Monday, March 26, 2012

Book Review: ‘The Coming Revolution’

No, it’s not the American Civil War. It’s not even the Whiskey Rebellion. According to Richard G. Lee, America’s Second Revolution is happening now. Or at least was happening back when the 2010 election results held promise for many political conservatives and the Tea Party movement was at the height of its popularity.

Many books on current events are outdated by the time they go into print. Lee’s The Coming Revolution is one of them. What might have been a dozen short blog posts has been stretched into 200 pages of some of the most unoriginal thoughts ever written. Lee is a product of the Cold War, evident by his anti-communist paranoia. He’d have kids today believe that the “Marxism” (he means Stalinist communism) and the “Soviet Union” (no, I’m not kidding) are the greatest threats to America’s future. And he wants to fight them by praising America’s better days.

The Coming Revolution: Signs from America’s Past That Signal Out Nation’s Future is not the take-action book it claims to be. Lee spends about 80% of the book gushing over America’s grand narrative, covering no more than any of my grade school textbooks. He never misses an opportunity to brag about his role in bringing on the current Second Revolution, yet if anything, recent events proves just what a poor prophet he is.

The question running through my mind is, why was this book even written? (Well, I’m also wondering why I volunteered to review it.) Lee is an avid opponent of violent revolution, something that he even tries to write out of America’s revolutionary history. He connects that response with anarchism, socialism, and the Occupy Wall Street movement. Instead, he promotes a peaceful overthrow of the old order and installation of a new one…by angry people, no less. As a self-proclaimed leader of the Second Revolution, he can only advise his readers to continue to do exactly what they’ve done all their lives: vote, hold leaders accountable, and stay politically engaged – things that haven’t brought significant changes in the long run. If Lee wants to be a leader of his new revolution, he needs to offer new strategies before he’s replaced or loses the war.

I review for BookSneeze®A copy of this book was provided by BookSneeze free of charge for review on this blog.

Novel Homeschoolers: 'When Sparrows Fall'


I kicked the romance novel reading habit by the time I graduated college and haven’t been interested in them since, save as a mere academic curiosity. But when I noticed homeschool historian Milton Gaither’s review on a recently published Christian romance novel, I thought I’ve give the genre another try. Homeschool mother Meg Moseley, the author of When Sparrows Fall: A Novel, cited influences such as Hillary McFarland, who’s controversial blog and book Quivering Daughters: Hope and Healing for the Daughters of Patriarchy made plenty of waves within the Christian homeschool community. I was curious how Moseley would tackle the oppressive cult problem while coming out in the end strong for Christianity and home education.

When most of us think of homeschooling cults, the effect on daughters comes to mind. When Sparrows Fall: A Novel, instead, is about a mother, someone with whom the author might more closely identify. Burdened with a guilty past, widow Miranda Hanford desperately seeks freedom from the clutches of cult leader Mason Chandler. When an accident places her and her six children under the care of her dead husband’s half-brother Jack, Miranda has to learn how to trust a liberal outsider and take control over her life.

Like the worst of fiction (both “Christian” and “secular”), Moseley’s suffers from an epidemic use of deus ex machine (“god out of the machine”). The heroine’s conflict and its timely resolution are brought about providentially rather than through any deliberate action on her part. The reader is expected to believe that Miranda didn’t try to commit suicide, even though everything points to it. The reader is also expected to believe that the no-nonsense sheriff’s office suddenly and without reason becomes sympathetic and willing to side-step the law to save time. Apparently, even the friendly, neighborhood country lawmen are corrupt.

The plot has other problems too. When Miranda tries to inspire her fellow sheep to break free from the wolf shepherd, it’s as if everyone’s programmed to suddenly see the light. As many women who’ve had real cult experiences have written, there’s often a lot of conflict between members of the congregation as they try to justify the leader’s behavior and reach their own conclusions about the situation. I believe that’s what Moseley was trying to show in her book, but it didn’t come out that way. Instead she trivializes how difficult it actually is for people to get out of the subservient cult mindset, and she preserves family units (e.g., spouses join sides with each other, children join sides with parents), rather than showing the type of alienation many suffer when challenging cult authorities.

