“Understanding a people’s culture exposes their normalness without reducing their particularity. (…) It renders them accessible: setting them in the frame of their own banalities, it dissolves their opacity.”Clifford Geertz – The Interpretation of Cultures (Basic Books Classics)
“If too few opportunities for curiosity are available, if too many obstacles are placed in the way of risk and exploration, the motivation to engage in creative behavior is easily extinguished. (…) So, if the next generation is to face the future with zest and self-confidence, we must educate them to be original as well as competent.”M. Czikszentmihalyi – Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention (Harper Collins e-books)
On vice and broadmindedness:
“Human wickedness, if accepted by society, is changed from an act of will into an inherent, psychological quality which man cannot choose or reject but which is imposed upon him from without, and which rules him as compulsively as the drug rules the addict. In assimilating crime and transforming it into vice, society denies all responsibility and establishes a world of fatalities in which men find themselves entangled. (…) If crime is understood to be a kind of fatality, natural or economic, everyone will finally be suspected of some special predestination to it. (…) The seeming broadmindedness that equates crime and vice, if allowed to establish its own code of law, will invariably prove more cruel and inhuman than laws, no matter how severe, which respect and recognize man’s independent responsibility for his behavior.”H. Arendt – The Origins of Totalitarianism (Penguin Classics, 2017)
“Plato (…) also discovered the very insecure position of truth in the world, for ‘from opinions comes persuasion, and not from truth’ (Phaedrus 260). The most striking difference between ancient and modern sophists is that the ancients were satisfied with a passing victory of the argument at the expense of truth, whereas the moderns want a more lasting victory at the expense of reality.”Hannah Arendt – The Origins of Totalitarianism (Penguin Books, 2017)
“To live “in diaspora” is to reside in one place but to keep in motion an emotional, cultural, or political relationship with another, whether it is the site of one’s nativity that subsequently became a point of departure or an ancestral “homeland” virtually conjured but never visited. (…)
Diasporas (…) are platforms where received notions of cultural affiliation, religious inclination, and political persuasion can come undone or become entrenched and exaggerated. (…) They can be sites of recycling as much as of reinvention. (…)
But (…) all migrants, across a wide range of social positions, nonetheless share the “experience that their movement results in a certain degree of expulsion from their territorial, political, juridical, or economic status. Even if the end result of migration is a relative increase in money, power, or enjoyment, the process of migration itself almost always involves an insecurity of some kind and duration. (…) The gains of migration are always a risk, while the process itself is always some kind of loss.”S. Illot, A.C. Mendes, L. Newns (eds.) – New Directions in Diaspora Studies (Rowman & Littlefield, London, 2018)
“To yield to the mere process of disintegration has become an irresistible temptation, not only because it has assumed the spurious grandeur of ‘historical necessity’, but also because everything outside it has begun to appear lifeless, bloodless, meaningless, and unreal. (…)
Comprehension does not mean denying the outrageous (…). It means, rather, examining and bearing consciously the burden which our century has placed on us – neither denying its existence nor submitting meekly to its weight. Comprehension, in short, means the unpremeditated, attentive facing up to, and resisting of, reality – whatever it may be.”Hannah Arendt – The Origins of Totalitarianism (Preface to the First Edition, summer 1950).
Words that still resonate.
on the long path to spring,
when darkness clears
and the trees drop their skeletal shadows in the snow
like a bad memory,
like baggage one no longer needs
when the frost glistens with a gazillion different suns
in a myriad different eyes
and the crows’ croaking falls
like a letter from someone you love,
a letter you never thought
leave your shadows behind
and walk into the light.
You can tell by the fireworks.
To this day,
people’s hearts are set to the clocks
in their homelands,
They go off at different times,
then the smoke clears and the sky
remains mysterious and quiet until the next
You can tell by the fireworks.
To this fateful day,
the last of 2020,
when the cheer is inaudible,
they still explode to the clocks
of faraway homelands.
In the dead of night –
In that longest of nights
he came to me,
An illumination of love.
I was ready to let go,
having run out of things to hold on to.
“The world has done violence to your spirit”,
he spoke through my sleeplessness,
and his voice was husky.
“But fear not. I have defeated the world.”
I lay with him on the threshold and –
breath by long, quiet breath –
I bore him children
Healing is a feline
treading stealthily around the concrete monoliths
of the neighborhood –
slow and lazy
A striped tow of light,
sheaves of color falling from the trees,
from the November
and gathering in little pools
in your heart
to glitter in the dark
Setting: Catholic religion class at school.
Characters: New teacher – a man. A bunch of 9-year-olds.
Open discussion about covenants. (Based loosely on recollection, don’t shoot the messenger!)
Girl in my daughter’s class, with genuine curiosity: Why are all the priests men? Why are there no women priests?
Teacher, gently: Well, you see, Jesus was a man, and his apostles were men, and…
Several girls in my daughter’s class: But his mother was a woman!
Teacher, full of kindness: Yes, but she could not have brought Jesus into the world without a heavenly Father…
Red-haired girl: He couldn’t have been born without a mother, either.
Teacher, softly: Yes, you’re right… but, maybe, you know, if some priests were women, then the men in church would stop paying attention to God and stare at the pretty priest…
My daughter, mumbling to herself: But the same can be true the other way around. If the priest is handsome…
Boy seated next to my daughter, searching for a solution: Maybe men are just uglier than women!
Red-haired girl: But if the women were really ugly, could they be priests then?
My daughter, musing after class: What if all the priests were women? Then there wouldn’t be any male priests to tempt… 🙂
(Ah, the dilemmas, quandaries and predicaments that arise when children are allowed to think freely. 🙂 Which, thankfully, they are.)