Archive for June, 2013

Quote of the day: OPINIONS

June 26, 2013

OPINIONS

A friend once shared with me one of the aphorisms of 12-step recovery programs: “What other people think of you is none of your business.” Like a lot of wisdom, this sounds at first suspiciously similar to idiotic nonsense; obviously what other people think of you is your business, it’s your main job in life to try to control it, to do tireless P.R. and spin control for yourself. Every woman who ever went out with you must pine for you forever. Those who rejected you must regret it. You must be loved, respected — above all, taken seriously! They who mocked you will rue the day! The problem is that this is insane — the psychology of dictators who regard all dissent as treason, and periodically order purges to ensure unquestioning loyalty. It’s no way to run a country.

The operative fallacy here is that we believe that unconditional love means not seeing anything negative about someone, when it really means pretty much the opposite: loving someone despite their infuriating flaws and essential absurdity. “Do I want to be loved in spite of?” Donald Barthelme writes in his story “Rebecca” about a woman with green skin. “Do you? Does anyone? But aren’t we all, to some degree?”

We don’t give other people credit for the same interior complexity we take for granted in ourselves, the same capacity for holding contradictory feelings in balance, for complexly alloyed affections, for bottomless generosity of heart and petty, capricious malice. We can’t believe that anyone could be unkind to us and still be genuinely fond of us, although we do it all the time.

Years ago a friend of mine had a dream about a strange invention; a staircase you could descend deep underground, in which you heard recordings of all the things anyone had ever said about you, both good and bad. The catch was, you had to pass through all the worst things people had said before you could get to the highest compliments at the very bottom. There is no way I would ever make it more than two and a half steps down such a staircase, but I understand its terrible logic: if we want the rewards of being loved we have to submit to the mortifying ordeal of being known.

— Tim Kreider

tim kreider

Photo diary: THAT’S AMORE! part 3 (click on photos to enlarge)

June 26, 2013
Another day we took a road trip to Perugia -- Luca drew us a map by hand, which we referred to as "Luca's GPS."

Another day we took a road trip to Perugia — Luca drew us a map by hand, which we referred to as “Luca’s GPS.”

Perugia is an ancient hill town, the largest in Umbria.

Perugia is an ancient hill town, the largest in Umbria.

It's famous for, among other things, its chocolate.

It’s famous for, among other things, its chocolate (baci). And the duomo houses the wedding ring of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Its traditional symbols are the gryphon (above) and the lion.

Its traditional symbols are the gryphon (above) and the lion.

We hired a guide to show us around, the friendly, handsome, and extremely knowledgeable Paolo.

We hired a guide to show us around, the friendly, handsome, and extremely knowledgeable Paolo.

He walked us through the scenic route, pointing out the ancient Roman viaduct that still runs through the university district.

He walked us through the scenic route, pointing out the ancient Roman viaduct that still runs through the university district.

He showed us this tiny former chapel, now a fancy clothing store.

He showed us this tiny former chapel, now a fancy clothing store.

He walked us through the spooky underground city, telling us about how much Perugians hate the Pope, dating back to Pope Paul the Third (or the Turd, as Paolo pronounced it) and the war that started with a tax on salt. In retaliation for the town's resistance, the Pope sent soldiers to build walls burying the house belonging to the city's wealthiest family, the Baglioni. This area was only recently unearthed and now is used for holiday markets.

He walked us through the spooky underground city, telling us about how much Perugians hate the Pope, dating back to Pope Paul the Third (or the Turd, as Paolo pronounced it) and the war that started in 1538 with a tax on salt. In retaliation for the town’s resistance, the Pope sent soldiers to build walls burying the house belonging to the city’s wealthiest family, the Baglioni. This area was only recently unearthed and now is used for holiday markets.

The Etruscan Arch

The Etruscan Arch

and the modern art

and the modern art

 

Very enjoyable tour

Very enjoyable tour

Our lunch at Il Cantinone was the best meal we had all week.

Our lunch at Il Cantinone was the best meal we had all week.

And the light was exquisite for photos -- here is John.

And the light was exquisite for photos — here is John.

After lunch, there was shopping. Of course.

After lunch, there was shopping. Of course.

 

We brought back some Umbrian wine for dinner.

We brought back some Umbrian wine for dinner.

Hijinks ensued.

Hijinks ensued.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quote of the day: SACRED SITES

June 25, 2013

SACRED SITES

People cannot maintain their spiritual roots and their connections to the past if the physical world they live in does not also sustain these roots. Informal experiments in our communities have led us to believe that people agree, to an astonishing extent, about the sites which do embody people’s relation to the land and to the past. It seems, in other words, as though “the” sacred sites for an area exist as objective communal realities. If this is so, it is then of course essential that these specific sites be preserved and made important. Destruction of sites which have come part of the communal consciousness, in an agreed and widespread sense, must inevitably create gaping wounds in the communal body.

Traditional societies have always recognized the importance of these sites. Mountains are marked as places of special pilgrimage; rivers and bridges become holy; a building or a tree, or rock or stone, takes on the power through which people can connect themselves to their own past. But modern society often ignores the psychological importance of these sites. They are bulldozed, developed, changed, for political and economic reasons, without regard for these simple but fundamental emotional matters; or they are simply ignored.

We suggest the following two steps.

1. In any geographic area – large or small – ask a large number of people which sites and which places make them feel the most contact with the area; which sites stand most for the important values of the past, and which ones embody their connection to the land. Then insist that these sites be actively preserved.

2. Once the sites are chosen and preserved, embellish them in a way which intensifies their public meaning. We believe that the best way to intensify a site is through a progression of areas which people pass through as they approach the site. This is the principle of “nested precincts”….

