Sunday, January 27, 2013

can black america have a decent conversation?



clutch | While perusing several of the hundreds of Django Unchained conversations happening on social media, I began to get this nagging feeling that just wouldn’t go away. It had nothing to do with the hatred hurled at Spike Lee or the brittle enthusiasm over Quentin Tarantino. It didn’t have anything to do with the film’s slant towards colorism and depiction of the White-Savior Complex as heroism — or even why the Tupac song at the end stopped right when I was getting into it.

All of that faded in light of the revelation that we — as in black descendants of slaves in America — converse as if we hate each other.

*And please skip the “Who is we?” question. If it’s not for you, the browse button is that way.*
Sambo, coon, nigger, nigga, and Uncle Tom have all been spoken with such a deep-seated hatred and resentment that I have literally recoiled from my screen at times — in disbelief, in dismay, in sadness. And it’s not just Django; any conversation that involves race spirals out of control so swiftly it’s as combustible as a lit match on gasoline. I asked myself, “Why are we using plantation language to insult one another?” “Why are all these black people fighting over a white man’s rendition of slavery, or a black woman sleeping with a white man (see: Scandal); or the infallibility (or cultural mirage) of a black president?” And the answer is simple:

Because some of us are still slaves.

Oh, the shackles aren’t there — for those of us not in the Prison Industrial Complex — but the damage has been done. And we are still divided into a contemporary version of what Ancestor Malcolm called House Negroes and Field Negroes.


sheriff, you can count on me...,



rawstory | A Wisconsin sheriff has drawn criticism from other public officials for a radio commercial telling residents not to wait for authorities to help them and to arm themselves for protection.

According to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. can be heard in the ad saying, “With officers laid off and furloughed, simply calling 911 and waiting is no longer your best option. You could beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed, or you can fight back.”

Clarke also encourages residents to sign up for firearms training courses, saying, “I need you in the game,” and, “We’re partners now. Can I count on you?”

Saturday, January 26, 2013

what's that africom cover story again?

antiwar | But Patrick Meehan, chairman of the US Congressional committee that drew up the report, said “While I recognize there is little evidence at this moment to suggest Boko Haram is planning attacks against the [US] homeland, lack of evidence does not mean it cannot happen.”

Washington’s interest in Africa goes back at least to 2007, when the Pentagon’s AFRICOM was formed, long before rebels in Libya or militants in Mali were a threats to exaggerate.

The dominant way of thinking in Washington is that the US should be involved in every corner of the planet, and the pressure to always “do something” is intense.

But as Micah Zenko, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations recently commented with regards to the intervention in Mali, “Some things that happen on the other 94% of the earth that isn’t the US, has nothing to do with the US, nor requires a US response.”

Friday, January 25, 2013

racism is racism...,



esquire | There is no point in mincing words. What the Virginia legislature is entertaining now in regards to its election laws is flatly fcking racist.  That it is in response to changing demographics that make Virginia a tough get for the Republicans in presidential elections now doesn't matter. That it is what we have come to expect from Republican-majority state legislatures around the country now doesn't matter. That it's naked opportunism doesn't matter.  That it may not pass doesn't matter. This is a legislature acting to devalue African American voters to the advantage of white voters. This is Jim Crow bullshit, and no politician who deals in it, and no political party that continues to support said politician, is worthy of support by decent people in the year 20-goddamn-13.

The bill would apportion electors by congressional district to the candidate who wins each of the state's 11 districts. The candidate who carries a majority of the districts would also win the two electors not tied to congressional districts. Sen. Charles W. "Bill" Carrico, R-Grayson, said the change is necessary because Virginia's populous, urbanized areas such as the Washington, D.C., suburbs and Hampton Roads can outvote rural regions such as his, rendering their will irrelevant.

