The Real News Archive (Archive Home)

November, 2004

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Spiritual face of religions

TWO men and a camera, searching for the spiritual face of religions: Ralf Tooten, photographer, and Bernhard Strathmann, editor of the book that was to be a result of this journey. The objective: to promote an inter-religious exchange. The camera: a Hasselblad. The road taken for this search is thousands of kilometers long, runs across five continents. They travel this road for an entire four years.

The result is unique and fascinating. Photographs, the likes of which have not been found: the "Eyes of Wisdom". A series of about 100 exceptional portrait photographs, evidence of religious personalities who permitted themselves to be photographed not for their own sakes, but for the sake of their message. They would have refused anything else.

The German Cultural Institute mounts its first ever photo exhibit in Mindanao together with the UP Mindanao Cultural Center at the SM Entertainment Plaza. Eyes of Wisdom runs from Nov. 22 to Dec. 1. at SM City Davao.

These photographs take their viewers with them on a journey: a journey, which leads us to the most varied cultural circles, introduces us to faces and eyes, which reflect wisdom in all of their religious manifestations; a journey which induces us to silent dialogue.

We meet an eight-year-old girl from Katmandu. She is considered a saint in her home country because she is a virgin. In a natural, childlike manner, she plays with a rabbit, just as thousands of other children do. We begin to ask questions, the beginning of a silent dialogue. What will happen to this girl when she has her first menstruation and becomes a woman?

The eyes of a person "clothed with air" are completely different; far remote from any shame, they rest on the world in dignity and with total composure. The eyes of a naked person whom even Indira Gandhi consulted. We meet the Dalai Lama, who says, "The heart of all religions is one." We see wisdom in these eyes, which is based on an extensive knowledge of the world. We see a man who observes each object, each person with complete presence of mind. Eyes which express nothing except devotion, alertness and an unbridled zest for life.

Less prominent spiritual personalities, "simple" believers, also catch our eye. Tooten and Strathmann also found the eyes of wisdom on the street, such as the nun in the slums of Katmandu or the nuns in the Convent of Eternal Adoration.

This has been the entire article.

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New books explore meditation, monasticism

Christian Meditation: Experiencing the Presence of God

By James Finley. HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, 2004). 304 pp., $19.95.

The Language of Silence: The Changing Face of Monastic Solitude

By Father Peter-Damian Belisle, OSBCam. Orbis Books (Maryknoll, N.Y., 2004). 187 pp., $16.

The Inner Room: A Journey Into Lay Monasticism


By Mark Plaiss. St. Anthony Messenger Press (Cincinnati, 2004). 127 pp., $9.95.

Grace in the Desert: Awakening to the Gifts of Monastic Life

By Dennis Patrick Slattery. Jossey-Bass/Wiley (San Francisco, 2004). 154 pp., $22.95.

A modern audience for books on Christian monasticism, meditation and contemplation was discovered in 1948 with the publication of Father Thomas Merton's best-selling autobiography, "The Seven Storey Mountain." Today that audience has been increased by the many modern readers who are intrigued by the implications of Eastern religions for mainline Christianity. These four books are addressed to that modern audience. -more-

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Philosophy 100 and the global classroom

"The article Philosophy 100 and the global classroom claims to have been posted by one of our instructors, Patrick McCarty, who has stated that he knows nothing about this article. It also contains inaccurate information and I would respectfully request that it be removed and an apology be posted on the site that this article was not sent by Patrick McCarty."

Nonduality.com apology: The article was sent to me from a reliable source who claimed it was from McCarty. However, it apparently was not originally sent by Patrick McCarty. For this error and for any inconvenience undergone by anyone, I personally apologize. The information has been removed. --Jerry Katz

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"The Heart of the World," though not easy to absorb, is one of the most extraordinary tales of adventure and discovery ever told. On the prosaic level, it's the search for a hidden waterfall that eluded explorers for more than a century. But it is also -- perhaps primarily -- an exploration into the heart of Tibetan Buddhism, which views the animistic spirits of sacred geography as metaphors for the nature of mind. -more-

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Zen and the Art of Architecture

THERE is peace in midtown Manhattan. While normal New York life buzzes outside on W 53rd Street, at the new Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), it seems that Yoshio Taniguchi has achieved his main design aim: to make the architecture "go away".

