T   P   O
The Patient Ox (aka Hénock Gugsa)

G r e e t i n g s !

** TPO **
an irreligious blog
with egalitarian and individualist tendencies!

On the menu ... politics, music, poetry, and other good stuff.
There is humor, but there is blunt seriousness here as well!

Parfois, on parle français ici aussi. Soyez bienvenus!

Intelligent comments are always welcome!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

"Holy" Moments - by Pinchas Winston

Kiddush Moments
by  Pinchas Winston *
===== //~// =====

Two terms that seem not to go together are 'holy' and 'war', though over the last millennium they have been paired countless times, and with gruesome results. It doesn’t make a difference whether we are talking about a so-called Holy Crusade or Jihad, it’s been the same thing with the same result.

The problem has not been a lack of understanding of the word "war"; that seems to come quite naturally to those who have taken up the banner of a Crusade or Jihad. The problem, of course, is the terrible lack of understanding of the concept of holiness [the concept of kedushah].

Ultimately, it is a question of what many call human dignity [derech eretz] which literally means “way of the land,” but which usually means good manners [....]

Admittedly, being holy [kiddush] can have its violent moments. For example, when the Jewish people [commanded by God] conquered Canaan, they were supposed to have wiped out the entire Canaanite nation, men, women, and children. They were not supposed to have shown any mercy, even though, in the end, they did.[Although] the war was commanded by God, [it was] reluctantly carried out by the Jewish people.

[The difference with other nations' holy wars,] they were not [commanded by God] and were carried out enthusiastically by those enlisted to fight. Ever listen to the people who are being trained for Jihad suicide attacks, or their relatives who support them? Enthusiasm is not the word.

[...] taking a look at the leaders who ordered the Crusades, or those who today encourage Jihad, human dignity seems to be lacking. They are dogmatic to an extreme, and show no concern for any life other than their own. The similarities between the way that the Muftis preach Jihad to their adherents and the way Hitler preached world domination to his people, are striking. There is plenty of pride, but nary a hint of [derech eretz or] human dignity.

Hence, the Holy Roman Empire was far more figurative than actual. The slaughtering that took place in the name of one god or another was as humanly undignified as you can get. “Holy” and “Roman” went together about as well as “Holy” and “War” do today, and with the same results.

Is it a coincidence that the Jewish people rarely did something similar, and when they did, it was on command of God and they showed unwarranted mercy? Is it by chance that the concept of a crusade, such as those carried out for hundreds of years in the name of spreading Christianity, does not exist in the Jewish lexicon? Is it simply recklessness that makes Israelis defend themselves today while trying, at great risk to themselves, to not harm those who are not directly members of those perpetrating acts of war against the State of Israel? Yet, those who do wage war against us do so joyfully and indiscriminately, they murder soldier and non-soldier, men, women, and children.

Ironically, the detractors of the Jewish people, especially today, like to argue just the opposite. They call the Israelis the aggressors, and criticize them for barbaric acts of war against a harmless and innocent people. Not only do they not feel bad about perpetrating such a lie, they actually feel good about themselves by taking it up and fighting for it. How undignified can you get?

Then again, many of these people would have no problem cheating on tax returns [....] The societies from which these people tend to come have stripped away much of human dignity, catering to base instincts rather than the Godly side of man. No wonder they can side with the wrong underdog.

In fact, when one ponders the spiritual level of Western society, and considers a term that best sums up that level, “holy” is not a term than comes to mind. In fact, nothing will break up a party faster than, “Hey, let’s do something holy now ....”