A garden which can be reached only by passing through a series of outer gardens keeps its secrecy. A temple which can be reached only by passing through a sequence of approach courts is able to be a special thing in a man’s heart. The magnificence of a mountain peak is increased by the difficulty of reaching the upper valleys from which it can be seen; the beauty of a woman is intensified by the slowness of her unveiling; the great beauty of a river bank – its rushes, water rats, small fish, wild flowers – are violated by a too direct approach; even the ecology cannot stand up to the too direct approach – the thing will simply be devoured.

We must therefore build around a sacred site a series of spaces which gradually intensity and converge on the site. The site itself becomes a kind of inner sanctum, at the core. And if the site is very large – a mountain – the same approach can be taken with special places from which it can be seen – an inner sanctum, reached past many levels, which is not the mountain, but a garden, say, from which the mountain can be seen in special beauty…Give every sacred site a place, or a sequence of places, where people can relax, enjoy themselves, and feel the presence of the place…And above all, shield the approach to the site, so that it can only be approached on foot, and through a series of gateways and thresholds which reveal it gradually.

— Christopher Alexander et al., A Pattern Language
sacred sites

Photo diary: THAT’S AMORE! part 2

June 25, 2013

(click photos to enlarge)

The next day we made an expedition to the steep Umbrian hilltown of Gubbio.

The next day we made an expedition to the steep Umbrian hilltown of Gubbio.

The original idea was to ride the funivia (tiny open-air two-person cages) to the top of the hill. Luckily for the acrophobics among us, it turned out to be  a rainy day and the ride wasn't running.

The original idea was to ride the funivia (tiny open-air two-person cages) to the top of the hill. Luckily for the acrophobics among us, it turned out to be a rainy day and the ride wasn’t running.

Instead we had lunch and visited a gay artist named Gabrielle in his studio/gallery on Via dei Consoli.

Instead we had lunch and visited a gay artist named Gabrielle in his studio/gallery on Via dei Consoli.

He makes sculpture, ceramics, and paintings (this is my favorite).

He makes sculpture, ceramics, and paintings (this is my favorite).

Then we climbed up to the Cathedral Gardens and checked out the Duomo, which the Lonely Planet Guide describes as "a plain beast with a fine 12th century stained-glass window, a fresco attributed to Bernardino Pinturicchio and not much else." Vero.

Then we climbed up to the Cathedral Gardens and checked out the Duomo, which the Lonely Planet Guide describes as “a plain beast with a fine 12th century stained-glass window, a fresco attributed to Bernardino Pinturicchio and not much else.” Vero.

The view from the gardens was impressive, as was Arnie's profile.

The view from the gardens was impressive, as was Arnie’s profile.

The ride back to Terzo di Danciano included a stop at the supermercato for supplies. Happy Hour ensued. See how happy Jay looks.

The ride back to Terzo di Danciano included a stop at the supermercato for supplies. Happy Hour ensued. See how happy Jay looks.

Michelino sets a beautiful table.

Michelino sets a beautiful table.

Tonight it was Michael's turn to dazzle us with his singing, in another stone room with excellent acoustics.

Tonight it was Michael’s turn to dazzle us with his singing, in another stone room with excellent acoustics (see below).

 

Photo diary: THAT’S AMORE! part 1

June 25, 2013

(click on photos to enlarge)

After the first session of THAT'S AMORE, my couples retreat, we made an expedition to nearby Cortona, stopping along the way to visit Celle, the monastic community originally founded by St. Francis of Assisi.

After the first session of THAT’S AMORE, my couples retreat, we made an expedition to nearby Cortona, stopping along the way to visit Celle, the monastic community originally founded by St. Francis of Assisi.

This is the tiny cell where St. Francis lived, prayed, and slept overlooking the waterfall ("torrent").

This is the tiny cell where St. Francis lived, prayed, and slept overlooking the waterfall (“torrent”).

As you can see, the landscape is gorgeous.

As you can see, the landscape is gorgeous.

And it continues to be a thriving community of monks.

And it continues to be a thriving community of monks.

Cortona is like a pocket-sized version of Siena. The day we visited, the central piazza buzzed with the annual crossbow competition.

Cortona is like a pocket-sized version of Siena. The day we visited, the central piazza buzzed with the annual crossbow competition.

Each of the five quarters of Cortona sends two teams (a shooter and an assistant) to the competition.

Each of the five quarters of Cortona sends two teams (a shooter and an assistant) to the competition.

Afterwards, the winner (the young man at the right) leads a parade through town, while the lad at the center carries his trophy, a silver dagger, on a pillow.

Afterwards, the winner (the young man at the right) leads a parade through town, while the lad at the center carries his trophy, a silver dagger, on a pillow.

The costumes and the faces were amazing.

The costumes and the faces were amazing.

My dudes were looking pretty sharp themselves -- Chris, Terry Wayne, Jay, and John.

My dudes were looking pretty sharp themselves — Chris, Terry Wayne, Jay, and John.

By chance, we'd arranged to meet the folks at Dal Brenna, who crafted the trophy for the crossbow competition.

By chance, we’d arranged to meet the folks at Dal Brenna, who crafted the trophy for the crossbow competition.

The company has a tiny storefront on the street and also a cantina deep in the bowels of a former private home.

The company has a tiny storefront on the street and also a cantina deep in the bowels of a former private home.

The friendly proprietors served us prosecco with gold dust sprinkled into it and showed us their ancient olive oil press (above), cheese cellar, and wine-stomping vat.

The friendly proprietors served us prosecco with gold dust sprinkled into it and showed us their ancient olive oil press (above), cheese cellar, and wine-stomping vat. The acoustics of the place were so amazing that Michelino took it upon himself to offer a song (see below).

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