"[This book] embodies the Buddhist wisdom about change, life, and the
world more than anything written after the events of that day."
Robert Stone

October 2010 Archives

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October 15, 2010


Anthony Whitaker, a reader of Watching the World Change, who says he had watched a YoutTube video of a talk I had given at the Google offices in New York, sent this arresting photograph from Ground Zero, which he claims to have taken and says is being sold to benefit the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

Photo by Anthony Whitaker

October 11, 2010


Last week I attended a debate at Manhattan’s 92nd Street Y between my friend and colleague Christopher Hitchens (author, Vanity Fair columnist, public intellectual extraordinaire) and Tariq Ramadan (the renowned Islamic scholar who, in 2004, under provisions of the Bush administration’s Patriot Act, was barred from entering the U.S. to lecture and teach at Notre Dame).

Their subject: “Is Islam a Religion of Peace?”

Hitchens; Ramadan

Several key observations stuck with me….

From Ramadan:
“The problem is not the book [the Koran]. The problem is the reader.”

“What is the wheel of God? Diversity.”

From Hitchens:
“Secularism is the only guarantee of freedom of religion… [For freedom of religion to flourish] you need a secular state with a godless Constitution like this one.”

[Apropos of the repressive tendency of absolutist states]: “Total. It’s the first five letters of the word 'totalitarianism.' ”

October 2, 2010


In the "A" section of today's New York Times Iranian Shiite firebrand Moktada al-Sadr is called "the self-exiled cleric," former Pakistan leader Pervez Musharraf vows to return to his native land from "a self-imposed exile" in London, and Syrian actress Nihad Alaeddin is described as emerging from "15 years of self-imposed seclusion." In all three cases I wonder if the self-described self-imposition of exile is a legitimate protest and an act of sacrifice or, in fact, a public posture of self-abnegation--adopting the trappings of martyrdom when what has really happened is that one's previous public actions have left one marginalized in the eyes of the ruling forces in their respective regimes.

...And speaking of exile, a new audiotape has just emerged, purportedly offering proclamations by al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden on climate change and the recent disastrous floods in Pakistan. What on earth has he ever done to help the blighted tribal areas? And what comes next? An Osama Twitter feed about the space program?