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by Richard Nilsen

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There is hardly a buzzword more ubiquitous these days among thinking people than “empathy.” From Oprah to Dr. Phil, it is the panacea for the world’s psychological ills and the quality that the bad portions of existence most lack.
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The problem for us is that any time a word becomes so widely used, it surrenders its meaning and becomes a hollow ringing in our ears. Just take those other frequent labels, “conservative” and “liberal.” Those who label themselves conservative have little in common with the conservatism of Edmund Burke — in fact, their small-government position is classically  labeled “liberal.” And in reaction, “liberal” has just been a pejorative tossed around aimlessly, forcing those on that side of the aisle to find a new word — “progressive” — to wear as a badge. “Liberal” may nowadays satisfactorily be defined as “Nyah-nyah.”
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And so with “empathy.” It is one of those words that is understood differently by each, meaning that we all agree it is a good thing, without ever agreeing on what it is. It is a “safe” word to rally behind.
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Empathy is whatever we mean by it. Perhaps it is best understood as an umbrella term, covering many virtues and many sins. Sometimes we use the word when we really mean “sympathy,” or “pity” or “compassion.” Or just the willingness to listen.
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While strictly speaking, to empathize means to share the feelings of someone else, it is more commonly used in a more metaphorical sense: to share the beliefs, ideas and prejudices of some other person or group. In that way, I can “empathize” with the plight of American Muslims or the LGBTQ community.
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In this version, it has been defined as: “being aware of and understanding another person’s feelings or other inner states.” This isn’t truly empathy, however valuable and virtuous it be. We can “know” another’s situation without taking on its burdens as our own. There is nothing wrong with that; in fact, it is a good thing, but it isn’t quite the same thing as “empathy.”
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Empathy is actually feeling the pain, emotions or suffering of others, as if they were our own. A classical example is watching a child fall off a bicycle and skin her knee and feeling an electrical pang in our own knee, and perhaps rubbing our own knee while we wince.
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That is a kind of autonomic empathy, a muscle empathy. We might also feel that watching ballet and feeling the torsioned muscled of the dancers in our own legs. I know that I have at times needed something like liniment the day after attending the dance.
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There is a second version of empathy that we get from seeing the emotions of others, like sympathetic vibrations in a violin string. It may be from seeing the weeping students on TV after yet another school shooting, and we weep too. Or from seeing a drama and feeling the fellow suffering of the protagonist.
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But there is also a kind of intellectual empathy, which is coming to understand the suffering and its cause. We imagine what it must be like. I liken this to the distinction Samuel Coleridge makes between primary and secondary imaginations. The primary is spontaneous, isn’t even thought of as an imagination, but simply as perception. We use that imagination when we see a tree rather than branches and leaves: In other words we gestalt the danged thing.
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The secondary imagination, he says, is like the primary, except that it is voluntary. We do it on purpose — “an echo of the of the former, coexisting with the conscious will, yet still as identical with the primary in the kind of its agency and differing only in degree, and in the mode of its operation,” as Coleridge puts it.
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It is what we do when we make metaphor: find the unseen correspondences, hidden similitudes. And in empathy, it is when we parse out the cause and effect of the emotions of others to come to understand them.
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There is another distinction to be made between emotional empathy and this intellectualized version, which is that knowing what someone else is thinking or feeling may be used by the unscrupulous to gain advantage. The psychopath — a Ted Bundy, for instance — is often a good reader of someone else’s thoughts or feelings, but he doesn’t share those feelings. For this reason, some may disallow this version as actual empathy.
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We can spot those who lack empathy by several warning signs: 1) Frequency of finding oneself in prolonged arguments; 2) Forming opinions early and
defending them vigorously; 3) Thinking that other people are overly sensitive; 4) Refusing to listen to other points of view; 5) Blaming others for mistakes; 6) Not listening when spoken to; 7) Holding grudges and having difficulty forgiving; 8) Inability to work in a team.
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Does this sound like anyone we know?
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We tend to think of empathy in individual cases. To paraphrase: When one person suffers, it is a tragedy; when thousands suffer, it is a statistic. And so, in art, we tend to think of Oedipus or Willy Loman and empathize with their fates. And so much art has been about the suffering of the artist.
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But there is a classical form of empathy, too: the empathy of the human condition. We can feel for the pain of all life. Schubert’s String Quintet fills us with emotion for his suffering; Haydn’s Seven Last Words for the suffering that humankind is born into. It is empathy at a remove: felt, but also understood.
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In my experience, there are two things that foster empathy: One is age and experience. The older I get, the more I find myself feeling the pain of others and wanting to ameliorate that suffering. This is not simply a moral outrage at injustice, but rather a fellow-feeling that comes over me, now that I am in my seventh decade of drawing breath.
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(It has been suggested that the mechanism for this is either the existence of grandchildren and the thought of life heading into an uncertain future; or it is the loss of testosterone in senescence.)
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The other seed of empathy is art. When we give ourselves over to a novel, or a play or to music, we are given a direct pipeline to that which is not ourselves, or which is ourselves but we haven’t previously had access to that part.
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As author Neil Gaiman says, “A book is a little empathy machine. It puts you inside somebody else’s head. You see out of the world through somebody else’s eyes. It’s very hard to hate people of a certain kind when you’ve just read a book by one of those people.”
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Percy Shelley took this ability of art to put us in someone else’s existence as the root source of human morality. It is the core message of his Defence of Poetry.
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“The great secret of morals is love; or a going out of our nature, and an identification of ourselves with the beautiful which exists in thought, action, or person, not our own. A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasure of his species must become his own.”
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It is the imagination, he says, that is “the great instrument of moral good.”
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Poetry (and by this he means all art) “strengthens the faculty which is the organ of the moral nature of man, in the same manner as exercise strengthens a limb.”
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He argues that art is not moral because it is didactic. It does not give us rules to live by, but rather opens our experience to the wider world and reenforces our connection — our “oneness” — with it.
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Joseph Campbell notes something of the same when he quotes the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. “How is it that a human being can so participate in the peril or pain of another that without thought, spontaneously, he sacrifices his own life to the other? How can it happen that what we normally think of as the first law of nature and self-preservation is suddenly dissolved?”
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Schopenhauer answers his own question: “Psychological crisis represents the breakthrough of a metaphysical realization, which is that you and that other are one, that you are two aspects of the one life, and that your apparent separateness is but an effect of the way we experience forms under the conditions of space and time. Our true reality is in our identity and unity with all life. This is a metaphysical truth which may become spontaneously realized under circumstances of crisis.”
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It is something that can also be realized, sometimes even unconsciously, while reading a book, watching a dance, seeing Michelangelo’sPieta or Grunewald’s painting of the crucifixion or Goya’s Third of May, 1808 or Picasso’s Guernica. Listening to Bach’s Matthew Passion or Brahms’ German Requiem.
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Each of us is an island, and we will never know the world if we don’t occasionally get off our tiny spot in the vast ocean. Read more. See more. Feel more.
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Richard Nilsen inspired many ideas and memories at the salons he presented through the years when he was an arts critic and movie, travel, and features writer at The Arizona Republic.   A few years ago, Richard moved to North Carolina.   We want to continue our connection with Richard and have asked him to be a regular contributor to the Spirit of the Senses Journal.   We asked Richard to write short essays that were inspired by the salons.

