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Patience is an act of compassion

When we sit in silent prayer or meditation, patience is the essence of the activity. It requires patience to sit, and the more we sit, the more patient we become. Whatever is your spiritual practice, whatever keeps you centered and grounded on a daily basis, patience is the key.

We learn patience. This learning of patience, though, is also growth in compassion and love.

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The Disposable Ones

It’s going on seven years now, since I visited the Nazi concentration camps. I’m still processing, as you can imagine. What surprised me in my visit was how viscerally the physical visit to the actual place affected me. Reading about genocide is something of a traumatic experience. (It is possible that one can suffer from what is called “secondary post-traumatic stress syndrome.”) Visiting the concentration camp sites, though, even 70 some odd years after the Holocaust is traumatic in a way that I’ve not quite been able to understand. There’s something about being there, in that place, that resonates in a deep way, in a way that you don’t get when you read about it in a book.
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Hand to the plow

“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” – Jesus in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 9

And perhaps that’s why the kingdom of God is, in a very important sense, not yet upon us. There aren’t many of us who have truly put the hand to the plow and not looked back. But, of course we look back! In this sense, are there any of us who are truly fit for the kingdom of God? Probably not. Still, if you are like me, then you have some sense of what it is like to be captured by the beauty of a vision of a better world, of a more free and peaceful culture.

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On taking the direct approach of Jesus

Recently I’ve been studying quite a bit on that Jesus dude. A prophet, Jesus was. Yet, interestingly, he didn’t use the typical ‘Thus says the Lord,’ or ‘Hear the word of the Lord’ rhetoric that characterizes many prophets in the Jewish tradition. Jesus didn’t appeal to his hearers on the basis of having a direct line to God. He didn’t say, “Yo. Listen to what God told me.” His prophetic approach was to overturn tables or to speak directly to the powerful.

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Recent Articles

1
Apr
V

Libertarian Left: Free-market anti-capitalism, the unknown ideal

There are many alternatives to our current form of capitalism. The Libertarian Left is one very important theory of social and economic organization. If you find yourself dissatisfied with mainstream politics and the major political parties, you owe it to yourself to investigate different ways of viewing the world.

As for myself, in particular, I have no hard-core allegiance to any particular theory. At this point, I think we simply need more people to start to investigate the alternatives. While many of the average middle-class citizens are cynical of mainstream politics, they nonetheless either end up getting caught up in conventional political debate or just check out of the process all together. What seems critical to me, at this point, is to bring to people’s attention the many alternative ways of viewing social and economic organization. With all of the intelligent ideas out there, with all of the challenges to capitalism, I believe with my whole heart that things really and truly don’t have to be the way they are. A better world is more possible and feasible than most of us can dare to believe.

 

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29
Mar
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How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God

I am an American who has spent six months in Africa. The contrast between the wealth of the two nations is striking, to say the least. Theologically, many American Christians view American prosperity as a blessing of God bestowed upon the United States because her citizens have worked so hard and have honored God. Is this the case? Or has American wealth come at the cost of oppressing and exploiting others: stealing Native lands, enslaving Africans, killing off Natives who resisted displacement, paying immigrant laborers virtually nothing, importing goods from abusive and oppressive sweatshops, and being environmentally destructive and irresponsible?
The answer to the question is important. Jesus, for example, viewed his world as being dominated by the oppressive Roman Empire. Those who had wealth gained it at the expense of others. (The Romans, however, saw things differently. Their gods were on their side and the Emperor was a manifestation of God, the Son of God.) In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is recorded as stating, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Why so hard on the rich?

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25
Mar
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You’re not as busy as you say you are | Slate

Several years ago, I made a conscious decision to break away (as much as possible) from the American consumer culture. I felt like a cog in the machine, and I knew that the machine of our disposable culture doesn’t give a damn about anyone’s personal, subjective individuality. It’s brutal, but we are only valued to the extent that we are productive. It’s spiritually depressing.

I was intrigued to read this article in Slate about how so many of us actually value and exaggerate our busyness. This is one of those articles that surprised me at first, but on deeper reflection, it makes sense. In a culture where we are valued for our production capabilities, it is little wonder that we exaggerate how busy we are. This exaggeration is so complete that we even fool ourselves and stress out over being busier than we really are.

 

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20
Mar

Pure American Gun Billboard In Chicago

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Symbols shape the way we view our culture. They mold our perceptions of our selves. We see so many images that we sometimes don’t realize that there are still defining cultural symbols.

What symbols define our collective American experience? Apple Pie? A Jesus fish? An assault rifle? Clearly a group of Americans believe that their story, their narrative, is given deeper meaning by the symbol of an assault rifle.

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/4985500?1395154308&ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000067

11
Mar

The Red Faces of the Solar Skeptics – NYTimes.com

Rick Murphy, general manager of Grandview Tire and Auto in Edina, Minn., which installed solar panels on its roof.

With solar becoming affordable, maybe it is time for you to start thinking about solar panels on your home, eh???…..Or time for me, perhaps, to start building that remote cabin in the middle of Alaska??? (After all, what more could a guy ask for than to be in the middle of the wild and still be able to Facebook?)

From the article:

The average price of a solar panel has declined an estimated 60 percent since the beginning of 2011, and this year the total photovoltaic capacity in the United States is projected to reach 10 gigawatts, the energy equivalent of several nuclear power plants. (By one estimate, photovoltaic costs crossed over to become cheaper than electricity generated by new nuclear plants about four years ago.)

An analysis of remodeling and construction permit data from 77 municipalities around the United States reveals that solar installations — primarily photovoltaic rather than solar thermal — grew by a third last year alone. With a relatively short payback period, these home-improvement investments are now within the reach of many middle-class families….

