Park Tavern Discussion notes

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Biography: public fascination with the private lives of individuals

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 26 Apr 2017 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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How to talk about things we know nothing about

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 12 Apr 2017 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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Class - what is it and is it still relevent?

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 29 Mar 2017 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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Education:what should we teach our children?

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 15 Mar2017 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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Bob Dylan: his lyrics as poetry?

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 1 Mar2017 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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Primates: almost human rights?

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 15 Feb 2017 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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Trump: after his Inauguration, what next?

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 1 Feb 2017 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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Cheating: do we have a fair perspective?

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 18 Jan 2017 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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Utopias and Dystopias ?

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 4 Jan 2017 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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Predestination, Free Will and a little Pascal?

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 30 Nov 2016 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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Self Deception: can we get out of it?

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 16 Nov 2016 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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Masculinity: what did Grayson Perry say about this?

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 2 Nov 2016 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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The Success Imperative

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 19 Oct 2016 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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English Identity: what does it mean?

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 5 Oct 2016 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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The Meaning of Life: in searching for this, where should we look?

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 7 Sept 2016 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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China - what do we know about it?

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 20 July 2016 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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Privacy- how muc do we get?

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 6 July 2016 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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Romantic Love

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 18 May 2016 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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Evidence

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 4 May 2016 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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Sculpture

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 20 April 2016 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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Wisdom and Knowledge

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 6 April 2016 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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AI v Jobs

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 2 Mar 2016 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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Nothing

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 17 Feb 2016 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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The World’s Human Population: optimism or pessimism?

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 3 Feb 2016 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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Volunteering: is it always the right thing to do?

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 20 Jan 2016 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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Bunkum: a plain wo/man’s guide to avoiding it?

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 6 Jan 2016 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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A Child's Christmas in Wales" by Dylan Thomas

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 18 Nov 2015 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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Compassion -what would Aristotle say?

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 4 Nov 2015 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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Bad News: is it bad for us?

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 21 Oct 2015 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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Money: Where does it come from?

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 1 Oct 2015 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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Love: what is it?

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 23 Sep 2015 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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What makes you laugh?

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 29 July 2015 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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Music

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 15 July 2015 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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"Language & Communications: How to get a message through?"

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 1 July 2015 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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"Democracy: what's wrong with it?"

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 17 Jun 2015 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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Do Shut Up Dear

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 20 May 2015 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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Advertising

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 6 May 2015 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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Multiculturalism

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 22 April 2015 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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Inequality: Is there good and bad inequality?

Discussion at the Park
Wednesday 8 April 2015 7-30pm at the Park Tavern Macclesfield

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Science: Is it reverting to a belief system?

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 25 March 2015 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

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The Sea: Our Relationship with it
Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 11 March 2015 7.30pm at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

Introduction
a)  Water covers more than 70 percent of Earth's surface; 95 percent of those waters have yet to be explored. "How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is quite clearly Ocean," author Arthur C. Clarke once astutely commented.
b)  The sea provides the air we breathe, the food we eat. It is our last wilderness, yet we mistreat it through our ignorance, pumping it with chemical and aural pollution – all because of our inability to peer through the "ocean's skin", as Herman Melville called it.
c)  The human body has almost the same proportions of calcium, sodium and potassium as the ocean. It pulses in our veins. (Ref 1)
d)  It's estimated that 80% of the world's population lives within sixty miles of the coastline of an ocean, lake, or river. Over half a billion people owe their livelihoods directly to water, and two-thirds of the global economy is derived from activities that involve water in some form. (Ref 1)
e)  "Some people meander through life completely unaware of the pull of our bodies toward the sea. They enjoy the ocean, but when they leave, they dust the sand off and transition back into terrestrial life without blinking an eye … Then there are those of us … [who] are pulled toward the ocean as if by some invisible, magnetic force. It doesn't matter how far inland we are born. We migrate to the sea with precision and purpose as soon as the cords to our childhood are cut … It's a way of life. A need. A yearning… Stepping out of it we don't feel the need to rinse it off. Our eyelashes are dusted with salt and our sun-bleached hair matted with it. Our skin always tastes of salt. We are different and it is obvious… Surfers never really leave the ocean. We know it is inside us. Perfectly matched, life sustaining and flowing in our veins… We are acutely aware of the sea within us."  Jody Marr is a surfer and writer living in Rockport, Texas.  (Ref 2)

Discussion
1.  To begin our discussion with a show of hands, how many of us feel we have a relationship with the sea"?
2.  We are an island people.  Does this affect our lives and if so, how?
3.  The sea: a defensive "moat" or a "highway" to other lands?
4.  What are our experiences of – The sound of the sea?  Being on the sea?  Being in the sea?  Being by the sea?
5.  The approximate annual income for some UK charities (Ref 3), in comparison with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), is shown below.  Why might this be?  
Rank        Name                                     Voluntary      Legacy           Total
Order                                                      Income          Income          Income
3rd         Cancer Research UK           363              157              515
7th         RNLI                                140              91                164
8th         Macmillan Cancer Support    127              48                134
9th         Oxfam                             126              13                318 
UK top 1,000 charities, by donations.  £(to nearest million).
6. To close our discussion, with another show of hands, who now feels a relationship to the sea?

