“[D]ualism of experience–the fact that all objects have both an inside and an outside…It is one of the great mysteries of the universe, that has intrigued man since remotest times. It is the basis of the belief in souls and spirits. Man discovered it and elaborated it because of his own self-reflexivity, the real and apparent contradiction between the inside of his body–his thoughts and feelings, and the outside…These are hardly new or startling thoughts, but they help us to introduce the problem of man’s distinctive interiority…”
Becker goes on to explain that this reality “presents a poignant problem that dogs us all our life.” I would suggest that not only does it “dog us” it also imprisons or sets us free. How we view the “inside” of man, is directly related not only to our own value and happiness but our right to pursue that happiness.
The Washington Post last week published a Religion News Service commentary: “Blasphemy charges pervert Islam’s teachings,” by Qasim Rashid. At first glance this looks like RNS and the WaPo giving space to a thoughtful moderate Muslim speaking up sensibly for the freedom of conscience. Unfortunately, although not surprisingly, that is not exactly what this is. Instead of being devoted to genuine Islamic reform, Qasim Rashid’s work is largely devoted to whitewashing atrocities committed in the name of Islam and justified by Islamic texts and teachings.
Also, as I wrote last week, for Leftists like Qasim Rashid, “people deemed ‘right-wing’ are unworthy of respect, and unworthy even of basic courtesy.” It constantly amazes me how slavering with hatred and frenzied contempt are the self-appointed exponents of “tolerance” and “love for all, hatred for none” when they are confronted with those whom they regularly smear with charges of “hatred” and “bigotry.” For all his pious posturing as an observant Ahmadi Muslim, Rashid is not only chronically dishonest, but is also a spectacularly unpleasant, nasty, rude, arrogant human being.
In the Washington Post piece he lies about the basis that laws calling for the imprisonment and/or execution of blasphemers have within the Qur’an and Sunnah. Here is the difference between actual reform and hypocritical deception: a sincere reformer will confront and refute the arguments that support the doctrine he is trying to reform; a deceiver will ignore those arguments, not mention the scriptural passages or other teachings that support the doctrine in question, and pretend that the doctrine doesn’t exist at all.
That’s what Qasim Rashid does here. He assembles a case for why “blasphemy charges pervert Islam’s teachings” without ever mentioning the Islamic foundations for blasphemy laws, thereby leaving a massive gaping hole in his own case by leaving unanswered this question: if “blasphemy charges pervert Islam’s teachings,” why are there so many perverts? If the Qur’an and Muhammad taught the freedom of conscience so clearly, why do so many Muslims misunderstand what they say, including the Islamic governments of Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere?
Louis Farrakhan, born in New York City in 1933, started out in life as a talented musician. Training intensively on the violin from the age of six, he played with the Boston College orchestra and the Boston Civic Symphony, appeared and won an award on Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour, and won national competitions as a teenager. In the 1950s Farrakhan—or Louis Wolcott as he was then known—took a different musical tack as a calypso performer. He recorded albums, toured, and in 1955 headlined a show in Chicago called “Calypso Follies.” In other words, Louis Wolcott could have gone on contributing something positive to society as a musician and entertainer.
But that year, 1955, in Chicago, he embarked on a different path. Through a friend, Wolcott came into contact with the Nation of Islam, an antiwhite, antisemitic, African-American organization founded in the 1930s. Wolcott joined, converted to Islam, renounced music, and—in a profound sense—was no more, having morphed into Louis Farrakhan. And Farrakhan quickly rose through the Nation of Islam’s ranks, becoming its leading figure by the early 1980s. He has also been, for decades, America’s most vicious antisemitic rabble-rouser, poisoning thousands of minds or exacerbating poison that was already there. As Discover the Networks notes:
For many years, Farrakhan has ranked among the most influential black figures in America. He draws enormous, standing-room-only crowds of listeners wherever he speaks. An October 1992 lecture he gave in Atlanta actually outdrew a World Series game played there that same night….
Farrakhan’s October 16, 1995 “Million Man March” [in Washington] drew several hundred thousand attendees….
Farrakhan’s venues for speeches include mosques, churches, and universities, as well as online lectures. At Madison Square Garden in 1985, he addressed a notable but typical statement to Jews: “And don’t you forget, when it’s God who puts you in the ovens, it’s forever!”
Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
Sarah Silverman, Hipster Jew Goddess.
Last week the Forward covered a “trendy Jewish spoken word” happening in the trendy neighborhood of Park Slope in the trendy part of trendy New York City known as Brooklyn. If the E! network hasn’t made you wary enough of the word “trendy” this article surely should. Basically, it’s about a doctoral student and an app techie using grant funding to study what makes Judaism trendy with millennials. And if that doesn’t set off any alarm bells in your head, let me be very clear: the title “Sermon Slam” shouldn’t fool you. Despite the religious-themed location, if God was invited to join in the party it was to sit and be talked at, not about let alone with.
