Ganesh Chaturthi

Ganesh Chaturthi, or Vinayaka Chaturthi, is a Hindu festival celebrating the birthday of the god, Ganesh. Ganesh is believed by followers to be the elephant-headed son of Lord Shiva, the god of destruction. This year, Ganesh Chaturthi will be observed on September 17th, when Hindus worldwide will celebrate by worshipping Lord Ganesha. Specifically, many participate in creating elaborate, life-size clay models of the elephant-headed god a few months prior to the festival. These clay models of Ganesha are then involved in prayer rituals during the celebration, as they are believed to embody the deity himself. On the eleventh day of the festival, the clay models are carried through the streets and dropped into a river to send Ganesh back to his home in the mountains of Kailash. This act is done to rid devotees of bad omens. Other aspects of the celebration involve preparing feasts and decorating the home. Hindus often pray to Ganesha at the beginning of an activity, as he is believed to be the remover of obstacles. For example, followers pray to Ganesha at the start of their prayer, in the mornings, and at the start of the school year. Wishing everyone a happy Ganesh Chaturthi this week!

– Snehaja Yadlapati

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Shubh Krishna Janmashtami at Emory

Shubh Krishna Janmashtami (Happy Janmashtami)! Krishna Janmashtami, also known as Gokulashtami, is the celebration of the birth of Krishna. Krishna is the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and is also known as Murali, Govinda, Gopala, and one hundred other names. Krishna Janmashtami is celebrated on the eighth day of the sixth month of the Hindu calendar. This year, that day will be Saturday, September 5. Hindus all across the world (and especially in India) celebrate Krishna Janmashtami by visiting temples and performing a wide range of rituals that vary depending on the region. In addition, many Hindus also fast on Krishna Janmashtami until midnight, when it is believed that Krishna was born. Two rituals unique to Krishna Janmashtami are Rasa lila and Dahi Handi. Rasa lila is a dance that depicts life of Krishna and is performed primarily in the cities of Mathura and Vrindavan, and in parts of the state of Manipur (in India). Dahi Handi is a ritual in which teams of men create human towers and pyramids in order to break a high-hanging pot of dahi (yogurt). The Dahi Handi ritual is performed across India, but is primarily performed in the state of Maharashtra and its capital city of Bombay. In the state of Tamil Nadu, floors are decorated with kolams, patterns made with rice batter, and footprints are drawn from the thresholds of houses to the temple. Shubh Krishna Janmashtami!

Vivek Sawhney

 

Religion: The Right to be More Than What We Are Alone

It should be an interesting few weeks in the news cycle. I imagine that this story will keep some folks up at night and others will sleep easier. Regardless of one’s opinion of the controversy, which side they take, or what they are willing to rally for the question we are going to have to wonder is, how far can religion itself carry the ball in the courts of the government. I am careful not to say the courts of the people since the people of the judicial branch, without public involvement, make the decisions on this subject.

The case of Kim Davis has continued on as the Kentucky woman refuses to perform her duties as a County Clerk. While claiming religious liberty she is gaining support of those whose values lie in their religious beliefs to a point that they would stand against perceived injustices from the government. At the same time those who support the Supreme Court Decision for right to equal marital opportunity are standing beside their own value system. What will happen by in large will be a conversation of ideas that talk past one another without much hearing going on. The case for religious liberty has the potential though to be more than a smattering of terse sayings and phrases shouted at the top of one’s lungs. Instead it stands as a bastion for two seemingly oppositional ideas to be heard in public by both sides and a dialogue pursued. While the Supreme Court has delivered marital rights to the LGBT community it is clear that equal rights for marriage do not mean equality.

A fundamental human notion has been missed once again, alongside racism and other mores of the human experience. The loss of equanimity, not only equality, has pervaded the social consciousness to the point that many meaningful conversations across perceived boundaries have become not only burdensome, but also brutal. They result in public shame, public abuse, public hate, and public violence because of the loss of composure over one’s self. Composure and dedication to respecting the identity, the core being of a person has been given up for the flash and the bang. I am convinced, however, that we are not being tricked. My hunch is that there are many more conversations happening, relationships being developed, and social interactions forever changed by the new understandings that are going unnoticed.

