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Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music by Alex Ross review – The Guardian

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Wagner gave his name to a movement that is also a contagious malaise and in surveying a Wagnerised world Alex Ross looks far beyond the composers musical legacy. True, the pining dissonance at the start of Tristan und Isolde disrupted tonality for ever, but Wagners sonic sorcery has cast an equally decisive spell on those Ross calls the artists of silence novelists, poets, and painters, as well as on some noisy and unmelodious politicians. The harmonies of Orpheus supposedly soothed emotional distress and kept the cosmos in tune. Wagner achieved the opposite: his operas unsettled the sanity of his disciple Friedrich Nietzsche and later provided the besotted Hitler with a preview of fiery apocalypse.

For more than a century, this music has been a drug or even a poison, a cult with members who are sometimes fanatics, not fans, goaded to overcome humane qualms as they surrender to a Dionysian excitement. Ross likens the overwrought emotional state of the typical Wagner devotees to the Greek agon, a state of conflict or self-contradiction. Casualties abound. Nietzsche, the first of the books antagonists, vaguely blamed Wagner for his headaches, eye strain and vomiting attacks; the poet Stphane Mallarm said that Wagner disgusted but irresistibly enslaved him. The tenor who sang Tristan at the operas premiere dropped dead soon afterwards, then with the intercession of a medium informed his widow, the first Isolde, that the mental strain of the music had done him in.

Mostly, the combat takes the form of cultural contestation, as reverence for the holy German art extolled in Die Meistersinger von Nrnberg has often required other nations to pay homage to Germans as the master race. Once or twice, the agon descends into violence. Ross reports on duels between Wagnerites and non-believers and there is even a boozy altercation with weaponised beer mugs.

The story diverges and digresses and soon gets out of Rosss control. Like Wagner with his repeated orchestral motifs, he tends to go round in circles: I dont mind Nietzsches eternal recurrence in music, but a historical narrative needs to move ahead. In this encyclopaedic book, the plethora of interpreters makes Wagner mean anything at all, which ultimately makes him mean nothing in particular. Decadent enthusiasts such as Baudelaire and Oscar Wilde were thrilled by the orgiastic revels in Tannhuser, yet the nuptial march from Lohengrin became compulsory at sedate Victorian weddings. For Shaw, Wagners Ring exposed the greedy iniquity of capitalism, while for Hitler it unearthed the racial roots cultivated by fascism. Can it do both or is Ross just amassing opposed opinions? At its most undiscriminating, Wagnerism lapses into a game of Trivial Pursuit: if you need to know how many US cities have streets named after Parsifal, the answer is somewhere in here.

On American turf, Ross writes well about the novelists Willa Cather and Owen Wister, who found an equivalent to the raw, wild landscapes of the Ring in the geysers of Yellowstone, the Wyoming prairies and the New Mexico desert, and he uncovers a suppressed tradition of African American Wagnerites. Yet in his desperation to be all-inclusive he straggles off in quest of such exotic aficionados as the Sri Lankan Theosophical leader Curuppumullage Jinarajadasa and Horacio Quiroga, a Uruguayan epigone. Worse, the abstruse rightwing philosopher Martin Heidegger and the structural anthropologist Claude Lvi-Strauss lure him up blind alleys of speculative theorising.

The occasional obscenity adds a much-needed fillip. A poem by Pierre Lous filthily fantasises about the lusty appetite of Senta, the chaste redeemer from Der Fliegende Hollnder, while Aubrey Beardsley places the wayward Tannhuser in an all-male Venusberg where he descends to the passive attitude and is rogered by a priapic servant. Theres even a detour to a Greenwich Village leather bar in which a sign once enjoined patrons to concentrate on having sex rather than loitering in corners to discuss Wagner. However when Yukio Mishima spills his entrails with a samurai sword in his film Patriotism to the rapturous accompaniment of Tristan und Isolde, the effect is merely repellent.

Wagner is finally absorbed by pop culture, that fecund compost heap where the classics are mulched and pulped. The napalm-spewing gunships that blast the Ride of the Valkyries in Apocalypse Now remind us that the operas shrieking female warriors are out to scavenge corpses from the battlefield, although the cartoon in which Elmer Fudd pursues Bugs Bunny to the same score while yelling Kill da wabbit! reduces Wagners ecstatic whirlwind to muzak. Ross smiles on such kitschy appropriations: he calls Tolkiens Lord of the Rings a kinder, gentler version of Wagners Nibelungen tetralogy, populated by peaceable garden gnomes, not tragic gods and stricken heroes.

At the end, Ross performs a cleansing ritual. Taking up the spear with which Parsifal closes the wound of Amfortas in Wagners last opera, he uses it to heal his own psychic scars, which, as he somewhat creepily discloses, include being dumped by a boyfriend after a performance of Die Walkre and an ensuing alcoholic slump. My long slog through his book was not so cathartic. After Rosss hungover postlude, I recalled his claim, made 700 arduous, enfevered, over-charged pages earlier, that Wagners influence was actually less extensive than those of Monteverdi, Bach or Beethoven. Its good to be reminded that music does not always leave us with an aching libido and shredded nerves or threatens the universe with extinction.

Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music by Alex Ross is published by HarperCollins (30). To order a copy go to guardianbookshop.com. Free UK p&p over 15

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Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music by Alex Ross review - The Guardian

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Is ‘cultural Marxism’ really taking over universities? I crunched some numbers to find out – The Conversation AU

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Cultural Marxism is a term favoured by those on the right who argue the humanities are hopelessly out of touch with ordinary Australia.

The criticism is that radical voices have captured the humanities, stifling free speech on campuses.

The term has been used widely over the past decade. Most infamously, in former senator Fraser Annings 2018 final solution speech to parliament he denounced cultural Marxism as not a throwaway line, but a literal truth.

But is cultural Marxism actually taking over our universities and academic thinking? Using a leading academic database, I crunched some numbers to find out.

The term cultural Marxism moved into the media mainstream around 2016, when psychologist Jordan Peterson was protesting a Canadian bill prohibiting discrimination based on gender. Peterson blamed cultural Marxism for phenomena like the movement to respect gender-neutral pronouns which, in his view, undermines freedom of speech.

Read more: Is Jordan Peterson the philosopher of the fake news era?

But the term is much older. It seems first to have been used by writer Michael Minnicino in his 1992 essay The New Dark Age, published by the Schiller Institute, a group associated with the fringe right wing figure Lyndon LaRouche.

Around the turn of the century, the phrase was adopted by influential American conservatives. Commentator and three time presidential candidate Pat Buchanan targeted cultural Marxism for many perceived ills facing America, from womens rights and gay activism to the decline of traditional education.

The term has since gone global, sadly making its way into Norwegian terrorist Anders Breviks justificatory screed. Andrew Bolt used it as early as 2002. In 2013, Cory Bernardi was warning against cultural Marxism as one of the most corrosive influences on society.

By 2016, the year the Peterson affair unfolded, Nick Cater and Chris Uhlmann were blaming it for undermining free speech in The Australian. The idea has since been adopted by Mark Latham and Malcolm Roberts.

Insofar as it goes beyond a fairly broad term of enmity, the accusers of cultural Marxism point to two main protagonists behind this ideology.

The first is Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci. Writing under imprisonment by the fascists in the 1920s, Gramsci argued the left needed to capture the bureaucracy, universities and media-cultural institutions if it wished to hold power.

The second alleged culprits are neo-Marxist theorists associated with the Frankfurt School of Social Research. These critical theorists drew on psychoanalysis, social theory, aesthetics, and political economy to understand modern societies. They became especially concerned with how fascism could win the allegiance of ordinary people, despite its appeals to aversive prejudice, hatred and militarism.

