Kurt Diemberger + Philip Lieberman
Mnemonic Art Tour in the galleries
Karma Chain on the spiral staircase
Program in the theater
Book signing in the cafe
The accomplished alpinist Kurt Diemberger, born in Austria in 1932, is one of the world's most influential climbers. He is the only living person to have the distinction of two first ascents on the world's 8,000-meter peaks, both climbed without supplemental oxygen. He is the author of two fascinating autobiographical works, Summits & Secrets and Spirits of the Air. His portrayal of K2 The Endless Knot is especially powerful given that he was one of only two climbers to have survived the 1986 disaster on the world’s second-highest mountain in 1986.
Philip Lieberman, the George Hazard Crooker University Professor, Emeritus at Brown University, has been studying the evolution of human language and thought for more than forty years. His Mount Everest research project showed that the basal ganglia, structures deep within the brain that date back hundreds of millions of years, are affected by low oxygen levels at extreme altitudes and climbers become unable to adjust to changing conditions. Speech, language and emotional problems also occur. The evolution of modern human beings involved Darwinian Natural Selection enhancing human basal ganglia functions about 260,000 years ago. Lieberman's other present interests include photographic documentation of Tibetan and Himalayan culture and mountain walking
Presented in association with the American Alpine Club (NY Chapter).
Mnemonic Art Tour
Take advantage of a short tour of some paintings in the collection that function as mnemonic devices. The iconography in these paintings serve to reference specific passages in the sutras. That is why most of these works were not meant to be revealed to those who were not already initiates. The tour will include two types of paintings: narratives such as the life of the Buddha, and mandalas which are complex two-dimensional diagrams of one’s multi-dimensional state of mind.
As a prelude to the staged program, we are planning to stage a simple game of ‘telephone’ prior to the session to demonstrate the fallibility of oral transmission and the nature of short-term memory. Each ticket holder will stand on one of the steps of the 108-stepped spiral staircase of the Museum. The guest speaker stands at the base, whispers a short phrase they have prepared to the visitor on the first step, and the phrase would spiral up through the line until it reaches the ear of the scientist. The conversationalists will only reveal the original phrase and the result phrase when on stage in the theater, thus starting the conversation about memory.