3/31/2009 12:17:25 PM
In tough economic times, financial tips can feel like spiritual guidance. The first noble truth of the Buddha—that existence is suffering—sounds like good advice for someone trying to cut back on expenses.
Whether or not she knows it, financial guru Suze Orman doles out such spiritual-financial teachings on her CNBC show, according to John Tarrant writing for Shambhala Sun. Orman helps people understand that the origin of their suffering lies in craving—the second noble truth—firmly but lovingly pushing them away from financial lust and excess. She also teaches the third noble truth, that “a change of heart is possible,” believing in her clients ability to be reborn.
The implicit message of Orman’s show is “you are not alone,” Sandra Steingraber writes for Orion. By showing the financial information of other people anonymously, Orman’s show provides a kind of catharsis and therapy to the viewers. It also gets beyond a taboo people feel when talking about expenses or salary with their friends. This is important, according to Steingraber, due to the fact, “to borrow a phrase from the adoptee rights movement, that secrecy breeds fear. And shame. “
Neither Tarrant nor Steingraber endorse Orman’s specific financial advice. In fact, Steingraber describes her retirement plan as “to be found stiff and cold at my writing desk.” The articles are aimed at illuminating a link between people’s money and their spiritual life, and the way that Orman, according to Tarrant, “is filling a necessary role in our culture as we wake out of a dream.”
Sources: Shambhala Sun (excerpt only), Orion (excerpt only)
3/26/2009 11:00:50 AM
Alt Wire is a morning digest of links and information collected and explained by a different guest blogger every weekday. Today's guest is Geez editor Will Braun.
Religion is an awkward topic. But heck, it's kinda fun to squirm a bit every now and then. So here's some of the irk and the smirk of religion in a (partially) post-religious age.
Super-powered religion: California artist Mark Bryan sees tanks in the shape of churches and steeples built of missiles. (And his online gallery is clean, attractive and easy to use.)
I believe in Lego: It's part art, part snark, and part straight-up Word of God. With a Lego set to die for, Brendan Powell Smith has masterfully created Lego dioramas of over 300 Bible stories. The stories–with titles like "Massacre of the Peaceful, Unsuspecting People," "Bestiality," and "When to Stone Your Children"–are conveniently rated for nudity, sexual content, cursing and violence.
I Married the Pastor: He leads a small Bible Belt church; she likes pedicures and "magazines with pretty pictures." This is her take on things. This blog is a satirical, endearing, and delightfully vain insider's look at the daily life of the faithful.
My favorite televangelist: Reverend Billy and the Church of Life After Shopping tap into the genre of televangelism to warn of the coming "shopocalypse." If you've never seen anyone exorcise consumerist demons out of a Wal-Mart cash register, check it out.
Eccentrification of the world: Determined to "imagine something beyond televised teenage angst," members of The Winking Circle have pretty much rendered boredom obsolete. With spiritual undertones, these young folks from the little town of Uxbridge, Ontario have chosen positive action over passive entertainment. Their art bikes, music, gardens, art cars, and films demonstrate a creativity unencumbered by sophistication or caution. I love these guys.
Bio: Will Braun is the editor of Geez, a quarterly publication that offers out-churched and over-churched souls some "holy mischief in an age of fast faith." In a recent article entitled "A month of under-stimulation," he chronicles his experiment in trying to reduce his addiction to the internet.
Previous Alt Wire Guests: Regan Hofmann, Josh Breitbart, Andrew Lam, Jessica Valenti, Jessica Hoffmann, Noah Scalin, Rinku Sen, Paddy Johnson, Melissa Mcewan, Fatemeh Fakhraie , Joe Biel , Anne Elizabeth Moore
3/24/2009 3:20:40 PM
Religious people may be less anxious than the non-religious, according to new research reported by the New Scientist. Using brain scans, researchers found that non-believers showed more activity in a part of the brain linked to anxiety than their devout counterparts. Religion could help reduce anxiety, according to the study’s lead neuroscientist Michael Inzlicht, because “it provides a kind of blueprint on how to interact with the world."
