History Podcasts

Do You Think Breastfeeding a 3-Year-Old is Strange? In the Ancient World, It Saved Lives

Do You Think Breastfeeding a 3-Year-Old is Strange? In the Ancient World, It Saved Lives

There was a time in humanity’s history that later weaning of children, up to 3 years, was considered perfectly normal. In fact, late weaning may have actually saved lives by giving kids the nutrition and immunity they needed to survive a harsh world.

A researcher studying skeletal remains of children in an ancient Egyptian cemetery at Memphis has found evidence that they suffered from conditions brought on by malnutrition. The children possibly became diseased after they were weaned off breast milk and put on less-nutritious solid-food diets, the researcher believes.

Bioarchaeologist Iwona Kozieradzka-Ogunmakin found evidence that the kids suffered from tooth decay, eye socket porosity, anemia, and sinusitis or inflammation of the sinuses from blowing dust and sand. Most of the 29 children’s remains she studied were between 3 and 5 years old at death but some were just babies, while others were as old as 12.

The researcher believes that weaning at 2.5 to 3 years left the children without immunity from certain conditions.

"After that, children had to become independent. End of the period of breastfeeding was the moment in which children lost access to an easily attainable and available source of nutrients contained in breast milk. Some of the children buried at Saqqara could have died from diseases and infections, to which they were more susceptible because of lower resistance after changing diet,” Dr. Kozieradzka-Ogunmakin says in a press release from the Science and Scholarship in Poland.

The teeth of one child indicated an age of about 4, but the limb bones were about as long as a child of 1 to 1½.

She might have found more than these diseases, but Egyptian government restrictions of foreign archaeological missions limited her to a visual study of the pathological state of the children’s bones, not a molecular study of the tissues, according to IBTimes.com .

Dr. Kozieradzka-Ogunmakin is with the University of Manchester and joined the Polish-Egyptian Archaeological Mission to do the study of child mortality in the Ptolemaic-Early Roman Period. The Saqqara necropolis or graveyard also has burials from as far back as 6,000 years ago at the start of the Old Kingdom period. The early Roman and Ptolemaic periods date to between 332 BC to the early first century AD. Some of the children’s remains were intentionally mummified, while others were buried in shallow sands.

One of the oldest necropolises is at Saqqara. Here are the stepped pyramids from the cemetery, where both the rich and poor were interred. ( Wikimedia Commons /Photo by Daniel Csörföly)

The necropolis of Saqqara is huge and served Memphis, a capital of ancient Egypt. The graves Dr. Koziradzka-Ogunmakin and her colleagues studied were from around the time of the downfall of ancient Egyptian civilization.

By doing a macroscopic or visual study of the bones without any other forensic or medical methods, she found that some of the kids suffered from common signs of disease. She looked at the eye sockets and saw 70 percent of the youngsters’ orbital bones were porous. She speculates the condition, called cribra orbitalia, could have resulted from anemia caused by vitamin B or iron deficiencies.

“Feeding and weaning practices spread widely across ancient Egypt could have been largely responsible for the high prevalence of cribra orbitalia in the present skeletal assemblage. Weaning a nursing infant placed it at risk, including increased morbidity and mortality as a result of infectious and parasitic diseases. Therefore, the later supplementary or solid foods were introduced into infants' diet, the greater it chances of survival,” she told IBTimes.com.

It is also possible the porosity developed from disease, such as malaria parasites. Malaria is not found in Egypt in modern times, but researchers think it may have been widespread in the ancient world.

Dr. Kozieradzka-Ogunmakin observed that one-quarter of the children also suffered from tooth decay, mostly among children 3 to 5 years old when they died. She speculates ancient Egypt’s diet staple of bread with sugar and carbohydrates may have caused the dental decay.

Other studies have been done on the human remains and burial practices, some of which were lavish and monumental, at the necropolis of Saqqara. This latest research undertook analyses of skeletons to determine how social status and environment affected health.

The dry landscape of the sprawling necropolis, with the step pyramid of Djoser in the distance, may explain the children’s inflamed sinuses. ( Wikimedia Commons /Photo by isawnyu)

A press release on the Polish mission’s work quotes Dr. Kozieradzka-Ogunmakin as saying:

The necropolis at Saqqara was founded about 6 thousand years ago, at the beginning of the so-called Old Kingdom, and remained in use almost continuously over the next few millennia. In contrast to the Old Kingdom period, after two thousand years, this area of the cemetery was used as a burial place for ordinary members of the community, and not just the elite, as before.

The research group intends to more studies on the diet, health and living conditions of more children from Saqqara. The researchers say vitamin deficiencies may have been from malnutrition caused by recurrent famines in ancient Egypt when the Nile didn’t flood high enough.


Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman (born Araminta Ross, c. March 1822 [1] – March 10, 1913) was an American abolitionist and political activist. Born into slavery, Tubman escaped and subsequently made some 13 missions to rescue approximately 70 enslaved people, including family and friends, [2] using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. During the American Civil War, she served as an armed scout and spy for the Union Army. In her later years, Tubman was an activist in the movement for women's suffrage.

Born enslaved in Dorchester County, Maryland, Tubman was beaten and whipped by her various masters as a child. Early in life, she suffered a traumatic head wound when an irate overseer threw a heavy metal weight intending to hit another enslaved person, but hit her instead. The injury caused dizziness, pain, and spells of hypersomnia, which occurred throughout her life. After her injury, Tubman began experiencing strange visions and vivid dreams, which she ascribed to premonitions from God. These experiences, combined with her Methodist upbringing, led her to become devoutly religious.

In 1849, Tubman escaped to Philadelphia, only to return to Maryland to rescue her family soon after. Slowly, one group at a time, she brought relatives with her out of the state, and eventually guided dozens of other enslaved people to freedom. Traveling by night and in extreme secrecy, Tubman (or "Moses", as she was called) "never lost a passenger". [3] After the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was passed, she helped guide fugitives farther north into British North America (Canada), and helped newly freed enslaved people find work. Tubman met John Brown in 1858, and helped him plan and recruit supporters for his 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry.

When the Civil War began, Tubman worked for the Union Army, first as a cook and nurse, and then as an armed scout and spy. The first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, she guided the raid at Combahee Ferry, which liberated more than 700 enslaved people. After the war, she retired to the family home on property she had purchased in 1859 in Auburn, New York, where she cared for her aging parents. She was active in the women's suffrage movement until illness overtook her, and she had to be admitted to a home for elderly African Americans that she had helped to establish years earlier. After her death in 1913, she became an icon of courage and freedom.


Related stories

The practice was an excuse for many white mothers to avoid breastfeeding with hopes of maintaining their stature and avoiding the “messy” part of motherhood. The act was perceived as a self-demeaning and women who were seen breastfeeding were often thought of as uncultured, poor and often shunned. The practice became very popular when doctors of the time did all they could to prove that breastfeeding was an unhealthy act for women. It is believed that doctors were paid huge sums of money to write such reports.

The children of slaves grew healthy while many white families lost their children to ill health. This made many westerners force slave mothers to breastfeed their white children so that they could develop better and survive the early months of childhood.

By the 18th century, the trend had become very popular.

Once a slave mother had a child, she was quickly assigned to a white mistress and forced to breastfeed her white baby instead of her own.

Young and healthy slave women were also forced to breastfeed white babies after doctors discovered that the continuous sucking of a sexually active female breast could result in lactation.

While they breastfed white babies at the expense of theirs, slave mothers tried to keep their children alive by feeding them with concoctions they believed will be good substitutes for milk. They also gave cow milk and dirty water which were not suitable for babies health. This resulted in high deaths of babies of slaved throughout the slave trade.

At the peak of the forced wet nursing, slave traders often kidnapped newborn babies from their slave mothers. The pain in the breasts left these women with no choice but to breastfeed other babies who were often white. Some reluctant slaves were beaten and often milked like cows to feed white babies.

Slave mothers often kept the white babies in their homes until the child’s family felt it was time to take them back. Since the living conditions of the slaves were not the best, several white babies died. Speculating that slave mothers were killing the babies out of spite, they were later forced to move in with the family where they could be monitored.

The enslaved wet nurses were rejected by their husbands especially after the death of their own child. Another consequence of the practice was slave masters and their sons having affairs with slave women resulting into increased births of mixed race babies.

The practice started to die down after slaves were slowly getting their freedom. Most of the wet nurses were saved by their families or lovers who bought their freedom for them.

A few African-American women continued wet nursing after slavery had been abolished. Though they were discouraged continuously, they did the job in secret and earned more than self-employed freed slaves and butlers. They were often called prostitutes or shameless women.

Wet nursing existed for many centuries dating as far back as the biblical days. However, in history, only slave mothers were forced into the act.


6 Gorilla Saves 3-Year-Old Boy

The reason you can keep a wild animal in a zoo without it constantly trying to jump out and murder visitors is that most animals are territorial. They are enclosed in a space that they can call their own, and as long as those borders are respected, they are happy to eat, frolic and mate for the entertainment of gawking onlookers.

But that territorial bubble was popped by a 3-year-old boy at the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois -- he was right over the gorilla enclosure when he fell over the fence. The 18-foot drop left him unconscious and with a critical head injury. Since gorillas can be dangerously persnickety with their territory, the police were barred from immediate action -- who wants to see a violent battle between a SWAT team and a huge herd of gorillas? Except everyone?

So, with a child in need and no help in sight, Binti Jua stepped in. And as much as that sounds like Indian Superman, it wasn't. Binti just happened to be one of the zoo's gorillas.

Binti came to the boy's aid by cradling him in her arms and then bringing him to the enclosure door, where paramedics could get to him. The police and staff were quick to note that without Binti's assistance, the situation could have been much worse.

And in case you think we're just misunderstanding the gorilla's actions, it's actually not an isolated incident. Back in the 1980s, another kid fell into a gorilla enclosure, at Jersey Zoo. That time, the gorilla was a male silverback who watched over the unconscious boy and led away the rest of his troop when paramedics arrived. One has to wonder if these gorillas are naturally empathetic to our young or if they just feel sorry for how stupid we apparently are.

Related: An Eleven-Year-Old Louisiana Boy Steals And Crashes School Bus, Taunting Officers


59 comments:

Adam was given ‘garments of skin’ for his protection. Dead skin. These garments were law, customs, mores, and countless other dead things, many of which are threadbare and showing their age. It seems that they’re only meant to last long enough for us to realize they are dead things.

Fr. Stephen Freeman says:

Peter,
Yes. While they serve to “protect” us, after a fashion, they are a very sad substitute for the glory that is meant to cover us.

This is certainly one of the most difficult things with which to deal, Father. I love the quote from St. Thérèse of Lisieux, but I have a difficult time bearing with my own displeasing self, as she put it.

Hmmm. I am contemplating the phrase: “To an increasing extent, the group to which we belong is that set of people who share our anger.”

While I can see that in my past, it seems less and less controlling for me, I pray. Principally because I have less and less anger, except against my own sins, stupidity and laziness.

My brother has been a real shinning example for me of not being angry (although he is surprised by that). I only remember one time in all the years that he has ever been angry at or with me. I have never seen him angry at any one else.

Even in today’s unraveling civilization, I have difficulty being angry. Sad and confused for sure.

My wife and I prayed St. Ephraim’s prayer together this morning:

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.
sins, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen
.

It had to suffice for our usual morning prayers because of the bodily pain we were both experiencing. I find it telling that the more physical and spiritual pain I experience in my soul and in my body, the less room I have for anger. It is easier to cry out for mercy for myself and others.

Part of my loss of anger comes, also from a realization that I simply have no control over anyone else or what they do. Shoot, I seem to have precious little control over even my own actions.

