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The spokesperson for the transatlantic British Airways flight proudly
announced Finnish, Swedish, French, Portuguese and Arabic as
languages spoken by the flight crew -
welcome to multilingual Europe!

I am being graciously hosted in a flat surrounded by the paintings of Tony Mafia. This afternoon, I passed a Ganesh Festival, and then found classical dancers had taken over the main lobby of Central Station – perhaps it was a waltz? Today was gorgeous: a tad cool in the shade (19 C) but perfect in the sun, and the full moon rose over dinner.

Yesterday, for the first time, I touched London.

Mind the Gap.jpg
Nigham showed me around. :-) We took in an exhibit at the Tate Modern, States of Flux.
river festival.jpg
We also enjoyed a (smallish) river festival along the Thames, where we ate, and witnessed an absentee ballot voter campaign for Barack Obama.

While Hurricane Ike crashed into Texas, I recall Mother of Storms and consider the juxtapositions of our time. I am still too jet-lagged to offer more than this pastiche, but
the poignancy of multilayered moments is on my mind.

the papers are full of the hack at CERN.

“A hundred years ago almost every major step forward in science was taken by individuals . . . . [now the work is] shared by groups of scientists.
. . .
The Human Genome Project (HGP) . . . results were available on the internet every night, so that they could be accessed by anyone in the world.”

Adam Hart-Davis
“How Big Science seduced us”
Daily Telegraph, Saturday, September 13, 2008

I do believe we need groups – big ones! – to weave sensibility among the gaps produced by all the challenges that face us.

Note: Blogentry title quote from “On Going to the Airport” by Alain de Botton (On Seeing and Noticing, 2005).

Om Mani Padmi Om.jpg
Some thirty stalwart spirits braved the edge of Hurricane Hannah to begin building “Belchertown’s own pyramid.” Sailing knots secured the tarp which – propped up by two ladders – withstood the night, protecting us from the downpour and thrilling us with sounds of rain and wind as we christened the cairn near midnight with Wrongo Dongo. Howls mixed with cheers in a cacophony of exuberance as we embraced the spirit of ritual, blending our voices with nature’s infinite chanting. I was asked for a convocation (see “Other Use“); all I could muster was Thank You. I felt calm and peaceful in our candlelit circle, humbled by and proud of my friends.

“Happiness is an elusive thing. It has
something to do with having beautiful shoes, but it is
about so much else . . . About having
friends like this.”

Blue Shoes and Happiness
Alexander McCall Smith
p. 217 (2006)
[past tense changed to present]

eyes of compassion.jpg
In all important respects, we gathered as we always do – indulging delicious food, drinking comfortably, talking, dancing, teasing, touching, teaching and calling each other into being. I learned so much, as I always do. :-) Everyone oriented to the ceremonial element in their own way. Some recalled significant moments of shared interpersonal interaction, acknowledged difficult aspects of private histories and/or future challenges, and speculated on the symbolism of our individually swirling energies encapsulated by nature’s capacity for storm. Others lost themselves in dance, told tall tales, lampooned themselves and others, played tricks and carefully watched for the precise moment to deliver a perfect pun. Most of us did some of everything. We take our fun seriously, without letting fun completely overtake the serious.
balance & cat.jpg
There was power in our utterances last night and this morning. Dorothee educated me on linguistic minorities in France and the Belgian Flemish/French controversy (more on these later!), and Nick proposed jazz as a uniquely unreproducible medium. The confluence of these topics with my upcoming research woke me right up (or was it the Turkish coffee?!)
“Oh yea, that was in quotes,” Don said, walking by a few minutes later as Nick explained, “I don’t want my life to be an open book, I want people to question me.” We were talking about how online social networking could remove mystery from our lives by producing a vast field of ambient awareness (another longer-term side effect of ambient awareness could be the evolutionary loss of certain cognitive skills associated with fact-based memory). An iPhone provided entertainment for awhile, its accelerometer on display with Newton’s Cradle . This put me in mind of the results of a recent “mind map” of local and global trends affecting a particular organization’s anti-racism and social justice activities, in which nearly all trends were described in terms of increase (more more more and faster) instead of decrease.
How did we get from the accelerometer to air-conditioning? I cannot recall, but the comment reminded me of Christopher Dickey’s claim:

as air conditioning conquered the lethargy-inducing climate and Northerners by the millions abandoned the rust belt for the sun belt, the past wasn’t forgotten or forgiven so much as put aside while people got on with their lives and their business.

from Southern Discomfort, a Newsweek article
by (fyi) the son of the author of Deliverance)
about the U.S. presidential campaign and contemporary race relations

