The Decline and Fall. . . .

Between 1776 and 1788, English historian (and Member of Parliament) Edward Gibbon published his classic 6 volume work The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.   It is interesting to examine the causes of the decline – and fall – of the grand Roman Empire which expired in about 476 A.D. — not with a bang but a whimper.  Reasons for decline?  

Ongoing wars and heavy military spending

Failing economy and high inflation — and high unemployment among the working classes

Declining morals, ethics and values

Demand for blood and violence in entertainment (Gladitorial “games”)

Antagonism between the Emperor and the Senate

Political corruption

Hero worship of athletes and actors

Dilution of the Roman language

Look at America.   Frankly, look at the world.  Each of the qualities listed above is present.  In abundance.  George Santayana in The Life of Reason commented “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.”  Is anyone surprised?  Is it too late?      

Ahl al-Kitab

As a follow up to my previous post — what is the status that Jews and Christians hold — according to the Muslim faith?  We (Christians and Jews) are considered Ahl al-Kitab — “People of the Book.”   

Islam accepts Old Testament (the Tanakh) as the Word of God.  Muslims believe the Quran is considered to be the completion of these Scriptures.  Since Jews, Christians and Muslims all derive from Abraham, “People of the Book” refers to those who share Abrahamic Scripture and believe in one God.  Sabians (who are mentioned three times in the Quran) are also considered Al al-Kitab

The Quran offers tolerance toward the Ahl al-Kitab — e.g. Surra 3 (“The Family of Imran“).  In Surra 5:69, the faithful are advised “Verily!  Those who believe and those who are Jews, Christians and Sabians, whoever believes in God and the Last Day and do righteous good deeds shall have their reward . . . .”    Then there is Surra 5:82 “. . . you will find the nearest in friendship to be those who say ‘we are Christians.’  This is because there are priests and monks among them and they do not behave proudly.” 

Every religious tradition has its own interpretation of Biblical text.   The Old and New Testaments and the Quran have been selectively interpreted over the centuries to justify various faith traditions and practices.  And to trivialize (or demonize) others.  It would be nice if we could recognize the shared heritage of our respective faiths so as to foster cooperative and ecumenical headway into some of the world’s most pressing, agonizing – and dangerous – problems.

Islam, Judaism and Christianity

Islam, Judaism and Christianity all trace their lineage to a common ancestor  — Abraham.  And before that, Adam and Eve.  Abraham had two sons:  Isaac (by Sarah) and Ishmael (by Hagar).  Isaac begat the Line of David from which Jewish and Christian traditions derive.  Ishmael was the forefather of Muhammad — the Messenger of Islam.  God promises in Genesis 21:18 to make a “great nation” of Ishmael.   

Jesus (Isa) is revered in Islam as a Messiah and is mentioned nearly a hundred times in the Quran.  Mary (Maryam) is the only woman mentioned by name in the Quran.  She even has her own surra (19).  Islam accepts the Old Testament as “The Word of God.”  And most of the prophets are mentioned by name.   

Common heritage, common prophets, beliefs and commands.  Yet many in each religious tradition view the differences as irreconcilable.  Islam has 72 insular sects.  Christianity has its own islands of belief and Judaism has various divisions.  Despite common origin, there is distrust, misunderstanding and even violence — all in the name of religion.    While most Christian and Jewish traditions accept and tolerate competing denominations and other religions, the violence is presently confined to Islam.  Though on June 11, 2017, I reported that statistically between 85% and 97% of all violence by Islamic terrorist groups is directed at Muslims.   

In my post of August 25, 2016, I commented on the ecumenical role the Archangel Gabriel – the Divine messenger.  Gabriel has personally visited Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Mormonism, and Bahai.   Each faith urges “Shalom” [Peace]; “As-salamu Aleikum” [Peace]; “Peace be with you” [Peace].  You tell me — is God, Allah, Jehovah trying to give us mere mortals an ecumenical message?   

Help me. Please help me. . . . .

On December 29, 2016, I mentioned that I normally have lunch at my desk.  While doing so, I often watch a Ted Talk (  http://www.ted.com  ).   A few weeks later (2/5/17), I shared with you some of my favorite Ted Talks.  

I just had lunch at my desk (avocado and green pea soup plus a few squares of 72% dark chocolate).  And I watched a Ted Talk that had me pulling out my handkerchief.    Do me a favor.  Watch https://www.ted.com/talks/sophie_andrews_the_best_way_to_help_is_often_just_to_listen#t-851577   The presentation is 14 minutes and 24 seconds.  And worth your investment of time. 