Thank you, Senator "Bill," for making it plain. There are now more people in the "urbanized" areas -- and you don't need the Enigma machine to decode that baby, do you, Paul Ryan? -- than there are in the "rural" areas so, therefore, the system is unfair because white people don't win any more. It's not like we shouldn't know it when we see itm because it's not like we haven't seen this before.   Fist tap Dale.

will the next great crisis massively shift america toward conservatism?

naturalnews | There is a very good reason why people who live in cities tend to be liberal while those who live in rural areas tend to be conservative. In a city, the existence of nearby neighbors, the shared dependence on infrastructure and the close proximity of police stations automatically lends itself to a socialist mindset. On issues like guns, city people seem to be unable to imagine why anyone would "need" a rifle, for example, and because all guns scare them, they would prefer to force everyone across the country to turn them all in.

People who live in rural areas, in great contrast, have every reason to be more conservative and independent. Their local sheriff might be 30 minutes away in an emergency, meaning that self protection is truly up to you and can't simply be delegated to someone else. Self-reliance means survival. In rural living, firearms are absolutely necessary tools to protect your animals from predators, eliminate varmints that are destroying your garden, and provide real security for legitimate threats to your safety. People who live in cities tend not to be able to understand these things because they can't imagine country life.

Because cities pack so many people in such a small space, there is a commonsense basis for lots of little laws and regulations on things like noise, littering and even your car's emissions. After all, one incredibly noisy person living in an apartment can prevent a hundred people from getting to sleep, so noise ordinances make sense where people live in close proximity.

Out in the country, where the nearest house might be a quarter-mile away, noise ordinances make no sense. Regulations on every little detail of the lives of the people simply don't fly.

FACT: Today, about 80% of the U.S. population lives in cities.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

the systematic appropriation of shining manhood reaches endgame...,

guardian | Yesterday, I highlighted the extraordinary anti-war speech Martin Luther King gave in 1967, in which he said, among other things, that the US government is "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today" and the leading exponent of "the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long." The speech was devoted to arguing that America's militarism and war-fighting were degrading the soul of the nation and the citizenry and - for financial, political and cultural reasons - were making domestic progress impossible.

The US Air Force's Global Strike Command yesterday posted a truly vile bit of propaganda in which it appropriates King's image, name and words in order to claim that he would "be proud to see our Global Strike team . . . standing side-by-side ensuring the most powerful weapons in the US arsenal remain the credible bedrock of our national defense" (ellipses in original):
"The Department of Defense is a leader in equal opportunity for all patriots seeking to serve this great nation. . . The vigilant warriors in AFGSC understand they are all equal and unified in purpose to provide a safe, secure and effective deterrent force for the United States. . . .
"Dr. King would be proud to see our Global Strike team - comprised of Airmen, civilians and contractors from every race, creed, background and religion - standing side-by-side ensuring the most powerful weapons in the US arsenal remain the credible bedrock of our national defense. . . Our team must overlook our differences to ensure perfection as we maintain and operate our weapon systems. . . Maintaining our commitment to our Global Strike team, our families and our nation is a fitting tribute to Dr. King as we celebrate his legacy."
The US military - which is currently bombing Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen at least, all in secret - just exploited one of the 20th Century's greatest proponents of nonviolence and most vehement opponents of US militarism as a public face for its aggression and violence in the world. While King may have preferred to see an integrated military rather than one divided by racial strife, his condemnations of US militarism were particularly harsh when it came to the way the US military taught American citizens to embrace a culture of violence ("I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today - my own government").

stephen obama is candyland's greatest asset...,



democracynow | Premiering this week at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, the new documentary "Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield" follows investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill to Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen as he chases down the hidden truths behind America’s expanding covert wars. We’re joined by Scahill and the film’s director, Rick Rowley, an independent journalist with Big Noise Films. "We’re looking right now at a reality that President Obama has essentially extended the very policies that many of his supporters once opposed under President Bush," says Scahill, author of the bestseller "Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army" and a forthcoming book named after his film. "One of the things that humbles both of us is that when you arrive in a village in Afghanistan and knock on someone’s door, you’re the first American they’ve seen since the Americans that kicked that door in and killed half their family," Rowley says. "We promised them that we would do everything we could to make their stories be heard in the U.S. ... Finally we’re able to keep those promises." [includes rush transcript]

the next war?

