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What are nations but entities determined in terms of geography? Julius Caesar in his Gallic Wars writes of a tribe named Helvetii of Celtic origin occupying the Swiss plateau. In the first century BC they found the Alps on their back did not allow them any room for expansion. So they fanned out into other areas towards Germany on the east and towards the west. It set the whole region and beyond with alarm. So the notion of geographical confines are determined by people whose idea of increase can only be at the expense of decrease to great many in their path. Nations as such are paper tigers given claw by people. Borders of people with peaceful intentions are no threat to their neighbors similarly given to peace. Only when nations are weighted disproportionately and people are given to the notion of might is right the problem of friction arises. In short where all things being equal, peaceful disposition of people itself is a guarantee for each nation to live in amity.

Unless individual know what it is to have peace and actively pursue to possess it as quality above all, -such notions of national identity are vague, he merely toys with a pipe dream. He who places his life on peace as essential must bet on his life that it is an inalienable right in every other. So the golden rule of doing unto others what he would wish others do unto him must be his credo. No question of nationalism can be discussed intelligently without holding this principle as axiomatic. We can see anti-Semitism in Post-WWI was contributed by endemic practice of Jew-baiting from Portugal to the outer reaches of Russia. Prejudices of individual know no boundaries so rulers of petty kingdoms and principalities of Medieval Europe cashed in on it as a matter of policy. When Papal authority instituted Inquisition it gave it a cover that never weathered the passage of time. Prejudice of man was all too potent a cauldron into which the Church’s moral authority simply evaporated,

Until the 15th century, some Jews occupied prominent places in Portuguese political and economic life. But Manuel I in 1496 showed his hand. The first decree of expulsion followed with forced conversion in 1497: He finally let them leave after the Lisbon massacre of 1506. Meantime he had swindled all their wealth legally. What the Jews faced in other kingdoms was more or less the same. In France l’affaire Dreyfus was a fever breaking out in their national life. In Germany smarting under the ignominious defeat of the war and Red scare the private fears of the kleine burgher played into the hands of Hitler and it was a two way street. This prejudice of every man became the mortar for state policy; and history of centuries old misinformation peddled from Portugal to Siberia had coalesced into something palpable that must be got rid of and it became very German thing! Within 13 years the misbegotten Nazism what one would call banality of evil would be finished. Like the daesh too costly to put up the nuts and bolts of actual edifice but not so easy to keep its dust from getting into the eye. Hitler and his 1000-year Reich is gone but its silly ideology  is found still raising the stock of white supremacists in USA what shall we conclude?  National identity is a lie that knows no boundaries. If anti-Semitism works name your prejudice and it shall fit every poltroon who is pushed into the highest office by every fair and foul means. His private vices shall become the national tragedy.  This is what happens when people are deprived of a level playing field, and no access to education healthcare and support for the vulnerable.

Benny

 

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The world is is often compared to a ship for a very good reason. Ingenuity of man works with several abilities to which every one can claim in some measure certain flair. So much as every rivet driven to make up a ship stands testimony to man. He is handyman, the mapmaker,  helmsman and a mechanic, all of which requires several abilities.  So a ship as with the world is a combined effort each contribution being absorbed in the whole. Head is not everything, nor are the hands. Intellect without working hands shall be like a ship left dry docked. When a ship is put to sea it must be clear that with so much ingenuity and daring the master shall have no problem reaching the desired port. It has however never shown to be true. Ships flounder like Mary Rose the Tudor warship did. A storm is no respecter of Royal person. Mary Rose, Vasa are all but names stamped with glory of man but perfectly useless when sent out in their business. They were all seaworthy but did not measure up to expectations.  Nations are like names of ships and sound great but has any nation found prosperity for all her passengers or found a safe haven?

