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December, 2004

Monday, December 27, 2004

'The water kept rising'
Photographer records mad scramble to safety

EDITOR'S NOTE: Gemunu Amarasinghe, an Associated Press photographer, was caught in the tidal wave that hit Sri Lanka.

By GEMUNU AMARASINGHE The Associated Press

AMBLANGODA, Sri Lanka - The twisted limbs of the frail girl in a blue dress were caught in a garden fence by the sea. She may have already been dead, but no one stopped to check - there was too much tragedy going on all around, as the water kept coming.

When the tidal waves hit southern Sri Lanka, I had gone to the seaside to drop off my parents at a Buddhist ceremony. Sunday was the Poya, or a full-moon day. We Buddhists believe that Buddha was born, attained enlightenment and died on a full-moon day, so such days are a time for his followers to spend in reflection.

It was after I dropped my parents off at the shrine in Amblangoda and I was driving back to the capital, Colombo, that I got a message on my cellphone that some parts of coastal Sri Lanka had been hit by unnaturally big waves.

I didn't need the message to tell me. People were running everywhere, and the first waves hit the road.

The first waves were not huge, not too destructive. They brought fish to the shore, and people rushed to collect them. Smiling young boys ran with fish dangling in their hands.

But then another set of waves crashed ashore, much more powerful.

I parked my SUV and climbed on its roof, thinking I was safe there. I started taking pictures - my cameras are always with me in the car in case I stumble across a news picture. But the water kept rising. And rising. In a few minutes my SUV was submerged and I suddenly slipped into the water.

I struggled through the water, joining the crowds running for higher ground, some of them carrying their dead and injured. Whitecapped flood waters raced over the streets and between houses.

I counted 24 bodies in a stretch of just under four miles. Bodies of children were entangled in wire mesh used to barricade seaside homes. Bodies were carried up to the road, covered with sarongs and laid out for relatives to find. Rows and rows of women and men stood on the road, asking if anyone has seen their loved ones.

I was still in a daze, and the enormity of the tragedy still hadn't dawned on me until I came upon the girl in the blue dress, caught in a fence.

It was only when the flood waters began to recede, that it was possible to check and make sure. The girl, who appeared about four to six years old, was dead.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

By Manijeh Rezapur
“The Ever-Praying Sage ...”: a response to the spiritual call we hear every day

TEHRAN, Dec. 20 (MNA) -- Mahdi Khani, the young writer of the book “The Ever-Praying Sage ...” was born in 1982 in Tehran. He began to learn how to play the Iranian traditional musical instrument tanbur early in his childhood. At the age of eighteen, he began serious performances of tanbur and at the age of 20 he started his literary career.

The idea of writing the play “The Ever-Praying Sage ...” occurred to him in his early twenties and it took almost a year to finish his first theatrical work. The 95-page book of the play has been published by Omid-e Danesh Publications and recently hit Iran’s bookstores.

“Khalil, the crown prince of the Persian king Kasra, tired of this materialistic life, seeks reality, the real love of nature, and leaves the crown and palace to his brother Badram, and heads toward a land where he can find the truth. It was in Najaf (Iraq) where he found himself in the Holy Shrine of Imam Ali (AS), hearing the spiritual call,” reads part of the book.

“During my life, I have met a few people whose lives were full of God’s blessings, and who allowed many to benefit from their blessings. The book is an image of full understandings of these meetings,” said Khani in an interview with the Tehran Times.

Asked how he started to write plays, he said, “One morning I got up and found out I am a writer! But when I pondered more deeply, I saw several factors which were involved in making my inner talents grow.

“It was in January 2003 when the whole story passed through my mind. And later, as I began the work, the dialogue and the characters as well as the stage lighting and design were gradually formed in my mind,” he continued.

The play is written in a very professional literary style, making it hard for readers to believe that such a young man has written the text. Asked how he explains this, he replied, “My ears were familiar with the poetry and literature of Persian poets and of my father, who is a poet himself. My ears used to hear the music and rhythm of the words and they were imprinted in my mind since my childhood.”

