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A snob's guide to spirituality, theology...and higher physics

Literary Snobs

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Apr 21, 2010, 6:27pm Top

Received my copy of Gerald Heard's PRAYERS AND MEDITATIONS today. Lately I've noticed a marked preoccupation with books and written material relating to matters of the spirit. I also recently picked up Stephen Mitchell's THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS and a volume by Tielhard de Chardin. Anybody else's thoughts taking a spiritual turn?

What books do you turn to for inspiration, meditation, solace?

What's your favorite translation of the Bible?

Did Annie Dillard's HOLY THE FIRM make the hair on the back of your neck stand up (like mine did)?


Apr 21, 2010, 10:59pm Top

Not a believer, but I do enjoy spiritual literature aesthetically.

*Song of Songs by Ariel and Chana Bloch Excellent stuff, highly recommended.

*Gospel According to the Son by Norman Mailer. A bit lightweight when it comes to Mailer, but a fascinating exploration of Jesus, the man, and the personal anguish.

*The Book of Urizen by William Blake is a powerful combination of revelation, poetry, prophecy, and creation myth.

*Metamorphoses by Ovid; Works and Days by Hesiod; Catullus and Satyricon by Petronius: all pivotal works that effected my relationship with Nature, Culture, and the Divine.

My own "holy books" are to be expected: Against Nature by Joris-Karl Huysmans; Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet; Angels in America by Tony Kushner; Juliette by the Marquis de Sade; Maldoror by Comte de Lautreamont; Neuromancer by William Gibson; Howl by Allen Ginsberg; Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs; and Also Sprach Zarathustra by Nietzsche.

Suffice to say, I can't wait to get the Jesus book by Paul Verhoeven Given his controversial film career, at least in the hyper-religious US, it should prove fascinating.

Edited: May 7, 2010, 12:20pm Top

Most of my spiritual life is drawn from Buddhist and Hindu teachings with some Christian mysticism. That being said, What the Buddha Taught and In the Buddha's Words are excellent introductions to Buddhist thought and scripture (though scripture is a rather inaccurate word when referring to the sutras). Both come from a Therevadin perspective, which is rather different than most westerners who have been exposed to Zen and Tibetan Buddhism are used to. (that being said, though these were part of my early introduction I'm more of a Tibetan Buddhist than Therevadin).

Autobiography of a Yogi and the Collected Talks and Essays of Paramhansa Yogananda are most excellent reading. Yogananda was the first yogi to come to the west and spend most of his life teaching here. The tradition he teaches is a parallel tradition blending Christianity and Hinduism, and offers some interesting insights into both.

I have rather slowed down buying Buddhist books, as its so difficult to find much in the west that goes beyond introductory material to higher instruction and philosophical inquiry. I'm hoping as we get more western roshis and tulkus and rinpoches this will change, but we'll have to wait and see.

May 7, 2010, 1:42pm Top

I think Levinas is interesting. He was a Continental philosopher and friend of Derrida, as well as a Talmudist. Try Difficult Freedom or Nine Talmudic Readings.

The whole field of textual criticism within modern Judaism is worthy of study. The intersection of Judaism with postmodern/post-structuralist textual analysis is pretty compelling.

Of course, all of this ought to be explored while studying the classic/foundational texts: the Chumash, the Tanakh, the Talmud, the Midrash, Rashi, Maimonides, etcetera.

Also of interest: The Book of Questions by Edmond Jabes.

May 29, 2010, 2:34pm Top

I've a bit into STUMBLING ON HAPPINESS, which I think fits the notion of this thread. Thoughtful, funny and, I think, quite insightful. Daniel Gilbert is a Harvard psychologist and a very witty writer...

Jun 11, 2010, 2:32pm Top

Picked up a curious mix of books at the local library:

*The Bestiary of Christ by Louis Charbonneau-Lassay -- I did my master's thesis on monster / beast symbolism and interpretation in Lutheran and Catholic polemic. Looks like a fascinating read.

*The Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden by Rutherford H. Platt. -- Another collection of books not included in the standard Bible. Lesser known apocrypha and visionary works. The Secrets of Enoch looks incredibly fascinating.

*Institutes by John Calvin -- an arid and severely anti-mystical work. Ezra Pound put Calvin in Hell in one of his early Cantos. I'd like to know why by perusing his writings.

Jun 11, 2010, 9:32pm Top

I alluded to it in another thread but recently I picked up Huston Smith's THE SOUL OF CHRISTIANITY. I revere the man; he possesses the grace, gentleness and equanimity of someone truly blessed with divine insight...

