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American Democracy and "The Barbarism of Specialisation" – Modern Diplomacy

Posted: September 13, 2020 at 11:56 am


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The specialist knows very well his own tiny corner of the universe; he is radically ignorant of all the rest.-Jose Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses (1930)

It has been almost one hundred years since Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset published The Revolt of the Masses (Le Rebelion de las Masas, 1930). A prescient indictment of anti-Reason, and an immediate forerunner of modern classical works by German scholars Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers,[1] Ortega was most plainly concerned about Europes growing fragmentation of learning. Witnessing a world rapidly abandoning the traditional goal of broadly-educated or whole human beings, he worried about a future in which there would be more capable scientists than ever before, but where these scientists were otherwise unexceptional and without any wider embrace of erudition.

These observations were seminal. Among other things, the prophetic philosopher foresaw educated societies in which even the proud holders of impressive university degrees were conscientiously ignorant of everything outside their own vocational bailiwicks. In essence, Ortega had anticipated the present-day United States. Here, even in an oft-vaunted advanced society, the most exquisitely trained physicians, lawyers, accountants and engineers generally reason at the same limiting level of analysis as technicians, carpenters or lightly schooled office workers.

In large part, this is because professional education in the United States has effectively superseded everything that does not ostentatiously focus on making money. The adverb here is vital in this description, because the overriding lure of wealth in America remains the presumed admiration it can elicit from others. As we ought already to have learned from Adam Smith in his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759): The rich man glories in his riches, because he feels that they naturally draw upon him the attention of the world.At the thought of this, his heart seems to swell and dilate itself within him, and he is fonder of his wealth, upon this account, than for all the other advantages it procures him.[2]

Almost by definition, any American concerns for intellectual or historical issues per se have become extraneous. This does not mean, however, that our strenuous national efforts at improving professional education have been successful or productive. On the contrary, as we witness the multiple daily technical failures of American democracy e.g. the all-too evident incapacity of our ballot calculating technologies to keep abreast of shifting vote-counting modalities this beleaguered polity is failing on multiple fronts.

For many reasons, many of them overlapping, this has been a lamentable retrogression. Above all, it has impaired this countrys capacity to sustain an enviable or even minimally credible democracy. Though Thomas Jefferson had already understood that proper human governance requires a purposeful acquaintance with historical and sociological learning, Americans now inhabit a country where the president can say unashamedly, I love the poorly educated. Significantly, this perverse preference of Donald J. Trump did not emerge ex nihilo, out of nothing.

It is a portentous but credible echo of Third Reich Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels: Intellect rots the brain.[3]

Ortega yGasset had a specific name for this generally defiling intellectual deformation. More exactly, he called it The Barbarism of Specialisation.[4] Earlier, and in somewhat similar fashion, Friedrich Nietzsche wrote about the educated philistine.[5] Both Ortega and Nietzsche recognized the irony that a society could become progressively better educated in various sub-fields of human knowledge and yet, simultaneously, become less and less cultured, less and less truly civilized.[6] In this regard, the German philosopher placed appropriate conceptual blame on what he preferred to call the herd.[7] For his part, the kindred Spanish thinker cast his particular indictment on the mass.

Whatever the terminological differences, both sets of ideas were centered on the same basic critique; that is, that individuals had been casting aside the necessary obligation to think for themselves, and had, thereby, surrendered indispensable analytic judgments to crowds.[8]

Today, both ideas can shed some useful light on American democracy, a system of governance under increasing assault by US President Donald J. Trump. To the extent that American education has become rampantly vocational that is, oriented toward more and more pragmatic kinds of specialization the wisdom of Ortega yGasset and others is worth probing with ever-increasing care. Moreover, the corrosively barbarous impact of specialization foreseen earlier by philosophers is now magnified by the injurious effects of worldwide disease pandemic.

Without doubt, this unwelcome magnification will need to be countered if American democracy is able merely to survive.[9]

But analysis should begin at the beginning. Inter alia, it is a discomfiting beginning. Americans now inhabit a society so numbingly fragmented and rancorous that even their most sincere melancholy is seemingly contrived. Wallowing in the mutually-reinforcing twilights of submission and conformance, We the people have strayed dangerously far from any meaningful standards of serious learning. In consequence, though still a nation with extraordinary scientific, medical and commercial successes, the American public is often ill-equipped to judge candidates for high political office.[10]

As we have seen, utterly ill-equipped.

Surveying ever-mounting damages of the Trump presidency,[11] some of which are synergistic or force multiplying, could anything be more apparent?

The grievously baneful selection of Donald J. Trump in 2016 was anything but a cultural aberration. It was, rather, the plausible outcome of an electorate relentlessly driven and even defined by mass. Without any real or compelling reasons, voting Americans freely abandoned the once-residual elements of Jeffersonian good citizenship.

Together with the unceasing connivance of assorted criminals, charlatans and fools, many of them occupants of the present US Governments most senior positions, a lonely American mass now bears core responsibility for allowing the demise of a once- enviable democratic ethos. To expect any sudden improvements to emerge from among this homogenized mass (e.g., by continuously making the citizens more particularly aware of this presidents manifold derelictions) would be to overestimate its inclinations. Though truth is always exculpatory, there are times when it yields to various forms of self-delusion.

What the mass once learned to believe without reasons, queries Nietzsches Zarathustra, who could ever overthrow with reasons?

There will be a heavy price to pay for Americas still-expanding ascendancy of mass. Any society so willing to abjure its rudimentary obligations toward dignified learning toward what American Transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson had once called high thinking is one that should never reasonably expect to survive.[12]

There is more. Treating formal education as a narrowly instrumental obligation (one should get better educated in order to get a better paying job), Americans now more easily accept flagrantly empty witticisms as profundities (We will build a beautiful wall; Barbed wire can be beautiful; The moon is part of Mars; Testing for corona virus only increases disease; Just one percent of Covid19 victims have symptoms, etc., etc), and consult genuinely challenging ideas only rarely.

Always, the dire result of anti-Reason is more-or-less predictable; that is, a finely trained work force that manages to get a particular job done, but displays (simultaneously) nary a hint of worthwhile learning, commendable human understanding or simple compassion. Concerning this last absence, empathy is not directly related to the barbarisms of specialization, but it does generally exhibit some tangible nurturance from literature, art and/or culture. Incontestably, the Trump White House is not only indifferent to basic human rights and public welfare,[13] it quite literally elevates personal animus to highest possible significations.

This is especially marked where such animus is most thoroughly pedestrian.

Intentionally mispronouncing the Democrat vice-presidential candidates first name is a small but glaring example of Donald Trumps selected level of competitive political discourse. By its very nature, of course, this demeaning level is better suited to a first-grade elementary school classroom.

There are even much wider ramifications of gratuitous rancor. When transposed to the vital arena of international relations, this presidents elevation of belligerent nationalism has a long and persistently unsuccessful history as Realpolitik or power politics.[14] Thinking himself clever, Donald Trump champions America First (the phrase resonates with those, like the president himself, who have no knowledge of history),but fails to realize that this peculiarly shameful resurrection of Deutschland uber alles can lead only to massive defeat and unparalleled despair.

I loathe, therefore I am, could well become Donald J. Trumps revised version of Ren Descartes Cogito.[15] Following Descartes, Sigmund Freud had understood that all human beings could somehow be motivated toward creating a spontaneous sympathy of souls, but Americas Donald Trump has quite expansively reversed this objective. Reinforced by the rampant vocationalism of this countrys education system, Trump has consistently urged citizens to turn against one another, and for no dignified, defensible or science-based reasons. In absolutely all cases, these grotesque urgings have had no meritorious or higher purpose.

Instead, they remain utterly and viciously contrived.

In the bitterly fractionated Trump-era United States, an authentic American individualhas become little more than a charming artifact. Among other things, the nations societal mass, more refractory than ever to intellect and learning, still displays no discernible intentions of ever taking itself seriously. To the contrary, an embittered American mass now marches in deferential lockstep, foolishly, without thought, toward even-greater patterns of imitation, unhappiness and starkly belligerent incivility.

All things considered, the American future is not hard to fathom. More than likely, whatever might be decided in upcoming politics and elections, Americans will continue to be carried forth not by any commendable nobilities of principle or purpose, but by steady eruptions of personal and collective agitation, by endlessly inane presidential repetitions and by the perpetually demeaning primacy of a duly sanctified public ignorance. At times, perhaps, We the people may still be able to slow down a bit and smell the roses, but this is doubtful.

Plainly, our visibly compromised and degraded country now imposes upon its increasingly exhausted people the breathless rhythms of a vast and omnivorous machine.

This machine has no objective other than to keep struggling without spawning any sudden breakdowns or prematurely inconvenient deaths.