On the mystical ambiance embracing the entire text, he explained, “To create a work with an atmosphere of mysticism, one must have experienced it himself. Having met great men with such feelings, like the main character of the play, Khalil, throughout my life helped me create such an atmosphere.

“I am currently busy writing a new novel with a mystical theme and will probably write a play of the story as well. I am also interested in poetry and have tried to write some parts of the book in verse.”

He said in conclusion, “Readers ask me how much I made use of my imagination in writing ‘The Ever-Praying Sage ...’.

“I can say that it depends on how each reader connects with the book. It can seem real to one, but unreal to another. Actually Khalil responds to the inner spiritual call which we hear every day. Only the hectic modern life and the sound of random thoughts in our minds make us ignore the call.” This has been the entire article.

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Bestseller, gifts won't fill spiritual gap

This Christmas, like last year, one of the most popular books adults will find under their trees will be The Da Vinci Code, a rollicking but questionable work of fiction that posits the bloodlines of Jesus did not die at the Crucifixion.

This quasi-religious thriller is clearly more than a good story — for many, it has become a spiritual compass. While critics and religious scholars have disparaged The Da Vinci Code for playing fast and loose with historical events and religious beliefs, it nevertheless resonates with the masses.

What is it that people need so badly that they look for it in fiction? Most theories explain that people long to believe in something they can touch, feel and unravel. Biblical interpretations of history are static and outdated — they haven't changed in millennia. It's not enough to simply profess faith; today, adherents want to walk the path their faith takes them, even along a trail that leads nowhere.

That's where the book's fiercest critics take issue with The Da Vinci Code — as a work of fiction, it cannot possibly satisfy this spiritual longing and leaves believers more confused than before. It's useful to consider this at this time of year because sociologists have found the same patterns repeated in the commercialization of Christmas.

According to American sociologist and economist Juliet Schor, the consumerization of Christmas — along with other excessively commercial pursuits — can make children unhappy. In her book, Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture, Schor reveals the results of a study that shows children who are strongly focused on "consumer involvement" are more depressed than other children.

The study found high consumer involvement, which includes watching lots of television with its inevitable hard-sell advertisements, is a significant cause of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, headaches and sore stomachs. Edmonton psychologist Al Riediger says kids who get hooked into consumer culture have unmet emotional needs and look to material goods to fill their spiritual gaps.

This pursuit, like The Da Vinci Code their parents might read, is also doomed to fail. Instead, there are three gifts that parents can give children that will inoculate them from consumer culture, Riediger says: one-on-one time with a child daily; a sense of unconditional belonging to a family; and discipline and structure, which sets limits for children.

As Christmas nears, it is tempting for parents to think about more — more presents for the kids, more special treats, more stuff to ensure the little ones have their Christmas dreams come true. With those three timeless gifts, however, children will be less vulnerable to the siren call of the latest video game, Riediger adds.

Whether looking for spiritual commitment or that designer label that can define you, we all need something at this time of year. But there are no quick fixes, and the answers aren't in a book or a shopping catalogue. More likely, they're already in your home and in your heart.

~ ~ ~

Griffin: Age brings perspective to spirituality
By Richard Griffin
Thursday, December 23, 2004

About Christmas, my friend Frank has only one problem. As he views it, this event tells us more about the beginnings of life than about the later stages.

Contemplating Christmas, my friend interprets it as saying something important about smallness and poverty, about what is truly important and what is not. "I love this feast," he says, "but it doesn't tell me much about being old."

These themes emerge in Frank's annual letter that he writes from Kalamazoo, where he lives with his wife, Toni. With his recent birthday putting him at the three-quarters of a century mark, he ponders more and more what his advancing age means.

Typically provocative, Frank seems to hold it against Jesus that he died so young. "I am wondering what Jesus would have been like," he writes, "if he had gotten to be seventy-five like me." Of what he has learned in recent decades he says: "I didn't know that when I was thirty and I don't think Jesus did either."

