Jesus and the Estate Tax

Corcovado Jesus Doug Wheller

What would Jesus think—and how readily would he climb a hill to discourse upon—last week’s vote by Congressional Republicans to repeal the estate tax?

I raise the question through the “What would Jesus do?” prism because of the surpassing irony that most of the “aye” votes came from self-proclaimed and often ardently professing Christian congressmembers who wear their faith heavily on their sleeves (and on the campaign trail).

This group often cites religious imperatives for their views on issues of the day that are dear to their hearts (such as fierce protection of gun rights and regular huge increases in the military budget). The fact that their vote was intended to provide tax-free wealth transfer to the top .02 percent of the population, affecting only those who inherit more than $5.4 million if they are single and $10...

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Our Need for Heroes

Heracles by Mary Harrsch

We got a letter the other day inviting our family to a banquet honoring my daughter’s high school’s “Students of the Month.” My daughter was so honored in the fall for unhesitatingly stepping forward to hold, comfort and prevent further injury to a classmate as the girl suffered a seizure and fell to the floor as the teacher summoned help. My daughter was pleased a few weeks later when they honored her as a Student of the Month in recognition of her compassionate, forthright response. Her classmates, in typical enough youthful human fashion, had recoiled in a kind of frozen discomfort.

And my daughter’s response to the banquet? “Do we have to go?”

Then she went on to say something very interesting, and perhaps more mature even than her action to help her classmate. “I only did what any human being should do; it’s not really that big a deal.”

She’s right, of course. It shouldn’t be that big a deal...

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Reading T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” on Good Friday

Bare Tree By Andrew Hidas

“April is the cruelest month…”

Those first five words of T.S. Eliot’s seminal poem The Wasteland are quoted with regularity this time of year, often with ironic humor, given their almost bitter stance that ascribes cruelty to the burst of flowering beauty across spring landscapes through much of the world. It’s something we Californians might jocularly offer via text message to friends in the East who are stuck with a foot of snow on the ground while we’re making plans for Easter picnics.

Much of what follows in The Wasteland, however, can come across as an arduous slog through obscure literary references, many of them in foreign languages with no translation offered. This is one reason why the poem has long been a kind of feasting ground for academics to offer dense and convoluted interpretations for each other’s sometimes indignant argumentation, with the common reader left out in the cold.

That is a pity, because for all its dark obscurantism, The Wasteland is also an as...

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Your Epic Life

Jetty By Interior Photos

I have probably always—or at least frequently— tried too hard and said too much and stayed too long at the party. My struggle has been to dial back my ardor, let things rest, temper my essentially romantic spirit, not make too much of things, quit being so extravagant.

But jeez: life is important and colossal and epic, isn’t it? Mine feels like that, and when I listen to you talk about yours, I could swear yours is, too! Your challenges, visions, conflicts, frustrations, triumphs, desires to live more fully and do right by yourself and those you love—what’s not epic about that?

When you get right down to the nub of things, your life is of fundamental, earth-shattering importance to you, isn’t it?

Isn’t that true even if you’ve dedicated your life to helping others? Heck, if you’re dedicated more to others, you had better consider your own life important. No you, no helping them!

But: are you a tad embarrassed about the importance you place on yourself? Are you someti...

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Music and Spirit: OneRepublic’s “I Lived”

Ilsanjo Sunrise By Andrew Hidas

It’s easy to feel old in this world. Hearing 30-year-olds in the adjoining booth going all nostalgic for the foolishness of their 20-year-old selves is just the beginning.

Then there’s hearing a song via your 16-year-old daughter from a band you’ve never heard of that’s been a huge star in the pop rock firmament since their 2007 hit “Apologize” broke records at the time and has since gone on to sell a zillion records, and you ask, “Are they new?”

No, “OneRepublic” isn’t new, though their song, “I Lived,” is a recently released (late 2014) monster hit that we heard at least 20 times on the radio last weekend while car-tripping to Los Angeles. That kind of frequency would have been annoying if the tune weren’t so infectious, the vocalization so urgent and the lyrical snippets I managed to absorb so intriguing.

So consider me a new fan of this band and this song, which lead singer Ryan Tedder apparently wrote as a kind of anthem for the future of his 4-year-old...

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Dawn Haiku

Perfect bright half moon,
stark shadows from barren trees
giving way to dawn.

