Saturday, March 31, 2012

teach naked

Nelson [Humboldt] spent the summer after graduation back [home], painting houses and fantasizing hopefully about the next few years of his life. Gallaher had painted an idyllic picture of his own grad school days, living in a Quonset hut in East Lansing, Michigan, writing his master's thesis on a card table at one end of the room while his wife and kids watched Your Show of Shows at the other. As a going-away present, he had given Nelson a handsome slip-covered edition of Aristotle. This would give him a head start on his literary theory seminar, Gallagher said, and Nelson spent the summer reading it cover to cover, his hands smelling of turpentine.

But on his first day as a graduate student, at the very first meeting of Introduction to Literary Theory, his instructor--a gaunt and entirely hairless man in severe wire rims, a jacket of herringbone tweed, and a white roll-neck sweater--lifted a paperback edition of Aristotle with two fingers and set it on fire with a silvery Zippo. He dropped it in a wastebasket without a word and watched it burn, and when Nelson got up and opened a window to let out the smoke, he spun with a sharp, jerking motion and barked at Nelson to sit down.

"Don't touch that, you!" the professor said, in a vaguely Gallic accent; and then, to everyone, "I want you all to smell that. I want it to penetrate to the back of your nostrils. By the end of the term I want that smell to come to you even in your sleep, to be as familiar to you as the stink of your own pale, oozing bodies."

This struck Nelson as a little extreme on a September morning in Indiana.

"For some of you," the professor went on, "I will be an intellectual terroriste, striking brutally"--and here he lunged at a young woman in the front row, who cringed and clutched her notebook to her bosom--"ruthlessly and without warning at the foundation of every you hold dear. But for those of you with the rigor and the intellectual humility to submit to my will, I will be your guerilla chieftain, teaching you, disciplining you, driving you with a terrible love to do things you did not think possible. Some of you will not survive." He fixed Nelson with a fearsome glare, his merciless eyes huge behind his lenses. "But some of you I will lead out of the hills and down into the burning metropole."

He lifted the wastebasket. Aristotle was still smoldering.

"This is just the first step," he said. "We will have to destroy literary theory in order to save it."

Thus Nelson discovered that no one was doing close reading anymore. The professor called himself Jean-Claude Evangeline. Even his colleagues were uncertain of his provenance, although they hadn't examined his vita any further than the College de France, which was good enough for them. His one published volume, Les Mortifications, a book as dense and impenetrable as the man himself, was dedicated equally mysteriously to "Ma belle guerriere!" His English was flawlessly idiomatic, but was he French? Flemish? Quebecois? Those of his colleagues who envied his cultural cachet and his hypnotic hold over graduate students mimicked his accent behind his back and compared him to Pepe LePew.

...Nelson himself felt as though he had passed through the looking glass. An innocent and self-evident remark in Evangeline's class about Conrad's jumbled chronologies raised snorts of derision from his classmates. A severe young woman from the Indian subcontinent addressed Nelson without looking at him, telling him painfully, in a posh imperial accent, that Conrad's racisim was the starting point for any discussion of his work.

"Read Edward Said," she added, in a curt postcolonial sotto voce.

Evangeline himself cut Nelson not un millimetre of slack. In his first paper, Nelson manfully tackled Nietzsche, the earliest theorist Professor Evangeline was willing to sanction, and the professor handed the paper back with a failing grade and only one comment; on the first page he'd circled the word "literature" in blood-red felt tip and written in the margin: "When I see this word, I reach for my revolver."

Thus, Nelson's first lesson in graduate school was to keep his mouth shut.
--from The Lecturer's Tale by James Hynes

this is from an interesting comic horror novel I've started reading about an academic whose reattached finger begins to assert his will on everyone around him, a sort of postmodernest revision of faustus or of what faustus would have liked to accomplish. hynes also wrote the collection publish and perish back in the 90s, and I really enjoyed those stories. as with many young literary men--or in this case, middleaged literary men--this story may have autobiographical detail, particularly the above, but I reproduce it not because it reflects my own grad experience--far from it--but because I heard similar stories from many classmates and remember the bloodshot and baggy-lidded eyes of other students, so that I often wondered at my own abilities to avoid such enforced workaholism. for me, grad school and then teaching was mostly fun, and the few times it became insufferable were distinctly because of my own tendencies for procrastinating (which of course I am loathe to give up).