Also, I didn’t realize this, but Google and other tech companies are investing in solar:

Plenty of smart money has been moving into large-scale renewable energy projects, with significant investments by Google, Apple and Microsoft. Google is planning six new solar power plants in California and Arizona.

The Red Faces of the Solar Skeptics – NYTimes.com.

8
Mar

Safari in Arusha National Park

Very pleasantly surprised at the diversity and spottings in Arusha National Park. Less than an hour’s drive. We had a great day.

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3
Mar

Exploitation Fiction

An interesting article by an old blogging buddy. He’s working on publishing some of his fiction writing, and in the process he contemplates the problems in the publishing industry that stem back to problems in our economic system:

 I’m not just writing abstract economic musings here. Though I’ve been writing fiction for more than a decade, I’m a newcomer to the writing industry. Now, looking at the business side of things, I’m realizing that the publishing industry exemplifies many of the worst features of contemporary capitalism.

The designers of the product — the writers — are not employees of the manufacturer and distributor — the publishing company. The writers aren’t even paid short-term contractors. They are speculators, doing the work on their own time without compensation.

Exploitation Fiction.

2
Mar

The Return of the Happy Atheist – NYTimes.com

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Really interesting article on the emotional and existential evolution of atheism (and by default religion).

From the article….These are the factors that have led to a more cheery outlook for atheism:

So evolutionary psychology, peace and prosperity, the removal of a glaring embarrassment to atheism’s pretensions and the emergence of new threats that made atheism look more progressive …

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2
Mar

On safari in Tarangire National Park

An amazing day on the African Savannah.

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28
Feb

Greening Greensburg | Orion Magazine

One of the things that holds us back from working toward a sustainable world is that it is so much easier to use our current infrastructure than to rebuild, recreate, and reimagine. We’ve also, in America, I’m afraid, become quite unimaginative and uncreative. (The decades of television finally taking their toll?) But what happens if your Midwest town gets leveled by a tornado? Well, if you are the salt-of-the-earth folk of Greensburg, Kansas, you roll up your sleeves, spit, and rebuild a sustainable community that draws in visitors from all over the world. And you do it all without wearing tie dye t-shirts or otherwise converting to Hippiedom.

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27
Feb

Article “The internet is fucked” | The Verge

One of my own (many) gripes against capitalism is that it breeds huge mutant monopoly companies who eat their families. When big industries are deregulated, the powerful tend to use their power to squash competition, or merge with other powerful companies. They then use this new strength to squeeze out even more competition until they remain, alone, at the top of the heap. (Think about the old days when princes would murder their brothers and any other familial rival…Hey, at least they were honest.)

This sad capitalistic story keeps replaying itself in American, and if you want, you can make a bag of popcorn and watch it unfold, as mega-bucks mutant freak corporation Comcast grows bigger and bigger….But be warned, watching it unfold may require shelling out big bucks to Comcast for an internet bundle plan.

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18
Feb

Stopping the pipeline

A good summary of the opposition to Keystone XL pipeline….From the video….The odds are against us. We are up against the most profitable industry in human history…..This pipeline is a foreign company pumping foreign oil through the heart of the United States, to ship away to foreign buyers….We are caretakers of creation, and there is a responsible alternative to our current dependence on fossil fuels: creating local jobs and investing in alternative, renewable energy sources.

17
Feb
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Rewilding

In the last few years, come sometime in mid-winter, I’ve started feeling the itch. The urge to get back to Alaska. It’s about that time now, and the urge is stronger than ever. So, I was intrigued, of course, to come across an article in Orion Magazine (my favorite magazine of all time) on rewilding. It’s a conversation with George Monbiot, a Brit and the author of a book on how we can work to reintroduce and cultivate wild spaces. The book has already lit a fire with many readers, and it is set to be released in a few months in the U.S.

Environmentalists or no, we are all intrigued by the incredible biodiversity of the past, and the large and magnificent predators that used to roam the earth. But, you may be surprised to know that this was widespread. For example, there were once elephants, rhinos, lions, and other large and impressive species in Europe. Says Monbiot, “Of course, in the Americas it was even more extraordinary. Read more »

16
Feb
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What can be lost

I thought I would post another one of those incredible quotes from Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. In this quote, Orleanna Price is reflecting on the loss of one of her children, her marriage to the angry and unstable Nathan, and on her darkest day in the Congo. In doing so, she reflects on fate in general.

“Maybe the tragedy began on the day of my wedding, then. Or even earlier, when I first laid eyes on Nathan at the tent revival. A chance meeting of strangers, and the end of the world unfolds. Who can say where it starts. I’ve spent too many years backing over that muddy road: If only I hadn’t let the children out of my sight that morning. If I hadn’t let Nathan take us to Kilanga in the first place. If the Baptists hadn’t taken upon themselves the religious conversion of the Congolese. What if the Americans, and the Belgians before them, hadn’t tasted blood and money in Africa? If the world of white men had never touched the Congo at all?

Oh it’s a fine and useless trail to try to fix destiny. Read more »

15
Feb
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To hold yourself apart

To confess, I’m becoming increasingly addicted to African novels, ever since Chinua Achebe’s magnificent Things Fall Apart, which is the African novel to top the canonical collection of them all. But Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible has me hooked. Kingsolver is easily one of my favorite novelists. She is a master storyteller, and in The Poisonwood Bible, she weaves the stories of four girls and a mother who are taken to the Congo, in 1959, by their Baptist preacher father, a driven, angry man intent on converting the natives to the salvation of Jesus Christ.

I’m amazed at Kingsolver’s ability to weave the stories of the family together, in the voices of each of the women of the family. The writing entertains, intrigues, then entertains some more. Then, when you are completely submerged in the narrative, Kingsolver nails you in the back of the head with a profound post-colonial insight.

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