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Welcome

NP Journal for experimenting with ideas, Copyright © 2011-2017 LJ Frank. All Rights Reserved. 

 

Narrative Paths Journal

“We think we know but have yet to discover.”  Thomas Aquinas

 

NP Journal for experimenting with ideas initiated in 2011 within the context of experiences and rooted in treks, voyages, studies and work. The access, integrative content and design of the journal are evolving with the goal of enhancing the reader’s experience. The views and opinions expressed in the Journal are those of the individual authors.

 

“Narrative Paths Journal is a literary magazine focusing on new philosophies and ideas.”  Uriél Dana

 

CONTENTS

About Us

Brief overview of  the vision and people who offer their insights and expertise. Includes a list of NP Journal Group & Contributors: editor, assistant editor, guest columnists, writers, poets and photographers.

Contact: L J Frank at narrative.paths@gmail.com

Announcements

Introductions and links to evolving ideas, philosophies, trends with both narrative and poetic reflections on diverse issues.

Interviewees, columnists and other contributors may list their publications including but not limited to books, articles, book signing events and links to periodical, radio, television, YouTube, theater and film productions, talks, speeches and other programs and performances.

Art

Includes some of Frank’s works of abstract expressionism. He has donated several of his paintings to nonprofit organizations. Numerous works are on display in business and professional offices and private homes.

Guest Column

We welcome guest columnists. With over 1,550,000 impressions & visits from over 90 countries being a guest columnist offers global exposure for your thoughts or artistic expressions. We also supply links to your online sites, updates to your writings/publications, social media presentations – (see Announcements). Contact information listed under About Us.

A perspective on reality by Audrey Leamon

Inquiries

Philosophical approaches to a variety of artistic, cultural, literary, political, religious, scientific and social matters. An abstract artist’s autumn of realism by L J Frank 

Interviews

Strives to offer insightful and thought-provoking observations of varying lengths in areas that are engagingly diverse and leaning towards the paradigmatic. Most recent: The Art of Jewelry, Interview with  Elaine Cohen.

NPJ Book Review

Books from the past to the present reviewed within the inquisitive, exploring nature of the journal. All reviews are by L J Frank unless otherwise noted.

Publications 

“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”  Lao Tzu, Daoist philosopher

Preview listing of L J Frank’s published books with links to retail availability. Frank is also working on two books including a philosophically oriented autobiography.

Rhythms

Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home — Japanese poet, Matsuo Bashō

Contrasting shapes of experiences, ideas, dreams and thoughts primarily in the form of poetry and essays. The words amusing, romantic, haunting, disquieting, nonlinear, obscure and existential are a few of the descriptors for these jottings. Rhythms scheduled to change. NPJ Briefing will be noting added changes in content and design.

Recent: For R Rated Audience Only by L J Frank

 

Index

Links to archived Contributors, Announcements, Guest Column, Inquiries, Interviews, NPJ Book Review and Rhythms.

NPJ Briefing

The Briefing includes updates on Visitors by country and region and the Publisher’s Log, observations by the publisher.

Please send Comments about the NP Journal directly to publisher at narrative.paths@gmail.com.

 

Political language evolves and meanings change. Old words and phrases are rethought in different generations. Tomes (scholarly works) are annually written on any given word and phrase. This is a minuscule taste…

 

Aristocracy:  government by self-perceived “nobility” e.g., family dynasties

Conlanguage:  invented language

Fascism:  radical authoritarian nationalism (form of dictatorship)

Political Ghost (PG):  to become invisible – to cut off all contact

Kakistocracy:  government by the least qualified

Kleptocracy:  government by theft, leaders financially benefit from public office

Microagression:  comments/actions that subtly (unconsciously or unintentionally) expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group

Personalized Political Theater (PPT):  staged political performances for self-perceived personal benefit

Plutocracy:  government by the wealthy (old idea with different faces)

Political Prosopagnosia (PP):  inability to recognize or value “other” faces

Representative (indirect) Democracy:  people are represented by elected officials

 

The Vanity Fair Diaries 1983-1992 by Tina Brown  (2017)

Diaries have a historical quality and are seductive. This is not a “historical diary” as such but it does capture Brown’s “presence” as CEO at Vanity Fair. The cast of characters the author knew, with opinions about and how she perceived her role at the magazine and her relationships over the years is potentially interesting. For any number of magazine journalists it offers insights. (A Buddhist monk once suggested to this reviewer if I sought truth I should drop my opinions – and look at the facts)…Brown does a balancing act in her mind.

Brown is in touch with fresh thoughts and ideas, bold, innovative and brilliant at times as she pressed home the challenges at Vanity Fair magazine during a tumultuous decade. Readers unfamiliar with the people the author writes about might not be enamored with her private take. It’s her opinion – the nature of a diary. It’s tasteful or tasteless depending on one’s perspective –  the man who is balding and hairy in the wrong spots and so forth are irrelevant to the inherent worth of the individual.