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

afghanistan & florida

I’m not always in agreement with the writer Glenn Greenwald but he recently published an essay on that broaches the subject how we look broadly and long for reasons that someone on “our side”—in this instance, SSgt Robert Bales—can do something indefensible while parroting official explanations like “they hate our freedom” or “they’re simply terrorists” for indefensible actions taken by the “other side” that I find spot on. There is something in the American mold, and I don’t think it’s only white Americans but something in the makeup of Americans, that must look for a rationale for atrocities committed by an American. I remember similar soul-searching done when Wayne Williams was found out and John Allen Muhammed and Jeffrey Weisse. As Greenwald puts it, “There is…a desperate need to believe that when an American engages in acts of violence…there must be some underlying mental or emotional cause that makes it sensible, something other than an act of pure hatred or Evil.”

Similarly, we have been inundated with a series of explanations and rationales for why George Zimmerman—who may self-identify as Hispanic—shot Trayvon Martin to death nearly a month ago. It is as if, if there is any explanation that can be found why a grown man in a car with a handgun should feel intimidated by a young man he has sought out and who is holding candy, iced tea, and a cell phone, we will find it. Our need for explanation beyond malevolence extends beyond official representatives of American policy, like soldiers, to people who consider themselves as such, like Zimmerman, who captained a neighborhood watch that consisted of him alone.

This is a charged political climate where one Republican presidential candidate has been openly accused of espousing racism in his newsletters, where another makes the laughable claim that the people he meant to insult were “blah” rather than “black,” and where nearly all of them have used coded racial language. In such a climate it’s impossible to ignore the ramifications that such a killing and its immediate aftermath—the acceptance by police of Zimmerman’s insistence that he acted in self-defense, the unwillingness of that same department to investigate the incident any further, to test Zimmerman for substances, or to revoke his gun license—suggest that in America, or at least in this particular gated community, there are two different, unequal legal codes that law enforcement follows. We may discover, although this is becoming less likely the more information about him and about the department, that the faith local police put in Zimmerman’s word is justified. But unlike the incident in Afghanistan it will be because “our side” has been examined minutely. While Zimmerman, and Bales, deserves a presumption of innocence for their motives, there should be no assumption there will be a lack of consequences.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

rethinking his writing

like many others, I've had little but condescension for the columnist frank bruni who is, by my lights, a 3rd-tier frank rich and furlongs behind russel baker, both of whose coveted sunday real estate he is parked on at the nytimes opinion pages. that said, this piece is really, really well done. it's nuanced, apologetic without being obsequious, and at the close, when I expected an unearned "awww," a good kick in the teeth. reading bruni could become the columnist version of the reason I watch law & order: svu each week. it is generally hackwork with some good turns of phrase but more often misinformation and inexplicable human behavior and once in a while really, really well done.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

wrong number, right caller

I got another call from brooklyn tonight.

about 3 years ago, I started getting calls from a 718 number. I tend not to answer my cell phone if I don't recognize the number calling and this caller called for several weeks before he left a message. when I listened to it it was so faint I could barely make out what was being said and had to listen 3 times before I understood. it was the voice of a very old man asking if jerry would return his call.

