C.S. Lewis on the “Inner Ring”

C.S. Lewis

“The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it. This group of craftsmen will by no means coincide with the Inner Ring or the Important People or the People in the Know. It will not shape that professional policy or work up that professional influence which fights for the profession as a whole against the public: nor will it lead to those periodic scandals and crises which the Inner Ring produces. But it will do those things which that profession exists to do and will in the long run be responsible for all the respect which that profession in fact enjoys and which the speeches and advertisements cannot maintain. And if in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the center of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that its secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship. Aristotle placed it among the virtues. It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ring can ever have it.”

― C.S. Lewis

Tarot card for July 29: The Six of Cups

The Six of Cups

The Lord of Pleasure is a welcome card in any reading, bringing in a sense of harmony and balance. Existing relationships broaden and deepen, giving an extended sense of contentment and satisfaction.

It’s important to recognise, with this card, that its influence extends only to established relationships – those which already have a history of their own. It will come up in a reading to indicate major steps forward, strengthened commitment, marriage, recovery after trial.

Mostly, it will relate to intimate relationships because of a strong link to contentment within sexual partnerships. Sometimes, the Lord of Pleasure will appear to mark the point at which a previously purely romantic relationship extends to become a sexual one as well. Because of this influence, there are also several connotations of creativity and fertility.

We have tended, in recent times, to lose sight of the true higher interpretation of the word ‘pleasure’, and that sometimes leads to misunderstanding about the Six of Cups. The card is not so much about the act of sex, but rather about the wealth of emotional contentment that can arise from being in a fulfilled sexual relationship. Good sexual experience is one of the greatest acknowledgements of our physical state. It adds richness to our understanding of ourselves as humans.

The Six of Cups
Angel Paths Card of the Day (angelpaths.com)

(Submitted by Alan Blackman)

Critical race theory: A brief history

Thousands gather in Washington on Aug. 28, 2020, in support of social justice and commemorating the historic March on Washington and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Have a Dream" speech on that date in 1963. Criticism of critical race theory coincided with widespread demonstrations.  (Jason Andrew/The New York Times)

By Jacey Fortin

New York Times

About a year ago, even as the United States was seized by protests against racism, many Americans had never heard the phrase “critical race theory.”

Now, suddenly, the term is everywhere. It makes national and international headlines and is a target for talking heads. Culture wars over critical race theory have turned school boards into battlegrounds, and in higher education, the term has been tangled up in tenure battles. Dozens of U.S. senators have branded it “activist indoctrination.”

But CRT, as it is often abbreviated, is not new. It’s a graduate-level academic framework that encompasses decades of scholarship, which makes it difficult to find a satisfying answer to the basic question:

What, exactly, is critical race theory?

First things first…

The person widely credited with coining the term is Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, a law professor at the UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School.

Asked for a definition, she first raised a question of her own: Why is this coming up now?

“It’s only prompted interest now that the conservative right wing has claimed it as a subversive set of ideas,” she said, adding that news outlets, including The New York Times, were covering critical race theory because it has been “made the problem by a well-resourced, highly mobilized coalition of forces.”

Some of those critics seem to cast racism as a personal characteristic first and foremost — a problem caused mainly by bigots who practice overt discrimination — and to frame discussions about racism as shaming, accusatory or divisive.

But critical race theorists say they are mainly concerned with institutions and systems.

“The problem is not bad people,” said Mari Matsuda, a law professor at the University of Hawaii who was an early developer of critical race theory. “The problem is a system that reproduces bad outcomes. It is both humane and inclusive to say, ‘We have done things that have hurt all of us, and we need to find a way out.’”

OK, so what is it?

Critical race theorists reject the philosophy of “colorblindness.” They acknowledge the stark racial disparities that have persisted in the United States despite decades of civil rights reforms, and they raise structural questions about how racist hierarchies are enforced, even among people with good intentions.

Proponents tend to understand race as a creation of society, not a biological reality. And many say it is important to elevate the voices and stories of people who experience racism.

But critical race theory is not a single worldview; the people who study it may disagree on some of the finer points. As Crenshaw put it, CRT is more a verb than a noun.

“It is a way of seeing, attending to, accounting for, tracing and analyzing the ways that race is produced,” she said, “the ways that racial inequality is facilitated, and the ways that our history has created these inequalities that now can be almost effortlessly reproduced unless we attend to the existence of these inequalities.”

