Thursday, April 6, 2017

Conversation With A Friend: What To Do In Syria?

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Dear A,

I pray things go well with today's surgery and look forward to your report.

Syria is a mess.

Given my bedrock conviction that "there is plenty of ruling class monstrosity to go around," I don't even know what to recommend. (Just the other day I stumbled on an observation that 'the world is not black and white. It's black and shades of gray.')

From early on -- and not just in Syria but throughout the Middle East -- it has seemed to me that the Abrahamic religions are, at least in common practice, unduly fond of self-righteous absolutism and are therefore quick to engage violence that justifies whatever high horse they happen to be riding.

What's Wrong With The Abrahamic Religions: Absolutism, Scriptural Inerrancy, Bloodlust

All 3 Abrahamic Religions Should Be As Ashamed Of Themselves As They Are Now Self-Certain

Abrahamic Religions Must Deal With Their Own Bronze Age Atavism And Not Just Window Dress

"What ISIS Really Wants" And How The Patriarch Abraham Appears To Be The Instigator

ISIS And The Inquisition: The Shadow Side Of Religion. Why Does Belief Do This?

The hostile bifurcation of "first generation" Islam into Shia and Sunni camps is a textbook manifestation of humankind's characteristic division into opposing camps. 

Shia And Sunni: What Caused The Split And How The Schism Developed

We see this same "religious" dichotomization between Catholics and Protestants, Orthodox and Reformed, Hinayana and Mahayana.

It is the way of the world.
The Essence of Religious Fanaticism
(Emo Philips cuts to the quick of religious mania)

And so, surveying The Syrian Swamp, I do not know what to recommend. 

I am -- imagine this!?! -- speechless.

Well... not quite.

Although I cannot bring myself to endorse the selfsame political position that makes most sense to me, I am haunted by the thought that it may be necessary for "The Arab Street" to "duke it out" without ANY outside intervention. 

The template for this "hands-off view" is Christendom's "Thirty Years War" in which Catholic and Protestant principalities made war until eventually (and this outcome is commonplace) the participants got sick-and-tired of being sick-and-tired. 

This determination to wage war until utter exhaustion sets in is reminiscent of animal rutting. There comes a season in which mammals cannot suppress their pursuit of climactic activity.

And so they work themselves into crazy lather and then -- "Boom!" -- there is an explosive climax. 

My apprehension over this laissez faire approach to "Greater Arabee" is twofold.

1.) "What if" there is some intervention that could actually lessen suffering and death.

2.) Would "duking it out" confine itself to The Middle East or would it be "Archduke Ferdinand all over again?"

In my view, paradox and irony always play disproportionately important roles in human affairs. 

As I see it, the current manifestation of American "conservatism" is obsessed with "common sense" and routinely conservative arguments culminate with the phrase "It's as simple as that!" (In conservative "Christian" terms, we hear the analogous refrain: "God said it. I believe it. That settles it." ... which is, of course, the most frequent way westerners apotheosize themselves - deifying personal opinion by ascribing it to God's "Holy Word." Mock humility in service of hubris.)

"Uncommon times" call for "uncommon sense." 

Mencken's eloquent recognition of complexity comes to mind: "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong."

One "new thing under the sun" is that violence can no longer be projected "far away, over there, onto dark skinned people" without nearly immediate blowback.

Blowback itself has undergone such epochal transformation that McLuhan made the canny observation: "To the spoils belongs the victor."

To a significant extent we are living in a "New World" - with new rules and new "political facts"... many of them "alternative."

In this morassic mess, it is unusually easy for us to be thrown off center.

And since we are less "effective" -- less useful to ourselves and others -- when thrown off center, my own way of forfending "the dis-easiness of the world" is to take refuge in my "muse," surrendering to artistic inspiration as often and as completely as I can.

When possessed by creative impulse -- which is to say when we enter the flow -- it becomes, almost by definition, impossible to be possessed by the evil spirits ("evil" in this sense being "live" spelled backwards).

"It's About Flow: A Dozen Basic Guidelines For Educators"
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Although I may have sent the following link in my last email, it is pertinent to the topic in hand and so I include it again.

Creativity And "Salvation"

Although my nature is more contemplative than meditative, I have two good friends -- both of them gifted non-believers -- who swear transcendental meditation as the most effective way to keep them on even keel. (One of these friends actually "battled" his way out of long depression with TM.)

In the end, it is not our lot to carry the world on our shoulders: that is an impossible, frustrating - and unsettling - task. (I recall the old chestnut that frustration breeds anger. And although anger can be put to good use, it is also one of The Seven Deadlies.)

That said, I do not recommend "ignoring the world." 

I do, in fact, occupy myself with "the insanity" "out there" while trying to take "detachment measures" so as not to jeopardize "the sanity" "in here."

The key -- and I do not have it -- is to commit ourselves to the goals that truly inspire us while detaching our psyches from sought-after outcomes.

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Here are other links relevant to this conversation:

Pastor John Piper "discusses the vexing problem of God ordering the mass killing of every Canaanite man, woman, and child."

Mistakes In Scripture: When The Bible Gets The Bible Wrong

"Is The Bible More Violent Than The Quran?"

"God Enjoys The 10 Plagues Way Too Much"

"The Politics Of Horror In Conservative Evangelicalism," '09 Outstanding Academic Title"

Christianity's Bedrock Commitment To Torture: Remaking "The Faithful" In God's Image

Americans, Especially Catholics, Approve Of Inquisitorial Torture

Time For Catholicism To "Shelve" Traditions And Texts That Represent God As A Terrorist

"Any Religion That Needs Fear To Thrive Is Bad Religion"

It Is Important To Know These Things So Religion Doesn't Do You More Harm Than Good

What Too Many Christians Get Wrong

Jesus: Festive Tippler And Friend Of Whores, Publicans, Tax Collectors And Sundry Sinners

"Trial By Ordeal: The Bloody Old Testamental Roots Of Modern Justice"

UNC-CH Professor Bart D. Ehrman:
Biblical Exegete And Former Christian Evangelical
The Bible and Textual Analysis

Religion and Perfectionism

"Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy," A Glimpse Of True Christianity

On Thu, Apr 6, 2017 at 12:15 AM, RF wrote:


Just a note to you while I can find a minute.
I am mortified by the propaganda from the jewish press about the sarin attack in Syria.
So palpably absurd, it has affected me like a bout of one of those tropical diseases of the intestines you were once so familiar with.
I can feel a sickness in my gut for the way the world is being manipulated: perhaps towards nuclear confrontation with Russia, the great demon.
Can anyone believe this? The accuser(s) are the psychopaths.
And Trump has changed his colors with regard to Syria, the only sane point of his foreign policy on the campaign trail.
The neocons have become ascendant and he is in their tow.
Who knows if it was in the plans all along.

Sorry I can’t get to answer your considered and lengthy email of several days ago.
A minor surgery tomorrow keeps me sidelined.

I will get back to you in my convalescence.

God bless you and yours
And all that’s left of goodness in this world.

My love,

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