Archive for January, 2015

206 – The Warp and the Wept”

Thursday, January 15th, 2015


By Hetty Gray


# 206


January 16, 2015


“The Warp and the Wept”


In the wake of the Paris Charlie Hebdo slaughter and the subsequent siege at the kosher grocery in Paris, we hear a smattering of rebuttal from Islamic clerics. I so wish I could believe what I hear. One man clearly put the onus on Saudi Arabia and its push for a strident ideology that adheres to the strict form of Islam. To give you an idea of its practice, consider a man who will be publicly flogged every week for a long time because he chose to criticize Islam.

The following details come from a worldwide site reflecting the views of moderate Muslims who see a crass hypocrisy in the way they describe the Paris attacks and the flogging of an Internet blogger. Saudi Arabia on Friday publicly flogged a blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam, with Amnesty International condemning his punishment as a “vicious act of cruelty”.

A Saudi court in September upheld a sentence of 10 years in prison as well as the flogging for Raef Badawi, who has been behind bars since June 2012. Badawi was also ordered to pay a fine of one million riyals ($267,000, 192,00 euros).

The 30-year-old received a first installment of 50 lashes on Friday and is expected to have 20 weekly whipping sessions until his punishment is complete. Witnesses said that Badawi was flogged after the weekly Friday prayers near Al-Jafali mosque in the Red Sea city of Jeddah as a crowd of worshipers looked on. Have you seen this news on television, heard it on radio, or read it on line? Likely not. Paris overshadowed it.

What is really appalling is that it is not an isolated case. It is very common in Saudi Arabia, a country proudly touted as one of America’s allies. Isn’t it thought provoking to see the difference dissent makes here at home.

While Badawi waits his flogging, Boston’s I-95 corridor (both northbound and southbound) is shut down by two lines protesters chained together among highway barrels holding signs that read “black lives matter.” Of course, black lives do. All lives matter. In the end, it’s how those lives are lived — but that is another discussion altogether.

The seminal question is this. Where would these people in Boston, black or white, choose to live — America where their voices are heard and punishment is probably being hauled off to jail and fined, where opportunities exist for those who work hard, or in the Middle East where dissent is forbidden and where women exist as less than second class citizens? I wonder how far Beyoncé, with her phenomenal voice and beautiful body, would have gone had she been born in the a country where women’s rights are nonexistent?

Of course, there will always be diametrically opposed views on women’s roles; but — at the very least — women should be able to receive a decent education. That is impossible in many areas of the world today. It seems as if such attitudes come from history books and harken back centuries. Sadly, they do not. These values and norms are alive and thrive among many Muslim societies.

As others will agree, this dichotomy has no easy solution. Men are perceived superior, women inferior. It is hard to reconcile seventh- century practices in a twenty-first century world, but we face that situation today.

There are, undoubtedly, many pillars of Islam that deserve perpetuity. Care for the poor, sincere prayer, and peace come to mind. The reality is that we see very little of these. What we do see is that Muslims kill more Muslims than any other group. How tragic.

In the international community, all our world leaders need to come together to see the threat for what it is. If, as many contemporary moderate Muslim clerics claim, this push for death and destruction is truly a skewing of the Islamic faith, then it is up to the faithful to stand up for their faith and counter this warp.

Fabric weaves threads together to make a strong whole. So do societies. We describe the fabric elements as warp and weft. The unwieldy challenge we face today is the product of the warp of a major faith. In its wake, untold numbers of people wept.

Think about it. Better yet, pray about it.


204 – Foundations and Opposition – Art, Music and Literature in Faith versus Militarism

Monday, January 5th, 2015

Scheherazade (Scheherazade; Russian: ?????a????, Shekherazada in transliterteration), Op. 35, is a symphonic poem composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1888.



By Hetty Gray


# 205


January 5, 2015


“Foundations and Opposition — Art, Music and Literature in Faith versus Militarism”


Internationally, countries on earth vary in climate, culture and temperament. However, there lurks a glaring disparity among nations that defines them even more than any of those elements.


