Kleshas and Tanhas

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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus

“Dishes thou art, to dishes returnest”

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Recommended to listen to while reading

There ain’t never been a more patriotic act for volunteers than dishwashing. The whole history of dish washing is simple and easy for anyone and everyone to comprehend. From the Dawn of time, cavemen ate off of bone plates and drank from seashells. Apparently, legend has it, there were no recycling bins; the term “renewable resource” wasn’t the buzzword it is now. There were no bone or shell recycling plants yet for little Jimmy Grotto to partake in school-wide recycling challenges. And so, the origin of dishwashing came about from the lack environmental awareness of our monkey-ancestors.

               To this day, the art of dishwashing has been passed from some of the field’s greatest. Jesus Christ is most notable; the Bible botched the account of whose feet, or rather what chalice, he was washing that one Passover night. (You can’t say that Jesus didn’t help clean up after the Sadr Supper; it wasn’t kosher to eat and run.) Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto was really a call for the laborers to become more in touch with their roots, that is, dishwashing. Back in the day, supply and demand had obviously not existed, and there was no need for clean dishes. But during the second week of Genesis’ creation story, Adam had to address a more serious issue than original sin; the huge stack of dishes on their kitchen sink.

In his Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffet must’ve had quite a few empty glasses to clean up after that extravaganza. We can only infer that this lyrical genius was pointing to something greater in his songs. That is, the consequences of drinking out of glassware meant that glasses needed to be cleaned. In a not so similar way, Ghandi was known for his fasting. However, this did not mean he was exempt from cleaning up after others if not himself. Taoism’s unknown founder was a dishwasher. And on that note, anyone who has ever eaten a meal at some point in their life has encountered the dish dilemma: Do I clean these dishes or do I slip out the back and run?

The universality of this most sacred (in terms of health) tradition is something to marvel at. In partaking in this elementary act, one gains powerful insight to the greater cosmos of dishwashers. So when I was asked to deviate from my usual service by my superiors to do kitchen duty, I answered the call. Did I know what I was getting into? I sure as hell did! Dishwashing, if it has not been built up already, is the one act that I can string through my past, present, and most-hopefully future acts of service. There’s something rejuvenating about sticking your hands in scalding hot water for the greater glory of sanitization.

And by the way, there’s a reason why there are only men mentioned as some of the mythic heroes of dishwashing. At some point in time, the world became skewed. Somehow, the world’s reflection of itself portrays women performing women work. Today, in a very sexist manner, women are stereotyped as members of Occupy Kitchen. I would like to make a personal testimony that I have bled over dishwashing (quite literally) and find the task to be daunting for the rookies of the trade, male or female.[i] After the first few encounters, one can quickly calculate how many hours x a stack standing at y height will take with z washers.

So there was no surprise on my side when I walked into Mercy Neighborhood Ministries’ kitchen and stared down about an hour’s worth of dishwashing. Ms. Antoinette quickly recognized that I was no newbie when it came to dishwashing. Lessons on how to use an industrial-sized dishwasher are for suckers. By the end of it all, I had those dishes shining like the high-end dishes at the fine dining restaurant I work at back home. It’s inevitable. It’s one’s duty. “Do your dharma” is commonly used phrase in Eastern religions. It means “do your duty.” Do your dishes.

[i] The level of stress a volunteer dishwasher takes on in one load of 2.5 hours’ worth of dishes can take its toll. When I was asked with several other volunteers to do evening dishes in addition to morning dishes, the sight wasn’t pretty. About 30 minutes in, we found ourselves dazed in a mirage of soap n’ bubbles as if we were taking on some task like crossing the Nairobi Desert. In a heroic, maybe more so sporadic, attempt to cheer up one of my fellow volunteers in our grudging work, I blindly grabbed a wet knife fresh from the dishwasher machine. My plan was to emphatically stab the knife into the rubber carton that the cutlery was cleansed in as I shouted a “this is Sparta” line. Let’s just say in this not-so-bright moment, chaos got the better of me as the oddly-shaped cheese knife slid up out of my grip, and through my pinky finger. No cutlery was harmed in this scene. No blood was spilt either, so all health freaks, calm down. (We even ran that batch of silverware back through the washer.)