I didn't like to leave this old fellow hanging so I called the number back. the same wheezy old voice answered and I tried to explain to him that I didn't know who he was trying to reach but he had the wrong telephone number. he seemed unable to understand and I had the impression I was talking with someone with very white hair sticking out at odd angles from his head, wrinkled face like his face had nearly dried up, and arthritic clawed hands.

finally he gave the phone to someone younger and female who asked who I was. I explained the wrong number to her and she apologized. she said her uncle likes to talk with her brother and usually waits for her to call for him but sometimes he takes his own initiative and he gets the number wrong. I said that was okay, no harm done.

the calls continued, maybe every couple months, for another year and a half. he never left another message and I never bothered to answer. it was just a semi-regular thing: my cell would ring, I'd look down and see the 718 number on the screen, and I'd let it roll into voicemail. I presume that he realized his mistake once he heard a different voice.

but my wife is in california visiting a friend so when the phone rang I answered it, assuming it was her, without pausing to look at the screen. I said, "hi," in the way I say that to her, and in return heard a very weak wheeze say, "can I please speak with jerry?" I said, "I'm sorry, there's no one here by that name" and he said, "oh, I'm sorry," and hung up.

it wasn't until after that I realized it had been nearly a year since I've last gotten a 718 call. and it wasn't until I'd realized that I also realized how glad I am to know the old man is still alive.

Friday, March 23, 2012

I think I've figured it out

I cut my teeth on late 60s and early 70s comics and I still like to settle in for a while in a bookstore and read several graphic novels covertocover when I have the time. but I've come to be more and more disturbed lately by what I see, and today I think I've come to realize what the cause of that disillusionment is.

they simply are no longer realistic.

many people have noted the incredible violence being perpetrated in comics in the past decade--rapes, beheadings, fists through faces, cannibalism, that sort of thing--and that isn't so much the realistic punch that many of us readers back in what they've come to call the bronze age of comics were hoping for when we cried out that comics lacked realism. after all, we had characters who quit, who were strung out on horse, who killed villains. it was often done as if it was the only way to deal honestly with these issues, but also with an air of trepidation and sometimes coyness, almost in a sweet way.

but now we are given hyperrealistic deaths of tens, dozens, hundreds, sometimes thousands of people at a time. and almost no one is punished for it.

I'm not arguing for a return to the comic code sort of justice in which the evildoer must come to bad ends. but consider: we've told creators and companies that we want realism and grittiness and dark, dark stories where the bad guys win at least as often as the good guys. and that's not what I'm arguing against because frankly I like that. it strikes me that kickass is a more realistic comic story than batman.

but if comic stories reflected the world that we live in no murderous villain would appear more than 2ce, 3 times tops. in a conceit where the joker kills dozens of civilians and cops each time he escapes or where an ultimate (intended specifically to be a more realistic universe) green goblin slaughters multiple dozens of highly trained secret agents, both of these characters in any reality we would recognize would be executed formally or secretly shortly after being taken into custody.

we live in a reality in which a 3 strikes law requires that a person stealing a slice of pizza is given a life sentence; in which 34 states have death penalties and there are 41 separate federal crimes for which someone can be executed; in which the only ways that people like slobodon milosovich or augusto pinochet (in many ways our realities supervillains) can escape life sentences are by playing out the length of judicial rope they are allowed until they die of natural causes; or in which people like jeffrey dahmer are themselves murdered by other prisoners. that the batman would put the joker back in prison or a psychward each time (after he murdered his own partner!) without himself taking vengeance or the state stepping in and putting him to death obviates the refusal by comic writers to take their own concepts seriously. there is no reason readers ought to either.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

tuesday night with becky and terry

usually I have a class in zen buddhism on tuesday eves, but this is reading week, which in any other academic class is called spring break, but never mind. so when I saw on monday's facebook that a couple friends of mine were reading together in mankato, on the far southern rim, I decided I would head down.

terry davis was 1 of my writing teachers when I was a grad student. he's best known for the novel vision quest which left a big impression on a lot of young men at the tail end of my generation. he is the friend who smacked his head on a cement floor doing something stupid, and my favorite terry story now is how the surgeon who operated on his brain came by his room after he'd woken from his coma to introduce himself. he said he had stopped mid-operation to stare down at his hands. he was holding the brain of the author of vision quest, the novel that the surgeon, a former high school and college wrestler, had been greatly influenced by. such moments of the closeness of our lives are rare and need to be paid attention to.