Matsuda described it as a map for change.

“For me,” she said, “critical race theory is a method that takes the lived experience of racism seriously, using history and social reality to explain how racism operates in American law and culture, toward the end of eliminating the harmful effects of racism and bringing about a just and healthy world for all.”

Why is this coming up now?

Like many other academic frameworks, critical race theory has been subject to various counterarguments over the years. Some critics suggested, for example, that the field sacrificed academic rigor in favor of personal narratives. Others wondered whether its emphasis on systemic problems diminished the agency of individual people.

This year, the debates have spilled far beyond the pages of academic papers.

Last year, after protests over the police killing of George Floyd prompted new conversations about structural racism in the United States, President Donald Trump issued a memo to federal agencies that warned against critical race theory, labeling it as “divisive,” followed by an executive order barring any training that suggested the United States was fundamentally racist.

His focus on CRT seemed to have originated with an interview he saw on Fox News, when Christopher Rufo, a conservative scholar now at the Manhattan Institute, told Tucker Carlson about the “cult indoctrination” of critical race theory.

Use of the term skyrocketed from there, although it is often used to describe a range of activities that don’t really fit the academic definition, like acknowledging historical racism in school lessons or attending diversity trainings at work.

The Biden administration rescinded Trump’s order, but by then it had already been made into a wedge issue. Republican-dominated state legislatures have tried to implement similar bans with support from conservative groups, many of whom have chosen public schools as a battleground.

“The woke class wants to teach kids to hate each other, rather than teaching them how to read,” Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida said to the state’s board of education in June, shortly before it moved to ban critical race theory. He has also called critical race theory “state-sanctioned racism.”

According to Crenshaw, opponents of CRT are using a decades-old tactic: Insisting that acknowledging racism is itself racist.

“The rhetoric allows for racial equity laws, demands and movements to be framed as aggression and discrimination against white people,” she said.

That, she added, is at odds with what critical race theorists have been saying for four decades.

What happened four decades ago?

In 1980, Derrick Bell left Harvard Law School.

Bell, a pioneering legal scholar who died in 2011, is often described as the godfather of critical race theory.

“He broke open the possibility of bringing Black consciousness to the premiere intellectual battlefields of our profession,” Matsuda said.

His work explored (among other things) what it would mean to understand racism as a permanent feature of American life, and whether it was easier to pass civil rights legislation in the United States because those laws ultimately served the interests of white people.

After Bell left Harvard Law, a group of students there began protesting the faculty’s lack of diversity. In 1983, The Times reported, the school had 60 tenured law professors. All but one were men, and only one was Black.

The demonstrators, including Crenshaw and Matsuda, who were then graduate students at Harvard, also chafed at the limitations of their curriculum in critical legal studies, a discipline that questioned the neutrality of the American legal system, and sought to expand it to explore how laws sustained racial hierarchies.

“It was our job to rethink what these institutions were teaching us,” Crenshaw said, “and to assist those institutions in transforming them into truly egalitarian spaces.”

The students saw that stark racial inequality had persisted despite the civil rights legislation of the 1950s and ’60s. They sought, and then developed, new tools and principles to understand why. A workshop that Crenshaw organized in 1989 helped to establish these ideas as part of a new academic framework called critical race theory.

What is critical race theory used for today?

OiYan Poon, an associate professor with Colorado State University who studies race, education and intersectionality, said that opponents of critical race theory should try to learn about it from the original sources.

“If they did,” she said, “they would recognize that the founders of CRT critiqued liberal ideologies, and that they called on research scholars to seek out and understand the roots of why racial disparities are so persistent, and to systemically dismantle racism.”

To that end, branches of CRT have evolved that focus on the particular experiences of Indigenous, Latino, Asian American, and Black people and communities. In her own work, Poon has used CRT to analyze Asian Americans’ opinions about affirmative action.

That expansiveness “signifies the potency and strength of critical race theory as a living theory — one that constantly evolves,” said María C. Ledesma, a professor of educational leadership at San Jose State University who has used critical race theory in her analyses of campus climate, pedagogy and the experiences of first-generation college students. “People are drawn to it because it resonates with them.”

Some scholars of critical race theory see the framework as a way to help the United States live up to its own ideals, or as a model for thinking about the big, daunting problems that affect everyone on this planet.

