Reading is a Community Building Exercise

Almost a year ago, I visited Toronto to see if the city and I were still in love, and whether it was time to live here again. Seriously Planning had its first in person events at that time. A few months later, I moved from the West Coast, and the months since then have been unexpected, challenging, full, educational and beautiful.

Above all, the most important “settlement agency” that has helped me with the (still ongoing!) transition has been the *very small* (but very exciting!) Seriously Planning bookclub that has met regularly over the past several months to discuss different books. Though the books have been very different from one another, at each session we’ve shared our feelings about what we’ve read, the lessons we’ve learnt from our reading, the questions each book has raised for us, and the way reading each book has altered/impacted the way we are in the world. We’ve tried to pick books that help us reflect and grow, and the experience of actively reflecting both individually and collectively on each book has been transformational. Even more importantly than the amazing books though, the people that have come to each session have become very important people in my life – this is the circle I come to when things seem confusing to me, when I feel homesick, when I’m upset that I’m not doing the transition with as much grace and tranquility as I would hope.  Whatever the challenge, the bookclub circle has been generous, wise and patient and I’m very, very grateful for its presence in my life! Would you like to join? We’re holding two events this December (details below), but if there are any additional events, the details will be posted on the Facebook page first.

For readers who aren’t in Toronto/aren’t able to meet in person, please do share! What are the books you’ve read this year that left an imprint on your heart? It’s cold and snowy in Toronto, and I’d love to make a winter reading list.

Dec 15th:Seriously Planning Book Club (December Edition)

Dec 29th: Idea Steep (Celebrating our Favourite Reads of 2014

A Fair Witnessing (Gems from Scott Korb’s Light Without Fire)

 

Sweetness for the mind and  heart.

Sweetness for the mind and heart. (Soma Chocolate, Toronto)

Some books call out to you to share them with others. Recently I read Scott Korb’s book Light Without Fire about the first year at Zaytuna College, America’s first Muslim liberal arts college, and ever since I finished it, I can’t stop talking about it with others.

There are so many things to appreciate and admire about this book. To begin, it is rare to encounter an author who is able to talk about Islam/Muslims with honesty and sensitivity. In Light without Fire, the author’s admiration, warmth and connection with the people he meets shines from every page, and you get the sense that he is not a journalist simply watching Zaytuna from the sidelines, but someone who participates in the life of the community. When he visits the Lighthouse Mosque in Oakland for Friday prayers for instance, he lines up shoulder to shoulder with others in prayer. When he attends the mawlids (a celebration of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him), at Zaytuna or in the broader community, over time he becomes familiar with the poetry and sacred music that is recited.

His curiosity and engagement makes the book a very readable, thoughtful, interesting, important read, and one that rewards its reader generously for their time and attention. It makes the book a light, a book of beautiful writing, subtle humour, and humanity, that helps the reader see and understand Zaytuna College more clearly.

“Always carry a little notebook around with you. Whatever inspires you, or rings true for you, was meant for you. So make sure you write it down.” Faced with what Faatimah called “the obvious way” that the Zaytuna classroom – or really any classroom – was not like the rest of the world, and vice versa, every moment deserved the attention of a notetaker. Though the Zaytuna classroom might be structured with the books and schedules and tests that are the trappings of any classroom, what’s “out here” is no less important, structured as it is, she said “so much more by the divine.” The whole world is the classroom. She saw in it signs and proofs of Allah.” ~ (Light without Fire, p.110)

In the spirit of this advice to be a notetaker (given by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus), below are a few thoughts from my read.

Continue reading

Toronto 2.0 (On Stories, Faith and Cities)

Warm your heart.

Warm your heart.

About four years ago, I ran a storytelling program called Terry Tales. Before it began, I imagined a “Moth-style” event where from the very first event, people would enthusiastically tell stories about their lives to a group of strangers.

What I discovered instead is that it takes time and confidence to realize that you have a story and experience to share. Instead of providing a space for performances, our events were about a circle of chairs, an open room, and tea and cookies to break the ice. The conversation was intimate, unexpected and dynamic, and participants ranged from first year students, to PhD candidates to recent alumni/young professionals in the wider community. Every event was different because the participants grew each time, we blogged about the conversation afterwards, and many participants shared with us how important these bi-monthly gatherings became to them.

I stopped holding these events when I moved to Toronto for grad school, but Terry Tales taught me about the importance of spaces of community and the power of stories.  Whenever I’ve moved in the past, whether it was to Toronto four years, or to Vancouver two years ago, or most recently, back to Toronto this March, it’s been important to me to find non-alcoholic centric spaces for discussion, and to find others who were striving to grow spiritually, develop strong family relations, make deep community contributions, create/appreciate heart-nourishing art, live healthily, and protect the planet. So much of the time, the conversations I have about faith are from the standpoint of explaining oneself, and so its always been important to also find people with whom to have proactive, positive conversations that widen and deepen my understanding of what it means to live faithfully in the world. The further I get from my undergraduate experience, the more questions I have, and the richer these conversations become.