Walking around the newly constructed areas of the expanded museum, it's easy to be distracted by the panoramic views of Manhattan, which vast expanses of glass provide, rather than examining the structure itself.

But that's exactly what the architect hopes for. Taniguchi believes that his vision will be more evident when MoMA re-opens tomorrow, and the exhibits are in place. "I did not try to create just a physical building, but to design an environment that holds people and objects inside; I tried to create an environment rather than physical objects of architecture," Taniguchi says.

"For instance? Maybe this will help you understand – in the Japanese tea ceremony, the tea cup for the ceremony is very simple in form and very subdued in colour. But once the tea's poured, the teacup transforms into a whole new object. So, it's not the object alone that is important, but the total – the temperature of the tea, its colour, its smell. That's the environment. That's what I mean, about architecture, when I say it can 'go away'." -more-

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New Spirituality Communications Signs Hoffman Institute as Client

New Spirituality Communications (www.newspiritualitycommunications.com), the nation’s first public relations and marketing firm focusing on the swiftly emerging “spiritual marketplace,” has signed the worldwide Hoffman Institute (www.hoffmaninstitute.org) as its second major charter client.

The institute -- creator of the world-famous Hoffman Process, which empowers you to forgive your past, heal your present, and transform your future -- joins the well-known writer Neale Donald Walsch. -more-

 

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Keenan: out of the wilderness

16 November 2004

He was held captive by Islamic militants for four years, yet Brian Keenan struggles to talk about the current hostage crisis in Iraq. Cole Moreton meets a man who has travelled to the ends of the earth to lay to rest the ghosts of his past.

Nobody knows what Ulster woman Annetta Flanigan is going through as well as Brian Keenan does. He spent four-and-a-half years bound and often blindfolded in cramped and fetid places in Middle-Eastern heat, fearing and expecting that his fanatical captors might kill him at any moment.

But it's equally true that nobody knows what the kidnappers of Annetta, Margaret Hassan and others are thinking and feeling and doing as well as Brian Keenan does, too.

He was held from 1986 to 1990, albeit in the Lebanon rather than Iraq or Afghanistan, and spent much of his time in captivity studying, in the kind of obsessive detail that only a person with endless time and a mind desperate for activity can summon up, his reactions and the behaviour of the Islamic fundamentalists who held the guns, closed the cell door and beat him.

That he survived at all was remarkable, but then he wrote with almost superhuman empathy about his captors in a book, An Evil Cradling, in which he astonished many readers by his refusal to express bitterness towards those who held him.
...
Brian Keenan beat his captors: by choosing not to be frightened when they demanded that he should be. By refusing to feel cold when they took away his clothes. By not eating the fruit they brought him, even though it was a rare treat, and instead letting it rot as he relished the colours, textures and smells he had long been denied.

If they threw food at him, to demonstrate their power, he threw it back. Even now he habitually seeks to avoid the constrictions imposed on him by other people. He is uneasy about being seen as some kind of sage, but speaks gnomic words of wisdom. He recoils from being called a hero, then suggests a definition of courage in his own terms.

"If courage is about anything, it is about knowing that everything is within yourself. A man can take away my freedom, he can take all my clothes, he can lock me up - but he can't ever, ever, take my liberty. I alone possess that. I know the measure of it, the depth. I alone can enter into it.

