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Oct 2, 2013, 3:30:14 PM10/2/13
A Place for posting letters, comments, or proposed issues, to be commented on as a forum of "mini topics".   Please post your responses directly to each topic suggestion.
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Oct 2, 2013, 3:11:10 PM10/2/13
Here's a letter that some people cc'd have liked, sent to MS. Magazine on the remarkable new insight of Pat Thompson we all missed for so long.   I'd love to have feedback on how well I was able get past the evident social barrier that caused MS and the whole feminist movement to miss the deep positive interest and appeal of Pat's insight.   The purpose of "home economics" really has always been "the care of the sacred flame" of the home. Is that simple truth just hidden from view by thinking of "home economics" in the negative, as feminism seems to have done, as "chores done with no comparable reward"...?    I'm not sure how I phrase it here couldn't also be done better too, of course.

MS. Magazine, 9/26/14, Senior Editor Michele Kort,   

We really missed it!    Pat Thompson was a 1948 Barnard grad who “got the message”, and followed it with a varied career leading to exploring a truly fresh conception of the political science and economics of feminism.   As a distinguished professor at Lehman college at the age 79 she published her “Hestian Trilogy”, beautifully laying out her radical reinvention of the concept of “home economics”.    It got as close to zero attention as one can get, it seems for the usual reason, asking unexpected questions.    What one finds hidden away in those books is an  “accidental theorist” going ALL the way to the roots of things, to discover the original roles of women in anchoring our families, as guardians of the flame of hearth and home, found documented in the home centered cultures of early Greece.   

Thompson writes beautifully too, but it seems everyone was thrown off by her asking unexpected questions, and yes, also by the pejoratives associating “home economics”, so often treated as a concern with “menial chores done by obedient women”.    Yes, that is how the dominant authoritarian cultures interpret the worth of nearly everything…    The labor of the home, though, as it works in the home, comes along with the role of being principle caretaker for the living culture of the home, is the center of our lives, found only in the place where we bring the spoils of the marketplace to give as gifts and share freely, fulfilling our main purpose in putting up with the increasing indignities of the daily struggle outside the home.   

For humans, “home making” is not of low value because it is given away, but of high value because it is given away, in celebration of things we value more highly than money.    It’s the active caring for our homes centering our lives, loves, ways of learning and traditions.   Home is where we both celebrate and transmit our ancient family customs, knowledge and rituals, providing the “work place” and “fair commons” where the living cultures of our personal and extended families find security and thrive.   It’s that “home making” that serves as the true essential source and foundation of all human culture, the continuity of the light within us today passed on without a break from our ancient past, not valueless because it’s free, but truly priceless.   

Pat shows that’s also how it was 3000 years ago, and …  offers a fascinating tale of how “something got lost in the translation” as the meanings of our words were altered again and again over time, by ever more dominant cultures of rules and commerce, having no place in their abstractions for recognizing the organic relationships of “everyday life”.  

I hope I show you the right lens to for reassessing her work.   Please have another look.       ;Jessie 


Jan 3, 2014, 10:11:56 PM1/3/14
This is a fine compact essay, with a personal side, that I added to Helen Finidori's discussion on "Heuristics for discussing the commons" on CAN. She has raised the question of using "pattern languages" found in nature for better understanding and developing engagement methods for understanding of commons. Hestia and Hermes, of course, can be studied for the hints their early traces offer of the very ancient "pattern language" used by the pre-patriarchal Greek and Minoan home centered "commons cultures" two millennia BC. Those foundation cultures of our own were greatly altered as western civilization developed the "pattern language" for hierarchical and growth obsessed societies, organized around ever expanding centers of wealth and power taking ever increasing control of nature and man. 

Yes, Helene. Don't forget I was an architect and theorist before I came across the natural phenomena that let me study their growth and development as locally emergent systems, getting me back to my physics to develop a general method of studying living systems. The struggle for me, nearly from the start, was with the general lack of terminology for what I was studying. That affects Alexander too, that any language for the patterns of natural design seems rather esoteric. It has taken me a long time to realize the problem comes from the whole subject being so alien to the dominant language of "linear cause & effect", and the cultures of modern science and commerce). So, finding familiar language to use for "normalizing" the awareness of natural systems and their design processes, has become a big focus of effort. (1)

Recently, Pat Thompson's insight into how our culture of linear thinking developed historically, along with the male/female divide, has helped me a lot. It's been a guide to finding more familiar subjects to tie in with the pattern languages of natural design. (2) Her key insight seems to be recognized that the two principle gods of very early Greek culture were actually "archetypes of nature", not "archetypes of power" like the later Greek gods. Hestia represented home culture as "the sacred flame" of culture, and Hermes represented communication and commerce as relationships between homes, through an open environment. Thought about in modern terms, you could say that's "THE principle of ecology", homes and links.

For a few thousand years now, in what became ‘western culture’, men were more suited to be trained to serve rule-ers and think of life in terms of conceptual rules and definitions, for controlling outcomes (for their roles in war and commerce for rulers seeing life as a battle of control over man and nature…). That great wave of deterministic thinking, for ever-expanding control of others… has really affected everything modern culture became!! Domination doesn’t work for home life, though (!), so that women are naturally more immersed in making homes work, has also let them retain more awareness and talent for negotiating the complex non-verbal relationships of things that are individually developing their own ways and cultures. 

The big problem seems to be that human language culture was largely stripped of terms and ideas for understanding nature, by repeated deterministic revisionism reducing all subjects to "cause and effect", discarding awareness of cultural growth and develpment. So we lack cohesive awareness of complex cultures and individual roles in them, ecological growth and cultural relationships, etc. a true mental blinding to how to live in nature. I find it hard, but am still looking for "bridge language", hoping to find and reconnect bits of thinking from various communities, preserving the ancient awareness of living we have an aptitude for, but also able to connect with the language of deterministic control and commerce. My best present effort “may be” my still developing work on providing “better information” on “what’s profitable”, comparing the decidedly costly results of ignoring the world as a commons… (3,4) I still, the basic pattern, is our needing to join not conquer nature, making our home and niche in life our own true "commons”, not at war with the world around it.

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