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Love, Death, and Annihilation in Contemporary Fiction and Cinema: A Convers...

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California Institute of Integral Studies

1453 Mission Street

San Francisco, CA 94103

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Questions of Love and Death are among the deepest that humans can ask. What can contemporary literature and cinema teach us about our erotic connection to the universe?

Out of thirty million species of life on Earth, Homo sapiens is singular in its need for imaginative works in order to complete the movement from infancy to maturity. When we reflect on the devastation taking place throughout the Earth Community at this time, we need to ask the obvious question: Why have our symbolic works failed so spectacularly?

Part of the answer can be seen in the shift in our universities from communities focused on awakening the deep qualities of humanity to training camps for attaining the particular cognitive skills required by our corporations. Departments of Philosophy throughout America are emblematic of this devolution. Instead of fostering the quest for truth, our academic philosophers convinced themselves they should make their field “scientific” by avoiding such, for them, embarrassing topics as “wisdom” or “the meaning of life”.

The human impulse to reflect upon the deep questions of our existence does not cease because of the hyper-specialization and fragmentation of the modern university. If philosophers are going to abandon this quest, the novelists, filmmakers, and other artists will take up the challenge to provide the works of the imagination necessary for human development.

This conversation event is adapted from a new cross-departmental course also titled Love, Death, and Annihilation in Contemporary Literature and Cinema taught at CIIS by Carolyn Cooke and Brian Thomas Swimme.

Carolyn Cooke is core faculty in the Department of Interdisciplinary Arts at CIIS. She is the author of a novel, Daughters of the Revolution, and two collections of short stories, The Bostons and Amor and Psycho. Her fiction has won the PEN/Robert Bingham Prize, and has been featured in Best American Short Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories, and The Paris Review.

Brian Thomas Swimme earned his PhD in mathematics in 1978 and is core faculty at CIIS with the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness program and the Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion program. His works include The Universe is a Green Dragon, Hidden Heart of the Cosmos, and the Emmy award-winning PBS Special, Journey of the Universe.

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California Institute of Integral Studies

1453 Mission Street

San Francisco, CA 94103

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