In Wrath and Remembrance author John Walker writes a riveting tale of the chased and the chaser. A psychological thriller, but one where the protagoni...moreIn Wrath and Remembrance author John Walker writes a riveting tale of the chased and the chaser. A psychological thriller, but one where the protagonist Jack Parrish, who is amnestic for his childhood, begins to be haunted by violent nightmares. But which is real, the conscious life of Jack by day or the premonitions in his nightmares? Recall can be a dangerous thing, as Jack soon finds out when his search to remember what he has forgotten leads a killer to hunt him down, and in the process murders those closest to him one by one. Jack’s existential journey encompasses his attempts to navigate the murky terrain of the real and unreal which test his sanity and plunge him into the depths of horrific violence. Exciting first work in an innovative series by John Walker.
Informative articles that enlighten and give a historical perspective to conservative thought. I always learn something new reading this magazine that...moreInformative articles that enlighten and give a historical perspective to conservative thought. I always learn something new reading this magazine that has depth, but also wit. I especially liked the cover for the March 8, 2010 publication. Dan Smee Author "Totally American"
Mahatma Gandhi, or the Great Soul, remains known some 62 years after his death by assassination for his steadfast forwarding of non-violence as a poli...moreMahatma Gandhi, or the Great Soul, remains known some 62 years after his death by assassination for his steadfast forwarding of non-violence as a political and spiritual movement, and accredited with gaining India’s independence from British rule in 1947. Gandhi’s legacy is rooted in his moral authority by acting in concert with his beliefs. John Dear in the introduction to Mohandas Gandi Essential Writings describes Gandhi as an “apostle of non-violence” Though considered an agitator by the British government and imprisoned multiple times for civil disobedience, Gandhi never wavered from his ideals of racial equality, religious tolerance, eradication of poverty among them, despite the heavy cost to him (e.g., loss of freedom, death of his wife who was also imprisoned). Mocked by some in the British government (Winston Churchill reputed as one) for his eccentricities in clothing, his extreme emaciated form, and his rigidness in thought, Gandhi’s example of gentleness and peaceful opposition to unjust laws remains an influence to all today.
You said Mr. Wiesenthal that the sunflowers stood straight as soldiers at attention on the graves of dead Nazis. Butterflies danced above their graves...moreYou said Mr. Wiesenthal that the sunflowers stood straight as soldiers at attention on the graves of dead Nazis. Butterflies danced above their graves as the sunflowers soaked in the sunshine and brought light and life to the dead below. And this, you saw, you would never have. You, being a Jew, were in the eyes of the Nazi disposable garbage that one threw out on a pile when its usefulness had expired. Garbage doesn’t need a proper burial, and you would be accorded no dignity in death. So, what should you have done when the SS soldier on his deathbed wants your forgiveness as a Jew so that he can die in peace? This man who tells you that he and his brutal brethren marched perhaps two hundred Jews, many of whom were small children, onto a truck. He saw in their eyes fear, and recalled their frantic cries when forced into a house that was to be burned down. And this Nazi watched the flames blaze like hell through the house. He tells you he saw a man, a child, a woman jump from the windows their burning bodies flying down. And, he says, he saw the child, “it” had black hair and eyes. It. And now, he bemoans his short life, tells you he was a Catholic, tells you he has a mother who loves him, and in soft tones, in a pleading voice wants your forgiveness.
What is forgiveness? Christianity teaches, in the Lord’s Prayer, “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” (traditional Matthean version). In Luke 23:34, “And Jesus said: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Can one man forgive another for such a great sin as committed by the Nazi? Mr. Wiesenthal the position that you found yourself in is one which no man could imagine. But was forgiveness an option? Josek, your fellow prisoner and friend, tells you that he feared that you had forgiven the SS man. He said then, “You would have had no right to do this in the name of people who had not authorized you do so. What people have done to you yourself, you can, if you like, forgive and forget. That is your own affair. But it would have been a terrible sin to burden your conscience with other people’s sufferings.” Josek makes an important point. The dying SS soldier had sinned beyond the limits of human forgiveness. You were in no position to forgive him. You are not God, who is the final arbiter of judgment and redemption. And as Josek said, in the afterlife those who had died at the hands of this Nazi soldier would ask you, had you forgiven him, “Who gave you the right to forgive our murderer?”