Now that I’m back in Toronto, I’d like to create a space for conversation on a regular basis. In many ways coming back to Toronto has been like moving to a new city altogether, and over the past couple of weeks I’ve been spending a lot of time listening and learning through one on one chats and large group settings. In large groups it’s been beautiful (for example) to witness the passionate debate at Canada Reads about how we understand difference, belonging, colonialism and marginalization in Canada today, to learn about the NFB documentary Highrise about the experience of living vertically in Toronto today, to participate in a Muslim Chaplaincy discussion about how people with disabilities experience inaccessible mosques, and to hear beautiful expressions from students of how faith and art connect, among other experiences.  In small settings, it’s been wonderful to exchange stories and perspectives over long chats and multiple cups of coffee.

Both encounters have been a reminder that that this is a city of countless stories, and telling and hearing our stories matter. Sharing one’s experience with others can be an act of discovery and identity formation, and for listeners, stories can act as both an entryway to unfamiliar perspectives and experiences and a bridge to discovering others with experiences similar to your own. In this spirit, Seriously Planning will, God-willing, offer programs on a regular basis on storytelling, books, dialogue and reflection.

For March, here are our upcoming events:

March 21st: Seriously Planning BookClub On “Amusing Ourselves to Death.”

March 24th: Seriously Planning Stories

For either these events, please email seriously (dot) planning (at) gmail.com (or RSVP on the FB event page) to confirm your attendance. Hope to meet you soon!

Change needs Resources – Lessons from Campaign Organizing

Building requires investment

Strong communities require investment (Vancouver Law Courts, BC)

Creating strong communities requires investment. When I finished graduate school, I had an understanding of community development and of social issues, but I didn’t know very much about how to mobilize resources in order to create community change. To change that, for the past year and a half I’ve worked in the non profit sector helping to create safe, healthy and inclusive communities. Coming from a social policy and planning background, I wanted to learn more about how community investment actually happens. In 2012, our campaign team raised over $600,000 for local communities, and in 2013, we’ve raised nearly half a million dollars.

Below, a few basic lessons I’ve learnt over the past 18 months about developing campaigns.

1) Keep exceptional records. Record keeping matters because you need to know your audience and your data. Though I started out as a reluctant learner, I’ve discovered that Excel is my friend, and that the more you know about your donors the better. Whether it’s knowing why donors choose to give or not, or the length of time they’ve been giving, or how their giving amounts increase and decrease over time, all of these things (and much more!) are important to know.

2)  Tailor communications to match donors at different levels. Your high value, leadership donors may want to hear different messages from donors who are just starting out. They may respond to different incentives. Think about what motivates your particular donor group(s) (or desired donor group) and what they care about. Raising funds has to do a lot with storytelling. Tell a genuine story about a problem that needs solving, that has a clear call to action and addresses issues that matter to your donor base. Ensure that you have regular meaningful reminders, but that you aren’t overloading potential donors with too much messaging.

3) In person programming matters. You can’t run a campaign on online/email messaging alone. People often choose to give/become part of a campaign because of a connection they have to a cause in their own lives, the conversations they have in person, and the people they meet at your events. Donor breakfasts and other recognition events matter.

4) Have a plan for the campaign season. It should have peaks that build up over time. Have a communication strategy for your different communication channels that can act as your guide through campaign season. Stories resonate with audiences and are remembered more than specific facts and numbers. (though the hard data is still important).

5) Make sure to follow up. Even when someone has been giving to a cause for a long time, they may forget to give one particular year. Or an email may get lost in their inbox. Or they may mistakenly think they’ve given already. It’s important to follow up – (phone is best) with your high value donors that give regularly. To help organize this follow up, you may want to decide to only follow up with donors who give above a certain level, or have been giving for a certain number of years.

6) Aim to grow your donor base. Can people be cultivated from one level to another? The relationship donors have with the campaign you’re running is not static, and needs cultivation and care. A high value donor is the equivalent of many more smaller gifts and should be your ultimate goal. If someone is giving $100/yr now, have a goal of growing their contributions over time. There may be specific incentives that may help with this process, such as invitation to a certain event, a gift matching program or a draw for prizes..

7) Relationships and emotional connection to a campaign matter.  In a climate of increasingly online giving, it’s easy to forget about the individual ask. The most successful asks are often 1-1 to people that you know. Help people become comfortable in asking people in their own network to get involved. Be focused on your ask. Your most likely audience are people who are connected to your issue for a particular reason.

