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Current Issue: Volume 23, No. 2. Week of January 30, 2005

When We Need Each Other

jeanne's first version of When We Need Each Other
When The Cosmos Demands Reason, And Science Offers None

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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: January 28, 2005
Latest Update: February 5, 2005

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Topic of the Week:

When The Cosmos Demands Reason
and Science Offers None

It's been a tough week, with speeches on freedom, disasters, illness. It's hard not to ask yourself why. Truth is, we don't know why. We can assume God does, but we have so many Gods, and to assume that our God is the right God, well, that 's still an assumption, a belief, faith, spirituality, but of another realm than that of scientific knowledge. That's OK, as long as we don't try to lay reason on top of faith and then tell others that ours is the right one.

Karen Armstrong calls that trying to use Logos to make Mythos practical. It's kind of like trying to mix water and oil. Doesn't work too well. And so we end up trying to find explanations for things that may not have any explanations. I am reminded of Lear's recounting of Freud's Wolf Man.

We want reason so desperately. For a couple of centuries now we've been telling each other that reason is all that matters. Not so. Race matters, faith matters (whether it's faith in a particular God or faith that there is no God, trust me, it matters), gender matters, and who we are and why we're here, all that matters. In face of disaster, we need answers even more desperately. But sometimes, for us, now, there are no answers we can hold onto. Only faith and feelings and friendship, all things that are ephemeral, that we can't touch, can't confirm, can't control.

I ran away yesterday and hid in my lectures. I keep getting a toothache. Not a real one. One that science would say has no right to be there, because the dentist fixed it. But every afternoon it aches. And, of course, I forget to take aspirin. And, of course, then I'm sure that I'll never catch up and I haven't really done anything worthwhile, and what's the point anyway, and then I run and hide, and of course, that's when I find the little lump in Sir Geoffrey's throat, and then I'm sure he's sick, and . . . and . . . and . . . (I couldn't find the lump in his troat today, but Arnold made an appointment with the vet anyway.) It's called depression. But I ran away and didn't even look at Transform_dom. What could I do that was worth anything anyway?

We used to call it Welschmerz in German. World pain. Feeling that we were helpless in face of so much to do. This afternoon I took the aspirin, and now I'm back and the tooth doesn't hurt, and, my goodness, why didn't I do what Darcy did, and just say, hello, out there, I could use a "good dog." Because I'm rational and don't do things like that. Silly me. These are the times we need each other. Not in any specific way that I can understand, but because we're human, whatever that is, because we're social creatures.

So this evening I came down to start up the new issue. Would have gone on, too. But now Arnold's feeling terrible. I gotta go take care of him. Not hiding. But not getting everything done the way my mother said I should have, and reminding myself that that's OK.

Hang in there. We'll all catch up together soon. love and peace, and we gotta slow down a little, jeanne

NEWS, Announcements, and

Current Discussion Topics:

Winter in Wisconsin
By Susan Takata.

Susan, I can't imagine! All doors were wide open today, with three kittens filing in and out at leisure, racing through long, long green billowing grass, and occasionally forgetting completely about brakes as they bounded indoors. Now, I definitely think I should see some shots of Winter in California. Hello, out there. jeanne

Jeanne and Pat will be in on Thursday, February 3. We've submitted all paperwork for grade corrections and for Independent Study enrollment. Thursday would be a good time to check with us that everything is OK. jeanne

  • Home Page for transform-dom You can read all the messages on Transforming Dominant Discourse from this page. Just click on messages in the left hand frame. You can read the messages, even if you're having difficulty signing up.

    Syllabus for Independent Study: Religion as a Present Social Issue January 30, 2005.

    Learning Records from Spring 2005 Just started, on the basis of transform_dom discussions. This will take a while. Patience, please.

  • Most recent list of Learning Records from Fall 2004

  • Instructions page for joining transform_dom and transspan

    Famous People We Should Have Heard Of, But Didn't.

    Proposed by Shaheen Brown, originally as part of Black History Awareness. But as we followed it, we realized there was lots more we needed to cover, and I changed it to Famous People.

      Want you to look at Jack Johnson as a Black athlete we should know.

