books this week (12/19) has one on Flatland and its scientific and religeous implications. Thanks for opening these worlds up to me. Merry Christmas. Meg Devereux

[when I wrote Meg to ask her permission to post this, she replied]

Please post anything. CSem was such an affirming experience for me that I am almost afraid to take a non Csem course. I loved... the rewrites - something not offered back in the'60's. Still a year later conjuring up the delicious discussions etc....Tell your Csems they are lucky to be at BMC. I miss it.

I think I need to get a life...
Name: Margaret
Date: 2002-12-04 22:56:36
Link to this Comment: 3975

This is going to be a terribly long post and I am going to be very anal(but hopefully coherent) about the Oliver Sacks story we read, "The Last Hippie." For those of you in different groups, in our class Tuesday I asked if Sacks takes creative liberties with his facts or does he possibly not bother to check them. The first thing that didn't seem right was Greg talking about the Grateful Dead and the song "Tobacco Road." To my knowledge, the GD have never performed that song so I did a little checking. They haven't, but at the Central Park show that Greg references in the story Jefferson Airplane was also there and it appears they may performed it-- they played it many other times at different venues. So I chalked that up to Greg's mis-remembering.

Fast forward to 1991 and Sacks takes Greg to see the Dead at Madison Square Garden. In talking about Greg's blindness he mentions that Greg asks if Sacks can see Jerry's afro, then explains to the reader that Jerry has straight, shoulder-length hair. However, Jerry did not have straight hair. Maybe not quite an afro but it was curly.

Now here is something I did not realize until I was talking to my husband about this last night: Sacks writes that Greg's memory reaches to 1970 and that's about it, but he can remember some things with repetition, i.e., songs, the layout of his ward. When describing the MSG show he claims Greg knows the words to the old songs but not the new ones, and that he sings Aiko Aiko "with gusto." My husband stopped me right there and said, "Well, that can't be if the guy's memory stops at 1970. They didn't do Aiko for the first time until 1977." I guess I should mention that my husband and I are (were?) kind of serious Deadheads; he has been to almost 200 shows and I've been to somewhere around 120. My husband also loves to trade tapes and has about 1800 hours worth of GD shows here at the house.

So how did Greg know the words to the song? Aiko Aiko was first recorded in 1950, I'm not sure by who (Dr. John?) and is filled with nonsense words (or at least another language) that are not easily understandable. Also, there are some lyrics that are particular to the GD version of the song. It's possible that someone on the ward had a tape with the song on it and played it for Greg. The Dead never recorded this on a studio album so it would have to have been a live show tape. So we can assume 1) Greg heard someone else play it way back when and then when Jerry and Co. hit the chords in 1991 he was immediately able to remember the all the words, despite his memory problems or 2) someone on the ward was a Deadhead (why else would they have the live tape—not available in stores, only through trading with others) and they played Aiko Aiko over and over again and Greg learned it that way.

Why am I going on and on about this? It bothers me! Ann asked in class if getting these details right was important to the story. I think so, because for me, it calls Sacks' integrity into question. If he's sloppy with easily verifiable details like Jerry's hair how correct are his other statements? Sacks is using Greg's singing along to Aiko Aiko to support the theory that Greg's damaged brain could recall info prior to 1970-- but there is no way that particular bit of info could have come from that time period. It was mentioned that Greg was able to learn music so why not just say that he learned the song more recently and was able to sing along instead of presenting it as some long lost piece of knowledge? If Sacks didn't realize it was a recent thing, that's sloppy research.

I think I might write Oliver Sacks a note and ask him about this. Maybe he'll respond!

Response to Natalie's posting
Name: Xuan-Shi
Date: 2002-12-05 00:14:07
Link to this Comment: 3976

"You can tell a story about life, but life is not just a story."

Actually, here's a person who thinks that her life is a story, and one who is often working to revise it to make it better. Every major decision I have to make, every insurmountable obstacle that comes my way, I replay in my mind the possibilities of how the plot would change, in this life story of mine. Perhaps because of the fear of living a life with regrets, of not having my share of contentment when my hair turns white, or committing suicidae at age forty... I am always asking questions about how I could change my life, as a story. Only that it is an ongoing story, a story which I have control over its development. That is revision in a sense; although not going over the old, I am using the old to reconstruct the 'new', to add a different twist, to modify, to experiment, with the material of life. Yes, we can tell a story about life. I agree that life is an action word. But there is a romanticism in seeing life as a story. And this is what I need, for living in the present moment is not enough (Enough of the 'ohms')... I need something deeper, richer, that draws me into the flow, that reminds me to smell the roses on the way, to give me the assurance that I am the storyteller of my life...

"The whole idea of tacit knowing is that there is no right or wrong outside of your own mind. For it is right for you."

*Bringing in our class discussions* What is the point of having tacit knowing when what you know tacitly is no longer applicable? Greg for one, knows how to watch TV, he knows how to "SEE"; he lives in a world of his own, but realizing that he is blind. This could be very dangerous to his safety. I personally feel that the "whole" idea of tacit knowing is that the body has a say in how the mind thinks and perceives things. There can be a "right/wrong", "appropriate/inappropriate". We have to adapt to changes in the world, and sometimes, we have to unlearn the tacit which might no longer be useful to us.

Abt poem, video, and readings
Name: Xuan-Shi
Date: 2002-12-05 12:24:59
Link to this Comment: 3981

...and these are only some of the things I believe
By Staceyann Chin

"Imagination is the bridge
between the things we know for sure
and the things we need to believe
when our worlds become unbearable"

I went to bed thinking about this quote. It reminded me of the girl who worked in the silk mill (We watched the video "The Women of Summer"). When asked how she could tolerate the dreariness and montony of factory work, she replied that work wasn't boring because her mind wandered away...

I admire her spirit and strength, which I find lacking in myself. It perturbs me to think that given better social-economic circumstances, I have grown up pampered and weak, unable to accept the brutalish reality that life is HARD and UNFAIR. I want a good job, I want to do the work I love, I want this and I want that... All my dreams would come true, if I worked hard enough... When denied something, I become resentful and feel cheated. The opportunity to bridge the gap between imagination and the present has made me greedy.

It's sad though, that fortunate people usually fail to appreciate all that they have. It reminds me of a quote from the article "Behold They Are Women!", Pg 127: "She (Carey Thomas) dismissed the notion that students' economic backgrounds shaped college social structure because she identified with the affluent student, not the one forced to live in pinched surroundings." The sheltered sapling would grow towards the light, becoming strong and useful when it grows into a tree. The wild weeds survive through the tenacity of their will, forever overshadowed and neglected.

snowy, no-showy day
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-12-05 12:40:54
Link to this Comment: 3982

to the mcbrides (w/ an invitation to all cluster-mates to listen in)--

missed you ALL (except stalwart Molly!) today--
hoping you're enjoying your snowy day--
we'll just call this one a wash and do what we can in the time we have left to us--

which is: go on thinking on your own, &
write what you can about "the bmc story" for tuesday--

to nudge you along: my organizing questions today
(after watching the video on "women of summer")
were to have been these:

having read this material & seen the video, tell us what you think about these queries:
what is the use of a liberal education?
does it HAVE a use?
by defintion, should it NOT be purposeful?
(see esp. the open ltrs. in the alum bulletin....)

what educational vision(s) does BMC embody
(or present itself as embodying)?
what vision(s) does it deny/refute?
to what degree has your experience here jived w/ and/or diverged from such vision(s)?

we'll talk further about these matters next week--
til then, enjoy your solitary reflection(s)!


