The Muffin Tin

This morning, while baking muffins for my children, I stared at the muffin tin and   I realized that everything we learn– from making muffins to writing a literacy article— always leads to the same objective of achieving our full potential.  However, most of the time, we fail to bake the perfect muffin or to write the perfect article.

We stare at our burned muffin or at our messy first draft, feeling less than perfect. We feel inadequate; we feel less than perfect. If we follow a recipe by its rules and write a grammatically correct paper why can’t we have perfection? Why can’t we have the perfect muffin and the perfect paper?

Why do we think that “full potential” equals to “perfection?”

Just as a muffin, tin has twelve different muffins made by the same baker, so too we are molded differently by the same experience.

There is no such thing as perfection. Only by learning every day to enjoy the journey and not the destination could we achieve our full potential.

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Who is Holding the Truth?

“A human being is the measure of all things.”-Protagoras

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According to Protagoras, the human being is the source and value of all things. Consequently, he claims that human beings see things subjectively. For Protagoras, only the truth fabricated by our mind exists. Therefore, the truth is never absolute, and always relative.

Take, as an example, two people looking at the same apple. For one person, the apple is green with tiny brown spots. For the other person, the apple is brown with a large green spot.

Who is holding the truth?

Is the  truth absolute or relative?

Each one of us sees things from a subjective point of view. We decide the color, flavor, shape, and the name to give to the “apple.” However, the apple is there–as something universal and indefinite– even before we recognize it as a green and brown apple. When, each one of us gives the apple an identity, the apple ceases to be universal. The apple ceases to exist as absolute truth immediately after the human mind analyzes it. In this case, absolute truths exist, but only outside the human mind.

Shake Yourself Free

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“Shake yourself free from the manikin you create out of a false interpretation of what you do and what you feel, and you’ll at once see that the manikin you make yourself is nothing at all like what you really are or what you really can be! ” Luigi Pirandello

In the novel The Late Mattia Pascal (Italian: Il Fu Mattia Pascal)  Luigi Pirandello (the author of the novel) tackles a relevant theme:

 IDENTITY

Mattia Pascal (the protagonist of the novel), who was  mistakenly believed to be dead, decides to change his life by  assuming a new identity– that of Adriano Meis– only to realize that he has  no social role anymore due to his  fictitious identity. Adriano Meis can not report a robbery, or marry the love of his life, Adriana, because without an identity recognized and accepted by others he is only an empty container; he is

NON –EXISTENT

Pirandello addresses the issue of social identity in his novel because he wants to emphasize, through the story of a single individual, a condition that affects us all:


Our identity does not form by itself, but it is created in relation to another.


Therefore most of what shapes our identity is out of our control.  Things such as our family, life experiences, social class, ethnicity, and many types of groups mold our identity from the day we are born, and none of these are chosen or controlled by us.

As a matter of fact, belonging to a group is a mandatory commitment. We are born into a group (our family). We go to school and learn in groups (classes). We play sports in groups (teams). We go to church and pray together as a group (congregations). Since the day we are born we are become attached to one group or another.

In the past, natural selection favored groups.  Individuals who wanted to survive had no choice but to live with the strongest group whether they liked it or not. Groups were formed according to likeness and created solely to improve the survival of mankind.

Today we still find ourselves in the habit of choosing among people who are like us and being wary of people who are different. I believe that dividing people into “us” and “them “categories is not necessary anymore. We live in comfortable houses, we buy all the food we want, and we have air conditioning and fast cars. We don’t need to be part of a group in order to survive anymore. Therefore why are we still choosing to join groups we don’t even like, hate people we don’t even know, and live with an identity shaped for us by others. Do we suffer from an innate sense that we don’t exist unless we see our reflection in the eyes of others? Like Mattia Pascal, are we not real unless we are recognized by others?

No name. No memory today of yesterday’s name; of today’s name, tomorrow. If the name is the thing; if a name in us is the concept of every thing placed outside of us; and without a name you don’t have the concept, and the thing remains in us as if blind, indistinct and undefined: well then, let each carve this name that I bore among men, a funeral epigraph, on the brow of that image in which I appeared to him, and then leave it in peace, and let there be no more talk about it. It is fitting for the dead. For those who have concluded. I am alive and I do not conclude. Life does not conclude. And life knows nothing of names. This tree, tremulous pulse of new leaves. I am this tree. Tree, cloud; tomorrow book or wind: the book I read the wind I drink. All outside, wandering.” –Luigi Pirandello

References:

Pirandello, Luigi. Il fu Mattia Pascal .Italian Edition. Oscar classici moderni.Mondadori. 2001. Paperback.

The Misplaced I: Il fu Mattia Pascal and the Spectrality of Identity, Andrew Martino, Southern New Hampshire University

http://academicarchive.snhu.edu/bitstream/handle/10474/1725/snhu_00153.pdf?sequence=1

 

The Tribal Instinct Hypothesis: Evolution and the Social Psychology of Intergroup Relations Mark Van Vugt .University of Kent. Justin H. Park. University of Groningen http://www.professormarkvanvugt.com/files/TheTribalInstinctHypothesis.pdf

Transcending the Tribal Mind.Silvia Helena Cardoso, PhD. http://www.cerebromente.org.br/n09/tribal_i.htm

Photo: Giaconda 1953, Magritte

 

The Dark Side of Times New Roman

The font reminds me of an old Englishman who is lazily sipping his warm tea in front of his freshly printed copy of the Times of London. However, for many of you, Times New roman is considered one of the ugliest fonts in common use today. I personally love Times New Roman.

