Sunday, June 18, 2006

Ave, Sperwer!

The inimitable Sperwer sent me a link to a blog I know I'll have to blogroll: the hilariously titled Sermon to the Fishes by Dr. Stephen Asma.* Dr. Asma is a professor at Columbia College, Chicago. His areas of specialization and competence are listed on his home website:

Area of Specialization

Eastern Philosophy (esp. Buddhism), Philosophy and History of Science (Life Sciences), Museum Studies, Interdisciplinary Humanities.

Area of Competence

Metaphysics, Epistemology, Ethics, Cultural Studies Theory, History of Philosophy (Ancient & Modern).

The guy sounds like an interesting lecturer, and he even does a good bit of podcasting. Check him out if you're so inclined. Here's part of an "Asmatic" blog post:

Saying that “love is chemical” is a well-worn cliché. But as neurobiology advances, the old cliché seems increasingly literal. Romantics and mystics everywhere resist the reduction of our “highest” emotions to mere chemical agitations. Maybe they’re right to do so. But compelling data keeps streaming in about our true erotic triggers –pheromones, dopamine, norepinephedrine, vasopressin and oxytocin. Is my “soul mate” just the right bundle of biochemicals?

Fascinating stuff. Great article about animism (and its relationship to SE Asian Buddhism) a bit farther down on his blog. And the guy's got enviable artistic skill.

Definitely a keeper. Thanks, Sperwer.

*According to Dr. Asma's main website, the phrase "sermon to the fishes" refers to St. Anthony, who apparently preached the gospel to the water-breathers.

I'm not sure what to make of this. Looking at it positively, we could say that St. Anthony is that rare example of the Christian who actually cares about other sentient beings the way he cares about people (i.e., it's not merely about "stewardship," but about salvific compassion).

Looking at it negatively, though, you do have to wonder whether St. Anthony was wasting his time. There's a Korean Buddhist phrase that comes to mind: "Reciting sutras to a cow," i.e., effort wasted in useless attempts at persuasion, enrichment, etc. The English equivalent might be either the biblical expression "(throwing) pearls before swine" or "It's like talking to a wall." Those expressions have slightly different meanings, but the basic theme of "words falling on deaf ears" is there.

For more on the Holy Tony, see here.


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