Talks by 'Abdu'l-Bahá: The Spirit of Christ is a new arrangement of public and private talks, all previously published in Paris Talks and Promulgation...moreTalks by 'Abdu'l-Bahá: The Spirit of Christ is a new arrangement of public and private talks, all previously published in Paris Talks and Promulgation of Universal Peace. Each talk mentions Christ; some are directly about Christ's teachings and disciples, while others are more generally about religion and the Prophets or "Manifestations" of God. Like a good mix tape (playlist), the arrangement here creates a beautiful and new experience: the reader gains a clearer and more coherent view of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's theology from these pages. This of course is an elucidation of Bahá'u'lláh's theology; as such, this new volume would make an excellent compliment to the study of the Kitáb-i-Íqan.
Having just read two other books containing many excerpts from 'Abdu'l-Bahá's talks, presented in historical context, I was looking for a followup that would present more analysis and application. When this book arrived, I was stunned by the beautiful dust jacket and the elegant book design. Nevertheless, I felt some initial disappointment, until I realized that these talks are in themselves the best analysis of modern conditions and application of the Bahá'í teachings. Furthermore, this collection offers an education in how to challenge an audience without putting them down and without overwhelming them with too much information, and how to use the power of both intellect and emotion wisely.
Although frequently commenting on the religionists of the past who were unwilling to forsake the forms of their fathers when a new dispensation arose, and stating in no uncertain terms that it would be better to live without religion than to live with it when it becomes the cause of disunity, the reader sees that his words of criticism were "mild as milk" and are expressed with a sense forthright observation rather than fiery castigation:
"If in the day of Jesus Christ the Jews had forsaken imitation and investigated reality, they would assuredly have believed in and accepted Him, for the Messianic effulgence was far greater than the Mosaic. The Sun of Reality, when it appeared from the dawning point of Christ, was as the midsummer sun in brilliancy and beauty".
Imagine the tone of our social discourse if the body politic could learn from this example; and imagine if our academic discourse were devoted to building on itself rather than constantly trying to tear each other apart. It would be a different and far more pleasant society, if we could learn from the Master.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the Bahá’í Publishing Trust through its Bloggers Network book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." (http://ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revis...)(less)
The opening pages contained such a horrible portrait of nonredeemable people that I put the book down, switching to Anna Karenina. Picking it back up,...moreThe opening pages contained such a horrible portrait of nonredeemable people that I put the book down, switching to Anna Karenina. Picking it back up, it was not as painful to read the parting exchanges between Mr. and Mrs. Dashwood, quickly moving the real protagonists to their new home in Devonshire. After that, it was been compellingly enjoyable.
Perhaps the best quality of a Jane Austen novel is the subtle mockery/critique of the excesses of society. Coming in a close second is the use of the language. Austen uses few words that remain unrecognized in even a modern audience, yet the preponderance of multi-syllabic words, carefully crafted phrases, and indirect speech patterns provide a rich feast for the eyes and intellect. This books offers much in both regards.
A question... (view spoiler)[in today's western civilization, a 35 year old moping over a 17 year would be seen as creepy and borderline jail-worthy. Did Austen actively condone, merely accept, or secretly condemn this practice? (hide spoiler)](less)
More than merely a memoir, Portals to Freedom by Howard Colby Ives is both a loving portrait of a "holy man" and a deeply personal exploration of the...moreMore than merely a memoir, Portals to Freedom by Howard Colby Ives is both a loving portrait of a "holy man" and a deeply personal exploration of the slow convergence between intellectualism and spirituality. Ives, a former Unitarian minister, wrote Portals to Freedom nearly eighty years ago. His aim was to recount his experiences, still vivid 25 years after the fact, of sitting "at the feet of the master" in a nearly literal sense – that is, of spending time in the company of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, head of the Bahá’í Faith from his father’s death in 1892 until his own in 1921. In various cultural terms, you might call him a holy man, a guru, a saint; Bahá’is simply call him "the Master."
