This is pretty cool. It’s called Starfield. It’s an art installation by the French art collective Lab212. “It involves a swing, the projection of a star field in front of it and a Microsoft Kinect.” Participants can swing over scenes from the earth, Saturn’s rings, a black hole or other constellations.
“Since the invention of the cuneiform system of writing in Mesopotamia around 3500 BCE and of hieroglyphics in Egypt around 3150 BCE, the serious reader of texts has enjoyed cultural acclamation,” writes Frank Furedi in Aeon."In Roman times, starting in the second century BCE, books were brought down from heaven to earth, where they served as luxury goods that endowed their wealthy owners with cultural prestige. The Roman philosopher Seneca, who lived in the first century, directed his sarcasm at the fetish for grandiose display of texts, complaining that ‘many people without a school education use books not as tools for study but as decorations for the dining room’. Of the flamboyant collector of scrolls, he wrote that ‘you can see the complete works of orators and historians on shelves up to the ceiling, because like bathrooms, a library has become an essential ornament of a rich house’.”
Owning books is not about the appearance of sophistication. Nevertheless, bookish fools exist. Furedi asks, “Is book ownership still a sign of public cultural distinction in the digital age? It’s not the performance, and not the optics that really matter, but the experience of the journey to the unknown.”
God of the Modern World
Anthony Kronman’s upcoming book, Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan, looks to be an important subject for our times. David Brooks recently wrote about the important tome in his most recent column: The Beauty of Big Books. In his column, Brooks notes the former Yale Law School Dean’s journey toward understanding our modern world. “Since I first began to think about such things in even a modestly self-conscious way,” Brooks writes, quoting Kronman, “I have been haunted by the thought that destiny has placed me in a world with a unique historical identity and been anxious to know what this is.” Brooks is certainly correct in saying it’s a big book too. The volume comes in at more than 1,100 pages. Nonetheless I’m looking forward to reading it.
Here is the book’s description from the publisher: “We live in an age of disenchantment. The number of self-professed “atheists” continues to grow. Yet many still feel an intense spiritual longing for a connection to what Aristotle called the “eternal and divine.” For those who do, but demand a God that is compatible with their modern ideals, a new theology is required. This is what Anthony Kronman offers here, in a book that leads its readers away from the inscrutable Creator of the Abrahamic religions toward a God whose inexhaustible and everlasting presence is that of the world itself. Kronman defends an ancient conception of God, deepened and transformed by Christian belief—the born-again paganism on which modern science, art, and politics all vitally depend. Brilliantly surveying centuries of Western thought—from Plato to Augustine, Aquinas, and Kant, from Spinoza to Nietzsche, Darwin, and Freud—Kronman recovers and reclaims the God we need today.”
Joseph Ellis at the University of Minnesota
Joseph Ellis delivered a speech at the Ted Mann Concert Hall at the University of Minnesota on September 28, 2016. His speech was titled: “The Second Founding: Four Men Who Created a Country.” The speech was part of a series called Friends Forum: A Series for Curious Minds. Check out the remaining events on this year’s calendar.
Bill Moyers with Poet W.S Merwin
This one is from the archives of Bill Moyers’ wonderful show. Here he speaks with one of my favorite poets, W.S. Merwin, about his 50-year-career. You can find this show and other information at Bill Moyers’ blog, which is still kept up to date, even though the television show is no longer on the air. I miss you Bill.
The Last Bookstore
A great short film from Chad Howitt called: Welcome to the Last Bookstore. It’s a touching look at Josh Spencer’s journey overcoming adversity opening an independent bookstore in Los Angeles. Courtesy of Atlantic Video.
Wisdom and Storytelling in the Age of Information
Enjoy this great video from Maria at Brian Pickings called Wisdom in the Age of Information and the Age of Storytelling. In it she explores a subject near to her heart: “the question of how we can cultivate true wisdom in the age of information and why great storytellers matter more than ever in helping us make sense of an increasingly complex world.” If you haven’t already, I would also bookmark her blog and make it a part of your regular reading.
Bookworms Live Longer
As if you needed a reason to read a book, a recent study might give you one more. If you want to live longer, read. Check out this story on Smithsonian magazine’s site:
“A new study in the journal Social Science and Medicine suggests that elderly people who read books have what authors call “a survival advantage” over those who don’t,” writes Erin Blakemore. “Researchers used information from the National Institute on Aging’s Health and Retirement Study, a large public resource on adults 50 years and older in the United States, to tease out correlations between reading and longevity.”
What makes a book?
What makes a book a book? Julie Dreyfuss has an answer in this delightful video.
The Big Picture
I’m looking forward to reading Sean Carroll’s new book: The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself. My copy arrived today. It sounds like a book full of big ideas that crosses many intellectual disciplines. Listen to the author speak at Google about the book, and you will see what I mean. Here is portion of the book description from the publisher: Penguin Random House.
“Already internationally acclaimed for his elegant, lucid writing on the most challenging notions in modern physics, Sean Carroll is emerging as one of the greatest humanist thinkers of his generation as he brings his extraordinary intellect to bear not only on Higgs bosons and extra dimensions but now also on our deepest personal questions. Where are we? Who are we? Are our emotions, our beliefs, and our hopes and dreams ultimately meaningless out there in the void? Does human purpose and meaning fit into a scientific worldview?
“In short chapters filled with intriguing historical anecdotes, personal asides, and rigorous exposition, readers learn the difference between how the world works at the quantum level, the cosmic level, and the human level–and then how each connects to the other. Carroll’s presentation of the principles that have guided the scientific revolution from Darwin and Einstein to the origins of life, consciousness, and the universe is dazzlingly unique.
“Carroll shows how an avalanche of discoveries in the past few hundred years has changed our world and what really matters to us. Our lives are dwarfed like never before by the immensity of space and time, but they are redeemed by our capacity to comprehend it and give it meaning.”