Like the poet describes himself, these poems are "grumpy, sarcastic, grim." They are also personal (often bordering on private) and emotionally honest...moreLike the poet describes himself, these poems are "grumpy, sarcastic, grim." They are also personal (often bordering on private) and emotionally honest (often bordering on whiny over-sharing). Several of these poems struck me because what read like free verse was really, on closer inspection, written in sonnet form—weird; wild seeming, yet utterly formal. (less)
Better than many of the other RPG tie-in novels, with a few inventive plot twists and an ending I wasn't expecting given the archetypal Ravenloft prot...moreBetter than many of the other RPG tie-in novels, with a few inventive plot twists and an ending I wasn't expecting given the archetypal Ravenloft protagonist trajectory. (less)
Time and again in history, multiple religions have existed within one another's spheres of influence, and consequently each tradition has generated mu...moreTime and again in history, multiple religions have existed within one another's spheres of influence, and consequently each tradition has generated multiple responses to these social realities of religious plurality. Scholar of Indian philosophy Coward herein recounts many of these responses on the part of two "Dharmic" traditions (Hinduism and Buddhism) and four Abrahamic religions—the Big Three of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and, interestingly (but not surprisingly, given the nature of the publisher), the Baha'i faith. The author highlights their successes and limitations alike. The conclusion sketches out what we may generally learn from and profit by in looking at the historical responses to religious pluralism on the part of these many faiths, and also suggests future directions for interfaith dialogue and relations.
Our study of how each religion has responded and is responding to the challenge of religious pluralism has identified three general themes and common principles: 1) that religious pluralism can best be understood in terms of a logic that sees the One manifesting as the many—transcendent reality phenomenalizing as the various religions; 2) that there is a common recognition of the instrumental quality of particular religious experience [i.e., religious experience is an "instrument" or means of effecting particular changes in the life of the experiencer]; and 3) that spirituality is identified and validated by the superimposing of one's own criterion upon other religions. (140)
As a first step, then, let us attempt to indicate some of the presuppositions upon which the religious dialogue of the future should be grounded. These presuppositions will be drawn inductively from our prior analysis of the present situation in religious pluralism. The seven key presuppositions are these: 1) that in all religions there is experience of a reality that transcends human conception; 2) that that reality is conceived in a plurality of ways both within each religion and among all religions and that the recognition of plurality is necessary both to safeguard religious freedom and to respect human limitations; 3) that the pluralistic forms of religion are instrumental in function; 4) that what is absolute and decisive in any religion is one's commitment to truth, yet one's grasp of truth is and remains limited; 5) that the Buddha's teaching of critical tolerance and moral compassion always must be observed; 6) that through self-critical dialogue we must penetrate ever further into our own particular experience of transcendent reality (and possibly into the transcendent reality of others); and 7) that within the plurality of our interfaith encounter a focus on "the suffering other" and "the suffering earth" can provide a shared starting point for a dialogue toward mutual cooperation and understanding. (153)
A basic prerequisite for future dialogue is that all participants have accurate information about each other's religion. Fulfilling this prerequisite is probably the single largest obstacle to the success of religious dialogue. The majority of people today are illiterate in their own religion as well as the religions of others. The academic discipline of religious studies has a a major role to play in overcoming this problem. Intellectual knowledge of the facts of all religions is needed—but alone that will not be sufficient. We will not be able to empathize with the sense of transcendent reality that the forms of religion seek to convey if only surface or intellectual knowledge is achieved. True empathy and understanding require that we learn each other's languages, for therein lie the important nuances of transcendent experience that are often lost in translation. The educational prerequisite for future dialogue is a stiff and serious one, requiring dedication and effort from all who would partake of this dialogue. (156)
This is an excellent, clearly written, solidly four-star primer on the subject of religious pluralism, and the tentative conclusions at which Coward arrives merit further contemplation and reflection on the part of scholars and believer-practitioners alike. What makes it a five-star book, in my estimation, is the author's incorporation into his conclusions of the "two truths" approach to religious truth claims propounded by Mahayana Buddhist philosopher Nāgārjuna—that religious truth claims are self-contradictory when taken as absolute truths, as can be shown through reductio ad absurdum, but are often quite useful and powerful when regarded as provisional and instrumental. In graduate school, we called this approach, which after Nāgārjuna was called Prāsaṅgika Madhyamaka, the "Borg" of religious philosophy. But it doesn't assimilate different religions and philosophies so much as hoist them from their own petards, making everyone a little more humble and providing a good starting point for dialogue.
