The Very Spring and Root

An engineer's adventures in education (and other musings).

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Idealism, Society, and Ranting

A Psalm of Life

A Psalm of Life

Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou are, to dust thou returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, – act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sand of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solenm main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

BTR at Americorps Opening Day 2012

“Boston Teacher Residency’s 10th Cohort was well represented at the 2012 Americorps Massachusetts Opening Day in Boston. Juliet Buesing and Randyl Wilkerson sang “Lift Every Voice” (the Black National Anthem) and Malcolm Jamal King presented the introduction to what BTR does. Cohort X followed the ceremonies with an afternoon of service at Cradles to Crayons.”


PHOTO: Despite Sandy, Soldiers Stand Guard At Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier : The Two-Way : NPR

This is a profoundly inspirational example of dedication to duty. If they can maintain the tomb sentinel through a hurricane, I can certainly make it through the teaching disillusionment months of October and November.

PHOTO: Despite Sandy, Soldiers Stand Guard At Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier : The Two-Way : NPR.

Our Choice

“Those worlds in space are as countless as all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the Earth. Each of those worlds is as real as ours. In every one of them, there’s a succession of incidence, events, occurrences which influence its future. Countless worlds, numberless moments, an immensity of space and time. And our small planet, at this moment, here we face a critical branch-point in the history. What we do with our world, right now, will propagate down through the centuries and powerfully affect the destiny of our descendants. It is well within our power to destroy our civilization, and perhaps our species as well. If we capitulate to superstition, or greed, or stupidity we can plunge our world into a darkness deeper than time between the collapse of classical civilization and the Italian Renaissance. But, we are also capable of using our compassion and our intelligence, our technology and our wealth, to make an abundant and meaningful life for every inhabitant of this planet. To enhance enormously our understanding of the Universe, and to carry us to the stars.”

– Carl Sagan, Cosmos episode 8, “Journeys in Space and Time”

Whither Science Fiction?

Science fiction, like so many aspects of the world right now, feels like it is on the cusp of a major shaking up. One year ago, Neil Stephenson provoked a flurry of discussion with his article on the decline of bold and innovative ideas in our contemporary society, and science fiction in particular. More recently, Jonathan McCalmont posted am extensive assessment of a the state of science fiction, provocatively entitled “Cowardice, Laziness, and Irony: How Science Fiction Lost the Future,” which has drawn fire for criticizing the science fiction publishing establishment and some of the most lauded authors in the genre.

I don’t agree with everything in either of those articles, but I do agree that science fiction is due for a makeover. What has been done was brilliant in its way — generations of writers and artists who dreamed of what we could be and warned us against what we could become. But so much has changed about our society and I don’t think that the media establishment, including traditional publishers, have changed with it. Innovation is ultimately driven by and for people, and who we are as a people no longer conforms to where the genre has been.

I am particularly interested in the perceived narrow appeal of science fiction. Why is the stereotype sci-fi geek a particular race, class, gender, and personality? Is it because the genre is inherently of interest only to this set of people? Or could it be that what gets published and awarded attracts only that set, who are the ones that rise up in the genre and in turn become the publishers and awarders?

Put more specifically, does the current portfolio of literary science fiction published in the United States actually reflect the current cultural, linguistic, socioeconomic, and gender demographics of literate Americans? I really don’t think so. So why is anyone surprised that the appeal of the tried and true seems to be waning?

The tide is changing however. New periodicals like Lightspeed Magazine for example are embracing new publishing models, going with solely electronic format and easy mobile web access from the very beginning. They also explicitly embrace diversity in their submissions:

We believe that the science fiction/fantasy genre’s diversity is its greatest strength, and we wish that viewpoint to be reflected in our story content and our submission queues; we welcome submissions from writers of every race, religion, nationality, gender, and sexual orientation.

In a similar vein, The Future Fire has been accepting submissions on an anthology call entitled We See a Different Frontier. They are more blunt about their purpose:

We See a Different Frontier will publish new speculative fiction stories in which the viewpoint is that of the colonized, not the invader. We want to see stories that remind us that neither readers nor writers are a homogeneous club of white, male, Christian, hetero, cis, monoglot, anglophone, able-bodied Westerners.

I don’t know where this is going nor am I sure that it will necessarily be better. But I seem to have discovered a love for writing fiction during a major shift in social attitudes, which has made me think about my experiences and personal perspective in interesting ways.

It’s definitely going to be a writing weekend…

Edit 10/13/12: Repaired the link to McCalmont’s article.

Neil Gaiman on Rejection

The best reaction to a rejection slip is a sort of wild-eyed madness, an evil grin, and sitting yourself in front of the keyboard muttering “Okay, you bastards. Try rejecting this!” and then writing something so unbelievably brilliant that all other writers will disembowel themselves with their pens upon reading it, because there’s nothing left to write. Because the rejection slips will arrive. And, if the books are published, then you can pretty much guarantee that bad reviews will be as well. And you’ll need to learn how to shrug and keep going.

Neil Gaiman (via leap-before-you-look)

Madam First Lady

Catching up on #2012DNC videos… can I just reconfirm that our first lady is a wonderfully intelligent and genuinely classy woman.

[…] when you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity…you do not slam it shut behind you…you reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.


Success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.

-Michelle Obama

Damn straight.

Giant Uterus Heads for GOP Convention

A Facebook dialogue involving my friend, listed here as ASW:

SG: can we all grow up

ASW: The link is a joke, utilizing humor to cope with a heinous situation, a technique used by humans for thousands of years in situations where the only other option is to cry. In this way, it is a very adult approach to dealing with politicians who are so juvenile and ignorant that they have no concept of elementary biology, and ignorant and savage enough to condone rape! Yes, please, let’s all grow up.

SG: Yes they where wrong to say what they did about rape but that is not the grow up way to handle it not the way all republics believe as a Christian it is wrong to kill unborn children

ASW: As an American it is wrong to force your religion on everyone in the country. I can’t imagine having an abortion myself, that doesn’t mean it’s okay for me to decide what someone else should do with their body. This country was founded on the very premise of freedom of religion, and it is a shame how many people forget that very basic right. It is spectacular that we live in a country in which you and I can have this conversation, and that I can post a corny political joke on my fb without risk of flogging. I think that those rights are absolutely worth fighting/arguing heatedly for. On that note: Insisting that a woman who has been raped must cope with every painful moment that comes with carrying and giving birth to a child that she in no way asked for, in addition to the lifetime of psychological pain & shame that she will have to cope with anyway, is an atrocious misuse of power which says “it’s OK to abuse women, they are powerless semi-humans anyway.”

Yeah. What she said.

The task of resisting our own oppression does not relieve us of the responsibility of acknowledging our complicity in the oppression of others.

Beverly Daniel Tatum, “The Complexity of Identity”, in Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Adams et al, editors).


I seldom end up where I intended to go, but think I have ended up where I intended to be

This felt apropos right now.