Wednesday, May 30, 2007


German Mistakes Subway For Underground Car Park

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German mistook a subway entrance for an underground car park and her vehicle got stuck on the stairs, police said on Wednesday.

The 52-year-old drove her Volkswagen Beetle across the pavement in central Duesseldorf and into the entrance where it ground to a halt about five steps down, police said.

Police estimated the damage at around 1,500 euros ($2,000).

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Peace of Wild Things - Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Monday, May 14, 2007

David Grossman in the NYTimes

from Writing in the Dark (in Sunday's NY Times Magazine)

It is hard to talk about yourself, and so before I describe my current writing experience, at this time in my life, I wish to make a few observations about the impact that a disaster, a traumatic situation, has on an entire society, an entire people. I immediately recall the words of the mouse in Kafka’s short story “A Little Fable.” The mouse who, as the trap closes on him, and the cat looms behind, says, “Alas . . . the world is growing narrower every day.”

Kafka’s mouse is right: when the predator is closing in on you, the world does indeed become increasingly narrow. So does the language that describes it. From my experience I can say that the language with which the citizens of a sustained conflict describe their predicament becomes progressively shallower the longer the conflict endures. Language gradually becomes a sequence of clichés and slogans. This begins with the language created by the institutions that manage the conflict directly — the army, the police, the different government ministries; it quickly filters down to the mass media that are reporting about the conflict, germinating an even more cunning language that aims to tell its target audience the story easiest for digestion; and this process ultimately seeps into the private, intimate language of the conflict’s citizens, even if they deny it.

This describes quite well where this nation is headed. Grossman, as an Israeli, has seen a great deal more conflict on his home soil than we have seen, but the telling signs in language are easily visible in our culture as well. He goes on to say:

Actually, this process is all too understandable: after all, the natural riches of human language, and their ability to touch on the finest and most delicate nuances and strings of existence, can hurt deeply in such circumstances, because they remind us of the bountiful reality of which we are being robbed, of its true complexity, of its subtleties. And the more this state of affairs goes on, and as the language used to describe this state of affairs grows shallower, public discourse dwindles further. What remain are the fixed and banal mutual accusations among enemies, or among political adversaries within the same country. What remain are the clichés we use for describing our enemy and ourselves; the clichés that are, ultimately, a collection of superstitions and crude generalizations, in which we capture ourselves and entrap our enemies. The world is, indeed, growing increasingly narrow.

This concept is more than saying "the world is flat" or "our world is increasingly a local one". No, this is an entirely different phenomenon. This is a self imposed prison. A natural reaction to the environment we live in, but a self imposed situation at that. Books and articles of the sort that propose the flat world idea are an example of the toll sustained conflict takes on language. Grossman is describing a world without creativity and without real feeling -- one in which writers only scratch the surface, where journalist only go along with the politicos and one in which the public listens unquestioningly and fervently to the war machine. This is where we are going.

But I do believe there is hope.

Some of the greatest poetry was written in the dark years of WW1 and WW2- Vietnam led to a great social revolution in the US. Why not again?

And yet, and this is the great mystery and the alchemy of our actions: In a sense, as soon as we lay our hand on the pen, or the computer keyboard, we already cease to be the helpless victims of whatever it was that enslaved and diminished us before we began to write. Not the slaves of our predicament nor of our private anxieties; not of the “official narrative” of our country, nor of fate itself.

We write. The world is not closing in on us. How fortunate we are. The world is not growing increasingly narrow.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Four books on the existence of God.

Imagine it's Paris in the spring of 1789 and you have just announced that you are an inveterate foe of tyrants and kings. Obviously, your message is not going to fall on deaf ears. But now that you've made it clear what you're against, what are you for? Do you favor an aristocratic constitution in which power devolves to the provincial nobility? Would you prefer a British-style constitutional monarchy? Or do you believe in all power to the sans-culottes? How you answer will shape both your analysis of the situation and the political tactics you employ in changing it. It may also determine whether you wind up on the chopping block in the next half-decade or so.

This is the problem, more or less, confronting today's reinvigorated atheist movement.
Among the Disbelievers -- From The Nation

I haven't read any of these four books reviewed here, but I understand the point made here by David Lazare: What is to be done next? So we've decided that religion is a cancer and god has been dead for quite some time--what next?

