A unique type of travelogue combining the eyes of a photographer, graphic artist, and diarist makes for an entertaining afternoon of reading and perusA unique type of travelogue combining the eyes of a photographer, graphic artist, and diarist makes for an entertaining afternoon of reading and perusing. The volume alternates whimsical accounts from the unfolding of a leisurely day spent in the Île Saint-Louis and the Île de la Cité, the two natural islands in the middle of Paris, in which the narrator makes up stories about the people - or in one case a statue - she sees, and photographs that accompany that scene. The narrations are 2-3 pages each and the following photos 3-5 pages each, printed in attractive color on good matte paper. It's a fun interplay of text and photography.
I like that the book only tries to show a small part of the city, rather than rushing all over the place. More volumes in this series will hopefully be coming out featuring other sections of Paris, and I can't wait to see them.
I highly recommend reading this book outdoors in the sun. I began it inside my house and it didn't feel right, so I took it to a coffee shop (okay, a Starbucks... give me a break, it's Arkansas) and sat at an outdoor table in the afternoon sun with my coffee and the book and enjoyed a most relaxing hour or so....more
Read 40%, which I feel is enough. There's much less about Karl and Jenny's relationship here than I think I was led to expect, probably because there'Read 40%, which I feel is enough. There's much less about Karl and Jenny's relationship here than I think I was led to expect, probably because there's not just a whole lot of surviving source material. Jenny comes off as entirely saintly, and the reader will be impressed that she put up with a lot out of her love for Karl, leaving behind an aristocratic upbringing for revolutionary penury and begging because Karl could not/would not earn money to support them, as such practicalities were far less important than the revolutionary struggle to remake society.
It's more interesting as a look at the personalities of Marx and Engels, especially as young men. Karl the extraordinarily intelligent, arrogant, abrasive intellectual who rubbed most people the wrong way, even those on his side, except for a small but extremely loyal circle of friends. Foremost among those being Engels, a womanizing playboy of the aristocracy who believed Marx was the one man who could accurately see the historical and socioeconomic processes as they unfolded and prescribe the communist remedy.
It's also a very good layman's overview of the politics and upheavals in Europe at the time.
Gabriel writes the book out of an obvious place of sympathy for Marx, though not uncritically. She's like a good friend sometimes wagging her finger at him for his faults....more
Price was a critically esteemed novelist and longtime Duke University professor, but more interestingly to me he wrote several books in his later decaPrice was a critically esteemed novelist and longtime Duke University professor, but more interestingly to me he wrote several books in his later decades of life sharing his religious experiences and beliefs. He had an individualist approach to a form of liberal Christianity deeply informed by a handful of mystical experiences with the divine which he was not embarrassed to write about, perhaps something of a surprise given his social and academic position.
In this slim but extremely rich volume Price is writing to his godson in hopes of providing him with something useful to consult as part of his own future spiritual life. This may seem odd given that he writes here that he is possessed of the suspicion that written arguments are useless in transmitting faith; that faith must be personally experienced, with a generally popularly unacknowledged necessity of God actively bringing a person closer to Him, which He does not always seem to do (though figures such as Aquinas, Calvin, Kierkegaard, and Barth are said to discuss this).
Nevertheless, Price shares his own experiences and beliefs that evolved from them. He writes of being six or seven years old when
In brief, in a single full moment, I was allowed to see how intricately the vast contraption of nature all round me - and nature included me, my parents a few yards away in the house, all the animal life in the dense surroundings, and every other creature alive on Earth - was bound into a single vast ongoing wheel by one immense power that had willed us into being and intended our futures, wherever they might lead through the pattern, the enormous intricately woven pattern somehow bound at the rim and cohering for as long as the Creator willed it... At my age then, of course, I couldn't have conceived a thing of such perfect complexity on my own; nor could I have described the gift I'd received in any such words. But memory tells me that the description is honest.
