Bob Schwartz

Rep. Steve King of Iowa: I don’t want Somali Muslims working in Iowa meat-packing plants because they want consumers of pork to be sent to hell. (Or something like that.)

“I don’t want people doing my pork that won’t eat it, let alone hope I go to hell for eating pork chops.”
Rep. Steve King

Can America go for one minute—let alone one hour or day—without some hateful and ignorant politician saying something hateful and ignorant?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: You have to read this story carefully to follow the intertwined threads of hate and ignorance. Steve King thinks he is an expert on pork (which he no doubt is) and on Muslim theology (which he profoundly is not). He is probably profoundly ignorant about Christian and Jewish theology too. For Christian education he should turn to his pastor. For Jewish theology, he should turn to “the lead Jew in Congress”—whoever that is.


Politico:

Steve King singles out Somali Muslims over pork

The Iowa congressman says they shouldn’t work in his district’s meat-packing plants because they won’t eat pig products.

By KYLE CHENEY

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said Friday that he doesn’t want Somali Muslims working at meat-packing plants in his district because they want consumers of pork to be sent to hell.

In a Breitbart News radio interview, the eighth-term congressman known for his inflammatory anti-immigrant rhetoric, said his views were informed by a conversation with Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who he called “the lead Muslim in Congress.”

King said Ellison informed him that Muslims would require “a special dispensation” from an imam in order to be able to handle pork in one of his district’s meat-packing plants. “The rationale is that if infidels are eating this pork, [the Muslims] are not eating it,” King said. “So as long as they’re preparing this pork for infidels, it helps send them to hell and it must make Allah happy.”

“I don’t want people doing my pork that won’t eat it, let alone hope I go to hell for eating pork chops,” he concluded.

Ellison’s office declined to comment on King’s interpretation of his remarks.

King said he approached Ellison about the issue because meat-packing plants in his district had informed him that they hoped to hire Somalis to work in their facilities. “And I say, ‘well, Somali Muslims, will they cut pork?'” King recalled of his conversation with the plant leaders. “They looked at each other and said, ‘We don’t’ know.'”

King has drawn attention for his frequent flirtation with fringe, racist political elements. Earlier this week, he retweeted a known British white supremacist’s warning about immigration.

King’s commentary on pork consumption and Islam doesn’t stop at his district’s edge. Last week he slammed Sweden, which he said “capitulated to Halal” when the organizers of an international soccer tournament there decided against serving pork to accommodate a large number of Muslim players.

“I draw the line here and, if need be, will fight for freedom of choice — in our diets,” he tweeted. “Iowa’s 4th Congressional District is the #1 Pork district in America. No takin’ bacon off our tables.”

Advertisements

Chaim Rumkowski, Hannah Arendt and the Banality of Evil

Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, Jewish council chairman in Lodz ghetto, seen here speaking amongst Jewish ghetto policemen. Lodz, Poland, ca. 1942.

 

It [evil] possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension. It can overgrow and lay waste the whole world precisely because it spreads like a fungus on the surface.
Hannah Arendt

Citizens and respected leaders alike, in disgust and frustration, are heard comparing Trump policies and enablers to fascism and Nazis. This is treated by many, even those sympathetic to this disgust and frustration, as understandable but unhelpful and far too extreme.

In some ways, though, this is not entirely unhelpful. Theorize and moralize all we want, at some point we must look to concrete lessons from history for context and insight. Just because those examples seem so far outside an American context doesn’t mean that something can’t be learned.

Chaim Rumkowski:

During World War II, the Germans established Jewish councils, usually called Judenraete. These Jewish municipal administrations were required to ensure that Nazi orders and regulations were implemented. Jewish council members also sought to provide basic community services for ghettoized Jewish populations.

Forced to implement Nazi policy, the Jewish councils remain a controversial and delicate subject. Jewish council chairmen had to decide whether to comply or refuse to comply with German demands to, for example, list names of Jews for deportation. In Lvov, Joseph Parnes refused to hand over Jews for deportation to the Janowska forced-labor camp and was killed by the Nazis for his refusal. In Warsaw, rather than aid in the roundup of Jews, Jewish council chairman Adam Czerniakow committed suicide on July 22, 1942, the day deportations began.

