Sunday, December 02, 2007

Intramuros with Carlos Celdran

So finally, after some years of planning (hehe!), Mike and I went on a Carlos Celdran walking tour. It was a lovely day for a walk, breezy and not too hot; we'd purposely planned to do this in December for the more pleasant weather, but we actually needn't have worried about that, because we ended up walking less than we'd expected (compared with walking tours we'd done in England).

The 3-hour Intramuros tour took us from Fort Santiago to the facade of Manila Cathedral, to San Agustin Church and Father Blanco's Garden, and finally, to Casa Manila (all just a few blocks away from one another). Of course, being a native of Metro Manila, I'd been to all those places before a number of times, but what made the tour amazing wasn't the locations per se (though I'm sure the locations delighted first-timers to Intramuros), but Carlos' colorful, theatrical, sometimes-funny-and-sometimes-extremely-moving romp through the history of Manila.

Indeed, I felt a lump in my throat a number of times during the tour, most especially during Carlos' dramatic description of the rape of Manila during World War 2. I'd learned about it all in high school, of course, but the version in our textbooks had been a highly sanitized version, a month of atrocities crammed into a paragraph. As we sat there in the crypts of San Agustin museum, Carlos' voice transported us back to 1945, and we were surrounded by cries, screams, tumbling walls, and the smell of death and decay around us. (Incidentally, Juan Luna bones are kept in that crypt!)

Most of the tour was very lighthearted, though--funny most of the time, sardonic many times--and we laughed a lot with Carlos, and together with the other Filipinos in the group, we also often laughed at ourselves.

Carlos' love for Manila was evident and infectious. His final line of the tour said it all: "If you want to change the way Manila looks, start by changing the way you look at Manila" (a slight change from the tagline often mentioned in relation to him, "I can't change the way Manila looks but I can change the way you look at Manila"). As Carlos himself pointed out, a lot of tourists consider Manila an "ugly" city, something that travelers should preferably skip over if they're on the way to any other place in the Philippines. But Manila's story is beautiful, tragic, poignant ... and Carlos is one of the best story-tellers we have out there right now.

In a nutshell: Carlos is a really, really good tour guide, among the best I've ever listened to. If you haven't yet, go, go, go on a Carlos Celdran tour; it's an excellent way to spend half a day, and I daresay you'll find yourself a little more in love with Manila after the tour is done.


Incidentally, it's been my dream for a long time to be a historical tour guide, ever since I went on a tour of Corregidor in college. Now I'm more committed to that dream than ever. (I don't intend to compete with Carlos, of course, haha! He's too good and what he does is unique and precious and all his own. I would do my own thing differently.)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Sheila Coronel

There's a nice article on Sheila Coronel in the Columbia University alumni magazine.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Theirs were the only ads on the Paypal homepage, and I clicked on it.

Apparently, EBay has a subsidiary company called Microplace that allows its website users to invest in microfinance project across the developing world. Very very cool idea.

Unfortunately, you can't invest in the Philippines yet (I would've made a payment right then and there had there been a Philippine project). I hope the Pinoys working in microfinance have explored this.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A year of taking the Bible literally

Former Esquire editor A. J. Jacobs, a secular Jew from New York City, decided to spend one year, living out all the Old Testament laws and many of the New Testament ones too as literally as possible, (when it wasn't illegal or impossible to do so, as was the case with the law to "kill magicians").

According to this article, it seems to have started out as a tongue-in-cheek, try-it-just-for-fun experiment (before this, he spent a year reading an entire encyclopedia) ... but it became for Jacobs a true year-long spiritual pilgrimage that ultimately transformed his views in surprising ways. (Well, maybe it isn't that surprising .... I say that, not because I believe that the Bible should be taken so literally, but because I do believe that sacred ritual truly is transformative.)

I'm interested in buying the book.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Condi: "It's time for the establishment of a Palestinian state."

It was actually "time" half a century ago ....

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fine-tuning Argument

In past school years, I didn't enjoy teaching Aquinas' Five Ways in my Philosophy of Religion class. I only taught it because I do think it's important to teach at least one text that includes a rational proof for God's existence, and it's the shortest. :) (I did Anselm before--the entire Proslogion--which is very nice [if you do the whole thing and not just the "Ontological" Proof], but it takes too much time.)

But this year I decided to spice it up a little by accompanying the discussion of Aquinas with contemporary arguments for God's existence.