Response to Xuan-Shi
Name: natalie
Date: 2002-12-06 17:08:45
Link to this Comment: 3991

But are you the sole creator of your story? Are there not circumstances where you are not in control? That as the narrator, your words slip and they seem to emanate from the experience you have been thrown into, whether you wanted to or not. Thus life is not just a story. You are not just a story. You are not just words on a piece of paper! Yes these words will last forever. But your life cannot only be a story; we live to tell a story. What about the purpose behind a story? What is your purpose, you talk with near cynicism of your high position in life, but think of the wondrous things you can do for the world. If one is selfless, it is easy to detach from this feeling of separation of peoples based on socio-economics. What if we were concerned with how our story affects the people around us, not just about telling the story for ourselves, or our own contentment or our own revision, but for the revision of the world along with you.

What about the physical, the body within this life? This life is material; it is full of matter, matter that we cannot control, events that we cannot control. It is that sense of uncertainty that causes us to hope and put our faith in the future, our faith in what is to come. I want to say there is a balance between the two: you telling and creating the story, and you letting the story unfold as the world affects you. But I know it's more of a struggle. As you continue in your next message, there are people in this world that suffer under their circumstance, that as much as they revise their story they are motionless and change is not possible. And there are people who, affluent and with not many burdens can easily change and manifest their actual thoughts and dreams. If you have the power to do so, all the best to you! But don't tell me that you control the story. When I say life is an action word, I do not only mean the actions we take in life, even though these actions are vital and do shape our destiny or story in so many ways, but I am also talking about the action that life takes on us, you cannot create contracting a terrible disease, or create winning the million dollar lottery, or create the story of your parents dying. These are things that happen upon us, not on what we make happen.

About the tacit— "applicable/ inapplicable" is quite different from "right/ wrong" or even "appropriate/ inappropriate". I agree that the whole idea behind "tacit" knowing is how the mind thinks and perceives things. However, IS it not the case that each and every one of us perceives everything differently? When I was going to analyze Sharon's painting, I knew that if I read everyone's explanation it would affect my interpretation. So I made sure to write my own thoughts before I went back and read everyone else's. It is beautiful that we notice and identify the same moment, place, piece of art, even person as something unique in our own eyes. That is why thought flourishes and constantly changes. I would never see "tacit knowing" as something definitive or concrete, rather it is an abstraction that can be reflected upon but never captured in a bottle or pinned down into a category. It is free like our unconscious. It is continually a revision. We can never unlearn "tacit" but we can add continually to it. It is ever growing, accumulating and once you identify it, it looses the structure you identified. Therefore, right and wrong continue to change, as do what is applicable and inapplicable and appropriate and inappropriate.

Name: Xuan-Shi
Date: 2002-12-07 00:14:23
Link to this Comment: 3993

"That is revision in a sense; although not going over the old, I am using the old to reconstruct the 'new', to add a different twist, to modify, to experiment, with the material of life."

Pardon me if I didn't express my thoughts clearly. I agree with natalie that we cannot create stories, and "things do happen upon us". For me, the "things that happen upon us" are the "material of life", the opportunities that allow us to change our story. How it would "unfold" would depend on our decisions in many circumstances...but of course, there are also many instances when the "endings" didn't turn out the way we meant for it to be. However, being able to consciously ask ourselves, "Where do I go from here?" when we are dealing with "things that happen upon us", we are exercising control over the development of the story, and taking agency.

"But your life cannot only be a story; we live to tell a story."

Why can't my life be a story with different themes? Yes, we live to tell a story, to tell many stories. We can make up stories, or tell a story about ourselves. And we allow room for revision upon retelling. But I see myself as living in an ongoing story, and even if my life was so miserable that I have no control over it at all, at least I have the power to end this story, to choose the ways I wish to end it (an extreme example).

When we are revising our old stories, remembering that there is really no right or wrong, we are working to come up with a version that goes well with ourselves. This is apparent in psychotherapy, where family members may tell different versions of the same story to the therapist. Recovery for her patient only occurs when the therapist empowers the patient to change her 'old story' (by helping her develop stronger resources), that is when growth is possible, and healing takes place. If we only live to tell a story, where is there opportunity for real change, altering the story as it unfolds? Why do we even work to revise old stories, if they aren't going to have any impact on our opinions, our actions, or our life?

You say that it is "that sense of uncertainty that causes us to hope and put our faith in the future, our faith in what is to come." I feel however, that many people do get disillusioned with uncertainty. Uncertainty tends to evoke feelings of helplessness and make one hesitant or afraid to make decisions. Yes, we may have faith and hope in the unknown, but that is because we feel either we could have to power to effect change, or be given the opportunity to regain control over our lives. I doubt if a man who is uneducated and jobless has anything to look forward to except striking the lottery, or finding a decent job. He dares to hope because of the reasons mentioned above.

Well, the purpose behind a story, I would say, depends very much on the storyteller. Why is she telling a story? "What is your purpose, you talk with near cynicism of your high position in life, but think of the wondrous things you can do for the world." My purpose was really to fulfil my duty as a student posting my responses on the QIR forum. I merely shared my own reflections on the web about something that has made me rethink the way I see myself, and the world.

About "unlearning the tacit"... I am working on the assumption that the repertoire of behavior that is being classified as tacit is not completely the same for every individual. I would have to think over what you have said :)

Deep Play Revisited
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-12-07 09:36:55
Link to this Comment: 3994

Paul and I have been involved this semester in (among other things) the Faculty Working Group on emergence (see Our discussion this past Friday morning centered on the notion of the 2nd law of thermodynamics (that the overall direction of change in the universe is from less probable/more organized states to more probable/less organized states....that there is always a net loss of organization in the process. Spontaneous energy flow is always "downhill", never spontaneously in the opposite direction). Key to our discussion was the notion that the tendency of energy to spread out (=entropy) is the essential context for, and productive of, emergent systems. Biological evolution is the ultimate example of emergence--and that process is predicated on the inevitability of risk, loss and death. This final note made me think again, of course, of deep play, w/ an increasing awareness that ALL of life (whether we choose consciously to play it this way or not) is the deepest kind of play.

How's THAT for an early Saturday morning thought?


deep thermodynamics
Name: ro. finn
Date: 2002-12-08 08:18:43
Link to this Comment: 4002

Anne wrote:
"Biological evolution is the ultimate example of emergence--and that process is predicated on the inevitability of risk, loss and death. This final note made me think again, of course, of deep play, w/ an increasing awareness that ALL of life (whether we choose consciously to play it this way or not) is the deepest kind of play."

You go, girl!...You may have to do a course on deep play just to locate a category for it ;-)

If emergence is the basis for evolution and if that is the basis for life, and if the progression of life requires risk, loss, death, then each evolutionary (generational?) layer plays deeply in order to morph to the next. Or is it that each plays deeply in order to morph WELL to the next state... I mean, does the inevitability of emergence carry the possibility that the next instantiation could just be a regressive mess? If so, is it that there's no choice but to take one's "best shot", given what's at stake? Not sure if this is encompassed in your thought, but I'm on a roll of my own now ;-) Too late.

What I'm thinking--at the micro-level of individual you or me-- is that we each DO choose to die dying or die growing... any neutral, passive state of living/existing is a myth. If we choose to die growing, we each must exert continuous effort, or we will slide into the other state. So, there really is a choice, and that sets the stage for a deep play (maybe): choose to die growing (play for quality, fullness, meaning, self-respect, other's respect...), in spite of the irrational probability of risk/loss/ultimate death.

