Saturday, March 30, 2013

March 31 Tip: Listen to TED Hour on "Making Mistakes"

Listen to the TED Hour on "Making Mistakes"
(the March 31 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace"

"When we start losing our tolerance for vulnerability, uncertainty, for risk — we move away from the things we need and crave the most like joy and love and belonging, trust, empathy, creativity." — Brené Brown
We try so hard to be perfect, to never make mistakes and to avoid failure at all costs. But mistakes happen — and when they do — how do we deal with being wrong? In this episode, TED speakers look at those difficult moments in our lives, and consider why sometimes we need to make mistakes and face them head-on.

Friday, March 29, 2013

March 30 Tip: John Lewis on "The Art and Discipline of Nonviolence"

From "On Being" Congressman John Lewis on the Art and Discipline of Nonviolence

An hour with the extraordinary humanity of Congressman John Lewis. The civil rights movement he helped animate was — as he tells it — love in action. He opens up the art and the discipline that made nonviolence work then — and that he offers up for our common life even today.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

March 29 Tip: Throwing Hot Coals Will Burn You

From Pema Chodron: Throwing Hot Coals Will Burn YOU
(the March 29 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)


We act out because, ironically, we think it will bring us some relief. We equate it with happiness. Often there is some relief, for the moment. When you have an addiction and you fulfill that addiction, there is a moment in which you feel some relief. Then the nightmare gets worse. So it is with aggression. When you get to tell someone off, you might feel pretty good for a while, but somehow the sense of righteous indignation and hatred grows, and it hurts you. It’s as if you pick up hot coals with your bare hands and throw them at your enemy. If the coals happen to hit him, he will be hurt. But in the meantime, you are guaranteed to be burned.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March 28 Tip: Take Part in Friday's "Walk for Justice"

Take Part in the "Good Friday" Way of the Cross-Walk for Justice
(the March 28 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

On Good Friday March 29 , 2013, a procession walk and stations of the cross will begin at 9:30 at the Mazzoli Federal Building on 7th and Chestnut and will continue until 11:30 at Founders Square at 5th and Liberty. Shaped by the Catholic tradition of remembering Jesus' final moments in life, the "stations" will be held near a number of locations in the downtown area.

This annual event coincides with the commemoration of Good Friday in the local Catholic Christian community. It is an opportunity to remember and pray for those caught in situations of oppression or suffering today. We believe this is a way to “see” Jesus’ suffering in our world even now, and to challenge ourselves to “be the change we hope to see”, as Mahatma Gandhi once said.

The 1.5 mile walk will stop at 14 locations throughout downtown, reflecting on the war in Iraq, care for the earth, the death penalty, the plight of immigrants/migrant workers, the situation in Israel and Palestine, poverty and homelessness, racism, and many more.
The walk begins at 9:30am at Martin Luther King, Jr. park, between 6th and 7th on Chestnut St. and ends at Founders Square park across the street from the Cathedral of the Assumption at 5th and Muhammad Ali.

Sponsors include: St. William Church, Ascension Church, Casa Latina, Church of the Advent, Church of the Epiphany Social Responsibility, Church of the Good Shepherd, CrossRoads Ministry, Episcopal Churches of Louisville – Beargrass Deanery, Highland Baptist Church’s Mission and Justice Ministry Group, Interfaith Paths to Peace, James Lees Memorial Presbyterian Church, JustFaith Ministries, Kentucky Interfaith Power and Light, Kentuckiana Interfaith Taskforce on Latin America and the Caribbean (KITLAC), Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, La Casita, Louisville Committee for Peace in the Middle East, Louisville Fellowship of Reconciliation Louisville Peace Action Community, Mid-Kentucky Presbytery Mission Unit, Occupy Louisville Passionist Earth & Spirit Center, St. Agnes Church, Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, Sowers of Justice Network, Vietnam Veterans Against the War and many others who lend support in solidarity of mission to help create a more just world.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March 27 Tip: Learn about the Epidemiology of Gun Violence

From NPR's "Talk of the Nation": The Epidemiology of Gun Violence: Race, Region and Policy
(the March 27 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

A Washington Post analysis of statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds a correlation between gun deaths, and race and geographic location. African Americans are much more likely to be victims of gun-related homicide, whereas whites are more likely to commit suicide.

Monday, March 25, 2013

March 26 Tip: "Wear Denim on Wednesday"

On Wednesday, take part in national "Denim Day" to show support for survivors of rape and sexual assault
(the March 26 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

This event is sponsored by The Center for Women and Families. 
In Kentucky, March is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). SHOW YOUR SUPPORT BY WEARING DENIM and having conversations about sexual violence in our community.

VISIT for further details.

Event History: In 1992 an 18-year-old in Italy was raped by her driving instructor.She pressed charges and won her case, but the instructor appealed and the case went to the Italian High Court.
In 1999 the court overturned the conviction with a member of the High Court declaring that since the victim
wore very tight jeans, the instructor could not have removed them himself; therefore, the victim must have willingly participated.

Women of the Italian legislature protested the decision by wearing jeans. As news of the decision spread, so did the protest.

