Blogging used to be about linking, as well as all this personally-generated stuff we seem to do. I think I'm going to revive the effort here, since each week I often discover, read, and link to some wonderful articles and websites through other people, on Twitter and Facebook. Quite a few people who read this blog don't use those social networks (and I say good for you!) so it makes sense to share the links once in a while.
So here we go, with a little something for everyone, I hope!
The top ten words for which there is no English equivalent. I only knew a few of these: how about Wei-wu-wei, a Chinese word that means a deliberate decision not to do something?
Privacy and the Threat to Self. When did the very nature of personhood become a political and legal issue?
... its political importance is certainly part of what makes privacy so important: what is private is what is yours alone to control, without interference from others or the state. But the concept of privacy also matters for another, deeper reason. It is intimately connected to what it is to be an autonomous person.
The Stunning Grandeur of the World's Great Opera Houses. A photographic project by David Leventi. (via Bint Battuta.)
Estates Theatre, Prague, Czech Republic, 2008, by David Leventi.
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences released a report on the state of the humanities called “The Heart of the Matter.”
Here are two op-ed pieces in response:
The Humanist Vocation, by David Brooks. I'm not a big David Brooks fan, but there is a lot here worth pondering about the change in thinking (and therefore in society) that is resulting from lack of education in th humanities.
But the humanities are not only being bulldozed by an unforgiving job market. They are committing suicide because many humanists have lost faith in their own enterprise...Back when the humanities were thriving, the leading figures had a clear definition of their mission and a fervent passion for it. The job of the humanities was to cultivate the human core, the part of a person we might call the spirit, the soul, or, in D.H. Lawrence’s phrase, “the dark vast forest.”
The Decline and Fall of the English Major A related piece by Verlyn Klinkenborg.
In the past few years, I’ve taught nonfiction writing... Each semester I hope, and fear, that I will have nothing to teach my students because they already know how to write. And each semester I discover, again, that they don’t.
They can assemble strings of jargon and generate clots of ventriloquistic syntax. They can meta-metastasize any thematic or ideological notion they happen upon. And they get good grades for doing just that. But as for writing clearly, simply, with attention and openness to their own thoughts and emotions and the world around them — no.
That kind of writing — clear, direct, humane — and the reading on which it is based are the very root of the humanities, a set of disciplines that is ultimately an attempt to examine and comprehend the cultural, social and historical activity of our species through the medium of language.
Please leave a comment if any of these articles generate thoughts of your own. I'm especially interested in your thoughts about the last two, since many of us have spent our lives in the arts and humanities, in caring about good writing, and thinking about "that vast dark forest" of the human spirit. Do you think this way of being is endangered? What trends do you see in the young people who you know, or perhaps teach?
From my own observation (which is limited, as I don't have kids of my own, and don't teach) I don't think young people today are any less idealistic than we were, or less creative, or less concerned about important things, less spiritual, or less hungry to learn. But as David Brooks suggests, I think we, the educational system, and society in general, may share the blame with a difficult economy for not making the case convincingly about why the humanities matter, and for failing to offer them enough and giving up too easily, perhaps because of our own fatigue and discouragement. What do you think?