This U.S. Uncut piece by Kenneth Lipp reports on comments by Pope Francis on the refugee crisis. Pope Francis notes that one of the most egregious sins in the gospels, against which Jesus preached constantly, is hypocrisy. 

The very essence of the Christian gospel rests, not upon opposing abortion, dictating who can marry whom, rejecting science or reason, or securing property rights for the affluent. The heart of the gospel rests upon the ethical injunction to care for the least of these: "For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me... Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me' Matthew 25: 42-45. 

When we close our hearts and our borders to those who are fleeing oppression and death, warfare and certain destruction, who are simply trying to find some semblance of stability in which to care for themselves and their children... there is no other way to say it - we are refusing that injunction, the defining core of Jesus's teaching. And to profess the name of Christ with the lips, while rejecting this injunction with one's actions (or with a nation's actions), is hypocrisy. 

I don't care what stripe of Christianity one espouses, Pope Francis is indisputably correct. 

Today marks the one-year anniversary of my mother’s death, and this day more saliently and painfully echoes many others before it. I could not enumerate the times that I have felt intensely her absence since she passed – awakening from a dream of her, wanting to share a humorous story about my children, wishing to hear her laugh. I emerge from an oneiric conversation, or make a mental note to tell her something the next time she calls, and suddenly, I am once more brought face to face with the reality of her absence. Her death once again washes over me.

Death, particularly of someone as fundamental to one’s identity as a mother, constitutes a tremendous paradox, and plays a continually paradoxical role in our lives. On the one hand, death is an absence – negation, privation, lack, a nothing. As the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus said, ‘Death… the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and when death is come, we are not. It is nothing then, either to the living or the dead…’ For Epicurus, since ‘bad’ and ‘good’ are decided according to our experiential frame of reference, and since ‘death’ entails the dissolution of our frame of reference, it can be neither good or bad; it is, in the truest sense, a nothing.

Strictly speaking, Epicurus might very well be right. But the tricky part lies in the on the other hand part. Death may be an absence, but it is experienced as the absence of a presence, an absence with a face – spectrally manifesting in our dreams, memories, and expectations. While it might be nothing to the dead, it is a nothing that is felt, experienced, endured, by the living. The living forever abide in the experience of that nothing, in the presence of that absence. We cohabitate with that solitude. In Augustine’s reflections on the loss of his mother in Confessions, he describes ‘a fresh wound wrought through the sudden wrench of that most sweet and dear custom of living together.’ Today, the wound is once more fresh. I miss you, Karen Sue. 

Through the course of this presidential election, there was a great deal of discussion in the public sphere about the problem of 'radical Islam,' and in particular, about the left's persistent refusal to refer to violent jihadism as 'radical Islam'. The idea behind this criticism is that the failure to appropriately name a problem amounts to an inability to combat said problem. In one of the Republican primary debates, noted wordsmith and melting-butter-sculpture impersonator Ted Cruz doltishly quipped: "Political correctness is killing people." And one of Donald Trump's favorite go-to critiques of Hillary was that she wouldn't use the words, 'radical Islam,' (long after she, to her discredit, used the term). So let's consider briefly the problem with using the language of 'radical Islam' as a synonym for violent jihadism. 

"Art is the great stimulus to life: how could it be thought purposeless, aimless, l'art pour l'art?" 
 - Friedrich Nietzsche, The Twilight of the Idols (1889)

Here's an interesting piece by Spinoza scholar Steven Nadler about the importance of Spinoza in today's world.


More than any other philosopher of his time (or most since), Spinoza's is a philosophy concerned from beginning to end with the question of freedom. His analyses of the mechanisms by which people can be compelled to 'fight for their servitude as if for salvation...' are no less relevant today than they were in 17th century Europe. This servitude assumes myriad forms - superstition, ignorance, nationalism, indifference, racism, sexism, religious prejudice, cisgender normativity, resentment, and fear of every stripe. His work from beginning to end concerns the human liberation from the sway of the 'sad passions,' in the direction of becoming truly 'active' individuals. Little wonder that philosophers as politically radical as Deleuze and Guattari would say of Spinoza's Ethics that it is 'the great book of the BwO [Body without organs]' (A Thousand Plateaus, p. 153).

The author, David Andrew Stoler, argues that the figure of the zombie embodies the human fear of