Jun 14, 2010, 10:55pm Top

Snagged A Confession by Leo Tolstoy via Early Reviewers. Looks interesting, especially having read Timothy Ware's history of the Orthodox Church.

Jun 15, 2010, 12:55am Top

Cliff, the Soul of Christianity is excellent. I got to see Smith lecture when he came to visit my college a couple years ago. He certainly has his biases, but its not for lack of education and knowledge.

Jun 15, 2010, 1:14am Top

Looking forward to reading it--man, I love that guy.

Jun 15, 2010, 3:37am Top

As do I. You've got a great book ahead of you.

Jun 15, 2010, 9:55am Top

I have few heroes these days (cynical bastard that I am). Huston Smith is one of them, Annie Dillard another. None I can think of in politics, except perhaps Vaclav Havel. I greatly admire Elie Wiesel and I'd dearly love to meet Neil Armstrong. Pynchon might be fun...

Jun 16, 2010, 6:52pm Top

Reading A Confession by Tolstoy makes one realize just how abhorrent and awful Atlas Shrugged is. "You have wealth, so what?" I'm sure even the loquacious John Galt wouldn't know the answer to that one.

Jun 19, 2010, 5:32pm Top

Found God by Alexander Waugh Looks like a fun, erudite romp.

Love Among the Ruins by Walker Percy also looks fascinating. Has the best first line I've read in a while:

"Now in these dread latter days of old violent U.S.A. and of the Christ-forgetting Christ-haunted death-dealing Western world I came to myself in a grove of young pines and the question came to me: has it happened at last?"

Dante by way of Nathanael West. Have to put that in my TBR pile.

Jun 20, 2010, 12:11am Top

Parabola Magazine explores themes of spirituality and myth:


Edited: Jun 20, 2010, 10:51am Top

cutting through spiritual materialism - essence of Tibetan Buddhist psychology.
a wrinkle in time YA/SF
a future of ice (terrific poetry by a Japanese agronomist/poet between the world wars.
the marriage of heaven and hell
an animal of the sixth day modern American nature mysticism/poetry.
breath phillip levine
shapes of their hearts SF
Towing Jehovah Morrow- fantasy(?)
the sacred and the profane - yes ks..i KNOW he was a fascist..but still a v. imp. book in the study of religious space.

The World of Silence Max Picard - meditations by a Swiss Catholic philosopher on the role of "noise" in making totalitarianism possible written right after WWII. Obscure, BUT recently reprinted and early, profound media criticism from a "spiritual" POV.

i can't pretend to understand even lower physics.

Jun 20, 2010, 10:24am Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Sep 18, 2010, 9:48am Top

A fascination post on the notion of "cyborg theology":


Sep 18, 2010, 10:35am Top


Oct 24, 2010, 9:26pm Top

Dear God, Karl, how do you find this stuff?

Oct 24, 2010, 9:54pm Top

Hilobrow has some bizarro links. Here's the original post that led to that:


Oct 24, 2010, 9:58pm Top

"Eraserhead"--I know lotsa folks couldn't handle that one but to me it's one of the most original and disturbing films I've ever seen. Nothing Lynch has done since has even come CLOSE...

Oct 24, 2010, 10:51pm Top

The only thing that comes close is Inland Empire, a 3 hr semi-plotless mindscrew. But I totally agree, Eraserhead is just plain nutzoid disturbing. Not as disturbing as deformed alien kids wearing snowsuits and carrying hammers, but still disturbing.

Nov 14, 2010, 8:29pm Top

A look at Hell via pop culture, graphic design, and biological horror:


Dec 1, 2010, 4:12pm Top

... and higher physics, the Scale of the Universe interactive map:


In the words of Douglas Adams:

"Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the drug store, but that's just peanuts to space."

Dec 1, 2010, 6:38pm Top

That's a cool scale!

Jan 18, 2011, 9:56am Top

Another hilobrow nugget, this time on philosopher Gilles Deleuze:


Jan 19, 2011, 11:36am Top

Don't think I've posted this before. It's from a luvly little site called "World Hum" (best travel writing on the internet):


Two quotes of note:

"All those trying to inculcate in us a respect for convention (fear, in other words) or, especially, hoping to sell us something, strive to populate our lives with specters of dread and phantoms of failure sure to descend on us as soon as we diverge from the prescribed way. Early on we internalize these fears and learn to live within their bounds. To disenthrall ourselves, we need to see them for what they are: the manifestations of prejudice, cowardice, petty-mindedness, and even greed. Certainly, ignoring them involves risk, as does any truly independent activity, and we may at least initially suffer for our boldness in striking out on our own. But if adversity hits, we need to step back and remember that turning our troubles, whatever they are, into matters of cosmic import is a sure path to self-absorption and misery. Independence comes with a price to be paid, and often a high price, but the rewards of living according to one’s instinct and inclination exceed all others."