Other Jewish council officials advocated compliance, believing that cooperation would ensure the survival of at least a portion of the population. In Lodz, Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, who tried in vain to persuade the Nazis to reduce the number of Jewish deportees, urged ghetto residents to report for deportation as ordered. Rumkowski also adopted a policy of “rescue through labor,” believing that if the Germans could exploit Jewish labor, deportation might be averted….

On German orders Rumkowski delivered a speech on September 4, 1942 pleading with the Jews in the ghetto to give up children 10 years of age and younger, as well as the elderly over 65, so that others might survive. “Horrible, terrifying wailing among the assembled crowd” could be heard, reads the transcriber’s note to his parlance often referred to as: “Give Me Your Children”. Some commentators see this speech as exemplifying aspects of the Holocaust:

“A grievous blow has struck the ghetto. They [the Germans] are asking us to give up the best we possess – the children and the elderly. I was unworthy of having a child of my own, so I gave the best years of my life to children. I’ve lived and breathed with children. I never imagined I would be forced to deliver this sacrifice to the altar with my own hands. In my old age, I must stretch out my hands and beg: Brothers and sisters! Hand them over to me! Fathers and mothers: Give me your children!”

— Chaim Rumkowski, September 4, 1942 [27]

Hannah Arendt:

Born in Germany in 1906, philosopher Hannah Arendt gained much attention for her writings on totalitarianism and Jewish affairs after World War II. Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism (1951) addressed the rise of the totalitarian state out of the collapse of traditional nation-states. Following the war crimes trial of Adolph Eichmann, she wrote Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963). She died in New York City in 1975….

Arendt completed her Ph.D. at the University of Heidelberg in 1928, after writing her doctoral thesis on Saint Augustine under the direction of Karl Jaspers. The following year, she married Gunther Stern. With the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany, Arendt soon found herself in trouble for gathering evidence of the regime’s anti-Semitism.

In 1933, Arendt fled her native Germany for the relative safety of Paris, France. There, she worked for Youth Aliyah, an organization that helped rescue Jewish children from Eastern Europe. In 1940, Arendt married her second husband, Heinrich Blücher. Their wedded bliss was short-lived, however: The pair was soon interned at a concentration camp in Gurs, France. After managing to escape, the couple made their way to the United States in 1941….

In 1961, Arendt covered the trial of infamous Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, held in Jerusalem, for The New Yorker magazine. Her writings on the trial were later published as Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963), and she was criticized for some of the views she expressed in the work. Among these views, Arendt posited that Eichmann was more of an ambitious bureaucrat than a figure of extreme evil.

The Banality of Evil

Arendt’s coining of the term “banality of evil” and what some perceived to be her blaming the Jews for their own victimhood remain hotly controversial. Some think that seemingly characterizing the sort of evil perpetrated by Eichmann and other bureaucrats as banal and ordinary is dangerous and mistaken; if anything, they say, it should be forever described as radical and extraordinary.

Arendt on Eichmann:

What he [Eichmann] said was always the same, expressed in the same words. The longer one listened to him, the more obvious it became that his inability to speak was closely connected with an inability to think, namely, to think from the standpoint of somebody else. No communication was possible with him, not because he lied but because he was surrounded by the most reliable of all safeguards against the words and the presence of others, and hence against reality as such.

Arendt on the banality of evil:

It is indeed my opinion now that evil is never “radical,” that it is only extreme, and that it possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension. It can overgrow and lay waste the whole world precisely because it spreads like a fungus on the surface. It is “thought-defying,” as I said, because thought tries to reach some depth, to go to the roots, and the moment it concerns itself with evil, it is frustrated because there is nothing. That is its “banality.” Only the good has depth that can be radical.

DSM-5: Antisocial Personality Disorder (Sociopathy)

Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure.
Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead.
Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

Individuals with antisocial personality disorder frequently lack empathy and tend to be callous, cynical, and contemptuous of the feelings, rights, and sufferings of others.

These individuals may also be irresponsible and exploitative in their sexual relationships. They may have a history of many sexual partners and may never have sustained a monogamous relationship.