For those of you unfamiliar with Judaism or hip lingo: Instead of reading the Torah portion, and perhaps even the Haftarah portion, then wrestling with the meaning of the portion through a discussion involving comparative texts, the Sermon Slam for young adults involves attacking the weekly Torah portion with a style akin to a poetry slam – rough-edged spoken verse rooted in the performer’s emotions and personal (potentially uneducated) perspective:
“Spoken word poetry has become increasingly sexy. …When you synergize that with something that sounds boring, like a sermon… it’s an ancient tradition that we’re now embracing and making our own. It’s for the people, by the people. That feels exciting to those of us in our 20s and 30s.”
I’m far from Orthodox, in fact I don’t identify as a Rabbinic Jew (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, or Reconstructionist) at all. But this self aggrandizing hyperbole annoys me more than black hatters arguing over sleeve length ever could. Seriously, is Judaism so desperate for adherents that we’re getting grant funding to make the Torah “sexy”?
It gets worse. Apparently making the Torah “sexy” doesn’t involve actually reading the Torah as much as it involves creating a postmodern pastiche of Biblical words and pop culture lingo:
References to iPhones and to Facebook popped up in the same sentence as “Kiddush.” And the hallowed Hebrew names of God, “Adonai” and “Elohim,” were uttered in the same breath as “s–t.”
And now you know why I avoid obnoxious hipster Judaism like the plague. With its goddess worship of Sarah Silverman and Lena Dunham and its conversion of New York into the New Zion, this religion has nothing to do with God and Torah and everything to do with Judaizing the kind of liberal self help ethos already prolific within the New Age and Buddhist movements. What’s next for Sermon Slam, a Chopra-esque two-hour fundraising featurette on PBS?
Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
As the world mourned the loss of Soviet evangelist Pete Seeger last week, I encountered stories of real Soviets who found God, not in the hammer and sickle of the USSR, but in the smuggled bootleg lyrics of the Beatles.
How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin is a fascinating narrative detailing Soviet Baby Boomers’ covert love affair with the Fab Four. Interviewing a variety of Russian Beatlemaniacs, including many post-Communist music scene movers and shakers, over the course of nearly two decades, British filmmaker Leslie Woodhead discovered that The Beatles were much more than a band in the U.S.S.R. For many Soviet teens, The Beatles were a glimpse at independence, freedom, and even God.
The idea that a rock and roll band could provoke the understanding of the intertwining of God and freedom, let alone inspire a search for the divine, is one that is largely lost on an American audience. After all, as Soviet teens risked Kremlin hellfire to listen to Beatles tracks, their American counterparts in the Bible Belt were throwing their records on bonfires, forced by a religious hierarchy that saw John Lennon and his band as a threat to Christ. Rock music then became the stuff of hippies, the class that scoffed at religious institutions and, like The Beatles, sought divine encounters and self-empowerment through eastern religions.
Arguably, the advocates of Beatles burnings did more to harm Christ’s reputation and following than John Lennon ever could. After all, as he explained, his ironic quip about Jesus was more of a warning than a declaration:
“I’m not anti-God, anti-Christ or anti-religion. I was not saying we are greater or better. I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I’m sorry I said it, really. I never meant it to be a lousy anti-religious thing. From what I’ve read, or observed, Christianity just seems to be shrinking, to be losing contact.”
Ironically, it’s a warning that post-Soviet leaders like Vladimir Putin have heeded with their own political purposes in mind.
We felt it important to tell you that Barry has been in a coma since Friday. Thank you for all the warm wishes these past few months, you have all been very thoughtful. Please keep him in your prayers. We will keep you updated.
To our great sadness, Barry passed away this morning. He was surrounded by his wife and children. Your love, support, and prayers have been greatly appreciated. There will be shiva and a funeral, details to follow soon.
I wrote about Barry’s impact on me this past August as part of a series of my most important intellectual influences:
Barry Rubin is PJ Media’s Middle East editor. For the last least three years, his Rubin Reports blog has served as the roadmap to the Middle East that I rely on the most. Written from the center of the storm in Israel, his typical columns are densely filled with facts and fascinating observations. Perhaps the crucial insight that I’ve gained from trying to keep up with Barry all these years — he tends to publish his loaded analyses very prolifically, not that I’m complaining! — is the depth of complexity to the Middle East. The game is not a chessboard between two sides, and there are rarely easy answers given that there are so many different actors on the field.
But Barry has gone out of his way, dedicated his life really, to trying to help people understand better the chaos in the Middle East. Recently he decided to GIVE AWAY 13 of his books. These titles of his are available in convenient online and downloadable PDF reading. It’s a lifetime’s worth of scholarship in the history and politics of the Middle East:
As the above list of Barry’s titles shows, he jumps all over the place in trying to understand the many different angles of the Middle East. I confess: foreign policy was what dragged me into leftist activism and then fueled my shift to conservative activism, but it was Barry’s writing above all others that turned me into a full-blown foreign policy geek. Because of him I feel like I could pick up just about any book on a Middle Eastern country, culture or an individual and be interested and excited to learn from it. For that — and for much else — I’ve thanked him privately and now I do so publicly.
