commentary


On his blog, Kelly Bulkeley has an interesting question and answer in regards to Jared Loughner, plus this interesting conclusion about lucid dreaming

http://kellybulkeley.com/jared-loughners-dream-journal/

…It’s rather that we need to ask the right questions about lucid dreaming.  The characters in Dreamside are so intent on figuring out how to induce lucid dreaming that they never ask themselves why they want to do so in the first place.  The “how” question is relatively easy, but if you haven’t reflected carefully on the “why” question you may find yourself woefully unprepared for what you encounter.   This is the same message that Hindu and Buddhist sages have taught for centuries: it is indeed possible to learn lucid dreaming techniques, but those techniques are best practiced within a context of spiritual training, guidance, and self-reflection.  The college students in Dreamside have grown up in the morally impoverished world of Thatcher-era Britain, and they have few cultural resources to help them make sense of their experiences.   Perhaps the greatest achievement of Joyce’s novel is that it provides what its characters lack—a wise and healthily cautious understanding of human dreaming potential…

When the 63 students applying to my class answered the three application questions to register, the near majority stated they were interested in lucid dreaming. A year ago, there was no interest in lucid dreaming; I attribute the spike to the movie, Inception. I certainly do not know if they have or live in a “morally impoverish world of Thatcher-era Britain with few cultural resources” but I can hazard a guess and say they are normal kids: many of them very bright and inquisitive with a well  rounded exposure to a  diverse and interesting culture. I agree answering their questions as to how is easier to tackle, but to answer the question of why they’re interested will be found with open dialogue, and a lot of it. My goal, which has changed since I first introduced the class, is  to teach them to think for themselves.   By thinking critically they can analyze movies and literature and determine  what is real, what is possible and and what is mere entertainment. It’s no different than analyzing a math problem or looking at scientific data. To this point, I agree with Dr. Bulkeley that a wise and healthy approach to understanding dreams and lucid dreaming is key. What is interesting about my current class of students is that most are planning careers in science, most believe AI will be a part of their future, and most believe the basis of Avatar is probable,  (growing a body, settling a planet, hooking up to machines for AI, and capitalism will destroy nature ) and the tech and concepts in Inception are not.

Interestingly, Wired.com had a story recently about a “thinking cap,” designed by the Sydney Center for The Mind, that suppreses the eleft side of the brain to encourage a more creative right side.  This seems to be no different than the wiring connected to the brain “used” in The Cell, The Matrix, Avatar and Inception. Evidently the future is already here. (No doubt the CIA has had this for decades…. and that’s another topic!)

As  to whether of not Jared Loughner’s dream journal is a valuable piece of evidence, I answer yes. The unconscious state and dreaming is the accumulation of a person’s intake and a reflection of his conscious existence, even if dreaming is often illogical and makes no sense.  The difference, as a comparison,  is that most people do not dream about violence; if he did indeed dream violence, that’s a reflection of a very real persona.  The diary will explain his state of mind and provide the medical evidence of his inability to function as a whole and healthy human being and if he was sliding into violence. I also think it will bear witness on our current culture and the downward spiral as increasing numbers of people believe conspiracy theories, that we’re controlled by the government and outside forces, because so much of this has become part of our culture and entertainment systems.  Was he schizophrenic or was he merely the product of what he read and watched? Answering that will become part and parcel to the defense of how and why a young mind that went terribly wrong.


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http://www.newsweek.com/2011/03/20/how-dumb-are-we.html?om_rid=CTiCsY&om_mid=_BNhmKiB8ZvuD37

“NEWSWEEK gave 1,000 Americans the U.S. Citizenship Test–38 percent failed. The country’s future is imperiled by our ignorance.

They’re the sort of scores that drive high-school history teachers to drink. When NEWSWEEK recently asked 1,000 U.S. citizens to take America’s official citizenship test, 29 percent couldn’t name the vice president. Seventy-three percent couldn’t correctly say why we fought the Cold War. Forty-four percent were unable to define the Bill of Rights. And 6 percent couldn’t even circle Independence Day on a calendar….”

I’m a lead tutor and responsible six other tutors and the 19 students in an inner-city school. During President Day’s week, when students would be most apt to know about the history of their country, (one would only think) I had Longfellow’s collection of poems with me, and decided since I was tutoring three students at a time rather than just one, to have them read Paul Revere’s Ride.  None of the three ever heard of Longfellow, Paul Revere, knew where Old North Church is or even heard of the story. Only one knew that America fought a war for its independence from Britain. They had to be explained how far 26 miles is.  The two students in the next session were no different. These five students live within miles of those historical landmarks but  do not have even a basic  knowledge  of Boston’s significance and its link to freedom and democracy. These same ninth graders do, however, know absolutely everything about slavery in the United States and throughout the world, Martin Luther King, civil rights and the history of Haiti.

