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News

Spooktacular moved indoors


Due to rain, today's downtown Los Altos Halloween activities have been moved to the indoor courtyard of Play! at 170 State St. Enter from the back on the parking lot side to participate in crafts, games and fun. Activities continue until 4 p.m.

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Schools

Gardner Bullis School debuts new Grizzly Student Center

Gardner Bullis School debuts new Grizzly Student Center


Photo by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Students line up to check books out of the library in the new Grizzly Student Center at Gardner Bullis School.

Gardner Bullis School opened its new Grizzly Student Center earlier this month, introducing a lea...

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Community

Home improvement workshop scheduled Wednesday (Oct. 29)

The County of Santa Clara is hosting a free informational workshop on 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Los Altos Hills Town Hall, 26379 Fremont Road.

The workshop will offer ways single-family homeowners can increase their homes’ energy efficiency. Eligible i...

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Comment

Off the fence: TC recommends 'yes' on N

The Town Crier initially offered no position on the controversial $150 million Measure N bond on Tuesday’s ballot. But some of the reasons we gave in our Oct. 15 editorial were, on reflection, overly critical and based on inaccurate information.

We ...

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Special Sections

Long-term solutions emerge as water conservation goes mainstream

Long-term solutions emerge as water conservation goes mainstream


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Forrest Linebarger, right, installed greywater and rainwater harvesting systems at his Los Altos Hills home.

With more brown than green visible in her Los Altos backyard, Kacey Fitzpatrick admits that she’s a little e...

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Business

Local realtors scare up money for charity

Local realtors scare up money for charity


Photo courtesy of SILVAR
Realtors Gary Campi and Jordan Legge, from left, joined Nancy Domich, SILVAR President Dave Tonna and Joe Brown to raise funds for the Silicon Valley Realtors Charitable Foundation.

Los Altos and Mountain View realtors raise...

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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

DAVID S. NIVISON

DAVID S. NIVISON

David S. Nivison, 91 years old, and a resident of Los Altos, California since 1952, died Oct. 16, 2014 at home.  His neighbors had recently honored him as the “Mayor of Russell Ave., in recognition of 62 years of distinguished living” on that ...

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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

ECYS opens season Sunday

ECYS opens season Sunday


Ramya Krishna/Special to the Town Crier
The El Camino Youth Symphony rehearses for Sunday’s concert, above.

The El Camino Youth Symphony – under new conductor Jindong Cai – is scheduled to perform its season-opening concert 4 p.m....

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Spiritual Life

Christian Science Reading Room hosts webinar on prayer and healing

Christian Science practitioner and teacher Evan Mehlenbacher is scheduled to present a live Internet webinar lecture, “Prayer That Heals,” 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14 in the Christian Science Reading Room, 60 Main St., Los Altos.

Those interested ...

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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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