-from "Journey to Ithaca" by Jeffrey Taylor

"Pain may in fact be our best teacher, our most reliable guru. There’s something antithetical to wisdom in the notion that we should take a pill to assuage our pain or quell our fears. The overarching, eternal questions of life and death do frighten us, at least at first, but in overcoming our fear and beginning the search for answers we acquire wisdom."

Jan 19, 2011, 1:01pm Top

Yet another reason why Hitchens and Stephen Fry get more popular in the US:


Unfortunately, religious moderates and other moral cowards remain silent as this vacuous canker sore takes the governorship. To be fair, it is Alabama, a state that would need carpet bombing to enter the Stone Age, since it obviously takes its idiocy and sanctimonious belligerency very seriously ... when not attending their meth labs.


Jan 19, 2011, 1:13pm Top

"sanctimonious belligerency" - Ha! Well put.

Jan 19, 2011, 1:55pm Top

I know it sounds cliche and its seen on millions of those cloying bumper stickers, but "Coexist." Its when people can't coexist with others that really raises the hackles on my neck. Plus the obvious fact that the United States was founded on the principle of secularism and religious/philosophical/intellectual coexistence, not Protestant Christian tyranny. I'm not for multiculturalism as an end in itself, but as a means to smooth over our latent desire for supremacy and dominance. Competition, discussion, debate, etc. -- that's what makes a nation great. A veritable rainbow of blah blah blah tolerance understanding and such. When you look at places like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the American South, one understands why people are so reluctant to invest in these intolerant hellholes.

Jan 19, 2011, 3:03pm Top

I get very tired of people confusing the Christianism of the new Alabama governor with the teachings of the Bible. They are not the same thing at all. In fact, this kind of thing is one more example to me of the existence of Satan. He has corrupted the message of Christ beyond recognition. Just as we were told he would. The Bible plainly teaches that we are all brothers and sisters by virtue of our common humanity, not because of some magic spell, some incantation that makes us "saved", whatever that means. Pay careful attention to this thinking. This is another way to divide us rather than bring us together. Christianity is not a divisive religion. It has been made one by humans. The guy doesn't know what he is talking about.

As I said elsewhere, theology is the product of Satan. We don't need people to tell us how to think about what the Bible says. We just need to read it for ourselves. Something Christianists are apparently unable to do.

Jan 19, 2011, 4:49pm Top

Towards the physics side.. Godel, Escher and Bach is a mind blowing read..highly recommended

Jan 19, 2011, 4:52pm Top

Gene, Satan has standards. To inspire the venal prattling of that Alabama swamp-bilge in human form, well, then Mr. Satan is indeed slumming. Satan is much better served inspiring the lyrics and sonic daring of Marilyn Manson and the free market-friendly atrocities of the Duvalier family. Besides, Satan is scheduled to brunch with Hitler.

I do agree with the epithet "Christianist" and its non-correlation to mainline Christianity. French sociologist Olivier Roy nailed the real issue in this little fracas:

"Fundamentalism, in his view, is a symptom of, rather than a reaction against, the increasing secularization of society. Whether it takes the form of the Christian right in the United States or Salafist purity in the Muslim world, fundamentalism is not about restoring a more authentic and deeply spiritual religious experience. It is instead a manifestation of holy ignorance, Roy’s biting term meant to characterize the worldview of those who, having lost both their theology and their roots, subscribe to ideas as incoherent as they are ultimately futile. The most important thing to know about those urging the restoration of a lost religious authenticity is that they are sustained by the very forces they denounce."

As far as authenticity goes, I consider it a mug's game, another Sisyphusean challenge, an attempt at meaning in an otherwise meaningless world. Whatever, the food at the Olive Garden is still good, whether or not its culinary roots can accurately traced back to the food of the indigenous, hard-working peasants of Tuscany. I'll just watch Fight Club again and wonder what my dining room set says about me.

Jan 22, 2011, 2:46pm Top

On the warrior-monks of Tibet:


Feb 3, 2011, 3:02pm Top

Apparently backstabbing centrist and corporate shill Joe Lieberman wrote a book about the Sabbath:


I say "Phooey!" Such a shanda.

Feb 3, 2011, 4:49pm Top

A wolf in Democrat's clothing. Joe Lieberman, that is.

Feb 3, 2011, 8:15pm Top

"a shanda fur die goy"

You are a riot, Karl.

