Ok. Here are this week’s Saturday diversions.
? How, or why, do we (evolve to) believe in god? Even if you practice panentheism (yogis, Spinozists), atheism or agnosticism, do you carry a deep-seated idea of a humanoid god?
On this note, a bright star in the smart-mag orbit (that is, it was forwarded all over the place) this week was Darwin’s God in the NYT Magazine. It’s print-it-out-for-the-bathtub long and focuses on logical debates in the socio-anthro-biology of religion, but the last two pages (beginning from “In 1997” on p. 10) are an elegant weighing of whether religion and science ought be separate spheres. Unfortunately, it leaves the answers up to us.
? One suggestion for this scene: Ecumenical Spam. Wow.
? Here is Salon’s expose of The Secret, sent over by RE. I fly far enough below popular culture to have avoided the phenomenon, but Salon’s righteous, crisp tour-de-force makes me suspect the truly weird aspect of this apparently superstitious, self-serving project is the way it leverages the idea that events begin with “thought-forms” to serve the most craven materialism of “getting things.” I mean: If thought-forms are what’s truly real, then shouldn’t thought-forms be sufficient for happiness?
Excerpt: I get nauseated when I think of people in South Africa being taught they don’t have enough money because they’re ‘blocking it with their thoughts’ [and] … by a culture in which genuine self-actualization has been confused with self-aggrandizement. …It’s bound up in the… idea of self-esteem, the kind of confidence you get not from testing yourself, but from ‘believing’ in yourself. This modern idea of faith isn’t arrived at… by asking questions, but by getting answers. Instead of inquiry… we have excuses for not engaging in inquiry at all.
? Jean Baudrilliard, the philosopher-clown and “sociologist,” has departed for the desert of the real. The guy was intellectually cute and terminally insincere, which makes for funny commentary. The TLS is a pretty good example.
? Have you ever gotten to compare everyday life in multiple third world regions, and noticed eerie similarities across the globe? Zinc roofing, breeze blocks, meticulously-swept earthen floors, firepit kitchens, struggles to find water. As Mike Davis is always saying, Wake up! This is how most people live! His Planet of Slums is out, reviewed in the LRB. Please do not let the torrent of images and numbers stop you.
? On which note, this guy takes very beautiful photographs of Americans’ refuse. He says:
When I… talk about our rampant consumerism, no one ever seems to think I am talking about them… [It] is like talking to someone with an alcohol problem. Our culture is in deep denial about what we are doing to our planet, to the people of other nations, and the people of the future. And… we are in denial about how our consumer lifestyle is sapping our own spirits. We are slowly killing ourselves, and we all feel it. We know we are somehow getting screwed, that all this stuff isn’t really satisfying, that we have lost something sacred that is related to the very core of our selves. But still we don’t act.
? New book on modern India.
? I’m not a Speaking of Faith podcaster, but this piece on author and yoga instructor Matthew Sanford is good. It is not about the so-called triumph of the human spirit. It’s about having a body. About how a paraplegic body is still, if I may, a platform for awakening.
? For R and any other Studio 360 podcasters, people who read it are loving Kurt Anderson’s novel.
? And, the etymology of meh. They say it is just blog-glot.