Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ancient Horoscope Discovered

An ancient version of the horoscope has been discovered. Experts say it is frighteningly accurate.

 (March 21 -
April 19) You will be arrested today or sometime soon, perhaps when your Taurus is caught travelling at a speed of greater the 90mph.

 (April 20 -
May 20) Your car will rust and you will experience great difficulty trusting people.
Courtesy Veltzer Doron
by way of Wikimedia Commons

(May 21 -
June 20) You will buy a very small diamond for your girlfriend.

(June 21 -
July 22) You’ll get a mouth ulcer this year. No kissing Virgon.

(July 23 -
August 22) You’ll vote for mama grizzly, Mrs. Palindrome.

 (August 23 -
September 22) You will remain virtuous throughout the year. Avoid Piesces and Gemmini.

 (September 23 -
October 22) You love every other books you read. Do not read autobiographies of LeoeLs.

(October 23 -
November 21) You’re a mean SOB. Mortal enemies of Capricorny.

(November 22 -
December 21) You’ll have back problems from waiting for Ariested.

(December 22 -
January 19) You’ll wear cropped pants and tell bad jokes.

(January 20 -
February 18) You’re in the fish tank. Befriend piesces.

 (February 19 -
March 20) You’ll receive at least three cuts of each pizza served this year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ross Douthat's Christmas Worries

Ross Douthat opines for the New York Times that Christmas is especially hard for those "who actually believe in it." There is, he says, a ruinous interplay of materialism and multiculturalism. And then actual Christianity is held hostage, transmuted into a religion of entertainment.

This brief opinion primarily sets up a review of several recent books on American religion: Robert Putnam and David Campbell's American Grace and James Davidson Hunter's To Change the World. I have yet to read these books, but everything I have read about them suggests they should be stocking stuffers for your 'theological prescripts' friends! Get at it!

I'm more interested here, however, in Douthat's opening salvo. I have often wondered whether there is anything to the 'keep Christ in Christmas' crowd and have mused about the 'Christmas is pure materialism' rants of others. Frankly, neither claim moves me very much. My guess is that this is related to the religion of my youth.

Back in the day, the hellfire and brimstone Evangelical Christianity of my parents did little to move me, except to push me to a kind of juvenile depression, but Christmas was a magical time of year. I was a kid, and had a lot of wants, so materialism hit the right note. (A footnote: the incarnation is a materialistic a religious creed. The 'carne' is flesh.) Like all kids, I loved presents and wondered what would be under the tree for me. There was a sense of expectancy and hope.

Image, courtesy Osvaldo Gago
CC Attribution Share-Alike 3.0
via WikiCommons
How authentically Christian this all was--the tree is pagan, the 25th is the day of the birth of the Sun, yawn--didn't matter to me. It matters even less now. What did matter was that the town as a whole seemed to be recognizing something important. My town became Bethlehem. The town joined to sing at the Community Green, and the people actually became choirs of angels. In our family, my depression-era parents, my mother especially though with my dad's consent, overspent on us kids. Something in the air drove them to that. In retrospect, I see in those elements discernible Christian features, and not simply because the Christ child was being celebrated. Christianity suspends the normal and taken for granted and brings in a kind of gracious excess.

The multicultural element in Douthat's plaint also doesn't touch me. These days I'm careful to wish people Happy Holidays, unless I know they are Christian. How does that lessen the meaning of Christmas? It's worth recalling that the Three Wise Men (in some Christmas pageants at Church, I probably played one of them) were among the first multicultural attendees to the Christ child's birth. They weren't invited, either; they were beckoned by the stars. The other day my seven year-old pretty Gentile son was teaching me about the Menorah, how its shamash is used, and the like. He paused in the middle of his substantial discourse to ask, "So what are we going to do, like, to celebrate Kwanzaa?" Surely the Three Wise Men liked that. I know I did.

In sum, here's my Holiday Prescript: Give, receive, love family and friends, call to mind soldiers in distant lands, ask for a thousand Christs to bring peace on earth, eat/overeat, look for the divine in each moment, seek an enemy to forgive--and forgive. Pay your bills in January, and get to the gym, too.

Theology of the Amygdala?

Prescripts readers are invited to RITN, for a discussion of brain, body, soul--and reductionism: Theology of the Amygdala?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

When time runs out...

As I type, the battery indicator on my laptop is telling me that 21 minutes remain: after that, lights out, unless there's a recharging session. What of our life when time runs out? Luther once wrote a sermon 'On Preparing to Die.' For him, death was fearsome but could be faced down with the succor of faith.