Mostly though it is a blessed decrease in fear given me by the mercy of Christ. It began at Pascha 2005, just 20 days after my wife of 24 years had reposed in pain. My priest and several members of my parish had gathered at her bedside and prayed as she died. As she breathed her last, the “miracles” began to occur. Both my son and I (we found out later) saw her Guardian Angel standing at her head as we prayed and as she reposed. I went to Pascha, deep in grief, feeling as if half my soul had been ripped out. I went out of duty more than anything.

Then in the middle of the Pascha service, I was given the grace to experience the Resurrection of Jesus Christ in a whole new way. As He rose, He brought my late wife with Him. I have never shouted Christ is Risen the say tepid way since.

Gradually over the years since, the fear of death has left me. I can say with Hamlet: “If it be now, ’tis not to come, if it is not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all.”

In the last year an absolute faith in His providence has begun to actually take root in my heart as all remaining vestige of the fear of death is leaving my heart. As a result, I can pray (often at 3 in the morning unable to sleep due to bodily pain) “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner” in simplicity and hope. A growing appreciated and experience of His Mercy has been the result.

Our assistant priest yesterday gave the homily on what is necessary to come to Pascha in the right mind: Forgive and keep the Fast. Forgive and keep the Fast.

May it be so for each of us.

“clothed in lots of… icons”
Hahaha, yep, that would be me!

Many insights here to explore.
Thank you, Father.

As I have grown older, I have come to find that being angry is exhausting. Almost as exhausting as hating. When anger flashes up, as it will, I simply cannot maintain it. Hate is not something that flashes up for me very often, but when it does, it just flickers out pretty quickly. It’s not that I care any less about this or that. It just seems so unproductive to harbor anger and hatred. And so exhausting.

I found your post very enlightening. I was an Episcopalian for 30 years, then recently converted to Orthodoxy. I realize I have been feeling “naked” as I have lost my old “tribe” and don’t yet really feel a part of the new one. I love the theology, the experience of worship etc. but have not grown comfortable with the “culture” of an Orthodox community. I see I should just relax – that I am beloved by God in my bare self. Perhaps feeling a sense of belonging will come eventually.

Fr. Stephen Freeman says:

Diane,
My conversion to Orthodoxy from Episcopalian took years, but the actual events were sudden. I said my last Mass and preached my last sermon as an Episcopal priest one Sunday, and was Chrismated into the Orthodox Church the next Sunday and immediately placed in charge (as a layman) of the new OCA mission we were founding. That said, my nakedness and embarassment were terrible for quite some time. I was terribly aware of what I didn’t know, and could be very sensitive to criticisms on that account. I did not understand how I felt or why I felt it. A saving feature in my life, I think, was that I did not write for the first 8 years of Orthodoxy. It probably saved me from making a bigger fool of myself than I eventually have.

Fr, could you give an example of what it means to “bear”? I understand that it requires feeling displeasure/the bad feelings associated with shame, but then what? What’s the action that follows feeling these feelings? Or is simply feeling them? I imagine it’s not just “feeling bad,” for if that were the case, all men already bear their shame.

Thank you writing this Father. Do you feel like modern people have an entirely different idea about shame than older generations did? I like the comment you quoted above “learn to bear a little bit of shame”, but, and forgive me for generalizing, my concern is that we are taught by our modern culture to be very proud of who we are, what we stand for, and the various identifies we bear (weather that be via our careers, nationalities, sexual orientations, etc.). The modern zeitgeist is one of positive self expression and affirmation, as opposed to careful examination of what we should be shameful about and why accepting some shame can lead to spiritual growth. If you agree with this, how do you think we Orthodox can position shame in such a way that the modern man or women would not immediately reject?

Fr. Stephen,
Forgiveness Vespers is a perfect time to
“bear a little shame.” Yet in the setting of true koinonia it was very easy to do. Asking others for forgiveness on this occasion is such a wonderful way to begin Lent…with a clean slate. I can very easily become overly sentimental, but I simply was overwhelmed this time during these vespers. Tears and embraces amidst smiles and love. I never experienced anything like this as a Protestant. I can see why you say that 95% of Orthodoxy is just showing up. When we show up with open hearts, God does the rest.

Fr. Stephen Freeman says:

Nes,
To “bear” shame is to acknowledge it in the presence of God, not run from it, and, allow Him to comfort us. That “comfort” can take the form of forgiveness and absolution in confession. In some settings, such as a therapeutic, it can be acknowledging it and talking through it. It can also happen with someone close and trusted – in which case some sort of affirmation of who we are, in spite of the shameful thing, is helpful.

It is not true that all mean already bear their shame – we run from those feelings, quite often, turning them into something else – feelings that are not as painful.

Fr. Stephen Freeman says:

There is nothing much that I can suggest to “modern” person, other than to turn away from the false promises and models of modernity and make the journey towards becoming, by grace, what God calls us to be. Modernity is utterly confused, just making stuff up as it goes, and selling it to a gullible public that believes whatever is offered to them

Father,
Is it not the case that ‘bearing a little shame’ is always the precursor to repentance? Those most unrepentant are perpetually denying and running from their shame while those most repentant are able by God’s grace to experience their wretchedness and with eyes to the cross know of God’s love.

…..”I am encountering a growing number of young people (Middle School and above) who have lost confidence in their own gender, unsure whether it should be accepted at face value or traded in for one of the newer ways of being. That something so fundamental should be so easily questioned makes it little wonder that almost nothing else holds a grounded value. Today’s cultural clothing could become tomorrow’s naked shame.”.

Thank you Fr Stephen for highlighting the truth of today’s culture.

The tale of ‘The Emperor’s New Cloths’ springs to mind. It took the words of an innocent child to point out the truth of the nakedness of the emperor, and what followed was the shame of the emperor when he saw that he was naked, and the shame of the flatterers around him when they were caught out.
How often children speak the truth as they see it when they are young, and how sad that they often are told to shut up and then learn not to trust what they see but believe in what they are told.

In dealing with a “modern mindset” concerning this, it is helpful to consider that modernity teaches that whatever we think is true and whatever we think of ourselves, our desires, is valid (as long as it conforms to the current paradigm).

When speaking with people who, often unknowingly, possess that mindset, it is very important to be kind and not be perceived as “attacking” them. I’ve found it helpful to differentiate between Humanism and Christianity at the outset of any discussion. Humanism states that we define ourselves–what is true and natural is based on our desires and our will. For the Christian, Christ defines what is true and natural and we seek to conform our desires and will to His Will. This is a gentle separation which I have found helpful and which can lead to a useful discussion about the nature of repentance and, most importantly, defines us in salvation (there is no reason to be saved in Humanism). Above all though, be kind.

In the midst of the fervent adherence to American ‘tribes’ it is rarely the case that gentle conversation ensues. Even if the language is tamed to appear polite, hearts remain bitter. Humility is not an American trait, at least not now if it ever was. In this culture, humility is weakness and weakness is intolerable. Few are able to keep their minds and hearts out of this quagmire. Judgement of others reins supreme and undergirds the edifice of a defensive and broken heart.

May God hear our prayers and help and heal us. May God open our ears and our hearts. May God help us to empty our hearts of toxic shame, and the false cover of judgment, anger, pride and vanities.

Dee, “humility is not an American trait..” The understatement of the year! .A quick read through the US Declaration of Independence makes that clear. I do not know about Canada but hubris is the defining attribute of the “modern” mind.

The very idea that the human mind can accurately perceive the mysteries of creation and life without those things being revealed is astounding in its arrogance.

The complimentary idea in the Orthodox world is that “I follow the Fathers”.
I am sorry, but I have to be willing to humble myself and listen to my parish priest first without judgement. Whenever I have done that, I have learned. .
I say this as a man who’s first priest was spiritually abusive and incompetent. He ended up leaving the Church. Yet during my first ever Great Entrance, it was clear that Christ was with him and in that place.

Now, by that same Grace I have forgiven him and pray for him too. Even though my natural mind revolted at the idea. Lord have mercy on me, the sinner.

Fr. Stephen Freeman says:

Dee, Michael, et al
America does not have a narrative for humility. We often bragged that we never lost a war, etc. And, even in these post-modern times, when a critical eye has been turned on certain aspects of the American narrative, it is not an eye of repentance, but of blame, anger, hatred, etc. We do not have a story for repentance.

I contrast that with a number of other nations whose national consciousness includes profound stories of loss and such. Serbia’s most prominent narrative about the Battle of Kosovo, for example, includes “losing” as a profoundly Christian decision on the part of St. Tsar Lazar. Many Orthodox countries have been occupied by enemies for centuries, or suffered other such things. We have many icons whose intercessions are credited with deliverance from overwhelming odds – which is a very humble way to “win.” So, among the things that make Orthodoxy difficult for American converts (and others who have drunk deep from our national wells) is the difficulty in acquiring humility. To live in the “greatest” nation is, of course, a terrible self-delusion, to which many American converts now add being members of the “greatest” Church. What we know from Scripture is that the salvation of the “greatest” is deeply questionable.

Fr, thank you for this post, especially your last comment. As you have often written, “the way up, is the way down.” Great insights here from you, Dee, Michael and others. Thank you all.

Byron, thank you for your comment on the distinction between humanism and Christianity.

Father, good way of putting it. Fortunately, life in the Church is beginning to teach me that I am nothing, yet Jesus has mercy on me even as I continue to sin. It is disorienting at times. Only taken 35 years to seriously begin. In some ways it is similar to being a new convert.

May the humbling of Lent bring each of us closer to our Lord.

Isn’t part of the point of Adam’s shame in nakedness, the new shame of death? It’s amazing to me how perceptive/aware the Scripture is into our neuroses. The shame of nakedness is at least partially related to our mortality. There is no shame for the one who has life – instead it is a reserved intimacy/knowing mystically. The description in the Garden is between two people, not a large population (evolutionary projections aside because they make no real difference). There is a mystical knowing in nudity but in this case it is reserved. The shame takes place before God and (possibly each other), but even still, it is not the same as shame before many people as there are no other people in the narrative. I wonder if its a similar shame to being caught in adultery that is being described.

I just say this because Paul speaks about ‘clothed’ in the sense of the Resurrection often. To be unclothed is to be without the body – the separation from body at death – and for Paul, if we remained in that state forever, never having reunification with the body, it would have been a type of hell for him.

Yet, he says, that when we have taken off “this house”, “this body” – we do not wish to be found naked. We groan to be clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

So, I guess my point is, the shame in the Garden is the shame of death, at least in part (maybe the whole because it expresses the fallout of death’s neurotic effects). And in this way, it fits within our overall soteriology. It fits within Pascha. The shame we experience is part of our death experience, but it is to be overcome at Pascha – and by the Holy Spirit as the Holy Spirit prepares us for the later experience (while we wait) of Resurrection. My concern is tracing our neuroses back to death, because if we know what our problem is, we at least know what we need to overcome it to some degree, and nothing short of Pascha will do.

Fr. Stephen Freeman says:

Matthew,
Indeed, mortality is a form of nakedness. Our being clothed upon with immortality, light, righteousness – those terms are ultimately synonymous. Our experience of shame, identified with the nakedness of our bodies, can also be identified with the vulnerability of our personhood. It is far too often overlooked in our intimate relationships (which properly belong only in the union of marriage). There is, properly, a total giving of self, a total nakedness of self, in the act of marital union, something that can only take place with the greatest possible “safety” of love. This is, doubtless, frequently violated which leaves us feeling damaged, and, then, protective, so that couples approach one another with hidden elements of fear and reluctance. In such situations, our interactions become yet another in the multitude of actions that feed our mortality.

When we think about all these things in terms of salvation (soteriology), I find that the image of union with Christ, manifest in resurrection of the body, clothed in immortality, in which it becomes a vehicle of light and life rather than a vehicle of death and disease, is the most all-encompassing way of thinking.

So, Father, if we allow Jesus to overcome the fear of death in us by His Ressurection, shame diminishes?

