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                                                                                                                           Asean Affairs   26 December   2012 

Christmas reminds us that the human spirit can never be filled by the Macy’s, the Walmart’s, the Amazons of the world. The human spirit is too vast, too deep, to be satisfied with an 84” TV, cookies, candies, a Mercedes Benz,  an ocean view room overlooking a blue ocean.
The audacious message of Christmas transcends time and space, and does more for us than all the glittering Christmas trees and tinsel
That message was believed by millions in the past and made our present possible.
Do we have a comparable message to hand on to future generations, or will we hand on a wimp, an ersatz substitute which will leave them empty and disillusioned? Will we have it in our hearts to create music like Handel’s Messiah, that preaches a message of fundamental hope  - and love – for without hope one cannot love?
Only time will tell.
But unless we tear our minds away from the jingle bells and the images of a bloated Santa Claus who does not bring love and peace, but packages from a department store, the outlook is not promising. All of these things can play a secondary, supporting role, but they cannot become primary – as seems to have happened to so much of our culture.
Our focus is on an increase in sales volume, not on an increase in the human spirit.
The message of the great traditions of the past – whether it be from Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and countless others – is that the human spirit – though rooted in the earth – also transcends it in magnificent ways.
We are focused mightily on the fiscal cliff, but there is another cliff that is even more important. If the highest hopes of humanity are dashed on the rocks below, humanity will not last long, for the destructive forces that hope keeps in check, will be unleashed in a terrifying manner.
So we need quiet time – away from the tyranny of  a T.V. set or a computer screen or an ipad or a so-called smart phone – to rediscover those depths of hope that lie at the heart of the human spirit. Once we feel that hope in our heart of hearts, then all is possible, then there is a future where there can be love and peace. Let us take that audacious step.


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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More






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