3/18/2009 2:30:52 PM
Dolly from the Family Circus knows, “Convictions are more dangerous foes of truth than lies.” And Jeffy points out, “Is not life a hundred times too short to bore ourselves?” Pairing quotes by Friedrich Nietzsche with the saccharine drawings from the Family Circus, the Nietzsche Family Circus on the Losanjealous website illuminates beyond good and evil.
3/18/2009 11:57:39 AM
Even before the Vatican’s bungled dealings with Bishop Williamson, who denied the Holocaust, Pope Benedict XVI raised eyebrows with his 2006 prayer at Auschwitz when he said of the Nazi’s, “By destroying Israel, they ultimately wanted to tear up the taproot of the Christian faith.”
“Nothing shows how little we understand the suffering of others,” writes Peter Manseau in Commonweal, “more than the attempt to use our story to make sense of it.”
Manseau warns that when people use the framework of their own faith to express compassion for people of another faith, it can lead to a subtle kind of revisionism that, while not denying history, reshapes it to fit into the narrative of their own religion.
Manseau connects the dots between the pope’s slightly revised understanding of the Holocaust and Bishop Williamson’s outright denial. “There is a difference between facing up to history and seeing one’s own theology play out at every turn. If the first frame of reference for the murder of 6 million Jews is the death of a Christian savior or saint, one can see how the dark spots of history might be forgotten beside the light of faith.”
Image by fdecomite, licensed under
3/18/2009 10:49:54 AM
Like the McDonalds of tourism, the proliferation of Lonely Planet has branded and shaped our interaction with the world. In the winter issue of Geist, Stephen Henighan compares international travel before and after the popular guide book series took root. He considers early travel narratives by Harry Franck and A.F. Tschiffely, Americans whose journeys favored rough improvisation over guided plans, relying instead on advice from locals and their own observational knowledge. In contrast, Lonely Planet has effectively homogenized how people think about travel, reducing the experience to a predictable set of outcomes.
“The company’s formula, laying its easy-to-consult categories over each destination like a grid, has not only charted the world: it has changed it,” writes Henighan. “By assuring almost everyone that they can travel to faraway places and find familiar comforts and attitudes, Lonely Planet, along with its competitors, has acted as a catalyst in installing cheap hotels, transportation links and English-speaking personnel in locations where otherwise they might not exist.”
Henighan acknowledges that Lonely Planet has also helped democratize travel through both its mass appeal and its nod to specific groups, such as women, people of color, and the LGBT community. No small feat, considering that experiences like Franck and Tschiffely’s were once limited to a privileged few.
Image by The Wandering Angel, licensed under Creative Commons
3/16/2009 2:24:05 PM
Eulogizing the life of her grandmother, Libby Ellis reconstructs memories both hilarious and heart-breaking, and strives to reconcile her grandmother’s attempted suicide. Here's an excerpt from “The Rumors of Her Death”:
“We drank too much, playing cards and telling old stories. Bubba was, as far as I’m concerned, the best grandmother a kid could have. She was beautiful and wild, she smoked—as my mom explained—using each cigarette like punctuation. She played bridge and golfed, she had affairs with married men and painted her toenails coral, she made me chicken salad, with sliced cucumbers, taught me to play poker and drove all over the state (speeding, with me perched on the armrest) to find the Blueberry Muffin doll I was desperate to have. She smelled like Salem Ultra Lite 100s and Jean Nate. She loved men who were unapologetic cads and told me to keep a list of people I would bite if I ever got rabies. She thought I was the best kid ever—aside from my mom. I loved her unconditionally.
“And there we were in that kitchen without her. Rooting around for a bottle opener, my mom found an old grocery receipt. Bub liked to listen to the radio and write down quotes that appealed to her. In her arthritic scrawl were Mark Twain’s words, ‘The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.’ It was followed by a reminder to herself: ‘Get cigarettes.’”