Feb 3, 2011, 9:48pm Top

I my Leo Rosten have read. Lieberman's a meshuggah mamzer. Makes me shvitz just to think he was in Congress. Oy!

Feb 4, 2011, 2:44pm Top

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Israel).

Feb 22, 2011, 10:11am Top

Recently finished The Universe in a Single Atom by HH Dalai Lama. Very insightful. One of the more interesting topics is his call for a more thorough inquiry into the science of consciousness.

Mar 1, 2011, 10:02am Top

A rare voice of intelligence and sophistication is silenced:


A great counter-voice to the claque of sewer rats and moral cannibals who dare append the name Christian Right, being neither, to their legion of the foul.

Edited: Mar 2, 2011, 10:36am Top

A voice of intelligence of silence and a voice of thuggish bigotry continues to spew:


"Exonerating the Jew for killing Jesus." Gee, how noble of the Pope Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't it the Vatican that leveled the charge of deicide and blood libel against the Jewish people in the first place? (Not to mention the whole altar boy touchy thing while simultaneously condemning gay marriage, but that's another tirade.)

Mar 2, 2011, 10:38am Top

I've always found it hysterically funny that there were three Popes named Innocent...

Mar 2, 2011, 11:01am Top

That's the sad thing, since I really love Catholic and Lapsed Catholic literature. Adultery is ho-hum as a subject, but if it makes the adulterer that much closer to eternal damnation ... well, how Faustian and sublime. Greene, Waugh, Alexander Theroux are all great Catholic writers, yet they also transcend the category. Then there are the Lapsed Catholics: Burgess and even DAF Sade with his explorations of blasphemy and freedom.

Mar 2, 2011, 11:15am Top

How about those from the United States? Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy, and the criminally under-appreciated J.F. Powers (Check out his Morte D'urban, Wheat that Springeth Green, and Lions, Harts, Leaping Does, and Other Stories) - NYRB Classics has helped remedy this by republishing two of his novels.

Mar 2, 2011, 12:07pm Top

Indeed. I wasn't attempting to be comprehensive, but those were the authors that first popped into my head. Catholic/Lapsed Catholic Authors could merit a thread by itself. I haven't read Walker Percy, but I have one of his surrealist/apocalyptic novels -- name escapes me -- that I really want to read.

Mar 2, 2011, 12:22pm Top

Yeah, I figured it was an off-the-cuff list. Oh, much of Power's work is set in rural Minnesota - not sure if, for you, that's a point for or against.

"...running a parish, any parish, was like riding a cattle car in the wintertime--you could appreciate the warmth of your dear, dumb friends, but you never knew when you'd be stepped on, or worse."

from Wheat that Springeth Green

Mar 2, 2011, 12:42pm Top

Of course there's one of the greatest lapsed Catholic writers of all, James Joyce...

Mar 2, 2011, 2:15pm Top

54: I'd classify Mr. Joyce as a Lapsed Catholic writer.

"I confess that I do not see what good it does to fulminate against the English tyranny while the Roman tyranny occupies the palace of the soul." -- Joyce.

But we should also clarify the difference between a devout observant Catholic and a "cultural Catholic."

Mar 2, 2011, 2:49pm Top

44> The insinuation that Lieberman, because he is Jewish, has dual loyalty is a classic anti-semitic canard.

Mar 2, 2011, 3:20pm Top

56: That's assuming that sanctimonious backstabbing twit had any loyalty to begin with? Ethnic and religious background notwithstanding, Lieberman is an awful human being. His awfulness transcends any biological or confessional category. He makes Ferdinand Celine look like the paragon of morality.

Mar 2, 2011, 3:40pm Top

57: Stop digging. I am not a fan of Lieberman but comparing him to someone who wrote pamphlets against Jews for the Vichy regime is a bit much don't you think.

Edited: Mar 2, 2011, 3:43pm Top

#56 And employing the race card of anti-Semitism against anyone who criticizes someone of Jewish descent is a classic canard that disallows debate and freedom of speech.

Edited: Mar 2, 2011, 3:48pm Top

What gene did was not "criticism" or "debate", and I did not hinder him or anyone else from speaking or typing.

Claiming that Jewish politicians or government figures have dual loyalty is a classic anti-semitic argument. It has a long history. There is a similar history of claiming Catholic politicians have dual loyalty to the Vatican. The former is connected to anti-semitism; the latter is connected to anti-Irish and anti-Italian racism. While the latter has moreorless disappeared, the former is obviously alive and well.

