Dink Starns and the Explorer Post Book List

Dink Starns was one of my Explorer Post leaders, including during the time of the 1963 Quetico trip. He was a big influence on my life and I was sad to hear that he has just passed away.

Dink worked for a publishing company and led the way on our 52 books project. We would identify 52 books for the coming year, which were important to read, would be of interest to adolescent boys, and were all available in paperback. Dink would bring in a copy of each for a display. We then had a program in which people talked about the books they knew. It was an unusual activity for an Explorer Post, and a novel way to increase interest in reading.

Here is one of the lists, probably from 1963, formatted as we saw it then. Each year would be different, although some books would have multiple appearances.The choices ranged from classics that we should have read, but hadn’t, to books that seemed risqué at the time, such as Fanny Hill or the Communist Manifesto.

Skimming the list below, your eyes might pass over Mutiny on Bounty. But that was significant. The remake of the Mutiny on the Bounty film had been released in 1962. It was based on the popular novel by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall. Those of us who had read that book or seen the movie knew all about the evil Captain William Bligh. The selection below is Bligh’s own account, which tells a quite different story, and caused us to ask those fundamental questions: What is the truth? How can we know?. Reading Bligh was a much better introduction to critical reading than some didactic programs that lead students down a prescribed path in an ironically uncritical fashion.

This particular list has selections from the Bible (Ecclesiastes), from ancient Greeks (Plutarch, Plato), and modern classics (Hugo, Kipling, Shaw). There are books by atheists and devout believers. There was a fairly good representation of international perspectives, given that all the books had to be in English. Some books might not rank high on quality or message, but they could get boys to read. Some were school classics, but many were read in school only when they could be safely hidden behind a large history or math book.

Books that seem non-controversial today brought a frisson at the time and place. The Ugly American, written just a few years earlier, called into question the patriotism that led to the Vietnam War and a boom to the Fort Worth economy dependent on an air force base and airplane and helicopter manufacture. To Kill a Mockingbird was not just a good story; it was a challenge to the prevailing racism in a city that thought if itself as the beginning of the West, but was still part of the segregationist South.

The overriding theme was that reading was fun, something to do and share with others, and something that would help you think in new ways. Those ideas were not widely accepted then, especially among boys of that age. Dink helped change that for me and many others.

  1. Auntie Mame
  2. Beau Geste
  3. Bligh, W. Mutiny on Bounty
  4. Brestit, History of Egypt
  5. Bridge over the River Kwai
  6. Buck, P. Good Earth
  7. Cervantes Don Quixote
  8. Chesterton, G. K. Father Brown
  9. Cuppy, W. The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody
  10. Ferber, E. Giant, Cimmarron
  11. Fisher, Gandhi
  12. Fitzgerald, F. S. Great Gatsby
  13. Fleming, I. James Bond
  14. Generation of Vipers
  15. Genghis Khan
  16. Golding, W. Lord of Flies
  17. Great Expectations
  18. Green Mansions
  19. Hilton, J. Good-by Mr. Chips
  20. Hilton, J. Lost Horizon
  21. Hugo, V. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  22. In Midst of Life
  23. Irving, W. Sketch Book
  24. Keys of Kingdom
  25. Kipling, R. Kim, Jungle Books
  26. Last Hurrah
  27. Lee, H. To Kill a Mockingbird
  28. Lewis, C. S. The Screwtape Letter
  29. Magnificent Destiny
  30. Max Schulman
  31. Melville, H. Moby Dick
  32. Morehead, A. Blue Nile, White Nile
  33. Nutting , A. Lawrence of Arabia
  34. Orwell, G. Animal Farm
  35. Orwell, G. 1984
  36. Packard, V. (any)
  37. Plato Dialogues
  38. Plutarch Lives
  39. Rand, A. The Fountainhead
  40. Roark, R. Something of Value
  41. Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye
  42. Seven Days in May
  43. Shaw, G. B. Androcles and the Lion
  44. Six Days or Forever
  45. Solomon Ecclesiastes
  46. Stillwell Papers
  47. Stone, I. Sailor on Horseback
  48. Teahouse of August Moon
  49. The Little World of Don Camillo
  50. Twain, M. Huckleberry Finn
  51. Ugly American
  52. Voltaire, Candide

Living archaeology

Alexandria Troas restoration

Alexandria Troas restoration

In many localities there are ancient sites one can visit. But often, these are removed from contemporary life, not only by time, but also by place. They seem to stand apart.