And the result is that I'm enjoying myself a lot more with this discussion. I've especially enjoyed myself with Robin Collins' Fine-tuning Argument (his version of the argument from design). I like. I used to use the entropy argument (look up William Lane Craig if you're interested), but this school year I'm enjoying Collins' more.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

College, and the meaning of life ....

From the Boston Globe:

"In the past few weeks, tens of thousands of young men and women have begun their college careers. They have worked hard to get there. A letter of admission to one of the country's selective colleges or universities has become the most sought-after prize in America.

The students who have won this prize are about to enter an academic environment richer than any they have known. They will find courses devoted to every question under the sun. But there is one question for which most of them will search their catalogs in vain: The question of the meaning of life, of what one should care about and why, of what living is for."

The rest of the article is here.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Educational Reform.

People keep complaining about the state of public education in our country, but a lot of people who complain, don't think of concrete, feasible ways to improve the system.

I like pragmatic, replicable, feasible ideas and although I'm not directly involved in public education, stories like these make me want to stand up and cheer.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Academic Life.

Please ignore this post. I'm just going to babble nonsensically for a few minutes.

My brother once quoted a professor of his who said, "When you get your bachelor's degree, you think you know everything. When you get your master's degree, you realize you don't know anything. When you get your Ph.D., you realize nobody else knows anything either."

There are lots of things I love about the academic life, and I really shouldn't complain, because I know how lucky I am to be here, to be living the kind of life that I do.

But every now and then, one thing about academic life gnaws at me: the creeping insecurity of a mediocre academician. I know I'm never going to really be an expert at anything ... so why am I here?, I sometimes want to ask myself. And with my field, I don't even know if I'm really contributing anything of value to the world, to the country. :-/

I know what I'm competent at: teaching. Oh how I wish I could just be a teacher.

But sigh, this is the academic life, and while it may look like a walk in the park from the outside, it has its own ratrace, it's own crazy rules of engagement....

It doesn't help that at least once a month, some senior faculty member asks me about my Ph.D....


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Creationism reaches the Philippines

Do you remember Sonia Zaide, the history textbook writer?

Apparently she's gone Creationist, in the most extreme sense of the word.

I went to National Bookstore the other day and bought the latest edition of her textbook for 1st year high school students, because I wanted to see what textbooks are out there. The textbook is called,"Philippine History and Government."

Here are some direct quotes.

"Origin of the Philippines. There are many explanations about the origin of our land. As Christians, we believe that the land forms were made by God as part of His creation. Therefore, the Philippines was a part of God's creation of the world. After the Great Flood in the time of Noah, many continents and islands appeared. So the descendants of Noah spread out to many parts of the world."

There's a Bible quote from Genesis, then she mentions legends and myths in the next paragraph. Then in the paragraph after that, she talks about scientists' and geologists' ideas.

Some pages later, she talks about the first Filipinos.

"Who were the first people to live in the Philippines? ... The best explanations we have about our distant past come from three main sources: (1) the story of God's creation in the Bible; (2) the story of evolution made by human scientists; and (3) legends and fairytales made up by imaginative people.

"We will study about all these three explanations about the origin of our ancestors. But because we are Christians, we believe that the story of God's creation of man, as described in the Holy Bible, is the real truth. Therefore, any other explanation about how early man came into being, is only the product of human theory or thinking, and it cannot be the truth....

"According to the Holy Bible, all men and women originated from the first man (Adam) and the first woman (Eve). After the Great Flood, Noah and the three sons left to settle the earth. Noah's sons--Shem, Ham and Japheth--themselves had sons after the flood. One of the sons of the youngest, Japheth, was named Javan (See Genesis 10:1-4). Out of Javan, Noah's grandson, came four sons named Elishah, Tharsis, the Kittim and the Rodanim. According to the Bible, 'From these maritime
peoples spread out into the r territory by their clans within their nations, each with its wown language.' Thus, Fr. Francisco, Colin, a Jesuit historian, wrote that the frist settlers of our country was Tharsis, son of Javan and great grandson of Noah, together with his brothers and their descendants. In time, the descendants of these Biblical characters settled in the parts of the world that e know as Asia, including the islands of the Philippines."

On the opposite page is a chart which shows the names of the descendants of Adam leading to Noah, then: "Noah --> Japheth --> Javan --> Elisha, Tharsis, the Kittim and the Rodanim --> their descendants were the early Filipinos"



I'm Catholic who studied in Catholic schools and in my Catholic education, we never had trouble reconciling an allegorical understanding of the Genesis accounts with the theological truths that: (1) God is the Creator of all, and that (2) there was a historical moment, even with the history of evolution, that a distinct creature called "man" emerged, different from all previous primates. It was never an irreconcilable issue.