Much as many might wish to deny it, the plausible end of this self-destroying machinery will be to prevent Americans from remembering who they are now and (far more importantly) who they might once still have become. At another reasonable level of concern, Americans remain threatened by nuclear war and nuclear terrorism, especially now, during the incoherent Trump-era. Significantly, although there exists a vast literature on law-based strategies of nuclear war avoidance, there is little parallel jurisprudential effort directed toward the prevention of nuclear terrorism.[16]

In fact, presidential banalities aside, this is no longer a nation of laws. It is a nation of ad hoc, narrowly visceral response.

There is more. Americans inhabit the one society that could have been different. Once, we harbored a preciously unique potential to nurture individuals, that is, to encourage Americans to become more than a smugly inert mass, herd or crowd. Then, Ralph Waldo Emerson (also fellow Transcendentalists Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau) described us optimistically as a people animated by industry and self-reliance.

Now, however, and beyond any serious contestation, we are stymied by collective paralysis, capitulation and a starkly Kierkegaardian fear and trembling.

Surely, as all must eventually acknowledge, there is more to this chanting country than Fuehrer-driven rallies, tsunamis of hyper-adrenalized commerce or gargantuan waves of abundantly cheap entertainments: I celebrate myself, and sing myself, rhapsodized the poet Walt Whitman, but today, the American Selfhas devolved into a delicately thin shadow of true national potential. Distressingly, this Self has already become a twisting reflection of a prior authenticity. Now it is under seemingly final assault by a far-reaching societal tastelessness and by a literally epidemic gluttony.

Regarding this expressly gastronomic debility, its not that we Americans have become more and more hungry, but rather that we have lost any once residual appetites for real life.[17]

In the end, credulity is Americas worst enemy. The stubborn inclination to believe that wider social and personal redemption must lie somewhere in politics remains a potentially fatal disorder. To be fair, various social and economic issues do need to be coherently addressed by Americas political representatives, but so too must the nations deeper problems first be solved at the level of microcosm, as a matter for individuals.

In the end, American politics like politics everywhere must remain a second-order activity, a faint reflection of what is truly important. For now, it continues to thrive upon a vast personal emptiness, on an infirmity that is the always-defiling reciprocal of any genuine personal fulfillment. Conscious of his emptiness, warns the German philosopher Karl Jaspers in Reason and Anti-Reason in our Time (1952), man (human) tries to make a faith for himself (or herself) in the political realm. In Vain.

Even in an authentic democracy, only a few can ever hope to redeem themselves and the wider American nation, but these self-effacing souls will generally remain silent, hidden in more-or-less deep cover, often even from themselves. In a democracy where education is oriented toward narrowly vocational forms of career preparation, an orientation toward barbaric specialization, these residual few can expect to be suffocated by the many. Unsurprisingly, such asphyxiation, in absolutely any of its conceivable particularities, would be a bad way to die.[18]

Donald J. Trump did not emerge on the political scene ex nihilo, out of nothing. His incoherent and disjointed presidency is the direct result of a society that has wittingly and barbarously abandoned all serious thought. When such a society no longer asks the big philosophical questions for example, What is the good in government and politics? or How do I lead a good life as person and citizen? or How can I best nurture the well-being of other human beings? the lamentable outcome is inevitable. It is an outcome that we are currently living through in the United States, and one that might sometime have to be died through.

Going forward, what we ought to fear most of all is precisely this continuously self-defiling outcome, not a particular electoral result. To be certain, at this point, nothing could be more urgently important for the United States than to rid itself of the intersecting pathologies of Covid19 and Donald Trump, diseases that are mutually reinforcing and potentially synergistic, but even such victories would only be transient. More fundamentally, recalling philosopher Jose Ortega yGassets timeless warning about the barbarism of specialisation, this country must resurrect an earlier ethos of education in which learning benefits the whole human being, not just a work-related corner of the universe.

Also vital is the obligation to acknowledge the fundamental interrelatedness of all peoples and the binding universality of international law.[19]

To survive, both as a nation and as individuals, Americans need to become educated not merely as well-trained cogs in the vast industrial machine, but as empathetic and caring citizens. Everyone is the other, and no one is just himself, cautions Martin Heidegger in Being and Time (1932), but this elementary lesson once discoverable in myriad sacred texts is not easily operationalized. Indeed, it is in this single monumental failure of operationalization that human civilization has most conspicuously failed though the ages. To wit, in Trump-era American democracy, the presidents core message is not about the co-responsibility of every human being for his or her fellows, but about winners, losers, and a presumptively preeminent citizen obligation to Make America Great.

In this Trumpian context, greatness assumes a crudely Darwinian or zero-sum condition, and not one wherein each individual favors harmonious cooperation over an endlessly belligerent competition.[20]

How shall we finally change all this, or, recalling Platos wisdom in The Republic, how shall we learn to make the souls of the citizens better?[21] This is not a question that we can answer with any pertinent detail before the upcoming US presidential election. But it is still a question that we ought to put before the imperiled American polity soon, and sometime before it is too late.[22]

American democracy faces multiple hazards, including Ortega y Gassets barbarism of specialisation. To be rescued in time, each hazard will have to be tackled carefully, by itself and also in coordinated tandem with all other identifiable perils. Overall, the task will be daunting and overwhelming, but the alternative is simply no longer tolerable or sustainable.

Donald Trumps removal from office is a sine qua non for all applicable remedies, but even such an needed step would target only a catastrophic symptom of Americas national pathology. By itself, saving the United States from Donald Trump would surely be indispensable, but it would leave unchanged the countrys still most deeply underlying disease. In the end,[23] because Americans will need to bring a less specialized form of learning to their citizenship responsibilities, the nation will quickly have to figure out practical ways of restoring educational wholeness.

Can this sort of rational calculation be expected? Maybe not. Perhaps, like the timeless message of Nietzsches Zarathustra, this warning has come too soon. If that turns out to be the case, there may simply be no later.

[1] See especially Martin Heideggers Being and Time (Sein und Zeit;1953) and Karl Jaspers Reason and Anti-Reason in our Time (1952). Is it an end that draws near, inquires Jaspers, or a beginning? The answer will depend, in large part, on what Heidegger has to say about the Jungian or Freudian mass. In Being and Time (1953), the philosopher laments what he calls, in German, das Mann, or The They. Drawing fruitfully upon earlier core insights of Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Jung and Freud, Heideggers The They represents the ever-present and interchangeable herd, crowd, horde or mass. Each such conglomerate exhibits untruth (the term actually favored by Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard) because it can encourage the barbarism of specialisation and suffocate broadly humanistic kinds of learning.

[2]Smith published Theory seventeen years before his vastly more famous and oft-cited Wealth of Nations (1776).

[3]See, on commonalities between Third Reich and Trump-era American democracy, by Louis Ren Beres at Jurist: https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/05/louis-beres-america-rise-and-fall/

[4] Chapter 12 of The Revolt of the Masses (1930) is expressly titled The Barbarism of Specialisation.'

[5]Here, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche coined an aptly specific term, one he hoped could eventually become universal. This German word was Bildungsphilister. When expressed in its most lucid and coherent English translation, it means educated Philistine. Bildungsphilister is a term that could shed useful light upon Donald Trumps ongoing support from among Americas presumptively well-educated and well-to-do.

[6] On this irony, Kierkegaard says it best in The Sickness Unto Death (1849): Devoid of imagination, as the Philistine always is, he lives in a certain trivial province of experience, as to how things go, what is possible, what usually occurs.Philistinism thinks it is in control of possibility.it carries possibility around like a prisoner in the cage of the probable, and shows it off.

[7]Sigmund Freud introduced his own particular version of Nietzsches herd, which was horde. Interestingly, Freud maintained a general antipathy to all things American. He most strenuously objected, according to Bruno Bettelheim, to this countrys shallow optimism and also its corollary commitment to the crudest forms of materialism. America, thought Freud, was grievously lacking in soul. See: Bruno Bettelheim, Freud and Mans Soul (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983), especially Chapter X.

[8] In essence, the crowd was Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaards equivalent of Nietzsches herd and Ortegas mass.

[9] The most ominous synergies of barbarism would link pandemic effects with growing risks of a nuclear war. On irrational nuclear decision-making by this author, see Louis Ren Beres, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: https://thebulletin.org/2016/08/what-if-you-dont-trust-the-judgment-of-the-president-whose-finger-is-over-the-nuclear-button/ See also, by Professor Beres, https://warroom.armywarcollege.edu/articles/nuclear-decision-making/ (Pentagon). For authoritative early accounts by Professor Beres of nuclear war expected effects, see: Louis Ren Beres, Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis Ren Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: Americas Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1983); Louis Ren Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: U.S. Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis Ren Beres, Security or Armageddon: Israels Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1986). Most recently, by Professor Beres, see: Surviving Amid Chaos: Israels Nuclear Strategy (New York, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd ed. 2018). https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy

[10] At a minimum, in this regard, the US public ought to be reminded of the explicit warning in Nietzsches Zarathustra: Do not ever seek the higher man at the market place. (Moreover, it would not be unfair to Nietzsches core meaning here to expand higher man to mean higher person.).