Consider the arts. Begin with music. Some of the greatest early composers are European. Their operas and majestic melodies transcend any language barrier and bring joy to audiences around the world.


Of those from days past, Johann Sebastian Bach and Beethoven hail from Germany, as do Brahms, Schumann, Handel, Bartholdy, Pachelbel, and Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach.  More recently, both Richard Strauss and Carl Orff add their names to this impressive list.


Vivaldi, Puccini, Rossini, de Palestina, Monteverdi, Bellini, Corelli, Donizetti, Scarlatti, Paganini (both Alessandro and Domenico), Gabrieli, Ponchielli, Lully, Boccherini, Morricone, Leoncavallo, and Pergolesi are among Italy’s famous men of music. Today, we thrill to Andrea Bocelli’s magnificent voice.


When you consider opera, I suggest you listen to the works of one of Italy’s finest whose accomplishments are exceptional. A integrated website on the arts gives us this information:

Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi was an Italian Romantic composer primarily known for his operas. He is considered, together with Richard Wagner, the preeminent opera composer of the nineteenth century.

Born: Oct 10, 1813 · Le Roncole, Italy

Died: Jan 27, 1901 · Milan, Italy

Spouse: Giuseppina Strepponi (1859 – 1897) · Margherita Barezzi (1836 – 1840)

Compositions: La traviata · Rigoletto · Aida · Nabucco · Messa da Requiem · Il trovatore · La donna è mobile · Otello · Falstaff · Macbeth

Buried: Casa di Riposo per Musicisti · Cimitero Monumentale di Milano (Milan)

Parents: Luigia Uttini · Carlo Giuseppe Verdi

Undoubtedly, some of the opera’s names resonate with you and the works continue to be spellbinding today.

When it comes to literature, the British have much of which to be proud. Of course, the first familiar name would have to be William Shakespeare, the “Bard of Avon.” Jane Austen, Emily Bronte and Charles Dickens round out early authors with J. K Rowling bringing us to the present with her Harry Potter series. However, this list is incomplete and fails to cite many other talented British writers.

Asia brought us a unique person in Confucius, and Brainy Quotes website provides the following image and personal information.

Confucius was a Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher of the Spring and Autumn period of Chinese history. The philosophy of Confucius emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social …

Born: 551 BC · Lu

Died: 479 BC · Lu

Spouse: Qiguan

Founded: Confucianism

Buried: Cemetery of Confucius

Parents: Kong He · Yan Zhengzai

Although many of us quip about with his sage wisdom regularly, few of us realize that what we mouth we attribute to him. For example, here are a few of his famous quotes:

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.


“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.


“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.


“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.


“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”


The Middle East gave us Kahhil Gibran. I keep a copy of The Prophet in my home and I have read it many times. A series of 26 prose poetry essays, this work has delighted readers since its publication in 1923. Although many people think he was from mystic Arabia, he was — in fact — Lebanese.


Never far from music and art is religion. Christianity and Judaism provide us with the most widely published and read work of all time, The Bible. Little variation separates the two religions in the Old Testament. It is in the specter of the Messiah that the two beliefs split. Although Jesus Christ was a Jew, he was never accepted as the Messiah in the eyes or hearts of his own people. They await the Messiah even today.

Next, we consider Hinduism. This religion lacks a sacred text, yet it boasts millions of followers and roots more in nationalism than in deism. Although highly complicated, it can be digested to a few points. About explains that Hinduism lacks any unified system of beliefs and ideas. Instead, it is a phenomenon and represents a broad spectrum of beliefs and practices which on one hand are akin to paganism, pantheism and the like, and on the other very profound, abstract, metaphysical ideas. Human life is divided into four stages, and there are defined rites and rituals for each stage from birth till death.

Since religion and culture are nearly interchangeable terms in Hinduism, emotive expressions like ‘bhakti’ (devotion) or ‘dharma’ (what is right) and ‘yoga’ (discipline) are used to depict essential aspects of the religion.

