Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Man with a red-state accent

I found Kareem Salama through a couple of hyperlinks off Beliefnet's Idol Chatter column. He is an Egyptian-American country and western singer raised in Oklahoma who provides the music for this video

about American Muslims which is charming and funny. What is equally refreshing is an interview he did on Fox News last year. He might convert me -- to country music.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

What I'm reading

Emotions Revealed. By Paul Ekman.

Psychologist Paul Ekman is a smart cookie who has worked with the Dalai Lama at the latter's Mind and Life dialogs. He's done cross-cultural research on the facial expressions that accompany emotions, so he can make the argument that some feelings and their outward show are universal. More interestingly, he shows that emotions are not experiences which we can control. We get angry when someone gets between us and a goal. Even babies do. All of which is to say, you can't try to not be angry. Anger has evolved as a useful response. I bet it was more useful before we had traffic gridlock. In the meantime there are things we can do about our emotional behavior. He talks about developing the habit of attentiveness -- know yourself. The book offers the empirical underpinning for the therapeutic process of working on our bad habits; not surprisingly, it is better at analysis than the how-then-shall-we-live part.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Giving up + taking on = shifting something

As a Quaker, I miss the liturgical calendar of the Catholicism of my youth. To everything there really is a season, including the third snow of the week just outside my window. Lent, which begins today, is a big deal for many Christians, especially Catholics. When I was little, we got little Lenten cans in which to save the money for the candy, or anything else, we gave up. The money went for missions. It was unfortunate spiritual pride that made me want to fill up my can: I gave up big time. Today I understand spiritual discipline, paradoxically enough, through my practice of Buddhist meditation and watching my awareness. Today I am highly aware of how difficult it is to work without a cup of coffee, since I am fasting. In doing some research on Lenten disciplines, I came across the idea that if Lent is about self-examination and self-discipline, one could also take on a practice instead of merely giving something up. I'm adding sacred poetry to my Lenten reading: The Soul is Here for its Own Joy edited by Robert Bly (doesn't sound very sacrificial, does it?) and (in a more orthodox vein) The Poetry of Piety edited by Ben Witherington and Christopher Mead Armitage, which really ought to have had T.S. Eliot's Ash Wednesday:

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual for only one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are ...

Friday, February 01, 2008

I'm in charge here

said Mother Nature before leaving in a windy huff after depositing 10 inches of snow that fell heavily in our driveway, street, schools, etc. At the feeder outside my window is one grateful nuthatch, sharing dining quarters with two chickadees. Our letter carrier seems happy that enough shoveling has been done on the block that he can do his work, come rain, sleet or however many inches of snow. At seven a.m., the view consisted of unbroken planes of white, but the plow has finally come through on the street. We routinely refuse to admit that weather always has the upper hand, although my sister the airline reservation agent will have a busy day today. I love having a grocery store four blocks away, though if I were as smart as all the old folks I saw in there yesterday afternoon, after the snow had begun, I wouldn't have had to return today. It's winter. What do you expect in Chicago ?