A colleague told me that the notion of young-earth Creationism is very recent. The early Church fathers--even Fundamentalists' favorite St. Augustine--read the Genesis accounts as allegories, and they were never apologetic about it. I'll write more about the Church fathers and their exegesis of the Genesis creation accounts another time, but feel free to Google them.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Beatitudes.

This excerpt, from the book The Political Teachings of Jesus, is reminiscent of my liberation theology classes in college.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Seventh-year sabbatical.

I've always just taken for granted that academicians have a special perk not found in most other jobs -- a year-long paid leave from classroom and administrative responsibilities, to produce research. The seventh-year sabbatical.

Only today did I realize that the tradition has its roots in the Jewish idea of the seventh-year jubilee: a sabbath of complete rest taken every seven years, after six years of harvesting.


Growing up with Harry Potter.

I had a delightful epiphany today when I realized that my college junior students have grown up with Harry Potter.

A few of them (girls and guys, I should add) were talking about the latest book, when another guy joined in and said, "Harry Potter?!" when he realized what they were talking about.

"Why? Don't you read Harry Potter?" I asked.

He looked at me incredulously. "Not read Harry Potter! Of course I read Harry Potter! All of us read Harry Potter!!!"

Then I realized that they were just about Harry's age, so I smiled and I said, "You're the perfect age group for Harry Potter, aren't you? You were pretty much the same age Harry was when each new book came out."

And three of them--all guys--excitedly nodded their heads. "I started reading Harry Potter when I was in grade 5," one of them said, and another agreed. The third said, "I started in grade 7." (Remember, these are 19-year-olds I was talking to.)

I find it so fascinating that theirs is an entire batch of young men and women who really did grow up with Harry Potter, going through the same joys and pains that Harry was at each stage of his adolescence.

And I find it more fascinating that Harry crossed the gender divide, creating a shared mythology and childhood memory for an entire batch of boys and girls (now men and women).


After I got home, GMA's "Palaban" was discussing the proliferation of men's magazines.

It occurred to me that in an age when teenagers and young adults are often thought of as victims of a sex-obsessed, sex-saturated culture, one topic that can delight and fascinate all of them, male or female, is a whimsical story about a boy-wizard and how he found the courage to fight Voldemort.


Anyway. Mike was telling me to get the hardbound version of HP1, since it's the only one I own that's paperback. (I started reading after HP2 came out.) What I really want, though, is not the hardbound HP1, but the British English versions of the entire set. (The American English edition was the one that came to the Philippines.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Richard Rorty, 75

Richard Rorty, one of the most famous philosophers to visit Ateneo (my employer and alma mater), died a few days ago. Slate has a collection of poignant reminiscinces about the man from colleagues, fellow-philosophers and friends.

Friday, May 18, 2007

An Optimistic Filipino.

I was talking to my colleagues at school this afternoon, and many of us felt, all things considered, pleasantly surprised with the outcome of this election.

I remember talking to a friend of mine last year, and intimating to her that, despite the despair that a lot of people were feeling about the country at the time, I had a gut feeling that the country was getting better. She was incredulous when I said that (this was during the aftermath of the whole Garci debacle), and asked me to explain. I said that I had a mysterious sense that the political crises of 2001-2006 were all a kind of purgation process for the country, the kind of "bottoming-out" experience that the Philippines needed to lay bare the flaws of its political system, before it began to mature, like the bottoming-out experience that an alcoholic has to go through before she begins her process of recovery, I explained, and I cited a social activist whom I respect very much, who had expressed the same.

If you keep abreast with local politics, then you are aware that a quiet revolution has been taking place in local government units across the country. In one town after another, people have been supporting, not necessarily the candidate with the biggest song-and-dance during campaign period, not necessarily the candidate with the hacendero surname, not necessarily the candidate with the private army ... but the candidate who delivers results. In one town after another, traditional politicians, "trapos," have been losing in elections to idealistic technocrats or the progressive intellectuals. This is not to say that there are no longer any trapos, or that political dynasties have disappeared from local politics; however, their hold on power is no longer the impenetrable monolith it once was, or at the very least, their hold on power is conditioned by their ability to produce tangible results.

I do feel that this change that has been taking place at the grassroots is beginning to trickle up to national politics.

