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A couple of months ago I joined a discussion group of Jean Vanier’s book Becoming Human (2014). This is how I found out about — indeed, discovered — his project L’Arche (The Ark), an international chain of communities, where people with intellectual and other disabilities and those who assist them build a life together — to put it in Becoming Human-terms, they learn Vulnerability to each other, and Belonging.  Today L’Arche spans more than 40 countries. The first of these communities was founded in Trosly-Breuil, France, in 1964, where Vanier is reported to reside at present.

Son of George Vanier (19th Governor General of Canada), sucked into World War 2 as a naval cadet at 15 and squeezed out of its monstrosities wounded for life, Jean Vanier gave up a professor of philosophy career at St Michael’s College, University of Toronto, to pursue what I’d call humane-philosophy-as-a-way-of-life. He is the originator of multiple Change-The-Human-Condition projects, and recipient of high-ranking awards.

His official website greets us with a quote on Fragility :

“We are born in extreme fragility,
and we die in extreme fragility.
Throughout our lives we remain vulnerable,
and at risk of being wounded.
Each child is so vulnerable, so fragile
and without any defenses!”

The way I read him, this is a persistent notion in Vanier’s writings, which, far from wallowing in powerlessness or justifying weaknesses and missteps, invites, indeed obligates, one to take compassion as a doable, honourable [anyone remember that word???], and Self-and-Other-uplifting project. How’s that for a life-long career?


A quick www sampling of quotes from Vanier’s books:

We are first and foremost HEARTS

The person who is hungry, abandoned or in need is first of all a heart who needs to find another heart; someone who will listen, understand and love. Above all, they need friendship: friends who love them and are willing to do things with them.

An Ark for the Poor: The Story of L’Arche  (1995, p.57)

Non-violence

[Prophets of peace] have lived and proclaimed a path of non-violence. They have been able to do this because they received support and lived with a community of men and women of like minds and hearts. “When I despair,” said Mahatma Gandhi, “I remember that throughout history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they can seem invincible. But in the end they always fall. Think of it always…whenever you are in doubt that that is God’s way – the way the world is meant to be. Think of that and then try to do His way.”

Finding Peace, 2007, page 74

Nurturing Love

Our hearts, spirits and intellects need to be awakened and fed. When people discover their own capacity to give life and hope to others, then they want to give more. There are forces of selfishness and fear in each of us, but where there is good spiritual nourishment, the power to love rises up. At L’Arche, we recognize that if assistants are not sustained and helped to see the meaning and value of their daily lives, apathy sets in and their ability to listen and pay proper attention to others flags. But if they are well nourished, they give life.

Our Journey Home: Rediscovering a Common Humanity Beyond Our Differences, 1997, p. 150

A good description of what he terms in the book “the to and fro” of relationships

It is because we belong with others and see them as brothers and sisters in humanity that we learn not only to accept them as they are, with different gifts and capacities, but to see each one as a person with a vulnerable heart. We learn to forgive those who hurt us or reject us; we ask forgiveness of those we have hurt. We learn to accept humbly those who point out our errors and mistakes and who challenge us to grow in truth and love. We support and encourage each other on the journey to inner freedom. We learn how to be close to those who are weaker and more vulnerable, those who may be sick or going through crises or are grieving. As we accept our personal limits and weaknesses, we discover that we need others and we learn to appreciate others and to thank them.

Becoming Human, 2014, p. 59

*     *     *

The www search for this “HEART-quote” got me started on the present post

The heart is never “successful.” It does not want power, honours, privilege, or efficiency; it seeks a personal relationship with another, a communion of hearts, which is the to-and-fro of love. This opening of the heart implies vulnerability and the offering of our needs and weaknesses. The heart gives and receives but above all, it gives. The heart goes out to those who are humble and who cry out in their weakness and their need for understanding and love. It is the human heart and its need for communion that weakens the walls of ideology and prejudice. It leads us from closedness to openness, from illusion of superiority to vulnerability and humility. Because of this, instead of finding security in the group, we find it in our hearts, which have found a new inner strength, a real maturity.

Becoming Human, 2014, pp. 63-64

*     *     *

B.T.W., Becoming Human reshuffles (I mean this in a good way) a number of prominent passages from his earlier books — just look at the quotes featured by GoodReads where I have linked the book titles above. Well,  he himself indicates this in the preface.

B.T.W. one more time: GoodReads generates a number of books titled Becoming Human, or having the phrase in their titles — from the evolutionary-scientific outlook to social justice-oriented texts, to inspirational-spiritual ones: http://www.goodreads.com/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&query=becoming+human

Perhaps we have not yet given up on ourselves, after all?

oh, and in an academic institution, too 🙂

… and here, a natural leaf aging in increments:

… and this, a form of two-way puppy love, you might say?

