Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

A book worth reading

Here is a review of a new biography of Oliver Cromwell - I hope to get hold of a copy so I can understand better his religious motivations.... Ian Gentles on Cromwell

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Cristeros

For those interested in this Catholic rebellion that raises so many questions for the historian about native/newcomer contact in the Americas, conversion to Christianity, syncretism vs. dual religiosity, religion and violence - here is a behind the scenes look at a new movie. This documentary will be on Salt + Light TV - available to anyone as it is Canada's only live streaming television station.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Back Door Broadcasting

This site has a long list of podcasts on many different academic topics - here is one on modern Iran which ties religion into the mix in understanding this very old and complex civilization. Monarchy, Religion and Nationalism in Modern Iran

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Beauty and Function

I am reading through the Open University course material for their World Religions course - the section I read most recently discussed definitions of religion - meditating on the differences between functional and substantive definitions. Put briefly, a functional definition tends to be vague as almost anything could provided meaning to life [the principle functional definition], while substantive definitions list very specific characteristics and are too limiting.

But, then I re-read the following thoughts from John Ruskin on beauty and function ..... For me, religion is more about beauty than purpose.... while I think for most people religion is a combination of purpose and habit. Whenever one discusses religion, people discuss/argue/debate/fight over lists of doctrines/historical events/rituals etc. When I think of religion I feel it..... I feel the beauty or ugliness of art work in a church.... I feel the beauty or ugliness or plainness of the external architectural style....I feel the beauty or ugliness or plainness of ritual....

Anyway, here is what John Ruskin said:

you have been so created as to enjoy what is fitting for you, and a willingness to be pleased, as it was intended you should be. It is the child’s spirit, which we are then most happy when we most recover; only wiser than children in that we are ready to think it subject of thankfulness that we can still be pleased with a fair color or a dancing light. And, above all, do not try to make all these pleasures reasonable, nor to connect the delight which you take in ornament with that which you take in construction or usefulness. They have no connection; and every effort that you make to reason from one to the other will blunt your sense of beauty, or confuse it with sensations altogether inferior to it. You were made for enjoyment, and the world was filled with things which you will enjoy, unless you are too proud to be pleased by them, or too grasping to care for what you cannot turn to other account than mere delight. Remember that the most beautiful things in the world are the most useless; peacocks and lilies for instance; at least I suppose this quill I hold in my hand writes better than a peacock’s would, and the peasants of Vevay, whose fields in spring time are as white with lilies as the Dent du Midi is with its snow, told me the hay was none the better for them.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Thoughts on a misty Wednesday morning

Guilded Sorrow

I am reading through the material publicly available from The Open University in Britain (courtesy the iTunes store) in their World Religions course. What particularly caught my eye this morning was embedded in a description of Buddhism. The first precept - called 'noble truth' of Buddhism is that suffering is the default position in life. The Buddhist says there are indeed episodes of happiness during life, but that these are merely incidences of 'Guilded sorrow'.

My experience of life thus far matches this description. But I have always wondered at the many others I have known in my 61 years who have seemingly reversed this - who seem usually happy with episodes of unhappiness. Are they presenting a brave face to the world? Or do they disprove the Buddhist paradigm? Or, in Buddhist terms, are they farther along the path to Nirvana than I?

I am a Catholic Christian (albeit on vacation from the Church right now) where it is assumed, as in Buddhism, that humanity is fallen and broken and that true happiness, as opposed to the ephemeral happiness of here and now, comes only with heaven. Eastern Christians, who focus on matters of the spirit more than on the legal strictures so evident in my church, call this 'deification'. This seems little different from the Nirvana of the Buddhists, the moksha of Hindus, the paradise of Muslims.

Well, my morning coffee is done, and on to other things now!