So, life (progression towards death) is not only full of imperatives to manage risk. Risk management is the game... in order to sustain the longest, fullest run.


die resisting
Name: risa
Date: 2002-12-09 00:23:38
Link to this Comment: 4010

there is also the third state which one can find themselves having to exist in, the state that most of the people of the world outside of the first world exist in continually, that is the state of dying resisisting despair. it has neither the luxury of growth nor the luxury of giving in. i will state again that deep play is a gamble for the priveldged in humans, because for most of the third world deep play=life. it's not like sitting in your living room in front of a fire planning your ascent of Everest wearing North Face undies and sipping cocoa out of a Pottery Barn mug. i am still struggling all of these serious and multi-uses for deep play that are no longer play and are deep only in the way the snow in Aspen is deep after four cocktails and a full stomach of lobster bisque. like, if you can CHOOSE risk, if you can CHOOSE to enter into it, and it is not your everyday state of being, that is a luxury. i made peace with the "play" part of deep play and the biological part of it sounds even more valid because of the totality of the gamble and the abscence of options but i still resist this liberal application of the term.


and the tacit thing is starting to afflict me again.

i might be siding with Haley on this:
"And yet, I hesitate at the idea that one can "forget" TO BE Tourettic and in that dis-remembering, not BE Tourettic: that one can so profoundly attend away from BEING parkinsonian,so as to not know how to perform parkinson's disease anymore."

(i feel however, that i learned more in the thoughts it has inspired than in the thing itself, of which i am incredibly grateful. in fact, i have suffered so much positive transformation in the brief time of the course i couldn't even begin to articulate it.)

however if one can attend away from parkinson's, can one attend away from schizophrenia? can i attend TO schizophrenia if i am largely not? why would it work in only one direction? what if all of this work and writing on tacit knowing as just a way for the patriarchy to continue to own and name all of the mysteries of the world thier names in order to keep the social monopoly in place? like i am more concerned with their desire to name and tag this thing and try to come to some kind of general comclusion about "what we do"-- who is the we? i end up being fascinated even about the idealogy of such a claim, not just the idea itself.

and margaret had a REALLY good point. okay, so we are trying to get it "less wrong"-- so is there anyone who ought to get it "more right?" say... my brain surgeon-- would i be happier if he was okay with my diagnosis being "less wrong?" or would i be willing to jive with this idea if he was an autobiographer instead? who gets extra slack on the thin wire of my belief- a doctor or a storyteller? my point being that while getting it "less wrong" would not negate a story, i think it causes me alarm when we could live with getting it "less wrong" if that meant incorrect facts and not a "less wrong" conjecture or hypothesis. in the past we have talked about elements in the reader that seem false or invalid and if that negates the entire thing or does it have to? so i thought about who gets to be "less wrong", about whom we could LIVE with being "less wrong."

i'd be interested to know what kinds of "less wrongs" & "more rights" other people would trust.

Last Posting: Revising the Bryn Mawr Story in Pict
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-12-09 15:39:16
Link to this Comment: 4016

Dear Questioners and Revisers--

We thought, as you work on your final set of papers for this course, writing, questioning, then revising the "Bryn Mawr Story," you might take some inspiration from two more pictures which Sharon has painted since the semester began (you can click on them to see them bigger).

For your last posting for this course, would you please tell us something you've learned about the Bryn Mawr story, something about how you'd like to see it revised, something you've noticed in these paintings, or something about the intersection of any of these three (or it it four? or is it an infinite number of?) things!?

How's that for choices?!

Anne, Paul and Haley

initial thoughts on Bryn Mawr's story: changing id
Name: Joy Woffin
Date: 2002-12-10 05:47:20
Link to this Comment: 4022

I don't know if we are supposed to post here because I don't see anyone else's messages from my class - maybe we are supposed to post in the paper forum... My browser and email are currently freaking out so I am going to take this opportunity to post here before something strange happens. I also want to apologize to Prof. Grobstein and the rest of my class for not being in class for quite some time now. As some of you know I have a kidney disease which was exacerbated recently by several factors and I have been pretty sick for about a month now. I miss you all and our discussions!

Anyway, my thoughts on the Bryn Mawr story/ies...
Since there are many angles from which one could approach the readings and this assignment in general I'll focus on one of the ideas that was the most interesting to me.

I was really intrigued by the continuing theme that the changing architectural style of the buildings on our campus reflected the changing ideas/values of those in power, namely the Board and most of all M. Carey Thomas. I never really distinguished before between the plainer style of my dorm (Merion) and Taylor, and the "collegiate Gothic" (which seemed to get more ornate and gothic as time went on) style of Thomas, the Pems, etc. To our modern eyes these old stone buildings look somewhat similar but after reading the first articles I now know how much a departure from the original Quaker ideals of the college the gothic buildings would have been.

Most people don't realize the architectural significance of Bryn Mawr's buildings but almost all Art History textbooks regard BMC as the first in our country to employ the collegiate gothic style (modelled after Oxford and Cambridge). Having grown up in Princeton NJ I know that many people would like to think of Princeton University as the start of collegiate gothic architecture but once again Bryn Mawr did it first (just like we were the first school with a student government)!

It was really fascinating to me to learn about all the politics that went on in the early years of Bryn Mawr, in terms of the struggle between some staff and board members to keep with the original Quaker ideal on which the school was founded, and others who wanted to be more progressive and move away from any specific denominational influence. It would be very interesting to compare the early history of Haverford and see why it has remained more of a Quaker institution that Bryn Mawr has - although both schools obviously are non-denominational and embrace diversity, Haverford has maintained Quaker "feel" or influence and there is a relatively large and active Quaker community of both students and faculty there, whereas at Bryn Mawr there is not.

The history of Bryn Mawr's acceptance and eventual promotion of diversity is one of the most complex, interesting, and important tales to be told and I would love to examine in more depth how we got where we are today in terms of this issue. Looking at documents throughout Bryn Mawr's history, and not just the earlier years, could help us to understand this progression and predict what kind of BMC we might be seeing when we come back to our 20th reunion.

Name: Jessie
Date: 2002-12-10 14:35:43
Link to this Comment: 4026

I am not looking for what Prof. Burgmayer meant to say in her paintings-rather, I feel the need to take some inspiration from them. The Bryn Mawr story and Prof. Burgmayer paintings are all transition pieces. As we attempt to "get it right" through revisions, asking questions and learning more, I have waffled between how exactly I should view the world. Do the answers become clear when, to borrow from Prof. Burgmayers imagery-we lie on our back and stare at the sky-or are the answers not clear and defined at all? Are they the squiggles, the watery forms that emerge from the easy to see and define squares and rectangles?

The history (and herstory, and mystory) of Bryn Mawr is an attempt to get it right. To fix the "mistakes" of before. The founding of the school was an attempt by conservative quakers to educate "their" women, to repair the existing hole. M. Carey Thomas wanted to fix the mistakes of before(well, not always,) to create a safe space for (gasp!) bi-sexual women. The founders of the School for Women Workers wanted to fix the mistakes of before, to create powerful, educated women who could see the "light" of the educated world, and give them a means to rise up from their poverty striken world.

My Bryn Mawr story has just begun. But I sit here at Bryn Mawr because I wanted to fix the past. While my mom was unable to attend Penn because her family did not have enough money, I wanted to reap the benefits of a private school education that she never had. [not that there's anything wrong with public education, but the small classes in a small intellectual environment filled with tradition does not exist at many major universities.]I am here at college, during the best time, to try and "get it right."
I lost my focus, I'll write more later.

final csem comments
Name: orah minde
Date: 2002-12-10 14:37:19
Link to this Comment: 4027

"There is fiction in the space between you and me."
-Tracy Chapman. 'Telling Stories'

There is a tree that drapes itself over a part of the hill that we sledded down after the first snow of the year. I passed the tree this morning before sunrise, walking down to the pool where i lifeguard. The night's last drops of frozen rain clung to each twig. The light of the lamps, softened by the mist, caught the crystallized reflection and cast flickering light on my path. My breath curled cloud-like behind me, staying for an instant to mark where I had walked. As I passed the old draping tree her cold twigs brushed against my face and I imagined crawling into her flickering canopy and sitting against her trunk. I walked on and never saw her center, merely brushed her glow.