Professor Barry Rubin, is more than one of the great intellectual defenders of Israel, he was my teacher and a friend. When we first met, it was Barry who taught me to change from being a frothing at the mouth lunatic to a thoughtful commentator. He taught me to discern the quality of information coming from the trash. In 2009 when I was leading the charge against Chas Freeman’s nomination to a key Obama National security spot, It was Barry Rubin giving me advice on future steps.
Barry was a consummate teacher. When he first took Ill, he made all of his scholarly books available for free online because he wanted people to be able to learn from him even after he was gone.
You can read Barry’s last two PJ Media posts, from January 21, here:
Did you know Barry? Do you have any memories to share about how he or his words touched your life? Please send me an email: DaveSwindlePJM [@] Gmail.com.
When I’m feeling less like a crushed tin can I’ll write about getting to know Barry over the years, how his writings changed the way I see the world, and how now that he’s gone I will continue to fight his battles for a world where Jew, Muslim, Christian, and people of all faiths live together peacefully in mutual respect and prosperity.
How clueless and compromised are this country’s moneyed Leftist elites? This clueless and compromised. Intersections International, a group that styles itself as dedicated to promoting “peacemaking” and “interfaith outreach,” is honoring the Leftist media’s darling of the moment, Reza Aslan, “for his work at the intersection of religion, scholarship, and global peacemaking.”
This is not hearsay or rumor; there is an abundance of evidence for it. Michael Rubin noted in February 2013 that “Jamal Abdi, NIAC’s policy director, now appears to push aside any pretense that NIAC is something other than Iran’s lobby. Speaking at the forthcoming ‘Expose AIPAC’ conference, Abdi is featured on the ‘Training: Constituent Lobbying for Iran’ panel. Oops.”
Reza Aslan is a busy man, living a life of hectic vacancy as he rushes from one adoring Leftist crowd to another, and it may be that in between media appearances to tout (and wildly overstate) his credentials, he just hasn’t had the time to find out what NIAC is all about. That’s unlikely, however, as his own words and actions are consistent with this affiliation. He tried to pass off Iran’s frenziedly antisemitic and genocidally-minded former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a liberal reformer, even calling on the U.S. government to negotiate with him, as well as with the jihad terror group Hamas.
Israeli Rabbi Kaduri predicted in 2005 that the Messiah would return “soon” after the death of Ariel Sharon who died on January 11, 2014.
Anytime you want to start a lively discussion among Christians just ask the question, “Will Jesus return in your lifetime?”
Then of course, some Bible thumper will immediately quote the famous scripture verse from Matthew 24:36:
“However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.” (New Living Translation)
Mindful that believers can never know, but only speculate about the exact date of the “Second Coming” – here are some interesting facts enfolding in 2014 relating to events on earth and in the sky.
First, let’s begin with the earthly facts concerning an Orthodox Israeli Rabbi named Yitzhak Kaduri who died on January 28, 2006 at over 100 years of age. (There is debate over Kaduri’s exact age at his death ranging from 108 to 104.)
From this short video you will learn about Rabbi Kaduri and the mysteries that are still swirling around him eight years after his death.
As mentioned in the video, Rabbi Kaduri publicly stated in a sermon that the Messiah, who Kaduri said had revealed himself to him, was going to appear to Israel “soon” after the death of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Not mentioned was Kaduri gave the sermon in 2005 on Yom Kippur, the holiest of Jewish holidays when Ariel Sharon was Prime Minister of Israel.
At the time this video was produced Sharon was still “alive” but in a coma, after suffering a massive stroke on January 4, 2006.
Then on January 11, 2014 Sharon finally died after eight years in a coma and his obituary from the Washington Post stated the following:
The man who chose the title “Warrior” for his autobiography was for much of his career the darling of the Israeli right, which chanted “Arik, King of Israel!” invoking his nickname and comparing him to the legendary biblical King David.
Is it coincidental that Jesus is also often referred to as “The King of Israel?”
A group called American Atheists is sponsoring a digital billboard near MetLife Stadium targeted at Super Bowl attendees. Six times each hour through Super Bowl Sunday the billboard will proclaim, “A ‘Hail Mary’ Only Works in Football. Enjoy the Game!”
“Prayer is superstition, plain and simple,” says American Atheists President David Silverman.
It trivializes the dedication of the players and takes away from their achievements. A third of football fans pray in hopes of helping their team. These are adults we’re talking about—people with children, people with careers, people who vote. It’s 2014; it’s time to stop believing that prayer works. Give credit where credit is due and celebrate what this is really about—coming together to cheer on hard-working athletes doing what they do best.