8) You need to know the specificity of your context. Recognition celebrations matter, but you need to know what works for your donor group. Some people want to be thanked extensively, some people don’t like to be thanked at all, and prefer to be more anonymous in their giving habits. People from different professions and life stages may connect with different messages differently. Filter “best practices’ advice through your knowledge of the audience you are trying to connect with.

9) Stay fresh and consistent. Try new things. Change the look of your campaigns. Experiment with new ideas.

10) User experience matters – how do people want to donate? Who is it that people are connecting with when they send an email/make a phone call?  Is it easy to go from ‘a feeling of wanting to get involved” to actually making a commitment? Are your websites easy to navigate?

11) The little things matter. Send a thank you letter (by post!) to every donor. Cultivate a relationship over time.

12) Stay humble, and know that results do not lie in your control.

 

Look Big Picture (Life Advice from Chris Hadfield)

Reaching for the horizon, Porteau Cove, BC.

Reaching for the horizon, Porteau Cove, BC.

I recently saw a fantastic interview between Cmdr Chris Hadfield and Jian Ghomeshi that I highly recommend watching in its entirety.  In case this advice is helpful to others too, below are a few gems from their conversation.

Q: What is the most important lesson you think you’ve taken away from the space program?

C.H: If you look big picture, I think the important thing is to give yourself something in life that you really want to do. What is exciting? What is the thing in the distance that if things worked out, you just see yourself doing ten years from now. Or 20 years from now… And then figure out how you can just start nudging yourself along one decision at a time. And you can change directions. I’ve just changed direction. I’ve just retired after a long career. I’m picking those things now and trying to decide what skills I will need in order to head that direction with my life.

Important to remember two things:

1) Don’t have to go straight there.
2) Don’t make that thing be the measure of your self worth. Try and celebrate every little victory, every day. Come out of every day saying today was a good day. I got to do this and this and this. I liked all the stages in my career along the way. Don’t want to get my self worth wrapped up in things in the future that may never happen.

  • I feel a compulsion to make the most of myself. It’s kind of like a way of dealing with life. I sort of look at these are the various skills I’ve been given, these are the things I can do, and if I am not trying to make the most of all the various talents and capabilities I have and opportunities I have, then I am wasting my own time and wasting other people’s time to some degree. It drives me to try and not let things slip away. I really feel an urge to do something useful, to make the most of what I have.  So that drives me, that compels me, it makes me continue to work. It gives me reasons and I like it.
  • I think the real key to social media is to be honest. To tell people what it is that you saw, and what it meant to you, and why. It’s social media, it’s not marketing media. It’s not “I’m trying to sell you dishsoap”. It’s I saw this incredible thing, or this incredible thing meant this to me and here is why. And this is what it looked like.
  • I didn’t do this to become a rockstar. I did this because I found it fundamentally interesting and worthwhile and I thought everybody should be interested in it. So I pursued it doggedly for a long time. And most of the the work I’ve done has been completely uncelebrated like anyone’s work…Anyone who shines for a moment, it’s the result of all those unheralded things that it happens. It wasn’t like it was a springboard so that finally I could be famous. That wasn’t the intent. It was more the opposite.  I’m not trying to sell people something, I’m trying to share the wonder of the experience with them and I’m delighted so many people share back.
  • [story about replacing his cupboards when his house got flooded and really enjoying the experience] I feel exactly the same way about my career. It’s not like I go around now that I don’t live in that house anymore missing that set of cupboards. I did that. And it took a lot of work. And I’m really happy about how it made me feel and with the result that it left, but I don’t spend my life wishing that I was still building those cupboards. That’s not how I view life. There’s a lot more cupboards to build.  You can take great delight in learning any new thing. I have 30 or 40 years I hope of cupboards to build,things to think about and new stuff to learn and stuff to try and accomplish.”

Chris Hadfield, Q with Jian Ghomeshi

Celebrating 2014 with Books

My two loves: tea and books

The perfect accompaniment to a great read

I love to share what I read. What I’m reading becomes the subject of my social media posts, my dinner time discussions with my family, my conversations with colleagues, and every so often, a conversation icebreaker with other fellow commuters. And though not every book makes its way to the blog, every so often, I write about the book I’m reading. At home, a good book and a cup of tea from my favourite teapot is the way I destress.

As we enter a new year, I’m curious to hear from you. What books have been important for you over the last twelve months, and what do you recommend reading in 2014?

Leave a comment on the blog, or if you’re in Toronto over the new year, tell us in person on December 31st.  If you can make it, let us know on the Facebook event here.

Below: the ten books that we discussed this year on the blog.

