Meister Eckhardt, the 13th century mystic, once said “There is nothing so near God as silence.” But he never had to deal with somebody text messaging in church.
Technology has not only improved our ability to communicate with one another: it’s allowed us to communicate at all times, wherever we are. The result, for many people, is a cacophony of personal connections that never stop. We’re never out of touch.
Now, for the first time in human history, a whole generation is coming of age having never had to be away from their friends; for whom the very idea of being “alone” is alien.
A recent essay in the Boston Globe’s Sunday Magazine put the issue in stark terms. The “never off” nature of communications technology “is dulling our very capacity to ever be alone, or alone in our thoughts … we're seeing this capacity weakened, whether we're in public places known for contemplation, like churches and libraries, or whether we're just sitting by ourselves at home, losing the fight to resist answering our BlackBerries (just ask our new president) or checking our laptops for Facebook updates.”
Writer Neil Swidley says there is now a gripping terror of being alone among many people who have never had the experience of solitude, and wouldn’t know what to do with it if they did. “This is particularly true among young people,” he writes, “mainly because they don't know life when it wasn't like this.”
Students join Saybrook’s Social Transformation Concentration because they want to make a difference in the world: now Saybrook can offer them an opportunity to help reform government while they study.
This month Saybrook, the global leader in humanistic education and thought, has announced an agreement with Public Citizen, one of America’s leading consumer advocacy organizations.
Dr. Craig Holman, Public Citizen’s Legislative Representative and an ethics consultant for the Obama Administration, has agreed to take on interns from Saybrook for his office.
“I research and manage issues in lobbying, campaign finance, and government ethics, so an intern for me would do work in these areas,” Holman said. “That sort of research invariably is used to make policy recommendations. Hopefully, we’ll have Saybrook students helping improve our understanding of these issues in a way that will impact the way government operates.”
Saybrook students now have the opportunity to learn with some of the world’s leading scholar-practitioners in peace and development.
In an agreement signed February 3, Saybrook will incorporate into its Social Transformation Concentration curriculum two online courses developed for TRANSCEND Peace University (TPU). Based in Austria, TPU draws faculty from among the leading peace scholars and practitioners in their fields internationally. It is the educational arm of the TRANSCEND Network –connecting 350 individuals and institutions from 80 countries working to reduce structural violence through action, education, dissemination, and research. The two courses, which will be available to all Saybrook students, are Peaceful Conflict Transformation – the Transcend Method, taught by Drs. Johan Galtung and Sara Horowitz, and The Human Right to Adequate Food, taught by Dr. George Kent.
"This is an extraordinary opportunity for Saybrook students to explore the cutting edge of conflict transformation and global social justice issues with stellar faculty who have world-wide reputations in their areas of expertise,” said Joel Federman, who directs Saybrook’s Social Transformation Concentration.
If those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it, then America really needs to crack the books, according to Marc Pilisuk.
As a new, hopeful chapter in American history dawns, the Saybrook psychology faculty member is warning that the mistakes we’ve made before will be no less disastrous if we make them a second time around.
The last American president who promised to fundamentally change American society was Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ). The Great Society, the War on Poverty, the civil rights movement: his progressive agenda stretched from top to bottom and promised to fundamentally reinvent America to be more just, equitable, and prosperous.
Both the national unity and the money needed to make this a reality disappeared in the jungles of the war in Asia.
“LBJ had big dreams. Big plans. It was all sacrificed to the war,” Pilisuk remembers. “Lyndon Johnson, who could have been a great president, walked out in shame.”
Last week President Obama ordered 20,000 more troops to go to Afghanistan, giving Pilisuk a sense of déjà vu.
In 2009 Pilisuk worries, Obama could be headed down the same bleak road, sacrificing a promising, desperately needed, progressive agenda to a war that he didn’t start but is expected to finish.
One of the basic tenants of Mind-Body Medicine is that doctors can’t do it all: people get healthier if they take an active role in their own health.
For many people, that means seeing a Mind-Body specialist, but many others are looking to life coaches to help them make lasting lifestyle changes.
“With health care costs spiraling out of control and a rapidly deteriorating level of public health the need for wellness coaching has grown dramatically in recent years,” said Saybrook psychology alumna and professional life coach Dr. Lisa Mastain. “Corporations, hospitals, treatment centers, health clubs, and independent consumers are seeing the benefits of investing in health and wellness coaching.”
Now Mastain, in collaboration with Saybrook’s Integrative Health Studies program, has developed a class for Saybrook students on life coaching for health and wellness (IHS 4110: Health and Wellness Coaching). It will also be offered as part of Saybrook’s new degree in Mind-Body Medicine.
A crucial insight in life coaching, as in Mind-Body Medicine, Mastain said, is that “better health information is not enough.” People need help making that information meaningful to them, and then acting on it. Life coaching can be one of the most effective ways that someone can make and maintain lasting lifestyle changes.
by George Aiken
For the Saybrook Alumni Association, supporting Saybrook’s long standing tradition of humanistic thought and education is of primary importance. We believe that our humanistic roots are critical to Saybrook’s role as a viable, important, and necessary educational institution in the world today.
