Homo sapiens is a social species with a capacity for fellow feeling. However, we are also a species with tribal inclinations, born of our evolutionary past in tribal groups and our biologically driven inclination to favor kin. We have a demonstrated proclivity toward identifying others categorically, such as people of a different race or ethnic background. Therefore, a necessary first step in the development of an internal universal ethic is the recognition of our common ground with others.
Documentary and Educational Films
- : interviews with Hebrew and Arabic boys, aged 11 to 13, who then meet to discuss their common situation
Technical and Analytical Readings
- David Cannadine, The Undivided Past: Humanity Beyond Our Differences (Alfred A. Knopf, 2013): an historian’s search for socially unifying operative dynamics. His candidates are religion, nation, class, gender, race and finally – optimistically – civilization itself.
- Kevin M. Kruse and Julian E. Zelizer, Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974 (W.W. Norton & Company, 2019): “ . . . are Americans really divided by fault lines? Interestingly, there is a great deal of research that shows it is the political that are polarized but not the American . Political scientists describe this situation as That is, the Democratic and Republican Parties have devolved into two separate groups that offer ideological and policy conformity with almost no overlap.”
- Naomi Schaefer Riley, ‘Til Faith Do US Part: How Interfaith Marriage is Transforming America (Oxford University Press, 2013). “An exploration of how, or if, interfaith marriages work in a nation of many religions.”
- Ittai Weinryb, ed., Agents of Faith: Votive Objects in Time and Place (Bard Graduate Center Gallery, 2018): “One of the great gifts of global consciousness has been to remind Western secular culture that some art has power beyond the aesthetic. . . . this book . . . brings together objects of spiritual significance from Africa, Asia, Latin America, medieval Europe and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.”
- Temple Grandin, Thinking in Pictures and Other Reports from My Life with Autism (Doubleday, 1995): “Unlike the rest of us, Grandin does not think in words. As she describes it, she has an ever-growing videotape library in her head, which she can manipulate like a computer program, retrieving images from memory, altering them, rotating them, combining them.”
- Ezra Klein, Why We’re Polarized (Avid Reader Press, 2020): “. . . he offers simply the hope that as Americans become more aware of the cancer of our current identity politics, they will make efforts to reduce their own involvement.”
- Tom Zoellner, The National Road: Dispatches from a Changing America (Counterpoint, 2020): “. . . a sneakily ambitious book whose 13 ‘dispatches’ present a sweeping view of the American land and its inhabitants – how each has shaped, and deformed the other.”
- Alana Massey, All the Lives I Want: Essays About My Best Friends Who Happen To Be Famous Strangers (Grand Central Publishing, 2017): the author “explores the lives of . . . famous women while using them to reveal personal details about herself”.
Paul Klee, Ancient Sound (1925)
- Clyde Edgerton, The Night Train: A Novel (Little, Brown & Company, 2011): “What ‘The Night Train’ captures with precision is the manner in which an entire community, black and white, edges toward a new racial reality – bound not by a common will but by a common geography.”
- Ann Patchett, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage (Harper, 2013): part memoir, this collection of essays “is a two-way mirror, reflecting both the author and her readers.”
- Monique Trunog, The Sweetest Fruits: A Novel (Viking, 2019): “With brilliant sensitivity and an unstinting eye, The Sweetest Fruits illuminates the women’s tenacity and their struggles in this novel that circumnavigates the globe in the search for love, family, home, and belonging.”
- Curdella Forbes, A Tall History of Sugar: A Novel (Akashik Books, 2019): “ . . . Forbes uses skin as a prism to examine color, race, colonialism, heritage and — most important — love.”
From the dark side:
- Bryan Washington, Lot: Stories (Riverhead Books, 2019): “As these tales reveal, the divisions between us arise in alleys and bedrooms, at church and the supermarket. Between people of different skin colors, different accents, different genders and sexual orientations, between religious affiliations.”
- Samira Sedira, People Like Them: A Novel (Penguin Press, 2021): “. . . there are older evils at work, revolving around the arrival, and eventual mistrust, of outsiders to a small town. When Bakary Langlois first moves his family to Carmac, he flaunts his apparent wealth . . .”
Film and Stage
- The Band’s Visit (Bikur Ha-Tizmoret): members of an Egyptian orchestra interact with Israeli citizens, exposing “the loneliness that surrounds us” all
- The Waterdance: a film, “inspired” by the playwright’s experience in a rehabilitation facility after a hiking accident, “about racial differences and class differences, and about how these men come together and clash, coming from different backgrounds, and come -- if not to like each other -- at least to respect each other” out of necessity if nothing more
- The Two of Us (La veiel homme et l’enfant): an anti-Semitic man bonds with a Jewish boy
- Babel “weaves stories from Morocco, America, Mexico and Japan, all connected by a single thoughtless act of a child, and demonstrates how each culture works against itself to compound the repercussions”
- Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, in which a resentful man at last shows a glimmer of human feeling for another; the entire film is a study of characters short on empathy
- The Shape of Water: a socially outcast woman falls in love with a creature who longs for the same things as we all do.
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Western "classical" works:
- Boccherini, Cello Concerti
- Holloway, Second Concerto for Orchestra, Op. 40 (1979): disjointed musical ideas gradually unify, a bit. 1. Allegro assai; 2. Andante
- Frankel, Symphony No. 4, Op. 44 (1966): The symphony begins with a white-note scale on the strings, I n counterpoint with a black-note remnant on the trombone. Over the course of the symphony, these voices resolve their differences, to a point.
- Fesca, Septet No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 26 and Septet No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 28: disparate voices in common purpose
- Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble, “Mnemosyne”: this album combines jazz and early music.
- Daniel Binelli and Pedro H. da Silva, “Tango Fado Duo”
I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise,
Regardless of others, ever regardful of others,
Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man,
Stuff'd with the stuff that is coarse and stuff'd with the stuff that is fine,
One of the Nation of many nations, the smallest the same and the largest the same,
A Southerner soon as a Northerner, a planter nonchalant and hospitable down by the Oconee I live,
A Yankee bound my own way ready for trade, my joints the limberest joints on earth and the sternest joints on earth,
A Kentuckian walking the vale of the Elkhorn in my deer-skin leggings, a Louisianian or Georgian,
A boatman over lakes or bays or along coasts, a Hoosier, Badger, Buckeye;
At home on Kanadian snow-shoes or up in the bush, or with fishermen off Newfoundland,
At home in the fleet of ice-boats, sailing with the rest and tacking,
At home on the hills of Vermont or in the woods of Maine, or the Texan ranch,
Comrade of Californians, comrade of free North-Westerners, (loving their big proportions,)
Comrade of raftsmen and coalmen, comrade of all who shake hands and welcome to drink and meat,
A learner with the simplest, a teacher of the thoughtfullest,
A novice beginning yet experient of myriads of seasons,
Of every hue and caste am I, of every rank and religion,
A farmer, mechanic, artist, gentleman, sailor, quaker,
Prisoner, fancy-man, rowdy, lawyer, physician, priest.
This moment yearning and thoughtful sitting alone,
It seems to me there are other men in other lands yearning and thoughtful,
It seems to me I can look over and behold them in Germany, Italy, France, Spain,
Or far, far away, in China, or in Russia or talking other dialects,
And it seems to me if I could know those men I should become attached to them as I do to men in my own lands,
O I know we should be brethren and lovers,
I know I should be happy with them.
· Robert Frost, “Two Look at Two”
· Wallace Stevens, “Metaphors of a Magnifico”
Music: songs and other short pieces
- Playing for Change, with Keb’ Mo’, Walking Blues