On Fox News’ The Five on Friday, Greg Gutfeld seemed to agree. ”If prayer actually works in a game no one would ever lose,” Gutfeld said. He added, “I don’t believe God designed the world on who’s the best pray-er.”
On the surface, Gutfeld and the atheists have a point. Several years ago when my son was playing football for a Christian school, the teams would huddle together before the games for a short prayer. As the team’s captain, Ryan was often called upon to lead the prayer, along with the captain of the opposing team. He admitted at one point that it didn’t seem right for both teams to pray to win and he thought it was especially awkward to pray for a win in the presence of the other team. They were, after all, asking God to bestow his favor upon one Christian team and not the other. How would God ever choose? Would he pick the team with the “best” Christians? The most fervent pray-ers? Or does God not bother with such trivial things as the outcomes of football games?
In the end, my son decided that he would pray for all the players to do their best and that God would protect them. He also prayed that he and the other boys would demonstrate Christ-like attitudes on the field and that they would honor God in the way they played the game. He would leave the outcome up to God and then play to win.
So does God care who wins the Super Bowl or the curling competition at the Winter Olympics or your family’s Monopoly game? Two of God’s attributes, his omniscience and his sovereignty, as described in the Bible, help to explain God’s view of matters that may seem trivial upon first glance.
“What we do is we take down all 100 cities in the U.S. and we take the top, take the bottom and everything in between,” Geof Morin, Chief Communications Officer for the American Bible Society, said. “It’s a combination of not just readership … but engagement, which is a language term for does the Bible get its fair shake in folks’ lives?”
“In the southeast, you have a strong penetration of the Bible in churches, as you would imagine, but in these cities — the ones that made the top 5 in particular — if you look at them, it’s not just church attendance that stacks up here. It’s personal engagement with the scriptures, it’s small groups of people who gather together and, in some cases, some community-wide efforts to invite people to engage, to read and live out the Bible,” Morin told Fox News Chief Religion Correspondent Lauren Green.
The top five cities on the survey are Chattanooga, TN, Birmingham/Tuscaloosa/Anniston, AL, Roanoke/Lynchburg, VA, Springfield, MO, and Shreveport, LA. Among the top 25 cities, only three – Charlotte, Nashville, and Dallas – have populations of one million or more households. Conversely, many of the cities on the bottom of the list are located in the Northeast.
“There’s churches and lots of folks involved in religious activity, but the penetration of the Bible, the means by which people can personally engage it and find ways to live it out are encouraged to do so, has dropped, which puts these folks at the bottom of the list,” Morin said.
I came to Buddhism, like a lot of people in the 60s, through Zen.
I’ll warn you that the video is about 12 minutes long, but that’s a really good talk by Alan Watts, whose books were among my first teachers of Buddhism. There are probably a dozen columns in it, so it’s a real time saver.
Zen, as Alan explains, is widely imagined in the West to be anti-intellectual, but it really isn’t — it’s, instead, non-intellectual. It says that underneath the intellectual uinderstanding of Buddhism, there is a place where you are already the Buddha; Zen is, as Alan says, a way of directly pointing to that underlying reality that simply can’t be achieved intellectually.
So, of course, I’m going to write today about reading and writing and how my academic studies have affected my understanding.
I didn’t really start reading the sutras until … well, I guess it’s been quite a long time now, ten years or more, but seeing as I’ve been a Buddhist for something getting close to 50 years, it really came rather late in life. I started with the maha-prajña-paramita-sutra, the “Great Sutra at the Heart of Wisdom”. Fairly short, pithy, and very obscure on first reading. There are all these words for which the translations aren’t very satisfactory. So I started reading more widely, into the Pali Canon, the Tripitaka, and reading various people’s commentaries, and paying more attention to studying Sanskrit and Chinese.
This isn’t really foreign to Zen; there are lots of writings used in teaching Zen, and lots to be learned from them. I was thinking about listing some, but I think I’ll save that for another column. In the year I’ve been writing these columns, I’ve really found pretty much everything can be taken back to the Dharmachakra Sutra, the first teaching Buddha offered, directly after his Liberation. That’s where he first explains the Eightfold Path and the Four Great Truths.
We on the Right may find ourselves tempted at times to look at the failures of Obama’s presidency and think that we’ve won. We may think that we’ve proven, once and for all, that stifling statism and stealth socialism cannot prevail in America.
West, a Republican, said he recently reread the Cloward-Piven strategy, proposed by two sociologists and political activists in 1966. The purpose of the strategy, offered to Democrats at the time, was to overload the welfare system so that people could be given “a guaranteed annual income and thus an end to poverty.”
Obama’s economic policies may be intended to do something similar, West hinted during a Wednesday appearance on Fox News Channel’s ”On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.”