Image by Libby Ellis
3/16/2009 1:50:09 PM
Like a 1,600 year-old Cosmo quiz, Buddhism has a tradition of separating people into distinct personality types. Knowing your personality type “can help you release your habitual reactions and bring about greater awareness and balance,” according to Tricycle magazine. There are three basic personality types, each with a positive and a negative temperament associated with them: greed/faith, aversive/discerning wisdom, and deluded/speculative. Tricycle gives a vague, 13-question quiz to help people understand, and hopefully improve upon their temperaments.
3/16/2009 12:35:07 PM
In the latest issue of Sojourners, Onleilove Alston lays out a brief how-to guide to mindful and inclusive organizing against poverty and racism. Her model is a group called The Poverty Initiative, formed at Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan.
“I have experienced well-meaning Christians from more privileged backgrounds who feel called to serve poor people,” she writes, “but instead end up negating their autonomy and enacting charity, as opposed to justice.”
She writes her “seven ways” in frank Christian language, but her wisdom could easily be adapted to secular groups. Here is an excerpt from her list:
Make a habit of supporting indigenous leaders: If you are called to relocate to serve a different community, first seek out existing local leaders in that community. No one can be “given” a voice; instead, those of privilege must step aside so that everyone’s voice is heard.
Socially locate yourself: In my work with the Poverty Initiative, we talk about our experiences with poverty or privilege and what has brought us to this work. Within the Poverty Initiative’s work, this practice has given a voice to white poverty, an issue ignored by many anti-poverty movements.
Find strong, detail-oriented critics who will judge your actions, not just your intentions; listen to criticism without panic or anger: We need to have people around us who can gently critique our actions to ensure that we are not operating in racism, classism, sexism, or some other “ism” that will hinder the movement.
3/13/2009 12:10:02 PM
As much as some people would like to believe, not all of Jesus’ teachings were about charity and love. At times, Jesus could be downright mean. In the book of Mark, the earliest of the Gospels, Robert Wright writes in the Atlantic that “Jesus’ most salient comment on ethnic relations is to compare a woman to a dog because she isn’t from Israel.”
Much of the image of Jesus as a proponent of universal love comes from the gospel of Paul, according to Wright, and Paul’s motivations may not have been entirely theological. Wright explores the idea of Paul as an “ambitious preacher of early Christianity,” who wanted to set up an expansive and franchised religious organization in an increasingly globalizing world—as much a CEO as a spiritual leader.
This reading of scripture could be dismissed as simple atheism, but Wright insists that he leaves room for “the prospect of divine purpose generically.” Christianity’s promotion of transnational love, respect, and morality may have been spiritually pragmatic, but exists within a historical widening of tolerance and amity for people generally. And if history moves gradually, and “fitfully” toward harmony, according to Wright, “then maybe some overarching purpose is built into the human endeavor after all.”
The argument bears some resemblance to one in Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger. Zooey insists that 98 percent of Christians try “to turn Jesus into St. Francis of Assisi to make him more ‘lovable.’” The problem is that “If God had wanted somebody with St. Francis’s consistently winning personality for the job in the New Testament, he’d’ve picked him, you can be sure.”
Source: The Atlantic
3/12/2009 9:22:31 AM
Alt Wire is a morning digest of links and information collected and explained by a different guest blogger every weekday. Today's guest is Muslimah Media Watch editor-in-chief Fatemeh Fakhraie. Check back for tomorrow's guest, Shakesville blogger Melissa McEwan.
Wajahat Ali’s blog, GOATMILK, is hosting a monthlong series entitled “The Contemporary Muslim Women”, where Muslim women writers post guest entries. One of these writesr, Noura Erakat, writes about Irshad Manji’s misguided approach to the Gaza crisis.
