“Understanding a people’s culture exposes their normalness without reducing their particularity. (…) It renders them accessible: setting them in the frame of their own banalities, it dissolves their opacity.”Clifford Geertz – The Interpretation of Cultures (Basic Books Classics)
“Plato (…) also discovered the very insecure position of truth in the world, for ‘from opinions comes persuasion, and not from truth’ (Phaedrus 260). The most striking difference between ancient and modern sophists is that the ancients were satisfied with a passing victory of the argument at the expense of truth, whereas the moderns want a more lasting victory at the expense of reality.”Hannah Arendt – The Origins of Totalitarianism (Penguin Books, 2017)
“To live “in diaspora” is to reside in one place but to keep in motion an emotional, cultural, or political relationship with another, whether it is the site of one’s nativity that subsequently became a point of departure or an ancestral “homeland” virtually conjured but never visited. (…)
Diasporas (…) are platforms where received notions of cultural affiliation, religious inclination, and political persuasion can come undone or become entrenched and exaggerated. (…) They can be sites of recycling as much as of reinvention. (…)
But (…) all migrants, across a wide range of social positions, nonetheless share the “experience that their movement results in a certain degree of expulsion from their territorial, political, juridical, or economic status. Even if the end result of migration is a relative increase in money, power, or enjoyment, the process of migration itself almost always involves an insecurity of some kind and duration. (…) The gains of migration are always a risk, while the process itself is always some kind of loss.”S. Illot, A.C. Mendes, L. Newns (eds.) – New Directions in Diaspora Studies (Rowman & Littlefield, London, 2018)
“To yield to the mere process of disintegration has become an irresistible temptation, not only because it has assumed the spurious grandeur of ‘historical necessity’, but also because everything outside it has begun to appear lifeless, bloodless, meaningless, and unreal. (…)
Comprehension does not mean denying the outrageous (…). It means, rather, examining and bearing consciously the burden which our century has placed on us – neither denying its existence nor submitting meekly to its weight. Comprehension, in short, means the unpremeditated, attentive facing up to, and resisting of, reality – whatever it may be.”Hannah Arendt – The Origins of Totalitarianism (Preface to the First Edition, summer 1950).
Words that still resonate.
You can tell by the fireworks.
To this day,
people’s hearts are set to the clocks
in their homelands,
They go off at different times,
then the smoke clears and the sky
remains mysterious and quiet until the next
You can tell by the fireworks.
To this fateful day,
the last of 2020,
when the cheer is inaudible,
they still explode to the clocks
of faraway homelands.
Setting: Catholic religion class at school.
Characters: New teacher – a man. A bunch of 9-year-olds.
Open discussion about covenants. (Based loosely on recollection, don’t shoot the messenger!)
Girl in my daughter’s class, with genuine curiosity: Why are all the priests men? Why are there no women priests?
Teacher, gently: Well, you see, Jesus was a man, and his apostles were men, and…
Several girls in my daughter’s class: But his mother was a woman!
Teacher, full of kindness: Yes, but she could not have brought Jesus into the world without a heavenly Father…
Red-haired girl: He couldn’t have been born without a mother, either.
Teacher, softly: Yes, you’re right… but, maybe, you know, if some priests were women, then the men in church would stop paying attention to God and stare at the pretty priest…
My daughter, mumbling to herself: But the same can be true the other way around. If the priest is handsome…
Boy seated next to my daughter, searching for a solution: Maybe men are just uglier than women!
Red-haired girl: But if the women were really ugly, could they be priests then?
My daughter, musing after class: What if all the priests were women? Then there wouldn’t be any male priests to tempt… 🙂
(Ah, the dilemmas, quandaries and predicaments that arise when children are allowed to think freely. 🙂 Which, thankfully, they are.)
here I am,
sitting on a bench next to autumn
absorbing the last of the scorching sun
and watching the ants
move like clockwork
in a playground we call our own.
here they are,
mapping the maze
with staccato precision.
I am reading a poem,
like every other year.
later, I’ll get up to go home,
pass the picket fence with the tiny
walk into a heap of crunchy leaves,
and stomp out
Just a thought…
So many of us feel depleted, drained, stressed out. Our beings flogged from within, our lives – our biggest gift – turned into empty chases. Pursuing a zillion things that we can grab and touch and display, but which aren’t real. We live in societies that prioritize task efficiency, competition, action, and the accumulation of stuff over family, over time with friends, music, celebration, inner peace, or the contemplation of beauty.
The spiritual, once a central component of daily life – that umbilical cord to the divine – has been all but banished, relegated to the periphery, exiled to the realm of the exotic, the archaic, and the ‘oppressive’. The daily recalibration of prayer has fallen from grace and with it we have fallen – literally – from grace. From the grace of communing with the universe and with each other, the grace of transcending and accessing our higher purpose. From peace and vitality.
We bet everything on the card of desire, sleepwalking through life in a state of sterile and destructive arousal, as if remote-controlled via our most basic reflexes and deprived of the light of transfiguration. Do not be fooled that we no longer worship. We do. We worship the idol of self – the crumbling ‘natural man’ – while cutting ourselves off from our spiritual potential – the human person inhabited by holiness, true love, generosity, and joy.
The unhappiness that brings.
And how freely available the healing can be.
P.S. For more (and better!) on our aimless restlessness, our addiction to illusion and distraction, and our loathing of Eden – take a listen here: https://entitledopinions.stanford.edu/fatidic-power-literature. An episode I stumbled upon today – no kidding – after writing this blog. There are very few coincidences in life.
Venus – that ancient
goddess of carnal desire –
has a poisonous atmosphere that might,
hold the life of a microbe.
the microbes here on Earth
began to show signs
fighting each other for supremacy
and claiming poison
as their territory.
Copyright A. Sepi 2020. All rights reserved
Once in a blue moon,
beauty settles into my soul
like a swallow in its nest:
gracious and quiet and fertile.
Mere seconds later,
hordes and hordes of selfish people
with steel-toothed hounds and motorized wheels
come rushing by,
hurling themselves at the air, at the landscape, at other people’s souls,
a merciless stampede
raising the dust;
an unleashed army of carnal restlessness, a cacophony of hubris and outrage,
charging headlong, chasing the next empty minute, the next self-righteous cause,
cutting open words they don’t understand
and letting them bleed to death.
In their tow, the bee is sucked out of its flower,
the sweetness of honey is said to become unpalatable
and cross-pollination impossible.
I let them pass,
envy not their rapid advancement,
their heedless lack of regrets.
In God’s love, I am nourished.
Copyright 2020. A. Sepi. All rights reserved.