Boston-area arts letters

Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

A monument to ego

Why is it the Globe in general and Geoff Edgers in particular need to write articles sympathetic to self-absorbed egomaniacs? Normally, we’re only supposed to feel sorry for rich people in Milton who don’t like trucks or airplanes, but what Joe Wheelwright proposes is madness on an international scale (“Dorchester sculptor seeks to scale new artistic heights,” A1, Jan. 4).

First off, Machu Picchu does not need more tourists. The government of Peru is, in fact, trying to reduce the number of visitors. The story might have pointed this out had Edgers done any basic research. To deface the area around a UN cultural heritage site with the monstrosity he’s proposing boggles the mind. Having been lucky enough to be in that part of the world, I remember the beauty of the trip from Cusco to Machu Picchu. What’s the next “good idea” — zip lines across the ruins?

Sadly, the article validates Wheelwright’s warped thought process and may even encourage financial donations for this folly. I’ve written to friends in Peru with a link to the Globe’s article, so hopefully alarms can be raised and this nonsense stopped in its tracks.




A helpful distinction

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Thanks to Matthew Gilbert for his review of Jessica Lamb-Shapiro’s book on self-help books (“Help yourself,” g, Jan. 14). I am a former humanities and social studies teacher, and I fall in Wendy Kaminer’s and Steve Salerno’s camp, but probably with more derision of the current self-help movement than both of them combined.

I haven’t read Lamb-Shapiro’s book, but in her historical review I do hope she draws a sharp — and I mean sharp — distinction between the work of, say, Marcus Aurelius, and those of, say, Rhonda Byrne, Mhemet Oz, or even Deepak Chopra.

One of my greatest frustrations is how the latter get grouped in with the former and other great philosophers, leaders, and thinkers. I worry that this blending is having an impact on how the humanities and social sciences are being regarded to this day, as merely self-help, touchy-feely, feel-good subjectives, rather than fields of study that have stood the test of time, that help us develop a more complex, disciplined, and insightful understanding of the human being and our relationships with one another.

I find that great philosophers, poets, historians, authors, and the like are being used by so many self-help people and organizations, their messages watered down to offer a pain-free, optimistic, sugary, problem-free panacea for all that ails and all the world’s troubles.


It’s disturbing.

I do hope Lamb-Shapiro illustrates how these great thinkers — while maybe very loosely providing the historical foundation to the current self-help movement — all write, provoke, and call for self-knowledge and enlightenment at a very different, more disciplined, and sophisticated level.



Deeds matter

Thanks to Katharine Whittemore for her thoughtful, sensitive article on Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy (“The King legacy,” SundayArts, Jan. 19). I will be reading many of the books she mentioned soon.

I am a middle-school social studies teacher, and on the day after MLK Day I give an annual presentation titled, “Why weren’t you in school yesterday?” I focus on the Montgomery bus boycott, and my students, white and black, are incredulous when we act out the bus-boarding ritual that persons of color had to endure.


My message to them is that Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat that day was not, in itself, a huge event, but look how important it became? I then urge them, when they feel powerless, to do something, anything, no matter how small, to make things better. “What you do may not be important, but it is very important that you do it!”


Daytona Beach, Fla.

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