Saturday, February 10, 2007

Almost a hundred years ago, the philosopher Friedrich von Hügel described how we progress towards God. He wrote of an initial institutional stage, followed by a critical stage, and culminating in what he called a mystical stage. By 'mystical' he didn't mean magic or heavenly voices, but rather this: age makes us realise that we have seen it all, and brings us to know that good and evil, like the wheat and cockle of the parable, coexist not merely in countries and institutions, but in each of us. Pitch darkness and pure light are seldom the order of the day, but we learn to live with both, light emerging out of darkness. We do the best we can, and are ready to renounce the seductions of having the perfect formulation of reality, or the perfect formula for everyone's life.

In the mystical phase we still carry with us the institutional phase: we still love the sights and sounds of worship well carried out, and the sense of participating in a great body of believers. We have not left the critical phase behind, but carry it with us: we use our heads about our religion, and have no illusions about the weaknesses of Jesus' followers - after all, Peter, the first Pope, had to live with the memory of denying the Lord publicly, again and again. But when we have argued about all the great questions of human existence, especially the mystery of evil, we realise that we rely more on the gift of faith than on clear-cut reason.

From today's

Friday, February 09, 2007

We elected a strong leader last night at Hill Middle School, Republican veteran Mary Smith. Mary's very worthy opponent for the post Joe Shoemaker has pledged to help her. With the two of them working together, this should be a great, great two years between now and the 2008 caucuses for Denver.

In her first official act, Mary asked those attending last night how many wanted to reorganize around House District lines. Nearly everyone present raised their hand. The current Districts are a mistake as I've said from the beginning. The Denver GOP is the only organization I know of creating an extra layer of middle management, and Mary's fast start in strengthening our organization bodes well for her difficult assignment of bringing back to life the Grand Old Party in Denver! Here are some picture from last night's meeting (click on any picture to make it larger):

Mary Smith elected Denver GOP Chair!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

On this day in:

1878 Martin Buber was born.

1910 The Boy Scouts of America was incorporated.

1915 D.W. Griffith's silent movie epic about the Civil War, ''The Birth of a Nation,'' premiered in Los Angeles.

1922 President Warren G. Harding had a radio installed in the White House.

Buber's concept of I and Thou was formed during the growth of mass movements such as the Boy Scouts and the growth of mass media. Here is a comment on a NYT article on Positive Psychology that seems to be a practical approach to breaking through this clutter:

44.January 8th, 2007
10:53 am I teach cultural and social criticism at a small universiy. My courses in sociological issues present a particular problem because we examine difficult, often disturbing, issues such as violence, environmemental concerns, principles of governance, law and interpersonal relationships.

In these classes, I feel the responsibility to help students, most in there early to late twenties, come to terms personally with the very difficult problems facing them as young persons at a very difficult point in human history. I have attemped to do this in two ways. I begin each course with two lecture/discussions on the nature of our class as community. We consider what it is that motivates each of them and me to be in this particular class and in university.

At every opportunity, I stress that we are not simply responsible for our own learning, but for the learning of every member of the class. As a result, we are responsible to be prepared for class, contribute actively to class discussions, and to attend all classes. My argument is that the very nature of a classroom is one of community and if we refuse to engage with one another or the material, we are wasting everyone’s time and actually compromising that experience; thus cheating ourselves and one another of a very prescious opportunity.

I ask that in their writing, they approach each topic from a subjective annecdotal perspective - finding some connection between the issue and their own experience. A very large percentage of the papers are remarkably insighful and creative. Rather than simply correcting grammar and grading them, I work very hard at entering into their discussion on a positive, personal and annecdotal level. The comments I make on there papers often fuel further discussion in class or elicit email responses that still, after forty years of teaching, move and amaze me at their depth and intelligence.

My point here is not to promote my particular methodology, though I strongly believe that we need to have a very serious look at the motivations and efficacy of current pedagogical practices which stress objectivity and measurement. Within the current contexts of society, school and happiness, there are far too few opportunities for young people to formally examine their subjective experience and responses with one another and an older, supportive and informed perspective.

In this society, we remove our young people from the actual events that effect their lives either through schooling, institutions or the media. Schools, with their focus on purposeful achievement defer a productive life and happiness, making them conditional upon academic and economic success. As academics, we too often confuse form and content with the human significance of the content. Have we forgotten that direct engagement with life is a very powerful, and perhaps the essentially effective, means for achieving a purposeful and happy life?

During and long after our classes, my students often email or comment on how they feel more consciously instrumental in their own lives and in the world. They all make the point that almost nowhere in there school experience have they had the opportunity to think, express and challenge their own thoughts and to contextualize academic insights into their own lives. I believe this to be fundamental to acheiving any lasting state of personal and societal happiness.

— Posted by Richard Mueller

Comment on Happiness 101 by D.T. MAX, published January 7, 2007 in the New York Times. Can classes in positive psychology teach students not just to feel good but also to do good?

I tried to find Mueller on google, what he is doing sounds a lot like the ideal Franklin Circle.

How do I make my own Web page and use my own name for the Web address?
If you don’t want to use the free site-hosting, page-building tools and templates available on sites like Google Page Creator ( or Yahoo’s GeoCities ( because you can’t have your exact name for the address, you will need to do a little more work.

The basic process involves buying the domain name for your site, finding a company to host it (so people can get to it on the Internet) and then building the site. Many Web site design and hosting firms have package deals that do most or all of it for you.

There are many companies that sell and register Web site domain names, including GoDaddy (, Dotster (, ( On these types of sites, you can see if your name is available and register it there for a small fee. These types of sites can also usually guide you through the hosting and site-building part of the process.

Designing and building the site on your own may take some time if you are unfamiliar with the coding used on Web pages and other standard tasks like uploading them to a Web server.

Sites like and have free tutorials on the process, and most bookstores have many volumes on the subject of Web site creation.

From today's New York Times

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Mary Smith and Joe Shoemaker are running for Denver GOP Chair, we will vote next Thursday.

I've met with them each individually and they were together with us at the New Denver Republican Meetup

Joe is a real nuts & bolts grassroots organizer. Mary is very up on technology, working with the media and fundraising. I hope there is a way we can keep them both as leaders of the Denver GOP. We have Co-Captains for Districts, why not Co-Chair for the County?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

On this day in:

1789 Electors unanimously chose George Washington to be the first president of the United States.

1938 The Thornton Wilder play ''Our Town'' opened on Broadway.

If my Duke students are representative, then the U.S. is about to see a generation that is practical, anti-ideological, modest and centrist (maybe to a fault)…

While the G.O.P. was once thought of as the practical, businesslike party, now most of my students see the Republicans as the impractical, ideological party — on social and science issues as well as foreign and domestic policy.

David Brooks, talking about his impression of college student based on teaching a political science class at Duke, in his column today in the New York Times.