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From Where I Stand

A journey of painful discovery

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"There is meaning in every journey," Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, "that is unknown to the traveler." I travel a great deal. I travel more often and miles further than most of the people I know. Trust me: Bonhoeffer knew of which he spoke. That statement is not only true, it is life-changing. When we learn what we are not looking for, that kind of education reshapes the soul.

In search of the civilized in today's anonymous culture

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This column is late. Months late. Years late, actually. But I admit that it writes itself in my head almost every day. This month, there were two separate situations that require it be said rather than simply thought.

Last week, Rush Limbaugh, popular voice of far-right politics, used his position on the airwaves to insult, label and pronounce on the sexual motivations of a young Georgetown law school student who testified on behalf of the coverage of contraceptive medicine in national health care insurance plans.

Vision and wisdom meet in Occupy support group

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There's a new group in town that you ought to know about. They just may be the beginning of a bridge between a climate of despair and a vision of new life for us all.

It's obvious that social change is in the air again. But thanks to this new group, it may be about to happen differently. Up until now, change at least initially has commonly pitted one part of society against another, Republicans against Democrats, north against south, white against black, the old against the young.

Historical evolution or violent revolution: choose

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By the time we got to downtown Cairo on Nov. 18, Tahrir Square was already an undulating school of people. The crowds swayed back and forth across the roads, stepping over people still wrapped in blankets sleeping on the cement. Like any Fourth of July program in our own parks, a group was banging together the skeleton of a speaker's platform and small groups were already beginning to unwrap the sandwiches they'd brought with them for the day.

This was post-revolution -- maybe better to say mid-revolution -- time in Egypt.

The new military government that took over with the fall of Hosnei Mubarak is preparing for an upcoming civilian election. A new Constitution has been proposed. But this crowd is taking nothing for granted. They are here by the thousands again to send their own message to the new rulers: We are watching you. And we don't want the Constitution you have written.

A too modern fairy tale

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Every culture, including ours, raises its children on fairy tales, archetypes of social relationships and models of human development. It is in fairy tales that we learn our place in life at a very early age.

Social roles and human ideals are clearly defined there. Human types and public values emerge in vivid colors there -- ogres and witches, fathers and princes, authority and obedience, emerge painted in broad, bright strokes. Most of all, little girls learn without doubt the proper roles and virtues of women in society.

Why is our country just not functioning?

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It’s been a tumultuous decade, hard to equal in terms of long-term effect. In this short span of U.S. history, spasms of upheaval and change swept through every major system in the country: political, military, social and economic. Historians to come may well see it as a major turning point, not only for U.S. global domination, but also for the very history and internal stability of the country itself. The temblors have been legion.

Good event, bad event

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Boethius, a philosopher of fifth-century Rome, taught the world of his time something important for ours. “Every age that is dying,” Boethius taught in the midst of a declining Roman Empire, “is simply another age coming to life.”

New life, in other words, is not death unless we reject it. New life is growth, not decline unless we refuse it. New life is evolutionary, not revolutionary unless we make it so.

Remembering our past and who we truly want to be

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On the 160th anniversary of my great-grandfather's birth, I stood on the ruined foundation of the small Irish house and mill in which he had been born in Donegal.

A piece of granite from that foundation now sits on my desk -- a monument to both the past and the future. It was a long time coming. I've wondered for years where my family was really from and how we got here and what happened to the families our ancestors left behind.

Expulsions from religious orders, family, and minority wisdom

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The Jewish Talmud, one of humanity’s great sources of wisdom, has a format much of the rest of the world -- our world, certainly -- would largely reject. The Talmud, the rabbinical interpretation of Judaism’s basic laws, does not depend on majority votes. It preserves the general opinions and major conclusions as agreed upon by most of the rabbis of a given era.

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In This Issue

September 12-25, 2014

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