Saturday, September 14, 2019

A Beautiful, Unusual Book

     I recently finished a beautifully written, though unusual, book.  It's called H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.  I call it unusual because, honestly, I wasn't that incredibly interested in the subject matter (I'm not a big fan of reading about predatory birds doing their bloody work), but I was interested in how the author's mind works.  And that was the reason I bought the book.

     I had originally seen her in a PBS Nature documentary.  She was showing how she was training a goshawk to hunt for her, and I was captivated by the commentary she provided on her own thinking, on how the bird symbolized certain things for her, and how having a goshawk helped her through her own grieving process over her father's death.  I was deeply touched by her poetic insights.

     Yes, the book does describe -- beautifully, mind you -- how the goshawk kills rabbits or pheasants and the like, but it's so much more than that.  So, if you're a little squeamish like me, hopefully, you'll overlook those parts to feast on the rich insights that she provides throughout.

     If you love deep introspection that informs the human condition and beautiful, poetic writing, you'll treasure this book.  Try something different.  Get this book.


Saturday, September 7, 2019

A Poem for Twin Souls

"Sudden Light"

I have been here before,
But when or how I cannot tell:
I know the grass beyond the door,
The sweet keen smell,
The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.

You have been mine before, --
How long ago I may not know:
But just when at that swallow's soar
Your neck turned so,
Some veil did fall, -- I knew it all of yore.

Has this been thus before?
And shall not thus time's eddying flight
Still with our lives our love restore
In death's despite,
And day and night yield one delight once more?

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Saturday, August 31, 2019

A Couple of Quotes for Today

     Some things to ponder, and perhaps act on, for today:
There's no more central theme in the Bible than the immorality of inequality.  Jesus speaks more about the gap between rich and poor than he does about heaven and hell.  (Jim Wallis)
We must never ignore the injustices that make charity necessary, or the inequalities that make it possible.  (Michael Eric Dyson)

 

Saturday, August 24, 2019

A Terrific Taoist Book

     Perhaps you'd like to get an overview of Taoism through the many stories that the tradition offers.  This book will fit that bill.  It's called The Wisdom of the Tao: Ancient Stories that Delight, Inform, and Inspire, by the prolific and talented Deng Ming-Dao.

     It features 144 brief stories or short quotations, derived from such Chinese sources as Liezi, the I Ching, Zhuangzi, folktales, and classic Taoist writings.  Here is a classic, if earthy, example:

Dongguo Zi asked Zhuangzi:  "Where is Tao found?"
"Everywhere."
"Can you be specific?"
"It's in an ant."
"Can you be more basic than that?"
"It's in the weeds."
"Can you be even more basic than that?"
"It's in a clay tile."
"Can you be still more basic than that?"
"It's in shit."
Dongguo Zi was silent.

     A delightful book.


Saturday, August 17, 2019

A Refreshing Viewpoint, Part 3

     The interview with Dorothy Roberts, whom I quoted in the last two blog posts, struck a chord with me.  It reminds me of a friend of mine.

     Whenever my friend has to fill out a medical or other personal information sheet and the question of "race" comes up, she always marks the "other" box and writes in:  "human."  We are, she says, all one human race.  Why accept the artificial social constructs?

     I like her chutzpah.

     So, be human.  Be one with your neighbor and their neighbor.  Be an active member of this world.
(image courtesy of pixabay.com)


   

Saturday, August 10, 2019

A Refreshing Viewpoint, Part 2

     Last week I was presenting excerpts from an interview with Dorothy Roberts.  Here is a continuation on her view of the biological concept of "race."
There is genetic variation in the human species.  In Africa alone we could divide people into a thousand different "races" if we wanted to, based on various genetic differences.  But there would be no point in having a thousand races.  If you divide humans into just a few groups, however, then you can build a social hierarchy around those divisions.  Besides, skin color varies within races and is consistent between some people of different races.
The biological concept of race has been refuted by evolutionary biologists and geneticists and genomicists for decades.  The scientists who led the Human Genome Project made a point of saying human genetic variation isn't divided into races.  There's no such thing as black genes or white genes.  The amount of genetic variation among people of the same so-called race is greater than the amount of genetic variation between races.  You might have genes that can be traced to a certain population somewhere on the globe, but there's no point at which you can draw a boundary line and identify one race on one side and a different race on the other.
All humans originated in African and then migrated outward in groups, each carrying a subset of the genetic variation in Africa.  No one has identified a point in human history at which these migrating groups evolved into discrete and homogeneous "races."
     In other words, we are all one, people.
 
 

Saturday, August 3, 2019

A Refreshing Viewpoint

     I was recently reading in one of my favorite magazines, The Sun, an interview of Dorothy Roberts (law, Africana-studies, and sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia) conducted by Mark Leviton.  The interview can be found in the April, 2019 volume (yes, I am a little behind on my reading).  Here are some fascinating tidbits:
Roberts:  I'm not saying that race is a natural division of human beings that can lead to unjust hierarchies.  I'm saying that the very concept of race was invented to create and enforce such hierarchies.
Leviton:  How old is this political invention?
Roberts:  Certainly hundreds of years old.  The term "race" came into use to distinguish human groups in the sixteenth century when Europeans began to conquer other peoples and enslave them.  To justify capturing Africans and turning them into property, Europeans came to describe them as a separate kind of human being -- or even not human at all.
As soon as people invent the concept of race, they rank races into a hierarchy.  Some people think it's harmless to believe in biological differences between races as long as we don't value one over another, but the whole point of dividing humans into races is to value some more than others.  The inventors of the biological concept of race said that Africans were naturally meant to be enslaved, that it was for their own good, that they were better off being slaves!  These ideas were written into law in the united States during the slavery era.
     Food for thought, don't you think?  There's more to come.

(image courtesy of pixabay.com)