The BP Oil Spill and Its Large Impact on the Gulf

Despite some assessments of the BP oil spill and the appearance of the Gulf waters, damage to coral, plankton, small creatures like worms, and soil is massive.  The foundation of the deep ocean life chain and ecosystem is in trouble.

http://www.thenation.com/article/157723/search-bps-oil?page=full

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Tucson: Others as Alien

An astute observation from Robert Wright: ¬†Whether we’re on the left or the right, when we isolate ourselves from those who disagree with us and put them into the category of “alien,” we dehumanize others and make violent acts easier to commit.¬† Blessings, Larry

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/11/before-hatred-comes-fear/

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A Name

Naming the Source is impossible. ¬†Once you name “God,” you are no longer describing the Source.

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Tucson: Real Violence Rather than Civility is the Issue

This is an excellent piece, emphasizing the existence of real violence over the past two years.¬† Frank Rich argues that you don’t have to look to rhetoric, but to actual acts.¬† Though violent rhetoric and threats of violence are likely to encourage and foment actual violence, Rich has a point when he argues that we should pay particular attention to violent incidents.¬† Even when they cause minimal damage, they are precursors to larger scale bloodshed.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/16/opinion/16rich.html

On rhetoric, see my piece:  http://mysticscholar.org/2011/01/10/violent-rhetoric-and-tucson-again/

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Holy Texts

Our lives are holy texts, chapters in the sacred scripture of humanity.

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Sacred Stories

Our lives are sacred stories. We are here to tell them and inspire others.

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Lunch in Erice

There are those moments–moments when you enter a gateway, and you feel the presence of God. ¬†I remember Erice in Sicily: ¬†eating a meal at a local restaurant, lingering, savoring the garlic, the olive oil and the pasta–and most of all the wine–cold, white, shimmering, crisp–Ambrosia, the best wine I ever tasted, the same for Dianne and for our friend Tony. Was it the wine, the town, the restaurant, or the moment with my wife and our friend? I don’t know, but it felt like heaven: ¬†like a dream in which my senses put me deep underwater, gliding effortlessly, with no particular goal, just living fully.

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Symbols

Symbols are the medium through which feeling finds form.

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Bodies in Flux

Who are we? Definable bodies? But human bodies are composed mostly of water and space. We are descendants of beings who lived in oceans, lakes, rivers, and streams. Our bodies are not solid, but fluid and open. Every day the cells in our bodies are born and die. Every seven years, we are composed of entirely new sets of cells. Why do we fix ourselves into an illusion of isolation and rigidity, as concrete form, frozen images, as if we are separate things? In fact, we are permeable, protean, one composed of many, continually transforming. Made in the image of God, we are no/thing, one through many, colored glass turning in a kaleidoscope, always in flux, movement in form.

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Strength

In the bleakest moments, our strength comes from where we least expect it.

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Justice

Where do we find justice? Only by pursuing it. (Deut 16:20)

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Judges Berate Foreclosure Lawyers

Many judges are particularly critical of foreclosure lawyers who use sloppy and improper documentations on behalf of lenders:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/11/business/11lawyers.html?hp=&pagewanted=all

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Breathing

Rather than working to breathe, let yourselves be breathed. Then you’re not an I, but a We.

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Our Task

What is one task of human beings? To convert the everyday into the eternal.

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Home

Where should we feel most at home? Inside ourselves.

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Violent Rhetoric and Tucson Again

Neal Boortz says that people have a right to be angry and use whatever imagery they wish as long as they do not resort to violence. Of course, there is no legal question here. Free speech is guaranteed by the first amendment to the US Constitution. But is it wise to use such imagery? I’m angry about many things in our culture and politics, but I would try not to use imagery that others can misinterpret or take literally. When we talk about targeting a political opponent with gun imagery, or taking second amendment remedies if we lose at the ballot box, or publicly describing our opponents as evil, unamerican, or alien, or musing or joking about assassinating politicians we don’t like, we have crossed the moral line.

Further, metaphors and symbols are not simply colorful ways of speaking, but the core elements of communication and expression which human beings use to articulate ideas and give voice to feeling. They express our most deeply held worldviews and values. When we use them, we are tapping into powerful currents of visceral emotion. By using war and combat imagery, we are not merely offering persuasive rhetoric, but we are appealing at a visceral level to a deep need for aggression that is latent in all us and part of the biological memory of our species. It is not surprising or unexpected that there are those who would take the metaphor literally, because the distance from violent language to violent action is not all that great.