As i walked on I saw a girl's fitted white shirt lying in a dirty heap on the wet pavement. I thought of the girl and thought of me thinking of her without her knowing. i walked on at a slightly different angle. everything is different because i will have always seen that fitted white shirt.

Last night a friend and I, lay in my bed, head to toe, and read. The light of the lamp on the windowsill shed yellow on our faces and for hours, deep into the dark morning, we lay silent. sometimes when i am alone a fear comes over me that no one in the world is thinking about me. i am not being remembered. i see like the world is a vacume and I am the only thing not being sucked in, everything is rushed away from me and i sit huddeled, alone, humming a tunless sound to remind myself that i am here. But last night someone breathed next to me, unaware that she was saving my life.

i spill words into you, twist with your brain, smooth semtances inside of you. Colors blind me and beauty leave me mute. God is beauty. God is life. God is orgonization. God is music and light sparkling on cold water. God is desire to change and be changed. I yearn to break free, to put beauty into this world, to dance with words and children, taint the future with brilliant color. Before i was sad because no one knew. pain cannot be spoken, only bled. and here i cut and bled and you listened, saving my life.

"Sometimes, when walking down the street, i watch people and think that we are all living the stories of our lives and here on the street they are all intersecting without our noticing. I am living the sphere of my life and sitting next to me is a man who is living the sphere of his life; we touch edges and bounce away, i may never see him again but we have skewed each other." Brush against me. Breath next to me. Watch me. Love me. This is the story of life.

Holden Caulfiend whispers, "Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody." i guess i have made the same mistake as Holden. We have both told of ourselves. we have both told stories of loving. I have told and i will miss brushing against your edges, reading your stories. I will walk on through life missing you, skewed by your brush.

story about the 1st picture
Name: Kristen Co
Date: 2002-12-10 16:19:27
Link to this Comment: 4034

This picture can be interpreted as the story of Bryn Mawr. The story of Bryn Mawr is ever changing and can be observed in many different ways. At times, it seems as if the college is all about words. Writing papers and taking exams consumes a student's life. At these times is seems as if the college is a volcano with words exploding from its tall turrets. Then if you cross the bridge and the college becomes a field of green covered with flowers and exotic plants. This can represent the vitality and liveliness of Bryn Mawr. The colorful traditions, vibrant students, and beautiful scenery often define the atmosphere here. Crossing another bridge, you enter into another story of Bryn Mawr. On this island, there are shapes with clearly defined angles and colors. This can represent the intelligence and logic of the Bryn Mawr community. The various figures and designs can also represent the diversity of the people. On the last island of sand is a rainbow. Yet another aspect of Bryn Mawr is the endless number of possibilities and opportunities for its students. Every student leaves the college to follow their dreams "Somewhere over the Rainbow".

Reflections on course and picture
Name: Xuan-Shi
Date: 2002-12-10 16:47:19
Link to this Comment: 4036

The rainbow, rooted on the shore, is the first image that strikes me. I am reminded of carebears :) Why is the rainbow not painted as part of the sky? Is the rainbow itself a bridge to somewhere else? Where do you see yourself in the painting? In the island of words, nature, shapes, or rainbow?

I see myself in the island of words. One semester at Bryn Mawr, and I am still where I was before, in the island of words. What C-sem did for me was to bring me on a tour of the other islands. Writing C-sem papers can be frustrating because I have yet to become the skillful writer who could construct beautiful worlds, images, or thoughts on paper. Usually, I get bogged down in the sand of ideas, or find myself drilling the hard ground for an "inspiration" source. Like most aspiring writers, I was concerned with finding "my voice".

I remember Dean Thomas looking at my writing and saying, "Don't you think this is "your voice" (here on the paper)?" No, I couldn't see it then. But I soon decided that I should just hell with the voice. I gave thought to my papers, but when I write, I just write. It helps that we have so many papers to write and what feels like a never-ending number of deadlines. As I caught on, I got beyond obsessing with the language and concentrated instead on presenting my ideas in a coherent manner. The wide range of readings drawn from various disciplines got me interested. I couldn't see before how everything tied together, but now that I have "caught on", I appreciate the world I live in and inject new meanings into it (I have crossed the wooden bridge, onto the island of flowers, symbolic of growth and beauty).

The most diffcult part about writing a paper was really to get started. Before I even type my first paragraph, I would spend hours in bed thinking about the content, how I could incorporate the readings, the structure, the organisation etc. Yes, that is how anal I am. Everything must be thought out before I start working. The entire process of finding a new perspective, experimenting with other styles of writing etc could be likened to playing with blocks. So there I am, in the third island, meddling and fussing with the different shapes till I come up with a structure that is most pleasing to me.

I wouldn't dare say I have crossed the last bridge that leads onto the island of rainbow, but I did see a glimpse of it. C-sem showed me the way. I would like to think of myself as the floating face on the water. I am glad that we have only this one last paper to write (YAY!), but at the same time, as the expression on the face suggests, I am contemplative. Over the break, I would thinking about some of the things I have learned from Dean Thomas and others...just to strengthen the newly formed neuronic pathways in my brain :)

bridges -- journeys --- BMC
Name: ro finn
Date: 2002-12-10 18:58:09
Link to this Comment: 4038

Bridges are wonderful, amazing, evocative. They work in both directions and you can traverse a bridge any number of times, back and forth, back and forth... but are you really arriving at the same place each time you cross again? Not really. So much is different from one time to the next, if you have the skills and instincts to notice.

I look at all those bridges and think of a journey, a process that becomes a journey, and how the enjoyment of the journey is really what matters, not the end, however each of us defines that.

Organizations take journeys, too, and Bryn Mawr is still on theirs, hopefully trying to get it less wrong as they go from bridge to bridge. This environment--this frustratingly fiscally oriented business-- is human and fallible. But not so rigid that, looking up, it cannot see more than one way to get to the rainbow.

illustrating what Bryn Mawr is to me
Name: Elena Weyg
Date: 2002-12-10 21:06:28
Link to this Comment: 4041

I've had my ups and downs here at Bryn Mawr because I've discovered motivation works like a yo-yo. Before coming here, I assumed that college would inspire me to accomplish creative achievements. I've learned, however, that no one but myself can tap into the source for motivation. Being at Bryn Mawr reminds me of the importance of the ability to become self-motivated. It is the driving force of life. Here, everyone works to give meaning to life. We don't want black-and-white squares, we want colorful swirls and fairy footprints.

To me, the first painting illustrates the process of transformation in the second painting. This path of creativity-- the right-to-left transformation of non-colored shapes to vibrant designs in the second painting-- is done the same way we, here at Bryn Mawr, attempt to bring meaning to life by our studies. This process is extremely difficult and has its ups-and-downs. From chaos and confusion (the pile of black letters) we make order and reason and meaning. For me, I find that I can accomplish the art of bringing meaning to something that once was void of it. However, I return, always, to the pile of rubbish to sort out.

Since I know that I will always be faced with challenges in life, I want Bryn Mawr to shape me into the woman who doesn't see the pile as abrasive, but managable. I want my laps from the square shapes to the rainbow and from the pile of letters to the patch of flowers to be as doable as walking across a bridge. This is power, and that's what I want.