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by Richard Nilsen
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While Juno was asleep, the great god Jupiter brought Hercules, the illegitimate baby he sired on Alcmene, to suckle on the breast of his sister-wife and thus become immortal. But the baby bit down too hard on her nipple and Juno woke with a start and pushed the child away from her, leaving her milk to spew into the heavens, creating the Milky Way. The 16th-Century Venetian artist Tintoretto painted the scene in the 1570s.
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At least, that’s one version the Romans told. In another, told by Eratosthenes, Juno woke to see the love-child of her husband at her teat and in anger and jealousy, threw him down: same result.
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But there are many versions of the origin of the Milky Way, or galaxy, as it was known. In one, the sun, which circles the daytime sky from east to west, leaves behind a trail of sparks which are seen at night as the Milky Way.
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Ovid, in his Metamorphoses, says it is a road lined with the homes of the gods, the way the Palatine Hill in Rome was home to the wealthy elite.
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 The Roman word for the streak of light across the sky is Via Lactea, or the Milk Road, although they more commonly called it “Galactos,” or Galaxy, from the Greek Γαλαξίας κύκλος (Galaxias Kyklos) — “Milky Circle.”
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In his magnum opus, Astronomica, the Second Century Latin poet Manlius catalogs many versions. One suggests the Milky Way is the seam where the two half-globes of the heavens are welded. Or it might be the abode of the souls of heroes who have died. He noted the bioluminescent glow of a ship’s wake and surmised the bright path in the night sky might be the same.
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Or, he cites Democritus from the Fifth Century BCE, that it might be the accumulation of myriad stars too faint to see individually. Which is surprisingly the way we know it now.
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The Milky Way is a spiral collection of stars in a Frisbee disc about 180,000 light years across — that is more than a million trillion miles (yes, a million, one trillion times over). It contains between 100 billion and 400 billion stars (counting is hard because of dust obscuring parts, and also because counting that high is exhausting). And it is one of billions of similar collections of stars in the visible universe. Each is called a galaxy.
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The sun and earth sit about halfway out from the center of the circle and spin around the galactic center about once every 240 million years, traveling at a speed of 140 miles per second.
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That spiral shape is iconic, and found over and over in nature, like in the cloud spiral of a hurricane.
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But as I was going to say when truth broke in with all her astonishing matter-of-fact, it is the mythology of the Milky Way that is found in religion and poetry. The spilled milk is common to many cultures, but it is not the only primordial explanation for the spew of light that courses the heavens.
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In China, it is the Silver River; in Japan, the River of Heaven. The Sanskrit name is the Ganges of the Sky. In Scandinavia, it is called theVintergatan or “Winter Street,” because it can be seen only in the winter, since the long summer days never darken black enough at night to make it visible. In Medieval Europe, it was known as “The Road to Santiago,” as it was used to guide pilgrims to the church of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. (Conversely, the actual road to Compostela the pilgrims walked was called La Voje Ladee, or “The Milky Way.” And Compostella itself bears a folk etymology from Latin: field of stars.)
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In Australia, one Aboriginal peoples in Queensland consider the streak of light as a swarm of termites blown into the night by primordial hero Bur Buk Boon, through a hollowed log that became the first didgeridoo.
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In ancient Babylonia, the god Marduk sliced off the tail of the evil dragon Tiamat and threw it into the sky, forming the Milky Way.
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 After the Milky Way, the second most common name is “The Birds’ Path,” after a belief that migrating birds used the glow in the night sky to navigate. It is called that in Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Turkey, Kazakhstan, parts of Ukraine and Poland, and in variation in the Tatar language.
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When you build a campfire at night and poke the logs, a cloud of sparks fly up with the smoke. In Spanish, these sparks are chispas, in French, étincelles, in Latin, scintillae. (In Vulgar Latin, this became ‘scintilia, into Medieval French as estancele and hence our word, “tinsel.” Who knew?) I imagine those flying sparks in my imagination continue upwards, blowing and whirling, to become the band of scintillae in the sky.
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There are those of scientific mind, and those of esthetic. In school, my best friend was a math and science whiz — we called him “Gizmo.” We shared an interest in astronomy, although his was objective and filled with numbers, and mine was a delight in the vastness, the beauty and the cosmic. Giz had a Criterion Dynascope 6-inch reflecting telescope and we spent many nights pointing the thing at the sky, looking at the rings of Saturn or the craters of the moon. And the nebulae, including the fuzzy spot in the sky we call the Andromeda Galaxy. To this day, on a dark moonless night, I can still make out with my naked eye among the buckshot of stars, the sublime blur in the sky.
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I would spend hours at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, part of my spiritual home a the American Museum of Natural History. It is much changed now, rebuilt as the Rose Center. I loved the old halls, including the black-light murals, the orrery, the meteorites, the scales to compare your weights on other planets and the famous sign:
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But most of all, I loved the photographs. Black and white images taken with the Wilson and Palomar observatories’ telescopes, framed and lit from behind to make them glow. The image of the Andromeda Galaxy was stunning.
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It may be hard to conceive the magic those old images had, now that we are so used to the full-color pictures sent down to us from the Hubble Telescope in orbit. Those images are stunning, even though they are often presented to us in false color.
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But the real thing can be even more awe inspiring than the pictures. I remember a night I spent north of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, in back country 60 miles from the nearest paved road, on the way to the Toroweap Overlook. The night sky was intense; I sensed stars numbered in Carl Sagan’s “billions and billions.”
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At 6:30 exactly, with the sun already below the planet’s edge, the first star came out, directly overhead. It was Vega, in the constellation Lyra. The rest of the sky is still a glowing cyan with an orange wedge in the west.
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So far from civilization, the night sky is a revelation. As the night darkens, the stars pour out like sand from a beach pail. By 7:30 the sky is hysterical. I hadn’t seen so many stars since I was a child. The Milky Way ran from north to south like the river of incandescence it is, splitting like a tributary stream from Cygnus to Sagittarius.
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I sat on the car hood, leaning back with my head against the windshield and looked straight up. For two-and-a-half hours I sat there, looking up, trying to do nothing and think nothing. Just look.
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What at first seemed to be a solid bowl overhead, with pinpricks punched in it for the light to shine through, later took on depth. It became a lake with fish-stars swimming in it at all depths. As I reclined on the hood, I suddenly had the sensation of being a figurehead on a ship, or a hood ornament on a car, speeding into the three-dimensional emptiness defined by those stars.
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And, of course, I was. It was true. I was having my vision, as it were. But it is my particular stubborn sensibility that my vision turned out to be factual. This has happened to me before. Each time I enter the visionary world, it turns out that the transforming image I am given is grounded in simple fact.
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I really am on a stony vehicle careening through stars. It is just that in everyday life, we never think of it that way. Given the solitude and the velvet sky, the obvious becomes apparent.
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When my joints were finally too stiff from sitting in one position for so long, I decided it was time to sleep. I crawled in the tent and dozed off in the silence.
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At 3:30 in the morning, awakened by coyotes and owls, I got out of the tent to look at the sky again. It was all turned around. Orion was now up and bright as searchlights. And the Milky Way went east and west, having revolved around the pole star. So, this bullet we’re riding on is rifled.
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The night went on like that: One sense input after another, so busy through the nocturnal time-sluice that I hardly got any sleep at all. At 6 in the morning, the coyotes yowled again, and the east was whitening, although the sun was behind the mesa. It had rained briefly during the night and when I drew open the tent flap, I saw the blue sky patched with gray-brown clouds, and dangling from one of them was a rainbow. It was not much more than a yellowish bright spot against the angry cloud, but I saw its familiar arc and promise.
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Astronomy has moved ahead, working with computer images now instead of photographic plates. Perhaps because I grew up and became a writer rather than a scientist, I miss the awe and beauty of those million-dotted pictures, glowing white hot, like Moses’ bush, and giving a visual, esthetic image of the majesty and immensity of the universe.
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The great color images from the Hubble telescope have replaced the old Mt. Wilson pictures in the popular imagination of most younger students, giving a newer, more rainbowed sense of the awe of the universe. Like so much else, the images have become just more “media.” They are too pretty.
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But for me, there is the reality of a night sky that city lights blot away, leaving us only with the snapshots. The spinning Milky Way traversing the inner dome of heaven and the spatter of stars, so far away they cannot be measured in any sense meaningful to our lives on this planet, are the very ground of reality.
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Richard Nilsen inspired many ideas and memories at the salons he presented through the years when he was an arts critic and movie, travel, and features writer at The Arizona Republic.   A few years ago, Richard moved to North Carolina.   We want to continue our connection with Richard and have asked him to be a regular contributor to the Spirit of the Senses Journal.   We asked Richard to write short essays that were inspired by the salons.

