Thursday, January 18, 2018

Dolphins in the Mirror

I love this story about dolphins demonstrating self-cognition, the ability to recognize themselves as themselves in a mirror.  Not many animals (besides humans) can do this, and watching them makes it clear that these young dolphins seem to enjoy seeing their own reflections in the mirror! 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Riding the Rollercoaster

There's the story of the cave, Plato's version of reality in which we're chained to the cave wall, watching the shadows of chairs, or, in some cases, the digital recreation of football players vying to gain points over opposing football players.  In the digital recreation of other people's lives, it's possible to view the digital recreation of the elevated heartbeat of a real human being.

Our hearts beat wildly for the players.  We breathe deep and should loudly in response to those remote views.  I like that our Vikings have won another game and get to play again next weekend, but we cheer for the men who wear the purple uniforms.  We get to know them, put our hopes in them and wish for the best.  But we know very little about them or what they stand for, what they represent.  They carry the flag of Minnesota, but most are not Minnesotans.  And I'm not a Minnesotan.  Most of the Minnesotans I know don't care all that much whether their football team wins or loses.

Still, it was a momentary joy to see the improbable come-from-behind win from a team that has taught us to watch in disappointment.  But not this weekend!   Skol!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Whitman and Dickinson Again

Today I get to talk again with a group of young people about a remarkable thing, a revolution in language that began to take place with the poetry of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson in the second half of the 19th century. 

Not many people get to do the same.  This is my job today, or at least part of it.  I spend fifty minutes with some young people and some poetry. 

A world is changing around us, with technology and culture and the environment, but the poems that these two figures managed to put together in their lifetimes will remain.  Whitman tells us that he sees us from his far vantage point.  Dickinson seems to see herself, and us, in a bog. 

In a time that seems to offer an option for every way of looking at the world, I appreciate the comfort of these two poets who recognized the changes in their own times and how an imagination can help us see a bigger picture.