Hinduism believes in idol worship, reincarnation, karma, dharma and moksha. Some moral ideals in Hinduism include non-violence, truthfulness, friendship, compassion, fortitude, self-control, purity and generosity.

By definition, karma in Indian religion and philosophy, is the universal causal law by which good or bad actions determine the future modes of an individual’s existence, dharma is righteousness, and moksha is salvation (a concept common to many religions),

Encyclopedia Brittanica gives us a more in-depth view of Hinduism. Incorporated in this rich literature is a complex cosmology. Hindus believe that the universe is a great, enclosed sphere, a cosmic egg, within which are numerous concentric heavens, hells, oceans, and continents, with India at the center. They believe that time is both degenerative—going from the golden age, or Krita Yuga, through two intermediate periods of decreasing goodness, to the present age, or Kali Yuga—and cyclic: At the end of each Kali Yuga, the universe is destroyed by fire and flood, and a new golden age begins. Human life, too, is cyclic: After death, the soul leaves the body and is reborn in the body of another person, animal, vegetable, or mineral. Hindus may thus be divided into two groups: those who seek the sacred and profane rewards of this world (health, wealth, children, and a good rebirth), and those who seek release from the world.

Some claim that Hinduism predates Judaism and Christianity, but since no text survives, a date cannot be set for its beginnings. It is the world’s third largest religion with about 13% of the world’s population and the dominant religion of India and Nepal. Over a million Hindus live in America.

Buddhism is yet another widespread religion and, like other belief systems, exists internationally. The website Religion Facts gives us plethora of information on this fourth of our discussed faiths. Buddhism split into numerous sects since its inception 2,500 years ago under the Bodhi Tree. There are a wide variety of beliefs, practices, rituals and customs, but at its core are the teachings of the Buddha. Monks from two main traditions met in 1966 to identity their agreements and came to five. “First, Buddha is the our Master. Second, we take refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. Third, We do not belief that this world is created and ruled by a God. Fourth, following the example of the Buddha, who is the embodiment of the Great Compassion (mahaa-karunaa) and Great Wisdom (Mahaa-prajnaa), we consider that the purpose of life is to develop compassion for all living beings without discrimination and to work for their good, happiness, and peace; and to develop wisdom leading to the realization of Ultimate Truth. Fifth, we accept the Four Noble Truths, namely Dukkha, the Arising of Dukkha, the Cessation of Dukkha, and the Path leading to the Cessation of Dukkha; and the universal law of cause and effect as taught in the Conditioned Genesis or Dependent Origination (pratitya-samufpaada).

Most of us identify Buddhists with the Dalai Lama. The name Dalai Lama is a combination of the Mongolian dalai meaning “ocean” and the Tibetan word meaning guru, teacher, or mentor. Widely considered a calm, gentle man, the Dalai Lama brings the world an undeniable image — that of a peace maker.

Majestic music reflects Christianity. Lyrical, energetic music mirrors Judaism. Chanting roots in ancient Hindu texts. A Buddhist chant is a form of musical verse or incantation and not that different from those of Christians, Jews, or Hindus. While similar, the Buddhist temples accent the chants with gongs and drums. The Buddhist practice of using incense is also seen in Catholic services and figures at the altar are also a common ground between the two faiths.

We see how music, art and literature link to religion. It is a travesty that some among earth’s inhabitants use religion as a vehicle to wreak carnage on their fellows, murder with abandon and gleefully ban women from the basic rights of man. The next time you hear a soaring hymn played on a thunderous cathedral organ, glimpse the impressive brush strokes of an Old Master endeavoring to capture faith in the visage of a person of importance — no matter the faith — or turn the pages of a story recounting our forebears and their faith in God, remember that faith and love are eternally entwined.


Sadly, the elements of life that most inspire people position themselves diametrically in opposition — the arts and militarism.

When anger and vengeance enter the picture, faith fails. “Vengeance is mine,” saith the Lord. Man cannot usurp God’s power. Think about it.