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by Richard Nilsen

The world’s most famous novel addresses war and peace, but it begins, oddly, in a lady’s salon in St. Petersburg.
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Anna Pavlovna had sent out the invitations: “If you have nothing better to do, Count (or Prince) … I shall be very charmed to see you tonight between 7 and 10.”
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Then: “Anna Pavlovna’s drawing-room was gradually filling. The highest Petersburg society was assembled there.” Subjects of great pitch and moment were discussed among the men and women, including war and peace.
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In the novel, it is 1805 and near the end of two centuries of such salons, almost always run by women, and a gathering place for the best and brightest —  philosophers, writers, politicians and theologians.
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Their purpose was, as laid down by the Roman poet Horace, “aut delectare aut prodesse” — “to entertain and to educate.” All across Europe, such gatherings were where the latest ideas were hashed out, usually by the people with the means and power to bring them to practical fruition.
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It was in these salons, and their all-male counterpart, the coffeehouses, that the Enlightenment took shape.
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In recent years, Justine Kolata has attempted to resurrect the salon in contemporary London, in a group called The Public Sphere. She explains those of the

Justine Kolata

18th century: “They took place in the private homes of bourgeois women opened to a public, and occurred regularly, usually every week but sometimes every day, often over an extended meal for a group of approximately 20 to 40 people. Salons typically had a dedicated core membership, but were always open to new participants and contributors. Ideas and works in various subjects from science, philosophy, and politics to literature, art, and morality were vigorously debated in the salon.”