Somehow nostalgia for the “old days” of answering machines (when you received your telephone messages only when you got home at the end of the day) got intertwined with the luxuries of heating and cooling . . . The Chosen One mused, “we’ve had heat for a long time, it’s harder to make cold.” Indeed, air-conditioning as we know it today is a phenomenon of only the last century: for millenia humans have known how to keep ourselves warm, but only “yesterday” have we figured out how to make ourselves cool. (Uh oh. Global warming is here, now.)
When Brandon left is when it hit me. Some of these people I really may not see again. Dhara reminisced about meeting me at bowling her first year here. She and Henk had been the ones to unveil the group present. (Rumor Mill: going viral. First batch original orders for t-shirts and bumperstickers should be placed here.)
Yes and Raz snaps photos.jpg
The Nepalese mantra gracing the cairn is, as best I understand it to date, a kind of paean to precious knowledge and pure beauty. We have created physical evidence of passing this way; and less tangibly we have left our marks upon each other – bits of spirit inspiring compelling turning and calling us on, always with the invitation to return. “It’s good,” Franz said today, “to be a little bit bothered by each other.” Yes – such is the evidence of communal connections: they persist!
the book.jpg

I pledge my best to go as the water flows.



Spare Man returns (Jan 10)
the curse of threes (Jan 13)
Laughing in the Morning (Apr 15)

The problem with democracy – real democracy, in which everyone actually has a say – is that there is so much waiting. I am generalizing from recent revelations acquired while participating in a second tubing adventure with a bunch of friends. In particular, an exchange with LavaMan (an ideal male specimen) showed me something about myself that I suspect is not uncommon.
The first tubing adventure I had to work with suppressing frustration; the second time I thought I was prepared (indeed, I was). My emotional experience was fine – either because I had already ‘gone through’ the frustration previously (and managed it), or because some part of me was prepared for things to go ‘this way’ again … or (probably) a combination of both. I was not wrapped up in the struggle of decision-making either trip, just a recipient of the process and outcome. A bystander, I guess, but an observant one, aware of the implications of my passive participation.
At one point, standing around the parking lot waiting for the downstream vehicle delivery people to return, a pal suggested no one knew what was happening – which was accurate: none of us had the whole picture in mind (where everyone was, who was doing what, what – in total – needed doing, etc). And – we all knew what we were doing: going tubing! (How hard could that be?!)
A few leaders emerged (trying to organize the group in certain directions) but there was always a competing idea or suggestion, so implementation was slow. These dynamics are not new or unique; indeed, I design curriculum so that students have to encounter and engage these dynamics, in order for them to practice how to negotiate roles and identities in uncertain social circumstances.
The crucial learning moment for me came on the river a few hours later. I had realized a couple of guys were behind us, and one of them – a first time rafter – had been described as “struggling” by a friend just a short time before. So I thought, well, I’ll wait for them; they are the last two. I wondered about one other guy, who had been behind us earlier but I had an evanescent impression that he had floated on ahead of me at some point.

“Do we leave a man behind?”

The pair came by and informed me that Jake was still behind. I waited awhile longer. As the time stretched, my doubt grew. Surely he couldn’t be that far behind? He knows what he’s doing anyway, so I don’t need to worry, right? And, I did have that sense that he had passed me, hadn’t he? Eventually, I noticed the guys had pulled off – waiting – for me? I didn’t really want to hold up the show with my own stubbornness . . .

I caught up with them, and LavaMan insisted Jake was behind us. He engaged my questioning process calmly, as I worked through the arguments pro-staying (based only on a guess?) and con-staying (if he hasn’t come, he can’t – we’ll be better able to reach him from upstream; and he might be in front of us). “Let’s wait five more minutes,” the LavaMan proposed, “if he doesn’t come by then we’ll leave.”
I had a suspicion he was just angling for more time to flirt (!), but lo-and-behold . . . here came Jake.
Wow – what had I been thinking? Even though I was told, “I just saw him,” and “we passed him doing something on shore just before we saw you,” I was ready to up-and-leave on the much-less-certain perception of my own “knowledge.” Ouch! The implication is hard to escape, no? I didn’t trust someone else’s judgment – and not even over something that I was sure of, but something that I wasn’t actually convinced of myself! Why?
The doubt disturbs me: not only as a reflection on me and how I orient to others, but as an indicator of a cultural bias against waiting (in particular). The evidence abounds – I witness it during interpretation when participants complain about how long the communication process takes, I see it in the levels of impatience and frustration expressed by students while they adjust to alternative learning structures – and now I get to recognize it, so blatantly, within myself.
The impulse, it seems, is to hurry up and end the waiting. The solution is usually proposed that “a leader” is needed. Well, I think, “yes, and.” Yes, we need to agree to follow specific suggestions from particular people, and I’m not sure we have to take all the suggestions from only one person. At some point, in a healthy collective, we know each other well enough that we ought to be able to acknowledge who has skills in a given arena. Perhaps it is my imagination, but don’t we know each other well enough, by now, to have a good sense of who makes good decisions about various kinds of things?
The question, then, becomes not “who will lead,” but “when will I suppress my doubt“?

