Monthly Archives March 2013

Damn Right I’m Religious!

I used to hem and haw whenever people asked me whether I’m religious. Saying “yes” means certain things to certain people, as does saying “no,” so my answer tended to depend on what I could discern of my questioner’s understanding and assumptions of exactly what being “religious” means.

Maybe I was making it just a tad too complicated, you say? Maybe so.

In any case, my one-word answer to those who pop the religion question now is: “yes.”

Often followed by: “I’m a devoutly religious non-theist.”

Which usually begets an arched eyebrow and some variation of, “Say what?”

O.K., some elaboration may be helpful here.

It seems to me we sorely need to get beyond the tired and polarizing atheist/believer divide that leaves so many of us shouting across a chasm of mutual withering critique and scorn in the modern cultural wars...

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Millions of (Luscious, Sexy, Very, Very Red) Strawberries

Is there a sexier, more luscious and sensual fruit in all of God’s kingdom than the strawberry? The fig, maybe, but its rather drab exterior color lacks the verve and pizzazz and “Please have me, it’s spring and I want you to be happy and fulfilled” invitation of the so very, very red strawberry.

Red is a power color, a “Here I am and do I feel alive!” statement to the cosmos and anyone within it who happens to be looking at you, and your dress or shirt, and that basket (or flat!) of strawberries you’re waltzing away with from the farmer’s market on a sparkly spring Saturday.

I like my strawberries straight, with a chaser of a few more to follow, but let’s face it, there is just no bad way to have a strawberry. In a shake or on a cheesecake, on ice cream or pancakes or plopped in a champagne flute. Mashed right into a muffin; just let me have it, baby. Now!

Yes, strawberries tell us not to dally with lif...

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A Scientific Nincompoop’s Musings on the “God Particle”

So we have a new pope one day, and the next day, an updated and near certain confirmation of the Higgs boson, known in the popular press as the “God particle,” the tinier-than-tiny sub-atomic thingamajig that physicists have concluded gives matter its mass. (“What gives matter its mass?” perfectly exemplifies the kinds of questions a scientist would ask, no? The “social” science equivalent: “Why are people the way they are?” Physicists know better than to go anywhere near that question…)

As a long-lapsed Catholic, who, like most exes, maintains a complicated relationship with the Mother Church, I have watched with no small dismay as the last two popes have been industriously rolling back the radical—and ever-so-necessary—reforms of the 1950s Vatican II conclave that attempted to hoist the church and its many unfilled tasks into the 20th century, not to mention the 21st...

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Rereading “Walden,” Forty Years Later, on My Kindle

“Simplify,” Henry David Thoreau tells us in Walden. I am reading this advice in the airport, awaiting a jet plane excursion, just moments after downloading a 464-page collection of his works onto my Kindle, delivered courtesy of the airport wi-fi via Amazon’s “Whispernet” technology in a matter of seconds. Currently, I have Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Arnold’s Culture and Belief, Homer’s The Odyssey, Aristotle’s Poetics, and the entire New Oxford American Dictionary packed onto my Kindle, too. And this mini-library has barely begun to crack the device’s capacity.

I’m lugging these hundreds of thousands of digitized words onto a plane in a 10-ounce electronic device that I easily cradle in the palm of my hand, wondering if this technology, in its own way, falls neatly within Thoreau’s “Simplify” dictum. Or is it a gross perversion?

This is not the only conundrum I will face rereadin...

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On Compassion and the Imagination

“I can’t imagine how you feel.”

“I can’t imagine what it’s like to…”

—lose a child
—get cancer
—nurse your mother through dementia
—be deserted by your spouse

Actually, I can imagine it. I really can. I may not know how you feel but I can certainly imagine it. Imagining it is the only way I can muster the compassion, empathy and identification with your suffering that allows me to offer you comfort and solace in your time of trial.

Imagination is not only at the root of all art and religion, but it also provides the foundation upon which all true human relationship is built. Even in strictly utilitarian business transactions devoid of any deep personal interchange, the capacity to imagine and identify with the other’s interests is what allows for fruitful, mutually satisfying negotiations.

So please, let us be done with the kind of well-meaning but essentially trumped-up, misplace...

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