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Culture and Religion

Notes on Gregg Levoy, Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life, 1997.

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Gregg Levoy, Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life, Three Rivers Press Random House, 1997.


-in many traditions, calling (sounds) precede prayer, rites of initiation, major life events. summon adherents away from routines to new level of awareness, into sacred frame of mind, communion with what is bigger than themselves. what is calling? 'life's longing for itself' (Gibran). 'living means being addressed' (Buber).

-we can't see the force, but we can see what it does. a return call, a response, creates a dialogue. our own unfolidng requires that we be in constant dialogue with whatever is calling us. call-response central metaphor for spiritual ife. listening = following in Latin.

'No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.' (Donne 1624) brings on the fear that frightens away sleep. no guarantee change for better.

-re-ligion = re-connect, re-member our selves, the deep life within us where religious impulse resides. William James: religion as 'the attempt to be in harmony with an unseen order of things'. 'hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.' -we don't know enough to despair. Despair is hidden arrogance. i have seen the future and it doesn't work. hope is rooted in trust in the unknown. work, wait, and hope. that is enough. (Sam Keen)

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Tab Hunter: American culture’s hat trick

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He had it all, and survived to relish it. Beauty, stardom, even an okay love life. The epitome of Hollywood in its heyday. And it was all a (well-meant) ruse. Tab was happy to stay ‘in the closet’ right to the end. He accepted his sexual orientation but was ‘not comfortable discussing it.’ His work with John Waters and Divine were ‘the high point of my professional life, even though it led to another label being hung on me that I have no use for: Gay Icon.’


Ne Arthur Gelien, rechristened Tab Hunter (Art loved riding and shooting) by sleazy agent Henry Willson, who Art/Tab insists never got his lecherous paws into his pants. Tab survived the poison of Hollywood long enough to leave his mark and then have a real life afterwards, despite his ‘secret’. And that’s the way he wanted it.

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Review: Tamim Ansary, Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes (2009)

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Reviving the ‘House of Peace’ as the peace movement's guiding principle


Those of us lucky/unlucky enough to live in the West see the rest of the world revolving around us, like Europe's 17th century sun, which, of course, orbited around the earth. So goes the western narrative: pre-Greece, Greece/Rome, Christianity, renaissance/ reformation, enlightenment, industrial revolution, nation-states/empire, WWI&II, cold war, democratic capitalism, end-of-history.


But Galileo tried a counterfactual: what would things look like, if I were standing on that blazing sun? Well, the rest-is-history. Maybe we aren’t the centre of the world. What if I were born and learned history as a Muslim?


This is Ansary's project in Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes (2009). Born Muslim in Afghanistan, he arrived in the US in the 1960s and jumped right into western life, seeing his new home through both his and the countercultural eyes of his new age young friends, so he knows the value of changing skins and seeing things anew.


In a nutshell, the Islamic narrative: pre-Islam, Islam, khalifate (quest for universal unity), fragmentation, catastrophe (crusades, Mongols), 3 empires (Safavid, Ottoman, Moghul), western occupation, reform movements, secular modernists, Islamist reaction. The two narratives overlap in Palestine-Israel, their core Mesopotamia and Persia-Iran.

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The end of gay liberation

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Proust’s law: you always get what you want when you no longer want it.


Gay is everywhere. Canada's new loonie celebrates 50 years of official gaydom, Ontario lived under 4 years with open lesbian premier Kathleen Wynne. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waves at the crowds at Toronto’s Gay Pride Parade, like Queen Elizabeth, along with Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland (Much love and happy pride to all!), and Toronto Mayor John Tory. The marchers were probably less than 10,000, but spectators  50,000+.


The police were denied their own delegation, resented for taking so long to find serial killer Bruce McArthur, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to murdering eight men with ties to the gay village. The sole dissenting political voice was Ontario Premier Doug Ford, fresh from an election victory that was subtley anti-gay, who refused to participate in the march. He covered himself in the now stridently pro-gay media, by attending a small gathering in York Region earlier in ‘GayPride Month’ for the de rigueur photo-op.


The over-the-top celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York (150,000 marchers, 3m spectators), the birthplace of World Gay Pride, was preceded by the Queer Liberation March, sans corporate floats and police, protesting the gentrification of the event and the movement in general.


All the celebratory marches ignore the stark truth that the height of gaylib was long ago, 1978 (novelists Holleran, Kramer, photographer Mapplethorpe, choreographer Joffrey). The next 40 years has been a slow motion hangover, the homosexualization of America, which has left the US in a moral mess.


Who better to turn to for assessing the state of the union than Edmund White, author of The Joy of Gay Sex (1977), who lived through those 50 years and has written more than anyone else about it?

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Egyptian president - casualty of social media

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Mohamed Morsi will be more remembered in Canada and the US (if at all) as a textbook case of how the internet can catapult someone to fame and just as easily destroy him.


The Muslim Brotherhood benefited from a revolution largely facilitated by social media, which was able to catalyze widespread anger with Hosni Mubarak in January 2011, and gave the Egyptian army the chance to dismiss a dictator who was despised by all. Once the logjam was broken, transparent elections catapulted the MB to power.

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