People close to the scene may eat it up or read it and then have a stiff drink and question a CEO’s narcissism. That’s natural. I would suggest magazine journalists perceive themselves as an alternative breed guided by a philosophy not to waste effort. A well-written story is just that….or as the African proverb suggests, “if you’re not sitting on the edge you’re taking up too much space.”

Brown’s brilliancy I think is how one can move to change a corporate culture and offer vitality and growth….”unless I’m working I’m agitated,” though simple strikes me as somewhat karmic. As a former CEO I appreciate the thought.

Vanity Fair is a slick magazine. Wade through ads and the thought-provoking articles are a pleasure to read and explore the subject matter further.

If you don’t want to buy this entertaining work, check it out at your local public library, and if you’re in NYC, the Strand bookstore at 828 Broadway has several copies on discount. (Now on to the New Yorker.)

Who Rules the World? by Noam Chomsky  (2016)

My take: Noam Chomsky is provocative and insightful, abeit selective and scathing, as he distills and articulates in readable fashion the manipulations of corporate America and the US government who have merged interests whereby all significant decisions are effectuated in large part by the wealthiest power brokers. His work for me is the most salient in its observations about economic, political and foreign policy objectives and misplaced human values and principles.

On a foreign policy level, with economic downstream effects, he explains how America has “exacerbated tensions, conflicts and disruptions that have shattered societies.” Making the world safe for American interests is an ugly fact based story of human greed and the accumulation of power.

Chomsky also states that “a strong case can be made that the primary concern of government is the security of state power from the population…as those who have spent time rummaging through archives should be aware, government secrecy is rarely motivated by a genuine need for security, but it definitely does serve to the keep the population in the dark.”

The effect of powerful interests in Chomsky’s mind is not so much who rules the world, as “what principles and values rule the world?”

This is a fascinating and relevant read especially with the increase in worldwide instability and the deliberate undermining of the US Constitution by the White House and absence of leadership in Congress independent of corporate America and how all but the wealthiest have become mere spectators in an increasingly polarized world.

I’m not sure when the change within began

perhaps it was during my youth

the first book that ever impressed

was it Ecclesiastes or Song of Solomon?

after Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath

or the Old Man and the Sea

and then my Expectations were not so Great,

except for a few unrated foreign films

I snuck in the theater on a Saturday afternoon

for a viewing

with my moustache in place

the director’s cut of a Luis Buñuel’ film,

and later visited the downtown bookstore

witness to Henry Miller’s Tropical books

seductive prospects of a loss

the misplaced virginity of my mind

never the serpentine towards poetic rhyme.

 

So whatever happened to

the Shrew’s Taming?

or EE Cummings let alone the Road Not Taken

and Catch 22 was already public

Heller’s mind revealed;

endless impassioned pleas

love even as a social construct,

enamored with an illusion

when an inner voice murmured wait

passion wounded, hurt and dying misplaced

loathing eats away at the soul

becoming friends passé

a soup spilling over the rim

a bitter taste

the spices of narcissism, arrogance and greed

leaving much unsavory relish on the plate

a desert grows amid the garden

to exist

the spirit of truth remains a spirit.

 

Reincarnation to return in a different form

or resurrection of a mist

choice

just step up to the curtain and pull it back

a doubt scrawled next to a symbol

X marks the spot

an acupunctured vision.

 

The untimely passing of intimates

a reminder of what I am

to embrace, feel, touch and be humble

self-awareness hauntingly remains.

Artist statement: As a four-year old, my earliest memories include a visit to the Statue of Liberty. My brother and I ran up the stairs to the top of the Statue and became swallowed up by the vibrant colors of the patinas. It was a forever imprint. As I got older, I realized art and culture were a critical part of my families’ heritage. My grandfather was a well-known gold leaf sign painter in the first half of the 20th Century. My father and aunt both graduated Pratt Institute of Art in NYC. Much of my artistic input came from my relatives

As a child I visited many museums, went to Parisian fashion shows with friends and totally devoured all aspects of art. When it came to college, as most parents, my parents felt it a safe bet to go the sociology and education route. Although I was truly enveloped by thoughts in sociology, I found a deeper meaning in my art studies. After I graduated, I defied the odds and ventured into Elaine Coyne Galleries. Life was good; I immediately found success with my social pronouncements of art influenced by life.

My view of ecg art wear collectibles is a synthesis of defined design based on art history as well as my own metal sculpture. The patina colorations are the peak of my expression. The process is done with unique formulas using a multilevel process and torch. It takes years for our artisans to develop the skill. Advice to new artisans: Follow your passion and you will be rewarded.

http://www.ecg.com/

http://www.collectibleartwear.com/

 

NP: I read etymologically, the word jewelry is derived from the word jewel, which was anglicized from the Old French “jouel” round the 13th century. It is also very much part of the history of Jewish artisans.

Coyne: Jewelry was worn from the beginning of time as a form of decoration of the human form. The purpose was to attract the opposite sex. Jewish artisans established gemstones as a way to glorify the human form, hence, the origins of the word jewelry. Jews established the gem industry and there mark on jewelry as an established way of self-ornament. The cutting, shaping and establishment of the ruby, diamond, sapphires, emeralds etc., is what brought a new essence into self-grandeur.