The characters collectively are a bit wooden with occasional spouts of personality. Most of the time, they seem to be parroting their lines off a script. Miranda is almost bi-polar, convincingly torn between her old puritanical self and her new rebellious one. Her children’s childish antics are genuine. I’m sure a lot of mothers reading the book will get a good laugh from a number of the scenes. Jack, however, is unbelievable in a really bad way. An objective researcher, he’s able to come to all of the “right” conclusions about Christianity and homeschooling, relying on the Internet to tell him what’s “normal” rather than what he sees firsthand in Miranda’s household. Unrealistic to say the least. And that’s not the last of Jack’s problems.

The male lead is a tenure-track professor with graduate students who’s hounded at work as if he’s a desperate adjunct lecturer. His lady boss, Farnsworth, is so badly stereotyped, I can tell you she’s a white, feminist BabyBoomer who doesn’t show up for office hours with her students. Forget the uncomfortable hint of incest. What woman in her right mind would want a hen-pecked anti-social bachelor who couldn’t even man up and rescue her at the end of the book? It just goes to convince me that Jack is Miranda’s “rebound man.” As soon as her health and household are back in order, she’ll find someone else to kiss. And unless you’re still intrigued by Moseley’s plot, I suggest you find another book read.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Thoughts on Al-Qur’ān

Juz' of Qur'an (Egypt, 1438-1453), LACMA (Public Domain) 
While in my early mid-twenties, I attended a speaking event that was hosted by an Islamic mosque and a Christian organization. The Christians who attended each received a copy of the Qur’an (translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali), while the Muslims each were given a copy of the New Testament. Despite everyone insisting that the books were “for reference,” I’m quite sure that both sides viewed this exchange as an opportunity to proselytize the other side. I appreciated the gift as a reference tool, useful for looking up passages quoted in the books I was reading, but I never attempted to read my Qur’an until nearly three years ago. And I finally finished it earlier this week.

The Qur’an is not an easy book to understand, even though each surah reads as if it were concise and complete. I was a little surprised how little content was devoted to religious practices, but perhaps that’s what the hadith is for. I also was surprised at how boring I found the book, since it’s generally the topic of heated conversation. If I were to summarize the book, I would say that it’s most like Revelation, the Apocalypse, a text devoted to eschatology. The Qur’an informs the reader what will occur in what Christians would call the “end times,” when the Resurrection of the dead occurs, and offers instructions on what is necessary to receive final reward and avoid final punishment for deeds done on earth. One thing that stood out to me from the text is the fact the Qur’an seems to self-interpret its “end times” statements as literal. However, there doesn’t seem to be any hint as to when to time the “inevitable event.”

While reading Surat Al-Wāqi`ah (Surah 56), a Meccan or early surah, I immediately made a connection with the “Final Judgment” described in Matthew 25:31-46. Jesus Christ tells of His glorious return, sitting on a heavenly throne and separating the “sheep” from the “goats.” Surah 56 (links A, B, & C) also tells of mankind being divided after the Resurrection. In that case, there are three classes: the Companions of the Right/Right Hand, the Companions of the Left/Left Hand, and the Foremost in Faith. In both texts, those on the right are rewarded while those on the left are punished. In the Qur’an those places of reward and punishment are actually in the right and left positions, while Jesus Christ sends those on the left away to eternal destruction and leads those on the right to Paradise (Matt. 25: 34, 41, & 46).

However, the most glaring contrast is the third position: the Foremost in Faith. The Qur’an has reserved for them the “Gardens of Bliss” that are “Nearest to Allah” and even their own thrones (ayah 11, 12, & 15). Maybe there’s a connection with the promises made to Jesus’ disciples: that twelve thrones upon which they would judge the twelve tribes of Israel awaited those of them who remained faithful (Matt. 19:28). Yes, the text does mention special rewards reserved for those who’ve given up everything to follow Christ (cf. Matt. 19:27-30, Mark 10:28-31, Luke 18:26-30), but the Bible is rather vague on the matter. Jesus continues teaching the disciples with the parable about the hired day laborers who receive the same pay even though they were hired at different times (Matt. 20:1-16). The point of this passage is that we can expect God to give us exactly what He promises us (v. 13), and we’re not to complain when He shows generosity to others (v. 15). The clear implication of this passage is that there will be some who’ve given up less who’ll receive the same reward as those who give up more.