But, you had countered Josek that the soldier seemed repentant and was in torment. Moreover, as he was dying had no time left to repent or atone for his crimes. Here, Arthur’s words are powerful. He, who also suffered and later died at the concentration camp, says to you, “A superman has asked a subhuman to do something which is superhuman. If you had forgiven him, you would never have forgiven yourself all of your life.” Consider this, this Nazi if he had not been on his deathbed would have viewed you Mr. Wiesenthal, as less than a piece of excrement. Yet, in the throes of death, he a member of the Super Race, needs you, want you, a Jew-something less than human, to forgive his transgressions. Think of his selfishness. Even in the face of death his evil is still alive. He cloaks himself in a soft and sympathetic voice, grabbing your hand, treating with you with respect. That is how evil works, like a snake charming you as if it is a harmless rabbit. This Nazi should not have been asking for forgiveness. If he in the moments before he met his Maker had a stab of conscience, he the soldier should have said, “I have been nothing but evil, and I deserve every bit of torture in Hell that I am about to receive.” That would have been repentance.
One of your contemporaries and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl’s writes in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, that the meaning of life is found in every moment of living. Frankl states that life never ceases to have meaning even under horrific suffering. Maybe this is what you, Mr. Wiesenthal, were thinking of when you saw the dying man asking for your forgiveness. As Josek had told you “in each person’s life there are historic moments which rarely occur-and today you have experienced one such.” You were trying to make sense of, that is, form meaning from the surreal moment of being in your old high school, now a Nazi hospital, where you a Jewish prisoner are asked by a dying SS soldier to forgive him. And this is extraordinary. That you held onto your better self, that despite all the humiliation, torture, and deprivations you had suffered at the hands of the Nazis, you were still willing to contemplate forgiving this man. Your heart had the capacity to see him beyond the monster that he was. You saw his soul. Dan Smee Author "Totally American" (less)
“I think I am a reflection, like the moon on water. When you see me, and I try to be a good man, you see yourself. “
Thomas A. Forsthoefel’s excerpts o...more“I think I am a reflection, like the moon on water. When you see me, and I try to be a good man, you see yourself. “
Thomas A. Forsthoefel’s excerpts of the Dalai Lama’s work give a glimpse into Buddhism. The core issue is that each person’s soul is interconnected and strives to become a part of the infinite. These Buddhist concepts, that of reality being an illusion, mindfulness and the essential task of understanding and overcoming suffering are profound, abstract and difficult to grasp.
The Illusion of Reality:
In An Open Heart, 85-86 the Dalai Lama writes, “Ultimately, all our difficulties arise from one basic illusion. We believe in the inherent existence of ourselves and all other phenomena. We project, then cling to, an idea of the intrinsic nature of things, an essence that phenomena do not actually possess.” Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, told through Socrates is similar in concept to the Buddhist idea of the illusion of reality. In the story of the Cave, a group of people (prisoners) were chained down to chairs from childhood, and forced to look at shadows upon a wall in the back of a cave. The images that the prisoners saw were projected from the sun in the front of the cave. One prisoner was given the chance to be freed and the opportunity to understand that the shadows were just mere images, that the light at the opening had produced them; it was not reality at all. The man experienced the true reality, that it was the sun that had produced the shadows on the wall. When he returned to the cave he informed the others that he had seen beyond the back of the wall of the cave and that it was not real at all but mere images. Could he have convinced them to come out of the cave? Can the Dalai Lama convince us that what we think is real is illusion? The answer may be yes only if we push ourselves, to look beyond what we perceive to be reality and ask, “Am I looking at the back of a wall in a cave?” This is what the great teachers like the Dalai Lama challenge us to do, look beyond our concept of reality.
