Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ethics for Activists 20

What are you carrying?

Two monks, one old and one young, were walking through the forest from one monastery to another when they came upon a woman standing beside a river. She was finely dressed in delicate fabrics and was clearly afraid to attempt crossing the river however shallow it might be. The old monk approached the woman and offered to carry her across. The young monk was shocked. Once on the other side the old monk put the woman down and together with his young companion continued through the forest. Many hours later, as the day was drawing to a close the young monk spoke up saying, “Master, I do not understand. It is strictly forbidden in our order to touch women and yet you didn’t hesitate to pick up that woman and carry her across the river.” “Ah, yes,” said the old monk. “I am surprised at you. I put her down many hours ago. You must be very tired from having carried her all day.”

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ethics for Activists 19

One day, a talmudic student was meditating in the synagogue when the rabbi came in, went to the front of the synagogue, fell down on his knees, shouting, “I am nobody! I am nobody!” The student, so overcome by this display joined his rabbi and also shouted, “I am nobody! I am nobody!” This went on for a while when the caretaker of the synagogue witnessed this strange scene and, also overcome, joined the rabbi and the student shouting, “I am nobody! I am nobody!” It was then that the student nudged the rabbi, saying, “Look who thinks he’s nobody.”

Ethics for Activists 18

Tetsugen was a zen monk in 17th Century Japan and he had a dream to publish the sutras (buddhist teachings) in Japanese for they were only available at that time in Chinese. His plan was to carve wood blocks with which to print the sutras in 7000 copies. And so he began to travel and collect money. He would ask for donations wherever he went. He thanked everyone equally, whether they gave him 100 gold pieces or only a few small coins. After ten years he had the money he needed to begin. But at that moment there was a flood; the Uji River overflowed and many lives were lost and many destroyed. Tetsugen used his money to help the people, to save as many as he could from the starvation that followed. And once again he began to travel and collect money. An epidemic swept the land and many people died and many suffered. Tetsugen used the money he'd collected to help the people. And then he returned to his task. Finally, after twenty years, he'd collected enough to begin carving the wood blocks to print the sutras. The wood blocks that Tetsugen carved can be seen today in Obaku monastery in Kyoto. However, people say that Tetsugen made three sets of the sutras in his lifetime and that the first two are invisible and far surpass the third.

Monday, February 15, 2010

5th Int'l Conference of the Popular Education Network

I've just learned about this 5th Int'l Conference of the Popular Education Network and am urging people to connect with it. If anybody trips across a pot 'o gold and feels like sharing... hint, hint. More likely, if someone from the Toronto-area can make it, please bring back news. Edinburgh, folks! Sweet. (It's my father's land).

I learned about this network a year ago and, despite a number of e-mail attempts to connect, i've not actually connected with anyone. It is volunteer-run and that, no doubt, is a huge limiting factor. It also seems to be exclusively academic - "not that there's anything wrong with that" (some old Seinfeld humour for you fans). And there is some excellent theory emerging from this network some published in Popular Education: Engaging the Academy - International Perspectives (eds. Crowther, Jim et al; NIACE) and some found in some excellent podcasts found here (i particularly recommend the two-part interview of Joyce Canaan by Dr. Gurnam Singh).

It's been a dream of the Catalyst Centre to connect some of the many popular education groups around the world - the Freire Centre in Sao Paulo (and some of the many other Freire Institutes/Centres that have been established in the past ten years), Highlander in Tennessee, Popular Education for People's Empowerment in the Philippines, L'Institut d'Education Populaire outside Bamako, Mali, IMDEC in Guadalajara and more. However, finding the resources for such networking has proven, to date, fruitless. The grassroots nature of many of these groups compared to the somewhat better resourced academic networks, is certainly one limiting factor in doing more than e-mail, website linking and (the rather overly-vaunted) social networking. Still, the dream persists.

Spread the word about this conference. Looks like some excellent connections to be made.

The Power of Puppetry

This music video, featuring the most adorable sock puppets i've seen in a while, tells a very sad story. There's one moment in this puppet performance that is an act of genius. And, overall, this work demonstrates what beauty can be created by simple things. Thanks to Dana for sharing.