5/27/2011 12:17:16 PM
“There is something especially sad about this chicken.”—Chappell Ellison
Let’s face it: Most of us have more stuff than we need. (That is, unless, you’ve thrown your ballot in with the tiny house movement.) More clothes, more gizmos, more space, more tools, more junk. Accumulating life’s flotsam seems nearly inescapable these days—and that doesn’t even take into account all the stuff we instantly throw away. Chappell Ellison, a New York-based writer and design critic, is documenting her attempt to rid herself of unnecessary stuff on a photoblog called Everything Must Go (which is also her conduit for ditching expendable goods).
“In an attempt to learn how to live with less,” Ellison writes on the website,
I’m giving away my things, one by one. Sometimes the object will be accompanied by a personal narrative that might make you want the object more (or less). In letting go of these objects and their memories, I hope to understand more about the way in which we place meaning into the stuff that surrounds us.
Ellison’s offerings so far include a number of articles of clothing, books and DVDs, and some odd tchotkes like a Reagan-era campaign-pin and a knit-monkey finger-puppet. Some of her possessions make you wonder “why would she ever need that?” Obviously she doesn’t.
(Thanks, Design Observer.)
Images courtesy of Everything Must Go.
5/23/2011 11:24:56 AM
Liberals, atheists, and Satan’s henchmen are trying to remove God from our schools, our government, and even our private lives, goes the frequent Christian conservative complaint. Well, author A.C. Grayling has gone a step further and taken God out of the Bible.
The Good Book: A Humanist Bible is Grayling’s attempt to create an inspirational book without a supernatural being at the center, writes Matthew Adams in New Humanist’s May-June issue.
“The way I made it,” Grayling tells Adams, “was to plunder from the great traditions texts on which I had performed redaction, weaving them together, editing them, interpolating other texts and sometimes my own, just as the Bible makers worked on their texts. It was tremendous fun.”
Writes Adams in “The Man Who Would Be God”:
The inclusion of a scientifically coherent creation story is probably the most markedly irreligious aspect of The Good Book, and might well end up, when the creationists get to hear about it, being the most controversial. But the work as a whole has none of the combativeness that one might expect. [Grayling says:] “This book is not against religion, it just ignores religion, and by ignoring it shows that there is as much if not more of a resource already in our hands.”
Like the Bible, The Good Book is organized by book, chapter, and verse and laid out in double columns. But the Bible never sang the praises of nonprocreative sexual love, described Newton’s discovery of gravity, or incorporated the ideas of great thinkers from Thucydides to Kant to Darwin.
Here are some verses:
• “Let us help one another, therefore; let us build the city together. Where the best future might inhabit, and the true promise of humanity be realized at last. —The Good, Chapter 9, Verses 10-11
• “Do I love you for the fine soft waves of hair That fall about your neck when you undress? Or that ivory pillar of your neck, or your breasts Soft and fair with rosy nipples crowned?” —Songs, 108
• “This is the final consolation: that we will sleep at evening, and be free for ever.” —Consolations, Chapter 26, Verse 31
Source: New Humanist
5/18/2011 12:49:25 PM
As soon as you hear the siren whooping and see the blue and red lights flashing behind your car, you start to feel sorry for yourself. You grudgingly pull over and adopt a pleasant attitude. You may not be sorry that you were going 65 mph in a 25 mph school-zone, but you’re definitely sorry that a police officer was behind you when you did. And now you’re about to get a ticket. A new study called “The Value of Remorse” published in the journal of Law and Human Behavior (abstract only) suggests that you may save a pile of cash if you channel all those sorry feelings and just apologize to the officer.
Infrastructurist’s Eric Jaffe summarizes the paper:
To reach this conclusion, [researchers Martin Day and Michael Ross] asked more than 500 Canadians to recall their most recent speeding violation. The survey participants detailed their speed and fine, as well as the interaction they had with the police officer who stopped them. Generally speaking these interactions fell into the following categories: apology (“I’m sorry”), excuse (“I didn’t realize I was speeding”), justification (“My sister is giving birth”), denial (“I wasn’t speeding”), or silence.