Today, all around the world, organizations coordinate community-wide Denim Days to show support of survivors and raise awareness about the crimes of sexual assault.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

March 25 Tip: Learn about "Social Practice Art"

Read this article about "Social Practice Art"
(the March 25 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

Outside the Citadel, Social Practice Art Is Intended to Nurture

In Detroit a contemporary-art museum is completing a monument to an influential artist that will not feature his work but will instead provide food, haircuts, education programs and other social services to the general public.
In New York an art organization that commissions public installations has been dispatching a journalist to politically precarious places around the world where she enlists artists and activists — often one and the same — to write for a Web site that can read more like a policy journal than an art portal. And in St. Louis an art institution known primarily for its monumental Richard Serra sculpture is turning itself into a hub of social activism, recently organizing a town-hall meeting where 350 people crowded in to talk about de facto segregation, one of the city’s most intractable problems.
If none of these projects sound much like art — or the art you are used to seeing in museums — that is precisely the point. As the commercial art world in America rides a boom unlike any it has ever experienced, another kind of art world growing rapidly in its shadows is beginning to assert itself. And art institutions around the country are grappling with how to bring it within museum walls and make the case that it can be appreciated along with paintings, sculpture and other more tangible works.
Known primarily as social practice, its practitioners freely blur the lines among object making, performance, political activism, community organizing, environmentalism and investigative journalism, creating a deeply participatory art that often flourishes outside the gallery and museum system. And in so doing, they push an old question — “Why is it art?” — as close to the breaking point as contemporary art ever has.
Leading museums have largely ignored it. But many smaller art institutions see it as a new frontier for a movement whose roots stretch back to the 1960s but has picked up fervor through Occupy Wall Street and the rise of social activism among young artists.
“Say what you will, this stuff is happening, and you might want to put your head in the sand and say, ‘I wish it was 40 years ago and it was different and art was more straightforward,’ but it’s not,” said Nato Thompson, the chief curator of Creative Time, a New York nonprofit that is known mostly for temporary public art installations but has been delving deeply into the movement.
Works can be as wildly varied as a community development project in Houston that provides both artists’ studios and low-income housing, summer camps and workshops for teenagers run by an artist collective near Los Angeles or a program in San Francisco founded by artists and financed by the city that helps turn yards, vacant lots and rooftops into organic gardens.
Art of this kind has thrived for decades outside the United States, mostly in Europe and South America, but has recently caught fire with a new generation of American artists in what is partly a reaction to the art market’s distorting power, fueled by a concentration of international wealth. Many artists, however, say the motivation is much broader: to make a difference in the world that is more than aesthetic.
“The boundary lines about how art is being made are becoming much blurrier,” said Laura Raicovich, who was hired last year by Creative Time as its director of global initiatives and to run a Web site called Creative Time Reports.
The site’s recent pieces include a video by an Egyptian-Lebanese artist about Tahrir Square, the locus of the Egyptian uprising two years ago, and a short film about family debt in America made by a self-described “debt resistance” art collective with roots in the Occupy Wall Street movement.
“We’re not trying to do what journalism does,” Ms. Raicovich said. “But we think artists can supplement and complement it through a different lens. And what they’re doing is art.”
Social-practice programs are popping up in academia and seem to thrive in the interdisciplinary world of the campus. (The first dedicated master of fine arts program in the field was founded in 2005 at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, and today there are more than half a dozen.) But for art institutions the problems are trickier: How can you present art that is rarely conceived with a museum or exhibition in mind, for example community projects, often run by collaboratives, that might go on for years, inviting participation more than traditional art appreciation?
At the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, a private institution founded by the collector and philanthropist Emily Rauh Pulitzer that opened in St. Louis in 2001, the staff for many years included two full-time social workers who helped former prison inmates and homeless veterans as part of the curatorial program. And in December the foundation, responding to a 2012 BBC report about racial and economic disparities in St. Louis, held a town-hall meeting on the issue. The goal was to open a dialogue with people who live near the institution, which sits near a stark north-south divide between mostly white and African-American neighborhoods.
“We hoped maybe 100 people would show up, and more than 350 did,” said Kristina Van Dyke, the foundation’s director, who collaborated with the Missouri History Museum in organizing the event. As the foundation approached its 10th anniversary, she said, “we wanted to start envisioning art more broadly, as a place where ideas can happen and action might be able to take place.”
“The question became: Could we effect social change through art, plain and simple?” she said, adding that the foundation is now exploring ways to orient its programming toward design projects that would help the poor, for example. “To me art is elastic. It can respond to many different demands made on it. At the same time I have to say that I don’t believe all institutions have to do these kinds of things, or should.”
Some in the art world feel that all institutions (and artists) should resist the urge completely. Maureen Mullarkey, a New York painter, wrote on her blog, Studio Matters, that such work only confirmed her belief “that art is increasingly not about art at all.” Instead, she argued, it is “fast becoming a variant of community organizing by soi-disant promoters of their own notions of the common good.”
But many institutions, especially those in cities and neighborhoods with pressing social problems, see the need to extend their reach.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, for example, is constructing a final work by the artist Mike Kelley, who committed suicide last year, that will function as a kind of perpetual social-practice experiment. Although Kelley was never identified with the movement, he specified before his death that the work, “Mobile Homestead” — a faithful re-creation of his childhood ranch-style home that will sit in a once-vacant lot behind the museum — should not be an art location in any traditional sense but a small social-services site, with possible additional roles as space for music and the museum’s education programs. Whether visitors will understand that the house is a work of art and a continuing performance is an open question. Smaller institutions like the Hammer Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Queens Museum of Art, which is acknowledged as a pioneer of social-practice programming, have also begun bringing the movement into the spotlight. (Tania Bruguera, a New York artist who is known for helping immigrants and has been supported by the Queens Museum and Creative Time, sometimes explains social-practice art with an anti-Modernist call to arms: “It’s time to restore Marcel Duchamp’s urinal to the bathroom.”)
Still, the political nature of the movement propels it into territory that is unfamiliar to many artists and art institutions. Last year, for example, a group of artists boycotted a summit meeting that has been held annually by Creative Time since 2009, saying they objected to the participation of a digital art center supported by the Israeli government. (Creative Time later made clear that the meeting received no funds from the organization or the Israeli government.)
Mr. Thompson of Creative Time said that many of the most dedicated social-practice artists see a huge divide between themselves and the commercial art world. “There are artists who don’t want to be the entertainment,” he said. “During a crisis of vast inequity they don’t want to be the sideshow, off to the side juggling.”
Caroline Woolard, a 29-year-old Brooklyn artist whose projects include collaborating on temporary “trade schools” where classes are paid for through bartering, said she became a social-practice artist not because she objected to the commercial or institutional art sectors but because she felt that the art world was too isolated.
“It was the realization that the types of people who went to cultural institutions — museums or galleries — were such a small section of any possible public for the kind of work I was interested in,” she said. She added, though, that she believed the movement would only broaden, and that museums and even the commercial art world would have to find a way to get involved.
“I do think that there will be ways for new kinds of collectors to emerge who will support these kinds of long-term projects as works of art,” said Ms. Woolard, who was recently asked by the Museum of Modern Art’s education department to take part in a social-practice program, “Artists as Houseguests: Artists Experiment at MoMA,” over the next few months.
Pablo Helguera, who is organizing the experiment as the director of adult and academic programs in MoMA’s education department, said that departments like his, as opposed to curatorial ones, are often the doors through which social-practice artists enter the museum world.
“There have always been artists working this way, but we started seeing more and more of them,” Mr. Helguera said. “My theory is that the shift began happening sometime after 9/11. I think it was the question ‘What is the meaning of making art in the world like it is today?’ ”
Mr. Helguera, who has written a book on the subject, “Education for Socially Engaged Art,” added that galleries and museums are only now beginning to scope out the movement’s contours. “The art world has these expectations,” he said. “It’s like you’re supposed to deliver your fall collection and your spring collection, and then what are you doing for the summer, for the art fairs and the biennials?”
“But this kind of work doesn’t operate according to that calendar,” he said. “It might mean a connection with some community or group of people for years, maybe some artist’s whole life. It’s hard to bring to the public. Sometimes it’s hard to define.”
Even those who live in the world of socially engaged art sometimes need help defining it. Justin Langlois, a Canadian artist, recently wrote a wry David-Letterman-style list of questions that artists can pose to themselves to determine whether they are indeed practicing social practice. Question No. 19 was “Can your work be critiqued by a painter?” Question No. 22: “If your project was a math equation, did the sum always end up as a critique of capitalism?” And the final question: “Were you asked to explain the reason you think your project is art?”