becky davis and I were teaching assistants together many decades ago and she's been good enough to visit some of my classes to discuss writing. in 1 contemporary lit class at mcnally smith several years ago I taught her novel jake riley: irreperably damaged and she came to talk about it. we've stayed in touch over the decades and a few years ago realized with a start that we were the only 2 members of a novel-reading seminar we took in the early 90s still alive.

the 2 of them contributed to a new anthology called girl meets boy, the trick to which is that 2 writers handle the same relationship story from the male and female perspectives. becky had written a short story called "mars at night" and terry offered to reprise the story from the young man's point of view. the reading was really well-attended--probably 35 or 40 people showing up for listening and questions and books, some of them writers themselves (mostly of young adult work, which is how terry and becky are both marketed by their publishers). I was disappointed that no one I'd known from my years in mankato was there since many of them are still there, but as my wife reminded me, just because I'd been able to make it didn't mean any of them could. besides, I hadn't let anyone know I was coming. I like just showing up at these things. it is less constraining; if the reader is free afterward for a beer, all to the good. if not, no harm.

anyway, the reading was really quite good on its own. becky started with a short discourse on how she'd come to write the original story and why and then read the 1st few pages. then terry talked a little about his recent brain surgery as a way of preparing everyone for his probable crying. a part of his illness is being treated but another part, his bipolar disorder, is not, and he cries when overwhelmed by emotion. he cried several times. it is a hard way to be naked in front of strangers and he was brave about it.

he read a couple funny pages about roadkill and dogs (not dogs that are roadkill, the 2 subjects are connected only by proximity) and about the male protagonist "apu"-ing all over the place (leading to my favorite word from the book, "bangla-dog!"). they took questions about writing together and editing the pieces, and at 1 point, to sort of put the truth to his point about having lost some memory, terry asked becky if she'd written the original story while they'd still been married. "no," she said, "we were divorced by then." "oh. that's why so much of it seemed so unfamiliar to me." theirs is a wonderful, friendly relationship: when terry had been in a coma, it was becky and her family who had picked up terry's son and daughter from the airport and becky's other ex-husband who'd put them up in rochester while terry was hospitalized. it was, in fact, while terry had been hospitalized that the 2 of them had made plans to do the reading together, as a way of giving him something to look forward to.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

sunday sermon in willmar

this past weekend I drove to willmar, mn, twice as far on the west side of the hub as we are from the east, directly into lakes and woods and beaver ponds next to the road. I was asked back in november to speak at the uu church there and to sermonize on a uniquely uu subject. I gave my sermon about prayer and somehow it didn't feel right.

by that I don't mean the sermon itself didn't feel right, although I may not have been feeling as good in delivering it as I have in the past. the sermon itself is unaffected but I've heard that the feelings of the sermonizer can affect the way an audience experiences it, and it might be that that's what I felt. I was excited about the sermon--I think it's a good one that I enjoy reading to people--and I felt pretty good about the circumstances of being in willmar where I was surrounded by lakes and trees and the building itself, a century-old former xian science church, was beautiful and old-smelling and comfortable. that day's attendance was smaller than I'd expected, about 25, but that's a larger turnout than I usually got at menomonie and there were several kids and a teen there too. but I was on the younger end of the age spectrum, a couple young families there, and a single woman attendee I'd hoped to have the chance to speak with as she sat forward in the last pew the whole time in that stance of great interest people have when they're surprised.

but something didn't seem right, whatever that might mean, and I'm not certain why. I arrived about 6 the previous evening at a home where a lovely woman named mary lou was kind enough to put me up, and she'd invited several members over to dine with us. the night was spent talking about uu denomination and local congregation matters and birds and gardening and gazing at jupiter and mars and venus in the sky above eagle lake and drinking red wine--I drank red beer--and when I finally crawled into bed at 10 to read and play scrabble by phone with my wife, I was tired in a good, at-rest way and slept the sleep of the just plain tired.

