July 24, 2005

In the past two weeks I have had two graduates of the Indiana University system insist that Indians "smoke peyote" in their religious ceremonies. It is possible they came upon this error of fact in their extra-curricular activities at college or beyond.

Given that there were, and are, few courses in American Indian studies in the IU system, these two misguided individuals would have had little chance of learning the truth of the Native American Church, the Christian sect of Indians who use Lophophora Williamsi (peyote).

But there is a small group of people, Indians and others, who have been working to bring American Indian Studies into the Indiana University system. And it is about time.

June 26, 2005

A June 11 open house at the Dagom Gaden Tensung-Ling Tibetan Buddhist monastery was filled with open-hearted visitors, light rain and great food. Visitors could not help but feel uplifted just passing by the golden building adorned with traditional Tibetan painting. Prayer flags, pleasant gardens, and abundant color greeted visitors at the monastery, located just north of Cascades Park.

The Taste of Tibet and open house gave the community an opportunity to share a bounty of authentic foods. The buffet menu boasted a variety of foods, such as the popular beef filled mo mo, tasty vegetarian dishes and Tibetan tea with ice cream for dessert.

"I feel better the next day after eating this food," said visitor and monastery student Julie Dadds. She gave tribute to the food being healthy and blessed by the monks.

February 27, 2005

"He was an old, sick, and very troubled man, and the illusion of peace and contentment was not enough for him. ... So finally, and for what he must have thought the best of reasons, he ended it with a shotgun. — Hunter S. Thompson

These closing words from a 1964 National Observer piece about a pilgrimage to Hemingway's Ketchum, Idaho, seem remarkably prescient. The man who wrote them would, like his hero, take his own life, in a different mountainside town, a few hundred miles to the south, some four decades later.

But his fans need not grieve over his final defiant act. Read long-time collaborator Ralph Steadman's tribute in the Guardian. "It wasn't a question of if, but when," Steadman wrote in his moving essay.

Thompson leaves behind a remarkable journalistic legacy, unrivaled in the modern era, that chronicles the closing decades of the 20th century as well as the dawn of the new century in a raw, savage style that manages to squeeze out truth in brutal honesty without a trace of nostalgia or romanticism.

February 13, 2005

If the idea of a poetry reading is enough to make you head for the nearest multiplex, consider an alternative: experience a poetry slam.

Poetry slams are not your mother's poetry readings. Vibrant, interactive and often outrageous, this Midwestern hybrid of poetry and performance has taken root in Bloomington and flourished.

The Bloomington Slam Poets, a loose collaborative of a half dozen or so bards, will host a Midwest Poetry Slam League bout at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18, at CITY Coffee & Tea, 415 N. College Ave.

The "home team" will "compete" against poets from Iowa City, Iowa, and Sturgis, Michigan.

August 8, 2004

The recent bombing of five Christian churches in Iraq by Muslim extremists is but another example of the way fundamentalist religion is used to justify violence. Shiite Muslim clerics in Iraq condemned the bombings, just as many international religious leaders have condemned the war in Iraq. Yet the killing is sure to continue, and the supposed faithful will use their God to condone and motivate it, even as their leaders plead for a return to the tenets of the faith. Just what are fundamentalists faithful to?

American members of the religious right can, unfortunately, be put in the same extremist category as the bombers in Iraq. Bombings and killings have been committed in the name of religion in the United States. Religious extremists condone violence committed against sinful "unbelievers." American fundamentalists are also eager to support laws that limit individual rights, particularly women's.

June 13, 2004

Most Westerners encounter the Islamic world through representations and characterizations by mainstream media. To Iranian native Seyyed Hossein Nasr, "experts" outside the Islamic tradition who perpetrate a skewed image of his religious tradition and its diverse followers dominate discussion of Islam in the United States.

"There are a large number of people who are called experts on the Islamic world but who really are not experts, and often times they express views which are ideologically oriented," Nasr says. "They do not have anything to do with the truth on the ground. "

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