Tag Archives: book reviews

disgrace of street preacher

0d380ebe-dcf9-11e8-9f04-38d397e6661cAll enthusiastic street preachers are alike; each passionate street preacher is passionate in his own fashion. One thing is certain that their fundamental guidance of street evangelization is simple and basic: that delivering the words of God incarnate in the bible is their sacred duty and responsible for the love of God. In fact, their authentic religious belief and conviction come straightly from the tenets of Reformation that advocated faith on the basis of the Scriptures alone. That said, Zealots they may be, but street preachers are not fire starters of civil disobedience or religious munchausens, forcing their religious convictions on passers-by. At least that had been a mores most civilized societies kept until a certain street preacher was arrested at a train station in London, England a month ago.

His name is Oluwole Ilesanmi, 64-year old peripatetic preacher who emigrated from Nigeria to England 9 years ago. Ilesanmi has travelled all over Britain, preaching what he believes at train stations where crowds of strangers ebb and flow without really paying attention to Ilesanmi and his words of God because well, for the reason that we commonly have when we come upon the likes of Ilesanmi. But on that unlucky day, Ilesanmi was abruptly arrested by the police because he was being “racist”. The beginning of his public disgrace was Ilesanmi’s disobliging reference to Islam in which he called Allah “idol”. What could have/should have been just an ordinary preaching day otherwise turned out to be his day on the pillory of public humiliation, so to speak,  because Ilesanmi was handcuffed in front of the crowd of people who suddenly paid attention to the preacher and then rudely bundled into a police car. Furthermore, the police then “de-arrested” him by taking him to a remote area five miles away on the outskirts of London without money into the bargain! The poor preacher was finally able to return home thanks to a generosity of a kindly elderly man who paid for his bus ticket to home. It was indeed a humiliating and disheartening experience for the 64-year old street preacher.

SnoopyimageThe police later said that Ilesanmi’s inappropriate remarks on Islam, such as “Idol” and “aberration,” were racial enough to apprehend the preacher. But it still does not seem to constitute any valid grounds of the mocking arrest of the preacher because he wasn’t clearly brandishing any weapon or even a banner in public to shout out racial slurs that would really make any passer-by of the target racial category feel threatened.  In other words, the police should intervene if someone is willfully intent upon harassing people with abusive words and physical intimidation. And Ilesanmi certainly wasn’t. Was he?

The over-reaction of the police seems buffoonish as if it were an episode of Monty Python. If the police intended to exemplify the Ilesanmi’s unfortunate episode for a textbook case of religious intolerance in public, then they were mistaken because it was exactly contrary to democracy, sovereignty of individuals, by which people have right to express what they think about and believe in unless they use willfully physical and mental violence/intimidation with malice to pontificate about it.  What’s more, it was truly shameful of the police to cavil at what the solitary elderly preacher was preaching and poke on him when his presence was part of everyday city landscape. And if by the reason of sheer annoyance or even carbuncles that the police showcased Ilesanmi’s public indignity, then it was their misuse of power and authority because Ilesanmi wasn’t forcing his belief on anyone because his street preaching was always subject to casual dismissal at one’s discretion by the dint of robotic inattention to anything religious anyway. For these reasons, I feel strongly that the police owe the street preacher an apology for the indignities he had to suffer for the day. 

Author’s Note: This essay is based upon my reading of an article “Arrest of Christian Preacher” by Tom Goodenough of the latest issue of “The Spectators” last night. What made me indignant about this article was that the police appeared to violate the old preacher’s dignity as well as his religious faith. Why did the police have to drop him off in the middle of nowhere without money? Did they think it as some sort of joke? It always seems to me that the authority and the powers- that- be like to hector the meek because they can’t touch or mess with the strong. So animalistic, that is. It shows that humans, despite the  intelligence and spirituality ascribed thereto, are not much different from the  other species in the Animal Kingdom. 

