7/31/2009 3:53:54 PM
The arrest of a woman for having loud sex conjures up echoes of George Orwell’s 1984 for the astute, libertarian magazine Reason. Spiked editor Brendan O’Neill reports on the “bizarre and terrifying situation” for the publication, explaining that 48-year-old Caroline Cartwright of Wearside, England was remanded in custody in April for “excessively noisy sex.”
“How did Cartwright’s expressions of noisy joy become a police case, scheduled to be ruled on at Newcastle Crown Court, one of the biggest courts in the north of England?” O’Neill supposes one might wonder. There’s a heck of an answer:
Because, unbelievably, Cartwright had previously been served with an antisocial behavior order—a civil order used to control the minutiae of British people’s behavior—that forbade her from making “excessive noise during sex” anywhere in England.
That’s right. Going even further than Orwell’s imagined authoritarian hellhole, where at least there was a wood or two where people could indulge their sexual impulses, the local authorities in Wearside made all of England a no-go zone for Cartwright’s noisy shenanigans. If she wanted to howl with abandon, she would have to nip over the border to Scotland or maybe catch a ferry to France.
Antisocial behavior orders (ASBOs), introduced in England in 1998, are civil orders pertaining to citizens who do things that cause (or are likely to cause) harm, alarm, or distress. Hearsay evidence is allowed. In O’Neill’s take, “the ASBO system has turned much of Britain into a curtaintwitching, neighbor-watching, noisepolicing gang of spies.”
Image by altemark, licensed under Creative Commons.
7/29/2009 9:24:13 AM
Utne Reader has partnered with Link TV to present Global Spirit, an "internal travel series" covering the spiritual, mental, and physical practices that define us as human beings. Watch excerpts from the series here, or view entire episodes at the Link TV website.
This episode, In Search of Ecstasy, explores the ecstatic state—a global phenomenon found in all kinds of spiritual and religious traditions. How is ecstatic trance practiced around the world, and why are so many people today fascinated by it?
Jalaluddin Rumi, "The Shakespeare of the East": Follow Andrew Harvey on a Sufi pilgrimage to Turkey, as he celebrates the 800th anniversary of the 'wedding night,' or passing, of Jalaluddin Rumi, the internationally-beloved poet and mystic...
Zikr and Divine Ecstasy: Observe a Sufi zikr ('zikr' means remembrance) in Istanbul, Turkey, led by Shaykh Sherif Baba...
7/28/2009 12:55:32 PM
Healing lepers, giving sight to the blind, the Bible portrays Jesus as a one-man health care reform plan. A significant portion of the gospels are devoted to the idea of healing the sick, and much of the political debate in Washington currently centers around the same idea. Karin Granberg-Michaelson writes for Sojourner’s, “Faith and healing are integrally related, as demonstrated in all the healings recorded in Scripture.”
Beyond political reform, Granberg-Michaelson writes that churches should work toward a “whole person health care [the treatment of a person as a unity of body, mind, and spirit].” This can work in tandem with modern medicine, and neither spiritual nor medical care should be neglected. She writes:
Problems occur when we isolate and compartmentalize either source of healing. A wholly scientific approach lacks the resource of God's power, and a wholly spiritual approach overlooks God's confidence in human beings.
This spiritual approach can point the way toward a more progressive health care system, according to Rose Marie Berger on Sojourner’s God’s Politics blog. She writes:
We want to craft a health-care system that honors a fair exchange of money for services, that redistributes our social capital toward the health and healing of all over the long-term, and that allows for philanthropy and generosity of heart by those who can give freely for the betterment of all.
(Thanks, The Immanent Frame.)
7/28/2009 10:34:55 AM
With speculation swirling about which industries will weather the recession, and which will give way to a new economic order—there’s one that has a pair of writers at Vancouver Review mighty curious: the “yoga industrial complex,” worth an estimated $225 billion.
“In many ways, Western yoga can be seen as a subset of New Age culture, which is another way of saying ‘Don’t forget your wallet,’ ” Lalo Espejo and Patrick Pennefather write. “It’s no wonder that marketers covet the monied yoga demographic . . . which is unfortunate, because in India, yogis historically shared their knowledge free of charge. In our time and place, this spirit of humility has shifted from ‘free’ to ‘franchise,’ and ‘let’s follow that litigious asshole, Birkram Choudhury.’ ”
The popularity of teacher training has transformed the practice into “a kind of yoga Ponzi scheme,” the duo observes in their relentless roast. But this is no heartless skewering. For “insta-gurus now feeling the blunt agnostic edge of a tanking economy,” Pennefather offers up some of his Patented Yoga Poses for the Newly Poor. The article isn't yet available online, so here’s a sample:
Down ’n’ out Dog™: Mainly a facial exercise, let the eyes and mouth droop, then pull everything tight. Repeat. Works the face in a way not previously possible with botoxed cheeks.