Mar 2, 2011, 3:48pm Top

59: It's kind of legit if the critique is about their Jewishness. You could argue that a lot of Senators are pro-Israel - actually most of them are, to a fault - but somehow Lieberman is the one that gets the (I-Israel) thing - why is that? Hmmmm....

I have seen cartoons calling the Capitol Building "Israeli Occupied Territory" and I would not call that anti-semitic. But if all the vitriol is centered on those who just happen to also be Jewish...

Mar 2, 2011, 3:59pm Top

It doesn't help that "Jewish" is misappropriated and muddied; the term can connote either a religion or an ethnicity. Depending on the agenda of the accused and the agenda of the accuser, hoisting the flag "anti-semitic" can be exploited for various and sundry debating points.

And the correct geographic location of "Israeli Occupied Territories" include: The Gaza Strip, The West Bank, and the Golan Heights. Jerusalem ... I'm not touching that with a ten foot pole.

Edited: Mar 2, 2011, 4:15pm Top

The pro-Israel lobby is, to my mind, the single most influential group active in Washington today. They are well-financed, well-connected and have succeeded in hijacking U.S. foreign policy to the extent that anyone who criticizes Israel for its heavy-handed tactics or shows the slightest sympathy for Palestinian aspirations doesn't have a prayer of being appointed to any position of importance. That lobby has also effectively destroyed the U.S.'s credibility in the Middle East and has perpetuated an inequity that has led to the deaths of God knows how many people, the displacement of millions and made a mockery of any "peace process" each successive president embarks upon.

Seen in that light, are Celine's pamphlets and rants anywhere near as influential or dangerous or horrific? Was Celine responsible for the death of a single person of Jewish descent? He was a crank and misanthrope; his hatred of the Jewish people is undeniable but, except for the level of his vitriol, not exactly unique for his time.

Mar 2, 2011, 4:16pm Top

63: I agree with your first para - in its entirety - but not your second. I don't like to compare two things that are fundamentally different.

I think Celine bears a lot of responsibility for his reprehensible views precisely because he was such a smart guy - and I also am not sure whether or not they ended up hurting anyone but I find it hard to believe they didn't. Of course it will be hard to tie his own hate speech to whatever the Vichy government did to help Nazis kill Jews, but he was definitely on the same side.

I have lived in the Middle East, for thirteen years. I did think that Israel bears a lot of responsibility for Middle Eastern views of it, but I also think that European and American anti-Semitism has managed to gain a lot of ground in the Middle East where it didn't used to exist, and that is because of people like Celine (not him obviously, but people like him) who spread hate based on religion, Holocaust denial, and so forth, and there are a lot of them. They are not the same as people who speak out against Israeli atrocities.

Mar 2, 2011, 4:26pm Top

63> I think your conspiracy theory about the power of an 'Israel lobby' is a terrible misreading of modern politics and one that unfortunately plays into the worst sorts of conspiracies about 'conniving Jews undermining national interest' and so on. The wikileaks cables demonstrate very clearly that Israel is not controlling US foreign policy in the middle east. (Not that one needed wikileaks to know that!)

As for your second thing, Celine was an active propagandist for fascism and anti-semitism in the 1930's. Was he responsible for Jewish deaths? Yes. What an indecent question.

Mar 2, 2011, 5:36pm Top

#65 I think you're revealing your own biases and prejudices while trying to pin the donkey tail on me. Anyone arguing that U.S. foreign policy is not overtly aligned with Israeli interests is living in a weird bubble of their own creation. I'll not respond further on that point.

Anna: Celine was a smart guy, as were Eliot and Pound and ____________ fill in with a host of big names from the 1930's and 40's (including American national hero Charlie Lindbergh). Celine's views were/are reprehensible, his bigotry beyond dispute. But he was NOT alone.

The current pro-Israel lobby is responsible for an enormous amount of hardship in the Middle East AND they have succeeded in tainting U.S. foreign policy to the extent that, in my view, America has abandoned its national interests and endangered its own homeland in its irrational, Christian-based belief that the Jewish people are the "chosen ones" and a bulwark against the spread of evil Muslims intent on conquering the world for the sake of their debased religion.

I sense this thread is becoming personal and divisive so I think I'll leave it there. You know what I think, where my allegiances lie and I think I see (re: #65) where other folks are coming from.

Never the twain shall meet...