… since HUUUGE trees even break. Just like us, humans…

Anybody out there sporting a yellow CAUTION tape — after the fact???

.

The trunk:

.

and the lost branch:

.

chopped off from here – in contra-jour

.

photo credit: ES, July 1, 2014, near lake Ontario, Toronto side

In her response to the Presidential Address at PES 2014, Dr Shuffelton engagingly shares:

    Like thousands of other Chicago children, my two daughters took the admissions exams for Chicago’s public gifted and talented schools when they were four years old.  After my elder daughter, a precocious reader, took the test, I asked her “how was it?” and she recalled words she’d read correctly and logical puzzles she’d solved.  When she got home, she threw up.  Six weeks later, we were informed that she had a spot in a gifted program.  When it was time to enroll my younger daughter in kindergarten, she also took the exam, though at age four she was more interested in playing with her toy animals than in learning how to read.  “So,” I asked her in the car afterwards, “how did it go?” “THAT was stupid,” she said
    Unlike her sister, she did not qualify for a place in the gifted and talented schools.  But I have to ask: who is smarter?…
                                                                                                                                                                                              (“How Dear the Gift of Laughter”)

Perhaps, as per the multiply challenged whole-child education project (if I am reading the author’s implications correctly), one should also unpack “smarter” as — ultimately — HAPPIER, BETTER OFF with peers and non-peers… 🙂 🙂 🙂

More on PES coming up…

Update March 21, 2014: Which reminds me of the Vernal Pool project


Well, this is a quote I just got today, and am presenting it as food for thought — because the Profound Relatedness/Ecological Attunement I am working on (my Ecosonance thesis) is precisely about recalling the joy, beauty, and ontological connection with All Existence that is a robust implication of what I just re-iterated as a 3MT (Indigenous knowledges meeting “Western” rebellions for a deeper connectedness within and to the world).

Hats off to those who have the sensorial-mental endowment for that 🙂

on the streets of downtown Toronto…


From: Artscisalon mailing list | Artscisalon@listserv.physics.utoronto.ca | vernalpool2014@gmail.com
Sent: Feb 19, 2014


CALL FOR PARTICIPANTS | WINTER TO SPRING 2013-2014

Arts and science practitioners – from across Canada and abroad – are invited to contribute to the formation of a temporary body of water in a gallery space by gathering snow samples this winter as a form of extrinsic artistic practice about place and precipitation.

In April 2014, the resulting reservoir of snowmelt will be convened into an immersive, elemental water installation in Toronto.

Entitled Vernal Pool, this season-based, participatory art project references the ephemeral wetland ecosystems that form in springtime from melting snow and rainwater. Following the exhibition, the pool will be returned to the earth through a collective watering of gardens and urban greenspaces.

A participatory art project about place + precipitation: Produced by Karen Abel with Jessica Marion Barr, the project will be exhibited at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto as part of Grow Op: Exploring Landscape + Place, curated by landscape architect Victoria Taylor. View + download the PDF here.

Opening Reception Fri April 25 2014 | 7-10pm Gladstone Hotel | Toronto ON

For more information visit www.vernal-pool.tumblr.com| vernalpool2014@gmail.com

______________________________________
Stephen Morris
Department of Physics
University of Toronto
(416) 978-6810
http://www.physics.utoronto.ca/nonlinear
https://listserv.physics.utoronto.ca/mailman/listinfo/artscisalon

The panel on Forgiveness was a sobering experience.

http://harthouse.ca/events/the-f-word-exhibit-reception-and-discussion/

Cat Criger, First Nations Elder UTM, Moderator

Samantha Lawler, Forgiveness Project Story Contributor

Ken Noma, President, National Association of Japanese Canadians

Douglas Sanderson, Assistant Professor of Law, Faculty of Law, U of T

Vera Schiff, Holocaust Survivor

I leave the rest to your heart-imagination…

update: Aug 2, 2013


links to ES PeopleForGood related posts:


Well, I did take Carl Honore’s and Frederick’s advice, it seems, regarding blogging.

All I can say is, lots of fulfilling stuff to share, during the 2013 Social Sciences and Humanities Congress, ADMIRABLY hosted by the University of Victoria, Canada. PlUS my short stay in Vancouver afterward. So stay tuned, as the cliche goes 🙂

ATTUNED, rather.

One way of celebrating the anniversary [my initial search on traditional toasts on YouTube was disappointing]:

Revisiting the X-factor, whose affective amplitude I tracked for awhile sometime ago, here are a first and last performance of “What a Wonderful World” by one among many other “surprise discoveries”.

An exchange from the first audition that may strike a blogging (and certainly other) chord:

Jury’s Q: You got friends here today?

Stacey Solomon’s A: NOT YET [then, a shy-yet-glowing smile]

first audition (song starts at approx. 1 min into vid) and more

final

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