It’s important to remember, Jews did not invent jewelry, rather, they brought fresh and classic essence to what has been part of the human experience since man existed. The perspective is one of enhancing the human condition that includes food, shelter, clothing and procreation. Survival of the race and its expressions are built into our DNA. So jewelry first was created as an enhancement of the body; adding gemstones was a step beyond.  Why else are people always fascinated by jewelry? It’s both creative and attraction all in one.

NP:  How would you describe your interest in jewelry making?

Coyne: I have always been interested in the history of jewelry and fashion and therefore, I have always been involved in studying ancient cultures, design, fashion and jewelry and my enthusiasm naturally evolved with my business. The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia came to me and asked to design some pieces for them based on their collection. The experience was natural, like a duck to water.

I ventured to the museum the very next day and sketched some pieces I truly loved. The following day I called the buyer and they responded by sending a photographer around with me to make sure I had everything I needed to do an excellent job for them. They loved it.

I became the first artist to do replica work for them, as they were becoming “The Museum” in the Southeast. I felt very fortunate that my parents had insisted that I went to museums from the day I was born. My instinct to fall in love with history of jewelry making and the establishment of the jewelry culture was now settled. True love forever and never an opportunity that I would miss.

NP: And what types or kinds of jewelry do you offer?

Coyne: We do theme jewelry like dragonfly and butterflies as well as aquatic jewelry for our museum Gift shops and coastal accounts. We have a big following with botanical gardens and with our dragonfly jewelry flowered and leaf images as well.

The best of our line is our “lost wax casting” and hand forged jewelry, done in brass or bronze and verdigris patina finished, and sterling silver. These pieces are created totally by hand from inception and drawing to final finish. All are available at collectibleartwear.com. 10% off for first time buyers by putting TEN at checkout

 NP:  How do you decide on what to make in these changing times? And what does your work of art signify to you as an artist beyond the costs?

Coyne: I study the trends in our current culture then I find my niche as to where I fit into those trends.  Next I look at other expressions of art and finally I examine my customer demands so as to get a sense of what will have a positive affect on them.

Many artists think independence is of chief importance and dismiss or snub outside influences. I am not that artist. I love the giving of myself to society as a way to breathe life into art and beautify everything I touch. My art is the art of giving. It is the art of touch and embraces the magical in the soul of people and possibly letting my essence, “live” through them. After all it is in the giving that you truly find your self-worth.

Career Highlights – Collectible Artwear since 1974

The following is a small sampling of Coyne’s accomplishments:

Commissions: Atlas Copco of Stockholm and the USA; 1984 Atlanta High Museum Replica Commission, curator approved series commission: Cameroon Collection, Ivory Coast Collection; 1999 Commissioned by Andy Williams, Official Moon River buckle for Hollywood friends, family and his valued employees; 2007 Official Designer of Louvre/HMA exhibition approval from Paris 2007 Fernbank Museum jewelry commission, “Reflections of Culture” exhibit; Newspaper and Magazine Articles, TV and Movie Appearances; 2006: ECII Egyptian cuffs and pendants in Ben Stiller “Night at the Museum” 2006: Egyptian Pendants featured in a “Smallville” TV show, season 3 Personal Appearances: Guest designer for Jazz Night High Museum of Art; presentation of ‘Josef Hoffman Revisited” and “Tulips”; Awards: 1970s Cornell University Best of Show; 2X Winner of Chicago Choice Award; Approval from Swarovski for partnership with Elaine Coyne Galleries, Inc .; 2011 Approval of ecg distribution in Canada; 2012 Participation in the San Francisco Gift Show; 2013 Participation in Dallas Gift Show Red Haute Juried 2014 Guest Designer PA at Gibbs Garden; 2016 Guest designer Magnolia Room.

Self-portrait of the artist as a young woman

I am an artist and a seeker who has explored a myriad of philosophies and theologies over the past 75 plus years. I have a few degrees and worked in education and library environments and in the privacy of my art studio depicting different realities on canvas.

My travels, studies and experiences have led me to believe reality is more complex the deeper we look. Our individual lives are more disparate than the surface of our characteristics.

Decades ago libraries collected 16mm films people checked out. And any given movie could go frame by frame from beginning to end as a metaphor of birth to death. It was always so noticeable when the projector got a little goofy and you’d see a few frames go by out of sync. And like a character in one of those films I may think I’m in control but I have my doubts.

We as observers seem to think the film’s characters have any number of choices but in reality they are enacting a “creator’s” script. From the initial moments of the script birthing to the last scene and the wrapping of the film perhaps after a bit of editing, it’s put back in the film canister tidily or not.

I suspect my life in this universe is much like a film and I’m merely a character of a script designed at birth through my genes, the resources I could intellectually and emotionally call upon were already genetically engineered into my system. I can only do so much with the resources written in my genes, the subsequent script and my surrounding environment encourage and impel if not determine my behavior.