While the Gospel tells us not to expect more, the Qur’an explicitly promises special honors to those who were generous towards the needy and obeyed God (link C)…in other words, people who would be just included among the many other “sheep” (Matt. 25:35-40). This leaves two impressions on my mind: First, Muslims might take comfort in the belief that, even if they cannot make the cut to be in the “foremost” class, they can at least enjoy the benefits of being a part of the “right” (sort of a parasitic nobility, honored but essentially useless from a spiritual perspective). Second and related, Muslims might feel as though they must be guaranteed extra benefits in exchange for their good deeds. In other words, there must be an extra incentive to alter their behavior if they’re going to sacrifice their time and money and even their lives in holy jihad. God, however, expects us to do what is required, because it is right, and not for expected benefit. So, while the Qur’an provides an easy out for those who don’t practice righteousness (the “right”), the Gospel relegates the same people to eternal destruction (the “left”) (Matt. 25:42-45).

Helpful References:
A. The Meanings Of The Holy Qur'an by Abdullah Yusufali Ali (English translation)
B. Qur’ān (English translation)
C. The Meaning of Quran: In Text with Advance Search by S. Abul A'la Moududi (English translation with commentary)
D. The Hadith Library
E. Internet Sacred Text Archive

1. The Qur’an Translation by Abdullah Yusufali Ali (English translation)
2. HarperCollins Study Quran (whenever they get around to publishing it)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review of ‘Bully’: If You Can’t Handle It, Why Do You Expect Kids To?

Bullying on IRFE by Diego Grez (2007, Wikipedia)
I rarely make general film recommendations, but Bully will have to be one. Yesterday, the Newport Beach Film Festival and the Orange County Film Society hosted a screening of what promised to be one of the most important documentary films made this year. Sitting in the historic Regent Lido Theater, one thing kept running through my mind: How can “mandatory reporters” like school administers, teachers, and bus drivers ignore the student-on-student abuse that goes on right under their noses?

The filmmakers of Bully caused a big upset when the MPAA slapped an R rating on their film. But the positive effect is that this film’s content can’t be ignored. Censored language and violence would just perpetuate the myth that bullying is temporary, normal behavior within the public school system, and nothing to get paranoid about. I appreciated the opportunity to see and hear what real children suffer each day. Their parents are frustrated by their children’s continued withdraw from the world and by the school and law-enforcement’s constant refusal to address the situation. Teachers, counselors, and principals make the behavior acceptable with weak punishments for the perpetrators and their own style of bullying victims into accepting false apologies and excuses.

What was extremely troubling was seeing how devalued these children’s lives really were. Day after day, they get punched in the head, pushed into walls, stabbed with pencils, and verbally abused. I’m not talking about “just” calling someone names. These kids say things that would raise the hairs on the back of your neck. When one repeatedly-tormented girl (from my grandfather’s birth county, actually) took matters into her own hands, the local sheriff charged her with numerous counts of kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon. Apparently, no amount of verbal abuse and threats against one’s person justifies self-defense in the eyes of the law. When parents, teachers, and the police don’t make an effort to protect children, then they’re essentially sending the same message as the bullies: “Go hang yourself.”

I going to come out and order you, dear reader, to see Bully. And be prepared to cry. It’s not a perfectly made film, since the hidden and hand-held cameras method guarantees cinematographic and production issues, such as bouncy footage (I’m sure that’s the proper term!). There are a few sound balancing problems, but I thought the editing was good. Unfortunately, the ending was a huge disappointment. Everyone, including the after-movie panel participants, seems to expect kids to collectively rise above and against this social problem. If adults won’t stop abuse within their gangs for fear of retribution, if adults won’t stop the oppression of other people out of fear of the police and state, why should adults expect kids to stand up for each other against an enemy that been proven unbeatable? Bullying continues to remain a problem, not because the child victims and bystanders tolerate it, but because adults do.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Look at National Caffeine Awareness Month

Until about six months ago, I wasn’t really aware of the adverse effects caffeine was having on my health. Some family members had experienced side effects over the past few years, but I seemed to be immune. Caffeine in any form didn’t even keep me awake most of the time, and my lifelong love affair with Pepsi Cola was still growing strong.

At some point, however, I began to experience headaches, especially when consuming cola at night. So cutting down my intake started to look like a good idea. My weight fell a bit, in the process, making me rethink attributing the weight gains I’d made in my late twenties solely to a lack of exercise. And I discovered that carbonated soft drinks were taking a toll on my teeth.