And here I think of a curious French book by the 20th Century French journalist and intellectual Andre Frossard called Dieu existe, je L'ai rencontré. Frossard, an incurious atheist, writes about being a young adult and walking into a chapel one day looking for a friend and suddenly, in an instant, being given an astonishing vision of God and of an ordered universe with purpose. One minute, atheist, the next, stunned convert. Price here recounts something quite similar. I'm fascinated by these stories, and immensely curious about them.
Price goes on to talk about his journey in a personal sort of faith as he grew up, eschewing a church community, feeling more comfort in an empty church or alone in nature. He counsels against an "unadmirable appetite for display [that] was part of formal worship", not connecting it with Matthew 6:5-6 (do not pray in public like the hypocrites to be seen, but in private... if I may paraphrase) but a clear echo. He admits that finding a church home is not necessarily bad and may provide good, but clearly be wary of being led astray by an organized group of people claiming to speak in God's name. His suspicion of churches likely grows out of seeing the white Southern churches in operation during Jim Crow days, but is still an interesting perspective. He does not however attempt to wrestle with how one can be a "Christian in isolation" in what is really a strongly communitarian faith.
He counsels his godson to stick to and grow in the faith tradition he was given. He writes that there was nothing in his visions communicating that Christianity is the only or approved way to approach the Creator, and other faith traditions are of equal value and worth, but that it is best to approach the divine through the stories and traditions of one's birth.
He discusses the relationship of his beliefs to his career. Mostly he tried to keep them separate, both because of his idiosyncratic approach to his faith and because he didn't want to scare off those for whom talk of Jesus, God, Christianity is off-putting. But that the moral values of his faith, especially the compassion demonstrated by Jesus, has been the bedrock of his career.
Famously recounted in more depth elsewhere, Price was diagnosed with spinal cancer at 51. A surgery was unsuccessful, and was followed by radiation treatments that largely defeated the cancer but left him paralyzed from the waist down and in constant pain the rest of his life. Between the surgery and radiation he had another astonishing vision.
It's enough to say here that I was half-upright in my bed; then suddenly without apparent transport - and I was certainly not dreaming - I was lying on the stony shore of a huge lake. I knew at once that I was by the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinnereth, as it's called in modern Israel) and in a moment, a man whom I knew to be Jesus had silently beckoned me into the water with him.
In another moment - still silent - he was washing the foot-long wound from the failed surgery that had gouged for hours deep into my spinal cord; that wound was also the proposed site of my weeks of radiation. At last Jesus spoke, only a four-word sentence - "Your sins are forgiven." But nearly overwhelmed as I'd been by a month of surgery and the discouraging aftermath, I pushed onward for the answer I most wanted - "Am I also healed?" As if I'd forced it from him, he said only "That too."... The experience ended there as inexplicably as it came. It had been nonetheless a long moment as vivid as any other in my life - and as undeniable in its force.
My conviction, more than twenty years after that second vision, is that the experience was in some crucial sense real. In a human action that apparently lasted no longer than two minutes, I was essentially healed. By healed I mean that I was repaired in the sense that a man I had every reason to trust had guaranteed me a long stretch of ongoing vigorous existence. The fact that my legs were subsequently paralyzed by twenty-five X-ray treatments... was a mere complexity in the ongoing narrative which God intended me to make of my life.
To his godson, he cannot promise any such experiences. And he doubts the ability of written accounts to transmit faith either. Nevertheless he hopes his godson will be a curious seeker, and to that end recommends a good amount of reading, including of course the ancient Hebrew and Christian texts, as well as Aquinas and St. Francis of Assisi, and exploration among the great religious painters and composers of later ages (Gorecki, Pärt, etc.). And to begin trying to talk to God, out loud (though not around others, you might be dragged off). Listen for answers. And if they come, examine them with great care....more
Encouragement and tips for those interested in rediscovering, or if you're lucky, maintaining, the joyful ability to utterly lose oneself in a book foEncouragement and tips for those interested in rediscovering, or if you're lucky, maintaining, the joyful ability to utterly lose oneself in a book for long periods of time in our modern, distracting age. Read at whim, place yourself in serendipity's path (forget trying to follow a set plan of reading, "100 Books You Must Read" style), read slowly, don't think you shouldn't re-read books you've read in the past as you can often come across something new even in a well-loved "familiar" work.