The vast majority of us would not do so, but there are those who are disturbed or unbalanced who could well do so. ¬†Now no one has responsibility for this assassination attempt and mass murder except for Jared Lee Loughner. ¬†But what we say and do influences others, both directly and indirectly. ¬†Whatever Loughner’s particular motivations, it is unlikely that he would have acted in this way without living in a culture of violence, including violent language and symbolism.

Whether or not Loughner listened to particular radio shows, belonged to specific groups, or was conservative or liberal is not the most important factor here. What matters is that the language we use sets a tone that affects the behavior of others, especially the mentally ill and disturbed. Those of us who speak and write in public venues have a great responsibility because others are watching us and following us. Gabby Giffords understood the violent context in which she worked and many (including her) have rightly noted that “words have consequences.” Indeed they do, because they are not “merely” words, but images and symbols that connect to primal, archetypal emotions.

It is not a question of assigning blame to the right or left or to any group, but rather of understanding the context in which our politics take place. There is a sense that it is legitimate to dehumanize others by using violent metaphors about them. Those on all sides of the political spectrum have done this. We don’t need to aggravate the hostile climate further by focusing on individuals who have made poor use of language and imagery, but we simply must ask them to stop doing it.

Let’s find other words and symbolism to express our anger and frustration.

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Violent Rhetoric and Tucson

As we see today in Tucson with the attempted assassination of a congresswoman (Gabrielle Giffords), plus the shootings and murders of many bystanders, violent imagery and language can set the context for real-life horror. Whatever your political point of view (center, right, left, independent), let us please pledge ourselves to civility, humanity, and mutual respect.

Pima County (Arizona, Tucson) Sheriff, Clarence Dupnik, says it powerfully:

“When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on this country is getting to be outrageous, and unfortunately Arizona has become sort of the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

“The vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business … This has not become the nice United States that most of us grew up in.”

Please keep the victims and families in thought and prayer.

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Jacob’s Ladder

Where is Jacob’s ladder now? Inside each of us.

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Honey

“Suckling honey from a rock” (Deut. 32:13): In difficult moments, that’s what we have to do.

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Earth Energy

Tapping into the earth’s energy is a lot easier than creating our own.

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“Why Exercise Makes You Less Anxious”

This article discusses the effect of exercise on brain chemistry (via Nelson French): http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/18/phys-ed-why-exercise-makes-you-less-anxious/?emc=eta1

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Will Ocean Generators Affect Migration of Sea Creatures?

As we develop new green technologies, we will have to think about unforseen consequences:  http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/12/26/105798/will-generating-ocean-energy-affect.html

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Compassion

Compassion also means having compassion for those who don’t have much compassion.

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Feelings

Every feeling carries with it the faint echo of its opposite: love-hate, courage-fear, compassion-anger. We always have the choice of transforming one into the other.

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Genocide and Human Progress

I recall explaining to a group that the percentage of soldiers killed in war ¬†is much lower than in the past, especially in hunter-gatherer societies. ¬†The number of civilians killed was also much higher, and people viewed genocide as a normal (though dreaded) hazard of life. ¬†In fact, we did not even have a word for “genocide” until the twentieth century. There is no record of any nation intervening to stop a genocide until the US intervened in Bosnia and Kosovo.

The fact that we talk about “genocide,” condemn it, and criticize lack of action about it is in fact a testament to the unfolding evolution of humanity. ¬†This did not happen in past centuries, in pre-modern cultures, or in the Bible.¬†That’s why cultural transformation is difficult. ¬†People refuse to see what right in front of them: ¬†a growing repulsion for the annihilation of groups of human beings. If we want to move forward, we need to talk about what’s good about us. ¬†Otherwise, those listening shut down.

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Jews and Rowing

The Rowing Team
Yeshiva University decided to put together a scull rowing team. Unfortunately, they lost race after race. They practiced for hours every day, but never managed to come in any better than dead last. The head of the Yeshiva finally decided he couldn’t stand any more embarrassment so he sent Yankel to spy on Harvard‚Äôs team.

So Yankel shlepped off to Harvard and hid on the bank of the river from where he carefully watched the Harvard team as they practiced.
When Yankel returned to the Yeshiva he proudly announced to the head.
“I have figured out their secret,”

“They have eight guys rowing and one guy shouting and we have eight guys shouting and one guy rowing.”

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MERS and Foreclosures

A vast pyramid scheme: http://www.ourbroker.com/foreclosures/the-real-foreclosure-crisis-who-owns-the-mortgages/

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A Jewish Bronx Tale

I received this over e-mail from David Wekstein:

GREAT JEWISH BRONX TALE

The¬† South Bronx in 1950 was the home of a large and thriving community, predominantly Jewish. In the 1950s the¬† Bronx offered synagogues, mikvas, kosher bakeries, and kosher butchers — all the comforts one would expect from an observant Orthodox Jewish community.