      Shaheen Brown has suggested a project for next semester's Naked Space Exhibit on Famous Blacks We Should Have Heard of, But Didn't. I'd like to suggest that that would make a great group project to which lots of us could contribute bits and pieces about those whom we do know, including some local people whose names we ought to recognize, and probably don't. I'd also like to suggest that we have the very same problem with Hispanic culture being revised right out of our local histories. Good idea, Shaheen. See Messge No. 2499.

      Want you to look at Kiki Smith as a woman, as an artist, as someone who had learning disabilities in reading. Photo montage, painting, painting collage, poem, discussion questions, and suggestions for proejcts.

    Jeanne's Lectures for Spring 2005

    • Fall 2004 Lectures in Chronological Order
    • Winter Break 2005 Lectures in Chronological Order
    • Spring 2005 Lectures in Chronological Order

    • Suggested titles for discussion group, so they'll come up in the archive search, which I am the first to admit I don't fully understand. But anyway, on Michael Jackson's case and the train wreck could we try:

      • See Message 2887 of tranform_dom.
      • Juries and celebrity - Subtopic. (like Michael Jackson or train wreck) Sort name of poster (like Jristen)
      • Juries and mental competence - Subtopic. (like Michael Jackson or train wreck) Short name of poster - (like Jason)
      • Juries and college education - Subtopic. (like Michael Jackson or train wreck) Short name of poster (like Taneisha)

    • Corrections and Celebrity Only the article up so far. Will get up lecture on how our values are reflected in cultural response over and above the formal criminal justice system. I'd like to tie this back to our sense of values, what's wrong, what's right, and how those values are translated into the culture that is inter-related to the formal system of justice. Anti-heroes will come up. jeanne February 3, 2005.

    • Sunni and Shiite Fundamentalism in the Middle East Interactive Graphic on Middle Eastern situation. New York Times. January 30, 2005.

    • Homecoming: Aftern the Tsunami Photo Essay from the New York Times Week in Review. Does the photo essay help make the event more real for you? Could you imagine a piece of art or music that might have a similar effect? January 30, 2005.

    • Faith-Based Work: Learning to Work Together Lecture and Discussion Questions based on New York Times article on Faith Based Activities at the NFL Super Bowl. January 30, 2005.

    • Notes on Armstrong's Introduction to Battle for God Added some material.

    • Professional Activities with Students, Fall 2004 This version had to go in quickly. Some of you may want to help me develop it further by giving me brief summaries of where you fit in these activities. Reports are important, and we can make copies, so you can have one. jeanne

    • Ellen Gallagher in her SoHo studio with her new work, "DeLuxe." Backup of Edward Lewine article in the NY Times on Ellen Gallagher, a black woman artist who has a new show at the Whitney and whose subject matter is the portrayal of the black woman. This goes to body image and race and the visual component of our understanding of race and gender. Lecture up soon. jeanne

    • Never Retire William Safire's columnn on his retirement from the NY Times. Lecture up soon. Topic: What is retirement? Where does it fit into our script for life? And that will include race, gender, and aging. jeanne

    • Lies and Mercenaries? What Lies? Don't You Believe in Freedom? Pulls together a number of reactions to the Inaugural Speech in terms of social construction of concepts like freedom, and the conflict between premodern and modern positions of fear and threat. Discussion questions up later. January 23, 2005.

    • Lies and Mercenaries First lecture for Spring, trying to tie together disagreements with what was said at and about the inauguration's presentation of concepts and the reaction of many who disagree. Conceptual link to our religious beliefs, to agape, or the altruistic love of humans for themselves and Others, and the reality of some of the facts that are out there, on the Internet, but that do not appear in our media.Discussion Questions included. January 22, 2005.

    Visual Sociology:

    • Learning by Looking: Witches, Catholicism, and Buddhist Art Kiki Smith. PBS Website.

      Nest and Trees, 1997. Kiki Smith (American, born 1954). Iris print; 20 x 22 in. (50.8 x 55.9 cm). Stewart S. MacDermott Fund, 1999 (1999.64) Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York.
      Nest and Trees, 1997
      By Kiki Smith.

      So, what story could Kiki Smith be telling with Nest and Trees?

      Kiki Smith: "Catholicism and art have gone well together because both believe in the physical manifestation of the spiritual world, that itís through the physical world that you have spiritual life, that you have to be here physically in a body." What do you think of that? Does spirituality require a physical body? In all religions?

