John Rao: Pandemic reaction is a ‘horrifying illustration’ of the ‘diabolical disorientation’ accompanying ravages of modernity

The respected Catholic historian John Rao has written the following incisive reflection on the coronavirus pandemic which places much of the current disturbing situation in context. For many years, Dr. Rao, who is associate professor of history at St. John's University in New York City, has run the Roman Forum which was founded in 1968 by Professor Dietrich von Hildebrand as a means of defending Catholic doctrine and culture following internal Church disputes over Humanae vitae. These lectures, which now take place in Gardone, Italy, and New York City, have become increasingly popular. The Forum is now in its 28th year. ...

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SOTT FOCUS: Ethics and Fundamental Values in Times of Corona

When it comes to the so-called Corona crisis, everyone seems to be talking about numbers. Isn't the virus not much worse than the flu? If so, why didn't we have a lockdown during the flu season? And even if Covid-19 is worse - aren't the lockdown measures actually killing more people than the virus itself? While these are valid and important arguments, they still operate on a simplistic utilitarian understanding of ethics: it's all about calculating the best outcome, counting the dead, maximizing humanity's well-being by weighing one thing (the virus) against another (the measures). The dispute is just about the variables. But I think most of us who are critical of the current madness feel it in our bones that there is something deeply wrong here, and it has little to do with the numbers. Suppose that this virus...

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Notions of freedom

We are living in strange times indeed, this crisis raises many questions about the nature of freedom and what our expectations are, or should be. Everyone has their own notions about what freedom means and how far that should extend to oneself and indeed, to everyone else. I want to start with a look at where we've come from before I look at where we are now, as I feel it gives a better understanding of our definitions of freedom and a better context for viewing where we are, at this moment in time. Society probably started with the tribe - maybe not even having a leader if the numbers were small enough, say 10 people. Tribes of scores or more obviously became hard to manage and so, undoubtedly, this led to the idea of a leader or a group...

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SOTT FOCUS: MindMatters: Sufism: An Introduction To Its Meaning And Purpose

Over the past few decades a large amount of the Western public's attention has been drawn to Islam in the form of fundamentalist belief and practice. This movement, and its effects on the Muslim community and Middle Eastern societies in particular, has proved nothing short of disastrous for many. But what is largely unknown to most is the inner tradition, wisdom and philosophy known as Sufism; what some consider to be the 'mystical' dimension of Islam. Through the poems of Rumi, the writings of Ibn Arabi, and analysis by academics like Prof. William C. Chittick we come to learn that Sufism - as it was inspired and conceived - laid out a cosmology for individuals that sought to help individuals grow 'spirituality' through the rigorous use of their minds. This week on MindMatters we discuss several ideas central to Sufism:...

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Defining emotions: The importance of addressing our feelings with clarity

The language we use to describe the the way we feel can shape our emotions and mental well-being. With an uncertain timeline for shelter-in-place and higher baseline anxiety levels across populations, it's become harder than ever to find a straightforward answer to the simple question: "how are you?" While many of us tend to respond with an all-encompassing, "Things are crazy right now," or "I'm doing okay," psychologists recommend being as honest as possible — at least for our own sake if not for others'. According to Mark Miller — a Mindful USC coordinator, clinical psychologist and avid meditator of 25 years — accurately identifying our emotions can help us understand what we're experiencing. "When we're able to label and know what we're experiencing, then we objectify the experience a little bit," said Miller. "It's still our experience, right? We're...

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