“A Conversation Out Of School”

Spent the day walking in Oakland with Whole Earth Festival homies from Davis, Jules and Morgan (who sailed on Adventuress with me for the month of May!) We delighted ourselves with a picnic on the shore of Lake Merritt. Of course, the orange frisbee made an appearance.

Across the bay that evening, at Ari’s flat in the Haight, I stumbled upon a book that she and I read in college for a Comparative Literature class with Professor W. Scott McLean: Life Is A Miracle – An Essay Against Modern Superstition by Wendell Berry.

The thought provoking passage for the day found in the chapter, A Conversation Out Of School, quoted from pages 123-124:

“Since the universities are always a-building and are always in need of money, they accept the economy’s fundamental principle of the opposition of money to goods. Having thus accepted as real the world as an anti-pattern of competing opposites, it is merely inevitable that they should organize learning, not as a conversation of collaborating disciplines, but as an anti-system of opposed and competing divisions. They have departmented our one great responsibility to live ably and generously into a nest of irresponsibilities. The sciences are sectioned like a stockyard to better to serve the corporations. The so-called humanities, which might have supplied at least a corrective or chastening remembrance of the good that humans have sometimes accomplished, have been dismembered into utter fecklessness, turning out “communicators” who have nothing to say and “educators” who have nothing to teach.
Must we reconcile ourselves to this cultural disintegration, this cacophony of the disciplines? Is it possible, failing consilience, to bring the arts and the sciences into healthful coherence and community of purpose?…
The correct response, I think, is to ask if science and art are inherently at odds with one another. It seems obvious that they are not. To see that they are not may require extracurricular thought, but once we have cracked the crust of academic convention we can see that “science” means knowing and that “art” means doing, and that one is meaningless without the other. Out of school, the two are commonly inter-involved and naturally cooperative in the same person — a farmer, say, or a woodworker — who knows and does, both at the same time. It may be more or less possible to know and do nothing, but it is not possible to do and know nothing. One does as one knows. It is not possible to imagine a farmer who does not use both science and art.”

I’m reflecting on Berry’s insight in the above bolded section.

Our conversation for the evening jumped all over, from today’s Bay Area job market to the architecture and culture witnessed while traveling in Cambodia and Thailand. Cheers to Morgan, Jules, Ari, Zach, Ayse, Juliana, Kevin, Sarah, and Zeka for an intellectually stimulating evening. This passage, coupled with the evening’s banter makes for interesting thought.

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