Saturday, March 23, 2013

March 24 Tip: Read about Chinua Achebe: "Bearing Witness With Words"

Read this NY Times article about the late, great African author, Chinua Achebe
(the March 24 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

Chinua Achebe examined colonialism and masculinity with a sensitive understanding about how culture functions and what it means.

Friday, March 22, 2013

March 23 Tip: Listen to "Whale Songs and Elephant Loves"

Listen to the On Being podcast, "Whale Songs and Elephant Loves"
(the March 23 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

Katy Payne is an acoustic biologist with a Quaker sensibility. From the wild coast of Argentina to the rainforests of Africa, she discovered that humpback whales compose ever-changing songs and that elephants communicate across long distances by infrasound. Here, she reflects on life in this world through her experiences with two of the most exotic creatures.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

May 22 Tip: Learn about this May's Festival of Faiths

Learn about this year's Spring Festival of Faiths
(the March 22 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

May 2013 Events

Tuesday, May 14 • Actors Theatre of Louisville

1pm to 5:30pm: Mind at Ease – Why We Meditate and The Way of the Bodhisattva

Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel, retreat master at Longchen Jigme Samten Ling retreat center in Colorado, will host this mini-retreat on the contemplative practices of Tibetan Buddhism in the West.
The first portion of the program will provide a basic introduction to Tibetan Buddhism then look more closely at the reasons why we meditate. We often find ourselves struggling with our inner lives of thoughts and emotions as they relate to the pain and uncertainty of life around us. How does the mind rest at ease with its world? Meditation is a powerful means of working with challenges and helps us habituate our mind to a different way of understanding and relaxing with experience.
The second half of the program will focus on the practice of bearing witness – which lies at the heart of all true spiritual practice as a freeing, embolding and poignant approach to life that allows us to respond with clarity. Namgyel will ask the audience to engage in the practice of open questioning with her while she takes a fresh look at all the assumptions and beliefs we have about spirituality. The audiences repeatedly comment on how this approach has reinvigorated their meditation practice and how they relate to their lives as a whole.

7pm to 9pm: Film on Compassion

“When the Iron Bird Flies: Tibetan Buddhism Arrives in the West” directed by Victress Hitchcock.

Wednesday, May 15 •Actors Theatre of Louisville

9am to 10am: Guided Meditation

Gerardo Abboud, president of the Dongyuling Buddhist Centre in Argentina

10am to 12pm: A Pathway to Compassion

Bishop Marc Andrus, Episcopal Diocese of California
The Sakyong, Jamgön Mipham Rinpoche, head of the Shambhala Buddhist lineage and Shambhala International

1pm to 2:30pm: Out of silence something is born that leads to Silence Itself

Fr. Martin Laird, renowned author and Professor of Early Christian Studies at Villanova University
Silence is both porous and generous enough to receive both noise and no-noise and forms the ground from which we both see through the illusion of separation from God and are trained by the ordeals (depression, anxiety, despair) of life rooted in the Mystery in Whom we live and move and have our being.

3pm to 5:30pm: The True Self

Fr. Richard Rohr, globally recognized ecumenical teacher and author

7pm to 9pm: Merton in His Own Voice

Audio recordings of Thomas Merton and commentary by Merton scholars.