References
1.  Smith, J. L. (2015) Waves in Translation: Our Once and Future Emotional Relationship with the Ocean http://www.academia.edu/2589011
2.  Marr, J. (2012). The Sea within Us, Drawn to the Ocean Without. Retrieved 22nd February 2015 from http://www.adventure-journal.com/2012/12/the-sea-within-us-drawn-to-the-ocean-without/
3. The Guardian 24 April 2012 "UK top 1,000 charities, by donations." http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/apr/24/top-1000-charities-donations-britain
/ over

Further Reading
1.  Nichols, W. J. (2014). Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do. http://www.salon.com/2014/07/19/why_our_brains_love_
the_ocean_science_explains_what_draws_humans_to_the_sea/

2.  "The Sea and Civilisation: a Maritime History of the World" by Lincoln Paine.  Published 06 Feb 2014 by Atlantic Books.  ISBN 1782393552  Surprisingly, this seems to be the first ever global maritime history to be written in English.  It has had rave reviews.


Thanks to Claire Parry and Shirley Whalley for these notes.     23 Feb 2012


The Philosophy of Spinoza

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 25 February 2015 at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

1.  What do we know about Spinoza's life and times http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baruch_Spinoza .  Those who've mugged up a little on biography and background will give information briefly on this.

2.  The In our Time broadcast of 2007 on Spinoza http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0079ps2  reviewed by those who've heard it (easily accessible on i-Player) - a few points from this:

  1. He was a determinist, not believing in free-will at least in the sense that 'we can use our reason and understanding, yes, but contingency is out, all is necessitated, choice is an illusion…'
  2. extending from Descartes, using maths and geometry, he came to the materialist view

           that there is 'just one extended substance… in the universe, everything (including us humans) being an aspect of that one substance… all is one.'

  1. he subjected the Bible to examination rejecting all elements of superstition and irrelevant dogmatism -  given this and his anti-tyranny perspective, supporting freedom of thought he was widely regarded as an atheist for the next century or so.
  2. the experts on IoT disagreed on the degree to which he was a deist, a pantheist,

           a believer in God.   He had 'religiosity', a 'passion for religion of a generalist kind
(keeping the Koran and the Bible on the same shelf) seeing the Cosmos as a great spirit which he regarded with reverence and awe…'

  1. He had an influence on many including George Eliot who translated his work.

3.   Derek Wall, international coordinator of the Green Party has written an article using two recent books:  Steven Nadler's A Book Forged in Hell and Warrren Montag's Bodies, Masses, Power: Spinoza and his contemporaries  (Morning Star,  June 2014) in which he writes:

  1. His most important work  The Theological-Political Treatise argued that God and Nature – in Latin 'Dius sive Natural' - were the same.  So, his connection to contemporary green politics is obvious.   If we are part of nature we should respect nature and other animal species.
  2. Religion for Spinoza was intrinsically political, often used as a means of social control but it could instead be used to promote mutual love and the common good.
  3. For him once the constructed historical nature of the Bible was understood, the true religion could be pursued.
  4. Whilst there are always likely to be intense theological debates, the truth of religion is simple for Spinoza - if it pronounces mutual love it is true, if it promotes hatred and repression it is false.

e)         Derek Wall adds   'I think this formulation has implications for politics too. 
Whatever its origin, politics that promotes human cooperation and trust is right,   
if it promotes inequality, elite rule and intolerance is wrong'.

4.  Terry Eagleton in his latest book  Culture and the Death of God (2014) writes this about Spinoza:
'Nature (for some C19 Romantics) was itself a magnificent work of art, while culture constituted an organic whole.  Like an accomplished aesthetic artefact, the natural world combined the good and the beautiful.  For Spinoza, it was God's own body.  The human and natural spheres were both governed by great evolutionary laws, which we violated at our peril.'  

5.  Eagleton writes sympathetically here and elsewhere about the relevance of Spinoza whilst being scathingly dismissive of contemporary atheists like Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens -  narrow, old-fashioned rationalists who cannot see the importance of theology and religion within all our cultures.   What do we think of this – spot on, or unfair criticism?

DT


Society: Can it Change?

Discussion at The Park
Wednesday 11 February 2015 at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

All societies can change their responses to such matters as morality, justice, crime, values or equality, with the passage of time.  Of course, it is to be hoped that some moral views will not change.  For example, murder is wrong and is held to be a crime.  But some of society's responses can change and do change.  Such change can be slow but sometimes it can be quite swift.  What factors push or pull society to change its collective attitude?  Are some attitudes easier to change than others?  If so, why should that be?  For the purposes of this discussion, let us consider the population of the United Kingdom, say, over the last 100 years or so.  Let us concentrate, specifically on our society's responses to these three attitudes.