How ships weather considering the wear and tear upon their inbuilt weakness none is perfect. Titanic was a wonder but she was no exception. Ships when old they need their parts replaced and refitted and such is the glory of man and it is a transient glory. Think of ship as having several decks and what are nations and races of men but all part of one entity. When we speak of racial profiling and merits of civilization we can be sure we belong to the ship of fools. For instruments to chart the celestial object have been bequeathed to us by man who never thought in terms of race and color. The entire ship is by courtesy of men of old. The nameless inventor must have been our ape-ancestor who if he had come in our time dressed in football jersey to play football can you imagine the scene? Uncouth beer swilling pigs would jeer from their stands for his color. Who but a fool would think of shit-hole countries but the very scion of man who made fortune  selling hooch and on white slavery? If the ship stinks it must be the bad odor of nationalism.

Without respect for man what nationalism one can speak of and when disaster strikes the vessel all such claims to color or nations are empty prattle.

Sin found Jonah out because he was running away from God.  It was the world as a ship that took the prophet as a passenger. His presence made the entire ship into jeopardy. God had prepared a tempestuous wind to get the malefactor out. Now we are similarly traveling among fools,- traitors, turncoats and arm merchants who has made wealth from wholesale slaughter. No one thinks of disaster by way of climate change, folly of men who are itching to go into a war they cannot win.  Unless you shape up don’t expect some one else will do it for you. Be wise knowing the times are bad.

Benny

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Recently was the news of a Banksy Art at Sotheby’s fetching a million in price and it shredded itself. Is it art?
Art is nature given a treatment. Without which I would not know where Monet’s waterlilies can be put under. This treatment is the manner the eye has selectively chosen what to take and what to leave out from nature and rearrange them in a canvas or a surface that is restricted. Price of a painting in Van Gogh’s lifetime was almost nil which is not the case now. The same painting but now it’s worth is spoken in terms of millions. How come? Prices follow some economic principle of supply and demand which is outside the realm of art strictly speaking but it is no longer the case. Price of a work of art is beside the point. It does not explain art.

Why speak of art in terms of dollars where the nature itself is priceless? Only a blind can appreciate what a masterpiece he is missing. Nature for a man with normal faculties unimpaired, understanding it in its entirety is a challenge. At visceral level it is an experience and refreshing as well. In familiarity he understands from so many tokens, color, texture and changeability of the visible it is a masterpiece that sprung from the soil. Besides constant renewal taking place beneath the surface calls to account not merely the ground but air, wind and many other influences. A leaf falling for a man whose sensibility is sharpened by it may say, ‘tears of nature wipe away mine own’. It has no meaning outside the nature and the person whose passing mood,- and subjective, can well identify. Art is interaction between two, the object and the eye, and is not relevant to what others may have to say on the matter of falling leaf. It may be autumn for instance. Nevertheless it elicited a response. This art is not what we shall discuss in this essay.

Art of nature is natural but art is not natural instead it must take into account of man’s nature. Where it begins or when it ends is past reckoning. For instance, his inability to take in beauty can explode as violence. One who slashes a masterpiece like Rembrandt’s Night Watch (It happened once) reveals this sad truth. It is like noxious fumes arising from a thermal vent on the ocean floor. It cannot be seen as a rule: his response to beauty is never same. Man can always rely on his rational thinking part when he denudes a rain forest and say,”More grazing fields for my cattle.” It is how man has treated the sylvan beauty which exists not only for its own and for the pleasure and well being of others. Man cannot help but is compelled to react to the beauty. He is before Nature that has come into being without so much as ‘By your leave’ but respond at least by littering in some cases.
For many beauty of nature is beyond his intellect to digest or to recreate, All that he can understand is worth of dollar and cents. So it must be reduced to a level he can find pleasure. No one in right mind will call that is art. Art is for man whose taste (as in the case of nature ability to refine man’s sensibilities) requires effort, It has to do with his study of the world about him and in his ability to isolate everyday objects he comes across, rearrange in order to make a connection is a good place to begin with. Whoever has seen the grid plan of New York with its avenues and streets cannot fail to see in Mondrian’s paintings some familiarity. Such familiarity does not happen in a vacuum. Mind has to be cultivated to leave its natural prejudices out and take a fresh look with open mind. It takes effort.

