Reading the likes of Azedah Moaveni’s Lipstick Jihad, Fareed Zakaria’s Post-American World, Jared Diamond’s Collapse, and revisiting Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma for two new classes I’m teaching within Saint Mary’s College’s Liberal & Civic Studies Program. Students are coming to me in class proud about how conversant they’re getting concerning world politics, global matters, and environmental issues. I must confess, I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut during class discussions. Its hard to keep silent when the readings and subjects are so stimulating.
122 Environmental Responsibility in a Global Community
Taken the semester immediately following L&CS 121 whenever possible, this courses focuses on the natural world in which we lie, and the complex interrelationship between human activities, the values which determine these activities and their consequences for the environment. Different societies’ belief systems along with their responsibilities and attitudes toward the environment are examined. Students are required to devote time each week to a service-learning project, write essays, intellectual integrations and a self-assessment. Class sessions are supplemented by a biweekly activity lab. Prerequisites: L&CS 121, English 5, Collegiate Seminar 20/110.
123 Modern Global Issues
The purpose of this course is to gain broad-based exposure to some of the cultural, political and economic issues related to and arising from the processes of globalization. Students will study recent critical dialogues and philosophies of globalization, including issues of ethnicity/race, gender, identity, urban culture, post-nationalism, multiculturalism and post-colonial studies. Students are require to participate in class, lead discussion, write essays and news articles responses, give an oral presentation and complete a midterm exam. Prerequisite:L&CS 121 or permission of instructor.
We’ve watched some of the following videos to supplement subjects and texts recently covered:
I don’t like this NYT columnist by any means, but how often does Pantheism get into mainstream news, save for the Harper’s blogger, who is always posting the Youtube symphonies paired with Romantic art? Ross Douthat in his “Heaven and Nature” barely touches on an excellent point, that pantheism is the preferred doctrine for artists and intellectuals since the classical era, think Lucretius.
…Instead, “Avatar” is Cameron’s long apologia for pantheism — a faith that equates God with Nature, and calls humanity into religious communion with the natural world…
At the same time, pantheism opens a path to numinous experience for people uncomfortable with the literal-mindedness of the monotheistic religions — with their miracle-working deities and holy books, their virgin births and resurrected bodies. As the Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski noted, attributing divinity to the natural world helps “bring God closer to human experience,” while “depriving him of recognizable personal traits.” For anyone who pines for transcendence but recoils at the idea of a demanding Almighty who interferes in human affairs, this is an ideal combination.
Terry Gross brings out the wacky genius of John Cage and features a sampling of Cage’s composition. Cage emphasizes “making new” and living a virginal life. What’s most interesting about Cage’s philosophy is his insistence to discard and disregard relationships. He firmly believes in letting the thing in itself stand alone, which is summarily antithetical to the “only connect” aesthetic. The particular is the predominate focus and to relate or connect induces paralysis.
Then came Friedrich Nietzsche. Today he’s known for Zarathustra and Beyond Good and Evil more than his other writings. But his very first book–composed by a 27-year-old university professor, which differs sharply in style from the later writings–actually presents some of Nietzsche’s most radical and novel thinking. And it gives a central role to music. He calls it The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music and that precisely describes his thesis. He puts forward the idea that the heyday of classic Athenian drama, the age of Aeschylus and Sophocles, was a logical development from Greek traditions of music, song and dance. He breaks this tradition into two tendencies, the Apollonian and the Dionysian. The Apollonian follows Schopenhauer’s principle of individuation, it stresses the gentle reign of reason and intellect, pushing life to a somewhat unnatural ordering. The Dionysian is its exact opposite–it is governed by emotions and particularly passions, sometimes whipped to a self-destructive frenzy of excess. The Dionysian suppresses his intellect to live as one with nature, and wine plays an essential role in his cult. In the quoted passage, Nietzsche looks at the exuberance of the Dionysian spirit and he traces it through history. It is, he says a sort of springtime’s awakening (incidentally, this is the line from which the German-American playwright Frank Wedekind takes the title of his important play–in which youthful sexuality faces the suppression of a rigidly Apollonian school system). The age of Aeschylus marks an important synthesis between these Apollonian and Dionysian tendencies–a synthesis that dissolved with the rise of Euripides and Socrates, with their elevation of the Apollonian over the Dionysian. But Nietzsche understands the totality of European intellectual and artistic tradition as the product of interaction between the Apollonian and Dionysian tendencies–the greater the friction between them, the greater the art which results…Read more