“I see it like global warming,” Matsuda said. “We have a serious problem that requires big, structural changes; otherwise, we are dooming future generations to catastrophe. Our inability to think structurally, with a sense of mutual care, is dooming us — whether the problem is racism, or climate disaster, or world peace.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Book: “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave”

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

(The Autobiographies #1)

by Frederick DouglassWilliam Lloyd Garrison 

Born a slave in 1818 on a plantation in Maryland, Douglass taught himself to read and write. In 1845, seven years after escaping to the North, he published Narrative, the first of three autobiographies. This book calmly but dramatically recounts the horrors and the accomplishments of his early years—the daily, casual brutality of the white masters; his painful efforts to educate himself; his decision to find freedom or die; and his harrowing but successful escape.

An astonishing orator and a skillful writer, Douglass became a newspaper editor, a political activist, and an eloquent spokesperson for the civil rights of African Americans. He lived through the Civil War, the end of slavery, and the beginning of segregation. He was celebrated internationally as the leading black intellectual of his day, and his story still resonates in ours.

(Goodreads.com)

Book: “Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False”

Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False

Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False

by Thomas Nagel 

In Mind and Cosmos Thomas Nagel argues that the widely accepted world view of materialist naturalism is untenable. The mind-body problem cannot be confined to the relation between animal minds and animal bodies. If materialism cannot accommodate consciousness and other mind-related aspects of reality, then we must abandon a purely materialist understanding of nature in general, extending to biology, evolutionary theory, and cosmology. Since minds are features of biological systems that have developed through evolution, the standard materialist version of evolutionary biology is fundamentally incomplete. And the cosmological history that led to the origin of life and the coming into existence of the conditions for evolution cannot be a merely materialist history. An adequate conception of nature would have to explain the appearance in the universe of materially irreducible conscious minds, as such. No such explanation is available, and the physical sciences, including molecular biology, cannot be expected to provide one. The book explores these problems through a general treatment of the obstacles to reductionism, with more specific application to the phenomena of consciousness, cognition, and value. The conclusion is that physics cannot be the theory of everything.

(Goodreads.com)

Free Will Astrology for week of July 29, 2021

Indulging in common activities such as making French toast may inspire feelings of inhibition and spaciousness. (Shutterstock)

Indulging in common activities such as making French toast may inspire feelings of inhibition and spaciousness. (Shutterstock)

Cancer, you’ll thrive on day-to-day details that prompt an excitement for life

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ARIES (March 21-April 19): What does it mean to feel real? Some people have a hard time doing that. They have such false ideas about who they are that they rarely feel real. Others are so distracted by trivial longings that they never have the luxury of settling into the exquisite at-home-ness of feeling real. For those fortunate enough to regularly experience this treasured blessing, feeling real isn’t a vague concept. It’s a vivid sensation of being conscious in one’s body. When we feel real, we respond spontaneously, enjoy playing, and exult in the privilege of being alive. After studying your astrological potentials, Aries, I suspect that you now have an enhanced capacity to feel real.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): When she was a child, author Valerie Andrews visited her secret sanctuary at sunset every day for seven years. She lay on the ground among birch trees and aromatic privet plants, feeling “the steady rhythmic heartbeat of the earth” as she basked in the fading light. I’d love for you to enjoy the revitalizing power of such a shrine. The decisions you have to make will become clear as you commune with what Andrews calls “a rootlike umbilicus to the dark core of the land.” Do you know of such a place? If not, I suggest you find or create one.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): I suspect that your immediate future will be a patchwork of evocative fragments. You may be both annoyed and entertained by a series of flashing attractions, or an array of pretty baubles, or a hubbub of tasks that all seem at least mildly worth doing. Chances are good that they will ultimately knit together into a crazy-quilt unity; they will weave into a pattern that makes unexpected sense. In the spirit of the spicy variety, I offer three quotes that may not seem useful to you yet, but will soon. 1. “Isn’t it possible that to desire a thing, to truly desire it, is a form of having it?” — Galway Kinnell 2. “It is not half so important to know as to feel.” — Rachel Carson 3. “Like all explorers, we are drawn to discover what’s out there without knowing yet if we have the courage to face it.” — Pema Chödrön

