Monday, October 31, 2016

Preserved cherries

Taiwanese cartoonist Tsai Chih Chung's popularization of the Analects
Confucius Speaks has arrived in the mail. I know and love Tsai's Zen Speaks, which is funnier, but this is fun too. Some bits are just a little obscure though...

Which has given me an idea for another thing we might do next semester. To name and move beyond the cherry-picking which characterizes most readings of the Analects, I'll ask each student to bring in five or six passages that "really speak to you" and an equal number that "make no sense to you at all." (I include an example from Confucius Speaks.) We'll focus on the latter, and return to them later, to see if we can then make sense of them.
trans. Brian Bruya (Anchor Doubleday, 1996), 137

Ebb and flow

Nice little moment in "Buddhism as a Liberal Art" today.


I remember hearing in a dharma talk
that nothing is pure or impure.


That reminds me of something the Dalai Lama said,
that adding a little dirt to the ocean 
doesn't make the ocean dirty, just as ... 


... adding a little soap wouldn't make the ocean clean. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Go with the flow

Here's another cool map, showing the river basins of the contiguous US.


Two weeks from now, I'm going to be part of a panel on the "life and commitment of philosopher and activist Simone Weil." It's part of The New School's welcome to composer-in-residence Kaija Saariaho, whose oratorio "La Passion de Simone" will be performed at the Mannes School of Music. I'm part of it because I included Weil in my anthology on The Problem of Evil and mention her once in the Job book, but I'm hardly a specialist. I may be the only one to speak about her spiritual writings. But returning to her bracing texts is, well, bracing for me too.

God and humanity are like two lovers who have missed their rendezvous. Each is there before the time, but each at a different place, and they wait and wait and wait. He stands motionless, nailed to the spot for the whole of time. She is distraught and impatient. But alas for her if she gets tired and goes away.

"The Things of the World," in The Simone Weil Reader,
ed. George A. Panichas (NY: David McKay, 1977), 424-25

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Meanwhile at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, signs (just a few) of Fall.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Children of Abraham

Went again to the Met for "Jerusalem 1000-1400," this time with my friend M. He's a medievalist, and also has an iPhone, so I got a picture for you of one of the exhibition's wonders, "Paths of Paradise" paintings illustrating the Prophet's Night Flight to Jerusalem. Everything about this panel, Muhammad visiting the Pavilion of Abraham, where children who have died prematurely play under hs guidance, delights me. Such blues and greens! And kids climbing trees!

Thursday, October 27, 2016


The weather's changed - colder temperatures at last (and today rain). After a year of record summer heat the trees are still deciding what to do. Yellow and red, or straight to brown?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

As if

Since I read the slight Chinese bestseller which made Confucius' ideas palatable to contemporary people in the PRC, I thought I might as well check out the slight bestseller that purports to be doing the same for us in the USA. The Path provides an accessible, indeed readers' digest-accessible account of the stuff of a fabled course at Harvard, Michael Puett's "Classical Chinese Ethical and Political Theory." Thousands of students have taken this course, and many have confirmed Puett's promise that it would "change their lives."

It does this by challenging the view that the good life is the one where you "find yourself" and build a life around it. Chinese philosophers suggest, instead, that we are fragmented and changeable, and will lead better lives if we recognize this and learn to work with it, starting in our most everyday interactions and relationships. From this perspective, the search for your true self, and the ideals of sincerity and authenticity connected to it, are fundamentally misguided. You don't have to be the person you seem to yourself and others to be - break out of the "ruts" of habit, and unthought of possibilities will present themselves. You'll be a more effective change-maker in the world, too, with this approach, since the world also is fragmented and changeable and best engaged by recognizing this and working with it. Confucian ritual and self-cultivation rub shoulders happily here with Daoist strength-through-weakness and the self-divinization which comes from tracing the apparent differentiation of the world to its unified origin.

That makes the argument sound more interesting than it seems in this little book, where it often seems little more than banal if helpful common sense. I imagine that in the course itself Puett must take students deeper. (Doubtless there's more than a few crumbs from the Chinese texts, too.) Maybe hearing these ideas from a world-renowned scholar in an Ivy League lecture hall gives them a different force, or perhaps gives those students permission to engage them. I don't doubt that the arguments supposedly culled from Chinese philosophy speak to brilliant students who have been performing themselves as brilliant students all their lives and don't really know who they are or how to take themselves seriously beyond that. The arguments may also play well with a more general audience of readers living in an age when changes in economy and society have undermined the shallow promises of the ideal that Margaret Urban Walker derides as the "career self."