Fr. Stephen Freeman says:

Michael,
Yes, if we understand all of those terms in their fullness. “Overcome the fear of death” is thus a much larger thing than just being concerned about physically dying. The exposure of shame is itself a sort of death. Indeed, we have the colloquial expression of shame, “I could have died!” Or, “I would rather die than…”

As we encounter Christ more and more deeply, all that we fear in our shame is exposed. This is why it is only done little by little (“bear a little shame”). All at once would be overwhelmingly impossible. I think of such exposure of shame in the presence of Christ as a kind of “burning the hay, wood, and stubble” in judgment. It is a purification. This is something that, most ideally, takes place in every encounter with Christ: in communion, in prayer, etc. So we pray, “Burn me not as I partake” in communion. We do not mean “don’t burn me at all” – but rather – “only burn up my shame, my hay, wood, and stubble,” but leave me (naked me) intact. Do not destroy me.

I think part of the delusion of shame is that imagine ourselves to actually be the shameful stuff. We fear that if the shameful stuff were destroyed, we ourselves would be destroyed as well. But this is false. What is lost in our shame is the false self, a personality constructed out of neurotic fig leaves, that hides us from the truth of ourselves beneath it all.

These are reasons why salvation is not sudden – but over a lifetime.

Father I just wanted to express my gratitude for your and others’ response to my comment above.

Through your and Michael’s response to my comment, I was reminded that what triggers my shame, especially when it comes to being Orthodox, is what the Orthodox (primarily priests but deacons and laity as well) say and do publicly as Christians. I’m more aware now of how this has been my trigger. My original explanation to those who knew me before I converted to Christianity was to say that Orthodox Christianity is different, not like other confessions. However, more often than not, Orthodox Christians publicly, especially in the political arena in the US, do not express views that are so easily distinguishable. There are indeed blessed exceptions, and to them I express such great gratitude.

My shame is that I want Orthodoxy to show itself as being different, such that it would provide me some means to say that I have not personally given myself over to an American Christian milieu that I had encountered and resisted for most of my life (and still do my best to resist). However, when it shows itself to be not so different, I am indeed naked and ashamed.

Apparently being Orthodox and Christian is still sufficiently new for me, relative to the decades I have lived outside the life, that it seems even after 6 years, that I’m still developing ‘my sea legs’ on these rocky seas in this Ark. No one promised me it would be perfect nor ‘better than’ other churches. But it is still the one, catholic and apostolic Church of old. She still holds her lamp trimmed, waiting and watchful for the Lord.

Confession helps, prayers and alms help, but the Body and Blood of Christ in Divine Liturgy is my life line, lifting me up, especially when my heart is cast down and inconsolable. And last but not least, I ask St Herman for his humble prayers.

Fr. Stephen Freeman says:

Dee,
The intertwining of Americanism (what else could I name it) with Christianity is quite deep. I sometimes think that such things should be named and renounced at our Baptism. That’s an extreme thought on my part. But the Emperor’s image often gets brought into the Temple and set where it should not be. It creates desolation of the soul.

Indeed, St. Herman, pray for us. It should be noted that almost none of our American saints were born here – Matushka Olga is a good exception. God has sent to us un-American saints in order to create true American saints. That is a miracle, indeed. I do not think that many have even the slightest notion of what the “true America” looks like. CS Lewis played with the terms of Britain vs. Logres. Logres was the true of which Britain was but the merest shadow. The true American would be deeply endued with humility. Hard to imagine.

Dee,
This has to be a struggle for Orthodox believers in other lands also. I’m thinking of Orthodox in Russia, Greece, Serbia, etc. Our effort to lift the Church above country and politics is certainly not unique to us. Ioana, any thoughts from Romania if you read this?

Thank you Father, and Dean for your loving responses.

Personally, Father, I do like the idea of renouncing Americanism at our Baptism. Meanwhile, it seems I am indeed grieving. But in my tears, I have hope in our Lord.

Dee, for myself I find much the same reaction that you do but I have come to believe that the Orthodox faith is hidden here in America. Just as Jesus is hidden in a way even in His public ministry. Those who have eyes to see, see.

I have begun to understand that my own public actions are little different if I am honest. When I stand before our Lord, it is only His mercy that allows me not to turn away. It is only His mercy that overcomes what would be the death of my soul left to my own devices. Life flows from His well of mercy.

The real embarrassment is that the things that kill my soul are so damned trivial and common.

I can say though that your comments here over the years have always brought me joy. That is a fruitful witness.

Father, if we renounced Americanism do the various ethnic folks have to renounce their ….isms?

In fact, I think you have a hard time coming up with a succinct statement of what to renounce. Every …. ism? The faith of ideology?

I do not disagree with you though. Americanism is, IMO, a faith in “the world” and our ability to save ourselves. Added to the hubris of politicians and the powerful and it turns messianic. It is madness of course but quite seductive nonetheless. It even draws in priests and bishops.

Repentance and forgiveness are the key.

Fr. Stephen Freeman says:

Michael,
Do take care to note that I described that as “an extreme thought” rather than something I would ask of anyone or advocate. However, I have, indeed, encountered wannabe inquirers whose political feelings were such that I thought that their conception of the Orthodox faith was being clouded. Orthodoxy is not a political tool or a “place-holder” of a political position. It’s not an absolute for me – but I would treat it like I would other emotional problems that might be flagged in the process of catechesis. That said, I’ve seen more than one Orthodox convert crash and burn through political passions. They can and do eat up souls. And that’s as true on the Left as on the Right.

But, yes, the same problem is also problematic elsewhere in the world. The “nationalisms” of the 18th century were the reason that “phyletism” was condemned as a heresy. Nationalism is a very new thing (just as “nation states” are a new thing). It is part of modernity – and I think modernity is shot through with a wide variety of heresies and passion-driven narratives.

“Except a man hate his mother and father, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God,” Jesus told us. That, of course, is an extreme statement, and, more or less, a teaching by hyperbole. But, it remains the case that lesser loves, if exalted to a place they do not belong, become idolatrous. The melding of religion and politics – a sort of “Christian America” is simply delusional. It is right to want everyone in America to be saved – just as everyone in the world. It is right to want a just government, and for the government to govern according to the laws of God. But American exceptionalism is specifically, a 19th invention of American Protestantism. I think that Orthodoxy should have very little in common with the hucksters of that century.

Not being a Greek or a Russian, or a Serb, etc., I cannot speak as forthrightly about their problems – but I know they have them and I’ve read statements of hierarchs condemning certain ideas and behaviors.

Orthodoxy in the East, however, has had a long history of subjugation and oppression. It is very much a world removed from most of our American experience. I try to remember that history when I encounter certain things and take it into account. But, as a son of American veterans and with ancestors who have been here since colonial times, I feel it encumbant to speak about the sins that “my people” are prone to. St Paul tells us that if we would judge ourselves we would not be condemned by God. It’s a simple matter of discernment.

Love your country. Love it with a clean love, with a godly love, and not with the passions or delusion. Speak the truth, especially about yourself. Most people that I know in the Church from other countries, love where they come from, but also seem very aware of the irony and checkered-past of their homelands. “Americanism” (a term I’ve only coined in these comments) is treating one’s country dishonestly, or idealizing something that is not ideal. Love it, give it proper honor. But nothing more.

I go back to my earlier statement. Just as CS Lewis made a distinction in a couple of his novels between “Britain” and “Logres” (which I would describe as the “mystical and true Britain,” so, I would posit that there is also America, and a “mystical and true America” which is hidden. It has to be discerned. I think that it is much harder to discern that America than it was for Lewis to discern Logres – for a variety of reasons – some of which have to do with the nature of mythology and such.

Also, it is also the case that I’ve probably said to much on this topic already. Please forgive me (everyone) if I have given offense. What I am thinking about is this: how does God see America? What does that mystery look like? When is it most evident and revealed? When is it most hidden and distorted?

Father, I think it is a topic that is germane but difficult to address without sliding into the abyss. The Evil One loves to inflame our political passions so that we turn on one another. For myself I find I can discuss such things only with a hard eye on my inward reactions.

Caesar is perhaps asking for a good deal more than his coinage.

I find many people who are concerned about that and retreating into a sort of Orthodoxy to assuage their fears.

The real embarrassment is that the things that kill my soul are so damned trivial and common.

Michael, if you are ever in a car with me when I am driving behind a slow driver, you will undoubtedly hear one who slays his own soul!

Father, I recall a young woman on Facebook who asked me if I was a “patriot” after I made a statement concerning America that she didn’t like. After I answered “no”, she said she would have “spit in my face” if I had said yes. Nationalism is a very polarizing subject, it seems. “Cultish”, even. I don’t know if there is much benefit in asking “how does God see America?” perhaps “how does God see Americans would be better? I don’t know. I try to think in terms of humans, as I find groupings of any kind too impersonal and divisive….

As a fan of James Clavell’s books on Medieval Japan, I cannot help but see the parallel between the ritual suicide of seppuku and the public resignation by people in today’s so-called cancel culture. They cannot bear the shame of “inappropriate” comments often made years before.

Byron, that’s one we have in common. Lord have mercy.
Humans make groups. It is intrinsic to who we are. I am thinking of 2 Chronicles 7:14
“If the people who are called by my Name shall humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land. ”
I think in that perhaps only Russia has tried this at least a little bit.
Forgive me.

“Orthodoxy in the East, however, has had a long history of subjugation and oppression”.

In a few days, on 25th March we celebrate 200 years since the Greek uprising against the Ottomans in 1821. Those we started that fight did so for faith and country (patrida in Greek), in that order. The words “patrida” and “patriot” have a sacred meaning for Greek Orthodox, whilst “patriot” has been transformed to an almost offensive word in the West.

Fr. Stephen Freeman says:

Nikolaos,
I am cognizant of that anniversary drawing near. Like all human undertakings, there are layers. Some are good, some are dark. God give us strength for repentance and a love of the good.

Father, it seems Romans 7:15 fits in here somewhere: “For what I am doing, I do not, I doo not understand. For what I will do, that I do not practice but what I hate, that I do. “

https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2008/01/10/the-remembrance-of-wrongs/ This from back in 2008 is a wonderful post Father. Certainly it speaks to the dark side of patriotism.

Thank you all for your heartfelt, genuine and insightful comments. It was a melding of thought that served Fr. Stephen’s essay quite well.

The anniversary of the Greek fight for freedom, is the remembrance of a handful of truly Orthodox souls that undertook this effort with the firm belief that it was blessed by Christ and Panagia. It is not a remembrance of wrongs.

The word “patrida” means more than “country”. It carries connotations of “motherhood”. It is the sweetest word for country in the same way that Panagia is the sweetest word for the Virgin Mary. The word patriot carries connotations of sonship relative to patrida.

We sing the Akathist on Fridays this time of the year, in remembrance of Panagia, who intervened to save the Orthodox, not in anger towards the Avars whose memory has long gone.

Fr. Stephen Freeman says:

Nikolaos,
I think that the American experience has no analog for Greek independence. We are mistaken, in the extreme, if we (Americans) imagine to be in any way similar to our American independence. It’s quite difference.

Nikolaos, I was not commenting on the Greek Independence, simply on patriotism. Forgive me if I offended you. The Greek experience is unique. Historically it cannot be generalized. The American Revolution, for instance, had no such foundation.
Patriotism, as an ideology, has a mythology about it that is often destructive of reality and humility. Often creating a built-in rememberance of wrongs.