      Kiki Smith: " Itís also about storytelling in that sense, about reiterating over and over and over again these mythological stories about saints and other deities that can come and intervene for you on your behalf. All the saints have attributes that are attached to them and you recognize them through their iconography. And itís about transcendence and transmigration, something moving always from one state to another." What about that? Does iconography help make sense of our stories? Can we tell the whole story through iconography?

    • Homecoming After the Tsunami. New York Times Week in Review. January 30, 2005.
      "By Tyler Hicks

      FROM the roof of one of the few tall buildings still standing in downtown Banda Aceh, Indonesia, one can look to any point of the compass and see no end to the destruction caused by the tsunami last month. A still photograph taken in any one direction cannot do it justice.

      You find yourself wandering among the twisted steel, cement and mud, unable to comprehend the scene - much like those who have begun to return.

      It takes days for some people to walk here from remote coastal areas in search of humanitarian aid and a temporary home in a refugee camp. Others are coming back to the provincial capital from the camps, where they have been living since their homes were washed away.

      Almost everyone you talk to has lost at least part of his or her family. For those coming home who have lost everything, the journey is especially difficult.

      Many of the survivors are alive because they had left home for work. Among them are fishermen who were at sea and watched [as] the swell moved under them on its way to the shore, where their families lived.

      This disaster, unlike an act of war, has left no obvious person to blame. Many survivors accept it as God's will or nature's fate. But a month later, they remain in shock, still trying to figure out how to begin to piece their lives together again.

      Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

      Please visit the New York Times website to see all the pictures and consider how the pictures and the story work together to make an event half a world away seem more real for us. The sene of the collapsed building haunts me. Do buildings and objects have a strong affect for you, or do the portraits affect you more? Consider documenting an event in your life, or in the life of someone you know. Complement the photography or art with a brief story as Tyler Hicks did here.

      Tyler Hicks/The New York Times: Downtown Banda Aceh, seen from a rooftop. The road leads toward the ocean but disappears amid debris before reaching it.
      Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
      "Downtown Banda Aceh, seen from a rooftop. The road leads toward the ocean but disappears amid debris before reaching it."
      Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company.

      Tyler Hicks/The New York Times: A man who was one of the first to return to Banda Aceh came back, day after day, to sift through what was left of his home - just wreckage. Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
      "A man who was one of the first to return to Banda Aceh came back, day after day, to sift through what was left of his home - just wreckage."
      Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company.

      Tyler Hicks/The New York Times: A family of refugees from an area short of aid had walked for days through countryside effectively cut off from Banda Aceh by road and bridge washouts.
      Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
      "A family of refugees from an area short of aid had walked for days through countryside effectively cut off from Banda Aceh by road and bridge washouts." Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company.

      Tyler Hicks/The New York Times: Because there was no road existing that allowed vehicles access to refugee camps, people would walk for days to reach help.
      Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
      "Because there was no road existing that allowed vehicles access to refugee camps, people would walk for days to reach help." Copyright 2005. The New York Times Company.

    Art and the Community

    Making Art Speak By Hugh Eakin "Three museum directors discuss the challenges, thrills, frustrations, and future of their profession." ArtNews Online, February 2, 2005.

    Academic Support

    Using Academic Language Effectively

    Merriam-Webster Dictionary Search:

    and Careers

    • Resumes:

    • Letters of Recommendation:

      • Letters of Recommendation: How to get me to respond to your request. Many of you need letters. If you will follow this format, I can do them quickly and make them good.
      • Dog Letters If you do not give me adequate information, but do manage to get my attention, you may end up with a dog letter. That is a letter that says that you work well with people, that you are enthusiastic, that you persist at getting things done, and that everyone likes you. Of course, my dog gets along well with people, brings his ball to them, is enthusiastic, and persists at getting them to take his ball. Everyone likes my dog. That's a dog letter. It's so general it could be about my dog. jeanne

    That Was Fun! Sneaky Strokes and Flying Good Dogs

    Flying Dog is also a painting by Zhang Kai. Best I've every come across to illustrate our site with magic numbers and unicorns and whipped cream cats and now, flying dogs:

    Flying Good Dogs: Whenever something happens in class that works out well, that inspires you, that helps in studying, whatever, take a few minutes to send us an e-mail. We'll post it where all of us can learn from it, including other teachers.

    You can also send an email to the Who to Take Site:

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