Inkwell: Authors and Artists
Nina L. Diamond (nina-diamond) Sat 2 Feb 02 08:34
My Paste Eaters humor piece weaves commentary with quotes from adults I interviewed who ate paste as kids. My premise was that I was curious about who these kids grew up to be. Since I remembered that most of the Paste Eaters from my childhood were the really smart kids, most often those with a real gift for science and technology, I wondered how many of them actually grew up to be scientists or computer geniuses. I found that while some of them did, plenty of them also grew up to be other things. The biggest surprise was how eager the former Paste Eaters were to talk about this. As for stem cell research, I think it would be hard to give people a crash course in such a short amount of space. Anyone who'd like more info on it can start by checking out the website of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).
Lena M. Diethelm (lendie) Sat 2 Feb 02 13:21
What do you think about contacting Marilyn Sunderson on the other side and conducting an interview?
Francesca De Grandis (zthirdrd) Sun 3 Feb 02 08:26
Nina, you are usually the one asking the questions, and now youre on the opposite side of the street. So whats one of *the* things you want to express to folks instead of ask about?
Nina L. Diamond (nina-diamond) Sun 3 Feb 02 09:25
That's an easy one. This may come as a surprise, but my favorite since I was a child has never changed. It's Steve Allen, who unfortunately, passed away last year. I was probably the only little girl on the block who wanted to grow up to be Steve Allen. He was my role model because all of the things I instinctively wanted to do- write, compose music on the piano, interview people, use my sense of humor- he was doing. He wrote many books, both serious and funny. He was the original host of The Tonight Show. He did a critically acclaimed PBS series in the 1970s called Meeting of the Minds, in which actors portrayed real people from history, sitting together and having fabulous discussions that he moderated. What made this program so fascinating was the characters were people who could have never possibly met when they were alive because they usually lived in different eras. Steve Allen was still performing, doing his social commentary, and writing books right up until he died of a heart attack at age 78. My biggest regret is that I never had the opportunity to interview him. I should have done it years ago.
Nina L. Diamond (nina-diamond) Sun 3 Feb 02 10:19
The day Marilyn Sunderman died was very strange. She had been in the hospital for a month, since her diagnosis, undergoing extensive chemotherapy. the doctors told her there was a very, very small chance the chemotherapy might trigger a remission. If she hadn't tried the chemo, she would have died anyway within a few weeks. This kind of chemo is particularly brutal: most people don't even survive the chemo because it so quickly damages all of your vital organs. So, about a week before she died, it became pretty clear she wasn't going to make it due to heart damage and other ravages of the chemo. She wanted me to record a conversation on the phone (she was living in Arizona and I live in Miami) so that she could talk about some of her thoughts as she approached death. On two occasions that week I recorded our conversations. They total probably just under one hour, which would translate to about 20 pages of transcript. A few days after that, she began going in & out of consciencelessness. She lingered (if you could call it that) for only a few days. I spoke to her for the last time on one of the days she was last able to speak. Just a couple of days later on the morning of December 8, 2000, I called the hospital and spoke with Marilyn's niece, who told me that the doctor's expected Marilyn to die sometime that day. Her friends and family had brought many of her paintings into her hospital room during the month she was there and at the end she had her closest friends by her side. That day I had to drive about 3 1/2 hours to Sarasota (just south of Tampa) to do a book signing for Voices of Truth. I knew that Marilyn would die while I was driving there, while I was doing the 7:00 p.m. talk and book signing or perhaps afterwards while I was spending the night in Sarasota. I decided that I would make the book signing a tribute to her. Marilyn's niece knew I was going to Sarasota and I told her to call with any news and leave it on my voice mail. But I also knew that I really didn't want to know anything until I got home from Sarasota, which would be late the next afternoon. I just didn't want to hear that she was gone until after I was back home. So, I did not check my voice mail. Anyway, that Friday, I was driving on the highway, I was about 2 1/2 hours into the trip and about 1 hour from Sarasota. I was listening to MPR on the radio and had heard that it was 4:45 p.m. All of a sudden I said out loud, "So, Marilyn, where are you? Are you still here or have you left? Send me a sign." Just as the word "sign" left my mouth, I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a car slowly beginning to pass me on the left. I glanced over, and it came into full view as it continued to pass me very slowly. It was a beautiful, grey hearse. It was not part of a funeral procession, it was all by itself. I was more relieved than shocked, as I said out loud, "Well, Marilyn, you always did give me a straight answer." I knew that the hearse was the sign I had asked for, and that she had passed on. When I got back home from Sarasota,late the next afternoon, I immediately checked my voice mail. Sure enough, there was a message about Marilyn. She had passed away 15 minutes after I saw the hearse. Marilyn was my mother's age and we used to joke that she was my extra mother, even though there were plenty of times when I felt like I was her big sister. I miss talking to her and I'm glad she was able to send the hearse. I've never considered the ides of interviewing her or anyone else now in residence in "The Great Beyond". If they have publishing houses over there, sh's probably working on her second book she thought she would live long enough to write. Before she died, she told me that was one of her only regrets.