For example, in Illinois, Cahokia Mounds is a fascinating site to visit. It tells the story of people who settled Illinois over 1000 years ago, and created one of the great cities of the world. However, the threads connecting Cahokia to 21st C Illinois seem very thin. The site is interesting in large part because it seems like it’s from another world. Most of the links from the Mississippian and other cultures to present-day life in Illinois have been erased or forgotten.

In Turkey, however, archaeological sites seem to merge with current life. There are more here than anyone could ever visit, or even count. Ruins spill out of the official ticketed sites into the village and countryside. Modern houses are built of the same stone, and embedded in the same rocks that influenced the ancient structures. Farmers plant and harvest in the same fields, often on top of buried ruins from two or three millennia ago. Modern excavations proceed alongside contemporary uses of the same rocks or even structures.

Apollon Smintheion

Apollon Smintheion

More importantly, there are ties in language and culture to the earlier Cretan, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and other cultures. Places have names revealing their history, and sometimes multiple names, e.g., Assos / Behramkale / Behram, for their different ties. Customs in food and dress have strong connections that are understood by locals, in a way that one would have trouble finding between Mississippian and modern-day Illinoisans.

An implication of this for the traveler is that archaeological sites exist in an array of states, but all with tangible links to the present. Some are fully excavated and interpreted, while others are submerged into the landscape. Some are outside of present-day settlements, but many are embedded within or under the present day town. Many manifest not just a single culture, but a series, for example an early settlement that became a Hellenistic temple, then later Roman baths and administrative center, then a Byzantine development, with continuing use to the present. This makes the sites seem alive and connected to our life today in a way that sites elsewhere are often fascinating, but removed as in a science fiction story about a strange foreign world.

European stinging nettle

European stinging nettle

The site for Alexandria Troas is one of the largest in Turkey, nearly 1000 acres. But it’s still being excavated and most of it appears first just as some strange rocks sticking up among the vallonea oaks. The site spreads nearby, but partly within and underneath today’s town of Dalyan, Çanakkale. It’s not hard to imagine that some of the farming practices of today in that region were common two millennia ago.

Walking and clambering about the site in my sandals, I found the ısırgan otu (stinging nettle) that undoubtedly plagued early walkers in sandals. They probably enjoyed eating them as much as other modern diners and I do.

About 23 miles south by road is Appollon Sminteionin, whcih was built in the 2nd C BC city of Khrysa (present-day Gülpınar, Çanakkale). When Cretan colonists came to the area, they consulted an oracle regarding where to settle. The oracle told them to settle where ‘the sons of the earth’ attacked them. One morning they awoke and found mice chewing their equipment. They decided to stay there and built a temple dedicated to Smintheion, Lord of the Mice and to Apollo.

Sminthean Apollo is mentioned in the Iliad, Book 1:

Agamemnon had dishonoured the god’s priest,
Chryses, who’d come to the ships to find his daughter,
Chryseis, bringing with him a huge ransom.

Displeased, Agamemnon dismissed Chryses roughly

Chryses then prayed to Appollon Smintheionin:

“God with the silver bow,
protector of Chryse, sacred Cilla,
mighty lord of Tenedos, Sminthean Apollo,
hear my prayer: If I’ve ever pleased you
with a holy shrine, or burned bones for you—
bulls and goats well wrapped in fat—
grant me my prayer. Force the Danaans
to pay full price for my tears with your arrows.”

Assos Temple of Athena

Assos Temple of Athena

There is a walkway at the Appollon Smintheion site, which may have connected it with Alexandria Troas, just as the modern towns link today. There are no wheel ruts in the stone, which suggests that ancient people walked to and from the site.

Not much further on, Assos is one of the most impressive, and surely most photographed, of the many sites in the area. I cringe to think of how many people will fall off the edge seeking the perfect selfie.

Assos is a site that exemplifies the idea of continuous settlement and sedimentation of cultures. Modern boutique hotels and shops are built into the rocks and with rocks just as the ancient structures were. There is an old, though not as old as Assos, cami (mosque) built of stone and standing at the entrance. Although the fenced area of the site is huge, structures and rock piles spill over the edges such that it’s not clear which are archaeological treasures, which are functional structures for today, and which are construction debris.

The Assos habitation traces back to the Bronze Age, with city life from 7C BC onwards without interruption. Aristotle wrote his Politics during his three-year stay here. The missionary, St. Paul, would walk to here from Troas, 20 miles aways. Its easy to envision shepherd throughout this time guiding their sheep and goats among the rock strewn hillsides, much as they do today.