Thursday, May 16 •Actors Theatre of Louisville

9am to 10am: Guided Meditation

Gerardo Abboud, president of the Dongyuling Buddhist Centre in Argentina

10am to 12pm: Karma and the Imperative of Compassion

Dungse Jampal Norbu, renowned Buddhist teacher
“Karma” is one of Buddhism’s most well-known contributions to popular culture, but what does it really mean? Buddhism defines karma as action and result, cause and effect. It is the natural law of the world we live in. Some might say it is the web within which we are caught. But experience shows us that positive actions yield positive results, and negative actions, negative outcomes. In other words, we are shaped by our karma, but we can influence it as well. The imperative to act compassionately, then, means that we can chart a course towards a positive future for ourselves and others.

1pm to 2:30pm: The Sacred Art of Silence

Arjia Rinpoche, director of the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington, Indiana

3pm: to 5:30pm Sacred Silence and Hinduism – Simply and Surprisingly Explained

Siddheshvari Devi Ji (Didi Ji), founder of Radha Madhav Society

7pm to 9pm: Film on Compassion

“Yangsi … Reincarnation is Just the Beginning” directed by Mark Elliott

Friday, May 17 • Galt House

9am to 10am: Guided Meditation

Gerardo Abboud, president of the Dongyuling Buddhist Centre in Argentina

10am to 12pm:Compassion from a Buddhist’s and a Neuroscientist’s Perspectives

Matthieu Ricard, molecular biologist turned Buddhist monk, author and photographer, and James Doty, MD, founder and director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education
Compassion been a fundamental precept of essentially ever religious tradition and for many is what defines our humanity. While clearly caring for those who are suffering results in significant benefit to the receiver, science has now shown that such behavior offers profound benefit to the giver in regard to mental and physical health and to longevity. There is now a body of evidence that demonstrates that through mental training practices such as compassion meditation and that by doing so not only reap the benefit in regard to health but also have a greater sense of fulfillment and happiness.

1pm to 2:30pm: Sacred Silence from the Jewish Perspective

Rabbi Arthur Green, scholar of Jewish mysticism and Neo-Hasidism and professor in the non-denominational rabbinical program at Hebrew College in Boston

3pm to 5:30pm: Sacred Silence in Sufism and the vendanta

Seyyed Hossein Nasr, one of the world’s leading experts on Islamic science and spirituality, and Swami Atmarupananda, renowned teacher of Hinduism

Saturday, May 18 • Galt House

9am to 3pm: Sacred Silence: Pathway to Compassion

World renowned experts on contemplative practice and compassion will discuss the nature of “sacred silence” from the perspective of several faith traditions. (The program will break for lunch from 1 pm to 2 pm.)
Matthieu Ricard, molecular biologist turned Buddhist monk, author and photographer
Siddheshvari Devi Ji (Didi Ji), founder of Radha Madhav Society
Swami Atmarupananda, renowned teacher of Hinduism
Fr. Richard Rohr, globally recognized ecumenical teacher and author
Seyyed Hossein Nasr, one of the world’s leading experts on Islamic science and spirituality
Dalai Lama Fellows, a global community of college students who work toward a world that tends to the good of the whole as well as of the individual

6:00pm to 9pm: Compassionate Governing and Closing Banquet

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer will host a group of distinguished elected officials from around the country to discuss compassion in government.

Sunday, May 19 • YUM Center

2pm to 4pm: Public Talk by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Festival of Faiths speakers will join His Holiness the Dalai Lama for his public talk. The event is hosted by the Drepung Gomang Institute. (For tickets and more information log onto

March 21 Tip: You can't jump over yourself

From Buddhist Nun Pema Chodron: WE CAN’T JUST JUMP OVER OURSELVES
(the March 21 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

Hope and fear come from feeling that we lack something; they come from a sense of poverty. We can’t simply relax with ourselves. We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment. We feel that someone else knows what’s going on, but that there’s something missing in us, and therefore something is lacking in our world.

Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look. That’s the compassionate thing to do. That’s the brave thing to do. We can’t just jump over ourselves as if we were not there. It’s better to take a straight look at all our hopes and fears. Then some kind of confidence in our basic sanity arises.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

May 20 Tip: Attend May 2013 Summit on Compassionate Organizations

Attend the 2013 Summit Conference on Compassionate Organizations
(the May 20 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

About the Summit Conference

No keynote speakers. No workshop presenters. No "participants."
Instead, it's you and other colleagues working together
to develop effective approaches for bringing compassion
to organizations worldwide.

You're about to become a part of an unusual conference

Unlike many other conferences, the 2013 International Summit Conference on Compassionate Organizations has no keynote speakers, workshop presenters, or participants. The Summit Conference is a working event in which colleagues join together to engage the convening question:
What can we do to foster cultures of compassion?
Working with this central question, we explore related questions, challenges, and possibilities for fostering cultures of compassion in government, business, schools, faith groups, colleges and universities, healthcare systems, the arts, service agencies, and other organizations. Our explorations take place in five types of gatherings:
 Thought Catalyst Sessions There are 5 plenary Thought Catalyst sessions. Thought Catalysts cover what they've learned about fostering cultures of compassion, the questions they have, and the challenges they and all of us face. The sessions include questions, answers, and discussions.
 Pre-Posted Open Space Sessions A select number of Open Space proposals will be reviewed and chosen prior to the conference. These will be posted on this website in advance of the conference.
 Open Space Sessions The Open Space sessions can be convened during the Open Space Marketplace by anyone attending the conference. Refer to the Open Space discussion below.
 Independent Social Gatherings You and your colleagues are encouraged to gather independently for meals, time away from the conference sessions, and after the conference to get to know each other, share common interests, and explore fostering cultures of compassion in organizations.
 Continuing Conversations The Summit Conference is the launch event for a year of discussion, collaboration, and action. The International Working Group on Compassionate Organizations will provide online resources and venues for continuing conversations

Monday, March 18, 2013

March 19 Tip: Read Elaine Pagels' "Revelations"

Read Elaine Pagels' book "Revelations"
(the March 19 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

From the NY Times:

How well should a historian write? That’s a complicated question, but it’s hard to disagree with George Orwell, who thought that any exemplary book should not only be an intellectual but “also an aesthetic experience.” 