Refreshing in that the author, a literature professor, does not take the anti-technology route, which a book of this nature might be suspected to. Jacobs in fact found that reading on a Kindle gave him back his ability to concentrate for long periods of time on a book....more
A powerful and insightful window into the first couple of decades of post-revolution Soviet Russia. Nadezhda Mandelstam, educator and widow of Osip MaA powerful and insightful window into the first couple of decades of post-revolution Soviet Russia. Nadezhda Mandelstam, educator and widow of Osip Mandelstam, one of Russia's greatest poets of the twentieth century and one of millions of Stalin's victims, wrote this account in the 1960s. It is thanks to her efforts that much of his poetry survived to the present day, but her own literary contribution here towers beside those writings of her husband.
It is a memoir of these two specific people, yet so much more. It is full of great historical, sociological and psychological insight into the times. She clearly identifies the Revolution as a total overthrow of old values and their replacement by new. In the early days of the 1920s, there was widespread enthusiasm for this new project. Consider this passage in which she writes of the new regime:
These rulers of ours who claim that the prime mover of history is the economic basis have shown by the whole of their own practice that the real stuff of history is ideas. It is ideas that shape the minds of whole generations, winning adherents, imposing themselves on the consciousness, creating new forms of government and society, rising triumphantly - and then slowly dying away and disappearing. Viacheslav Ivanov once said in my presence - we visited him on our way through Baku in 1921 - that he had fled from Moscow and sought seclusion in Baku because he had become convinced that 'ideas have ceased to rule the world.' What Dionysian cults did he understand by 'ideas,' this teacher and prophet of the pre-revolutionary decade, if he had failed to see, at the time of our conversation, what enormous territories and vast numbers of people had just been won over by an idea? The idea in question was that there is an irrefutable scientific truth by means of which, once they are possessed of it, people can foresee the future, change the course of history at will and make it rational. This religion - or science, as it was modestly called by its adepts - invests man with a god-like authority and has its own creed and ethic, as we have seen. In the twenties a good many people drew a parallel with the victory of Christianity, and thought this new religion would also last a thousand years.
During this time, Osip's poetry went silent as he tried to find a vantage point from which to firmly approach and understand this new world. He was not unsympathetic to it, but he was unable to come to terms with its demand for absolute unanimity and lack of doubt, or to go silent. His poetry resumed in the later twenties, though he had an increasingly difficult time being published, and in 1934 was arrested for the first time.
Her description of society's reaction to the Stalin terror is the best I've ever read. There were few heroes who dared to openly challenge it. She writes, "I can testify that nobody I knew fought - all they did was to lie low. This was the most that people with a conscience could do - and even that required real courage." What most people did was to try to save themselves. If they did not become informers, they acted for the benefit of their neighbors who were.
The usual reaction to each new arrest was that some retreated even further into their shells (which, incidentally, never saved them) while others responded with a chorus of jeers for the victim. In the late forties my friend Sonia Vishnevski, hearing every day of new arrests among her friends, shouted in horror: "Treachery and counterrevolution everywhere!" This was how you were supposed to react if you lived in relative comfort and had something to lose. Perhaps there was also an element of primitive magic in such words: what else could we do but try to ward off the evil spirits by uttering charms?
After each show trial, people sighed, 'Well it's all over at last.' What they meant was: Thank God, it looks as though I've escaped. But then there would be a new wave, and the same people would rush to heap abuse on the 'enemies of the people.' There was nothing people wouldn't say about the victims in order to save themselves. 'Stalin doesn't have to cut heads off,' said M., 'they fly off by themselves like dandelions.' I think he said this after reading an article by Kossior and then learning that he had been arrested nevertheless.