The book is based on Puett's class but co-written by a journalist (albeit one with a Harvard PhD in East Asian Studies) so it's a little hard to know what's been added. There is a deceptively simple ontological argument playing beneath the surface, and a glib but explosive historical narrative around the edges. The ontological argument is that Chinese philosophers accepted the world as "fragmented" and indeed "capricious," and so understood human action not as responding to some given order or meaning in ourselves or the world ("as is") but as exploring possibilities of order and meaning ("as if") which came closer to realization as people repeat them. (This is the understanding of ritual Puett already contributed to the interesting Ritual and its Consequences, where it's called "ritual and the subjunctive.") I don't know enough of Chinese metaphysics to judge if "fragmented" and "capricious" are appropriate words - they seem sloppy to me - but the result is not far from familiar (and deliberately metaphysically disappointing) American pragmatism. Besides, it doesn't need to be true; it's sufficient to act as if it is!

The historical narrative is Sinocentric in a way which won't be familiar. All of Eurasia was aristocratic until the Axial Age, we read, when thinkers from Confucius to Socrates started thinking what would make a just society. This period gave way to great empires, and then things diverged, at least between Europe and China. Europe fell back into aristocratic barbarity, but China learned from its Axial Age thinkers to use the state, staffed by a meritocratically selected bureaucracy of good men, to continually further human society. Only when Europe brought to East Asia the brutality it had honed in building New World colonial empires on the backs of slaves did everyone, East Asians sadly too, forget what a good thing they had had going there.

Somehow the as if/as is contrast is read on to the asserted civilizational difference, too. (China has encountered as-ism before: Mohism was an Axial Age Chinese as-is philosophy which was found wanting and left behind. But it seems the West never generated its own as if-isms.) While the life changing advice of the Chinese philosophers is nothing new to me (I'm not encountering them for the first time), the ontological/ historical part is, and it gets under my skin. It bothers me because it's so glib, but it might also be because, as with the conclusions of The Silk Roads, it has the ring of truth to it, too. Whaddaya know: The Path is too thin to be a good book, but the argument it breezes amiably through is one that can challenge at the macro as well as the micro level.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Hobbes ringtone

Curious teaching moment today in "Theorizing Religion." Our text: The Future of an Illusion, by someone nobody had any prior experience studying - Freud. I suppose that's a blessing; last year's class knew only that Freud was "evil and wrong"! These students - and they're not bad students at all - hadn't heard of the "masters of suspicion" either, at least not by that name. So my work was cut out for me...

Anyway, the curious moment came when I was arguing that the science which Future of an Illusion commends as a replacement for obsolescent and gangrenous religion includes political science. Freud's picture of civilization - necessary so that our instinctive drives don't lead to bloody anarchy, but a continual heavy lift - is a lot like Hobbes'. Did anyone recognize the argument? No. Had anyone heard of Hobbes? Negative. But surely they knew the phrase nasty, brutish...? Indeed yes! All were able to complete it: and short!! But none knew the context or that the formulator of that characterization of human life (actually solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short) was offering an alternative to it, however chastened. They might now.

There's a vertiginous pleasure to teaching in the "open curriculum" of our core-less distribution-requirement-less and largely sequence-less seminar curriculum. Every word you say has to be like a hyperlink, able to open if needed to explain a term, figure, idea, era, movement. But you have to wonder if any but the virtuosically agile among our students are getting the bigger picture. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Beautiful questions

This was the view over Union Square when I came out of "Buddhism as a Liberal Art" today. It isn't that often that the clouds you see through the streets of New York give a sense of vastness and distance, but they did today. I was with my friend H, a mindfulness teacher who'd visited the class and led us in a wonderful discussion. In our ninety minutes together, he had us introduce ourselves multiple times - in pairs, threes, and to the group, each time answering a different question: What was your intention in coming today? What's your interior weather like? What are three things you're curious about? Write down three questions. Which one of these would you like to share with the whole group? Before we knew it, our time was up, but oh how much we'd learned about each other - and about ourselves.