Written by Jack Viere

March 22, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Aristotle Don’t Like No Gossip

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Moreover, the friendship of good people is the only one that is immune to slander. For it is not easy to trust anyone speaking against someone whom we ourselves have found reliable for a long time; and among good people there is trust, the belief he would never do injustice, and all other things expected in a true friendship. But in the other types of friendship [distrust] may easily arise. -Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics, Book VIII, Chapter 5: Friendship.

My philosophy course’s reading has come full circle as we are revisiting Aristotle. My first impression on reading the above lines was, “How true!” It’s a fair assumption to say that people don’t gossip behind their friends’ backs…hopefully. And then I thought about Peter denying Jesus three times:

As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it, saying, “I am not.” One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the olive grove?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow. (John 18: 25-27.)

One of the more popularized examples of forgiveness, I thought that this passage went against Aristotle’s notion of no-gossiping. Peter freaks out like a lot of us would when under question. And maybe Aristotle didn’t think of our friendships being tested to that extent. But I still think there’s a strong contrast between the two instances. Peter’s mistake contradicts the notion of not “speaking against someone whom we ourselves have found reliable for a long time.” There was a deep sense of trust between Jesus and Simon before he is given the name Peter.

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16: 18)

Not your everyday type of trust! Yet we see our human nature in Peter’s mistake. We are all prone to make bad decisions under various circumstances. In this instance, I believe that Peter’s betrayal can be seen as an example that proves Aristotle’s confinements of friendship. For, in the end, Jesus forgives Peter as he reinstates him.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” (John 21:15.)

So I’m left thinking, does this passage prove Aristotle’s point that virtuous friendship excludes slander and gossip? Or does this depict that friendship is not confined to these limits since we have the capacity to forgive one another?

Friendship and slander?! Oh my…


Written by Jack Viere

December 2, 2011 at 8:39 pm

Gays: Not on the Radar

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A faithful and Welcoming Church. Not Pop-Culture’s way of describing the Roman Catholic Church. Especially of late. Yet, this unpopularity, bashing of the Church through the media has kept me faithful all the more. There’s no answer to your why. I just have been; it’s what I grew up with, it’s what feels comfortable. However, just like any other random believer, I somehow feel freely entitled to take the brunt end of the recent occurrences in the past year or so, even though I had no direct affiliation…

Unity Week  had me wondering; how does the Catholic college community deal with the reality of a multicultural student population (and even more diverse neighborhood; Philadelphia?) A lot of people buy into the sharp criticisms of the New York Times and many others. Even while people say (falsely) what the Church says, why not hear from someone within the Church? Who better than a strong advocate for Ad Hoc Committee for the Religious Liberty, Retired Archbishop of Brooklyn Joseph Michael Sullivan S.J.?

“This ad hoc committee aims to address the increasing threats to religious liberty in our society so that the Church’s mission may advance unimpeded and the rights of believers of any religious persuasion or none may be respected.” 

Through his charismatic personality and think Brooklyn accent, I witnessed a Catholic testimony firsthand. Repeatedly throughout the question-answer portion of the seminar, many people indirectly asked if he was speaking objectively for the whole Church. While he never directly answered, he did mention that Gaudium et Spes gave the green light for the formation of the Ad Hoc Committee without permission handed directly down from the Vatican. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops established the committee on its own. So I took that as an implication that he spoke both officially and unofficially. It wasn’t as if he was on tour, spreading this idea from the Vatican. I find that too often, both Catholics and non-Catholics want to hear the rarely-used word infallible. With that ability given only to the Bishop of Rome, people think, “Oh wait, this is a black and white concept. Let me see what the Church says…I don’t agree. Therefore, I don’t agree with the Church.”

That very mindset was what Bishop Sullivan aimed to clarify. That within the context of the gay/lesbian community in the United States. We see a passage of condemned sodomites and somehow immediately apply that to modern day gays. (I’ll come back to why I say modern in a bit.) Ad Hoc is the fluid medium that Bishop Sullivan has opened the dialogue with the gay community. Two things Bishop Sullivan addressed: a little bit of WWJD and what this dialogue currently looks like and what the retired bishops hopes it will continue to become.

Going back a little before Jesus’ time to say the Book of Leviticus, there existed the Holiness Code. Here’s a little lesson on the book of the Bible I skipped through when I read straight through Genesis and Exodus because it loses the plot of the Israelites for some time due to this law formation. Any mentioning of something similar to homosexuality was located among the teachings on Yom Kippur and blood sacrifices. More specifically, the words “a man could not lie with a man as a woman” fitted between the law that you cannot sacrifice children to a god called Molech and a law against bestiality. (Leviticus 18: 21-23.)