Man’s outrage against brute Power and its naked aggression can invite an artist to express in canvasses as diverse as from Goya and Picasso. Man’s diversity widens as his experience and his dedication to express in its truthfulness is the religion of artist. He adopts different forms each of which cannot be accidental. It is in holding your emotional reserves and expressing in lines, colors and patterns what holds everything together in a canvas. It is not what nature has to worry over. Art of man is cultivated as Nature is not, in order to impress others to view in a particular manner is art. In this nature is diffuse while man is particular. His limitations impose on him certain restrictions which for the same reason his completed work must be elevated into realm of art. Its specific gravity runs throughout the canvas evenly so examine any part the brushstrokes his choice of color palette or symbols- his vision to give all a common label, it speaks truth. His works can be quantified but the sum of it is far less than it presents. His art is such nature of art allows him to exclude all that is irrelevant from his work, After it is behind him there is nothing further he can do but what the viewer brings makes it come alive. Such incompleteness make art as valid as conversation. It is as intelligent as giving full attention in any conversation to subject matter and the person without letting mind wander.
Benny

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Past Imperfect

A sloppy chop from a surgeon’s scalpel shall require many more stitches to set right the first mistake. Not to mention a cosmetic surgery to conceal what went before. Is not history somewhat similar to this? A war creates many ripples, and tsunami of two world wars did not occur by themselves. It is how man’s fall in disobeying God has set to write history. Instead of having one Authority man found nations and every nation many masters and the combined weight of history we see even at present. Are not the steady stream of migrants from Central America or Africa reminiscent of the great migration of our ancestors out of Africa? Such is human predicament man speaking of national identity is fooling himself. Man shall be eternal wanderers on the face of the earth given the alarming rate at which the climatic changes. The Tunguska event of 1906 owed to a celestial object hitting the Siberian woods. When the Bible records the Judgment of the Harlot of Babylon in the Book of Revelation (Ch.18) it is one event the nations so secure in their own security should be concerned about. History of mankind is past imperfect. It shall be only perfect when God determines a point of time to put a stop.(To be continued)

I shall leave with something of my past imperfect.
In popular culture have we not read how our civilization got a boost from Aliens? If with their intervention we could only produce Facebook and conspiracy theories and racial profiling as we see now, we must be the most stupid to take advice from imbeciles. It reminds me of a time in my sixth form I had the answers to arithmetic test copied from one who was by all common consent the maths whiz. My father who was a martinet for facts insisted that I had answers to the sum entered against each question. For once I thought alternates facts would let me off the hook. No At home my father after checking my paper almost was screaming,’idiot!’ Later only I realized I was the victim of a sting operation. My mistake was not to stick to my own facts. I had good marks for maths. Even so arithmetic has been my bugbear ever since.

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During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Catholic and Protestant theologians were at the forefront in the attempt to resolve the moral dilemmas posed by the changing economies of the Mediterranean, the Atlantic world, and the Baltic. They notably agonized over how to square Christian doctrinal and legal positions with banking ethics and the prohibition of usury. Figures as diverse as Calvin and Cardinal Cajetan did not reject the emerging banking houses and their place in society, with their increasingly sophisticated forms of credit, but they strove to define what constituted ethical commerce.

Thinkers of that era grappled as well with anxiety. It lay at the heart of the Protestant Reformation, and of Calvinism in particular, and formed the basis of Max Weber’s understanding of the “Protestant work ethic.” Weber shrewdly perceived that the radical separation of the spiritual and material in the Re- formed tradition, a “disenchantening” of the world, left humanity worried that there was no discernable path to the divine. He saw the anxiety engendered by this shattering realization as transformative.

