We Have a Place

It’s not our private place, but it is a place we claim as a particular place in our lives.

It’s a restaurant, a cafe, a little bar. We are fortunate to have it, and our town is fortunate to have it. It has grown from a place where they made bread and scones to include locally sourced dairy products at retail, a three-meal restaurant, and full-service bar.

Breakfast coffee at the place.
Breakfast coffee at the place.

It is quirky in the way of any profoundly local place, and peculiar in the way of a place which is constantly looking for ways to grow. Sometimes the effort to accommodate the new jostles uncomfortably with expectations. But rough experiences are smoothed out by good will, good food, and the opportunity to experience the experience of the particularity embodied by this place.

Coffee, muffins of many types, sweet desserts, savory entrees, local beers, delightful wines. Staff with knowledge, willingness to accommodate, and the autonomy of a confident visionary at the helm. This is not a place where sameness predominates. It is wild in the way of a vital forest, where the new jostles with the expected. Each visit, and each meal is distinct from the others, but recognizably the successor to the previous. Quality is the goal, not replication.

This is a good place, and we visit often.

Misty Morning

I have been meaning to get this picture for about ten years.

IMGP9295

These others came along while I was walking through the humid, drizzly morning, along the puddle-flecked pathway from the parking area to the middle of the drawbridge over the river.

Some Parenting

Our children are exploring music. Through school. Our district has a pretty good program for the youngest students to explore performance basics, and then encourage the ones who enjoy it to really dig into band and vocal performance. So here are some audio-only clips from recent years of him and our middle child doin’ the performing arts thing.

Eighth grade choir October 7, 2018. 

Seventh grade band May 16, 2018.

K2 Alphabop March 20, 2018.

Seventh grade band February 27, 2018.

Seventh grade band, Christmas concert. 2017

Seventh grade band, Christmas concert clip. 2017

Sixth grade end of year. 2017

Kindergarten Alphabop. 2017

Fundjam band extravaganza, sixth grade. 2017

What is this? December 24, 2016.

Sixth grade band, Christmas concert. December 4, 2016.

Bedtime. December 4, 2016.

Middle singing. November 16, 2016

Blossom Sweet. October 9, 2016.

Fifth grade band, end of year. 2016

Fifth grade choir. February 2016

Fifth grand band. Autumn 2015

That’s quite a list. Some of those aren’t school related.

 

 

What The Prisoner Demands

The Times Literary Supplement recently dropped an essay/multi-title book review by Julian Baggini on morality and ethics. (Baggini uses the two words interchangeably. Is this normal in such high-brow discussions?)

I was reminded of The Prisoner by a couple of paragraphs deep in the essay.

First:

Many moral philosophers are at work in this space, trying to show that even if we can’t tidy up every inch, there are more or less rigorous ways of muddling through. One central issue that has preoccupied them for several decades is the possibility that there may be more than one set of legitimate moral values but that these sets might be inconsistent with each other. For example, there is a moral value in individual liberty and also in being bound to a community. Both might be equally reasonable forms of life but to choose one is to reject the other.

And

Tom Koch treads similar ground in Ethics in Everyday Places. Koch argues that we can’t always avoid “the queasy, inchoate feeling that arises when you’ve done everything right but know you’ve done something wrong”. For Koch, this is the consequence of the conflict between individual moral agency and the demands placed on us by employers, insurers, professions or the state.

Years ago I wrote a five part series of blog posts about The Prisoner, mostly about the AMC reboot, but with plenty of consideration of the original series starring Patrick McGoohan. I’m thinking mainly of McGoohan’s version here. The Prisoner extensively works themes of the mutual duties of the individual and society.

In reading this essay, and those paragraphs in particular, a thought about The Prisoner I hadn’t previously had came to me. The Prisoner is a strange show open to many, sometimes contradictory, allegorical interpretations. Among the most frequently seen interpretations is that, in the final analysis, Our Hero did not, in fact, destroy and escape The Village.