The Potato Bug™: Can be practiced in a small space, with or without a mat. Find your secret place, lie on your side, and curl up into a little ball. Most effective under a desk or table.
The Ostrich™: Similar to Downward Dog, just stick you head in the sand. To be practiced upon hearing rumors of job cuts. Helps achieve a peaceful state of denial while smoothing out neck wrinkles, and helps you look youthful when your spiritual ass is for sale.
Source: Vancouver Review
Image by j / f / photos, licensed under Creative Commons.
7/27/2009 12:48:49 PM
“My church doesn’t want me,” Eileen Markey writes for Killing the Buddha. “It is a profoundly lonely feeling.” Catholicism can offer absolute answers and a moralistic certainty that Markey cannot accept. At the same time, she can’t reject her sincere belief and faith in the church she grew up in. “How does one explain belief in something so absurd?” she wonders. “I can’t. I just believe.”
Source: Killing the Buddha
7/27/2009 11:47:37 AM
There is a wonderful conversation between photographer Zack Bent and journalist Paul Schmelzer over at Eyeteeth. Bent speaks of a piece of his called Lachrymatory—a clear vial he uses to collect his tears and the tears of his wife and children. He explains:
Tears fall often in our house. Collecting them in the vial became a similar ritual to kissing a bump on the head. It became an act of love. This is a case where my art practice heightened the quality of our inter-family relationships and made physically manifest our maternal and paternal care giving … The title Lachrymatory comes from the ancient tear catching vials that were often filled by grieving widows. I collect a lot of tears as a father. The piece definitely memorializes mourning and weakness. The result of the collection is salt; an element of preservation.
Image courtesy of Zack Bent.
7/27/2009 11:14:40 AM
Raw. Intimate. Painful. Universal. That's my setup for this potent and stunning portrait of a man who has just lost his wife of 63 years. It's the work of photographer Maisie Crow, who deserves a truckload of awards for this piece. It's part of an online documentary project called Soul of Athens.
"Death is so final," the widower Tom Rose says. "It’s like turning off a light switch. And your mind is going a mile a minute…hoping…but that’s where reality sets in again that she’s gone." And then: "There’s a harvest time for everything in the world. When an orange gets ripe you either eat it or it rots … and a human life is the same way. You have to learn to manage and take care of everything you have or you don’t have anything."
Don't miss this short film, and don't rush into it without something to dry your eyes.
(Thanks, A Photo Editor.)
7/24/2009 3:23:56 PM
Children could be getting the wrong messages from television programming designed with the best of intentions, according to research highlighted in On Wisconsin. An associate professor of communication arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Marie-Louise Mares has been studying children’s comprehension of “prosocial” programming, shows that are intended to teach good behavior, morals, and ethics. She is especially interested in storylines intended to foster inclusiveness.
“Children’s interpretations of what a show is about are very different from what an adult thinks,” Mares tells the Wisconsin alumni association publication. In one episode of Clifford the Big Red Dog that Mares uses in her research, Clifford and other dogs meet a dog with three legs. The four-legged dogs initially react poorly, one of them even expressing fear of “catching” three legs. In the end, the dogs overcome their anxiety, and learn an important lesson about accepting peers with disabilities.
Young human viewers, however, do not. “Many of them interpreted the lesson of the episode along the lines of this child’s comment: ‘You should be careful . . . not to get sick, not to get germs,’ ” On Wisconsin reports. Since a lot of prosocial programming relies on showing bad behavior and then learning a lesson about it, Mares’ research has the potential to dramatically transform the plotlines of children’s programming. One solution she’s investigating is “scaffolding,” the practice of characters interrupting the storyline to lay out the plot’s intended message.
Source: On Wisconsin
Image by Aaron Escobar, licensed under Creative Commons.
7/23/2009 10:30:31 AM
After 10 years as a doctor, Pamela Wible was burned out, “tired of being a factory physician, pushing pills and tests I didn’t always believe in,” she writes in a candid piece for Spirituality & Health (article not available online). “My soul was more than irrelevant; it slowed down the production line and got me into trouble with administrators.”
So she quit her job and held a big community meeting, asking attendees to describe what their ideal medical clinic would look like. And then she built it! (Warning: If you spend a lot of time in your doctor’s bland, hot tub–less waiting room, prepare to get very jealous.)
