Christianity and Mammon

Poverty of Spirit

I grew up in a religion that preached “poverty of spirit.” It was a high-church Christian religion with lots of rituals, pomp, icons, and incense. As a child and an adolescent, I was told that poverty existed on a higher, more spiritual plain than wealth because, if I were poor, I would not be distracted by the material world.

I was taught, in no uncertain terms, that just as it would be impossible for a camel to thread its way through the eye of a needle, that it would be a cold day in hell before a wealthy person would ever enjoy eternal bliss. From that small kernel of a moral presumption, I learned to be suspicious of wealth and to pursue “higher,” more spiritual goals. I saw no contradiction between the poverty message and the comfortable, sometimes extravagant lives of the male messengers. Continue reading


Bliss, Honor Killing, and Turkish Cinema

Demonizing the Enemy, the Old Battle Between East and West

Those of us who are cultural-diversity followers continue to be intrigued by the global verbal battle going on between the conservatives on both sides of the “which-culture-is-superior” topic.

In the West, the Berlusconi followers continue to rant and rave about the superiority of Western Civilization. On the other hand, Islamic fundamentalists and militant jihadists believe that the infidel West is going to hell in a hand basket. Both sides have reduced their enemies to demonized objects. Continue reading


Alice Munro, “Too Much Happiness”

Too Much Happiness
Alice Munro
Alfred A. Knopf, 2009

Alice Munro is one of those rare literary icons who has the distinct reputation as a crossover writer. She is admired by academics for her literary sensibilities, the mainstream for her easy-to-identify-with characters, and fiction writers who continue to be amazed at her ability to construct a strong story out of what Hollywood would consider to be the uneventful and ordinary—an impossible judgment to be made after reading “Free Radicals” and “Dimensions” in Munro’s latest collection, Too Much Happiness. Continue reading


Tea Party Patriots, Part II

In my last blog essay, I attempted to unravel the many complaints of the Tea Party followers. Three issues, however, seem to stick in the craw of those who believe in their heart of hearts that America is on the road to self-destruction: (1) The continuing loss of freedom because of big government and what appears to the Tea Party followers as a move towards socialism, the inevitable political paradigm that will only exacerbate that continuing loss of freedom (2) The desire to return to a golden age of a true America (3) The end of Patriotism in America Continue reading


Tea-Party Patriots (Part I)

Patriotic fervor takes many roads these days. Now there is a new highway entrance for the disgruntled and the angry in America. They are the new-and-allegedly-improved original tea-party patriots of America’s legendary Boston Tea Party.

If there is a bonding message among the Tea Party followers, it is simply that they are not being heard by their politicians.

And their messages are seamless streams of rage that have become the sound-bites of this new generation of discontented: “it’s up to the people to take back the government”; “we rule the government”; “people are fed up with the government that won’t listen to them anymore”; “government crap”; “I just want my government back”; “people should keep as much of their own taxes as possible”; “government should stay out of the car and banking business”; “pull the plug on Wall Street”; “screaming at my tv”; “I had to do something out of frustration”; “they don’t have a clue.” Continue reading


Teenager’s First Date

Showing up on time
Is the easy part.

The dashboard of
His rented car
Free of dust,
Vacuumed carpets
And a lemon smelling
Tag dangling from
The rear view mirror.

One more look
In the sun-visor
Mirror, an angled glance
At the straggly sideburns.

Fly firmly zipped.

Spitting on his closed
Index fingers,
He drags them along
The creases of
His black pants.

He pulls out a hanky
To hoe-shine the tips
Of his eager shoes.

Gently tugging
The bottom of his red tie,
He firmly wrestles
With the knot
To shield the
Top button from
Strangers looking
For flaws.

He opens his sport coat,
Tilting his nose
Into the dark corners
Of both arm pits.

He turns off the
Impatient ignition,
Opens the door,
And looks up at
The scoop of a moon
Glancing down at
The familiar.



I grew up in a religion in which confession was a weekly ritual. As I child, I remember standing in line outside the confessional waiting anxiously for my turn to go into a dark private room and begin with the words, “bless me father, for I have sinned.” Then I would recite my litany of sins, both venial (minor-league stuff) and mortal (big time, major-league material that could land you in Hell for all eternity).

For an eight-year-old, mortal sins were deliciously angst-ridden. I remember agonizing over these epic sins that went beyond the vague, clumsy and occasional “impure thoughts” into the realm of a touch or two, or those times when I would just linger in the corridors of fantasy (I was the youngest of four boys and the inevitable “girly” magazines would end up under somebody’s mattress).

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Health Insurance, a Crapshoot

Nothing in life is certain, as the saying goes, except death and taxes. We live in a world of profound arbitrariness. No one has any control of where they’re going to be born, what kind of parents they’re going to have, and what economic and social status they’re going to born into. We don’t come into our lives with a warranty even if our parents are wealthy and live in the Hamptons. Life, in general, has an arbitrariness that few teleologists are comfortable with.

When it comes to Health Insurance in America, the crapshoot world of arbitrariness becomes even more transparent. If you just happen to be employed by an employer who pays 60% of your premiums, you’re one of the chosen. If your employer pays the deductible, then you’re one among the few. If you just happen to have a health-insurance policy that has dental, you are definitely in a minority, unless you’re willing and can afford to add dental to your basic coverage. And if you can afford a gold-plated policy with all of the medical amenities,including face-lifts, then you are, indeed, among the rich-and-famous.

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Health Insurance and the Profit Motive

(The next two blog entries I will be posting consist of a two-part series about the American Health Insurance crisis. In the first essay, I discuss the Health Care industry in the U.S. as a profit-driven corporation. In the second essay, I will be looking at privatized Health Insurance as a crap-shoot)

Before I begin this attempt at getting my mind around the issue of Health Care in America, let me preface my remarks by thanking Ann from Baltimore who has promised to intervene on my twitter messages when I become too obsessed and frantic about the state of private Health Insurance in America.

To those who have not heard of Ann from @annq, check her twitter venue out. She’s my steady force of calmness in the sometimes frenetic world of cyberspace. Love you, my dear.

Now, Let’s play ball.

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Before I started to write an essay on surrender, I went to my twitter page and tried to send another one of my many “What are you doing” twitter messages. Up popped a mysteriously serious black-and-white message, “HTTP Server Error 503.” I was back in Kafka land, the world of high-tech jargon, a cosmos that leaves old-timers like me speechless and cantankerous.

By doing some google research, I found out that my provider (whatever that means) is allegedly “working on the problem,” but that I should expect a delay. Given the fact that I have no clue about providers, I was forced to surrender to the land of technological obscurity (And, by the way, I’m from New England: I’m a guy who doesn’t like to be “beholdin’,” especially to some invisible “provider”).

After experiencing this mixed curse of temporary high-tech impotence, I felt gently nudged to start writing my essay for a twitter-friend in Vancouver. So here I am, my initial procrastination morphing into foxhole surrender.

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