I’m not pointing to the intellectually puzzling pre-destination theology (discourses about God and His eternal plan to save some and not others). Rather I refer to my internal wiring as genetically scripted leading me in a direction. I thought I was choosing during my life but in reality my behavior is a matter of my scripted wiring within the context of environment and survival with only chance or luck serving as a form of “editing the script” and the primary catalysts to a change.

Life indeed is unfair and more so if we have a faulty and dissonant script offset to a degree by our accumulated knowledge, the ability to process experience, our environmental context and the wherewithal to act and a bit of chance and luck not originally written in the script.

There exists the idea of the “branch in the road” premise. We have a choice it suggests to choose one or the other road to our future. Chance for me has played a role. There are a number of physicists who have arrived at an idea of multiple parallel realities. I think I’m correct in suggesting there’s “bleed through “between the universes.  The “bleed through” is where chance, luck and circumstance seem to come into play.

So if I’ve got it right, one goes along living one’s life until a major decision is available and made. Perhaps the decision might be whom you partner with or marry, where you decide to live or any number of things might be considered a significant preference. At such a juncture, the Road-taken and the Road not taken both possess a reality and proceed till the next major thing happens and a decision is made. In the process of the Road-taken one may encounter the “bleed through” of a parallel reality where one briefly experiences the surreal nature of the Road not taken.

I may like to think I have free choice, but exterior to chance or luck, I suspect my environment and my scripted internal wiring serve as the final arbiters.

*Ms. Leamon is an internationally known Master artist. Her husband David was a prominent library director.

Image for Writings

Credit: Jean Philippe-Cypres, photographer

It all began on a Sunday morning before sunrise. I made some black coffee as an early heavy rain pounded the metal roof of the barn in which I was an artist working on behalf of a client. I constructed a number of two by fours in the shape of a large rack upon which I placed a six-foot in height by four feet in width, three-inch deep staple free canvas.

After sketching out an idea in pencil of an old world vision a French artist might entertain for personal sensual enjoyment as well as the expressed wishes of my client, I decided to add touches of realism with an array of oils to give texture, character and life to this promising work. It’s significant to remember I etched a design, admittedly with the mind of a free-thinker and with no one looking over my shoulder, instilled it with a life of its own.

I was alone with my creation save some background music from a satellite radio, and so with the rhythms of the music as a backdrop I indulged myself. I used a long wood handle brush with a modest dollop of paint dripping off the pig bristle as a rather curious shape began to form with each stroke and realistic touches emerged of which I became amazed at how much I progressed over the years.

After nine hours plus a few breaks to rest my diligent hands and passionate heart, there was the appreciation I may have gone too far. For, with each stroke the brush brought the painting more alive than originally anticipated. I hastily stepped back as I noticed the limbs of the figure on the canvas were suddenly reaching out to me and wrapping around my body and drawing me into the painting itself. The more effort I bear to extricate myself from her arms and legs the quicker I realized they were getting longer than I purposefully composed and found myself being pulled into the painting itself, experiencing an existential crisis of dimension and shouting, “Wait! The dimension I’m in is enough!”

It was at that moment I woke up in a cold sweat realizing it was just a bad dream and then something even stranger occurred. I rose from my cot less than fifteen feet from the canvas to find the oversized painting was mostly finished and a voluptuous woman of abstract descent peered down from the canvas with a smile on her face while her right eyelid was partially closed as if she was winking.

 I stood there enthralled with the smell of Jasmine in the room while drops of water splattered next to the canvas from a leak in the roof when the door of the barn opened and my client walked in and closely examined the painting and said, “I love it. Oh, I hope you didn’t mind the flowers I brought in while you dozed off.” She pointed to a vase full of flowers on a shelf behind me.

“Thank you,” I said, while scratching my chin.

Courses & Upcoming Events

On-line Courses
 
The Foundations of Lucid Dreaming
We’re now offering an on-line audio course called The Foundations of Lucid Dreaming. It’s the first in a series of  courses that will lead the listener into the world of this remarkable nocturnal practice. It’s a great place to start if you are new to the subject.
The program includes:
Journey of the Mind at Death
I am offering a free audio course entitled Journey of the Mind at Death that explores preparatory practices from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
Upcoming Programs
Advanced Dream Yoga Retreat
Sedona

In November, I’ll be offering an Advanced Dream Yoga Retreat at the Sedona Mago Retreat Center in beautiful Sedona Arizona. The four-day program will be a deep dive into dream yoga and the illusory nature of reality, supported by data from neuroscience, physics, developmental psychology, and cognitive science.