There is truth in the arguments of Dawkins, Hitchens, Onfrey and Eagleton; but there is also a bit of historical forgetfulness and philosophical stubbornness. Lest Dawkins forget, without the great Abbeys of Cluny and Fontainebleau that simply kept culture alive, we might not have gotten out of those Dark Ages.

It isn't enough to write an antagonistic, stubborn piece in favor of a new sort of atheism--there needs to be a real suggestion as to what the next step should be. Obviously (or is it?) religion will always be a part of life on this earth, but if Dawkins and the rest of the new atheists really hope to end faith--they need to present some steps that this should be accomplished, and show what will take the place of faith.

Tillich says something about the possibility with all religion to lean either to the 'demonic' or the 'angelic'. The demonic part of religion, or the fundamentalist side that dwells only in the myth of faith must end. This is where people of faith must find a common ground with those who do not share that faith--because they are correct in this sense that faith (demonic faith) must die.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

White men can't what?

William Stafford - A Ritual to Read to Each Other.

If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider--
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give--yes or no, or maybe--
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Paul Tillich on Love

Different types of love have been distinguished, and the Greek eros type of love has been contrasted with the Christian agape type of love. Eros is described as the desire for self-fulfillment by the other, agape as the will to self-surrender for the sake of the other being. But this alternative does not exist. The so-called "types of love" are actually "qualities of love," lying within each other and driven into conflict only in their distorted forms. No love is real without a unity of eros and agape. Agape without eros is obedience to a moral law, without warmth, without longing, without reunion. Eros without agape is chaotic desire, denying the validity of the claim of the other one to be acknowledged as an independent self, able to love and to be loved. Love as the unity of eros and agape is the implication of faith. -- Paul Tillich, The Dynamics of Faith p132-133.

My first year of college I went to a small Christian college in Kentucky, where I was part of the "Agape" class of '04. (Each year, the incoming freshmen class chose a name for themselves; there was the 'redeemed', 'anointed', 'empowered', among others.) My class was supposed to be oozing with Agape--thoughtful love, the love of Jesus--all of us, best friends. Of course this isn't at all how things worked out; there was an overall sense that something was lacking. An emotional part of that love wasn't there--it seemed too penitential, too moralistic.

Tillich speaks of a love incomplete without both Eros and Agape, a cold moralistic love when dominated by Agape--and a free-for-all frenzy when Eros takes over. This balancing act, the ying and the yang, keeps the two parts of love in check. Without Eros there is no passion--and Christians must be passionate. Without Agape there is only passion. The relationship between the two is part of faith- "Love as the unity of Agape and Eros is an implication of faith." Tillich's definition of faith here is not belief without proof, but that which is the ultimate concern of an individual.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

And above all you must be...

I was looking for a poem with the last line of "And above all you must be...". Because I've forgotten the last word, I decided to Google the phrase and see if it brought up the desired poem. It didn't. But it did turn out to be of some use I think.

This is mindless. To express the most important personal characteristic, one might use this phrase and fill in the blank with the word or words they feel most qualifies a person to do whatever they're speaking of in the prior statement. Here are the results first 32 results. Some of these are pretty funny.

And above all you must be ________

- reliable
firm with frequent visitors
honest with yourself
asking which door is the true one
willing to do whatever it takes to attain maximum results
able to translate your long-term goals into short-term, day-to-day tasks.
-willing to test your limits and understand the relationship between blood, earth, and sky
committed to Comprehensive education
ready to take advantage of what opportunities come your way.
-a team player.
-a blues fan
-keen to learn and be extremely IT focused and well orgainised
-prepared for all this to take time.
-positive, confident and motivated individual.
-sensitive to the media, because they often write policy as effectively as the school board.
-objective and fair in your dealings with staff
-loving, for love is the link of the perfect life.
-knowledgeable of Iraq's language and art.
-prepared for a lot of hard work if you are ever going to make it work for you.
-able to forget your fear to possibly disgrace yourself
-able to meet deadlines and work
good at handling children - playing, helping them to learn, it's never a passive job.
effectively bilingual in Japanese and English.
in passion with the miracle of life, your life and with our divine, miraculous Earth.
careful to set them a good example yourselves
yourself (under a different name of course!)-