Category Religion

A Rita Dove Poem About Adam and Eve, Consciousness and Desire

Poems can be read a thousand ways. We bring what we know, what we have read and heard, what we have experienced, to each of them in their turn, you responding to certain images and lines that inflame your memory or imagination beyond all explanation, me responding to others. Both of us adding all of it up for ourselves into a prevailing gestalt, an often inchoate feeling of, “Something about this moves me.”

Or not.

Often, as it does in former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove’s “I Have Been a Stranger in a Strange Land,” a poem takes its time, unpeeling itself onion-like with a series of evocative scenes and images that don’t coalesce until one hears a figurative “Bam!” that then takes one back to all that precedes the “Bam!” moment.

And then one exclaims, “Oh, so this has been a poem about Adam and Eve!”

More about Eve, actually, but then the very story of Adam and Eve in the Bible is...

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Is Health Care a Human Right? Or Is That the Wrong Question?

The intense debate about the Affordable Care Act and the “repeal-and-replace” effort currently underway in Congress by the Republican Party majority harbors an elemental question at its foundation: Is health care a human right?

Generally speaking, I think it safe to say Democrats would answer yes to that question, Republicans no. It’s a stark dividing line across which scores of different philosophical arguments and assumptions have been proffered by equally passionate advocates on either side.

But I think it is fundamentally the wrong question, and I will try to wrestle down the reasons why in the rest of this post.

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Neither the Declaration of Independence nor the United States Constitution say anything specifically about a “right” to health care...

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A Few Notes on Paddling and Faith

Reader David Moriah wrote a heartfelt comment in response to my previous post on “Is the Center No Longer Holding?” I offer it to you here as a prelude to a brief meditation of my own, because I believe, among the various important points he raised, none is more vital and literally noteworthy for our time than the implications of the “faith” that he sketches with the powerful imagery that he does.

His comment in full:

“I have reached a stage in my life and amidst the accelerating centrifugal forces at loose on the planet when I surrender to my inability to forecast where we are headed. There are times when I sense an impending darkness capturing more and more of the globe, and most disturbingly many of the supposedly enlightened corners that have been cleansed of tribal lunacy by liberal democracy and both secular and religious messages of tolerance and good will toward all...

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Is the Center No Longer Holding?

We seem to be living in riven times. (Though one could ask with substantial justification: When hasn’t humanity lived in riven times?)

Schisms abound, and they appear to be more rancorous and sharp than at any time in recent memory. The European Union is fragmenting; the French may well follow the lead of their counterparts across the channel by doing a “Frexit,” with the added dimension of electing an overt racist to lead them.

Much of the world stays mired in intractable poverty under the autocracies and kleptocracies that serve as both its cause and effect.

And in the United States, we endure, in a kind of downcast awe, the awfulness that is Donald Trump.

So is the vaunted center, that core of shared values and aspirations and steady-minded tending of continued progress in the human project, whatever the differences in means and tactics to achieve it, slipping away from us?

Is the center no longer...

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The Puffed Up Self in Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”

“Our Delight in Destruction,” read the headline from a recent philosophy blog in the New York Times. (Yes, actual philosophers blogging in readable English in a daily newspaper—hope lives!)

This was just a day after I had come across and held to my eyes a treasured volume, “Irrational Man,” a 1960s-era study of the great existential philosophers who detailed the human penchant for, well, not always behaving in the optimal fashion to promote our own best interests (nor the well-being of those around us).

And through both those works, a long chew through Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance,” a far-reaching, soul-stirring anthem celebrating, no matter how “destructive” or “irrational” it might appear to those other thinkers mentioned above, the absolute primacy of the Self, the lone self-reflective individual, our own deepest heart of hearts, for whom the Bard of Concord intoned:

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