“We’re seeing an incredible growth of the welfare nanny state; we’re seeing the poverty rolls explode; we’re seeing the food stamp rolls explode; we’re seeing more dependency on government largesse and programs,” he said. “We’re seeing a desperation and a despondency out there that’s being created by this administration.”
Authors Richard Andrew Cloward and Frances Fox Piven proposed a plan to end capitalism quickly by overloading bureaucracy with dependents so that the system would collapse under its own weight.
They proposed a “massive drive to recruit the poor onto the welfare rolls.” Cloward and Piven calculated that persuading even a fraction of potential welfare recipients to demand their entitlements would bankrupt the system. The result, they predicted, would be “a profound financial and political crisis” that would unleash “powerful forces for major economic reform at the national level.”
Their strategy involved a radical tactic known as community organizing (sound familiar?) to whip the poor into a frenzy and drive them on to welfare rolls. Voting-rights drives and a push for a “living wage” factored in to the Cloward-Piven strategy as well. Cloward and Piven were also reportedly behind the controversy in the 2000 presidential election.
Does all of this sound far fetched? Bear in mind that, like President Obama, Cloward and Piven were disciples of Saul Alinsky.
I sure hope I’m wrong, but if Obama’s policies thus far are part of a Cloward-Piven styled strategy, 2014 is more crucial than ever in terms of stemming the tide of stealth socialism.
The Huffington Post has published yet another article extolling the virtues of the orthodox Christian view of Jesus Christ – no, of course I am not serious. The Huffington Post would never publish something as right wing and sectarian as that. No, what the HuffPo has published is another in a long string of articles in praise of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, who is a much more palatable figure to the American Left.
The latest, “What Studying Muhammad Taught Me About Islam,” published in the HuffPo last week, is as risible as Karen Armstrong’s likening Muhammad to Gandhi, and is as gracefully written as a seventh grader’s book report. But for the Huffington Post, accuracy and quality are of no import: if it downplays the grim reality of Islamic jihad terror, then it’s good enough for them.
“In this short essay,” says Considine in his irredeemably clunky prose, “I want to share with you what I have learned about Muhammad and how his legacy informs my understanding of Islam. Muhammad’s beliefs on how to treat religious minorities make him a universal champion of human rights, particularly as it pertains to freedom of conscience, freedom of worship, and the right for minorities to have protection during times of strife.”
Sunday, January 26th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
America is celebrating The Beatles’ Jubilee. 50 years ago this year The Fab Four landed on this side of the Atlantic and the ’60s officially began. (At least, that is, according to PBS.) With the announcement that Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the two surviving Beatles, will reunite at the Grammys on January 26 and perform a concert to air on February 9, 50 years to the day of their Ed Sullivan premiere, it would seem that Beatlemania (unlike much of organized religion) is making a resurgence in pop culture. Think the Fab Four are so yesterday? Think again:
A 2009 Pew Research Center survey placed the Beatles in the top four favorite music acts of Americans ages 16 to 64 — suggesting the band that helped create the 1960s Generation Gap ultimately helped us come together. Perhaps that’s the Beatles’ greatest gift: music that can be shared not only across the universe, but across generational lines.
Imagine a mathematician trying to quantify each Beatles’ album with Martha Stewart-like graphics. Wait, you don’t have to, just check out one Millennial’s 4 Simple Charts Visualizing The Beatles’ Major Albums and you’ll find out that The Beatles aren’t just for rock n’rollers, they’re for nerds, too. ”A new project on Kickstarter aims to tap into the passion of teenyboppers young and old withVisualising the Beatles, a book of infographics about each of the Fab Four’s major records.” Seriously: If that doesn’t make you want to start a Revolution, nothing will.
“Thanks to a book by Enzo Gentile and Fabio Schiavo, appropriately titled “The Beatles in Comic Strips,” we’ve been enlightened on the Fab Four’s history of comic book appearances. From subtle cameos to entire issues, the group managed to squeeze their iconic faces and psychedelic style into more than a few works of comic art.”
“The most expensive of the bunch, the Sk8-Hi Reissue, features stylized portraits of all four Beatles running up the ankles apropos to cartoon portraits of each as they were animated for the film. The other shoes each feature psychedelic tableaus from the film. The Classic Slip-Ons play off the movie’s Sea of Monsters, showing trippy marine life swimming in an ocean of pink. The Era shoes depict all four band members, some wearing rainbow pants, hanging out in a yellow garden. And the final pair, a model called Authentic, is adorned with a pattern that reads “Allyouneedislove” running over and over again and into itself in purple, yellow and green.”
“I made one promise to myself on day one. I was not going to let it alter my life except in ways where were, sort of, having to do with gravity. I’m not going to defy gravity and I’m not going to walk and I’m not going to water ski again. That’s fine. So that you know. But on the big things in life, the direction of my life, what I was going to do, that wouldn’t change at all.”