Mar 3, 2011, 12:01pm Top

I am not a fan of Chomsky, but I think he puts the Israel lobby conspiracy theory to rest here: http://www.chomsky.info/articles/20060328.htm

Mar 3, 2011, 4:19pm Top

All I do is consider what's in the best interests of the US, compare that to the way Israel drags us around by the nose, acting quite often against our best interests, and decide that because of the things Lieberman supports about Israel, he, too, acts not in the best interests of the United States, but in the perceived best interest of Israel. No matter what Israel wants from US we give it to them. We are afraid of them. We are a colony of Israel, at present. Although a little less of one, but not much less, since Obama took over. Hence, Lieberman (I-Israel). He never ever casts a single vote against the Israeli governments wishes. Israel is a pox on the earth and Jerusalem is its pustule.

BTW, Gaza has never, ever, been a part of Israel, even at its most expansive under David and Solomon. Thus Israel has no claim on Gaza at all and should leave it alone.

BTW, I am not anti-Semitic. I don't like the policies of Israel. Is that not allowed or does that make me automatically anti-Semitic. Calling someone anti-Semitic reminds me of a story about a boy and some sheep and a wolf. It's bullshit.

We should be at war with Israel. Do you know any other countries that could have done this while we work hard on covering it up for them? No, we should have taken Israel out in 1968. We should have at least sent a public envoy to Tel Aviv to let them know we were pissed off at them. We didn't even do that. If it was for the US government we wouldn't even know about the Liberty. What other aggressive acts of war has Israel committed against the US? No, as states go, Isreal is scum. I can't speak for the people of Israel, but some of them make Sharia Law look like a life-saver.

Go ahead, call me anti-Semitic if you wish. It won't change my mind. The only thing that will change my mind about Israel is when they either give in to a two state solution so the Palestinians can have their own shot at governance, or when they offer first class citizenship in Israel to everyone living in the occupied territories. Until Israel accepts the need for human rights for the Palestinians they, as a country, are scum.

Mar 3, 2011, 4:48pm Top

The people who are doing the most to change policy in Israel seem to be ... leftist Israelis and leftist American Jews. If AIPAC is responsible for Israeli policy at all, these groups more than balance it out, I say.

I agree with Chomsky that there is a wide consensus among the powers-that-be that Israel and the US share interests and Israel should be supported at nearly any cost.

(I also think that AIPAC has influence though, mostly electorally, that is, keeping people who don't agree with this consensus from getting elected in the first place. But I agree it is sloppy to conflate AIPAC with the consensus itself.)

Mar 3, 2011, 4:52pm Top

We should be having this conversation in either "The Middle East Lit Thread" or the one on "Human Monsters."

Mar 7, 2011, 3:46pm Top

China puts its foot down on the Dalai Lama's reincarnation:


Not exactly sure how the good folks in the People's Republic of China will actually ENFORCE this decree?

Mar 7, 2011, 4:31pm Top

And remember, the Chinese authoritarian regime is SOOO much more democratic and respectful of human rights these days.


Mar 7, 2011, 4:37pm Top

This is more of a temporal concern, but the PRC on the UN's Human Rights Committee is rife with irony. (Granted, as a citizen of the US I can hardly wag my finger in moral approbrium, but it still rubs me the wrong way.) --- This statement was made in China on cheap plastic, like American flags and other patriotic detritus Americans purchase in bulk.

On a tangential note, here is Walter Benjamin's fragment entitled "Capitalism as religion":


His Arcades Project is akin to exploring the catacombs of Modernity. Benjamin offers a fascinating perspective with his uneasy merging of Marxist theory and Jewish Kabbalistic mysticism.

Mar 7, 2011, 4:39pm Top

Watched Herzog's "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" last night. It teeters on the edge, arms windmilling, but has moments of brilliance - the "his soul's still dancing" bit, for example. Cage just... transcends criticism. He plays the title character like a collection of twitches and mannerisms hiding under a bad toupee. It's so unlike actual acting, it's scary.

Mar 7, 2011, 5:23pm Top

"Bad Lieutenant": that is one whacked film--up and down, at times really breath-taking. Talk about an anti-hero. Would like to do an essay some time, comparing the original and Herzog's take. Both have their moments, both are flawed but they never bore you, that's one damn thing for sure.

Mar 7, 2011, 11:25pm Top

I think my wife was a "warrior bride", come to think of it. Honestly, Karl, where do find this stuff?

Edited: Mar 8, 2011, 4:03pm Top

76: Thanks for showing me that link and distracting me from homework for a good two hours. I found this article particularly interesting and informative:

I totally agree with their analysis of "The Jungle." There are some strong Socialist messages in there...

Mar 8, 2011, 10:45am Top

I totally agree with their analysis of "The Jungle." There are some strong Socialist messages in there...

Probably because Upton Sinclair was a lifelong Socialist -- like fellow writer George Orwell -- and even ran for office on the Socialist ticket. Sinclair also wrote Oil!, a book later adapted into the Pure Awesomeness that is "There Will Be Blood."