"Courage is knowing what to do with that self-understanding. Courage is about finding quiet and content and having the capacity to share that. It's not about going out to lead the world with Messianic rants and raves." -more-

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Glory of autumn

For many, the changing of the seasons is a wondrous phase of a spiritual journey

Harlem Renaissance poet Esther Popel wants to stand before death, proud and naked, unashamed and uncaring, asking in her poem October Prayer, "Oh God, make me an autumn tree if I must die." The Rev. William Surber of Uhrichsville Moravian Church needs only to take a fall walk outside, in his rural corner of Tuscarawas County, Ohio, to conclude: "This is not an accident. There is a divine hand in it, just the sheer beauty of it."

When he was alive, former baseball Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti would sit at a postseason baseball game, longing for something in this world to last forever, "and it might as well be that state of being that is a game; it might as well be that, in a green field, in the sun."

As the leaves turn on another fall, so begins another stage in a lifelong spiritual journey of believers fortunate enough to live in parts of the country with four seasons.
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"Autumn asks us to grapple with this truth that we in North America are often so eager to avoid: that life is uncertain, and that our quest to find the means to live with that knowledge is, at its deepest, a spiritual quest," editors Gary Schmidt and Susan Felch wrote in the preface to their new book, Autumn: A Spiritual Biography of the Season (Skylight Paths, $22.99).

In one of the recurring themes in the book, writers face up to the inevitability of there being a final autumn in each person's life but vow not to go too gently into the dark season.

Author E.B. White captured the tension in an essay admiring his wife's passion on the fall day each year when she lays out the spring bulb garden. The passing of the years and any thoughts of her own approaching death cannot stop her from assuring her garden's rebirth.

There was something touching, he wrote, in "her studied absorption in the implausible notion that there would be yet another spring, oblivious to the ending of her own days, which she knew perfectly well was near at hand, sitting there with her detailed chart under those dark skies in the dying October, calmly plotting the resurrection."-more-

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Unintentional hermit

A Dutch monk tries to recruit local Catholic Arabs into his contemplative order Hidden behind groves of olive, fig and almond trees baking in the sun, the Kinneret and eastern Galilee as a backdrop, Father Yaakov Willebrands, 86, strolls through the hills, like a ghost from the past.

Though most monastics in Israel seek to walk symbolically in the footsteps of Jesus, he is one of the few who worships in nature without retaining walls. His style, he says, is part hermit; he has named his stomping ground "Mivdad Latofa" using the Hebrew word "hermitage" instead of monastery. Today three other monks also share the grounds, prayers and communal work, and he serves as abbot.

An unwitting renegade in the world of Israel's monks, he is rare for actively trying to recruit local Catholic Arabs into his contemplative order, while trying to merge Eastern Christian traditions into his European ways.

Thin and frail with misty blue eyes, Willebrands removes his cap, a vestige of the Western world he left behind 43 years ago, in an effort to bridge Western Christianity and monasticism with their Eastern roots.

Willebrands was always attracted to solitude, simplicity and prayer, and lived in a Trappist monastery in his native Holland since the age of 18.
...
He was considered an anomaly by all. The Muslims were suspicious that he was a Zionist agent trying to steal land; the Jews thought he was a missionary; the Christians were perplexed as to why a European trained in the Latin tradition wanted to pray in Hebrew and Arabic, he says.

In the end, the Melkite Bishop George Hakim, who later would became patriarch, accepted the proposal to incorporate Hebrew into prayers. Yaakov says: "I told him I love all people equally and that Arabic is a beautiful language but, as a foreigner, Hebrew is the language of the country and of the Bible. I wanted to open local Christians for the presence of the Jewish people."

Eventually, everyone started coming around to visit. -more-

Thursday, November 12, 2004

On the Trail of Itinerant Teachers Who Strove to Escape the Ego
By HOLLAND COTTER

KATONAH, N.Y. - Miss Chasin is the high school English teacher I remember best. She was young and, I could tell, a little nervous about her new job. But she had a gift for saying difficult things in an easy way, for talking about literature as if she were talking about life, which in turn made life sound like art. I later learned she was a poet, though she had never said so.