If anything, you can at least agree with Bishop Sullivan and me that there’s a denial of the person’s humanity in the context above. Not to deride the Jewish teachings, but homosexuality has been elevated from its position between holidays and sacrifices. We don’t celebrate the latter today very much, especially child sacrifices. This implicates that the social teachings of Leviticus were set in a different historical context and were set before a different people. (Calm down all ye literalists! This isn’t to suggest that ever teaching from Leviticus loses its validity! I’m not finished making my point.)

Furthermore, the homosexuality that was addressed in Biblical times closely revolved around prostitution. Another Jesuit at the seminar claimed that in his close reviewing of the Biblical context on homosexuality, a current work in progress, that Leviticus, formulating Jesus’ human understanding of homosexuality did not recognize the humanity of a different definition of homosexuality. That’s because it revolved around prostitution, a completely separate violation of human dignity. Yet, Jesus kicked it with the wrong crowd. Wasn’t Mary Magdalene a prostitute? So even when there’s this strong language condemning sodomites, is it really directed towards the gay couples that live prominently in our society? (as opposed to prostitution alone)

Bishop Sullivan acknowledge that homosexuality was a “discovering of one’s orientation.” Gradualism. Something our world is lacking. In its place we have this strong need to have information flashed at us. Some of it true. Some of it not true. This quickened world we live in does not allow us to make concrete relationships from which we can listen compassionately; trust comes from listening to individuals tell their story. It is therefore a necessity to listen if we are to be Christ-like, Dalai Lama-like via compassion. In order to listen, we must “know the person; better relationships [come from] knowing people,” the Bishop said. To create freedom, we need to be open. Gays cannot be pushed to secrecy in their solitude.  “A church where you’re known is a church that is hospitable.”

Bishop Sullivan’s continuation of his Ad Hoc activities included action beginning in the parishes. He thought a “bottom-up” approach is most appropriate in order to establish a dialogue with the gay community. I too agree that it starts on an individual level to make a difference in relationships.

Written by Jack Viere

November 2, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Service as Duty? What the Hell?