Beyond the physical though, what’s most telling about the connection to the past is the way people talk. For example, many say that local foods, dress, personal names, and even ways of socializing on Turkey’s Aegean coast can be traced directly to its Hellenistic heritage. The many other civilizations in its story have similarly shaped the rich culture.

Personal geography: Walking

Lake Silvaplana

Lake Silvaplana

In Die Götzen-Dämmerung (Twilight of the Idols), Friedrich Nietzsche writes that his best ideas come from walking:

On ne peut penser et ecrire qu’assis [One cannot think and write except when seated] (G. Flaubert). There I have caught you, nihilist! The sedentary life is the very sin against the Holy Spirit. Only thoughts reached by walking have value.

An important example of this for Nietzsche was his concept of the eternal recurrence of the same events. It occurred to him while he was walking in Switzerland in the woods around Lake Silvaplana, when he was inspired by the sight of a large, pyramidal rock. His inner life as writer and philosopher could not be separated from his embodied life as a person who spent hours walking in beautiful spots in Europe.

Why does it require the direct connection reached through walking to embrace an idea like eternal recurrence? Why not just use a map? Reading a book, map, diagram, photo, movie, etc. can be a powerful experience. Why can’t we have the same insights without being there? And what is the relation between reading a text  about a phenomenon and experiencing it more directly?

A philosophy of walkingJohn Dewey addresses this dichotomy in The Child and the Curriculum:

The map is not a substitute for a personal experience. The map does not take the place of an actual journey…But the map, a summary, an arranged and orderly view of previous experiences, serves as a guide to future experience; it gives direction; it facilitates control; it economizes effort, preventing useless wandering, and pointing out the paths which lead most quickly and most certainly to a desired result. Through the map every new traveler may get for his own journey the benefits of the results of others’ explorations without the waste of energy and loss of time involved in their wanderings–wanderings which he himself would be obliged to repeat were it not for just the assistance of the objective and generalized record of their performances.

Sunset on the Dardanelles

Sunset on the Dardanelles

I’ve been thinking along these lines while reading, A Philosophy of Walking, by Frédéric Gros. The book is a pleasure to read (though not while walking). It intersperses Gros’s observations with accounts of other great walkers such as Rimbaud and Nietzsche. Gros writes,

By walking, you escape from the very idea of identity, the temptation to be someone, to have a name and a history … The freedom in walking lies in not being anyone; for the walking body has no history, it is just an eddy in the stream of immemorial life.

Curiously, the anomia and ahistory of walking, its “freedom,” is what allows the walker to connect to a greater degree with history, geography, and ideas in general. This has become even more evident to me during our stay in Turkey.

To be continued…

 

Héloïse and Abélard

Tutoring

Tutoring

In 1971, I was fortunate to see an excellent play at Wyndham’s Theatre in London. It was Abelard and Heloise, by Ronald Millar. Keith Mitchell and Diana Rigg(!) had the title roles. The play was moving and the acting was superb. I can still visualize scenes, not so much from the stage setting, which was fine, but because the story caught my imagination.

Under the pretext of study we spent our hours in the happiness of love, and learning held out to us the secret opportunities that our passion craved. Our speech was more of love than of the books which lay open before us; our kisses far outnumbered our reasoned words. –Abélard

Père Lachaise Cemetery from apartment

Père Lachaise Cemetery from apartment

Over the years I would read whatever I could find by or about Héloïse d’Argenteuil and Peter Abélard, including biographies, fictionalized accounts, children’s stories, poetry, song, and of course the letters themselves. I saw several movie versions, some better than others. I began to learn how the story had inspired copies, re-mediations, satires, and endless allusions in a wide variety of artforms.

Héloïse had seen this coming, with her own perceptive reflections on pictures, letters, talk, and physical presence. For example,

If a picture, which is but a mute representation of an object, can give such pleasure, what cannot letters inspire? They have souls; they can speak; they have in them all that force which expresses the transports of the heart; they have all the fire of our passions, they can raise them as much as if the persons themselves were present; they have all the tenderness and the delicacy of speech, and sometimes even a boldness of expression beyond it. –Héloïse

My obsession with the topic became worse in 2004, when we lived not far from Notre-Dame de Paris, where Abélard had studied and taught. I found an English translation of Régine Pernoud’s book in a used book store. Pernoud lists Héloïse first, which makes sense. Abélard was a great orator and writer, one we might revere even more if most of his works hadn’t been destroyed for his heresies. Yet, Héloïse (a great scholar herself) is the one who makes their story come alive, whether you interpret it as a love story, a theological debate, an example of 12th C patriarchy, or an invention of later writers.  His letters are fascinating to read, but hers leap to the heights of the written art, even in translation from the original Latin.