tomdispatch | Once upon a time, former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping suggested that Asia’s Pacific powers and wannabes should “put aside differences and jointly develop resources.”  That was, of course, when China itself was still something of a wannabe and no one was talking about it becoming the world’s largest economy.  Now, it’s the rising power on planet Earth, achieving a more-than-century-old dream of returning to national greatness -- as well as an eye-blistering, health-endangering level of industrial and car pollution that has its own name, “airpocalypse.” Problem is the idea of regional cooperation turns out to have been the real dream and now, it seems, everyone in the Pacific basin has woken up.

“Jointly develop”?  What an ephemeral thought at a time when the urge to power up ever more cars and factories (sending yet more pollution, not to speak of greenhouse gases, into Asian and planetary skies) has merged with advances in drilling technology for “extreme energy.”  Together, they have made a series of previously unremarkable islets in the Pacific -- which just happen to have prospective oil and natural gas reserves under them -- look too valuable to resist claiming. So China, Japan, and various other Asian countries are insisting those bits of land are theirs and theirs alone.  Toss in that hideous imponderable national pride and, as TomDispatch regular Michael Klare points out today, you have the potential for one of the dumber, more destructive face-offs in recent history.  With its usual fabulous timing, the U.S., already heavily garrisoning parts of Asia, has jumped in with both feet, only exacerbating tensions in the region, while promising to bring more of its own weaponry to bear, and sell more of that weaponry to its allies.

As Klare, author of the invaluable The Race for What’s Left (just out in paperback), indicates, this couldn't be more ludicrous.  After all, China, Japan, and the U.S. are so economically intertwined that one can’t twitch without the others suffering.  In other words, any kind of conflict among them is bound to make mincemeat of their collective economic wellbeing.  In fact, last October, after a confrontation over some of those islands, angry anti-Japanese protests and calls for boycotts of Japanese goods swept China.  The uproar briefly closed Japanese plants in that country, took a bite out of Japanese car sales, and knocked down Japanese stock prices.  Japan's economy took a serious hit as well, which should surprise no one since China has recently pulled ahead of the U.S. as that country’s major export market.  All of this, until tamped down, threatened the wellbeing of the global economy, and yet it was a mere hiccup in terms of what might be coming.

What better argument could there be for self-interested cooperation in the Pacific, if only anyone in the involved countries, including ours, were actually walking the walk, instead of just intermittently talking the talk?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

do we need technology to help us remember the future?

wired | If you want to recall moments in your life, you’ve got thousands of photos and emails to help you. Forgot the details of a news story from last month? Google’s got your back. The high tech dream of lifelogging”—capturing everything important to you—is increasingly becoming real.

But there’s one big area where our digital recall falls short: prospective memory.

Today’s tech helps mostly with retrospective or semantic memory, events or facts we’ve encountered in the past. Prospective memory is different. It’s our ability to remember to remember something—like stopping to grab the dry cleaning on the way home.

As it turns out, this is where our pain really lies.

Sure, it’s embarrassing when our retrospective memory fails, like when you space out on a colleague’s name. But failures of prospective memory can wreck your career or life: Forget to attend a crucial meeting or file a tax document on time and things go downhill from there. Microsoft researcher Abigail Sellen has studied everyday memory lapses, and she found that people didn’t complain much about forgetting the past. What really killed them was forgetting the future. Prospective memory is about getting things done.

Unfortunately, buffing your brain with memory-training tricks won’t necessarily help. Some studies have found that people who are better at remembering facts are actually worse at remembering tasks. Call it the absentminded-professor effect.

Why does prospective memory fail? Partly because it’s tricky to cue. Prospective recall is about doing task A when we’re in place B or at time C. But place B or time C on its own doesn’t always clearly indicate that you have to do something.

