Saturday, December 06, 2008

New Issue - Journal of Global Buddhism

Very cool selection of articles in the new issue of Journal of Global Buddhism. Here is the introduction to this issue on "Blurred Genres."
Special Issue

Buddhists and Scholars of Buddhism:
Blurred Distinctions in Contemporary Buddhist Studies


Buddhist Studies in the West is changing. It is well known that ‘Buddhist’ and ‘scholar of Buddhism’ are not always exclusive categories. As Buddhist Studies scholars wrestle with the identity of their field, as well as their own identities, they shape knowledge of Buddhism and may even contribute to shaping Buddhism itself in the West as well as in Asia.

This special issue of the Journal of Global Buddhism aims to tackle such current and pressing questions of blurred boundaries and genres: What is the place of advocacy or ‘theology’ in Buddhist Studies? Where is it implicit in contemporary scholarship? Should the study of Buddhism remain ‘distanced’ and ‘non-aligned’? Is there a definite line demarcating the two modes of scholarship? How does this distinction apply in different cultural locations?

In this issue, Ian Reader, John Makransky, and Duncan Williams grapple with these questions. For Reader, the line separating the study of Buddhism and the scholar’s own practice must be clearly demarcated. Citing the historical separation between theology and religious studies in universities, and offering some personal examples, Reader argues that ‘no matter what one’s own faith might be, it should not be allowed to influence or shape one’s teaching and research, which should be based in an academic ideal of objectivity.’

By contrast, both Makransky and Williams see their religious adherence as assisting Buddhist communities, and enhancing their teaching respectively. For Makransky, scholar-practitioners of Buddhism should function as a bridge between the academy and their Buddhist communities. Makransky argues for a new discipline called ‘Buddhist critical-constructive reflection’ or ‘Buddhist theology.’ According to him, this discipline has two aims. First it ‘explores how academic religious studies may newly inform Buddhist understanding of their own traditions, and thereby serve as a resource for Buddhist communities in their adaptations to the modern world. The second is to explore how Buddhist modes of understanding may help address pressing needs of modern societies and inform current issues.’

For Williams, although ‘Buddhists scholar-practitioners should not be in the business of preaching or advocating’, they should encourage students to “sympathetically understand” the tradition, [that is] … to see the world through the eyes of a Buddhist.’ Williams argues that ‘sympathetic understanding allows us to forge a middle path between advocacy and “objective” reporting on the tradition.’

These papers are by no means the last word in this discussion. We, at the Journal of Global Buddhism, would like to invite academics to submit rejoinders so that we can continue the conversation.

Cristina Rocha and Martin Baumann

Lama Surya Das Podcast

This was posted on Lama Surya Das's blog last night. I liked the book, so I'm looking forward to listening to this. (This is from a while back, like 2007 or something.)

Podcast Now Available

Listen to Lama Surya Das talk about his book, Buddha Is As Buddha Does; The Ten Original Practices for Enlightened Living in an interview with Paul “Paulo” O’Brien of Portland, Oregon’s KBOO Radio.

The podcast is from a regular program entitled Pathways and is posted at the Divination Foundation website

* * *

Lama Surya Das talks about his book, Buddha Is As Buddha Does; The Ten Original Practices for Enlightened Living. Lama Surya Das has spent more than thirty-five years studying Zen, yoga, and Tibetan Buddhism with the great spiritual masters of Asia, including the Dalai Lama's own teachers. He is the founder and spiritual director of the Dzogchen Foundation in Massachusetts and worked with the Dalai Lama to establish the Western Buddhist Teachers Network. He is a bestselling author of many books, including Awakening the Buddha Within and Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be.

iconListen to Episode

The Economist - Enlightenment Man (on Sergey Brin)

Cool article.

Enlightenment man

Dec 4th 2008
From The Economist print edition

Sergey Brin, one of the founders of Google, believes knowledge is always a good thing—and that more of it should be shared

A FORMER vice-president, Al Gore, and one of the co-founders of Google, Larry Page, were already seated on the stage of Google’s “Zeitgeist” conference, an exclusive gathering for the intelligentsia, but the third chair was still empty. After a few minutes, Sergey Brin, the other founder of the world’s biggest internet company, joined them. Messrs Gore and Page gave him the floor, because Mr Brin had something important to say.

The global “thought leaders” in the audience at Zeitgeist had just spent two days talking about solving the world’s biggest problems by applying the Enlightenment values of reason and science that Google espouses. But Mr Brin, usually a very private man, opened with an uncharacteristically personal story. He talked about his mother, Eugenia, a Jewish-Russian immigrant and a former computer engineer at NASA, and her suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

The reason was that Mr Brin had recently discovered that he has inherited from his mother a mutation of a gene called LRRK2 that appears to predispose carriers to familial Parkinson’s. Thus Mr Brin, at the age of 35, had found out that he had a high statistical chance—between 20% and 80%, depending on the study—of developing Parkinson’s himself. To the surprise of many in the audience, this did not seem to bother him.

One member of the audience asked whether ignorance was not bliss in such matters, since knowledge would only lead to a life spent worrying. Mr Brin looked genuinely puzzled. First of all, he began, who’s talking about worrying? His discovery was merely a statistical insight, and Mr Brin, a wizard at mathematics, uses statistics without fretting about them. More importantly, he went on, his knowledge means that he can now take measures to ward off the disease. Exercise helps, as does smoking, apparently—although Mr Brin, to laughter, denied taking up cigarettes (a vice of his father’s).

But Mr Brin was making a much bigger point. Isn’t knowledge always good, and certainly always better than ignorance? Armed with it, Mr Brin is now in a position to fund and encourage research into this gene in particular, and Parkinson’s in general. He is likely to contact other bearers of the gene. In effect, Mr Brin regards his mutation of LRRK2 as a bug in his personal code, and thus as no different from the bugs in computer code that Google’s engineers fix every day. By helping himself, he can therefore help others as well. He considers himself lucky.

The moment in some ways sums up Mr Brin’s approach to life. Like Mr Page, he has a vision, as Google’s motto puts it, of making all the world’s information “universally accessible and useful”. Very soon after the two cooked up their new engine for web searches, in the late 1990s at Stanford University, they began thinking about information that is today beyond the web. Their vast project to digitise books has been the most controversial so far, prompting a lawsuit from a group of publishers in 2005 that was resolved in October. But Messrs Brin and Page have always taken a special interest in the sort of information that most people hold dearest: that about their health.

Read the whole article.

Michael Dirda - Why Mephistopheles Had to Work Overtime

An interesting article from In Character on the tendency in literature for resolution and salvation at the conclusion of works of fiction. There is a bit of theology in this argument, but it fits within the Western Literary tradition, otherwise known as the Western Canon.

