September 5th, 2010

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Read my article "Balancing Powers" in Communities magazine

Communities magazine features a variety of topics dealing with intentional community.  The current issue (Fall 2010 #148) has a theme of Power and Empowerment.  Some of the articles have been posted on the website, so now you can read mine there, "Balancing Powers: Leadership and Followship in Community."  I also recommend "More Perspectives on Leadership and Followship: A Response to Elizabeth Barrette" by Ma'ikwe Schaub Ludwig. 

You can read some of my other Communities  articles by visiting my author page.  "Householding: Communal Living on a Small Scale" and "The Richness of Giving" are posted online.
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Flight of the Dragonflies

Today parts of the yard got re-mowed.  While walking down to the butterfly meadow, I saw above it a numerous flock of giant dragonflies.  Alas, none of them seemed inclined to stop even for an instant, so I don't have any photos of them.  I loved watching them, though.  They are so beautiful and savagely graceful in the air!
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The Life of Languages

I found this article about portrayals of Native American languages.  It includes a splendid YouTube video of a young (!) man describing his iPod (!!) in Navajo.  If you go out to the YT page and look in the right sidebar, you'll find a lot of other Navajo-speaking videos.

I love languages.  I'm delighted to see people using the Internet to help keep their languages not just alive, but growing.  That means somebody has to sit down and think about, "How do we want to say this new thing in our language?  Is there already a good word for it?  Do we want to borrow a word straight from some other language?  Do we want to translate it?  Or do we want to invent a uniquely Navajo (or whatever) way of talking about this thing?"  Sometimes it'll go one way, sometimes another.  The important thing is to keep a language current enough to discuss what is happening in the world right now, which helps young people perceive the language as relevant and valuable, so that it will continue.  The most meaningful thing anyone can do to continue their ethnic culture is to learn and speak their heritage language.

Interestingly, Navajo is a language for which I have a guidebook but very little audio exposure.  It's kind of daunting on paper and has a reputation with teeth.  But listening to it?  With stacked English/Navajo subtitles?  It doesn't sound much harder than, say, Lakota or Cherokee.  I had no trouble picking out the phonemes ("Oh hey, that must be the hissed "l" one...") and repeated words or roots.  So, of course, I had to go back to YouTube and browse some of the other videos.  Every minute given to an endangered language matters -- every click of a webpage about it, every word learned, every insight into a culture revealed by a turn of phrase.  There are many pieces of cultural lore that I treasure: arts, crafts, music, etc.  But it is the languages of the world that show me new thoughts and perspectives.  I never want that to be lost, and we are losing languages because people don't pass them on.  So I try to get other folks interested in languages, not just the most popular couple of dozen, but the thousands of other languages that are spoken by smaller populations.
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Dangerous Books

I'm intrigued by this list of "10 Books That Screwed Up the World."  (Link courtesy of my partner Doug.)  The author thoughtfully describes the harm done by each book. 

I've read at least excerpt of over half of these.  Know thine enemy.  I must admit, however, that The Prince is one my favorite  books, along with Sun Tzu's The Art of War.  They make politics a great deal more comprehensible.  They are also indespensible for writing fiction.