The baby boom of the postwar years happily resulted in many new young parents. As a matter of course, the¬† South Bronx had its own baby equipment store, Sickser’s.

Sickser’s was located on the corner of¬† Westchester and Fox, and specialized in “everything for the baby” as its slogan ran.

The inventory began with cribs, baby carriages, playpens, high chairs, changing tables, and toys. It went way beyond these to everything a baby could want or need. Mr. Sickser, assisted by his son-in-law Lou Kirshner, ran a profitable business out of the needs of the rapidly expanding child population.

The language of the store was primarily Yiddish, but Sickser’s was a place where not only Jewish families but also many non-Jewish ones could acquire the necessary for their newly arrived bundles of joy.¬† Business was particularly busy one spring day, so much so that Mr. Sickser and his son-in-law could not handle the unexpected throng of customers.¬† Desperate for help, Mr. Sickser ran out of the store and stopped the first youth he spotted on the street. “Young man,” he panted, “how would you like to make a little extra money? I need some help in the store. You want to work a little?”

The tall, lanky black boy flashed a toothy smile back. “Yes, sir, I’d like some work.” “Well then, let’s get started.”

The boy followed his new employer into the store. Mr. Sickser was immediately impressed with the boy’s good manners and demeanor.

As the days went by and he came again and again to lend his help, Mr.Sickser and Lou both became increasingly impressed with the youth’s diligence, punctuality, and readiness to learn. Eventually Mr. Sickser made him a regular employee at the store. It was gratifying to find an employee with an almost soldier-like willingness to perform even the most menial of tasks, and to perform them well.

From the age of thirteen until his sophomore year in college, this young man put in from twelve to fifteen hours a week, at 50 to 75 cents an hour.¬† Mostly, he performed general labor: assembling merchandise, unloading trucks and preparing items for shipments. He seemed, in his quiet way, to appreciate not only the steady employment but also the friendly atmosphere Mr.Sickser’s store offered.

Mr. Sickser and Lou learned in time about their helper’s Jamaican origins, and he in turn picked up a good deal of Yiddish.

In time the young man was able to converse fairly well with his employers, and more importantly, with a number of the Jewish customers whose English was not fluent. At the age of seventeen, the young man, while still working part-time at Sickser’s, began his first semester at City College of¬† New York . He fit in just fine with his, for the most part Jewish classmates, hardly surprising, considering that he already knew their ways and their language.

But the heavy studying in the engineering and, later, geology courses he chose proved quite challenging. The young man would later recall that Sickser’s offered the one stable point in his life those days.

In 1993, in his position as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, two years after he guided the American victory over¬† Iraq in the Gulf War, General Colin Powell visited the¬† Holy Land. Upon meeting¬† Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in¬† Jerusalem, he greeted the Israeli with the word
“Men kent reden Yiddish” (We can speak Yiddish).

As Shamir, stunned, tried to pull himself together, the current Secretary Of State continued chatting in his second-favorite language. Colin Powell never forgot his early days working at Sickser’s.

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“Computers That See You and Keep Watch Over You”

Computer omnivision: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/02/science/02see.html?hp

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Jesus Knows You’re Here

I received this over email:

A burglar broke into a house one night. He shined his flashlight around, looking for valuables when a voice in the dark said, ‘Jesus knows you’re here.’ ¬†He nearly jumped out of his skin, clicked his flashlight off, and froze. ¬†When he heard nothing more , after a bit, he shook his head and continued. ¬†Just as he pulled the stereo out so he could disconnect the wires,¬†¬†clear as a bell he heard ‘Jesus is watching you.’¬†Freaked out, he shined his light around frantically, looking for the source of the voice. ¬†Finally, in the corner of the room, his flashlight beam came to rest on a parrot. ¬†‘Did you say that?’ he hissed at the parrot.¬†¬†‘Yep’, the parrot confessed, then squawked, ‘I’m just trying to warn you that he is watching you.’¬†¬†The burglar relaxed. ‘Warn me, huh? Who in the world are you?’¬†¬†‘Moses,’ replied the bird.¬†¬†‘Moses?’ the burglar laughed. ‘What kind of people would name a bird Moses?’ ¬†‘The kind of people that would name a Rottweiler Jesus.’

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Ivory Coast on the Brink of Genocide

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/30/ivory-coast-brink-genocide-election-crisis

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110102/ap_on_re_af/af_ivory_coast

Now is the time to act to stop genocide before it happens in the Ivory Coast. Use conversations, talks and sermons, emails, and blogs to stop potential horror.

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