Admittedly, if we look at short fiction from the last thirty years (such as Raymond Carver and all who have followed in his example) this is not necessarily true - but time will tell if those authors and works make it into the Western Canon
Why Mephistopheles Had to Work Overtime –
Evil is glamorous. But great works of literature are more likely to end with scenes of reconciliation.

By Michael Dirda

Virtues get no respect. Unlike sin and vice, which are loaded with razzmatazz, such qualities as temperance, chastity, and patience generally seem soberly straitlaced and lackluster. On the surface, they look to be all about self-control, which is useful, rather than self-expression, which is fun. The poet Swinburne told us this a long time ago when he spoke about the dark joy of exchanging “the lilies and languors of virtue/ for the raptures and roses of vice.”

But virtues are complicated matters, as central to civilization as they are to salvation. The child who learns to share a toy with a classmate may as an adult practice the kind of self-sacrifice and charity of a Dorothy Day or Mother Teresa. But, more commonly, she will have at least learned to empathize with others, come to recognize that selfishiness is lonely, and discovered that people matter more than any mere plaything, no matter how shiny and sequined. Virtues, at their most utilitarian, help smooth our way through life — and forgiveness is the one we use and need the most.

Consider any ordinary work day. We are jostled on the crowded subway, and two voices simultaneously murmur, “Pardon me.” At the office, a colleague grows upset over a mistake on the Murchison report and we answer, “Don’t worry about it. We’ll fix it this afternoon.” At lunch someone spills his Diet Coke on your boyfriend’s new jeans, and he automatically says, “No big deal. It’ll dry.” These little acts of courtesy represent just the lowest level of forgiveness, but they keep anarchy and violence — all the road rage of modern life — at bay: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

At the same time, forgiveness, at its highest level, is central to spiritual aspiration. Christ on the cross exclaims, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” To the Christian, God’s forgiveness alone makes it possible for a soul to enter heaven. In our own lives we are asked to imitate such divine generosity and reconcile ourselves with even those who have harmed us grievously. One thinks of the bereaved Amish who reached out to comfort the family of the man who, before committing suicide, had murdered five of the community’s young school children.

A proverb goes “Forgive and forget.” Yet while one may forgive the person who commits an evil act, one shouldn’t forget the evil act itself. It’s still a sin, a crime, an atrocity. To forgive doesn’t make anything less heinous, it simply allows healing to begin. The French have a maxim: “Tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner” — to understand all is to forgive all. Such seemingly casual acceptance of human error may be criticized as laissez-faire ethics, yet it is nonetheless chastening to be reminded that there are few acts that any of us might not, under the right circumstances, commit or for which we might not require forgiveness.

Literature, in particular, achieves its most sublime moments when suffering mortals are reconciled through their common humanity. At the climax of The Iliad King Priam kisses the hand of the man who has murdered his son, and Achilles finally puts aside his vengeful wrath over the death of Patroclus in recognition of mutual suffering. In the great Njal Saga Kari methodically hunts down the forty men who burned his foster family to death. After all, he was reared in an ethos of blood vengeance, of the lex talionis. Finally only the ring-leader, Flosi, is left. But by now medieval Iceland has converted from paganism to Christianity, and it finally becomes possible for Flosi, in a wonderful scene, to forgive his greatest enemy. Near the climax of King Lear the broken king says to Cordelia that he has given her cause to hate him. And she answers, with a heartbreaking simplicity and the deepest love and forgiveness, “No cause, no cause.”

Perhaps the most striking musical expression of forgiveness occurs in Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro. Caught pursuing a servant girl, Count Almaviva pleads for forgiveness for his duplicity and attempted infidelity. The countess, in a supreme moment of charity, grants him his tearful wish, even as she half-knows that he’s sure to betray her again. Mozart’s music at this point shifts its whole tonal character, and immediately achieves a kind of hushed holiness. It’s just breathtaking when heard. Similarly, Leonard Bernstein’s music to Candide concludes with a general forgiveness of sins and injuries. In a beautiful last chorus all the characters admit that they have been “neither pure, nor wise, nor good.” But from now, “We’ll do the best we know. We’ll build our house and chop our wood. And make our garden grow.”

In truth, many — perhaps most — plays and novels end in a similar atmosphere of forgiveness. Misunderstandings are resolved, broken hearts mended, lovers reconciled. The age-old feud finally ends, a new era begins. Just so, Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot repair the ancient damage to their love in Persuasion; Leopold Bloom falls happily asleep next to his unfaithful wife, Molly. And “Shantih, shantih, shantih,” intones the final line of The Waste Land, the Indian word meaning, says Eliot, “the peace that passeth understanding.” Chekhov, in particular, deserves a special place in the literary annals of forgiveness: His stories and plays repeatedly show us ordinary people at their most foolish and self-deluded, but all of them regarded with humane tolerance and almost supernatural understanding.

Still, the more one thinks seriously about forgiveness, the trickier it gets. Can only the injured party forgive you? Does this mean that if that person is dead that you can never be forgiven? Do the two people involved in any act of forgiveness receive the same benefit? Certainly, at the heart of forgiveness lies a kind of basic Realpolitik: To get on with life one needs to get over the injury, to move on. Otherwise it will fester, blighting the whole of existence. But what if one forgives one’s enemy but that person is unrepentant or simply doesn’t care? And, worse yet, what if one doesn’t believe it possible to be forgiven for one’s crime against God or humanity?

At some point during my Catholic boyhood, I was told that there was one sin that could not be forgiven: the sin against the Holy Ghost. But what precisely was this absolutely unpardonable — and, I must admit, Byronically romantic — fault? So far as I could gather it lay in the failure, or refusal, to believe that one could actually be absolved. If one couldn’t believe in the Holy Ghost’s forgiveness of sins, one would never seek to be forgiven and hence would be damned. It was a kind of paradox. The unpardonable sin was such only because one was convinced that no pardon was available. There might even be salvation for others, but not for oneself. Ultimately, then, the sin against the Holy Ghost was spiritual despair.

Is there any more modern condition than this? It thus seems appropriate that arguably the first modern man — Dr. Faustus — is our great literary example of such despair. In the final scenes of Marlowe’s tragedy, Faustus is convinced by Mephistopheles that God would never forgive him for his transgressions and blasphemy. The devil’s servant, though, knows that were the magician to confess his faults and beg for mercy, God’s mercy would not be denied to him. So, his main purpose in these last moments is to make certain that Faustus continues to believe that he is beyond God’s grace. Only in this way can Mephistopheles be assured that the man’s soul will go to Hell.

Two hundred years later Goethe echoes this scene at the end of the first part of his own Faust, but with a different resolution. Gretchen, in prison awaiting execution for the murder of her child, turns away from her lover Faust and his companion Mephistopheles, and finally gives herself over to God. Mephistopheles dismisses this gesture of penance as coming too late: “Sie ist gerichtet” — She is judged. At which point, completing the half line, sounds a voice from the heavens: “Ist gerettet” — Is saved.

