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April 9, 2010

Language and Culture

(Photo by Robin Holland)

This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with acclaimed author Louise Erdrich about her writing and her Native American heritage.

Erdrich described the significance of her Ojibwe language and culture:

"Native American people puzzle other people. Why is [their culture] so strong with them? Why don't they just become like the rest of us? What is it that's so important in their culture that they cling to it so? I think it has to do with the belongingness and the sense of peace that I feel among other native people, this sense of community - you're in the comfort of a very funny, grounded people who are related to everything that's around them, who don't feel this estrangement that people feel so often. That's why being Ojibwe or Anishinabe is so important to me... Even learning the amount of Ojibwe that one can at my age is a life-altering experience. You see the world in a different way. I for instance was astounded when I realized early on that Ojibwe doesn't see the world in terms of gender. You're working in a language in which there is a spirit behind this language. Everything is interrelated and participates in a level of spiritual interaction."

What do you think?

  • Do you speak multiple languages? If so, how does each help you see the world differently?

  • Tell us about your cultural heritage. How does it contribute to your unique perspective?

  • December 4, 2009

    Art & Healing

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    In this week’s JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with film director Oliver Stone about how his experience fighting in Vietnam has informed his work -- including his famous Vietnam trilogy in PLATOON, BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, and HEAVEN & EARTH -- and influenced his worldview. Stone, the recipient of a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, described how filmmaking helped him work out his feelings and move on to the next phase of his life.

    “When you first see combat, it's like pro-football. It goes much faster than you think and more awkwardly than you think, and it's not particularly grand or anything. You try to save your life, and you see death, and you get used to it, and after a few engagements you get better at it... You crystallize the fear. You have to lose the fear. You have to get past it. Because otherwise you're gonna freeze up... You get angry and that's not a good emotion, either. But you get awfully pissed off... When I came back from Vietnam, I was an angry young man and had violent thoughts, and I went through a period of adjustment. I was very lucky in the sense that I went to NYU Film School, and I got a chance to make films. And that was a release, an artistic expression, and I did three Vietnam movies. So, I think over the course of those three movies, I learned a lot more. And I worked out some of my deepest feelings that I didn't even recognize at the time.”

    What do you think?

  • Has artistic expression helped you work out issues in your life? Explain.

  • Is art a viable healing strategy? Why or why not?

  • August 6, 2009

    Another Chapter, Another Adventure

    In this week’s JOURNAL, Bill Moyers conversed with sociologist Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot about her book, THE THIRD CHAPTER: PASSION, RISK, AND ADVENTURE IN THE 25 YEARS AFTER 50, which explores the challenges and exciting opportunities for people in that age range.

    Lawrence-Lightfoot said:

    “All of us, at this point, to some degree are on a search for meaningfulness, for purposefulness, and we want to find what this next 25 years – the penultimate chapter of our life – is going to be about. We’re ready for something new, for a new experience, for a new adventure... My favorite thing about this period is restraint – how wonderful it is to know a little more about when not to talk, when not to move forward, when it’s best to listen and sit back, when it’s best to just witness and observe. That kind of slowness of pace offers us the opportunity to see things newly, to discover things that we hadn’t seen before, to see the small incremental steps rather than expect the large leaps forward.”

    What do you think?

    Whatever your age, have you lived chapters of "change, growth and new learning"? Tell us about your experience.

    March 13, 2009

    Compassion, Idols, and Ideals

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with religious scholar Karen Armstrong about her efforts to promote understanding between cultures. Armstrong suggested that human nature has an inherent tension between compassion and the desire that one’s views be the absolute truth:

    “Compassion doesn’t mean feeling sorry for people. It doesn’t mean pity. It means putting yourself in the position of the other, learning about the other, learning what’s motivating the other, learning about their grievances... The three monotheisms – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – have a besetting tendency: that is idolatry, taking a human idea of God, a human doctrine, and making it absolute, putting it in the place of God. Now, there have been secular idolatries too. Nationalism was a great idolatry. The state can be... We are constantly creating these idols, erecting a purely human ideal or value to the supreme reality. Once you’ve made something essentially finite, once you’ve made it an absolute, it has to then destroy any rival claimants, because there can only be one absolute... And we get a lot of secular people doing this too... I think the so-called liberals can also be just as hard-lined in their own way.”

    What do you think?

  • Do you agree with Armstrong that humanity elevates its ideals to idols representing “the supreme reality?” Why or why not?

  • Have well-intentioned values, like compassion and intercultural understanding, themselves become idols? Explain.

  • How do you balance compassion and empathy for others’ experience with working towards your core beliefs?

  • February 20, 2009

    Finding Wholeness in Tough Times

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with Parker J. Palmer, founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal, about the challenge of remaining positive and spiritually whole in difficult times.

    “I think the pursuit of happiness is the pursuit of reality because illusion never leaves us ultimately happy, and I think the opportunity now is for us to get real. And I think that’s going to make us, in the long run, more happy... A new habit of the heart would allow us to take the broken hearted experience in a new direction, not towards shattering into a million pieces but towards a heart that grows larger, more capacious, more open to hold both the suffering and the pain of the world... Whether we’re Democrats or Republicans or independents, we have to learn to hang together or we’re gonna hang separately. We have to learn a new set of habits of the heart, and I think that can happen.”

    What do you think?

  • Is Palmer right that facing reality is a key element of true happiness? Explain.

  • Does learning “new habits of the heart” have the potential to make the world a better place? Why or why not?

  • In challenging times, what inspires you and helps you keep it together?

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