I like introductions, H said, because they help me learn who I am in each moment. Indeed he explained the point of each of the questions, which he described as "practices." Knowing your intentions is key because "everything happens as it's intended" - as your intentions allow it to be. Knowing your interior weather helps you take care of yourself, but also reminds you how changeable you - and everyone else - are. And when we shared our questions, H had us consider the way we asked them, what we were really asking. A poet he had heard had asked "Do you want to lead a beautiful life?" and answered "Ask beautiful questions." Seamlessly H wrapped up with elegant accounts of Buddhism and liberal arts as both concerned with this questioning, this attentiveness to self and others. It was beautiful.

My three questions, incidentally, were: Is liberal arts really as valuable as we say? What is age? How much has the world already changed beyond what I think I know? 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Autumn light

Tiffany glass moment in Prospect Park at end of day.

Little saints

At church today I was in the company of saints. A few rows before me, freshly sainted Teresa of Calcutta, St. Thérèse de Lisieux, St. Michael, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Francis, St. Damien Tours. In other pews, St. Juan Diego, St. Brigid, St. Faustina, St. John Vianney and lots of nuns.
At the consecration they were invited to the altar, making for quite the communion feast! As an Episcopalian I don't get to see very many children in church, so it's a pleasure to be able to witness the goings on at the little church around my Brooklyn corner, the Catholic Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph. It was unexpectedly moving to see them in these costumes. I'm not sure how widespread the practice of dressing up as your favorite saint, nun or priest is (today is World Mission Sunday); I think it'd be a powerful experience for a little person. (I noted that my Thérèse was Afro-Caribbean, my Katheri a mestiza, and my Michael a girl.) I didn't have time to follow them as they processed to another church, but it must have been quite a spectacle: little saints marching!

Saturday, October 22, 2016


Brrr... just days ago it was warm like a leftover pocket of summer, but
now it's definitely Fall. With cold rain 10˚C (50˚F) feels like 2˚C (36˚F).
This was shoe-soaking Washington Square Park yesterday morning.

Friday, October 21, 2016

People who love people

I'm in love! I'm reading a book, recommended by Melissa Nelson at the religion and ecology conference last weekend, called Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants (2013). It's by Robin Wall Kimmerer, botanist, poet and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and enchanting me like nothing I've read in a long while. I'll probably give it to you, next time I have occasion to give you a book. But here's a teensy taste.

I have heard our elders give advice like "You should go among the standing people" or "Go spend your time with those Beaver people." They remind us of the capacity of others as our teachers, as holders of knowledge, as guides. Imagine walking through a richly inhabited world of Birch People, Bear People, Rock People, beings we think of and therefore speak of as persons worthy of our respect, of inclusion in a peopled world. We Americans are reluctant to learn a foreign language of our own species, let alone another species. But imagine the possibilities. Imagine the access we would have to different perspectives, the things we might see through other eyes, the wisdom that surrounds us. We don't have to figure everything out by ourselves: there are intelligences other than our own, teachers all around us. Imagine how much less lonely the world would be. (58)

Thursday, October 20, 2016


This (as they say in the world of social media) just happened. 
My New School history co-teacher J celebrated the release of her amazing new book on "West Side Story" in Orozco - with dancers!

Inspired by gravity

My partner's on his way back to shining Shanghai for a few weeks. It's a trip delayed months (!) by a backlog of our immigration system, which I blame on the nihilistic charlatan we heard from - I pray - for the last time at last night's debate. A safe flight and smooth landing for all.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Your parents (sic), they are well?

I've started to think more about next semester's iteration of Exploring Religious Ethics focusing on Confucianism. Confucianism should serve many of the meta- points rather nicely, notably the ostensible secularity (or at least detachability-from-religion) of "ethics" - claims made for Confucianism, too. Wider moral communities come into play - ancestors, the earth, Tian - and also the question I've been calling the relation of ethics and ritual: is one best seen as an instance of the other?