Homophobia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homophobia encompasses a range of negative attitudes and feelings toward homosexuality or people who are identified or perceived as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).  It can be expressed as antipathy, contempt, prejudice, aversion, or hatred.  It may be based on irrational fear, and is sometimes related to religious beliefs.  Homophobia is observable in critical and hostile behavior such as discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientations that are non-heterosexual.
Racism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racial_prejudice is actions, practices or beliefs, or social or political systems that consider different races to be ranked as inherently superior or inferior to each other, based on presumed shared inheritable traits, abilities, or qualities. It may also hold that members of different races should be treated differently.  A common view distinguishes prejudice from racism, holding that racism is best understood as 'prejudice plus power' because without the support of political or economic power, prejudice would not be able to manifest as a pervasive cultural, institutional or social phenomenon.     
Misogyny http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misogyny is the hatred or dislike of women or girls. Misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, denigration of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification of women.  

  1. Going around the Circle's participants, what changes have taken place in UK society's response to these three attitudes over the last 100 years or so?  In other words, what changes have taken place in society's view of homosexuality, race or women?
  2. Again, going around the Circle, what processes in UK society have driven or caused the changes we have observed?
  3. Some commentators consider that society has changed its views swiftly and radically regarding homosexuality.  Others consider that misogyny has barely changed.  Are some attitudes inherently more difficult to change than others?  If so, why should that be?
  4. Is it possible that changes in society's response to these three attitudes can be so swift as to throw up other problems?  Alternatively, does justice for all trump any other arguments?
  5. What should be the role of our elected representatives or the law in leading or hindering the change of social responses to the above prejudices?
  6. Finally, do members of the Circle feel optimistic or pessimistic about the social changes they have experienced in their lifetimes, regarding the above three attitudes?

dpw                                                                                    november 2014


Walking

DiPs Wednesday 28 January 2015 at The Park Tavern, Macclesfield

1.     Henry David Thoreau says the true "art of walking" is ". . sauntering: which word is beautifully derived from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretence of going 'a la Sainte Terre', to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, 'There goes a Sainte-terrer', a saunterer – a Holy-Lander.  Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere."
Do any members of the Circle consider that they are "saunterers", or have "sauntered"?  Alternatively, do you wish that you had "sauntered"?
2.     According to many people, walking for a short time, perhaps on a day out, seems to be a totally different experience to doing a long walk, perhaps over a week or more.
Have any members of the Circle ever undertaken a long distance walk, with overnight stops en route?  How different was the experience, compared to a day out?  Why is there this difference?
3.     One contemporary, long distance walker tells of his experience walking through rural Oxfordshire in the following terms.  "I have often driven down the M40 and enjoyed the open views of hills, fields and – in season – the spectacular displays of poppies.  But it was not until I walked the length of that County that I knew it.  It had far fewer people than I thought; far fewer buildings; much more open land."
What is the cause of this difference in perspective or awareness?  Which perspective or awareness matters more?
4. "Raise no dust.  Move no stone.
Break no grass.  And may the wind leave no trace of your passing." 
A Navajo blessing of one who is about to depart on a journey.
There is a considerable body of literature on the "meditation of walking".  Some, set in the Buddhist tradition, relates to repetitive, short sequences of steps.  Some relates to long distance hiking.  Robert Macfarlane has written extensively on the latter.
Have any members of the Circle ever experienced the meditative qualities of walking, whether by accident or intent?  What differences are there between walking alone or in company?  Is it important to "leave no trace of your passing" in the context of walking?
5.     During the act of walking, many people become much more aware of the landscape through which they pass.  The shapes, colours and weather, the geology, vegetation and history all become more vivid.  Macfarlane writes, "The Wiltshire section of the Ridgeway passes through arguably the most sacralised terrain in England . . . At Avebury and Silbury, an ease of relation is expressed between topography and belief.  And paths, tracks and cursuses were intricately involved with this Neolithic landscape theatre."
Is this effect on the mind only apparent in a rural setting?  What about in the urban or cityscape?
6.     The rural landscape is highly prized by most, if not all.  But the townscape seems to be a poor relation.  Even poorer, it is supposed, is the urban edge.  The belt of land where car breakers yards, industrial estates or abandoned factories, children's dens or airports are found.  Yet walking along any of our great canal towpaths, perhaps through the Potteries and Staffordshire, takes us through urban landscapes, to "edgeland" and, only then, to rural landscapes.
Are we inspired by, or do we find reflection in, walking through urban landscape?  Does our culture disproportionately overvalue rural landscape and undervalue urban landscape?

Further Reading:
a. The Old Ways: a journey on foot    Robert Macfarlane                                 2012
b.  Edgelands: journeys into England's true wilderness
Paul Farley & Michael Symmons Rober          2011

dpw 14 december 2014