Nadezhda sees the terror as a natural outcome of the post-revolutionary value change, the discarding of humanism and faith in the new scientific certainty, and not some accidental anomoly:
This hankering after the idyllic twenties is the result of a legend created by people who were then in their thirties, and by their younger associates. But in reality it was the twenties in which all the foundations were laid for our future: the casuistical dialectic, the dismissal of older values, the longing for unanimity and self-abasement. It is true that those who shouted loudest were then the first to lose their lives - but not before they had prepared the ground for the future.
And she brightly analyzes the purpose and methods of the terror, the quotas of victims that must be met in increasing numbers until continuing the terror is no longer tenable:
The principles and aims of mass terror have nothing in common with ordinary police work or with security. The only purpose of terror is intimidation. To plunge the whole country into a state of chronic fear, the number of victims must be raised to astronomical levels, and on every floor of every building there must always be several apartments from which the tenants have suddenly been taken away. The remaining inhabitants will be model citizens for the rest of their lives - this will be true for every street and every city through which the broom has swept. The only essential thing for those who rule by terror is not to overlook the new generations growing up without faith in their elders, and to keep on repeating the process in systematic fashion. Stalin ruled for a long time and saw to it that the waves of terror recurred from time to time, always on an even greater scale than before. But the champions of terror invariably leave one thing out of account - namely, they can't kill everyone, and among their cowed, half-demented subjects there are always witnesses who survive to tell the tale.
After Osip's arrest, a "miracle" occurred in that he was not shot or sent to a labor camp, but exiled from major cities. With his status as an exile, however, he and Nadezhda could hardly find work in the completely state-controlled economy, as their hiring by anyone could have led to the denouncement and arrest of anyone so "unvigilant" enough to hire an enemy of the people. So they were reduced to begging among their friends and literary circles until Osip's second arrest in 1937 and sudden death shortly thereafter.
Unlike most of her contemporaries even in the post-Stalin "thaw" of the sixties, Nadezhda decided not to keep quiet about her experiences. Writing this memoir was a triumph of individual will and moral strength refusing to be conquered and go silent.
I often wondered whether it is right to scream when you are being beaten and trampled underfoot. Isn't it better to face one's tormentors in a stance of satanic pride, answering them with contemptuous silence? I decided that it is better to scream. This pitiful sound, which sometimes, goodness knows how, reaches into the remotest prison cell, is a concentrated expression of the last vestige of human dignity… If nothing else is left, one must scream. Silence is the real crime against humanity.
This stance was mirror of her husband Osip's.
If one were to name the dominant theme in the whole of M.'s life and work, one might say that it was his insistence on the poet's dignity, his position in society and his right to make himself heard.
Reading this incredible book today can be a bit difficult due a couple of factors: the historical insularity and discursive nature of her writing. So many names are discussed that the non-expert in Soviet history and literature will not recognize, and the appendix of names in the back makes for essential flipping back and forth. The narrative of her and Osip's trials, meanwhile, is frequently broken up by these musings on larger societal issues, or stories about people they knew. For instance, shortly before Osip's final arrest they returned to the Moscow region, but after the narrative takes them there we wander off into sixty pages of discussions of what books they used to own, how Osip felt about Italy, poetic theory... and then the narrative story picks up where it was left.
I'll leave off with this hopeful conclusion of Nadezdha Mandelstam:
I realize the possibility of a return to the past, but I still think the general outlook is bright. We have seen the triumph of evil after the values of humanism have been vilified and trampled on. The reason these values succumbed was probably that they were based on nothing except boundless confidence in the human intellect. I think we may now find a better foundation for them, if only because of the lessons we have drawn from our experience. Russia once saved the Christian culture of Europe from the Tatars, and in the past fifty years, by taking the brunt on herself, she has saved Europe again - this time from rationalism and all the will to evil that goes with it. The sacrifice in human life was enormous. How can I believe it was all in vain?