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pony express

Joe loves things Western: ranging from the rugged, restive beauty of mountains and vales to the legend of the ghost riders, to the saga of pony express, and the unforgettable Magnificent Seven. But above all the aforesaid, Joe is fascinated by the sprit of go-aheaditiveness conflated with unquenchable curiosity thanks much to his literary and cinematic proclivities for the history and culture of the West. In the spirit of a Pony Express Rider who used to deliver important mail from California to Missouri on a horse relay in the mid 19th century before the advent of transcontinental telegraphic network, Joe likes to run an errand for his customers in the town. So this video shows one of Joe’s regular routes that is always bustling with activities, businesses, and people, the wholesale picture of life in kaleidoscope that makes you realize you are not alone.

‘The Power Of Habit’, by Charles Duhigg – review

The Power Of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And BusinessThe Power Of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business by Charles Duhigg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

William Shakespeare’s convivial axiom of “A merry heart goes all the day” contains a profound secret of the power of the mind. It tallies with the tenets of quantum physics that consciousness is the foundation of the universe. Accordingly, the significance of willpower has always been the subject of philosophy, literature, and science because that is a prerogative of our humanness, our sovereign power and right of exercising the great faculty of mind to the extent possible, just as John Milton in Paradise Lost advised us: “Mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” Further back in the antiquity, Aristotle corroborated that habits reigned supreme in connection with our construction of reality: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” In the tradition of Milton’s existential observation of the mind and Aristotle’s epistemological truth about the power of the mind, Charles Duhigg in The Power of Habit propounds an auspicious argument that explains how habits are formed and how to discontinue bad habits based upon the scientific findings of the brain and factual evidence in lay terms.

In order to give the reader the importance of habit formations and its relation to the neurological functions of the brain and the physiological effects on the bodily functions, Duhigg first avers that subconscious mechanisms that impact the numerous choice that seem as if they were the products of sound logics are actually influenced by habits of thinking. This habit formation results from the evolutionary progress of the brain’s mechanism for saving efforts, so that we can stop thinking constantly and redundantly about basic behaviors to devote mental energy to inventing irrigation systems, letters, waterwheels, printing machines, and other technological artifacts.

Then how are these habit formations programmed in our brain? Duhigg provides the reader with the simple but potent secret of 3-step loop as follows: (1) Cue: a mental trigger that commands the brain to go into automatic response and which habit to use; (2) the routine: physical and mental response to outward stimuli; and (3) a reward: feedback from the brain to parse if this particular loop is worth the remembering for the future. It is also quite reassuring to learn that even the smallest shift in the routine stage can upend the pattern and that every habit is malleable and fixable, however complex it may seem. Once the entire loop is established through a steady period of time, the brain stops fully participating in decision-making, letting an action put in auto-pilot mode. Hence, a habit is born. This also means that we can take control of the loop if we learn to create new neurological routines to overpower our less desirable or undesirable habits as long as cues are present.

To illustrate, the case of Travis Leach is the most compelling and realistically substantive in proving the power of habit formations fueled by willpower. Leach dropped out of a high school aged 16, wasn’t mentally strong enough to withstand criticisms and indignities, resulting in his frequent changing of odds-and-ends jobs. Then goddess fortuna must have winked at Leach when he got a job as a barrister at a newly established Starbucks store that made him turn over a new leaf in life. At the age of 26, Leach became the manager of 2 Stabucks stores overseeing 40 employees. He never got upset by irate customers or felt utterly powerless in a drip of criticism due to the company’s education of empowering willpower to their new employees based upon the science of habit formations. To dismiss it as a tactful advertisement for Starbucks’s business umpire is to discredit Leach’s hard-won triumph of will over his sociological disadvantages and psychological scars as a result of his unhappy childhood.

