Admittedly, it is not credible to assert that all religions - from Buddhism to Aztec human sacrifice to Quakerism to Wahhabi Islam - are equally true. Religious differences are not trivial. But most faiths share a similar striving.One of the difficulties that religious apologists find themselves facing in an age where "people of faith" perceive themselves as competing with civic secularism is to reconcile the unique and universal truth claims of the Abrahamic religions and their offshoots with the notion that it is better to believe, whatever it is that you happen to believe, than not to believe. So you end up with contortions like the one above. "Aztec human sacrifice" (not, by the way, a religion) "share[s] a similar striving" with Quakerism? Buddhism and Wahhabi Islam? The, uh, the "striving" of Wahhabism is to follow the middle path, achieve bodhi, escape samsara? Huh? Jews do not strive for salvation and eternal life, and yet their popular pagan cousins, the Christians, do. Most religious, oh, uh, excuse me . . . most faith traditions do ask their adherents to live by a certain set of ethical and moral precepts, but they vary from cult to cult, and the metaphysical import of acting morally and ethically is very, very different in different faiths. Just ask John Calvin and this a-here Pope!
Friday, December 24, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Arcangelo Corelli was born thirty years before Bach, and although his compositions for strings suffer a bit in comparison--the Corelli Sonatas for violin and continuo are delightful, but they're like études as compared to the Bach solo partitas and sonatas--he is still a sentimental favorite. You might not choose any work of his to listen to on your last night on earth, but if you had to pick just one composer to listen to for the rest of your life, you could do worse. He lived just as the modern string instruments were overtaking their older forms, and he did as much as any other musician or composer to define what a violin should sound like. That is as true of a Mozart concerto as it is of the Knee Plays in Einstein on the Beach. Bach, by the way, was a fan; Corelli was one of his major Italian influences, which you hear not only in the solo works, but in the chamber music--perhaps especially in the chamber music.
Posting will be light for a few days. Here is the full Corelli Concerto Grosso No. 8, "fatto per la notte di Natale":
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
The notion was actually doing the rounds that recent shark attacks at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheik were the work of Mossad, the Israeli secret service. Hadn’t someone seen an electronic device attached to a shark being directed from Tel Aviv, video-game style, to devour a Russian tourist’s leg?First of all, I don't believe that this "notion was actually doing the rounds," anymore than I believe Tommy Friedman has ever exchanged anything other than addresses and fare information with a cab driver. More generally, I love this idea that Arabs are uniquely deranged and conspiratorial. (I also love that poor Czeslaw Milosz has been hauled out of his basement of low-wattage banalities to turn a phrase that isn't aphoristic in the slightest.) I mean, good God, a fair number of Americans also believe that their own government directly perpetrated 9/11 . . . are they too victims of totalitarianism? In the words of my favorite film reviewer: I'll let you decide. But the answer is yes.
One Egyptian government official suggested the theory was plausible enough. After all, damage to the Egyptian tourist industry could only please Israel. Cui bono ?
Subsequent to 9/11, America just happened to go invade a couple of predominantly Muslim countries that had fuck-all to do with 9/11; had nothing to do with it whether you believe the normative, official histories or believe that Dick Cheney's brood of reptilian shape-shifter offspring dynamited the foundation of the Trade Centers and shot a space-laser at the Pentagon. Is the "notion" that America used it as a pretext to go smash up a lotta Muslims inherently nuttier than the notion that Iraq was poised to conquer America with its advanced ability not to use or possess nuclear weapons?
Look, whatever you think about Arabs and their, uh, mind, the reason they view everything America and its allies do with intense suspicion is that America and its allies keep fucking killing Arabs.
In 1982, as Mr. Barbour ran unsuccessfully against Senator John C. Stennis, an article in The New York Times quoted Mr. Barbour as chiding an aide for a racist comment by saying that if the aide made similar remarks he would be reincarnated as a watermelon and placed at the mercy of blacks.Wait, really? This is one of the more ingeniously hilarious racist comments I've ever heard. It's like telling your methhead wastrel teenager that he shouldn't become a skinhead because the Jews will kill him and drink his blood.
Washington D.C. is some kinda weird place, because it appears that David Brooks has made it through his entire adult life without ever attending a Bar Mitvah. His wide-eyed astonishment at the most basic principles of Jewish thought is actually incredible. Has no one ever taken this guy to shul before?
When [many people] go in search of answers, they generally find people who offer them comfort and ways to ease their anxiety.Nothing against this Erica Brown character that Brooks has dredged up. She sounds like a nice lady. (Actually, with her late-seating policy, she sounds like my religious school teacher, Mrs. Eiseman.) But this is hardly The Guide for the Perplexed here. My own d'var Torah was on this very subject. When, you know, I was thirteen.
Brown tries to do the opposite. Jewish learning, she says, isn’t about achieving tranquility. It’s about the struggle.
This does, however, advance my general thesis. For all the talk about "Judeo-Christian" whathaveyou, Christians, for the most part, when they actually encounter Judaism, are shocked to find that it is not some old-fashioned version of Christianity, that it is, in fact, entirely alien from their own goofball synecretic post-pagan faith.
UPDATE: A commenter notes, and la wiki confirms, that Brooks is, in fact a Jew. Well, Jew-ish. At this point, I really don't know what to say. This is like a Catholic expressing surprise at the trinity.
Monday, December 20, 2010
My favorite Colonel, Pat Lang, is a bit put out by all the gays in the military these days, and his latest eruction may be the funniest yet. Gaze in the showers! Gaze while pooping and peeing! How are a buncha fellas supposed to, you know, do nude stuff, just bein' nude dudes, you know, just a buncha fellas, bein' nude around each other, nothing gay about it, just showering and pissing and stuff, around other dudes, if there's a gay? An OPEN gay?
I propose to you that what makes Christianity the world's most unappealing religious tradition is its universal habit of wallowing in wallowing in facile self-pity, a habit so apparently inescapable that even an article knocking the Christian habit of wallowing in facile self-pity cannot help but become facile and self-pitying.
[Janet Napolitano] recently enlisted the help of Wal-Mart, Amtrak, major sports leagues, hotel chains and metro riders. In her speeches, she compares the undertaking to the Cold War fight against communists.In Soviet America, joke writes itself!
-Priest & Arkin in the WaPo