I agree with you, that these things should be renounced at Baptism. I don’t think it’s extreme, except in the sense of pulling a rotten tooth, removing gangrene. Now I’m the extreme one. I find it quite sad that the Sunday of Orthodoxy in many churches, that they remove the portion of the anathemas. To me, it’s the same logic for not dismissing catechumens – at least in America. And the same reason for not requiring heresy to be denounced at Baptism. In fact, the catechumen being baptized, when they say the lines about renouncing ancient and modern heresies – how many of them would have been instructed as to what those are? The fact that the ancient church did call out heresies, while also affirming the validity of the faith of the catechumen before Baptism (to my knowledge it was generically presupposed that they were our brethren yet not fully, or not fully realized) – means there was a way to both be clear and loving at the same time. I think there are people who don’t think this is possible.

Fr. Stephen Freeman says:

Matthew,
Strictly speaking, the anathemas are only to be pronounced at Cathedrals and monasteries. I will also observe that I find people enjoy the anathemas – which is perverse and sinful. They can easily be turned into tribal markers. They are more like the practice of public or general confession – which is practiced in some rare places. But there, the priest is naming sins, and we are agreeing with him in repentance because these are our sins.

Good catechesis is necessary – but, I find that, too often, catechesis has only reached some corner of the mind and not touched the heart. Touching the heart is the “art” of pastoral care and a very difficult thing indeed.

The sins and heresy that it is easy to renounce should not be of much interest to us. It is the sins and heresies of our hearts – that wrench a cry of “mercy!” from our lips that should interest us.

The anathemas – it’s not like enjoying bad entertainment. It’s not enjoyment at all. When I read St. Cyril’s catechetical lectures they are completely, utterly, pastoral. He has a sense of love for the catechumen that is – I don’t know what to call it – manly, motherly, on the lookout for danger, holding up the limp child despondent – that kind of love. And it is in this love that the heretics are discussed. This is exactly what I mean – the jump is – and maybe it is warranted because there are people who love damning others – that’s not my intention – it’s the pastoral one as pastoral is what I believe our general disposition as Christians is to be without assuming the role – the jump is to either/or. Either you’re loving or you’re hating. By then love gets redefined in a way St. Cyril and I’m guessing just about every other heresy defender would not recognize. It’s out of love for the person/catechumen, for Christ, for the parish, that they to the extent possible, they receive a thorough examination to find what will keep them with the parish from giving God right glory. I make no distinction between personal sin and heresy any longer. They are so interrelated it’s like a distinction without a difference. Personally, when I repent from my everyday sins, I realize now that I’m repenting of unbelief or of heresy. Believing wrong things about God or twisting my beliefs so to contextualize my sins in a lie and heresy – I just don’t see that a distinction needs emphasized. To repent of heresy is to repent of sin. Sin is often ignorance, so is heresy. But I agree, that without some understanding that heresy is often self-generated, self preferred, that it may be possible to renounce heresy and not renounce your own sins. But this is delusional.

Meant to say heresy “fighter”, Orthodox defender…

Fr. Stephen Freeman says:

Matthew,
I did not mean to suggest that you had any enjoyment in mind viz. the anathemas. I was simply commenting on what I’ve observed. But, there are reasons that the typicon only calls for them to be read aloud in a certain context. I trust the typicon in that matter. Good catechesis is essential in the faith. For myself, in preparing candidates to be received in the Church, it was important to help them understand their “personal heresies” and renounce them. Preparation for an initial confession should include this. Pastoral stuff is always the truly difficult matter in our lives.

I wasn’t sure but wanted to explain myself. I didn’t know they were only to be read in Cathedrals and monasteries. But maybe you can understand why I would assume that they were omitted because they might be embarrassing. My mistake either way. I have such little knowledge as to what is universally practiced in catechesis. But, what you describe, I only see it as helpful. It is a diagnostic. Really getting at the root of who you are, why you do what you do, why you think… etc. – if you know it – it’s helpful – even if you cannot conquer whatever it is. It’s like being adopted and never knowing who your real parents were. If you find out, even if there is no reconnection, there is some closure and a way forward. I think it’s like an identity crisis. Even though you may not seemingly make the progress you desire, at least you know why you are who you are – at least in some respect.

I personally felt a little uncomfortable reciting the anathemas as a catechumen. I felt I was not well versed enough to truly understand what I was saying and I worried I was falling into behavior that I generally don’t do- which is shouting slogans in a crowd of people. When I brought my husband this year, I was glad we skipped it, since he is not Orthodox and might easily get the wrong impression. He had no problem holding an icon and walking around the church.

Obviously this is your blog Father Freeman, but I was hoping maybe one day you could dig a little bit deeper on the distinction between mammon/money and how we are to use riches. I have been investing for years and have started to accumulate more personal wealth. This Lent I have tried to give more money away than usual, but am wondering about stockpiling large amounts of money, even if they are due to some good personal habits. Thank you in advance,

Demonstrating affection and veneration in the form of kissing an icon, when I first came into the Church, was a bit of a hurdle for me. But I noticed that overtime a shift in my heart and what ‘I see’ in the icon and in turn receiving what the icon gives, not only made veneration ever easier, but it became part of my ‘daily bread.’

Reading/tapping on my phone without glasses on again.

Hello, thank you for writing a beautiful treatise on shame.

I find this message extremely reassuring. As I have heard you remark before that it is in our weakness that God comes to us. Your message about the objective qualities of ones personality are also full of infinite love and acceptance. It comes through, and it is healing.

Here is some of my shame for what ever it is worth. I am 27 years old from Nova Scotia Canada. I was brought up Baptist, more or less, though I was only in church on days I spend the Saturday night at my friends house. When I was 14, I did a school project on ancient Egyptian mythology. Noticing the striking parallels to Christianity, despite its more archaic guise, I began to ask questions (to folks in my small town of less than 2000) that no-one could answer in a satisfying way. Combine this with my modern scientific upbringing, I am certainly a son of modernity.

I was told I could be what ever I want, that my opinions matter, that I was full of potential and I was to go out into the world and help make it better. By the time I actually graduated high school, I was completely at odds with the story I was being told, I was performing in heavy metal bands (yes the big loud growly yelly kind) and I went on to music school to hone my abilities. I was going to be a rock star you see!

I sacrificed everything to that end. I was dating a young christian girl at the time and we frequently got into fights (I was much more active in them) because I fell out of my faith and no longer believed. By the end of it, I had lost all my bands, a number of friends, that girl, and many other things. I was starting to feel cheated of this “you can be what ever you want” fantasy I was raised on.

I eventually went traveling across Canada with no money and no real plan. It was an excersise in faith in the broadest sense, I was all hyped up on mystical experiences induced by mushrooms and I was one of the modern-hippy-yoga crowd. Trying to make a go of it by posting new-age hippy things on Instagram.

This adventure, by the end of it, was certainly exciting, fulfilling, dangerous, and certainly a purging of some wild energy in me, but it too left me empty inside, sad, lonely, guilty, all the sort.

By the time I returned, I was drinking everyday, smoking weed constantly, and getting up to no good pretty much all the time. The one saving salvation I picked up along the journey was a strong work ethic (I worked from town to town) and faith in my wellbeing based on many strange experiences on the road, which lead me to believe that some strange force was at work, protecting me as I went, which I took for granted and took advantage of.

I got a job with a small roofing company and proceeded to roof full time all summer and winter, I froze and burned myself over and over until I nearly broke my body. I think some part of me was trying to work myself to death. Finally, inspired by Jordan Peterson, I managed to quite drinking at least, applied to University at 25 and got accepted. I was going to be a Clinical Psychologist.

I am nearing the end of my all online 2nd year of university, where I am studying very neuroscience heavy psychology and taking a minor in Esoteric and Occult traditions… ya know, to stay balanced?

Here is the crux, last year, while writing my final essay of the year on Kierkegaard, It struck me like lightening inside that I believed in God. I was actually frustrated at this, as a budding scientist, I was very comfortable saying “There can be no proof one way or the other” but suddenly I had belief forced upon me. How else could one describe this but by the work of the Holy Spirit?

But then here we are, a year later. I listened to Jonathan Pageau’s latest conversation with Jordan Peterson. Long story short, that sent me through a worm hole where it occurred to me that I must be a Christian, of some sort, whether I liked it or not. That I actually believed in the message and mode of being which is Orthodox Christianity. This frustrated me still more, since my logical mind has been slowly massaged into a point of meeting my soul in this realization.

I am still not baptized, I still struggle with a lot of what that might mean, but where else have I found the sort of infinite love which Christianity focuses on. The humility, the weeping at the glory of Being, and to fathom a God whom willingly was crucified out of his love for all of creation. I could no longer deny the power of this story.

Forgive me for this self indulgent rambling. I am still as much a sinner as I ever was, but I am no longer trying to force myself not to be, I am trying to settle into the humiliation which is self awareness, truth, and acceptance. I still smoke pot, I still procrastinate, I still get mad. Most of my friends are atheists or new-age and I feel like an outcast. I have only told one friend of mine that I fear I might actually be a Christian after all. Somehow, I find myself living in that luminous kingdom more and more, by the grace of God. Like Dostoevsky’s Idiot.

Thank you for your attention. And for welcoming a heretic like myself.

Fr. Stephen Freeman says:

Taran,
I find stories, such as your own, interesting – God comes looking for us. It shatters so much of our false narratives. May He give you grace as you continue your journey!


Political Life

Government. The government operates under the 1982 constitution. All the constitutions (1924, 1961, and 1982) were written and adopted while military leaders were in control. The 1982 constitution states that "Turkey is a democratic, secular and social State . . . loyal to the nationalism of Atatürk" (Article 2). "The Turkish State, with its territory and nation, is an indivisible entity. Its language is Turkish" (Article 3).

The constitution enumerates a long list of civil and political rights but subordinates them to considerations of "national security," "national unity," and "public morality." It also allows the government to impose emergency rule or martial law. The constitution establishes a popularly elected single-chamber national assembly with full legislative powers, a prime minister and cabinet responsible to the national assembly, and a constitutional court with the power of judicial review. It provides for a president with extensive executive powers and legislative veto authority who is elected by the assembly for a seven-year term.

There is a wide array of political parties. It is illegal for parties to appeal to religion, advocate the establishment of a religious state, or claim to represent a class or ethnic group. In recent elections, no party has been able to win more than 22 percent of the vote, leading to coalition governments.

Turkey is divided administratively into eighty provinces ( iller ), which are subdivided into subprovinces ( ilçeler ), which in turn are divided into districts ( bucaklar ). A governor ( vali ) appointed by the minister of the interior heads each province and represents the state. Locally elected representative bodies at the village, city, and provincial levels also play governing roles.

Leadership and Political Officials. Most of Turkey's political leaders have been high-ranking military officers, university professors, or successful businessmen. Many provincial governors are former generals or career civil servants who graduated from Ankara University's public administration program. The military elite sees itself as the protector of the constitution and Atatürk's principles. It has formal influence over governmental matters through the National Security Council, which is composed of the prime minister the chief of the general staff the ministers of national defense, the interior, and foreign affairs and the commanders of the armed forces and the gendarmerie. This body sets national security policy.

Military leaders have been especially concerned about threats to secularism and the unity of the state and nation. In 1997, the militarily dominated National Security Council presented the prime minister, Necmettin Erbakan, with twenty demands, including closing religious lodges, enforcing laws prohibiting religious dress in public, closing some state-supported religious schools, cooling relations with Iran, and curtailing the activities of religious organizations.

Citizens often petition elected officials for favors or aid. Unless they are personally acquainted with an official, they convey a petition through a friend or sponsor who knows an official, a member of his or her family, or one of his or her friends.

Turkish law prohibits communist and religious parties. The parties range from socialist (Democratic Left Party), to moderately conservative and free enterprise (Motherland Party), to right-wing ultranationalistic (Nationalist Action Party), to near-religious (Virtue Party).

Social Problems and Control. Internal security and law enforcement are handled primarily by the national police in urban areas and the gendarmerie in rural areas. However, in areas under a state of emergency or martial law, the gendarmerie functions under the military. The national police are armed and authoritarian in demeanor. They have been accused of treating arrested persons roughly to obtain information or confessions during incommunicado detention. The government has instituted human rights training for the police.

