Monday, January 15, 2007

Buddha meets the Chicago Bears

Watching football is an exercise in observing desire (tanha). How attached am I to the outcome of this play? How much do I care if Rex Grossman throws an interception? What am I doing here, flipping the TV on and off because I can't bear to see a Bear error? There is an end to suffering, according to the Four Noble Truths. It's a Super Bowl victory for the Chicago Bears.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

You could look it up

Oprah Winfrey does not need me to defend her. Nor does she pay me to say nice things about her. She has well-compensated people to do that. My point about the recent criticism of her for spending $40 million on a school for South African girls is that much of the criticism is unjustified because it’s underinformed. She should spend money on schools here? In 2000 she gave $10 million to A Better Chance , a Boston organization for gifted high school students of color, and has served as spokesperson for the organization. And that’s just one of her million-dollar size checks. Teachers are her favorite people. She said that at least as early as 1987. In early 2006, she did a special report on education in America. Did you see it? If not, you could look it up.

She should fund AIDS clinics? She has. Check the tax filing for her Oprah Winfrey Foundation . She got Brad Pitt interested in Africa before Angelina Jolie did. Watch the show. She has spent a lot of time in Africa focusing on a variety of conditions on that needy continent – women raped in Rwanda, civil war in Darfur, AIDS orphans. How many other people can you think of offhand who have spent TV airtime explaining to people what a fistula is – you could look it up -- and how a dedicated doctor is working to help Ethiopian women who suffer from incontinence and social ostracism because of this condition?

We need money here? Oprah pledged $10 million to Hurricane Katrina relief and made it the subject of extensive coverage on her show, seen around the world. She got a lot of celebrities – people like Jamie Foxx -- to pitch in with relief, so that she could leverage the valuable currency of celebrity and grab more spotlight for more of the hundreds of thousands of people affected by this catastrophe. She’s spearheaded a drive to build houses for those displaced. You could look it up at her website.

There’s a whole portion of Oprah’s website devoted to her philanthropy. It’s not hidden. That, too, you can look up. In 2006, Business Week estimated her lifetime giving at $303 million. On the magazine’s top 50 philanthropists list , she’s #32. I just looked it up. Education is freedom, she told Business Week in 2004. She really does like education. It’s been a pattern and intention in her giving.

So: How much is enough dollars or attention? Or too much? People have different opinions on that. But please, before you express your opinion, do a little homework. Look it up. It would be educational.

Monday, January 08, 2007

What I'm reading
Friendship: An Expose. By Joseph Epstein.

I would not normally be reading this. I tried Epstein's Fabulous Small Jews and didn't like his characters. But this book was given to me in exchange for some volunteer work I had done with a good friend. Epstein's style is classy and classical; he writes for people who will not be puzzled by words like "inanition" (I paused) and references to La Rochefoucauld. He reminds me of 18th century English essayists, mulling the next phrase, quill poised over parchment. It takes me back to graduate school. Maybe a cocktail party on the North Shore. It's growing on me, except for the cover.