Our greatest enemy in the midst of controversy is not the opposition. No, the “opposition” is not our neighbor, brother, sister, and sibling. They are the heart and soul of what makes cases like religious liberty meaningful and valuable, on both sides. No, I think that our greatest feat to overcome is the tendency to buy into the limit of information as that which is the limit to what it applicable and possible to accomplish. If media has the tendency to observe and report solely or predominantly on the vandals in Ferguson, and that is what the masses believe to be the information, then the media has failed the people as a resource for the people to be active citizens. Religious liberty as well as race, economics, class, non-binary gender identity, and many more identities deserve much more than the limits that media impose upon its viewers.

The masses, you and I, must realize that we are more than a paycheck. We are leaders in our own lives and chances are we are authors of truth and limitless creative possibility in the lives of one another. Social issues are not simply social issues because a news anchor decided that it was a story. Social issues are more than the utility of a mogul to satisfy his or her own attention. When Religious Liberty or LGBT Rights “go on trial” so also will all other matters that citizens know are meaningful to them, inherently and without propagation from the media. How we choose to proceed in public, whether it is to invest in one another or investigate against one another will continue to determine how the public, you and I, choose to engage in healthy or unhealthy conflict. Religion, at its core, is not meant to carry our arguments in courts as wondered in the beginning of this post. Instead it is a utility to be used to form relationships, break down barriers, and ultimately value the uniqueness of the transcendent and divine that dwells in each of us. Hopefully, we as a mass can be encouraged to not give up hope, to not draw swords on our posters, but instead drop our pickets and embrace one another for our differences.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/04/us/kim-davis-same-sex-marriage.html?_r=0

Kevin Crawford

Strange Love or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love College

My name is Peter Leistikow. I am a junior from Atlanta, Georgia. I am studying Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology and Sociology.

If you are a freshman, this is a conversation template you have come to understand and possibly despise. However, it does not define you. Although I have been solicited to offer some advice now that you have begun your college journey, I don’t want to be condescending, or give you a disingenuous view of Emory, as that is a job best left to your RAs. Rather, I want to tell you about my own journey and some lessons learned along the way that, ironically, even a well-written yet snarky blog post could not have prepared me to experience.

When I came to school, I imagine I was like many freshman entering campus armed with vague goals and a history of success, but very little idea of which way to turn for direction. Between the constant games, social obligations (unlimited swipes at the DUC means three breakfasts with three different groups of friends), and club fairs, it feels like you are always on the cusp of a new adventure.

There are two main schools of thought when it comes to these initial experiences; either “be yourself” and stay the way you are, or “try new things!” and reinvent yourself in college. I offer you a third option: Be who you want to become. There is nothing wrong with letting go of old hobbies while in the pursuit of new ones, but you don’t have to be moving for the sake of motion or to simply feel like you are getting somewhere. For example, in high school I defined myself through a love of cross-country and track running, playing music, and going to concerts. When I came to school, I changed my time management, but not my passions. I still love to run on the weekends, but I won’t be doing another half marathon anytime soon. I don’t play in the school orchestra, but I still go to every concert for which I can afford a ticket, and I use comedic writing as a new creative outlet. These things fulfilled me, but they were not at the center of the person I wanted to be.

I was very careful in determining which college pursuits aligned with my values. For example, like many freshmen, I had grown up a the fraternity system; when John Belushi donned the “College” sweatshirt and downed a handle, it appeared as a stand-in for every popular college fraternity brother. However, I quickly found that the Greek system became a wedge in burgeoning dorm relationships, and while many succeeded in the high-octane atmosphere, many did not. I too tried to convince myself that joining a fraternity could be the path to a college career well-lived, but ultimately I found the experience not to be fulfilling, and I quietly dropped out of the rush process. Although I did eventually become an executive of a now-chartered coed honor fraternity, I will always regret feeling like the Greek system was the only place to go to find belonging in a campus brimming with students of diverse interests and backgrounds.

While it was easy to decide where to trim the fat, it was very difficult to find out what I would use to fill the void. What I found was that, to quote the great philosopher Taylor Swift, “what you’re looking for has been here the whole time.” Church, among other things, seemed to be reminding me that “you belong with me!” Indeed, I did belong in church, and I needed a faith that would grow with me as I did.