This program draws on the ancient wisdom of the East and the modern knowledge of the West to penetrate the mysteries of the night – and the wonders of the mind. You will come out of this program with a new relationship to sleep and dream, and learn how to use every night for psychological and spiritual growth. To enhance the experience, we are limiting the size of the group, but there are a few spaces left.
Death and the Art of Dying: The Bardo of Letting Go
On December 2nd and 3rd, I will be offering the second in a series of programs on death and dying called The Bardo of Letting Go at the Padmasambhava Meditation Center in Denver.
This two-day workshop will include talks, contemplations, meditations, and videos specifically designed to prepare and help ourselves – and others – in the transition of death. It is not required that you have attended the first bardo weekend program to attend this one.
Andrew's CD
Music CD For Sale to Support Global Dental Relief
Finally, I wanted to remind folks that I put together a collection of of some of my live piano performances in a fund-raising CD to support the non-profit Global Dental Relief (GDR). These performances include works by Bach, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, and Liszt. You can purchase the CD on the Global Dental Relief website. 100% of the proceeds go directly to them.

LJF

Currently scheduled

2018:   The Abstract Tattoo,  literary erotic thriller (novel with a twist) 

2018/19: A Mistress, a Man and a Spy, historical, contemporary mystery

2019/20:   A life in pursuit of knowledge, the edges of an autobiography 

Leeds Trinity University

News:

“90% of teenagers believe the scenes of sexual violence in popular TV drama series Game of Thrones – the UK finale of which airs on Monday 28 August – are realistic, true to life and an accurate representation of medieval history, according to new research at Leeds Trinity University.”

 

http://www.leedstrinity.ac.uk/news/teenagers-game-of-thrones-sexual-violence-historically-accurate

Dr Kate Lister’s Journal

Female Sexual Identity – Medieval to Victorian, Interview with Dr Kate Lister

 

Image for Writings

Credit: Jean Philippe-Cypres, photographer

What causes so much fear in a human they would cause the gruesome death of another, flayed, their skin peeled off while still alive, dragged through the streets with the bodily remains burned in a public display? What is the woven nature of the impassioned fear and devoted belief that allows for such a grisly, horrific deed?

The year of her death was 415 of the C.E., or Common Era. Her name was Hypatia (of Alexandria, Egypt). She was fluent in languages, considered an esteemed philosopher, mathematician, astronomer, inventor and a skeptic; wrote volumes and taught in the Library of Alexandria and in the streets, and in private households and businesses. Her writings were of such intellectual, scientific and philosophical insight that she was honored, envied and sought after as a teacher for her eloquence and ability to make the most complicated of scientific ideas accessible and understandable. Scholars and searchers of every ilk sought her out for advice and scientific insights.  Hypatia’s brilliance as a teacher and her comely physical presence intimidated those with other agendas for gaining power.

Instilling fear and initiating instability is only part of the groundwork for radical change. The other part is defining what is sacred? Man writes scripture and declares it sacred as his imagination of something greater than him serves as inspiration. Writing down words and defining those words as inspired by an invisible God is man’s attempt to legitimize the change made by rulers. Scripture becomes the child born from changes in power and subject to the accompanying rituals of sacrifice. Sin is a useful tool for those wishing to control others’ thoughts, actions and deeds. Man makes scripture the final authority.

People around the Mediterranean would argue and literally curse and brawl in the streets and maim and kill each other in arguments about the existence and non-existence of God and the human nature of Jesus. The raucous nature of existence – the brutality of those who sought power were not lost on the scholars of the period.

Gossip, intrigues and campaigns of whispers in privacy and rumors in public among the merchants initiated by those seeking to gain a greater hold on the minds of the populace spread like wildfire around the seaport. And all within view of the Pharos of Alexandria or Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, at the Harbor’s entrance. The Library of Alexandria would come under attack once again as any works that were contrary to the new ruler’s beliefs were burned or otherwise disposed of.

While having access to the scrolls that remained in existence even after the burning of the warehouses near the wharf by Caesar centuries earlier, much remains unsaid and unknown. Hypatia and her writings of which some were likely in existence though missing as time moved forward, while scholars fled to other parts of the Levant.

All ages think of themselves as modern. The people of Alexandria didn’t think of themselves as ancient but rather as sophisticated and modern compared to the “true ancients” as expressed in the writings of Berossus (Fourth Century B.C.E, or Before the Common Era) and housed in the Library of Alexandria where this Chaldean priest suggested that in ancient times men behaved like animals some 600,000 years previous to his life. Ancient, medieval and modern are artificial inventions as humans grapple with time and its meaning.

Existential was not a word used until the 19th century, yet I suggest is appropriate in understanding those seeking to come to terms with the purpose and meaning of existence in a world being polluted by superstition, lies and palace intrigues. “Diseases” of the mind may take many forms during periods of chaos.

Still, people have memories and memory is the fountain of water from which “humanity” drinks. Hypatia among so many others are remembered in various works in the years and centuries following her death. The effects of Hypatia’s existence are still found wherever scientific reason, skepticism, fairness and what is just are alive to serve as a counterpoint to the extremism wrought by fear.

David Chisholm is now Vice President of Sales at Fourier Network Solutions Inc. with headquarters in Forth Worth, Texas. He is moving his entire team to Fourier where they will be focusing more directly on wireless telecommunications with excellent funding in order to grow significantly.