Nina L. Diamond (nina-diamond) Sun 3 Feb 02 15:24
I've asked people that question myself before. At the end of an interview sometimes I'll ask what they would like to express that we have covered. I think that all of the people in Voices of Truth have made great contributions in their particular fields, and have given many people a lot of food for thought. I think there's so much we can learn from the ideas and experiences of others, whether they're presented in fiction or non-fiction books, magazines, newspapers, or any other medium. I interview people because I'm curious, because I want to expand my knowledge in many different areas, because I love the exchange of ideas, opinions, stories and information. I think people should find the time to have great conversations. Talk to each other just for the hell of it. Talk for a long time, not just for five minutes. It'll really enrich your life.
Rip Van Winkle (keta) Mon 4 Feb 02 08:15
Hi Nina, Francesca, all, I just opened up an essay by Wendell Berry, and what popped out is so appropriate to the discussion that I had to come rushing to the computer! He writes about people who have made great contributions in their fields, and then asks if the value we place on those contributions doesn't come at a price we hardly recognize. We achieve great leaps in "global knowledge" at the price of the loss of "local knowledge." And it strikes me that the way that "local knowledge" is arrived at and passed on is conversation -- conversation of the sort you just described, the, "Talk to each other just for the hell of it. Talk for a long time..." A couple of lines of Berry's: "As knowledge expands globally, it is being lost locally...and it is the greatest problem of land use: modern humans typically are using places whose nature they have never known and whose history they have forgotten; thus ignorant, they almost necessarily abuse what they use...If we 'grasp the true strangeness of the universe,' but forget how to farm, what is the gain? [We have made ourselves a society where] scientists determine the future by 'plunging ahead,' each isolated in his or her vision of 'new terrain' and each cut off from any restraining affection for old terrain. Why should we trust them?" I don't quite know how to bring that to an interview question, but I wanted to contribute it to the discussion.
Rip Van Winkle (keta) Mon 4 Feb 02 09:44
Well, actually, here's a stab at a question. Nina, you commented on scientists' spiritualty as being characterized by more "awe and wonder." What about groundedness? Sense of connection? Quite early you said that the key to having a good interview is approaching with a sense of equality, no one on a pedestal. And Francesca mentioned the importance of everyone's contribution to healing the world. And your beautiful descriptions of your own history, experiences and observations are all about relatedness. I wonder how intentionally you approach being a journalist as being about the business of illuminating and creating relatedness?
