Last month I considered how a condition of inter-subjectivity might be responsible for whether and how our surroundings influence who we are and what we create. Picking up where I left off, this morning I’m turning over the question of how the lived-world draw us forth and how it is drawn into our creative process. It seems to me that the world infuses us with its own being and we, who are being given the world, interpret and draw out its edge through our own lifework before we deliver it back into community as self-expression. A tripartite process of what is given, literally what is submitted, what » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Almanack has recently been enlivened by a series substantive of conversations around land use in the Adirondacks. I invite anyone interested in continuing those conversations to participate in the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s Interdisciplinary Scholarship in Land Use and Ethics 2nd Annual Symposium May 17–19, 2013 at the Newcomb campus. On its best day, philosophy succeeds in sending “the conversation off in new directions.”
With a free exchange of ideas and a commitment to inquiry, philosophy as both catalyst and conveyor ought to “engender new normal discourses, new sciences, new philosophical research and thus new objective truths.” This project provides us with an opportunity » Continue Reading.
Over the past few months I’ve been considering what it means to be subjects in and subject to place. I’ve wondered if this condition of inter-subjectivity is responsible for whether and how our surroundings influence who we are and what we create.
On the one hand, influence is explicit when we make representative art as in landscape painting or poetry and prose whose subject is Emerson’s lake water whipped
My mind is full of questions and my heart follows, seeking in its own way. Fortunately, the consolation of philosophy lies in the convergence of heart and mind deep within this process of inquiry born of struggle. Coffee in hand to fortify me in the process and with a July mountain morning on the rise, my gaze wandered in the direction of a painting that my mother made many years ago.
Despite being obscured by the turned angle of his body and the quietly bent head, the subject of the painting would likely be known to anyone familiar enough to be in my home to see it. The figure’s posture gives him away, more than » Continue Reading.
I wouldn’t call myself a “morning person” but I do like the way the day has a kind of endless feel when I get up with the sun. This time of year the world around this little house is alive with the spring song of rushing brook water, birds, and that subtle sound of bloom rubbing against bloom that is quieted in winter. So, I follow my cat’s lead and stretch into the day in response to the sounds of the outside waking up. Click on NCPR, draw a dark roast, pour some granola, gather pen and paper, settle into a soft chair and begin.
It was on such a morning recently when a report » Continue Reading.
We understand who we are and we imagine who we want to become by telling stories through the interrelated mediums of art, prose, music and spirituality. The shapes that these narratives take are influenced by the places where they, and we, are rooted. Influence is a subtle and often implicit force. It is the stuff beyond mere representation, or the explicit reference to particular geographies (this mountain or that stream). Influence is ephemeral and as the poet Rilke wrote, it falls on me like moonlight on a window seat.
My friend and I walked down a trail at the end of the afternoon, mindful that this day soon would slip from the present into memory. We had spent the last several hours on the side of a hill looking more often out at the Adirondacks in the distance, than at the near landscape where we whiled away.
In retrospect this was fitting since most of our recollections, all of our shared stories at least, had settled years ago between the rise of those mountains and the fall of their valleys. And here we were, older and perhaps better though » Continue Reading.
What happens to philosophy when we liberate it from the Ivory Tower and from the confines of coursework, academic publications and specializations that can feel like falling head-long down the rabbit hole? What does a philosopher become when she isn’t simply a teacher of curriculum, evaluated and validated by measurable outcomes? What is to be done when the hand-wringing and concerned looks of parents and friends turn into real questions like how in the name of all the esoteric nonsense will the rent get paid? Or more to the point: what are you going to do with this training? Not to worry. When all else » Continue Reading.
Something has had men heading for the interior, long before Henry David Thoreau publicly declared “I am leaving the city more and more, and withdrawing into the wilderness.” And as men of a certain tradition in 19th century America began to make their private pilgrimages public through written and artistic records, their excursions and revelations became canonized.
These meditations contributed to a change in national ideas about the value and fragility of nature and “man’s” place within it.
I understand the importance of reaching back into our histories to understand the cultural touchstones like these that have come to signify certain ideas and ideals, certain » Continue Reading.
It’s funny the questions people ask me these days. Earlier this week some colleagues were talking about whether or not to restore a dilapidated lean-to that sits on private land somewhat accessible from a new recreation corridor. The issue was debated around whether the lean-to would become an “attractive nuisance” encouraging travelers to camp at the site. If so, perhaps it should be left to go back to nature, as it were. As the conversation wore on someone turned to me and asked “why do people travel distances and sometimes even risk trespassing on private property just to stay in a lean-to, when they could » Continue Reading.