The Buddha, who was before all else a great teacher, had the same gift. You might describe his entire career as a process of explaining mortality to a class of clueless, distracted adolescents - us - using catchy stories and familiar pictures. And he came to the subject, umpteen rebirths earlier, pretty clueless himself. This is important. It makes a teacher a bit of a hero if you know he or she has walked the talk.

"Eternal Presence: Handprints and Footprints in Buddhist Art'' at the Katonah Museum of Art is all about teachers - the Buddha among them - walking, talking and leaving impressions. It's a wonderful show; ideal, even: compact, novel in theme, poetic in tone, composed of unusual objects from some great international Asian collections like Musée Guimet in Paris and the Museum für Indische Kunst in Berlin.
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Along with figures, abstract images emerged, carved footprints being especially popular. Called buddhapada, they came in many sizes. One pair in the show, carved from gray stone in what is now Pakistan, has feet nearly three feet long, while those on a lapis lazuli seal measure only an inch. As with much Buddhist art, their meaning is paradoxical: they are evidence of the Buddha's presence, but also memorials to his absence.
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Even agnostically, these emblems have deep personal and poetic resonance. Like the empty shoes at the end of Virginia Woolf's novel "Jacob's Room,'' the image of the Buddha's footprints translates an overpowering vision of loss and change into a reassuringly concrete, graspable, familiar form. Someday we will have to confront the vision face-on; neither teachers nor art can alter that. And that's when we grow up. -more-

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

NASA studies 'Rain Man' inspiration
Autistic 'mega-savant' undergoes CAT, MRI scans

Monday, November 8, 2004 Posted: 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP) -- NASA scientists are studying the man who was the basis for Dustin Hoffman's character in the 1988 film "Rain Man," hoping that technology used to study the effects of space travel on the brain will help explain his mental capabilities.

Last week, researchers had autistic savant Kim Peek undergo a series of tests including computerized tomography and magnetic resonance imaging, the results of which will be melded to create a three-dimensional look at his brain structure.

The researchers want to compare a series of MRI images taken in 1988 by Dr. Dan Christensen, Peek's neuropsychiatrist at the University of Utah, to see what has since changed within his brain.

Not only are Peek's brain and his abilities unique, noted Richard D. Boyle, director of the California center performing the scans, but he seems to be getting smarter in his specialty areas as he ages.

The 53-year-old Peek is called a "mega-savant" because he is a genius in about 15 different subjects, from history and literature and geography to numbers, sports, music and dates. But he also is severely limited in other ways, like not being able to find the silverware drawer at home or dressing himself.

"The goal is to measure what happens in Kim's brain when he expresses things and when he thinks about them," said his father, Fran.
This has been the entire article. Also see http://www.wisconsinmedicalsociety.org/savant/kimpeek.cfm

Monday, November 8, 2004

The Legend of Bono Vox:Lessons learned in the church of U2.
By Scott Calhoun

The faithful never grow tired of hearing the legend of Bono Vox. It reminds them that extraordinary things can, and typically do, come from humble beginnings. As a parable, its lesson is that you, too, should dream big and then work hard to realize those dreams.

Reminding, comforting, and challenging are recurring themes in Get Up Off Your Knees: Preaching the U2 Catalog. Editors Raewynne J. Whiteley and Beth Maynard, both Episcopalian ministers, have produced the first book of sermons inspired by what just might be the world's most influential rock 'n' roll band. Gathering 26 contributors from across the landscape of U2 fandom to offer a collection of homilies, meditations, and essays, they offer a welcome portrait of what's possible when you have three chords and the truth.
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You won't find any deep exegesis of either the biblical text or the U2 song in these sermons. Nor will you get much engagement with a particular strain of theology or critical theory. There is a clear emphasis on the biblical imperative to act on what you know, but the contributors leave it up to the reader to find a specific application of the truths these sermons recall. I found this an odd omission, as it is unlike the work of U2, who have always offered an organization, a place, or a face in need of our help.