Francesca De Grandis (zthirdrd) Mon 4 Feb 02 10:57
> I said out loud, "So, Marilyn, where are you? Are you > still here or have you left? Send me a sign." Just as the word "sign" Thank you, Nina, for sharing such a personal story. Rip, glad to see you! And glad to see you as always ripping (pun there!) and roaring via your fine intellect! I love what folks have been saying to Nina throughout this interview! BTW, I never said hi to all you others folks in this conversation: forgive my laxity, because I am so glad you are all here, and it is great to see you again, Rab! I had an anthropology teacher, Kush, who said that media is not culture; that culture happens in small groups in which people can share in a personal way their unique self. I agree: when I teach (shamanism) I do so mostly in small small groups so that folks can connect. Then I did Iyanla, a TV show with I guess 20 million viewers and though I was able to connect personally with folks in the studio audience -- EG looking someone in the eye as I spoke and responding back when she nodded her head in agreement with me -- I wondered about the difference with the TV audience. Then I saw the show on my own TV screen and of course it was media, me on that TV screen. But also on that screen I was laffing *out* *loud* and literally bouncing around in my chair, and, well, I am not expressing this very well, but I was being my usual goofball self, clearly being in the moment and talking directly to my TV host. So in some sense I was able to bring a tiny bit of culture -- personal contact -- onto the TV screen. (Or maybe someone would argue that point and if so, please do, I would love to hear your argument!) Anyway, my points/questions are * we have wonderful things nowadays like media, the world wide web, etc -- how do we use them to foster culture instead of impersonal dictates about who the hottest new band is and what trends are presently de rigeur? (Hmm, this maybe just repeats your question, Rip?) * Nina and I both say Talk to each other but how can we foster that dialogue in a media focused culture that says that no one but media stars have anything worth saying? * My whole post is of course connected to what Rip asked -- I wonder how intentionally you approach being a journalist as being about the business of illuminating and creating relatedness? and I cant wait to hear your answer to that, Nina, but there is a larger question implied in his: how do we *all* approach our work, our daily grind, our conversations with others, Nina, and make it a matter of illuminating and creating relatedness?
Bob 'rab' Bickford (rab) Mon 4 Feb 02 12:01
Thanks for that _wonderful_ story about Sunderman. That was sweet. I'm very intrigued by the "paste eaters" stuff, because when I was in grade school we all believed that it was just a gross story that somebody had made up for some reason -- I never personally met anyone who ate paste, and nobody that I ever met (until I reached college) ever personally knew anyone who did. And I remember several of us in grade school having conversations about it, wondering why anyone would make up such a gross story, and the class clown (Will) volunteering to try some paste for us and let us know what he thought (we declined, and as far as I know he never did it). So now to discover that someone has made it the theme of some writing just intrigues the heck out of me....
Linda Castellani (castle) Mon 4 Feb 02 12:40
And I never knew it was the subject of such intrigue. I remember kids eating paste and trying it myself to see what the big attraction was. It has a very distinctive, not unpleasant taste, but I didn't really want to eat more of it. It tasted sort of like Beaman's gum.
Bob 'rab' Bickford (rab) Mon 4 Feb 02 12:58
I wonder if this was a regional thing? My grade school years were in northern California.....
Lena M. Diethelm (lendie) Mon 4 Feb 02 16:43
Kush? The poet Kush?
Francesca De Grandis (zthirdrd) Tue 5 Feb 02 10:00
rab, Im an east coast gal but paste eating is part of my childhood mythology. Lena, none other. In fact, (hm, side bar: most of you who have posted in this topic know that I was interviewed on inkwell a while back -- and somehow here I am back as an interviewer. I love it!) In any case, Lena, I was interviewed partially in regard to my recently released book Goddess Initiation which is dedicated to Kush. How do you know Kush?
Lena M. Diethelm (lendie) Tue 5 Feb 02 10:52
From the poetry circuit in the mid to late 70's or so. In the days when I had a life other than numbershuffling.
Rip Van Winkle (keta) Tue 5 Feb 02 11:52
...talking amongst ourselves as we wait for our guest to return... apropos of nothing, I read "numbershuffling" above as "numbsnuffling" and proceeded to imagine paste-eaters in winter climes with colds...