I have no explanation as to why 5 ninth graders do not know the US declared and won independence from Britain, accept to generalize,  and say that for their knowledge of geography, American history, government or civic responsibilities,  since they’re not tested on these topics in the MCAS test and there is no Civic SAT or Citizenship Test, then I have to conclude that since there is no reason to be taught these subjects,  they are glossed over. Along these lines, decades ago I worked for a company that thought before a student could graduate he should be shown how to manage money. That would include the basics such as checking and saving  accounts, balancing your account, buying your first car and signing loan papers, signing a lease and when or why to use a credit card.  However, no schools were interested and the idea was dropped.   By not giving the students a broad education with access to these topics  we limit their diversity, but worse,  we hinder their potential for progress and prosperity. Is that being fair with them? Is it honest? I say no.

Many people seem to have surrendered their critical thinking skills- some of them very well educated- yet they believe things they read on the internet, hear on talk radio or see on TV or in movies as historical and accurate when they are neither.  A college student recently told me she was hooked on the new reality show about polygamy. I was surprised and told her it may be reality but it wasn’t true because polygamy is illegal. She insisted, absolutely and stubbornly insisted it was legal because it was on a reality show. Hmmm.   An individual from Poland expressed his astonishment of how gullible Americans are because they don’t question advertising, the news, etc; but anyone who ever lived under communism quickly learned to not believe everything (or anything) they read in the news without first taking time to think about it and verify. (I’ve heard the same from Harvard students whose parents are from China)  At what point need we reach before we address this issue, or do we let ourselves slide into a nanny state where a government managed by a few, determine what is best for the majority?

Rather than regulate the internet, banks and television, (and culture as a  whole) to protect the consumer,  we should require students to understand personal finance and pass a critical thinking test before they receive a high school diploma. And before a person votes, pass a basic Citizenship Test, either verbally or written. The three qualifications, personal finance, critical thinking and civic responsibilities,  will never be required or become part of the education system, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be.

An American Renaissance

Emerson and Thoreau chafed under the reins of education at that time,  even the much revered Harvard, and from that, American Transcendentalism was born. America was soon awash with new modes of thinking, teaching  and  writing.  I look around at the writers and respected thinkers  of today and don’t see my Emerson or Thoreau; I see “the documentary work” of Michael Moore and Reality TV. To say we’re approaching a 21st century American  Renaissance is an understatement. We’re falling off a cliff and mere feet from crashing into the rocks, but I have to hope we will not hit bottom but we will instead, in the desperate act of self-preservation, make a major  adjustment, survive the crash and find ourselves in the infancy of a new and second American Renaissance.

Excerpt from an article, The Fight Over Kafka:

In a bank vault in staid Zurich an episode of high literary drama unfolded recently. A safety deposit box was opened and inside was revealed a handwritten manuscript of a story by Franz Kafka. At that same moment, an Israeli woman named Eve Hoffe ran into the bank building seeking to prevent the box from being opened, shouting: “It’s mine, it’s mine.”Who does Kafka belong to? The court case in Israel over the past two years will eventually decide the proper ownership of certain manuscripts of Kafka’s. “It’s mine, it’s mine” is low comedy or high drama, or old-fashioned melodrama. In our era of laptops and e-books, the very idea of a handwritten manuscript feels old fashioned. But maybe just for that reason, such a manuscript is all the more precious.Especially a manuscript of Franz Kafka’s, one of the most widely read writers on the planet, who twenty years after his death in 1924 rose to prophetic status with works like The Trial and The Penal Colony. Kafka’s strange humor and pain seemed to describe our predicament after the cruel bureaucracy of the Holocaust and the frozen bureaucracies of the cold war. Does he have more to tell us? Is there in these boxes a previously unknown story by the enigmatic master, a message in a bottle for us today? 85 years after his death, it’s intriguing to think fate left us a new original, undestroyed manuscript by Kafka.

There’s a long answer to this, which will be forthcoming, but the short answer is: Yes. Yes, Kafka has more to tell and yes, there are previously unknown stories waiting to be read.

It is  intriguing to think that fate could leave a new original by Kafka. It’s called reincarnation by most people, some call it transmigration of souls, some call it gilgul. Kafka knew he was dieing and assumed Brod would live a long life. These papers, which were held by Max and then by his secretary, will allude to Kafka’s belief in transmigration and  starting over with a new name.  The question becomes did Franz Kafka, the enigmatic master, know in 1924 the actual  name by which he would be called? Did he mention the name? Did he bury work and plan to dig it up decades later? Will it be Brod’s papers that shed light and help unfold the mystery of his name, his will and testament, and where to dig them up? As much as everything is impossible, all things are possible. If not Franz Kafka, who else would have traveled to the future and attempted the impossible?

While everyone knows that Franz Kafka studied the Kabbalah, it should be noted that he studied Benjamin Franklin as well. Considering Franklin’s epitaph I wonder why Kafka did not leave one similar. But, of one thing we can be sure, it’s that he was enigmatic and his life will continue to unfold with new stories.

The Epitaph of Young Benjamin Franklin

The Body of
B. Franklin
Printer;
Like the Cover of an old Book,
Its Contents torn out,
And stript of its Lettering and Gilding,
Lies here, Food for Worms.
But the Work shall not be whlly lost:
For it will, as he believ’d, appear once more,
In a new & more perfect Edition,
Corrected and Amended
By the Author.