When Hitler came to power, the Frankfurt School was quickly shut down, and its key members forced into exile. Then, as Uhlmann has narrated:

Frankfurt School academics [] transmitted the intellectual virus to the US and set about systematically destroying the culture of the society that gave them sanctuary.

While Soviet communism faltered, the story continues, the cultural Marxist campaign to commandeer our culture was marching triumphantly through the humanities departments of Western universities and outwards into wider society.

Today, critics argue it shapes the political correctness that promotes minority causes and polices public debate on issues like the environment, gender and immigration - posing a grave threat to liberal values.

Read more: How a fake 'free speech crisis' could imperil academic freedom

If the conservative anxieties about cultural Marxism reflected reality, we would expect to see academic publications on Marx, Gramsci and critical theorists crowding out libertarian, liberal and conservative voices.

To test this, I conducted quantitative research on the academic database JStor, tracking the frequency of names and key ideas in all academic article and chapter titles published globally between 1980 and 2019.

In 1987, Karl Marx himself ceded the laurel as the most written about thinker in academic humanities, replaced by Friedrich Nietzsche revered by many fascists including Benito Mussolini and Martin Heidegger, another figure whose far-right politics were hardly progressive.

Over the past 40 years, the alleged mastermind of cultural Marxism, Gramsci, attracted 480 articles. This compares with the 407 publications on Friedrich Hayek, arguably the leading influence on the neoliberal free market reforms of the last decades.

The Frankfurt School featured in less than 200 titles, and critical theorist Herbert Marcuse (identified by Uhlmann as a key transmitter of the cultural Marxist virus in the US) was the subject of just over 220.

Over the last decade, the most written about thinker was the neo-Nietzschean theorist, Giles Deleuze, featuring in 770 titles over 2010-19.

But the notoriously esoteric ideas of Deleuze - and his language of machinic assemblages, strata, flows and intensities - are hardly Marxist. His ideas have been a significant influence on the right-wing Neoreactionary or dark enlightenment movement.

The last four decades have seen a relative decline of Marxist thought in academia. Its influence has been superseded by post-structuralist (or postmodernist) thinkers like Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Judith Butler and Deleuze.

Post-structuralism is primarily indebted to thinkers of the European conservative revolution led by Nietzsche and Heidegger.

Where Marxism is built on hopes for reason, revolution and social progress, post-structuralist thinkers roundly reject such optimistic grand narratives.

Post-structuralists are as preoccupied with culture as our conservative news columnists. But their analyses of identity and difference challenge the primacy Marxism affords to economics as much as they oppose liberal or conservative ideas.

Quantitative research bears out the idea that cultural Marxism is indeed a post-factual dog whistle and an intellectual confusion masquerading as higher insight.

A spectre of Marxism has survived the cold war. It now haunts the culture wars.

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Is 'cultural Marxism' really taking over universities? I crunched some numbers to find out - The Conversation AU

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September 12th, 2020 at 3:51 am

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Lol nothing matters. Or does it? – The Week

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Those who read me regularly at The Week and on Twitter have probably noticed an occasional tendency toward nihilism. I don't mean that I sometimes act as if everything is permitted in a godless universe. I mean that I sometimes become tempted by the same knowingness and spiritual lethargy with a positive spin, you could call it resignation that inspires so many during the Trump era to shrug their shoulders and pronounce "lol nothing matters."

I'll admit this is how I greeted news on Wednesday that Trump spoke to journalist Bob Woodward in February about the looming pandemic and disclosed that he understood as well as anyone back then how dangerous and deadly it was even as he was preparing to discount the risks before all the world over the coming months. Which was of course followed by him careening between sounding grave about the risks and then dismissing them, sometimes within the same news conference, and occasionally within the same sentence.

So Trump knew the truth, but he deliberately lied about it (most of the time). And here we are six or so months later with the country about a week from reaching the morbid milestone of 200,000 dead of COVID-19. We also just passed Italy in per capita deaths and are poised to rise above the U.K. and Spain within the next month, leaving only Belgium with a worse outcome in the developed world.

No wonder, then, that Trump is on track to lose in the biggest landslide in decades. Unless, of course, he only loses the popular vote by 3-4 million or less, in which case he might win. Because the United States, self-proclaimed beacon of democracy, has an electoral system that now routinely bestows presidential power on the candidate who wins fewer votes.

So yeah: lol nothing matters.

Except when it does. Which is most of the time.

Things certainly mattered last week, when The Atlantic published a piece in which four anonymous sources confirmed that Trump referred to American soldiers killed in the line of duty as "losers" and "suckers." After I read the piece, I permitted myself a public outburst on Twitter: "What a thoroughly repulsive human being." It took only a few minutes for me to regain my composure enough to think, "I'm going to regret that." Not because I'd begun to doubt my judgment of the president. And certainly not because I was tempted to embrace the situational skepticism of the president's defenders, who treated the Atlantic story as the greatest opportunity in hours to rail against the dishonest liberal media for relying on anonymous sources in order to spread lies that echo things that the president has said publicly on multiple occasions.

No, I regretted it because I'd allowed the mask of world-weary knowingness to slip. I'd taken the bait, reacted with anger and disgust to an example of the man who holds the nation's highest office acting like a thoroughly disgusting human being instead of responding with something more cynical, like "we knew this already, it won't hurt his polling or prospects on Nov. 3."

In other words: lol nothing matters.

But here's the thing: Both reactions (disgust and indifference) express part of the whole truth a truth that is actually more shocking than either part alone. Trump is in fact a thoroughly repulsive human being, and we all know that it won't matter because a sufficient number of Americans actively like or just don't care that he's a repulsive human being. Some of them probably like it because it triggers liberals like me, which is both entertaining and politically satisfying. Others probably like it because they are pretty repulsive themselves and enjoy having a champion in a position of power and influence who can truly represent them. Still others may not exactly like his repulsiveness but are perfectly willing to tune it out in return for getting concrete goodies in return: cuts to taxes and regulations, right-wing judges appointed to the courts, and so on.

But what am I supposed to do with this information about my fellow Americans? How should I respond as a citizen, as a human being to the knowledge that more than two-fifths of likely voters are cheered by or indifferent to the fact that the commander in chief thinks soldiers are chumps for giving their all for their country in acts of sacrificial valor?

Or that he was more concerned last winter about propping up the stock market than with protecting the country from a far greater danger than any of the ersatz threats he routinely hypes for political gain?

Or that so few appear to care that a significant portion of the country is on fire, turning its skies the color of blood and rust, and rendering the air a toxic fog of soot and ash a vivid glimpse of the kind of world that awaits all of us if we continue to deny the reality of climate change?

What's the right response to this knowledge? The options often appear to be a stark either/or: Either a constant primal scream or a cynical shrug of the shoulders. "Lol nothing matters" is the latter, and it's immensely tempting.

It's tempting for the same reason that mindfulness meditation is gaining in popularity. Both grow out of a desperate need to disconnect from the circus. To soothe the anxiety. To stand with composure before the uncertainties that encircle us. To stop caring quite so much, if only for a brief time, about a world that seems to be coming apart.

The problem is that the flip side of achieving composure before the whirlwind is hopelessness a surrender to forces and trends we feel powerless to master, control, or tame. Equanimity can be indistinguishable from spiritual exhaustion. It can feel just like achieving peace by giving up.