This post about Antisocial Personality Disorder (Sociopathy) is a sequel to one of my most popular posts, published more than a year ago: DSM-5: Antagonism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is the “bible” of the mental health profession—“a classification of mental disorders with associated criteria designed to facilitate more reliable diagnoses of these disorders.” It is worth repeating here that mental health diagnosis should ultimately be left to trained clinicians. Nevertheless, intelligent non-professionals may gain important insights by reviewing the literature about significant personality disorders.


Antisocial Personality Disorder

Diagnostic Criteria

A pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others, occurring since age 15 years, as indicated by three (or more) of the following:

  1. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors, as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest.
  2. Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure.
  3. Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead.
  4. Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults.
  5. Reckless disregard for safety of self or others.
  6. Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations.
  7. Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

Diagnostic Features

The essential feature of antisocial personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood. This pattern has also been referred to as psychopathy, sociopathy, or dyssocial personality disorder. Because deceit and manipulation are central features of antisocial personality disorder, it may be especially helpful to integrate information acquired from systematic clinical assessment with information collected from collateral sources.

Individuals with antisocial personality disorder fail to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behavior. They may repeatedly perform acts that are grounds for arrest (whether they are arrested or not), such as destroying property, harassing others, stealing, or pursuing illegal occupations. Persons with this disorder disregard the wishes, rights, or feelings of others. They are frequently deceitful and manipulative in order to gain personal profit or pleasure (e.g., to obtain money, sex, or power). They may repeatedly lie, use an alias, con others, or malinger. A pattern of impulsivity may be manifested by a failure to plan ahead. Decisions are made on the spur of the moment, without forethought and without consideration for the consequences to self or others; this may lead to sudden changes of jobs, residences, or relationships.

Financial irresponsibility is indicated by acts such as defaulting on debts, failing to provide child support, or failing to support other dependents on a regular basis. Individuals with antisocial personality disorder show little remorse for the consequences of their acts. They may be indifferent to, or provide a superficial rationalization for, having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from someone (e.g., ‘Tife’s unfair,” “losers deserve to lose”). These individuals may blame the victims for being foolish, helpless, or deserving their fate (e.g., “he had it coming anyway”); they may minimize the harmful consequences of their actions; or they may simply indicate complete indifference. They generally fail to compensate or make amends for their behavior. They may believe that everyone is out to “help number one” and that one should stop at nothing to avoid being pushed around.

Associated Features Supporting Diagnosis

Individuals with antisocial personality disorder frequently lack empathy and tend to be callous, cynical, and contemptuous of the feelings, rights, and sufferings of others. They may have an inflated and arrogant self-appraisal (e.g., feel that ordinary work is beneath them or lack a realistic concern about their current problems or their future) and may be excessively opinionated, self-assured, or cocky. They may display a glib, superficial charm and can be quite voluble and verbally facile (e.g., using technical terms or jargon that might impress someone who is unfamiliar with the topic).

These individuals may also be irresponsible and exploitative in their sexual relationships. They may have a history of many sexual partners and may never have sustained a monogamous relationship.

The Infestation

Democrats are the problem. They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13. They can’t win on their terrible policies, so they view them as potential voters!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 19, 2018

 

Note: The image above, and many of the recent photos you have seen in the news, are by John Moore, a staff special correspondent for Getty Images. Moore has covered many global events and crises, and since 2010 has also focused on immigration issues throughout the United States. He has won many awards, including a Pulitzer Prize, and will win more for his coverage of this American humanitarian crisis. His work is a reminder, in a time of infinite content, of the power of an artist and photojournalist to tell a story with just one image.

 

 

It took thousands of years to curb our natural tendencies toward cruelty. It is coming undone in a matter of weeks.

If you read the Old Testament, which represents life and belief three thousand years or so years ago, you find examples of cruel behavior—even among the faithful. By two thousand years ago, there is increased emphasis on the universal application of mercy, compassion, forgiveness. The historic results are mixed, but there was movement in the right direction. That trajectory continued, with notable interruption and backsliding, until we reached the modern era of enlightened civilization. With all our imperfections—in thought and action—we were going to try harder than ever to be better, and specifically less cruel, in spite of whatever tendencies we have.