When the truth is the greatest asset in a person’s life, and they have the intellectual and emotional capacity to pursue it and accept it when they find it, and reject all the placebos along the way, a person will naturally have self-dignity. And, a person with self-dignity will automatically afford the same rights to others, except when the others are clearly evil.
* Source: Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Marina - by Dalida

Dalida (1933-1987)

by Dalida
~~~~ // ~~~~

Marina, Marina, Marina
Je sais qu'il est bon d'être aimé
Mais ne vas, mais ne vas, ne vas pas
Courir au devant des baisers

Sans être certaine
Que l'on t'aime, que l'on t'aime
Que l'on t'aime autant que toi même
Oh non, non non, non non, non

Si l'amour t'invite
Ma petite te t'invite
Ne réponds pas tout de suite

Oh non, non non, non non, non

L'amour n'est pas toujours ce que l'on pense
Et quand on a le coeur plein d'impatience
On sait très bien très bien quand ça commence
Mais on oublie comment ça peut finir

Marina, Marina, Petite
Ecoute la voix de ton coeur
Mais ne vas, ne vas pas trop vite
Courir au devant du bonheur

 Ne vas pas trop vite, troppo vite, troppo vite
Effeuiller la marguerite

Oh non, non non, non non, non

Sois tendre et coquette,
Coq-coquette, coq-coquette,
Mais ne perds jamais la tête

Oh non, non non, non non, non

Marina, Marina, Marina


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Double Holiday! - by Hénock Gugsa

Happy Double Holiday!
 - by-
Hénock Gugsa
/=/=/=/=/ ~~~~ /=/=/=/=/

click to enlarge

An Evening in Cortona, Italy - by TPO

An Evening in Cortona, Italy- 2008
 (Una sera nella città di Cortona)
André Rieu
~~~~~~ // ~~~~~~

composer: Toto Cutugno
~~~~~ // ~~~~~

Lasciatemi cantare
con la chitarra in mano
lasciatemi cantare
sono un italiano
Buongiorno Italia gli spaghetti al dente
e un partigiano come Presidente
con l'autoradio sempre nella mano destra
e un canarino sopra la finestra
Buongiorno Italia con i tuoi artisti
con troppa America sui manifesti
con le canzoni con amore
con il cuore
con piu' donne sempre meno suore
Buongiorno Italia
buongiorno Maria
con gli occhi pieni di malinconia
buongiorno Dio
lo sai che ci sono anch'io
Lasciatemi cantare
con la chitarra in mano
lasciatemi cantare
una canzone piano piano
Lasciatemi cantare
perche' ne sono fiero
sono un italiano
un italiano vero
Buongiorno Italia che non si spaventa
e con la crema da barba alla menta
con un vestito gessato sul blu
e la moviola la domenica in TV
Buongiorno Italia col caffe' ristretto**
le calze nuove nel primo cassetto
con la bandiera in tintoria
e una 600 giu' di carrozzeria
Buongiorno Italia
buongiorno Maria
con gli occhi pieni di malinconia
buongiorno Dio
lo sai che ci sono anch'io
Lasciatemi cantare
con la chitarra in mano
lasciatemi cantare
una canzone piano piano
Lasciatemi cantare
perche' ne sono fiero
sono un italiano
un italiano vero.

composer: Rocco Granata
~~~~~ // ~~~~~

Mi sono innamorato di Marina
Una ragazza mora ma carina
Ma lei non vuol saperne del mio amore
Cosa faro' per conquistar son cuor
Un girono l'ho incontrata sola sola
Il cuotre mi batteva mille all'ora
Quando le dissi che la volevo amare
Mi diede un bacio e l'amor sboccio'

Marina, Marina, Marina
Ti voglio al piu' presto sposar
Marina, Marina, Marina
Ti voglio al piu' presto sposar

O mia bella amora
No non mi lasciare
Non mi devi rovinare
Oh, no, no, no, no, no

O mia bella amora
No non mi lasciare
Non mi devi rovinare
Oh, no, no, no, no, no

Marina, Marina, Marina
Ti voglio al piu' presto sposar
Marina, Marina, Marina
Ti voglio al piu' presto sposar

O mia bella amora
No non mi lasciare
Non mi devi rovinare
Oh, no, no, no, no, no

O mia bella amora
No non mi lasciare
Non mi devi rovinare
Oh, no, no, no, no, no

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Apostolic Message from Pope Francis - by TPO