Mar 8, 2011, 4:04pm Top

Interesting. I've heard of both the movie and the book, but never connected the two.

Edited: Mar 12, 2011, 6:08pm Top

Now here's the kind of theology/philosophy I find intoxicating:

"I believe that there is in life, and in the human psyche, a certain quality, an inviolate eternal innocence, and this quality I call the Fool. It is a continuous wisdom and compassion that heals with fun and magic. It is the joy of the original Adam in men.

The Fool is purity of consciousness. This purity is a cosmic folly that is utterly detached from what most of the world thinks worth doing; it is detached from the deadening edifice of clever ambitions, of power, and of the incredible vanity of knowledge, that has already dulled the capacity for poetry of life in contemporary society.

The secret of life is to share the creative madness of God - if we have never experienced this madness we can be said never to have lived.

Art is a form of transcendental magic which is created out of that awakened sense, and returns to it.

The Fool is not interested in success or failure, or the vanity and burden of external knowledge. He is interested in life, in the mystery of consciousness and the transformation of consciousness which comes about through direct perception.

…In other words the Fool is interested in love and its manifestation in that harmony and wholeness which we call beauty. He is therefore in a state of creative vulnerability and is easily destroyed by the world.

Society must be based on our sense of wonder, the one experience which justifies our being alive."

Some quotes from Cecil Collins on "the Fool",
extracts from The Vision of the Fool and other Writings
Edited by Brian Keeble, Golgonooza Press, Ipswich 2002

Mar 13, 2011, 11:34am Top

A publisher named after Blake's paradise city? I'll have to check them out.

Cliff, you should check out Robert Musil His Man Without Qualities is an epic account of reconciling the mystical and the rational, set among the backdrop of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1913.

Mar 13, 2011, 11:52am Top

Goddamnit, Karl, Musil has been on my radar for ages (like Robert Walser, like Thomas Bernhard). Dunno what's taken me so long to get to him (except his work ain't exactly available at every corner book shop--of which there are none where I live anyway). A German friend once told me Musil was the best short story writer Germany ever produced. So, yup, your citation is duly noted and I'll circle his name in red ink on my tattered wish list...

Mar 13, 2011, 3:55pm Top

Forgive the tangent, but I've been reading An Artificial Wilderness by Sven Birketts Absolutely essential to understanding 20th century literature. Essays on Musil, Bernhard, Walser, Duras, Walcott, Rushdie, and others. Alas, no Bolano. But he advocates exploring non-English writers for fun and pleasure. Furthermore, he's a great critical voice alongside the James Wood-Harold Bloom critical cartel. (I like both Wood and Bloom, but they are as omnipresent as Ken Burns sometimes.)

Mar 31, 2011, 10:42am Top

Mar 31, 2011, 10:54am Top


One of the lines, recently translated by Professor Randolph Carter, has Jesus stating: "Look, folks, stop taking this shit so seriously..."

This, of course, is the same Prof. Carter responsible for unearthing the "lost" Gospel of St. Nicholas:


Mar 31, 2011, 11:30am Top

86: Reminds me of the SNL sketch where William Shatner yells at the Trekkies, "Get a life!"

And then there's the Monty Python sketch, "The Bookshop," where a man is looking for "The Gospels According to Charlie Drake."

Edited: Apr 1, 2011, 9:02pm Top

85 Karl,

The size, print format, that's easy. Those are a form of these:


Found in an obscure crevice in Jordan, instead of wedged in the toilet paper dispenser at the Bus Station Mens Room.

Edited: Apr 5, 2011, 2:04pm Top

Sunset Chapel, Acapulco. Who knew bare concrete could be so ... appealing?


And the opposite of minimalist aesthetics:


Apr 24, 2011, 10:53am Top

"Gnosticism in Lawrence Durrell's Monsieur: New Textual Evidence for Source Materials"


Happy Easter, Mr. Sales!

May 19, 2011, 4:11pm Top

May 21, 2011, 4:05pm Top

The Great Disappointment, Part II: Electric Boogaloo:


Not too different from the boy crying "Wolf!" At least in the fairy tale, the boy cried wolf 3 times and then the villages gave him his comeuppance. I honestly lost count of the times when some garden variety nutjob gets media attention for a theory about the world ending.


And that list only goes up to 1920. And one wonders why people grow cynical and snarky about "organized" religion? Pffft.

May 22, 2011, 10:57am Top

Have you accepted the Macho Man Randy Savage as your Lord and Savior? OOOH YEEAH!


