Today marks the end of my first quarter in the M.A. Humanities program at Pacifica Graduate Institute. The final papers that I turned in for my three classes are a good indicator of the breadth of this program:
Incoherence in the Cloud: Flexibility and Vitality in Social Cataloguing
The Egyptians were not confounded by their religion's proliferation of gods, overlapping iconographies, and relative lack of detailed myth stories. Likewise, the lack of an externally imposed categorization scheme need not obscure the layers of significance on a social cataloguing Web site such as del.ico.us. If there is a lesson to be learned from the balance between disorder and order achieved by the Egyptians in their religion, it is that the process of maintaining order is never-ending and requires the attention of the highest personages. Social cataloguing Web sites must invest in the work of software engineers, information analysts, and psychologists. These skilled professionals tend the temple fires behind the scenes at social cataloguing sites, constantly revising the applications that build tag clusters and other mechanisms for bringing coherence to the tag cloud.
Spiritual Rebirth Revealed: The Virgin in the Burning Bush
By combining natural vegetation with transforming flame and the sign of the divine taking on human form, the Virgin of the Burning Bush icon, a type that originated at the St. Catherine Monastery at Mt. Sinai, personifies the essential spiritual journey, in which the material world and the unseen, spiritual world may be discovered to be intertwined and interdependent. The hope and promise for each pilgrim on this journey is the possibility of being reborn as a unique and individual Self, allied with the divine wisdom and energy that powers the universe.
Identity, Fidelity, and Initiation in "The Wild Swans"
The task and trials of the heroine in Hans Christian Andersen's story The Wild Swans can be read as an extended rite of passage that concludes with her embracing a new role as wife and queen. Her success comes through the attainment of the ego strength of fidelity, described by Eric Erickson as part of his model of identity versus role confusion as the key crisis of adolescence.