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Further, she says, “Some salons were focused on specific philosophical, cultural and political themes, while others remained generic. … Salons were far more than pleasant social gatherings; they were serious spaces for intellectual projects and advanced ambitious utopian ideals.”
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Sound familiar?
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Historian Susan Herbst writes: “Strong women remade the salons. They became central information nodes in the communication network that was 18th century Paris. Salons were soon news agencies, workshops for writers and centers for patronage. Many of the salonnières worked actively to make their gatherings simulate the classroom. Although discussion was the key mode of communication at the salon, lecturing followed by close questioning of the speaker was not uncommon… Women used the salons strategically to learn, to be entertained and to escape the boredom that characterized many of their lives.”
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It is said the central drives of human life are food, shelter and procreation, but there is another: the drive to learn. We too often think of education as something provided for children, continuing perhaps through college, but then having been fully formed, we go out into the world to make our way. But the fact is, we never stop learning, or more important, wanting to learn. That can be by study or by experience. It can be as simple as learning how to plant potatoes or as complex as parsing Sanskrit.
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The formal salon was originated in Europe among already educated classes, but the desire to learn is not so restricted. In the United States, a more democratic version grew. Middle-class people, wanting to better themselves, attended the lyceum or the chautauqua, where they paid to hear lecturers discuss subjects from history to travel to what we would now call “life hacks.”
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During this period, primarily the middle years of the 19th century,  these lyceums were established for the purpose of improving the social, intellectual, and moral fabric of society. They featured lectures, dramatic performances, class instructions, and debates, by noted lecturers, entertainers and readers. It was possible for someone to make a living traveling the lecture circuit, traveling from town to town or state to state to entertain, speak, or debate in a variety of locations, never staying in one place for too long. Their appearances were open to the public, which caused them to contribute significantly to the education of the adult American in years before and after the Civil War.
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Later in the century and into the early years of the 20th, the lyceum gave way to the chautauqua, which was traditionally held over several days under a tent, rather like a religious revival meeting. Speakers were often inspirational or reformist, touting such things as temperance, women’s rights, and moral uplift. Often, there was music: bands or spirituals. (It was in the chautauquas that white middle-class northerners were exposed to African-American music beyond the insulting parodies of the minstrel shows).
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The chautauqua began in 1874 on the shores of Lake Chautauqua in New York State. It was known as the “Mother Chautauqua,” because there were soon many “daughter chautauquas” springing up around the country.
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“Given the values, technology and geography of its time,” wrote educator Peter Feinman, “Chautauqua was perfectly designed as an instrument of hope and progress through education for the people of America.
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“The Chautauqua founders recognized that many middle-class Americans with no access to higher education, especially in rural areas, were thirsting for knowledge in an accessible format.
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“It brought people new things to talk about: For a brief moment a small town could become a cultural center linked to the larger world, much as radio, movies, television and the Internet would later do.”
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Theodore Roosevelt called Chautauqua “the most American thing in America.”
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They were an alternative entertainment to the vaudeville shows, a kind of middle-brow version of highbrow. Eventually, though, the vaudeville won out and the chautauquas faded. (They do still exist, in reduced form).
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Yet, the desire for adult education did not cease. An America striving for improvement, moral and intellectual, found other means, including the Carnegie libraries, and later, the Book of the Month Club (founded in 1926) and the Literary Guild (founded in 1927). There were the Harvard Five-Foot-Shelf and the rise of popular encyclopedias — Compton’s and Funk and Wagnall’s, among others.
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But even the salon concept persisted — and still persists. In the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, Zora Neale Hurston, Ruth Logan Roberts and Georgia Douglas Johnson brought together the stars of African-American culture and literature.
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And now, groups in England, such as Salon London, The Public Sphere and Pindrop Studios continue the tradition. And in the Arab world, salons in private homes offer women the chance for learning, and allowed for mixed-gender socializing. Within the confines of the salon, the free-flow of conversation and reciprocity is encouraged, and a sense of equality is fostered.
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Keith David Watenpaugh writes in his 2006 book, Being Modern in the Middle East: Revolution, Nationalism, Colonialism and the Arab Middle Class of  the opulent evenings spent in a Syrian salon: “Wearing either all black or all white dresses ordered from Paris, Marrash hosted the mixed evening get-togethers in which literary topics as varied as the Mu’allaqat, a cycle of seven pre-Islamic poems or the work of Rabelais were discussed. Chess and card games were played, and complicated poetry competitions took place; wine and ’araq flowed freely; participants sang, danced, and listened to records played on a phonograph.”
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And Iranian author Azar Nafisi wrote about discussing Western authors in a salon group in her best-selling book, Reading Lolita in Tehran.
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The lust for learning is unquenchable. Hence the popularity of TED Talks, the rise of The Great Courses and streaming Great Courses Plus, and the flow of

Amanda Podany; Great Courses

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Horace had it right: entertain and educate. The two are not at odds. To an inquisitive mind, little is as entertaining as learning. We should not be shy about the power of being amused.lectures and panel discussions telecast on C-Span Book TV and now, C-Span History TV, which fill up the Congress-free weekend hours.
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I remember my college roommate who said the goal of life is to be amused. He meant nothing shallow by this: His idea of amusement was to enter the Peace Corps for two go-rounds, and spent seven years in Korea. He spent his time learning Korean, Japanese and Mandarin — to add to his collection of Spanish, German and Italian. He later got his graduate degrees in Spanish Linguistics and wound up teaching at Indiana University. Amusement was never sitting in front of a TV watching sitcoms and eating Doritos.
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Being amused, in this sense, is being engaged, being connected to the world, being interested. It leads to cosmopolitanism and a drastic reduction in bigotry, prejudice and ignorance.
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Finally, on a personal note, I always felt I learned a great deal preparing and talking to the members of the Spirit of the Senses. I miss that very much.  My hunger is not quenched.
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Richard Nilsen inspired many ideas and memories at the salons he presented through the years when he was an arts critic and movie, travel, and features writer at The Arizona Republic. A few years ago, Richard moved to North Carolina. We want to continue our connection with Richard and have asked him to be a regular contributor to the Spirit of the Senses Journal. We asked Richard to write short essays that were inspired by the salons.

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by Richard Nilsen
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I am not smart enough to have a meaningful opinion about Artificial Intelligence. I’m not sure anyone is.
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Thought on the matter is all over the place: Savior of humankind; destroyer of the world; future slavemaster of downtrodden muggles; insurer of the easy life; purloiner of jobs; next stop on the evolutionary bus.
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It may give us gifts in health care, transportation and scientific research, but it also can fuel mass surveillance, false news, robocalls, and online phishing attacks.
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Supporters say that AI will help the military make battles more precise and accurate, reducing both civilian death and harm to soldiers; but for the same reason, it also could wind up making wars more frequent.
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Ethics is a primary concern, but as one corporate spokesman pointed out, “Ethics is in the eye of the beholder.”
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One of the problems is that the subject is so huge, and so multifarious, that even experts tend to specialize in this area or that, meaning that the whole is the elephant and the blind men. Another problem is that we seem to be at the threshold of the subject: If you were to predict in 1957 where the microchip would take us, I doubt you would have foreseen millions of teenagers with their faces lit celadon by the screens of their iPhones while they play Pokemon Go, or take photos of each other with bunny ears or cat whiskers.
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Or that the biggest outrage of etiquette at a symphony concert or opera would be the uninvited sound of a ringtone — always at the most inopportune moments.
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But the biggest problem is that we cannot decide what intelligence actually is. Whether it is artificial or natural hardly matters, if we cannot agree on what we mean by the word.
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Robot thinker artificial intelligence progress pop art retro style. Antique pose. science fiction and the robot character.

