Pilgrimages and journeys

I’ve always thought the idea of pilgrimage fascinating, as have many many others, since pilgrimage happens in a lot of religions and cultures. There’s even a two volume encyclopedia called Pilgrimage: from the Ganges to Graceland and many books. If you do a search in GVRL, you can find articles on pilgrimage in Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism, spanning most of the globe, even in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. And it’s been going on for a long time, back to the ancient world. In literature, think of Canterbury Tales and Pilgrim’s Progress. Contemporary pilgrimage destinations that have ancient origins include Jerusalem, Mecca, Mount Shan (China), and the Ganges. What I always associate with pilgrimage, sort of a romantic notion perhaps, is a spiritual / psychological transformation that takes place when you leave everything behind. It’s easier to change when your personal geography is changing every day. The physical and psychological sort of merge. It has quite an allure. Of course there’s always that reaching your destination and getting back part that can be problematic. (But I’m probably confusing a pilgrimage with an escape.) Here’s a nice overview article from the Encyclopedia of Religion on pilgrimage. Here’s an article on Sacred Places from the New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of the Catholic Church defines pilgrimage as “generally a journey to a holy place undertaken from motives of devotion in order to obtain supernatural help or as an act of penance or thanksgiving.” I’ll bet that definition works for many religious traditions. But I don’t think pilgrimage needs to be thought of as strictly a religious phenomenon. Think of Homer’s Odyssey, when Odysseus was set upon by fate and the gods on his homeward journey to Ithaca. Or think of Aeneas, fleeing from the carnage of Odysseus and the Greeks to found the city of Rome. Why did the ancients find journeys so fascinating? Or think of the pilgrims of England journeying from the “civilized” to the raw, innocent, and “primitive”. Richard Slotkin has written some interesting stuff about this. Or think of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, or Sheen in Apocalypse Now (or Brando, who could forget that?), or 2001: A Space Odyssey with Hal, Dave, and Frank. Finally, I recently heard about two fascinating books by Jonathan Shay, a psychiatrist who has worked with a lot of Vietnam veterans. The first is called Achilles in Vietnam, the second Odysseus in America. He uses the Iliad and the Odyssey to explain the journey of the soldier, first in the horror of combat and then on the long road home. It’s not easy. —Fred Rowland

Pilgrimages and journeys

I’ve always thought the idea of pilgrimage fascinating, as have many many others, since pilgrimage happens in a lot of religions and cultures. There’s even a two volume encyclopedia called Pilgrimage: from the Ganges to Graceland andmany books. If you do a search in GVRL, you can find articles on pilgrimage in Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism, spanning most of the globe, even in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. And it’s been going on for a long time, back to the ancient world. In literature, think of Canterbury Tales andPilgrim’s Progress. Contemporary pilgrimage destinations that have ancient origins include JerusalemMeccaMount Shan (China), and the Ganges.

What I always associate with pilgrimage, sort of a romantic notion perhaps, is a spiritual / psychological transformation that takes place when you leave everything behind. It’s easier to change when your personal geography is changing every day. The physical and psychological sort of merge. It has quite an allure. Of course there’s always that reaching your destination and getting back part that can be problematic. (But I’m probably confusing a pilgrimage with an escape.) Here’s a nice overview article from the Encyclopedia of Religion on pilgrimage. Here’s an article on Sacred Places from the New Dictionary of the History of Ideas.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary of the Catholic Church defines pilgrimage as “generally a journey to a holy place undertaken from motives of devotion in order to obtain supernatural help or as an act of penance or thanksgiving.” I’ll bet that definition works for many religious traditions. But I don’t think pilgrimage needs to be thought of as strictly a religious phenomenon. Think of Homer’s Odyssey, when Odysseus was set upon by fate and the gods on his homeward journey to Ithaca. Or think of Aeneas, fleeing from the carnage of Odysseus and the Greeks to found the city of Rome. Why did the ancients find journeys so fascinating? Or think of the pilgrims of England journeying from the “civilized” to the raw, innocent, and “primitive”. Richard Slotkin has written some interesting stuff about this. Or think of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, or Sheen in Apocalypse Now(or Brando, who could forget that?), or 2001: A Space Odyssey with Hal, Dave, and Frank.

Finally, I recently heard about two fascinating books by Jonathan Shay, a psychiatrist who has worked with a lot of Vietnam veterans. The first is calledAchilles in Vietnam, the second Odysseus in America. He uses the Iliad and the Odyssey to explain the journey of the soldier, first in the horror of combat and then on the long road home. It’s not easy.