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, then approaching 70 years old, journeyed to North America in 1912 to strengthen the faith of those who already embraced his father’s religion, and to acquaint new audiences with its teachings. Ives had been introduced to the religion by friends shortly before ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s arrival in New York City. He makes plain that he had a sort of intellectual attraction to the Bahá’i teachings, as a liberal theologian, but it did not initially extend to consideration of the personal implications. The question of personal faith slowly dawned on him, as he recounts in a number of poignantly narrated encounters with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in parlors and audience-halls.
Ives is an excellent writer. Of course some of his phraseology does not quite fit the modern language, but he is never difficult to read. He has an orrator‘s flair that keeps the work from becoming too dry – as does ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s humor, displayed in several of the stories of him. That Ives is well-trained in matters of religion, philosophy, and the scientific currents of the day is abundantly clear.
It is also clear that this training becomes a source of confusion and disharmony in his life, once he has encountered ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. For instance, one of his stories speaks of his deep need to understand the word "renunciation" in the phrase "horizon of renunciation." When asked, the Master provides a commentary on "horizon" instead, thus leading to an initial sense of disappointment. Knowing somewhat of the spiritual significance of renunciation/detachment, the reader (and eventually the author) can plainly see how ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was teaching by example and implication. The full story of that encounter naturally reveals far more than this soundbite, and it is but one of many that beautifully illustrate ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s mode of being.
The author’s spiritual journey is presented as a lesson to share with others, but there remains an appropriate humility about it: for the most part, the book is autobiographical just to the extent that it explains Ives’ motivation and frame of mind throughout his experience, which necessarily shaped the questions he asked and the stories to took note of. By the time of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s return to Palestine, Ives has managed a rapprochement between his intellectual and spiritual natures, in a manner reminiscent of the struggles Tolstoy documents in his Confessions. He expresses the conflict in these terms in the book’s conclusion:
"Scholasticism provides no answer to the demands of men for a satisfaction of those primal needs of the spirit. Religion, as generally understood – being, as it is, a mixture of tradition, social convention, and more or less correct estimates of the immediate problems confronting people, and all savored with a salt that has lost its savor – provides no satisfaction to the hungry souls of men. In all this confusion of thought and action, no rock is found upon which many may plant his spiritual feet and be confident in his treading."
Religion, in the form of the Bahá’í Faith as opposed to "generally understood," still has the power to recharge – to "salt" the "salt of the earth," he discovered.
Those seeking to know ‘Abdu’l-Bahá better, to emulate his ways and appreciate the beauty and truth of the teachings he explicated, will be referring back to this work for centuries to come. All who seek to escape cynicism, or to reconcile the western intellectual tradition with a religious worldview, would do well to follow Ives’ transformation, and to ponder and then put into action the meaning of the stories he relates.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the Bahá’í Publishing Trust through its Bloggers Network book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." (http://ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revis...)(less)
That said, I admit that I skimmed through some of the middle chapters where the application was being built – it was simple to skip the details of Java implementation and focus on the points where a decision was being made, based on tests, about where to put/move a piece code. The authors did well in steering away from anything too Java-centric, that the book would remain accessible to those of us who are not deep in that language.
There is no need for me to recount the contents – perusal of the table of contents should be sufficient. Some of the advice about testing overlaps that found in XUnit Test Patterns, but the overlaps is small enough to warrant reading both. Naturally, some of the advice will reinforce what any good and self-reflective programmer will have already figured out about writing tests. In that case you receive validation and further justification. And much of the advice on OO programming can be found in more detail in other works, though here it is uniquely combined with TDD to shed new light on the advantages of OO.
A few particular highlights for me:
Let necessity drive design, rather week-long UML sessions.
Write to interfaces, initially ignoring implementation. Interfaces should name and describe relationships between classes.