Do you think that–as cited in Matthew Butterick ‘s page– Times New Roman “connotes apathy” and that is “not a font choice so much as the absence of a font choice, like the blackness of deep space is not a color [?]” Do you think that ” [t]o look at Times New Roman is to gaze into the void [?]”

http://practicaltypography.com/times-new-roman.html

The New England Primer

The New England Primer was the first educational textbook designed for Colonial education. It was produced and published around 1690 by British journalist Benjamin Harris. The textbook is often called “the little bible of New England “because it was used by Puritans in America who were “on a divine mission to create a model Christian society living according to God’s commandments. “ (America, Tindall and Shi, page 42)
The New England Primer was an important book for Puritan families. It was used to teach children not only literacy principles, but also –and especially—bible principles and Puritans religious ideals.
Here is a link showing a reprint (dated 1777) of The New-England Primer much like the original “little bible of New England,” published for the first time around 1690. https://archive.org/stream/newenglandprimer00west#page/n25/mode/2up

Our Survival Kit ( What is Literacy-Part Two)

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To me literacy is like a survival bag. To be more precise, the kind of survival kit that ER doctors use to save lives or the kind of backpack that Rick Grimes (the protagonist of the TV series The Walking Dead) would have loved to find during his escape from the CDC. Literacy may be compared to a survival kit filled with knowledge, which is provided by the society in which we live to help us making sense of the world. By teaching us how to read and write, literacy gives us the gift of knowledge. Using our initial knowledge of writing and reading, we explore the world and connect our skills  with cultural, physical, and emotional discoveries. Reading and writing connect us to other types of literacies such as counting, the ability to use a computer, the ability to empathize, and the ability to understand and solve problems. Literacy sets the bases for our cultural, physical, and emotional background. Just as Rick cannot survive the journey without a loaded backpack so too we cannot survive the journey of life without a rich bag of knowledge.

What is Literacy?

This morning, over a cup of creamy almond milk and fragrant toasted bread covered in sugary strawberry jam, I thought about an apparently simple question:

“What is literacy?”

The first visual thought that came to my mind was of Pinocchio walking toward his school with his new Abbecedario (ABC book) under his arm.

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As soon as it stopped snowing, Pinocchio with his new ABC book under his arm, walked along the road that led to the school and along the road, he fantasized in his little mind about thousands of thoughts and dreams, one more beautiful than another.”

Pinocchio–the protagonist of the children’s novel The adventures of Pinocchio  by Italian writer Carlo Collodi in 1883– is a wooden puppet, created by Geppetto, who dreamed of becoming a real boy. At the beginning of the novel,Geppetto sells his jacket, during a very cold winter, in order to buy an ABC book for Pinocchio. Pinocchio does not understand the importance of the book and, on his first day of school, he sells it for theater tickets.

The story of Pinocchio is set in a context of misery and poverty. Collodi wrote the story at the end of the XIX century in a time when illiteracy was widespread in Italy. In the years when the story of Pinocchio was born, one out of three Italian families was malnourished and illiterate. Poor families were sending their children to work to help support the family instead of sending them to school. Therefore, we can understand why education was something very important for Geppetto.

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What is truly uplifting in the story of Pinocchio is Geppetto’s gesture toward education and literacy. He sold his jacket and spent the harsh winter in the cold in order  to give  Pinocchio the chance to not only write and read but also to advance of a  social class and overcome poverty.

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What is literacy, then?

Referring to literacy, Italian educationalist Aristide Gabelli once said,

“The utility or the practical value of the schools [and of literacy] is not so much teaching to read and write, as in spreading in our populations in certain ideas and give birth to certain habits […]. Obedience, the diligence, perseverance, patience, the love of order and labor, the habit of saving, self-confidence, a sense of their own dignity, respect of duty, that’s what they need to practically teaching schools.”

In this sense, literacy must be seen not only as acquired knowledge , but also as the ability to successfully use this knowledge to overcome personal and global challenges. Literacy then is not only the acquisition of personal skills–reading and writing–but also the acquisition of a better lifestyle, a better position in our society, and a better global world. Literacy then does not only shape  the individual, but also the society in which the individual lives.

Looking at my empty cup and my half-bitten toasted bread, I think  at Geppetto and at his wise gesture. By selling  his coat for an ABC book he instilled in Pinocchio not only the love for knowledge, but also the dream of a better life.

And talking to himself [Pinocchio] said,

Today, in school, I want to learn to read, tomorrow I will learn to write, and the day after tomorrow I will learn to count. Then with my ability, I will earn a lot of money and with my very first coins that will come into my pocket I want to make for my dad a beautiful cloth coat.”

1. Roberto Lemmi Le Avventure di Pinocchio
di Carlo Collodi. La Prora, Milano, 1947. Terza edizione. Cm 17×24,5, pp. 230.

2.March 15, 1924, in a match factory, a terrible accident killed 21 people. Most of them were girls (between the age of 12 and 15). Photo retrieved from https://stefanoart.wordpress.com

3. ABC Book