In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review May 2, 2007 / 14 Iyar, 5767

Impervious to beauty and deadened to depravity

By Rod Dreher

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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The Washington Post recently carried out an unusual experiment. It hired Joshua Bell, one of the world's most famous classical musicians, to dress like a common street busker and play his Stradivarius in a D.C. metro station during rush hour. The anonymous Mr. Bell played Bach, he played Schubert, he played some of the most beautiful music ever to emerge from the minds of mortals.

And virtually nobody stopped to notice.

The point was not that most people are uncultured clods. The point, rather, is that we are so caught up in the routine of our lives that we fail to see extraordinary beauty right in front of us. Something's wrong with us.

As Post reporter Gene Weingarten wrote, "If we can't take the time out of our lives to stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music ever written; if the surge of modern life so overpowers us that we are deaf and blind to something like that — then what else are we missing?"

If we don't see the beauty that we should, we don't see the ugliness either. For much of my career I was a film critic, and saw just about every movie that came out. Every now and then, I'd take my wife to screenings with me, and I'd observe her flinching at intensely violent or explicitly erotic images onscreen. Though I shared her conservative moral sense, or so I thought, I pitied her oversensitivity.

And then I changed jobs. I went from seeing 30 or so movies a month to seeing maybe three. It was as if I'd been a heavy smoker who'd gone cold turkey and was shocked to experience my sense of taste returning. Without meaning to, I began to watch movies differently.

The graphic sex and extreme violence that I'd manage to aestheticize away earlier, I no longer could deal with. I told my wife I must be turning into a prude. "No," she said, "you're becoming normal again."

Around that time, I became a father for the first time. One evening not long after my son was born, the mob picture "Goodfellas" came on cable. Three years earlier, I'd written that it was the best movie of the year. Forty minutes into the film, I turned it off. Couldn't stomach the onscreen savagery. Having a newborn gave me eyes to see things I couldn't before. Those eyes that had looked with wonder at this soft pink miracle could no longer take any pleasure in looking upon vivid images of human beings being shot, stabbed, beaten, tortured and abused.

My wife called this becoming "normal," a loaded word in a culture that makes a fetish of being nonjudgmental, especially about art and entertainment. A norm is a standard. Once we were a culture that looked to our art to educate our moral imagination, to show us what it meant to be fully human. Human in all our brokenness and passion and glory. Even artists who confronted evil did so with an eye toward illuminating the good (which is not a synonym for "nice").

Now, we are afraid to call anything good or evil and no longer have the confidence to assert that standards exist. When people ask if a movie, book, album or play was good or bad, what they're really asking is, "Was it entertaining?" In a culture with an insatiable craving for sensation, boredom becomes the root of all evil.

Thus our moral imagination declines into decadence. A decadent society is one that has lost its hold on standards and denies that they exist. A society in the early stages of decadence loses its sensitivity to beauty and to the good. As it slips further into decadence, it loses its ability to recognize how far it has fallen.

Which brings us to the case of Seung Hui Cho. We may never know to what degree he was psychopathic and what fed his insanity. But Washington Post film critic Stephen Hunter identified striking parallels between the mass-murder ritual Cho conceived as performance art, and the hyper-violent films of director John Woo. While it's impossible to say these films "made" Cho go berserk, Hunter is right to assert that all creative artists have to face the real-life consequences of their work.

What does it say about our culture that there is a hot genre of mainstream films called "torture porn," the point of which is to show human beings being eviscerated? The latest entry, "Vacancy," opened days after the Virginia Tech savagery. It's about a couple who are unwittingly set up to star in a snuff film — a movie in which people are tortured to death for the viewer's sexual pleasure. The Los Angeles Times called "Vacancy" a "ruthlessly efficient stalk-and-slash machine" — this, in a favorable review.

Something is wrong with us, all right.

We have learned to expand our understanding of the normative to include art that exalts things that ought to be repugnant to those who love life. In so doing, we teach ourselves to embrace death, or at least to remain indifferent to its putrid presence. "A human body that cannot react is a corpse," wrote literary critic Russell Kirk. And a human imagination that cannot react against that which would destroy it is nothing more than fever dreams of a zombie.

Do you want to live? Then look at the culture of death, say not this, not anymore — and turn to the good, the beautiful and the true. It's still here, hiding in plain sight.

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Rod Dreher is assistant editorial page editor of the Dallas Morning News and author of the forthcoming "Crunchy Cons" (Crown Forum).


04/20/07 :What I know about being a loner
10/28/05 : How the conservatives crumble

© 2007, The Dallas Morning News, Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.