The Muslim Sex Shop website takes a “halal” approach to sex in the life of a Muslim, discussing issues frankly but humorously in the form of poetry, guest fiction, and cheeky merchandise.
Jamerican Muslimah writes a checklist of Muslim male privilege in the style of Peggy McIntosh.
Persianesque is an online Iranian lifestyle magazine. The magazine recently featured a British exhibition of three generations of female Iranian artists, entitled
“Masques of Shahrazad”, and featuring artists such as Shadi Ghadirian (one of my personal favorites), Mansoureh Hosseini, and Golnaz Fathi.
Riffat Hassan, a theologian and Islamic feminist scholar of the Qur’an, writes a wonderful paper titled, “Members, One of Another, Gender Equality and Justice in Islam,” which thoroughly explores Islam’s position on human/women’s rights.
BIO: Fatemeh Fakhraie (Fatemehfakhraie.wordpress.com) is an Iranian-American Muslim woman who writes about Islamic feminism, Islam, and race for several online and print outlets, including Bitch magazine, Racialicious, and ReligionDispatches. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Muslimah Media Watch, website dedicated to critically analyzing images of Muslim women in global media and pop culture. She also serves as associate editor for the new website alt.muslimah.
Previous Alt Wire Guests: Joe Biel, Anne Elizabeth Moore
3/9/2009 2:12:19 PM
For most Americans of a certain age, learning how to tie their shoes was a milestone of childhood. For today’s children this is increasingly not the case, as Velcro closures and slip-ons render shoelaces nearly obsolete. Sandra Steingraber thinks the loss of shoelace tying as a developmental benchmark illustrates a larger societal shift away from self-sufficiency.
In the Jan/Feb issue of Orion, Steingraber quotes a recent Fortune article which, in analyzing the impact of the decline in oil production, advises: “Learn to garden, and buy some comfortable walking shoes.” While movements toward community gardening, home cooking, and even a return to farming have taken root, Steingraber notes the lack of such awareness in mainstream parenting literature.
“The same day Fortune told me to grow my own dinner,” she writes, “my local newspaper advised me on how to help my children build a competitive résumé for college applications...Of the many items on the list of leadership-building activities, all would necessitate me driving someplace in a car.”
Steingraber asks parents to consider the make up of many popular shoes “that derive from barrels of oil and are assembled in faraway lands.” Furthermore, she wonders how well our society is preparing children to live in “a world more economically and ecologically unreliable” than in the past.
“What does it mean,” she asks, “at this moment in history, to ‘teach your children well’?”
Image by aussiegall, licensed under Creative Commons
3/5/2009 5:26:29 PM
With the economy in crisis, right now seems like a good time to rethink the economic fundamentals of American life. The latest issue of Tikkun has three articles questioning some of the basic assumptions inherent in today’s economy, trying to move people toward a more collective and spiritual future.
“Our current economic policies and institutions are all based on the stupid idea that the faster we convert useful resources to toxic garbage, the richer we are,” according to author David Korten. With that model failing, society needs to redefine wealth, human nature, and God to create a “live-serving economy.”
People also need to rethink knowledge, according to Gar Alperovitz and Lew Daily writing in the issue. They write:
We are trained to view success as an individualistic process of some people achieving more than other because they work harder or are smarter. But if much of what we have comes to us as the free gift of many generations of historical contribution, there is a profound question as to how much can reasonably said to be ‘earned’ by one person, now or in the future.
Alperovitz and Dialy suggest economic models that could move the economy toward a more collective understanding of knowledge and wealth. They write about employee-owned firms and “capital stake” programs that would give $80,000 to all adult citizens for any purpose, preferably education.
Questioning the necessity of capitalism in general, author Allen D. Kanner calls on people to discard some of the assumptions about human nature that he calls “cynical.” The idea that people are inherently self-interested is not only false, according to Kanner, it promotes selfish and spiritually unfulfilling materialism. If people aren’t inherently selfish, Kanner writes that “capitalism unravels at the seams.” And that, to him, is a good thing.