In the weeks leading to the elections, I was feeling dismayed that I couldn't fill up my twelve senatorial slots, and many of my colleagues felt the same. (I ended up voting for only six senatoriables last Monday.) But I began to smell the winds of change when I noticed that many of the senatoriable's political ads on television were very different from the ones in previous elections: the new ads actually talked about issues, or highlighted an aspect of the candidate's platform or one of the candidate's legislative accomplishments. I didn't vote for Zubiri, but I was impressed that his TV ad emphasized the Biofuels Act. I didn't vote for Defensor, but I appreciated the discussion of the housing issue. The few ads that focused on personality rather than issues (e.g., Villar's "Sipag at Tiyaga" campaign, and the Kapatiran party's campaign materials) seemed to talk about character traits as foundations of an ideology for nation-building.

And now, as the tally comes in, my colleagues and I look at one another and nod, rather impressed, with the way the results are shaping up.

Of the top fifteen contenders, there is only one that I absolutely abhor. With all the rest in the top slots--even with the ones I didn't vote for, and even with the one other candidate whose victory fills me with real dismay--I can see, at the very least, some perceived quality of nobility or competence which allows me to understand their popularity. It appears that candidates who thought they could win by sheer name recall alone and little else, are going to be disappointed: Cesar Montano isn't going to win; Chavit Singson is not even close; Richard Gomez is barely in the running. Even Manny Pacquiao will be staging his heroics in the boxing ring, rather than in the halls of congress. (Another way of putting it: of Harvey Keh's "Seven Things Which, If They All Happen, Will Make Me Leave the Philippines", only one seems likely to happen.)

Another thing. If reports are accurate, a whopping 85% of registered voters in the Philippines voted. I'm impressed with that. Most Filipinos, it appears, still feel that their votes count for something, and went and accomplished their civic duty. I'm sad that so many youths did not register (something I don't understand; when I was in college, almost everyone I know was registered for the elections!!), but maybe after this election, they will regret not having registered, and will change that in the next polls.

Finally, perhaps it was an indirect way of grandstanding, but in a surprise move, Ali Atienza showed more post-election maturity from a candidate than I have seen in a long time, conceding to Mayor Lim when the canvassing was far from finished. As I told my husband, "Wow, the city of Manila is actually behaving like a mature democracy!"

I'm not saying that all is fine and dandy in the Philippines. Even one instance of election violence is an instance to many, and I was disturbed by every report of violence that I saw in the news. But if the PNP reports are accurate, and the number of violent incidents truly have decreased in comparison with previous elections, then that is something to be thankful for, and I just pray that the next elections have almost no violence at all.

Also, cheating hasn't disappeared, and hearing the reports from Maguindanao, I'm not sure whether to laugh, cry, or throw up. But the Maguindanao farce notwithstanding, I really do feel that with this election, the people are making their voices felt, and sending a message to the politicians at the top that they aren't dumb.

To all the Pinoys who spent the last five years groaning in despair, to all those who packed up and left out of disgust and frustration ... friends, give your country (and your countrymen!) some credit. At the end of the day, this is the country that started People Power. This is the country that showed the world that we make miracles happen with enough faith, passion, and willpower. We may not be the smartest country in the world; we may not have the most mature democracy. But we're certainly not hopeless. And you shall see, we are going to get our act together, and we're going to all feel proud of the country that we're building.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

David's Non Sequiturs

I have a lot of respect for Randy David. I feel that he is one of the most intelligent voices in the Philippine public sphere today. I was reading, however, a PCIJ blog post outlining some points he made at a forum last March. In the PCIJ article, Randy David is quoted as having raised the following questions:
  • "If it was right to force (Joseph) Estrada out of Malacañang in 2001 for plundering the public coffers, why is it wrong to oust GMA today extraconstitutionally for an even more grievous offense of stealing the presidential elections?

  • "If it was right for the Catholic bishops to demand the resignation of an incompetent and immoral president and mobilize people to flock to the streets in 1986 and in 2001, why aren’t they demanding today the resignation of a president who has made a mockery of the democratic process?

  • "If it was right for the Armed Forces in 1986 and in 2001 to intervene in the political sphere, why was it wrong in February 2006?

  • "If it was right in 1986 to set aside the Constitution in order to give way to a revolutionary government when such powers are needed to dismantle the structures of authoritarianism, why would it be wrong today to seize the government and set aside its Constitution in order to pave the way for a formation of a truly just and free society?"