The gendarmerie maintains security outside municipal boundaries and guards land borders against illegal entry and smuggling. Recruits are supplied through military conscription. Gendarmes have been subject to the same criticisms as the national police.

Turkey abandoned Islamic law and adopted the Italian penal code in 1926. Serious crimes include premeditated homicide, theft, arson, armed robbery, embezzlement of state property, perjury, and rape. Political speech insulting the president, the military, and parliament has been criminalized. The antiterror law criminalizes written and oral propaganda, meetings, and demonstrations aimed at damaging the unity of the state.

The death penalty can be imposed for certain crimes against the state and premeditated murder, but there have been no executions since 1984. Conviction for a serious felony can disqualify one from holding public office, voting, and practicing certain professions.

Compared to other Middle Eastern countries, the incidence of ordinary crime is low. The most common felonies resulting in incarceration in 1991 were crimes against property (8,360), crimes against individuals (5,879), and crimes against "public decency and family order" (2,681). Every year an unknown number of people are incarcerated for illegal political activity and thought crimes, such as advocating an Islamic state or cultural rights for an ethnic minority.

In addition to Kurdish nationalism, Turkey's security forces are concerned with narcotics trafficking, since Turkey is a route for the transfer of

Military Activity. The Turkish military plays political, cultural, and security roles. Military leaders created the republic in 1923, replaced civilian governments in 1960 and 1980, and forced a civilian government out of office in 1971. Because of universal male conscription, the military is a major national socialization agent for young men of different regions, classes, and ethnicities.

Since joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1952, Turkey has maintained a large military consisting of land forces, navy, air force, coast guard, and gendarmerie. In 1994, it had 503,800 officers and enlisted men on active duty. Defense is usually the largest category in the national budget from 1981 to 1991, it averaged 20 percent of total government expenditures.


Increasing breastfeeding worldwide could prevent over 800,000 child deaths and 20,000 deaths from breast cancer every year

Just 1 in 5 children in high-income countries are breastfed to 12 months, whilst only 1 in 3 children in low and middle-income countries are exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months. As a result, millions of children are failing to receive the full benefits provided by breastfeeding. The findings come from the largest and most detailed analysis to quantify levels, trends, and benefits of breastfeeding around the world, published in The Lancet.

New estimates produced for the two-part Series reveal that increasing breastfeeding to near-universal levels for infants and young children could save over 800,000 children's lives a year worldwide, equivalent to 13% of all deaths in children under two, and prevent an extra 20,000 deaths from breast cancer every year.

Although breastfeeding is one of the most effective preventive health measures for children and mothers regardless of where they live, it has been overlooked as a critical need for the health of the population, say the authors.

"There is a widespread misconception that the benefits of breastfeeding only relate to poor countries. Nothing could be further from the truth," says Series author Professor Cesar Victora from the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil. "Our work for this Series clearly shows that breastfeeding saves lives and money in all countries, rich and poor alike. Therefore, the importance of tackling the issue globally is greater than ever."

Analysis of data from 28 systematic reviews and meta-analyses, of which 22 were commissioned specifically for the Series, indicate that breastfeeding not only has multiple health benefits for children and mothers, but it also has dramatic effects on life expectancy. For example, in high-income countries breastfeeding reduces the risk of sudden infant deaths by more than a third, while in low-and middle-income countries about half of all diarrhea episodes and a third of respiratory infections could be avoided by breastfeeding. It also increases intelligence, and might protect against obesity and diabetes in later life. For mothers, longer-duration breastfeeding reduces the risks of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

There is also a strong economic case for investment in promoting breastfeeding. Modelling conducted for the Series estimates that global economic losses of lower cognition from not breastfeeding reached a staggering US$302 billion in 2012, equivalent to 0.49% of world gross national income. In high-income countries alone these losses amounted to US$231.4 billion, equivalent to 0.53% of gross national income.

Furthermore, the authors calculate that boosting breastfeeding rates for infants below 6 months of age to 90% in the USA, China, and Brazil and to 45% in the UK would cut treatment costs of common childhood illnesses (eg, pneumonia, diarrhea, and asthma) and save healthcare systems at least US$2.45 billion in the USA, US$29.5 million in the UK, US$223.6 million in China, and US$6.0 million in Brazil.

Yet, worldwide rates of breastfeeding are low, particularly in high-income countries. For example, the UK (<1%), Ireland (2%), and Denmark (3%) have some of the lowest rates of breastfeeding at 12 months in the world (web appendix table 4.2 page 16-17). "Breastfeeding is one of the few positive health behaviours that is more common in poor than richer countries, and within poor countries, is more frequent among poor mothers," explains Professor Victora. "The stark reality is that in the absence of breastfeeding, the rich-poor gap in child survival would be even wider. Our findings should reassure policymakers that a rapid return on investment is realistic and feasible, and won't need a generation to be realised."

The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (BMS) was adopted at the 34th World Health Assembly in 1981 to protect the public from inappropriate marketing strategies, but has been weakly implemented, enforced, and monitored by countries. As a result, aggressive marketing of breastmilk substitutes is undermining efforts to improve breastfeeding rates, with global sales expected to reach a staggering US$70.6 billion by 2019 .

"Saturation of markets in high-income countries has caused the industries to rapidly penetrate emerging global markets. Almost all growth in the foreseeable future in sales of standard milk formula (infants <6 months) will be in low-income and middle-income countries, where consumption is currently low," explains Series author Dr Nigel Rollins from the Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health at WHO, Geneva. In the Middle East and Africa, for example, per-child consumption of breastmilk substitutes is projected to grow by more than 7% between 2014 and 2019. In high-income countries, growth will be driven by sales of follow-on and toddlers milk that are set to increase by 15% by 2019.

Persistent underinvestment in protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding by governments and international funders has exacerbated the issue. "Currently, breastfeeding promotion focuses on encouraging women to breastfeed without providing the necessary economic and social conditions such as supportive health-care systems, adequate maternity entitlements and workplace interventions, counselling, and education," says Dr Rollins.

Countries can significantly improve breastfeeding practices by scaling up known interventions, policies, and programmes identified in the Series. For example, Bangladesh has increased exclusive breastfeeding rates by 13%, which has been attributed to a number of key interventions including 6 months of maternity leave, comprehensive health-worker training, community mobilisation, and media campaigns. In Brazil, the length of breastfeeding increased dramatically from 2.5 months in 1974-75 (one of the shortest in any low-or middle-income country) to 14 months in 2006-07 due to a combination of policy, health service, civil society, and mass media initiatives.

Powerful political commitment and financial investment is needed to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding at all levels -- family, community, workplace, and government, say the authors. Additionally, more needs to be done to regulate the multi-billion dollar breastmilk-substitute industry which undermines breastfeeding as the best feeding practice in early life. The authors point out that the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes could be an effective mechanism if adequate investment is made to ensure its implementation and accountability across all countries.

According to Professor Victora, "There is a widespread misconception that breastmilk can be replaced with artificial products without detrimental consequences. The evidence outlined in the Series, contributed by some of the leading experts in the field, leaves no doubt that the decision not to breastfeed has major long-term negative effects on the health, nutrition and development of children and on women's health."

In an accompanying Comment, Frances Mason from Save the Children UK, Alison McFadden from the University of Dundee, UK, and other leading experts in the field write, "The omission of breastfeeding from the Millennium Development Goals, and the resultant lost opportunities to improve child survival, must not be repeated in the Sustainable Development Goals, for which the indicators will be decided in early 2016. Breastfeeding is too often siloed within agendas on nutrition or infant and young child feeding rather than treated as a key public health approach that can help prevent communicable and non-communicable disease prevention, reduce infant mortality, and lessen inequity. The active and aggressive promotion of BMS by their manufacturers and distributors continues to be a substantial global barrier to breastfeeding. The reach and influence of the BMS industry is growing fast. Global sales of milk formula (including infant formula and follow-on milks) have increased from a value of about US$2 billion in 1987 to about US$40 billion in 2014. Political commitment, investment, and effective international, national, and local leadership are needed to end promotion of products that compete with breastfeeding."

The Series was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust.


The "strange magic" of JFK Jr.

By Joan Walsh
Published July 23, 1999 11:00AM (EDT)

Shares

SALON: What was your reaction last week to hearing JFK Jr. was missing and likely dead?

CP: I was traveling and heard a newsflash early on Saturday morning. I was stunned for many reasons. First because I think John Kennedy was a phenomenally personable individual on the cultural landscape, and this cutting down of a promising man who had not reached the peak of his maturity is one of Mother Nature's cruel jokes. Secondly, I was stunned because the heat-related weather problems that appear to have contributed to the accident were a huge part of my life the night before, when I had been touring Staten Island with family friends, who were constantly harping on the haze. This went on with every view that we had from Staten Island -- of Manhattan, Coney Island, the Verrazano Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and then of the increasingly foggy New Jersey coastline that we were contemplating from a wharf-side restaurant while we were eating dinner -- precisely when the Kennedy plane was taking off.

The term "the haze, the haze, the haze" became a kind of litany that struck me even then as rather eerie coming from these lifetime New Yorkers. So to hear that John Kennedy had taken off from a small New Jersey airport at that very moment into that very haze, which no matter what anyone in the media says was very thick --

There's no ambiguity about it to you. People are trying to say, well, it wasn't so bad.

There's no ambiguity. Some people have tried to defend Kennedy's decision to go up by saying he had no way of knowing about how bad conditions would become an hour later in Martha's Vineyard. This is a total cop-out, because there were plenty of reasons, just by driving from Manhattan to the New Jersey coast, to have been concerned. And therefore there is absolutely no excuse whatever for him not being in radio contact with the various air-control towers as he flew -- in view of the relatively few hours of experience he had in this highly powered new airplane. Furthermore, he was flying without his normal instructor, and, to top it off, he had just had a cast removed from his lower leg the prior day.

I believe as a libertarian that people have a right to destroy themselves if they want to -- I defend anyone's right to drive race cars or to bungee-jump or to try to leap canyons with motorcycles or to fly death-defying airplanes. But not when you are a custodian of the lives of two others, as John Kennedy was that night. There was an ethical lapse here, a major irresponsibility on his part to have endangered the lives of those two women.

Therefore, I was all the more enraged as the days went on and publicity -- thanks to that buffoonish biographer, C. David Heymann -- began to turn against the women. Oh, right -- blame the women! -- the passengers, not the pilot. First, JFK's wife, Carolyn Bessette, was declared to be the nag who insisted John fly her sister to Martha's Vineyard. Then we heard that Lauren Bessette delayed the trip when she was held up at the office.

Those investment bankers.

What a crock! There's no evidence whatever that they had any plans to fly earlier in the day than that. John Kennedy, from recent reports, went to his own gym at 6 p.m.

My first thoughts at the time also were: What a curse indeed is on the Kennedy clan! Bad, bad karma. Getting close to the Kennedys is hazardous to your health. As a superstitious Italian, I think the curse in this case was on Ethel, whose daughter's wedding was so hideously blighted by this accident. When her son Michael managed to kill himself on a skiing run, we all learned about Ethel's flagrant irresponsibility in refusing to constrain her grown children's obnoxious behavior on the slopes despite complaints to the ski patrol conveyed to her the prior week. As a young heiress in her own right, Ethel was a fast driver who had a long history of challenging the norms that are intended to control ordinary people. That sense of aristocratic superiority to everyone else: Laws are to be obeyed only by the hoi-polloi.

But the "curse," if there is one, seems to predate Ethel, doesn't it? I mean, Kennedys were dying tragically before she joined the family.

