Friday, March 21, 2008

Summer Reading List

As Masons, and as citizens, we are encouraged to educate ourselves. In the Second Degree, Masons are recommended to familiarize themselves with the Liberal Arts, which adorn and polish the mind. As citizens, we need to have grounding in which to form our decisions, as well as to entertain ourselves. Hopefully both can be done together.

For some reason, ignorance is being encouraged in popular culture today. How many situation comedies have the hero, or the head of the household, criticizing anyone in the family or group of friends who enjoy learning or show any indication of trying to improve themselves intellectually? Think, Simpsons, or The King of Queens, or Two and Ahalf Men. Seinfeld did it differently, but with the same attitude. I enjoy most of these shows. They're clever, and obviously written by people who didn't take the advice to avoid intellect, but they're insidious because of their enjoyability.

So, after reading a couple of other blogs that have dealt with the issue of reading lists, I'm submitting one of my own. Please make additions or deletions:

The System of the World, by Neal Stephenson
Catch 22, by Joseph Heller
De Rerum Natura, (in Latin or English) by Lucretius
Dialogues, by Plato
A Hat Full of Sky, and the sequels to it, by Terry Pratchett
In Fact, any book by Terry Pratchett
The Age of Reason, by Thomas Paine
Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegutt
The Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
1984, by George Orwell
The Attack on Reason, by Al Gore
The Gallic Wars, by Julius Caesar
Candide by Voltaire

There are many more. You must read Huckleberry Finn, for its perspective on childhood, fatherhood and race in America, The Mysterious Stranger, for Twain's take on war and nationalism, Major Barbara, and Man and Superman, by George Bernard Shaw, and The Playboy of the Western World, by Synge, just to see what a well made play is about.

These books help provide a context within which decisions can be more valuably be made. There are many more.

What do you suggest?

Here's a good place on line to start looking at some of these books, not to mention

Friday, March 14, 2008

With Friends Like These?

This video is deliberate political satire, and it addresses an issue that we all face in whatever group or endevour we are engaged. Everyone wants to help. Where does the impulse to help come from, and what is its effect? These questions need to be considered whenever we are moved in this direction. Sometimes it's better to just shut up!

The impulse to help at first seems to be completely altruistic. We see a need, and we know that we can make it better. We want to improve the life of a person or a group, and promote the general welfare. Often, though, it comes from an attitude of superiority. We are better than, know more than, can fix the problem that this poor individual has better, more, quicker, than this person or group can on their own.

Often this really seems to be the case. They're really stuck. They're really wrong.

I can solve any problem you have in two minutes. If you'll only listen to me and do what I say, your problem is solved. The world is made better.

There is another space from which this impulse can come. That space recognizes the individual or the group of individuals, as capable and whole in and of themselves, and may want or need assistance to move from a stuck place. It's a subtle difference, but a significant one.

Helping often generates heat instead of light. Assisting can make both parties much lighter. A way to know where you're coming from on this is the level of satisfaction experienced in the outcome. We're looking for a win-win situation. Acknowledging the ableness of a person makes both parties come away smiling.

What This Blog is About

This blog is the thoughts of a Freemason. It's not affiliated with any Masonic body, and doesn't speak for Freemasonry in any sense of the word. My purpose is to raise questions, not dictate answers. If you read this blog, please comment; please subscribe, so we can look for answers to these questions together.