[11] Most egregious, in any assessment of these damages, is this presidents wilful subordination of national interest to his own presumed private interests. In this regard, one may suitably recall Sophocles cautionary speech of Creon in Antigone: I hold despicable, and always have.anyone who puts his own popularity before his country.

[12] Still the best treatments of Americas long-term disinterest in anything intellectual are Richard Hofstadter, Anti-intellectualism in American Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964); and Jacques Barzun, The House of Intellect (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1959).

[13] See, by Louis Ren Beres: https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/04/the-trump-presidency-a-breathtaking-assault-on-law-justice-and-security/

[14] The classic statement of Realpolitik or power politics in western philosophy is the comment of Thrasymachus in Platos Republic : Justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger. (See Plato, The Republic, 29, Benjamin Jowett, tr., World Publishing Company, 1946.) See also: Ciceros oft-quoted query: For what can be done against force without force?, Marcus Tullus Cicero, Ciceros Letters to his Friends, 78 (D.R. Shackleton Baily tr., Scholars Press, 1988).

[15] I think, therefore I am, says Ren Descartes, in his Discourse on Method (1637). Reciprocally, in his modern classic essay on Existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre observes that outside the Cartesian cogito, all views are only probable.

[16] See, by Professor Louis Ren Beres: https://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1410&context=gjicl

[17] An apt literary reference for this condition of lost appetite is Franz Kafkas story, The Hunger Artist.

[18] In more expressly concrete terms, average American life-expectancy, unenviable for several decades, has now fallen behind most of the advanced industrial world. While Trump boasts of a wall to keep out Mexicans and assorted others, more and more Americans are trying to cross in the other direction.

[19] Apropos of this universality, international law is generally part of the law of the United States. These legal systems are always interpenetrating. Declared Mr. Justice Gray, in delivering the judgment of the US Supreme Court in Paquete Habana (1900): International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained and administered by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction. (175 U.S. 677(1900)) See also: Opinion in Tel-Oren vs. Libyan Arab Republic (726 F. 2d 774 (1984)). The specific incorporation of treaty law into US municipal law is expressly codified at Art. 6 of the US Constitution, the so-called Supremacy Clause.

[20] Here it could be helpful to recall the words of French Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in The Phenomenon of Man: The egocentric ideal of a future reserved for those who have managed to attain egoistically the extremity of `everyone for himself is false and against nature.

[21] Long after Plato, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung thought of soul (in German, Seele) as the very essence of a human being. Neither Freud nor Jung ever provides a precise definition of the term, but clearly it was not intended by either in any ordinary religious sense. For both, it was a still-recognizable and critical seat of both mind and passions in this life. Interesting, too, in the present context, is that Freud explained his already-predicted decline of America by various express references to soul. Freud was plainly disgusted by any civilization so apparently unmoved by considerations of true consciousness (e.g., awareness of intellect and literature), and even thought that the crude American commitment to perpetually shallow optimism and to material accomplishment at any cost would occasion sweeping psychological misery.

[22] Sometimes, says Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt, the worst does happen.

[23] In the end, says Goethe, we are always creatures of our own making.

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American Democracy and "The Barbarism of Specialisation" - Modern Diplomacy

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September 13th, 2020 at 11:56 am

Kamala Harris as Vice President Attractive for the Indian American Voter? – Modern Diplomacy

Posted: at 11:56 am


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The specialist knows very well his own tiny corner of the universe; he is radically ignorant of all the rest.-Jose Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses (1930)

It has been almost one hundred years since Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset published The Revolt of the Masses (Le Rebelion de las Masas, 1930). A prescient indictment of anti-Reason, and an immediate forerunner of modern classical works by German scholars Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers,[1] Ortega was most plainly concerned about Europes growing fragmentation of learning. Witnessing a world rapidly abandoning the traditional goal of broadly-educated or whole human beings, he worried about a future in which there would be more capable scientists than ever before, but where these scientists were otherwise unexceptional and without any wider embrace of erudition.

These observations were seminal. Among other things, the prophetic philosopher foresaw educated societies in which even the proud holders of impressive university degrees were conscientiously ignorant of everything outside their own vocational bailiwicks. In essence, Ortega had anticipated the present-day United States. Here, even in an oft-vaunted advanced society, the most exquisitely trained physicians, lawyers, accountants and engineers generally reason at the same limiting level of analysis as technicians, carpenters or lightly schooled office workers.

In large part, this is because professional education in the United States has effectively superseded everything that does not ostentatiously focus on making money. The adverb here is vital in this description, because the overriding lure of wealth in America remains the presumed admiration it can elicit from others. As we ought already to have learned from Adam Smith in his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759): The rich man glories in his riches, because he feels that they naturally draw upon him the attention of the world.At the thought of this, his heart seems to swell and dilate itself within him, and he is fonder of his wealth, upon this account, than for all the other advantages it procures him.[2]

Almost by definition, any American concerns for intellectual or historical issues per se have become extraneous. This does not mean, however, that our strenuous national efforts at improving professional education have been successful or productive. On the contrary, as we witness the multiple daily technical failures of American democracy e.g. the all-too evident incapacity of our ballot calculating technologies to keep abreast of shifting vote-counting modalities this beleaguered polity is failing on multiple fronts.

For many reasons, many of them overlapping, this has been a lamentable retrogression. Above all, it has impaired this countrys capacity to sustain an enviable or even minimally credible democracy. Though Thomas Jefferson had already understood that proper human governance requires a purposeful acquaintance with historical and sociological learning, Americans now inhabit a country where the president can say unashamedly, I love the poorly educated. Significantly, this perverse preference of Donald J. Trump did not emerge ex nihilo, out of nothing.

It is a portentous but credible echo of Third Reich Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels: Intellect rots the brain.[3]

Ortega yGasset had a specific name for this generally defiling intellectual deformation. More exactly, he called it The Barbarism of Specialisation.[4] Earlier, and in somewhat similar fashion, Friedrich Nietzsche wrote about the educated philistine.[5] Both Ortega and Nietzsche recognized the irony that a society could become progressively better educated in various sub-fields of human knowledge and yet, simultaneously, become less and less cultured, less and less truly civilized.[6] In this regard, the German philosopher placed appropriate conceptual blame on what he preferred to call the herd.[7] For his part, the kindred Spanish thinker cast his particular indictment on the mass.

Whatever the terminological differences, both sets of ideas were centered on the same basic critique; that is, that individuals had been casting aside the necessary obligation to think for themselves, and had, thereby, surrendered indispensable analytic judgments to crowds.[8]

Today, both ideas can shed some useful light on American democracy, a system of governance under increasing assault by US President Donald J. Trump. To the extent that American education has become rampantly vocational that is, oriented toward more and more pragmatic kinds of specialization the wisdom of Ortega yGasset and others is worth probing with ever-increasing care. Moreover, the corrosively barbarous impact of specialization foreseen earlier by philosophers is now magnified by the injurious effects of worldwide disease pandemic.

Without doubt, this unwelcome magnification will need to be countered if American democracy is able merely to survive.[9]

But analysis should begin at the beginning. Inter alia, it is a discomfiting beginning. Americans now inhabit a society so numbingly fragmented and rancorous that even their most sincere melancholy is seemingly contrived. Wallowing in the mutually-reinforcing twilights of submission and conformance, We the people have strayed dangerously far from any meaningful standards of serious learning. In consequence, though still a nation with extraordinary scientific, medical and commercial successes, the American public is often ill-equipped to judge candidates for high political office.[10]

As we have seen, utterly ill-equipped.

Surveying ever-mounting damages of the Trump presidency,[11] some of which are synergistic or force multiplying, could anything be more apparent?

The grievously baneful selection of Donald J. Trump in 2016 was anything but a cultural aberration. It was, rather, the plausible outcome of an electorate relentlessly driven and even defined by mass. Without any real or compelling reasons, voting Americans freely abandoned the once-residual elements of Jeffersonian good citizenship.

Together with the unceasing connivance of assorted criminals, charlatans and fools, many of them occupants of the present US Governments most senior positions, a lonely American mass now bears core responsibility for allowing the demise of a once- enviable democratic ethos. To expect any sudden improvements to emerge from among this homogenized mass (e.g., by continuously making the citizens more particularly aware of this presidents manifold derelictions) would be to overestimate its inclinations. Though truth is always exculpatory, there are times when it yields to various forms of self-delusion.

What the mass once learned to believe without reasons, queries Nietzsches Zarathustra, who could ever overthrow with reasons?