What I despise is this religiosity, the constant sanctimonious posing behind the Catholic Church that the Kennedys are always doing, and Ethel is one of the worst here. The quick, aggressive display of priests and Masses and prayer services really turns my stomach, because the Kennedy history is in point of fact not one of ethics. It goes all the way back to the behavior of the father --

Exactly. At every stage, the Kennedy legacy is one of ostentatious public service combined with a lack of ethical scruples.

Public service and private irresponsibility?

Yes. These people are egomaniacs. The Kennedy legacy is one of megalomania and moral blindness as much as it is of public service. I was chilled to the heart by the weird fact that this accident occurred on the eve of the 30th anniversary of Chappaquiddick -- when another woman was dragged to the bottom of the sea by a Kennedy, who fled and lied about it and got off scot-free. The Kennedy travails have often been compared to Greek tragedy, and the comparison is a just one. It's the dark theme from Greek mythology of curses visited upon generation after generation after generation.

For this entire week during the horribly protracted search for the bodies, I wouldn't utter a single public word about any of this because of my pagan superstition about the disposition of corpses. I found it enormously wrenching. My thoughts have been besieged by images from classical literature. I couldn't help thinking of Hector, the great hero and crown prince of Troy, as his body was mutilated by Achilles and dragged around the walls of his parents' citadel, followed by the ritual burning of his body.

I thought about "Antigone" and the way that play begins with the impious exposure of Antigone's brother's body, left out for the flies then Antigone breaks the law to go out and scatter a handful of dust on her brother's body so it would not be totally exposed to the elements. The scene kept coming to mind because Kennedy's body was out there someplace -- whether in one piece or a hundred -- and his sister Caroline was in seclusion and didn't formally emerge until the body was found and recovered.

And I thought also of a famous passage in Virgil's "Aeneid" about the death of Marcellus, a very promising young man who was the adoptive son and heir of the Roman emperor Augustus. Marcellus' death at age 20 produced enormous mourning among the Romans, since he embodied the future of the dynasty. That theme of the young man cut down recurs in this case, but we have to remind ourselves that John F. Kennedy Jr. was not 20, but 38.

Right. But it still falls under the archetype of Adonis, the beautiful young man whose blood is shed to regenerate nature. In fact, Gore Vidal very wonderfully cited this metaphor about JFK Sr. to explain the enormous popular outpouring after the assassination that made him mythological -- even though the actual achievements of his presidency were fairly limited. That John Jr. was 38 --

And had accomplished fairly little, given the expectations.

I agree. I'm not one of those who feel he had a big future as a political leader. He was too low-key, too amiable and laid-back to be a hard-nosed politician at the level of senator or, for heaven's sake, president. And at 38, he still had not managed to produce children, which I find striking. There's a parallel with the melancholy Albert of Monaco, who was similarly both gifted and perhaps cursed by having a very charismatic, stylish and famous mother. It's interesting how Albert's sisters are such strong, ferocious personalities. They're fiery, while Albert seems stymied, almost obliterated, unable to form a major, mature relationship with a woman or to produce heirs, which are crucial for the realm.

What did you make of the fact that the plane went down in full sight of his mother's estate it's like he never got over her.

So true. He never did. In a certain way John Kennedy Jr.'s beauty was a kind of narcissism. His physical perfection came from entrapment in a youthful persona. He never developed as a persona beyond that of the handsome, loyal, affectionate, wonderful brother --

And the wonderful son.

Yes. The fact that he went down with two sisters is also interesting -- it's like a little family went down together there. And the woman he chose had his sister's name. People say, "Oh, Carolyn Bessette was just like Jackie." She was no Jackie! It's absurd. There's a tremendous elegiacal rush to find good things to say about this young woman, but she seemed to have lost energy as a personality the longer she was married to John. Pictures of the young Carolyn Bessette show what vitality she had. She was like a romping lioness. She exuded joie de vivre and an ebullient sensuality that she lost. As the years went on, she became this outwardly sour, Calvin Klein clone, a kind of Aubrey Beardsley android.

What did that woman do with the enormous opportunity presented to her as the wife of John F. Kennedy Jr.? She did nothing. She utterly lacked Jackie Kennedy's sophisticated interest in art, music and culture. All she seems to have represented was the shopaholic side of Jackie. Now that's a judgment on John also, since this is the mate he chose. He chose a woman who made herself thinner and thinner and thinner when they were trying to start a family. She got more and more fashion-conscious, more and more a fashion cipher. A recent piece in the New York Post called her -- with no insult intended -- a "lanky clotheshorse," and I thought, yes, that's what happened, she became more and more contracted and wizened, as a socialite who bloomed only at chic parties. She reserved her smiles for important or rich people. Her family called the two of them "soul mates," but she may have been a dead end for him as a personality.

But on the other hand, we must recognize what an awful burden it is to be the son of a famous man -- much less the only son of a martyred saint, as JFK Sr. became. And I think all of us who admire JFK Jr. do so because we realize what opportunities he had to be a total wastrel and an arrogant ass.

We're in effect honoring him for emerging intact from the psychological Nazi interrogation booth of the mega-celebrity forced on him from his earliest years, when he was surrounded and protected by women. It appears that Jackie herself was worried about him and described him as a sort of space cadet who would suddenly tune out and not notice what he was doing. It was his way of coping. His going off into dreamy detachment could have been a factor in this disaster.

I also think that risk-taking and adventurism are a search for transcendence, but they're also a search for oblivion. It's like there's a desire for oblivion in people who constantly defy death and need that kind of adrenaline high.

I agree. People who are always testing the limits are gambling with their lives, there's no doubt about it. And there's been this enormous shadow hanging over JFK Jr.'s life simply from Kennedy history. What we're hearing now, from the many reports from his friends who went on rafting expeditions with him or ice-climbing on glaciers in Europe, is he was always pressing the limits. He was searching for manhood, trying to come up to the much higher macho standards of his father, a military hero. It's as if he was looking for manhood in some way to escape the warm but suffocating bath of female attention.

My all-time favorite story about him goes way back to when he was 14. A woman journalist wrote a firsthand account of an incident she witnessed on the streets of New York: Jackie was shepherding John into a taxi, and as they were leaning down to get in, Jackie, "her face distorted with an expression that only another mother can understand," whacked him smartly on the back of the neck. I've always loved that story because it shows Jackie's control of him and her determination that he come out right and not be a spoiled brat. It really was a day-to-day effort that she made, and she took great pride, from all reports, in how well both her children had turned out.

Therefore, I'm even more aggravated, as tens of thousands of other people also must be, that JFK Jr. played so fast and loose with his own life, since his mother had given so much to shaping his character and ensuring his survival. It's almost like someone vandalizing a great painting. He was the artwork that was created by his mother's patience and devotion. So it's tragically ironic that the plane would go down within sight of his mother's estate -- the haunted motherland. The Cape Cod Times reports that the registration papers for the airplane --

Washed up on her beach. I give Jackie enormous credit for keeping him and Caroline away from the more destructive Kennedy kids, but I also have to say that as a 5-year-old, I was horrified by John Jr.'s salute to his father's passing coffin. To this day I can't see the salute without cringing, because to push a 3-year-old who had just lost his father out on the sidewalk to salute his horse-drawn coffin feels like coldness. A 3-year-old should be held and comforted, not made to salute when he's lost his father. I felt that viscerally then and I still do.

That's very interesting. I totally trust your reaction since you were so close in age to John at that moment. I myself was in my senior year of high school and thought the gesture was extraordinarily charming. But how awful it was that the death occurred so close to his birthday. Jackie insisted he have a normal party, and everyone had to sing "Happy Birthday" to him. What a terrible, fateful irony -- your father's funeral coinciding with your birthday.

What did you make of his status as sex symbol? Did you ever meet him?

I did see him in person on one occasion, but my sense of his beauty comes from all the magazine photographs I've enjoyed over the years. His physical conformation was absolutely remarkable. What a specimen of human breeding! The depth and breadth of his chest and torso, the shape of his thighs, the clarity and contours of his jaw, his head, his hair, his hands. He had a Cary Grant level of beauty, with the proportions of a Greek Kouros sculpture. It's one of the eternal, unfair principles of nature. Human beauty of this magnitude automatically confers power. Look at poor Prince Albert over there -- dim and balding! There's no way he could ever have John's amazing luminosity.

The one time I saw JFK Jr. was at the party that he threw at the Art Institute in Chicago during the 1996 Democratic Convention. I was in Chicago for the Oprah show and visited the convention, where I heard Hillary give her speech. I heard from people in the hallway that JFK Jr. was giving a big party downtown, and I thought I'd just drop by and see if I could get in, which I did. Normally, I try to keep clear of all that celebrity schmoozing, but I shouldn't complain since that's what got me in.

Anyhow, I did a quick, guerrilla, look-see tour -- zip, zip, zip through the jammed rooms -- and after about 15 minutes was trying to slip out a side door, when there he was -- being swept in through that very door with his stern entourage. He knew who I was, and we briefly shook hands -- I remember thinking how rock-hard his forearm was when I patted it. It was just a moment, but I have to say that in my entire life, I have never seen a more charismatic person. Of course, I didn't see him riding his bicycle around Manhattan or being the humble guy getting the hot dog and the oatmeal and the coffee, OK? I saw him in his royal persona with his battalion of burly, clearly armed-to-the-teeth bodyguards, their jackets bulging with what were surely multiple weapons. He himself seemed enormously tall, and he seemed to radiate this light that has always been identified with exceptional persons in history.

The subject of charisma is one that I've discussed in my own work. It goes all the way back to the sudden influx of grace perceived by early Christians. Halos or auras are always shown emanating from holy beings in world art. It's a theme I've applied in my work to the charisma of great movie stars, the radiant light in George Hurrell's photos of Garbo or Dietrich at the 1930s high point of the Hollywood studio system. I've seen genuinely charismatic people only a few times in my own life, and that night in Chicago was certainly one of them.

At his best, JFK Jr. exuded some strange magic. It's not something that he was necessarily responsible for. It's a gift, but it's also a terrible curse, because it separates you from other people, and the whole body of world mythology shows that the charismatic person usually gets slaughtered, OK? Mother Nature gives, and then she takes away. You don't get one thing without the corresponding other. At his entrance in Chicago, I think everyone saw that light emanating from him. There were hundreds of people milling around. The instinctive stir and parting of the waters in front of him were really kind of royalist. It was the closest thing to an atavistic, royalist phenomenon I've ever seen in our democratic country. It partly came from the mere fact of his celebrity, but it was also his physicality, his dazzling physical presence.

He had a preternatural aura. And he himself didn't know what to do with it. He struggled with it. He knew his personal power over people. He knew that his prominence primarily came from his sonship to the great fallen leader, but he knew also that he had the seductive ability to render males and females of any age into an adoring puddle around him. Now, most of the time he handled that gift well. But I think he was veering in a bad direction recently -- as evidenced by his unnecessarily posing in what appeared to be the nude in his own magazine.

That murky, ghostly shot of him with his arms around his knees now seems even more disturbing, since it shows him looking upward as if from the watery depths. At the time, I thought it was a bizarrely provocative gesture, particularly combined with his sermonizing in that issue about his Kennedy cousins being "poster boys for bad behavior." Something was starting to get unhinged there, as early as a year ago. Things were coming apart. Obviously his magazine wasn't doing as well as might be hoped, but the fact that he broke his ankle this year in that sports accident was a sign that his control of the physical world and of his own physicality was starting to slip. It was a warning sign to slow down -- to stop and reassess. Instead he pushed forward. Something was turning in his own life and fate, but he didn't listen to the signal.

That posing, offering himself up as beefcake -- it's exactly what he spent years trying not to do. It was as if he was saying, oh forget it -- if this is what you want, this is what I'll give you.