The tolerant but critical attitude of the Buddha towards the plurality of religious views is shaped into a rigorous philosophic approach by the Mādhyamika Buddhists. Like the Buddha, the Mādhyamika purpose in criticism is affirmative. The critical analysis of the beliefs of a religious view is not aimed at rejecting that religion or demonstrating its inferiority in relation to other religious views (including even other Buddhist views); rather the goal of Mādhyamika is the removal of ego-attachment to any religious philosophy or theology so that true spirituality can be experienced and lived....Philosophy, theology and scripture have useful roles to play as guides, as providing the contents for 'provisional faith'. But as soon as such viewpoints become attached to the ego and made absolute, they destroy the capacities for tolerance, objective criticism and compassionate action. The unending and often destructive history of philosophical/theological argument among religions and within particular religions is cited as evidence of the truth of the Buddha's insight. (133)
[The] universal human characteristic of ego-attachment to one's own position has been given much attention by Nāgārjuna and other Mādhyamika Buddhists. They approached the problem as follows. Because human beings are by nature ego-attached to their own view or theological position, no amount of arguing from an opposed position will have any effect. The theologians in question will simply reinterpret an objection or counter position in such a way as to fit their system. In other words, by the mechanism of projection they will attempt to force their opponents off certain presuppositions and on to theirs. And because the opponents will be attempting to do the same (all are ego-attached to their positions and cognitively cannot let go), an endless and unhelpful debate will ensue. With this psychological insight in hand, the model developed by the Mādhyamika Buddhists for theological debate was simple and devastating. The Mādhyamika entered the debate with no theological position. The aim was to understand the position of an opponent so completely that the Mādhyamika would be able to find the internal inconsistencies inevitably present in every theological system and then by reductio ad adsurdum argument bring the whole thing crashing down around the ears of the opponent. To be defeated by one's own system brings on a severe psychological shock—one that might even convince the theologian to give up theologizing permanently. And that, of course, was the very thing the Mādhyamika was hoping to accomplish. Once theologians put down their pens and let go of their favourite concepts, the way is cleared or emptied of intellectual obstacles so that they can finally see reality as a pure perception and live their lives appropriately. (150–1)
I found this book more powerful than Dr. Baker's previous book, Navigating the Coming Chaos, although that might be a function of the intervening yea...moreI found this book more powerful than Dr. Baker's previous book, Navigating the Coming Chaos, although that might be a function of the intervening year-plus of business-as-usual in the face of worsening predicaments(i.e., maybe I need to read what Baker has to say more than I did last year) instead of an objective assessment of the merits of both books.
The first half of this book comprises a series of essays that Baker initially wrote for the blog of the late Michael Ruppert, and while it reveals the piece work nature of those essays, their content remains a valuable assessment of our current situation as a species and of the role that the world's wisdom traditions have to play in helping us endure and perhaps even flourish.
More important, at least to me, is the book's second section, a collection of 52 weekly "meditations" on death, suffering, and transformation that draws on a diverse set of sources to provide unflinching yet compassionate commentary on the growing challenges we face individually and collectively. (A photocopy of these meditations now resides in my "transition/collapse" binder, next to the gardening books.) (less)
Comics inspired in equal measure by Lovecraft and E.C. Comics, but measuring up to neither. A few are interesting, whether narratively or visually or...moreComics inspired in equal measure by Lovecraft and E.C. Comics, but measuring up to neither. A few are interesting, whether narratively or visually or (rarely) both at the same time, but I suspect I am a few decades older than the target demographic. My wife says Lovecraft is silly, and many of these stories take that assertion to heart. (less)
I thought the other 1-star ratings of this book were extreme until I slogged through this piece of shit. The writing is occasionally brilliant, but fa...moreI thought the other 1-star ratings of this book were extreme until I slogged through this piece of shit. The writing is occasionally brilliant, but far too often it reads, as another reviewer put it, like Nichols got paid by the word. The protagonist has to be one of the more reprehensible, unlikable characters in fiction; an NYC-power-player-turned-Communist-garbage-man, he pities himself as he abandons his wife and children to chase after a handful of different women and he plumbs the depths of the late-70s decadence around him. And the end, God help me, the end. It brought the review from 2-star solidly into 1-star territory; I finished the book by throwing it across the room.