To the believer, forgiveness ultimately comes from God. So it is actually appropriate that the poet Heine remarked on his deathbed: “God will forgive me — that’s his job.” In fact, one could argue that he wasn’t joking but was simply being theologically exact. Nonetheless, even if forgiveness may be God’s job, it’s also yours and mine.


Michael Dirda is a Pulitzer Prize–winning critic for the Washington Post and the author of the memoir An Open Book and of four collections of essays: Readings, Book by Book, Bound to Please, and Classics for Pleasure.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Lessons From 40 Years of Education 'Reform'

Very interesting to see an article in the Wall Street Journal advocating for the end of local school districts and the adoption of national standards, but I couldn't agree more!

Lessons From 40 Years of Education 'Reform'

Let's abolish local school districts and finally adopt national standards.

While the economic news has most Americans in a state of near depression, hope abounds today that the country may use the current economic crisis as leverage to address some longstanding problems. Nowhere is that prospect for progress more worthy than the crisis in our public education system.

[Commentary] Martin Kozlowski

So, from someone who realized rather glumly last week that he has been working at school reform for 40 years, here is a prescription for leadership from the Obama administration.

We must start with the recognition that, despite decade after decade of reform efforts, our public K-12 schools have not improved. We can point to individual schools and some entire districts that have advanced, but the system as a whole is still failing. High school and college graduation rates, test scores, the number of graduates majoring in science and engineering all are flat or down over the past two decades. Disappointingly, the relative performance of our students has suffered compared to those of other nations. As a former CEO, I am worried about what this will mean for our future workforce.

It is most crucial for our political leaders to ask why we are at this point -- why after millions of pages, in thousands of reports, from hundreds of commissions and task forces, financed by billions of dollars, have we failed to achieve any significant progress?

Answering this question correctly is the key to finally remaking our public schools.

This is a complex problem, but countless experiments and analyses have clearly indicated we need to do four straightforward things to bring fundamental changes to K-12 education:

1) Set high academic standards for all of our kids, supported by a rigorous curriculum.

2) Greatly improve the quality of teaching in our classrooms, supported by substantially higher compensation for our best teachers.

3) Measure student and teacher performance on a systematic basis, supported by tests and assessments.

4) Increase "time on task" for all students; this means more time in school each day, and a longer school year.

Everything else either does not matter (e.g., smaller class sizes) or is supportive of these four steps (e.g., vastly improve schools of education).

Lack of effort is not the cause of our 30-year inability to solve our education problem. Not only have we had all those thousands of studies and task forces, but we have seen many courageous and talented individuals pushing hard to move the system. Leaders such as Joel Klein (New York City), Michelle Rhee (Washington, D.C.) and Paul Vallas (New Orleans) have challenged the system, and elected officials from both sides of the political spectrum have also fought valiantly for change.

So where does that leave us? If the problem isn't "what to do," nor is it a failure of commitment, what is stopping us?

I believe the problem lies with the structure and corporate governance of our public schools. We have over 15,000 school districts in America; each of them, in its own way, is involved in standards, curriculum, teacher selection, classroom rules and so on. This unbelievably unwieldy structure is incapable of executing a program of fundamental change. While we have islands of excellence as a result of great reform programs, we continually fail to scale up systemic change.

Therefore, I recommend that President-elect Barack Obama convene a meeting of our nation's governors and seek agreement to the following ....

Go read the rest - and for what's it worth, I really like the idea of "Increase teacher compensation to permit the best teachers (as measured by advances in student learning) to earn well in excess of $100,000 per year, and allow school leaders to remove underperforming teachers." Perfect.

Meditation on the Brain: a Conversation with Andrew Newberg

Sharp Brains has posted an excellent interview with Andrew Newberg. I find Newberg's work pretty interesting, but he also has his critics (see below). I also add a little of my own thoughts.

Meditation on the Brain: a Conversation with Andrew Newberg

Dr. Andrew Newberg is an Associate Professor in the Department of Radiology and Psychiatry and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at theAndrew Newberg University of Pennsylvania. He has published a variety of neuroimaging studies related to aging and dementia. He has also researched the neurophysiological correlates of meditation, prayer, and how brain function is associated with mystical and religious experiences.

Dr. Newberg, thank you for being with us today. Can you please explain the source of your interests at the intersection of brain research and spirituality?

Since I was a kid, I had a keen interest in spiritual practice. I always wondered how spirituality and religion affect us, and over time I came to appreciate how science can help us explore and understand the world around us, including why we humans care about spiritual practices. This, of course, led me to be particularly interested in brain research.

During medical school I was particularly attracted by the problem of consciousness. I was fortunate to meet researcher Dr. Eugene D'Aquili in the early 1990s, who had been doing much research on religious practices effect on brain since the 1970s. Through him I came to see that brain imaging can provide a fascinating window into the brain.

Can we define religion and spirituality -which sound to me as very different brain processes-, and why learning about them may be helpful from a purely secular, scientific point of view?

Good point, definitions matter, since different people may be searching for God in different ways. I view being religious as participating in organized rituals and shared beliefs, such as going to church. Being spiritual, on the other hand, is more of an individual practice, whether we call it meditation, or relaxation, or prayer, aimed at expanding the self, developing a sense of oneness with the universe.

Go read the whole interview.

Here are some criticism of Newberg's work.

From Science & Spirit:

[A]ccording to Sacred Heart University philosophy and religious studies professor Richard Grigg, Newberg may have unwittingly reduced the religious experience to a mere function of neurons and neurotransmitters— something entirely self-contained in the brain.

“Newberg’s work is reductive in a way he does not realize or acknowledge,” Grigg told a crowded neurotheology session at the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion conference in Kansas City, Missouri, last October.

In their well-known book Why God Won’t Go Away, Newberg and co-author Dr. Eugene d’Aquili observe that prayerful meditation is correlated with a quieting of activity in the posterior superior parietal lobe.

Numerous brain scans of meditating subjects show blood flow decreases in “that part of the brain Newberg claims is responsible for providing us with our sense of orientation,” Grigg explained. It is during this parietal lobe calming that Newberg suggests the meditator is experiencing oneness with the sacred and a loss of the hard boundaries of the self.

“But I see a big gap in his findings,” Grigg said in an interview after his presentation. “Newberg may be observing a person losing their internal sense of self, but he provides absolutely no neurological evidence that the self opened up by meditation makes real contact with an external something that transcends it.”

The brain, Grigg said, is a biased observer that cannot always provide a rational sense of the external world. Observing the brains of Buddhist monks and Franciscan nuns at prayer— as Newberg did—may or may not provide insight into any real religious experience.