Krauthammer told Baier that he never entertained the possibility that he would walk again. He accepted his fate and focused on accomplishing his goals in life regardless of his disabilities. Despite overwhelming hardships, Krauthammer managed to graduate from medical school with his class and went on to a residency at Massachusetts General Hospital.
He ran into some unexpected problems, however, during his psychiatry residency, when all residents were required to attend “group therapy” once a week. Krauthammer refused to attend. “I thought, it’s a pointless exercise. So I was called into the chief’s office after about seven weeks of non-appearance.” Krauthammer explained that he was there to give therapy, not receive it. “The chief of residency told Krauthammer he was in denial. “And I said, ‘Of course I’m in denial! Denial is the greatest of all defense mechanisms. I could be a professor of denial. I’m an expert at denial!’ Krauthammer said. The chief “was not amused.”
Krauthammer completed the required therapy, though he mostly refused to participate in the sessions:
“I’m not a big therapy guy…I don’t like to talk about myself…I’m not a touchy — I’m not a feely guy. That’s probably why I quit psychiatry. If you’re not into feelings and emotions and all the backstory then you ought to be doing something else.”
Sometime in the 6th century (see “About Dates” below) not far south of the Himalayan mountains on the Indian subcontinent, a man laid out a simple idea: people are unhappy, lack peace of mind, because they cling to their illusions and fantasies about the world instead of seeing things as they are.
Traditional accounts agree his personal name was Siddhartha, “the successful one” or “the one who achieves”, which was a popular name then and is popular today. His gotra family name was Gautama, and he was born into a clan called the Shakya, of the Kshatriya or “warrior” class. His father was named Suddhodana, and his mother was named Mayadevi. Suddhodana is usually called a “king” but he was an elected ruler, and the Shakya’s government was something more or less like a republic.
The traditions say he was born prematurely, and unexpectedly, under a tree in a place called Lumbini, and recent archeological discoveries show that there was indeed a tree-shrine at the location the tradition identifies. Mayadevi died shortly after Siddhartha’s birth.
Siddhartha was raised as a rich princeling, but he left this life of wealth to become a renunciate, and eventually became known as a teacher called “the one who woke up” — the Buddha.
The first written records we have, however, are from at least a century after his death, and most of the written texts describing his life and teaching were first written down more than 500 years after he died. Many of these stories are fantastic, magical — and, as they say, they probably grew in the telling.
Can we look into these stories, the sutras, and see more clearly what this man’s original teachings were? What he taught before the sutras were written down?
I learned recently that Carleton University in the nation’s capital, Ottawa, following in the footsteps of other Canadian universities, has set aside a designated and enlarged prayer space, intended mainly for Muslim students who, as the Ottawa Citizenreports, “pray five times a day and for years have suggested that they need more room.” Otherwise, as president of the Muslim Student Association Mohamed Abdalla informs us, students end up praying in stairwells or libraries. That would clog up the works p.d.q., especially when convened five times a day.
Such accommodation, however, has no place in the public mandate of the academy’s parietal affairs, and Muslim students who proceed to foreground their faith in this disruptive manner should perhaps consider attending a Muslim university, or no university at all. The easing of the prayer crunch by constructing or expanding a designated venue, accepted by the author of the Citizen puff job as a prudent expedient, should not disguise the fact that public prayer (and in particular numerous prayer sessions punctuating the scholarly habitat) has no place in the Western university whatsoever.
I do not believe that Muslim students need more room. I believe that they need less mollycoddling and fewer concessions made in the name of their religious convictions. The university is a secular institution operating under an implicit code of academic conduct, which stipulates, inter alia, that classes be attended, that academic work proceed under rules of normative and respectable behavior, that examinations be held and properly invigilated, that modes of dress not be offensive, and that religious observances not interfere with a course of study. Allowing students to march five times a day to a prayer room in the midst of pursuing a concentrated program of academic activity, whether in the middle of a class or in the middle of a test or in the middle of a joint research project, does not seem an optimum means of following a university curriculum.
Of course, one need not stop at prayer rooms. Recently, the University of Regina has accommodated its Muslim students by installing specialized sinks for pre-prayer washing of feet, at the cost of $35,000. The entire tone of the Saskatchewan News article reporting on this glorious event is complaisantly favorable; after all, as journalist Aaron Stuckel educates us, “All Muslims have to purify themselves before they can pray to their god, Allah”—and the temporal Western university is, on this view, just the right place for foot baths to assist a sacralised washing ritual at multiple intervals during the academic day.
A controversy has recently erupted over a species of abject propitiation at York University that illustrated the academy’s dilemma over competing rights. A male student, whose name is being withheld, had asked to be excused from attending a class where female students form the majority, because the presence of women interfered, as Martin Singer, dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies deposed, with his “firm religious values.” The professor in question, J. Paul Grayson of the Department of Sociology, rejected his request on the principle of gender equity. The administration, however, sided with the student and admonished the professor for refusing to “accommodate” the defector, on the principle of religious freedom. Singer afterward glossed the episode by declaring he was bound by the Ontario Human Rights Code, a fancy title for the sanctimonious folly of cultural, ethnic and religious appeasement that is denaturing the province and the country.