 

Credit: David Paterson, Photographer

Dr Anderson is Chair of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and John Dewey Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies. She teaches courses in ethics, social and political philosophy, political economy, philosophy of the social sciences, and feminist theory. Her research focuses on democratic theory, equality in political philosophy and American law, racial integration, the ethical limits of markets, theories of value and rational choice (alternatives to consequentialism and economic theories of rational choice), the philosophies of John Stuart Mill and John Dewey, social epistemology, and feminist epistemology and philosophy of science.  She is working on the history of egalitarianism from our hunter-gatherer ancestors through the 19th century.

Links:  http://www-personal.umich.edu/ ~eandersn/

Publications:

    Private Government: How Employers Rule our Lives (And Why We Don’t Talk About It)Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017.

The Imperative of Integration.  Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010.

Value in Ethics and Economics.  Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press, 1993.

And numerous articles, including “What is the Point of Equality?” Ethics 109 (1999): 287-337.

 

NP:   Your recent work, Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don’t Talk About It) is provocative and brilliant. How did you become interested in the subject and what surprised you the most during your research?

Anderson:   My interest in work and the employment relation goes back to my undergraduate days.  In high school, my father had introduced me to philosophy and economics.  As a libertarian, he exposed me to free market ideas, which I adopted.  In my first year at Swarthmore College, I took a philosophy course in which we read Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts.  I found Marx’s critique of wage labor to be very powerful.  I had been exposed to Marxist economics before then, but only through the Marxist theory of exploitation, which, from a normative point of view, ties into theories of distributive justice.  I had not found the exploitation critique of capitalism very convincing, because the labor theory of value made no sense, workers were far better off materially under capitalism than communism, and any remaining distributive injustices under capitalism could be taken care of by state policies such as social insurance.

By contrast, Marx’s 1844 critique of the factory system as alienating focused on what actually happened in the work process and its direct negative effects on workers and their relations to others.  Wage workers suffer from domination at the hands of employers and not just from low, exploitative wages.  I couldn’t find any persuasive defenses of capitalist wage relations in the literature.  And, while conditions of work had considerably improved since Marx, the domination critique survived those changes.

Decades later I decided to re-examine early pro-market thinking, especially Adam Smith and Thomas Paine, to see if and how it engaged Marx’s critique of wage labor.  I found that, far from attempting to defend the wage labor relation, early pro-market thinkers actually hoped that freeing up markets would enable most workers to escape it.  Workers’ independence–their freedom from domination by others–was, in fact, a core value for these thinkers, just as it was for Marx.  They thought that free markets would liberate workers by enabling them to become self-employed, to be their own bosses.  However, because these thinkers were writing before or only in the early (pre-mechanization) phase of the Industrial Revolution, they didn’t anticipate that economies of scale would destroy the prospects of the vast majority of workers for self-employment, and tie them ever more tightly to subordination to their bosses within the firm.

This discovery helps us see what is wrong with contemporary libertarian thinking, which continues to find inspiration in thinkers such as Smith and Paine.  Smith and Paine were aware that the employment contract could not be analyzed in the same terms as ordinary market exchanges, which leave the parties as free and independent from each other as before.  They thought that free markets would render the employment contract a marginal rather than a central feature of market society.  Most libertarians today, eager to defend today’s market society, fail to grasp this point, and therefore overlook the fact that the modern firm, based on relations of domination and subordination, is inconsistent with a credible vision of what a society of free and independent individuals would look like.

NPAt will employment is a disconcerting approach to employment when you are seeking loyalty and cooperation.  Is at will the master servant paradigm dating back to the 19th century that affects all aspects of a person’s existence in work, dress and lifestyle choices?

 Anderson:   At will employment means that the employer can hire and fire the worker for any or no reason at all.  Likewise, workers can accept and quit their jobs for any or no reason.  Formally speaking, employment at will describes a symmetrical contractual relationship between employer and employee, in terms of entry and exit conditions.  However, the content of the employment contract involves an authority relation–the employer governs the employee at work, issuing orders that must be obeyed on pain of sanction, including discharge.

In fact, employment at will effectively extends that authority to the worker’s off-duty behavior, since nothing stops the employer from firing the worker for off-duty conduct, such as engaging in politics, sexual relations, recreational activity (including smoking, drinking, and drugs), and speech.  Under U.S. law, there are a few exceptions to at will employment, mostly having to do with discrimination by race, gender, age, and disability.  And in some states, workers enjoy limited protection for their off-duty freedom of speech and choices of sexual partner.  For the most part, however, at will employment amounts to sweeping employer authority over workers’ lives, both on duty and off.

At will employment represents a change from the early 19th century norm.  In common law systems from feudal times through the mid-19th century, employment contracts were fixed by law for a full year.  Masters had to keep their servants for that time, and servants could not quit.  Competing employers were barred from offering work to servants under contract to a different employer.  Labor mobility was possible only once per year, when the contract expired.  When the law changed to allow freedom of exit to either side, however, it did not alter the authority relation between masters and servants under the employment contract.

