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Now we, returning from the vaulted domes
Of our colossal sleep, come home to find
A tall metropolis of catacombs
Erected down the gangways of our mind…
Backward we traveled to reclaim the day
Before we fell, like Icarus, undone;
All we find are altars in decay
And profane words scrawled black across the sun.
Still stubbornly we try to crack the nut
In which the riddle of our race is shut.
Sylvia Plath sent this poem to her mother just days before Mother’s Day in 1954. She was 21 at the time.
The photograph is of Danielle McCloskey, an FIT art student, in an installation she created for the school’s graduation art exhibit. Danielle said the work is a commentary on identity, which is prevalent throughout the show.
In a world where computers are taught to think and humans taught to tweet, where individuals are told they are gods and nothing — but a pile of data, it’s hard for women and men to find a coherent and correct view of reality — and their true identity.
“Just a note in the appropriate midst of Escape from Freedom to let you know I won one poetry prize this year on the basis of my sonnet “Doom of Exiles,” which I wrote this spring. Only $20, I think, but it will keep me in new shoes for Marty’s wedding. Also I just got elected president of the Alpha Phi Kappa Society, honorary society of the arts, which has the advantage of being a very honorary post with a minimum of work and a solid gold, ruby-studded pin from Tiffany’s…” Sylvia Plath, May 20, 1954
A secular society, that exalts algorithms and egoism, is seeing the human person increasingly diminished by forces inside and outside of herself. Activist organizations that seek to promote human rights often times undermine the people they claim to be helping. This can be seen in the Women’s Movement.
The Women’s Movement in the U.S., organized to achieve voting rights, was in fact a revolutionary movement that (consciously or not) sought to emancipate women from nature — as Trotsky sought to break with nature in Russia during the Russian Revolution. In 1913 Helen Keller said: “I am a militant suffragette because I believe suffrage will lead to socialism, and to me socialism is the real cause.”
A recent symposium in NYC, organized by WNET New York Public Media, presented a documentary on the Women’s Movement to a group of Girl Scouts. The discussion that followed featured prominent activists, including Marlo Thomas. The comments reflected a utilitarian perspective on life: “Gloria and I didn’t want to be domesticated. You can’t mate in captivity.” “Until the domestic arrangement changes, nothing will change for women.” “I must, I insist, I have to have.”
As with Marxism, the Women’s Movement is a materialist movement that sees women’s power as a function of numbers — “If you have half the group then you have power.” “When 51 women are in the U.S. Senate, then we can relax.” The result is a failure to understand the true power of women and to operate in the natural order of existence. The better way is for people to grow to understand their inter-dependent spiritual nature, and how to participate in being in a conscious and concrete way. For that, men and women need to freely choose to respect and serve each other in all areas of life. The free and sincere ‘gift of self’, rather than the assertion of self, is the way to achieve happiness and peace within and among persons.
The Czech Center in New York is presenting a two-part program: From Democracy to Dictatorship and Genocide: Jews in the Czech Lands and Slovakia before during and after the Second World War.
The first session, by Benjamin Frommer a historian at Northwestern University, was given on 4/11. His talk: The Ghetto Without Walls: The Identification, Isolation and Deportation of Bohemian and Moravian Jewry, 1938-1945 addressed the impact of the Nazi occupation on Jews, in what is now the Czech Republic — with lessons for today.
Since coming to power in 1933, Hitler was driven by a desire to “smash” the Versailles Treaty of 1919, which had reduced German territory, and (in his mind) been pushed for by Jewish elites in the U.S. and England. The Munich Agreement (Sept 1938) gave Hitler the Sudetenland and control over the remaining Czech area, which the Nazis occupied in March 1939. Before the Nazis arrived, Czechoslovakia was the only democracy in central/eastern Europe, with a Jewish population that was fully integrated in Czech society — including 30% intermarriages.
In his talk, Mr. Frommer commented that “in 1939 the Nazis weren’t aware that they were going to create Auschwitz and try to kill every Jew in Europe.” The question is was there a tipping point (added to by outside forces) in the “step-by-step process” that led to genocide?
In Jewish Prague (Akropolis Publishers, 1991), Ctibor Rybar reported that the Jews began to be deported from Prague and Brno on October 19, 1941. It was on September 11, 1941 that President Roosevelt announced to his nation, in a fireside chat, that “the time for active defense is now,” after manufacturing the Greer incident. Could it be that the Nazi’s ‘final solution of the Jewish question’ began when the U.S. decided to enter the war?