Monument to Ablard & Héloïse

Monument to Ablard & Héloïse

One thing that comes through in every retelling is the tragedy of it all. There is of course the castration and the subsequent separation of Héloïse and Abélard. But there is also the tangible agony of struggles between possibility and reality, spirituality and desire, trust and betrayal. Their love always entailed suffering with happy moments that became recollections before they were fully realized. Even their son Astrolabe appears as a shadow of a world they imagined, but never had.

Later, when their connection was only through letters, Héloïse seeks a way to share the loss, to find meaning in the emptiness:

Let me have a faithful account of all that concerns you; I would know everything, be it ever so unfortunate. Perhaps by mingling my sighs with yours I may make your sufferings less, for it is said that all sorrows divided are made lighter. –Héloïse

You can read one version of this in Alexander Pope’s poem, Eloisa to Abelard. Eloisa is in anguish over her powerful feelings for Abélard, especially as manifested in her dreams:

Black Melancholy sits, and round her throws
A death-like silence, and a dread repose:
Her gloomy presence saddens all the scene,
Shades ev’ry flow’r, and darkens ev’ry green,
Deepens the murmur of the falling floods,
And breathes a browner horror on the woods.

She realizes that Abélard, now as a eunuch who is free from the “contagion of carnal impurity” cannot return her feelings even if he wants to. And so she begs, not for forgiveness, but for forgetfulness.

How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d;

Today, one can walk near Père Lachaise cemetery on rue Pierre-Bayle. Bayle was a 17C philosopher. Where Abélard committed the heresy of seeing reason as a path to faith, Bayle advocated a separation between the spheres of faith and reason. He wrote about Héloïse and Abélard in his Historical and Critical Dictionary, a forerunner of the encyclopedias. One can also walk on the rue du Repos, which, were it not for the cemetery wall, would lead directly to where they lie in “repose” at their monument.

Cynics will point out that the monument was placed there in 1817 simply as a marketing ploy to convince Parisians to be buried among the famous; that the bones of the famous lovers are probably at the Oratory of the Paraclete, or the church of Nogent-sur-Seine, or most likely, just lost; that their love, if it existed at all, was no more than an expression of medieval structures of religious oppression, patriarchy, abuse of position, class, and power; and that the famous letters themselves were a literary concoction made long after the actual events.

Héloïse d'Argenteuil

Héloïse d’Argenteuil

Abélard would disdain these worldly concerns, and urge the cynics, along with Héloïse to

Strive now to unite in yourself all the virtues of these different examples. Have the purity of virgins, the austerity of anchorites, the zeal of pastors and bishops, and the constancy of martyrs.

But Héloïse would know that “the truth is more important than the facts.” She’d recognize that the Père Lachaise monument shows their eternal love, which endured politics, religion, castration, and even Abélard’s pomposity and coldness. She’d also see that just like Keats’s youth, they can never touch, so encased in granite, their suffering also endures forever.

References

Journal series on progressive education

The International Journal of Progressive Education (IJPE) has now published a series of three special issues on “Progressive Education: Past, Present and Future”:

  1. Progressive Education: Antecedents of Educating for Democracy (IJPE 9.1, February 2013)
  2. Progressive Education: Educating for Democracy and the Process of Authority (IJPE 9.2, June 2013)
  3. What’s Next?: The Future of Progressivism as an “Infinite Succession of Presents” (IJPE 9.3, October 2013)

I worked on these journal issues with John Pecore, Brian Drayton, and Maureen Hogan, as well as article contributors from around the world. We’re now exploring options for developing some of the articles along with some additional material into a handbook. The series is timely given current debates about the purpose and form of education in an era of rapid technological change, globalization, demographic and political shifts, and growing economic inequities. It asks, “What have we learned about pedagogy that can support democratic, humanistic, and morally responsible development for individuals and societies?”

Progressive education is a pedagogical movement that emphasizes aspects such as learning by doing, student-centered learning, valuing diversity, integrated curriculum, problem solvingcritical thinking, collaborative learning, education for social responsibility, and lifelong learning. It situates learning within social, community, and political contexts. It was promoted by the Progressive Education Association in the US from 1919 to 1955, and reflected in the educational philosophy of John Dewey.