With problems like that staring me in the face, I gave in and cut back. Proof that I wasn’t truely addicted might be the fact that I was able to do so quite efficiently. And in honor of National Caffeine Awareness Month (March), here are three tactics that helped:
  • Drinking cola shouldn’t be the highlight of my day. Diet is all about one’s mindset. Like a child eating her last meal, I wanted to consume as much as possible, a hold over from the days when my parents restricted my diet. I’ve noticed this is true for others, be it for snacks, desserts, fast food, and even regular healthy stuff. Blame it on the “super-sized” American cultures. I just reprioritized.
  • Maximize utility. I really didn’t like other colas, considering them poor Pepsi substitutes. However, I’d naturally order Coke when Pepsi products weren’t available. So my solution was to cut out non-Pepsi colas (e.g., Coke) out of my diet completely, choosing an alternative non-cola drink when at a restaurant with a Coca-Cola contract.
  • Switch to fruit juice. I’m not a big fan of fruity flavors, especially when it comes to drinks. (I refuse to touch grape, cherry, and orange sodas!) After a few dead ends, my health-conscious chiropractor baby sister finally found a fruit juice that wasn’t too sugary for me. The organic Honest Kids Super Fruit Punch is about the only thing that doesn’t taste to me like the terrible stuff they’d serve at church potlucks when I was a kid. A.k.a. “red paint.” So now I have a sugary alternative to consume at home, and I’m getting more servings of fruit now too.

And, yes, I wrote this while drinking a can of Pepsi.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Thoughts on Ruth

The Cotton Pickers (Winslow Homer, 1876), LACMA (Public Domain) 
Previously, I discussed what I consider to be one of the most important but greatly ignored themes in Ruth in “Sometimes a Woman's Got to Do What a Woman's Got to Do,” which connected the Ruth 3 scene with Hosea 9:1’s statement about prostitute’s wages on the threshing floors. For my reading last year, however, I turned my attention to what might be called the “Tamar Problem.”

As many of you know, as a teen, I was taught the perspective of Tylerite Christian Reconstructionism, a theonomist movement that looked to the Mosaic Law for guidance on how to create a perfect society, God’s millennial kingdom here on earth. The belief is that, rather than following basic ideas such as “Love thy neighbor” from the Bible and applying common sense to real life situations, Christians need to follow the case law down to the jot and tittle. Of course, this view is not immune to debate. Proponents aren’t in agreement on how to divide the Pentateuch into “judicial law,” “moral law,” and “ceremonial law,” nor can they settle on how to appropriately reinterpret ancient codes for today’s cultures, political systems, and economies. Both are key to deciding which specific laws Christians should place themselves under to usher in a believer’s utopia.

Unfortunately for Christians who hold this view, it’s clear that following the law doesn’t guarantee that everything will go smoothly. Case in point: the apocryphal story of Susanna, in which an innocent woman is legally condemned by the testimony of two witnesses. What’s missing from the discussion is the human element. “Doing the right thing” cannot and will not guarantee perfect results, something clearly lost on most advocates of Christian dating, courtship, and betrothal and the wait-and-be-content doctrine. There are too many variables in life for formulaic-driven orthopraxy.

The story of Ruth illustrates this problem. In 1:11-13, Naomi wisely informs her daughters-in-law that it was unrealistic to expect customary levirate marriages (c.f. Deuteronomy 25:5-10) when she’s too old to bare any more sons.*Perhaps she was thinking of Judah’s daughter-in-law Tamar patiently waiting out the best years of her life for a third husband to grow up after his older brothers incurred the wrath of God (Genesis 38). Orpah and Ruth had no foreseeable future with Naomi, save relying on the kindness and charity of strangers (Ruth 2). The system would work as stated, when two brothers, men old enough to testify in public, lived in the same household at the same time, but was extremely inefficient when applied on a more general scale.

Now, for spiritual reasons unknown to us, Ruth chose to stay with her mother-in-law, despite the unlikely prospect of ever finding a husband. Perhaps she, like the girl in Winslow Homer’s The Cotton Pickers, looked up from gleaning and asked herself, “Is there anything more to life than this?” Or maybe she was too intently focused on her immediate survival. Yet Naomi remained dissatisfied with the arrangement, instead preferring to scheme Ruth a way out of the endless drudgery of field work (Ruth 3:1), and Ruth complied by chasing a man who technically wasn’t supposed to be her target. Rather than the happy ending coming “because of” a flawless “kinsman redeemer” system, it might make more sense to say that, through God’s grace towards a pagan woman, everything worked out in the end “in spite of” it.

