The Best Of The Dish This Weekend

Jul 27 2014 @ 9:45pm

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Another grueling weekend in the Middle East, but some relief here at the Dish. Six posts worth revisiting: the perils of auto-correct; the dirty mouths of babes; Edmund White’s brilliant appreciation of friendship; visualizing Debussy; a religious history of the Great War; and an adorable nine-day-old white lion.

The most popular post of the weekend – by a mile – was The Worrying Vacuity Of Hillary Clinton; followed by Why Am I Moving Left?

19 more readers became subscribers this weekend. You can join them here - and get access to all the read-ons and Deep Dish - for a little as $1.99 month. Gift subscriptions are available here. One subscriber writes:

Celebrity is confusing. While your public persona seems so confessional, it’s easy to forget that I don’t actually know you. That what I think about you includes an enormous amount of projection. And that you certainly don’t know me. It’s the asymmetry, I think, that is so strange. Your persona speaks to me most days, through your writing, while you have received perhaps 10 emails from me, among god knows how many emails from 30,000 others.

Is it strange for you? It must be. How do you handle it? I hope that people respect your privacy and personal space, but you must have your share of unwanted encounters. Or are you one of the lucky few who is energized by such encounters?

The issue came up last weekend, when my girlfriend introduced me to Provincetown. She knows that I am a Dishhead, and that you are a Provincetownhead. On the ferry from Boston, she teased me about you. Asked me what I would say if we bumped into you. I said that of course we wouldn’t bump into you.

We got off the boat, and you were EVERYWHERE! Turns out it was bear week. Ten million beards, many resembling yours. Made me unreasonably happy to see your gathered tribe. And I see why you love the place itself. We spent all weekend walking, unmolested by celebrity, passing among the dunes from one unexpected oasis to the next, our souls sipping the serenity in each.

Beardless, both of us, yet happy.

May your private oases be safe and bright. May you and your husband take moments to be happy, despite all the troubles of the world.

See you in the morning.

(Photo by Mikael Colville-Anderson. See the poems it illustrated here.)

The Lie Behind The War

Jul 27 2014 @ 9:15pm

Christian woman killed in Israeli airstrike on Gaza

Katie Zavadski, fresh from a Dishternship, nails down a critical fact in the latest Israel-Hamas death-match. As the Dish has noted before, the Israeli government knew from the get-go that the murderers of three Israeli teens – the incident that set off this bloody chain of events – were not doing official Hamas’ bidding even in the West Bank, let alone Gaza:

This was confirmed by Mickey Rosenfeld, the police spokesman:

So the entire swoop on the West Bank against Hamas, which soon escalated into all-out war, was based on a a false premise, uttered by Bibi Netanyahu thus: “Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay.” It’s worth recalling in that context that Hamas had recently been very quiet on the rockets front:

Fewer rockets were fired from Gaza in 2013 than in any year since 2001, and nearly all those that were fired between the November 2012 ceasefire and the current crisis were launched by groups other than Hamas; the Israeli security establishment testified to the aggressive anti-rocket efforts made by the new police force Hamas established specifically for that purpose.

Netanyahu saw an opportunity to hammer Hamas and punish the PA for cooperating with them. He took it. It disempowers both and makes an even more radical successor more likely. But if you assume that Netanyahu has no intention of ever coming to a peace agreement, a more radical Palestinian population helps justify that. Meanwhile, the core project of a permanent Greater Israel is advanced.

After watching this situation for too many years now, I have developed one key measurement: follow the settlements. Everything that happens is designed for their benefit. And that goes for the current ghastly carnage. It’s staggering what the Israeli government will sacrifice to advance the settlements.

(Photo: The dead body of Jalila Ayad, a Christian woman killed in an Israeli airstrike on her house in Gaza City, is carried to the Al-Shifa hospital morgue on July 27, 2014. By Mohammed Talatene/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.)

