Fishing Zombies

Laying in bed in the dark she asked me, “If I became a zombie would you kill me?”

She wants to hear me wrestle with how much I love her. I take a moment to try to answer her honestly. “Am I sure you are a zombie? Can I see that you’re already dead?”

“Yeah, I have some of my brain missing. I’m dead already but could you kill zombie me?”

“Can I runaway? I mean, if you want me to kill you I would, for you, but I don’t know, especially if I knew I could just run.”

“I’d want you to kill me. I wouldn’t want to hurt anyone. Knowing now though if you couldn’t kill me, I’d plan to run away from you before I turned.”

“I’d try.”

We let the thought float above us as we watched the ceiling. When cars would turn onto our street the room would light up, casting shadows into the shadows. Burnt incense lingered in the room from our religiously observant neighbor. Every Friday night they would sanctify the joy of the weekend by setting off our would-be smoke detectors, if we hadn’t already removed the battery. The last song on our romantic playlist was finishing along with our conversation.

“Would you kill me?” I asked before I realized I also want to hear her tell me she loves me. “I mean if I were a zombie, and you knew I was dead and you were in a corner. Could you kill me?

“You would want to die?”

“No, I think I’d enjoy being a zombie, but you’re cornered.”

“You don’t want to die and I’m cornered. Would you want to die then?”

“Oh, yeah, if that was the case I’d want to die.”

Lights went by the window and the room felt like a fishbowl. I knew every corner, yet I’d stop breathing if I got out.

No one right way…

Modern spirituality tends to frame institutional religion as a religious form where authoritarianism, mendacity, and dogmatism have replaced authentic, living religious experience. Further, the adherents of modern spirituality are notably eclectic, adopting a supermarket approach to religious traditions and practices and constructing a highly individualized private spirituality which is decidedly psychological and holds to a conception of the Divine as innate and within. - William B. Parson  “On Mapping the Psychology and Religion Movement: Psychology as Religion and Modern Spirituality” (Pastoral Psychology Feb. 2010)

Parson’s depiction of modern spirituality is in my opinion accurate yet derogatory to contemporary religious experience. Parson points out the connections to psychology and the development of modern spirituality. The same transition he points out in the development of modern spirituality is also the same transition many religions have gone through. The positive side of his argument is that modern spirituality has come upon a new way of dealing with diversity. No longer is there one way to be religious within a given religious community. The personal choice involved within a religious practice is something new as Parson points out and it has drawbacks that can put group identity at risk. There is a modern spirituality that has nothing to do with any particular organized religion but there is also reform that has taken place within organized religion.

    I am only personally aware of the real effects of this same paradigm shift within Reform Judaism. Reform Judaism has often been said to not be Judaism because of the Reform Judaism stance as a whole on Halacha (Jewish Law). Reform Jews do not consider themselves bound by Jewish law and this creates a platform for individuals to select from Halacha what the individual finds important for themselves and interpret Jewish laws in new and meaningful ways for the individual.

  Within the history of Reform Judaism, there has been a creation of great distance from Reform Jewish practice and education on Halacha. This distance between education on Halacha and Reform Jewish practice, has made individual choice to glean personal choice from Halacha difficult. Regardless of this lack of relationship with Halacha as a whole, the real paradigm has taken place with regard to how diversity is treated within the community.

   According to Robert Putnam’s work Bowling Alone there is an inverse relationship between diversity and fundamentalism. Reform Judaism creates a community of acceptance to diversity hence stifling fundamentalism. This effect of the modern spirituality paradigm shift is an acceptance and encouragement of diversity. With or without an organized religious community this embrace of diversity is essential to all of us becoming comfortable with who we are as individuals, and from here understand our group identities that as cities grow and populations become more mobile we need to learn to embrace the difference of others as valid.

Loop holes for Education

       … while history lessons are expected to conform to certain aca-
       demic standards, holiday celebrations allow for greater flexibility and
       adaptability of historical information, legitimizing the use of legendary
       narratives for educational purposes. (Yael Zerubavel, Transhistorical Encounters in the Land of Israel: On Symbolic Bridges, National Memory, and the Literary Imagination)

       The usefulness behind holiday celebrations within an academic setting for young children is an area that as a society that wants to harbor diversity and a healthy historical view, needs to be watched closely. Any spin the educator might have can be placed into a simple holiday celebration as holidays within educational institutions are given ‘greater flexibility’.