Signs of Salvation

Weber primarily looked to seventeenth-century Puritans, but the story begins earlier. Following Martin Luther, John Calvin’s conversion experience in the 1530s arose from a deep sense of spiritual anxiety. Calvin never questioned his own election, though he chose not to write about it, and when dealing with parishioners wracked by doubt he directed them to the love of Christ. Outward actions and events – he was emphatic – could never be taken as signs of salvation. Pastorally, however, this proved deeply troubling to the Reformed faith, and Calvin’s successor, Theodore Beza, made greater accommodation by allowing human deeds to be at least partial indicators of God’s love.

The question of certainty and its attendant pastoral issues remained in tension within the Reformed churches as they emerged in the Netherlands, England, and New England. The matter was not abstract, but hotly contested in terms of how the Bible was to be read, of relations of the church to temporal authority, and of the Christian in the secular world. The Reformation principle of sola scriptura had thrown open the question of how the Bible should be interpreted. Calvin and the Reformed leaders sought to ground interpretation once more within the church, but in so doing they faced fierce criticism that they were doing little more than restoring Roman authority. The Reformation made Christianity’s sacred text a battleground over contesting claims to authority – another source of the new anxiety.

With regard to the state, the issues were no less momentous. Although Calvin did not anticipate the separation of church and state, there can be little doubt that in Geneva during his lifetime significant developments began the process of secularization. Drawing on the Augustinian model of the separation of the two kingdoms, Calvin passionately believed that the church should be free in questions of doctrine and discipline. He fiercely resisted what he regarded as the unwarranted intrusion of the magistrates in the central affairs of the church.

In Geneva, however, he lost this battle. The Swiss model of churches ruled over by secular authorities prevailed, and Calvin was bitterly disappointed. Nevertheless, what emerged from his thinking is highly significant for modernity. Calvin increasingly conceived of a state where the rulers were limited in order to ensure protection of religion. They were expected to preserve the circumstances in which true religion could be practised. This was the resolution of the devastating Thirty Years’ War in 1648 when the Peace of Westphalia essentially removed religion from the political equation.

Building on medieval models, Protestantism of the sixteenth century named and sanctified work and commerce as part of the godly life. Calvin viewed economics as a way of linking the life of the community with the divine will. In many respects his perspective was entirely practical: as the leading author in Geneva he was responsible for the growth of its printing industry. He involved himself in the commercial life of the city, while his brother Antoine controlled his financial affairs. Calvin understood that loans and lending were an essential part of the market and of Geneva’s place as a trading center at the heart of Europe. He approved of the charging of interest and rejected older notions of usury on the condition that it not be abused. The poor, for instance, should not be forced to pay interest.

Theology of Work

Calvin argued for moderation in business ethics. Lending and profit-making should be permitted only insofar as they were useful, never simply to build personal wealth. All of this fell within his understanding of work and labor as vocations. In performing useful work a person served both God and humanity, and the rewards should be commensurate. His arguments were not new or radical in themselves, but they formed part of his larger theology that sought to understand the relationship of the human and divine. Work and service were for the honor of God, but once more the door was opened to a new, more secular view, that work might exist for its own sake.

This gathering tension in the relationship between the fruits of labor and vocation became explicit after Calvin’s death, during the golden age of the Dutch Republic. In his magisterial account, The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age (Vintage, 1997), Simon Schama has related how the prosperous Calvinists of the Republic were deeply unsettled about their material success, seeing it less as a sign of election than as a form of reprobation. The enormous wealth generated by the Republic’s trading empire financed the nation’s protection against enemies. At the same time, however, it brought material temptations that could destroy the godly society from within. The result was an unresolved anxiety that, in Schama’s interpretation, deeply troubled any sense that capitalism and Protestantism were easy companions.

In performing useful work a person served both God and humanity, and the rewards should be commensurate. His arguments were not new or radical in themselves, but they formed part of his larger theology that sought to understand the relationship of the human and divine.