On average, the survey participants had been going 18 miles per hour over the speed limit, leading to a ticket of roughly $130 Canadian. When Day and Ross analyzed the specifics of these episodes, they found that people who apologized to the police officer received, on average, a $33 reduction to their fine.
Jaffe also points out that as the severity of your lead-footed infraction increases (meaning, the faster over the speed limit you were going), the more professed remorse works to your wallet’s advantage. (The graph to the right plots the relationship between speed and ticket cost for those who apologize and those who do not for a sample of Americans interviewed by Day and Ross.)
Source: Infrastructurist, Law and Human Behavior (abstract only)
, licensed under
5/12/2011 1:10:48 PM
A yak prances across the stage, tossing its horns playfully, led by a wide-eyed boy with a dranyen guitar slung across his back. Together they’re journeying to Lhasa, the “place of the gods,” one of the epicenters of Tibetan spiritual life. The boy—named Tenzin—has recently left the familial comforts of village life to focus his mind at a monastery. He’s quite afraid, yet courageous.
Tenzin’s coming-of-age story is the subject of “KIPO!: A Circus of Spirit, Song, and Dance from Tibet, the Land of Snow,” a richly cultural production playing in Minneapolis, Minn., in coordination with the recent visit of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. The ongoing performance is a collaboration between the Minneapolis-based TigerLion Arts troupe and the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, an organization founded by the current Dalai Lama to “preserve the rich cultural heritage of Tibet.” Education is a primary mission of both organizations, and during KIPO! the audience gets a primer on the diversity of Tibetan culture and spirituality.
As Tenzin travels through the countryside, he encounters every stripe of Tibetan society: He helps plant crops with barley farmers, follows a band of highland wanderers, and prostrates himself beside an elder monk. All of these interactions are colored by traditional songs and dances, many taught to him by the strangers he meets on his path. Tenzin stomps along to the Drum Dance Festival of central Tibet, lends his voice to the poly-harmonic ballad at a marriage celebration, and looks on with awe at the uncannily spiritual Black Hat Dance. After crossing the Himalayan mountain range with some 80,000 other Tibetans in 1959 after the Chinese army’s invasion, Tenzin sadly watches the Skeleton Dance, a burial ritual meant to help shuttle the souls of the dead into the next life.
Tibet’s loaded wardrobe is also on display throughout Tenzin’s quest. The short pants, embroidered boots, and fur-lined tunics meant for day-to-day wear share the stage with women’s tasseled, vibrant aprons and elaborate, ceremonial headgear.
KIPO! (which means “happy”) ends on an uplifting note. After trudging through snowy mountain passes and losing family members to the invading army, Tenzin and his fellow Tibetans find a new home in Dharamsala, India. Here he puts his guitar-plucking skills and freshly learned dance moves to good use by joining the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (for a straightforward production, it gets a little meta at the end). He spends the rest of his days teaching others about his culture that was almost lost. If you’re in the Minneapolis area through Saturday, May 22, it would be worthwhile to hear his tale.
Images courtesy of TigerLion Arts.
5/10/2011 11:46:03 AM
With an impressive entourage of Tibetan monks, a Nobel Peace Prize, and the respect of millions around the world, it’s strange to remember that His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama was once just a kid at his mother’s side. But in his May 8 address “Peace through Inner Peace” at the University of Minnesota—which happened to coincide with Mother’s Day—he fondly invoked her memory. His Holiness shared stories of riding on his mother’s shoulders and mischievously “steering” by tugging her hair to the right or left, pouting if she didn’t obey.
He also gave her credit for shaping his compassionate nature. “My warm-heartedness originally came from my mother,” he said, an easy grin bringing the thousands of attendees in close. His Holiness went on to speculate that those who receive maximum affection from their mothers as children have much greater inner peace in their adult lives. (If it was Father’s Day, I like to think he would have included you, too, dads.)
According the Dalai Lama’s website, he was just two years old when he was recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, partly because he was able to indentify the personal belongings of the previous Dalai Lama, exclaiming “It’s mine! It’s mine!” when presented with each. He began his monastic education and study of revelatory inner peace at the age of six.