There will be a heavy price to pay for Americas still-expanding ascendancy of mass. Any society so willing to abjure its rudimentary obligations toward dignified learning toward what American Transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson had once called high thinking is one that should never reasonably expect to survive.[12]

There is more. Treating formal education as a narrowly instrumental obligation (one should get better educated in order to get a better paying job), Americans now more easily accept flagrantly empty witticisms as profundities (We will build a beautiful wall; Barbed wire can be beautiful; The moon is part of Mars; Testing for corona virus only increases disease; Just one percent of Covid19 victims have symptoms, etc., etc), and consult genuinely challenging ideas only rarely.

Always, the dire result of anti-Reason is more-or-less predictable; that is, a finely trained work force that manages to get a particular job done, but displays (simultaneously) nary a hint of worthwhile learning, commendable human understanding or simple compassion. Concerning this last absence, empathy is not directly related to the barbarisms of specialization, but it does generally exhibit some tangible nurturance from literature, art and/or culture. Incontestably, the Trump White House is not only indifferent to basic human rights and public welfare,[13] it quite literally elevates personal animus to highest possible significations.

This is especially marked where such animus is most thoroughly pedestrian.

Intentionally mispronouncing the Democrat vice-presidential candidates first name is a small but glaring example of Donald Trumps selected level of competitive political discourse. By its very nature, of course, this demeaning level is better suited to a first-grade elementary school classroom.

There are even much wider ramifications of gratuitous rancor. When transposed to the vital arena of international relations, this presidents elevation of belligerent nationalism has a long and persistently unsuccessful history as Realpolitik or power politics.[14] Thinking himself clever, Donald Trump champions America First (the phrase resonates with those, like the president himself, who have no knowledge of history),but fails to realize that this peculiarly shameful resurrection of Deutschland uber alles can lead only to massive defeat and unparalleled despair.

I loathe, therefore I am, could well become Donald J. Trumps revised version of Ren Descartes Cogito.[15] Following Descartes, Sigmund Freud had understood that all human beings could somehow be motivated toward creating a spontaneous sympathy of souls, but Americas Donald Trump has quite expansively reversed this objective. Reinforced by the rampant vocationalism of this countrys education system, Trump has consistently urged citizens to turn against one another, and for no dignified, defensible or science-based reasons. In absolutely all cases, these grotesque urgings have had no meritorious or higher purpose.

Instead, they remain utterly and viciously contrived.

In the bitterly fractionated Trump-era United States, an authentic American individualhas become little more than a charming artifact. Among other things, the nations societal mass, more refractory than ever to intellect and learning, still displays no discernible intentions of ever taking itself seriously. To the contrary, an embittered American mass now marches in deferential lockstep, foolishly, without thought, toward even-greater patterns of imitation, unhappiness and starkly belligerent incivility.

All things considered, the American future is not hard to fathom. More than likely, whatever might be decided in upcoming politics and elections, Americans will continue to be carried forth not by any commendable nobilities of principle or purpose, but by steady eruptions of personal and collective agitation, by endlessly inane presidential repetitions and by the perpetually demeaning primacy of a duly sanctified public ignorance. At times, perhaps, We the people may still be able to slow down a bit and smell the roses, but this is doubtful.

Plainly, our visibly compromised and degraded country now imposes upon its increasingly exhausted people the breathless rhythms of a vast and omnivorous machine.

This machine has no objective other than to keep struggling without spawning any sudden breakdowns or prematurely inconvenient deaths.

Much as many might wish to deny it, the plausible end of this self-destroying machinery will be to prevent Americans from remembering who they are now and (far more importantly) who they might once still have become. At another reasonable level of concern, Americans remain threatened by nuclear war and nuclear terrorism, especially now, during the incoherent Trump-era. Significantly, although there exists a vast literature on law-based strategies of nuclear war avoidance, there is little parallel jurisprudential effort directed toward the prevention of nuclear terrorism.[16]

In fact, presidential banalities aside, this is no longer a nation of laws. It is a nation of ad hoc, narrowly visceral response.

There is more. Americans inhabit the one society that could have been different. Once, we harbored a preciously unique potential to nurture individuals, that is, to encourage Americans to become more than a smugly inert mass, herd or crowd. Then, Ralph Waldo Emerson (also fellow Transcendentalists Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau) described us optimistically as a people animated by industry and self-reliance.

Now, however, and beyond any serious contestation, we are stymied by collective paralysis, capitulation and a starkly Kierkegaardian fear and trembling.

Surely, as all must eventually acknowledge, there is more to this chanting country than Fuehrer-driven rallies, tsunamis of hyper-adrenalized commerce or gargantuan waves of abundantly cheap entertainments: I celebrate myself, and sing myself, rhapsodized the poet Walt Whitman, but today, the American Selfhas devolved into a delicately thin shadow of true national potential. Distressingly, this Self has already become a twisting reflection of a prior authenticity. Now it is under seemingly final assault by a far-reaching societal tastelessness and by a literally epidemic gluttony.

Regarding this expressly gastronomic debility, its not that we Americans have become more and more hungry, but rather that we have lost any once residual appetites for real life.[17]

In the end, credulity is Americas worst enemy. The stubborn inclination to believe that wider social and personal redemption must lie somewhere in politics remains a potentially fatal disorder. To be fair, various social and economic issues do need to be coherently addressed by Americas political representatives, but so too must the nations deeper problems first be solved at the level of microcosm, as a matter for individuals.

In the end, American politics like politics everywhere must remain a second-order activity, a faint reflection of what is truly important. For now, it continues to thrive upon a vast personal emptiness, on an infirmity that is the always-defiling reciprocal of any genuine personal fulfillment. Conscious of his emptiness, warns the German philosopher Karl Jaspers in Reason and Anti-Reason in our Time (1952), man (human) tries to make a faith for himself (or herself) in the political realm. In Vain.

Even in an authentic democracy, only a few can ever hope to redeem themselves and the wider American nation, but these self-effacing souls will generally remain silent, hidden in more-or-less deep cover, often even from themselves. In a democracy where education is oriented toward narrowly vocational forms of career preparation, an orientation toward barbaric specialization, these residual few can expect to be suffocated by the many. Unsurprisingly, such asphyxiation, in absolutely any of its conceivable particularities, would be a bad way to die.[18]

Donald J. Trump did not emerge on the political scene ex nihilo, out of nothing. His incoherent and disjointed presidency is the direct result of a society that has wittingly and barbarously abandoned all serious thought. When such a society no longer asks the big philosophical questions for example, What is the good in government and politics? or How do I lead a good life as person and citizen? or How can I best nurture the well-being of other human beings? the lamentable outcome is inevitable. It is an outcome that we are currently living through in the United States, and one that might sometime have to be died through.

Going forward, what we ought to fear most of all is precisely this continuously self-defiling outcome, not a particular electoral result. To be certain, at this point, nothing could be more urgently important for the United States than to rid itself of the intersecting pathologies of Covid19 and Donald Trump, diseases that are mutually reinforcing and potentially synergistic, but even such victories would only be transient. More fundamentally, recalling philosopher Jose Ortega yGassets timeless warning about the barbarism of specialisation, this country must resurrect an earlier ethos of education in which learning benefits the whole human being, not just a work-related corner of the universe.

Also vital is the obligation to acknowledge the fundamental interrelatedness of all peoples and the binding universality of international law.[19]

To survive, both as a nation and as individuals, Americans need to become educated not merely as well-trained cogs in the vast industrial machine, but as empathetic and caring citizens. Everyone is the other, and no one is just himself, cautions Martin Heidegger in Being and Time (1932), but this elementary lesson once discoverable in myriad sacred texts is not easily operationalized. Indeed, it is in this single monumental failure of operationalization that human civilization has most conspicuously failed though the ages. To wit, in Trump-era American democracy, the presidents core message is not about the co-responsibility of every human being for his or her fellows, but about winners, losers, and a presumptively preeminent citizen obligation to Make America Great.

In this Trumpian context, greatness assumes a crudely Darwinian or zero-sum condition, and not one wherein each individual favors harmonious cooperation over an endlessly belligerent competition.[20]

How shall we finally change all this, or, recalling Platos wisdom in The Republic, how shall we learn to make the souls of the citizens better?[21] This is not a question that we can answer with any pertinent detail before the upcoming US presidential election. But it is still a question that we ought to put before the imperiled American polity soon, and sometime before it is too late.[22]

American democracy faces multiple hazards, including Ortega y Gassets barbarism of specialisation. To be rescued in time, each hazard will have to be tackled carefully, by itself and also in coordinated tandem with all other identifiable perils. Overall, the task will be daunting and overwhelming, but the alternative is simply no longer tolerable or sustainable.

