Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sunday Travels

--On some NPR segment, I heard a commentator who had reported on Trump for many years talk about the fact that Trump wants to sleep in his own bed at night.  She talked about the campaign where Trump would make an appearance and get back on the plane so that he could sleep in a familiar bed.  I found that a very humanizing detail.  I've been thinking of it as I hear about this big international trip.

--In Books for Living, Will Schwalbe offers this insight:  "Books are uniquely suited to helping us change our relationship to the rhythms and habits of daily life in this world of endless connectivity.  We can't interrupt them; we can only interrupt ourselves while reading them.  They are the expression of an individual or a group of individuals, not of a hive mind or collective consciousness.  They speak to us, thoughtfully, one at a time."

--I am listening to On Being--on today's show, Krista Tippett is exploring the work of Hannah Arendt with the writer Lyndsey Stonebridge.   I have never read the work of Arendt.  Perhaps now is a good time to start.  Once her work seemed like distant history.    

--Stonebridge offers this insight:  "I was thinking about this this morning with the other figure who’s very important to me, who’s also a very strong Jewish woman was Melanie Klein, the psychoanalyst. And Klein had a question, which was, 'Where does evil come from?' And Hannah Arendt asked another question, which I think it’s uniquely important, which is, 'How, in modern times, is evil organized?'”

--Do all roads towards terror/evil start in existential loneliness?  One can make a strong case.

--Arendt taught George Orwell's 1984 to undergraduates at Berkeley in 1955--what a class that would have been!  I think also, of Merton teaching first year Composition . . . but I digress.

-- Stonebridge points out an essential problem, but one we don't often talk about with totalitarianism:  ". . . she’s responding to George Orwell here. She says two plus two will never make five. That’s not the problem. And George Orwell at the end, Winston’s being tortured, and he’s made to say two plus two equals five, and this is like totalitarianism makes us all lie. She said that’s not the power. It’s the fact that in a world where people are going to say it is even when they know it isn’t. [laughs] That is deeply estranging. That’s what creates those conditions of loneliness and despair. That, for her, is the wickedness of the political lie. People don’t believe that two plus two makes five. They don’t believe half of what’s said."

--During a car trip across the county yesterday, my spouse and I were talking about approaches to life, about how many people will make a stand about principles these days, and how many people make decisions based on what is right for them.  I said that it was depressing to think about that--and at the exact same time, we both realized that what is truly depressing is that so many people have no principles upon which to make a stand.

--One of my teacher friends is distressed that her students don't recognize names out of the news, like Michael Flynn.  I am more distressed by their lack of familiarity with names like Hannah Arendt, even as I recognize a whiff of hypocrisy, since I have yet to read her.

--Wherever our Sunday travels take us--to foreign countries like Trump or to philosophical explorations with Arendt--may they enrich!

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