Over the past year, we have worked to create new ways to support Saybrook’s educational ideals through several venues, including: the Quarterly Alumni Newsletter the HOMEPAGE, which features the accomplishments of faculty and alumni in the hope that the wider Saybrook community will be encouraged to continue the traditions that fostered these successes; the monthly, alumni, HOMEPAGE UPDATE lists current scholarly and vocational opportunities, and announces events relevant to the continued education of our alumni; the newly revised alumni blog, Provocative Discourse, where alumni can discuss issues relevant to their own life and work, and the health and well being of Saybrook and its ideals; and finally, a new alumni webcast, The Alumni Community Gathering: Keeping Up with Saybrook, A Monthly Informational Forum, where alumni discuss topics relevant to their careers and to Saybrook’s mission. It is the Alumni Association’s hope that these efforts will contribute in some small way to a long and healthy future at Saybrook.
These new approaches for keeping the alumni community connected have been successful because alumni are passionate about the traditions and heritage that have transformed their personal and professional lives. Saybrook alumni hope to see these traditions continue to enrich the lives of students, alumni, and the community at large for many years to come.
Ask most poets who the biggest influences on them are, and you’ll usually get a list of other poets – Byron, Shelley, Keats, Frost, Whitman, Plath, or Ginsberg.
But when Tom Greening tries to think of the most important influences on his poetry, the two names he comes up with are psychologists.
“Rollo May was a big influence,” Greening remembers. “And Jim Bugental, with whom I worked for many years. Jim liked to play with words. He sometimes made bad puns, which I don’t particularly like, but he certainly had a playful side."
Perhaps that’s appropriate, because though he’s been a poet in some fashion for most of his life, it’s humanistic psychology – a discipline which he’s done as much as anyone to help shape – that has dominated Greening’s life work. May and Bugental were two of the pioneers in the field, and they saw a connection between art and scholarship that seems alien in the academic world of today.
There’s now a separation between the humanities and the sciences – one so vast that it seems novel to suggest it could be any other way. But it could: perhaps especially in psychology.
As former APA president Frank Farley wrote:
The spiritual side, the poetic side, the giving and forgiving side, the generous and loving side, are humankind's finest features. Hebb defined psychology many years ago as not being poetry. Although Hebb was my scientific hero, I demur from defining psychology without poetry.
That, Greening says, is because the arts and humanities provide both insight into the human condition and a means of ennobling it – and what else is psychology for?
Of all the emotions, love is surely the most talked about – and the hardest to explain.
Unless you’re a neurologist, that is: January saw several publications claiming that love was entirely explainable by neurochemical reactions.
“Love: Neuroscience reveals all,” reads a headline in the journal Nature’s Jan. 8 issue. You don’t need flowers: the article promises to “reduce love to its component parts,” none of which is … well … “loving” somebody.
A New York Times science blog took the idea a step further, suggesting that an “anti-love drug” is around the corner – and that by inoculating teens and others against love during sensitive times of their lives, we can prevent a lot of bad decisions.
“Such a vaccine,” it notes (with a straight face), “has already been demonstrated in prairie voles.”
Stanley Krippner doesn’t know much about prairie voles, but he does have considerable expertise in both neuropsychology and the psychology of human sexuality. A psychology faculty member at Saybrook, he says the problem with these articles isn’t so much the research – which he thinks is great – but the broad claims made on its behalf.
Saybrook doesn’t have its own press – and it doesn’t need one. Its graduates and faculty are busy publishing in everything from the mainstream press to academic journals.
“During Alumni Homecoming at the June 2008 Residential Conference, no less than six, long cafeteria tables were required to display Saybrook’s Alumni publications,” says George Aiken, Saybrook’s Alumni Director, who keeps track of the ever expanding roster of books and articles by members of the Saybrook community. “At this year’s Alumni Homecoming, during the 2009 June Residential Conference, the Alumni Book Display should be no less than 50% greater in size than last year.”
Highlights from 2008 include Alumnus and Faculty member Kirk Schneider’s guide to therapeutic practice, Existential-Integrative Psychotherapy, and Alumnus Father Brian Kolodiejchuck’s explication of the private writing’s of the Saint of Calcutta, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, which received international attention and acclaim.
For additional publications to come out of the Saybrook community in recent years follow the link below. A full list of publications can be found on Saybrook’s Alumni home page.
“If you’re a community member and you don’t see your works listed,” Aiken says, “please send me the information. Include your name, degree, year of graduation; the title(s) of your publication(s); and the publisher and year published.” It’s a Sisyphean task to keep track of everything the Saybrook community creates, Aiken says, but unlike Sisyphus, this is a labor of love.
Imagine you’re President Obama – just for a moment. You’re about to be authorized to spend over $800 billion to stimulate the economy, and you’ve promised to make sure that everybody knows how the money is being spent as it happens.
How do you do that?
This is a time, after all, when people already have trouble keeping track of their loose change, email passwords, and Facebook “friends.” What’s the best way to make sure everybody knows how $800 billion is working its way through the economy?
To address this challenge, Obama (the real one)has announced that he’ll put updated details of stimulus spending on a website – an unprecedented display of openness, which he also hopes will “root out waste, inefficiency, and unnecessary spending in our government.”
But will a website be enough? According to Gary Metcalf, an Organizational Systems faculty member at Saybrook who teaches classes at the Federal Executive Institute, “pure transparency,” what Obama is suggesting, may cause almost as many problems as it solves.