A conversion memoir, yes, but a bit of an odd one. In this 114 page book that was a bestseller in France, published in 1969 and translated into EnglisA conversion memoir, yes, but a bit of an odd one. In this 114 page book that was a bestseller in France, published in 1969 and translated into English in 1970, high profile French journalist Andre Frossard spends the first 108 pages trying to establish why he should have had no religion at all, before he relates the one unexpected moment that changed everything, the "I have met Him" moment of the book's title. The book lacks any sort of preachiness, its sometimes humorous tone more reflecting the shock that Frossard feels that this encounter should have ever happened. Frossard would later write, according to his 1995 obituary in the Independent, "I was as surprised to find myself a Catholic when I left the chapel as I would have been to find myself a giraffe when I left the zoo."
Frossard's father was very active in socialist politics, and growing up between the world wars there was no question of religion in his household or social circles. God did not exist, and the matter was not worth any attention. He writes, "We were what could be called perfect atheists, the kind that no longer ever question their atheism. The militant anti-clericals who still survived and spent their time speaking at public meetings against religion seemed to us rather touching and rather ridiculous, as might an historian intent on debunking the tale of Little Red Riding Hood."
His father was moving up the ranks of party politics, and in an interesting few pages the reader is told about how the elder Frossard was one of two men sent to the Soviet Union shortly after the communist revolution as representatives of the French Socialist Party. Somewhat taken aback on their visit, where they "suffered from various unexpected changes of approach, which resulted in their finding themselves received icily one day and hugged on the next", and ominously finding that "the Russians were far less aware of individual shades of opinion, of which the Western meetings took account even in their most modest forms", nevertheless "all these problems vanished in face of the spectacle of the city of the future being built in front of their very eyes by workmen whose lineage stemmed from the Convention of 1893 and even from the Commune." Frossard's father shortly thereafter became the first Secretary General of the French Communist Party.
Naturally the young Andre internalized the beliefs and attitudes of his parents and friends. They were not unaware of the tenets of Christianity, of course, in a Catholic country such as France. If they were hostile to the institutional Church and its political hierarchy, they were not towards the figure of Jesus Christ himself. They felt some sympathy due to his "love of the poor, his censure of those in power and above all because he had been a victim of the priests." Indeed, "the general opinion was that if its mythical superstructure were removed, the Gospel could pass as a reasonably good introduction to socialism. We were even willing to admit this to any Christians who pressed the point. But, having made this concession, we were more than surprised that they did not immediately become socialists. As for our becoming Christians, such an idea never entered our minds. Anything that had preceded socialism had merely heralded its birth."
As a young man, nothing had changed Frossard's general outlook. But the thunderbolt arrives when he enters a chapel in search of a friend of his. He writes, "I had no curiosity about things relating to religion, for religion seemed to me to belong to another age. It is now ten minutes past five. In two minutes' time I shall be a Christian." Entering the chapel and looking around, it happens. Understandably commenting that he cannot really describe the event in terms that do it justice, he tries, writing that a different world suddenly arose before him and he knew for certain that there was order in the universe and in its beginning and that God was present, and that God was gentle "and that his was not the passive quality that is sometimes called by the name of gentleness, but an active shattering gentleness, far outstripping violence, able to smash the hardest stone and to smash something often harder than stone, the human heart." Certainly it was what we would call a vision.
How is one who has never had such a vision to judge such an account? Skepticism, awe, appeals to psychiatry? It is one thing to engage something like the writings of C.S. Lewis, which put forward an intellectual argument for God and belief. They can be argued, debated, judged either wanting or convincing using logic and reason. One man's vision is another thing entirely, falling into the realm of mysticism.