on the drive there I'd stopped to wander at a park in waverly named for local son hubert humphrey and that was fine. I was relaxed into my seat, listening to the radio and watching the sun go down ahead of me so it seemed as if I was heading into it, a sensation I always loved when I lived in my vehicle and retain. in other words, all the very subjective events pointed toward a wonderful sense of peace and oneness as well as a sense of having made an effective appearance. still, I could not help, immediately after the service and on the drive home, feeling as if I'd spoken with my zipper open or unknowingly wearing an offensive t-shirt (and as I'd had to point out to my wife, I'd worn a nice black oxford and black jeans with black sneakers and my colorful robert bly vest at the pulpit and not the raggy baggy pants and hawaiian shirt I arrived home in). nothing was said and no one acted oddly but there was something decidedly off in my appraisal of my appearance. perhaps it is true, that we are our worst critics, even when we don't know of anything to criticize.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

saturdays in the sun

walking in the woods on a beautiful saturday morning, as today, reminds me of wandering the woods on beautiful saturday mornings in the past, specifically the woods outside new paltz in the 80s and 90s, when it was still possible to walk in unaccosted for money. you were expected to pay money, of course, but locals knew where the boundaries to the park were the most porous, and back then it was unlikely that anyone who even smelled official would stop you since, well, who's to say you hadn't bought a daypass but lost it? later, after I had married again, I would walk into these places with our little black dog and a book and strip down and immerse myself in cold spring pools and read until the day turned too dark to read and too cold to sit.

but in my febrile imagination the real reason was that no one could be faulted for wandering anywhere for free on gorgeous days when the most important thing in the world was to be alive and moving in the sun and over rocks and moss and dipping into pools of water. no one, I imagined then, could begrudge someone a walk in the sun. it is still possible, of course, to do this, but as of my last couple visits to the area, not through the same old places. I presume the current locals have places to sneak through, but I couldn't blame them for not sharing them with old farts from 30 years before.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

freedom means the right to say hurtful things

I've spent a week coming to terms with this subject. all the mishigas that's been thrown at obama since his inauguration--the posters and the comments and rush limbaugh playing "barack the magic negro"--has always struck me as a uniquely american prejudicial reaction to a situation the people making the comments can't deal with. I haven't been unaware of the ratcheting up of conflict between ultraorthodox and the increasingly more secular israeli government. but the almost casual use of neonazi symbology, spoken and visual, is new to me.

if making hitler accusations were only by younger israelis who have only glancing contact with actual victims of nazis, that could be almost understandable, at least from the perspective of terms being used for emotional value. but to shout "nazi!" and use swastikas in a nation where 200,000 holocaust survivors, presumably many of them grandparents and aunts and uncles, goes beyond simple shock value into the arena of oedipal conflict.

but I'm not comfortable either with outlawing their use. doing so is the social equivalent of telling your rebelling teen he can't swear and usually has about the same outcome. I'm not a free speech purist--it's wrong to shout "fire!" in a crowded building even if the place is on fire, and I don't care how much evidence you might have amassed, the world is not run by jews--but I have to agree with the statement on the israeli civil rights website, that "freedom of expression means the right to say difficult things that even might be hurtful." in the u.s. this can mean letting neonazis march in skokie where a lot of holocaust survivors settled after release or letting the phelps family protest at military funerals. the activities aren't comfortable situations and in fact spit in the faces of their targets. similarly, rush limbaugh's calling an otherwise unknown law student a slut should be as allowed as the choice of his advertisers to drop his show. but if freedom of speech means anything it means allowing offensive things to be said (but as seen in the case of limbaugh also means there ought to be consequences). but I don't think the consequences should be legal.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

open doors: time among the abrahamics

Holy Time Among the Abrahamics

It’s often been said, or more exactly complained, about contemporary peoples that we worship money. At least a part of that is true. But if there’s a more certain thing most individuals worship it’s time.

Time, of course, is money. We watch the clock, keeping track of lost time. We take offense when someone wastes our time or if he or she fails to value our time. Most human records of achievement focus on the amount of time it takes to do something. We tell someone hurrying to take his time. We ask for time to figure things out, if we have time to spare. Retirement
is when we’ll have all the time in the world. We make pledges to one another to the end of time, or at least until time runs out.