Deploy as early as possible. Do so even before the application does anything, just to prove that the framework can be deployed.
Readability applies to test code as well. I already believed that, but this presentation will help me explain that better to doubters.
Test names can be extremely descriptive (prior post)
I have been over-reliant on Microsoft's Moles (prior post)
Love God Heal Earth is a compilation of essays, from leaders of 11 religions and denominations, that delve into the religious call for a transition to...moreLove God Heal Earth is a compilation of essays, from leaders of 11 religions and denominations, that delve into the religious call for a transition to a sustainable way of life. While not devoid of science, this book presents a deeply spiritual, personal, and hopeful message that moves beyond the intellectual reality of global climate change. In other words, it is a powerful complement to the grim facts of An Inconvenient Truth.
Rev. Bingham assembled the author list from among her contacts in the network of state-level Interfaith Power and Light organizations, of which her California group was the first (and her Regeneration Project is the "umbrella"). These authors are all active in promoting a lower impact way of life, in teaching about climate change, and in encouraging an ethic of "creation care." They come from diverse backgrounds, representing Buddhism, Christianity (in multiple forms), Islam, Judaism, and Unitarianism. But their diversity is more than just religious. One of the most striking aspects to this book is seeing how these authors navigated from the traditional cares of their communities, which tend to see conservation as at best someone else's job, into the field of creation care.
In that regard, I was particularly inspired by Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley, pastor of the Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta. He describes how his passion for racial justice in America was suddenly transformed into an awareness of ecological impacts on communities – an awareness of eco-justice. "The light is on and it must continue to shine in all of our lives, to let us see that most living things are being harmed because we are not aware nor globally concerned about what it will take to save the environment," Rev. Durley writes. My copy of the book is riddled with little pink sticky notes. His chapter has none, because there was nothing I wanted to single out. It is an entire essay I will return to often.
Those sticky notes mark out dozens of resources, ideas, and inspiring passages. These will be of great help to anyone wishing to engage in religiously-motivated action for the betterment of the planet. That action might be in the form of political activism, or of intra-denominational or ecumenical eco-theology. You will find inspiration here. If you find yourself wanting to change more than just light bulbs (although that is a good start), you will find inspiration. If your wish is to envision a life less-mired in materialism, or one that steps boldly beyond the critics on left (anti-religion) and right (anti-environmentalism), then you too will find a muse.
In closing this review, I share a passage from the Rev. Jim Deming, United Church of Christ, Nashville, TN (p 49), which leaves me with a feeling of realism, but also of hope.
"There will be times of backsliding and confession, but there will also be times of grace and insight that are God's reward for doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with our God. Let us humbly invite our neighbor and walk humbly to the future together."
Review of Love God Heal Earth: 21 Leading Religious Voices Speak Out on Our Sacred Duty to Protect the Environment, by Rev. Canon Sally G. Bingham et al. Published in 2009 by St. Lynn's Press, Pittsburgh, PA. No goods or services were received in return for this review.(less)
In this scholarly work, Janet and Peter Khan present the theological grounding, social context, historical action, and modern implementation of the co...moreIn this scholarly work, Janet and Peter Khan present the theological grounding, social context, historical action, and modern implementation of the concept of "equality between the sexes" as found in the Bahá'í Faith. Well researched and clearly written, the book has much to offer to those who, from any background, wish to better understand the underpinnings and the implications of this critical spiritual principle.
The authors begin with a brief introduction to the religion, followed by an attempt to define equality and an exploration of the role of family. Within these chapters, the Khans acknowledge the impact of inequality, as well as the challenges and critiques faced by those who propose to work for it. They continue by stating in clear terms the mutual and distinct expectations for women and men within Bahá'í religious law.