Suffering, from the Buddhist perspective involves several levels. The first is that of sensory suffering or painful sensations and feelings. The second is what the Dalai Lama calls the “suffering of change.” In the cited paragraph from the Essence of the Heart Sutra this type of suffering means that experiences do not last forever and even happy experiences fade to neutral or can turn into unhappy states. The third level of suffering refers to the “unenlightened existence.” This level signifies being ruled by negative emotions caused by an ignorance of the fundamental nature of reality. In order to develop deep wisdom, the sentient being has to understand this level of suffering. From there one can achieve freedom from suffering and move onto liberation. When you understand suffering, you develop compassion. You understand that everything is interconnected. The Dalai Lama writes, “This can be accomplished by consciously and intentionally recollecting the limitations and the harmful consequences of self-cherishing- cherishing only one’s own well-being- and then reflecting upon the virtues and merits of cherishing the well-being of others. “ In The Art of Happiness, 140-41 the Dalai Lama writes, “Our attitude toward suffering becomes very important because it can affect how we cope with suffering when it arises. Now, our usual attitude consists of an intense aversion and intolerance of our pain and suffering. However, if we can transform our attitude towards suffering, adopt an attitude that allows us greater tolerance of it, then this can do much to help counteract feelings of mental unhappiness, dissatisfaction and discontent.” Man’s misplaced longings are the cause of his own demise causing unhappiness and needless suffering. I once had a friend in the military tell me “pain is weakness leaving your body.” Suffering is a reality of life. Pain may also be the way we learn. It is what we learn from these experiences and how we grow as a person that we are better able to cope with negative events.
Further, from the Dalai Lama writes in The Art of Happiness, 152 “We also often add to our pain and suffering by being overly sensitive, overreacting to minor things, and sometimes taking things too personally.” So goes the saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff because it’s all small stuff!” Easier said than done. People let the littlest of things get under their skin, and the root cause may be our ego. The most difficult task for the human is to give up egotism. In An Open Heart, 152 the Dalai Lama writes, “Possessiveness arises out of our sense of self. The stronger our sense of “me” the stronger is our sense of “mine.” This is why it is so important that we work at undercutting our belief in an interdependent, self-sufficient self. Once we are able to question and dissolve the existence of such a concept of self, the emotions derived from it are also diminished.” This is not an easy task, and made more difficult when on this Earth you are accorded great power and wealth. But not an impossible one, as history shows us. The great second century Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius in Meditations exemplified a compassion for others as well as mindfulness by documenting his struggles with the ego in his search for meaning in life. He saw the humanity of those he as Emperor ruled over, and understood that their souls were linked to his. He wrote in Book Two, “Neither can I be angry with my brother or fall foul of him; for he and I were born to work together, like a man’s two hands, feet or eyelids, or like the upper and lower rows of his teeth. “ (p.45)
Life and Death:
In The Path to Enlightenment, 34 the Dalai Lama writes, “Spiritual happiness is not like that gained through materialistic, political, or social success, which can be robbed from us by a change in circumstances at any moment and which anyway will be left behind at death. As spiritual happiness does not depend solely upon deceptive conditions such as material supports, a particular environment, or a specific situation, then even these are withdrawn, it has further supports.” Marcus Aurelius was influenced by the Greek Stoics who believed that everything was perpetually in the process of change. These themes from Meditations resonate with Buddhist teachings: the belief that power is a false goal as all Earthly power vanishes at death. In Meditations, Marcus Aurelius wrote, “In the life of a man, his time is but a moment, his being an incessant flux, his senses a dim rush light , his body a prey of worms, his soul an unquiet eddy, his fortune dark, and his fame doubtful. In short, all that is of the body is as coursing waters, all that is of the soul as dreams and vapors; life a warfare, a brief sojourning in an alien land; and after repute oblivion.” (p.51)
You see this in when you are a soldier in combat, where each day out on a mission you recognize could be your last, and for some of your fellow soldiers it was. War will hone that sense of the lack of permanence of the human body, but only because one was confronted with death so frequently. In civilian life, it is much easier to forget our impermanent nature: we get caught up in our day-to-day worries: the bills, work, and family. And perhaps technology which is a great boon in some respects, may also make us dissatisfied and more materialistic, chronically yearning for the next new gadget, than when we were less advanced and had fewer things. As the Dalai Lama writes in The Path to Enlightenment, 87-88 “The time that death will strike is unknown to us. We do not which will come first, tomorrow or the hereafter. None of is able to guarantee that he or she will still be alive tonight. The slightest condition could cause us to suddenly part form this world. “ And, “Many Tibetans place a great deal of faith in me and would do anything I ask; but when I die I must die alone, and not one of them will be able to accompany me. All that one takes with one are knowledge and spiritual methods and karmic imprints of one’s life deeds. “[P.113] Life can be fleeting, in a blink of an eye and it can be gone. We take life for granted but the bigger problem may lie in how we are preparing ourselves for the afterlife. My human body is a vessel that I occupy for a short moment in time but what about my soul, spirit, my consciousness? That continues on into eternity.