“The thing with prospective memory,” Sellen says, “is giving you the right trigger at the right time and place.” Fist tap Dale.

internalizing the internet...,

thescientist | Over the next 10 years, people will increasingly shape their view of themselves and their position in the world using their interactions on Facebook, online games, and other social media, rather than traditional identity-shaping features, such as religion, job, ethnicity, and age, according to a report released by the Government Office for Science's Foresight program of the United Kingdom. While the study acknowledges that the trend can have both positive and negative effects on individuals, it predicts that online identities will have an overall profound impact on society in the near future.

“This report shows that ‘identity’ is not a simple notion,” Sir John Beddington, head of the UK Government Office for Science, wrote in the foreword of the report. “People can have many different overlapping identities, which are fundamental to their individuality. Identities can exercise a powerful influence on the health and well being of communities, and the degree to which they can build up social capital.”

what the fbi doesn't want you to know about its "secret" surveillance methods...,

eff | The FBI had to rewrite the book on its domestic surveillance activities in the wake of last January’s landmark Supreme Court decision in United States v. Jones. In Jones, a unanimous court held that federal agents must get a warrant to attach a GPS device to a car to track a suspect for long periods of time. But if you want to see the two memos describing how the FBI has reacted to Jones — and the new surveillance techniques the FBI is using beyond GPS trackers — you’re out of luck. The FBI says that information is “private and confidential.”

Yes, now that the Supreme Court ruled the government must get a warrant to use its previous go-to surveillance technique, it has now apparently decided that it’s easier to just keep everything secret. The ACLU requested the memos under the Freedom of Information Act — which you can see FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissmann waving around in public here — and the FBI redacted them almost entirely.

Though the FBI won’t release the memos, we do have some information from other sources on the surveillance techniques federal agents are already using. And for the most part the FBI contends they do not need a warrant, and one wonders, given the public nature of this information, why they are officially claiming its "secret." Fist tap Arnach.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

all wars are banker's wars...,



whatreallyhappened | The German government recently asked for the return of some of their gold bullion from the Bank of France and the New York Federal Reserve. France has said it will take 5 years to return Germany's gold. The United States has said they will need 8 years to return Germany's gold. This suggests strongly that the Bank of France and the NY Federal Reserve have used the deposited gold for other purposes, and they are scrambling to find new gold to cover the shortfall and prevent a gold run. So it is inevitable that suddenly France invades Mali, ostensibly to combat Al Qaeda, with the US joining in. Mali just happens to be one of the world's largest gold producers with gold accounting for 80% of Mali exports. War for the bankers does not get more obvious than that!

You have been raised by a public school system and media that constantly assures you that the reasons for all these wars and assassinations are many and varied. The US claims to bring democracy to the conquered lands (they haven't; the usual result of a US overthrow is the imposition of a dictatorship, such as the 1953 CIA overthrow of Iran's democratically elected government of Mohammad Mosaddegh and the imposition of the Shah, or the 1973 CIA overthrow of Chile's democratically elected government of President Salvador Allende, and the imposition of Augusto Pinochet), or to save a people from a cruel oppressor, revenge for 9-11, or that tired worn-out catch all excuse for invasion, weapons of mass destruction. Assassinations are always passed off as "crazed lone nuts" to obscure the real agenda.

The real agenda is simple. It is enslavement of the people by creation of a false sense of obligation. That obligation is false because the Private Central Banking system, by design, always creates more debt than money with which to pay that debt. Private Central Banking is not science, it is a religion; a set of arbitrary rules created to benefit the priesthood, meaning the owners of the Private Central Bank. The fraud persists, with often lethal results, because the people are tricked into believing that this is the way life is suppoed to be and no alternative exists or should be dreamt of. The same was true of two earlier systems of enslavement, Rule by Divine Right and Slavery, both systems built to trick people into obedience, and both now recognized by modern civilizatyion as illegitimate. Now we are entering a time in human history where we will recognize that rule by debt, or rule by Private Central Bankers issuing the public currency as a loan at interest, is equally illegitimate. It only works as long as people allow themselves to believe that this is the way life is supposed to be.