Most entries end with the admonition to do something very Christlike—love, share, rebuke, be at peace, be honest, and be blessed—but don't explain why or how these actions would look different when done to exemplify Christ as opposed to, say, the poet Allen Ginsberg, who was all for love and peace. That said, this is also a book with exhortations to go ahead and wrestle with the world, the flesh, and the path of success. The struggle will likely yield a deeper appreciation of grace while invigorating you to then extend that grace to others. -more-

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Reading With New Eyes: A spirituality of reading.
by Nancy M. Malone, OSU

I suspect that lots of people who love reading have a sense there is something spiritual about it. That was my hunch when I started thinking about "a spirituality of reading." The hunch was based on two simple observations. One, that the acts of reading and of contemplation share many of the same characteristics: Both are usually done alone, in silence and physical stillness, our attention focused, our whole selves - body, mind, and hearts - engaged. And two, that reading scripture and the lives of the saints played a significant part in the conversions of St. Augustine and St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. I wanted to explore the spiritual value to be found not so much in reading "holy books," however, but in good books of all kinds - novels, poetry, biography, history, short stories.

By spirituality I mean not only the prayers we say in private, how we worship, doing good deeds, or working for peace and justice. And I don’t mean only our search for a relationship with the divine, the Transcendent Other, in heaven or somewhere "out there." I mean, primarily, the quest for the "God in you as you," the startling phrase I encountered in the writings of theologian John Dunne years ago. For "the true self," as Thomas Merton termed it. For discovering who you are and who you are meant to be.

In my book Walking a Literary Labyrinth: A Spirituality of Reading, I used my own spiritual journey with all its twists and turns to trace this quest. I invite you to follow the path of your life as we explore the part that reading may play in making us who we are: in our interiority, that conversation we are always having with ourselves; in significant turning points in our lives; in our desire for intimacy, with others, with God, with ourselves; in our hopes for union and communion with all. -more-

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Living mindfully | Movement of the moment

Buddhist-inspired movement cultivates tuning in rather than zoning out

Mindfulness is integral to Buddhism, an ancient religion that has enjoyed waves of popularity in America.

In the 1950s, the influence of the Beat writers, such as Allen Ginsberg, became widespread.

The 1970s celebrated Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

In the 1990s, Hollywood stepped forward with Kundun and Seven Years in Tibet.

And now, whenever the Dalai Lama visits, he's greeted by crowds befitting a rock star.

Many say the seeds for the current mindfulness craze were largely planted by the 1975 book, The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk once nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr.

''Mindfulness is the miracle by which we master and restore ourselves,'' wrote the monk, who lives in France.

NOT JUST SELF-HELP

Some Buddhists are troubled that mindfulness in the American mainstream is being commercialized in ways that have nothing to do with spirituality.

''It's not just mental training or a self-improvement technique,'' said Sharon Salzberg, a well-known Buddhist teacher, author of spiritual books and co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Mass.

For Buddhists, mindfulness is embedded in ethics and compassion.

''It's not just for ourselves, but for making the world a better place,'' Salzberg said. -more-

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'God's sacred territory' on the brink of disaster
Monday November 8 2004 00:00 IST

RAICHUR: The sound of myths that reverberated through the sacred groves for centuries, is now a muted cry. Thanks to modernity, the sacredness of these groves is disappearing, so is forest treasure.

Also called Devara Kadu (god's forest), quite a few sacred groves in Raichur district were known for their floral wealth, medicinal and timber-yielding plants. Arakera and Jalahalli hill ranges in Deodurg taluk, Jaladurga scrubby forests in Lingsugur taluk, Malayabad and Kolanki hill forests on the outskirts of Raichur city still house some rare medicinal plants. Sadly, lack of documentation of this wealth, coupled with deforestation, has the last shelters of natural forests of the district vanishing.

