Tag Archives: religion

“Happy Holidays” and Christmas boycotts: Here We Go Again

[fr] Joyeux Noël!

It’s the time of the year again. Christmas. I like Christmas. I’m not Christian. And like each year, the stuff that annoys me is the “let’s boycott Christmas” movement and the American “Happy Holidays” stuff.

Here’s a post I wrote two years ago which pretty much sums it up and is still valid today.

I think making a point of saying “Happy Holidays” instead of simply “Merry Christmas” only emphasizes the religious/believing dimension of Christmas, in a sort of weird Streisand effect: “ew, it’s a Christian celebration, I’m not Christian, I’m not going anywhere near it.” To me this kind of attitude actually smells of fear. What on earth is wrong with considering Christmas a secular celebration of love and peace for those who do not believe (in Christianity), a celebration which has its historical roots in the dominant religious tradition of Europe and America, and that we keep around even when it’s emptied of its religious dimension? (Er… like Thanksgiving, for example?)

And even if it wasn’t, what is wrong with wishing somebody with a different faith of yours a good celebration of something that’s important to them? I have no problem wishing Muslims a Happy Eid, or Hindus a Happy Diwali — or Christians a Merry Christmas. Why would I seize the occasion to point out that I believe that what they believe is not true? I don’t see the point.

But again, my argument is that Christmas has long since ceased to be a religious celebration (except for the more religious Christians out there) and is now mainly a family/commercial thing.

Which brings us to my second pet peeve: people who throw out the baby with the bathwater and reject all of Christmas and all of the gift-giving because of the excesses involved. Of course, present inflation sucks. But there are ways to reject present inflation without throwing out Christmas. You can decide to have less presents. You can put a price cap. You can decide to have only presents that have cost time rather than money. You can have a present lottery with one present given and received per person. There are options.

What irks me the most with the (mostly) American “Happy Holidays” is that I don’t believe that Thanksgiving gets the same treatment. Hullo? Thanksgiving! The pilgrims! Giving thanks to… who, already? I sometimes see the very same people who turn their noses snobbishly up on Christmas joyfully feast on turkey at Thanksgiving. Why the double-standard?

So Merry Christmas everybody. Whatever you believe.

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Posted in Culture, Personal | Tagged christmas, consumerism, diwali, eid, gifts, happy holidays, holiday, presents, religion, thanksgiving | 1 Comment

Eat, Pray, Love: Damn You, Elizabeth Gilbert

[fr] J'ai aimé Eat, Pray, Love plus que ce à quoi je m'attendais. Le trip "spiritualité indienne sauce occidentale", je m'en passerais, mais il y a plein de bonnes choses -- outre l'écriture, que j'aime beaucoup. Pour plus de détails... lire l'article complet en anglais!

Damn you, Liz Gilbert. I didn’t want to like your book, but I did. I even like you (well, the narrator you). Yeah, of course I can relate: 30-something heartbroken woman finds peace and love. Which single woman in her mid-thirties wouldn’t?

It annoys me, though, that you found them through faith, because I can’t do that.

I don’t doubt that you had a life-changing experience. I’m not either against religious or spiritual paths journeys per se, as long as they actually serve to grow us as human beings. But like the friends you mention near the end of your India book, I cannot believe anymore — believing there is a God or some other power, personal or not, is too incompatible with my worldview. A part of me would like to believe, so that I could find the peace you found. But I’d be faking it, right? Because another part of me is certain that there is nothing up there — or in there, aside from ourselves.

Bangalore 016 Gandhi Bazaar.jpgTo your credit, you do not proselytize, nor try to tell us that your way is The Only Way, and that we should all be doing it too. You bear witness of your own personal path, which involved a spiritual adventure in an ashram in India. I can appreciate that. But I have trouble relating to that aspect of your journey. (There is the Siddha Yoga issue too, which bothers me, but that I won’t delve into here.)

Also, whether you want it or not, your spiritual journey is coloured by a very specific — and modern — Indian school of thought (and by that, I don’t just mean Siddha Yoga). You acknowledge that, but in some respects you are blind to it, for example when you serve us truths about Indian spirituality or religions in general — you are talking from the inside of a specific religious tradition, not giving us access some kind of general truth. It’s a mistake many make, and I guess I can forgive you for it.

I personally believe that our conversations with God are conversations with ourselves. I believe we are much bigger than we think, and probably much bigger than we can ever know. And I say this not in a “mystical” or “magical” or “supernatural” sense, but in a psychological one. So for me, any religious or spiritual path is no more than a path within and with ourselves, using an exterior force or entity (“God”, “energy”) as a metaphorical proxy for parts or aspects of ourselves which are not readily available to our consciousness. Yes, it’s sometimes a bit complicated to follow for me too.

So what I can relate to, clearly, are your conversations with yourself in your notebook. I know I am a good friend. I’m loyal. I can love to bits. If I open the floodgates, I can love more than is possibly imaginable — just like you say of yourself. But I do not let myself be the beneficiary of so much love and care. “To love oneself,” not in a narcissistic way, but as a good friend or a good parent would. I know this is something I need to work on, I knew it before reading Eat, Pray, Love, but your journey serves as a reminder to me. It’s also reminding me that meditation (even when it’s not a search for God or done as religious practice) has benefits — and that I could use them.