Near sighted

Cracks in the frame,

Glasses of diversity

change the color of the light.

Which hat today?

With soft arms and weak knees

six children and a purpose,

fenced in, without glasses.

Your glorious shabbat will be overcrowded,

chemicals downstream, polluting the multiplied fruit.

Halachic engines destroying the world,

set on an automatic timer one day a week.

Child after child, you multiply the problem

with your first commandment.

Pirke Avot:

The rich family is the family that enjoys what they have.

The wise family is the family that learns from others.

The strong family is the family that knows how to control itself.

Sink deep to see the difference…

death abound and now bound.

Resources for the Shabbat of Shabbat

dwindle…

Story telling

The problem with telling stories? Sure. I mean forgetting that people lie and that people are ignorant, I can tell you the real problem with telling stories. First you have to understand why story telling started. That’s the best way to understand anything but not always the best way to start a story. For story telling you should start somewhere in the middle, since there is no real beginning to any story, beginnings are as problematic as stories themselves.

The first stories, like all stories, are useful not for the beginning but for where we are right now. If the story was useful for the beginning then it wouldn’t have made it to the point of being a story. That’s confusing. Let’s start by trying to understand who told the first stories? The where part of this beginning isn’t too important but let’s say it is in a forest for the sake of convenience. We are a group of people in a forest. We have some words for things but it’s mostly to function in the present, in the right now. Right now we don’t have stories yet because stories have to have a beginning that is not right now, this means we need past tense, a before now. Of course you can tell a story in the first person but before you have the concept of not now, it wouldn’t make sense. Past tense means we understand the concept of not now, which means we could have told a story in the present tense but we have to understand that doesn’t mean right now, really, it means at some not now point.

Back to the forest. We are in a forest and we are talking about the not now. Why? In the forest why would you need to talk about the not now? What around you needs to be understood in the not now? What would talking about the not now, help us do? There are twenty of us here. Everyday we go out into the forest and get food and bring it back with us. We talk in the now to get things done, like if I want a stick, I can tell you grab a stick, this is in the now and it helps us work together. If I see you have an orange and I want an orange, how could I ask you? Orange where? Still mostly in the present.

Past tense really helps us with food though. We can remember where last year around this part of the forest we got oranges. You can tell me where you went to get oranges. I went… This is where stories start. They then became useful to hunt. Tell me the story of a deer and I can tell you where in the forest to find the deer. You have to understand the not now, in order to predict where your food will be at. Prediction is the real purpose of stories.

Right that still doesn’t mean we understand the problem with stories. With all technology there are problems. Like every different variation of DNA that has made every plant and creature on the planet, always problems. That doesn’t mean there is a better way to tell stories. Prediction and creativity have no 100%. That is certainly one of the problems. Another is that we forget stories are for prediction. For instance, try thinking about what this story predicts.

Controversy

Dedication should be a prescription. Choice is the ultimate cause for depression. Our choices are increasing exponentially. The risk involved with specific choices are increasing. We are fighting controversy and lowering dedication.

Eighteen years old is a regular first experience of the psychological effects of too many choices. In contemporary United States we’ve developed a path that keeps life choices relatively simple up to this point. (I am speaking generally and of the mainstream population of course there are many people who choose a path prior to eighteen, who are willing, able, and receive no psychological consequence of this moment in their life, but age 18 is a specific example within our mainstream culture.) At this point we are expected to decide between a seemingly ever growing occupational pool, that is creating diversity (while elsewhere on the planet diversity is being systematically extinguished). Actual job opportunities are unfortunately not as exponential because we are making ways of having our basic needs met ever more efficient and requiring less labor (increases in our food technology every year). 

What then are the effects of have more and more choices?

The Knowledge Deficit: E.D. Hirsch, Jr.

This book lacks an understanding of what the educational system lacks. I do agree that we need greater structure in our institutions. I recently worked at a school that was project based learning and the teachers had very little structure. There was a large attempt to have teachers for an entire grade group work together and teach the same things from various angles. There was not a consistent understanding of what the students should learn every year, other than large categorical umbrellas where the subject could be anything the teacher really wanted to teach about within a pool of regular math/science/humanities assignments attached to them. This would be a reason I agree with Hirsch, structure would make the entire educational experience more reliable.