Donald Trumps removal from office is a sine qua non for all applicable remedies, but even such an needed step would target only a catastrophic symptom of Americas national pathology. By itself, saving the United States from Donald Trump would surely be indispensable, but it would leave unchanged the countrys still most deeply underlying disease. In the end,[23] because Americans will need to bring a less specialized form of learning to their citizenship responsibilities, the nation will quickly have to figure out practical ways of restoring educational wholeness.

Can this sort of rational calculation be expected? Maybe not. Perhaps, like the timeless message of Nietzsches Zarathustra, this warning has come too soon. If that turns out to be the case, there may simply be no later.

[1] See especially Martin Heideggers Being and Time (Sein und Zeit;1953) and Karl Jaspers Reason and Anti-Reason in our Time (1952). Is it an end that draws near, inquires Jaspers, or a beginning? The answer will depend, in large part, on what Heidegger has to say about the Jungian or Freudian mass. In Being and Time (1953), the philosopher laments what he calls, in German, das Mann, or The They. Drawing fruitfully upon earlier core insights of Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Jung and Freud, Heideggers The They represents the ever-present and interchangeable herd, crowd, horde or mass. Each such conglomerate exhibits untruth (the term actually favored by Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard) because it can encourage the barbarism of specialisation and suffocate broadly humanistic kinds of learning.

[2]Smith published Theory seventeen years before his vastly more famous and oft-cited Wealth of Nations (1776).

[3]See, on commonalities between Third Reich and Trump-era American democracy, by Louis Ren Beres at Jurist: https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/05/louis-beres-america-rise-and-fall/

[4] Chapter 12 of The Revolt of the Masses (1930) is expressly titled The Barbarism of Specialisation.'

[5]Here, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche coined an aptly specific term, one he hoped could eventually become universal. This German word was Bildungsphilister. When expressed in its most lucid and coherent English translation, it means educated Philistine. Bildungsphilister is a term that could shed useful light upon Donald Trumps ongoing support from among Americas presumptively well-educated and well-to-do.

[6] On this irony, Kierkegaard says it best in The Sickness Unto Death (1849): Devoid of imagination, as the Philistine always is, he lives in a certain trivial province of experience, as to how things go, what is possible, what usually occurs.Philistinism thinks it is in control of possibility.it carries possibility around like a prisoner in the cage of the probable, and shows it off.

[7]Sigmund Freud introduced his own particular version of Nietzsches herd, which was horde. Interestingly, Freud maintained a general antipathy to all things American. He most strenuously objected, according to Bruno Bettelheim, to this countrys shallow optimism and also its corollary commitment to the crudest forms of materialism. America, thought Freud, was grievously lacking in soul. See: Bruno Bettelheim, Freud and Mans Soul (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983), especially Chapter X.

[8] In essence, the crowd was Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaards equivalent of Nietzsches herd and Ortegas mass.

[9] The most ominous synergies of barbarism would link pandemic effects with growing risks of a nuclear war. On irrational nuclear decision-making by this author, see Louis Ren Beres, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: https://thebulletin.org/2016/08/what-if-you-dont-trust-the-judgment-of-the-president-whose-finger-is-over-the-nuclear-button/ See also, by Professor Beres, https://warroom.armywarcollege.edu/articles/nuclear-decision-making/ (Pentagon). For authoritative early accounts by Professor Beres of nuclear war expected effects, see: Louis Ren Beres, Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis Ren Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: Americas Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1983); Louis Ren Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: U.S. Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis Ren Beres, Security or Armageddon: Israels Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1986). Most recently, by Professor Beres, see: Surviving Amid Chaos: Israels Nuclear Strategy (New York, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd ed. 2018). https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy

[10] At a minimum, in this regard, the US public ought to be reminded of the explicit warning in Nietzsches Zarathustra: Do not ever seek the higher man at the market place. (Moreover, it would not be unfair to Nietzsches core meaning here to expand higher man to mean higher person.).

[11] Most egregious, in any assessment of these damages, is this presidents wilful subordination of national interest to his own presumed private interests. In this regard, one may suitably recall Sophocles cautionary speech of Creon in Antigone: I hold despicable, and always have.anyone who puts his own popularity before his country.

[12] Still the best treatments of Americas long-term disinterest in anything intellectual are Richard Hofstadter, Anti-intellectualism in American Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964); and Jacques Barzun, The House of Intellect (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1959).

[13] See, by Louis Ren Beres: https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/04/the-trump-presidency-a-breathtaking-assault-on-law-justice-and-security/

[14] The classic statement of Realpolitik or power politics in western philosophy is the comment of Thrasymachus in Platos Republic : Justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger. (See Plato, The Republic, 29, Benjamin Jowett, tr., World Publishing Company, 1946.) See also: Ciceros oft-quoted query: For what can be done against force without force?, Marcus Tullus Cicero, Ciceros Letters to his Friends, 78 (D.R. Shackleton Baily tr., Scholars Press, 1988).

[15] I think, therefore I am, says Ren Descartes, in his Discourse on Method (1637). Reciprocally, in his modern classic essay on Existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre observes that outside the Cartesian cogito, all views are only probable.

[16] See, by Professor Louis Ren Beres: https://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1410&context=gjicl

[17] An apt literary reference for this condition of lost appetite is Franz Kafkas story, The Hunger Artist.

[18] In more expressly concrete terms, average American life-expectancy, unenviable for several decades, has now fallen behind most of the advanced industrial world. While Trump boasts of a wall to keep out Mexicans and assorted others, more and more Americans are trying to cross in the other direction.

[19] Apropos of this universality, international law is generally part of the law of the United States. These legal systems are always interpenetrating. Declared Mr. Justice Gray, in delivering the judgment of the US Supreme Court in Paquete Habana (1900): International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained and administered by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction. (175 U.S. 677(1900)) See also: Opinion in Tel-Oren vs. Libyan Arab Republic (726 F. 2d 774 (1984)). The specific incorporation of treaty law into US municipal law is expressly codified at Art. 6 of the US Constitution, the so-called Supremacy Clause.

[20] Here it could be helpful to recall the words of French Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in The Phenomenon of Man: The egocentric ideal of a future reserved for those who have managed to attain egoistically the extremity of `everyone for himself is false and against nature.

[21] Long after Plato, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung thought of soul (in German, Seele) as the very essence of a human being. Neither Freud nor Jung ever provides a precise definition of the term, but clearly it was not intended by either in any ordinary religious sense. For both, it was a still-recognizable and critical seat of both mind and passions in this life. Interesting, too, in the present context, is that Freud explained his already-predicted decline of America by various express references to soul. Freud was plainly disgusted by any civilization so apparently unmoved by considerations of true consciousness (e.g., awareness of intellect and literature), and even thought that the crude American commitment to perpetually shallow optimism and to material accomplishment at any cost would occasion sweeping psychological misery.

[22] Sometimes, says Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt, the worst does happen.

[23] In the end, says Goethe, we are always creatures of our own making.

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Kamala Harris as Vice President Attractive for the Indian American Voter? - Modern Diplomacy

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September 13th, 2020 at 11:56 am

The Institute of the Cosmos – Announcements – e-flux – E-Flux

Posted: September 8, 2020 at 7:56 am


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The Institute of the Cosmos

http://www.cosmos.art

The Institute of the Cosmos presents an online library of essential readings on and about Russian Cosmism. Until very recently, many of these key essays, treatises, poems, and novelshave not been available in English. Those that have been translated have been scattered and difficult to find. The Institutes researchers assembled this selection of historical and contemporary texts to make the intellectual context surrounding cosmism accessible. This library will continue expanding: subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates on new titles.

Topics: Accelerationism, Anarchism, Architecture, Art, Artificial Intelligence, Astro-Linguistics, Biocosmism, Communism, Constructivism, Cryogenics, Cybernetics, Earth, Ecology, Energy, Film, Futurism, Gender, God-Building, Immortalism, Labor, Machine Learning, Marxism, Materialism, Monism, Museology, Noosphere, Occult, Poetry, Productivism, Religion, Reproduction, Resurrection, Revolution, Rocketry, Science, Science Fiction, Socialism, Soviet Union, Space Exploration, Suprematism, Technology, Time, Transhumanism, Weather

Authors: Abba & Wolf Gordin, Aleksandr Svyatogor, Aleksei Gastev, Alexander Bogdanov, Alexander Chizhevsky, Alexander Yaroslavsky, Alexandre Kojve, Anastasia Gacheva, Anatoly Lunacharsky, Andrei Platonov, Anton Vidokle, Arkady Strugatsky, Arseny Zhilyaev, Boris Groys, Boris Strugatsky, Fred Berthold Jr., Friedrich Nietzsche, George Young, Georges Bataille, Gilgamesh, Herman Potonik Noordung, Hermann Oberth, Hito Steyerl, Irmgard Emmelhainz, Johannes Kepler, Kazimir Malevich, Keti Chukhrov, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Marina Simakova, Mckenzie Wark, Mikhail Bulgakov, Nel Grillaert, Nikolai Berdyaev, Nikolai Fedorov, Nikolay Zabolotsky, Pavel Florensky, Peter Kropotkin, Pierre Teilhard De Chardin, Sergei Bulgakov, Sergei Eisenstein, Trevor Paglen, Valerian Muraviov, Vasily Chekrygin, Velimir Khlebnikov, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Vladimir Odoyevsky, Vladimir Solovyov, Vladimir Vernadsky, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Walter Nunzio Sisto

The cinema of the Institute of the Cosmos is pleased to present Immortality for All: A film trilogy on Russian Cosmismby Anton Vidokle.