 Extracts from Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation *
by TPO
======= ~*~ =======
|#| The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. [....]
|#| Sometimes we are tempted to find excuses and complain, acting as if we could only be happy if a thousand conditions were met. To  some extent this is because our “technological society has succeeded in multiplying occasions of pleasure, yet has found it very difficult to engender joy”. I can say that the most beautiful and natural expressions of joy which I have seen in my life were in poor people who had little to hold on to. I also think of the real joy shown by others who, even amid pressing professional obligations, were able to preserve, in detachment and simplicity, a heart full of faith. [....]
|#| Goodness always tends to spread. Every authentic experience of truth and goodness seeks by its very nature to grow within us, and any person who has experienced a profound liberation becomes more sensitive to the needs of others.  As it expands, goodness takes root and develops. If we wish to lead a dignified and fulfilling life, we have to reach out to others and seek their good. [....]
|#| Saint Thomas Aquinas taught that the Church’s moral teaching has its own “hierarchy”, in the virtues and in the acts which proceed from them. [....] [According to] Thomas ..., as far as external works are concerned, mercy is the greatest of all the virtues. [....]
|#| It is not the task of the Pope to offer a detailed and complete analysis of contemporary reality, but I do exhort all the communities to an “ever watchful scrutiny of the signs of the times”. This is in fact a grave responsibility, since certain present realities, unless effectively dealt with, are capable of setting off processes of dehumanization which would then be hard to reverse. . [....] This involves [...] choosing movements of the spirit of good and rejecting those of the spirit of evil. [....]
|#| In our time humanity is experiencing a turning-point in its history, as we can see from the advances being made in so many fields. We can only praise the steps being taken to improve people’s welfare in areas such as health care, education and communications. At the same time  we have to remember that the majority of our contemporaries are barely living from day to day with dire consequences. A number of diseases are spreading. The hearts of many people are gripped by fear and desperation, even in the so-called rich countries. The joy of living frequently fades, lack of respect for others and violence are on the rise, and inequality is increasingly evident. It is a struggle to live and, often, to live  with precious little dignity. This epochal change has been set in motion by the enormous qualitative, quantitative, rapid and cumulative advances occuring in the sciences and in technology, and by their instant application in different areas of nature and of life. We are in an age of knowledge and information, which has led to new and often anonymous kinds of power.
|#| Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the  value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving?  This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized:  without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.
Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded.  We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.
|#| In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market,  will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.
|#| One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies.  The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf [sic] has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.
|#| While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.

|#| Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God. Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision. It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person. In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside the categories of the market place. When these latter are absolutized, God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement. Ethics – a non-ideological ethics – would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order. With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away
their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs”.
|#| A financial reform open to such ethical considerations would require a vigorous change of approach on the part of political leaders. I urge them to face this challenge with determination and an eye to the future, while not ignoring, of course, the specifics of each case. Money must serve, not rule! [....] I exhort you to generous solidarity and to the return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings.
|#| Today in many places we hear a call for greater security. But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples are reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode.  When a society – whether local, national or global is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programmes or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility. This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root. Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear. If every action has its consequences, an evil embedded in the structures of a society has a constant potential for disintegration and death. It is evil crystallized in unjust social structures, which cannot be the basis of hope for a better future. We are far from the so-called “end of history”, since the conditions for a sustainable and peaceful development have not yet been adequately articulated and realized.
|#| Today’s economic mechanisms promote inordinate consumption, yet it is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric. Inequality eventually engenders a violence which recourse to arms cannot and never will be able to resolve. It serves only to offer false hopes to those clamouring for heightened security, even though nowadays we know that weapons and violence, rather than providing solutions, create new and more serious conflicts. Some simply content themselves with blaming the poor and the poorer countries themselves for their troubles; indulging in unwarranted generalizations, they claim that the solution is an “education” that would tranquilize them, making them tame and harmless. All this becomes even more exasperating for the marginalized in the light of the widespread and deeply rooted corruption found in many countries – in their governments, businesses and institutions – whatever the political ideology of their leaders.
|#| In the prevailing culture, priority is given to the outward, the immediate, the visible, the quick, the superficial and the provisional. What is real gives way to appearances. In many countries globalization has meant a hastened deterioration of their own cultural roots and the invasion of  ways of thinking and acting proper to other cultures which are economically advanced but ethically debilitated. This fact has been brought up by bishops from various continents in different Synods. The African bishops, for example, taking up the Encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis,pointed out years ago that there have been frequent attempts to make the African countries “parts of a machine, cogs on a gigantic wheel. This is often true also in the field of social communications  which, being run by centres mostly in the northern hemisphere, do not always give due consideration to the priorities and problems of such countries or respect their cultural make-up”. By the same token, the bishops of Asia “underlined the external influences being brought to bear on Asian cultures. New patterns of behaviour are emerging as a result of over-exposure to the mass media… As a result, the negative aspects of the media and entertainment industries are threatening traditional values, and in particular the sacredness of marriage and the stability of the family”.