Bryn Mawr story
Name: Rachel Ste
Date: 2002-12-10 21:16:04
Link to this Comment: 4042

To me, the Bryn Mawr story is not coherent at all. It is a bunch of fragmented pieces put together, like a patchwork quilt. The Bryn Mawr "quilt" is every student's, professor's, and faculty member's own personal views of Bryn Mawr put together to make a story, or quilt. These don't have to make sense to anyone else, or they can relate to everyone else. Regardless, every person has their own reason for choosing to come here or work here, and for choosing to stay here. Everyone loves something different about Bryn Mawr, whether it be the buildings, the classes, the people, the traditions, or all of these combined. All of this can be seen in the second painting. The left side is a mish-mosh of colors; in short it is chaos. However, as it moves to the right, it comes into a natural order, a natural way of how things are supposed to be. The Bryn Mawr story is a mess of different things until the entire Bryn Mawr community comes together to make sense.

Bryn Mawr's Story
Name: Beth
Date: 2002-12-11 19:54:18
Link to this Comment: 4055

When we look at a story about something like Bryn Mawr. It is easy to see only the good or only the bad. I hope that we as a group can acknowledge both. As we discussed in class today. Everything that seems to make Bryn Mawr great and unique also seems to make it a disabled space. For me this is good to hear. It provides a balance that I love to find in all aspects of my life. I can't say that I would be satisfied with a school that was perfect, if that is even possible. Bryn Mawr is special. Whether or not that is a good thing is debatable. For me the debate is resolved by the answer that it is both.

Name: Kristina C
Date: 2002-12-11 21:59:04
Link to this Comment: 4056

I'm not really sure if I'll tackle any of the suggested posting ideas- this may all be really incoherent- but I'll do my best.
The story of Bryn Mawr is forever changing- I don't think it will ever be completely solidified- nor will it ever stop being revised. For as long as there are people to tell the story of Bryn Mawr, the story will be told, retold/altered, and will always take the shape (or at least a piece) of the person telling it. I've found it puts things in perspective to think of the women who first came here in 1885(?) not knowing the stories that they would be both a part of and start. I find myself constantly in awe as I'm walking through Pem arch or the cloisters thinking that so many women have walked her before me- I'm just one of the many mawrters- to have affected and been affected by the Bryn Mawr Story. It is part of that idea that draws me into the top picture- of the rainbow and bridge. It is astounding to think that so many people will cross that bridge, affecting the scene in some way and most will never even realize it. There is something almost lonely in the idea that we all walk on intertwining paths without realizing it, without taking the times out of our everyday "stories" to contemplate them on a grander scale- that we will never know completely how our story combines with another's.
I don't know how to revise the Bryn Mawr story because I feel that all of us just being here are already revising the story in our own ways. What I put into Bryn Mawr is different than what the women put into it in 1885- yet, our stories are intertwined. We are Mawrters- we will always be connected to the story of this place- whether we know it or not.

Date: 2002-12-12 17:15:47
Link to this Comment: 4060

Just so we're all on the same page...

our plans for our cluster-wide finale are these:
all of us will gather in the English House Lecture Hall, 5-7 this Sunday evening, December 15th (some will need to come late; others to leave early--be there for what you can be there for....) We'll do the performances first, w/ Paul's class kicking things off, Hayley's next, Anne's last... there will be several dinner options (pizza @ the request of some, Thai food @ the request of others); you can eat as you enjoy the performances, or linger afterwards, as your time and inclinations permit--

We look forward to celebrating w/ you all the bridges we have crossed together!

Til Sunday--
Anne, Hayley and Paul

Bryn Mawr story
Name: Abigail Br
Date: 2002-12-12 20:05:22
Link to this Comment: 4066

The second picture represents my Bryn Mawr story. As a freshman, I am on the left side of the picture. I am a cloud of swirling ideas that don't have any direction. Every day at Bryn Mawr I am moving closer to the well ordered right side of the page. As a Bryn Mawr gradaute, I'll still have ideas that are swirling around in my head, but they will be ordered and focused. My Bryn Mawr story is a comprised of the refined and unrefined stages of my thinking. No chapter of my Bryn Mawr story it is better than the other; rather, all my stages at Bryn Mawr are part of a beautiful whole.

Date: 2002-12-13 06:46:15
Link to this Comment: 4082

The last painting is similar to the first... but the different forces or ways of seeing are not in opposition as they were in the initial painting.
They are part of a line or continuum.
If I were going to "rewrite" the story of this visual piece, I would
use panes of glass, layered over each other, each with a "way" of seeing
imprinted on it, but translucent enough so that you could see through them.
Kind of like a multi-layered lens to see through. Because I think there are places where they overlap, and places where looking through one lens
can bring something into focus in another lens,places where they are discordant and I also feel there is a place where they create an entirety, a whole.

It would be even cooler to make it a "glass" house, like the house of mirrors at the amusement park... so you could actually experience it spatially or be in it somehow.

Or taking it in the other direction, it could be a crystal, that you hold in your hand.

Name: samea
Date: 2002-12-13 14:05:10
Link to this Comment: 4087

i didnt evennotice until i enlarged the picture... but taht picture with the rainbow has a persons face... and i would say its a females... shes holding her hand open as if shes inviting every aspect of her environment to come to her... or maybe that is the environment that shes made for herself... teh rainbow to the corner of confused and jumbled letters (or vice versa) - and the bridges leading fro a world of flowers to a world of symmetry in between... id say that that picture depicts the many thoughts that travel throughout our minds and the development we go through each and everyday with everythought that we have...

as for the second picture... id say it depicts bryn mawr itself... its so colorful, diverse, and eye-catching... certain colors wont immediately show up until you look carefully at the picture and analyze every aspect... and then once you do that you can see each and every color... and although some may be dimmer than others... they're all necessary in order to create and finalize the beauty within the illustration... some are more geometrically shaped... while others are more freelance lines and splotches... nevertheless... somehow... they've all come together in this picture and have created a rather eye-catching and appealing drawing that i think illustrates the bryn mawr story.

final final remarks
Name: orah minde
Date: 2002-12-13 16:40:20
Link to this Comment: 4090

so i already posted my last posting and then i revised my butler paper for my portpholio and changed my mind about something i said about butler. before i said that i didn't think anyone had the right to write something like that and put people throught the emotional turmoil that she did. i change my mind. i think freedom of speech presides in all situations. eminem is aloud to say whatever he wants. butler can say whatever she wants. but i just don't want to hear it. that is my problem, not theirs.

also here is my 'public finale to the course.' this is my revised paper of my bryn mawr story. thank you all for such a wonderful semester. in my portpholio i added this quote that i thought some of you might like.

"Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death By Time. That is the life of men.
"Now, women forget all those things they don't want to remember, and remember everything they don't want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly."