Summer has been at its peak, climate-wise, for the past few weeks.

corn in front of the seven sisters.JPG.jpg
During bicycle rides, I’ve been taking in the deep smells of haying, the lighter fragrances of flowers and crops, and the occasional blast of cow manure. The temperature has begun to drop more at night, a harbinger of fall – especially in combination with some early leaf-turning.
I will miss Massachusetts this upcoming year – and who would ever have guessed I’d be saying that?! Yesterday, while floating down the Deerfield River in an inner tube with raucous friends, trying to dodge vigorous rafters and avoid skewering by overzealous kayakers, I thought, “But why not? I was conceived here.” The spark of potential consciousness embedded at that biological instant probably drew energy from these environs. (From where else could it come?)
The past month has been a blur of teaching, proposal-writing/refining, and soaking up as much socializing before the community’s inevitable dispersal. So many have already left, with so many soon to follow. My own departure approaches: probably temporary but who ever knows for sure?

glow of emergence.JPG.jpg

Types of fare-thee-well gatherings vary from certain kinds of overstock to full spread (delectable) meals, and gifts.
All manner of pronouncements have been made at said events, from “I will never forget!” to

“Present the new as if it was old, like Gandhi.”

Memory is short, however. ;-) And so a lot of time gets spent milling around. “We are waiting for a reason,” Hunter posed – not wanting to actually ask the question but wondering nonetheless. “Nobody knows what’s happening.” Dhara explained our group’s arduously slow process of decision-making while I mused on cultural differences. It struck me with the force of revelation that I have hardly ever waited for groups/events to happen. No wonder I’m so apt to the production of something, to doing something, of there being a thing requiring participatory action on my part! This is the (U.S.) american enculturation process – deep training beginning with preschool about time (schedules), timing (hurry up, switch now), and completion (well, we may not get a chance to come back to that so you better just get it done now).

This,” Don intoned on the edge of the Deerfield River, “is how it was at Troy.” I thought he meant hordes of strangers merging for a common purpose. No, seems he had burning the boats in mind, so there would be no possibility of retreat. That is the way life is, ain’t it? Sometimes you can backtrack but it is never the same as if you went that way the first time. “We need an airlift!” is not the same as, “Hey, can you drop us some more supplies?”

Such laughter!
. . . and the occasional reference to past and future lives.

“You’re not in Belgium yet,” Zeynep advised, as she congratulated (us both?!) on returning from our mental moments elsewhere.
This morning I began to read an analysis of Obama’s economic ideology, in which he is characterized as more left and more right than one might think, a position he describes as postpartisan. I definitely approve of this measure: “…changing the tax code so that families making more than $250,000 a year pay more taxes and nearly everyone else pays less. That would begin to address inequality.”
We got kids coming, y’know? And there are so many already in the world, growing up under a new climate, with a different reference point for the planet than we (at least most in my generation) ever imagined. We got chances to make things better, different: more fair, more possible.
time to eat.JPG.jpg

Robin, Tim, Rachel, and Hari were unaware that we were celebrating an exertion of The Force, accomplished earlier today with the incomparable technical help of Brion.
My first Flash animation was added to Reflexivity, partly building upon an idea implanted by The Lord of the Sky, that I really should try to make my blogwriting more comprehensible – even going so far as to feature a weekly theme or some such. :-)
Since several friends (four, and one of them twice!) felt compelled (within the same week!) to give me feedback on my blogwriting, I thought to myself,

Self! Take notice!

Meanwhile, intuitions, intimations, and other hints of possible futures suggested this idea of a blog category dedicated to the parts of the dissertation that will never find their way in to the official dissertation, because

a) I will never know enough, by myself, to actually make the case, and
b) my committee’s job is to keep this effort within some bounds of reason.

Nonetheless (because what else is life for?!), I echo Mma Ramotswe:

I have found a feeling; I feel I know something.

The Maid or The Cave

Note: I become more self-conscious the longer I wait to write!