The Dalai Lama warns that no matter how wise others think you are, how many followers you have on this Earth, ultimately the journey of the soul is a solitary enterprise. The wisdom and teaching of the Dalai Lama, that of kindness, a loving and open heart are accessible ideas. Other concepts, such as the nature of reality, the understanding of suffering are abstract, and difficult to grasp. It is different than understanding that there is good and evil, that belief in Christ will allow you a place in Heaven. But perhaps at core, both Christianity, and for that matter most religions, is this basic concept as the Dalai Lama writes in How to Practice, 70
“Usually my advice for beginners is to be patient: have fewer expectations of yourself. It is most important to be an honest citizen, a good member of the human community. Whether or not you understand profound ideas, it is important to be a good person wherever you are right now.”
And so, maybe that is what the human journey boils down. A Policy of Kindness (Dalai Lama)
Thomas Merton: Rebel with an Existential Cause To describe Thomas Merton as a Trappist monk and writer falls short. In my reading of his ideas, Merton...moreThomas Merton: Rebel with an Existential Cause To describe Thomas Merton as a Trappist monk and writer falls short. In my reading of his ideas, Merton seemed to me to be a “rebel with an existential cause” a sort of James Dean of Catholic philosophers. Maybe there is a ‘bad boy” heritage in Catholicism, that of someone who awakens from debauchery to spirituality (arguably Saint Augustine was one). Or maybe Merton was just born cool. On the cover of Seeds we see Merton standing strong, arms down and with a steely, cool look that would bring down even Rocky Marciano. He stares you down into considering rejecting the material world in favor of the spiritual, to thinking about how God can inspire us. How did Merton feel about success? When asked for a contribution to a book entitled Success he told that author, “If I had a message to my contemporaries, I said it was surely this: Be anything you like, be madmen, drunks, and bastards of every shape and form, but at all costs avoid one thing: success.” Merton wryly comments that he never heard from that writer. Merton also wrote, “I drink beer whenever I can lay my hand on any. I love beer, and by that very fact, the world.” This is a monk?? But that’s what drew me to read on, because interspersed in the heavy philosophical thoughts was humor and a keen sense of an understanding of the human psyche. I was struck by these observations and insights by Merton:
Andrew Gelman and colleagues (Gelman, Park, Shor, Baumi, & Cortina, 2008) use a method of number crunching, to blast the political myths of the gr...moreAndrew Gelman and colleagues (Gelman, Park, Shor, Baumi, & Cortina, 2008) use a method of number crunching, to blast the political myths of the great divide. Gelman et al., examine another stereotype: that the rich vote Republican and the poor Democrat. In this vein, rich states should be Republican and poor states Democrats. But, these authors point out the paradox, that in both the 2000 and 2004 Presidential elections, Democrats captured the richer Northeaster and West Coast States, while Republicans won the poorer states. Gelman et al. underscore that these first glance conclusions are shallow in nature. They argue that the Red/Blue divide and paradox may boil down to ideology rather than social class or economic demographics. Democrats and Republicans are divided on the issues of abortion, gun control, and the Iraq war, by their analysis. Americans are not viewed as becoming more dogmatic or extremist in their views, but more coherent in terms of party selection. This view argues that for the Democrat or Republican candidate to win there are certain litmus test issues that must be passed. Gelman et al. voice their frustration at the forwarding of a false polarization by journalists who should know how to interpret voting trends in more sophisticated ways than sound bite media flashes. They show that there are demographic trends present, that these seems to be most apparent at the higher income level, with educated professionals moving towards the Democrats and business owners moving in the Republican direction; it is not, in their view, a simple class contrast. Gelman et al. acknowledge that polarization serves a useful function that is in terms of “branding” a political party. They argue that polarization is not one phenomenon, but three distinct, though overlapping constructs. A very good and a must read if you are into this sort of stuff like I am.