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There are so many kinds of intelligence, ranging from mathematical genius to the spatial sense of certain athletes who can put a 9.4-inch ball through an 18-inch hoop from the three-point line — whoosh. Or the ability of certain people to empathize or read facial expressions, or to find directions instantly in a new city — without the help of GPS.
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For the masses, intelligence is about how much you know. If you can win at Jeopardy, you must be smart. Well, perhaps you need to have a quotient of intelligence to learn so much, but the information is not the intelligence. It is merely a byproduct. There’s a lot of people who know a lot who you scratch your head over because they just don’t seem all that bright. A good memory is one thing … but only one thing.
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Proponents of AI tell us that given time, there will be digital parallels to all these faces of intelligence. Computer prophet Lawrence Tesler first noted this in the 1970s, when he proposed his theorem: “AI is whatever hasn’t been done yet.”
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Opponents cling on to the belief that there is something special about the human mind that can never be duplicated synthetically. (Neurobiologists seem to keep finding evidence contradicting that proud belief — perhaps the brain really is only a supercomputer; perhaps we recognize faces the same way a street camera in London does.)
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Judging by the past, the future will just be a continuous incremental nibbling away of what we think makes us human.
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Or perhaps, the future will sound like Arnold Schwarzenegger: “I’ll pea pack.” Will you have to give every phone call a Turing test? How many men already have erotic dreams about Siri or Alexa?
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If AI can fully mimic human intelligence, will it be able to forget what it knows? Forgetting is an important human quality; it makes forgiveness possible.
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So, what is intelligence? I was once asked that by a fresh-faced young woman after a panel discussion I was part of.
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I said at the time that for me, intelligence can best be found in forgetting. I called it “volitional ignorance,” or a willed erasure of everything you know. I still believe this: to learn anything new, you have to unlearn what you already thought you understood: What you know prevents learning.
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People create for themselves a model of reality, or more accurately, many models. These models derive from experience. When anything new makes itself felt, it is immediately tested against the model most appropriate.
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If no model is right, the new fact can be dealt with in one of two ways. Most commonly, it is squeezed into the model like a square peg hammered into a round hole. The new is shaved and jiggered until it conforms with what we already know. In the end, we have learned nothing; we may only have renamed what we already knew.
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William Blake made this a centerpiece of his poetry and his way of understanding the world. “Man by his reasoning power can only compare and judge of what he has already perceiv’d,” he wrote. “From of perception of only three senses or three elements none could deduce a fourth or fifth. … and would soon be at the ratio of all things and stand still, unable to do other than repeat the same dull round over again.”
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But intelligence is what makes us throw out the old category rather than mangle the nonconforming fact.
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And those who are genuinely brilliant throw out the categories before even considering the new fact. This is what I mean by “volitional ignorance.” It forces us to reinvent the wheel every single time and is the only way to discover anything genuine about the problem of wheels.
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Something of the same is sometimes called “zen mind/beginner’s mind” and means that you accept the experience fresh and start for yourself rather than relying on the culturally accepted model.
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The young woman said at the time, “You mean, like coloring outside the lines,” and I agreed. But I soon realized, I was doing exactly what I said I shouldn’t. I was using a cliche to understand something beyond conventional tropes.
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For it is not like coloring outside the lines, not at all.
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When she said that, she was in fact squeezing my square peg into a round hole, translating what I was saying into something she already understood.
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We all do this constantly, and I am not criticizing her for it. I am frequently guilty of the same thing. In fact, we cannot do otherwise without becoming yammering idiots. A certain amount of structure is needed to function in our daily lives: We cannot question the egg at every breakfast.
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But still, intelligence is the ability to get past the quotidian. I call the ignorance “volitional” because it is something I make a choice about. Those who are forced to see everything fresh at every second of their lives are called schizophrenic; they cannot edit the information coming into their brains.
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Yet, we need to be able to allow ourselves to enter that state on cue if we are ever to learn anything new and genuine.
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Coloring outside the lines implies a disregard of the structure of the drawing we are coloring. Intelligence doesn’t mean the mere disregard of structure, but the discovery of yet another structure, as if, looking up at the night sky, we were able to ignore all the constellations and create new ones, entirely our own and what is more, that the ones we create are better and truer than the old ones, just as the Big Dipper is easier to see than the Great Bear.
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There are also several other aspects of intelligence that need mentioning, I think, although they are all related.
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First is that intelligence can apprehend the similarities of disparate things. It recognizes in what way the horse is the same as the fork. It makes us transcend the accepted categories of things and redefine the categories. Perhaps, instead of thinking of the categories “mammal” and “silverware,” we might discover that through human history, both horse and fork have been used as parts of the common category “tool.”
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Or perhaps: four legs; four tines.
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“A vast similitude interlocks all,” thought Walt Whitman standing on the beach at night and imagining the planets and comets spinning over his head.
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I remember a segment on Sesame Street where they played the game, “Three of these things are kind of the same,” where they show us four items and ask which doesn’t belong, and which three do belong.
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In this case, they had a red ball, a tomato, a green apple and a ruddy pear. Well, there are four different answers: The ball is not edible; the apple is not red; the pear is not round; and the tomato was not known in Europe before Columbus: Each is different in its own way.
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The ability to see multiple answers is another sign of intelligence. Intelligence embraces ambiguity.
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The digital world is built of zeros and ones — either/or — it is by design inimical to ambiguity. Certainly, ambiguity can be designed in, but it has to be jiggered to do so. If you ask “which of these is different?,” you confuse the program.
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And finally, intelligence understands things metaphorically, that is, it thinks in images and discovers in them reductions of complex thoughts in small, understandable packages that resonate emotionally.
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Einstein first discovered his theory of relativity not in a mathematical equation, but in a mental picture. It gave him the insight he needed to later forge the math proving his insight. But the picture came first.
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Prod DB © UFA / DRMETROPOLIS (METROPOLIS) de Fritz Lang 1926 ALLavec Brigitte Helmclassique, science fiction, anticipation, robot, androide, pentacled’après le roman de Thea Von Harbou

Speaking of one thing while meaning another is the heart of intelligence.

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This is not a game, merely substituting one thing for another as in a rebus, but rather it is the recognition that our vocabulary is limited by what we know already. When we confront something genuinely new, we cannot speak of it in language we already have, we must speak of what it is “like.”
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In each case, we are trying to convey something of the complexity and subtlety of what we feel, not allowing it to die the death of the normal, the bland, the banal. We are insisting that the particular emotion be understood and felt by the stranger to whom we are talking. We want exactness in our language and we can only reach it through inexactness. The more precise a word is, the less it describes. We need ambiguity to communicate: Metaphor is the means of doing it.
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All our highest and best thoughts are metaphorical. All the most banal come straight from the dictionary.
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So far, AI seems stuck in ever more complex rewirings of what is already input. Can it finagle those ones and zeros and come up withHamlet, or will monkeys do it first?
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Richard Nilsen inspired many ideas and memories at the salons he presented through the years when he was an arts critic and movie, travel, and features writer at The Arizona Republic.   A few years ago, Richard moved to North Carolina.   We want to continue our connection with Richard and have asked him to be a regular contributor to the Spirit of the Senses Journal.   We asked Richard to write short essays that were inspired by the salons.

