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Showing posts from November, 2017

Reactions to unpresidential retweets of Britain First

At about 3:30 in the morning on Wed., Nov. 29, 2017, instead of doing whatever it is that presidents are supposed to do in the middle of the night, President Trump retweeted three inflammatory videos posted by Jayda Fransen of the group Britain First. Fransen had captioned the videos: Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches! Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary! Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death! A half-hour later, journalist Piers Morgan tweeted at the president: "what the hell are you doing...?" The New York Daily News said that one of the three videos “was long ago debunked". The New York Times asserted that the perpetrator in the first video "was not a 'Muslim migrant' ...according to local officials, both boys are Dutch," and the other two videos were several years old. NBC News said that they "could not verify Britain First's claims of what the videos showed. Asked whether the White Hous

On Stoicism

The Stoics believed in confronting the fear of physical death by visualizing it in such detail until it no longer carried the power to terrify. This was promoted by Epictetus and popularized by Marcus Aurelius in the 2nd century CE. It carried down to the 6th century, as Parker Palmer explained: “The Rule of Saint Benedict, that ancient guide to the monastic life, includes the admonition to ‘keep death before one’s eyes daily.’” A dissenting view from Nikki Stern: "Those who suffer from posttraumatic stress can’t shut off their mental tape. No, none of us needs help in picturing death. ... It’s a little unnerving not to know what death might feel like or when it might visit. But I don’t obsess about it, just as I have no sense of what follows. It could be anything — reincarnation, paradise, or conversion into pure energy and a free trip around the universe. In any case, death doesn’t terrorize me — at least not my own. Dying is another matter.” Whether or not we visualiz

How literature teaches us to be better people

There's a reason that literature is considered part of a broad field called the "humanities": Literature helps us learn more about what it means to be a human being, and it teaches us to do a better job at managing our lives in our inescapably human incarnations. A good story, whether a fable or a true account, plucks us from our own tired perspective and gives us a fresh take on the world. There is special value in taking the time to immerse ourselves slowly in the tale, as well as in turning the page to begin a new tale that will provide yet another perspective. A journalistic approach It shouldn't be surprising that true reports help one learn more about the world. In one sense, reading a true personal essay can be as educational as reading a newspaper. William Bradley, in an essay for Utne Reader called "Acquiring Empathy through Essays," says: "Of course I never had the experience of serving in Her Majesty's Indian Imperial Police, b

Still unconvinced that God exists: Holes in the argument from objective moral values

Within the "Conversations with Matt DeLockery" Christian podcast available free on iTunes, four episodes titled “Looking for a God” (Parts 1-4) deserve a little attention, although, as I show below, they fail to present a convincing argument for the existence of God. Together, the episodes total one hour, and they were released on four different dates in October and November 2017. '1 - Intro to the Moral Argument' The first episode is a solid introduction. DeLockery's stated intent is to examine whether human behavior implies God's existence. He believes that God’s existence is “probably the most foundational question there could possibly be on any subject, because it touches on everything else,” especially the question of whether human purpose is given to us or whether we invent it for ourselves and the question of the afterlife. He explains the importance of critical thinking and gives a brief overview of common arguments about God’s existence. He sa

Thanks, Obama!

Twitter recommendation First, the son: This makes us say: "Thanks, Obama!" "Consumer confidence" is the prevailing "vibe." It is odd to ask people to feel grateful for or impressed by their own attitude toward their own purchasing power. We need to compare perceptions against facts. The bank deregulation pending in Congress includes only modest "changes for consumers that ought to be a given,” according to Marcus Stanley of Americans for Financial Reform. In the longer term, consumers are likely to be hurt by the bank deregulation, which is the main legislative change in progress. Regarding the hashtag at the end, are these things really what "Make America Great"? What else could be missing from the list? To whom do we give thanks for this? A leader? A divine agent pulling strings? Other people who share our opinions? Can we name anyone who worked hard to make good things happen? It's ill-mannered to ask a nation to dire

On reading: Quotes

"Rather than reading a book in order to criticize it, I would rather criticize it because I have read it, thus paying attention to the subtle yet profound distinction Schopenhauer made between those who think in order to write and those who write because they have thought." - Miguel de Unamuno, Ensayos, Vol. 2, p. 1013. Quoted in Clive James' Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts (2007) New York: Norton, 2008. p. 767. "Unstudied, our books are parchment and ink, no more; learned, they live in us." - Leonard Fein, Where Are We?: The Inner Life of America's Jews (1988) New York: Harper and Row, 1988. p. 32. "...I'm not one of those arrogant fools who form their opinions as oysters form their pearls, and then shut them away where nothing can touch them. I have my own ideas and beliefs, but I can hear the rest of the world breathing." - Amin Maalouf, Balthasar's Odyssey (2000) Translated from the F