• invdaic

Seven Years In Tibet

Seven Years in Tibet is the account of Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer's time in Tibet during World War II. While trying to avoid capture by the British he managed to learn quite a bit about Tibetan culture and was involved to an extent never equalled by any other Westerner. The account provides few short passages making a point, but I think the following sums things up nicely.

Before the cathedral is a terrace of flagstones, polished like mirrors and hollowed out by the prostrations of worshippers over a thousand years. When one looks at these hollows and recognizes the expression of deep devotion on the faces of the worshippers, one understands why a Christian mission could never succeed in Lhasa. A Lama from the Drebung on a visit to Rome to convert the Catholics would recognise the futility of his mission when he saw the steps of the holy staircase worn down by the knees of countless pilgrims, and would leave the Vatican with resignation. Christianity and Buddhism have much in common. They are both founded on the belief in happiness in another world and both preach humility in this life. But there is a difference as things are today. In Tibet one is not hunted from morning till night by the calls of "civilisation." Here one has time to occupy oneself with religion and to call one's soul one's own. Here it is religion which takes up most room in the life of the individual, as it did in the olden days in the West.1
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    Johnny Hollow - Halfway to God

A History of the Jews - Part the First

Johnson's A History of the Jews was an assignment for my history class The Modern Middle East. These are notes from the first of four reading assignments. Johnson makes a lot of interesting points, but the book is obviously biased toward proving the truth of the Judeo-Christian position. Not that any history can exist in a vacuum, but I think it could have been a bit more objective.

Isaac was chosen as the offering not only because he was Abraham’s most precious possession but because he was a special gift of God’s, under the covenant, and remained God’s like all the rest of his gifts to man. This underlines the whole purpose of sacrifice, a symbolic reminder that everything man possesses comes from God and is returnable to him. 1

He is a ‘stranger and sojourner’ and remains one even after God’s election, even after he has elaborately purchased the Cave of Machpelah. This uncertainty of ownership is transferred to all his descendants: as the Bible repeatedly reminds us. Thus God tells the Israelites: ‘And the land is not to be sold in perpetuity, for all land is Mine, because you are strangers and sojourners before me’ 2

To leave was to break out not just of physical slavery but of airless spiritual prison: the lungs of Israel in Egypt craved for a fiercer oxygen of truth and a way of life which was purer, freer and more responsible. 3

Moreover, unlike the Greeks, the Israelites, under the inspiration of Isaiah, were moving towards a pure monotheism. There are many passages in the earlier parts of the Bible where Yahweh is seen not so much as the sole God but as the most powerful one, who can act in other gods' territories. 4

Because of the huge number of animals, the slaughter, bloodying and carving up of the carcasses had to be done quickly; and to get rid of the copious quantities of blood, the platform was not solid but hollow, a gigantic cleansing system. … Innumerable pipes conveyed water up to the platform surface, and a multitude of drains carried off the torrents of blood. 5

Ethical monotheism was an idea whose time had come. It was a Jewish idea. But the Christians took it with them to the wider world, and so robbed the Jews of their birthright. 6

As the radical nationalists took over Jerusalem they turned to the rich. One of their first acts was to burn the Temple archives so that all the records of debts would be destroyed. 7

They did not lose their identity in the emergent Dark Age communities …. The Jews survived because the period of intense retrospection enabled their intellectual leaders to enlarge the Torah into a system of moral theology and community law of extraordinary coherence, logical consistency and social strength. Having lost the Kingdom of Israel the Jews turned the Torah into a fortress of the mind and spirit, in which they could dwell in safety and even in content. 8

Almost but not quite: he spent his wealth on supporting scholars, the ablest of whom ate at the top table in his hall; he excempted scholarly men from taxation, at the expense of the workers; and in times of scarcity he fed scholars, but not the unlettered, from his food reserves. … Judah was an intellectual elitist of the most uncompromising kind. He used to say, grimly: ‘It is the unlearned who bring trouble into the world.’ 9

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    Nine Inch Nails - A Warm Place

(no subject)

The Razor’s Edge is one of my favorite books. Basically it is the story of a young man’s quest to find God and meaning in life after he returns from World War I. It’s interesting as his story is told in bits and pieces as he passes through the lives of other characters over a period of 10 years or so. You should read it. Hope's library does not have a copy, but KPL does. Of course, if you're nice maybe I'll loan you mine. Or it can be obtained cheaply used, or new.