But as an approach to pedagogy, progressive education is in no way limited to the US or the past century. In France, the Ecole Moderne, developed from the work of Célestin Freinet, emphasizes the social activism side of progressive education. Loris Malaguzzi and the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education demonstrates the importance of art in learning, a key element of the holistic approach in progressive education. Paulo Freire’s work in Brazil on critical literacy, highlights the link between politics and pedagogy. Similarly, influenced by his experiences in South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi’s conception of basic education resonates with progressive ideals of learning generated within everyday life, cooperation, and educating the whole person, including moral development.

It is worth noting that progressive education invariably seeks to go beyond the classroom walls. Thus, the work of Jane Addams and others at Hull House with immigrants fits, even if it is not situated within a traditional school. Myles Horton and the Highlander Folk School focused on social activism with adults, exemplifying the progressive education ideals. So too is the Escuela Nueva in Spain, Colombia, and elsewhere. The informal learning in museums, libraries, community and economic development, and online may express progressive education more fully than what we see in many schools today.

We hope that these issues will prove to be a useful resource for anyone interested improving education for a healthier world.

The phoenix in the attic

The May Harper’s has another good essay by Lewis H. Lapham. “Ignorance of things past: Who wins and who loses when we forget American history” is a compendium of great quotes about history, spiced with his own novel insights.

It seems surprisingly easy to slip into dichotomies about the past. As Dickens wrote in A Tale of Two Cities, 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way.

Our idealized construction of the past then leads us to simplistic views of the present and even more cartoonish views of the future and what to do next. The US Presidential campaign is filled with examples of this, few of which bear repeating.

Cambridge Public Library

Cambridge Public Library, Past, Present, Future

Lapham shows some ways around dichotomous thinking about the past. One of those dichotomies is between the view of history as a detailed, and verifiable account of past events with little room for interpretation and of history as a consensual hallucination. He shows that history requires both careful attention to detail and continual reconstruction.

Most importantly, Lapham makes an effective case for the idea that history is necessary for a critical, socially engaged intelligence in the time in which we live. This means history that grows out of meticulous study of the details, openness to counter-intuitive or disturbing ideas, and investigation of the gremlins that don’t fit our preconceptions. He cites Faulkner’s “The past is never dead. It’s not even past” (Requiem for a Nun), on the way to showing how making sense of the past is part and parcel of making sense of the present.

We use the present to construct our past, just as we use our past to construct our present. For Lapham, then, the past is the phoenix in the attic. No matter how we engage with it, our uses of history shape what is to come. As he puts it,

History is work in progress, a constant writing, and rewriting as opposed to museum-quality sculpture in milk-white marble.

This doesn’t mean anything-goes relativism. Instead, it is a call to realize that who we are and who we may become are inseparable from who we have been. Unfortunately, that realization seems lacking, and the desire to learn is all too meagre for the needs of today.

Vivir y ayudar a vivir

Vida/SIDA

Vida/SIDA

The mural on the front of Vida/SIDA in Chicago includes the phrase, “vivir y ayudar a vivir” (to live and help to live). That’s very appropriate for a health clinic, but it’s really the motto for everything done in the Paseo Boricua community. The idea is that in order to build a healthy community, people need to move beyond “live and let live,” which can mean “live for myself and to hell with you.” The more expansive motto, “vivir y ayudar a vivir,” can be seen there on murals, brochures, websites, and coffee cups.

I know that other groups have used the same phrase, but I’ve never been sure of its origin. Some people attribute it to Orison Swett Marden, a 19th century writer associated with the New Thought Movement. He founded Success Magazine and wrote extensively on how our thoughts influence our actions and experiences.

The Voice of Industry

The Voice of Industry

The general idea is of course much older. For example, the Jain Center of Cincinnati Dayton has an historical marker asserting that the motto of Jainism is “live and let live and help others to live.” And Jainism dates at least from the 6th century BC, if not earlier.

More recently, both in the course of events, and in my own discovery process, I came across The Voice of Industry, a labor newspaper published from 1845-48. It was founded by the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association. An article from November 14, 1845, “Live -Let Live -Help Live,” gives one of the clearest and earliest explanations of the phrase that I’ve seen. Basically, it says that there are three sorts of people: those who take for their motto live regardless of others, those who adopt live and let live, and those who say live and help others to live.

I’d like to hear about other sources, or uses, of the phrase.