This week the universe delivered a wake up call through my sister’s recommendation that I read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. My sister is a master teacher in a Montessori community in Brooklyn. I respect her opinions on youth literature which we often discuss in light of how she integrates books into her 4th-6th grade curricula. I began reading The Hunger Games a few hours ago and am engrossed in a dystopic world in which its young characters fight for their very existence through a perverse scheme by their government. On the Scholastic website, the author’s bio states “she continues to explore the effects of war and violence on those coming of age.”
That gave me a chill. I have wondered about growing up in a world of intimidation, fear, and violence and what kind of impact that might have on the coming generations.
It is no surprise to me that I would be directed to this story while I am reading John Haidt’s new nonfiction book, The Righteous Mind (2012), which challenges us to step outside of our political framework to examine what is moral and ethical. Serendipity occurs even as the truth becomes increasingly hard to discern when complexity envelops every issue. I typically turn to beacons of light, for me at least. One is Orion Magazine which gives voice to our society’s most creative and perceptive minds, and is not afraid to explore controversial issues even as it strives to inspire community, cooperation, and celebration of all that is good and beautiful in nature and in humankind.
On Orion Magazine’s podcast “Punishing Protest: Patrick Shea and Heidi Boghosian Discuss Law and Civil Disobedience” (February 23, 2012) the speakers explore “What is the justice system for?” This is a very intelligent discussion of the Tim DeChristopher prosecution (Shea was his defense lawyer). These two lawyers describe what citizens in the Occupy movement can expect from our justice system and offer them directions. Shea encourages listeners to strive on even in the milieu of government intimidation of citizen-activists who act to preserve our freedoms – to do the right thing.
So I see in these three current products of our culture – The Hunger Games, The Righteous Mind, and the Orion podcast on civil disobedience – as interrelated discussions rippling through our country, our community, our collective mind.
Have you read The Hunger Games? If so, tell us what you think about the story.
From iris scans to drones, we are in a dramatic period of governmental oppression, a society of haves and have-nots that uses technology to oppress the people and is eerily similar to the world experienced by characters in The Hunger Games.
Looking for a new place to walk I remember an old neighborhood in Pensacola, Florida—my hometown. I drove to one of our family owned markets, parked and headed on foot toward the bay side of Scenic Highway which wiggles its way along Escambia Bay to Downtown.
As soon as I was one block from the main drag I began to hear a chorus of birds and saw my first robin of the springtime. A canopy of old oaks greeted me as I turned down the narrow streets. It was degrees cooler and flowers and trees were in bloom in the asymmetric yards and thoroughfares.
Camellias are a signature blossom in this City of Five Flags: they came from Asia probably on ships that brought international goods from all over the world to Pensacola’s famous deep water port. Here is a beauty blooming in one resident’s yard:
When you walk in older neighborhoods the first thing that is noticeably different is the diversity in homes, plantings, economic strata, and biodiversity. Far from a groomed look that we find in the modern developments in Pensacola, there is brush, tall grasses, undulating yards, and all sorts of individual touches from owners: tree swings, sculpture, bubbling ponds or water fountains, colors and textures of siding; shape and sizes of the homes and lots.
As I passed one home, up a dark trunk scampered a fat white squirrel—perhaps a protective totum for endangered neighborhoods. Why endangered? I happened upon an old friend, a poet, who was out canvassing the neighborhood with a clipboard and information. A proposed change in codes would make a large stretch of land, a path to the bay and marshes, off-limits to everyone, essentially giving one lot owner in that area private property without paying a dime.
Real neighborhoods are like climax communities in nature: they take a long time to develop into the kind of rich interrelatedness and diverse habitats that Pensacola Heights can boast. Take a look:
This past month I’ve focused on the importance of the places where we live in making who we are. It’s subtle if you live in a busy, noisy environment like a city or even a heavily populated suburb. When you are lucky enough to live with lots of open space around you, the influence of the land, sky and waters – the Living Dome – is tangible and pressing.
The advent of a relatively new environment of virtual space creates another layer of human voices, ideas, visions, sounds, and computations that tamp the living presence of the natural world. Some humans now prefer virtual representations of the Living Dome that blankets the planet, sustaining all life.
What does physical or representational separation from the source of life and imagination mean for coming generations?
So much in American life has has a corrupting influence on our requirements for social order. We live in a culture that has lost its memory. Very little in the specific shapes and traditions of our grandparents’ pasts instructs us how to live today. ~ Gretel Ehrlich from The Solace of Open Spaces, Chapter “To Live in Two Worlds”
What do you think?