Nina L. Diamond (nina-diamond) Tue 5 Feb 02 12:25
Hi Rip: I think that both are probably true because they come from the same place. The scientists didn't see spirituality as a self-help tool. And they didn't seem to be influenced at all by the off-shoot of that-- that someone has to take steps or follow some sort of program in order to connect with the universe, with spirit, or whatever term you'd like to use. For them, it seemed more natural. They found spirituality just as they found physical properties--a natural-occurring part of the universe, the cosmos. And by "found", I mean discovered, noticed...and by extension, related to...and that made their entire approach different than those people who were caught up in the "spirituality as therapy" mindset. Historically, spirituality has played multiple roles in people's lives. It's only in recent decades that it's become commercialized and packaged as just another self-help program. I interviewed someone once who always took issue with this recent idea that people have to strive to be spiritual. He would say we don't have to do anything to connect with spirit, with the universe--we already are connected, we're born connected. Of course,people knew that in past generations, especially in cultures and times that had an intimate relationship with nature. But, today, people are told that they're not connected, and that for the price of this book, this seminar, this retreat, you can get connected. Probably a whole lot more than journalists who do hard news, breaking news. Their job is simply to report. But, when you do what I do--write feature stories and essays, and interviews not only in the narrative format, but in the Q & A format, you have to have relatedness not only in your mind, but as the motivation fort doing it in the first place. And, it's a pretty expansive kind of relatedness: I'm relating to the person I'm interviewing, that person is relating to me, and we're both relating to the readers. And, of course, the ideas (whether they're presented in a feature article,essay, or interview) are often related (pardon the pun) somehow to the concept of relatedness.
Bob 'rab' Bickford (rab) Tue 5 Feb 02 13:06
Beautifully said, Nina. And there's a nice synchronicity happening here, too, as I recently bought and have started watching a DVD copy of the 1980 _Cosmos_ PBS series that Carl Sagan created. There's no doubt at all about just how deeply spiritual that series was, and seeing it again after more than 20 years almost brings tears to my eyes. And yet there are people -- many people -- for whom it had nothing at all, to judge from what they said about it. I think that the kind of spiritual connection that scientists (and geeks) find and feel so deeply is sometimes too hard to communicate to others, and may well be permanently inaccessible to some. Did your conversations with these folks touch on any sense of frustration about that? Did any of the scientist types wonder aloud to you about how to reach more people with their feeling of deep interconnectedness with the universe?
Rip Van Winkle (keta) Tue 5 Feb 02 13:31
I see. Talk about synchronicity! For another discussion I'm having with some friends, I was reading some Hannah Arendt last night. She has a term, "thaumadzein," which she defines as, "wonder at what is as it is." That seems to me to capture what you notice as the scientist's comprehension of being "born connected." In the passage I was quoting, she was lamenting the philosophers' (and more general modern) aversion to starting from wonder. Too, she went on to argue that the only way to understand deep radical evil is to begin from wonder there too. So my question would be, who have you encountered who is deeply wondering about "evil." Obviously, I'm looking for hope that someone somewhere is counterbalancing the apparently profound lack of wonder in Washington. Possibly relatedly, awhile back you mentioned Michiko Kaku as being Einstein's "heir apparent." Could you say more?
Rip Van Winkle (keta) Tue 5 Feb 02 13:33
For what it's worth, here's the Arendt passage I referred to above: "It is as though in this refusal to own up to the experience of horror and take it seriously the philosophers have inherited the traditional refusal to grant the realm of human affairs that thaumadzein, that wonder at what is as it is, which, according to Plato and Aristotle, is a the beginning of all philosophy, yet which even they had refused to accept as the preliminary condition for political philosophy. For the speechless horror at what man may do and what the world may become is in many ways related to the speechless wonder of gratitude from which the questions of philosophy spring... "An authentic political philosophy cannot ultimately arise out of analyses of trends, partial compromises, and reinterpretations; nor can it arise out of rebellion against philosophy itself. Like all other branches of philosophy, it can spring only from an original act of thaumadzein whose wondering and hence questioning impulse must now (i.e. contrary to the teachin of the ancients) directly grasp the realm of human affairs and human deeds. "To be sure, for the performance of this act the philosophers, with their vested interest in being undisturbed and their professional experience with solitude, are not particularly well equipped. But who else is likely to succeed if they fail?" Hannah Arendt (1954 lecture)
Francesca De Grandis (zthirdrd) Tue 5 Feb 02 13:36
I do not agree that, as you say, Nina, scientists connect with spirituality effortlessly in a way that shows up the self help movement. (Of course, I am a national self help leader so I have to disagree with you. <grin>) I think instead that some scientists might connect that way because they are following their own ardent discipline of science. It might be the ardent discipline that leads them to that profound connection and perhaps any discipline -- spiritual, scientific, artistic, self-help -- might do the same. Of course, this whole post of mine is glib and oversimplified. For example, there are ways we simply are connected to the mystical without any effort. And some people have that connection on the natch. But the glibness of my argument aside, my point is that for many scientists, it is likely their devotion to seeking truth that opens them to the cosmos. Which refutes of course those self help leaders who say You dont have to work at it, just pay me money. A good self help leader -- like, ahem, myself -- instead says Look, it is hard work, and boils down to you seeking truth yourself. Dont look to me for the answers. You, like a scientist, must devotedly seek truth. Do your research! Thoughts, Nina? Anyone?
