All posts by John Of Late

In a Strange Land: Ten

I was a spiritual skeptic. I believed that compassion and kindness were good things, but I doubted that spirituality had anything to do with it.

My sense of morality had its origins in my childhood experiences, the influence of my parents—who somehow managed to teach me right from wrong—and the ubiquitous and subtle influences of the culture that I was born into. This moral sense was not a revelation that came to me as a product of religious or contemplative spirituality. As I grew older, it just felt right to take responsibility for my actions, for my fate, for my way of being and to feel compassion for others.

I came into exile with nothing that I could describe as a “spiritual life.” There was no part of my day or week that I devoted to “being spiritual.” I distrusted the suggestion that spirituality was essential to happiness.

And yet I believed that compassion and kindness had value. I knew that tragedy, grief and loss were real and sooner or later would come to find me, just as they had found—and would continue to find—those around me. I would need comfort and hope at such times. It would be a heavy burden for Lisea to bear alone. We would need compassion and kindness from others. We would need a network of others who would care about us. That was our spiritual community: those who cared.

But my spiritual community felt tiny. Though empathy came naturally to me, it seemed that I was not often called to practice it. My spiritual community was small because my compassion had been selective. It was difficult for me to feel “oneness” with other people. It seemed easier for me to feel one with the natural world.

I could call on the natural world for beauty—even for moments of transcendence—but would I find compassion or kindness, hope or comfort in nature? The natural world was larger than me yet, at the same time, so much smaller.

Share This:

Some other stuff for later,

  • 63
    BILL. Do you folks have a faith? JEANETTE. We’re spiritual but we’re not part of any organized religion. … BILL. Neil, what about you? NEIL. My parents were agnostics. BILL. But do you have any kind of belief? NEIL. I’m not sure, Bill, when you say that you believe in…
  • 62
    I wondered sometimes whether I would lead my life any differently if I knew how old I was. It was a question not unique to exile, but in the time of exile, age was defined by death. At a younger age death had been more abstract than it now seemed.…
  • 59
    There have been moments in exile when it seems there is nothing that propels me forward. More than moments, really, for the thought is not merely momentary. If not moments, then perhaps I could call them passages of time when there is an absence of things needing to be done,…

Something So Wrong: August 2017

  • On August 2, Trump endorsed the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, an immigration reform bill introduced in the Senate by Tom Cotton (Arkansas) and David Perdue (Georgia). The bill would sharply reduce the number of immigrants granted permanent residency status (green cards) each year. It would redefine family-based immigration priorities, removing a path for siblings and adult children of US citizens to become permanent residents. It would institute a point-system for green card applicants, favoring those who speak English and who have job skills. The bill would cap refugee admissions at 50,000 per year.
  • On August 8, Trump responded to North Korea’s threats against the US by saying that any more threats would “be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” The UN Security Council voted unanimously on August 5 for a new set of sanctions to pressure North Korea to curtail its development of nuclear weapons after several successful tests of intercontinental missiles. North Korea, responding to the new UN sanctions, threatened retaliation against the United States on August 7 boasting that the US would pay “thousands of times” for the sanctions. In response to Trump’s warning, North Korea issued a statement on August 9 that its military was “examining the operational plan” to launch a strike against the US territory of Guam.
  • On August 12, various white nationalist groups staged a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The so-called “Unite the Right” rally was ostensibly in protest of the city’s decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park. The City Council earlier, on June 5, had changed the name of the park—formerly known as Lee Park. The Lee statue was commissioned in 1917. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. During the rally, a 20-year-old who identified with the white nationalist movement, intentionally drove his car into a group of counter-protesters gathered to protest against racism and hatred, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19. In response to the violence, Trump said: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time.” He gave no explanation of what he meant by blaming “many sides” for the violence, and he did not condemn the white nationalist group that had organized the rally.
  • On August 14, Trump told Fox news that he was “seriously considering” pardoning former Arizona sheriff Jo Arpaio, calling Arpaio a “great American patriot.” Arpaio was convicted in July of criminal contempt of court for defying a federal court order to stop detaining people based on mere suspicion of being illegal immigrants. Due to be sentenced in October, Arpaio faces up to six months in prison. Arpaio was an outspoken Trump supporter during the presidential campaign, and he was a speaker at the Republican National Convention.
  • On August 15, Trump again blamed “both sides” for the violence in Charlottesville. He described what he called “alt-left” demonstrators as “very, very violent” people who “came charging with clubs in their hands” against the “alt-right,” who were there “to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee.” In advance of the rally, however, one of the organizers of the “Unite the Right” said the planned rally was “about an anti-white climate within the Western world and the need for white people to have advocacy like other groups do.”
  • On August 25, Trump tweeted: “I am pleased to inform you that I have just granted a full Pardon to 85 year old American patriot Sheriff Joe Arpaio.”
  • On August 25, the Trump White House issued an order to the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security to implement its directive banning transgender people from military service. The order temporarily excluded persons currently serving in the military, stating “no action may be taken against such individuals” until the secretary of Defense comes up with a plan to address such military personnel. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis requested that a panel of experts study the matter and report back to him.

Share This:

Some other stuff for later,

  • 72
    The next chapter is tracking six focus issues during the current presidential election process. TNC has summarized the positions of the presidential candidates: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Now that the candidates have selected their running mates, TNC is looking at the positions of Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike…
  • 70
    After a decade of diplomatic effort, the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany reached an accord with Iran earlier this year. These nations (known as the P5+1 or the E3+3), engaged in negotiations with the goal of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. A deal was signed…
  • 63
    Bernie Sanders, 74, is a United States senator from Vermont. A long-time political independent, Sanders joined the Democratic Party in 2015. Sanders graduated from the University of Chicago with a BA in political science. As a young man, he was active in the civil rights movement, working as a student…