Frossard shares little of his life after that vision, ending the book with only a few more pages. He does write that he experienced highs and lows in future times, as anyone does, including twice the death of a child, causing him to live with a "sword piercing my heart, all the while knowing that God is love."
He does not write in this book of his later experiences as a member of the French resistance, surviving torture at the hands of the Gestapo after his arrest, and testifying at the war crimes trial of Klaus Barbie. Knowing the steadfastness throughout the rest of his life of his belief in God and in God's goodness after experiencing the evil and destruction of World War II, being tortured at the hands of the Nazis, and the deaths of two of his children, does highlight the extraordinary impact that one moment in the chapel must have had on him....more
Much more of a personal impressionistic account of Guantanamo than a comprehensive look at any cases or issues involved. The author is a young idealisMuch more of a personal impressionistic account of Guantanamo than a comprehensive look at any cases or issues involved. The author is a young idealistic law student from an immigrant Afghan family who volunteered as an interpreter for the lawyers working with Afghans imprisoned on the base. She was convinced that the prisoners she met there were innocent, good men, and she clearly felt full sympathy with them and their stories. She may well be right, and other sources will also confirm that many of the inmates held there were far from being the "worst of the worst" hardcore terrorists that the Bush administration would have had us believe. But there is also not much here to disprove those who would say the inmates were trained to lie and successfully fooled a naive young student.
An interesting book for its personal perspective and passion, not one that would probably change a lot of minds, and not one very heavy on details of the cases - which is the main drawback to it my view....more
A memoir of life in Tehran under the Islamic Republic during the 1980s and 1990s from the point of view of a secular, liberal member of the intelligenA memoir of life in Tehran under the Islamic Republic during the 1980s and 1990s from the point of view of a secular, liberal member of the intelligentsia.
Nafisi is a professor of English literature, and the best parts of the book are the scenes of Iranian students in the early days of the revolution, and later in Nafisi's private study group in the late 1990s, reacting to the novels she loves and teaches. The classroom "trial" of The Great Gatsby, in which an ardent Islamic revolutionary student condems the book as a part of the decadent and immoral West, while another student argues in defense of its moral value, was a high point. Nafisi's drawing of a parallel between Humbert's "pinning" of Lolita and forcing her to be the person of his own imagination and what Nafisi sees as a similar act by Khomeini and the Islamic Republic in forcing Iranians to conform to their fantasies of how people should behave also struck me as interesting.
But there was less of that than I would have thought, and more of Nafisi's own condemnations and rants against the Islamic regime and its supporters and how it all made her feel. And most of the book's scenes with her small private study group of women equally alienated from the regime is spent complaining about their lives and the government, rather than discussing literature. Though to be sure, they have plenty to complain about, no argument there.
The book is interesting and worth reading, but I do wish Nafisi could have toned down her obviously strong impulse to write about "how the Islamic Republic made me continually feel depressed" and concentrated somewhat more on the actual works of English literature and how her students responded to them in their particular, much different, society.
This book by a secular Palestinian lawyer and activist focuses on the changes that have taken place to the land in the West Bank, both legally and phyThis book by a secular Palestinian lawyer and activist focuses on the changes that have taken place to the land in the West Bank, both legally and physically, since the start of the Israeli settlement project. It is loosely organized into a series of six walks, or sarhat, an Arabic term for a long, meditative walk in the wilderness. It is also a bitter elegy for what is now gone - a time when the hills of the West Bank were undeveloped and a Palestinian could walk freely without fear and constraint from Israeli settlements, roads, and "nature preserves" that Palestinians are not allowed to set foot on, guarded by armed soldiers and settlers, that continually expand and encircle Palestinian towns and villages, shrinking the space within which Palestinians can live.
The six sarhat in the book mix description of the walk itself and the surrounding land features, and the politics of land ownership and seizure.