*Oddly enough, to do this, Naomi probably would’ve had to marry Boaz or the other relative.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Novel Homeschoolers: ‘Amy HodgePodge: All Mixed Up!’

It’s about time I got around to reviewing this book. Maybe a year or so ago, I stumbled across the Amy HodgePodge children’s book series (2008) while browsing the gift shop at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. The cover clearly advertised what book one was about: a black girl and a white girl picking on a mixed girl. Gee, where was stuff like this when I was eight?

Multiethnic and tri-racial, shy Amy Hodges has to adjust as both the new girl in town and as an ex-homeschooler now attending Emerson Charter School. Unlike Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) in Mean Girls (2004), Amy is shunned by her more popular classmates for looking a bit strange. With the help of some cool new friends – other strange-looking outcasts – Amy builds self-confidence.

The outcast’s experience is something of a theme with black author Kim Wayans, who also played the part of a concerned religious mother in the drama Pariah (2011), a story about the “coming out” of a lesbian teen. It’s unclear whether Wayans work at all reflects her personal experiences, reactions to her interracial marriage with white co-author Kevin Knotts.

From a homeschooling perspective, too much about the story was left unsaid. Amy insists on attending school, but it’s never made clear why. Feelings of claustrophobia? Desire to socialize with kids her age? Boredom? We’re never told. And I was puzzled as to why her parents chose to homeschool in the first place. I was purposely sheltered from the cruel racist world, and I’ve met many mixed kids who’ve voiced opinion that they wish they’d been home educated as well. If this was Amy’s parents’ reason, I would’ve expected them to be more sensitive to the bullying and isolation she experienced at school.

From a race perspective, it was nice that Amy presents the readers with details about her family in such a matter-of-fact way. That’s how I remember life being for me: I was normal, the default setting. It was the other kids who were abnormal, until I was informed otherwise, as Amy is by her rude classmates. It’s rather difficult to believe that such a racially-integrated crowd could be so intolerant. Back in the 1980s, I was snubbed by more racially-homogenous groups of black, white, and Hispanic kids. Amy of the 21st century is snubbed by a blond singer and her backup, one black girl and one Asian girl. Yes, there are people of every race who decry miscegenation but promote living together as God’s children in harmony, but that’s the kind of attitude that I’ve found more often in adults. Racially-aware children tend to gravitate towards those who are more like themselves, and that means mixed kids often have an advantage over the pure bred “Other.”

Despite being teased, Amy cherishes her heritage. This is what I appreciated most about All Mixed Up!: the heroine doesn’t feel as though she has to choose from among a long list of possible identities. She’s comfortable being Japanese, Korean, African American, and white…all at the same time. Unfortunately, in the actual narrative, her English Hodges-ness takes a back seat. The authors never mention her paternal grandfather or white ethnic heritage, which is likely also mixed. However, I’ll postpone judgment on that point since I haven’t read the rest of the series.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Adventures in the Bayou State, Part I

View of thunderclouds from the hotel's eighth floor.
After a short stopover in Houston, yesterday, Thursday, March 10, 2010, I arrived in Baton Rouge with my sister Heather and other members of the West Coast Taekwondo school. I don’t mind Louisiana. The problem is getting there. I had to laugh when I overheard a couple behind me about the lab rat vibes they were getting wandering through the security line at the Ontario airport. With a stomach-churning long descent to George Bush International and a bumpy propeller-plane ride to Baton Rouge, I was glad to finally arrive at the hotel.

The Renaissance gives full meaning to the term “eclectic” decor. Furniture and artwork regardless of style – country, traditional, contemporary – blend together so naturally. The colors produce a much warmer look than is typical of hotel lobbies. And whose idea was it to paint a Creole dictionary on the bathroom wall?

Conveniently located close by is the Mall of Louisiana, where everyone spent the evening “exploring.” For dinner, I tasted the Caribbean Jerk Chicken sandwich with French bread at the Voo Doo BBQ & Grill. Oddly enough, the chicken was rather bland. The BBQ sauce, however, was scorching spicy hot. Later for dessert, I had Chocolate Swiss ice cream mixed with M&Ms at the Marble Slab Creamery. A local kid behind me in line told me to get the “Superman” flavor. Luckily, they don’t sell that one. No, I’m not much of an adventurous eater, but I try.