We are not the first country to watch as cruelty becomes an official practice. We are not the only country like that in the world right now. But this point has to be made a thousand, a thousand thousand times:

We are all complicit. Whether you use belief and ideology to defend the indefensible practice or attack it, we are all complicit. Whether you sleep the sleep of the ignorant and heartless or toss and turn all night, we are all complicit. If you are a Jew, a Christian, a Muslim, an other or a none, we are all complicit.

Abraham Joshua Heschel:

Morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.

For more about the photo above, taken at the border on June 12, see The image of a migrant child that broke a photographer’s heart.

 

To My Brothers and Sisters in the Law: Remember Professional Ethics in the Face of Tyranny

Some of my readers may be lawyers; certainly some colleagues, friends or members of their families are, so please pass this on if you would like. Many people involved in current immoral and unethical polices such as the forced separation of migrant children are also lawyers.

This is a brief chapter from On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (2017). Note that the Kindle edition of this essential book is only $3.99. It is the best and most conscientious $3.99 you can spend right now.


5. Remember Professional Ethics (emphases added)

When political leaders set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become more important. It is hard to subvert a rule-of-law state without lawyers, or to hold show trials without judges. Authoritarians need obedient civil servants, and concentration camp directors seek businessmen interested in cheap labor.

Before the Second World War, a man named Hans Frank was Hitler’s personal lawyer. After Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Frank became the governor-general of occupied Poland, a German colony where millions of Jews and other Polish citizens were murdered. He once boasted that there were not enough trees to make the paper for posters that would be needed to announce all of the executions. Frank claimed that law was meant to serve the race, and so what seemed good for the race was therefore the law. With arguments like this, German lawyers could convince themselves that laws and rules were there to serve their projects of conquest and destruction, rather than to hinder them.

The man Hitler chose to oversee the annexation of Austria, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, was a lawyer who later ran the occupation of the Netherlands. Lawyers were vastly overrepresented among the commanders of the Einsatzgruppen, the special task forces who carried out the mass murder of Jews, Gypsies, Polish elites, communists, the handicapped, and others. German (and other) physicians took part in ghastly medical experiments in the concentration camps. Businessmen from I.G. Farben and other German firms exploited the labor of concentration camp inmates, Jews in ghettos, and prisoners of war. Civil servants, from ministers down to secretaries, oversaw and recorded it all.

If lawyers had followed the norm of no execution without trial, if doctors had accepted the rule of no surgery without consent, if businessmen had endorsed the prohibition of slavery, if bureaucrats had refused to handle paperwork involving murder, then the Nazi regime would have been much harder pressed to carry out the atrocities by which we remember it.

Professions can create forms of ethical conversation that are impossible between a lonely individual and a distant government. If members of professions think of themselves as groups with common interests, with norms and rules that oblige them at all times, then they can gain confidence and indeed a certain kind of power. Professional ethics must guide us precisely when we are told that the situation is exceptional. Then there is no such thing as “just following orders.” If members of the professions confuse their specific ethics with the emotions of the moment, however, they can find themselves saying and doing things that they might previously have thought unimaginable.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Cost of Faith

“The great masquerade of evil has played havoc with all our ethical concepts. For evil to appear disguised as light, charity, historical necessity or social justice is quite bewildering to anyone brought up on our traditional ethical concepts, while for the Christian who bases his life on the Bible, it merely confirms the fundamental wickedness of evil.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was the most famous German pastoral and theological opponent of Hitler and the Third Reich. The Christian church had been coopted by the Nazis, a development that Bonhoeffer was called and compelled to oppose—not just in his preaching and prayer, but in action. This cost him his life:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and theologian known for his opposition to National Socialism. His ties to the July 20, 1944, conspiracy to overthrow the Nazi regime led to his execution in 1945. His theological writings are regarded as classics throughout the Christian world….

Born in Breslau on February 4, 1906, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was the sixth child of Karl and Paula Bonhoeffer. After completing his theological studies, he served a German-speaking congregation in Barcelona, Spain, from 1928–1930. He studied at Union Theological Seminary in New York from 1930–1931. During that time he attended Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem and became deeply interested in the issue of racial injustice. He also became active in the Protestant ecumenical movement, making international contacts that after 1933 would prove crucial for the Confessing Church and for his time in the German resistance.