That's why "nihilism" is the right word to describe it, at least if it's understood in Friedrich Nietzsche's sense, to mean moral and creative enervation. Maybe you're like me and you've found yourself every so often exclaiming to no one in particular, "I'm so tired." Tired of what? Tired of standing up straight before the onslaught of B.S. that's now flung in our faces every single day. Just getting out of bed to face it again every morning can feel like it takes too much energy. How much easier it would be to slouch into the gutter for a day-long nap.

Why is it all so draining? What produces the pervasive feeling of entropy? Answer: The instinct to care about a world that shows so many signs of coming unhinged.

What isn't exhausting is laughter, which is life-affirming, renewing. But laughing at our world takes detachment caring somewhat less. That's why we've come to pair laughing out loud with the assertion that nothing matters.

But maybe there's a mean to be found between the extremes of giggling in giddy indifference and gaping in exhausted horror at the world. Maybe we can love the world, mourn our losses, and recognize the awfulness of so much of what swirls around us while also striving to place it in a perspective that makes some space for wry smiles. In dark times, a little irony can go a long way transforming a tragedy not so much into a comedy as into a chapter with a mixture of darkness and light and an indeterminate end that leaves a little room for hope.

Yes, Trump is awful, but he's not a demonic figure. He's a buffoon, a fool, a portrait in ignorance, rapaciousness, and groundless self-regard. That an entire political party, from grassroots voters on up to leading officeholders, bow down before him and parrot his bilious lies is pathetic and alarming. But it's also ... a little funny. Not because nothing matters, but because lots of things do and this is something that Trump and his ridiculous party appear not to understand. Like a man convinced he's Superman running headlong into a brick wall he's sure will crumble on impact, allowing him to crash through unscathed to the other side, Trump acts like he can conjure a re-election out of thin air and positive thinking, even as he consistently trails his opponent by nearly eight percentage points.

Could it work? Possibly. But probably not. And that's kind of funny, too. So go ahead and laugh out loud from time to time at the Trump travesty. Just don't think it's because nothing matters.

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September 12th, 2020 at 3:51 am

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Nietzsche’s superman, Islam, and Covid-19 ( Part III) – Daily Times

Posted: August 22, 2020 at 2:55 am


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We have further interesting connections in the relationship of Nietzsche to Islam. Like other German philosophers such as Hegel and Goethe, Nietzsche too sought to understand the meaning of life and the place of the human in existence. The ultimate aim was to discover the path to a fulfilled and even contented life. In the process, like the other philosophers, Nietzsche found himself highly critical of the philosophic and ideological structures that dominated Europe and blamed them for the misery of ordinary people. Nietzsche therefore attacked the Christian church and the state. To him, both were sources of oppression. The church had failed to provide happiness on earth to its followers and therefore its rituals were meaningless. While Christians outwardly acted out the rituals of Christianity and religion, they had lost their conviction in the faith. It was this context that prompted Nietzsche to pronounce the sentence that gave him instant notoriety declaring the death of God. As for the state, Nietzsche was an early critic of Otto Von Bismarck, the architect of the German state, which would go on to become the embodiment of the modern state. Nietzsche warned of the centralizing and tyrannizing tendencies of the state which inevitably would show hostility towards ethnic minorities. Nietzsche the philosopher was an iconoclast: both church and state were corrupt and corrupting. In this sense, Nietzsche was ahead of his time and even predicted what was to come in Europe.

Nietzsche attempted to fill the vacuum by arguing for the ideal of the Superman. For him, wisdom and love are key to understanding the Superman. When a person realizes their human potential and fulfills it, they are able to move away from the herd morality of Christianity and religion to become a Superman. It is noteworthy, and could strike the uninitiated as eccentric, that while dismissing Christianity, Nietzsche appears to be constantly praising Islam. For Nietzsche, Christianity and Islam have a perverse relationship in the sense that while he demeans and shows contempt for the former, he turns towards the latter and elevates it. It is a tension within Nietzsche which is not resolved.

For Nietzsche, Muslims are noble and he describes them as manly, life affirming, and honest (the first adjective is from his 1895 book The Antichrist). Nietzsche even points to the warlike qualities in Islam. In fact, there are over 100 references to Islam in Nietzsches work. Islam is simply everything that Christianity is not. He is so enamored of Muslims that in a letter to a friend he ponders relocating to Muslim lands in North Africa. The scholar Ian Almond wrote, it is difficult to resist the tempting hypothesis: that had Nietzsches breakdown not been imminent, we would have seen a work dedicated to Islam from his own pen (Nietzsches Peace with Islam: My Enemys Enemy is my Friend, German Life and Letters, 56:1, January 2003, p. 51).

Nietzsche blamed Christianity in The Antichrist for the elimination of the advanced civilization of Muslim Spain and the Crusades: Christianity destroyed for us the whole harvest of ancient civilization, and later it also destroyed for us the whole harvest of Mohammedan civilization. The wonderful culture of the Moors in Spain, which was fundamentally nearer to us and appealed more to our senses and tastes than that of Rome and Greece, was trampled down. If there is any doubt as to his position regarding the two religions, Nietzsche himself dispelled it in The Antichrist: There should be no choice in the matter when faced with Islam and Christianity. War to the knife with Rome! Peace and friendship with Islam!

There are also parallels in the manner in which the idea of the Superman is revealed in Thus Spake Zarathustra and the history of early Islam. As in the case of the Prophet, Nietzsches protagonist in Thus Spake Zarathustra ascends a mountain, acquires knowledge at the age of 40-the age at which the Prophet received his Quranic revelation-and comes down from the mountain with wisdom and love to share and faces hostility and cynicism. In fact, this pattern reflects not only the broad outline of the early days of Islam but that of many Biblical prophets.

It is worth noting that two of Nietzsches Supermen, Goethe as well as Napoleon, expressed their admiration for Islam. Napoleon in Cairo dressed in Arab robes, spent time with sheikhs from Al Azhar, said he had become a Muslim, and even took a Muslim name. Nietzsche, like Wagner, also praised the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, calling him a genius and celebrating the fact that he fought the papacy while seeking peace and friendship with Islam.

Man could aspire to the heights set by the Perfect Man, the model of the Prophet, and Iqbal exhorted his readers to do so

This raises the question as to why Islam impresses Nietzsche so much. I have explored the answer at some length in my book Journey into Europe in which I argued that traditionally some European scholars and philosophers cast Islam and its tribes in the classic romantic mold of Rousseaus noble savage. To them the Muslim tribesman, the Berber in the deserts, or the Pashtun in the mountains, had escaped the deprivations of modernity and preserved their natural and original nobility. This was particularly true of German scholars, who, as I explain in Journey into Europe, thought of themselves as belonging to a kind of tribal society going back to Germanys status as the frontier of the Roman Empire and celebrated the work of Tacitus who wrote of the German tribes of that time. Thus, German scholars were more likely to respect other societies which they deemed worthy and had characteristics that reflected German self-perception. They increasingly set the German people, ethnicity, language, and religious interpretation against the central authority of the Catholic Church based in Rome in forging a distinct German identity and often displayed a concurrent fascination and appreciation for Islam and Islamic culture. Figures like Drer, Goethe, Wagner, and Nietzsche reflected this larger world-view, which I called the historical German soft spot for Islam.

Nietzsche was thus a genuine admirer of a civilization that he knew very little of. In the nineteenth century Islam was going through a difficult period of its history and it had not yet emerged from colonization. It was dominated by often ignorant and decadent rulers and there was chaos and corruption in its societies. Yet Nietzsche and many others romanticized it seeing instead the uncorrupted noble savage. Through such Orientalist eyes the Islamic world though seen as barbarous and anti-modern was yet a praiseworthy society. We see this tendency continuing in Europe as modernity developed into the next century. By the time of Aldous Huxleys Brave New World written some 30 years after Nietzsche died, the most normal character is John who is widely called a savage and lives outside the bounds of the totalitarian World State.