So, thank you, Liz Gilbert. We may differ in our spiritual and life aspirations, but your journey has touched me, and inspired me. I didn’t expect it to. Thank you for the nice surprise. And damn you, because now I can’t look down quite so smugly anymore on those who rave about your book.

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Posted in Books, India, Personal, Understanding life and the world | Tagged atheism, belief, eat pray love, elizabeth gilbert, god, india, love, psychology, religion, siddha yoga, spirituality | 2 Comments

Steph+Suw Podcast: First!

[fr] Suw et moi avons enfin enregistré le fameux podcast-conversation dont nous parlons depuis notre première rencontre, en mai 2004. C'est en anglais et c'est assez long, mais on s'en est pas trop mal sorties pour une première!

Each time Suw and I meet, we talk about recording a podcast together. We met for the first time in June 2004, and if I believe the Podcasting and Beercasting Thoughts I wrote a little less than a year later, that was indeed when we first started talking about using audio to record conversations.

I’m definitely sure that we talked about it at BlogTalk 2. I don’t think Skype was in the air then, but we talked about hooking up our phones to some audio recording device, and left it at that. At that time, people were getting excited about “audioblogging” (did we already talk about “podcasting” back then? It seems a long, long time ago) and we agreed that were audio really became interesting was in rendering conversations. (See the Podcasting and Beercasting Thoughts post for more about that.)

Anyway, now we have Skype, and Call Recorder (which reminds me, I need to write up a post about the ethics of recording audio conversations), and we finally got round to doing it. It’s a bit long-ish (40 minutes — not surprising if you know us!) and has been slightly edited in that respect, but honestly, it’s not too bad for a start.

Here is roughly what we talked about.

  • San Francisco, web geek paradise
  • City sizes (see this London-SF superimposition map)
  • Segways
  • The cat/geek Venn diagram (Twitter error message)
  • I really want a Wii
  • IRC screen names
  • The difficulties of pronouncing S-u-w
  • When geeks name children: A unique identifier or anonymity?
  • Stalkers and geoinformation
  • Perceptions of security
  • Giving out your phone number and address, and personal boundaries
  • Airport security (background…)
  • Risk and expectations of risk
  • Death, religion, and the medical industry
  • Naming our podcast… something about blondes, apparently
  • Clueless marketeering from the Fabric nightclub in London
  • The repercussions of having a blog that people think is influential (even if you don’t think it is)

Let us know what you liked and didn’t like! View Suw’s post about this podcast.

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Posted in Connected Life, Travels | Tagged airports, airportsecurity, Anecdotes, Audio, blogging, Blogosphere Interest, boundaries, cats, children, city, conversation, death, geek, geotagging, influence, internet, IRC, london, marketing, medicine, naming, nicknames, Online Culture, perception, Photos/Videos/Audio Online, Podcast, privacy, religion, risk, sanfrancisco, screennames, security, stephaniebooth, suw, suwcharman, Theories, Travels, wii | 9 Comments

Inde spirituelle ou matérialiste?

[en] India's materialism is not anything new. If you dig into vedic religion, it's centred on sacrifices and actions more than interior spirituality. That side of Indian religious expression came about later. As for Gandhi, I think it's important to keep in mind that his background includes connections to the Theosophical Society, and that his philosophy is therefore not a pure traditional product of Indian thought.

J’écoute en ce moment à la radio une émission sur l’infanticide féminin, en Inde entre autres. Sujet et émissions intéressants, mais à l’instant, quelque chose qui me fait bondir. Parlant de la dot, l’intervenante (dont je n’ai pas bien compris le nom) nous dit que l’Inde moderne devient en effet matérialiste, tournant le dos à ses idéaux spirituels du passé, et même à la philosophie de Gandhi.

Holà. Primo, si on va creuser dans la religion védique, c’est une religion du rituel et de l’acte, et non pas de la “spiritualité intériorisée” au sens où nous l’entendons. Ça, c’est venu plus tard. On voit encore aujourd’hui cette primauté de l’action, lorsque vous trouvez des gens qui pratiquent consciencieusement les puja ou qui passent au temple faire des offrandes, sans pour autant croire à l’existence des dieux.

Mais bon, c’est pour dire que l’importance du matériel en Inde n’a rien de nouveau, et que la spiritualisation de l’Inde est entre autres grandement due à son intéraction avec l’Occident. On y voit plus d’expression religieuse, mais cela ne veut pas dire que les gens sont plus spirituels que chez nous, où la religion est une affaire privée et souvent avec peu de manifestations extérieures.

Quant à Gandhi, souvenons-nous de l’influence qu’a eue sur lui la Société Théosophique, et que les valeurs qu’il a prônées (totalement indépendamment de leur valeur) ne sont donc pas un pur produit traditionnel indien.

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Posted in Stuff that doesn't fit | Tagged babies, birth, dot, dowry, femmes, gandhi, girls, inde, india, infanticide, marriage, materialism, matérialisme, misconceptions, modern, moderne, occident, religion, selection, sociététhéosophique, spiritualité, spirituality, Theories, theosophicalsociety, théosophie, veda, vedic, védique, women | Leave a comment