I have no love lost for the current administration, but as a philosophy teacher, I am allergic to poorly formed arguments as well. If David had directed those questions at me, here's how I would've responded to some of them:

  • "If it was right to force (Joseph) Estrada out of Malacañang in 2001 for plundering the public coffers, why is it wrong to oust GMA today extraconstitutionally for an even more grievous offense of stealing the presidential elections?"

David begins with a shaky premise. The question, of course, is: WAS it right to force Estrada out of Malacañang?

Lest we forget, the country was divided among three camps in relation to Estrada at the time: those who wanted him to stay on, those who wanted him to voluntarily resign and therefore for power to change according to constitutional means, and those who wanted him to be ousted by any means.

I personally never felt comfortable about the circumstances surrounding Estrada's ouster. I clamored for Estrada to voluntarily (and constitutionally) resign, not for him to be "ousted," and when the circumstances surrounding his act of "leaving Malacañang" became public, I for one was very disturbed.

That having been said, we might say that in relation to GMA, the country is probably divided among parallel camps: those who support Gloria and want her to stay on indefinitely, those who want a change in power through constitutional means (through, for example, her resignation, through impeachment proceedings, or through the 2010 elections), and those who want her ousted by any means.

  • "If it was right for the Armed Forces in 1986 and in 2001 to intervene in the political sphere, why was it wrong in February 2006?

  • If it was right in 1986 to set aside the Constitution in order to give way to a revolutionary government when such powers are needed to dismantle the structures of authoritarianism, why would it be wrong today to seize the government and set aside its Constitution in order to pave the way for a formation of a truly just and free society?"

There are differences among 1986, 2001, and 2006.

First of all, in 1986, the Philippines was not under a true democratic Constitution. The 1973 Constitution was not a true contract that reflected the will of the people; it was imposed by then-President Marcos through dubious, undemocratic means. In the spirit of democracy, then, it could be argued that the 1973 was not binding.

It was only after the 1987 referendum that the country came under a truly democratic, freely chosen social contract among citizens and state, enshrined in the Constitution that was promulgated through democratic process. If a person insists today that we follow constitutional processes to punish and prosecute those who desecrate our Constitution, then it is probably because that person considers himself to be bound to the promise of the current Constitution.

I am sickened by Gloria's shenanigans, but I really do believe that the only way we can reach our dream of a working democracy in this country is by starting now, by allowing our democratic processes and institutions--as imperfect as they are--to work. Some people are impatient, they despair, and would have us throw out all our processes with the bath water, and to be honest, I am sometimes tempted by quick-fix solutions as well, especially given the urgency of our nation's problems to those who are suffering the most.

But at the end of the day, the kind of country I want my children to be living in fifty years from now is one where there is true, lasting democracy, not one destroyed by a series of stop-gap solutions that proved more harmful in the long-run. And global history shows us that democratization is a process, a slow transformation of both institutions and culture.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

An era is ending.

From the very start, I was a Tony Blair fan. I thought, from the very beginning, that he had the heart, the compassion for the oppressed, the fair-mindedness, the openness, and the candidness to accompany his intelligent mind and awe-inspiring communication skills.

In the past ten years, there have been moments when I have been disappointed with Blair. I was crushed that he supported the Iraq War, and annoyed that he didn't apologize, when the mistake became clear, for his error in judgment; in those moments he sounded sickeningly like an American (or Filipino) politician, refusing to admit a mistake--so uncharacteristic of someone who at other times has been so forthright. I was sad that he didn't stand up to the United States more, and exercise the leadership that I felt he was capable of. I wished--and still wish--he'd developed the Third Way further.

But despite the disappointments, and despite the many things I disagree with, I still hold Tony Blair in extremely high esteem for his sincerity, intelligence and thought. I never for a moment felt that he was not trying his best to do his best for a country and a world that he loved.

I fell in love with the England that was under Blair, the England that Blair helped shape. And even if only the three littlest toes on my left foot can truly be called British, I am, as a citizen, Mr. Prime Minister, grateful to you.

Update: I'm listening to Blair's speech at Sedgefield, and again he reminds me why I admire him and will always admire him so much. "Hand on heart, I did what I thought was right."

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Broken Body of Christ

The president of the Evangelical Theological Seminary in the United States has returned to the Roman Catholic Church.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


First, a fun post forwarded to me by my husband.

Second ... I'm rereading Arendt's Human Condition for a class I'm teaching and I'm enjoying it immensely! It's amazing how a few years can bring about such a different way of reading Arendt; I'm discovering exciting insights in her work that I had merely glossed over before. It's a wonderful, exciting journey. :)

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Imelda pop opera?