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March 2019 salon calendar

Reservations required for all salons.

If you cannot honor reservation please call to cancel.

(chair) = please bring small folding chair that has padded tips on chair legs

salon calendar locations in printed monthly salon calendar

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2nd Saturday 7PM  The Salon (chair)

Castles of Spain

John Oeth will perform classical music for guitar from his new album ‘Castles of Spain’, featuring the works of Federico Moreno Torroba.

https://www.johnoethguitar.com/

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3rd Sunday 7PM  The Salon  (chair)

Conversation with Lawrence Krauss

A conversation with theoretical physicist and commentator Lawrence Krauss, PhD, author of ‘A Universe from Nothing’, ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told: So Far’, and founder of The Origins Project Foundation and The Origins Project Podcasts.

https://originsprojectfoundation.org/

https://www.lawrencemkrauss.com/

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7th Thursday 7PM  The Salon  (chair)

Commentary on China

Stephen MacKinnon, PhD, a China scholar and researcher, and an emeritus professor of history, ASU,  will discuss current issues of China and the relationship with America.

https://isearch.asu.edu/profile/44100

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9th Saturday 7PM  The Salon (chair)

Art of Corinne Geersten

Artist Corinne Geersten will show and discuss her photo assemblage narratives of quirky psychological predicaments, from her growing library of over 45,000 photos, and discuss her creative process.

https://corinnegeertsen.com/

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12th Tuesday 7PM  The Salon  (chair)

Marco Polo’s Travels

Mark Cruse, PhD, a professor of Medieval and French history at ASU, will discuss the topic of his new book on the old French manuscripts of Marco Polo’s travels.

https://isearch.asu.edu/profile/845884

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14th Thursday 7PM  The Salon

Tour of SciHub Lab

Frank Wilczek is a theoretical physicist, at MIT, Stockholm University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and ASU. will join Nathan Newman, PhD, Lamonte H. Lawrence Professor in Solid State Science, ASU, to tour and discuss research and projects at their new SciHub Lab at Arizona State University.

https://www.frankawilczek.com/

https://sustainability.asu.edu/person/nathan-newman/

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16th Saturday 7PM  The Salon (chair)

Conversations on Cancer Treatments

Carolyn Compton, MD, PhD, an academic pathologist, at the School of Life Sciences and The Biodesign Institute, ASU and the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, and editor in chief of ‘Current Pathobiology Reports’, will discuss surgery and radiation in cancer treatments.

https://sols.asu.edu/carolyn-compton

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18th Monday 7PM  The Salon  (chair)

Inside Artificial Intelligence

Gerald Piosenka, a former senior manager at Motorola and General Dynamics, will discuss the basis of AI structure and how AI works.

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22nd Friday 7PM  The Salon  (chair)

Shikokou, The 88  Temple Way

Traude Wild, who resides in Vienna and Phoenix,  and who is author of the book ‘Shikokou, The 88 Temple Way’, will discuss her 800 mile pilgrimage visiting 88 Buddhist Temples in Japan.

http://simplyjustwalking.com/just-me/

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24th Sunday 7PM  The Salon  (chair)

All That Jazz

Tracy Fessenden, PhD, the Steve and Margaret Forster professor in School of Religious Studies, ASU, will discuss Black performers and Jewish songwriters, and the making of an American musical tradition.

https://isearch.asu.edu/profile/104776

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27th Wednesday 7PM  The Salon

Conversation with Joe Garagiola, Jr.

Joe Garagiola, Jr., special advisor to the President and CEO of the Arizona Diamondbacks of Major League Baseball, will discuss his insights and perspectives on baseball and the Major League.

https://www.mlb.com/dbacks

 

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by Traude Wild

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How much is our life centered on securing ourselves from ever-changing circumstances? We want to be safe and feel in control of our life situations. Quite often, if we are honest with ourselves, we want to control other people in order to guard our safety. We build walls, distance and isolate ourselves, so we may be protected from uncertainties and the things we fear. However, instead of being protected, we become prisoners in the walls we have built.

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In order to regain our vitality, youthfulness and joy for life, we must have a willingness to step into the unknown and be changed by life itself.

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When I walked the 88 Temple pilgrimage – an 800-mile hike around the fourth-largest island of Japan – my steps into the unknown began before I left home. I wanted to be well-prepared and intended to hike up Piestewa Peak in Phoenix at least once a day. But several weeks before my departure, I became so ill and weak that I ran out of breath after walking 30 feet uphill. My physical problems intensified my major doubts about walking alone in an exotic foreign country. Voices whispered to me in silent moments: “You are not prepared enough. You are too old. You will get lost. You will not be able to communicate without knowing Japanese.”

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At my lowest point – when fears, doubts and my body’s weakness nearly overtook my consciousness – I took a pen and scribbled a drawing with my non-dominant hand. I called it “simply just walking.” It expressed my determination to walk the pilgrimage, regardless of my fears and the potential disasters.

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When I boarded the plane to Tokyo, I carried all the insecurities and doubts with me. I had to accept who I was, facing my vulnerability and fears. In my mind, I was ready to accept every experience I would encounter, even death. This may sound strange and I did not want to die at all. However, in reflecting back on this attitude, I realize that the intention to accept every experience helped me to start the pilgrimage without fear. It was like stepping through the entrance gate of a Shingon Buddhist temple where often a wooden beam was placed on the bottom of the gate. The pilgrim had to be careful not to touch this beam while stepping over it. I had to be careful not to give in to my fears and insecurities.

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I started the pilgrimage at temple number one, Ryōzenji, in Tokushima Prefekture. Stepping through the entrance gate, a world utterly unknown to me unfolded in front of my eyes. The sound of bells mixed with the voices of chanting pilgrims. All were Japanese. They wore sedged hats and white pilgrim’s outfits and walked naturally through the temple area. They knew how and where to bow, to purify their hands and mouth, to ring the bell and gongs, to light candles and incense, to donate name slips and money and, especially, how to chant.

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My friend Shigeo and I in front of the main Hall in Ryōzenji.