Woke up today 2rpt Aerial Sharon has died. As young teen I did media interview @ Dallas protest against Sharon over Sabra & Shatila. #Killer
Leftist cartoonist Carlos Latuff drew a cartoon of Sharon walking down a stairway into hell, weighed down by leg iron balls labeled “Sabra,” “Shatila,” “Qibya,” and “Jenin,” while a righteous figure clad all in white except for a Palestinian flag over his chest looked on.
So this is how I heard it. On the night before Siddhartha Awakened, as he contemplated the problem of suffering that had caused him to leave home, he became aware of his innumerable past lives. He saw himself as predator, and as prey; he saw himself as deer hunter, and as the hunted deer; he saw himself as the rape victim and the rapist; as the adulterer and as the cuckold; as eater and as the one being eaten. He saw that in every case, actions and their consequences had led to each event, and that consequences had inevitably followed. He saw the suffering in everything, and he felt pity and compassion for every being because he saw in himself the potential for every failing he had seen in others.
In Sanskrit, this is called karuna; you can translate it as empathy, or compassion, or even tenderness.
I’ve got Buddhist friends in many traditions. Some of them were discussing a recent story about Bodu Bala Sema — “Buddhist Power Force”, which really sounds like it ought to be a live-action Saturday morning kid’s show — rallying the Buddhists of Sri Lanka against the Muslim Tamils. This follows the Sri Lankan civil war, which followed the collapse of a cease-fire agreement with the Tamil Tigers in 2002, which followed an insurgency of 20-odd years, which followed anti-Tamil discrimination, which followed … and followed … and followed … on into the past.
Many are beginning to recognize that there is more to the so-called “culture war” issues than mere disagreements over abortion and gay marriage. It’s becoming increasingly clear that something more basic is afoot. In many cases our most treasured American rights — freedom of speech and freedom of religion — have been diminished as the czars of political correctness desire to create a nation where tolerance is redefined to mean tolerance only of culturally acceptable viewpoints. Those of us on the outside of this new cultural orthodoxy find ourselves not only marginalized from the public square of ideas, but increasingly, on the wrong side of the law. We’re warned to keep our religion in our churches as many attempt to make a distinction between freedom of worship and freedom of religion, the former allowing only for private expressions of faith.
Liberals — I like to call them illiberal liberals — are often the most vocal perpetrators of intolerance against unpopular viewpoints, but a fair number of those who profess to be of the libertarian persuasion also have a penchant for trying to silence those with whom they disagree on certain issues. The justification for this squelching of speech is usually some version of “sticks and stones may break my bones…and your words are mean, so you have forfeited your right to speak in public.” The libertarian version of this is (paradoxically), “You’re embarrassing us and making our side unelectable. Knock it off.”
It’s not uncommon in our modern political discourse for ridicule to replace dialogue and open hostility to replace genuine debate, to the detriment of our country and our humanity. Those who demand silence from those with whom they disagree dishonor the principles of liberty upon which our republic was founded. Those who use the courts or who pass laws to force Americans to violate their religious principles trample on the graves of those who fought to defend our liberty through the ages.
In other words, the publisher of the magazine that prints articles informing readers they should advocate for:
“Job guarantees” through the non-profit (i.e. taxpayer funded) sector
A “universal basic income” funded through (taxpayer-based) Social Security
The creation of a “simple land-value tax”
A taxpayer-funded “sovereign wealth fund”
Taxpayer-funded state-owned public banks
doesn’t need to tell you one darn thing about the amount of taxes they do (or don’t) pay. Who knows? Wenner Media might just qualify as one of Meyerson’s despised “megacorporations”. The fact that the company’s co-founder, Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, is worth a cool $700 million makes you think twice, unless you’re some twentysomething hack who has a proclivity for overusing the word “blow.” Did the editors have to cut out his Beavis and Butthead-like chuckles from the text? No wonder the guy is advocating for a government-funded job watering that fern in his Williamsburg apartment (or, as he prefers to call it, “urban farming”); the only reason he managed to swing a writing gig is because he’s a glorified mouthpiece for the same yuppie political hucksters he claims to be fighting against. That’s right, Meyerson’s a Tool for the Machine. Huh-huh-huh, I said tool.
Forget the fact that the guy who thinks we have an unemployment problem because available jobs are “menial” and “boring” is also the same guy who believes putting every adult on an auto-pay system will actually improve individual well-being, stimulate the economy, and spark a cultural renaissance in “painting murals.” You can’t reason with stupid. You can only laugh at the irony of a Marxist hippie ideology being parroted in a magazine created by a Marxist hippie that has become a pathetic homage to ideas so dense and ridiculous that their owners, like Jann Wenner, long ago left them in the dustbin to pursue successful truths, like capitalism, the free market, and the ability to own private corporations.