Clients can enjoy yoga; massage; a wheelchair-accessible, solar-heated saltwater pool; and a soak in the hot tub before their appointments. They relax on plush overstuffed chairs in a cozy office and look forward to warm exams as they’re wrapped in fun, flannel gowns. Antioxidant-rich chocolates and smiley-face balloons surprise the unsuspecting on random patient-appreciation days.
Most of would love to see health care look more like this, obviously, but what I really appreciate about Wible’s analysis is her emphasis on the comfort and well-being of both patients and physicians. Clearly, the health care system doesn’t work for either group, and seeing what’s wrong with the relationship from a self-aware physician’s perspective is incredibly illuminating:
Given that we all pledge to “first, do no harm,” why do we make physicians the first victims? While patients are encouraged to tell all, doctors must remain detached, sterile, untainted by emotions. No “irrelevant” personal anecdotes. No off-the-cuff commentary. Physician self-disclosure is a no-no. Decades of practicing professional distance—emotional and spiritual disconnect—destroys from the inside out. Who really wants to be treated by someone whose heart has died?
Source: Spirituality & Health
Image by thomaswanhoff, licensed under Creative Commons.
7/22/2009 3:19:30 PM
Purity rings and virginity pledges are getting an upgrade. For only 99 cents, iPhone users can download a virtual purity ring, complete with a virginity pledge in which users vow to “not engage in sexual activity of any kind before marriage,” and “keep my thought and my body pure as a very special present for the one I marry.” (You can listen to that pledge below.) The application displays a silver ring on iPhones that theoretically proves the user’s commitment to abstinence.
The company behind the virtual purity ring, Island Wall Entertainment, chose the following keywords to entice people into buying the app: “The Jonas Brothers, Chastity, Miley Cyrus, Billy Grahm, Barack Obama, Bible, God, Jesus, Sex, Naked, Woman,” and “pocket.” The company also makes an application that helps disoriented users find their tents during music festivals.
One espoused benefit the virtual ring is that it saves money, Island Wall Entertainment director Henry Bennett told the Guardian. According to Bennett, “If you wanted to buy a purity ring, you could spend as much as £100.” When asked if the virtual nature would lead young girls to forget about their pledge, Bennett responded, “If you've taken the pledge, you're likely to follow it through.”
Not everyone agrees that the application will be so effective. Jessica Valenti of the blog Feministing writes that the purity pledge won’t really promote chastity, but it could promote “oral, anal, and unprotected sex.”
To hear the pledge, click on the links below:
Men’s Purity Pledge
Women’s Purity Pledge
Sources: The Guardian, Feministing
7/21/2009 3:24:00 PM
Confucius is helping China spread its new-found influence throughout the world, according Nick Young in the New Internationalist. The ancient philosophy can be interpreted as a justification for China’s authoritarian government control that “emphasizes social stability through rule of virtue rather than rule of law.” The Communist Party once reviled the philosophy, but is now promoting it through Confucian slogans and the more than 300 Confucius Institutes that have been set up throughout the world.
It would be a mistake to think that the Confucian revival is purely a Government conspiracy, however. “China’s government and society reflect each other far more closely than most outsiders believe,” Young writes. But, as with any major religion, not everyone interprets Confucianism the same way. According to Young, “There have always been shifting interpretations and many who see themselves as Confucians today are decidedly anti-Communist.”
Source: New Internationalist
7/21/2009 1:14:44 PM
Spiritual children are in general more happy than children who don’t have spiritual aspects to their lives, according to research from the University of British Columbia. Religious practices, on the other hand, don’t have the same positive effect. LiveScience reports, “Religion is just one institutionalized venue for the practice of or experience of spirituality,” and it’s spirituality, not religion, that predicts happiness.
That dichotomy between spirituality an religion isn’t particularly helpful to tease apart spirituality and religion.” Many religions fuse together aspects of family life, social justice, and community making the split between spirituality and religion nearly impossible to define.
I’m not so sure you can
7/16/2009 3:32:00 PM
Activist and Utne Visionary Derrick Jensen has never been the sentimental type. I’d go so far as to call him pathologically unsentimental. In his essay "Forget Shorter Showers," published in Orion, he takes on the activist phenomenon of simple living as a political act.
Simple living as a political act, he writes, “accepts capitalism’s redefinition of us from citizens to consumers”:
By accepting this redefinition, we reduce our potential forms of resistance to consuming and not consuming. Citizens have a much wider range of available resistance tactics, including voting, not voting, running for office, pamphleting, boycotting, organizing, lobbying, protesting, and, when a government becomes destructive of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we have the right to alter or abolish it.