-Zora Neale Hurston
From Their Eyes Were Watching God

Entering Into An Unexpected Story
When I applied to schools Bryn Mawr College was not my first choice and not the school that I intended to attend. When I realized that Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania was the place that I was going to be in the fall of 2002 I tried to make excuses about why I was going to an all women's school. 'It's an all girls school,' I would say, 'but it's very closely connected to a co-ed school.' 'It's right near Philadelphia so it's not like I'm never going to see a male again,' I would explain. I pretended that the all women's aspect of the school didn't bother me, but all the excuses I made showed that I thought the fact that Bryn Mawr College was all women was a flaw.
I have been at Bryn Mawr, now, for almost four months and the aspect of the school that I thought would be the most detrimental to my college experience has become one of the most positive features about the school. I love the fact that I am at an all women's college, in an all women's environment. Initially I thought that an all women's environment would cultivate a 'raging feminist' ideology. But Bryn Mawr seems to be first and foremost a place that is dedicated to high quality education rather than high quality education for women. In Helen Lefkowitz Horowits's essay Alma Mater, "Carey Thomas had no desire to adapt feminine spaces to academic uses. Rather, she wanted to appropriate the library and the laboratory of men...Carey Thomas held no belief in a separate women's culture" (118). Thomas was not interested in designing a new curriculum especially for women, but to offer a high-education to a more consistent pool. The fact that, "she recruited a young, largely male faculty, newly trained in German universities," (p.115) proves that she was not concerned with creating an exclusively women's community.
I have found that learning in an all women's environment has helped me to become more engaged in classroom discussions. I have found that some males have a domineering attitude in a classrooms setting. Though there are those few women who have that same presence, I find myself more intimidated by men in a classroom setting. Even beyond the classroom I suspect that living in a single sex dormitory has been more comfortable than a coed one. I think when people of opposite sexes mingle people's characters and dispositions change. I think people in general are more natural when they are in a single sex environment. I don't think that the level of discomfort in a coed school is solely due to sexual tensions. Even if someone is homosexual I think that there is a certain level of comfort because of the common female experience. I think that the aspect of not knowing the other sex's experience and outlook on life is what causes some of the discomfort found in a coed environment.
There are down sides to having all primary contact with women. Initially I thought that the fact that the dorms are all women would eliminate the competitive character women sometimes embody when around men. But, I have found that it is very much the opposite. I have found that because there are no males around to reassure certain females of their attractiveness these females have to prove themselves the most attractive. Instead of dressing nicely to impress a male population females in single sex schools use appearance as an antagonist against each other.
Another female tendency that is more apparent in single sex living quarters is that females bond with certain exclusive groups. I have heard that there are certain dorms and halls on campus where this is not true, but in all my years at school I have never come across a substantial number of women without there being exclusive cliques within the whole. This is most apparent in all women's housing because males do not seem to have this same cliquey nature and when there is a coed group the males tend to float between female cliques, thus blurring the lines between them. I have found that these groups are not necessarily based on loving relationships, but rather, on appearance and reputation. One would not expect Bryn Mawr, a supposedly liberal and accepting place, to embody such judgment on superficial traits.
Despite these down sides I have learned to out weigh these negative and make living in a single sex environment a positive experience by emphasizing the positive aspects such as Bryn Mawr's learning environment. I feel that the women at Bryn Mawr are in school to learn. In high school I was intellectually stimulated by novels and the history of the Civil Rights movement and Turner's artwork. I read books and cried. I fell in love with the characters. But everyone else was interested in boys and Saturday nights and not school. Here in an all women environment my fellow classmates are here because they want to learn and want to be intellectually stimulated. We, here at Bryn Mawr want to learn and want to see beauty and learn beauty and learn how to make this world a beautiful place. We are here at Bryn Mawr because we desire to change this world.
So, after nearly four months I have realized that though the story of my life has taken an unexpected turn I am glad for this turn of events. Despite the fact that Bryn Mawr's living quarters are exclusively female and therefore are conducive to certain problems, I can still be happy living here and knowing that the next four years of my life are going to be spent here. I know that my life will be very different from what I had expected because I have entered into the story of Bryn Mawr, but whose life turns into the story they expected?

Thank You
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-12-16 10:10:16
Link to this Comment: 4107

Thank you all for coming to this course, to this space, to our final celebration. I enjoyed myself tremendously this semester, BESIDES learning a ton. And I am more grateful than you can know for the opportunity to fulfill my wish to be (sort of) a bellydancer.

Since Sharon's so much better than I am @ putting (my) emotions into images, I'll close with one of her more exuberant paintings (done originally as the cover for a book I'm editing called "Minding the Light: Essays in Friendly Pedagogy") which expresses what this semester, and the experience of working w/ you all, has been like for me.


The Story of Bryn Mawr Seen Through the Paintings
Name: Phoebe And
Date: 2002-12-17 17:36:12
Link to this Comment: 4128

This is the end of my first semester in college. While I have learned much about the campus and about how I fit into the college, there are still things I need to figure out.
I still do not know what my contributions to society will be when I leave the Bryn Mawr campus. How will the skills I have learned here apply to my future job or my future life experiences? The two painting featured in this week's forum question relate to the skills that I am learning here and the experiences that have already happened and the ones that will happen.

The first painting, I think, represents the different interests in a person's life--community (a need to be accepted in a thriving community), education and the development of personal abilities, the ability to cope and problem solve, and individuality. The hand and the person that are slightly visible above the water line represent the opportunity to attend Bryn Mawr College--the outstretched hand is symbolic of the acceptance letter. The island that has black structures stacked on top of one another represents the need for community and connection between people. In a close community like the Bryn Mawr community, people rely on one another to be honest, loyal, and supportive. No community can strongly exist without the support from all its members. The next island that is lushly covered with flowers and plants represents the richness of learning and education at Bryn Mawr. Students not only learn within the campus of Bryn Mawr with well-qualified professors who are interested in their students' educations, but students also can gain much knowledge from the college community. Taking classes at Haverford or Swathmore or Penn can provide students with a more diverse educational background. The third island with the geometric shapes represents the need to learn how to problem solve and cope. These skills are always being sharpened and improved through our life experiences. The college years are so important because it provides many different situations that we have to learn how to handle and get through. The last island with the rainbow on it represents the need to hang onto one's individuality. Although we are learning and growing in college and throughout life, it is important to hold onto the unique qualities that one has.

The bridges between the islands show that a person can move between "the needs" freely. There is no strict path that one must follow. Students at Bryn Mawr find importance in all of these "islands" but how they navigate from one to another is different for each student.

The second painting shows the relationship between Bryn Mawr and the "real world", the world that we will become a functioning part of after graduation. The right side of the drawing shows the structure that exists within the college. We are expected to take certain classes and complete certain requirements. We are expected to think and always be an active observer in the world around us. In a sense, we are one unit, that strives to acheive and grow. The left side represents the real world and the swirls of color represent the individual contributions that people offer society after leaving Bryn Mawr. Each person has something to give.

in case you're still reading...
Name: Hayley Tho
Date: 2002-12-18 14:14:22
Link to this Comment: 4137

Though you might find the following article on why the ability to tell and re-tell stories, to make and convey narrative, is increasingly important to business and industry.

Always the folklorist,


Mcbride Portfolios Ready
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-12-31 14:39:00
Link to this Comment: 4205

Dear erstwhile students, now friends--

I've just finished reveling in your portfolios; on Thursday morning I'll
put those w/ envelopes in the mail, and the remainder in the box outside
my office door for you to pick up when/as it suits.

I can hardly say what a privilege it's been for me to re-read your old
drafts, your new essays, your accounts of what you have learned, and
will continue learning, as you were prodded, provoked and enticed by the
conversations we have been having together over the past few months.
Your anticipation of the evolutions and transformations upcoming makes
me sure that a second semester's CSem could involve even more payoff for
us all!

(Though I'm feeling quite rich as 'tis--)
Gratefully yours,
(and very much looking forward to accounts of all the NON-synchronized
swimming to come--
stay in touch, okay?)

Various subjects
Name: mel brickl
Date: 2003-01-11 15:20:43
Link to this Comment: 4210

This has been quite a grueling semester for me; physically, intellectually and spiritually. I have turned the corner, am on the mend and ready to post my thoughts.
In the following postings, I will be addressing fairy tales, the chess board picture painted by Sharon, why stories are retold, thoughts on a culture I am familiar with and Sharon's last new pictures. Thanks for the support and concern from my fellow McBrides and Anne Dalke, I wouldn't have made it without you guys.