—Fred Rowland

Political Talk

I heard an interview recently with Frank Luntz, the Republican language maestro who uses polling and focus groups to advise political candidates, organizations, and corporations on how to choose their words and frame their issues for the highest political impact. He’s got a new book called Words that work : it’s not what you say, it’s what people hear. He has recommended that organizations use the term “climate change” instead of “global warming”, “gaming” instead of “gambling”, and “death tax” instead of “inheritance tax” or “estate tax”. You might be able to still hear the interview here. Here’s the web site of Luntz’s research company. There are also some short articles by Luntz in Lexis Nexis Academic (sorry, can’t give you the direct links to the articles, LNA doesn’t enable that). In a Dec. 28, 2002 NTY article, Luntz describes how he was an advisor to TV’s “West Wing” for a while, giving direction on the script from a Republican point of view. The job didn’t last, evidently. It occurred to me that it would be interesting to read the Luntz book along with books by linguists (academics) whose work has been associated with liberal causes, Geoffrey Nunberg and Georg Lakoff. Nunberg does a regular spot on Fresh Air, the NPR interview show. Temple has quite a few books by both authors. Nunberg’s most recent book is Talking right : how conservatives turned liberalism into a tax-raising, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show (Paley doesn’t have a copy of this, have to correct this). Lakoff’s most recent book is Whose freedom? : the battle over America’s most important idea. And of course there’s George Orwell’s famous Politics and the English Language, written in 1946. —Fred Rowland

Political Talk

I heard an interview recently with Frank Luntz, the Republican language maestro who uses polling and focus groups to advise political candidates, organizations, and corporations on how to choose their words and frame their issues for the highest political impact. He’s got a new book called Words that work : it’s not what you say, it’s what people hear. He has recommended that organizations use the term “climate change” instead of “global warming”, “gaming” instead of “gambling”, and “death tax” instead of “inheritance tax” or “estate tax”. You might be able to still hear the interview here. Here’s the web site of Luntz’s research company. There are also some short articles by Luntz in Lexis Nexis Academic(sorry, can’t give you the direct links to the articles, LNA doesn’t enable that). In a Dec. 28, 2002 NTY article, Luntz describes how he was an advisor to TV’s “West Wing” for a while, giving direction on the script from a Republican point of view. The job didn’t last, evidently.

It occurred to me that it would be interesting to read the Luntz book along with books by linguists (academics) whose work has been associated with liberal causes, Geoffrey Nunberg and Georg Lakoff. Nunberg does a regular spot on Fresh Air, the NPR interview show. Temple has quite a few books by both authors. Nunberg’s most recent book is Talking right : how conservatives turned liberalism into a tax-raising, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show (Paley doesn’t have a copy of this, have to correct this). Lakoff’s most recent book is Whose freedom? : the battle over America’s most important idea.

And of course there’s George Orwell’s famous Politics and the English Language, written in 1946.

—Fred Rowland

Whither the university?

I’ve been reading about the future of the university lately. Detractors think it costs too much, is inefficient, is too politicized, doesn’t properly train the workforce of the future, and is generally out of step with the great demographic changes of the past 25 years. It’s not flexible enough (what is?), researchers don’t teach well and teachers don’t research well. Supporters point out that universities are among the few institutions that have survived from the fifteenth century, that good education is just plain expensive, that education is about more than just posting “content” online somewhere, that Socrates got it right, and that businesses are out to privatize lots of publicly-funded infrastructure as was done with the healthcare industry (there is even talk about Educational Maintenance Organizations, EMO’s). Both supporters and detractors seem agreed that there’s a lot of change ahead for the university.

Of course the development of the Internet plays a huge role in the debates surrounding the future of higher education. Techno-utopians see the Internet as bringing more democracy, more education, more knowledge, more love, new life forms… More practical sorts see the reduced costs of information delivery on the Internet as a great business opportunity, so you see for-profit educational organizations popping up. More traditional sorts see the Internet as improving but not overturning current educational practices.

What interests me the most is the way the Internet (and high-tech in general) produces what can only be described as religious passions in many people. Cyberspace becomes a heavenly realm where information and emotions are transmitted friction-free and conflict melts away. You saw this in the millennial binge of the late 1990′s dot.coms, where profits were suddenly deemed unimportant and market share was everything. The fall of the Soviet Union, the rise of the Internet, and Y2K (remember that?) made everyone a bit crazy for a time.