This issue reminds me of a passage in Fifth Business, a 1970 novel written by the late Canadian author Robertson Davies. His narrator meets a Jesuit scholar, Padre Ignacio Blazon, who has strong and hardly orthodox opinions about Jesus. They go like this:

"The older I grow, the less Christ's teaching says to me. I am sometimes very conscious that I am following the path of a leader who died when He was less than half as old as I am now. I see and feel things that He never saw or felt. I know things He seems never to have known. Everybody wants a Christ for himself and those who think like him. Very well, am I at fault for wanting a Christ who will show me how to be an old man?"

My friend Frank would surely not go this far, nor in real life would any Jesuit I know. But Frank has raised a question worth thinking about: How does a person growing old learn from a spiritual tradition that puts emphasis on the young?

Or, as he puts it in his own distinctive language, "There are times when I think one of the limitations of the gospels is that there is lots of good news for people up to about thirty, but not much for the geezers."

What Frank loves about growing older are the new insights and discoveries that open up to him. Broadening his experience to include his age peers, he says: "Our lives never cease having new challenges in them we never dreamed of and, if we live to be old, we can learn things we never could have when we were young."

Specifically, he has been studying Chinese religion and Buddhism in recent years. After mentioning other findings, he writes: "It has blown me away to discover that the position of the feminine in Chinese religion is clearly more fundamental to human living than the stuff of us males."

He also finds himself now wondering "if there are not more Messiahs than my own beloved Savior, more than one person who saw the shallowness of great deeds and the depth of being true to yourself."

He also has come to see how what he once considered exclusive spiritual gifts are actually shared by people outside his own tradition. Among the mysteries of Christmas for him now is "the later insight on the part of us who, when we were young, thought we were the sole possessors of holiness, salvation, and the Kingdom of God."

Being able to raise questions and receive insights like this are among the gifts that bring this vibrant correspondent from Kalamazoo "real joy in being old."

Also contributing much to this joy is his wife Toni who, in the same mail, announces her retirement after 25 years as a psychotherapist. She will soon leave her work "for purely personal, life-transforming reasons." It sounds as if hers will be a retirement graced by further growth, like that of her husband.

Among his other blessings, Frank cites the proximity of his two sons. They are both in their early married years, "each with an altogether remarkable woman," according to this devoted father-in-law.

For fear I make it seem that everything is always upbeat with my friend, he would be the first to correct this. He speaks of himself as filled with "wisdom and forgetfulness, thinking clearly one day only to have the next day finding me with a head full of sawdust."

Nonetheless, "sitting here in this old bag of bones," Frank wishes all his friends a joyful Christmas.

And so do I wish you, my readers who celebrate this day, a blessed Christmas, filled with the grace of the event. For those who celebrate other special days, let me wish you also the best of health, and prosperity both physical and spiritual.

Richard Griffin of Cambridge is a regularly featured columnist in Community Newspaper Company publications. He can reached by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (617) 661-0710.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Gifts of rhythm
Percussionists feel spiritual link to"The Little Drummer Boy"

"If you're not in groove with the drummers, then you might as well not exist," he said. "Everybody's got to lock into the groove. It's all got to come from that heartbeat."

Dancers and singers respond to that beat, and in the aboriginal cultures where the drum originated, movement, song and rhythm all worked together to tell stories, said Damberg, who studied ethnomusicology in college and has taken several workshops in world percussion styles including Cuban, Middle Eastern and Nigerian hand drumming.

An African talking drum called the dundun can relay messages across great expanses of land, Wright said. Because tone conveys meaning in the Yoruba language, those who master the dundun can speak through their drum.

Tone and vibration also communicate a person's character, said Etukeok of the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Sometimes people walk up to one of her drums and say to her, "This is mine," because it is, she said.

For her, making drums is not a vocation but a way of life. She has to be mindful and balanced. She has to respect the process.

"A lot of people see it as just an instrument or object," she said. "But the energy you used to make a drum will call the same energy from the spirit world." -more-

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The Heart of the World

A Journey to the Last Secret Place

By Ian Baker; introduction by the Dalai Lama


But what of Yangsang? What of Shangri-La? One of the book's many delights -- and "The Heart of the World" is among the most complex, compelling and satisfying adventure books I have ever read -- is to follow Baker's inner journey as he tries to balance his Buddhist aspirations with an admittedly materialistic desire to find the key into Yangsang.