Nietzsche and Iqbal

Perhaps the most celebrated direct relationship of the concept of the Insan-iKamil or the Perfect Man and the Prophet to Nietzsche was highlighted by Allama Muhammad Iqbal, the revered Poet of the East. Iqbal had arrived from British India for his studies at Cambridge University where he was enrolled at Trinity College, after Nietzsche died in 1900. A brilliant student of philosophy, Iqbal very quickly absorbed the leading philosophers of the time including Nietzsche.

Iqbals own work reflected Nietzsche, albeit with a more religious dimension linked to Islam, to the extent that he was accused of plagiarism, a charge that has stayed with him long after his death. Iqbal believed that through the understanding of religion, Man could develop his potential to become the Perfect Man, in short Superman-a Superman whose mind ranged across the cosmos: Sitaron key aageyjehanaurbhihein!/Abhiishq key imtihanaurbhihein There are many worlds beyond the stars!/ And many more tests of love.

Iqbal notes that God himself in the Quran made man in the image of the divine as a vicegerent on earth, a phrase used in the Quran. Man could aspire to the heights set by the Perfect Man, the model of the Prophet, and Iqbal exhorted his readers to do so. We see the religious dimension in Iqbals understanding of self-betterment in the last lines of what is Iqbals arguably most famous populist poems, The Complaint and The Answer to the Complaint. The latter poem has God clearly informing man in the last verses that as long as he is faithful to the Prophet of Islam then everything belongs to him. Ki Muhammad say wafatu nay to hum terayhain/ Ye jahan cheese hay kialuh o kalamterayhain-If you are faithful to Muhammad, than I am yours./ Why do you ask for this universe? I will give you the secret to knowledge. Iqbal thus acknowledged the legitimacy of the Superman while also his connection to God. Whatever Nietzsche thinks of the matter, for Iqbal man cannot break that link from and to God.

The writer is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, School of International Service, American University, Washington, DC, and author of Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration, and Identity

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Nietzsche's superman, Islam, and Covid-19 ( Part III) - Daily Times

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August 22nd, 2020 at 2:55 am

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Nietzsche’s superman, Islam, and Covid-19 ( Part I) – Daily Times

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When Friedrich Nietzsche ran to stop the brutal owner of a horse from thrashing it mercilessly in Turin, Italy, and threw his arms around the animal crying, I understand your pain, it gave us an extraordinary insight into his character and mind; more than his usually convoluted philosophic utterances. Nietzsche, who blithely declared to the world, God is dead could not bear the cruelty to the animal. While the image of Nietzsche is that of a world-class philosopher grappling with esoteric philosophic insights into the human condition and forever engulfed in controversy, this account reveals to us his sensitive nature that would have made the great Jain sage Mahavira proud. This episode also triggered his mental breakdown from which he never recovered.

Ten years later in 1900, after living in a vegetative state, he was dead. Ever since his breakdown he had been in the care of his sister. They had grown apart and had very different ideas about life and politics. She not only made her own edits to his work at will but after his death projected and distorted her brothers thought in alignment with her own pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic prejudices. She had migrated to Paraguay to attempt to create a colony of like-minded right-wing Germans and falsified her brothers ideas and ideology to curry favor with the Nazis. She even entirely fabricated numerous letters that she published in his name. This was morally reprehensible but she was doing thriving business in Nazi Germany. So impressed was Hitler by her loyalty that he attended her funeral. Nietzsche scholars have condemned her criminally scandalous forgeries (David Wroe, Criminal manipulation of Nietzsche by sister to make him look anti-Semitic, The Telegraph, January 19, 2010).

Nietzsches bermensch

Nietzsches mind was like a vast, dark, and dangerous cave. In it dwelt flying creatures with sharp teeth. There were also those wondrous ones with luminous eyes conveying compassion and kindness. To enter the cave was an adventure and one never knew what would come flying at you. Take the matter of slavery. Nietzsche made several comments on slavery which are unacceptable to us. There is simply no excuse for the dreadful and disgusting institution of slavery. Nietzsches supporters cannot exonerate him by citing illustrious figures like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and arguing that even the founding fathers of the greatest Western democracy owned slaves so the institution of slavery at that time was somehow excusable. They cannot also brush away this information because it comes in fragments from obscure notes of dubious sources and was perhaps influenced by his sister who was busy distorting his work over which he had little control. Nor can the supporters take his references to the Greeks whom he admired and argue that because they had slavery it was somehow acceptable. To me it is likely that Nietzsches fragments on slavery reflect his broader philosophy on the subject and he stands condemned. There is much to be explored and researched for the scholar in Nietzsches writing. But those entering the cave must do so with a strong torch and a stronger heart.

The process whereby man progressed to Superman, according to Nietzsche, began with ones will to do so. Between animal and Superman was man and man had to aspire to become Superman. To move beyond man, he had to aspire to the next stage of creative evolution

Nietzsche is without doubt considered one of the greatest of Western philosophers and certainly one of the most controversial. From his bushy Groucho Marx mustache and eyebrows to his statement declaring God dead, Nietzsche seems to invite controversy and comment. One of Nietzsches concepts is that of the bermensch, a superior man, a beyond man or super man who, through his being, justifies the very existence of the human race. It is one of his most famous, and in the wrong hands, as we will see below, notorious concepts. It comes from Nietzsches celebrated magnum opus, Thus Spake Zarathustra. In the novel, Zarathustra, the protagonist, retreats to the mountains at the age of thirty to seek knowledge and wisdom. Ten years later he has achieved his aim. His heart is overflowing with wisdom and love, like a bee with an abundance of honey, in Nietzsches words. He now wishes to share what he has gathered with humanity. On the way down from the mountain he meets an old man who predicts the people would not accept his message except with hatred and ridicule. People were miserable and although they lived in an advanced material society and indulged in base pleasures, they were still miserable. In spite of their condition they rejected the wise mans offer to share his wisdom. In the end they chased him away with their hatred and ridicule. Nietzsche, like the protagonist of the book, sets out to share his wisdom and love. And like the protagonist, Nietzsche also meets with ridicule and hatred.

The process whereby man progressed to Superman, according to Nietzsche, began with ones will to do so. Between animal and Superman was man and man had to aspire to become Superman. To move beyond man, he had to aspire to the next stage of creative evolution. He was called the last man because that was the last stage before he could become Superman. It was different from Darwinian mutations and biological combinations with no aspirational aspects.

In terms of those people who had qualities of the Superman, Nietzsche gave his own personal list. They included Goethe, Napoleon, Julius Caesar, Montaigne and Voltaire. It is a list that most Europeans could identify with. Indeed, for Nietzsche, Goethe is probably the closest a human being can be to the idea of the Superman.

The ideal qualities of the Superman, Nietzsche wrote, were Caesar with Christs soul. For those surprised to find Napoleon on the list, it is worth pointing out that others saw these figures as Superman too. For example, for Hegel, the eminent German philosopher, Napoleon was the very embodiment of the modern state and the Absolute or the world-soul on horseback. The Duke of Wellington famously said that Napoleons presence on the battlefield was the equivalent of 40,000 soldiers and a similar remark was made of Saladin, who we could call a Muslim Superman, at the time of the Crusades.