Michael Shermer reviews Newberg's book, Why God Won't Go Away:

Yes, say the authors, who believe they have “uncovered solid evidence that the mystical experiences of our subjects — the altered states of mind they described as the absorption of the self into something larger — were not the result of emotional mistakes or simple wishful thinking, but were associated instead with a series of observable neurological events … ” It is an odd distinction to make, which the authors do throughout the book. “A skeptic might suggest that a biological origin to all spiritual longings and experiences, including the universal human yearning to connect with something divine, could be explained as a delusion caused by the chemical misfirings of a bundle of nerve cells.”

Indeed, I am one such skeptic, but I fail to see the difference (outside a minor linguistic distinction) between a delusion and a decrease in OAA activity. Delusion is simply a description of what happens when the OAA shuts down and the brain loses the ability to distinguish self from non-self. It’s still all in the brain. Unless, of course, you believe that these neurologically triggered mystical experiences actually serve as a conduit to a real spiritual world where God (or what the authors call “Absolute Unitary Being”) resides. That is, in fact, what they believe: “ … our research has left us no choice but to conclude that the mystics may be on to something, that the mind’s machinery of transcendence may in fact be a window through which we can glimpse the ultimate realness of something that is truly divine.” Thankfully they are honest enough to admit that this conclusion “is a terrifically unscientific idea” and that to accept it “we must second-guess all our assumptions about material reality.” In the final chapters they do just that.

Overall, I'm sympathetic to Newberg's cause, and at the same time I loathe the idea that subjective experience will be dismissed by science as a bunch of neuronal activity. Mystical, spiritual, meditative experiences can never be reduced to physical processes for those who have experienced them, so I see no issue with what he is doing.

And as far as people like Shermer are concerned, spiritual experiences can never be extinguished with facts, the objective cannot refute the subjective for most people.

Social Neuroscience: Measuring and Quantifying Human Empathy

Excellent podcast from Neuroscene. The neuroscience of empathy is a cool area of inquiry.

One of the most exciting areas of neuroscience involves the exploration of the biological and physiological underpinnings of human social interaction. And as researchers discover more and more about the critical role that mirror neurons appear to play in our lives, the relatively new field of “social neuroscience” is rapidly becoming the central front from which we examine how the brain influences social behavior, and vice versa.

In this podcast, we speak with Dr. Carl Marci who is the Director of Social Neuroscience for the Psychotherapy Research Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Marci is involved with some of the most advanced research that focuses on measuring and quantifying the human emotion of empathy.

Be sure to listen in on this podcast where we discuss a promising new development in the one of the hottest areas of neuroscience today.

Direct download: NeuroScene_Podcast_Dr._Carl_Marci_113008.mp3

Psyche: Resources for Psychology and Spirituality

Kurt Barstow, who writes for The Examiner (LA Religion & Spirituality), has a great article up on resources that integrate psychology and spirituality. He has also finished his review of the Integral Life Practice book, and I'll be posting links to those articles over the next couple of days.

Psyche: resources for psychology and spirituality

by Kurt Barstow

Robert Fludd, The Faculties
Although the psyche in psychology means "soul," it is not very frequently the case that spirituality enters into therapy or that therapist's are trained in the spiritual dimensions of being. Psychology as it was conceived in the 20th Century was meant to be a scientific discipline and even today the vast majority of psychologists are trained primarily in cognitive behavioral therapy. Jung was the major figure of the period to bring soul into psychology, and in the sixties and seventies the development of the humanistic and transpersonal schools marked a newfound synthesis of the spiritual and the psychological aspects of life. We seem to be in a period now where this integration will continue as more and more people become spiritually awake. Below are a variety of internet sites in this area that provide therapist referrals, information, training, conferences, public programs, and other resources. Most of them are based in California.

Institute for Spirituality and Psychology

A new organization whose mission is to ease suffering, promote peace, and support spiritual awakening by bringing together the wisdom traditions of spirituality and psychology. Audio of talks and discussions, therapist directory.

Spiritual Emergence Network

Started by Stanislov and Kristina Grof, this is one of the first groups ever to try to deal with spiritual conditions that might normally be pathologized, such as Kundalini Awakening, psychosis, near death, or alien abduction experiences. Provides therapist referral and support to people dealing with difficulties in psychospiritual growth. Also has a useful book list.

Spiritual Emergency Resource Center

Associated with SEN above, a graduate student of the California Institute of Integral Studies responds to each caller and helps them with referrals.

Go read the whole list of resources.

Film - Himalaya - l'enfance d'un chef

Himalaya is a beautiful film is set in the Himalaya Mountains of Nepal. The landscape and the traditional life of the people are as crucial to the film as the plot and characters.

Here is a plot summary from Rotten Tomatoes:
It is caravan time in Dolpo, high in the Himalayas of Nepal. The villagers must trek for days across the mountains with laden yaks to trade their salt for grain. But when Karma (Gurgon Kyap) returns to the village with the body of Lhakpa, leader of the caravan and son of the old chief Tinle (Thinlen Lhondup), the new chief blames Karma for the death, and will not allow him to lead in Lhakpa's place. Though Tinle's grandson, Tserin (Karma Wangiel), is far too young to lead the tribe, Tinle simply renames him Passang--a chief's name--and prepares him to lead the caravan. Karma challenges Tinle, threatening to take away the yaks, Lhakpa's widow Pema (Lhapka Tsamchoe), and Passang before the day that the caravan begins. Old Tinle in turn visits the monastery to gather his son, Norbou (Karma Tenzing Nyima Lama), a frescoe-painting monk, to join him on the caravan. But Norbou refuses to join his father, and Tinle returns to the village to discover that Karma has left early, taking most of the caravaneers with him. Tinle, Pema, Passang, the late-arriving Norbou, and the old men of the village leave on the scheduled day, and leading their own caravan in an effort to end the rivalry that threatens every resident of Dolpo.
The real friction in this movie is a clash of generations -- the old ways, based in astrology and oracles, and the new generation, whose "spokesperson" is a man of reason and does not believe in the oracles.

The conflict between Karma and Tinle is also familial, with reference to a previous conflict between the two families. One gets the sense as well that Karma is in love with Pema, the wife of his dead friend and Tinle's son.

The question in this film is whether or not the old ways hold up when confronted with reason. The answers are not simple, and the film deals with the subtlety of this issue quite well.

Here is the official trailer:

As a great companion film, I'd highly recommend The Saltmen of Tibet, a documentary about the annual pilgrimage for salt in Tibet, an essential nutrient for survival in the Plateau.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Satire - In The Know: How Can We Make The Iraq War More Handicap Accessible?

Not so funny satire from The Onion - especially considering how PTSD victims are being drugged and sent back into battle, er, uh, treated with antidepressants so they can continue to serve their country.