At one point, Baker seeks that key -- an actual, literal key -- on the lichen-covered face of a sacred cliff: "The mist, the rain, the vegetal growth, the microorganisms veiled from sight, all entered through the pulsations and cuts in my scratched and torn hands," Baker writes at one point, "and where I could not go I could only yield and be entered. ... All Pemako seemed to coalesce into the square foot of rock directly before me, and all its hidden depths were concealed only by my limited awareness and the mechanisms of mind itself."

He faces similar frustrations in the gorge itself. Tibetans, Baker reminds us, view waterfalls as an interface between the physical and ethereal universes -- the worlds of body and spirit. And "some doors cannot be opened, " he allows, "until they open in us first." -more-

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Do you hear what I hear? The truth of Christmas lies in listening

By R. Scott Colglazier

Special to the Star-Telegram

I have nothing to say. Nothing to say about Jesus, or the church, the virgin birth, Mary and Joseph, Bethlehem or Jerusalem. Nothing to say about Matthew and Luke, about angels or magi, or the lowly stable. Nothing to say about Christmas or Christianity, world peace, global hunger, or the war in Iraq. Nothing to say about the pandemic of AIDS, the presidential election, or who is going to win what bowl game on New Year's Day. Nothing.

I'm sitting in my office surrounded by thousands of books. (I now have a library of nearly 3,000 volumes.) I estimate that in one way or another, half of them are about Jesus of Nazareth, the Jesus whose birth is remembered and celebrated this coming week. Even if you're not a Christian, Christmas has a way of becoming part of a cultural celebration. (As one friend said to me not long ago, "We don't really believe much of it, but we sure like the gifts once a year!") Nevertheless, in spite of all the books, words, sentences and pompous ideas, it seems like none of them are adequate for explaining Christmas.

Maybe having nothing to say is a good thing.

When I contemplate the first Christmas, I tend to think of it as an event where very little was said. Can you begin to imagine that night, that silent night of Jesus' birth? Mary and Joseph are traveling, and he is quiet, worrying about where they will spend the night. As for Mary, her ankles are swollen, her belly heavy with child, and, truth be told, she doesn't feel like talking to anyone. The birth happens in a barn -- dark, quiet and cavernous. A cow bellows every once in a while, and occasionally, a horse offers a wet, mucousy snort. But, for the most part, it is a night of silence.

I see Mary's eyes becoming large and dark, like the eyes of a pony. They are dilated with adrenaline, and she is breathing hard, eventually panting and pushing. Then there is that brief sound of suction, of life coming out of the hollow of her body, and yes, a baby squirming into the world. A tender slap is administered to his skin and Jesus (at this moment a baby like any other baby) sucks down the sweetness of oxygen. He is wrapped in cotton cloths and gently placed upon the chest of his mother. She breathes. The baby breathes. And then more silence.

Perhaps this is the truth of Christmas: It is only when we have nothing to say that we discover what we need to hear. Christmas is not so much explained as it is waited upon; it is a mystery gently revealed.

When our losses are beyond words, we finally begin to feel the hand of a neighbor upon our shoulder. When our disappointments are unspeakable, we hear the deepest voices of love. When our failures are inexcusable, perhaps then and only then do we hear the true voices of acceptance. And when we're so homesick that no words can begin to capture it, a letter arrives and we read it as if each word were a puff of fresh air.

Some of us want words and explanation all the time. But spiritual transformation happens only when we are willing (and sometimes forced) to pause and listen to the deepest voice of all, the voice of God within each of us. Christmas offers a gift to the world. It's the opportunity for us to listen again to the divine vibrato pulsing through the universe. It's a voice that says, "You are loved and have a place in the world." It's a voice that says, "I still have a purpose for you, regardless of how long your winter has become." And it's a voice that says, "No matter what happens, I will never leave you."

Often, at least in my experience, such a voice is heard only when we finally have nothing to say, suggesting, of course, that we don't grasp Christmas, it grasps us -- and it happens when we are willing to risk a little silence. Or in the words of T.S. Eliot, it happens when we are willing to "wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought; so the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing."

That's it. Christmas is the stillness that speaks; it is the emptiness that is always full.