Sarha 1: takes place in 1978, a walk to the qasr of Shehadeh's grandfather's cousin. A qasr was a small stone structure built for farmers to live in when they needed to be away from their home in a populated area to tend to their land. Shehadeh describes the hills as already being abandoned in some respects by Palestinians, as the land had declined in its ability to support farming. Such land no longer being used by Palestinian farmers formed a basis for the Israeli settlement project, as Israeli law said any land no longer being lived on by its Palestinian owner ceased to belong to him and reverted back to its original owners, the Jewish people, as represented by the State of Israel.
Sarha 2: A hike to an isolated, small village and its nearby hilltop. The hilltop has since been taken by Israel for a settlement. Shehadeh in this chapter discusses one of his first land cases, where he represented a Palestinian Christian whose land had been taken over for a settlement. Shehadeh says it was well documented in legal terms that his client owned the land, and he still thought he could legally fight the settlement project in Israeli courts through such cases. However the attitude of the court was essentially that the land was gone, and his client should take what monetary payout he could get. His legal efforts to resist were going to prove unfruitful.
Sarha 3: Set in the mid-1990s after the Oslo Agreement. Shehadeh describes a walk to the Dead Sea with a Fatah official allowed in to the West Bank under the deal, and describes his opposition to the Oslo Agreement as a surrender and a defeat. It did not challenge Israeli town planning, which drew circles around existing Palestinian population centers and did not allow them to expand. Meanwhile it claimed vast areas of land for future settlement expansion. The PLO displayed little understanding of the legal aspects of Israeli land policies and did not seem to care. He was frustrated by the blind optimism of his Fatah companion as they walked along the rugged, salty landscape towards the Dead Sea.
Sarha 4: A walk towards the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, Jericho, from near Jerusalem. The walk went along a lush green valley that contains lots of water, making it the favored pathway for centuries of pilgrims and conquerors making their way to Jerusalem. One of Shehadeh's companions on this walk is an archeologist, who notes the absence of the Bedouin tribes that until recently roamed these areas, but who had now been chased away by the Israelis. Shehadeh stops at the Monastery of St. George, built into the rocks in the 5th century and still an active monastery.
Sarha 5: A walk on a constrained path in the hills near Ramallah with his friend Mustafa Barghouti, a well known Palestinian doctor and politician. They share an analysis of Oslo that it is a failure, and Barghouti describes the immense pressure he is under to join the Palestinian government and drop his criticism. As they walk they see and hear almost everywhere around them new Israeli construction of buildings and roads. Shehadeh says he has accepted that the Palestinians have been defeated, and that the land has been and will continue to be overwhelmingly transformed, and his efforts have been in vain.
Sarha 6: A solitary walk near an Israeli settlement results in an encounter with a young Israeli along a creek. The Israeli is unexpectedly friendly, but Shehadeh cannot hold back his bitterness over the settlements as they talk, and complains that the Israeli has internalized and parrots back the official dogma he has learned about the rights of the Jews to the land of the West Bank, and the lack of rights the Palestinians should have. Shehadeh recognizes their mutual love of the land, about the only time in the book the Israeli point of view has any sort of sympathetic hearing.
Gingerich, professor of astronomy and professor of the history of science at Harvard University, and also an Anabaptist Christian, delivers an effectiGingerich, professor of astronomy and professor of the history of science at Harvard University, and also an Anabaptist Christian, delivers an effective rebuke to the idea that science and religion are incompatible. This book may not provide any ideas not more fully developed elsewhere, but Gingerich's is an intelligent and reasoned voice, and his unique background combining an anabaptist (Amish) upbringing and value system with his scientific achievement in the academy makes him an interesting figure.
Gingerich holds the belief that the universe has been created and guided by an intelligence, God, and has a purpose. One source of support for this position comes from the amazing "fine tuning" of many cosmic conditions, any of which if different would have made impossible the development of life in the universe (see physicist and cosmologist Paul Davies' book "The Cosmic Jackpot).
