Thursday, June 23, 2016

Wikipedia Trail: From Kalanos to the History of Hippies

One of the optional reading assignments I'd like to suggest as an extra credit option next semester (just as an experiment) is a "Wikipedia Trail."

The idea is that you start with one Wikipedia article that gets your attention from a link in the week's reading, write two or three sentences in your own words about that article (with a link to the article), and then choose a link in the article to another Wikipedia article, and then to another, and then to another. Follow your curiosity, taking notes about what interests you.. and see where you end up.

In the end, you will have visited four Wikipedia articles, and you can choose a favorite image from one of those four articles to include in the blog post... or more images if you want!

Here's an example of one such article. From the reading I did this week in Devdutt Pattanaik's Business Sutra, I'll start with a link to the article to the Indian sage known by the Greek name Kalanos:

~ ~ ~

1. Kalanos. Kalanus was a Hindu brahmin (holy man) who lived in the 4th century B.C.E. When Alexander the Great invaded India, he met Kalanos, and Kalanos then traveled with Alexander, teaching him about Indian philosophy. When he fell ill, he decided to end his life by setting himself on fire; he died in the city of Susa in the year 323 BCE.

Alexander the Great
hears the news of Kalanos's death

2. Gymnosophist. This Greek word means "naked philosopher," and it is a term first used by the Greek historian Plutarch to describe the ten gymnosophists that Alexander the Great met in northern India (now Pakistan). Plutarch presents this as a kind of riddling contest (quoted in the article). I like the first riddle best: Alexander asks, "Who is more numerous: the living or the dead?" and the Indian philosopher answers, "The living, because the dead no longer exist."

3. Gymnosophy. I was so surprised when I looked up this entry: it turns out there was a movement in early 20th-century Europe and American of modern "gymnosophists" who practiced nudity, asceticism, and meditation. It is connected to the nudist movement, the Wiccan movement, and to the hippies.

4. History of the hippie movement. This article would be a great jumping off point because it lists LOTS of precursors to the hippies of the 1960s. I had heard of some of these, like the Beat Generation and Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters, but I had not heard about the "Nature Boys" or about the Red Dog Experience. This is a very long article which I should come back and explore for fun!

And just to show how things come full circle, here's a picture in the hippie article that shows "a monument to the hippie era in Tamil Nadu, India" (photo by John Hill)... the Wikipedia trail started in India, and that's where it ended.

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