Monthly Archives April 2015

Bruce Jenner and the Conundrum of Self

There was quite a bit that Bruce Jenner was unsure and halting about in “his” landmark interview with Diane Sawyer last week. He didn’t claim to know many of the hows or whys of his still emerging transgender identity, hadn’t yet come to terms with what happens from here, how it is all going to evolve.

But there was one aspect of his interview responses that was striking for its calm serenity, its obvious and apparent level of settled self-knowledge. It was when he referenced the inner female he had always identified with and seen himself as from his very earliest memories. That’s when his face glowed, his voice softened, and his body seemed to settle into the couch where he was otherwise squirming and shifting under some very uncharted conversational territory—before an estimated audience of 17 million.

“For all intents and purposes, I am a woman. People look at me differently...

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Jesus and the Estate Tax

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

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...

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

“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.

T...

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