Tuesday Links

I have been busy with various things and so am behind on reviews, etc. So I must instead offer you another generic link post. So check out these offerings and be sure to check back here for updates.

– There is good stuff over at Books & Culture as usual:
–> Here is an interesting interview with Henrik Syse a professional philosopher who was brought in to help with Corporate Governance for the Norwegian government’s Petroleum Fund. In this work he helps coordinate the fund’s “long-term dealings with more than 3,000 companies from all around the world.” “The Petroleum Fund is one of the world’s largest single-owned institutional funds, with approximately $210 billion in assets, of which 40 percent is invested in stocks.”

Here are some questions and answers I found interesting:

How can investment and moneymaking go hand in hand with ethics?

We create value by investing so that other people can start new projects, and that is a good thing. And we do it on behalf of future generations. You could of course ask if capitalism itself is ethical. I think it is a system with inherent temptations and possible cruelties that we have to be aware of, but it is the best system we have for spreading prosperity. So I am not troubled working inside the system, but I’m glad that I’m working with the framework of the system, and hopefully helping to improve it.

How do you reflect on the strong interconnectedness between religion and politics in the United States?

In general I think it’s positive that Christianity can be a basis for politics. In Europe there has been much illiteracy about how important religion is to human beings—Americans understand that much better. But the Bible can’t be used for single political decisions; religion should be a motivation and a moral obligation, not a political program. Most fundamentally, it gives us a set of values. What the Religious Right did with Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky affair, for example, was in my view far from the ideals of the Founding Fathers, and not in tune with basic Christian values.

–> Also, at Books & Culture is a review of The Fragrance of God by Vigen Guroian. You gardeners will want to check this one out:

For Guroian, the making of gardens is inseparable from the spiritual journey. The act of gardening brings him closer to God. “I spend more time on my knees in the garden than in holy sanctuary,” he writes. The garden is full of symbols of the Divine, which “testify not only to [God’s] existence but also to the goodness of his Creation.” And the beauty of the garden, Guroian suggests, can transform us. When we learn and name things we didn’t know, we exercise gratitude to the One who made them. (Judging by the number of field guides on my shelf, I’m exercising a lot of thanksgiving). Certainly, anyone who ever babied along their peonies, then watched them come to glorious full bloom the day of the first spring hailstorm, will agree that gardening teaches us humility.

Guroian’s meditations begin in autumn, move through the cycle of the seasons, and end at the start of winter. The garden location changes as he moves from Reisterstown, Maryland, to Culpepper, Virginia. This is not so much a book describing the detailed glories of his personal gardens, however, as it is a theological take on gardening as an act of spiritual formation. No plant lists, no rapturous descriptions. In fact, one leaves the book without a clear visual image of what Guroian’s two gardens looked like, although there are some lovely descriptions (daffodils spilling down a bank like a tipped-over can of yellow paint, as one example). What one does discover here is a reasoned yet passionate window into why gardening is true soul-work.

–> David Plotz has embarked on an interesting journey, he is blogging the Bible:

So, what can I possibly do? My goal is pretty simple. I want to find out what happens when an ignorant person actually reads the book on which his religion is based. I think I’m in the same position as many other lazy but faithful people (Christians, Jews, Moslems, Hindus). I love Judaism; I love (most of) the lessons it has taught me about how to live in the world; and yet I realized I am fundamentally ignorant about its foundation, its essential document. So, what will happen if I approach my Bible empty, unmediated by teachers or rabbis or parents? What will delight and horrify me? How will the Bible relate to the religion I practice, and the lessons I thought I learned in synagogue and Hebrew School?

I’ll spend the next few weeks (or months) finding out. I’ll begin with “in the beginning” and see how far I get. My wife, struck by my new Biblical obsession, gave me a wonderful Torah translation and commentary for Hannukah, the Etz Hayim, which was prepared by conservative Jewish scholars. I’ll read that and dip into the King James and other translations on occasion. (But I’ll avoid most commentary, since the whole point is to read the Bible fresh.) I’m sure I’ll repeat obvious points made by thousands of Biblical commentators before; I’ll misunderstand some passages and distort others—hey, that’ll be part of the fun.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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