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In an interview about their forthcoming book, Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?, Brother Guy Consolmagno and Father Paul Mueller – both Jesuit priests who are planetary scientists at the Vatican Observatory – respond to a question about whether or not science “disproves” the Bible:

Guy: Science doesn’t prove. Science describes. The Bible isn’t a book of propositions to be proved or disproved; it’s a conversation about God. So that question presupposes a radically false idea of what science is, and what the Bible is.

Paul: We never ask if science disproves Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, though the play includes statements that are at odds with modern science. We never ask if science disproves Maximilian Kolbe’s self-sacrificing love, though his own knowledge of science would be seventy years out of date today. Lovers don’t look to science to prove the reality of their love. Why on earth would we want to go to science for proof of the reality of God’s love?

Their thoughts on how the Bible does – and does not – inform their scientific inquiry:

Read On

Heroes On A Human Scale

Jul 27 2014 @ 8:00pm

Dana Staves considers how reading Virginia Woolf’s diary helped her reconsider the literary giant:

Her final entry is unremarkable. But it’s her final sentences that broke my heart, that has haunted me for months to follow: “And now with some pleasure I find that it’s seven; and must cook dinner. Haddock and sausage meat. I think it is true that one gains a certain hold on sausage and haddock by writing them down.”

Sausage and haddock? She’s Virginia Woolf, she terrifies me and astounds me, and I love her, and her final written words to the world of her diary, before she took her own life three weeks later, is about sausage and haddock. The cook in me smirked, the way we smile over a bittersweet memory of loved ones who have passed. After all that, it’s sausage and haddock. It’s life. But the writer in me – the part of me that doesn’t always have food on the brain – stalled out.

We build up authors so that they become epic and mythic, each huddled away on their corners of a literary Mount Olympus, scribbling or typing. The place smells of coffee and books and anxiety. But in the end, they’re people, not gods. They’re people who must eat dinner and fear bombs and attempt to get a handle on cooking sausage and haddock. This is a challenge as big as writing The Waves or Mrs. Dalloway. Virginia Woolf was epic to me. But she was also just a person. She could no more fix my insecurity than fix her own.

Living With Loss

Jul 27 2014 @ 7:34pm

Ben Watts reviews the above short film, Where Do Lilacs Come From, which movingly portrays the perspective of a man with Alzheimer’s:

Writers are often told: “Write what you know”. For Where Do Lilacs Come From, [writer/director Matthew] Thorne did just that, ripping a band-aid off painful true-life events and dramatizing them for the screen. “I had a lot of memories from when I was younger of my dad losing his mother to Alzheimer’s,” Thorne said. “[Those memories] really became the genesis for the film — particularly the pain my dad went through. It was a very strange experience being reintroduced to your Grandmother every day as though she had never met you…You almost start to wonder whether that’s normal. I really wanted to tell a story from her perspective — what it might be like to live in a world where present and past don’t have a clear delineation.” On that front, Thorne excels magnificently, tapping into the dreamlike-quality of memory loss with precision. The extent of Chris’ Alzheimer’s is not apparent until Michael holds up a framed photograph and shows it to his father.

“That’s Mom,” Michael says. “Wasn’t she beautiful?”

“She’s probably in the house,” Chris says.

“No. Mom’s gone now.”

“Oh,” Chris says, pointing to a man in the picture. “Does he know?”

Michael takes a deep breath, trying to keep his composure. “That’s you, Dad.”

Nostalgic For Nietzsche, Ctd

Jul 27 2014 @ 7:05pm

More readers keep the conversation going about the merits of New Atheism, sparked by this post. One argues that it’s not Nietzsche who atheists should turn to, but a different German philosopher - Schopenhauer:

Nietzsche187cAll the criticisms leveled against Nietzsche that you have posted are valid. Nietzsche is too often assigned to atheists because of his famous “God is dead” line. Nietzsche dismissed the so-called Golden Rule as insipid sentimentalism, as well as Rousseau’s declaration that human empathy proves the goodness of man. Nietzsche operates outside of what we consider conventional morality, and he makes for an exciting read, but in the end must be rejected by agnostics like myself due to his disdain for the vast majority of humanity, those trapped within slave-morality.