In The Know: How Can We Make The Iraq War More Handicap Accessible?

Get the Top 25 PhilosophersNotes Titles FREE

Yep, free. What are PhilosophersNotes? This is the cool new venture of Brian Johnson, founder of Zaadz (now Gaia).

Think: Mini-CliffsNotes for Self-Development Books! :)

The easiest way to describe PhilosophersNotes: they’re kinda like mini-CliffsNotes for self-development books or “Concentrated wisdom for your hero’s journey.”

Have you noticed that in any given book, there are usually 5-20 REALLY “Big Ideas”—those life-changing gems that really make an impact in your life?!? (... those pages are usually all marked up, underlined, starred, highlighted and all that goodness in my books! ☺)

Well, what I’ve done is opened up my favorite books, gone straight to those pages with the BIG IDEAS and created “PhilosophersNotes” that quickly give you the inspiring gems along with my thoughts on how these ideas have impacted my life and how they can impact yours.

Get a 6-Page PDF & ~20-Minute MP3 for Each Title!

"Buying books would be a good thing if one could also buy the time to read them in: but as a rule the purchase of books is mistaken for the appropriation of their contents." ~ Arthur Schopenhauer

In about 20 minutes a week, we'll get you thru the Big Ideas of 50 of the best self-development books ever written—you'll get a 6-page PDF and ~20-minute MP3 for each title so you can decide if you’d prefer to read over a cup of tea or listen on your way to work, on a hike, at the gym, doing errands or whatever’s best for you!

It's All About the Big Ideas We Can Apply NOW!

“If I read a book that cost me $20 and I get one good idea, I’ve gotten one of the greatest bargains of all time.” ~ Tom Peters

As we explore these great books, we WON’T get stuck in just the dry intellectual stuff.

In my view, if we can’t discover a truly life-changing insight in each of these books (we’ll shoot for many more than just one!), then we’ve wasted our time.

We’ll gain mastery in spiritual economics (we MUST learn how to integrate our spirituality/self-actualizing with our bank accounts, no?), health and fitness (how can we possibly live at our highest potential if we have a hard time getting out of bed?), and relationship skills (love, love, love!!). We’ll learn a bunch of ways to discover our purpose/dharma, how to follow our bliss, how to feel the fear… and do it anyway and how to live the 7 habits of highly effective people. And, we’ll study the science of getting rich and the magic of thinking big. And all kinds of other goodness.

I’ll be the guy sharing the Big Ideas and waving the pom-poms. Life’s WAY too short to get stuck and part of my job will be to help you translate this wisdom into ACTION in YOUR life.

Let's Get This Party Started! :)

"The greatest stock market you can invest in is yourself.
Finding this truth is better than finding a gold mine."

~ Byron Katie from Loving What Is

In sum: I hope to share my PhilosophersNotes with you. I think you''ll dig 'em. And I have a strong feeling that together we'll be able to continue to transform our lives through the incredible wisdom of these great books.

Yours in growth, creativity, service and smiles,

Go here to get the Top 25 PhilosophersNotes Titles FREE for the holidays, courtesy of Integral Options Cafe and Integral Options for Life.

51st Annual Grammy Nominations

The Grammy nominations came out last night. Who the hell knew there were so many categories? Here are a few of the major ones, and some not so major. To see the whole list, go to the Grammy Website. Image Image

For recordings released during the Eligibility Year
October 1, 2007 through September 30, 2008
Note: More or less than 5 nominations in a category is the result of ties.

General Field

Category 1

Record Of The Year
(Award to the Artist and to the Producer(s), Recording Engineer(s) and/or Mixer(s), if other than the artist.)

  • Chasing Pavements
    Eg White, producer; Tom Elmhirst & Steve Price, engineers/mixers
    Track from: 19
    [XL Recordings/Columbia]

  • Viva La Vida
    Markus Dravs, Brian Eno & Rik Simpson, producers; Michael Brauer & Rik Simpson, engineers/mixers
    Track from: Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends
    [Capitol Records]

  • Bleeding Love
    Leona Lewis
    Simon Cowell, Clive Davis & Ryan "Alias" Tedder, producers; Craig Durrance, Phil Tan & Ryan "Alias" Tedder, engineers/mixers
    [J Records/SYCO Music]

  • Paper Planes
    Diplo, producer; Switch, engineer/mixer
    Track from: Kala

  • Please Read The Letter
    Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
    T Bone Burnett, producer; Mike Piersante, engineer/mixer
    Track from: Raising Sand

Category 2

Album Of The Year
(Award to the Artist(s) and to the Album Producer(s), Recording Engineer(s)/Mixer(s) & Mastering Engineer(s), if other than the artist.)

  • Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends
    Markus Dravs, Brian Eno & Rik Simpson, producers; Michael H. Brauer, Markus Dravs, John O'Mahoney, Rik Simpson & Andy Wallace, engineers/mixers; Bob Ludwig, mastering engineer
    [Capitol Records]

  • Tha Carter III
    Lil Wayne
    Babyface, Brisco, Fabolous, Jay-Z, Kidd Kidd, Busta Rhymes, Juelz Santana, D. Smith, Static Major, T-Pain & Bobby Valentino, featured artists; Alchemist, David Banner, Vaushaun "Maestro" Brooks, Cool & Dre, Andrews "Drew" Correa, Shondrae "Mr. Bangladesh" Crawford, Darius "Deezle" Harrison, Jim Jonsin, Mousa, Pro Jay, Rodnae, Skillz & Play, D. Smith, Swizz Beatz, Robin Thicke, T-Pain & Kanye West, producers; Angel Aponte, Joshua Berkman, Andrew Dawson, Joe G, Darius "Deezle" Harrison, Fabian Marasciullo, Miguel Scott, Robin Thicke, Julian Vasquez & Gina Victoria, engineers/mixers; Vlado Meller, mastering engineer
    [Universal Motown/Cash Money]

  • Year Of The Gentleman
    Chuck Harmony, Ne-Yo, Polow Da Don, StarGate, Stereotypes, Syience, Shea Taylor & Shomari "Sho" Wilson, producers; Kirven Arrington, Jeff Chestek, Kevin "KD" Davis, Mikkel Eriksen, Jaymz Hardy Martin, III, Geno Regist, Phil Tan & Tony Terrebonne, engineers/mixers; Herb Powers, Jr., mastering engineer
    [Def Jam/Compound]

  • Raising Sand
    Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
    T Bone Burnett, producer; Mike Piersante, engineer/mixer; Gavin Lurssen, mastering engineer

  • In Rainbows
    Nigel Godrich, producer; Nigel Godrich, Dan Grech-Marguerat, Hugo Nicolson & Richard Woodcraft, engineers/mixers; Bob Ludwig, mastering engineer
    [TBD Records]

Category 3

Song Of The Year
(A Songwriter(s) Award. A song is eligible if it was first released or if it first achieved prominence during the Eligibility Year. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.)