the colonial powers never really left...,



National Post |  Africa may have achieved independence, but the old colonial ties are still important as France’s decision to send troops to Mali to fight Islamist extremists shows. The old colonial powers in Africa may no longer be the rulers, but they still exert influence and have strong economic and political links. David McDonald, professor of the Global Development Studies at Queen’s University, says, “The French and the English were much more strategic in terms of recognizing that they wanted to maintain neo-colonial linkages with their former colonies. So it was shedding the direct authoritarian power at the barrel of a gun and replacing that with independence, but an independence that was, and is still to some extent, extremely dependent on the political and economic will of the former colonial masters.” – The National Post’s Rubab Abid and Richard Johnson look at the former colonies and former colonial powers who still dabble inside the continent they once owned.  Fist tap Dale.

at least get your story together fellas...,



LeMonde | French former Prime Minister Alain Juppé has called for clarification of France’s objectives in Mali, after current Defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian appeared to suggest that the French army was intent on eliminating the islamists from the North.

“The original aim was to stop the jihadists and terrorists from reaching Bamako,” Juppé told French radio station Europe 1. “I have the impression today that we have undertaken the total re-capture of Malian territory, which is an immense task.”

“France does not have the means to do this alone” Juppé declared. “We must be more active in re establishing constitutional order in Mali”.

He said that only an African force could help restore such order in Mali.

When French president François Hollande launched the offensive on 11 January, he spoke of stopping the advance of the islamists from the North and protecting the 6,000 French citizens in Mali.

Jean-François Copé, of the opposition UMP party like Juppé, also raised questions about France’s military intervention in Mali, in an interview on French television station BFM-TV.

“Is it a struggle against international terrorism? Is it a struggle against terrorism in the region? Is it to allow the re unification of Mali?”

Monday, January 21, 2013

poverty's effect on learning redux...,

aera-l | In response to my post "Barriers to Better K-12 Math Education: Poverty and the Inadequate Undergraduate Education of Prospective K-12 Teachers [Hake (2013)] at Ed Wall (2013b), in his Math-Learn post at made 2 points: (1) My statement that Wall implied that the dumbing down of elementary school mathematics in the U.S. is due to Math Education Researcher's preoccupation with the secondary years is "more than a little un-thoughtful." (2) His post "Re: Do We Learn All the Math We Need For Ordinary Life Before 5th Grade?" [Wall (2013a)] at had more to do with (a) his agreement with David Hawkins - see signature quote - which Wall assumes I have refuted, and (b) people such as myself who " 'imply' that children are less than capable because of their socioeconomic status." [Non-subscribers to Math-Learn can access Wall's post by taking a minute to "Join this List" at the Math-Learn archives.]

Here I refute Wall's 2 points with emphasis on Wall's incorrect point 2b: "people such as myself 'imply' that children are less than capable because of their socioeconomic status." On the contrary, I implied that children *in poverty* are less capable of *academic achievement* than children not in poverty.

I think that children in poverty are probably just as *inherently* capable as children not in poverty, but societal and home factors conspire against their academic achievement. For example many of them: (a) are subjected to poor teaching, (b) attend dilapidated schools with high student and teacher turnover, (c) have academically uninvolved parents, (d) partake of few out-of-school enrichment activities, (e) have limited access to books, (f) receive inadequate nutrition, (g) live in slums, (h) come from broken families, (i) are threatened by gang violence, (j) have few academic role models, and (k) suffer from environmental hazards such as lead poisoning.

words indicating labour in most european languages originate in an imagery of compulsion, torment, affliction and persecution

guardian | In the modern experience, poverty is closely associated with unemployment or the absence of work. Since the earliest poor laws, work has been advocated as the remedy for poverty. Politicians repeatedly tell us that "work must pay" and that, like the good woman in the Book of Proverbs, none should eat "the bread of idleness". Setting the poor to labour has been seen as the surest guarantor of combating poverty; and the Christian era has been dominated by the idea of a fair reward for an honest day's work. The labourer is worthy of his hire.