Thomas Frank (2004) explores the symbolic division in America which divides the country into mythical Red States and Blue States that seems to polariz...moreThomas Frank (2004) explores the symbolic division in America which divides the country into mythical Red States and Blue States that seems to polarize Americans and pit one against another. The so-called cultural divide rhetoric polarizes and stereotypes Americans. Blue states are elitists. Red states are unsophisticated working class stiffs. Frank argues that the conservatives have been able to win over the working class, a dream since 1931, for the Republicans. The Red/Blue divide, Frank argues helps the conservatives perform what he calls a "rhetorical maneuver” which highlights the arrogance of the "latte liberals." That rhetoric is one that polarizes Americans based upon their tastes in cars (Volvo for the liberals) and what they eat (imported cheeses, sushi) and drink (latte). Blue states are snobs. In contrast, the red state, "NASCAR" conservatives are small-town, meat and potatoes types. Red states are down-home working class stiffs. Frank takes to task this stereotypic division of American, criticizing primarily the right for their political motives in presenting America as divided. Frank seems to view the Red/Blue divide in a cynical manner and one that oversimplifies the cultural changes in America. Frank seems to speak from both sides of his mouth; on the one hand he derides the stereotypes of cultural images of latte liberals and NASCAR conservatives as a figment of conservatives who forward the rhetoric. On the other hand the discussion seems confused. Does Frank think there is a cultural divide? Or is it a political divide devised by cynical politicians to "energize" their base? The liberal assertion, in reading Frank’s summary of the blue/red state rhetoric, is that there is a real divide in America represented by class divisions that are deepening as economic conditions worsen. Moreover, there is a class war at progress fueled by social injustices that are supported by the rich corporate “fat-cats.” Book is o.k.I had to read it for research.
The “culture war” rhetoric recently popularized by some in the media polarizes and stereotypes Americans. Blue states are snobs. Red states are unsoph...moreThe “culture war” rhetoric recently popularized by some in the media polarizes and stereotypes Americans. Blue states are snobs. Red states are unsophisticated working class stiffs. But is such polarization real, or is it the figment of “politicos” in the media who have found a catchy sound bite? Media and the politic elite appear to find such divides useful to their purposes, i.e., to be able to play up to their base. Americans are divided in real ways across issues of abortion, gun control, and governmental control over their day to day lives. However, how much this divide actually results in “two Nations” is debatable. Fiorina (2005) provides somewhat of an answer to that question. It is that there is no real culture-divide and Fiorina hammers this point with survey data. Red and Blue states are not divided at all, but are centrists in orientation. However, when the survey data is examined America appears to be more right of center than smack down the middle centrists. For example, both Red and Blue States believe at equal levels that immigration should decrease, favor school vouchers, and view the moral climate as much worse than previously. Both hold socially progressive ideas of equality for women, oppose racial discrimination, and tolerance of others moral views. The divide comes in terms of gun control and opposition to legalization of abortion- and perhaps it is these issues that color our opinion of the "culture divide." It may be that there are deep divides in terms of these two issues in Red and Blue states, but on multiple core issues there is agreement in the conservative direction by the American Electorate.