  • American Boy
    William Adams, Keith Harris, Josh Lopez, Caleb Speir, John Stephens, Estelle Swaray & Kanye West, songwriters (Estelle Featuring Kanye West)
    Track from: Shine
    [Atlantic/Homeschool; Publishers: Will.I.Am Music/Cherry River Music/Chrysalis Publishing/John Legend Publishing/Cherry River Music/Please Gimme My Publishing/EMI Blackwood Music/Larry Leron Music/Speir Music/Broke, Spoke and Gone Publishing]

  • Chasing Pavements
    Adele Adkins & Eg White, songwriters (Adele)
    Track from: 19
    [XL Recordings/Columbia; Publishers: Universal-Songs of Polygram Int.]

  • I'm Yours
    Jason Mraz, songwriter (Jason Mraz)
    Track from: We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.
    [Atlantic; Publisher: Goo Eyed Music]

  • Love Song
    Sara Bareilles, songwriter (Sara Bareilles)
    Track from: Little Voice
    [Epic; Publisher: Tiny Bear Music]

  • Viva La Vida
    Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland, Will Champion & Chris Martin, songwriters (Coldplay)
    Track from: Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends
    [Capitol Records; Publishers: Universal Music-MGB Songs]

Category 4

Best New Artist
(For a new artist who releases, during the Eligibility Year, the first recording which establishes the public identity of that artist.)

  • Adele

  • Duffy

  • Jonas Brothers

  • Lady Antebellum

  • Jazmine Sullivan

Field 1 — Pop

Category 5

Best Female Pop Vocal Performance
(For a solo vocal performance. Singles or Tracks only.)

  • Chasing Pavements
    Track from: 19

  • Love Song
    Sara Bareilles
    Track from: Little Voice

  • Mercy
    Track from: Rockferry

  • Bleeding Love
    Leona Lewis
    [J Records/SYCO Music]

  • I Kissed A Girl
    Katy Perry
    Track from: One Of The Boys
    [Capitol Records]

  • So What

Category 6

Best Male Pop Vocal Performance
(For a solo vocal performance. Singles or Tracks only.)

  • All Summer Long
    Kid Rock
    Track from: Rock N Roll Jesus

  • Say
    John Mayer
    Track from: Continuum

  • That Was Me
    Paul McCartney
    Track from: Amoeba's Secret
    [Hear Music/MPL Communications Ltd.]

  • I'm Yours
    Jason Mraz
    Track from: We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.

  • Closer
    Track from: Year Of The Gentleman
    [Def Jam/Compound Entertainment]

  • Wichita Lineman
    James Taylor
    Track from: Covers
    [Hear Music]

Category 7

Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals
(For established duos or groups, with vocals. Singles or Tracks only.)

  • Viva La Vida
    Track from: Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends
    [Capitol Records]

  • Waiting In The Weeds
    Track from: Long Road Out Of Eden
    [Eagles Recording Company II]

  • Going On
    Gnarls Barkley
    Track from: The Odd Couple

  • Won't Go Home Without You
    Maroon 5
    Track from: It Won't Be Soon Before Long

  • Apologize
    Track from: Dreaming Out Loud
    [Mosley Music/Interscope Records]

Category 8

Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals
(For a collaborative performance, with vocals, by artists who do not normally perform together. Singles or Tracks only.)

  • Lesson Learned
    Alicia Keys & John Mayer
    Track from: As I Am
    [J Records]

  • 4 Minutes
    Madonna, Justin Timberlake & Timbaland
    Track from: Hard Candy
    [Warner Bros.]

  • Rich Woman
    Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
    Track from: Raising Sand

  • If I Never See Your Face Again
    Rihanna & Maroon 5
    Track from: Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded
    [Def Jam]

  • No Air
    Jordin Sparks & Chris Brown
    Track from: Jordin Sparks

Category 9

Best Pop Instrumental Performance
(For solo, duo, group or collaborative performances, without vocals. Singles or Tracks only.)

  • Love Appetite
    Steve Cropper & Felix Cavaliere
    Track from: Nudge It Up A Notch

  • I Dreamed There Was No War
    Track from: Long Road Out Of Eden
    [Eagles Recording Company II]

  • Fortune Teller
    Track from: Energy
    [Heads Up International]

  • Steppin' Out
    Stanley Jordan
    Track from: State Of Nature
    [Mack Avenue Records]

  • Blast!
    Marcus Miller
    Track from: Marcus
    [Concord Jazz]

Category 10

Best Pop Instrumental Album
(For albums containing 51% or more playing time of INSTRUMENTAL tracks.)

  • Sax For Stax
    Gerald Albright
    [Peak Records]

  • Greatest Hits Rerecorded Volume One
    Larry Carlton
    [335 Records]

  • Jingle All The Way
    Béla Fleck & The Flecktones

  • The Spice Of Life
    Earl Klugh
    [Koch Records]

  • A Night Before Christmas
    Spyro Gyra
    [Heads Up International]

Category 11

Best Pop Vocal Album
(For albums containing 51% or more playing time of VOCAL tracks.)

  • Detours
    Sheryl Crow
    [A&M Records]

  • Rockferry

  • Long Road Out Of Eden
    [Eagles Recording Company II]

  • Spirit
    Leona Lewis
    [J Records/SYCO Music]

  • Covers
    James Taylor
    [Hear Music]

Category 15

Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance
(For a solo vocal performance. Singles or Tracks only.)

  • Gravity
    John Mayer
    Track from: Where The Light Is — Live In Los Angeles

  • I Saw Her Standing There
    Paul McCartney
    Track from: Amoeba's Secret
    [Hear Music/MPL Communications Ltd.]

  • Girls In Their Summer Clothes
    Bruce Springsteen
    Track from: Magic

  • Rise
    Eddie Vedder
    [J Records]

  • No Hidden Path
    Neil Young
    Track from: Chrome Dreams II

Category 16

Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals
(For duo, group or collaborative performances, with vocals. Singles or Tracks only.)

  • Rock N Roll Train

  • Violet Hill
    Track from: Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends
    [Capitol Records]

  • Long Road Out Of Eden
    Track from: Long Road Out Of Eden
    [Eagles Recording Company II]

  • Sex On Fire
    Kings Of Leon
    [RCA Records]

  • House Of Cards
    Track from: In Rainbows
    [TBD Records]

Category 17

Best Hard Rock Performance
(For solo, duo, group or collaborative performances, with vocals. Singles or Tracks only.)

