Category Archives: Christianity

The Kiss of Death

Yesterday I finally got round to seeing the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich (the one with the sexy longitudinal grid coordinates). Although regarded as the number one naval museums I found it personally disappointing, about which more in a later article.

I arrived for a talk on the death of Nelson, which was excellent and the highlight of the visit, and the guide said something that caught my attention. When Nelson asked Hardy to kiss Nelson our guide seemed to be very keen that we should understand that this wasn’t a sexual kiss—which I think is a historically respectable sentiment (whichever way you look at it people who are departing are not in the mood for sex) but otherwise I don’t see the point in making such a fuss, but this was not what caught my attention. According to the narrator Hardy knelt and kissed Nelson on the cheek and then administered what she seemed to call the ‘kiss of death’ (though I can find no other instance of the phrase being used in this way)—this was the bit that struck me—Hardy kissed him on the forehead, a common practice that had the effect of settling sailors in death according to our guide.

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Ye shall know them by their fruits (I am back!)

I hit quite a block after posting that acknowledgment of what a superior blogger Yglesias is. To what extent was it ego? I don’t know: it is difficult to be sure, but I suspect it was one of several factors.

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On a Wing and Prayer

Andrew Sullivan on the news of Tim Russert’s death last week asked his readers:

Say a prayer for his family, if prayer is your thing. Especially his dad, for whom this coming Sunday may be extremely painful.

As prayer was my thing I indeed took up his suggestion, but only afterwards realized of the possible incongruity of a Buddhist responding to a Christian’s exhortation to pray.  Some of you may be wondering whether it makes any sense for Buddhists to pray, as prayer is asking God to fix something and Buddhists don’t believe in God, right.

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The Love Buzz

I am aware that my article on Ahmadinejad will probably be comprehensible and attract much ridicule in some quarters (as may my earlier articles, On Zionism, though in different quarters). That is not a problem but it would be a shame. The whole issue is actually intimately related to my recent essay On Love and many other articles on the need to keep head and hart unified, to avoid allowing our ethical judgments be dominated by sentiment (the modern mistake and the central theme of Sense and Sensibility and all of Jane Austen’s novels in my view). Here I will try to draw these themes together and fulfill a promise to reply to a fellow blogger.

Robert Duquette, commenting on my essay, On Love, questioned this effort do all this loving through the intellect, and encapsulated Taleb’s idea (explained in his book, The Black Swan) that our memory, and indeed our whole way of understanding reality, is narrative driven, leading us to simply ignoring or immediately forgetting information that fails to fit the narratives that makes up our understanding of reality. Taleb’s idea makes perfect sense to me and is compatible with what my Buddhist teachers have taught me (as I have understood them).

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The Neanderthals

[This article is the third in a series on Elitism, Conservatives and Progressives.]

Baroness Murphy said recently in an article on Lords of the Blog.

Sitting here blogging while waiting on tenterhooks for the vote in the Commons on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. Mustn’t watch more TV…I just heard a TV BBC 1 newsreader describe the debate on the creation of hybrid embryos for stem cell research as ‘a clash between science and ethics’. I was so angry I wanted to punch the screen. Huge numbers of ordinary people (and peers by a massive vote when the bill came through the Lords a couple of months ago) regard it as immoral and unethical to stop research that could benefit thousands of people. Far from being a clash between science and ethics it is more a straight clash between medieval church ignorance and 21st century secular realities and medical advances.

This dismissal of the concerns of so many people as ‘medieval church ignorance’ is a typical highly-educated liberal dismissal of those that question, on religious grounds, the brave new world being delivered by science, as was Arianna Huffington’s article, GOP Debate: A Competition to See Who Could Be the Biggest Neanderthal, decrying conservative positions on issues like abortion, stem-cell research and evolution in a Republican presidential debate.

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Mansfield Park and The Culture Wars

After a hiatus I have posted an article, Everything of Higher Consequence, on my Mansfield Park blog. Here I have brought together some of my thinking on the novel which also intersects with some recent thoughts on what makes progressives and conservatives tick. Given that the two stream of thought originated with the French revolution and Edmund Burke’s reaction to it, and the way that the baby-boomer culture wars have been fought out in Austen criticism (see Conservatives and Progressives) and Barack Obama’s objective to move beyond these culture wars (see about half of the posts on Andrew Sullivan’s blog), you can see strong convergence in these seemingly disparate areas covering philosophy and the enlightenment, Jane Austen’s writing and contemporary politics.

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Conservatives and Progressives

[This article is the second in a series on Elitism, Conservatives and Progressives.]

Andrew Sullivan has been chewing over what it means to be a conservative and I would like to clarify my own ideas here. I agree with Sullivan in seeing Edmund Burke as the founder of modern conservatism. (Of course, that I am a Bristolian and the Anglo-Irish Burke represented the city in parliament doesn’t bias me in the least.) Modern conservatism arose as a reaction to the French Revolution, which is not to say that it was a reactionary movement, there being much to be said for the point of view that the French Revolution was a glorious mistake (the same could been achieved much less violently) and that conservatism offers a valuable critique, with Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France setting the terms of the debate.

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