“The endpoint of the logic behind simple living as a political act,” he adds, “is suicide”:
If every act within an industrial economy is destructive, and if we want to stop this destruction, and if we are unwilling (or unable) to question (much less destroy) the intellectual, moral, economic, and physical infrastructures that cause every act within an industrial economy to be destructive, then we can easily come to believe that we will cause the least destruction possible if we are dead.
So what do we do? Jensen never signs off without a call to revolutionary action:
We can follow the examples of brave activists who lived through the difficult times I mentioned—Nazi Germany, Tsarist Russia, antebellum United States—who did far more than manifest a form of moral purity; they actively opposed the injustices that surrounded them. We can follow the example of those who remembered that the role of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power with as much integrity as possible, but rather to confront and take down those systems.
Image by Robert Shetterly.
7/16/2009 2:40:28 PM
Matheus Moraes is an 11-year-old rock star for God. He started preaching when he was six. In 2006, at the age of nine, he preached 250 sermons all over Brazil. Vice magazine talked to Matheus Moraes and two other child preachers in the country. The conversations are bizarre, sad, and, at times, profound. Here's an excerpt:
Vice: Was there anything especially religious about your birth?
Matheus: I was born in Rio on the 18th of May, 1998, after a promise. God sent a prophet to earth who told my mom that she would get pregnant very soon and that the baby she was going to give birth to would have a very special gift. He would be a son of God.
At what age did you start preaching?
Officially, I started preaching in 2003. My parents told me that I mumbled Bible phrases when I was a baby—even when I wasn’t able to read. I spent most of my childhood in church and had a pretty close connection to the pastor. At some point he asked me if I would like to give sermons, and so I started to walk the path to God.
Do you have a lot of fans?
Every time I go back to a city there are always people with signs and posters. They ask me for signatures, too, and bring me gifts. Most of them buy my DVDs, and that is really good because I can make some money and give it to my parents.
Here's Matheus in action:
7/16/2009 2:33:31 PM
Inside Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, employees take part in a meditation class called “Search Inside Yourself.” The program, profiled by Shambhala Sun, is the brainchild of Google employee number 107, Chade-Meng Tan. Now that Google’s success has made him rich, Meng is devoting his time to popularizing meditation worldwide, a goal that he believes will literally bring forth world peace.
The classes started as a stress reduction program, but Meng found that engineers and other Google employees weren’t interested in reducing their stress. Now the classes focus on teaching about emotional intelligence. Among the lessons, employees learn about “mindful emailing,” where people are taught to stop after writing an email, take three breaths, and visualize the recipient’s emotional and mental response before sending. Meditation experts have been brought into advise the proceedings and tackle the inevitable dilemmas involved in mixing spirituality with the corporate work environment, including “Will they truly serve the participants’ lives or just the company’s goals of efficiency and profits?”
Source: Shambhala Sun (article not available online)
7/15/2009 11:38:43 AM
As Google’s self-proclaimed “Jolly Good Fellow,” Chade-Meng Tan works to reduce employee stress and bring peace to the workplace. Buddhist culture magazine Shambhala Sun features Meng's employee enrichment program Search Inside Yourself, which introduces Google employees to basic mindfulness through journaling, listening, and walking mediation.
Meng even teaches mindful emailing. It's simple: type an email and then take three breaths, looking again at the messgae and imagining the recipient’s emotional and mental response, then rewrite where necessary. Who knows, you might abandon the email altogether. One employee says he shocked a colleague when, after worrying his email would be misread, picked up the phone. A revolutionary act in today's quick-hit e-correspondence culture.
Source: Shambhala Sun (full article not available online)
Image by Yodel Anecdotal, licensed under Creative Commons.
7/10/2009 1:10:08 PM
Parents, does the overt (and sometimes covert) Christianity of many summer camps give you pause? Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, feels your pain. According to a report in the UK current affairs site First Post, The Richard Dawkins Foundation is funding an atheist summer camp, and it sounds rather fantastic:
Alongside the more traditional activities of tug-of-war, swimming and canoeing, children at the five-day camp in Somerset will learn about rational scepticism, moral philosophy, ethics and evolution. Camp-goers aged eight to 17 will also be taught how to disprove phenomena such as crop circles and telepathy. In the Invisible Unicorn Challenge, any child who can prove that unicorns do not exist will win a £10 note - which features an image of Charles Darwin, the father of evolutionary theory—signed by Dawkins.
Wait, are we talking invisble unicorns or just plain unicorns? A challenge indeed.
Source: First Post
, licensed under
7/9/2009 4:06:44 PM
Hospitality, a tradition ingrained in most religions, is not always extended to people with disabilities. Disabled people can sometimes feel unwelcome inside of churches, mosques and synagogues. “Too often faith communities sanctify prejudices in the community rather than challenge them,” Reverend Bill Gaventa told Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. He added, “It shouldn’t be easier to get into a bar than a church.”
