"Where I Lived and What I Lived For"
by Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau recalls the several places where he nearly settled before selecting Walden Pond, all of them estates on a rather large scale. He quotes the Roman philosopher Cato’s warning that it is best to consider buying a farm very carefully before signing the papers. He had been interested in the nearby Hollowell farm, despite the many improvements that needed to be made there, but, before a deed could be drawn, the owner’s wife unexpectedly decided she wanted to keep the farm. Consequently, Thoreau gave up his claim on the property. Even though he had been prepared to farm a large tract, Thoreau realizes that this outcome may have been for the best. Forced to simplify his life, he concludes that it is best “as long as possible” to “live free and uncommitted.” Thoreau takes to the woods, dreaming of an existence free of obligations and full of leisure. He proudly announces that he resides far from the post office and all the constraining social relationships the mail system represents. Ironically, this renunciation of legal deeds provides him with true ownership, paraphrasing a poet to the effect that “I am monarch of all I survey.”
Thoreau’s delight in his new building project at Walden is more than merely the pride of a first-time homeowner; it is a grandly philosophic achievement in his mind, a symbol of his conquest of being. When Thoreau first moves into his dwelling on Independence Day, it gives him a proud sense of being a god on Olympus, even though the house still lacks a chimney and plastering. He claims that a paradise fit for gods is available everywhere, if one can perceive it: “Olympus is but the outside of the earth every where.” Taking an optimistic view, he declares that his poorly insulated walls give his interior the benefit of fresh air on summer nights. He justifies its lack of carved ornament by declaring that it is better to carve “the very atmosphere” one thinks and feels in, in an artistry of the soul. It is for him an almost immaterial, heavenly house, “as far off as many a region viewed nightly by astronomers.” He prefers to reside here, sitting on his own humble wooden chair, than in some distant corner of the universe, “behind the constellation of Cassiopeia’s Chair.” He is free from time as well as from matter, announcing grandiosely that time is a river in which he goes fishing. He does not view himself as the slave of time; rather he makes it seem as though he is choosing to participate in the flow of time whenever and however he chooses, like a god living in eternity. He concludes on a sermonizing note, urging all of us to sludge through our existence until we hit rock bottom and can gauge truth on what he terms our “Realometer,” our means of measuring the reality of things
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Thursday, March 24, 2011
by St. Clair Drake
To the Jews of pre-Christian Palestine, Black people were sometimes friends and sometimes enemies, but never objects of racially based derision or contempt. The ancient Greeks categorized people not as Black or white, but as ''civilized'' or ''uncivilized.'' In the Muslim world, many slaves were Blacks, but so were many soldiers, several prominent rulers, and an occasional saint. Armed with such facts gathered during a lifetime of research, St. Clair Drake in his final work, Black Folk Here and There, submits to the test of history a wide range of theories that attempt to explain what happens when Black people and white people interact and why color prejudice may arise.
In this volume, Drake challenges theories claiming that negative attitudes toward blackness and Black people, which emerged from centuries of racial slavery, have always prevailed. Drake finds telling evidence of color prejudice and equally telling evidence of its absence or irrelevance.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
by St. Clair Drake
Professor Drake's Black Folk Here and There is essential reading for anyone concerned with the history and legacy of slavery and race in the contemporary world. This book provides the best review of the specialized literature on race and slavery, making available a great deal of knowledge heretofore confined to university libraries. St. Clair Drake was one of the deans of Black Studies as well as American Sociology, and he applied that rare background to an analysis and evaluation of modern theories of race and racism. His main targets are the theory of black inferiority and the theory of universal black contemptability. Did every civilization develop racism against "blacks"? In order to challenge that idea presented by some psychologists and historians, including the prize winning Professor Carl Degler, Drake reviews the history of Egypt, Ethiopia, Europe and Christianity in the Middle Ages, slavery and Islam, and the rise of the Atlantic Slave Trade. And he finds that there was no universal contempt for blacks. The evaluation of blacks throughout the ages, depended on their status in various civilizations. The high point of black social and cultural status was in ancient Egypt and Ethiopia as well as during the Middle Ages as revealed in such folklore as Prester John and the Black Madonna. However, with the emergence of the Atlantic slave trade as the modern world took shape, Black Africans took on a distinct ly degraded social and cultural status that was spread by modern communications throughout the world. In terms of encyclopedic knowledge on this subject and hard hitting analysis, Drake's study is unrivaled! As a professor of history, I use it as the best introduction to the global problems of race and racism left behind by modern slavery and the Atlantic slave trade. No one knew this subject or wrote with the scope as did Professor Drake.
Friday, March 11, 2011
"What is carved on rocks will wear away in time, What is told from mouth to mouth will live forever." Spagnoli, herself a storyteller, uses this epigraph of Vietnamese origin to launch a glittering collection of tales. Here are stories from Laos, Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Korea, Malaysia - the list goes on. Some of the stories carry ancient wisdoms, others bring us contemporary belly-laughs with equal flair. Prefatory chapters contain information on storytellers and storytelling from different regions of the continent, as well as on tools and techniques of this unique performing art. Stories are thematically grouped. Also included are notes, a glossary, and resources both online and print.