The writer is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, School of International Service, American University, Washington, DC, and author of Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration, and Identity

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Nietzsche's superman, Islam, and Covid-19 ( Part I) - Daily Times

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Examining the qualities of Nietzsches Supermen figures we may deduce some broad characteristics: they have a sense of destiny; something is driving them to spread their message and understanding to the world. They are generally protective of the weak and the vulnerable and concerned about the minorities. They are inclined to see the big picture and are not so concerned about minor things that may occupy other people. They are bold and independent in their thinking which often causes opposition and controversy. Their actions have an impact on distant places and into the future of which perhaps even they are not aware. Because they are extraordinary in their lives and aspirations, they are often lonely even though surrounded by followers and admirers.

They find followers rather than companions. They often spend time by themselves, retreating to isolated caves and mountains. They are brilliant in their strategic choices and moves. They are not always successful and since they are creating new ideas and challenging old ones, they often suffer a backlash that may even cost them their lives in the process. Even after they die, they cross time and space and remain alive in the imagination of their followers. As Nietzsches list of his own figures who approached and approximated the Superman is subjective and personal, each one of us is entitled to drawing up our own list. It is an exercise to be recommended as it will tell us as much about ourselves as our society..

Nietzsche followed Goethe in his admiration for the Prophet of Islam. Nietzsche compared the Prophet to Plato, one of the foundational figures of Western civilization. For Nietzsche, Plato thought he could do for all the Greeks what Muhammad did later for his Arabs

When Nietzsches Zarathustra went up the mountain seeking a species of Superman, he did not quite appreciate that they were in plain sight all along. Indeed, the concept of the Superman is not new. We have examples from the past going back several thousand years of figures who could justifiably be called Superman, from Moses, who parted the sea, turned his staff into a snake that ate up the Pharaohs snake, and climbed a mountain to talk to God, to Jesus Christ, who walked on water and gave life to a corpse. There are other figures such as the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II who brought the different religions and communities in his empire closer together through scholarship and in mutual respect. In Hindu mythology we have examples of ancient heroes performing superhuman feats. Most societies have their own towering figures that they view as supermen-or superwomen. So, while among Christians, Jesus is the ultimate Superman, among Hindus it is Lord Ram, among Buddhists Lord Buddha, and so on. Platos philosopher-king was a prototype Superman and Alexander the Great was seen as an early Greek version of the Superman. Earlier in Nietzsches century, Thomas Carlyle had written his celebrated On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History which was similar in scope to Nietzsches Superman idea and included several figures such as the Prophet of Islam, Rousseau and Napoleon that could over-lap with those on Nietzsches own list.

Insan-i Kamil: The Prophet as the Muslim Superman

For Muslims, the figure of the Superman is represented by the Prophet of Islam. The Quran stated that God created man to be Gods vicegerent on earth; a super superman if you will. The high status and expectations of man are inherent in Islams theological vision and philosophic understanding of the nature of man. That philosophic vision is suffused with the notions of compassion and mercy. This potential in man finds its ultimate expression in the Prophet of Islam, the model and example for Muslims to aspire to. Gods greatest attributes are derived from his two most popular names-Rahman and Rahim-Compassionate and Merciful and as he is the Messenger of God the Prophet is described in the Quran as a mercy unto mankind. The Prophet is known in the Islamic tradition as Insan-i Kamil or the Perfect Man, the equivalent of the Superman, and he is also called Khayr ul Bashr, or the best of mankind.

There are indeed interesting parallels between Nietzsches Superman and the Perfect Man in the Islamic tradition as personified by the Prophet. Is there a more direct relationship between the two concepts? Did the way that Muslims conceive of the Prophet of Islam, in turn, influence the construct of Ubermensch or the Superman? If so what are the intellectual links to possible sources that we can trace? The clues are many although some are admittedly weak. Yet it is worth exploring some of the connections which may heighten our understanding of both concepts and their similarities.

Nietzsche may have been consciously or unconsciously influenced by the Islamic notion of the Perfect Man through sources such as Goethe, his number one exemplary role model for the Superman. While Goethe wrote his devotional poem in honor of the Prophet called Mahomets Song at the age of 23, at age 70 he publicly declared he was considering devoutly celebrating that holy night in which the Quran in its entirety was revealed to the prophet from on high. Goethes comments on Islam have led to speculation about the extent of his commitment to the faith, for example, in the following verse: If Islam means, to God devoted/ All live and die in Islams ways. In fact, Goethe himself sometimes wondered if he was actually living the life of a Muslim, writing, when announcing the publication of his poetic work West-Eastern Divan, that the author does not reject the suspicion that he may himself be a Muslim.

No Muslim can be unmoved by Goethes poem, Mahomets Song, dedicated to the Prophet of Islam, whom he calls chief and head of created beings. Goethe had intended to write a longer piece in which Hazrat Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet and himself a Superman figure as a great scholar and warrior, was to have sung the poem in honor of his master, but the project was never completed. Mahomets Song is a powerful expression of the desire to discover unity in the universe while searching for the divine. Goethe uses the metaphor of an irresistible stream that flows down from the mountains to the ocean, taking other streams along with it. Here are some verses from the poem:

And the streamlets from the mountain,

Shout with joy, exclaiming: Brother,

Brother, take thy brethren with thee,

With thee to thine aged father,

To the everlasting ocean,

Who, with arms outstretching far,

Waiteth for us

And the meadow

In his breath finds life.'

Nietzsche followed Goethe in his admiration for the Prophet of Islam. Nietzsche compared the Prophet to Plato, one of the foundational figures of Western civilization. For Nietzsche, Plato thought he could do for all the Greeks what Muhammad did later for his Arabs. Muslims, who have been fascinated by Greek philosophers like Plato, have invariably seen the Prophet of Islam as the philosopher-king that Plato dreamed of and the Muslim community, as in the example of the early settlement in Medina, as the realization of Platos ideal City. Nietzsche also followed Goethe in his admiration for the great Persian poet Hafiz. Nietzsche wrote a poem extolling the heroic virtues of Hafiz including the fact that Hafiz was a water drinker-along with Christianity the drinking of alcohol was one of Nietzsches bugaboos about Europe. In Thus Spake Zarathustra, Zarathustra is referred to as a born water drinker. The poem Nietzsche wrote in honor of Hafiz is entitled To Hafiz: Questions of a Water Drinker. It is worth reminding the reader that Islam forbids the drinking of alcohol and Muslims are thus quintessential water drinkers.

In spite of the potential for research, the interest in Islam of Goethe and Nietzsche has been relatively unexplored and even neglected. There are many dissertations waiting for the diligent researcher in this field. Most Germans, who acknowledge Goethe as the Shakespeare of the German language and the classic Renaissance man, do not know about Goethes enthusiasm for Islam, which lasted his entire life. Bekir Albo?a, the secretary general of Germanys largest Islamic organization, the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), when interviewed for my project Journey into Europe in Cologne, described Goethe as a brother to me, and a great thinker with a great affinity for Islam. Goethe wrote a wonderful poem about our Prophet, he said, referring to Mahomets Song. Albo?a complained that in Germany the Islamic dimension of Goethes work is ignored, if not intentionally suppressed. As for the subject of Nietzsche and Islam that too remains largely uncharted territory. (For a detailed discussion of attitudes to Muslims in contemporary Europe see my book Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration and Identity, 2018). Nietzsche, Islam, and Christianity

The writer is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, School of International Service, American University, Washington, DC, and author of Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration, and Identity

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Nietzsche's superman, Islam, and Covid-19 ( Part II) - Daily Times

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August 22nd, 2020 at 2:55 am

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Leprosy of the soul? A brief history of boredom – The Conversation UK

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We all respond to boredom in different ways. Some may find a new hobby or interest, others may instead rip open a bag of crisps and binge watch a new Netflix show. Boredom may seem to you an everyday perhaps even trivial experience. Surprisingly, however, boredom has undergone quite a metamorphosis over the past couple of centuries.