The article profiles a few religious institutions that are actively welcoming people with disabilities. Describing his synagogue, Rabbi Dan Grossman said, “We have a reputation that we are a special needs community, when in fact that probably only makes up a small percentage of the active community in the synagogue. I think it defines the synagogue because it simply doesn’t happen elsewhere.”
Source: Religion & Ethics Newsweekly
Image by Elessar, licensed under Creative Commons.
7/7/2009 1:58:54 PM
Last spring, Utne Reader scrutinized the rise of obligatory office fun, a trendy corporate core value that the Weekly Standard’s Matt Labash dubbed a “condescending infantilization” of the workplace. Whether the intentions were noble or purely monetary (happy is good; happy employees are also more productive), it was clear that top-down injections of joviality into the workplace weren’t panning out. We were left to wonder: When did our jobs become jokes?
Fast forward to just over a year later. Unemployment is projected to continue rising throughout the next year and to remain elevated for 5 years, reports the Washington Post. Those of us who do have jobs feel the strain of keeping them, and/or having nowhere else to turn. What was tacky—funsultants, gleetivities—has become downright distasteful.
Somber as the mood might be, this isn’t the time to abandon the pursuit of happiness in the workplace, say the editors of Greater Good. On the contrary: It is precisely in this climate that we should be thinking about what “employers and employees alike [can] do to make their workplaces happier, more satisfying places to be.”
To that end, the online-only magazine, a publication of Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, has devoted its July 2009 web exclusives to the question of happiness in the workplace. Journalist Alex Frankel shares a few lessons he researching his book about workplace culture, Punching In. Frankel’s first piece of advice, especially for hourly employees, is to “go for flow.”
“Most hourly jobs treat time as monochronic,” Frankel writes, meaning work is viewed as a linear progression of tasks, each happening without overlap. This mindset drives employees toward clock-watching, which is problematic, since “perceptions of time . . . are closely linked to the employees’ feeling of freedom: The more constrained the environment, the slower things moved, and the less happy employees were.”
Frankel experienced the alternative while working at a computer retail store: “At Apple, the polychronic view of time prevailed, so that we could do several things simultaneously, manage our own tasks, and feel pride in accomplishing things, as opposed to just waiting out the hours.”
Greater Good also taps an Australian positive psychologist, Timothy Sharp, for his two cents. Sharp’s advice is geared more toward the organizational level, practices that wise managers might take note of to nurture employee morale in unhappy times. Sharp asked 50 people to name the top “keys” to happiness in the workplace. The responses, which he characterizes as “remarkably consistent,” included providing leadership and values, communicating effectively, giving thanks, focusing on strengths, and—wouldn’t you know—having fun. Just hold the gleetivities.
Sources: Weekly Standard, Washington Post, Greater Good
Image by joshuahoffmanphoto, licensed under Creative Commons.
7/2/2009 10:16:33 AM
The Buddhist magazine Tricycle (a 2009 Utne Independent Press Award nominee) has unearthed something quite precious from their archives: a 1991 interview with the Dalai Lama conducted by the late writer and monologue master Spalding Gray. The conversation is colored by the kind of blunt truths Gray was famous for. It's a great exploration of the fundamental tenets of Tibeten Buddhism, and it's also hilarious:
Spalding Gray: We’ve both been traveling these last weeks and the most difficult thing that I find on the road is adjusting to each location, each different hotel. And I don’t have the centering habits you do. I have a tendency to want to drink the alcohol, which, as you said in an earlier interview, is the other way of coping with despair and confusion. I have a feeling that you have other methods for adjusting. Just what are some of your centering rituals and your habits when you come into a new hotel?
The Dalai Lama:
I always first inquire to see “what is there.” Curiosity. What I can discover that is interesting or new. Then, I take a bath. And then I usually sit on the bed, crosslegged, and meditate. And sometimes sleep, lie down. One thing I myself noticed is the time-zone change. Although you change your clock time, your biological time still has to follow a certain pattern. But now I find that once I change the clock time, I’m tuned to the new time zone. When my watch says it’s eight o’clock in the evening, I feel sort of sleepy and need to retire and when it says four in the morning I wake up.
Spalding Gray: But you have to be looking at your clock all the time.
And then there is this gem:
The Dalai Lama: As a Buddhist monk, I usually have no solid meal after lunch, no dinner. So that is also a benefit.
When I passed your room last night, I saw six empty ice-cream sundae dishes outside your door.
Translator (after much laughter): It was members of the entourage.
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