Duhigg’s vastly informative and highly entertaining guide to the habit of success does not bestride a vox populi bestseller list of common self-help books. With his thorough research of evidentiary neurological impacts on habit formations and use of everyday examples thereof, Duhigg marshals his knowledge of the subject and willingness to help people in plain language that is accessible to the initiated and the uninitiated. He then delivers a burst of scintillating pep to the reader with steadfast belief that the right kind of habit formations supported by willpower will transform the raw material of the mind into its Excellency through a process as mysterious as a “caterpillar transforming mulberry leaves into silk,” as his like-minded intellectual Ralph Waldo Emerson agreed two centuries ago. This is not a self-help book per se, but a modern day version of Aristotelian principles of ethics examining the nature of and relations between virtue, the mean, pleasure, and happiness that can make your life different.

dead or alive

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They saw him struggling and being done. He seemed to stop breathing with no vital signs of being “alive and kicking” any longer. They saw it all, they thought him dead up there on the scaffold, suspended for 50 good minutes on a sturdy rope tied around his neck on one cold November afternoon of 1740. Then this presumably dead man came to life as soon as a penal surgeon put a surgical knife on the body laid on a slab for anatomical dissection. This really happened, and so it did. Hence the phrase, “Dead or Alive.” The subject of this incredible case was 16-year old William Duell, condemned for the rape and murder of a servant girl.

This incredible cheating of death spawned doubts on the effective way of enforcing deference value of the penal law, religious musing on a possibility of divine intervention, and dilemmas of what should be done with this resurrected convict. It was concluded that Duell was to be transported for life to North America discreetly lest his survival should stir up any public imbroglio that would result in a call for abolishment of execution by hanging deemed to be ineffectual and thus inoperative in enforcing authority of the capital code in society. Accordingly, there are no known records of Duell’s transportation to North America and his after-life therein. What a chance of life he was given despite his cardinal sin!

Then how did it all happen? It was due to a miracle of our human body that will make the reader’s head swivel in wonderment: the fact that the execution was carried out in cold winter increased Duell’s chance of survival because the brain must have triggered the body’s survival mechanisms when in traumatic comatose. That is, the body in its own biological defense against such trauma lets the brain reduce the temperature and keeps the heart and lungs alive by maintaining optimum oxygen levels to prevent major brain damage in a trauma, such as Duell’s being hanged in the winter cold.

It’s a cracking case of “Ripley’s Believe It or Not,”which is worth the knowing if the reader is keen on uncanny things. But then nothing is more wondrous than our own human form. To the agnostic skeptics, it’s science of the body that works a divine feat of miracle in the sense that it can fight back threats from the outside and even death, such as being manifested in Duell’s incredible dead-alive illustration. On the other hand, as not all hanged men did return to life, it would be supercilious to conclude that only science rules in this strangely curious case, for there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our modern rational mode of reasoning.

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notice of errata to the caveat emptor

George Mallory, a Himalayan mountain climber perishing on Mount Everest three decades before Sir Edmund Hillary reached the highest peak of the selfsame mountain, gave the simple reason for doing what seemed to be impossible to an inquisitive interviewer: “Because it’s there.” The answer echoes Leonardo Da Vinci’s axiom of “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” It also chimes the bell of my reason for writing: “Because it’s my pleasure.” It is what I like doing for the sheer egotistical practice and for the aesthetic pleasure expressed in my literary world. Hence, my blog is my library, a kind of the Mathom-House in the Shire, inhibited by Hobbits.

Here’s caveat emptor to using this library: (1) Frivolous subscriptions to a catalog of my writings without legitimate appreciation results in deletion; (2) Tramping by unidentified readers with fake accounts and cretin marketing websites to peep into the words of the mind is a violation of privacy; and (3) Whimsical changes of like and unlike of my writings for reasons clandestine are to be curbed. Since I do not write to cause a traffic jam in my statistics of posts, I don’t pursue a high number of the melee or rabble intent for awards or thousands of comments or fans for their “blogs”.

Writing is an act of translating one’s inner world into a textual reality in which others can pass over to the world of the author as members of Humanity. As William Wordsworth would have agreed, I fill my paper with the diamonds of my heart. Therefore, I write. Hence I deem it fit to conclude this post with the following axiom by C.S. Lewis: “You can make anything by writing.” Ditto.

P.S. One never learns. After I published this post, those lumpish ones kept following my Blog without even appreciating it. Woe to those who plague my sovereign library! Hark! I monitor my Blog every time I get notifications via e-mail and suss out the profiles of readers of my Blog. Deletions are, therefore, purely subject to my discretion. What else can I say? Albert Einstein speaks for myself: 

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”