Well before the word boredom cropped up in the English language, one of the earliest mentions of boredom is in a Latin poem by Lucretius (9955BC), who writes of the boring life of a rich Roman who flees to his country house only to be find himself equally bored there.

The first recorded mention of the word boredom in the English language seems to be in the British newspaper The Albion in 1829, in the (frankly impenetrable) sentence: Neither will I follow another precedental mode of boredom, and indulge in a laudatory apostrophe to the destinies which presided over my fashioning.

But the term was popularised by Charles Dickens, who famously used the term in Bleak House (1853) where the aristocrat Lady Dedlock says she has been bored to death by, variously, the trying weather, unremarkable musical and theatrical entertainment, and familiar scenery.

In fact, boredom became a popular theme in English Victorian writing, especially in describing the life of the upper class, whose boredom may reflect a privileged social standing. Dickens character James Harthouse (Hard Times, 1854), for example, seems to cherish perpetual boredom as indicative of his high breeding, declaring nothing but boredom during his life as military dragoon and on his many travels.

In the second part of the 19th century and during the early 20th century, boredom gained notoriety among existentialist writers. Their view of boredom was often less than flattering, and one that confronted all of humanity, not just the upper class with its presumably empty existence.

The early existentialist Danish philosopher Sren Kierkegaard, for example, wrote: The gods were bored; therefore they created human beings. This was, according to him, only the beginning of the trouble with boredom. It would eventually lead Adam and Eve to commit their original sin.

Unsurprisingly, Kierkegaard declared boredom to be the root of all evil. Several other existentialists shared this unfavourable view. Jean-Paul Sartre called boredom a leprosy of the soul, and Friedrich Nietzsche, agreeing with Kierkegaard, remarked that: The boredom of God on the seventh day of creation would be a subject for a great poet.

Arthur Schopenhauer took the cake when it came to being gloomy about boredom. According to him, the human capacity for boredom was nothing less than direct evidence for lifes ultimate lack of meaning. In his fittingly titled essay, Studies on Pessimism, he wrote:

The truth of this will be sufficiently obvious if we only remember that man is a compound of needs and necessities hard to satisfy, and that even when they are satisfied, all he obtains is a state of painlessness, where nothing remains to him but abandonment to boredom.

A world of boredom, the existentialists seemed to warn, is a world without purpose.

The 20th century witnessed the emergence of psychology as a scientific discipline. While our understanding of many emotions slowly increased, boredom was surprisingly left alone. What little psychological work on boredom existed was rather speculative, and more often than not excluded empirical data.

These accounts hardly painted a more positive picture of boredom than the existentialists. As recently as 1972, psychoanalyst Erich Fromm blatantly denounced boredom as perhaps the most important source of aggression and destructiveness today.

During the past few decades, however, the image of boredom has changed once more, and with it has come an appreciation of the hitherto discredited emotion. Development of better measurement tools allowed psychologists to examine boredom with greater accuracy, and experimental methods allowed researchers to induce boredom and examine its actual, rather than presumed, behavioural consequences.

This work reveals that boredom can indeed be problematic, as the existentialists assured us. Those who bore easily are more likely to be depressed and anxious, have a tendency to be aggressive, and perceive life as less meaningfull.

Yet, psychology uncovered also a much brighter side of boredom. Researchers found that boredom encourages a search for meaning in life, propels exploration, and inspires novelty seeking. It shows that boredom is not only a common but also a functional emotion that makes people reconsider what they are currently doing in favour of more rewarding alternatives, for example increasing creativity and prosocial tendencies.

In doing so, it seems that boredom helps to regulate our behaviour and prevents us from getting stuck in unrewarding situations for too long. Rather than merely a malady among the upper classes or an existential peril, boredom seems, instead, to be an important part of the psychological arsenal available to people in the pursuit a fulfilling life.

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Leprosy of the soul? A brief history of boredom - The Conversation UK

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August 22nd, 2020 at 2:55 am

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Free Will Astrology: August 19, 2020 – River Cities Reader

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ARIES (March 21-April 19): "We never know what is enough until we know whats more than enough," said Aries singer Billie Holiday. I don't think that applies to everyone, although it's more likely to be true about the Aries tribe than maybe any other sign of the zodiac. And I'm guessing that the coming weeks could be a time when you will indeed be vivid proof of its validity. That's why I'm issuing a "Too Much of a Good Thing" alert for you. I don't think it'll be harmful to go a bit too far and get a little too much of the good things; it may even be wise and healthy to do so. But please don't go wa-a-ay-y-y-y too far and get wa-a-ay-y-y-y too much of the good things.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Taurus author Honor de Balzac (17991850) took many years to write The Human Comedy, an amalgam of 91 intertwined novels, stories, and essays. For this vast enterprise, he dreamed up the personalities of more than 2,000 characters, many of whom appeared in multiple volumes. I bring this to your attention, Taurus, because I believe that the next 15 months will be an excellent time for you to imagine and carry out a Balzac-like project of your own. Do you have an inkling of what that might be? Now's a good time to start ruminating.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Not until the 19th century did humans begin to take organized actions to protect animals from cruelty. Even those were sparse. The latter part of the 20th century brought more concerted efforts to promote animal welfare, but the rise of factory farms, toxic slaughterhouses, zoos, circuses, and cosmetic testing has shunted us into a Dark Age of animal abuse. I suspect our descendants will look back with horror at our barbarism. This problem incurs psychological wounds in us all in ways that aren't totally conscious. And I think this is an especially key issue for you right now. I beg you, for your own sake as well as for the animals', to upgrade your practical love and compassion for animals. I bet you'll find it inspires you to treat your own body with more reverence.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): Cancerian literary critic Harold Bloom bragged to the New York Times that his speed-reading skills were so advanced that he could finish a 500-page book in an hour. While I believe he has indeed devoured thousand of books, I also wonder if he lied about his quickness. Nonetheless, I'll offer him up as an inspirational role model for you in the coming weeks. Why? Because you're likely to be able to absorb and integrate far more new information and fresh experiences than usual and at a rapid pace.

LEO (July 23-August 22): "Magic lies in challenging what seems impossible," says Leo politician Carol Moseley Braun. I agree with her, but will also suggest there's an even higher magic: when you devise a detailed plan for achieving success by challenging the impossible, and then actually carry out that plan. Judging from the current astrological omens, I suspect you're in an unusually favorable position to do just that in the coming weeks. Be bold in rising to the challenge; be practical and strategic in winning the challenge.

VIRGO (August 23-September 22): "Joy is a mystery because it can happen anywhere, anytime, even under the most unpromising circumstances," writes author Frederick Buechner. What he doesn't say is that you must be receptive and open to the possibility of joy arriving anywhere and anytime. If you're shut down to its surprising influx, if you're convinced that joy is out of reach, it won't break through the barriers you've put up; it won't be able to land in your midst. I think this is especially important counsel for you in the coming weeks, Virgo. Please make yourself available for joy. P.S. Here's another clue from Buechner: "Joy is where the whole being is pointed in one direction."

LIBRA (September 23-October 22): "I transformed stillnesses and darknesses into words," wrote Libran poet Arthur Rimbaud. "What was unspeakable, I named. I made the whirling world pause." In accordance with current astrological potentials, I have turned his thoughts into a message for you. In the coming weeks, I hope you will translate silences and mysteries into clear language. What is unfathomable and inaccessible, you will convert into understandings and revelations. Gently, without force or violence, you will help heal the inarticulate agitation around you with the power of your smooth, resonant tenderness.