***

***

Lovely rendition here of the song that just had to accompany this post…

 

For periodic and brief posts of inspiring words from the world’s great thinkers and artists, accompanied by the usual lovely photography as exemplified here, see my public Facebook page  at: http://www.facebook.com/TraversingBlog

Twitter: @AndrewHidas

Deep appreciation as always to the photographers:

Rotating banner photos at top of page courtesy of Elizabeth Haslam, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lizhaslam/

Half-moon photo by redarrow812003, Camerano, Italy,  some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/redarrow/

Tree shadow photo by Örjan Mattsson, Uppsala, Sweden, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at:  https://www.flickr.com/people/orjanmattsson/

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State of Impermanence: A Review of Richard Ford’s “Let Me Be Frank With You”

Rubbish&Weed By Theen Moy

When I was living a solitary would-be writer’s life in a musty studio apartment above a garage in Dillon Beach, California back in the early 1980s, I took daily constitutionals along the shore with my terrier Bilbo, most always in a reflective, appreciative and occasionally ecstatic mood. On one such late afternoon walk, I reached my usual turnaround point and swung back to behold the tiny town’s cliff- and hillside coastal homes bathed in a misty, diffused and pale yellow light, as if a photographer had placed some giant colored lens cap over the entire landscape.

All the houses and the hills to which they clung looked suddenly small, mute, and tentative, dialed back many degrees from anything approaching sharp relief.

I found myself suddenly seized with laughter.

Not a derisive laughter, but a compassionate and accepting one, as an observation and admission of the depth of human folly, including my own.

In that moment, all the human elements—the homes, streets, cars, the beach p...

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Joan Baez: The Real Deal

Joan Baez by Heinrich Klaffs

The more deeply one looks into the life and times of Joan Baez, the less she seems to resemble so many historical figures whose portraits frequently emerge as complicated and contradictory, with tentacles sprawling across light, dark, and the liminal shadows.

Often, the only way to make ultimate sense of many lives is to acknowledge their disparate parts, to admit that they don’t always make sense, that there’s frequently a notable split between people’s inner and outer lives. MLK, JFK, Gandhi, Cesar Chavez, Steven Jobs—all people that Baez admired deeply—were also flawed characters, leaving a trail of greatness but also pain in their wake.

Say what you want about Baez—and many people have—but the salient aspect or characteristic of her 74 years on this earth, it seems to me, is how all of a piece it appears to be, how singular the thread is that weaves it together.

It is as if she emerged from the womb as a wholly defined person, complete, talented, opinionated, self-posse...

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It Really WAS About the Bike!

Lemond Bike

The fallen hero Lance Armstrong wrote a book years ago, It’s Not About the Bike, which I read with great satisfaction. The headline above is a take-off on that title and a lead-in to rectifying what appears to have been a misleading impression I may have left with some readers of my most recent post, Sex As Worship.

It seems some people took that post to mean I’d perhaps been having great sex recently as a single person in the wake of a marital separation. So I am here to say, “Oh no no no—it really was about the bike!”

Perhaps I should elaborate.

As I’d stated in the post, my Unitarian Universalist bloggers’ group had decided to take up the subject of sex in observance of Valentine’s Day, as a way of lifting up a topic that is usually verboten in mixed or any kind of company, whether strangers or friends. (Prurient and exploitative media a significant exception.)

Sex: so fundamental to life and love, so underground in polite society.

Having recently been separated and “tumbling thro...

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Sex As Worship

Rose By Serena

My Unitarian Universalist bloggers group invited us to write about sex in observance of Valentine’s Day. Recently separated and still tumbling along through that black hole, it didn’t strike me personally as a capital idea. Too much potential for sounding desperate, dark and demented, the kind of thing I’d come across a few years hence and cry out, “My God, what could I have been thinking?”

But then I climbed on my bike.

That’s not a metaphor for some random carnal encounter—it really was my wholly inanimate bike I was climbing on, made of cold aluminum alloys and the like. But it was Friday mid-afternoon, and I had ditched work early as the temp hit close to 80 degrees on Valentine’s Eve, the sky a lovely cobalt blue, the leaves through the shady park paths still musty from last week’s rains. Ah, this world…

I don’t believe in God, but I believe in this bike, this body, this breath.

And I believe in sex.

Sex as worship, affirmation, communication, recreation, explora...

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