With Hitler’s ascent to power, Bonhoeffer’s church—the German Evangelical Church—entered the most difficult phase in its history. Strongly influenced by nationalism and unsettled by the chaos of the Weimar years, many Protestant leaders and church members welcomed the rise of Nazism.

In 1933, a group called the German Christians (Deutsche Christen) began to promote the nazification of German Protestantism through the creation of a pro-Nazi “Reich Church.” The German Christians wanted Protestantism to conform to Nazi ideology, and they pushed for the implementation of the state “Aryan laws” within the churches. The German Christians claimed that Jews, as a “separate race,” could not become members of an “Aryan” German Church through baptism.

Despite widespread antisemitism and enthusiasm for Nazism, most church leaders initially opposed the Aryan paragraph because it contradicted traditional teachings about baptism and ordination. Bonhoeffer argued that its ratification surrendered Christian precepts to political ideology. If “non-Aryans” were banned from the ministry, he argued, their colleagues should resign in solidarity and establish a new “confessing” church that would remain free from Nazi influence. The ideological and theological extremism of the German Christians provoked a backlash among more moderate Protestants, leading to the formation of the Confessing Church in May 1934…..

Bonhoeffer began to train young clergy at an illegal Confessing Church seminary, Finkenwalde, which was closed by the Gestapo in September 1937. Bonhoeffer spent the next two years secretly travelling throughout eastern Germany to supervise his students, most of whom were working illegally in small parishes. The Gestapo banned him from Berlin in January 1938 and issued an order forbidding him from public speaking in September 1940….

The first deportations of Berlin Jews to the east occurred on October 15, 1941. A few days later, Bonhoeffer and Friedrich Perels, a Confessing Church lawyer, wrote a memo giving details of the deportations. The memo was sent to foreign contacts as well as trusted German military officials, in the hope that it might move them to action. Bonhoeffer also became peripherally involved in “Operation Seven,” a plan to get Jews out of Germany by giving them papers as foreign agents. After the Gestapo uncovered the “Operation Seven” funds that had been sent abroad for the emigrants, Bonhoeffer and his brother-in-law Hans von Dohnanyi were arrested in April 1943.

Bonhoeffer was initially charged with conspiring to rescue Jews, using his foreign travels for non-intelligence matters, and misusing his intelligence position to help Confessing Church pastors evade military service. After the failed July 20, 1944, coup attempt, his connections to the broader resistance circles were uncovered and he was moved to the Gestapo prison in Berlin. In February 1945, he was taken to Buchenwald and in April moved to the Flossenbürg concentration camp. On April 9, 1945, he was hanged with other conspirators.

In his best-known work, The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer writes about the difference between cheap and costly grace:

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

We are thankful that a number of American religious leaders have finally risen up to speak out against only the latest indecency perpetrated by Trump. But we must remind them that sometimes, in the face of overwhelming evil, a little is not enough. Whatever their particular tradition or theology, they should understand the difference between cheap and costly faith. And between words and actions.

Who damaged him?: “Trump cites as a negotiating tool his policy of separating immigrant children from their parents.”

It is the kind of question we usually ask about serial killers and genocidal dictators, not about the President of the United States: who damaged Trump so tragically? Was it his parents? Satan? Or did he invent himself in the form of a toxic monster? (My thought, which may be suggested in a future post, is that Trump may be the Antichrist. But that’s for later.)

Washington Post:

President Trump has calculated that he will gain political leverage in congressional negotiations by continuing to enforce a policy he claims to hate — separating immigrant parents from their young children at the southern border, according to White House officials.

On Friday, Trump suggested he would not change the policy unless Democrats agreed to his other immigration demands, which include funding a border wall, tightening the rules for border enforcement and curbing legal entry. He also is intent on pushing members of his party to vote for a compromise measure that would achieve those long-standing priorities.

Trump’s public acknowledgment that he was willing to let the policy continue as he pursued his political goals came as the president once again blamed Democrats for a policy enacted and touted by his own administration.

The real tragedy is not that Trump is trying to reshape America as his personal hell on earth, for his purposes. The tragedy is how many Americans, including so many Republican leaders and people of supposed faith, are willing to join him in that effort and cheer him on.