Elaine Pagels, a professor of religion at Princeton, possesses a calm, sane, supple voice. It’s among the reasons readers have stuck with her over a nearly four-decade career, often on hikes through arduous territory, like her commentary on ancient Christian works that were banned from the Bible. She’s America’s finest close reader of apocrypha. 

Ms. Pagels is best known for “The Gnostic Gospels” (1979), which won a National Book Award and was named one of the best 100 English-language nonfiction books of the 20th century by the Modern Library. That book spawned a million biblical conspiracy theories, as well as “The Da Vinci Code,” Dan Brown’s hyperventilating novel. Few seem to hold that against her. 

The cool authority of Ms. Pagels’s voice serves her almost too well in her new volume, “Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation.” She surveys this most savage and peculiar book of the New Testament — an ancient text that is nonetheless, as the novelist Will Self has put it, “the stuff of modern, psychotic nightmares” — as if she were touring the contents of an English garden. She’s as unruffled as the heroine of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” who declared in one of that excellent television show’s best episodes, “If the apocalypse comes, beep me.” 

Her “Revelations” is a slim book that packs in dense layers of scholarship and meaning. The Book of Revelation, attributed by Ms. Pagels to John of Patmos, is the last book in the New Testament and the only one that’s apocalyptic rather than historical or morally prescriptive. It’s a sensorium of dreams and nightmares, of beasts and dragons. It contains prophecies of divine judgment upon the wicked and has terrified motel-room browsers of the Gideon Bible for decades. 

Ms. Pagels places the book in the context of what she calls “wartime literature.” John had very likely witnessed the skirmishes in A.D. 66, when militant Jews, aflame with religious fervor, prepared to wage war against Rome for both its decadence and its occupation of Judea. 

She deepens her assessment of the Book of Revelation by opening with a troubled personal note.
“I began this writing during a time of war,” she says, “when some who advocated war claimed to find its meaning in Revelation.” 

Because he feared reprisals, John wrote this condemnation of Rome in florid code. 

He “vividly evokes the horror of the Jewish war against Rome,” Ms. Pagels writes. “Just as the poet Marianne Moore says that poems are ‘imaginary gardens with real toads in them,’ John’s visions and monsters are meant to embody actual beings and events.” For example, most scholars now agree, she says, that the “number of the beast,” 666, spells out Emperor Nero’s imperial name. 

The so-called Gnostic Gospels, the subject of Ms. Pagels’s breakthrough book, were discovered in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, in Upper Egypt. At that site scholars also found dozens of other previously unknown books of revelation. Among this volume’s central questions, then, is this one: How did John’s book of revelation become the only one included in the New Testament? 

Ms. Pagels approaches this question from many angles but agrees with those scholars who have suggested that John’s revelations were less esoteric than many of the others, which were aimed at a spiritual elite. John was aiming at a broad public. 

The others, she writes, “tend to prescribe arduous prayer, study and spiritual discipline, like Jewish mystical texts and esoteric Buddhist teachings, for those engaged in certain kinds of spiritual quest.”
What’s more, she writes, because John’s revelations end optimistically, in a new Jerusalem, not in total destruction, they speak not just to what we fear but also to “what we hope.” 

John’s visions, throughout the centuries, have been applicable to almost every conflict or fit of us-against-the-world madness. Charles Manson read the Book of Revelation before his followers’ rampages; Hitler, encouraged by Joseph Goebbels, apparently read himself into the narrative as a holy redeemer, while the rest of the civilized world saw him as the book’s beast. 

For a work that contemplates a hell made on earth, Ms. Pagels’s book rarely produces much heat of its own. It drifts above the issues like an intellectual satellite. 

One of her great gifts is much in abundance, however: her ability to ask, and answer, the plainest questions about her material without speaking down to her audience. She often pauses to ask things like, “Who wrote this book?” and “What is revelation?” and “What could these nightmare visions mean?” She must be a fiendishly good lecturer. 

The Book of Revelation is not prized as being among the best-written sections of that literary anthology known as the New Testament, but Ms. Pagels is alive to how its language has percolated through history and literature. Jesus, who appears on a white horse to lead armies of angels into war, will “tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God,” John wrote. 

This image emerges again in “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” the Union’s anthem during the Civil War: “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;/He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.” 

John’s book has caused great mischief in the world, Ms. Pagels suggests, but it is a volume that can be clasped for many purposes. It has given comfort to the downtrodden, yesterday and today.
John, Ms. Pagels writes, “wants to speak to the urgent question that people have asked throughout human history, wherever they first imagined divine justice: How long will evil prevail, and when will justice be done?” 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

March 18 Tip: Attend Tonight's Thomas Merton Anniversary Event

Attend tonight's Event celebrating the 55th anniversary of Thomas Merton's "Shining Like the Sun" Epiphany

(the March 18 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

Join us at 7 pm on Monday, March 18 to mark the 55th Anniversary of Thomas Merton’s famous “Shining like the Sun” epiphany. The celebration will take place in Bishops Hall, at Christ Church Cathedral, 425 South Second Street in Louisville and is co-sponsored by The Faith and Spirituality Committee of Compassionate Louisville along with Interfaith Paths to Peace.