R. Scott Colglazier is senior minister of University Christian Church in Fort Worth.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Prose so beautiful you'll feel graced
Book review: Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson

Gilead is a land east of the Jordan River traditionally viewed as the source of a healing salve: the balm of Gilead. But in the Old Testament this same region is sometimes described as a place of war, bloodshed and iniquity. The word Gilead is also linked, through a folk etymology, with the idea of witnessing.

Marilynne Robinson draws on all of these associations in her new novel, which is so serenely beautiful, and written in a prose so gravely measured and thoughtful, that one feels touched with grace just to read it. Gilead possesses the quiet ineluctable perfection of Flaubert's A Simple Heart as well as the moral and emotional complexity of Robert Frost's deepest poetry. There's nothing flashy in these pages, and yet one regularly pauses to reread sentences, sometimes for their beauty, sometimes for their truth: "Adulthood is a wonderful thing, and brief. You must be sure to enjoy it while it lasts."

~ ~ ~

The Jewish State of Relaxation

At spas around the world, activity menus focus on the body, offering the likes of hiking, exercise, body treatments and tai chi. Occasionally, spirituality can be explored in a special class or workshop. Long before the spa frenzy began filling travel columns nationwide, Jews recognized the value of spas and retreats. But these oases focus on the mind and heart, with the purpose of refreshing one’s spirituality and peace of mind.

As kosher retreats are becoming increasingly popular, Jewish travel is taking on a greater spiritual dimension. Jews seeking growth, transformation and activities have been vacationing at Jewish spiritual retreats, a.k.a. Jewish spas, where spirituality is infused daylong. From the moment of arrival, creative Jewish expression is nurtured in a variety of ways. Some offer experiential prayer services where participants sing, dance or drum along. Others offer contemplative campouts, ripe for informal discussions and reflections, which tend to be led by a group leader. Jewish singing is encouraged, and retreats offer yoga, meditation, nature walk, and additional recreational activities such as sports.

Elat Chayyim (, a well-known Jewish retreat nestled in New York’s scenic Catskill Mountains, offers weekend, weeklong and holiday retreats that join participants with rabbis, Jewish scholars and artists. Once there, partakers fill their days with recreation, prayer and workshops. According to Rabbi Shefa Gold, who teaches “Kol Zimra: Chant Leader’s Training,” “this energy has the potential of being focused and directed as a healing force.” -more-

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'Native spirituality' gets new respect

Reviewed by WAYNE A. HOLST

During the past century, a profound shift in mainstream cultural and religious values has occurred in the popular view of Native American spirituality, according to the eclectic and prolific Philip Jenkins.

Jenkins, who teaches history and religious studies at Pennsylvania State University, has recently authored, among a spate of other books, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (2002) and The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice (2003).

Jenkins now turns his proven intellectual and analytical skills to another idea-rich subject in Dream Catchers: How Mainstream America Discovered Native Spirituality. He demonstrates convincingly how native spirituality -- he calls it Indian spirituality -- has undergone a dramatic 180-degree shift in cultural receptivity. Within little more than a century, it has evolved from devil worship into a respectable world-class religious tradition.

Supporting the central focus of his book, Jenkins demonstrates how our understanding of religion itself has dramatically changed during the past century. We Christians have expanded our sense of what religion means to include a much broader range of belief systems, reaching well beyond what was once considered to be orthodox teaching.

Mainstream culture has appropriated American Indian spirituality to serve its own purposes. This has occurred far too frequently, the author laments, with less than an honest attempt to understand that spirituality as a living faith tradition in its own right. The primary reason for this change lies in the fact that American Indian spirituality provides a compensatory path that many of us find lacking in our inherited church communities. But what we have done with aboriginal spirituality has been too frequently self-serving. We have not hesitated, stepped back and made the effort to recognize native spirituality as authentically valuable in and of itself.

I believe that non-native North American Christians have gone through four distinct phases of addressing native spirituality since first contact. Carol Higham’s book Noble, Wretched and Redeemable (University of New Mexico Press, 2000) provides the structural framework for this overview. I add one more term to her trio -- “Respected.”

