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Aug 27, 2009

The Spirituality of Imperfection: on forgiving

Spirituality-of-imperfection-storytelling-and-the-search-for-meaning From The Spirituality of Imperfection - Storytelling and the Journey to Wholeness (Kurtz and Ketcham, 1992):

Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk was asked by a disciple how one should pray for forgiveness.  He told him to observe the behavior of a certain innkeeper before Yom Kippur.

The disciple took lodging at the inn and observed the proprietor for several days, but could see nothing relevant to his quest.

Then, on the night before Yom Kippur, he saw the innkeeper open two large ledgers. From the first book he read off a list of all the sins he had committed throughout the past year. When he was finished, he opened the second book and proceeded to recite all the bad things that had occurred to him during the past year.

 When he had finished reading both books, he lifted his eyes to heaven and said, "Dear G-d, it is true I have sinned against You. But You have done many distressful things to me too. 

"However, we are now beginning a new year. Let us wipe the slate clean. I will forgive You, and You forgive me."

"Forgiving" has been showing up on my radar with some frequency these days.  Not as much as other themes, but sure enough plenty.  I've had this wonderful book for a few years and am reading it more carefully right now in a time that (coincidentally?) is full of struggles for my extended family.

One of my closests friends holds a PhD in theology, and I've often joked that the PhD means that when she meets her maker, her list of complaints will be longer, more detailed, and better written than the lists presented by us regular folk.

The Spirituality of Imperfection suggests that God can forgive unconditionally, but that humans can't. In addition:

But forgiving is not the same thing as forgetting.  "Letting go" of the past is not some kind of erasure; forgiveness is not an attempt to obliterate the past or wipe the slate clean. "The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive, but they do not forget," commented radical psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, echoing the nineteenth-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, who phrased this core insight in another way: "To forgive and forget means to throw away dearly bought experience."

The Spirituality of Imperfection seems like an easy read at first.  But then you notice little things like the above paragraph and its seeming contradiction with the prior story about "wiping the slate clean."  In any case it's a worthy read.  I recommend it to anyone -- whether or not you have a G-d in your world.

12:14 PM in Quotables | Permalink | Comments (0)

Aug 16, 2009

Help Durham City Council with its Resolution in Support of Civil Marriage for Same Sex Couples

Time sensitive Re: Durham City Council meeting -- Monday night, 17 August, 7 p.m.

Various sources remind us to encourage the Durham City Council to adopt the resolution as planned. If you're local, please shoot a note of support to the City Council folk and/or show up at the meeting with smiles.

Meeting is at 7 p.m.  The resolution item is scheduled for shortly after the consent agenda.  See here for full agenda.

The word from Equality NC:

Council members are getting pressure from conservatives to vote against this resolution. Make sure they know where you stand by contacting them directly: 

Mayor William V. "Bill" Bell: bill.bell@durhamnc.gov 

Cora Cole-McFadden (Ward 1) cora.cole-mcfadden@durhamnc.gov 

Farad Ali (At-Large)  farad.ali@durhamnc.gov 

Eugene A. Brown (At-Large)  eugene.brown@durhamnc.gov 

Diane Catotti (At-Large) diane.catotti@durhamnc.gov 

Howard Clement, III (Ward 2) howard.clement@durhamnc.gov 

Mike Woodard (Ward 3)  mike.woodard@durhamnc.gov

My email: Dear City Council Members - - I'm delighted to hear of your Resolution in Support of Civil Marriage for Same Sex Couples. Thank you for standing with the principles of love and fairness embodied in this resolution, and for withstanding the criticism of those who do not (yet!) see the light. Sincerely, Phil Marsosudiro, Durham Business Owner

08:21 PM in Current Affairs, Destination Durham | Permalink | Comments (1)

Aug 14, 2009

Paul Farmer and Tracy Kidder. Hope and Cynicism.

Mountains beyond mountains

He turned and gazed out the window.  A large sign was affixed to an airplane hangar across the tarmac.  It read PATRIA ES HUMANIDAD.  An internationalist assertion -- the only real nation is humanity.

"I think that's so lovely," Farmer said.

"I don't know," I said. "It seems like a slogan to me."

He looked away. "I guess you're right."

I felt as thought I'd punched him.  Among a coward's weapons, cynicism is the nastiest of all.  "No, it is lovely," I muttered.  "If it's really meant."

-- Tracy Kidder, Mountains Beyond Mountains -- The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World. 2003.

A question for you: whose voice do you hear when you're reading a book?  Is it the voice of your high school English teacher, Ira Glass, Walter Cronkite?  Oprah Winfrey, Lee Smith, Sarah Vowell?  I sometimes have to push hard to get Dick Gordon out of my head.  Fortunately for this book, you can learn the voices of Kidder and Farmer right here at Cambridge Reads


Note 1: I read this book at a friend's place where I'm housesitting.  She finished med school in 2005 and this book was inscribed, "You did it! And now for a little inspiration to chang the world -- rearrange the world!"

Note 2: Cambridge Community Television is not your average community television.  

08:03 PM in Quotables | Permalink | Comments (4)