I, on the other hand, was totally overwhelmed and confused. I constantly made mistakes – forgot to bow, rang the small gongs in a bumbling way and stood in the way of other pilgrims without realizing it. My feelings of awkwardness and being out of place intensified with every temple I visited. Should I give up my intention to walk the pilgrimage like a traditional pilgrim? Following the pilgrim’s etiquette did not have any religious purpose for me. I wanted to use it for training in mindfulness. I could escape my self-imposed requirements and simply not do it.

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When I reached my lowest point, when my voice cracked while chanting the sutra and the feeling of being out of place made me want to disappear into the ground, a miracle happened. Another Japanese pilgrim suddenly appeared beside me, and we chanted the Heart Sutra together in a steady, strong voice. The Japanese words suddenly sounded grounding and assuring. They lost their strangeness. From that moment on, I continued with the rituals, and I loved it till the end of my pilgrimage. By simply just walking forward despite my strong feelings of awkwardness, my perception changed.

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Walking a pilgrimage is following a path to a destination. However, for me, the destination is never the goal. The goal is to be wherever I am right now. This was especially true in Shikoku. The 88 Temple Pilgrimage is a circle with no beginning or end. Although there is a physically marked path, it only becomes a path by walking it. The poet David Whyte states, “By walking, you make the path.” Each step is a step into the unknown. How do you deal with the uncertainties? You have to trust in life, be connected to silence and listen.

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During my pilgrimage, I often walked through remote areas with nobody around. Although I always looked for the little red signs, sometimes I could not find any marker and thought I had lost my way. Getting lost was one of my biggest fears.

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One time, on my way to a mountain temple, I had walked for hours through a dense cedar forest without meeting anybody. Nearly at the top of the mountain, I had to climb an iron ladder over an almost vertical rock. Not far away from this climb, I came to a crossroad with signs pointing in three directions – back where I was coming from, left and right. The signs had only Japanese words on them, which I could not read.

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I was sure I had lost my way. What should I do? My heart pounded stronger, and I felt light panic creeping up. I decided to stop, wait and go into silence. Suddenly, I heard a sweeping sound in the distance. I followed it uphill, and to my surprise, in the middle of the forest, there was a man sweeping the path! He assured me I was on the right way. My fears vanished in a second and were replaced by deep gratitude.

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But I faced my biggest time of uncertainty when I approached the entrance gate of Zuiōji. This temple belongs to one of the most traditional Sōtō Zen training centers in Japan. I got a permit to stay there for eight days. When I walked up to the gate in pouring rain, with heavy mist hanging over the treetops, the outer world seemed to reflect my inner one – not seeing farther than my immediate experience.

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I had read stories about foreigners staying in Japanese temples that made me shudder – they felt totally abandoned, crushed and lost. Maybe I was making a big mistake to come here. In my dripping wet red raincoat, I entered the kitchen, the only place I could find anybody. Two cooks were working there. One of them immediately spotted me, welcomed me with a big smile, and greeted me using my Buddhist name: “You must be Garyo-san! Welcome to Zuiōji!”

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Although I was the only foreigner and only woman, I was able to practice with the monks the traditional way of Zen. The stay in Zuiōji became the highlight of my pilgrimage.

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Saying good by to the over 90 year old

abbot of Zuiōji, Tsugen Narasaki Rōshi

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The walk into the unknown did not end with my Japanese pilgrimage. Back at home, I unexpectedly felt depressed and disoriented. Familiarity threatened to take away the freshness I had experienced in Japan. Over and over, I had to train and discipline my mind to stay alert in my familiar world, to be open and stay in resonance with life around me.

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While writing my book, the unknown became more of a fine aroma or a hardly felt breeze. However, this radically changed when publishing the book. Insurmountable obstacles seem to prevent me from putting the book into the world. Suddenly, I was confronted with a situation I feared most – I had to walk the last steps of publication on my own. Computer technology is an overwhelming world to me, like a dangerous jungle with many unexpected traps. I felt abandoned and helpless. However, I had to dare to take these steps, despite my insecurity and fear. With a friend beside me, I walked through the jungle of electronic book design and unfamiliar technical language. And at the end, a miracle happened – the book was accepted and published.

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A pilgrimage is not different from the journey of life. Whether we’re on an unfamiliar trail or simply waking up to a new day, we have to step out of our narrow space and into one of the most challenging and scary situations in life – the world of the unknown. To let this happen, we have to let go of the identity we hold onto and the stories we tell about ourselves and give ourselves away to the direct experience of life. This requires openness, vulnerability and a willingness to become intimate with silence. It is not easy to do.

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Rilke, one of my favorite poets, describes it in the following way:

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God speaks to each of us before we are, before he’s formed us –

then, in a cloudy speech, but only then, he speaks these words to each,

and silently walks with us from the dark: Driven by your senses,

dare to the edge of longing. Grow, like a fire’s shadow casting glare,

behind assembled things, so you can spread their shapes on me as clothes.

Don’t leave me bare. Let it all happen to you: beauty and dread.

Simply go – no feeling is too much –

and only this way can we stay in touch. Near here is the land that they call life.

You’ll know when you arrive by how real it is.

                         Translated by Leonard Cottrell

You can find more information about my pilgrimage in

SHIKOKU, THE 88 TEMPLE WAY: POETICS OF A JAPANESE PILGRIMAGE

available for Kindle or in paperback from Amazon.com or on my blog: simplyjustwalking.com

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Traude Wild, a long time member of Spirit of the Senses, who resides in both Vienna and Phoenix, has been a lecturer of art history and practicioner of Zen Buddhism. Her passion is walking, especially walking pilgrimages. Two of her books describe her walks in Ethiopia and Nepal. Her current book is  ‘Shikoku, The 88 Temple Way: Poetics of a Japanese Pilgrimage’.