The presenter, Sophie Andrews, speaks of her personal experience with two 24/7 lifeline organizations in the UK — Samaritans and The Silver Line.  She speaks of the agonizing desperation of people who are abused, alone, depressed.  And she speaks of how an army of volunteers in the UK are there — to help address this painful problem.  By listening.  Offering shoulders to lean on.  It’s not the government (don’t get me started on that).  It’s individuals — like most of you who are reading this post — who step up.  Listen.  Act.  And make a difference in the world.            

He’s Back. . . . .

On January 31, 2013, I posted the following. . . .

Say what you will about Tiger Woods  In my opinion, he has been good for the game of golf. No – make that outstanding for the game of golf. While some criticize or condemn the actions which led to his fall from grace, to me it’s not a distraction from the sheer greatness of his golf game.  Tiger’s exploits on the links are legendary.  His prowess with wedge and putter has spurred tens of thousands of young people into the game.  His success over the years sparked a major uptick in rounds played.  And he has a foundation that provides palpable benefit. . . . . 

On any Sunday afternoon when Tiger is in the hunt, what red-blooded golfer doesn’t at least turn a weather eye toward the television?  I was there on the big screen 50 yard line watching Tiger win his 8th at Torrey Pines on Sunday.  Wow!  Sure Phil, Rory, Bubba and others play a role.  But I think it’s still Tiger who draws the crowds.  And he’s got a few years left. . . .  

Fast forward five years.  Rounds played in America are down.  Courses are closing.  And some still criticize Tiger.  But doggonit – Tiger was in the hunt two weeks ago and he is in second place at the Valspar as I write this piece (where attendance is up 35%!).  I want Tiger back.  I want Tiger to win.  And frankly — so should every serious golfer. . . . 

Frames of Mind

Most individuals have a level of competence with various skill sets.  I have reasonable eye/hand coordination which allows me to play a passable game of golf.  And perform magic.  I play the guitar, speak Spanish and express myself with some clarity.  But don’t ask me for directions.  And do not ask me about algebra.  I have the mathematical I.Q. of a chipmunk (I’m sure I’m insulting some very nice chipmunks).

Howard Gardner in his classic book Frames of Mind speaks of seven basic intelligences that all people share:  linguistic; musical; logical/mathematical; spatial; bodily/kinesthetic; interpersonal; and intrapersonal.   While everyone has a modicum of each of these seven intelligences, some folks are more heavily endowed with one or more of these capabilities.  It thus becomes important for parents to recognize – and nurture – the natural intelligence of their children rather than skew development with subjective expectation.    And demand.  “My boy will play football” “My daughter will be a lawyer.”  “My child will go to [XYZ] college.”    It’s one thing to encourage a natural athlete to study physics or a math whiz to take speech classes.  But it is quite another to discourage and thereby defeat a young person’s natural gifts.  Or skills.  In such cases, it seems that everyone loses . . . . . 

Weekend Lunch

In my post of September 8, 2011, I commented that I usually feel like Diogenes searching for a decent lunch on Saturdays.  It’s often been PB and J on pita or crackers.   Then there’s the occasional dash to Treasure Island to grab three squares of spanikopita (from which I whittle off the tasteless phyllo  crust).   BUT in that post, I shared a recipe for Saturday lunch that was cosmic.   It was a recipe that I stumbled on by pure accident due to a rare constellation of foods that happened to be perched in the frig, pantry and fruit bowl. 

Lately, I’ve been teeing up another Saturday lunch that is a “keeper.”  It is La Banderita corn tortillas with smoked salmon, a squirt of honey mustard, Monterrey Jack cheese, fresh Hass avocado and Frontera Grill’s Salpica brand cilantro green olive salsa with roasted tomatillos.  Oh my. . . .

I toast the tortillas for a few minutes.  Remove, lay flat and layer some smoked salmon, a slice of Monterrey Jack and fresh avocado.  Nuke it on “Reheat” for a bit, remove and slather with salsa.  I have died and gone to heaven.   For a dinner portion, you might use larger tortillas and add some grilled onions (see post of November 14, 2011) and fresh guacamole (avocados, squeezed limes, well-chopped cilantro). 

If you add a side of black beans and rice (brown rice is tastier) with a tad of salsa on top, and perhaps a glass or two of cab, you will have an exquisite Sunday (or any day) dinner.  If you make it, invite me over.