In this special, one-hour presentation six outstanding individuals from Louisville will share brief stories of powerful epiphanies (life changing insights) from their own lives.

Those scheduled to present include:

Markham French, who is Executive Director of the Plymouth Community Renewal Center, and a leading advocate for youth non-violence in Louisville’s West End.

Joe Grant, who is a co-director for Engaging Spirituality for JustFaith Ministries and a renowned leader in the spirituality of peace and justice. Joe has been honored with the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry award for Gospel Values of Peace and Justice

Jud Hendrix, who works with a variety of groups and organizations to cultivate community, consciousness, creativity and compassion by integrating inter-spiritual wisdom and practices.

Vanessa Hurst, an intuitive who, through Healing Willow, engages the “shining like the sun” essence of individuals and groups by increasing awareness of what is occurring in the moment. By building upon this awareness, individuals and groups create and maintain a more balanced way of being.

Al Klein, director of “Compassionate Louisville”, member of the board of Interfaith Paths to Peace, and noted marketing specialist for the Courier-Journal.

Kim Summers, who is co-creator and key figure in the Mighty Kindness Earth Day Hootenanny, proprietor of SHIFT Therapeutic Massage and Wellness Center, and has served as Kentucky coordinator for the US Department of Peace Campaign.

The emcees for the program will be Terry Taylor, Executive Director of Interfaith Paths to Peace and author of A Spirituality for Brokenness.

After the program, refreshments will be served.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

March 17 Tip: Fairy Tales Are for Adults Again

Why Fairy Tales Are for Adults Again (from "On Being")

Fairy tales don't only belong to the domain of childhood. Their overt themes are threaded throughout hit TV series like Game of Thrones and True Blood, Grimm andOnce Upon a Time. These stories survive, says Maria Tatar, by adapting across cultures and history. They are carriers of the plots we endlessly re-work in the narratives of our lives -- helping us work through things like fear and hope.

Friday, March 15, 2013

March 16 Tip: Focusing on Violence Before it Happens

Focusing on Violence Before it Happens (from the NY Times)
(The March 16 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

In the national debate that has followed the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, much of the focus has been on regulating firearms. But many law enforcement and mental health experts believe that developing comprehensive approaches to prevention is equally important. In many cases, they note, the perpetrators of such violence are troubled young people who have signaled their distress to others and who might have been stopped had they received appropriate help.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

March 15 Tip: Take Part in "Engaging Religious Differences"

Attend the April 8-10 "Engaging Religious Differences" Conferences at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary and hear Religious Commentator Stephen Prothero
(the March 15 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

Dr. Stephen ProtheroStephen Prothero

Dr. Stephen Prothero is a professor in the Department of Religion at Boston University. He received a bachelor's degree from Yale in American Studies and a doctorate in the Study of Religion from Harvard. Prothero has appeared on numerous national programs to comment on the importance of understanding religious differences:National Public Radio,CNN, NBC, MSNBC, FOX, PBS, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and The Oprah Winfrey Show. He has been a regular contributor to: the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the New York Times, Slate, Salon, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

March 14 Tip: Abandon Hope and Fear

From Pema Chodron: Abandon Hope and Fear
(the March 14 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

Hope and fear is a feeling with two sides. As long as there’s one, there’s always the other. This is the root of our pain. In the world of hope and fear, we always have to change the channel, change the temperature, change the music, because something is getting uneasy, something is getting restless, something is beginning to hurt, and we keep looking for alternatives.

In a nontheistic state of mind, abandoning hope is an affirmation, the beginning of the beginning. You could even put “Abandon hope” on your refrigerator door instead of more conventional aspirations like “Every day in every way I’m getting better and better.” 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March 13 Tip: Read about "The Great Agnostic"

Read a review of the new book, "The Great Agnostic"
(the March 13 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

from the NY Times:

Susan Jacoby, whose previous books include “Freethinkers” and “The Age of American Unreason,” begins “The Great Agnostic” by asking why some people famous in their own time become part of our national memory and others fade into oblivion. A case in point is the orator Robert Green Ingersoll: a celebrity in his heyday at the end of the 19th century, he is almost utterly unknown today, even by those who would admire him if they knew more.
The first reason for his obscurity is the same reason many actors who were well known before the age of film have been forgotten: Ingersoll’s greatest fame came from his public speeches, and while the texts of these have been published, it was his performance of them that made him so beloved. In 19th-century America, speeches were a major form of entertainment. As a result, people were real connoisseurs of the craft, and a wide range of listeners thought Ingersoll was an extraordinary orator. In an age when flowery language and effusive emotion were commonly used to keep audiences rapt, Ingersoll was comparatively calm and plain-spoken, yet he was said to be riveting, drawing both tears and peals of laughter.
The second reason he isn’t remembered has to do with what was in those speeches, many of which denounced religion. He called himself agnostic, but whenever he was asked, he replied that for him there was no difference between agnosticism and atheism. He wrote and spoke about a number of topics — Shakespeare was a favorite — but his agnosticism was what most set him apart, attracting devoted followers and fervent detractors. There have been atheists and religious doubters throughout history, but the ones who remain famous after their deaths tend to have been equally famous for something else as well; otherwise, people most notable for their bravery in the face of religious conservatism have to be celebrated by a population equally brave, and that is often too much to ask. For Jacoby, prejudice against those who question religion is the “real reason” for his eclipse, far outweighing the ephemeral nature of oratorical fame.
To these explanations, Jacoby adds her suspicion that Ingersoll might have fared better had a rise in secularism, which he helped bring about, proved to be permanent. But it is wrong, she notes, to allow his stature to diminish as a result of the resurgence of religion that occurred after his death. “Intellectual history is a relay race, not a 100-yard dash,” Jacoby writes, in a nice turn of phrase. Reporting on the irreligion of many of the country’s founding figures, Ingersoll kept the ideals of secularism alive during his own era and passed them on to us. In particular, he championed the memory of Thomas Paine, whose rejection of religion had led to his being forgotten in Ingersoll’s time, despite the considerable role Paine played in turning the American colonies toward revolution. It may be hoped that Jacoby’s book does as much for Ingersoll as Ingersoll did for Paine.
Jacoby shows how Ingersoll’s fight against religion connected to his vision of a good society. During his time, religious writers commonly supported a harsh “biblical” approach to disciplining children. Ingersoll told his audiences that he had seen people who acted as though when Jesus said, “‘Suffer the little children to come unto me, for such is the kingdom of heaven,’ he had a rawhide under his mantle and made that remark simply to get the children within striking distance.” He favored quips like this, and newspapers reported them with the bracketed commentary of “[Laughter]” and “[Great Laughter].” Employing similar indictments, Ingersoll campaigned passionately for women’s rights, against racism and against the death penalty. When science ran afoul of humanitarian ideals, he fought against it too. In an appendix, Jacoby includes a short, vivid speech of Ingersoll’s against vivisection, which he likened to “the Inquisition — the hell — of science.”
Jacoby’s understanding of irreligion in American history is a bit idiosyncratic. She several times states that there are two branches of American secularism: one extending from the humanism and egalitarianism of Paine and the other from the cutthroat individualism of the social Darwinists and Ayn Rand. Jacoby does not lay out a case for this claim, and readers may protest that Rand and her kind aren’t much more than outliers among atheists. Furthermore, Jacoby writes, in today’s “new atheism,” people who identify as “skeptics” are often libertarian conservatives. She doesn’t make a case for this either, and in my experience (in person, in print and online), self-proclaimed skeptics come together when questioning paranormal and pseudoscientific claims — there’s little political consensus, and what consensus there is leans more to the liberal left.
It is also worth noting that Jacoby writes entirely from the side of the freethought community, which believers may dislike. This is her right — I prefer a biography with a distinct point of view — but she tells us almost nothing negative about Ingersoll, other than hinting that “no one, of course, is ever completely free of contemporary received opinion.”
These issues aside, Jacoby’s goal of elucidating the life and work of Robert Ingersoll is admirably accomplished. She offers a host of well-chosen quotations from his work, and she deftly displays the effect he had on others. For instance: after a young Eugene V. Debs heard Ingersoll talk, Debs accompanied him to the train station and then — just so he could continue the conversation — bought himself a ticket and rode all the way from Terre Haute to Cincinnati. Readers today may well find Ingersoll’s company equally entrancing.
Jennifer Michael Hecht is the author of “Doubt: A History” and the forthcoming “Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It.”

Monday, March 11, 2013

March 12 Tip: Learn about "The Losses and Laughter We Grow Into"

Listen to "The Losses and Laughter We Grow Into" from Om Being
(the March 12 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

Kevin Kling is part funny guy, part poet and playwright, part wise man. Born with a disabled left arm, he lost the use of his right one after a motorcycle accident nearly killed him. He shares his special angle on life's humor and its ruptures — and why we turn loss into story.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

March 11 Tip: Learning to live with less. Alot Less.

Living with Less. Alot Less. from the NY Times
(March 11 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

Living With Less. A Lot Less.