I'm a long way from deciding what to do in the class, and in what order, but (or perhaps therefore) I've been thinking also about how to to do it. I had coffee this afternoon with L, a colleague who teaches about "non-western approaches to international relations" and has written about Daoist and Confucian alternatives to "Westphalianism" in political thinking. L has had students do various dramatizations in her classes and I'd just had a fabulous interactive class on William James, focused on how Varieties of Religious Experience is about channeling the voices of others. (What will it have been like to hear James performing the many very long excerpts from the religious experiences of others in the lectures which became Varieties?? What will it have been like to be James channeling them? We practiced hearing, and then performing ourselves...) We compared notes. What might one do in a course centered on Confucianism? It needs to be interactive. I told L about how Michael Puett's Harvard course on Chinese philosoophy has apparently changed lives by getting students to hold doors open for strangers.

Here's what I'm thinking now. These days many courses (especially social justice courses) start with a class discussion and decision on "ground rules." ("One mike," "Use I-statements," "Oops/Ouch," etc.) We'll have "Confucian" ground rules, and let them gently structure the nature of our interactions. With L's help I've thought of two possibilities so far. One involves deferring to others: when you and another student want to speak, and I (the teacher) call on you, you give the word to the other student. We can give that move a name and/or mark its performance whenever it happens in some way (a nod, perhaps, or a fingersnap), making explicit the way in which we are creating a world of courtesy and respect together. We could do the same with other civilities.

The other thing I'm considering involves a version of the tradition in Confucian societies (so L tells me) of asking about an interlocutors' parents well-being first, before asking theirs. "Your parents, they are well? And you?" Family is too fraught, and our students' families too fractured, for that to work in unmodified form. But what if, taking a page from Jeff Stout's take on Ciceronian piety towards the "sources of our being," we asked students early on to identify some of the sources of their being, and then asked about those? If a student tells us her grandmother is important to her, we'll ask her each week how her grandmother is doing. If a student says it's a teacher, or older friend or relation, we'll ask about them. If students decide it's someone else we should be asking about, they could tell us and we'll adjust.

It'd be weird and then, I would hope, it wouldn't be. It might be wonderful. We'd get a sense of what it is to interact with people not as abstracted individuals but as members of lineages of nurturance and memory - and to be seen by others similarly. How might our discussions change with that altered sense of where each of us is "coming from"?

I came up with this idea, I think, because of the way in which inviting last Fall's "Theorizing Religion" students to consider the styles of religion-making they inherit made our final class one in which I felt the presence of more than the students. (I guess I didn't write about it here; perhaps it seemed too intimate, not for sharing beyond that group.) With the students were sources of their being, lost loved ones whose memories guided them, the worlds to which they returned each night or holiday. I'm thinking also of the Buddhist practices which start with thinking of one's "benefactors," those who have made it possible for us to be what we are. Not "Confucian"? Not a problem, I think...

Anyone have a strong sense that this would be excellent, or awful?

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Religion & Ecology

The dominant note for the final day of "Religion, Ecology and our Planetary Future" was gratitude. At its heart there was gratitude to the conveners, who over the last two decades have made the field of religion and ecology through conferences, publications, and, it's clear, remarkably dedicated dialogue with established and mentoring of emerging scholars. But there was a broader sense of the gratitude participants in this urgent, nascent field feel toward each other, a joy at shared purpose, effort, and achievement.

We were still in the rhythm of hope and despair which characterized the mood yesterday, gathering ourselves in a huddle before setting out again. It is too late for a lot of things. We are too few to do much. But today was about the real achievements possible if efforts are concerted. It was undergirded by a sense of solidarity with those around us, for whom and with whom we might make a difference - all the members of the vast "community of subjects" (a term from Thomas Berry, the guiding spirit of this venture), of which we humans are but a small part.

As the exhaustion of hearing forty-one talks subsides (I'm in the MegaBus on my way home, fiery autumn foliage fading into darkness along the sides of the highway as the sky ahead holds out in final pinks and pastels), I feel not just that I've gotten to know this community of scholars but that I want to join it. All sorts of issues and questions I've felt drawn toward over recent years are taken seriously here, from the Australian-led field of environmental humanities to what I've been calling "wider moral communities" to the Anthropocene. Happy discovery!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Hope and mourning