As with all monsters, political and criminal, the question is not really how they became the monsters they are. The question is what, if anything, we do about it.

“Competitive About Your Meditation? Relax, Everyone Else is Too.”

Missing the way by a hairbreadth
is the gap between heaven and earth.
Xinxin Ming (Verses on the Faith Mind), Jianzhi Sengcan (d. 606)

When I saw the following in The Wall Street Journal, I was dumbfounded.

Competitive About Your Meditation? Relax, Everyone Else is Too
As hard-chargers descend on the ancient practice, they are tweaking the quest for inner peace
By Ellen Gamerman

Alan Stein Jr. is on his 324th straight day meditating—a streak he is tending with the mindfulness of a monk.

The 42-year-old performance coach from Gaithersburg, Md., has kept his record using the Headspace app, despite early-morning flights and travel across time zones. On a recent work trip to Atlanta, he remembered to meditate only just after the clock struck midnight. Worried he’d blown his record, he closed his eyes and quickly tried to meditate on the hotel bed for 10 minutes.

“The whole time I’m just waiting for the 10 minutes to be over to see if my streak was alive,” he said. …

Desperate to maintain streaks that can surpass 1,000 days, some driven spiritual voyagers have started looking for new ways to protect their records. On Headspace, the app counts any session completed in an eight-hour period as its own day. Pointing this out, a user on Facebook suggested logging three days in one by meditating at 4 a.m., 2 p.m. and 11 p.m.

On Mindful Makers, a private online group of roughly 250 meditators, members can check the streak rankings daily. Robin Koppensteiner was in second place with 71 days at the start of this week. Members are trusted to report their own meditation updates.

“I have to admit I check every day to see if I’m still in number two or if I’ve gone up to number one,” said the 29-year-old author from Vienna, Austria.

As astonishing as this seems, it should not be surprising.

Every tradition that includes meditation as a practice warns practitioners of objectifying the practice itself, rather than experiencing the practice only for what it is within a bigger context. This is a danger inherent in all religious and spiritual traditions, where specific practices seem to overtake the bigger point. As the Zen saying goes, it is confusing the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself.

Chogyam Trungpa called this spiritual materialism, which is a central idea in his classic Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism: “The problem is that ego can convert anything to its own use, even spirituality.”

Now in the case of many of these meditators, they are pursuing calm, relaxation or peace of mind, rather than following any particular way, Buddhist or otherwise. Which is fine. But the advantage of practicing within a bigger context is that you are regularly reminded and discover for yourself that things like “meditation streaks” are kind of ridiculous and kind of misleading. In fact, the meditation session you miss might be the very session the brings you the calm, relaxation and peace of mind you are seeking. If you are a “competitive meditator” that will mean nothing to you. If you are, for example, a Zen practitioner, it makes perfect sense.

For meditators worried about breaking their streak and losing the meditation competition, this from Suzuki Roshi:

One of my students wrote to me saying, “You sent me a calendar, and I am trying to follow the good mottoes which appear on each page. But the year has hardly begun, and already I have failed!” Dogen-zenji said, “Shoshaku jushaku.” Shaku generally means “mistake” or “wrong.” Shoshaku jushaku means “to succeed wrong with wrong,” or one continuous mistake. According to Dogen, one continuous mistake can also be Zen. A Zen master’s life could be said to be so many years of shoshaku jushaku. This means so many years of one single-minded effort.

 

The Very Small People Running America

The people running America are very small, starting with the president, and continuing down through his administration and his Republican supporters.

What does small mean?

Let us put it in terms these people will understand, since practically all of them claim to be faithful, most of them faithful Christians:

So God created mankind in his own image.
Genesis 1:27

That is, of course, aspirational. Not that people will be able to reach godlike heights of compassion and care. But that is the constant goal—interrupted by the shortfalls we are all subject to, being human as we are.

But maybe we’ve got it all wrong. Maybe God is petty and ignorant, uncaring and uncompassionate. In which case, those running America are being faithful, acting so small in the image of a very small God.

Or maybe they don’t understand the very first chapter of the Bible they embrace, or maybe they ignore it or skip it. Maybe they don’t understand, ignore or skip the entire Bible.

Anyway, these are very small people, faithful or just pretending to be. Way too small to be doing such a big job.