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From Where I Stand

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.

Wisconsin has uncomfortable parallels with the Mideast

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I've been muddling over this particular column for days now. And I have reasons:

First, I myself come from a union family and I know the pull of bias when I see it. Especially my own.

The first demonstration I ever attended I was huddled in my father's arms as strangers rushed by the front of our house. Late one night, I could hear the union men come roaring down the street, the men yelling, the torches burning, parked cars being rocked and rolled onto the sidewalks.

After Tucson, we must bring conversations 'into the light'

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The country is in a new kind of national simmer these days, the boiling point of which may well determine the social climate of this country for years to come. All the signs are clear.

For the first time in history, the President of the United States has raised the nature of civil discourse to the level of a State of the Union address. Assembled for that speech, many members of the Congress of the United States sat together, intermingled, as if they really were all cooperating citizens of the same country.

Evolution conference invites us all to a 'new beginning'

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The Monastics of the Desert didn’t have anything to say about New Year’s resolutions but they had a lot to say about life. “Abba Poemen said of Abba Pior” one collection of early records report, “that every day he made a new beginning.”

Monasticism, we can see, is an ancient spiritual tradition with an eye for wisdom. Obscured as this new year may be by an era of financial fear, personal pain, and the struggle to survive, this new year is also, ironically, a time crying for great creativity and change. We are in need of ‘a new beginning’ on multiple levels.

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