While I grew up in the church, certain events in high school had strained my faith, making me wary of beginning again in church once I entered school. However, once I met the people of the Emory Wesley Fellowship, I knew that this group could help me become the person I wanted to be. In fact, it was through their acceptance, love, and support and the study of the sermon series, and book of the same name, “When Christians Get It Wrong” by Adam Hamilton, that I was able to reconcile my religious beliefs with the biting realities of my past and my tumultuous freshman year present.

When I think back to freshman year, I remember most of all everyone’s prevailing desire to fit in and find acceptance. It took me a long time to realize I didn’t have to please my parents, my dorm mates, my church group, my coworkers, and myself all the time. In reality, all those people ever needed from me was for me to be the person I wanted to become.

Written by Peter Leistikow a Member of Emory Wesley Foundation.

http://emorywesley.org

THE NO TOLERANCE ZONE

“You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.

~~Anne Lamott

I suppose what I really mean is “Beyond Mere Tolerance.” On Dictionary.com you will find the following as the top two definitions for the word “tolerance”:

  1. A fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practices, racial or ethnic origins, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.
  1. The act or capacity of enduring; endurance:

My tolerance of noise is limited.

I want to believe that most people are thinking of the first definition when they speak of tolerance—“freedom from bigotry.” Sadly, too many of us live more closely to the second definition. When faced with difference, we merely endure the presence of, and the discomfort that goes along with, those who are not just like us. Yet, we live in a world, and on a campus, that is prolific with people of various races, cultures, nationalities, sexual orientations, gender identities and religious traditions. Additionally, in the academic setting of a highly ranked research institution—class differences often go unnoticed. While there are many ways to move beyond “mere tolerance” here are three tenets I believe point the way, and questions we need to ask ourselves as we face difference.

Respect: Do I claim to accept people as they identify themselves, while fundamentally believing people like me are better/smarter/more virtuous/normal? We can’t respect others when we believe they are in some way inferior to us. The best way to develop respect is to learn more about the differences. The best way to garner respect is to be willing to share so others may learn. Growing up in a conservative Baptist family, learning about LGBTQ people was not even on my radar. Then, in the early 1990s I bought an in-town Atlanta home that included a one-bedroom apartment that was rented to a gay couple. While my religious convictions resisted keeping them as tenants, my economic reality decided that it was better to have tenants with a good track record. It was living in the same building with Pete and James that opened my eyes both to our shared humanity, and their rejection from people like me.

On the other side of the coin, every time a white person wants to touch my dreadlocked hair without my permission, my reflex is to tell them, “touch me and you’ll draw back a nub!” My actual response, however, is to help them understand why they should not invade my personal space and answer any questions they have about texture of my hair. Sure, we get tired of teaching others about what makes us different, but how else will they learn? I may be the only person they know from whom they can get truth.

Authenticity: Do I expect you to be less who you are in order for us to get along? We have become such a polarized society that it’s untenable for us to understand that more than one thing can be true and co-exist. I can be pro-black, female, heterosexual, or Christian without being anti-white, male, gay, or (insert religious tradition here). I can recognize pride in your own heritage without feeling threatened by your expression of it. Of course, the difficulty comes when one’s pride, or expression of it, is felt as oppressive. Your confederate flag is my painful legacy of slavery. My bringing up the name of Jesus is your painful reminder of Quran burners and Holocaust deniers. What would it look like if we practiced some old-fashioned empathy in our encounters? Many of the world’s religious traditions include some form of the belief in treating others as you would like to be treated. This is not an idyllic dream. It requires discipline and the desire to move beyond ideology to community. It means recognizing that sometimes the needs of the many do outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Yeah, I went a little “Star Trek” on you.

Intentional community—Am I willing to recognize that we will always be able to serve the world better together in our diversity; and not by just one of us being “right”? We know the Martin Luther King quote that says, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” However, when we invoke Dr. King, we often think of lofty goals that only great leaders can achieve. Yet, community is made one relationship at a time. It is one encounter at a time where we are intentional about learning from one another, respectfully and authentically. For many of us, that is in sharing a meal and/or a drink to hear one another’s stories. In that spirit I will end with a quote from a man whom most of us have made very rich. It’s simple and it’s meaningful. Both things can be true at the same time.

“I was taken by the power that savoring a simple cup of coffee can have to connect people and create community.”

~~Howard Schultz, Founder of Starbucks

By Dean Bridgette Young Ross