Café Wrap: Justice vs. Vengeance

Question: Does justice equate with vengeance and does mercy equate with forgiveness?

At the latest Socrates Café meetup we addressed this timely question. Though it’s two questions merged into one, the feeling (according to the one who submitted it) is that this question reflects two sides of the same coin.

Initially, one participant suggested that when feeling that one has been wronged, vengeance is individualized. If you are wronged, vengeance says, “You cannot treat me this way!” The reward for enacted vengeance may be that the actor is then feared or even respected. On the other hand, justice must be enforced by the state as it says, “You may not treat anyone this way.”

Justice is supposed to give power to the powerless, though one expressed the concern that sometimes justice is twisted to the point that it becomes vengeance. Laws are designed to maintain civil society, though the laws themselves depend on the culture in which you live; a democracy, an aristocracy, dictatorship or another form of government. Democracies, it was pointed out, have been instituted to usurp powers of kings and emperors.

We looked at mercy and forgiveness as being different from justice or vengeance. If you are a reasonable person responsible for a child, you might mete out justice by punishing a child to discourage the child from repeating the offense. But you should be merciful in that endeavor, ensuring that the punishment fits the infraction.

Juries serve justice by declaring guilty one who has been proven criminally responsible and we rely on them to do so. Likewise, we then expect the court to sentence the person accordingly. Ideally, an imprisoned criminal would be shown mercy out of respect for both the person’s humanity and feelings. We acknowledge that cases of crimes against persons rather than crimes involving property present the heaviest burdens when it comes to mercy or forgiveness.

One patron mentioned the idea that justice and mercy are often institutionalized as in hospitals and in prisons.

An individual can show mercy but feel unable to forgive, or they may show both forgiveness and mercy. Justice is meant to be proportionate to the crime and bring repentance or repair so that a person can become a productive member of society. On the other hand, if the criminal is deemed too dangerous to society as a whole, some believe the ideal punishment would keep the person humanely incarcerated until such time as that is no longer the case, while others believe capital punishment would suffice. We acknowledge the many inequities that can occur when laws are ambiguously written or applied unequally.

There are always diverse and interesting points of view offered at the Socrates Café about the question of the day. We welcome anyone who enjoys listening to others’ point of view and sharing their own from time to time.

YNGR: Do-It-Yourself Framed Quilts by Gail Perry

Time to get your DIY on!

Unique, framed artwork can add interest to your home’s décor. If you enjoy making gifts for your friends and family or creating do-it-yourself projects as a way to earn extra cash, you might want to check out Do-It-Yourself Framed Quilts by Gail Perry.

While quilt making dates far back to ancient Egypt, more recent patterns, from Pennsylvania and Ohio’s Amish and Mennonite communities, might be more familiar to you. These include patchwork, log cabin, crown of thorns, double wedding ring, bear claw, and many others popularized in the 19th century.

The nine small quilts detailed in this book, however, are not your grandmother’s quilts! There are florals, impressionist, landscapes, concentric diamonds and more. You’ll be inspired to create designs of your own.

35″ x 40″ Impressionist Quilt

Sized appropriately for wall hanging in typical frame dimensions:

15” x 15”

16” x 20”

20” x 24”

…as well as a handful of others, they’re not so big as to be overwhelming to a beginner. It is fair to say that some prior sewing ability would be helpful.

The best part of this book is its combination of photos, patterns, clear instructions and detailed information about standard matte sizes and the tools you’ll need when you want to begin framing.

There are 67 titles for do-it-yourself projects at Allentown Public Library. What’s your next project?

Got Your Shot?

If you are home bound for medical or mobility reasons that make it difficult for you to get a COVID-19 shot and you live in Allentown, help is on the way!

City of Allentown Paramedics will be making house calls to those residents who need the service. Stocked with the Moderna COVID-19 shots, they’ll provide your first shot and follow up to bring a second shot. They’ll keep working to provide shots for people who need this help until this service is no longer needed in our city.