Not sure how this lines up with my confessional adherence to the tenets of The Big Lebowski and the Church of Ed Wood

To be slightly serious, one of Buddhism's main components is ancestor worship.

May 23, 2011, 9:13am Top

Dig It!

So are you saying you're related to the Macho Man?

I can see adherents taking refuge in Randy Savage the piledriving deity. At least he didn't sell out like Hogan did.

May 23, 2011, 1:32pm Top

94: Not in a genealogical sense, but he deserves our acclaim, like James Joyce and Alexander Durrell

May 24, 2011, 10:46am Top

Re: the April Non-Rapture:


"It was the math, of course! How silly of me. Who do I make the check out to?"

What a moron. It also doesn't help that he looks like the Crypt-Keeper's older brother.

May 24, 2011, 2:39pm Top

Couldn't agree more. I wish all the arseholes in the world really WOULD get Raptured. It would make our Earth far more tolerable and fun.

Jun 9, 2011, 10:52am Top

Physicists discover 2 new elements:


Hopefully this means FTL technology is within reach. This planet is getting too hot, too crowded, and too full of "The Army of the Invincibly Stupid", to use Pete Hamill's classic description.

Jun 14, 2011, 9:48am Top

Whose to say God doesn't have a wicked sense of humor?


You'd think he would have seen that coming? Probably akin to the Psychic Network going out of business. One of those rare times when bad things happens to a bad person who absolutely deserves it.

Jun 20, 2011, 12:01pm Top

Watched The Mormons, the American Experience/Frontline doc. It was a well-done intro to the little-known religion. By no means comprehensive and a little light on the Mormon's rather idiosyncratic theology, but overall a good intro for someone with no prior knowledge. Comparable to the 3-part series on Islam narrated by Sir Ben Kingsley.

Mar 19, 2012, 9:56am Top

Huh ... kinda makes you think:


Mar 19, 2012, 1:15pm Top

I'm no gamer but that one looks interesting.

Mar 29, 2012, 2:53pm Top

This one just arrived, HOW TO READ THE BIBLE by James L. Kugel. Comes highly recommended.

Feb 24, 2013, 1:23pm Top

Happy Purim everyone!

Feb 24, 2013, 9:31pm Top

Jul 23, 2013, 5:36pm Top

#107, I find that article fascinating. Reminds me of my biology professor in the 1970's musing over whether viruses are an exception to the normal rule of things evolving from simple to complex. He mentioned that some were wondering if viruses actually developed from more complex cells.

Jul 23, 2013, 10:00pm Top

I just got done watching "The Budha" on public TV.


'feeling remarkably serene right now.

Aug 7, 2013, 12:23am Top

Edited: Aug 7, 2013, 6:50pm Top

111: I guess they missed that Alan Watts lecture at the Vatican:



Oliver Cromwell's Soldier's Pocket Bible, a handy portable size filled with affirmation for committing your next military atrocity and/or hate crime:


Sep 10, 2013, 5:33pm Top

The LOLCat Bible Translation project:


Oct 12, 2013, 9:46am Top

"God Loves Uganda," yet another reason to detest evangelicals from Middle America:


Edited: Oct 12, 2013, 11:30am Top

114: Aren't you the same "critic" who just compared Cliff to Hitler for cherry-picking the worst examples from a group, and suggesting they represented the whole?

I can't decide what's more amazing - your childish disapproval of those you imagine to be less perceptive than yourself, or your enormous blind spot for irony and self-contradiction.

Oct 12, 2013, 3:08pm Top

115: your childish disapproval of those you imagine to be less perceptive than yourself, or your enormous blind spot for irony and self-contradiction.

I thought these were the hallmarks of the spiritually mature? Perhaps I'm just embodying these supernaturalist fan clubs?

And by me denigrating "the whole"? Please clarify? Did I mean to equate Evangelicals with all Christians? (Since there are plenty of liberal Christian groups around) Or with all religious folk?

"Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)" -- Walt Whitman

Oct 12, 2013, 3:29pm Top

116: This seems to be the first time it's occurred to you that those you most loudly condemn, are those most like yourself. Welcome.

Edited: Oct 13, 2013, 5:42pm Top

117: Ah yes, there's no better wisdom than bumper sticker wisdom. Many thanks, O sage one.

Or as Joss Whedon wrote:

"That's a trap. I offer money you'll play the man of honor and take umbrage. I ask you to do what's right, you'll play the brigand. I've no stomach for games; I already know you'll not see reason."

So not matter what I do -- use sarcasm, or incriminate myself with some unpopular notion -- you'll use it against me. It just doesn't matter.


Nov 12, 2013, 7:39pm Top

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