Fairy Tales
Name: mel brickl
Date: 2003-01-11 15:48:37
Link to this Comment: 4211

Assignment: Frederick Schiller wrote "Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in the truth that is taught by life." What do you think of fairy tales? In comparison to the truth that is taught by life?
I would like to say that fairy tales readied me for the truths taught by life but I think they distorted reality. I think many women my age grew up with the notion that someday thier prince would come and they would live a life of bliss or happily ever after. Not only did I believe that but I recruited my father to be my substitute prince until the real one arrived.
Life, however presented its truths rather bluntly. My father died suddenly when I was 17 and it was like someone ripped a rug out from underneath me! I had no tools to deal with this tragedy. I became very cynical and vowed never to depend on anyone again. That all the fairy tales were "bull shit". I couldn't imagine why adults would teach these stories to kids.
Things didn't get much better when my first marriage went belly up. The prince thing wasn't in the cards for me.
I consider myself very fortunate. Although life was difficult, I learned to be a self thinking and self sufficient woman. In my current relationships I strive for interdependence.
I am reading a book by Etty Hillesum called "A Life Interupted and Letters from Westerbork." She concurs that fairy tales cam cause more harm that good.
Think of this though, how boring it would be to be stuck in a rut with no challenges or nothing to work on in a relationship. I guess I am lucky my charming prince challenges me on an ongoing basis. The growth potential is incredible.

painting by Sharon/chess board with triangles
Name: mel brick
Date: 2003-01-11 16:02:40
Link to this Comment: 4212

assignment: Imagine you painted the water color. Imagine for the next section of the course. Stepping back from the creation, what do you see? What have you painted? What are you saying?
The picture to me is a jumping off point. Fairy tales and lessons learned started to alter my solid grounding. This next part of the course is going to move me into a direction that I have never been before.
The flat board feels very secure but too dull. The pyramids almost look like they are emergening from the flat plane. As we delve deeper into CSem the neat linear boxes of my mind are erupting from the once pyramids now volcanos. My brain is an explosion of neurons and synapses. I can hardly contain it all within the confines of my skull. Maybe that's a good thing-I will have to incorporate the learning into my total being.

Culture of Dentistry
Date: 2003-01-11 16:35:24
Link to this Comment: 4213

Assignment: Write on some aspect of a culture which you are familiar with. 3-4 paragraphs long. Step back from it, "make it strange" then tell the story--whatever it may look like.
The aspect of culture that I am familiar with is Dentistry. I have been a dental hygienist since 1975 and have worked in almost every clinical environment possible. I will limit this discussion to the culture of chairside dentistry in a private practice.
Dentisry considers itself a team. However not everyone on the team is given the same degree of respect in most offices. The structure is a heirachy starting with the dentist on top, then either the office manager or the dental hygienist, the expanded function dental assistant, the dental assistant and the receptionists. This heirachy creates a bit of tension for the team because in reality if one member isn't pulling her weight the office can collapse. So the mixed message is on one hand everyone is valuable and equal but in reality their is a pecking order.
Private practice is just what it says. A small group of people working together in a small office. It is kind if like living in Octavia's walled city. Kind of an isolated island.
They enemies of the walled city aren't thugs but the insurance industry and new practices trying to take over your clients.
Because of the nature of the services provided one is also quite uneasy discussing pitfalls or mistakes with collegues. At meetings most folks discuss their prize dental cases. On a personal level it is too scary to discuss failure. A notarized professor on the lecture circuit may discuss a failed case but only to show how he rectified the mistake or "problem" is a better word.
Within the cirle of dentists there is also a heirachy. You have the specialists and then the general dentist, all vying for a position of importance. Oral Surgeons used to say that dentists were not really doctors.
From my many years in private practice I can see great strides in technology but static or a slipping backwards in the development of a broader culture. The older dentists teach the younger dentists the ropes and it recycles itself from year to year.
For the good of the dental consumers I hope organized dentistry will open its eyes to growth and change. The world as we know it is not static and access to care issues and costs for consumers is a problem.

Why stories are retold
Name: mel brickl
Date: 2003-01-12 17:05:18
Link to this Comment: 4214

Assignment: Drawing on Foucault and Flatland, reflect on why we are both motivated and reluctant to tell and retell stories. What provokes us to this activity? What prevents us from engaging in it? How does it profit us and what are its costs?

I think that sometimes what motivates us to tell stories is our humanness. Stories make up our core; without them we are just physical shells. Each time we retell stories they become richer, more entrenched in our being. They mature and blossom as we do. Sometimes we may be reluctant to tell a story because it is too raw or personal and we don't feel comfortable with our audience. Sometimes we stop telling a story because we have new information or no longer have a need for the one we have been telling.
It is funny, I had read an article in the New York Times a while back and a group of high school boys were asked several questions about God, family, disipline, and school work. The answers were recorded and the boys were brought back in several year intervals and asked the same questions. Over the course of ten years or so all the stories were compiled and read. The observer found that not one of the boys answered the questions with their previous answers. As the boys matured their stories seemed to change to fit within the world they now inhabited.
I think this is what Foucault was referring to especially when he compared the 18-century with the 19-century. The stories changed dramatically when technology advanced and other information was available. The constraining factor according to Foucault was culture's impact on stories.
In Flatland we really understood the inpact of culture and the importance of keeping a statusquo.
Look at our world today. Here we are, the United States of America, telling and retelling the world our stories and how they should come aroud to our way of thinking. Not only are we offering unwanted stories; we are trying to cram them down other cultures throats. We are holding so tight to our "right way" that we are contemplating war. This to me is an indication where we would be better off not retelling our story. I think the costs are too high. Human life is too valuable.

Brynmawr to me
Name: mel brickl
Date: 2003-01-12 18:00:50
Link to this Comment: 4215

Assignment: For your last posting for this course, please tell us something you've learned about the Bryn Mawr story, something about how you would have liked to see it revised, something you've noticed in these paintings or something about the intersection of any of these three or four choices.
I will tell my story through Sharon's paintings.
As I look at the top painting I see all the bridges I have crossed this semester. Some were enlightening and some very sad but all very enriching.
If I close my eyes I can imagine myself zipping though the campus in a Volkswagon Bettle convertible. It is a standard. The left mound of jumbled letters is where I thought the car was in first gear only to find out I was in reverse! Then I took off full speed ahead over the first bridge and the fairy tale assignment. Stopped in between to see the Amazon where the island of flowers is. I then took off across the green bridge to stall and sputter on the rise. I almost ran out of gas on the deserted island but thanks to the care and concern of my fellow McBrides, Anne and Rona I found enough gas to limp across the concrete bridge. As I lay in the hospital trying to think healing thoughts the rainbow is filling the void that was created by my surgery. After bathing in the spiritual waters, I now have emerged back to the concrete bridge and am ready to start anew.
The picture on the bottom reminds me of my brain. I have to turn it around so that the black cubed part is on the left. This is what the MRI of my brain looked like the first day of orientation. Everything was in a very nice order. Very black and white, little room for grey. In my old life grey could create alot of unease. As the semester wore on colors started to fill in the white areas. The squares morphed into triangles! Springs started to pop. Neurons and synapses started to quiver and burst. Health wise my feminine body was challenged (the blue triange with the coil which becomes a beautiful blue flower). And finally there is grey; that big fat grey neuron with the long branches. I am breaking away from a rigid and rather concrete science educated being and morphing kind of like a pulsing blob into a Bryn Mawr liberally educated being. Watch out not too sure where I will end up but so far it feels good!
The biggest disability that I have acquired this semester seems to be that I have grown to a point where both my friends and I aren't sure of who I am. Sometimes when I talk animatedly about what we all talk about; I can see a glaze appear in some of my friend's eyes or I get that no eye contact and monotone vague response to my questions of " you know what I mean, right"?!
Can't wait to see everyone again this semester! Bye for now!