Francesca De Grandis (zthirdrd) Tue 5 Feb 02 13:51
Oops, I missed your last two posts, Rip, thus posted my above before I saw them. I love them! And agree with them, just as I agree with you, Nina, about wonder being a crucial starting point, since I come to self help as a poet and mystic, not as, lets say, an academic theorist. I believe there needs to be a dialect between discipline and wonder for any authentic connection to be ongoing. Perhaps some scientists, dancers, poets, shamans, and other spiritual practitioners embody that. As does a mother who works hard to raise her children lovingly. More for you to address if you want, Nina.
Bob 'rab' Bickford (rab) Tue 5 Feb 02 14:32
Wholehearted agreement here, too, about the profound importance of wonder and awe as starting points for philosophy. So often, people seem to equate those with childhood, as if only little children are allowed to feel them and adults have absolutely nothing (more) to learn there. I think that's tragic, because most people seem to me to have never learned anything from wonder and awe since they passed the age of two, and yet they could do so much more with their adult minds if only they wanted to. Question the results put forth by Nobel-prize-winning people, not because you think you're smarter but because only in exploring the questions can you connect deeply to the amazing reality of their work -- that's just the simplest example that comes to mind, and yet it's apparently incomprehensible to people who have abandoned wonder as being a "childish" thing.
Rip Van Winkle (keta) Tue 5 Feb 02 15:02
The marginalia I have at the end of that Arendt passage, where she says, "But who else is likely to succeed?" is "A child?" Nowdays I would say a journalist, perhaps like Nina Diamond or Janine Benyas (sp?) or Michael Pollan, or a scientist like Michiko Kaku or Donella Meadows, or a teacher like Francesca, or an activist-philosopher like Joanna Macy, or a practitioner of sacred sex like Faye Desiree, or a farmer-philosopher like Wendell Berry, or an as-yet-unknown former Enron executive, or a through-the-gate-of-fire WTC or War on Terrorism survivor, or you, or me... But yes, childlike...
Nina L. Diamond (nina-diamond) Wed 6 Feb 02 05:01
Bob, I think you make some terrific points about scientists and spirituality, and before I ramble on a it more about the topic, let me answer your questions. First, Deborah Mash, the neuroscientist who coined the term "neuroshamanism" , talks a lot about communicating the spirituality of science, more so than anyone else in Voices of Truth. While many of the others discuss it, it's the theme of her work, and therefore, becomes the theme of our interviews in her chapter. I think you will enjoy reading what she has to say. Michio Kaku, the physicist and author of Hyperspace, among other books, doesn't articulate frustration about this, although one has the sense that he feels it from time to time. Regarding reaching more people with their feelings of interconnectedness...I believe that's one of their goals--all of the scientists in the book-- and that's why they reach out to the general public in many ways, and don't confine their work to just reaching the scientific community. Their love of what they do, their sense of mission, is so strong it practically ooxes out of them. I'm glad you made the point that wonder isn't just for kids. Scientists, those with a love for science, artists of all kinds (music, dance, writers, you name it), and those who love the arts seem to feel most comfortable with reveling in and displaying their sense of wonder as adults. I find I get the same ooh-aah feeling from looking at the stars,pondering time travel, reading about quantum physics, watching the ocean or being on the water, as I do from listening to music, playing the piano, reading poetry (or anything else, for that matter), or writing. It all triggers the same Wonder Button. Perhaps it's because art and science are just two ideas of the same coin: two different ways of describing the same phenomena.
Members: Enter the conference to participate