A few years ago I noticed a small sign taped to a cash register in a local store. It read “no checks from strangers.” Well, I reasoned, this is a quirky establishment so I smiled and went on my way. Sometime later I was talking with someone who asked me where I was from. I answered and she raised her chin, looked down and replied, “Oh, you’re an outsider.”
I live on a road that is closed this time of year but this morning the automated gate stood open in protest to the cold. Despite the impossible-to-miss “Road Closed” sign, a vehicle drove slowly through. » Continue Reading.
One etymological reading of “atheism” is to be abandoned by the gods, godless. And as if abandonment wasn’t enough to spur repentance, a beloved and deeply spiritual teacher once told me that to be an atheist is to declare a world without the divine. Why, I wondered, does that world seem as attractive as a strip mall, so terribly un-poetic and not at all like a reality that I want » Continue Reading.
Three times last week someone approached me in a crowd and asked, “Are you the Adirondack Philosopher?” Since I wasn’t wearing my customary toga, my chariot was parked some distance away and I wasn’t strolling through the square asking leading questions, I was at once pleased and caught off guard.
It is a testament to the popularity of the Adirondack Almanack that this happens as often as it does, and in the most unlikely places. Last week it happened while I was inside a medium security prison, it happened again at a planning meeting several towns away and again at » Continue Reading.
You are invited to contribute to the discourse, re-interpret the topic and skew the pitch. Join in the process and take part in influencing the way we think about land use and ethics. SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s Northern Forest Institute invites submissions for its Symposium of Interdisciplinary Scholarship in Land Use and Ethics, to be held at the Adirondack Interpretive Center on Huntington Wildlife Forest in Newcomb. See full symposium details here.
On its best day, philosophy succeeds in sending “the conversation off in new directions.” With a free exchange of ideas and a commitment to » Continue Reading.
A while back I asked why it matters whether women are represented in science? I was interested to know if we care about whether a variety of communities show up in fields, professions and pastimes, why do we care? Is it simply a matter of increasing the number of loyalists to our mission, or does it come from an openness to change the very system that stands resolute like Uncle Sam declaring “I want you!”
Yesterday during a research discussion at the Adirondack Interpretive Center in Newcomb, a lively conversation followed one colleague’s expressed desire to encourage “underrepresented” communities » Continue Reading.
In his poem The Adirondacks Ralph Waldo Emerson begins to describe an expedition into the Adirondack wilderness by noting that the travelers unburdened themselves from their day-to-day lives:
Happier as they Slipped off their pack of duties, leagues behind, At the first mounting of the giant stairs. No placard on these rocks warned to the polls, No door-bell heralded a visitor, No courier waits, no letter came or went, Nothing was ploughed, or reaped, or bought, or sold I can appreciate this imagery and the attraction of leaving it all behind for a holiday. But many of us reading » Continue Reading.
The first thing I noticed was how the light fidgeting on the water moved, like jazz. Usually, autumn Adirondack mornings have more of a classical come-on, in a way that brings Walt Whitman to mind with his longing recollections of halcyon seasons enough to conjure this jigsaw of ochre and red around the pond and up the mountains; this deep and satisfying breeze whispering shhhhhh.
Yet, this morning something about the landscape looked like Carl Sandburg’s poems feel when read aloud. Sandburg, with his 1916 Chicago cadence was on the wind making oozing trombones of those same trees, going » Continue Reading.
On its best day, philosophy succeeds in sending “the conversation off in new directions.” With a free exchange of ideas and a commitment to inquiry, philosophy as both catalyst and conveyor ought to “engender new normal discourses, new sciences, new philosophical research and thus new objective truths.”
In this spirit the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s Northern Forest Institute invites submissions for its Symposium of Interdisciplinary Scholarship in Land Use and Ethics, to be held at the Adirondack Interpretive Center on Huntington Wildlife Forest in Newcomb. I envision this project as an opportunity to open up the dialog » Continue Reading.
Colleague: So, what do you do?
Me: I’m a philosopher, much of my work involves teaching.
Colleague: (Amused) like what, the philosophy of green?
Colleague: So you’re here to do philosophy with the students.
Me: Yes, environmental philosophy.
Colleague: I think that’s great, because students come to me for content and they come to you for this kind of (gesturing as if wafting an unwelcome scent) experience.
Both of these exchanges, and rest assured I have enough of these for a night at the Improv, were with colleagues » Continue Reading.
A few months back one of my colleagues here at the Almanack wrote a fine post that raised the question of whether or not it is feasible for New York State to acquire Follensby Pond and surrounding lands.
I had great fun weighing-in on an element of philosophical gamesmanship that Phil Brown touched on related to Aristotle’s notion of begging the question. A short while later, I was describing what I thought had been my clever contribution to a friend who asked “yes, but what was your position?” Well I never! No really, I never even considered » Continue Reading.