Wed10222014

News

Council hosts study session on downtown parking garage

Council hosts study session on downtown parking garage


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council continues to explore options to address parking constraints in the downtown triangle.

The Los Altos City Council last week held the first of two study sessions to discuss the potential construct...

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Schools

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A Los Altos High School student learns how to use robotic surgical equipment at the school’s Science and Technology Week event last year. Students can also attend hands-on presentations at this year’s event, w...

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Community

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display


Town Crier File Photo
Pirate Manor is once again scheduled to arrive in the front yard of Dane and Jill Glasgow’s home on Manor Way in Los Altos, just in time for Halloween.

Although not the Walking Dead, pirate skeletons have been brought to li...

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Sports

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
St. Francis High’s Eric Reitmeir launches the ball over Mountain View High driver David Niehaus (2) and goalie Kenny Tang. The host Lancers won Friday’s non-league game 9-3.

There wasn’t a lot on the line Friday when ...

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Comment

Reeder, Fung for El Camino HCD: Editorial

The good news for the El Camino Healthcare District (formerly the El Camino Hospital District, for those still getting used to the new name) is that there is a contested election Nov. 4 for the district’s board of directors. Three candidates are runn...

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Special Sections

Plant-based diet offers benefits

Plant-based diet offers benefits


Photo by Ramya Krishna
Los Altos resident Nandini Krishna prepares a meat-free dish According to author Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., M.D., a plant-based diet can help prevent cancer.

Shirley Okita of Los Altos has found that adhering to a mostly plant...

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Business

New shop offers haute couture for girls

New shop offers haute couture for girls


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Girls @ Los Altos at 239 State St. offers clothing lines such as Nellystella as well as toys and other items for girls.

Cecilia Chen opened The Girls @ Los Altos as a tribute to the party dress. Whether it’s for...

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Books

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mimi Sommers, who works at a Los Altos dentist’s office, recently wrote a children’s book.

A local dental hygienist recently published a book that aims to ease parents and children during a sometimes anxious e...

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People

BARBARA DARLING MERIDETH

1946-2014

Born in Palo Alto, raised in Los Altos, retired in southern Oregon. Survived by Peter James Merideth, sons Matthew, Jacob and John Merideth, the loves of her life.

She was a housewife who took great pride in her home, her surroundings and...

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Travel

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors


Courtesy of Castello di Amorosa
Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, above, boasts a beautiful setting for viewing fall’s colors – and sampling the vineyard’s wines.

Yes, Virginia, there is fall in California.

The colors pop out in...

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Stepping Out

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn



Los Altos Youth Theatre’s production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” a musical based on Washington Irving’s classic story, is set to run through Nov. 2 at Bus Barn Theater. The cast comprises 27 young actors, directed by Cindy Powell. Courtesy o...

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Spiritual Life

Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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Stanford podcast addresses religious perspectives on war and peace

Although Hinduism is widely thought of as a peaceful religion, one of its core texts shows God advising his devotee to go to war.

The Bhagavad Gita, part of a larger epic poem, opens on the brink of a terrible war. The hero of the tale, Arjuna, faces a dilemma – whether to withdraw from a bloody war or to fight. Krishna, the Hindu name for the Supreme Being, instructs Arjuna to do his duty and fight.

In a recent lecture, Linda Hess, Stanford University religious studies senior lecturer, said that despite the clear framing narrative of war, some Hindus have interpreted the text as a lesson in spiritual nonviolence, while others have seen it as a justification of large-scale war.

Hess pointed out that every religion seems to start out prohibiting killing, yet religious realists observe that you cannot survive in this world without killing. Everything we do involves some kind of destruction, from clearing forests for agriculture to stepping on insects simply by walking down the street.

“The ways in which religion bears on violence, nonviolence, war and peace, on all levels from the personal to the political, are seen again and again to depend on how people pick up religious texts and traditions and interpret them in particular historical circumstances,” Hess said.

After stating unequivocally that killing is wrong, religious writers often spend more time discussing situations when it is OK.

“Every religious tradition has had to figure out how to deal with the apparent inevitability of killing,” Hess said.

Hess’ lecture was the first in her 10-lecture course, “Religious Perspectives on Violence and Nonviolence, War & Peace.”

Across all religions, the interpretation of texts is done not only by authority figures, but also by the general public. Hess encouraged students to be agents in this process, learning how arguments are produced, evidence is marshaled, authority wielded, persuasive tactics used and sociopolitical factors brought into the picture. With this kind of understanding, she emphasized, everyone can take responsibility for religious interpretations and their consequences in the world.

From Quakerism to the Crusades

Subjects such as war and peace are typically taught in political science or international relations programs. While these approaches emphasizing politics and economics are important, Hess said they are likely to omit other important matters typically examined in the humanities – for example, ethics, rhetoric, literature, the arts and performances that convey the subtleties of human experience and psychology; the relations between inner and outer, personal and political; and religious texts and practices.

From a discussion of the pacifist traditions of Quakerism to a look at religious perspectives on capital punishment, the diverse subjects of the lectures are connected by a number of unifying threads.

Professor Paul Harrison, a scholar of Buddhist literature and history, discussed how Buddhism could promote peace in some instances and exacerbate conflict in others, despite its serene public image.

Harrison compared religion to language: “Language can be used to do all sorts of hateful, injurious and destructive things, but no one would ever say, ‘Let’s do away with language altogether.’”

Similarly, humans have an inherent drive toward religion. The solution to destructive and injurious uses of religion is not to get rid of religion, but to learn to understand and control those uses.

Robert Gregg, professor emeritus of religious studies, took a multireligious approach to the topic, analyzing the story of Cain and Abel across the Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions. Despite differences, each tradition has taken this violent story of the first murder to reflect on questions of brotherhood and community.

Hester Gelber, chairwoman of the Department of Religious Studies and religious studies professor, tackled the topic historically through a discussion of the Crusades, demonstrating how violence became sanctified and romanticized during those religiously based wars. The notion of the dashing soldier ennobled by holy purpose “has remained a part of our cultural repertoire ever since,” she said.

Speaking on the American Civil War, religious studies professor Kathryn Gin Lum pointed out that both North and South believed God was on their side and both cited the Bible to support pro- or anti-slavery views.

Hess framed the new courses on violence and nonviolence two years ago when some of her students came to an eye-opening realization. Understanding that horrendous acts of violence were executed not just by psychopaths or evil political leaders but by ordinary people caught in conditions conducive to such acts, her students asked what they would need to prepare themselves to act differently in such circumstances.

Podcasts of the lectures are available on Stanford iTunes U at itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/religious-perspectives-on/id573293423?mt=10.

Kelsey Geiser is an intern with the Humanities Web portal for Stanford University.

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