Locked Demons
Name: mel brickl
Date: 2003-01-13 17:07:47
Link to this Comment: 4217

I am posting my fairy tale as my final posting of Csem. I hope it can be used as a tool by anyone who has fallen victim to sexual abuse.
I apologize in advance if anyone finds it too raw or offensive.

The mind is like an attic chock full of life's stories. Some are stored neatly on shelves, visible to the eye and ready to be retold. Others are strewn around haphazardly waiting for their meaning and catalog number. Then there are those that are hidden away, buried or locked in boxes with no keys in sight. Where are the keys...

A woman is plagued by dreams. At first it was just once in a while, then monthly, now she is petrified to close her eyes.

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Melina, who lived with her mother, father, sister and brother. Melina's father went to work every day and Melina's mother stayed at home and took care of the house and the kids. Melina was a big help to her mother. She knew how to feed her baby brother and change his diapers. She could also watch her little sister when they were playing in the back yard. They were a happy and trusting family.

Melina was very pretty. She had blue eyes and blonde hair. Her smile was so big that even her eyes smiled. She had many friends.

The thing that Melina liked to do most was to stay with her grandparents. She was their first grandchild and they treated her like gold. Grammy would take her to teas with her lady friends. Melina would wear a fancy dress, black patent leather shoes, white gloves and carry a pocketbook. In the winter she wore a fur muff. She looked and felt just like a princess. In the evenings her grandpa would rock her on his lap and sing Irish songs to her. They always had her favorite foods – even ice cream and candy! Grammy and Grandpa called her their pride and joy; she felt so special.

One day Melina's parents had to go out of town. Uncle Rod offered to watch the girls. Melina really liked Uncle Rod. He always gave her extra attention, hugs and tickles. He would tell her how pretty she was and that she was his special girl.

Melina and her sister Shelly were out playing in the back yard waiting for him to arrive. It was a hot summer day. The girls could smell the freshly mowed grass and feel the warm sun on their skin. The chains on the swings creaked as the sisters pumped their legs.

Uncle Rod came out into the back yard, laughing and teasing the girls. Then he went over to the wooden doors that led to the cellar. He opened the doors and went inside. A few minutes later he called for Melina and Shelly. They went running to the cellar stairs. Uncle Rod told Melina to come down into the cellar. Little Shelly had to stay outside. Melina knew he really asked her down there because she was his special girl.

The cellar was dark and smelly. It had rocks on the floor and you had to be careful where you walked. There were spider webs everywhere and you could feel funny things crawling around your legs and arms. The two little girls rarely went into the cellar. Their father kept his lawn mower and tools down there and told them it was dangerous. Melina was scared and wanted to go outside. Shelly kept calling down for her.

Melina was squinting, trying to see her uncle, but he was nowhere to be found. She called, "Uncle Rod, Uncle Rod!" Suddenly Uncle Rod appeared. He looked different. He wasn't smiling anymore. His shirt was off and he was hairy like a gorilla. His face looked all twisted and his voice sounded like a growl. He grabbed Melina and pushed her to the ground. He was rubbing himself like he had to go to the bathroom and a snake was sticking out of his pants. Uncle Rod told Melina to take off her clothes. She didn't want to and started to cry. He started to rip them off. It hurt her and she scrambled away.

Meanwhile Shelly snuck down the cellar stairs. She spotted Melina crouched down in the back corner of the cellar. She was naked and crying. Uncle Rod saw Shelly and told her to go into the house and get Melina some clean clothes. He told her Melina fell down and got dirty; that was why he helped her take her clothes off.

Later that day the girls were watching TV and eating candy. Uncle Rod came in and sat down on the couch between Melina and Shelly. He put his arm around both girls and told them how much he loved them. He reminded them that they were never allowed in the cellar and how disappointed their mom and dad would be if they knew they were caught playing down there. Uncle Rod promised he would never tell their parents how bad they were. It would be their little secret.

No one ever mentioned that day again. Life went on the same as it had before.

Melina didn't smile as much anymore. She still loved to go to her grandparent's house but she was afraid to be too special to anyone. Melina decided that wanting to be special was bad. She told herself that she was bad because she liked feeling special.

A young woman sits nervously in the reception area of the therapist's office.

She explains that she is plagued by dreams...dark, violent dreams. In the worst dream, four men forced her car off the road. They tied her up and threw her into the bed of a pickup truck. They drove her to a deserted dirt road and took turns shoving a broom handle up her rectum. Then they ejaculated all over her face.

The young woman bursts into uncontrollable racking sobs. She regains her composure but continues her conversation with her hands covering her face. She believes she is stuck in a self-destructive pattern. Every time something good happens she becomes extremely anxious. She waits for the bad things to come or sabotages herself from achieving good things. She becomes physically ill when she is the center of attention, always taking "the back seat" or retreating into a corner. When people praise her she questions their motives. She struggles with feelings of shame and guilt. She believes she is a terrible person. She hates herself and the world. She wants her life to end. It is just too hard; she is so tired.

The young woman becomes very quiet. She lowers her hands from her face and lifts her head. She looks directly into the therapist's eyes and pleads, "Please help me find the key..."

I want this story to show how a single incident can change a child's life. I want to stress that the child's interpretation with his/her innocent mind causes as much damage as the predator's assault.

Semester's Over...but
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-01-17 18:33:59
Link to this Comment: 4218

Semester's Over...
but the questions we were asking continue to be discussed....
Anyone up for a field trip?

Book Event
From the Fairy Tale to the Therapist's Couch
Thursday, January 23rd, 7 pm, Barnes & Noble/Penn

Reading from her book, "Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality and
the Evolution of a Fairy Tale , " Catherine Orenstein will deconstruct the
fairy tale wedding. She will share the floor with psychoanalyst Deborah
Luepnitz, author of "Shopenhauer's Porcupines: Intimacy and it's
dilemmas"... giving two different perspectives on love, romance and
intimacy, in anticipation of Valentines Day.

About Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked
Little Red Riding Hood was a bad, bad girl. It's a little-known fact, but
this children's book heroine actually began her literary life as the star of
an "adult" cautionary poem about the perils of seduction in
pre-Revolutionary France. In her book "LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD
UNCLOAKED: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale"
(Basic Books), Catherine Orenstein explores the many roles Red
has played over the centuries, and what this seemingly simple
tale tells us about men, women, romance, sexuality and morality
over the ages, and even today.

"Beguiling. explores the ways in which each age adapts the fairy tale to
convey its morals and-more interestingly-to betray its anxieties - the Wall
Street Journal

"Revelatory ...Like a director's juicy cut of a film, "Uncloaked" enriches
the common version of the tale with its backstory " - Newsweek

"Brillian[t]" - Naomi Wolf

" A treasure." - Ru Paul

About Schopenhauer's Porcupines
Are human beings destined to find perfect complements in love, or are we
more like the fabled porcupines--forever jostling for a place between
painful entanglement and loveless isolation? This is the question at the
heart of this stunning new book. "People seek therapy only when things have
gone terribly wrong in their lives," observes Deborah Luepnitz, one of the
field's most gifted psychotherapists and a writer of uncommon talent.

"They arrive in the grip of a death wish or some unspeakable obsession, but
what is at stake always turns out to be intimacy--the endless dilemmas of
loyalty and desire." Schopenhauer's Porcupines recounts five stories from
Luepnitz's practice, with patients who range from the super-rich to the
homeless--as they grapple with panic attacks, psychosomatic illness, marital
despair, and sexual recklessness. We watch their therapy unfold
week-to-week, from the first phone call to the final sessions, as these men
and women learn, in the words of one poet, "to make room in love for hate."

Name: Lita
Date: 2003-06-11 23:42:41
Link to this Comment: 5749

Ir seems that the message is very clear. The photos symbolizes freedom and serenity.

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