Sacred groves survived only because of the myths handed down through generations. No less than a heritage for the locals, these groves are generally small, spread over an acre of land. These patches of vegetation were dedicated to forest gods or deities, and were revered by villagers as `god's sacred territory'. They are the last indicators of the forest wealth that existed in the past. The myths were so deep-rooted that the villagers feared using even the forest waste. Both biotic and abiotic factors remained undisturbed here _ all because of the fear of the deity.

Scientist Prof.Vedavyas said: ``The present status of the sacred groves here is a matter of deep concern. They are gradually vanishing due to various socio-economic factors.'' Fearing that the groves would meet their silent death without leaving a trace of what they contained, the expert called for scientific documentation of the same and also an action plan to create awareness about their importance.

During a recent survey in remote villages of Deodurg and Lingsugur, Prof.Vedavyas, along with botanist Prof.Nagaraj, discovered that the villagers still use medicinal plants to treat diseases in humans and animals _ particularly jaundice, veneral diseases, snake bites, diseases of tongue, body swelling, diabetes. For instance, the fruits of Cassia 'fistula'_ a deciduous tree _ are kept below the pillow to ward off bad dreams. The leaves of Vitex êinegundo êrare used as bed to get rid of rheumatism, sciatica and common cold, and Pandanus 'fasciculiformis' is used to relieve mental tension.

According to FRLHT, Bangalore _ a wing of Ministry of Environment and Forests _ a large number of these plants constituted the folk system of medicines. But many of them are now on the verge of extinction.

``In our country, centuries-old art, dance, architecture and classical music are well documented. But information on folk medicines is markedly absent. This applies very well to our district,'' the experts regretted.

``All the unrecorded species are not only the district's pride but also are a national resource. Their conservation for the future generations is a must,'' they added.
This has been the entire article.

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Music at a Wheel's Click, but Do We Really Hear?

My friend Brant Rumble showed me his iPod the other day. Brant, who edits books on popular culture for a Midtown publisher, has just introduced 11,000 songs - two-thirds of his CD collection - into iPodian jaws.
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To the beard-strokers and hand-wringers busy divining the future of opera houses and concert halls, the iPod brings news: some good, some not. Who could complain about this avalanche of music? But who can cope with it? Brant admits to the pressures of such superrichness. He feels obliged to listen for all he's worth. He doesn't deny that he may not be listening as well as he once did.

If you can listen to everything, you may end up hearing nothing. I sometimes wish half of Brant's iPod were filled with blank spaces. Music cannot begin or end without silence in front and behind. Unending music is not music.

And is it all too easy? Any music critic will tell you that the eager anticipation of new recordings fades with their unsolicited, almost daily flow into the office. Would knowing a little less actually make us smarter, or at least hungrier? -more-

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Children pray as "significant moments"

Research for a PhD at the Australian Catholic University has found that children use prayer to aid them in life even if they are not religious.

The Sun-Herald reported yesterday that Dr Vivienne Mountain, a chaplain at Firbank Grammar School in Brighton, Victoria, interviewed 60 children aged 10 to 12 from six schools for her PhD on children's spirituality. Two were secular schools and the rest were religious - a mix of Islamic, Jewish and Christian.

She found that prayer was used at significant moments in children's lives.

"Common for all of them was that when things were tough, that was one thing you could do," Dr Mountain said.

She said prayer should be considered an activity with psychological importance and be recognised as a coping mechanism.

Dr Mountain said there are theories that the idea of God, or of a higher being, is innate in humans from birth and that it is society that pushes that idea, and therefore the idea of praying to that being, out of them.
This has been the entrie article.

Friday, November 5, 2004

Dalai Lama's magnanimity illustrated

When Victor Chan, a professor of British Columbia University in Canada, wanted to discuss spiritual themes with the Dalai Lama, things went in an unexpected way. Chan was with his 8-year-old daughter, and instead of answering the serious questions about life, the Dalai Lama focused on his daughter.