  • Inside The Fire
    Track from: Indestructible

  • Visions
    Judas Priest
    Track from: Nostradamus

  • Wax Simulacra
    The Mars Volta
    [Universal Motown]

  • Saints Of Los Angeles
    Mötley Crüe
    Track from: Saints Of Los Angeles
    [Motley Records/Eleven Seven Music]

  • Lords Of Salem
    Rob Zombie
    Track from: Zombie Live

Category 18

Best Metal Performance
(For solo, duo, group or collaborative performances, with vocals. Singles or Tracks only.)

  • Heroes Of Our Time
    [Roadrunner Records]

  • Nostradamus
    Judas Priest
    Track from: Nostradamus

  • My Apocalypse
    Track from: Death Magnetic
    [Warner Bros.]

  • Under My Thumb
    Track from: Cover Up
    [Megaforce Records]

  • Psychosocial
    [Roadrunner Records]

Category 19

Best Rock Instrumental Performance
(For solo, duo, group or collaborative performances, without vocals. Includes Rock, Hard Rock and Metal. Singles or Tracks only.)

  • Castellorizon
    David Gilmour
    Track from: Live In Gdansk

  • Suicide & Redemption
    Track from: Death Magnetic
    [Warner Bros.]

  • 34 Ghosts I-IV
    Nine Inch Nails
    Track from: Ghosts I-IV
    [The Null Corporation]

  • Hope (Live For The Art Of Peace)
    Track from: Songs For Tibet: The Art Of Peace
    [Art of Peace Foundation]

  • Peaches En Regalia
    Zappa Plays Zappa
    [Strobosonic/Razor & Tie Entertainment]

Category 20

Best Rock Song
(A Songwriter(s) Award. Includes Rock, Hard Rock & Metal songs. For Song Eligibility Guidelines see Category #3. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.)

  • Girls In Their Summer Clothes
    Bruce Springsteen, songwriter (Bruce Springsteen)
    Track from: Magic
    [Columbia; Publisher: Bruce Springsteen]

  • House Of Cards
    Colin Greenwood, Jonny Greenwood, Ed O'Brien, Philip Selway & Thom Yorke, songwriters (Radiohead)
    Track from: In Rainbows
    [TBD Records; Publisher: Warner Chappell Music]

  • I Will Possess Your Heart
    Benjamin Gibbard, Nicholas Harmer, Jason McGerr & Christopher Walla, songwriters (Death Cab For Cutie)
    Track from: Narrow Stairs
    [Atlantic; Publishers: EMI Blackwood Music/Where I'm Calling From Music/Shove It Up Your Songs/Giant Beat Songs/Please Pass The Songs]

  • Sex On Fire
    Caleb Followill, Jared Followill, Matthew Followill & Nathan Followill, songwriters (Kings Of Leon)
    [RCA Records; Publishers: Martha Street Music/Songs of Combustion Music/Music of Windswept, Followill Music/Songs of Combustion Music/Music of Windswept, McFearless Music/Bug Music, Coffee, Tea or Me Publishing/Bug Music]

  • Violet Hill
    Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland, Will Champion & Chris Martin, songwriters (Coldplay)
    Track from: Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends
    [Capitol Records; Publisher: Universal Music-MGB Songs]

Category 21

Best Rock Album
(Vocal or Instrumental. Includes Hard Rock and Metal.)

  • Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends
    [Capitol Records]

  • Rock N Roll Jesus
    Kid Rock

  • Only By The Night
    Kings Of Leon
    [RCA Records]

  • Death Magnetic
    [Warner Bros.]

  • Consolers Of The Lonely
    The Raconteurs
    [Third Man/Warner Bros.]

Field 5 — Alternative

Category 22

Best Alternative Music Album
(Vocal or Instrumental.)

  • Modern Guilt
    [DGC Records/XL Recordings/Interscope]

  • Narrow Stairs
    Death Cab For Cutie

  • The Odd Couple
    Gnarls Barkley

  • Evil Urges
    My Morning Jacket
    [ATO Records]

  • In Rainbows
    [TBD Records]

Jack Spicer - "This Is the End of the Poem"

Jack Spicer was once (when I was a young, bohemian wanna-be in college) one of my favorite poets, so I really enjoyed this piece from Poetry Foundation.

"This Is the End of the Poem"

How Jack Spicer broke through the pieties of the avant-garde.

by Geoffrey O'Brien

Jack Spicer at the opening of the 6 Gallery, 1954. Photo by Robert Berg.

When I first discovered Jack Spicer’s poetry in the late 1960s he was already dead, but I had no real way of knowing that. Of all the poets in Donald Allen’s anthology, The New American Poetry—that overwhelming, simultaneously revealed crowd that included Olson, Duncan, O’Hara, Ashbery, Jones, Snyder, Creeley, and so many others—he was the one who did “not like his life written down” but who could be contacted at “The Place.” (I didn’t know that was an artists’ bar in San Francisco; it just sounded like the kind of spot, in the world but not of it, that everyone was hoping to find.) He was the one who had written “Imaginary Elegies,” a poem (or the start of a sequence of poems) utterly different in tone from anything else in the anthology. It sounded like something imparted by the ghost of Hölderlin—“Poetry, almost blind like a camera / Is alive in sight only for a second”—but in a language that could be plain and American enough to provide the basis for a slightly off-center surfing record: “When I praise the sun or any bronze god derived from it / Don’t think I wouldn’t rather praise the very tall blond boy / Who ate all of my potato-chips at the Red Lizard.” It was as otherworldly as a translation of some newly discovered shamanic hymn, and as shiny and clankingly concrete as a kitchen drawer full of spoons: “The moon is God’s big yellow eye remembering / What we have lost or never thought. That’s why / The moon looks raw and ghostly in the dark.”

Before too long I learned that Spicer had died in San Francisco in 1965, of alcoholism, and I began to read more of his work—as much, that is, as could be found. His poetry had been published by small Bay Area presses when it had been published at all, and continued to circulate in hard-to-find chapbooks and doubtful pirated editions. Not until the publication in 1975 of The Collected Books of Jack Spicer, edited by Robin Blaser, did the major part of it become generally available. But there was much more writing still to emerge—other poems, manifestos, handbills, questionnaires, letters, novels, plays, and the elusive “Vancouver lectures”—which, even in incomplete form, had established themselves as an indispensable text for young poets. (The idea that writing poetry was a matter of taking dictation from unseen Martians seemed to make a good deal more sense than the theories of Allen Tate or Cleanth Brooks.) The lectures were finally published in 1998 as The House That Jack Built, edited by Peter Gizzi, the same year that Lewis Ellingham and Kevin Killian published the indispensable biography Poet Be Like God: Jack Spicer and the San Francisco Renaissance.