SCORPIO (October 23-November 21): "Your desires, whether or not you achieve them, will determine who you become," wrote author Octavia E. Butler. Now is a fertile time for you to meditate on that truth. So I dare you to take an inventory of all your major desires, from the noblest to the most trivial. Be honest. If one of your burning yearnings is to have 100,000 followers on Instagram or to eat chocolate-covered bacon that is served to you in bed, admit it. After you're through tallying up the wonders you want most, the next step is to decide if they are essential to you becoming the person you truly want to be. If some aren't, consider replacing them with desires that will be a better influence on you as you evolve.

SAGITTARIUS (November 22-December 21): If you can manage it, I recommend taking a break from business-as-usual. I'd love to see you give yourself the gift of amusement and play a luxurious sabbatical that will help you feel free of every burden, excused from every duty, and exempt from every fixation. The spirit I hope you will embody is captured well in this passage from author Okakura Kakuzo: "Let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle. Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things."

CAPRICORN (December 22-January 19): Rapper Eminem advises us, "Never take ecstasy, beer, Bacardi, weed, Pepto-Bismol, Vivarin, Tums, Tagamet HB, Xanax, and Valium in the same day." What's his rationale? That quaffing this toxic mix might kill us or make us psychotic? No. He says you shouldn't do that because "It makes it difficult to sleep at night." I'm going to suggest that you abide by his counsel for yet another reason: According to my analysis, you have the potential to experience some wondrous and abundant natural highs in the coming weeks. Your capacity for beautiful perceptions, exhilarating thoughts, and breakthrough epiphanies will be at a peak. But none of that is likely to happen if you're loaded up with inebriants.

AQUARIUS (January 20-February 18): "Everyone who has ever built a new heaven first found the power to do so in his own hell," declared philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. That's a rather histrionic statement! But then Nietzsche was a Maestro of Melodrama. He was inclined to portray human life as a heroic struggle for boldness and liberation. He imagined us as being engaged in an epic quest to express our highest nature. In accordance with your astrological potentials, I propose that you regard Nietzsche as your power creature during the coming weeks. You have a mandate to adopt his lion-hearted perspective. And yes, you also have a poetic license to build a new heaven based on the lessons you learned and the power you gained in your own hell.

PISCES (February 19-March 20): Here's some knowledge from author John le Carr: "In every operation there is an above the line and a below the line. Above the line is what you do by the book. Below the line is how you do the job." According to my analysis, you have, at least for now, done all you can in your work above the line. That's great! It was crucial for you to follow the rules and honor tradition. But now it's time for a shift in emphasis. In the coming weeks, I hope you will specialize in finessing the details and massaging the nuances below the line.

Homework: Meditate on the possibility that you could gain personal power through an act of surrender. Visit FreeWillAstrology.com.

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Free Will Astrology: August 19, 2020 - River Cities Reader

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August 22nd, 2020 at 2:55 am

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Free Will AstrologyWeek of August 20 | Advice & Fun | Bend – The Source Weekly

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LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): "Magic lies in challenging what seems impossible," says Leo politician Carol Moseley Braun. I agree with her, but will also suggest there's an even higher magic: when you devise a detailed plan for achieving success by challenging the impossible, and then actually carry out that plan. Judging from the current astrological omens, I suspect you're in an unusually favorable position to do just that in the coming weeks. Be bold in rising to the challenge; be practical and strategic in winning the challenge.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): "Joy is a mystery because it can happen anywhere, anytime, even under the most unpromising circumstances," writes author Frederick Buechner. What he doesn't say is that you must be receptive and open to the possibility of joy arriving anywhere and anytime. If you're shut down to its surprising influx, if you're convinced that joy is out of reach, it won't break through the barriers you've put up; it won't be able to land in your midst. I think this is especially important counsel for you in the coming weeks, Virgo. PLEASE make yourself available for joy. P.S. Here's another clue from Buechner: "Joy is where the whole being is pointed in one direction."

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): "I transformed stillnesses and darknesses into words," wrote Libran poet Arthur Rimbaud. "What was unspeakable, I named. I made the whirling world pause." In accordance with current astrological potentials, I have turned his thoughts into a message for you. In the coming weeks, I hope you will translate silences and mysteries into clear language. What is unfathomable and inaccessible, you will convert into understandings and revelations. Gently, without force or violence, you will help heal the inarticulate agitation around you with the power of your smooth, resonant tenderness.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): "Your desires, whether or not you achieve them, will determine who you become," wrote author Octavia E. Butler. Now is a fertile time for you to meditate on that truth. So I dare you to take an inventory of all your major desires, from the noblest to the most trivial. Be honest. If one of your burning yearnings is to have 100,000 followers on Instagram or to eat chocolate-covered bacon that is served to you in bed, admit it. After you're through tallying up the wonders you want most, the next step is to decide if they are essential to you becoming the person you truly want to be. If some aren't, consider replacing them with desires that will be a better influence on you as you evolve.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): If you can manage it, I recommend taking a break from business-as-usual. I'd love to see you give yourself the gift of amusement and playa luxurious sabbatical that will help you feel free of every burden, excused from every duty, and exempt from every fixation. The spirit I hope you will embody is captured well in this passage from author Okakura Kakuzo: "Let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle. Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things."

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Rapper Eminem advises us, "Never take ecstasy, beer, Bacardi, weed, Pepto-Bismol, Vivarin, Tums, Tagamet HB, Xanax, and Valium in the same day." What's his rationale? That quaffing this toxic mix might kill us or make us psychotic? No. He says you shouldn't do that because "It makes it difficult to sleep at night." I'm going to suggest that you abide by his counsel for yet another reason: According to my analysis, you have the potential to experience some wondrous and abundant natural highs in the coming weeks. Your capacity for beautiful perceptions, exhilarating thoughts, and breakthrough epiphanies will be at a peak. But none of that is likely to happen if you're loaded up with inebriants.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): "Everyone who has ever built a new heaven first found the power to do so in his own hell," declared philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. That's a rather histrionic statement! But then Nietzsche was a Maestro of Melodrama. He was inclined to portray human life as a heroic struggle for boldness and liberation. He imagined us as being engaged in an epic quest to express our highest nature. In accordance with your astrological potentials, I propose that you regard Nietzsche as your power creature during the coming weeks. You have a mandate to adopt his lion-hearted perspective. And yes, you also have a poetic license to build a new heaven based on the lessons you learned and the power you gained in your own hell.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): Here's some knowledge from author John le Carr: "In every operation there is an above the line and a below the line. Above the line is what you do by the book. Below the line is how you do the job." According to my analysis, you have, at least for now, done all you can in your work above the line. That's great! It was crucial for you to follow the rules and honor tradition. But now it's time for a shift in emphasis. In the coming weeks, I hope you will specialize in finessing the details and massaging the nuances below the line.