The philosopher I admire is Schopenhauer, especially his notion that compassion is the only good. Schopenhauer blended Indian philosophy into his belief, that when one exercises their will it leads to suffering. This is different from Nietzsche’s claim that will should be used to gain power, and that power is only for elite “Supermen” and whatever may be the lot for the rest of humanity does not matter. (Also note that Nietzsche was one of histories great misogynists, and seemed to truly loathe women.)

The atheist/agnostic would be better served by association with Schopenhauer than Nietzsche. Nietzsche is to be admired as a writer and a thinker, but not as a guide to New Atheism.

Another rejects the claim from a previous reader that since “the religion believed and practiced by the vast majority of the religious” isn’t the sophisticated theism of, say, David Bentley Hart, the New Atheists have a point:

I’ve never understood why this is the criteria for judging religion’s validity.

Read On

David Wheeler notes that seminary graduates are having trouble finding full-time jobs in the clergy:

Working multiple jobs is nothing new to pastors of small, rural congregations. But many of those pastors never went to seminary and never expected to have a full-time ministerial job in the first place. What’s new is the across-the-board increase in bi-vocational ministry in Protestant denominations both large and small, which has effectively shut down one pathway to a stable – if humble – middle-class career.

For example, the Episcopal Church has reported that the retirement rate of its clergy exceeds the ordination rate by 43 percent. And last year, an article from an official publication of the Presbyterian Church wondered if full-time pastors are becoming an “endangered species.” This trend prompted the Religion News Service to report that, in the future, clergy should expect to earn their livings from “secular” jobs. Pastors who don’t want to go that route might have to ask friends and relatives for money, or perhaps serve more than one congregation.

Face Of The Day

Jul 27 2014 @ 5:34pm

Eid Al Fitr Mass Prayer Held By Islamic Community An-Nadzir In South Sulawesi

A girl from an Islamic commune An-Nadzir looks on during Eid Al Fitr mass prayer at Mawang Lake in Gowa, South Sulawesi, Indonesia on July 27, 2014. Exclusive Islamic community An-Nadzir has 5,000-10,000 followers across Indonesia, one of world’s largest Muslim nation. Their beliefs are the same as mainstream Muslims, but there are some differences in prayer timings and fast breaking methods. They pray before breaking their fast, unlike other Muslims. The men dressing in dark robes and colour their hair while women are draped in head-to-toe burqas. In the remote area in Gowa district, the community lives a basic life of farming and fishing, condemn militancy of any kind, and believe in salvation without discrimination and living in peace with others. By carrying out a manual calculation based on ru’yat (lunar sighting) and observations on several signs of nature, the An Nadzir Muslim community decided that Eid Al Fitr 1435 H in this year fell on Sunday. By Agung Parameswara/Getty Images.

“Trapped In Time”

Jul 27 2014 @ 4:52pm

“[W]hatever the nature of a faith in a supernatural being, or beings, and whatever its unprovable postulates,” muses William Boyd, “I am convinced that what makes our species unique … is that we know we are trapped in time, caught briefly between these two eternities of darkness, the prenatal darkness and the posthumous one”:

“The prison of time is spherical and without exits,” Nabokov says. What to do in the face of this universal, inescapable penal servitude? My own feeling – and this again is what makes us human – is that we all yearn for one thing. Just as it’s hard-wired into our consciousness that we live between two eternities of darkness, so we search for some factor to alleviate and compensate for that brutal reality.

And the compensation we seek, I believe, is love. We want to love and we want to be loved, every single one of us. As the song says: “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn/Is just to love and be loved in return.” That’s what makes our sojourn in the time-prison bearable – more than bearable: redemptive – life-enhancing, time-evading. If you’re lucky enough to experience that emotion then you’ll have savoured the best, the ultimate, that the human predicament can offer.

Mental Health Break

Jul 27 2014 @ 4:20pm

Watch Debussy come to life:

(Hat tip: 3QD)