Yeek, what is it with Imelda?

In the past week, I've read an interview of her in Vanity Fair, I've seen her name mentioned in Newsweek, and now ...

an Imelda pop opera?

Written by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim no less.


Wednesday, January 31, 2007

9/11, in perspective

So why has there been such an overreaction [to 9/11]? Unfortunately, the commentators who detect one have generally explained it in a tired, predictably ideological way: calling the United States a uniquely paranoid aggressor that always overreacts to provocation.

And maybe the reason for that is that the US has not in contemporary times (with contemporary weapons) had a war fought on its shores, and so its citizens are probably insulated from just how terrible war is.

Anyway, read the rest of the article. It's quite insightful.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Helping my students find their voice.

I altered my teaching style a little this semester. In the past, I would go through a series of straight lectures on the topic at hand, with only a few short interruptions to Socratically discuss the more complex parts of the text, and then I would just wait until the end of the lectures on each text to engage in a more free-flowing discussion of the students' reactions to the text we were reading.

This semester, however, I decided to incorporate the free-flowing discussions in every session. Every class I introduce at least one provocative question related to the topic that I get my students to discuss, and allow the discussion to go where it may. The only exception to my discussion-in-every-class rule is when we're running late in our itinerary and have to finish our topic quickly; but even during those times, I give my students a story or an insight which is provocative enough to get them thinking.

I'm not sure if it's a mere coincidence, but it seems that this pedagogical method has been helpful for my students. They recently accomplished their first essay for the semester, and most of the essays reveal that my students have developed a sense of confidence in their own voices, a willingness to go beyond the texts to explain their own thoughts. In comparison, my students in the past semesters were much more timid, much more liable to stick to the text or to what I said in class (sometimes almost verbatim).

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Ethics of Consumption

This weekend, I started trying to eliminate my backlog of unread books. Last night I began reading Ethics of Consumption a compilation of scholarly article on, well, the ethics of consumption by ethicists, philosophers, economists, and social scientists.

Two possible projects:


(1) I'm not sure if any research has been done in the Philippines regarding ethical views towards buying among consumers. If there is no such research, I would like to undertake it, although of course I'd need to learn how to undertake an empirical study. (I did a course on Experimental Psychology in college, so I do have a teeny bit of background, but of course it isn't enough.)


(2) Another interesting point in the book is the reflection on what can be considered "sufficient" for a person. In my undergraduate Theology of Liberation class, we were introduced to the notion that a person is "poor" when he is a "non-person," implying not only an economic state but also a sociological state where a person lives without dignity.

On both the economic and sociological counts, this is a muddled definition. What we in the contemporary age would consider to be "necessary for survival" is different form what people would consider to be such 500 years ago.

Even more complex is the question of what is it to live "with dignity." Other scholarly articles also allude to sociological measures such as "happiness" or self-perceptions of poverty. One of the articles I was reading in the book suggested, however, that, as one might expect, one's perception of how poor one is has more to do with one's relative standing in society, or how one is treated in society, than one's absolute income or economic state.

If that is the case, then it would seem that at least one aspect of "poverty" is not so much a question of income but a question of how people ought to be treating one another.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Dawn of the New Age of the American Empire, for real?

I used to regard the phrase "American Imperialism" as an anachronistic historical concept, as a hyperbolic description of the dominance of U.S. popular culture around the world, or as Philippine leftist rhetoric.

But just today, I have read allusions to a new American empire twice, both from North Americans.

This morning I read a few chapters of Why Nations Go To War, a book my mom got from her college and which she left here in the Philippines for me to read, the last time she was here. The author is John G. Stoessinger, Ph.D. (Harvard), "Distinguished Professor of Global Diplomacy" at the University of San Diego.

... the United States, for the first time in its history, fought a war of choice, not of necessity. By going to war in March 2003, it put into action a doctirine of preempting in order to remove a dictator and to attempt to turn his county into a democracy. By doing so, the American republic took a first step toward becoming an imperial power.

Top officials in the Bush administration actually convened a seminar on June 16, 2003, on the subject of "Rules and Tools for Running an Empire." [323-328]

Then, while doing my daily skimming of articles indexed on Arts and Letters Daily, I read Colby Cosh's column, "Does America Need a Foreign Legion?" The column begins its argument for an American foreign legion with the observation that "today little energy remains behind U.S. resistance to the imperial temptation. President Bush's 2000 electoral promise to pursue a 'humble' foreign policy has become a joke. Sept. 11 proved it is no longer in his power, or anyone else's."