But work has not always been a way out of poverty. For it is also axiomatic that it is the lot of humankind to labour, and not necessarily in the hope of achieving more than a bare subsistence. The etymology of all the words for "work" in European languages suggests work as coercion, certainly not for the prosperity of the worker, but as a fulfilment of human destiny. Ecclesiastes 3:22 declares: "There is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion." Words indicating labour in most European languages originate in an imagery of compulsion, torment, affliction and persecution. The French word travail (and Spanish trabajo), like its English equivalent, are derived from the Latin trepaliare – to torture, to inflict suffering or agony. The word peine, meaning penalty or punishment, also is used to signify arduous labour, something accomplished with great effort. The German Arbeit suggests effort, hardship and suffering; it is cognate with the Slavonic rabota (from which English derives "robot"), a word meaning corvee, forced or serf labour. In romance languages, words from the Latin laborare have come to mean ploughing or tilling the earth, although in Italian, lavoro also means work in general. The Latin meaning was anything accomplished with difficulty and struggle.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

and the church that you get...,



With session number three pending, I thought I'd briefly recap the topics covered in sessions one and two, with modest/brief/mild impressions of the instructional intentions/aims of Sister Mary Margaret - our instructor in returning christian initiation for adults - who happens to bear a more than passing resemblance to Mother Angelica.

Session 1. was presented as an introduction to the Angelus Prayer;
The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary:
And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

    Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of
    our death. Amen.

Behold the handmaid of the Lord: Be it done unto me according to Thy word.

    Hail Mary . . .

And the Word was made Flesh: And dwelt among us.

    Hail Mary . . .


Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:

Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord.

Amen.
But we could more accurately have known and understood this session as the "miraculous fruit of the womb" lesson.

Sister Mary Margaret's ninety minute exegesis on this prayer focused exclusively on the serially re-presented old testament account of female barreness capped off with a quick reminder of how that theme was echoed in the gospel with the story of Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist. The highlight of the evening's presentation came when Sister Mary Margaret was at the peak of warmness to her theme and blurted out "how miraculous it was that our lord would see fit to bestow the sexual pleasures on old women who had passed their time but persevered by faith".  That the kindly sister's conception of these stories is completely literal and thoroughly personal - was abundantly clear. That the subtext of her lesson was about the special nature of the fruit of the womb was also rather transparently obvious.

The sister was both asserting a biblical grounding for controversial church teaching and authority, and, jigging a lure to see if any of the participants in returning christian initiation disagreed with the same.

Session 2. was a "behind the scenes" show and tell on the uniqueness and exclusivity of the Catholic franchise.

We were taken on a tour of the sachristy

Shown all the sacred vessels

Shown the interior and the contents of the tabernacle

Shown the location of the reliquary - but not its contents - in this case beneath the altar.

The church doctrine on literal transubstantiation was carefully underscored - as well as the specific nature of the church as that communion of persons authorized and in good standing to participate in this literal, physical supernatural network maintained by God's vicars.

Sister Mary Margaret recounted for us the prayerful dream she had had as a little girl - that she would one day lead instruction in the mystery of the communion, and how as an old woman, her prayer had been answered by faith and perseverance.

the church that you want...,

digilander | Combined, the virtue of both the dianoia and nous is called "theoria," that is, contemplation. But a better description is the vision of God. In another respect, the combined dianoetic and noetic perfection of phronesis in the service of conscience is sophia. Sophia or wisdom is the perfection of know-how in being a member of the Church or it is the intrapersonal perfection of our synergistically skilled participation in interpersonal communion. Thus, sophia is the graced skill of communing in a way that conscience is perfectly actualized and fulfilled as skilled agape. But perhaps the most descriptive term for the nature of specifically Christian contemplation is gnosis. The term gnosis emphasizes the intimate personal familiarity (including direct self-knowledge in the form of immediate and inwardly honest clear self-experiencing) we have of persons in their singular uniqueness (their haecceitas, according to Duns Scotus, who, after the 1277 Condemnations against trends that went too far towards re-paganizing Christian theology which the Roman Catholic Religious Organization [RCRO] did not reverse, such as found in Aquinas, sought to restore the earlier western view shared with the east that beyond and higher than the cognitio abstractiva in the service of scientia (the Greek episteme) was an intimate cognitio singularis or simplex intuitiva (the Greek gnosis) of persons in their singular uniqueness). In the LXX, it is the term used for sexual intercourse as when Adam "knew" Eve in Genesis. Through phronesis and sophia, but also most importantly, through agape or love, which is the perfection of conscience (syneidesis), gnosis is born. Because God is Trinity and reality is ultimately and inescapably interpersonal relationships, gnosis is thereby higher than episteme or science which deals with natural types and kinds. Episteme used to be the high contemplative ideal in ancient Greek philosophy which did not recognize persons in their individual singularity as an ultimate or hypostatic reality over impersonal nature (physis) even if this impersonal nature was the unknown God or Unmoved Mover.