I was invited (Yo, Yo Mama) to Tanglewood at nearly the last minute last Sunday (fastest group organization ever for a Don-Type Adventure) and thought the timing could not have been more perfect. We arrived mid-way through the first number by Isaac Albeniz, a piece from Suite from Iberia, settled our spread on the lawn, partly under a tree, next to the walkway from the covered pricey seats. During Lalo, Cello Concerto in D Minor, I lost my temporary front tooth in a salami sandwich – hmmmm, what omen is toothlessness at a re-birth? ;-)

I was conceived, so mom says, at Lake Mohawk, post-some-concert. (I assume post, but maybe it was pre? TMI!!!) I wonder if this is the lake visible from the grounds?
lake view from Tanglewood.JPG.jpg

The Aspiring Activities Director provided true bizness high-class picnic equipment, and The Chosen One brought glassware to cradle his sweet wine. Mr. Blue (a.k.a. The Reconstituting Creative Writer) modeled rain gear from Niagara Falls. There were indeed hints of rain; the tree protected us from much of the few light sprinkles. No flowers, though – that was the only thing we neglected to prepare!
Time, as I mentioned, was already on my mind, as in timing – how life events cycle: occasionally there are returns to places one has already been, or recurrences of dynamics one has lived through. Sometimes a recurrence and a return co-occur as a repeat, and other times a pivotal choice or random development cuts across the pattern, enabling alternative trajectories.
If you visit Niagara, for instance, you can be a tourist in two different ways: ride The Maid of the Mist or go through The Cave of the Winds. The Chosen One has done them both. “What’s the difference?” asked The Therapist. “There is a change in time,” The Chosen One explained, “in the Cave you can stay as long as you want and control your own experience. The Maid is quick.”
And that just about sums up the whole dualistic continuum from existentialism to reincarnationism, don’t you think?! OK, I know it isn’t that simple. If you’re a nihilist, for instance, whether you choose the maid or the cave doesn’t matter because neither existence has more value or less purpose than the other. If, however, you’ve got any inclination towards there being some meaningfulness – even if its only transient – then you’ve got to at least consider the implications of the choice: does it come down to

  • preference (for a barrage of stimulation, say, or a leisurely exploration),
  • cost (considering a range of resources, e.g., time, money, energy), or some
  • valuation of the vector either type of experience will motivate?

There are moments of potential experience that seem designed for grasping whole and others that incline toward the longer view. The art of living, I’m thinking, relies on judgment between the two. The challenge of relationship requires their coordination.
We were reluctant to leave the gorgeous grounds with its pristine lawn and majestic trees. Surely it was the company, too, that caused us to linger as if Rachmaninoff’s final notes will never fade completely away.

Last night I hosted my first Fete Francophone. My guests parler-voused Francaise off-and-on (they promise to exclude me more, next time). ;-) Many wonderful language stories though – oh, the faux paux’s I can anticipate!
I was also introduced to some music (Jacques Brel, MC Solaar, and Les Négresse Vertes), a news broadcast (Actualités), and Les Guignols (probably a prototype for John Stewart).
We will do it again, oui? :-)
[The menu, by the way, was international in scope. Italian and French wines, goat cheese, a salad of local mesclun greens, red cabbage, haricort verts green beans with Wernz famous New England Vinaigrette, pasta with walnut sauce, and mango sorbet.]

It is not often that one gets to participate in the precise phase of transition from someone’s former life to a future one.

It began with a shot – what was it?
Followed by a Kamikaze.
Washed down with some Massatucky Brown.
I just played pool.

There are no photos. The transition is undocumented. Except for here. Maybe somewhere else, too, but you’re on your own to fix location and pin down time. You’ll fail, of course. Time passes, the moments go. Some cycle back (most, actually, repeat in endless iterations with minute changes in variables) but certain times, special times, are unique in their unrepeatability.

Go, Man, Go!
“I’ll give you a push into the waves.”
Renee, Aspiring Activity Director and Surf Instructor Extraordinaire

one way.JPG.jpg

Area 3 (not to be confused with Area 51) provided the backdrop for my return to Point Judith. (If it was not the precise scene of the crime, it was nonetheless crucially involved.)
After pitching camp and checking out the surf, we ate lunch, engaged miscegnation, plotted a plan to surf, and prepared to consult the heavens. Jupiter was going to be in opposition, and I had brought some spiritual tokens with which I hoped to dispense. How perfect could that be?! Jupiter, the largest planet, would be closest to Earth, therefore appearing huge : a fortuitous celestial coordination (why not?!) for letting martial bonds go – the idea of hucking a certain medicine bag with assorted precious stones into the sea was proposed, a goldfinch went wild with song.
I had a bit of trouble with the wetsuit, and balance, and staying above water (!) but a couple of waves caught me (!!), so I was able to experience the sensation of riding a wave. WOW!
S & R in the water.JPG.jpg

I did, indeed, huck those ancient stones (toppling instantly from my precarious perch). I so love to look cool! ;-)
Moreso, however, I just learned to appreciate water, especially water in the form of the sea. Its potential as metaphor, and its sheer physical power. I wrote about surfing as an example for my students’ introductory assignment: writing about something exciting that they have just recently learned. I’m pleased with the strategy – what tremendous diversity has been introduced into the class as foundation!

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