You just need to take the first step. Make the call to the hotline at 610-260-0360 to schedule an appointment.

YNGR: Shiatsu

Shiatsu: Japanese Finger Pressure Therapy, Do-it-Yourself Acupressure by William Schultz

Sometimes older books like this one, published in 1976, are as relevant today as they were when they were brand new.

Illustration from Shiatsu: Japanese Finger Pressure Therapy

In 1954 while living in Tokyo, Japan, author William Schultz enrolled in the Shiatsu Institute. While he continued his education, he moved to California where he was also able to continue his exporting business and his practice. He achieved a Master of Shiatsu, and by the time the book was published ten years later, Schultz was one of only two shiatsu practitioners in the United States.

Shiatsu, the author tells us, is “the oldest written form of physical therapy.”

Compelling are the many ways in which shiatsu, once learned, can benefit one’s health. Nearly anyone can learn the basic techniques covered here to alleviate headaches, relieve neck and shoulder pain, address tendonitis, muscle fatigue and more.

A short read unencumbered by heavy medical jargon and accompanied by photos and drawings that best illustrate the details, this book proves its worth.

We like the do-it-yourself aspect of this particular book, but there are several other books in our collection about Shiatsu which are located in the non-fiction section at 615.822. Would you like to learn more? Click below to link to our catalog.

YNGR: 500 Handmade Dolls

­­500 Handmade Dolls: Modern Explorations of the Human Form by Valerie Van Arsdale Schrader

These are not your sister’s baby dolls!

For adults and children, this coffee-table book allows its viewers to appreciate artful interpretations that indulge both reality and fantasy.

The artists have sculpted, whittled, sewn, beaded and burnished using disparate mediums that include: clay, wood, metal, fabric and other materials that inspire imagination.

Containing real conversation starters, there’s bound to be a doll that suits your personal taste in art, makes you giggle or impresses in its intricacies.

If you enjoy the cute and whimsical, prefer the macabre or the confusion and chaos of modern artists’ mythical creatures, then this book is worth checking out.

Looking for artistic inspiration?

Whether you want to take a break from your computer screen or ponder age old questions like that of the funky chicken pictured here in Who Came First?, you’re likely to find ideas for your next art project in this photo book. 

Some of the dolls, like those in the traditional section, show a slice of life while others exaggerate features and form with available materials.

Check it out! Literally!

YNGR: Music Section of the World’s Great Madonnas

Music Section of the World’s Great Madonnas by Cynthia Pearl Maus and Evelyn Lysle Fielding

Published in 1947, you could easily overlook this little treasure of a book. Think of it! When this book made its way to the Allentown Public Library, Harry S. Truman was President of the United States. Its cover price (at the time $1.50) would be about $16.95 today, but you can still check it out for free here.

It doesn’t have a flashy, high-definition cover or a national ad campaign beckoning booksellers to order new copies from the publisher. What it lacks there, it makes up for in both nostalgia and variety.

While you might be the type of person who looks forward to hearing your favorite holiday tunes play on the radio from Thanksgiving until the day after Christmas, others might prefer finding music and lyrics to old hymns or lesser known folk songs.

In addition to Christmas songs and carols, the book contains special occasion folk songs and lullabies from around the world. Divided into six sections, you’ll find music and lyrics from Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and both North and South America. Come check out this non-fiction selection. Who knows what other treasures you might find?

YNGR: The Home Diffusing & Distilling Handbook

The home distilling & infusing handbook : make your own whiskey & bourbon blends, infused spirits, cordials & liqueurs by Matt Teacher

With the nationwide explosion in popularity of home-brewed and craft brewery made beers, the proliferation of local wineries and sangria fests, a person might presume there’s no room left for infused spirits or whiskey and bourbon blends. For those of you in the latter category—think again.

This little book from the non-fiction shelves of the Allentown Public Library covers a host of possibilities from gin to vodka, and cordials to rum.

