Being and Empowerment


2008-08-28 -17:28 -0700

Biagi, Enzo.  Lettera d'amore a una ragazza di una volta.  Italian (Love Letter to a [young] woman of another time).  Rizzoli (Milano: 2003).  ISBN 88-17-99506-1.
     [dh:2004-02-20] This book is here because it is an example of language and what is evoked by words.  The title does not translate (di una volta - literally of one time or occasion, is an expression for "another time," for example, and ragazza started out as female teen-ager).  Vicki was speaking with me today about what the book is about, because I asked her about the first sentence (also on the jacket blurb): «Cara Lucia, non ho altro mezzo per rivolgermi a te e ti scrivo una lettera che non leggerai mai.».  This translates basically to "Dear Lucia, I have no other way to speak myself to you and I write a letter that you will never read."  (All crudeness of translation is mine.)  I asked Vicki, who is reading the book in her Italian language class, whether Lucia has gone away.  Vicki told me that the author had a young wife and a daughter and the wife died.  Later, the daughter died.   We both teared up.  And that is all that I have read of the book - the title, the first sentence, and spoken with Vicki about what the book is about.  I will speak of this on nfoWare in regard to language and situating meaning.  When I read over this paragraph, I am moved to weep also.  It reminds me of the first time I saw Michelangelo's Pieta at the Vatican exhibition of the 1964 New York World Fair.
Crichton, Michael.  Travels. Alfred A. Knopf (New York: 1988).  HarperCollins Perennial edition ISBN 0-06-050905-8 pbk.
     [dh:2004-04-08] This book recounts author Crichton's personal journey of self-discovery.  On the way, he also traveled to places.  The desire to experience new places and step into the unfamiliar is presented in terms of experiences that provided insight into himself, others, and how we relate to one another.  My wife read the book first and said I would particularly enjoy the last chapter.  I have the book because Lion Kimbro quoted something Crichton says about science and I asked where the source could be found.  Lion says he rereads the last two chapters.  After checking reader reviews on, I was a little concerned about mentions of the paranormal and other new-age-sounding content.  I couldn't imagine what that would be about, so I resolved to find out.  I need not have been concerned.  
     I read the "Postscript: Skeptics at Cal Tech" first.  Then I read the book from the beginning.  The most difficult part was reading about Crichton's experiences as a medical student, especially with his observations about contemporary superstitions fresh in my mind.  In some parts of this book, I feel sad, in other parts I weep, and mostly I am grateful for the simple generosity with which the author exposes his continuing discovery of himself.  The author is very gentle about not imposing his experience while owning it.  
     When I teach Computers101 for undergraduates, especially budding computer scientists, I will assign this book and not tell them why.
Spinosa, Charles., Flores, Fernando., Dreyfus, Hubert L.  Disclosing New WorldsMIT Press (Cambridge, MA: 1997).  ISBN 0-262-69224-4 pbk.  See [Spinosa1997]
Spinosa, Charles., Flores, Fernando., Dreyfus, Hubert L.  Disclosing New WorldsMIT Press (Cambridge, MA: 1997).  ISBN 0-262-69224-4 pbk.  See [Spinosa1997]
Introduction to Illich, Ivan.  Celebration of Awareness: A Call for Institutional Revolution.  Marion Boyers Publishing (London: 1971, 1972, 1976, 1998, 2001).  ISBN 0-7145-0838-1 pbk.  See [Illich2001]
Illich, IvanDeschooling SocietyMarian Boyars Publishers (London: 1970).  ISBN 0-7145-0879-9 pbk.
     2002-11-29: At one point, there was a slightly damaged edition of this text on the web.  Apparently that and Tools for Conviviality have now been removed.  I ordered this book because it is readily available and I wanted to see the passages that were omitted in the on-line transcription.  
     Illich's writings had been proposed for review by a discussion group on the Bootstrap Alliance list, and that was when I began to read some of the works the first time.  What I notice is his challenge to basic assumptions.  Whether or not I am comfortable with the prognosis or the rationale, Illich confronts me with assumptions that deserve to be questioned.  One of the greatest perils that he addresses is the creation of social institutions that, ultimately, end up delivering the very thing that they were created to overcome.  That we be that we are providing one thing when the result is observably the other is something that deserves constant scrutiny.
     1. Why We Must Disestablish School
     2. Phenomenology of School
     3. Ritualization of Progress
     4. Institutional Spectrum
     5. Irrational Consistencies
     6. Learning Webs
     7. Rebirth of Epimethean Man
Illich, Ivan.  Celebration of Awareness: A Call for Institutional RevolutionMarian Boyars Publishers (London: 1971, 1972, 1976, 1998, 2001).  ISBN 0-7145-0838-1 pbk.