ARIES (March 21-April 19): "We never know what is enough until we know what's more than enough," said Aries singer Billie Holiday. I don't think that applies to everyone, although it's more likely to be true about the Aries tribe than maybe any other sign of the zodiac. And I'm guessing that the coming weeks could be a time when you will indeed be vivid proof of its validity. That's why I'm issuing a "Too Much of a Good Thing" alert for you. I don't think it'll be harmful to go a bit too far and get a little too much of the good things; it may even be wise and healthy to do so. But please don't go waaayyyy too far and get waaayyyy too much of the good things.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Taurus author Honor de Balzac (17991850) took many years to write The Human Comedy, an amalgam of 91 intertwined novels, stories, and essays. For this vast enterprise, he dreamed up the personalities of more than 2,000 characters, many of whom appeared in multiple volumes. I bring this to your attention, Taurus, because I believe that the next 15 months will be an excellent time for you to imagine and carry out a Balzac-like project of your own. Do you have an inkling of what that might be? Now's a good time to start ruminating.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Not until the 19th century did humans begin to take organized actions to protect animals from cruelty. Even those were sparse. The latter part of the 20th century brought more concerted efforts to promote animal welfare, but the rise of factory farms, toxic slaughterhouses, zoos, circuses, and cosmetic testing has shunted us into a Dark Age of animal abuse. I suspect our descendants will look back with horror at our barbarism. This problem incurs psychological wounds in us all in ways that aren't totally conscious. And I think this is an especially key issue for you right now. I beg you, for your own sake as well as for the animals', to upgrade your practical love and compassion for animals. I bet you'll find it inspires you to treat your own body with more reverence.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): Cancerian literary critic Harold Bloom bragged to The New York Times that his speed-reading skills were so advanced that he could finish a 500-page book in an hour. While I believe he has indeed devoured thousand of books, I also wonder if he lied about his quickness. Nonetheless, I'll offer him up as an inspirational role model for you in the coming weeks. Why? Because you're likely to be able to absorb and integrate far more new information and fresh experiences than usualand at a rapid pace.

Homework: Meditate on the possibility that you could gain personal power through an act of surrender. FreeWillAstrology.com

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Free Will AstrologyWeek of August 20 | Advice & Fun | Bend - The Source Weekly

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August 22nd, 2020 at 2:55 am

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Don’t misrepresent Atheism – The Shillong Times

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Editor,

Apropos the letter No Country for Atheists, (ST August 19, 2020), I wish to bring to your attention the factual errors and blatant misrepresentation of the humanist and atheist community of Meghalaya. I myself have been an atheist since the 6th grade. Now as a full grown adult I have still remained so. I wish to encourage the author of the particular letter and others who are interested to educate themselves on the beliefs and ideals of the great humanists or atheist thinkers like Voltaire, Nietzsche, B.R Ambedkar, Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins etc. Much progress in the fields of science, literature, medicine, philosophy, etc have been made by atheists and humanists. Many of their books are available online for free or in libraries. I also wish for the authors to understand that atheism and humanism are mutually exclusive. Something which would have been easily understood if one would spend time to research the topic instead on relying on hearsay.

Humanism is a rationalist outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Atheism on the other hand is the absence of belief in any divine entity or power. Not all atheists are humanists and not all humanists are atheists. In fact you can follow a religion and be a humanist. As for the accusations that atheism is destructive there can be no denial that there have been some atheists who use their nihilism and depravity to justify their misdeeds just as there have been plenty of adherents of different faiths who commit atrocities in the name of their chosen gods. Beware of painting large groups of people with broad brushes. It is always wise to research and read up on an issue before writing. Calling one particular community as destructive is callous. If the author had been writing about another religious or ethnic community in such a way she would be liable to face legal consequences. As such, most of the humanist and atheist community are rather mellow, level headed and compassionate individuals. They would rather their deeds speak for themselves rather than argue pointlessly in the legal system. The world today is shaped by humanist and atheist beliefs. Without the pursuit of scientific, political and social knowledge the world today would be trapped in the barbarism of the mediaeval ages where feudal lords commit atrocities in the name of their religion. The ideas of liberalism, democracy, human rights, etc originate from humanist ideals that placed human life over that of the divine. In conclusion, I wish for everyone to read up on humanism and atheism even if they are faithful adherents of their religion. The pursuit of knowledge will broaden their horizons and perhaps next time when criticism is used, it will have some basis on reality.

Yours etc.,

Leon Gabriel Kharkongor An Atheist

Via email

Editor,

A sense of shame came over me after reading the letter No country for Atheists,(ST Aug 20th, 2020). We Christians need to introspect and face facts. Meghalaya has a majority of Christians living within its borders but when we look back at what has been done and what we have achieved since 1972, it is us Christians who need to keep quiet and stop justifying any kind of retort. Christ would really not want to be a Christian in Meghalaya. All important indicators show how bad everything is in the state and who has been leading it for years- Christians. This is not to take anything away from the unsung warriors of Christ because a lot has been achieved through their hard work and dedication.

We have churches in every corner and the freedom to worship anywhere but look at the condition of our state. Corruption is rampant, the weak are being oppressed, nature is over exploited beyond its capability to regenerate and we depend on outsiders to control any further destruction; the list goes on. I hide my face in shame (I cant repeat the word enough) and ask for forgiveness on behalf of all decision makers these past decades. We cannot defend anything when the evidence clearly proves otherwise. We need to admit to our mistakes and failures if there is to be any hope for the future.

To the highly controversial subject of forceful conversion, I personally have never been a fan of numbers. How many followers each denomination has will not matter to God when I was taught (correct me if I am wrong) ever since I was a child that He is interested in the heart? People follow Christ because of how he lived; he did not have to force anyone. This is what our churches need to teach people now more than ever. Heaven and hell is not going to mean anything for people trying to survive an already very difficult and challenging world. Maybe then we can face greed and pride head on and compromises like the planned shopping mall will not happen. Only then can we all work together for a better solution to the unemployment problem that the government is saying justifies this course of action.

Yours etc,

Via email

Editor,

It is interesting to read the opinions expressed by several writers through your esteemed daily. Some of the letters/articles are very scholarly and they never fail to inspire us to think big. They broaden our outlook.They even push us to soar up into the higher truths. The light of KNOWLEDGE can alone dispel the darkness of ignorance. So, that LIGHT coming from any source must be welcome. More importantly, the right knowledge helps us become saner and more compassionate towards our fellow beings regardless of what faiths or customs or traditions they practice.Mr. Sanwame War, in one of his letters, emphasizes that religion should encourage us in free-thinking, creativity, and self-inquiry. This really appeals to me. God is the supreme source of creativity.The realm of God is accessible to those who have come out of the narrow cocoon of dogmatism. Excessive dogmatism leads to hatred. Hatred spiritually drags us down weakening our thinking and intellectual capability. Free-thinking, of course within the boundaries of morality, can considerably help us shake off prejudices. Many of us continuously choose to carry a load of biased opinions against others, their faiths/customs without ever knowing that, at the end of the day, they are only going to pollute our mindset. Harbouring malice corrodes our inner self, obstructing our pathway to divinity or, more precisely, self-realization.

I would like to further add, that if religion is all about looking down on others and hurting them, then one needs to stand up and fight for HUMANITY FIRST. Todays major crises, nay, senseless brutalities and bloodshed, are usually due to the flawed interpretation of words of our beloved prophets who otherwise stood for humanity and peace. Just look at the recent incident of Bengaluru, Delhi-riots, Gurdwara suicide bombing in Kabul. also many other places across the world, which are in fact inspired by hatred for other faiths. If religions lead to such violence and killings, then we must have badly misread our holy scriptures. Lord Jesus, Lord Krishna, Prophet Mohammed, Buddha are doubtlessly the embodiment of love and service, they never preached violence. HUMANITY AND SERVICE TO MANKIND are what they lived for till their last breath. So, following in their footsteps, lets first believe in service to mankind, and love one and all without discrimination, being kind and compassionate as aptly concluded by Jennifer Dkhar in her letter Understanding religion (ST, 20thAug). It is our compassion towards His creatures that melts the heart of the ALMIGHTY.He will then surely open His doorway to heaven for us. HE might cut us to size if we hurt humanity inthe name of religion.

Yours etc.,

Salil Gewali,

Shillong,

Go here to read the rest:
Don't misrepresent Atheism - The Shillong Times

Written by admin

August 22nd, 2020 at 2:55 am

Posted in Nietzsche


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