Pages resemble your family’s favorite old recipe book complete with Instagram-worthy photos. Amusing quips like these from comedians, politicians and celebrities and keep it simple but interesting.

“There can’t be good living where there is not good drinking.”

~ Benjamin Franklin

After a brief intro and a few comments about the law and safety for DIYers, readers can get the real lowdown on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to adding various fruits, vegetables or herbs to alcohol. Uncomplicated directions with no more than five steps in most cases provide easy to follow ways to create new choices for digest-ifs, or compliments to your dinner.  Reserve your copy

Café Wrap: Disabilities and Phobias

Question: When supporting someone who has a difficulty (such as a disability or a phobia), at what point should one help this person get used to the trigger versus make accommodations?

At the outset of our meetup, we determined that this question is not on its surface philosophical. It does suggest a moral dilemma. The deeper question it reveals is whether it is immoral for us to expect a person to change to adhere to our expectations.

A distinction exists between a disability and a phobia. Whereas a disability may include phobias, one who has a phobia or even several phobias may not necessarily be disabled though they may be debilitated by them. Disabilities too, we recognized can encompass mental, physical or both aspects of a person’s being. They may be obvious or invisible.

One person suggested, “Someone once said that a person will only change when the pain of staying the same exceeds the pain of changing.” This principle can be applied to all sorts of change.

Can we even compare phobias like the fear of flying in an airplane, arachnophobia (fear of spiders), or fear of heights with varying challenges presented by learning disabilities, autism, cerebral palsy, PTSD, loss of a limb, or traumatic brain injury? In short, these are not comparable. Answers to how to properly address each condition can vary by the individual. Approaches to treatment are often best begun by professional experts in their field of medical, occupational or physical therapy or psychology.

There are other questions here too. Is it better for us to set a higher achievement goal for the individual in hopes it will inspire him or her to grow, to heal or to be “more than” they were before? By contrast, is it best to make an accommodation that allows the person to participate as fully as possible in the human experience given the set of skills they bring to the table without expecting more?

And, by “more” do we mean “more like us”?

Maybe, Limitless: Upgrade Your Brain, Learn Anything Faster, and Unlock Your Exceptional Life by Jim Kwik offers some answers.

One participant used the example of her work at a summer camp for special needs adults. There, she noticed at meal times some who she believed could have been capable to pour a drink for themselves from a pitcher on the table but that they didn’t simply because they had not been given the opportunity to try, thus they did not strive for more.

To that end, another participant suggested a Richard Lavoie workshop entitled Understanding learning disabilities: [frustration, anxiety, tension, the F.A.T. city workshop] How difficult can this be? would offer some insight. (*Available on DVD by requesting an Interlibrary Loan at our Reference Desk.)

By listening to one another at the Socrates Café, we gain valuable insight into our beliefs and how our answer to this question influence our decisions. The Socratic method allows us to see possibilities beyond our usual scope because we meet people who we might otherwise not have.

At each meetup, participants have an opportunity to hear other points of view, and to offer their ideas about the group’s chosen question of the day. We hope you’ll JOIN US!

First Mondays Mindfulness

mindfulness

Do you keep hearing about mindfulness?

Perhaps you have been wondering. “What is mindfulness practice anyway?”

Mindfulness has always been an integral part of yoga practice.

If you just thought, “No way! I’m not flexible enough to do all of those poses,” then read on.

Mindfulness is best described as mind-body awareness. So you do not need any special equipment. To participate, you can sit on a chair, on the floor, on a mat or on the ground in your yard if the weather is comfortable. You can stand, or even take a walk once you understand how to practice mindfulness.

The library offers FREE mindfulness sessions on Zoom, September through May, so you can participate from the comfort of your own home.

REGISTER HERE for 5PM, Monday, May 3, 2021. See you there! A new link will be posted for the fall dates.

Café Wrap: On Character

Once again our Socrates Café meet up did not disappoint!

The Big Q: Is it human nature to base our opinions on a person’s character based solely on our interactions with that person?

