What would it be like to experience yourself, those around you, and the world through deliberate and disciplined contemplation? This seminar will define and then explore through specific exercises contemplative knowing as attentiveness, openness and the act of sustaining contradiction. By this means we will seek common ground between the seemingly opposed realities of art and science in the contemplative integration of erôs and insight. Our goal will be to discover the contemplative heart of higher education. During the first half of the course we will use brief readings from Thoreau, Simone Weil and others to discover the nature of contemplative engagement. We will then work with material drawn from science (Kepler, Oliver Sacks, Einstein, Barbara McClintock) and the arts (Rembrandt, Goethe, Mondrian, Ryoan-ji in Kyoto) that exemplify such engagement and can lead to contemplative insight. In the second part of the course we turn to the question of love, and seek its deep relationship to contemplation and knowing. In this exploration we will be guided by the writings of Marguerite Porete, the troubadours, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Thomas Merton. We will conclude by re-imagining together Plato’s famous Symposium on the question of love. During the course of the seminar, there will be many varied occasions for conversation and discussion. There will be frequent short but sharply focused writing assignments, complemented by an on-going semester journal, as well as exercises involving visual thinking and practice. Throughout the seminar there will be regular occasions for contemplative engagement. This contemplative work will serve to foster the goal of the seminar.
Fall semester. Professors Upton and Zajonc.