Revisiting Weber

This returns us to Max Weber’s famous account Protestantism and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904/5), in which he interpreted the Calvinism of the seventeenth-century as an important source of modern economic practice. The broad outlines of the argument are familiar, though more often than not crudely caricatured. Weber was a subtle and perceptive student of history, theology, and economics. He never argued for a simple causal relationship between Protestantism and capitalism. Rather he identified the ways in which Calvinism contained a “spirit” or “ethic” that made possible the rise of capitalism and granted it legitimacy.

In brief, he wrote that the God of Calvinism is remote and inscrutable, leaving humans uncertain of their salvation. He focused his analysis on the doctrine of predestination and its effects. It is salvation anxiety that drives the desire to pursue with rigor a secular calling in the world. The pastoral literature of English Puritans revealed to him the depth of this uncertainty. The unknowable nature of God pushed Calvinists to seek signs of election in the world,

(Selected from: Calvinism and Capitalism: Together Again? byBruce Gordon/Yale Divinity School)

 

 

 

 

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The desert dweller was brought before the Great Panjandrum of Chaldea for blasphemy. The Holy One said, “The charge says, ‘You founded a new religion simply by living among the sand dunes. How can that be possible?’ ” The accused shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘ life in the extremes where death is around the corner, Great God made me dig deeper in my soul to seek him. ’

GP insisted: “ But your god dosesn’t fit with god we worship?”

‘I would not know that, your Holiness. Certainly the God that my depths showed is still clearly etched in my mind.’

The new religion slowly found its way into the cities of the plains and possessed half the riches of the world. It also had made men giddy with their wealth and worldly goods. Years later the founder now as Grand Lama of Levant had the duty to examine one who was guilty of excessive pleasure and drunkeness. What is more he denied all religions as false except Pleasure.

‘How can you call it a religion?’

The Sybarite said, “ I am surrounded by so much of pleasure and I am loath to ignore it since God has given me a body.”

The Grand Lama winced inwardly. He let him go unpunished. The Grand Council of clerics said, “ How merciful is our Grand Lama! ”

The Venerable Lama knew the truth. His experience with the world made him sell his Truth just as the pleasure seeker could not resist the truth the world held out. Truth that he held up as dogma morphed into something altogether different!

Laws of nature dictate how matter would behave under different conditions. Material nature of body takes its cues from its context as easily as soul of one takes its cues from its unseen world.

Duality of body and the soul hold Truth. How one reconciles both defines his character.

Never shall the body and soul settle the matter by itself since life force is what each individual supplies. It has to look to the world without. Given changed circumstances this force makes the unstable relationship define itself. Body given its appetites can only get the upper hand at the expense of the other. Then a man easily given to his weaknesses shows in time certain coarseness in character. From truth to false is but a step away; a man may not be aware of such slight deviations and when given time his character developes into something else. Where we once considered thrift and moderation as a virtue in the consumer society is frowned upon as old fashioned. You and I contributed to it didn’t we?

Such exchange works both ways.

ii

If one cancer cell is let it can affect the entire body. Similarly a little yeast leavens the entire dough. For instance one without any solid proof declares from the pulpit so and so committed blasphemy we see the whole assembly thrown into an uproar. We saw it happen when Jesus was brought before Pilate. The rabble was out to crucify him not because they had clear proof but by hearsay. They were ready to do the hatchet job for their elders. One man’s lie triggered an avalanche.

There are two basic elements to an avalanche: a steep, snow-covered slope and a trigger that causes a weak layer within the snow pack to collapse. Rabble is like the weak layer. The shape of the ice crystals of snowflakes within a snow pack is also a critical factor. How well the crystals bond together determines how strong a snow layer is and therefore how stable the snow pack is. When Truth is not bonded properly an avalanche is set off.

It is essential every individual hold his truth as inalienable. When it is joined with others it is conditional only for the betterment of all and not for this and that person. We have seen religions falling into error: where it is mob rule Truth is dragged through mud. Religion of peace is made out in effect as religion of hate.

benny

 

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Why should man be afraid of an idea? He is given to abstract thinking and Truth is an idea and he conceived it. But try sell it to another. Man who hears Truth from you shall have his own wordbook of experience to make it clear unto him. He who has lived through dog-eat-dog and survived by all his wiles at his disposal has a meaning to it. If you tell him ‘Love they neighbour as thyself’ watch out if he does spit on your face. Truth means many things to all men.