3/5/2009 10:36:04 AM
Like the cowardly lion, Joe Queenan doesn’t understand courage.
Each issue of the journal In Character, published by the John Templeton Foundation, explores a different virtue, from thrift to modesty to compassion. The latest issue is about courage, and Queenan takes this opportunity to explore the phenomenon of what he calls “false courage.”
False courage, according to Queenan, often involves “taking popular positions and then acting as if they are actually unpopular” and “attacking groups that are in no position to defend themselves.” The objects of Queenans ire include Michael Moore, who attacked the helpless Charlton Heston in the film Bowling for Columbine, and House Republicans, who spoke out against the stimulus bill.
The irony is that Queenan’s article is a perfect example of the false courage he detests. Michael Moore and House Republicans are very popular targets of attack, and neither one of them would likely fight back in this case.
The examples of real courage that Queenan provides are equally absurd. They include:
Sporting a Bush-Cheney decal on the bumper of your car when you live in Baghdad.
Wearing a Confederate flag headband on Saturday night in a Detroit nightclub.
These examples aren’t courageous. They’re just stupid.
3/5/2009 9:00:38 AM
As part of their Death Issue, Ross Martin wrote a morbidly funny piece for Guilt & Pleasure called “How I Would Like to Die.” With a surgery impending, Martin coincidently found a gravestone with his name on it… and comically started preparing himself, his friends, and family for the worst. My favorite moment is when he shows up at a Hanukkah party and announces a color-coding system for distributing his possessions:
Unconscionably enjoying the panic on their faces, I made my way from cousin to cousin, assigning each a different color. “If God forbid I die,” I told them, “come to my apartment in Brooklyn and take all the items with your color sticker.” None of them warmed to the invitation. “Don’t worry,” I assured them, “I want you to have this stuff!”
Source: Guilt & Pleasure
3/3/2009 12:48:22 PM
You’ve got to hand it to atheist champion Christopher Hitchens for going out and engaging with his ideological foes. Ever since the 2005 release of his best-selling book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Hitchens has been publicly debating Christian speakers on the existence of God. In advance of his latest bout—a March 3 face-off with Oxford University professor John Lennox at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama—Hitchens spoke about his atheistic, er, crusade with Greg Garrison at the Birmingham News.
Hitchens is in fine, feisty form in the interview. Here a few highlights:
On the God question: “There is not another greater topic. It’s the first question humanity began to ask itself. Religion was our first attempt to make sense of things.”
On Mother Teresa: “I was invited by the Vatican to testify against her, and did. I’m the only person who’s represented the devil pro bono.”
On the sincerity and depth of Christian belief in America: “A lot of people go to church for reasons that are not strictly theological.”
On the success of his book: “There’s a big thirst for a reply to the theocratic bullying that’s been going on. There are a lot of people of faith buying it on a ‘know your enemy’ basis.”
(Thanks, Religion News Service.)
Image by ensceptico, licensed under Creative Commons.
Source: Birmingham News
3/2/2009 6:11:43 PM
Among the mantras by artist Kevin Bewersdorf on Maximumsorrow.com lies this gem:
Everything in the marketplace is a product!
I am in the marketplace!
I am a product!
Everything is in the product!
I am a product and everything is in me!
Bewersdorf’s art is “on the Internet and about the Internet,” he told the Rumpus, and straddles a line between religious incantation and corporate jargon, illuminating aspects of both worlds. The website offers a unique view of the mediocrity and information overload endemic in the internet. One of many Mediocrity Awareness Experiments offered on the site asks participants to stare at a chaotic image of bands while repeating the phrase “how many bands are there” over and over again. Another repeats the phrase “time to buy more shampoo.” The website is strange, and often confusing, but worth the time to visit.
Sources: MaximumSorrow.com, The Rumpus
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