Views of native spirituality

Challenging assumptions

Jenkins frequently challenges common wisdom concerning native people today. For example, he considers untrue the belief that modern North American culture is primarily individualistic, while native cultures are essentially communal. He questions the view that native and Christian religions are polar opposites. Catholicism, as opposed to Protestantism, he says, has many natural affinities with native religion. The author claims that many contemporary American Indians are themselves no more grounded in “Mother Earth spirituality” and related aspects of ecological conservation than other Americans.

Issue could be taken with some of Jenkins’ theories and assessments. Yet the overall tenor of this study is stimulating, positive and expansive. He challenges complacent spiritual thinking, even among those of us who consider ourselves aware of the subject.

Dream Catchers is surprisingly moderate to liberal in tone. It is not as disparaging as might have been anticipated of New Age influences on some expressions of modern native spirituality. This book ranks in quality with Jenkins’ The Next Christendom and is a considerable improvement over his rather unsatisfying recent defense of modern Catholicism.

“We are in a very different environment from the 1960s when Indians watched in passive bemusement as the counterculture absorbed and imitated their religious practices,” the author concludes.

We have come to a period in the development of Western culture where the First Nations are viewed as respected leaders for us all in the life of the spirit.

If that is so, and this reviewer finds it hard to disagree, we are entering a new and exciting time in the maturation of human spirituality.

Wayne A. Holst is an adult educator at St. David’s United Church, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He has taught religion and culture at the University of Calgary.

National Catholic Reporter, December 10, 2004

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Of Serotonin and Spirituality

By: PT Staff
Summary: Scientists see a biological underpinning for religiosity, and it is related to the neurotransmitter serotonin.

Serotonin, the brain chemical crucial to mood and motivation, also shapes personality to make you susceptible to spiritual experiences. A team of Swedish researchers has found that the presence of a receptor that regulates general serotonin activity in the brain correlates with people’s capacity for transcendence, the ability to apprehend phenomena that cannot be explained objectively. Scientists have long suspected that serotonin influences spirituality because drugs known to alter serotonin such as LSD also induce mystical experiences. But now they have proof from brain scans linking the capacity for spirituality with a major biological element.

The concentration of serotonin receptors normally varies markedly among individuals. Those whose brain scans showed the most receptor activity proved on personality tests to have the strongest proclivity to spiritual acceptance.

Reporting in the American Journal of Psychiatry,the researchers see the evidence as contradicting the common belief that religious behavior is determined strictly by environmental and cultural factors. They see a biological underpinning for religiosity, and it is related to the neurotransmitter serotonin. This has been the entire article.

Saturday, December 4, 2004

Bennett to lead homeless shelter

Louise Bennett has spent hours explaining to Richmond bureaucrats that public transportation is limited in this region and that day labor pools don’t exist here.

The new director of Crossroads Shelter for the homeless has also spent a fair amount of time on her knees scrubbing up vomit on the floor.

Doing it all, whether she’s wearing a business suit or bib overalls, Bennett believes she is doing what God has called her to do. “I’m doing God’s will. He has a plan for all of us.” -more-

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Gaspar, Rodil books launched
Mindanews / 3 December 2004

DAVAO CITY -- Two Mindanawon development workers, Karl M. Gaspar of the Redemptorists and historian Rody Rodil have added another collection of books on understanding Mindanao and its peoples.

Launched this afternoon by the Alternate Forum in Mindanao (AFRIM) are “Mapagkamalinawon, Babasahin Para sa mga Naghahangad ng Kapayapaang Mindanawon" authored by Gaspar, a documentation of the efforts of Muslims, Christians and Lumads to work for peace in Mindanao.

"It’s on peace-ableness which is the capacity of peoples to be able to work for peace.

It is a self-ascription on the dreams and struggle of Mindanawons," Gaspar said.

The book, Gaspar pointed out, highlights the narratives from the Lumads from the history of conflict in Mindanao down to the grassroots initiative for peace.

"This is a reflection of the commitment of Mindanawon writers to write about our own culture and history to avoid the revisionist interpretation of history so common among foreign historians and writers," he said.

