frogs and selfishness at the Holocaust Museum
February 8, 2010, 12:21 am
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i have finished reading the diary of Anne Frank with the girls last night, and there was so much to it that i could not really tackle all on my own. it so happens that there is an exhibit about Anne Frank at the Illinois Holocaust Museum so we went today. i have been to various Holocaust museums in Germany and Italy, and i was very impressed by today’s experience. the museum has a section for kids, and it’s not pedantic or condescending, but it tries to create a bridge between contemporary youth experiences and discrimination or injustice during WWII. 

it was very surprising to find a video game in the exhibit also. it is for 5 players. each person stands in a dark room, and a sensor tracks the motions of each player. it is set in a lily pond where a group of frogs is going about their business, eating flies and swimming around. at the beginning of the game each player chooses a frog, and starts eating or swimming. there is very little direction given by the game to the players. gradually other  bigger green frogs enter the pond and bump you off your pad, or the smaller red frogs that are also hanging out. you can also bump frogs off their pads. 

the first time we played we all tried to get as many flies as possible, bumping each other and the other frogs off the pads. the green frogs that enter later are bigger, and harder to bump off. the red smaller frogs disappear as they are bumped off their pad.

it seems like such a simplistic model to get you to think about selfishness, or solidarity, or human tendencies, but it was very effective. i felt like such an ass for giving in to my first instinct to accumulate at the expense of others. we played again and again, finally coordinating our forces to get the big green frogs from taking everyone else’s resources.

i have not seen in any other settings a model in which you are forced to question your own behavior, and human tendencies in general. the Holocaust is such a giant, huge mass to even begin to comprehend, it left me with a sense of urgency that i am not sure how to employ.

jane addams
February 7, 2010, 1:38 am
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i am taking a class that is based upon an historical chicago site, this semester the jane addams house. i have learned about her in bits and pieces in the past few years, but never did i understand her incredible badassness. i am sure she was not perfect, but there is still  something really compelling and striking about her story. her essay about her reasoning behind opening Hull House blew my mind. it was written over one hundred years ago, and it is so contemporary. i felt myself reflected in her thoughts, and in her understanding of society.  it is depressing in a way that in a century the conditions of people are uncannily similar, and that the solution not more evolved. it also makes me feel strange that my understanding of the world is not new, nor original or revolutionary. i still have to come to grips with the fact that to everything there is a history. ideas are not new but come from a progression of theory from the past recent, and not so recent.

i am hopeful also, because it’s undeniable that there is something essentially altruistic about people and good, even amidst all the pain and selfishness.

it made me fantasize about what is possible to do with one’s life, and the impact it can have. 

i am including the speech i read that i found so compelling:  Addams,”Subjective Necessity”