CANCER (June 21-July 22): A Tumblr blogger named Cece writes, “The fact that you can soak bread in sugar, eggs, cinnamon and vanilla, then butter a pan and fry said bread to make a meal is really liberating.” I agree. And I share this with you in the hope of encouraging you to indulge in other commonplace actions that will make you feel spacious and uninhibited. You’re in a phase of your astrological cycle when you’ll thrive on doing day-to-day details that excite your lust for life. Enjoying the little things to the utmost will be an excellent strategy for success.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Leo poet Renée Ashley articulates a perspective I recommend you adopt. She writes, “I’m drawn to what flutters nebulously at the edges, at the corner of my eye—just outside my certain sight. I want to share in what I am routinely denied, or only suspect exists. I long for a glimpse of what is beginning to occur.” With her thoughts as inspiration, I advise you to be hungry for what you don’t know and haven’t perceived. Expand your curiosity so that it becomes wildly insatiable in its quest to uncover budding questions and raw truths at the peripheries of your awareness.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): “There are many things in your heart you can never tell to another person,” declared Virgo actor Greta Garbo (1905–1990). “It is not right that you should tell them,” she concluded. “You cheapen yourself, the inside of yourself, when you tell them.” I presume Greta was being melodramatic. My attitude is the opposite of hers. If you find allies who listen well and who respect your vulnerability, you should relish telling them the secrets of your heart. To do so enriches you, deepens you, and adds soulful new meanings to your primary mysteries. The coming weeks will be a favorable time to seek this wise pleasure in abundance.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Now is a fantastic time to seek out effervescent socializing and convivial gatherings and festive celebrations. If you surround yourself with lively people, you’ll absorb the exact influences you need. May I suggest you host a fun event? If you do, you could send out invitations that include the following allures: “At my get-together, the featured flavors will be strawberry chocolate and impossibly delicious. There’ll be magic vibrations and mysterious mood-enhancers. Liberating conversations will be strongly encouraged. Unpredictable revelations will be honored. If possible, please unload your fears and anxieties in a random parking lot before arriving.”

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Scorpio author Andrew Sean Greer writes, “As the Japanese will tell you, one can train a rose to grow through anything, to grow through a nautilus even, but it must be done with tenderness.” I think that’s a vivid metaphor for one of your chief tasks in the coming weeks, Scorpio: how to carefully nurture delicate, beautiful things as you coax them to ripen in ways that will bring out their sturdiness and resilience. I believe you now have an extra capacity for wielding love to help things bloom.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Suggested experiments to try soon: 1. Remember a past moment when you were touched with the sudden realization that you and a person you’d recently met were destined to fall in love. 2. Remember a past moment when you kissed someone for the first time. 3. Remember a past moment when someone told you they loved you for the first time or when you told someone you loved them for the first time. 4. Allow the feelings from the first three experiments to permeate your life for five days. See through the eyes of the person you were during those previous breakthroughs. Treat the whole world as expansively and expectantly as you did during those times.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Capricorn poet Kenneth Rexroth was shirtless as he strolled along a rural road. To his delightful amazement, a fritillary butterfly landed on his shoulder, fluttered away, landed again, fluttered away—performed this dance numerous times. Nothing like this had ever happened to him. Later he wrote, “I feel my flesh / Has suddenly become sweet / With a metamorphosis / Kept secret even from myself.” In the coming days, I’m expecting at least one comparable experience for you. Here’s your homework: What sweet metamorphoses may be underway within you—perhaps not yet having reached your conscious awareness?

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): “Each time we don’t say what we want to say, we’re dying.” Aquarian artist and singer Yoko Ono said that. I will add a further nuance: Each time we’re not aware of the feeling or experience or situation we want, we’re dying. And these will be key themes now that you’ve entered the “I KNOW WHAT I WANT AND I KNOW HOW TO ASK FOR IT” phase of your cycle. The most healing and vivifying thing you can do during the next six weeks is to be precise about your desires.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): In 1829, Piscean author Victor Hugo began work on his novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” He had other projects, though, and by September 1830, he had made scant progress on “Hunchback.” Growing impatient, his publisher demanded that he finish the manuscript by February 1831. In response, Hugo virtually barricaded himself in his room to compel himself to meet the deadline. He even locked his clothes in a closet to prevent himself from going out. For the next five months, he wore only a gray shawl as he toiled nonstop. His stratagem worked! I recommend you consider trying a somewhat less rigorous trick to enforce your self-discipline in the coming weeks. There’s no need to barricade yourself in your fortress. But I hope you will have fun taking stringent measures.

Homework: Send descriptions of your wildly hopeful dreams for the future to newsletter@freewillastrology.com.

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