Early on in our conversation, general consensus divined that while our interactions with a person (or our understanding of their reputation) colors our first impression, further interaction hones what we perceive about one’s character.

In the case of a complete stranger, we gather our impression of their character based upon how we see them treat others or our direct interactions with them. But what if the person is having a particularly bad day just before our encounter with them? Could we be wrong about who they are and our assessment of their character?

Suppose you encounter a complete stranger. This stranger has stopped for gas and you meet her inside a convenience store while she’s waiting in line behind you to pay cash. Rudely, she cuts around you without apology. She’s agitated. In that moment, another customer yells at her saying, “Hey, what’s your problem?” and curses her out and shoves her. After choice words are exchanged, she leaves, jumps into her car and tears off narrowly missing someone who is walking from the gas pumps to the store.

“What sort of a person is this?” you ask yourself. What words spring to mind to describe her character?

  • Entitled
  • Rude
  • Uncaring
  • Self-centered

Later that day, you learn that the so-called stranger is actually a friend of a friend of yours! And, you learn what preceded the gas station encounter.

A single mom, she’s been having difficulty at work. Her boss had given the entire staff an ultimatum about arriving to work on time. Anyone not at his or her post by their scheduled start time will be fired. Although she’s never been late to work, today she overslept with good reason. She’d been up several times during the night with a child who has been experiencing night terrors. Exhausted, she didn’t hear her alarm.

To make matters worse, her car was low on gas which she’d originally planned to remedy by leaving home early enough to stop and fill up. Having overslept, if she drove straight to work, she was certain she could still make it there on time, but she couldn’t be one hundred percent sure that she wouldn’t run out of gas on the way. If she stopped for gas, she might or might not make it to work on time. That would depend on several things beyond her control. She decided her sure bet was to stop for gas on the way.

Again you ask, “What sort of person is this?” But knowing the background, new words spring to mind about her character.

  • Determined
  • Smart
  • Responsible
  • Caring

Do you think you could have a different take if you haven’t heard of a person or their reputation? Sometimes, your meeting with a person still doesn’t tell you much about his or her character.

One person cited the example of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain meeting Adolf Hitler in the late 1930s. Chamberlain believed Hitler was a man of his word and found him personable. He’d even hoped he might be remembered as “an apostle of peace,” though history finds Chamberlain’s assessment a serious error.

How you meet a person matters. You might see a TV interview and draw an entirely different conclusion about a person than if you had met them in person. First impressions, we decided, can be skewed. 

Some of us believe that we are pretty good at judging a person’s character based on a first impression, while others are more methodical and take time to gather more information. One said, “My first impression almost always is wrong. It takes me a long time to make up my mind about things.”

Another case we considered is serial killer Ted Bundy who was known as a “charming person.” The way someone interacts with us might not say anything at all about their character. An irritating person, for example, may turn out to be a good person but the things that you find irritating about them may influence your opinion of their character.

One participant asked us all to consider what we mean by the term “character.” He suggested that character may simply be a proxy to how we interact with others. While we may admit to having our own flaws, as humans we generally do a good job of covering them up (even if only to ourselves.)

He also cited examples of both President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., who were known to have the ability to deal with people, organize them and get things done. Still, both were also known as womanizing philanderers. So do we look at individual instances of behavior or do we judge character on the whole, based on something deeper?

Depth of character may not be just a matter of surface personality traits. The environment can change a person’s character. Does one defer to authority such as those who behaved in monstrous ways during the Stanford Prison Experiment to investigate the psychological effects of perceived power, or those whose egregious behavior was revealed in the Nuremberg trials of Nazi perpetrators?

This brought us to pose the question, are you born with character or is it created and changed by your experience?

While we do not claim to have answered the original question, we have gained valuable insight into what we think individually and how our belief about a person’s character squares with what the people around us believe. We’d love to have you join us at the next meet up of the Socrates Café.

Each meetup of the Socrates Café gives participants an opportunity to hear other points of view, and to offer their ideas about the question of the day.