In contrast to not only Buddhism and Yoga but also to all forms of western Christianity, Orthodoxy teaches that the hypostasis of the Father, a person, is the personal source of the Son and Spirit, and thus, is the source of the divine nature (physis) and essence (ousia). Personhood trumps nature even if it is divine nature. By contrast, except for Bonaventure who insisted on the monarchia of the person of the Father as the source of the divine being, the west never understood the importance of this point, as Augustine admits, and thus, western trinitarian theology typically begins, paganistically and mistakenly, with the divine ousia.

Because our destiny is to partake, as the Church, in the divine trinitarian life after its Likeness, the entire substance of the spiritual life of the Christian is relationships. It is all about improving the quality of how well you relate to others: God or neighbor. There is no quality of relationship to God that is not intrinsically tied to the quality of how well one relates to the least of these your neighbors. Prayer is relationship. In sharp contrast to Buddhist, Yogic, or pagan Greek forms of contemplation (theoria), Orthodox contemplation is gnosis because it is personal relationship. There is no advance in prayer that is not an advance in how one is in relationships. If there is a block in the prayer life, the same block is there in your relationships.

One might almost want to say the self-emptying quality of the Incarnation or its kenosis applies to the mystical life. While for us God should be our highest priority, perhaps we are safe to say that in the prayer life God isn't his first or highest priority in his relation to us. Rather, "being in the form of God, [he] did not consider it something to be held onto, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men (Philippians 2: 6-7) so that he places Himself on an equal level with our neighbors. That is, He doesn't, so to speak, push His way through the crowd we neglect and ignore in order to insist that He be known to us before others. Rather, we have no relation to Him that is not made contingent by Him upon our relation to others. Or, think of the some of the sentences of the Lord's Prayer as formulas within which other variables can be plugged in, so instead of "forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us" we might substitute "relate to us as we relate to others." Again, a block in the quality of the prayer life is a block in how we relate to others.

So, instead of merging "alone into the supreme Alone" after having transcended the allegedly merely personal and merely ethical sphere, as the famous pagan RCRO pseudo-Meister Eckhart (student of Aquinas) put it, Hesychast spirituality is the transfiguration and deification of our society and fellowship with persons - whether divine or fellow creature. In Hesychasm, there is no transcendence of or leaving behind or leave-taking of the ethical, interpersonal, or personal sphere for some state allegedly "beyond good and evil." Since reality is inescapably interpersonal, ethical virtue is the very point and goal of the spiritual life of the Christian. There is a Jewish saying, "if you want to end with God, you have to begin with God. And inconveniently, God gives you people." The same principle applies to why ethics is a preliminary practice in Christian spirituality. Given a trinitarian God, ethics is the beginning of the spiritual life because it is the very substance and goal of the spiritual life.

This is what makes the Jesus Prayer different from a mantra (contrary to a whole list of Jesuit publications). Like a mantra, it does indeed still, calm, and focus the mind's noetic power of wakeful attentiveness. But, according to the niptic Fathers in the Philokalia, the Jesus Prayer only works correctly and serves the intended purpose if and only if conducted within the context of an ethical askesis and participation in the life of the Church. Its whole point is to awaken our deeper ethical and interpersonal responsiveness to others within the Communion of Saints. The essence of the various forms of dianoetic and noetic training found in the Hesychast tradition, the whole Hesychast pharmacopeia, so to speak, is encapsulated within the Jesus Prayer as one pill that does not require the careful and expert supervision of a great staretz that the other forms do.