“Perhaps he won’t. It’s a long and arduous road he’s starting to travel, but it may be that at the end of it he’ll find what he’s seeking.”
 “What’s that?”
 “Hasn’t it occurred to you? It seems to me that in what he said to you he indicated it pretty plainly. God.”1

“The first time he talked in that way he said something that I’ve never forgotten, because it horrified me; he said that the world isn’t a creation, for out of nothing nothing comes, but a manifestation of the eternal nature; well, that was all right, but then he added that evil is as direct a manifestation of the divine as good.”2

“I thought he hated that great, uncouth body of his and wanted to torture it and that his cheating and his bitterness and his cruelty were the revolt of his will … against a deep-rooted instinct of holiness, against a desire for God that terrified and yet obsessed him.”3

I received the impression she was bringing them up to do as they were told.4

“We’re not used to persons who do things simply for the love of God whom they don’t believe in.”5

“That doesn’t mean she’s bad. Quite a number of highly respected citizens get drunk and have a liking for rough trade. They’re bad habits, like biting one’s nails, but I don’t know that they’re worse than that. I call a person bad who lies and cheats and is unkind.”6

“D’you remember how Jesus was led into the wilderness and fasted forty days? Then, when he was a-hungered, the devil came to him and said: if thou be the son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But Jesus resisted the temptation. Then the devil set him up on a pinnacle of the temple and said to him: If thou be the son of God, cast thyself down. For angels had charge of him and would bear him up. But again Jesus resisted. Then the devil took him to a high mountain and showed him the kingdoms of the world and said that he would give them to him if he would fall down and worship him. But Jesus said: Get thee hence, Satan. That’s the end of the story according to the good simple Matthew. But it wasn’t. The devil was sly and he came to Jesus once more and said: If thou wilt accept shame and disgrace, scourging, a crown of thorns and death on the cross thou shalt save the human race, for greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Jesus fell. The devil laughed till his sides ached, for he knew the evil men would commit in the name of their redeemer.”7

“‘Our wise old church,’ he said then, ‘has discovered that if you will act as if you believed belief will be granted to you; if you pray with doubt, but pray with sincerity, your doubt will be dispelled; if you surrender yourself to the beauty of that liturgy the power of which over the human spirit has been proved by the experience of the ages, peace will descend upon you.”8

“I wanted to believe, but I couldn’t believe in a God who wasn’t better than the ordinary decent man.”9

‘A God that can be understood is no God. Who can explain the Infinite in words?’10

“But how can a purely intellectual conception be a solace to the suffering human race? Men have always wanted a personal God to whom they can turn in their distress for comfort and encouragement.”11

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    Nine Inch Nails - Slipping Away

(no subject)

Here we have some stuff from Pär Lagerkvist's Barabbas. This book won the Nobel Prize in Literature for 1951. Hope's library has it (or will, as soon as I return it) if you're on campus, otherwise I'm sure you could find it at your local library, or for cheap at a bookstore. It's interesting, and short. You should read it.

He wanted always to be himself and nothing else.1

It is not so easy to please the dead.2

He used to place himself so that he screened the other while he prayed, in case someone came along, so that Sahak would not be disturbed during his prayers. It was as though he wanted to help him pray. But he himself did not pray.3

— But I don't understand, he said. Why then do you bear this “Christos Iesus” carved on your disk?
— Because I want to believe, Barabbas said, without looking up at either of them.4

When he felt death approaching, that which he had always been so afraid of, he said out into the darkness, as though he were speaking to it:
— To thee I deliver up my soul.5

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    Nine Inch Nails - Terrible Lie