I think of the children who will never know, intuitively, that a flower is a plant’s way of making love, or what silence sounds like, or that trees breathe out what we breathe in.
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Scott London was born in Washington, DC, raised in Sweden, and now lives in Santa Barbara, California, with his wife and their two daughters. He is a journalist and photographer, and he hosted the public-radio show Insight and Outlook from 1995 to 2000. He has also done interviews for CBS Radio, CBC’s Radio One, and Weekend America.
Why is there such a vast self-help industry in this country? Why do all these selves need help? They have been deprived of something by our psychological culture. They have been deprived of the sense that there is something else in life, some purpose that has come with them into the world.
I think trapeze could provide an excellent liturgy for a new society. Our present public liturgies, like football and basketball, are a kind of ritualized violence. One side has to beat the other. In trapeze, men and women cooperate to create something of transcendent beauty. A great trapeze act is a kind of performance art. Like a Navajo sand painting, it shows you something of exquisite beauty that lasts only for an instant and then is gone.
I think there is a paradigm shift going on in the culture. The old psychology just doesn’t work anymore. Too many people have been analyzing their pasts, their childhoods, their memories, their parents, and realizing that it doesn’t do anything — or that it doesn’t do enough.
My grandmother always told me that I was hers, that I was Mexican. That was her role. It was not my teacher’s role to tell me I was Mexican. It was my teacher’s role to tell me I was an American. The notion that you go to a public institution in order to learn private information about yourself is absurd. We used to understand that when students went to universities, they would become cosmopolitan. They were leaving their neighborhoods. Now we have this idea that, not only do you go to first grade to learn your family’s language, but you go to a university to learn about the person you were before you left home. So, rather than becoming multicultural, rather than becoming a person of several languages, rather than becoming confident in your knowledge of the world, you become just the opposite. You end up in college having to apologize for the fact that you no longer speak your native language.
America the notion is still very different from America the nation. What’s touching and almost regenerative is that, whatever is happening in the real America — where the murder rate is worse than Lebanon’s, and there is homelessness and poverty — America is still a shorthand throughout the world for everything that is young and modern and free. One interesting thing is that Mick Jagger, the Beatles, Reebok, pizza, enchiladas — everything that is hip and desirable — are all regarded as American no matter what their true origins.