Editorial: Food for Thought

  • Tip of a Pen Mike Watson Images

Published: 7/23/2019 9:21:39 AM

When it comes to engaging the intellect, the Charlemont Forum follows in the grand tradition of Chautauqua, the TED Talks, the Lyceum movement of the 19th century and the emergence of public circulating libraries, all dedicated to expanding the intellectual horizons of the common man and woman.

Chautauqua, a not-for-profit, 750-acre community on Chautauqua Lake in New York state, is famous for programs that explore the important religious, social and political issues of our times. TED Talks spread ideas in the form of short talks by experts that are posted as videos to a global community via the internet.

The Lyceum movement of the 19th century flourished in the U.S. before and after the Civil War. During this period, according to Wikipedia, hundreds of informal associations were established for the purpose of improving the social, intellectual and moral fabric of society. The lyceum movement featured lectures, dramatic performances, class instructions, and debates by noted lecturers, entertainers and readers who would travel the “lyceum circuit,” going from town to town or state to state to entertain, speak or debate. Their appearances were open to the public, which caused them to contribute significantly to the education of the adult American in the 19th century.

Today in Franklin County, we have the Charlemont Forum, now in its 10th year of presenting summertime lectures to a community receptive to serious topics. From the first lecture by Harvard Professor David Little on the influence of Reinhold Neibuhr on then-President Barack Obama, wrote Recorder reporter emeritus Richie Davis last week, it was clear that the hilltowns would appreciate more of these Chautauqua-style talks. Like the lyceums of yore, all of the programs are free and open to the public, attracting audiences which, on occasion, fill the Charlemont Federated Church. The next program, on Wednesday (July 24), presents “Farmer, Banker, Soldier, Spy: Why They Care About Climate Change,” by Columbia University oceanographer and paleo-climatologist Peter de Menocal at the Charlemont church at 7 p.m.

But that’s not all. Tonight, the C.S. Lewis Study Center in Northfield continues its Summer Literature Seminar Series with “The Great War and the Crisis of Faith: Poetry and Essays of World War I” at 7 p.m. at the historic home known as “Green Pastures” at 199 Main St.

On Thursday at 7 p.m., the C.S. Lewis Study Center continues its “Legacy of Lewis Seminar Series,” led by Dr. Scott B. Key, California Baptist University. On Friday evening, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., Dr. Gayne J. Anacker, California Baptist University and board chairwoman of the C.S. Lewis Study Center, presents “Francis Schaeffer: The Heart of His Apologetics.” This week of learning culminates on Saturday morning, from 10 to 11:30 a.m., with “Atheism to Idealism: Two Early Stages in C.S. Lewis’ Spiritual Journey,” by Anacker.

Such programs fall on fertile ground prepared by popular series like the Senior Symposia, a collaborative effort between Greenfield Community College and area residents. Inspired by the motto, “you’re never too old to learn something new,” these two-hour afternoon programs feature top minds and interesting topics. Sure to fill up fast will be “Sleep-walking and Spiritualism in the 19th Century Pioneer Valley,” set for Nov. 14. Individual sessions are only $10 per person, and a full season pass to all eight presentations can be purchased for $70.

Finally, the Pioneer Valley Institute offers a varied series of workshops, field trips and lectures relating to the Connecticut River Valley, like the Greenfield Architectural Walking Tour, set for Oct. 19. All of the programs sponsored by PVI are open to the public free or at a modest cost.

So, move over, Chautauqua — Franklin County residents don’t have to travel far to broaden their minds in their spare time.


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