Friday, June 30, 2006

the cool and the uncool

The cool:

1. Over at Wandering to Tamshui: absolutely kick-ass video footage of an anglophone motorcyclist's ride through Chung-li, on the north edge of Taiwan, less than 20 miles from Taipei. Exhilarating. But not enough to convince me to get on a motorcycle.

2. An interview with Buddhist Joseph Goldstein, author of One Dharma. Warning: this video is over an hour long, so don't click the link unless you're really interested. I found the interview fascinating, but the interviewer, Robert Wright, was often unintentionally funny. Along with displaying a comically sleepy demeanor, Wright would frequently say something like, "That's fascinating! Um..." and then look away distractedly, as if he were anything but fascinated. I had a good chuckle at that, but in all seriousness, the guy should brush up on his interviewing skills. His questions for Goldstein were decent (if, at times, a bit too insistent on the theistic angle), and Goldstein himself is an impressively quiet presence-- an interesting contrast with the excitable and animated Paul Muenzen, a.k.a. Hyon-gak sunim, here in Seoul.

Sperwer provided the link, and also referred me to the website that has links to many more interviews with intellectual bigwigs. I'm going to watch the interview with Daniel Dennett.

[UPDATE: The Dennett interview is more like a fight between Wright and Dennett. It's Jerry Springer for intellectuals.]

And-- holy crap-- they've got an interview with one of my old profs from Georgetown-- Dr. John Haught! Haught leans toward process theology in his own writing (cf. The Cosmic Adventure), but he's also done yeoman's work on the question of conflict and harmony between science and religion. I have Haught's Science and Religion (warning: there are many books sporting that title!), which is an undergrad-level text that clearly lays out the salient issues in the overall science/religion debate. I also have his short monograph, What is God? Haught gets points for being a clear writer, though to be honest, he could've been a better lecturer. Maybe he's better with grad students; a lot of profs are. I took his Science, Myth and Religion course as an undergrad.

A feminist might look at the list of interviewees and notice right away that they're man-heavy. I'd agree that this is a problem, especially if you're looking for female scholars of religion, of whom there is no shortage. Among the people whom I'd like to see interviewed, right off the top of my head:

a. Dr. Elaine Pagels, author of the classic The Gnostic Gospels and The Origin of Satan. I could listen to her for hours.

b. Dr. Diana Eck, Hinduism scholar and author of numerous books on both Hinduism and religious diversity (I have her book on mantra darsan and one of her recent tomes on pluralism, A New Religious America; check out the Pluralism Project, which she runs).

c. Dr. Camille Paglia, my favorite feminist and the only one I actually trust.

d. Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, Catholic feminist scholar who wrote the classic She Who Is.

e. Dr. Rosemary Radford Ruether, prominent Christian feminist theologian. Dense writer, but brimming with ideas, even if I don't agree with them all.

f. Tenzin Palmo, a Western nun in a Tibetan Buddhist tradition who spent nineteen years in a freakin' cave-- read about her here; her official site is here.

And now-- the very uncool:

1. In the land of the Kiwis: ovarian cyst misdiagnosed as overweight.

2. More flooding of the US east coast.

3. Gaza Strip crisis deepens. However, I doubt the fevered speculation that this is going to escalate into a Middle East-wide war.


Kevin Kim said...

Damn-- sorry. Her book (the one I own, anyway) is actually on darsan, not mantra. The mantra book I was thinking of was this one. I own that one, too, but both it and the Eck/darsan book are in the States. I confused them because they were both part of the same Hinduism course at Catholic U.

To answer your question about content, though: the mantra book has a primarily Hindu focus on theory and technique. I don't remember many details. This might be one of the books that talks about "Vac," the unuttered utterance.

Eck's book on darsan deals with the meaning of darsan in Hindu life, such as when statues or people "give darsan" to the faithful.

Now I need to go back and correct my post.


Jeff in Korea said...

Kevin, I don't know if you have read Pagels's book "Adam, Eve, and the Serpent" that deals with early Christian asceticism and it's influences on Augustine, particulry the Augustinian teachings linking sexuality with origningal sin. The book also deals with the political dimensions of of the accepting original sin as doctrine in the early days of the Holy Roman Empire.

Kevin Kim said...


I haven't read that book by Pagels, but her idea, mentioned in your comment, that the doctrine of original sin had political ramifications, sounds like a theme similar to one she also explores in her book The Gnostic Gospels.

In that book, Pagels contends that the now-orthodox notion of apostolic succession also had definite political implications: it kept those who hewed to the orthodox line in power, and did a lot to exclude women from that power.

The danger of the Gnostic view was that people in the Gnostic camp could claim authority based on the convictions gained through the having of visions and the attainment of esoteric knowledge-- definitely a threat to the "old-boy network" of the apostolic succession paradigm.

Some of my profs at Catholic U.-- the ones who happen to be priests-- aren't that happy with Pagels and accuse her of bad scholarship. This always makes me grin.