     2002-11-29: I have this book because it was convenient to order at the same time as [Illich1970].   What I notice is how much the challenges laid down here in that ripe period, 35 years ago, remain present, and how much the evidence for our deviation and the desperateness of our defense has grown in the meantime.  My wife and I just returned from watching the film Bowling for Columbine.  We are the most dangerous victims on the planet.  It is not comfortable to look at.  And others pay a monstrous price for what it now takes to keep us distracted.
     I don't know if this is a (political) philosophy book or not.  I find that these articles give suitable challenge to my comfortable illusions of who I am for myself and my world.
     Introduction by Erich Fromm [1971]
     Foreword [1970]
     1. A Call to Celebration [1967]
     2. Violence: A Mirror for Americans [1968]
     3. Not Foreigners, yet Foreign [1956]
     4. The Eloquence of Silence 
     5. The Seamy Side of Charity [1967]
     6. The Vanishing Clergyman [1967]
     7. The Powerless Church [1967]
     8. The Futility of Schooling [1968]
     9. School: The Sacred Cow
     10. Sexual Power and Political Potency [1967]
     11. Planned Poverty: The End Result of Technical Assistance
     12. A Constitution for Cultural Revolution [1970]
Spinosa, Charles., Flores, Fernando., Dreyfus, Hubert L.  Disclosing New WorldsMIT Press (Cambridge, MA: 1997).  ISBN 0-262-69224-4 pbk.
   I find this to be a powerful exposition of how empowered individuals and communities operate as creators of worlds and makers of history.  It is a highly-accessible, inspiring discussion.  I was led here following my encounter of writings by Fernando Flores and Terry Winograd on computers as instruments for managing our promises and commitments and on cognition maybe not being what I would have thought.  dh:2000-09-08.
Walsch, Neale Donald.  Conversations with God: an Uncommon Dialog, Book 2Hampton Roads Publishing (Charlottesville, VA: 1997).  ISBN 1-57174-056-2.
     I heard the author speak one time in Mountain View, while on a tour promoting this or the next book, I no longer recall.  I had owned the first Book, and once I was told the message, I did not have any need to complete reading it.  According to Walsch, there are three messages in Book 1: (1) we are one; (2) there is enough; and (3) there is no such thing as right and wrong.  I didn't stop because I had a problem with that.  I stopped because I "got it," as we say.  For this volume, Walsch spoke about education and reform of education around three core concepts or values: awareness, honesty, and responsibility.  I couldn't remember what those were precisely, yet the idea was so compelling that I finally ordered the book.  
     I am pleased that I ordered the book for another reason.  Some of the review published on must not be from people who read even as little as the back cover of either volume.  And, if it disturbs you that Adolf Hitler went to heaven, you are probably not ready for this conversation.  But you should not dismiss it.  The conversation is ready for you.  In the current American era of the world, it is important to express this message more loudly, perhaps.  -- dh:2003-07-17.
     "Yet you will not have, cannot produce, the society of which you have always dreamed unless and until you see with wisdom and clarity the ultimate truth: that what you do to others, you do to yourself; what you fail to do for others, you fail to do for yourself; that the pain of others is your pain, and the joy of others your joy, and that when you disclaim any part of it, you disclaim a part of yourself." -- from the dust jacket.
     Although I would not claim truth, I claim power and humility in that.  -- dh:2003-07-17.
Watts, Alan Wilson.  The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are.  Pantheon Books (New York: 1966).  Vintage Books Edition (New York: 1989).  ISBN 0-679-72300-5 pbk.
     "This book explores an unrecognized but mighty taboo--our tacit conspiracy to ignore who, or what, we really are.  Briefly, the thesis is that the prevalent sensation of oneself as a separate ego enclosed in a bag of skin is a hallucination which accords neither with Western science nor with the experimental philosophy-religions of the East--in particular the central and germinal Vedanta philosophy of Hinduism.  This hallucination underlies the misuse of technology for the violent subjugation of man's natural environment and, consequently, its eventual destruction.
     "We are therefore in urgent need of a sense of our own existence which is in accord with the physical facts and which overcomes our feeling of alienation from the universe.  For this purpose I have drawn on the insights of Vedanta, stating them, however, in a completely modern and Western style--so that this volume makes no attempt to be a textbook on or introduction to Vendanta [sic] in the ordinary sense.  It is rather a cross-fertilization of Western science with an Eastern intuition."  From the Preface, pp.ix-x.

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