"I was having trouble in getting his attention because he took my daughter's hands and showed her a magic trick using prayer beads, and taught her how to do it herself, totally ignoring my questions," said Chan in an interview with The Korea Herald.

Chan, who co-authored "The Wisdom of Forgiveness" with the Tibetan spiritual leader, said the episode is indicative of the Dalai Lama's character. "He never takes himself seriously and has a great humor. He is very spontaneous and always graps the moment," Chan said. -more-

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Lifting the shroud off mental illness
A decade in the making, this one-man, nationally-touring monologue shares the experiences of one man, his siblings and father living with schizophrenic mother

Michael Mack’s ‘Hearing Voices (Speaking in Tongues)’ takes place Friday evening, Nov, 5, at the Middle Street Baptist Church at 18 Court Street in Portsmouth at 8 p.m.
Spoken word performance — whether a play or poem — has at its heart the power to transport, entertain and transform those who witness and perform it.

Such is the case with "Hearing Voices (Speaking in Tongues)," a 90-minute play/monologue written and performed by Michael Mack, a Boston-based slam poet champion, touring performer and MIT grad.

Serving as an entertaining, compelling and informative narrative about schizophrenia, "Hearing Voices" has earned Mack national acclaim from both general public and mental health care professional audiences. An unpremeditated poet, Mack, formerly a tech writer, gravitated more and more in slam competitions to poems about his early years as the oldest of four children dealing with his mother Annie’s schizophrenia.

Studies reveal that 1 in 100 individuals will be diagnosed with the disease characterized by auditory or visual hallucinations, delusions, psychotic behavior and many times, depression. Periods of lucid and calm behavior are periodically interrupted by abrupt swings or breaks into distinctly chaotic or wild behavior, though new approaches to recovery have come to the fore that include better medicines and psychotherapy along with a united front of support systems and coping skills. -more-

Monday, November 1, 2004

I Just Voted

Margaret Cho

I just voted with my absentee ballot. The directions seem more confusing than ever and there is a lot of room for error. You have to be particularly careful and keep everything within the margins. Don't make mistakes and don't change your mind halfway through.

There should be more information given on how to vote properly so that your ballot doesn't get tossed out. Maybe it is just that I am really stupid, but then many voters are most likely to be as dumb as me if not dumber, and in that case we should lower the bar for everyone.

When I fill in bubbles, I can't possibly stay in the lines, and I don't want my clumsiness to negatively affect my vote, especially now. I am not voting for a candidate as much as I am voting against one. In truth, I would much rather vote for Leonard Peltier, who runs for the Peace and Freedom Party. Ideally, we should have more than a two party system. Can you call freedom the choice between two masters? We don't live in a free country, and right now we are far from peace. The Peace and Freedom Party is exactly what we need. Unfortunately, I can't risk the chance of Bush winning just to satisfy my hope of what America could be. It's only a few days now, just after Halloween. I love that mystical holiday, when the veil between worlds is the thinnest. If the spirits could vote, I bet they'd all choose Leonard Peltier. He is definitely the most soulful candidate.

It is tragic that people who are incarcerated are unable to vote. They are probably the most important voices to listen to because they can tell us what we need to change. Yet they are arbitrarily silenced, as if forfeiting their right to vote punishes them. In truth, it punishes the rest of us because it turns the right into a privilege. Whenever privilege is introduced, there are problems. We cannot afford any more problems.

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The Six Best Reasons Not To Vote
by Gary Corseri
www.dissidentvoice.org
October 31, 2004

I’ve been sitting around trying to feel guilty about my decision not to vote. Somehow I’m not succeeding. I’ve been through the usual arguments—parried as much by friends as antagonists—and they’re just not holding water. “Which is more apathetic,” I reply to one standard tune, “to think one has done one’s duty as a citizen by voting every four years then going away, or maintaining pressure for justice and peace--marching, petitioning, boycotting, and financially supporting progressive causes?”

