International Women’s Day: Temple-Song-Hearts music group and more


BETA VERSION
What can one say after such beautiful music? Except that it helps explain why I write in favour of freedom of religion and religious tolerance, because only when these things flourish can we enjoy the fruits. Here, the fruits are beautiful music and a presentation filled with light by women who come from different countries across a borderless Europe. But did you notice what language they are singing in? The language is Bengali, which was Sri Chinmoy’s mother tongue.

When the world is at peace and there is freedom of movement, people are free to gather what they find beautiful and meaningful from the world’s cultures, to create something uniquely their own. What wonderful music with which to celebrate International Women’s Day! Continue reading

More About Me

cambodian-boatman-by-michael-howardThis personal blog is happily not about me and my daily life, but about things that fascinate and inspire me — including music, poetry, art, and spirituality. It’s also about finding time to laugh out loud at Britcoms, and speak up for truth on subjects that surely demand truth.

Still, I hope the reader would learn something about me from the way I write about the artist Picasso, or Chinese female vocalist Chyi Yu, or the tragic attack on Charlie Hebdo.

When I first started this blog in September 2014, I wondered if anyone would even read it, and whether I’d find the words to express my thoughts and feelings on issues I’ve subsequently tackled. As I limbered up the writing apparatus, I also narrowed down the focus and zeroed in on issues that are personally important to me, such as religious freedom. Continue reading

Better Reporting on Religious and Ethnic Minorities

Tips for journalists on overcoming false balance, rejecting hate material, and making sense of moral panics

Introduction

As someone who’s been familiar with Sri Chinmoy and the Peace Run for three decades, I’ve noticed that press coverage varies widely in reliability and accuracy. Here are some tips for journalists covering religious and ethnic minorities. These tips also apply to Sri Chinmoy, the Peace Run, and related entities (some of which are secular, but are inspired by spiritual beliefs).

Note: Many people would to be quick to point out differences between “religious” and “spiritual” — with “religious” perhaps connoting dogma and ritual, and “spiritual” suggesting a personal quest for meaning. Yet, there is a continuum between the two, and in this article the terms are used somewhat interchangeably.

Near the end, I include a list of resources which I find helpful in understanding Sri Chinmoy and the Peace Run.

The problem of false balance

I greatly respect journalists and journalism, and know there are practical reasons why some journalists don’t get a story quite right. There are time pressures, and difficulties making sense of an unfamiliar subject. Particularly if the story is considered low priority, there’s always the temptation to simply cut-and-paste material from the Internet, or to invoke a familiar meme rather than doing careful research. There’s also the problem of “false balance.” Rem Rieder writes:

No matter what the news media’s many critics believe, most journalists endeavor to be fair, to give both sides rather than choose sides. In that effort, there’s a tendency to print what someone says, print what the other side says and call it a day.

The trouble is, there isn’t always equal merit on both sides. So, in instances where one side is largely fact-based, and the other is spouting obvious nonsense, treating both sides equally isn’t balanced. It’s misleading.

Often journalists are reluctant to state the conclusions that stem from their reporting, out of the concern that they will appear partisan or biased. But just laying out both positions without going further in an effort to establish the truth can create [false balance]. And that doesn’t do much good for the readers and the viewers.

Journalism isn’t stenography. It’s not treating everything the same when it’s not the same. It’s about giving citizens information about public affairs that is as accurate as possible.

— Rem Rieder, “The danger of false balance in journalism,” USA Today

Continue reading

Ketan Tamm Memorial

Remembering the life of a gifted actor-director, restaurateur, but above all spiritual seeker

Introduction

One of the curious things about our present-day world with its emphasis on the secular and the material is that when people make spiritual choices it’s almost as if they’ve fallen off the edge of the earth. They seemingly no longer exist to people who only measure secular activity. They become unpersons, particularly to hardline anti-cultists.

How strange that people whose days are filled with activities and whose lives are filled with meaning are simply written off as “lost” by those who take an extreme worldly view. Yet, when people make spiritual choices, they continue to breathe oxygen, to eat food and drink water, to plan and dream, to care for others and be cared for. That they do these things in a broader context of service to God or pursuit of spiritual enlightenment does not lessen their humanity.

When Ketan Goldman Tamm passed away in March 2014, it marked the end of a life filled with activity and service. He ran the Panorama of My Silence-Heart Café, which offered more than lattes and loving-kindness: it became a hub of community activity. According to reviewer Julia Lofaso:

Events held there have ranged from community board meetings, elementary school class plays and meatless barbecues to demonstrations by local raw food devotees, performances by Brazilian opera singers and a dramatic President’s Day reading of writings by the founding fathers. Local musicians come to play at Panorama’s recurring Edible Jam while listeners partake in a tasting menu of desserts, all of which feature jam. And, of course, there’s always a chance that [Guinness record holder Ashrita Furman] will walk in and start snapping celery stalks in half or cracking eggs against his forehead in rapid succession.

Ketan was first and foremost a spiritual seeker. Before settling down to run the Panorama Café, he traveled the globe, arranging meetings and events for his teacher, Sri Chinmoy, with the goal of inspiring a more harmonious world. Ketan also loved theatre, and enjoyed directing and acting in plays.

Ketan doing his roadwork with the World Harmony Run, on the island of Jamaica, 2005

Ketan doing his roadwork with the World Harmony Run, on the island of Jamaica, 2005

A poster for the play "Siddhartha Becomes The Buddha" which Ketan directed at the Bleeker Street Theater in 2010

A poster for the play “Siddhartha Becomes The Buddha” which Ketan directed at the Bleeker Street Theater in 2010

The Buddha character from Ketan's play

The Buddha character from Ketan’s play

Because Ketan was very devoted to the spiritual life, his closest friends and family were those who shared his spiritual interest and remained true. This is how his friends and family at Sri Chinmoy Centre remembered him.
—– Continue reading

False Salon Story: What was said at the time

Collecting good rebuttals to bad journalism

I previously blew the whistle on blogger Edwin Lyngar and his agent Elizabeth Kracht for planting a false story in Salon libeling the late meditation teacher and humanitarian Sri Chinmoy (1931-2007). I analyzed the false Salon story in relation to a false story (on a different subject) appearing in Rolling Stone. (See “Can Salon Learn From Rolling Stone’s Mistakes? Part 1.”)

I’ve recently been beating the bushes, making a nuisance of myself, trying to track down what people said at the time in rebuttal to Salon. I remembered people wrote some good things, but realized they were scattered in different places and somewhat difficult to access. So I hope no one minds that I’ve collated what different people said and presented it in a single blog post, where the whole may be greater than the sum of the parts. The purpose is to resolve a matter of public concern. Continue reading

Can Salon Learn From Rolling Stone’s Mistakes? Part 1

The Rolling Stone/UVA debacle was preventable but not unique. Salon had a similar breakdown in early 2014, likewise due to somnolent editors and fabulist sources, plus a hidden element of corruption.

Continue reading