For whatever reason, somehow it never previously occurred to me that Our Hero might not have entered the village as a result of resigning and subsequent kidnap. He might have always been a resident. Or, maybe more sharply, The Village where the events of The Prisoner take place is a more intense version of the ordinary world, the world where we all must live.

In this reading, Our Hero–known throughout the series as Number 6–is, indeed, The Prisoner.

Historically, one of the very common assumptions about The Prisoner is that it is a loose sequel to Secret Agent (aired as Danger Man in USA), and that Number 6 is possibly (probably?) a continuation of that program’s main character, John Drake. There are episodes of The Prisoner which support this interpretation, of course. There is plenty of on-screen evidence that Our Hero was a spy, formerly working on behalf of Western powers, and that The Village we encounter is especially designed to debrief agents with special backgrounds. Additionally, there are strong hints that The Village serves this purpose for “both sides.” This aspect of service to both sides suggests the allegorical idea that The Village we see is a special case of a more general system. In this view, the purpose of The Village is to sustain the system, the network of players, rather than to serve the idiosyncratic  interests of the players. 

The general system is the real world. In the real world each of us has to make our best effort to navigate often conflicting societal demands, where we have to be uniquely ourselves and to subordinate the nearly continuous insistence that we owe the world everything that we do to our own actions when we choose, and how we choose, to acknowledge and support those demands.

Our Hero is the prisoner. When he resigns, one of the first explanations given in the show is that it’s a matter of conscience. This is often seen as a literal issue–he was a spy, didn’t like what his spying was about, and left the job. Then he was taken to The Village in order to clarify the matter more satisfactorily, at least in the minds of The Village’s overseers.

In the allegorical interpretation which popped up for me recently, Our Hero resigns. For a matter of conscience, he resigns. I accept this explanation. His conscience demanded he resign; something about his relationship with the world demanded he stand as himself. Something changed. He realized something, and he had to change.

He is The Prisoner, he is Our Hero. He chooses himself, at least in the timeframe between when he decides to resign and does so. For that time, he chooses himself over the demands of his social network. Then he prepares to travel, to undertake a new life. He will be enmeshed in a different set of obligations. These will be obligations of his choosing. Did he not choose the obligations from which he just resigned? In any event, those plans are waylaid when he is abducted, and brought to The Village. He is drawn back into the forms of his old social network, yet he resists. In The Village, he resists the unwelcome demands of his keepers. In The Village he suspects everyone. In The Village he also protects other people. He enmeshes himself.

The demands of conscience are inescapable, as are the demands of society.

Our Hero is The Prisoner.

Incel ctd. (nuance)

A good friend brought this profile from The Daily Beast to my attention.

It’s long. It’s worth reading because, in forcing the reader to look at a person who identifies as “incel” and is an active participant the the incel online conversations, the reader is forced to also confront certain liberal assumptions.

This reader did, anyway. Incel is abominable. It’s a way of thinking which devalues women utterly, and heaps scorn on men who are outside the incel fold, and then those inside the fold heap scorn on themselves. It’s loathsome from top to bottom.

And also… the people who have this way of thinking are still people. I have, deep in this blog, some posts about the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, and somewhere in that material is probably a consideration of “the inherent worth and dignity of every person.”

And also… the core problem of incel is that it violates that idea. It is build up entirely on the idea that nobody is of worth or dignity, and only the incel is aware of this. The profile considers that the whole thing is deeply ironic and that the incel fold lets this color how they perceive everything. It also considers that the incel reaction is understandable in the face of interpersonal frustrations and abuse from mean people. The author, Mandy Stadtmiller, doesn’t let them off the hook for their odious views.

The point here is that I have a responsibility to engage with those willing to be engaged with. People. But I don’t have a responsibility to sympathize with their odious thoughts, and I don’t have to accept them being advocated in the public sphere.