Emile Durkheim describes this common, secular sense of time

The individual lives in time, and…has a certain sense of temporal orientation. He is situated at a determined point in space, and …all sensations [he feels] have something special about them. He has a feeling of resemblances: similar representations are brought together and the new representation formed by their union has a sort of generic character. We also have the sensation of a certain regularity in the order of the succession of phenomena…(480-1)

In other words, the experience of time, while it takes on a characteristic individuality, relies on
a common experience outside the individual for its grounding.

The three Abrahamic religions, Judaism and its descendents Christianity and Islam,
however, share a concept of time outside this regular or ordinary, secular understanding of time. The Greek term for this “breakthrough of the eternal into history” (Tillich 534), is kairos.
Kairos, Paul Tillich writes, “means time, the right time, the qualitative time in contrast to chronos, clock time, quantitative time…[Kairos] is a biblical idea attached in particular to the…messages of John the Baptist and Jesus and to Paul’s interpretation of history” (534). The nearest Hebrew equivalent to kairos would seem to be zeman “season” as it’s used in
Ecclesiastes 3:1 ( Monford Harris claims that

Jewish existence has always been characterized by a sense of time and history…its celebrations
have always been historically oriented…This historical consciousness must have been deeply rooted in the life situation of the Israelites. It did not come about by intellectual fiat or
by contemplating alternatives to the archaic mentality. (2-3)

This concept of zeman or of holy time is connected via explicit means to Sabbath, the covenantal time of the Jews (and hence to Christians and Muslims) during which rest is the
means for contemplating and celebrating God. “Sabbath has been celebrated for the most part in Exile because much of Jewish experience has been spent in Exile” (9). While its roots are ancient, zeman is not simply an anachronism in the modern world. In her book focusing on a contemporary New York Hasidic family, Lis Harris quotes one of the daughters as living “from one Shabbos to the next…I look forward to it all week. We almost always have three or four guests…In the last month we’ve had people show up from England, Iran, and South Africa;
the door is never closed. It’s totally unlike what I was used to growing up…I didn’t really understand what the Sabbath was about; no one ever talked about it” (55). Later, Harris clarifies, “If [Jews] live in a kind of perpetual Biblical present, in which the events of their everyday lives
are constantly being linked to their spiritual past, their rebbes have traditionally been the guides who have interpreted the interconnectedness of the two” (76).

Tillich credits the Pauline writer with the shift from zeman to kairos:

[The] appearance of Jesus as the Christ…happened in one special moment of history when
everything was ready for it to happen…Paul speaks of the kairos in describing the feeling that the time was ripe, mature, or prepared…There are things that happen when the right time, the kairos, has not yet come. Kairos is the time which indicates that something has happened which makes an action possible or impossible. We all experience moments in our lives when we feel that now is the right time to do something, now we are mature enough, now we can make the decision. This is the kairos. It was in this sense that Paul and the early church spoke of…the right time for the coming of the Christ. (1)

This concept of kairos is so fundamental to what would become Christianity that Hoyt Hickman titles his subsection about it “Time is Important,” and emphasizes, “Christianity takes time seriously” (16). Hickman continues,

Christianity talks not of salvation in general but…accomplished by specific actions of God
at definite times and places…of climactic events and a finale…In the fullness of time, God invades our history, assumes our flesh, heals, teaches, and eats with sinners…Christian worship uses time as one of its basic structures. Our present time becomes the occasion of encounter with God’s acts in time past and future. Salvation…is a reality based on temporal events through which God comes to us. (16)

This experience of God coming to us is also Sabbath. But Giorgio Agamben points
out an inherent paradox to the Pauline kairos. “Paul decomposes the messianic event in two
times: resurrection and parousia, the second coming of Jesus at the end of time. That’s why theologians define the Pauline conception of redemption as an already and a not yet: the messianic event has already happened, salvation is already accomplished, and yet, in order to be really achieved, it needs a supplementary time” (6). In explaining one solution to this paradox Agamben refers to Franz Kafka’s assurance that, “The Messiah will come only when he is no longer necessary; he will come only on the day after his arrival; he will come, not on the last day, but on the very last”, and quotes Walter Benjamin that “every instant can be the little door through which the messiah enters” (7).