Not content with mere words, the next chapters explore how the leading figures within the religion have delivered on the promise of equality. They show the deeds and exhortations of the Prophet-Founder, Bahá'u'lláh; his son, ‘Abdu'l-Bahá; Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian; and the Universal House of Justice. These chapters are illustrated by passages showing the personal touch and active engagement of each of these "heads of the Faith." In closing, the Khans move from mere explication to active encouragement. They advocate for the tangible application of this principle in each individual's life, in the dynamics of family, and in the community interactions of all societies.
The Khans have done well in preventing the book from being laden with religious and feminist jargon. Terms are clearly explained when introduced, and a glossary is provided to help readers overcome any unfamiliarity with key figures, institutions, and terms within the Bahá'í Faith. All quotations are fully attributed in the end notes, thus the pages are not cluttered with footnotes. In addition, a bibliography of the Bahá'í literature is included to give proper credit to all those works that contributed to the genesis of this one.
The topic remains a timely one. Although much progress has been made toward the goal of the practical realization of sex equality, just as with race, the results are uneven and sporadic. I recommend Advancement of Women to anyone wishing to better understand the Bahá'í Faith, and even more so to those who seek a critical, action-oriented, and yet deeply spiritual assessment of the role of women in society.
A very good first novel. It is novel. It is grim. Dark and gritty are fitting adjectives. Perhaps the "grittiest" book I have ever read. The feminine...moreA very good first novel. It is novel. It is grim. Dark and gritty are fitting adjectives. Perhaps the "grittiest" book I have ever read. The feminine lead looks nothing like the cover: unfortunately the publisher is apparently unwilling to put a "cockroach-colored" woman on the front. She makes Dirty Harry look weak.
On the surface it appears to demean Islam in some ways. There was a parenthetical reference to the Baha'i Faith as a dead offshoot (at least I interpreted it as such). The future was painted vividly, if apocalyptically. Look beyond the surface and it is condemnation of humanity and many religions, not just a future Islam. Find that in the colonial plot twists, if you dare.(less)
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow is what happens when a classic geek extrapolates the cyberpunk future of a reputation-based economy combined with the extrusion of an open source ethos into the management of everyday affairs, tosses in immortality and lean project management, and sets it all in the context of the semi-religious experience of Disney World.
A well-crafted amusement park ride of the Disney-variety leads you through a thrilling story in a matter of minutes. The rider does not foresee the end of the ride; when it arrives, the rider disembarks enthused and ready to jump back into line. So it is with Down and Out; reading on the nook, where ignorance of page count is natural, I was stunned to look at the bottom of the screen and realize I was at the end. What a ride it had been! I wanted to exclaim out loud and rave about the book, but prudence restrained me from disturbing my fellow airline passengers.
I've been to Disney World twice in conscious memory, and I think once when too young to recall. Memories of Disney Land in the pre-K years also stir. That frequency outs me as a privileged middle class American. To those who haven't experienced Disney, I've been unsuccessful in explaining the awe and joy I still feel with respect to these parks. Explaining the mystique is like explaining Star Wars; those who didn't grow up with it rarely grok it. Doctorow's protagonist lets us in on one of the secrets: "The mark of a great ride is that it gets better the second time around, as the detail and flourishes start to impinge on your consciousness. The Mansion was full of little gimcracks and sly nods that snuck into your experience on each successive ride." In dialogue, in discourse, in contrasting experiences, the book makes a serious contribution to understanding the mythos without destroying it
Down and Out exudes love, joy, reverence for the cultural icon and the experience of Disney. And more imporantly – for the condition of being human. The characters are not paragons of virtue; they are human; no, they are more-than-human: immortal, altered, freed of many of today's physical and social constraints. But still they are human: petty, ambitious, caring, loving. For all of Julius's failings, I cared about him, my fictional friend who has started to realize the failings of the society he has embraced.
The book is only 208 pages, so give it a shot. See the present and the future in a different light. Consider the implications of technology for humanity while having a heck of a ride. Stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the best Sci Fi around. Buy it, check it out at a library, or download Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom for free.