Historians like to say there is no logic for the insanity and evil of Hitler and the Holocaust. And yet when looking at the facts, and connecting the dots, one can’t help but believe that World Wars I & II, and the Holocaust could have been avoided if leaders in the U.S., Britain and Russia had themselves possessed less furor teutonicus.
The Catholic Center at New York University held a symposium, 2/4, exploring the thinking of John Henry Newman and the question — What positive contribution can religion make to the ongoing life of the contemporary university?
“Newman reminds us today, that as unlikely and outlandish as it might seem, theology and the speculative contemplation of which it gives rise to is about the only thing that can save the university from its total functionalization and commodification. For theology reminds all the other disciplines that the greatest freedom comes with the contemplation and communication of the transcendent truth of God.” Reinhard Huetter, Duke Divinity School
“For you, also, we have a message, and it is this: Continue to search, tirelessly, never despairing of the truth! Recall the words of one of your great friends, St. Augustine: ‘We seek with a desire to find, and we find with a desire to seek further.’ Happy are those who, possessing truth, seek it, in order to renew it, to deepen it, and give it to others. Happy are those who, not having found it, go toward it sincere in heart; may they seek tomorrow’s light in today’s, till they come to the fullness of light.”Pope Paul VI
At this year’s Clinton Global Initiative, Queen Rania of Jordan called for an ‘education revolution’ in the Arab World. She said the focus of 21st century education should be on designing the future rather than dissecting the past.
Commentary: The American General George Marshall advocated, after World War II, for educators to teach students about how wars began. He thought that by doing so they might be avoided in the future.
LE engaged a CGI volunteer in a discussion about the Arab Spring — and its connections with the Russian Revolution. But she quickly said: “I was much better at science and math than I was at history.”
How can a modern democratic state, whose institutions are rotten to the core, possibly reform itself — when the people are so broken? What would James Madison and Thomas Jefferson say — on this the 225th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution? Perhaps they would say: “We’re not surprised.” In different ways they both saw it coming.
Commentary: A good education should foster an authentic understanding of being human with free participation in a ‘more perfect union’. Self-interest, STEM Education, and passion are not enough. In the words of German philosopher Edith Stein: “The individual human being is in his content not merely a particularization of something more universal, but a member of a whole that realizes itself as a vital unity and that can achieve its unfolding only in the vital context of the whole, in its particular place and in cooperation with the other members.” Finite and Eternal Being (ICS Publications, 2002)
Photographs: Stephen Wise
A junior at Columbia College wrote an editorial in the Columbia Spectator (April 19, 2012) in which she says: “I’m not ready to be a senior and I’m sure there are other juniors who feel the same way.” She laments not having anyone older to help answer her “existential questions”.
“Who’s going to grab coffee with me next year? I’ve started wondering to myself. I never really had role models growing up — I had figured out by middle school that my parents, cheerleading coaches and baby sitters knew a lot about life because they were older, but in many ways they were still clueless too.”
The editorial takes a dramatic turn when she adds: “One of my professors recently said, ‘Parents don’t know what the fuck they’re doing either. There’s no ultimate handbook for parenting.’ Maybe we could say the same thing about being a senior — you’ve got three years of experience behind you, but you still don’t have a definitive guide for exactly what you should be doing…”
Photograph: Stephen Wise
As politicians and business leaders get more involved with education, the emphasis on productivity, efficiency and scale have produced unfortunate outcomes — from No Child Left Behind (during the Bush years), to e-learning with President Obama.
E-learning is hot. A recent Google search generated 181,000,000 responses. But is it good? Already people are discovering (as with NCLB), that e-learning can fail to deliver what is most important (reality) for a person’s growth and development, and can even be harmful. Psychiatrists are finding that excessive computer time (over 5 hours/day) and WiFi exposure — are unhealthful for children and adults.
Maria Bartiromo, Anchor of CNBC’s “Closing Bell,” was honored at a dinner for “Futures In Education” — an organization whose mission is to provide tuition assistance and program support to the neediest students attending Catholic schools in Brooklyn and Queens NY.
Included with Ms. Bartiromo, in the photo are Frank Bisignano CAO, JPMorgan Chase & Co. (second from right) and The Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn.
At a time when public school education, in the U.S., is not oriented to helping young people discover the truth, Catholic education is needed more than ever. But it has to remain true to what it is.
Pratham, the largest ‘education’ focused NGO in the world, held a fundraiser this week in NYC for its work in India. The organization’s mantra is “Every Child in School and Learning Well.” According to Pratham Founder & CEO Dr. Madhav Chavan, Pratham has “developed a scalable approach to driving education and ending illiteracy in India.”
Pratham USA Ambassador, Archie Panjabi, the award-winning British actress, was on hand to help MC the program.