In this three-part film project, Anton Vidokle probes Cosmisms influence on the twentieth century and suggests its relevance to the present day. In This is Cosmos(2014), the artist returns to the foundations of Cosmist thought. The second chapter, entitled The Communist Revolution Was Caused By The Sun(2015), explores the links between cosmology and politics. The film's third chapter, Immortality and Resurrection for All! (2017), re-stages the museum as a site of resurrection, a central Cosmist idea.

Combining essay, documentary, and performance, the trilogy quotes from the writings of Cosmisms founder Nikolai Fedorov and other philosophers and poets. Vidokle's wandering camera searches for traces of Cosmist influence in the remains of Soviet-era art, architecture and engineering, moving from the steppes of Kazakhstan to the museums of Moscow. Music by John Cale and liane Radigue accompanies these haunting images, conjuring up the yearning for connectedness, social equality, material transformation and immortality at the heart of Cosmist thought.

Watch the films here.

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The Institute of the Cosmos - Announcements - e-flux - E-Flux

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September 8th, 2020 at 7:56 am

SPIRIT MATTERS: In matters of the spirit, spirituality matters – LaSalle News Tribune

Posted: August 31, 2020 at 1:58 am


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Regular and longtime readers of this space have probably figured out by now there is at least one thing in my life I am passionate about.

Spirituality.

Admittedly, this term can be confusing for many, and create all kinds of misunderstandings. When the question arises whether someone is spiritual or religious, many people see it in dualistic terms like you must be one or the other, but you cant be both.

This is just not true.

In fact, after reading about and studying spirituality for 25 years, I would propose that before religion comes into ones life, one is already, by birthright, a spiritual person.

Although it has been attributed to various people over the years, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is credited with originating this statement: We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.

This implies, that just by being born, each human is a spiritual being. Indeed, some would include in that spiritual being category, all living things animals, plants, trees

Before I sat down at the keyboard this week, I looked up the term spirituality to try to get a grasp on a generally accepted definition of what it means to be spiritual.

There are, of course, many factors that go into determining this, but probably the most basic answer is this, which appeared when I googled the word. This definition is from Oxford Languages:

the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.

I might elaborate on that just a bit, to say that spirituality is an effort to find meaning, in ones own life, in others lives, in the world around them, and in the events that take place in their lives.

Another description of what it means to be a spiritual person came from an article on HuffPost in 2015. This one is more detailed than the above definition, but overall (and as in anything, there are exceptions), this definition better encapsulates what it means to be spiritual in these days in which we live:

Being a spiritual person is synonymous with being a person whose highest priority is to be loving to yourself and others. A spiritual person cares about people, animals and the planet. A spiritual person knows that we are all One, and consciously attempts to honor this Oneness. A spiritual person is a kind person.

Now, in reading this definition, we can see that it does not preclude spiritual people from also being religious. For some people, they dont have a spiritual awakening for years, even though they have practiced a religion for their entire life. In fact, most world religions, in one way or another, teach the highest priority of human life is to be loving to yourself and others.

As we all know, not all religious peoples lives reflect this, however. In fact, sadly, religions can be divisive, when seen as the be all and end all of existence.

Anyway, the reason I decided to write about this topic this week, is because I was thinking about 2020 and what an unusually, pardon my language, hellish year it has been. Honestly, humanity has been blindsided this year in more ways than we ever thought possible, at least in modern times. At least that is how it seems to those of us living it out. Now.

And I know for almost everyone scratch that everyone, adjusting to these new realities has been mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually challenging scratch that word challenging exhausting.

I know and have heard of many people with heightened anxiety and other mental health issues that are directly related to the extreme uncertainty we live with now.

Each day we awaken, we wonder what life is going to throw at us today.

It cannot possibly get any worse than it is already, we think.

But then it does.

So as someone who is passionate about spirituality, I look at it this way:

In many ways, there is not a lot we can do hands-on, at least not immediately, to resolve the circumstances we find ourselves in. Many of them, especially those more medically related, take time to research and find solutions to.

Others which are more systemically related with deep, thick, sprawling roots must be addressed with much dialogue and mutual respect. No easy answers here.

At the foundation of all these attempts to find a solution, however, is the need for each one of us to tap into that spiritual side of us, that is our birthright.

For months, millions of people have been at home, afraid to go out into public; many of them elderly with few family or friends to check on them.

Others have watched helplessly as nearly 200,000 Americans have succumbed to Covid-19, or complications from the virus. They have watched as dear family and friends have died painful, awful deaths, alone in a hospital room, without anyone even being able to physically touch their skin, or say goodbye. They have grieved their losses relatively alone, without the human support they so desperately need.

Hostilities related to all kinds of situations have boiled up and exploded in recent months, and only seem to be getting worse with each passing day.

As I write this today, I do so without, GOD FORBID, any intention of stirring up yet another political debate. Life is not all about politics. It is about so much more than that.

That is where this idea of spirituality comes in.

I believe that these terrible months we have all endured, if looked at in a positive light, have been an opportunity for every single one of us to get in touch with that spiritual side with which we were born.

That doesnt mean necessarily going to church. Many people cant go to church right now.

It is something more basic than that.

It is getting in touch with a loving Reality that undergirds all the pain and alienation so many of us feel from life, from each other, from ourselves

It is sitting still, quiet, and reaching out to that loving Reality to try to find out more about that Reality, and to find some way to make sense of it all.

Not that we will make sense of it all.

I have found in my life that when we go looking for answers as to why something happened, we might as well be beating our heads against a wall.

We just cannot be assured we will get an answer as to why something happened.

But

We can find meaning in it.often after much time has elapsed.

We can find ways to get grounded in this loving Reality that is eternal the beginning and the end of all things.

We can find ways to acknowledge that we are not isolated beingswe are connected to one another in ways we cannot imagine or explain.

And what happens to one of us, impacts the rest of us.

We can find ways to be the spiritual beings we are.those whose highest priority is to be loving to ourselves and others.those who care about people, animals and the planet.those who know that we are all One, and consciously attempt to honor this Oneness.

those who are kind

SPIRIT MATTERSis a weekly column that examines spirituality in The Times' readership area. Contact Jerrilyn Zavada at jzblue33@yahoo.com to share how you engage your spirit in your life and in your community.

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SPIRIT MATTERS: In matters of the spirit, spirituality matters - LaSalle News Tribune

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August 31st, 2020 at 1:58 am

PLEASANT HILL RAMBLINGS: ‘Love at the Heart of the Cosmos’ webinar set – Crossville Chronicle

Posted: December 4, 2019 at 5:45 pm


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The Uplands Lifelong Learning Institute is joining with Pleasant Hill Community Church, United Church of Christ, to bring a different kind of program to the area.

Ulli (formerly the Shalom Center for Continuing Education) has sponsored two-day educational programs or short courses meetings for six to eight weeks with live speakers or leaders.

On three days, Friday-Sunday, Dec. 6-8, the Institute and Church will bring the broadcast of an Omega Center Conference Webinar called Love at the Heart of the Cosmos: Living in Relational Wholeness to Pleasant Hill. The sessions will be shown on the large-screen and smaller video screens in Adshead Hall of Fletcher House for Assisted Living.

After each of the lectures, Ulli Group Discussions will be led by Ed Olson and Mark Canfield. Because of the different nature of this program, there will not be a potluck dinner on Friday night, but coffee and a light breakfast will be provided for the morning sessions.

On Friday, Dec. 6, the webinar will begin at 5:30 p.m. with an introduction by Ilia Delio. This webinar is an event committed to Teilhards vision for a new religion of the Earth for a new planet of life.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a French idealist philosopher and Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist and is known for his theory that man is evolving, mentally and socially, toward a final spiritual unity.

Delio said, Teilhard envisioned a new type of energy flowing from the convergence of world religions, giving rise to a new religion of the Earth and a new ultrahuman community, electronically connected in a rising Cosmic Person.