Rodil's revised edition of his 1994 book, "Minoritization of the Indigenous Communities in Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago," on the other hand, is the author's modest contribution to "show the historical process" in Mindanao.

"For so long, the minority peoples have suffered the agony of being treated as such.

How the indigenous people who once had superficial control over territories which, put together, would easily constitute nearly one half of the entire national territory, were transformed into minorities in their own land," he said.

Gaspar’s “to be poor and obscure: the spiritual journey of a mindanawon,” also had its Davao launching today at the same venue. The book of 31 “confessional essays,” published by the Center for Spirituality Manila, was launched at the Titus Brandsma Media Center in Quezon City on October 25. This has been the entire article.

~ ~ ~

Student starts club for the spiritual but not religious

by Laney Woolfolk
December 03, 2004

The spiritual ties that bind are no longer restricted to the devout. In addition to the countless religious organizations on campus, a new group has formed for those who are "spiritual, but not religious."

(Vanderbilt) Divinity graduate student, Courtney Evans, has established an unnamed group that centers around finding meaning in one's life. She hopes to create a community environment for those who are still exploring.

"The important word here is community," Evans said. "Learning and growing in isolation can only go so far. It can also help us to move beyond the boundaries of self by reflecting and connecting with who we are together."

While interning in the University Chaplin's office this fall, Evans was impressed by the student communities that grow together around a shared set of beliefs. Although Evans has no religious affiliation, she believes the group environment can aid individuals in their personal searches.

"My vision for the group is that it should unfold organically out of whomever the participants happen to be," Evans said. I expect that a group such as this will appeal to a diverse group of people, from atheists to mystics."

Because of the nontraditional nature of such a group, currently, there is no particular agenda or group activities. Evans expects the first sessions to be exploratory assessments of interests. She hopes that individuals will feel comfortable sharing their own experiences with spirituality.

"I think that many students are willing to explore questions about God or about what connects humanity, and yet are not comfortable with religious dogma or doctrine," Evans said.

Evans hopes that the group will be an open forum for the discussion of ideas. While she is energized by the prospects, she is unsure of what the meetings will become.

"Getting comfortable with uncertainty is my own personal journey, and this group has innumerable possibilities," Evans said.

Thus far, the group has had two meetings. In the future, the organization will meet Wednesday nights at 6pm in Sarratt. The room number is yet to be determined, but for more information, contact [email protected].This has been the entire article.

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What the bleep?! Exploration of science, spirituality becomes surprise art house hit

``What the Bleep Do We Know?'' a quirky film by a former Silicon Valley entrepreneur that links quantum physics with the teachings of a Washington state guru -- who channels a 35,000-year-old warrior -- is breaking attendance records at art houses across the country.

A word-of-mouth campaign, undeterred by reviews skeptical of the film's New Age underpinnings and leaps of scientific faith, has helped it become one of the top-grossing independent films in recent years, behind ``Fahrenheit 9/11'' and ``Super Size Me.''

Filmmakers are already capitalizing on interest by readying a picture book for the holidays.

``What the Bleep,'' which recently opened at the Camera 7 in Campbell after an unprecedented three-month holdover in San Jose, weaves cartoon illustrations through interviews with Ivy League scientists and spiritual philosophers to suggests a new spirituality for the 21st century.

Its everyday relevance plays out through the soap opera story of Amanda, a photographer and divorcée (played by Marlee Matlin) who is unhappy with just about everything.

But it's the film's premise -- that we, not a separate, judging God, create reality -- that's spinning out the strongest reverberations.
Some viewers have also found the film transformative.

Susie Goyins, a San Jose property manager who has been seeking help at the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine in La Jolla for a longstanding case of chronic fatigue, went to court the day after seeing the film to finally get rid of her ex-husband's name. She also changed her church.

``The movie made me feel like I got it as far as understanding some of the things that have been going on with me,'' said Goyins, 51. ``There is energy attached to everything. If we've known illness or trauma for a long time, those channels stay open, rather than those for joy and happiness.''

Goyins says she can't wait to buy the film on DVD.

That may be later rather than sooner. Distributors are planning on another six months for the film, now in 130 theaters. It's already been running about 20 weeks, three times as long as most independent films. -more-