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Christus Apollo

Some of my students laughed when I mentioned once in class that Christology has to contend with the question of life on other planets. Today I found this, by Ray Bradbury. Bless his soul. What a wonderful image of Christ.

Happy New Year. And in advance, happy Feast of the Epiphany!


christus apollo
by Ray Bradbury

cantata celebrating the eighth day

of creation and the promise

of the ninth

A Voice spoke in the dark,
And there was Light.
And summoned up by Light upon the Earth
The creatures swam
And moved unto the land
And lived in garden wilderness;
All this, we know.
The Seven Days are written in our blood
With hand of Fire.
And now we children of the seven eternal days
Inheritors of this, the Eighth Day of God,
The long Eighth Day of Man,
Stand upright in a weather of Time
In downfell snow
And hear the birds of morning
And much want wings
And look upon the beckonings of stars,
And need their fire.
In this time of Christmas,
We celebrate the Eighth Day of Man,
The Eighth Day of God,
Two billion years unending
From the first sunrise on Earth
To the last sunrise at our Going Away.
And the Ninth Day of the History of God
And the flesh of God which names itself Man
Will be spent on wings of fire
Claimed from sun and far burnings of sun starlight.
And the Ninth Day’s sunrise
Will show us forth in light and wild surmise
Upon an even further shore.
We seek new Gardens there to know ourselves.
We seek new Wilderness,
And send us forth in wandering search.
Apollo’s missions move, and Christus seek,
And wonder as we look among the stars
Did He know these?
In some far universal Deep
Did He tread Space
And visit worlds beyond our blood-warm dreaming?
Did He come down on lonely shore by sea
Not unlike Galilee
And are there Mangers on far worlds that knew His light?
And Virgins?
Sweet Pronouncements?
Annunciations? Visitations from angelic hosts?
And, shivering vast light among ten billion lights,
Was there some Star much like the star at Bethlehem
That struck the sight with awe and revelation
Upon a cold and most strange morn?
On worlds gone wandering and lost from this
Did Wise Men gather in the dawn
In cloudy steams of Beast
Within a place of straw now quickened to a Shrine
To look upon a stranger Child than ours?
How many stars of Bethlehem burnt bright
Beyond Orion or Centauri’s blinding arc?
How many miracles of birth all innocent
Have blessed those worlds?
Does Herod tremble there
In dread facsimile of our dark and murderous King?
Does that mad keeper of an unimaginable realm
Send stranger soldiers forth
To slaughter down the Innocents
Of lands beyond the Horsehead Nebula?
It must be so.
For in this time of Christmas
In the long Day totalling up to Eight,
We see the light, we know the dark;
And creatures lifted, born, thrust free of so much night
No matter what the world or time or circumstance
Must love the light,
So, children of all lost unnumbered suns
Must fear the dark
Which mingles in a shadowing-forth on air.
And swarms the blood.
No matter what the color, shape, or size
Of beings who keep souls like breathing coals
In long midnights,
They must need saving of themselves.
So on far worlds in snowfalls deep and clear
Imagine how the rounding out of some dark year
Might celebrate with birthing one miraculous child!
A child?
Born in Andromeda’s out-swept mysteries?
Then count its hands, its fingers,
Eyes, and most incredible holy limbs!
The sum of each?
No matter. Cease.
Let Child be fire as blue as water under Moon.
Let Child sport free in tides with human-seeming fish.
Let ink of octopi inhabit blood
Let skin take acid rains of chemistry
All falling down in nightmare storms of cleansing burn.
Christ wanders in the Universe
A flesh of stars,
He takes on creature shapes
To suit the mildest elements,
He dresses him in flesh beyond our ken.
There He walks, glides, flies, shambling of strangeness.
Here He walks Men.
Among the ten trillion beams
A billion Bible scrolls are scored
In hieroglyphs among God’s amplitudes of worlds;
In alphabet multitudinous
Tongues which are not quite tongues
Sigh, sibilate, wonder, cry:
As Christ comes manifest from a thunder-crimsoned sky.
He walks upon the molecules of seas
All boiling stews of beast
All maddened broth and brew and rising up of yeast.
There Christ by many names is known.
We call him thus.
They call him otherwise.
His name on any mouth would be a sweet surprise.
He comes with gifts for all,