 

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by Richard Nilsen
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In 1966, I invented the Gaia principle. Me. That the earth is a single living organism. But more on that later.
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First, of course, I’m not the only one to figure this out. At about the same time, chemist James Lovelock and microbiologist Lynn Margulis gave the idea its name, after the primeval Greek goddess of the Earth and the primordial mother of all life. But I beat them out and claim my primacy.  But again, later.
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It turns out, it is not unusual for ideas to pop up simultaneously and independently. Science and technology are littered with such examples. For instance, Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz worked out the calculus at the same time, although Newton called the process fluxions — which I think is a much catchier name. They did not get on, and Newton always felt that Leibniz must have cadged the process from his notes. (Leibniz didn’t).
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Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace came up with the concept of natural selection as the mechanism for evolution at the same time. In this case, the two worked it out between them amicably.
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These are the most famous examples of ideas welling up separately, but there are many more.
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Joseph Priestly and Carl Wilhelm Scheele discovered oxygen both in the 1770s. Both Nettie Stevens and Edmund Wilson submitted papers that formed the modern view of genetic gender determination 10 days apart. Takaaki Kajita and Arthur B. McDonald independently proved neutrinos have mass. Lothar Meyer and Dmitri Mendeleev each created the periodic table of elements — a year apart. The British Frank Whittle and the German Hans von Ohain each came up with the first jet engine, during World War II, on opposite sides of the conflict.
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I could go on: Within six months of each other, Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce each invented the microchip in the late 1950s. Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning rod in 1749 and Czech theologian Prokop Divis came up with the same idea in 1754, independently. In 1953, both Daniel Fox of General Electric and Hermann Schnell of the German company Bayer invented polycarbonate plastic. American Don Wetzel and British John Shepherd both invented the automated teller machine (ATM) in the late ’60s. In 1902, Leon Teisserence de Bort from France and German Richard Assmann discovered the stratosphere just three days apart.
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At least five people came up with a mechanism for television in the 1920s.
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Clearly, something was in the air, besides oxygen.
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The same thing happens in movies. They are called “twin films,” and Wikipedia lists 173 pairs of them: movies that share the same plot made at the same time by different studios.
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Among the most notable: Deep Impact and Armageddon in 1998; Tombstone and Wyatt Earp 1993 and ’94; Dangerous Liaisons andValmont in 1988 and ’89; Volcano and Dante’s Peak in 1997. Sometimes the pairing is quite specific: drag queens on a road trip across a continent to discover themselves — The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert in 1994 and To Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar a year later.
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Just last year, there was Sink or Swim and Swimming With Men, both films about a man in midlife crisis joining an all-male synchronized swim team. And Skate Kitchen and Mid90s, both about skate boarders, both with non-actor skateboarders and young heroes dealing with difficult mothers.
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It seems the zeitgeist is pregnant with something and then it all coalesces with the birth pangs around the world.
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Of more import are those significant upwellings of political synchronicity. Probably the most famous is the year 1848, when revolutionary movements exploded in some 50 countries worldwide, from Ukraine to Brazil. It seemed to come from nowhere and suddenly, it was everywhere. Unfortunately for history, almost all of the revolutions failed.
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A lesser confluence of revolution had occurred in 1830, in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Portugal, Switzerland and Italy. In France, it brought the “citizen king,” Louis Philippe, that 1848 attempted to unseat.
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In our own time, 1968 was the focus of international disruption, protest and violence, not only with anti-war protests and civil rights unrest in the U.S., with the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., and the riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, but major strikes in France, crises all through Western Europe, the beginning of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland, the Tlatelolco massacre in Mexico City, guerrilla war in Brazil, the Prague Spring and the Red Square Demonstration in Moscow protesting the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. There were uprisings in Poland and Yugoslavia, student revolt in Pakistan, and the climax of the Cultural Revolution in China. The whole globe seemed to be in paroxysm: Gaia was having a heart attack.
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 An aftershock hit in the years on both sides of 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the complete collapse of the Soviet Empire. There was a sense that it all seemed to happen at once.
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And today, all across the planet, there is a simultaneous rise of populist authoritarianism. We could soon look back and see this moment as another one of those global seizures.
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So, it can seem at times that the Earth is a single thing, that suffers global events, seemingly unconnected, yet simultaneous. A shadow, like an eclipse, sweeps across its lands.
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Now, back to me and Gaia. It was 1966 and I was a freshman in college taking an intro to biology class with Richard Carleton Ward, a teacher of peculiar manners and prejudices. I could write a whole chapter on him, the way he spoke out of the side of his mouth in a gravelly grunt, the way he bought conspiracy theories, his suburban house blocked from view in a bourgeois neighborhood by a jungle of bamboo, vines and weeds.  He wrote an article for the underground newspaper I was publishing in which he complained ferociously about students’ inability to spell the word, “spaghetti.”
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In his class, were assigned to write a research paper on a living organism, animal or plant, complete with footnotes and citations, and following the Kate Turabian style manual. Points would be taken off for failing to properly spell, capitalize, indent, space margins, and italicize.
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I am basically a very lazy person, and all this sounded like work. Doing research meant digging through the library for books, scouring theReaders Guide to Periodical Literature for articles, and — worst of all — cataloging the findings and writing the bibliography and footnotes.
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So, I decided I would be “creative” instead. Please remember, this was 1966, and “creativity” was a buzzword more in evidence than “clickbait” is now.
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To avoid all the tedious detail that research would entail, I hit upon the idea that I could invent a new organism — the Earth. Our textbook listed a series of five or six essential qualities that define life, and I applied them to the planet. I could easily make the argument that the planet respires, that it metabolizes — that all the inhabitants of the world could be seen as the same as the individual cells that make up our body: The macro rhymes the micro.
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I hit the height of cleverness discussing reproduction. I wrote that at my age, I hadn’t yet reproduced (“as far as I know,” I threw in to be coy), but that didn’t mean I couldn’t, and just because the Earth had not yet reproduced didn’t mean it couldn’t. And I proceeded to hypothesize how the planet could bud like a hydra, planting new “cells” on another great, round, rocky skeleton or coral stone elsewhere in the solar system. Mars, for instance. And thus, the planet could duplicate itself.
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And so, I proved, at least to the satisfaction of my crackpot teacher, that the planet we lived upon could be taken as a single giant hyper-organism. He gave me a B-plus and I managed to avoid all the serious work and pass the course. I therefore invented, out of abject laziness and sideways thinking, the Gaia Principle. Credit where credit is due. I will be happy to share the Nobel with Margulis and Lovelock.
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Years later, my wife, Carole, had a different way of looking at it, which makes even more sense. She was bothered by a politician making a speech and talking about how we live on the planet and need to take care of it — a worthy idea, for sure — but her take was that we don’t live “on” the Earth, but rather, we are the Earth, along with, and no different from the birds and bees and rocks and trees.
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And that is now my mantra: We don’t live on the planet; we are the planet.
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Richard Nilsen inspired many ideas and memories at the salons he presented through the years when he was an arts critic and movie, travel, and features writer at The Arizona Republic.   A few years ago, Richard moved to North Carolina.   We want to continue our connection with Richard and have asked him to be a regular contributor to the Spirit of the Senses Journal.   We asked Richard to write short essays that were inspired by the salons.

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