Yes, something was definitely going wrong. I've always been troubled by his relationship with Carolyn Bessette, whom I saw as the equivalent of the very annoying Linda Eastman in the Paul McCartney saga. In both cases, you have an outgoing, warm, pretty boy who takes into his life an often petulant, very private woman who is introverted to the point of neurosis. Some peculiar power thing was going on in the Kennedy relationship -- with Carolyn probably the psychologically stronger one. But what was with all that extreme, self-maiming plucking of the eyebrows? She was looking more and more like a bug-eyed pupa. It was as if she were in reverse evolution. One would hope that the wife of a man like JFK Jr., would extend him outward and broaden him, but she may have paralyzed him, locking him into a superficial social elite.

And that wedding, OK, where they went to this secret but luxurious Georgia retreat and had the effrontery to marry in a tiny, historic African church while she was wearing a slip dress that was nothing but a plain piece of draped cloth that cost an obscene amount -- [about] $38,000. The disconnect between the price of that dress and the site of that wedding seems to me to express all the hypocrisy of Kennedy politics. Which is: We're one of you we take the part of the common man we speak for African-Americans and Latinos and the poor and dispossessed -- while we hide our lavish lifestyle and trust funds from the public eye.

The Kennedys want it both ways. They want their exclusive life, and they want the pretense that they speak for the people. But of course that's the hypocrisy of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party that we're now going to be examining with the potential senatorial candidacy of Hillary Clinton in New York. It's long overdue -- a real shakedown that exposes the arrogance and insularity of the lifestyle not only of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party but of their media cohorts. And it was really exposed this past weekend when ABC's Diane Sawyer, for example, couldn't get to work for two days because she was such an intimate of John Kennedy's.

And then that pompous windbag, Christiane Amanpour of CNN and CBS, putting herself out there to reminisce pointlessly about her big friendship with JFK, going all the way back to schooldays when they were sharing a house in Providence -- something she's carefully avoided revealing since she's been masquerading as a serious journalist and woman of the world, even after she married that shallow, 10th-rate JFK Jr. imitator, Assistant Secretary of State James Rubin. So there's been a lot of outings this week of major media figures. One reason they were all in such shock over this accident was that it occurred right off the edge of their play-land.

Right, everyone flies over there everyone knows that route.

And now the spotlight of the world's media is on the grotesquely affluent lifestyle of the American major media. The point is, JFK Jr. comfortably inhabited that world, and all the people on the street who feel that he was "just like us" --

Exactly. I echo your eloquent phrase. Don't kid yourself!

I'm an Irish Catholic, but I've often wanted to be Italian. My favorite aunt is Sicilian, and when she lost her husband, my favorite uncle, when I was 10, the Sicilians wailed. They were beside themselves with grief. But the Irish barely cried. And I felt deeply that they were right and we were wrong. And I think the same thing when I watch the way the Kennedys grieve.

That's very interesting. Italians make death a common part of everyday life. It was one of the strongest features of my upbringing: Small children were always taken to funerals. On the morning of burial, you file past the open coffin and kiss the corpse. And Italians are constantly visiting the cemetery to tidy up the graves. There's a grisly realism about the facts of death --

Yes, that integrates it with life itself. It descends from the ancient paganism of the Mediterranean world. It's all about fertility and extinction -- Mother Nature as the womb and the tomb. Once you get into the genteel middle class, of course, you edit out the brute facts of both sex and death. For example, the funeral service in New York City is being called "a celebration of the lives" of JFK Jr. and Carolyn Bessette. This is the latest New Age jargon. Now you're not commemorating or marking or mourning someone's death or meditating soberly on their passing. Oh, no, you're going to be focusing on their lives -- anything to avoid the actual fact --

The fact of loss and grief.

And the gruesome physicality of corpses, OK? Working-class people in my background used to say, "Old man Pizzutti kicked the bucket!" But the more you move into the middle class, you're saying --

Or he went to his final reward or eternal rest. You do anything to deny the horrors of death. In fact, we're in a time right now when sentimental angel fetishes are expanding and when people are less and less willing to confront the physical corruption and finality of death. Like this new vogue in spiritualists, who claim to put you in touch with the hovering spirits of your parents or relatives, who never really died.

You never have to say goodbye.

They just hang around. They loiter. They're all loitering! They never were absorbed into Mother Nature. So I think this terrible accident -- the plumbing of the watery depths to try to recover the mangled bodies before the carrion fish and parasites got them -- is a real metaphysical lesson to everyone. Those three people are gone -- utterly annihilated by their encounter with nature. All that's left is to treat their remains in a formal and dignified manner, which is part of the great pagan ritualism that has come down into the Roman Catholic Church and that gives closure. The huge heritage of rituals helps organize and exorcise intense emotions via a choreographic kind of design. We troop into a place, focus our thoughts, dispose of the remains and then troop back in a processional manner. The old rituals are of enormous import in people's lives, and small children should always be included.

Joan Walsh

MORE FROM Joan WalshFOLLOW joanwalshLIKE Joan Walsh


4 Ezra Pound Was A Fascist

It&rsquos no exaggeration to call Ezra Pound a fascist. We don&rsquot mean that he was a little cranky or wanted things done his way&mdashwe mean that he was such an active supporter of the Axis that he ended up getting thrown in jail for treason.

Pound was obsessed with Mussolini. [7] Even though he was American, he was so impressed by the rise of fascism in Italy that he begged Mussolini to meet him in person. Eventually, Mussolini agreed, and Pound lavished him with gifts in appreciation.

When World War II started, Pound went on the radio and ranted about how Americans needed to stay out of the fascists&rsquo way. He openly criticized America for siding against the Third Reich and then went into long rants saying that the Jews were responsible for every war.

He even wrote multiple poems about how great fascism is. His &ldquoItalian Cantos&rdquo are odes to the fascist fighting spirit, while his &ldquoPisan Cantos&rdquo are full of rants criticizing the US Army for joining the war. By that point, though, he was just complaining. The &ldquoPisan Cantos&rdquo were written behind bars, after Italian fascism had already fallen and Pound had been locked up for treason.


Jephthah's Daughter: A Lament

This ritual of grieving may be performed on 11 Heshvan, the date of mourning for the death of Rachel and an occasion for mourning the exile of the Shekhinah and the loss of the feminine. Alternatively, this ritual may be performed on the winter solstice, which according to medieval Jewish tradition is the date on which Jephthah's daughter died.

The Book of Judges recounts the history of the Israelite people after settling in the promised land, as the tribes struggle against neighboring peoples such as the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Ammonites and the Moabites.

The story of Jephthah’s Daughter (Judges 11) tells us that Jephthah the Gileadite made a vow to the Lord before going into battle with the Ammonites. He vowed that if he succeeded in battle he would offer up to the Lord as a burnt offering whatever first came forth from his doors of his house to meet him. When his daughter (who is unnamed in the text) comes out with timbrels and dances to greet him, he rends his clothes, saying that she has brought him very low and troubled him, but that a vow to God cannot be retracted. She does not protest, but obtains permission to spend two months in the mountains with her companions, to bewail her virginity. When she returns, Jephthah fulfills his vow. An epilogue tells us that it was a custom for the daughters of Israel to lament her death for four days each year. This is the earliest example in recorded history of the fact of women gathered together in an annual ceremony.

Jephthah’s Daughter: A Lament is a ceremony which offers an opportunity to grieve the sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter, and to ponder the meaning of her sacrifice to us today. What is it that we mourn? How are we to transform mourning into joy? Groups of performers are invited to experiment with the text. A group may choose to read or perform the entire Lament, or it may select sections.

JEPHTHAH'S DAUGHTER: A LAMENT

And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to the vow which he had vowed and she had not known man.

And it was a custom in Israel, that the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.

(Performers come onstage to this chant, which may be repeated between sections of the performance.)

Going forth in mourning
Returning in joy

Going forth in mourning
Returning in joy

Going forth in mourning
Returning in joy

Mountaintop

(The chorus is motionless. Two voices read, the italicized voice interrupting.)

Sacrifice: The act of offering something to a deity in propitiation or homage, esp. the ritual slaughter of an animal or person. A victim offered in this way. The forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of one considered to have a greater value or claim.

The heart asks pleasure first. Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth. And then excuse from pain. And then--

Considered to have a greater, as they say, value or claim. A grander. A greedier. Such as a father. Such as a vow. A sequence of special higher-than-legal-more-sublime. Words. Such as a father might utter to One. The relinquishment of something at less than its presumed value. Something so relinquished. Such as a daughter. A loss so sustained. The father has. Lost the daughter.

The father has sacrificed the daughter.
He has –
we have – beloved one blessed are
lost her.

Holocaust : Great or total destruction, especially by fire. Widespread destruction. Disaster (bad stars). A sacrificial offering that is entirely consumed by flames. Cf. Holkaustos, burnt whole.

Sacer, sacred + facere, to make. It is made sacred by sacrificing it.

Sunrise: We Emerge from the Forest into a Clearing

(Full chorus, almost dancelike, but uppercase is shouted)

Into a clearing
from the forest of our lives
every year it is
a wild high climb

The presence of God
is in the rocky ridge
the ghostly wind the stunted pines
the wildflowers

Light stands on the mountain
almost too bright
like a truth from which
we hide our eyes

Today we do not remember
the angel, the ram, the thicket
today we remember the war
and the death of our sister

The sons of Ammon were coming
we feared their army
we begged Jephthah
be our leader

The spirit of God was upon him
he made a great slaughter
when he returned home he was
greeted by his daughter

For he had one daughter, no other
to praise him after the war
so the child danced out with timbrels
and with dancing from the door

But Jephthah rent his clothes he said
you have brought me very low
if a man open his mouth to God
he must fulfill his vow

Then the child asked leave to go
two months in the mountains
to bewail her virginity
among her companions.

Two months in the mountains.

(All) AND JEPHTHAH HOME FROM SLAUGHTER
WAS GREETED BY HIS DAUGHTER!

Little Fugue

(A section for several voices: A begins loudly then continues softly under the voice of B, who speaks her section twice, then yields to C, who speaks very quickly, etc. Variations can be tried in any case the overall effect should be one of cacophony, but each voice should be heard clearly at least once. The final section is to be said in unison by all speakers. The duration of this piece should be no longer than one minute.)

A. She weeps in the night
her tears are on her cheek
my eye, my eye runs down with water
because the comforter is far from me

B. The Lord is become an enemy
he has swallowed up Israel (2x)

C. He actually blames her claims she
made him compelled
do to her this awful thing
can you believe
never otherwise
lament

D. Fault stands in door fault fault
fist is his whoever cries be hit (2x)

E. Obedience shallow law
repeat repeat a tale of terror repeat
comply complain
complain comply
deny deny

All: Want to say no
want to jump in
want to say stop
stop stop

want to stop
being afraid, want
the power
to say no

Interrogation and Reply

(The implicit question asked by this section is what keeps someone in an apparently oppressive or abusive situation when the option of walking out seems possible. The question has many resonances, including the issue of the feminist within a patriarchal religion, and the issue of God in a post-holocaust age. The structure of the piece is modelled on the alphabetical acrostics of the Book of Lamentation)

In the beginning, the wound is invisible.
– Edmund Jabes

A question to pose to the celebrants. The participants. You women, of outraged eyes and grinding teeth, resemble birds whipping themselves against the walls of a room into which they have accidentally flown. In its frustrated attempts to escape a bird becomes frenzied. It leaves bloodspots on the walls. But here no walls exist. Against what do you fling yourselves so extravagantly?

– Against this very question, hurling ourselves at it in vain. This irresistable, unanswerable question encloses us like the swaddling blanket around the squirming infant. Like a Polish chimney. Like a used star. Like a crown and a balloon. Like a glass bell jar.

– Because walls of stone or plaster would include windows from which to climb, doors to unlock, keyholes to squint through, we are not permitted images. Instead, we inhabit a penitentiary of alphabetical fire, which is a cage of cages.

– Chained to earth from before the beginning of the world, the destiny of the human heart is to ache. We alone offer it the exalted thin wind of the mountaintop.