Below are some of the sources I’ve been looking at and thinking about:

Digital Diploma Mills–short book, well written and closely argued, author very much against distance education, makes interesting comparisons to the “correspondence movement” in the early twentieth century

Digital Revolution and the Coming of the Postmodern University–seems a bit too focused on the technology and not enough on the institutions that create the context for the technology

After the New Economy–includes interesting analysis of 1990′s business bubble

Post-Capitalist Society–by Peter Drucker (aka “the management guru”), Drucker began talking about the “knowledge worker” decades ago, thinks the university won’t last

Startup.com–this documentary unwittingly highlights the excesses of the 1990′s dot.com boom

Shaping Communication Networks: Telegraph, Telephone, Computer–puts Internet in historical perspective

Death of the University–written in 1987, interesting but makes a lot of sweeping generalizations

The Future of Work

Higher Education in the Digital Age

The University in Transformation

Technology and the Rise of the For-Profit University– authored by Donald Norman, an educational entrepreneur (UNext), says scholars should create content and instructional specialists should deliver it

Undisciplined–by Louis Menand, interesting, about the breakdown of disciplinary boundaries in the university

Linkages Between Work and Education?

Dearing Report–influential UK report on higher education

Distance Education and the Emerging Learning Environment–short, interesting article

The Rise and Rise of the Corporate University–good article, part of an entire issue of the Journal of European Industrial Training devoted to corporate education

Surviving the Change: The Economic Paradigm of Higher Education in Transformation–interesting article by a guy with economic training

Educating the Net Generation–from Educause, about learning styles, likes and dislikes of the net generation

—Fred Rowland

Whither the university?

I’ve been reading about the future of the university lately. Detractors think it costs too much, is inefficient, is too politicized, doesn’t properly train the workforce of the future, and is generally out of step with the great demographic changes of the past 25 years. It’s not flexible enough (what is?), researchers don’t teach well and teachers don’t research well. Supporters point out that universities are among the few institutions that have survived from the fifteenth century, that good education is just plain expensive, that education is about more than just posting “content” online somewhere, that Socrates got it right, and that businesses are out to privatize lots of publicly-funded infrastructure as was done with the healthcare industry (there is even talk about Educational Maintenance Organizations, EMO’s). Both supporters and detractors seem agreed that there’s a lot of change ahead for the university. Of course the development of the Internet plays a huge role in the debates surrounding the future of higher education. Techno-utopians see the Internet as bringing more democracy, more education, more knowledge, more love, new life forms… More practical sorts see the reduced costs of information delivery on the Internet as a great business opportunity, so you see for-profit educational organizations popping up. More traditional sorts see the Internet as improving but not overturning current educational practices. What interests me the most is the way the Internet (and high-tech in general) produces what can only be described as religious passions in many people. Cyberspace becomes a heavenly realm where information and emotions are transmitted friction-free and conflict melts away. You saw this in the millennial binge of the late 1990’s dot.coms, where profits were suddenly deemed unimportant and market share was everything. The fall of the Soviet Union, the rise of the Internet, and Y2K (remember that?) made everyone a bit crazy for a time. Below are some of the sources I’ve been looking at and thinking about: Digital Diploma Mills–short book, well written and closely argued, author very much against distance education, makes interesting comparisons to the “correspondence movement” in the early twentieth century Digital Revolution and the Coming of the Postmodern University–seems a bit too focused on the technology and not enough on the institutions that create the context for the technology After the New Economy–includes interesting analysis of 1990’s business bubble Post-Capitalist Society–by Peter Drucker (aka “the management guru”), Drucker began talking about the “knowledge worker” decades ago, thinks the university won’t last Startup.com–this documentary unwittingly highlights the excesses of the 1990’s dot.com boom Shaping Communication Networks: Telegraph, Telephone, Computer–puts Internet in historical perspective Death of the University–written in 1987, interesting but makes a lot of sweeping generalizations The Future of Work Higher Education in the Digital Age The University in Transformation Technology and the Rise of the For-Profit University— authored by Donald Norman, an educational entrepreneur (UNext), says scholars should create content and instructional specialists should deliver it Undisciplined–by Louis Menand, interesting, about the breakdown of disciplinary boundaries in the university Linkages Between Work and Education? Dearing Report–influential UK report on higher education Distance Education and the Emerging Learning Environment–short, interesting article The Rise and Rise of the Corporate University–good article, part of an entire issue of the Journal of European Industrial Training devoted to corporate education Surviving the Change: The Economic Paradigm of Higher Education in Transformation–interesting article by a guy with economic training Educating the Net Generation–from Educause, about learning styles, likes and dislikes of the net generation —Fred Rowland