Today's five panels were exhausting if not exhaustive, but I'm getting a better sense of the discussions which this community of dedicated thinkers and activists in the nascent field of Religion and Ecology have been having. Most striking is the recurrence of the question of hope, often accompanied by reflections on the need for mourning. If I spent more time with environmentalists I might be more familiar with this ebb and flow of urgency and despair. I'm familiar with the issues, with the reasons for despondency, rage, guilt and even terror, but I encounter them episodically. They can't really be said to ebb from my awareness because they never really flow in my life. What I sense here is a community in movement, or attempted movement. And so the question of hope is not an abstract one but situated in particular engaged struggles to make a difference, raise awareness, mitigate or even turn things around. It's not really about whether or not we've reached a point of no return, but how we do the best we can, wherever we are... which is why the question of mourning the lost, including those not yet lost but which we know will be squandered, is part of it.

no book in it

Harvard Divinity School is 200 this year, and its walls are covered with exhibits celebrating their achievements in various fields. The section on history and anthropology includes this exquisite excerpt from New Zealand ethnographer and poet Michael Jackson. A lovely admission of humility before the practices of another culture, a worry about "describing them with words / they would not use," and a chastened but charmed self-understanding as working with, alongside, his research subjects.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Insistent problems

Greetings from Harvard Divinity School - my first visit. I'm up for a weekend-long conference fêting 20 years since a series of symposia here launched the field of Religion and Ecology. The first day's panels looked back and forward from the perspective of 8 religious traditions - Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Jain, Hindu, Buddhist, Daoist and Confucian - constructs the various speakers were varyingly comfortable or uneasy with in this, our post-"World Religions" moment.

The most exciting talk came from a scholar of Daoism who thinks the "religion and environment" language, along with the disciplines it appeals to, perpetuates the very division of human from nature which led to the environmental crisis in the first place. What's needed is something like the "liquid ecology" of Daoist traditions:

To be an individual is not to be distinguished from “the world” by virtue of some unique nature of character that “nature” does not possess. Instead the subjectivity of nature “insists in” or informs the subjectivity of the individual; the uniqueness of each individual life, and the uniqueness of the human species is constituted by the particular way in which the Dao is configured or constellated within each life.

Tomorrow explores indigenous traditions from several continents and some specific environmental issues, before, on Sunday, the conference engages new voices and interlocutors in fields like Environmental Humanities. Should be an education!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Elaborations on emptiness

Had a rather rude awakening today. In "Theorizing Religion" this year, there's nobody who would admit to knowing about Buddhism! (It emerged at least two students had encountered it in classes but was not volunteered.) How can this be? Isn't Buddhism the go-to place of the SBNR, the kinder gentler world of mindfulness, compassion and practice, the warm glow of eastmeetswest? I guess not!

So I'm afraid that Donald Lopez' debunking of this so amenable Buddhism will have made less than no impression.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

In the bag

They were giving these bags out free at my local supermarket today, because what I've come to know and love as wonky but neighborly and
reliable MetFoods is now into its second week as a somewhat swankier FoodTown. I'm relieved to know that the management hasn't changed.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Emptiness of emptiness

Another day, another exciting class discussion at The New School!
Here the students in "Buddhism as a Liberal Art" discuss technologies of emptiness with a Lang Religious Studies faculty colleague (a Buddhologist and the co-founder of Consciousness Hacking NYC) as an unidentified design student measures the room as if we weren't in it.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Scenes from the kitchen

Golden beets and linguini fini prepping for a seasonal dinner whose ingredients almost all came from the Grand Army Plaza Green Market.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Pleasant flush

I'm tempted to assign the mega-bestseller Confucius from the Heart for my course next semester. Based on a TV series by a Beijing professor of media studies named 于丹 Yu Dan in 2006, it engagingly likens the Analects to a hot spring known as the "Ask Sickness Spring": It is said that anyone who takes a comfortable soak in its water will at once understand the source of their illness: people with arthritis will get a tingling feeling in their joints, those with gastro-intestinal problems will experience a hot sensation in their gut, while people with skin complaints will feel a pleasant flush all over their skin, as if a layer of skin is being washed away, like the sloughed off skin of a cicada. (2-3) 
Yu Dan, Confucius from the Heart: Ancient Wisdom for Today's World,
 trans. Esther Tyldesley (London: Pan Books, 2010)
Later she contrasts the traditional approach of  'I explain the Six Classics' with her more modest 'The Six Classics explain me' (168), though the modesty of this approach falters in the book's final pages, after a discussion of Confucius' famous account of the stages of life:

At fifteen, I set my heart on learning; at thirty I took my stand; at forty I came to be free from doubts; at fifty I understood the Decree of Heaven; at sixty my ear was attuned; at seventy I followed my heart's desire without overstepping the line. (Analects II.4, qtd at 163)

Yu Dan:

If, at twenty or thirty, we can reach, ahead of schedule, the state we should be in at forty or fifty and have already built up a clear and lucid system of values, and are already able to transform the pressures of our society into a flexible strength that will allow us to bounce back, and if we are able to achieve a kind of calm, steady pursuit of our heart's desire without overstepping the line ... then we can safely say that we have lived a truly meaningful life. ... 
Faced with competition and pressure like today's, what reason do we have not to become mature ahead of time? The words of Chairman Mao's poem: 'Seize every moment, for ten thousand years are too long' could not be more appropriate today. If ten thousand years are too long, so too are seventy. (184-85, 186)

It might be fun to read her account of the warm, living water (3) of this companionable and can-do Confucianism, which interweaves folksy wisdom from sources well beyond Confucius (and China) with reflections on how to live happily in rapidly changing Chinese society, together with Harvard professor Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh's The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Lifewhich promises to do the same for living in our own rapidly changing society.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

University Center!

In front of the entrance to the new University Center, tables selling used books. Now we're talking!

Wednesday, October 05, 2016


Felt quite old-fashioned seeking refuge in Louise Nevelson at MoMA's new full-floor exhibit of their work in all genres from the 1960s.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Fall colors

 Delicate autumn pinks and purples at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

The rest of the story

We had a gratifying convergence of things in Theorizing Religion today, made possible by a happy accident. The accident was that T (a journalist friend of my late Uncle Don), who was supposed to be passing through NYC last week, couldn't make it until this week, and we decided to get together for lunch. Theorizing Religion meets right after that, so I invited him to come for a short visit, and he did!

The gratifying convergence had to do with what we did in class last week, and what the assigned topic for today was. All of last week was devoted to students' reports on "Religion in the News," which opened out into a broader discussion of media "religion making." One of the questions we discussed at length was what made a religion story something newsworthy. (Another, less developed, was what made some news agency construct it as a religion story.) Our hypothesis was that "religion" turned up in the news when it intersected with "something else" - ideals of secular education, rights, commerce, politics, etc.

T confirmed this in the most convincing of ways - for he was the editor of the excellent Reuters FaithWorld, set up in 2003 to generate more and better informed news reports on religious subjects. T couldn't commission many articles himself, but he could recommend subjects to the bureau chiefs in various place (he'd been a bureau chief himself in many places). He knew they were reluctant to take on religion for various reasons. The best way to get them to follow up on his suggestions was to convince them something wasn't (or wasn't just) a religion story! Religion may have been newsworthy on its own, but it only found its way into print when it was also something else.

We didn't have time to revisit the question of how religion is distorted by this sort of reporting - I suspect T would have had interesting things to say about this, since he writes both for secular and religious news services - but what we got was plenty. Not just confirmation of our hunches, but a glimpse of the complicated ways in which news is made. In our discussions about the media last week, we asked if what was at play was so very different from what happens in academia. (Later we'll reconnect it with the more personal contexts broached in our "religion matrix" essays.) Now we have a first hand account of the making of religion making in the news to work with!

But another gratifying convergence emerged when we turned to the day's scheduled reading, Friedrich Schleiermacher's "On the Essence of Religion." For the argument here is precisely that religion has been misunderstood by religions's "cultured despisers" because they have confused it with "metaphysics" and "morals" (politics, too). Religion can align with these, Schleiermacher argues, but they are distinct. (In a nutshell, Schleiermacher's "religion" is not thinking or acting but intuition and feeling.) Their interaction can only be understood when their separate "essences" are understood. Religion's essence is best grasped, then, not when it inspires or is coopted by "praxis or speculation" but on its own, in moments and communities of "feeling of the infinite." Could this ever be conveyed in a news story - even if it somehow struck someone as newsworthy?

Saturday, October 01, 2016


Fall is approaching! (Here some woods near Bennington, VT.)