In Thought: Where Do We Gather To Think Together

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Pensive. Elizabeth Catlett, 1963

Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s question, “where do we gather to think together” underscores my own. This issue emerged for me while listening to Jon Krakauer’s latest book, Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town. The horrific stories of women who were “wounded in the house of their friends” found few venues for sympathy, communal reflection or even escape from areas reminiscent of those where the rape occurred. Other than clinical spaces, many of these young women met friends at bars, lounges, and clubs. As opposed to being recuperative, these sites became locations for the repetition of their wounds. The women often faced harassment from the perpetrators, their allies, and even strangers who learned that these women would dare accuse young men of rape. In processing these violent scenes, it occurred to me that space is the companion to solace and consolation. Those co-eds needed sites where they could share their stories without interruption; where they could be safe from castigation; where they could be quiet in the company of at least one person who cared for them. While these spaces exist, these young women were most unfortunate because they neither knew how to find them or how to create them.

For author and cultural critic, Susan Sontag, these mostly young victims of sexual violence are unfortunately the inhabitants of a society undisturbed by the noise overwhelming the quiet of ruminative spaces. Though writing specifically about photographs of atrocity, Sontag despairs over the usurpation of contemplative space:

…there is no way to guarantee reverential conditions in which to look at these pictures [of atrocity] and be fully responsive to them. Indeed, apart from the settings where patriotic deference to leaders is exercised, there seems no way to guarantee contemplative or inhibiting space for anything now. Regarding the Pain of Others, 93.

Do you find yourself despairing in ponderance of Joseph’s question? Have you discovered places where people gather to think together? Have you created such domains? Where are they? How do others gain access to these grounds? This slideshow offers a few examples of contemplative clearings where thinkers converge:

 

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One thought on “In Thought: Where Do We Gather To Think Together

  1. The question raised by Marc Bamuthi and beautifully illuminated by 3Milesahead connects to Alice Walker’s In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens, where she establishes a connection between her mother’s insistence upon creating a garden wherever she went (her parents were sharecroppers). For Walker, the flower garden was her mother’s determination to create a space of beauty, contemplation and personal power despite the circumstances imposed by segregation and political inequality. Many might wonder why a woman, with so much work to do, would invest in the work of creating a flower garden whenever she was uprooted by circumstance. But Walker understood the importance of making one’s own work. As an artist herself, she has imbibed her mother’s understanding– the important work of making art, and making her art relevant to the larger world.

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