Questions, Intuitions, Revisions:
Telling and Re-Telling Stories About Ourselves in the World
A College Seminar Course at Bryn Mawr College

Forum 8 - On Octavia Butler, and emergence, and deep play and generations and changing the world and ...

Name:  Kristina Copplin
Subject:  Parable of the Sower
Date:  2002-11-03 09:44:06
Message Id:  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.

Name:  Jess
Subject:  Octavia Butler
Date:  2002-11-04 08:40:14
Message Id:  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
Username:  blennon
Subject:  Parable
Date:  2002-11-04 13:14:21
Message Id:  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.
Name:  Phoebe Anderson
Subject:  Octavia Butler
Date:  2002-11-04 14:31:27
Message Id:  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.

Name:  Rachel Steinberg
Subject:  Octavia Butler
Date:  2002-11-05 15:17:26
Message Id:  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.
Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  New view
Date:  2002-11-05 22:08:06
Message Id:  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
Subject:  Emergence
Date:  2002-11-06 11:45:55
Message Id:  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
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  butler
Date:  2002-11-06 16:27:51
Message Id:  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
Subject:  whoa
Date:  2002-11-07 01:44:31
Message Id:  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

Name:  Paul Grobstein
Subject:  this week
Date:  2002-11-07 09:38:52
Message Id:  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

Name:  Alex Frizell
Subject:  Paper Thoughts
Date:  2002-11-07 10:20:28
Message Id:  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.
Name:  Rachel Steinberg
Subject:  Enjoy Life
Date:  2002-11-07 10:24:46
Message Id:  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.
Name:  Whitney
Subject:  stream of consciousness :)
Date:  2002-11-07 10:25:15
Message Id:  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. :)

Name:  Bridget Dolphin
Subject:  Parable of the Sower
Date:  2002-11-07 10:26:23
Message Id:  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
Message Id:  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 Cavin
Username:  gcavin@bmc
Subject:  religion
Date:  2002-11-07 10:27:16
Message Id:  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 (Kurtz)
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Hmmm
Date:  2002-11-07 10:28:06
Message Id:  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.

Name:  Adina
Subject:  Earthseed as a Religion
Date:  2002-11-07 10:29:00
Message Id:  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?
Name:  Claire Mahler
Username:  cmahler@bmc
Subject:  thoughts on the "Sower" paper
Date:  2002-11-07 10:29:25
Message Id:  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!!)
Name:  Kate Shiner
Subject:  my thoughts on Parable of the Sower
Date:  2002-11-07 10:30:24
Message Id:  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.

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  Deep Play
Date:  2002-11-07 16:28:02
Message Id:  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
Name:  Diane Gibfried
Subject:  Octavia Butler Link
Date:  2002-11-10 22:23:53
Message Id:  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
Username:  jposilki
Date:  2002-11-11 00:21:48
Message Id:  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.

Name:  orah minder
Subject:  finshing butler
Date:  2002-11-11 17:43:45
Message Id:  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.

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  Where the rules don't all make sense
Date:  2002-11-12 18:53:38
Message Id:  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."

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  Me again
Date:  2002-11-12 21:34:29
Message Id:  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.
Name:  HST
Username:  hthomas
Subject:  more finishing
Date:  2002-11-12 21:35:14
Message Id:  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.


Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  More emergence
Date:  2002-11-13 10:20:43
Message Id:  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?

Name:  Margaret
Subject:  Deep play
Date:  2002-11-14 15:55:33
Message Id:  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.

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  Language Play
Date:  2002-11-15 11:49:22
Message Id:  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
Message Id:  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.

Name:  Paul Grobstein
Subject:  The "tacit" - on making room for play
Date:  2002-11-15 15:18:12
Message Id:  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.

Username:  jposilki
Subject:  differences
Date:  2002-11-15 15:36:31
Message Id:  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,

Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  play is the thing?
Date:  2002-11-16 00:26:37
Message Id:  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).

Name:  Ro. Finn
Subject:  reply to "HST" ;-)
Date:  2002-11-16 06:26:02
Message Id:  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.

Name:  Ro. Finn
Subject:  One McBride's reply to Jessie
Date:  2002-11-16 06:43:17
Message Id:  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.

Name:  Diane Gibfried
Subject:  homeschooling as deep play
Date:  2002-11-16 09:21:36
Message Id:  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 Gibfried
Subject:  More
Date:  2002-11-17 09:51:54
Message Id:  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.

Name:  Diane Gibfried
Subject:  Religious Martyrs, Suicide Bomber and Deep Play
Date:  2002-11-17 10:15:31
Message Id:  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
Message Id:  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.

| Forum | Science in Culture | Serendip Home |

Send us your comments at Serendip

© by Serendip 1994- - Last Modified: Wednesday, 02-May-2018 11:57:10 CDT