An example: the balance between the outward expansion of energy and the inward pull of gravitational forces just after the Big Bang had to be accurate to within one part in 10 to the 59th power. A slight bit too much expansion would have left matter too widely dispersed to form galaxies, planets, intelligent beings, etc., and a slight bit too much gravitational pull would have collapsed the universe back on itself before these things could have developed. Were we just incredibly lucky that the balance happened to be just perfect to such an incredible degree for the eventual emergence of life? Or does this suggest some intelligence and purpose at work?
But although it makes more sense to Gingerich to view the universe as having a creative intelligence with purpose behind it, and he argues that the atheistic belief in a purposeless universe is a philosophical idea and not a scientific one, he is not trying to convert his atheistic colleagues in the scientific community. Rather he is arguing that both he, a believer in God, and his atheist colleagues will produce the same science regardless of their metaphysical positions on God and the cosmos. ...more
This is a short, very readable book by Geza Vermes, retired Professor of Jewish Studies at Oxford and a leading historian on Judaism in the era of JesThis is a short, very readable book by Geza Vermes, retired Professor of Jewish Studies at Oxford and a leading historian on Judaism in the era of Jesus.
In Part One he examines Jewish attitudes towards the afterlife in the times leading up to and including the life of Jesus. Was belief in resurrection a feature of Judaism in the time of Jesus? Definitely not. Pharisees held this belief, but their influence was small, mostly limited to the towns of Judea, and almost entirely nonexistent in the Galilee region of Jesus and his followers. To the vast majority of Jews of this era, the concept of bodily resurrection would have been either repugnant (Hellenized Jews) or unfamiliar (the rural mass of Palestinian Jewry).
In Part Two, he examines the New Testament claims regarding the Resurrection of Jesus, and very briefly offers his own thoughts on what may have happened. He begins by noting that Jesus spent very little of his ministry preaching about the afterlife. He did, however, predict his death and resurrection to his disciples. But they in turn never seemed to grasp what they were being told. Mark writes that the apostles had no idea what rising from the dead meant when Jesus predicted this to them, which confirms the previously established argument that bodily resurrection was a foreign concept to Galilean Jews of this time.
So we come to the accounts of Jesus' resurrection in the Gospels, Acts, and letters of Paul, which contain discrepencies and contradictions between them. Vermes lays these out. He then discusses how Paul was crucially responsible for making the resurrection story into the central defining argument of the emerging Christian Church.
In the last chapter Vermes gets to the question: What Really Happened? We have two classes of evidence presented in the New Testament: the account of the empty tomb and the appearances of the risen Jesus to various individuals. He seems convinced of the veracity of the empty tomb. To mention one reason, every single account has women finding the tomb empty, and in Jewish society the testimony of women had no standing. This would be an exceedingly poor start to making up such a story in that historical era.
As for the appearances of the resurrected Jesus, they are no good at all as evidence for today's historian. They can convince only the already converted believer of today.
He then rules out no fewer than 8 explanations for what may have historically happened to explain the stories of the empty tomb and appearances - ranging from the true belief of the religious fundamentalist to the denial of the entire thing as mere fantasy by the committed skeptic.
What explanation does this leave? In the epilogue Vermes discusses how the apostles are transformed from a fearful, terrified band of followers in hiding following the death of their leader into brave evangelists openly preaching, defying the authorities at risk of death, and seeking converts. Something happened to them. Vermes posits that they heard of the empty tomb and experienced some "apparitions", felt themselves under the influence of the Spirit, ventured forth with some ray of hope and found renewed self-confidence and success.
Note that this does not explain why the tomb was actually empty, which Vermes accepts as a likely historical fact, and that he has previously rejected various theories that would explain this. And that reference to "apparitions" is really begging for further clarification.
Throughout, the book is written in a neutral and scholarly tone, which is most welcome for a book on this topic. ...more