Some say I am disenfranchising myself, obviating a blood-earned right. And I answer, “There is systemic disenfranchisement which I cannot ignore and can only excuse at my peril.” If I complain that we have been “electing” virtual dictators with 25% of the popular vote, that some 75% of eligible voters either opposed or did not choose to vote for the current incumbent and his 2000 opponent, I’m apt to be greeted by apoplectic stares. My arguments fall on TV-waxed ears that no longer hear anything beyond the periphery of the easy comeback or shot-put rejoinder. Time for some “studied” responses. Here goes:

Technology. The 2000 election was a sham. No substantial changes were initiated to ensure that the 2004 election would not also be a sham. Butterfly ballots replaced with Diebold electronic voting machines which leave no paper trails are the American version of the vanishing ink used in the recent sham elections in Afghanistan.

Epistemology. How do we know what we think we know? Americans get most of their information from a nakedly biased broadcast media with a penchant for planting stories and burying refutations. A Kerry-leaning friend writes to tell me he feels compelled to vote against someone rather than vote for someone. Debate is a dying or deceased art in America; into the informational vacuum step the spinning dervishes of punditry and misdirection. If I vote, I lend legitimacy to a process based upon fraudulent deception. -more-

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Serb Monks Maintain 700-Year-Old Kosovo Monastery

Barry Wood, Voice of America, October 16, 2004

One of the most important cultural treasures in Kosovo is the Decani Monastery, the largest of all surviving medieval Balkan churches. The 14th century Orthodox church was recently added to UNESCO's world heritage list.

On a forested hillside in western Kosovo, it is a simple stone church with graceful arches and a small dome. It was completed in 1335 during the time of Serbia's King Dusan who is depicted in five of its wall paintings or frescoes.

Art historians call Decani the most significant medieval structure in this part of Europe.

UNESCO says the Decani Monastery represents an exceptional synthesis of Byzantine and Western medieval traditions. It says the monastery and its paintings exercised an important influence on the development of art and architecture during the Ottoman period.

Decani today is in a zone of conflict. The people outside its low walls are ethnic Albanians. The 30 Serbian monks who live inside are guarded by Italian troops from the NATO peacekeeping force that came to Kosovo five years ago.

Father Nektar, a youngish man with whiskers, wears the traditional black hat and robe of the orthodox clergy.

"We are living in this monastery like in a prison," said Father Nektar. "We can not go to the village and shop for ourselves as we used to do. We can not go to the village to help someone like we used to do in the past." -more-

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‘I love to create parks’
Steve Kiesling took his love of the river and nature and extended it to a whole community
By SANNE SPECHT
Mail Tribune
GOLD HILL — The view today from Highway 99 onto Gold Hill’s Beach Park now includes the Kiesling Family Playground — an activity center with state-of-the art "Space Net" climbing toys sitting near swingsets just back from the newly-groomed banks of the Rogue River.

But a few months earlier, before Steve Kiesling and his friends went to work, the city park was not much more than an inaccessible, overgrown trail leading through blackberry bushes and decades of illegally dumped trash.

Kiesling, 45, says allowing access to the public space through his property was easy. But he worked with Public Works Director Royal Gasso, Mike Newmann of Creative Land Design and others to help him with the hard work of actually building the playground.

"My commercial property is adjacent to the city’s old Beach Park," he says. "I started cleaning up my own trash heap and just kept going. I knew there had to be something beautiful here. Something for the community."

Adjacent property owner Mike Cornelius says he was initially leery at the notion of living above a park. But the new space has benefited everyone, he says.

"At first I thought it would be noisy ...," he says. "But it’s so mellow. It’s cool. You see parents swinging their kids. The teens love it. It was a great move to put the playground in for the people." -more-