Over the past week, I’ve been talking about peace with my own young children. Since the death of Osama bin Laden, we’ve driven past flocks of protestors holding up signs promoting nonviolence. Through my elementary explanations, four-year-old Abe has learned that peace means being gentle friends, and little brother Asher has learned that holding up two fingers in a “V” gets cheers from protest sign–holders. It’s a start.
In his Mother’s Day speech, the Dalai Lama taught listeners that respect, compassion, and nonviolence are key starting points for achieving peace. “Mentally, physically, emotionally, we are the same,” he said, no matter your religious background. He also advised that we should focus on secularism when discussing moral issues. “Secular doesn’t mean disrespect for religion,” he explained, “but respect for all religions—including non-believers.”
His Holiness took a few questions after his talk, and one came from a nine-year-old who asked, “If you could completely solve one problem, what would it be?” The Dalai Lama, with his amused, trademark chuckle, had a simple answer: “I don’t know.” What he knew without a doubt was that solving the world’s problems and achieving peace requires the cooperation of us all.
As for the mothers the Dalai Lama acknowledged, we can strive to embrace compassion and teach the warm-heartedness that might make our own kids pick up the quest for peace and say, “It’s mine.”
Image by IMs BILDARKIV, licensed under Creative Commons.
5/9/2011 9:23:20 AM
A week after the country celebrated the death of Osama bin Laden, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and his followers quietly occupied a hockey arena in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to meditate on the power and possibilities of peace. It was a welcome break from the saber rattling, and a reminder that truly inspiring, lasting leadership requires love and compassion.
To begin the day’s festivities, which included two speeches and a private luncheon at the University of Minnesota, the Dalai Lama delivered a 90-minute tutorial on the central tenants of Tibetan Buddhism. Sitting on a makeshift throne and surrounded by some two dozen monks, he and his longtime interpreter, Geshe Thupten Jinpa, covered a lot of philosophical ground—in particular, an in-depth discussion of the Four Noble Truths.
The central message, however, was as simple as it is elusive: Only when we transcend the concept of self can we begin to eliminate the ignorance that breeds our suffering. “The notion of ‘I am’ is the source of all problems,” His Holiness said. “It is the source of all other false views and perceptions.”
Consciousness has no beginning or end, the audience learned, since it evolves over an individual’s past lives. Proof that there is no such thing as a static, personally defined “self.” Only when a person recognizes this truth can he or she become truly compassionate toward the suffering of fellow beings. “Pain brings anger. Pleasure brings attachment,” said the 75-year-old teacher, draped in red and yellow robes. “A serious practitioner [of the Buddhist faith] meditates on impermanence—from that evolves mindfulness . . . Once you develop some awareness about overcoming adversity, then you can see that same potential in others.”
Throughout the morning, His Holiness frequently broke into his unmistakably mischievous laugh, particularly infectious because he is usually laughing at himself. His heartiest chuckle came after he leaned into his microphone to tell the crowd, eyebrows raised for dramatic effect, that in “one of my many, many, many previous lives I was the President of Egypt.”
It had been 10 years to the day since the Dalai Lama visited Minnesota, which has the second-largest Tibetan population in the United States. On Saturday, His Holiness, who is preparing to turn over his political power while remaining Tibet’s central spiritual leader, sat for a 30-minute press conference, an unusual gesture. Asked specifically about the death of Osama bin Laden, he allowed that the act might appear understandable given the circumstance, but then reiterated his absolute belief that “violence is wrong” and leads to “unexpected consequences.”
Later that afternoon, the Dalai Lama held a private meeting with nearly 200 Chinese students from the Twin Cities area. The dialogue, during which His Holiness argued that China needs to ease up on censorship and asked all in attendance to open their minds to new possibilities, was reportedly respectful and ran 45 minutes longer than the allotted hour that was scheduled.
The crowd that gathered for the first event Sunday, which attracted a more concentrated number of Buddhists, was smaller than the near sell-out crowd in the afternoon. And it’s a good guess, given the Twin Cities progressive roots, there were a few Westerners in attendance whose knowledge of Buddhism begin and end with yoga and meditation. For those casual viewers, His Holiness had a parting word of advice: “You can only eliminate suffering through your own practice . . . but eliminating stress, anxiety, and suffering is not for the self, but to serve others.”