Unlike a mantra, the Jesus Prayer expresses a personal plea. Not only that, it is a personal plea for mercy. Mercy for what? Mercy because like the servant who owed and was forgiven the great debt of 10,000 Talents, we fail to forgive as we have been forgiven, to love as we have been loved, and because we otherwise fail in our relationships. The Jesus Prayer captures all the poignancy of our situation. Sin is missing the point. The awakening and focussing point of the Jesus Prayer is our relationships to each other, whether God or neighbor. Whether you are curious about, or have encountered, or have to study in college the various mystical, meditative, yoga, or contemplative traditions, or whether you are preparing for missions in places where these traditions thrive in their authentic form and not in some watered-down American New Age form, don't let their apparent similarities fool you into missing the point of Hesychast spirituality.

the religion of man number two...,

"In the first place," he always said, "religion is a relative concept; it corresponds to the level of a man's being; and one man's religion might not be at all suitable for another man, that is to say, the religion of a man of one level of being is not suitable for a man of another level of being.

"It must be understood that the religion of man number one is of one kind; the religion of man number two is of another kind; and the religion of man number three is of a third kind. The religion of man number four, number five, and further is something of a kind totally different from the religion of man number one, number two, and number three.

"In the second place religion is doing; a man does not merely think his religion or feel it, he 'lives' his religion as much as he is able, otherwise it is not religion but fantasy or philosophy. Whether he likes it or not he shows his attitude towards religion by his actions and he can show his attitude only by his actions. Therefore if his actions are opposed to those which are demanded by a given religion he cannot assert that he belongs to that religion. The vast majority of people who call themselves Christians have no right whatever to do so, because they not only fail to carry out the demands of their religion but they do not even think that these demands ought to be carried out.

"Christianity forbids murder. Yet all that the whole of our progress comes to is progress in the technique of murder and progress in warfare. How can we call ourselves Christians?

"No one has a right to call himself a Christian who does not carry out Christ's precepts. A man can say that he desires to be a Christian if he tries to carry out these precepts. If he does not think of them at all, or laughs at them, or substitutes for them some inventions of his own, or simply forgets about them, he has no right whatever to call himself a Christian.

"I took the example of war as it is the most striking example. But even without war the whole of life is exactly the same. People call themselves Christians but they do not realize that not only do they not want, but they are unable, to be Christians, because in order to be a Christian it is necessary not only to desire, but to be able, to be one.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

how can this man give us his flesh to eat?



John Chapter 6: 
1 After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. 

2 And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased. 

3 And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. 

4 And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. 

5 When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?

6 And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. 

7 Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. 

8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him, 

9 There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? 

10 And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 

11 And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. 

12 When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. 

13 Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. 

14 Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. 

15 When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone. 

16 And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea, 

17 And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them. 

18 And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew. 

19 So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid. 

20 But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid. 

21 Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went. 

22 The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto his disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with his disciples into the boat, but that his disciples were gone away alone; 

23 (Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:) 

24 When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus. 

25 And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither? 

26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. 

27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. 

28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 

29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. 

30 They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? 

31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. 

32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. 

33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. 

35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. 

36 But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. 

37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. 

38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. 

39 And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 

40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. 

41 The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. 

42 And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven? 

43 Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. 

44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. 

45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. 

46 Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. 

47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. 

48 I am that bread of life. 

49 Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 

50 This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. 

51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. 

52 The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? 

53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. 

54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. 

55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 

56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. 

57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. 

58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. 

59 These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. 

60 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? 

61 When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? 

62 What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? 

63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. 

64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. 

65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. 

66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. 

67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? 

68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. 

69 And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. 

70 Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? 

71 He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.