The lecture beginning at 6 p.m. will be by Ursula King, a German theologian and scholar of religion, who specializes in gender, religion, and feminist theology. She has been a professor of theology and religious studies, president of Catherine of Siena College, and a prominent lecturer.

King received honorary doctorates from the universities of Edinburgh, Oslo and Dayton, OH, as well as research awards from the University of Delhi and Sorbonne, Paris. She is a Life Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts.

On Saturday, Dec. 7, from 7:45-8 a.m., a continental breakfast will be followed with the morning lecture by Kathleen Duffy, editor of Teilhard Studies who serves on the advisory boards of the American Teilhard Association and Cosmos and Creation, holding an honorary doctorate from Iona College.

She has published Teilhards Mysticism: Seeing the Inner Face of Evolution.

Following a break, there will be Teilhard & Centering Prayer led by Cynthia Bourgeault from 9:45-11:15 a.m. She is a modern-day mystic, Episcopal priest, writer and internationally known retreat leader. She is a core faculty member at the Center for Action and Contemplation, a member of the Global Peace Initiative for Women Contemplative Council and recipient of the 2014 Contemplative Voices award from Shalem Institute. Bourgeault is a founding director of both The Contemplative Society and the Aspen Wisdom School and author of several books.

The program will resume again from 4:30-6 p.m. with a lecture by John Haught. A theologian of science and religion, he will provide an analysis of what faith might mean in an age of science.

Haught is a distinguished research professor in the Department of Theology at Georgetown University and the author of 20 books, more than 100 book chapters and articles as well as hundreds of invited lectures and major academic presentations.

He offers fresh insight into the biblical nature of hope in order to clarify his position about those who differ with his approach the New Atheists and Creationists.

On Sunday, Dec. 8, from 7:45- 9:30 a.m., Ilia Delio will focus on exploring divine action in a world of evolution, complexity, emergence, quantum reality and artificial intelligence.

She earned doctorates in pharmacology from Rutgers University-School of Healthcare and Biomedical Sciences and in historical theology from Fordham University, NY. She is the recipient of a Templeton Course in Science and Religion award and the author of 17 books, many of which have been translated into Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish and German.

Ulli anticipates people will come and go throughout the three days of the conference.

Adshead Hall is on the lower level of the Elizabeth Fletcher House for Assisted Living, 40 Fletcher Dr. in Pleasant Hill off of Church Dr. across from the Community Church.

The webinar is free and open to the public, but donations will be appreciated.

This week in Pleasant Hill:

Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2 p.m. Documentary (Retirement Revolution) in Room 4, Pleasant Hill Community Church, United Church of Christ, Main St. and Church Dr.

Wednesday, Dec. 4, 5:30 p.m. Spaghetti supper, 6:15 p.m., and Taize Service in Pleasant Hill Community Church sanctuary, 67 Church Dr.

Wednesdays, 6 p.m. Bible study and prayer at the Pleasant Hill Baptist Mission at 39 Browntown Rd. near Main St.

Thursdays, 2-4 p.m. Fair Trade Room open in Pleasant Hill Community Church. Coffee, tea, chocolate, SERRV crafts from around the world. Supports co-ops and crafters with a fair price for their goods.

Thursday, Dec. 5, 7 p.m. Community Bridge at Fletcher House Dining Room. All welcome. Call 931-277-5005.

Friday, Dec. 6 Obed Wild and Scenic River 1.5-mile hike to the high rock outcrop of Lilly Bluff. Meet at 9:15 a.m. in the Aquatic Center parking lot on West Lake Rd. to carpool to the trailhead.

Tuesday, Dec. 10, noon Pleasant Hill emergency siren test.

Tuesday, Dec. 10, 6 p.m. Pleasant Hill Town Council meeting at Pleasant Hill Town Hall, 351 E. Main St. Call 931-277-3813.

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PLEASANT HILL RAMBLINGS: 'Love at the Heart of the Cosmos' webinar set - Crossville Chronicle

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December 4th, 2019 at 5:45 pm

CNY Inspirations: Sense of the holy can be found in quote – Syracuse.com

Posted: November 23, 2019 at 7:48 am


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This feature is coordinated by The Post-Standard/Syracuse.com and InterFaith Works of CNY. Follow this theme and author posted Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.

The American holiday of Thanksgiving marks the grand opening of the Christmas shopping season. So by now you've been inundated with advertising: print, radio, television, and social media. How amid all this clamor for our money do we maintain our sense of the holy?

You might have heard: "You are not a human being having a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being having a human experience." In other words, what is important is who we are and how we relate to others, not what we have and how we acquired it.

The quote is most often attributed to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. However, he was not the author. The real author gives us the real irony! It was part of an advertisement for Volkswagen, written for the company by motivational speaker Wayne Dyer.

May we all be blessed with the spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude!

Maggid Jim Brul is an ordained Jewish spiritual storyteller. A member of Temple Concord, Brul teaches storytelling and works with congregations and organizations to heal fractures of faith, class and ethnicity.

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CNY Inspirations: Sense of the holy can be found in quote - Syracuse.com

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November 23rd, 2019 at 7:48 am

The grace within passivity – Angelus News

Posted: October 30, 2019 at 9:46 am


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A friend of mine shares this story. She grew up with five siblings and an alcoholic father. The effect of her fathers alcoholism was devastating on her family. Heres how she tells the story:

By the time my father died, his alcoholism had destroyed our family. None of us kids could talk to each other anymore. Wed drifted apart to different parts of the country and had nothing to do with each other.

My mother was a saint and kept trying through the years to have us reconcile with each other, inviting us to gather for Thanksgiving and Christmas and the like, but it never worked. All her efforts were for nothing. We hated each other.

Then, as my mother lay dying of cancer, in hospice, bedridden, and eventually in a coma, we, her kids, gathered by her bedside, watching her die, and she, helpless and unable to speak, was able to accomplish what she couldnt achieve through all those years when she could speak. Watching her die, we reconciled.

We all know similar stories of someone in their dying, when they were too helpless to speak or act, powerfully impacting, more powerfully than they ever did in word or action, those around them, pouring out a grace that blessed their loved ones.

Sometimes, of course, this isnt a question of reconciling a family but of powerfully strengthening their existing unity.Such was the case in a family history shared by Carla Marie Carlson, in her book,Everyday Grace.

Her family was already closely knit, but Carlson shares how her mothers dying strengthened those family bonds and graced all the others who witnessed her dying:

Those who took the opportunity to be with my Mom during that journey have told me that their lives were forever changed. It was a remarkable time, which I will always treasure. Lessons of acceptance and courage were abundant as she struggled with the realities of a dying body. It was dramatic and intense, but yet filled with peace and gratitude.

Most anyone who has ever sat in vigil around a loved one who was dying can share a similar story.

Theres a lesson here and a mystery. The lesson is that we dont just do important things for one another and impact one anothers lives by what we actively do for one another; we also do life-changing things for one another in what we passively absorb in helplessness. This is the mystery of passivity which we see, paradigmatically, played out in what Jesus did for us.

As Christians, we say that Jesusgave his life for usand that hegave his death for us, but we tend to think of this as one and the same thing. Its not. Jesus gave his life for usthrough his activity; he gave his death for usthrough his passivity.These were two separate movements.

Like the woman described earlier who tried for years to have her children reconcile with one another through her activity, through her words and actions, and then eventually accomplished that through the helplessness and passivity of her deathbed, so, too, with Jesus.

For three years he tried in every way to make us understand love, reconciliation, and faith, without full effect. Then, in less than 24 hours, in his helplessness, when he couldnt speak, in his dying, we got the lesson. Both Jesus and his mother were able, in their helplessness and passivity, to give the world something that they were unable to give as effectively in their power and activity.

Unfortunately, this is not something our present culture, with its emphasis on health, productivity, achievement, and power very much understands.

We no longer much understand or value the powerful grace that is given off by someone dying of a terminal illness, nor the powerful grace present in a person with a disability, or indeed the grace thats present in our own physical and personal disabilities.

Nor do we much understand what we are giving to our families, friends, and colleagues when we, in powerlessness, have to absorb neglect, slights, and misunderstanding. When a culture begins to talk about euthanasia, it is an infallible indication that we no longer understand the grace within passivity.

In his writings, Father Henri Nouwen makes a distinction between what he terms our achievements and our fruitfulness.Achievementsstem more directly from our activities: What have we positively accomplished? What have we actively done for others? And our achievements stop when we are no longer active.

Fruitfulness, on the other hand, goes far beyond what we have actively accomplished and is sourced as much by what we have passively absorbed as by what we actively produced. The family described above reconciled not because of their mothers achievements, but because of her fruitfulness. Such is the mystery of passivity.

Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ, in his spiritual classic,The Divine Milieu,tells us that we are meant to help the world through both our activities and our passivities, through both what we actively give and through what we passively absorb.