Mall carousel.
Before heading back to the hotel, the kids – and I’m using the term loosely, of course – took a spin on the old-fashioned carousel. This morning, my sister and I had some “sister time” and ate breakfast at the 24-hour Waffle House. I plan to do some sightseeing later. Everyone else will be preparing for the Taekwondo United tournament.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Economics of Arabian Nights: Forward

At first glance, the Forward to The Arabian Nights might seem irrelevant to our task at hand: To find and analyze the behavior of the characters from an economic perspective. However, this short introduction does provide some food for thought.

An author* generally operates in a monopolistic competitive market. The competitive part holds because, like in the perfectly competitive market, there are no or few barriers to entry. For example, in the United States, you don’t need a license or degree to legally conduct business as an author, unlike a taxicab driver or a physician. Anyone who gets an idea can write.

When there’s a lot of competition, each author has little market power or control over price. If one author’s book is significantly more expensive than a similar one by another author, then the first author will likely lose sales. However, there’s a way to prevent this from happening: creating an aura of having a monopoly.

“Branding,” or creating a unique product in the minds of consumers, will allow an author to exercise greater control over the price. His book might be more expensive, but his reputation as being an award-winning author or a celebrity endorsement will make it stand out from the rest. Like Pepsi and Coke, it doesn’t matter if his book really is better than a competitor’s, the author just hopes the public will think so.

So it should come as no surprise that the Forward to our text flatters the reader (“honorable gentlemen and noble readers” and “people of distinction”) and praises the author’s work (“this agreeable and entertaining book” and “splendid biographies”). The author is conducting a medieval ad campaign, hoping that it will set his work apart from the other books available.

Part of his success lies in his ability to create incentives for the public to read his book. He does this by appealing to both the practical and the pleasure-loving. He promises education and learning (“highly edifying histories and excellent lessons,” “opportunity to learn,” and “teaching [the reader] to detect deception and to protect himself from it”). Parents, seeing the opportunity to increase their children’s human capital (skills and education), would likely race to obtain the latest edition.

For those who don’t like spending their leisure time learning, however, the author promises quality entertainment (it will “delight and divert”). Real live people enjoy stories just as much as the fictitious characters, human and non-human, who narrate and listen in the book. And producing a good story has made the author’s work a continuing success.

Conclusion: To increase consumer loyalty and exercise some control over price, a producer must convince buyers of his product’s unique ability to satisfy their needs and wants.

*Since The Arabian Nights is a compilation of stories with different cultural origins that were woven together into the familiar tale we have today, “compiler” or “editor” (or the plural forms) might be more appropriate. For simplicity though, “author” will be used here.

Note: “The Economics of Arabian Nights: Forward” was originally posted as “Forward” on Monday, September 6, 2010 on The Economics of Arabian Nights, my economics blog that has now been discontinued, along with The Economics of Canterbury Tales. Both series will be continued here.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Look at Spiritual Awareness Month

March has been designated as, among other things, Spiritual Awareness Month. Makes sense. The equinox marks the arrival of spring, traditionally seen as a time of rebirth for nature. It’s associated, along with April, with important religious holidays (e.g., Lent, Passion Week, Passover, Easter), and also holds meaning for modern pagans as much as it did ancient ones. As a “special month,” March has an opportunity to become sort of a pan-religious holiday, one during which “spirituality” in general, rather than one particular organized religion, can be celebrated. I suppose contemporary spirituality advocates like Deepak Chopra would approve.

It’s not evident what Americans are supposed to do to honor this month. Commune with nature? Read spiritually-uplifting self-help books? Listen to American Indian pan flutes or Tibetan chant? Visit a day spa? (That’s my vote!) In keeping with the inclusiveness theme, not only is spirituality left undefined, but everyone is free to decide what is needed to make them as individuals more spiritual. Unlike, say, Black History Month, there’s no prescribed lesson plan handed down by curriculum developers. Because it’s anarchic, with everyone doing his own thing, we are limited on our ability to have a corporate religious experience. Perhaps that’s why Spiritual Awareness Month was created in the first place. As a shared time of spiritual renewal, it’s forming a new organized religion.