* Source: Pope Francis' Nov. 24, 2013 Evangelii Gaudium

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Comforting Son - by Mary from Columbus

Inbred (in bread?) cat

The Comforting Son
~~~~~~~ // ~~~~~~~
by Mary from Columbus
BB, St. Paul Pioneer Press (11/25/2013)

Miss Barney's story ('Were you pretty when you were in high school?') in the November 22 PP reminded me of something my son once said to me when I was a young mother.

He was about 3 or 4 years old at the time. I had been quite sick with the flu -- and to add insult to injury, I was suffering from a particularly bad acne outbreak. I looked pretty rough, to put it nicely.

My little son, knowing I needed a little pick-me-up, took my face in his pudgy little hands, looked at me lovingly and declared: "Mommy, I love you, even though you do have a rotten face."

Thursday, November 21, 2013

"... a gentle man , a very fine poet ..." - by Allan Massie

Seamus Heaney: Greatest Irish Poet since Yeats
Allan Massie
(The Telegraph/Culture/August 30th, 2013)

---------- /~/----------

Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)Setting out on a tour of literary landmarks with Seamus Heaney and Karl Miller, Andrew O’Hagan remembered Miller mischievously saying, “let’s see if we can get Seamus to say something nasty about anyone”. They didn’t succeed, though in one hotel where the landlord or landlady – I forget which – made some distasteful remarks, Heaney quietly picked up his whisky, and perhaps the bottle too, and took it up to his bed. This little story, told affectionately, says a lot about him. Seamus Heaney was a gentle man, as well as a very fine poet, but one with a clear sense of what was right and wrong, fitting or unsuitable.

By common consent he was the greatest Irish poet since Yeats, and a nicer man than Yeats. The appeal of his poetry was both wide and deep. It was read and admired by fellow-poets, to whom he was by all accounts unfailingly helpful and encouraging, and academics, but also by schoolchildren and people who might have been surprised to find themselves liking poems. His work was both popular and subtle. His poems made sense at a first reading, and usually more and deeper sense at a second or third one. He was a deft and scrupulous craftsman, who thought hard about the technique of verse-making; yet his best poems give the impression of spontaneity.

He came from an Ulster farming family, and his roots were in the land. Like Thomas Hardy, whose work he admired and sometimes echoed, he wrote with deep sympathy of humble people leading a  hard life. Growing up a Catholic in County Derry he had a natural sympathy with the Civil Rights  movement of his youth, but he abhorred violence. Inasmuch as his work had any political message, its tendency was to promote reconciliation between the different strands of Irish nationality.

He became an international celebrity, courted by the Mighty, and wasn’t damaged by the experience, walking with Presidents and Prime Ministers, yet keeping the common touch. This was not the least remarkable thing about him.