The sweeping legal authority of employers over employees is not much smaller than what masters exercised over their servants in earlier times, when servants lived in their employers’ households and were treated as subordinate members of the master’s family.  Of course, now that workers live in separate households, employers have less interest and practical ability to regulate workers’ off-duty lives.  But legally speaking, they retain their ancient authority to do so, and sometimes they exercise it–much to the shock of workers who find themselves out of a job for some off-duty conduct of which their bosses disapprove.

NP:   In a high-technology work world is the logical next step in resource development the increasing use of machines/robots to replace human workers for the sake of profit?

Anderson: However problematic the employment relation is, people still need to work.  Under current conditions that involves employment for most workers–that is, subordination to a boss.  So we do need to worry that artificial intelligence will wipe out most jobs.  What will truckers, bus drivers, and taxi drivers do when Google cars do all the driving?  Some thinkers, including libertarians, think this problem can be solved by means of a universal basic income, which would free individuals from having to work in order to provide for their basic needs.

I don’t think the problem of automation is just a matter of finding some other way to secure the means of subsistence.  It’s an existential crisis.  Most people feel a need to be useful, to have some purpose in life, some reason to get out of bed or off the couch.  For most people, paid work is a central way they get recognition from others, prove their worth to others, and gain esteem as contributing members of society, people who are doing something worthwhile, helpful to others, important.

For most people in their prime working years, unemployment is a disaster, a major cause of depression.  Just having enough to eat and a roof over one’s head isn’t enough for a meaningful life.  Will various unpaid activities, such as caring for family members, volunteer work, the arts, and athletics be enough to secure meaningful lives for people?  That’s a big question we may have to face.  If good alternatives are not accessible to everyone, we really need to question whether Google cars and other automated labor-saving technologies are worth adopting.

 NP:  In the 21st century will the meaning of gender evolve into sufficient complexity that it will become an obsolete tool of recognition and no longer be useful as a screening device? Will we at long last acknowledge a person’s dignity and worth by their character, knowledge and ability to participate rather than label a person through perceived external gender identity?

Anderson: Following through on your last question, I see the impending replacement of millions of jobs by robots to have a much more severe impact on men than women.  “Women’s work” has always focused on care work, whether this is unpaid work for dependents within the family, or paid work such as nursing, child-care, social work, therapy, and teaching.  All such work essentially involves human relationships of concern and trust.  I don’t see such work going away, because robots and computers are not genuine substitutes.  (Anyone who thinks that a child can get an education by interacting with computer programs rather than with people has not the slightest idea what real education involves.)  “Men’s jobs”–dealing with the manipulation of physical objects or management of data–are far more easily automated.  Hence, in the short-term, automation will disadvantage men far more than women.

However, perhaps in the long run the elimination of the sorts of jobs that men mostly do, will force them to re-think their social roles.  Perhaps they will gravitate to care work of all kinds, and perhaps we will creatively expand the varieties of care work available.  In that optimistic future, a major symbolic gender division will be radically attenuated.  At least as far as the world of work goes gender might become insignificant.  In other dimensions of life, however, such as sexuality, I don’t see gender disappearing.  If anything, gender identities are proliferating as individuals arrive at more nuanced self-understandings.

NP:  Are we experiencing the death throes of democracy or is it already dead, especially within a world-view of wealth, power, greed, competition and nationalistic fervor within the context of corporate government generated myths such as a free-market?

Anderson: We are currently witnessing more than one crisis of democracy.  As inequality steadily grows, and financial interests dominate states via credit markets, the world’s democracies are facing severe constraints imposed by capitalists, and plutocrats are more and more writing legislation, capturing regulatory agencies, and determining who gets elected through their control of campaign funds and media.  At the same time, populist revolts against inequality and the declining prospects of the middle class have taken an authoritarian turn in the U.S., Hungary, Poland, India, and Turkey, and threaten other democracies around the world.  We do see a rise of democratic activism in some places, including the U.S.  I think it is too soon to tell whether that will be enough to rescue democracy here.

There are very troubling signs.  Democracies can’t operate by laws alone.  Social norms are also critical to effective functioning.  Dozens of norms are being shredded.  Moreover, politics has entered a realm in which discourse is no longer evidence-based, but about cheering for one’s own team and denigrating the other.  Democracy cannot function when different parties don’t share a common reality, when facts are dismissed out of hand because they challenge people’s self-conceptions.

NPJ Book Review – Desert Wisdom by Neil Douglas-Klotz (1995)

This is a thought-provoking, scholarly and very accessible study of “Sacred Middle Eastern Writings from the Goddess through the Sufis.” The writings include translations, commentaries and body prayers. The author strives to “cover both wisdom and spiritual practice from the native Middle Eastern tradition.” It’s a useful reference to balance one’s knowledge of the mystics.

In his quest the author provides the threads to the various traditions and the links to the earth and human respect for caring for the earth, the journey of the soul, resurrection and the partnership of humans with each other.