5/5/2011 12:16:14 PM
Are you Andy the Atheist, Jenna the Jew, or Willow the Wiccan? If so, be prepared for someone—let’s call her Chrissie the Christian—to chat you up about her close personal friend, Jesus.
Andy, Jenna, and Willow are three types of non-Christians profiled on a website run by Dare 2 Share Ministries, an evangelical youth ministry organization. The group’s resources page offers tips on ways to “share your faith” with 14 different kinds of people, from Mo the Muslim to Sid the Satanist, by getting inside their spiritual space.
Given the source, the basic information about each “worldview” is surprisingly fair-minded, breaking down, for example, even the dark abyss that is Satanism into bite-size bits. But things steer quickly out of hand when it comes to the proselytizing tips, which are presented under the innocuous-sounding “things to remember” heading. Because apparently the only reason evangelical Christians would try so hard to understand another spiritual belief system is so they can tear it down—slyly and strategically, that is.
Here are some of the more eyebrow-raising passages:
Willow the Wiccan: “Whether Willow knows it or not, she is in the grips of Satan, so like Sid the Satanist, be sure and cover your relationship and conversations with her in a ton of prayer.”
Jenna the Jew: “Jenna has been raised with little knowledge about Jesus Christ, so when you feel it could be appropriate, talk about how Jesus literally and perfectly fulfilled over 300 prophecies made about the coming Messiah. … Your main goal is not to persuade Jenna that Jesus is the Messiah—it is a means to an end, and that end is that she needs to see that she fails to keep God’s Law. It is not good enough for her to do her best; God requires perfection, so you need to get Jenna to the point where she knows that God will not overlook her failures or forgive her on the basis of their mitzvot (good deeds).”
Alisha the Agnostic: “Bottom line with an agnostic: remember you cannot argue someone to faith in Christ, but you can (and should) live such a Christlike life that those around you sense something different, which opens the door for you to explain the ‘evidence.’ ”
Nicole the New Ager: “When talking to Nicole, remember that you are entering a huge spiritual battle, so put on the full armor of God, and remember that the enemy is Satan, not Nicole (Ephesians 6).”
Source: Dare 2 Share Ministries
I Don’t Know, Maybe.
5/3/2011 1:07:58 PM
“We still value forgiveness, but we are very confused about it,” writes Wilfred M. McClay for the intellectual Christian-monthly First Things, “and in our confusion we may have produced a situation in which forgiveness has in fact very nearly lost its moral weight as well as its moral meaning and been translated into an act of random kindness whose chief value lies in the sense of release it brings us.”
McClay sees Western society to be in a state of moral crisis (when isn’t it?), an era in which traditional conceptions of guilt, forgiveness, and personal mores have been detached from psychological experience by the acceleration of science and technology, a devaluation of Christian life, and the advent of modernity. For one, forgiveness, by McClay’s reckoning, is too swiftly and carelessly meted out:
We live in an age in which being nonjudgmental in our dealings with others is increasingly viewed as part and parcel of being a civilized person, the only truly generous and humane stance. But without the exercise of moral judgment there can be no meaningful forgiveness, as surely as there cannot be mercy without a prior commitment to justice, or charity without a prior respect for private property.
Globalization and Western prosperity have also changed the landscape of our collective guilt in two notable, contradictory ways. Noting the ease with which we can gauge the suffering of members in the global community, “the range of our potential moral responsibility, and therefore of our potential guilt,” McClay writes, “expands to literally infinite proportions.” And after Sigmund Freud laid the groundwork for the Self-Help-Industrial-Complex, we adopted a more “influential therapeutic view that the experience of guilt does not involve any genuine moral issues but rather the interplay of psychic forces that do not relate to anything morally consequential.” Shameless Westerners, he contends, have been morally abstracted from a meaningful understanding of guilt, and have embraced a cheapened sense of forgiveness in response.
This is just the topsoil of McClay’s lengthy argument. His full essay—which also touches on victimhood, sin, and innocence—is worth diving into.
Source: First Things
Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.
Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!
Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $6 and get 6 issues of Utne Reader for only $29.95 (USA only).
Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 6 issues of Utne Reader!