I still think there is a vast problem with the standardized tests. Hirsch tries to explain his view on this problem, which is that due to the lack of structure in the school systems children are not given the breadth of knowledge they need, often repeating, or being subjected to curriculum based on whatever the teacher finds important.

Hirsch does not talk about student teacher ratios, experience based learning, children sitting in desks for eight hours a day. He lays out a the desire to have one publishing country for a wide area of students, and a larger than local community agreement on curriculum that has a large breadth of knowledge. He wants to combat mobility in school systems by standardizing the curriculum. I think this is his strongest point. Increasing mobility of whole families is devastating for more than educational purposes, as the family also leaves a community. Standardized curriculum would be one attempt to alleviate problems in this area. 

This problem is much larger than standardized curriculum though. What are the causes and effects of increasing mobility? Should be trying to just fix one area of it? His book of course addresses the educational view of this problem and attempts an educational solution. I remember this problem most clearly in The Coming Insurrection. This is a growing epidemic to community, technology cannot repair the distance of mobility, as we are attempting to make it. How many people this year are living where they were born, compared to how many people were living where they were born decades ago?

He did provide a different view from John Taylor Gatto, about the start of schooling systems. Hirsch described the start of standardized schooling as a response to inequalities of rich and poor. Gatto portrays them as a tool the rich used to create a better trained and obedient working class.

I am still not entirely done digesting my ideas on Hirsch, but I find his view inadequate and lacking in anything new other than his description of the effects of romanticism and development in the first chapter. Romanticism is the love nature, and we do tend to hold natural ‘developmental’ ideals about how children grow and learn that do not correspond to reality, as there is nothing natural about learning to read and write.

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Watched some Daily Show today, the May 31st episode. They complained about the New York city legislation to ban soft drinks smaller than 16oz. I agree it is a silly ban, but the advertisements during the Daily Show, were for Jack in the Box, specifically having soft drinks larger than 16oz in the commercial and I can’t help but think how this influences what the Daily Show covers and their views. 

Whilst Away

The theories of Paulo Freire on oppression are only theoretical. I speak about this being yet on page 50 of the book but while what he speaks is true, it is only useful to a theoretical purpose. Any application of the deliverance from oppression is actually conflict resolution. Conflict resolution is important and is important to the topic of oppression but there is no person without the dehumanizing effects of hierarchy and oppression that has ever lived.

Paulo Freire’s views of oppression and enlightenment are massively useful for political and social oppressive purposes. There is no ultimate escape from conflict, hence the dehumanizing tendencies Freire discusses are human practices gone to an extreme. Economic capital is an extreme developed from human capital. Socially controlled and passed through generation hierarchy is distorted by the growing disparages in economic capital, social capital, and human capital.

Oppression needs to be addressed because oppression is rampant, and we can do this through enlightenment and conflict resolution. A society without exacerbated hierarchy would be one where people are equally enlightened and is a worthy quest. Therefore we need to first address oppression through assertion and then facilitate continuous proper assertion. This does not imply a government policy or mandate a specific curriculum but a youthful encouragement of identity without the excessive disparages in hierarchy. 

Being frank this means oppression is conflict not asserted over a period of time. Oppression is to conflict, what acceleration is to speed; violence is to jerk.

This is why Pedagogy of the Oppressed is an important book.

With the Appeal

If every action, you were responsible in the eyes of everyone you know, what then would be different of the way you act? Only your thoughts to yourself, what things would you not do? What’s the point of being existential when you don’t have to account for your actions permanently?

Theory: “If entry and exit are too easy, commitment, trustworthiness, and reciprocity will not develop.” -Robert Putnam. This is taken out of context from p. 177 of Bowling Alone, nevertheless this statement is a very powerful contribution. We are experiencing growing social lubricant. Entering and exiting relationships with those around us is easier and more threatening to the possibility of authentic relationships, that support commitment, trustworthiness, and a community sense of reciprocity. Like mechanical lubricant, there is a need to diminish the negative effects of friction and there is a threat of decreasing needed friction.

Social Friction is a term used to describe the balance needed in social relationships that limits the ability of entry and exit in community. When a social group is too well lubricated there is a tendency to fall apart. When a social group is not lubricated enough it is unlikely there is a community formed in the first place.