In reminding us that “In our new cosmic story, time is irreversible, genuine novelty results through the interplay of chance and law, and the future is open” (105), Sallie McFague in presenting a dynamic universe still in flux reminds us of the Muslim, and specifically Sufi, term waqt “the present moment,” which “reflects…time not as a linear sequence of units of a measured duration, but as an existential, vertical moment…characterized by a strong emotional response to an inner experience” (Sviri 18). Sara Sviri illustrates waqt through a Rumi poem.

At the time when in the company of that selected group I began to meditate,
Stepping out of myself,
The soul got rid of all time that turns youth into age.
All change arises out of time:
He who gets rid of time gets rid of change.
Oh, my heart, for a while be out of time, get rid of change.
Oh, my heart, for a while be out of time to be free from “how” and “why.”
Time does not know the nature of Timelessness,
Because only wonder can lead to it.

Sviri explains: “For the mystic…Life’s goal becomes simply this: to return to the very beginning…to return to the dawn of the existence, to return to the Source of Being, to return home” (127, emphasis in original).

Huseyin Algul explains that during waqt, what he calls their “blessed days and night,”
“Muslims…evaluate their actions in their social life, and they have the chance to renew or change their behavior. From time to time, human beings undergo a process of change; in such a situation, it is important to ensure that the direction…is toward what is positive, beneficial, or appropriate. In this way, the blessed days and nights open a door toward positive change, enabling one to overcome life’s obstacles more easily and to gain easier access to the road to
success” (4). These blessed days and nights are, in effect, Sabbaths spread across the panoply of the Islamic calendar.

Perhaps reflective of McFague’s dynamic universe still in process, the Islamic year is based entirely on lunar observations, sometimes locally observable, sometimes globally, so that a year, and hence time itself, often mistaken as static, fluctuates. On a Muslim’s Sabbath, “Worship includes the environment and everyday life, as well as other forms of worship, like prayer, fasting, paying alms, pilgrimage, and sacrifice; worship makes a whole…At the same time, each [Sabbath] is an opportunity to take stock of one’s relationships with one’s children and relatives” (4-5).

It is in this reflection and potential improvement that the concepts of zeman, kairos, and waqt come together as a way of explaining the Abrahamic emphasis for allowing the open door of covenantal time to make its impact on the individual. Through the physical inactivity of Sabbath God’s presence can be felt and there is the opportunity to be at peace with that which is on the other side of the open door.

· Agamben, Giorgio. 2002. “The Time that is Left.” Epoche. Volume 7, Issue 1.
· Algul, Huseyin. 2005. The Blessed Days and Nights of the Islamic Year. Jane L. Kandur,
translator. Somerset, New Jersey; The Light, Inc.
· Blue Letter Bible. 2012. “The Preacher Solomon - Ecclesiastes 3 - (NIV - New International Version).” Blue Letter Bible. 8 Mar 2012. Bible.cfm?b=Ecc&c=3&t=NIV >
· Durkheim, Emile. 1968. The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. Joseph Ward Swain, translator. New York; Free Press.
· Hickman, Hoyt, Don Saliers, Laurence Stookey, and James White. 1992. The New
Handbook of the Christian Year: Based on the Revised Common Lectionary. Nashville; Abingdon Press.
· Harris, Lis. 1985. Holy Days: The World of a Hasidic Family. New York; Summit Books.
· Harris, Monford. 1992. Exodus and Exile: The Structure of the Jewish Holidays. Minneapolis; Fortress Press.
· McFague, Sallie. 1993. The Body of God: An Ecological Theology. Minneapolis; Fortress Press.
· Sviri, Sara. 1997. The Taste of Hidden Things: Images on the Sufi Path. Inverness, California; The Golden Sufi Center.
· Tillich, Paul. 1968. A History of Christian Thought: From Its Judaic and Hellenistic Origins to Existentialism. Carl Braaten, editor. New York; Simon and Schuster.