I LIVE in a 420-square-foot studio. I sleep in a bed that folds down from the wall. I have six dress shirts. I have 10 shallow bowls that I use for salads and main dishes. When people come over for dinner, I pull out my extendable dining room table. I don’t have a single CD or DVD and I have 10 percent of the books I once did.
I have come a long way from the life I had in the late ’90s, when, flush with cash from an Internet start-up sale, I had a giant house crammed with stuff — electronics and cars and appliances and gadgets.
Somehow this stuff ended up running my life, or a lot of it; the things I consumed ended up consuming me. My circumstances are unusual (not everyone gets an Internet windfall before turning 30), but my relationship with material things isn’t.
We live in a world of surfeit stuff, of big-box stores and 24-hour online shopping opportunities. Members of every socioeconomic bracket can and do deluge themselves with products.
There isn’t any indication that any of these things makes anyone any happier; in fact it seems the reverse may be true.
For me, it took 15 years, a great love and a lot of travel to get rid of all the inessential things I had collected and live a bigger, better, richer life with less.
It started in 1998 in Seattle, when my partner and I sold our Internet consultancy company, Sitewerks, for more money than I thought I’d earn in a lifetime.
To celebrate, I bought a four-story, 3,600-square-foot, turn-of-the-century house in Seattle’s happening Capitol Hill neighborhood and, in a frenzy of consumption, bought a brand-new sectional couch (my first ever), a pair of $300 sunglasses, a ton of gadgets, like an MobilePlayer (one of the first portable digital music players) and an audiophile-worthy five-disc CD player. And, of course, a black turbocharged Volvo. With a remote starter!
I was working hard for Sitewerks’ new parent company, Bowne, and didn’t have the time to finish getting everything I needed for my house. So I hired a guy named Seven, who said he had been Courtney Love’s assistant, to be my personal shopper. He went to furniture, appliance and electronics stores and took Polaroids of things he thought I might like to fill the house; I’d shuffle through the pictures and proceed on a virtual shopping spree.
My success and the things it bought quickly changed from novel to normal. Soon I was numb to it all. The new Nokia phone didn’t excite me or satisfy me. It didn’t take long before I started to wonder why my theoretically upgraded life didn’t feel any better and why I felt more anxious than before.
My life was unnecessarily complicated. There were lawns to mow, gutters to clear, floors to vacuum, roommates to manage (it seemed nuts to have such a big, empty house), a car to insure, wash, refuel, repair and register and tech to set up and keep working. To top it all off, I had to keep Seven busy. And really, a personal shopper? Who had I become? My house and my things were my new employers for a job I had never applied for.
It got worse. Soon after we sold our company, I moved east to work in Bowne’s office in New York, where I rented a 1,900-square-foot SoHo loft that befit my station as a tech entrepreneur. The new pad needed furniture, housewares, electronics, etc. — which took more time and energy to manage.
AND because the place was so big, I felt obliged to get roommates — who required more time, more energy, to manage. I still had the Seattle house, so I found myself worrying about two homes. When I decided to stay in New York, it cost a fortune and took months of cross-country trips — and big headaches — to close on the Seattle house and get rid of the all of the things inside.
I’m lucky, obviously; not everyone gets a windfall from a tech start-up sale. But I’m not the only one whose life is cluttered with excess belongings.
In a study published last year titled “Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century,” researchers at U.C.L.A. observed 32 middle-class Los Angeles families and found that all of the mothers’ stress hormones spiked during the time they spent dealing with their belongings. Seventy-five percent of the families involved in the study couldn’t park their cars in their garages because they were too jammed with things.
Our fondness for stuff affects almost every aspect of our lives. Housing size, for example, has ballooned in the last 60 years. The average size of a new American home in 1950 was 983 square feet; by 2011, the average new home was 2,480 square feet. And those figures don’t provide a full picture. In 1950, an average of 3.37 people lived in each American home; in 2011, that number had shrunk to 2.6 people. This means that we take up more than three times the amount of space per capita than we did 60 years ago.
Apparently our supersize homes don’t provide space enough for all our possessions, as is evidenced by our country’s $22 billion personal storage industry.
What exactly are we storing away in the boxes we cart from place to place? Much of what Americans consume doesn’t even find its way into boxes or storage spaces, but winds up in the garbage.
The Natural Resources Defense Council reports, for example, that 40 percent of the food Americans buy finds its way into the trash.
Enormous consumption has global, environmental and social consequences. For at least 335 consecutive months, the average temperature of the globe has exceeded the average for the 20th century. As a recent report for Congress explained, this temperature increase, as well as acidifying oceans, melting glaciers and Arctic Sea ice are “primarily driven by human activity.” Many experts believe consumerism and all that it entails — from the extraction of resources to manufacturing to waste disposal — plays a big part in pushing our planet to the brink. And as we saw with Foxconn and the recent Beijing smog scare, many of the affordable products we buy depend on cheap, often exploitive overseas labor and lax environmental regulations.
Does all this endless consumption result in measurably increased happiness?
In a recent study, the Northwestern University psychologist Galen V. Bodenhausen linked consumption with aberrant, antisocial behavior. Professor Bodenhausen found that “Irrespective of personality, in situations that activate a consumer mind-set, people show the same sorts of problematic patterns in well-being, including negative affect and social disengagement.” Though American consumer activity has increased substantially since the 1950s, happiness levels have flat-lined.
I DON’T know that the gadgets I was collecting in my loft were part of an aberrant or antisocial behavior plan during the first months I lived in SoHo. But I was just going along, starting some start-ups that never quite started up when I met Olga, an Andorran beauty, and fell hard. My relationship with stuff quickly came apart.
I followed her to Barcelona when her visa expired and we lived in a tiny flat, totally content and in love before we realized that nothing was holding us in Spain. We packed a few clothes, some toiletries and a couple of laptops and hit the road. We lived in Bangkok, Buenos Aires and Toronto with many stops in between.
A compulsive entrepreneur, I worked all the time and started new companies from an office that fit in my solar backpack. I created some do-gooder companies like We Are Happy to Serve You, which makes a reusable, ceramic version of the iconic New York City Anthora coffee cup and, an environmental design blog that I later sold to Discovery Communications. My life was full of love and adventure and work I cared about. I felt free and I didn’t miss the car and gadgets and house; instead I felt as if I had quit a dead-end job.
The relationship with Olga eventually ended, but my life never looked the same. I live smaller and travel lighter. I have more time and money. Aside from my travel habit — which I try to keep in check by minimizing trips, combining trips and purchasing carbon offsets — I feel better that my carbon footprint is significantly smaller than in my previous supersized life.
Intuitively, we know that the best stuff in life isn’t stuff at all, and that relationships, experiences and meaningful work are the staples of a happy life.
I like material things as much as anyone. I studied product design in school. I’m into gadgets, clothing and all kinds of things. But my experiences show that after a certain point, material objects have a tendency to crowd out the emotional needs they are meant to support.
I wouldn’t trade a second spent wandering the streets of Bangkok with Olga for anything I’ve owned. Often, material objects take up mental as well as physical space.
I’m still a serial entrepreneur, and my latest venture is to design thoughtfully constructed small homes that support our lives, not the other way around. Like the 420-square-foot space I live in, the houses I design contain less stuff and make it easier for owners to live within their means and to limit their environmental footprint. My apartment sleeps four people comfortably; I frequently have dinner parties for 12. My space is well-built, affordable and as functional as living spaces twice the size. As the guy who started, I sleep better knowing I’m not using more resources than I need. I have less — and enjoy more.
My space is small. My life is big.
Graham Hill is the founder of and