Congratulations, kid, you’ve been duped. But at least Mr. Wenner and the 30% of Rolling Stone readers whose income exceeds $100,000 a year were kind enough to redistribute some of their money your way.
Pope Francis may get letters this year from kings and presidents and grand muftis, but it is highly unlikely that he will receive a letter nearly as important as the one he got in December from an impoverished and imprisoned woman in Pakistan.
This pontiff has famously made it a hallmark of his pontificate to show especial care for the downtrodden and outcast, and so he may yet answer Asia Bibi and speak out on her behalf, but there are good reasons to bet against that happening.
It all started for Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Catholic wife and mother, on June 14, 2009 – or more precisely, it all ended for her on that day. She recounted in August 2013:
I, Asia Bibi, have been sentenced to death because I was thirsty. I’m a prisoner because I used the same cup as those Muslim women, because water served by a Christian woman was regarded as unclean by my stupid fellow fruit-pickers.
Picking fruit with a group of Muslim women, Bibi was ordered to fetch water for them – and drank a bit of it herself in the stifling heat. A Muslim woman rebuked her for doing so, saying to the other women: “Listen, all of you, this Christian has dirtied the water in the well by drinking from our cup and dipping it back several times. Now the water is unclean and we can’t drink it! Because of her!”
Bibi stood up to her, responding: “I think Jesus would see it differently from Mohammed.” That drove the Muslim women into a fury, and they started yelling at Bibi: “How dare you think for the Prophet, you filthy animal!” That’s right, you’re just a filthy Christian! You’ve contaminated our water and now you dare speak for the Prophet! Stupid bitch, your Jesus didn’t even have a proper father, he was a bastard, don’t you know that. You should convert to Islam to redeem yourself for your filthy religion.”
The embattled woman stood her ground, responding: “I’m not going to convert. I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind? And why should it be me that converts instead of you?”
Several days later, she was arrested for blasphemy as an enraged mob beat her and screamed, “Death! Death to the Christian!” She has been in prison ever since, awaiting execution for her “crime.”
In her letter to Pope Francis, Bibi wrote: “I do not know how long I can go on and on. If I am still alive, it is thanks to the strength that your prayers give me. I have met many people who speak and fight for me. Unfortunately still to no avail. At this time I just want to trust the mercy of God, who can do everything, that all is possible. Only He can liberate me.”
“The U.S. has a system of control and repression that consists of secret institutions (secret judgments, concentration camps) contrary to the U.S. Constitution. None of U.S. presidents (starting with Bush) have accepted the political responsibility for the establishment and operation of the system. Snowden’s revelations destroyed the myth of the U.S. as a country of democratic values serving as a model for civilization.”
“Even the deep crisis of the Roman Catholic Church shows that the abscess is opened, and liberal values promoted by the West have met a proper pushback in all parts of the world. Russia is entering the New Year in a greatly consolidated position, which cannot be said about the United States.”
Victories for Russia included Putin’s role in American-Syrian relations, the continuance of military-technical and oil contracts with Venezuela, and the achievement of nuclear negotiations with Iran resulting in loosened American sanctions on the radical Islamist state.
Dubbing the Boston Marathon bombing “a provocation to justify the total surveillance of NSA” Pravda also observed, “Reflections after the fact, after revelations of Snowden, make you think that either NSA operates inefficiently with all the totality of its surveillance, which proves the vulnerability of America to terrorists…”.
The word “pravda” translates to “truth” in Russian.
Because it’s the beginning of a new year, and because I’ve been slack for several weeks on the Buddhism column, and because after all Gautama himself said that he was teaching basically just one simple thing that he found himself just explaining in many different ways, and because finally it’s my column and I can do what I want, I’m going to start this time by repeating again the core of the Buddha’s teaching, suitably rephrased so as to seem creative and original and avoid copyright problems with the people I’m stealing it from. So here they are, the Four Noble Truths, with only as much Sanskrit as necessary.
Our ordinary lives are full of duhkha, badly translated as “suffering” and better translated as unpleasantness, agitation, discomfort. (The root word is actually connected to the idea of a cart wheel that’s got a bad axle: it isn’t rolling smoothly and the bump bump bump is making us cart-sick.)
Dukhka arises because of our efforts to re-order the universe to our liking. We thirst for pleasant experiences; we try to make things be just how we’d like them to be; and we try to un-make things that aren’t the way we want them to be. All of these things come down to a kind of ignorance of the way that we and everything around us can’t be made to hold still; everything changes.
This special discomfort ceases when we stop trying to force things.
We can learn to stop trying to force things by practicing what the Buddha called “skillful means”, upaya.