Archive for March, 2006

Jesuits, Guatemala, Art, and Controversy

March 21, 2006

So here I am in Guatemala, soaking up the sun and enjoying the capital city. Yesterday, we visited La Universidad Rafael Landívar and had the opportunity to meet the Jesuit artist Dennis Leder, an American who has lived in Central America for the past 20 years. We spent some time in his studio, and really enjoyed seeing his metal sculptures (check out what he has to say about this one) – particularly inspired by Frank Gehry’s architectural style. His drawings and designs in bright colors and enlightening patterns were a play on de Kooning and really impressive.

All this rekindled my love of abstract art – each piece is so stimulating, making one engage deeply to find meaning, and not necessarily only the meaning intended by the artist. Each work of art is unlocked by the viewer as a window into the piece’s intrinsic meaning, as well as into the artist’s own conscious and subconscious self.

I continue to be amazed at the Jesuits that I meet around the world. They all exude self-confidence, faith, openness, justice, and optimism. I always learn so much from each conversation…

In fact, in the news and in conversations lately, I keep hearing about the Jesuit school Le Moyne College, whose Center for Peace and Global Studies recently conducted a poll of U.S. troops in Iraq that showed exactly how badly they feel things are going there. The center has been skewered by Rush Limbaugh (sorry, folks – I’m not going to get a LogIn just for this…) and Bill O’Reilly, which surely means they’re doing something right. Check out what Nick Kristof had to say about the poll and how we can best honor and support our troops.

And note the last comment on this right-wing blog – Le Moyne is clearly within the anti-war tradition of the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, the Church has too often been co-opted by the conservative religious right on issues like abortion and gay marriage, while setting aside powerful Catholic tenets of peace and social justice.

UPDATE:  Check out an interesting debate on global studies programs in light of the Le Moyne controversy here.  I think all academic programs and polls are inherently political, so it´s interesting to me that the commentors are so aghast at the supposedly partisan bias of the Iraq poll.  Whether or not the poll is valid, we all need to examine our country´s foreign policy in Iraq and pay attention to what the troops themselves are saying.

Interfaith leaders against immigration legislation

March 16, 2006

Just wanted to give a shout-out to the local Bay area interfaith community.  Clergy of all stripes took a stand at Santa Clara University yesterday to protest proposed federal legislation that would make it a crime to “harbor” undocumented immigrants – including “criminal behavior” like babysitting an undocumented child, feeding or sheltering an undocumented family, or teaching an undocumented worker to speak English.

I’ve been watching this story for the past few weeks and have been profoundly disturbed by the nativist rhetoric that is pervading California and national politics around immigration reform.  Some of you may have read about Cardinal Mahony’s courageous stand in Los Angeles in the NY Times or at Street Prophets

I was glad to see the movement against this legislation spread beyond the Catholic Church here in the Bay Area to include leaders of all faiths, including Buddhist monk Thich Giac Luong, Lutheran minister Carol Been, and many others.  No matter what your faith, please call or e-mail your senators and encourage them to denounce this legislation, which is devoid of all compassion and lacking in the so-called “values” promoted by the religious right-wing extreme.

Tragedy in Varanasi

March 8, 2006

Varanasi is simply my favorite place on earth. 

The magic of standing on the banks of the Ganges River late at night… being pressed in on by hundreds and thousands of pilgrims, each bringing a small oil lamp down to the holy river…  the noise and crowds and the chill in the night air… the constellation of tiny blinking lights up and down the river… the smoke and smells of fried snacks at the stalls up and down the avenues leading to the ghats… the narrow, oppressive alleyways leading to the Vishwanath Temple, lined with sari stalls and impromptu Ganesha shrines… the friendly people always ready with a cup of chai and directions through the maze of webbed streets…

The thought of my favorite city being tainted once again by today’s violence and tragedy simply hurts my heart… 
And I can’t help but connect today’s bombing to Bush’s visit to South Asia this past week.  An excellent NY Times editorial today points out that this administration’s disastrous foreign policy threatens all of us Americans here at home, as well as citizens of peace-loving countries around the world.  By driving the wedge further between India and Pakistan through dangerous and arbitrary nuclear policies, Bush and Co. continue to foment violence, religious fundamentalism, and anti-Americanism at a level not seen before in India and other countries around the world. 