This is a spiritual journey not of dogmas but of the poetry  – our spiritual existence and the timeless questions men and women have about our purpose in life and our physical death. It is a work of contemplation with Islamic, Hebrew and Christian insights – “sharing the words of Native Middle Eastern mystics linked to indigenous spiritual practices that make their wisdom an embodied practice.”

In perspective, the study of mystics “disentangles” the reader from the dogmas of the extremist rhetoric and “sickness of spirit” found in some degree in all religions today and the interplay with politics and greed. The study moves away from the current stereotypes. Desert Wisdom is a work of thoughtfulness amid the chaos of injustice.

The mystics provoke our imagination to ponder who we are and suggest a deeper reflection on life and it’s meaning and our intimate relationships with our neighbors and the need for love. From the Sufi poet Mahmud Shabistari to St. John, from Arabic, Hebrew and Aramaic come words of wisdom that peer into the existence – of God, Goddesses, man and woman, amid the silence of ‘the desert wilderness of our mind where someday we might find ourselves alone except for our prayers.

Image for Writings

Credit: Jean Philippe-Cypres, photographer

It’s somewhere north of Charleston along the coast and heading to an appointment on the Outer Banks. Driving is movement and movement is a form of liberty even when the human mind is trekking across another desert – where one might lose or regain their soul.

Naked or nude. It’s not that I previously unthought about it. Nor is it a matter of being transparent to oneself.

I’ve found the real and surreal are woven together – like getting up in the middle of the night in a hotel on some southern beach, that feels like a 1950’s film location, and then looking in the mirror realizing a change happened overnight – forgetting that one shaved one’s beard the night before or looking back in the room at your partner who yawns and mentions something about getting a wax and you realize she dyed her hair while you were asleep.

Within the context of geography a naked face or body is not a liability unless we only see what we look like through the eyes another or if the skin is transparent and then everybody’s ugly. And, no one knows what the geography of the human heart will look like next week. We have the “free will” to start growing hair again if so desired unless the body suggests otherwise.

On the other hand the concept of free will is another philosophical discussion altogether; volumes are still being written. Things appear at times as  a matter of choice among the small decisions in life at least; the larger choices might just be an illusion.

There are acts in life that overlap, like irresistible impulse and intent – such as taking a nude bicycle jaunt in the early part of June in Montpelier, Vermont where one can achieve a Zen-like awareness in discerning the difference between naked and nude even if it’s merely a philosophical and emotive state of a brain reshaping its  perceptions in what might be described as neuroplasticity.

Naked and nude are different in the discerning mind that allows for that discernment. On the other hand when one shaves a part of the body it might be viewed philosophically as becoming naked as opposed to nude within the context of their respective etymologies and ancient roots.

Depending on context, naked is dissected and  shunned as being too invasive, especially if we are straightforward with our thoughts and find that the commentary sections of the Internet of existence display ample ignorance and abuse.

Nude on the other hand is understandably quite acceptable in our perceptions of life as our neurons send and receive messages as an aspect of cultural learning and acceptance to parts of our and others’ bodies and expressions. Experience affects definition.

The pliability and plasticity of the brain is a provocative area of study. Will such studies become an opportunity for knowledge navigators of the future to design and adapt learning navigational systems to expand the brain’s ability to think and become more aware of its own potential with interactive tools for learning and gaining knowledge while solving problems of memory?

Adaptation and learning though becomes the most formidable through participation, nurturing and empathy of the human heart. So with that in mind my partner and I got dressed with a different point of view realizing our thoughts affect the fabric of the world as we breathe in the argon molecules that still exist from centuries past.

The rooster was late in crowing that morning or perhaps neither of us heard it. Not sure what time it was even though my wrist was wearing a watch. I wore it out of habit. The summer sun was peeking above the ocean’s horizon millions of miles away and my partner decided to remain natural as we packed up and headed out.

A young driver with old eyes in a freshly minted pickup truck hurried by us revving the engine as he switched gears and headed for a coffee shop line up behind other custom designed machines to order a morning blend the names of which are getting longer which each season like a word that becomes a sentence and that sentence becomes a paragraph without a period at the end to signify a new thought.

We ordered two cups of coffee; after a morning smile and a thanks headed back to the highway. As I touched a button on the radio we started to listen to the news to discern, if indeed it was the news or a sponsored advertisement. So at a loss decided to change the channel and catch the wisp of a tune from the past or perhaps it might be the future.

It’s not the change or the pace itself as time folds over and what happened years ago was just yesterday in the heart. Our neurons transmit messages to the heart and it appears to me that heart understands first and the mind takes note as the mind can imagine things that never really happened though the heart knows better if one is able to listen carefully to its geographical insights and rhythms. Understanding the geography of one’s heart is core to reaching one’s destination.

As we approached the Outer Banks and watched the ocean’s waves crash on the sandy shores we paused. Awareness may arrive like waves with the sand squishing between one’s toes while the rhythms of the heart sends messages to the brain.

 

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