Pari Center for New Learning Newsletter
Spring has certainly arrived in Pari - the birds returned on 11 April. It is always a dramatic experience to look out one morning and see the sky filled with swifts and swallows as they swoop down from the rooftops to hunt for insects in the valley below. Spring also saw the appearance of a large hole outside our house. But this is no real cause for concern as the roads of Pari are to be restored with paving stones instead of asphalt. This will make the village look even more attractive and cared for.
Spring also came with the birth of our third grandchild, Chiara Catlin, to our daughter Eleanor who lives in the village with her husband Andrea and her other two children, James and Alessandro. Chiara is the fourth new baby to be born over the last few months, which may indicate that the Pari population is on the increase.
Spring also saw the opening of the Pari library, which is housed in the Palazzo at the top of the village. It was a modest opening with just a few hundred books in Italian, many of which are still to be catalogued. However, once our catalogue is on-line we can become a branch of the provincial library of Grosseto and borrow books from the other branches. The Palazzo also houses the Center's library of books in English (science, philosophy, religion, psychology, women's studies, art and indigenous peoples.)
The Center will be hosting a number of long term visitors this summer, and one who proves to be permanent: Neil Maroni was a director of The Knowledge Forum, which sponsored the Pari Center's conference on "The Future of Knowledge in the World of the Internet" last year. He so enjoyed life in the village that he has decided to sell his house in England and settle permanently in Pari.
May sees the arrival of Dr Arnold Smith, a physicist from Ottawa, who will be spending three months in Pari. Professor Ed Nell, an economist from the New School University in New York will be here for six weeks as will Joan Bartlett, an educational psychologist from the Quaker School in Washington. We also expect a number of visitors from Australia including the principals of three schools. In the long term we may also be offering a course specifically designed for Australian visitors.
In October we will have a visit from The Liverpool Pub Philosophers - a group who have been meeting regularly in a pub in the center of Liverpool, England to discuss philosophy. David Peat visited them while on a trip to England last year and they have now decided to come to Pari to have discussions with David, do some sight seeing, play football against the village and exchange songs.
Claire and Gordon Shippey will be back for a visit this summer. Gordon attended one of the Pari courses and was so impressed by the village community that he and his wife decided to bring some changes to their own community in Middlesbrough, England.
DIALOGUES IN RELIGION AND SCIENCE
Thanks to sponsorship by the Metanexus Foundation we have been organizing a number of dialogues on Religion and Science. The first of these, with Amnesty International and Don Adriano (a priest from Angola) was reported in the last newsletter. Since then Dr Shantena Sabbadini described his "voyage around God", from his Catholic upbringing in Italy, through his teenage love of physics and rationalism, a phase of Marxism, entering the hippy world of California (where he went to study the physics of Black Holes), to an Ashram in India and finally a return to Italy, where he also organizes the annual Eranos Conferences in Switzerland.
Prof Amedeo Alpi gave a public talk on agriculture (genetically modified crops, soil erosion, rising population and the fate of the world's food). In particular he asked how would it be possible to preserve the vision of St Francis of Assisi, who saw all of nature as his brother or sister, in our modern world. The following day saw a roundtable discussion with Alpi on the future of small communities such as Pari.
A meeting with Etica, Finanza, Ambiente (Ethics, Finance and Environment) - members of which come from the Monte dei Paschi di Siena bank and the Faculty of Economics at the University of Siena, discussed ethical approaches to finance and economics as well as ways to achieve ethical, sustainable and socially friendly growth for third world countries.
The Center also met with a group from Brussels that included representatives from the Union of International Associations and Renaissance Europe to discuss a vision for an expanded Europe that would be sustainable at the levels of economics, social services, agriculture and environment.
On 26 April David Peat will talk about the world of the Blackfoot of North America, their vision of nature, their view of science and their spirituality. The following month a representative of the Muslim community will talk on Islam.
CONFERENCE; UNLIMITED LOVE
We have had several registrations for the "Unlimited Love: Social and Personal Transformation", 18-21 September 2003. Many of the participants are from groups who work in the Third World in the fields of health, housing and community development. In particular there is a strong connection with Habitat Jordan and a suggestion has been made of doing a comparative study of Pari and a small Jordanian community.
THE FUTURE OF KNOWLEDGE
The Pari Center held two international conferences to explore the future of knowledge and learning. "The Future of the Academy", in 2000, discussed the present condition of universities, research and teaching and proposals for the future.
The second, in 2002, explored the dissemination of academic knowledge both in traditional print forms and on the Internet. It explored issues of copyright and "copyleft", problems of the Third World's access to the latest scientific knowledge, ways in which the Internet could be used to stimulate research, and better methods to create citation indices and locate new knowledge.
The World Academy of Art and Science has decided to build on the work done at the Pari conferences by holding its next General Assembly, in 2004, on the theme of "The Future of Knowledge". One of the founding principles of the World Academy is "the social consequences and policy implications of knowledge."
Alison MacLeod was one of our visitors last year. Author of the critically acclaimed The Changeling is about to sign a three-book deal with Penguin publishers and hopes to spend some time at Pari later this year. Unfortunately her creative writing course "Landscapes of the Imagination" has been canceled but may be offered next year.
The Center is badly in need of funding to continue its various activities and to host new conferences. In addition, we have had enquires from people in the Third World and the former Eastern Bloc who are seriously interested in one or other of our courses but cannot afford to attend. It would be nice to offer them a subsidy but at present the Center does not have the funds to do this, particularly since enrolment has fallen as a result of global tensions and the reluctance of people to travel.
We shall be looking into several funding sources. If anyone receiving this newsletter has contacts or other useful suggestions then please let me know.
Three Pari suporters - Roy McWeeny, Neil Maroni and Therese Schroeder-Sheker have proposed setting up a "Friends of the Pari Center" -a group who would pledge support of the Center by giving donations. Anyone interested in offering such support and joining the center as a Friend should write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
PARI: A STUDY
Over the past year quite a lot of activity in Pari has centered on community, change, ethics and economics. As a consequence we have been considering putting a group together to make a study of Pari and its future in a changing world. For centuries Pari was a sustainable community, with a barter economy and all its needs supplied by the surrounding land - clothing, food, heat and even metal from the nearby copper and iron mines. Those approaching retirement age can remember the time when water came from the two village wells, women made cloth from the broom plant and the local cobblers made summer sandals from snake skins. Today three people in the village work from their homes via the Internet and Pari is seeing visitors coming from all over the world.
But what will be Pari's future? Can the village survive in a sustainable way? Will the young generation remain? What will be the economics of the village of tomorrow and what lessons can be learned for other small communities? There are many questions to ask and lessons to learn which may be of interest to other small rural communities.
The Pari Center web site contains a large number of papers on topics ranging from ethics, economics and chaos theory to religion, creativity, education and general cultural issues.