Here: wine and bread.
There: nameless foods
At breakfasts where the morsels fall from stars
And Last Suppers are doled forth with stuff of dreams.
So sit they there in times before the Man is crucified.
Here He has long been dead.
There He has not yet died.
Yet, still unsure, and all being doubt,
Much frightened man on Earth does cast about
And clothe himself in steel
And borrow fire
And himself in the great glass of the careless Void admire.
Man builds him rockets
And on thunder strides
In humble goings-forth
And most understandable prides.
Fearing that all else slumbers,
That ten billion worlds lie still,
We, grateful for the Prize and benefit of life,
Go to offer bread and harvest wine;
The blood and flesh of Him we Will
To other stars and worlds about those stars.
We cargo holy flesh
On stranger visitations,
Send forth angelic hosts,
To farflung worlds
To tell our walking on the waters of deep Space,
Arrivals, swift departures
Of most miraculous man
Who, God fuse-locked in every cell
Beats holy blood
And treads the tidal flood
And ocean shore of Universe,
A miracle of fish
We father, gather, build and strew
In metals to the winds
That circle Earth and wander Night beyond all Nights.
We soar, all arch-angelic, fire-sustained
In vast cathedral, aery apse, in domeless vault
Of constellations all blind dazzlement.
Christ is not dead
Nor does God sleep
While waking Man
Goes striding on the Deep
To birth ourselves anew
And love rebirth
From fear of straying long
On outworn Earth.
One harvest in, we broadcast seed for further reaping.
Thus ending Death
And Night,
And Time’s demise,
And senseless weeping.
We seek for mangers in the Pleides
Where man the god-fleshed wandering babe
May lay him down with such as these
Who once drew round and worshipped innocence.
New Mangers lie waiting!
New Wise men Descry
Our hosts of machineries
Which write immortal life
And sign it God!
Down, down Alien skies.
And flown and gone, arrived and bedded safe to sleep
Upon some winters morning deep
Ten billion years of light
From where we stand us now and sing,
There will be time to cry eternal gratitudes
Time to know and see and love the Gift of Life itself,
Always diminished,
Always restored,
Out of one hand and into the other
Of the Lord.
Then wake we in that far lost
Nightmare keep of Beast
And see our star recelebrated in an East
Beyond all Easts.
Beyond a snowdrift sifting down of stars.
In this time of Christmas
Think on that Morn ahead!
For this let all your fears, your cries,
Your tears, your blood and prayers be shed!
All numb and wild one day
You shall be reborn
And hear the Trump break forth from rocket-trembled air
All humbled, all shorn
Of pride, but free of despair.
Now listen! Now hear!
It is the Ninth Day’s morn!
Christ is risen!
God survives!
Gather, Universe!
Look, ye stars!
In the exultant countries of Space
In a sudden simple pasture
Far beyond Andromeda!
O Glory, Glory, a New Christmas
From the very pitch and rim of Death,
Snatched from his universal grip,
His teeth, his most cold breath!
Under a most strange sun
O Christ, O God,
O man breathed out of most incredible stuffs,
You are the Savior’s Savior,
God’s pulse and heart-companion,
You! The Host He lifts
On high to consecrate;
His dear need to know and touch and cry wonders
At Himself.
In this time of Christmas
In this holy time
Know yourself most rare!
Beyond the vast Abyss
See those men grown Wise
Who gather with their gifts
Which are but Life!
And Life that knows no end.
Behold the rockets, more than chaff, on air,
All seed that save a holy seed
And cast it everywhere in mindless Dark.
In this time of Christmas
This holy time of Christmas,
Like Him, you are God’s son!
One Son? Many?
All are gathered now to One
And will wake cradled in Beast-summer breath
That warms the sleeping child to life eternal.
You must go there.
In the long winter of Space
And lie you down in grateful innocence
At last to sleep.
O New Christmas,
O God, far-motioning.
O Christ-of-many-fleshed made one,
Leave Earth!
God Himself cries out.
He Goes to Prepare the Way
For your rebirth
In a new time of Christmas,
A holy time of Christmas,
This New Time of Christmas,
From all this stay?
No, Man. You must not linger, wonder.
No, Christ. You must not pause.
It is the Time of Going Away.
Arise, and go.
Be born. Be born.
Welcome the morning of the Ninth Day.
It is the Time of Going away.
Praise God for this Annunciation!
Give praise,
For the time of Christmas
And the Ninth Day,
Which is Forever’s Celebration!