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Wait. What? Service is a duty that we as human beings, social creatures,are supposed to perform? Get out of here! I want my Facebook! I worked hard inthis capitalistic society. I ain’t giving nothing away to nobody that ain’tearned it. I don’t care if it’s my time, my prayers, or money. I sure as hellain’t giving freebies away.
               Immanuel Kantstrings his metaphysics through Christianity’s New Testament teachings. “Thisvirtue is greater when the benefactor’s means are limited and he is strongenough quietly to take on himself the hardship he spares the other; then he isreally to be considered morally rich.”[1] Thisclearly originates from Mark’s Gospel of the widow’s offering.[2] Fromthis mixture of metaphysics and theology, Western society is heavily predisposedtowards a distanced relationship with others. Nevertheless, whether it isthrough daily interactions, service, or familial relationships. We have duties.To others.
               Today. We haveJesus as God on earth doing the impossible; loving one another as I have lovedyou, turning the other cheek. Saints are those individuals that aim for thatinverted, unworldly perfection.
Language is a powerful, manipulativetool in both the philosophical and theological arenas.[3] Languagehas created this everlasting Schism over good works as means for salvation,which is to suggest the profundity of the Saints is dulled. Still, somewherealong the way, we become caught up that we all can’t be Saints. Similarly, worksas the pinnacle aspect to our very being, our purpose or goal in life, issomehow bogged down by this Schism. What we get today is some watered-down versionof what coincidentally happens to be the Corporal Works of Mercy; done out ofthe sake of our…for our…
Our what? Our Christian-human nature? No.Christians cannot even agree on whether the implicit biblical language that stressesour human nature is to serve others through works or to be some sort of resultfrom that very nature.
               But wait. Oh,there happens to be this other half of the world called the East. And what isthat one Jewel of three called in Buddhism? Dharma is it? Transliterated asduty? And there happens to be six qualities of it too! The first being: Svakkhato. “The Dharmais not a speculative philosophy, but is the Universal Law found throughenlightenment and is preached precisely.” (Thanks Wikipedia!) Is this to saythere is no gray area in what’s to be done in the Buddhist tradition?[4] There’s noastonishment in duty being part of our nature when it’s esteemed as theUniversal Law. 
               Yet, I could sit here and drawparallels between Buddhism’s interpretation of dharma as well as Hinduism’s; the Tao Te Ching, Christianity’s Beatitudes-allof which are interchangeable for what is to be seen as life’s duty (or a guidefor it.) It’s no mere coincidence that world religions share similarities onthe emphasis of duty. What’s irksome, though, is philosophy’s-particularlyWestern philosophy as seen through Kant’s metaphysics-assertion to rationalizeour duty when all along it’s within the very essence of our being. Not to takephilosophy out of its historical context, as it seems to be so often in orderto continue being dubbed meritorious in modern times, but the emotionalrelationship that the religions listed above (and others) foster existed longbefore metaphysics enabled the world to empirically understand human nature.
               I don’t know why it is incrediblydifficult for humans to grasp that our essence implies “relationship” as ourdistinguishing feature. (Distinguishing us from animals with that rationale wepossess and so many philosophers like to draw out as profound.) Where does onehuman come from? The sexual relationship of twoother human beings. And while hermits intentionally deny themselves topartake in that inherent, rudimentary distinguishing feature-that is to say therelationship-mass society liveseither in harmony, disharmony, or an amalgamation of both. I heard thatmorality is the balance of the relationships shared in a community. Morals arethe pillars that uphold society. This is to say morals are a measurement of thegravity of relationships (e.g., a stronger communal support for morals impliesa more united community.) From our relationships derive our world; we eitherchoose to establish and nurture our relationships or to cripple and damagethem.
Therefore, morality, the same found within world religions,implicates we have a duty to others. We can call this service, we can call itlove. Language of today suggests that what we now deem as charity, thismindless, almost worthless giving of financial aid, is of lesser value.[5] (Lesser whencompared to social justice enacted through service.) Language of yesterdaysuggests that charity comes from the Latin word caritas, and as any Christian might get giddy over, caritas derives from Greek’s agape. What we know about agape in the Christian sense is that it’sdefined as love of fellow man.[6]
Social justice. We can similarly use language to tracejustice to iustus, which we can breakdown to ius, meaning law. What Ireally like about this etymology-dictionary site I am using as a point of referenceis that it takes ius a step furtherto ious. “‘Sacred formula’…thatoriginated in the religious cults.”[7] Here we arepresented with several points I would like to emphasize. Some circles,particularly theocracies, enact certain morals as laws. Second, this etymologyemphasizes the bridged gap between human nature and morality with religion. Itis no mere coincidence that Kant intertwined beneficence with the widow and thecoin.
Nonetheless, the misinterpretation of charity of today (Imentioned above,) is incorrectly separated from social justice. Themisinterpretation itself is enough grounds to suggest that the truer sense of charityalone holds more value than the misconception of this sort of aimless giving.But the fact that social justice has roots in this concept of sanctity can befurther driven by charity’s truer meaning of love of fellow man. Social justiceis charity. Charity is social justice. Because human nature, emphasized bymorals, is to foster a relationship with others, both charity and socialjustice combined are to be seen as an intrinsic duty.  
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[1]Immanuel Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals. Mary Gregor, trans. (New York:Cambridge, 1991.)
[2] 41 Jesussat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowdputting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in largeamounts. 42But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.43 Calling his disciples to him,Jesus said, “Itell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all theothers. 44 They all gave out of theirwealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had tolive on.” (Mark 12:41-44.)
[3]If I might add, I personally findtheological language more focalized and straightforward than philosophicaljargon. Here’s why. Theology aims to explain nature in a way for believers tounderstand and follow. Philosophy is a constant dialogue that is questioningnature’s qualities. Both, however, evolve from inner circles of either faith orreason that propel their explanations forward. Theology’s objectivity differsfrom philosophy’s in that faith enables for a more accepting reception ofevolution because it happens more rarely. Philosophy cannot be pinpointed byits believers and subscribers because it is often subject to change.
[4] Yet, there still are divisions in Buddhism.
[5] My classmates made this distinction when the wordsCHARITY and JUSTICE were written on the whiteboard. Charity became thisseasonal tithing during the holiday season; lowered to a sense of tangible giving.Justice was therefore elevated to the only giving (of time) of value.

Written by Jack Viere

October 29, 2011 at 8:13 pm