Beauty

 

  Last weekend while discussing politics in general and the (then) up coming Iowa caucuses in particular a friend offered that President Obama is a Moslem.  I didn’t know which response should come first: who cares or no he’s not.

I guess it is elementally a case of an evolutionarily natural wariness of the ‘other’, but isn’t the internecine conflict between and amongst the three closely related Abrahamic religions crazy?  Obviously Islam would not be the subject of so much attention but for Bin Laden et al.  But, uh, Hitler was born into a Catholic family.

And was confirmed, and sang in a choir in a monastery.  Stalin was born Eastern Orthodox and attended seminary.  Stalin became an atheist and Hitler sort of backgrounded his own religion, but, still, why don’t horrors perpetrated by Christian soldiers come up in polite conversation while recent violent jihads do?

One’s personal belief system aside, we all have amongst our friends observant Christians, Jews, and Moslems.  And there is beauty in each tradition.  The case in point: in Arabic the word for beauty, virtue, and goodness is the same.  Thus in the Muslim mind they are not separate concepts.

On NPR’s fascinating “On Being”** the prominent Muslim scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr said that “There is a very deep nexus between beauty and happiness.  And happy is the person who realizes inner beauty.  And ugliness in Arabic also means evil.”

On the same program were other clerics including the Dalai Lama who said: “One of my Muslim friend explained to me one interpretation of Jihad, not only sort of attack on other, but real meaning is combative attack your own wrongdoing or negativities.”  To which Dr. Nasr responded: “The greater Jihad, the bigger Jihad, is to combat your own negative forces within you.  Yes, yes.”

And back here in the caucuses was the struggle to appear to be the least tolerant – xenophobic even.   A leader in the current issue of the Economist reads re runner-up Santorum: “Now is the time for consenting adults to lock their bedroom doors”.

Jeesh.  On this subject therapist James Hollis writes***: “One oppresses what one fears.  Fear is responsible for the oppression of women and gay bashing, the latter most notably by young men insecure in their own psychological reality”.

Scratch the New Year’s resolution in my last post.  Jihad!

*The Arabic calligraphy above reads: “God loves beauty”

**Show broadcast Sunday January 1, 2012

***What Matters Most,Gotham, 2010

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