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October 30th, 2019 at 9:46 am

‘Holy Chaos?’ Is Theme For Oct. 13 Event Searching For Meaning In Turbulent Times – The Transylvania Times

Posted: October 15, 2019 at 1:45 am


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Rob Field, director of Center for Spiritual Wisdom, will be the presenter for the next Sunday gathering at Elk Haven Wellness Center on Oct. 13 at 5 p.m. His topic will be Holy Chaos? Looking for Meaning In Turbulent Times.

The event is open to the public.

Today, many people are asking, Why is our society become so contentious? Why does it feel like things are falling apart? Can anything good come from all the chaos?

Drawing on wise souls, past and present, including Integral Theory founder Ken Wilber, as well as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Field will offer his personal response to these questions.

More than anything, I want to spark the kind of conversation Id enjoy being part of, said Field. My favorite part of these gatherings is the give and take.

Elk Haven Wellness Center is located at 100 Elks Club Road, just off Park Avenue, in Brevard. Doors will open at 5 p.m. for informal conversation and light refreshments.

The presentation will begin at 5:30 p.m., with questions and conversation following at 6 p.m. The gathering will end at 6:30 p.m.

Donations will be accepted at the door, and gifts of $10 or more will be acknowledged with a glass of Green Heart organic juice or a Reason to Bake gluten-free cookie. All donations are welcome, and will help defray the costs associated with the centers Sunday series.

Further information is available at http://www.Center4SpiritualWisdom.org

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'Holy Chaos?' Is Theme For Oct. 13 Event Searching For Meaning In Turbulent Times - The Transylvania Times

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October 15th, 2019 at 1:45 am

Animal Doctor: Fur staining in dogs is caused by porphyrin or infection – Tulsa World

Posted: October 5, 2019 at 9:49 am


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Dear Dr. Fox: I have a small white Maltese. He is 8 years old, and in the past year, has started getting brownish red fur wherever he licks face, feet etc. I feel it is allergies, but dont know to what. Otherwise he is healthy. I do give him filtered water.

Have you any suggestions for what I can try? B.M., West Palm Beach, Florida

Dear B.M.: This is a very prevalent problem in dogs, and is especially evident in those with white coats. Red fur staining is caused by a compound called porphyrin. Porphyrins are iron-containing molecules produced when the body breaks down red blood cells. They are removed from the body primarily through feces, but are also in urine, tears and saliva.

Brown fur staining is primarily caused by an infection with the yeast Malassezia. This is the yeast that is responsible for skin and ear infections in dogs.

It is possible that your dog has both conditions. Excessive eye discharge can mean chronic eye infection or blocked tear ducts, while dental problems common in small breeds can lead to excessive salivation. Both secretions carry porphyrins that stain the fur.

Dogs with seasonal allergies may lick their paws and legs, the saliva staining the fur red. Then when brownish discoloration develops in the moist fur, the yeast infection sets in. The yeast thrives where the fur is moist, especially in the external ear canals, under the eyes and around the lower jaws, where the fur is moist from saliva and drinking.

I would advise a good grooming/clipping, and cleaning the affected areas with one part hydrogen peroxide in two parts water. Dry him well, then apply apple cider vinegar, rub it well into his fur, then wipe him semi-dry after 10 to 15 minutes. You may need someone to hold your dog and avoid getting any of these applications near the eyes.

If your dog has not had a recent wellness examination, you should take him in my fear is that he dog has chronic dental issues, and the remedy I offer will not fix the problem.

Dear Readers: Not One More Vet is an online veterinary support group. The group was founded in 2014 by Dr. Nicole McArthur. It has grown into an international group of veterinarians who come together on Facebook to laugh, cry and lend a supportive ear with their colleagues. from the groups website, nomv.org

This is so very important, because the incidence of suicide in this profession is about twice that of the general population. Non-veterinarians working in animal protection, cruelty investigations and rescue work also need support; they, too, experience the burdens of empathy, frustration and despair that can come from dealing with a culture that has so little regard for nonhuman life. Compassion stress and compassion fatigue are among the personal indices of well-being.

As the late Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin famously wrote, We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. By extension, dogs, cats and other sentient life forms are spiritual beings having a dog, cat or other experience, respectively. Accepting this view inspires a sense of reverential respect for all life, and a responsibility to care for all creatures great and small. This means we suffer with, and for, them when they are in need of care. Veterinarians and others in caring professions can indeed experience burnout and depression. Many even consider ending, and actually do end, their own lives an incalculable loss that support groups such as Not One More Vet can help prevent.

Fewer animals being taken into shelters, euthanized: Good news! Factors such as cultural change, an increase in spaying and neutering, pets being returned to owners and a trend toward rescue adoption have reduced the number of animals in big-city shelters that are euthanized by more than 75% since 2009. Though some no-kill shelters report being pushed beyond their capacity, shelters have become more sophisticated and collaborative. (The New York Times, 9/3)

Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

Visit Dr. Foxs website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.

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October 5th, 2019 at 9:49 am

The scent of humility – Angelus News

Posted: September 26, 2019 at 11:45 am


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According to Isaac the Syrian, a famous 7th-century bishop and theologian, a person whos genuinely humble gives off a certain scent that other people will sense and that even animals will pick up, so that wild animals, including snakes, will fall under its spell and never harm that person.

Heres his logic: A humble person, he believes, has recovered the smell of paradise and in the presence of such a person one does not feel judged and has nothing to fear, and this holds true even for animals. They feel safe around a humble person and are drawn to him or her. No wonder people like St. Francis of Assisi could talk to birds and befriend wolves.

But, beautiful as this all sounds, is this a pious fairytale or is it a rich, archetypal metaphor? I like to think its the latter, that this is a rich metaphor, and perhaps even something more. Humility, indeed, does have a smell, the smell of the earth, of the soil, and of paradise.

But how? How can a spiritual quality give off a physical scent?

Well, were psychosomatic, creatures of both body and soul. Thus, in us, the physical and the spiritual are so much part of one and the same substance that its impossible to separate them out from each other.

To say that were body and soul is like saying sugar is white and sweet and that whiteness and sweetness can never be put into separate piles. Theyre both inside the sugar. Were one substance, inseparable, body and soul, and so were always both physical and spiritual.

So, in fact, we dofeelphysical things spiritually, just as wesmellspiritual things through our physical senses. If this is true, and it is, then, yes, humility does give off a scent that can be sensed physically, and Isaac the Syrians concept is more than just a metaphor.

But its also a metaphor: The wordhumilitytakes its root in the Latin word,humus,meaning soil, ground, and earth. If one goes with this definition then the most humble person you know is the most earthy and most grounded person you know.

To be humble is to have ones feet firmly planted on the ground, to be in touch with the earth, and to carry the smell of the earth. Further still, to be humble is to take ones rightful place as a piece of the earth and not as someone or something separate from it.

The renowned mystic and scientist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, expressed this sometimes in his prayers. During the years when, as a paleontologist he worked for long stretches in the isolated deserts of China, he would sometimes compose prayers to God in a form he called,A Mass for the World.

Speaking to God as a priest, he would identify his voice with that of the earth itself, as that place within physical creation where the earth itself, the soil of the earth, could open itself and speak to God. As a priest, he didnt speakforthe earth; he spokeasthe earth, giving it voice, in words to this effect:

Lord, God, I stand before you as a microcosm of the earth itself, to give it voice: See in my openness, the worlds openness, in my infidelity, the worlds infidelity; in my sincerity, the worlds sincerity, in my hypocrisy, the worlds hypocrisy; in my generosity, the worlds generosity; in my attentiveness, the worlds attentiveness; in my distraction, the worlds distraction; in my desire to praise you, the worlds desire to praise you; and in my self-preoccupation, the worlds forgetfulness of you. For I am of the earth, a piece of earth, and the earth opens or closes to you through my body, my soul, and my voice.

This is humility, an expression of genuine humility. Humility should never be confused, as it often is, with a wounded self-image, with an excessive reticence, with timidity and fear, or with an overly sensitive self-awareness.

Too common is the notion that a humble person is one who is self-effacing to a fault, who deflects praise (even when its deserved), who is too shy to trust opening himself or herself in intimacy, or who is so fearful or self-conscious and worried about being shamed so as to never step forward and offer his or her gifts to the community.

These can make for a gentle and self-effacing person, but because we are denigrating ourselves when to deny our own giftedness, our humility is false, and deep down we know it, and so this often makes for someone who nurses some not-so-hidden angers and is prone to being passive-aggressive.

The most humble person you know is the person whos the most grounded, that is, the person who knows shes not the center of the earth but also knows that she isnt a second-rate piece of dirt either. And that person will give off a scent that carries both the fragrance of paradise (of divine gift) as well as the smell of the earth.

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