– Do you think you are immortal? Do you think you are innocent? We will die but we cannot abandon our sister. Do you claim we are extravagant? Do you believe we are strident? Have you heard that if you save one life it is as if you saved the universe? Down the collapsed mineshaft of time we call until our voices grow hoarse, we are coming though we delay. We beg our sister to breathe, to forgive our slow machinery.

– Expert at stillness, we are whirling in place like Sufis. We are dancing on the inflamed heart. As it heaves we almost fall.

– From the forest of our lives
into the clearing
lightning rapes the mountaintop
violent like the truths
of which we only dream
forgetting
the ancient screaming of God
answers our scream

– God who is One warns us that to escape is to perish. Beyond these nonexistent walls they have removed the air! Did you not know that? Nothing is outside but vipers and tigers.

– Her desire was for her beloved. Her boyfriends, her girlfriends, her life.

– If a baby is beaten by a parent, and then put down on the floor, the baby will crawl, not away from the parent, but toward. So we-- So we--

– Just then I stood in the doorway of a ruined stone castle. A tuft of thick grass lay beneath my feet. The Mediterranean sun hammered against my forehead until it felt like a brass amphora. I offered my brass forehead as a bride. Here, I said, is the soul. Before me tumbled the hillside of grass and boulders to the sea edge. The blue sheerness offered itself as a husband.

– Killing God, killing God. if I walk away God will commit suicide. He threatens it. I cannot risk it.

– Lovely little lies. The truth is that we are afraid of our passions. And afraid of history.

– More lies. The truth is that we are terribly, passionately hopeful. The truth is that we are tethered like fiery-eyed horses. The truth is a mystery. The truth is, it is a mystery. The truth is that the razor is in my pocket.

– No, the truth is that we are on vacation. Lament, for us, is recreational. A pilgrimage is an excuse for adventure, look at Chaucer, look around, women in every culture pursue some religious rites or other, groveling massively, doing novenas, wearing veils, lighting candles, you must perceive that this is not simply a matter of oppression. Of course they are oppressed. Of course we are. The ritual of lament faithfully encodes our oppression and we enact our part faithfully. On another mountain you might see women from a neighboring oppressive culture excising the clitorises and labia of their daughters. We might exchange signals from our twin peaks. Or not. And for Jephthah’s daughter, we get four whole days off from work.

– One may not desert the sickbed of a friend. Or of a nation.

– Perhaps the story has been edited, perhaps the daughter was a priestess, perhaps the vow was not an accident: what then?

–The Question always is how to go on living after the holocaust. Each and every holocaust. How to value life enough. Is Palm Beach enough? Are the Catskills enough? Is mooing the cow on the kibbutz enough? How about Carnegie Hall and the invention of land-of-the-free America by Hollywood? And being dredged from the Mississippi riverbottom with your black and white companions?

– Riverbottom mud, the unassuaged, the infinite screaming of the moon.

– Since Isaac was saved, they can pretend that men are not wounded. Since Jephthah’s daughter was a woman, they can pretend that her murder was insignificant. Since Adonai transcends the body, they can sacrifice the planet. These imbecilities make us, too, writhe as if bound upon an altar.

– To let go, we once knew, was to plunge into the abyss. Suddenly we learn that there is no abyss, or rather that the abyss is everywhere. Now we cling with desperate arms and legs, because we love the smell of God. The milk-yielding nipples of God. God’s tongue.

– Underneath everything we are women. Hear us sigh. Do not call us sweetness.

– Very often we meet on the mountaintop for the same reason that we perform in the theater of religion. Here we are allowed to wear masks. And if you question people in their masks, they will tell the truth. And we love the truth.

– What strategies we have used to survive. How inventive our means, how diligent our metamorphoses. We use even the moon. Even the mountaintop.

– X = the unknown that may yet be discovered, the truth that may yet be born, for the sake of which I am prepared to pierce a hole in the membrane of God. Let him not dare to show his face. I would reach into his gizzards and drag out the Goddess concealed there, all these centuries, even if he himself denies that such a Goddess exists. He is ignorant of her existence because of his terrible busy memory.

– You remember that it is the obligation of every Jew to remember.

– Zero my fate, infinite my dream.


Rain Falls on the Mountaintop

Can these bones live?
– Ezekiel 37.6

No one bears witness for the witness.
– Paul Celan

(To be performed slowly, with grief.)

She has no name, has neither face nor eyes
they were drowned in blood
they were burnt
by fire

She is a garden shut, a fountain sealed
She sought her beloved and found him not
no kisses of the mouth no child at breast
no belly of heaped wheat
she is the song of nothing
and never

She loved the man she called father
a great a mighty warrior
a rock an outstretched arm his enemies fled
she ran after his love she praised she danced
hallelujah father but he
was angry

He said she hurt him, she caused him grief
he took her she consented he raised the knife
she lay on stone and showed her throat she said
blessed be he who protects and saves
who comforts the captive and raises up
the dead

Her father will die at a good old age
but where was the angel to stop his hand
where was the sacred messenger
who is this God of stone and knife and fire
why does he hide, what can he see
when a woman prays

From the forest of our lives
into the clearing
rain falls on the mountaintop
soaking the wordless stone
year after year
like the truth of tears

(Three voices together speak the epigraph, then one by one the separate parts.)

Of our own accord, with our intelligence
and understanding, we can distinguish
between good and evil, doing as we choose.
Nothing holds us back from making this choice.
– Maimonides

So then there was a moment in time

there is
a moment
in time

(Chorus divided into portions. May be a sequence of alternating or mixed alto and soprano voices.)

To cause to burn! To add fuel to! To maintain or intensify a fire in! To bake in a kiln! To arouse the emotions of! To detonate or discharge (a firearm, explosives, or a projectile)! Fire a rifle! Fire an electron! Informal: to discharge from a position dismiss!

Catch fire. On fire. Under fire. Firepower.

The Lord thy God is a consuming fire

and that which passes through the fire
returns to its nature
the beauty of fire, the beauty of fire, the beauty

and the secret of fire is that to burn something is to send it back, released from its body, to the
energies of the other world. To see a fire raging is to see the process of
transformation
whereby matter returns to spirit, with one’s own ecstatic eyes –
wood, cloth, flesh, what were they before the cosmos was formed?
They return in glory and fury. The smallest campfire, or the
smallest flame in a domestic oven or wood stove,
proves that Death is everywhere, vividly
enacting his rights and exerting his
powers and prowess
and that to die is to be unwritten, ravished and ravishing

and they say that whenever something is burned
it is an outburst of the violence of God

who is light, rock, flame
who is creation’s roar behind all sound

She Refuses To Be Comforted

Yes I am dead
Yes I was a daughter of Israel
Yes I am nameless

Yes my father was a very great warrior
Yes the spirit of the Lord came upon him
Yes the Ammonites were delivered into his hand

Yes I ran after his love I praised I danced
Yes he had opened his mouth to the Lord
Yes he felt pain he blamed me

Yes I went with my companions on the mountains
Yes for two months I lamented my virginity
Yes I was a girl I wanted love

Yes I wanted a man to push into me
Yes like a long flash of light and babies to push out
Yes my companions kissed me and embraced me

Yes the men lay me on stone like a sheep
Yes I was naked like a sheep
Yes I cried God God Mama

Yes the angel of the Lord rescued my ancestor Isaac
Yes the Lord sent a messenger to stop the father’s hand
Yes he would save a boy but not save me

Yes we are born into a theater of war
Yes the violence of my father
is a mirror he holds to the face of God

Yes I was unblemished
Yes I was a proved virgin
Yes I am very long dead

Yes I am weeping
Yes what else do you want of me

We look into Torah with regard to women, and we see that women are perceived as lesser, and are thereby dehumanized. There is no immutable moral principle to countermand what humankind will do if left to the willfulness and negligence and indifference and callousness of its unrestraint.
– Cynthia Ozick

Holocaust, from Gr. holokaustos, a sacrifice wholly consumed by fire a burnt offering.

(Full chorus, call-and-response, crescendo)

how is she slain
who was full of life
holocaust
holocaust
our eyes run down
with bitter water
holocaust
holocaust
never to be scholar
worker leader
holocaust
holocaust
physician judge
rachmanes din
holocaust
holocaust
image of God
denied rejected
holocaust
holocaust
how many daughters
sisters mothers
holocaust
holocaust
how to lament
the unremembered
holocaust
holocaust
is there any sorrow
like this sorrow

(Full chorus, immediately following the previous section)

sorry for him
feel feel
sorry for him
son
of a whore

sorry for him
he opens
he opens
sorry for him
feel
the poor bastard
the poor bastard

it hurts him
it hurts him, feel
sorry for him
the poor despised bastard

the despised rejected lonely bastard feel it

inside every heartbreak
an older heartbreak
inside every injustice
a deeper injustice

Death and the Maiden

(This call-and-response section should be considered optional. If performed, it may be best to speak it almost in a whisper, implying a tone of desolation comparable to that of “Lament.” The verb may remain present tense, “We sacrifice. ” or may be changed to past tense, “We sacrificed. ” )

We sacrifice this girl in the theater of war
For the Lord your God is a jealous God
We sacrifice this girl in order to spell our names
See now that I, even I, am he
We sacrifice this girl to strengthen our hearts to combat the enemy that surrounds us.
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron,
Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.

We sacrifice this girl today because we sacrificed her yesterday, last year, a thousand years ago, it is a tradition of holiness.
For the Lord our God is holy
We sacrifice this girl because her hair is long and powerful
Sin began with a woman, and because of her we all die
We sacrifice this girl because she danced at the wrong moment
Her filthiness was in her skirts
We sacrifice this girl that blood surge from her cut throat.
We sacrifice this girl that her soft new body become ash and cinders,
and we smash what remains of her pelvis.
And let her put away her harlotries from her face,
and her adulteries from between her breasts

We sacrifice this girl to protect ourselves from impurity.
For the lips of a strange woman drop honey
And her mouth is smoother than oil
We sacrifice this girl because she asked for it.
For all his ways are justice.

Mountaintop

(Full chorus for the words in roman type. The italicized words may be understood as the voice of the wind, of the spirit, ruachthe voice of God who finally replies. It should be played from a tape and seem to come from everywhere and nowhere.)

I desired mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
– Hosea 6.6

Going forth in mourning
returning in joy

From the forest of our lives
into the clearing
weeds grow on the mountaintop
between the stones

Birdcalls fly from shrub to shrub
the spirit of God
is in their twittering
like a truth that is sweet

Wind increases
shiver and listen
is it the wind
is it a voice

You who lament
you are the one
you be my angel
you be my messenger
you stop the warrior’s hand

it will take ages
it will begin today
you will die many times
you will slip in blood
you will be humbled
you will fail
it will take all your strength
it will appear to take forever
it will begin today

we must go forth in mourning
we will return
in joy

An Unclosed Closure

(“Mountaintop” may conclude the performance of “Jephthah’s Daughter: A Lament.” Performers will freeze for applause. They will then walk toward the audience but instead of bowing, an option is the following naming ceremony.)

The performer who has read the part of Jephthah’s daughter steps forward one step, and speaks:

Remember me
and tell me
what is my name

The other performers step forward one by one to stand at her side. Each states her own name.

When they have all done so, it may be possible to gesture toward the audience, inviting members of the audience to state their own names.

Alicia Ostriker is an author, essayist, midrashist and poet. Her books include Nakedness of the Fathers: Biblical Visions and Revisions and The Volcano Sequence. © 1998. Used by permission of the author. A setting of a version of this work as a cantata, composed by Moshe Budmor, is available from the author [[email protected]] [www.rci.rutgers.edu/

Ritualwell content is available for free thanks to the generous support of readers like you! Please help us continue to offer meaningful content with a donation today.

List of site sources >>>