Going back to my Sanskrit days at Bard College, I thought it appropriate to end with the first few verses of this gorgeous poem in praise of Varanasi, also known as “Kashi,” the Kashipanchakam by Shankara:

The mind, brought to rest in the supreme peace, is
Manikarnika – the best of pilgrimage places.  The river of
knowledge is the pure, primordial Ganga.  I am that Kashi,
the form of one’s own consciousness.

In the place where illusion is created, where the mind
beautifully shines forth all creation is the form of the
supreme self, which is the sole happiness, existence, and
thought.  I am that Kashi, the form of one’s own
consciousness.

The goddess wisdom shines in the five sheaths of each
body and habitation.  The inner self is Shiva, the
omnipresent witness.  I am that Kashi, the form of one’s own
consciousness.

In Kashi indeed shines Kashi, the luminous one which is the
light of all.  By whom Kashi is known, by that one is the true
Kashi attained.

LOVED the Oscars!

March 6, 2006

LOVED the Academy Awards last night!  LOVED Jon Stewart!  LOVED Three 6 Mafia!  LOVED Crash!

Did you realize that the woman who wrote and sang the song from Crash was Congresswoman Andrea Wyatt from West Wing (Toby’s ex-wife)?  We were all thinking, “God, she looks familiar…”  And Danny from my other favorite show, “Related,” was nominated for best adapted screenplay – who knew???

As far as dresses go, I thought Jennifer Aniston’s was classic-gorgeous, and Salma Hayek looked amazing.  Ludacris won best-dressed male in my book.  Worst dress – Charlize Theron.

Jon was definitely a little tense through the beginning, but got funnier as he loosened up. Those fake Swift-Boat ads were hilarious – great to see the whole Daily Show crew get in on the action. 

Bringing it back to what this blog’s all about – I thought George Clooney’s acceptance speech was where it’s at.  It’s fine for Hollywood and its fans to be “out of touch,” if that means that we’re not a part of the Bush administration’s ridiculous incompetence, cover-ups, and corruption.  The slate of best picture nominees shows that Hollywood and discerning movie audiences are not afraid to stand up and address some of the major social concerns of our day.  I recommend that all of us watch (or re-watch) “Crash” in honor of last night…

Hindu Priests Purify Site After Bush Visit

March 5, 2006

Check this out. Because Bush’s security team used dogs to see if there were bombs at Gandhi’s samadhi in Delhi, Hindu priests purified the site after Bush left. I don’t quite know why I find this so funny, but I do.

Mea Culpa: When I first went to India, my friend Laksh and his sister took me and some of our friends to Gandhi’s samadhi. I tryed showing off my knowledge of Asian history (it’s what I studied in college) and general contrarian nature by talking about some of Gandhi’s personal and philosophical shortcomings. Laksh’s sister is very religious, and probably didn’t appreciate my conversation, and I deeply regret my actions. We all live and learn, I guess. When I am abroad I sometimes feel like I am the face of America/Judaism/Texas. I try to act in a positive way in part because I’m just nice and in part because I want to disprove stereotypes, especially negative ones. I don’t always succeed.

veiled4allah really makes me think

March 5, 2006

While kicking around the internet tonight I found a great blog called veiled4allah.  I meant to spend two minutes there reading whatever it was that was linked to by some other site, but I ended up spending quite a while there reading everything.  Very thoughtful, intelligent and interesting perspective from a Muslim woman that I rarely (if ever) get from the mainstream media.

The Democratic Party

March 3, 2006

Archana, in response to your previous post about the Peninsula Young Democrats.  The Onion sums up what I think of the state of the Democratic Party.  And for all who are interested, I think it’s pretty clear where I fall in the political specturm.

Whoops! Not ‘Bout Time.

March 2, 2006

As per the previous post, it looks like the whole thing has been retracted.  I, like Rev. Falwell, am baffled as to why The Jerusalem Post would make this up.  It was pretty hilarious though.

‘Bout Time

March 2, 2006

Sweet.  I’ve always thought that Jerry Falwell was a thoughtful man, I’m glad he thinks I’m going to heaven.