Now—43 years after Spicer’s death, a longer period than his lifespan—Gizzi and Killian have joined to give us a comprehensive gathering of Spicer’s poetry, My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer. The book offers a great deal of work previously published either marginally or not at all (including a number of serial poems that didn’t make it into The Collected Books), and establishes Spicer as one of the distinct voices of the mid-20th century, beautiful and troubling, weirdly and bitterly funny, and memorable as few poets are. To come back to this work is to realize how tenaciously Spicer’s phrases cling to the mind, whether as bursts of startling clarity or nagging unresolved fragments. To absorb his work early on was to need, at some later point, to be delivered from it, to clear the way for alternative incoming radio signals, even if the only way to do that was to burrow ever deeper into those opaque sentences as if looking for an exit: “They expect everybody to be insane. / This is a poem about the death of John F. Kennedy. . . . Death is not final. Only parking lots.” When, in his epoch-making Language Spicer wrote, "The ground still squirming. The ground still not fixed as I thought it would be in an adult world." he might have been describing the way his own work refuses to settle down into a framed image.
Read the whole article.

Cameron Freeman - Towards A Post-Metaphysical Theology

Another good article from current issue of The Global Spiral (Metanexus Institute). He employs some of Derrida's postmodernist deconstruction here, so all of you who despise deconstruction might want to skip this one.

Here is the main point as she sees it:
For Derrida, then, Western thought is infected with a yearning for a non-existent ‘fixed center of meaning’, a desire that is manifested in 1) a hierarchical axiology, where metaphysical determinations spawn binary oppositions and subordinate these opposing values to each other (subject/object, presence/absence, material/ideal); or 2) the enterprise of returning to an origin held to be simple, self-evident, and pure, in order then to think in terms of derivation, complication, accident, and so forth.10
According to Derrida, there is no ultimate reality as conceived by the world's major religious traditions. However, Derrida -- as far as I can tell -- is working with linguistic constructs, which ultimately fail to comprehend the nature of the truly metaphysical because "Spirit" transcends language and the linguistic attempt to signify what cannot, by definition, be signified.

How's that for a bunch of philosophical babble? Just read the article.
Towards A Post-Metaphysical Theology

As Jack Caputo maintains in his award winning work on deconstruction and the Kingdom of God (The Weakness of God: A Theology of the Event, Indiana Press 2006), the God of metaphysical theology is a God that is well lost to the task of thinking, and so the challenge that faces theologians today is to think God in a way that is radically otherwise to the metaphysics of Being in the history of the West.

In undertaking the task of constructing a post-metaphysical approach to theology, then, this study will begin by turning to Jacques Derrida and his critical deconstruction of the Western metaphysical tradition from Plato to post-modernity. Derrida begins with the observation that in so far as the entities that constitute our reality have to be set apart before we can even begin to speak about them, nothing actually exists prior to this differentiating process.1 This differentiation process that precedes and sets up the very conditions of language and meaning is what Derrida calls différance, which he characterizes as “the non-full, non-simple, structured and differentiating origin of differences.”2 As the dynamic structuring principle of language and communication, différance can also be described as the never constituted enabling condition of Western metaphysics3, and as such it describes the very ‘conditions of possibility’ for distinguishing between metaphysical oppositions such as ‘sensible/intelligible’, ‘nature/culture’, ‘inside/outside’, etc.

Bearing by Jeanie Tomanek

As the “common root of all conceptual oppositions”4, Derrida is therefore able to employ his non-concept of différance to deconstruct all metaphysical determinations and all pre-given centers of meaning so as to dismantle all fixed principles of order and governance in a highly influential assault on the entire history of Western metaphysical tradition, leaving only a endlessly sliding system of meanings in which “all is textual play with no connection with original truth.”5

To briefly elaborate, in carrying out his far-reaching deconstruction, Derrida argues that the deepest and most persistent desire in the Western metaphysical tradition has been to locate some fixed and permanent center, some Archimedean point, some certain grounds for timeless truth and unchanging meaning—whether we think of this as the ‘transcendental signified’6 or as a ‘metaphysics of presence’7 in its full transparency and plenitude.8 In summarizing this strategic longing for metaphysical comfort that has pervaded the entire tradition of thinking in the West, Derrida contends that

All metaphysicians, from Plato to Rousseau, Descartes to Husserl have proceeded in this way, conceiving good to be before evil, the positive before the negative, the pure before the impure, the simple before the complex, the essential before the accidental, the imitated before the imitation, etc. And this is not just one metaphysical gesture among others, it is the metaphysical exigency, that which has been the most constant, most profound and most potent.9

For Derrida, then, Western thought is infected with a yearning for a non-existent ‘fixed center of meaning’, a desire that is manifested in 1) a hierarchical axiology, where metaphysical determinations spawn binary oppositions and subordinate these opposing values to each other (subject/object, presence/absence, material/ideal); or 2) the enterprise of returning to an origin held to be simple, self-evident, and pure, in order then to think in terms of derivation, complication, accident, and so forth.10

In this way, Derrida argues that we are always and already situated within the effects of différance, and that metaphysics in the history of the West has always depended upon a hierarchical privileging or a clear-cut opposition between binary pairs that is fixed in place, resulting in an extreme rigidity where all that does not fit into any particular scheme tends to be marginalized, suppressed or rendered unconscious.

And so in undertaking his deconstructive venture, Derrida exposes the ‘metaphysics of presence’ as a futile attempt to fix the meaning of conceptual oppositions and freeze the play of linguistic differences, by radically questioning the notion that a transcendental signified constitutes some permanent invocation of truth that resides eternally outside of the differential spacing of signifiers.11

And moreover, by confusing the linguistic construction of meaning by virtue of the metaphysical center with a permanent endorsement of essential truth, Derrida lays open the great philosophers of the past as masters of illusion, and their philosophies are shown up as false dreams of plenitude, where all philosophical concepts rest on “a delusion and non-respect for their own condition of origin”12.

Read the whole article.

Ultimately, I think his argument fails even after citing the parables of Jesus as post-metaphysical examples of teachings that disturb the accepted worldview. While I like this statement:
Therefore, by confronting the challenging of Derrida’s deconstruction and incorporating the insights of the linguistic turn in philosophy, we can conclude that the bi-polar reversals of meaning that give coherence and depth to the recorded teachings of the historical Jesus – i.e. the paradoxical structure that holds true across virtually all of Jesus’ most memorable parables, does indeed constitute a post-metaphysical origin precisely because it does not constitute an origin, and in being structurally impossible to fix in place once and for all it is therefore always open to surprise, mystery, and the unexpected twists and turns that are paradigmatic of the language of Jesus.
I don't see the teachings of Jesus being any different or more profound than, say, the Buddha, or Lao Tzu. All the great Wisdom traditions offer a post-rational (and this seems to me to be what she really means by "post-metaphysical") disruption of how we conceive of the world.

Great teachers point to a reality beyond what we normally conceive, or they wouldn't be great teachers.