Some proclaim in certain terms to know what's next: heaven or hell, rebirth, nothing. Their certainty is a thin veneer over palpable anxiety. The nothing-nexters say we're simply dead and gone. They may well be right, but we can't be certain of it, either.

Some counsel, just make sure you use your 21 minutes, 21 years, or 91 years with as much commitment and vigor as you can. Good advice, save that no one does this. We all have moments of regret, laziness, lack of commitment, and the like. Then perhaps we should simply settle for a good fraction: say 91 years at 90 percent. Alas, this approach also isn't very satisfying, since the lost 10 percent is, at least sometimes, the most important.

Whatever we say, death is tough news. If life is simply over for us, it's not over for those who see us into the ground. So much more remains to be said, but...times up. Really, 2 minutes to go. Alas.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Jesus and Siddhartha Gautama: were they to have met...

Leave aside that Siddhartha lived six centuries before Jesus, were they to have met, what would they have talked about?

I'm imagining the briefest encounter, say on the train, between stops. Four minutes for the Christ and Buddha-to-be to discuss the issue on the forefront of their minds.

Monday Night Football?
The Tax Bill?
How Obama is letting us down/inspiring us like no other?
Suicide bombings?
Social Security?
Universal health care?

My guess is that one would ask the other, is Kendall Station the next stop?

Cliff Lee Runs Afoul of America's Religions

Cliff Lee has reportedly accepted a five-year $100 million offer to play for the Phillies, $50 million less than the Yankees had offered.

Lee is running afoul of two American religions: making money, wherein more is always better than less, regardless what else is at stake; and baseball, the American pastime/religion of summer months, wherein the Yankees almost always get their way.

That the money soaked Yankees could not purchase Lee shows that, while these religions often run together, there are moments when they do not. Everyone, the Yankees included, must feel good about that.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Plato's Internet

Plato's Republic offers the profound insight that the city-state can be studied as a projection of the soul. If you want to see justice in the soul, which is so small as to beggar the eyes, study it in the city-state, which is large and thus can be readily seen. Train your eyes to the larger frame, then look back to the soul. With some work, using this approach, you'll be able to see the soul's true nature.

Plato was concerned about justice and found that actual cities are feverish, driven by appetites, and thus do not reliably reveal the structure of justice. To see the structure of justice reliably, Plato sketches a conceptual Republic.

The feverish city is the one in which we live. Plato's understanding of knowledge and truth are quite different from Christian sources, but in translation his point is that sin dominates the city. If you want to understand justice, you really have to think about heaven or the kingdom of God.

If you want to understand sin, a term which might well be translated into other conceptual schemes, your best bet is to study 'the city.' A good focus nowadays is the Internet. The Internet is a double, a projection, of the 'unsaved soul.' It's all there: from the devotional and devout, to the hideous and harmful; from the loving and giving to the aggressive and destructive; from the high-minded to the pig pen.

What the Internet reveals about us, as a projection of our ad hoc interconnections, is less interesting than how it alters us over time. Every new projection includes, in lesser or greater measure, elements that derive from previous projections. There isn't an unprojected starting point; each moment is already conditioned by what is and what has been.

Plato thought that philosophers could escape this conditioning nexus but that most of us would need to die to be free from it. He believed that the body was more tied to feverish elements than the soul. The Internet seems to show that the soul is every bit as feverish as the body--and perhaps more so.

Plato's project in the Republic was to conceive a realm of justice, that of free citizens living according to justice. That is, he hoped to show how human beings could realize their full potential, the core of which he thought was essentially divine. This project should be rethought for the twenty-first century.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wikileaks, G-d, and G-d's Kingdom

Wikileaks reveals many things, not least of which is how 'private' voice and 'public' claim are frequently at variance. All of the deep inhalations of exasperation testify against us, to discomfort with our own duplicity--that, too, was leaked. That our duality was already known is little comfort, for their was great comfort in publicly denying what was privately held, and privately mocking what was publicly heralded. There was great comfort in acting like the world of discourse was one. That comfort, though illusory, was a prayer.

Let's define G-d as that which anything can be said, and nothing need be leaked; as that which leaks nothing and is what she says; as that in which duality is privatio boni.

Let's define the Kingdom of G-d as the biggest Wikileak in history, that in which every hiding bursts forth into the light of day, and instead of doom and judgment, naught but grace remains.


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