God

From Wired, here’s what the FBI teaches its counterterrorism agents about the average Muslim:

The stated purpose of one [briefing], about allegedly religious-sanctioned lying, is to “identify the elements of verbal deception in Islam and their impacts on Law Enforcement.” Not “terrorism.” Not even “Islamist extremism.” Islam.

Pretty un-American indoctrination in a federal agency whose motto is, “Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity.” Read the full article at Wired

Spain’s Blurred Cultural Divides (or how Newt Gingrich can’t even get xenophobia right)

The Alhambra, from Mirador San Nicolás

The Alhambra of Granada: Muslim Nasrid Fortress; Holy Roman Emperor Charles V's palace; Catholic churches and ex-mosques in view. Photo taken outside the Saint Nicholas church in the Albayzin "Muslim quarter" of the city.

Newt Gingrich states,

“The proposed “Cordoba House” overlooking the World Trade Center site – where a group of jihadists killed over 3000 Americans and destroyed one of our most famous landmarks – is a test of the timidity, passivity and historic ignorance of American elites.  For example, most of them don’t understand that “Cordoba House” is a deliberately insulting term.  It refers to Cordoba, Spain – the capital of Muslim conquerors who symbolized their victory over the Christian Spaniards by transforming a church there into the world’s third-largest mosque complex.” [Emphasis mine.]

I’ll overlook Gingrich’s gross overstatement of the historical facts (this excellent post by a medieval historian refutes his statements in detail) and get to the more glaring irony in his statement. Say hello to the “world’s third-largest mosque complex,” that symbolic victory over Christian Spain (which before the conquest was neither unified in religion nor statehood):

Yep, that just makes ya tremble in fear of Islamist conquerors, doesn’t it? Newt Gingrich uses Córdoba as an example of the Muslim destruction of Western or Christian culture, yet the very building in question stands today not as a mosque, but a cathedral. (Ironically, the world’s third-largest Christian complex lies a couple of hours’ drive away in Seville – a mosque converted into a cathedral after the Catholics conquered the Muslim-ruled Al-Andalus.) Continue reading

Zeke’s Life, Spring 2010 edition: Be Here Now

I don’t know where the last couple of days have gone, but I want my weekend back!

I haven’t been posting a lot about daily life this semester because I am lucky enough to actually be very consumed with school and the career search. I really didn’t expect things to hit me so hard all of a sudden, but I’ve been going seemingly nonstop since January or February. For the most part I’ve been handling it OK, though I’ve definitely had to shift gears on my daily routine.

One unfortunate truth is that I get so distracted having my desk in my bedroom that it’s pretty hard to be productive from home, so I find myself kicking myself out of the house a lot to get stuff done – to the CSU library if the time is right, but more often than not, I’m at the Alley Cat, Fort Collins’ 24/7 coffeeshop near campus. I quickly gained my FourSquare mayorship, I’ve had more than one precarious 4 AM bike ride home in varying levels of snow, and I am not going to tell you how much money I spend there. (The cost of the coffee and food is far offset by my productivity gains from the removed distractions.)

Currently on my plate are two big midterms and one case study on my own while working together on a huge paper and presentation with another group. Somewhere in there, I also need to find room to squeeze in a freelance project and the hunt for a job (Not knowing what I’m doing a month from now? Not the greatest feeling!) Despite all that, I feel like I’ve been ramping up the workload so steadily now that I can still manage to get stuff done without self-destructing. It’s interesting, though – I really haven’t felt this intense, stressful-yet-exciting kind of routine since my last senior year, back in high school. Back then I was juggling AP exams, college applications, understaffing at work, and a family with a 14 year old and a 4 year old at home. The situation has changed, but it’s the same old story: I’m super busy, but it’s almost all really worthwhile stuff that has me excited for what lies ahead.

I’m still actually working on the answer to what does lie ahead. On the practical level, I’m looking for systems analysis, sales engineer, and web developer opportunities in Boulder, Denver, Fort Collins and San Francisco. But I’m wondering a lot more about long-term stuff: what do I want my life to look like? Do I want to move to a big downtown area and try the urban yuppie lifestyle? Do I want to travel? Do I go back to Spain or do I take care of my massive international “to-do” list? Since I’m at a point in my life where I have the freedom to make those decisions, I feel like I should really think a lot about them before I commit myself to one path for a while, since I’m just finishing up this 4-year “chapter.”

I find myself thinking back to a walk I took a year ago alone on the dunes of the Sahara: it was there that I felt the most clarity and perspective I’ve ever experienced. That wasn’t really a “what am I going to do with my life” kind of moment; it was more like a time where all distractions were removed to the point where all that remained was the pure essence of being in communion with all that really matters in the world. A few months later, I was back in the daily grind when this line from Six Feet Under hit me like a ton of bricks:

All we have is this moment, right here, right now. The future is just a fucking concept that we use to avoid being alive today. So, Be. Here. Now.

I never expected to get a serious philosophical revelation from an HBO show, but it really does explain it all. The stuff I have going on isn’t necessarily irrelevant, but it’s really important to me that I don’t get lost in it. I want to go after a lifestyle for my future. My goal is not to save for retirement, or be super successful, or be the best person in my professional field. I don’t want to burn out on stress to the point that I need a vacation to recharge my spiritual batteries. I want to work towards making every aspect of my life: personal, professional, social, financial, spiritual, whatever – into things that enrich my life and the lives of everyone around me. And that’s it. Anything that doesn’t work towards that probably shouldn’t be there.

Mark 7:1-23 (ESV)

This has been weighing on my mind in past months, in consideration of both my own mindset and in observation of others. I won’t attempt to embellish it with any of my own commentary or interpretation, but I’ll reproduce it here in case it might be helpful to anyone else. For background, this passage details a confrotation between Pharisees (enforcers of both written law in the Jewish Torah, as well as unsourced laws from their own sect’s oral traditions) and Jesus over the morality of his followers.

Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;

in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

An Election Prayer

May this country’s future be one worthy of its founding ideals of freedom, equality, and self-determination. May we come closer and closer to liberty and justice for all.

For everyone who has made up their minds and fears a negative outcome, comfort.

For the polarized and disagreeing, understanding and respect. May we not be a nation divided by our different ideals, but one nation that is strong because of our freedom to be different and united in our stand for that freedom.

For those who serve their country and their community, courage.

For our leaders, discernment. May they be humble and servants of the people, not self-righteous abusers of the powers we entrust to them.

For the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, hope and justice.

As this government is an institution of fallible people, and therefore is itself fallible, and as no elected official or written statute under such a system will be without its shortcomings and imperfections, I pray for grace and mercy after our inevitable mistakes.

For all in the world, peace and prosperity.

Amen.