Even so truth is such common thread on which every great or small animate or inanimate matter, simple or compound is strung upon. Laws of nature gives its validity and it has you involved. You may give it names, deny it, wave it as a standard and still how you live it is a matter only you can do. It is your responsibility.

Let us see how truth makes its way among wise men. I shall cite the names of two wise men whose credentials need no further proof than their names. It was rather the bad luck that Gottfried Wilhem Liebniz lived in the time of Voltaire. In 1710 the German polymath in a work concluded the earth was best of all possible worlds. As a philosopher he was grappling with the problem of evil. Was he a woolly-headed thinker to discount what was happening about him and escape into a virtual reality? No he had sterling credentials as a mathematician to be clear cut in his thinking. In explaining away his ideas on Theodicy he stated that God was good in his power and wisdom. In short He proceeded using God as the Cause. Voltaire on the other hand also had thought on this and for him the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 was a shock. In this natural calamity some 60,000 to 100,000 perished, evil and innocents alike. Unlike Liebniz he reviewed his concept of God from the Effect.

I respect life that is in me to understand this intimate article of Truth. What is it? In coming to grips with my world and live it inasmuch possible I need have a good grasp of it. It is too precious to leave with Liebniz or Voltaire however great they are in world’s estimation.

Perhaps some theologians by consensus have drawn up dogma and the Pope sets his seal as gospel truth. My truth is too precious for others to determine. As a Christian when I stand before God, I cannot use any other for my failure to live by truth.

Truth is such when a clutch of men sit together and give us an idea as truth we need understand that there is a great gap in the Idea and the thing they sell to us. Earlier the Church of Rome sold the faithfuls as to Papal Infallibility(2.). Now the idea has been let by the wayside. Truth as an idea and as dogma is as different as a mule and a thoroughbred.

How did the Papal idea of Truth turned out in practice? It became a ruse to assert his spiritual authority. Truth as we know is as noble as a noble steed excellent in speed and in form. But what comes out after many sittings and compromises is an animal mangy and as headstrong as a mule. So much for papal infallibility as truth. His Holiness himself must account before his Maker. So Truth is my problem and only way I can cure it is to live it as best as possible. (to be concluded)

2.

In 1075 Pope Gregory VII in his Dictatus Papae (The Pope’s Memorandum) put it more bluntly. He set out 27 propositions about the powers of the office of Bishop of Rome. These included the statement that the papacy “never will err to all eternity according to the testimony of Holy Scripture”.

The word infallibility, however, was not used. It was believed that only God was infallible and it was acknowledged that various popes down the ages had brought disgrace on the office by their behaviour and judgements. Having been dethroned as ruler of the Papal States by the movement for Italian Reunification that finally triumphed in 1870, Pope Pius IX called the First Vatican Council where he was determined to buttress his own spiritual authority. Though many cardinals believed it dangerous to try to define quite how and when the Pope might speak infallibly, a compromise agreement was finally reached.

It stated that Pope “when he speaks ex cathedra, that is when exercising the office of pastor and teacher of all Christians” is “possessed of infallibility” when “he defines… a doctrine concerning faith and morals to be held by the whole Church, through the divine assistance promised to him by St Peter“.

Once the Pope has spoken, the First Vatican Council agreed, his definitions “are irreformable of themselves”.

Voting on this form of words took place during a thunderstorm. A majority gave their assent but God, some said, was angry.

Routine papal teaching is not therefore infallible and it was not until 1950 that a pope exercised his “infallible magisterium” to declare that the Virgin Mary had been assumed body and soul into heaven. The belief is however unsupported in scripture. (ack:bbc.co.uk/religions)

benny

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