  1. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (January)
  2. The Footsteps of the Prophet by Tariq Ramadan (January)
  3. Green Deen by Ibrahim Abdul Matin (February)
  4. Islam and the Destiny of Man by Gai Eaton (March)
  5. Muhammad: A Prophet for our Time by Karen Armstrong (April)
  6. Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce and Culture (May)
  7. The Smart One by Jennifer Close (August)
  8. Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell (August)
  9. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (December)
  10. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (December)

On Faith Friendly Communities

Urban sanctuaries, Bandung Indonesia

Urban sanctuaries, Bandung Indonesia

When at home, conversations about Islam, the sight of other people praying and the sound of the greeting assalamu alaykum (peace be upon you) are commonplace. But when I travel, or am in an unfamiliar environment more generally, encountering the same moments become vital for personal health. I need a quiet place to pray and meaningful conversations about faith to process my surroundings or to decompress from frequent questions about my background.

On December 14th last year, I stood waiting for the light to change at a downtown street. As I waited, I played absent-mindedly with my phone before flipping it on and turning to Twitter. But instead of retweeting messages about the event I had just left –  lunch at a downtown hotel where I had been celebrating the work of staff members whose secondment was coming to an end, the news that greeted me was that a massacre had taken place in Connecticut, killing 20 young children in the school.

Nearly a year later, I still remember that moment of feeling dizzy and shaky on my feet. In those seconds I couldn’t breathe, and all I wanted was a mosque, or any quiet place to sit and pray. But I was downtown, and there was no multi-faith space to be found. And so instead I rushed to the Vancouver Central Public Library, spread out my coat, and prayed behind a stack of books once I arrived.

As cities we have physical health strategies, strategies for a food secure city, programs and strategies to improve economic health, but we lack non commercial spaces for quiet and reflection.  In moments like that, we need spaces that offer refuge and solace in times of crisis. We need spaces without stimuli – not religious spaces necessarily, but places that nurture and nourish the spirit. We need spaces and services that help us improve our spiritual health in ways that resonate with our personal spiritual and philosophical traditions. We need cities that facilitate reflection.

A few weeks ago I experienced such a moment of reflection.  I was visiting University of British Columbia – Okanagan in Kelowna BC and when I arrived, I was delighted to discover that the Health and Wellness office offers a multi-faith room for the use of the campus community. The room isn’t big, but it has plenty of natural light and beautiful hardwood floors. In the cupboards in the back there are prayer mats, but the room itself does not have any religious imagery, making it accessible to individuals from a variety of religious and philosophical backgrounds. The best part of the Centre is its accessibility; it is centrally located on campus. And because the campus is small, the prayer centre is 5 minutes away from any of the other main academic buildings. (More information about the Multi-Faith space can be found here)

In my last visit to the Centre before I flew home, another student was already there when I entered. We exchanged a few words, I confirmed the direction of prayer in the room, and then we prayed together.  That combination – being greeted with kindness, the joy of hearing some of my favourite verses beautifully recited, and praying in a beautiful space brought tears to my eyes, and that moment is perhaps my favourite experience from my trip. It is, to use Karen Armstrong’s words, a ‘spot of time’ that I will return to again and again in my memory.

That moment, and that prayer space reminded me of the University of Toronto. I attended to the University of Toronto for graduate school, and while no school is perfect, U of T serves as an important model of what a faith friendly community can look like. In an interview with Sun TV, Mark Toulouse of Emmanuel College says the following:

“Three to four thousand Muslim students go to the University of Toronto in the St George downtown campus. In a thriving international city like Toronto where the evidence of a rich tradition of faith expression are all around us, it makes sense to work intentionally to create forums where we can have conversations and learn more about one other.. In many respects religious practices are private, part of one’s personal devotional life or personal beliefs. But religious practices across the world are also often public and rightly so… Religion is one of the most important forces that shape an individual’s life, and whenever people engage the public, they can only engage it with what the fullness of their life is. And part of fullness of that life is what shapes and forms them, and religious practice is among those things that do that.  We believe it is very important to encourage dialogue, to have conversation with one another.”

The University of Toronto is exceptional (and I’ve outlined some of the ways that they support a faith friendly campus below) but they are not alone. Across Canada, more and more universities are recognising that any robust health and wellness policy needs to consider spiritual health as well, and support the pastoral needs of its community members.

Research

The University hosts the Religion in the Public Sphere Initiative that “examines how religion manifests in public spaces, institutions, and interactions, and considers the challenges and possibilities of religious diversity in Toronto and around the globe.”  They hold events, curate religion related news on their website, and host a ‘religion themed’ service learning course.

In Vancouver, Simon Fraser University has been a leader in interfaith understanding. The Interfaith centre at the University has its own interfaith mission and charter that outlines how the university will meet the pastoral, educational, bridge-building and worship needs of its members. It’s a forward thinking, impressive set of principles that recognises that spiritual health is a core part of personal wellbeing and success.  There is also a Dispute Resolution proposal that is clearly outlined on the website. In addition, the University is continually offering dynamic, relevant programming through the Centre for the Comparative Study of Muslim Societies and Cultures that is available to the students and non-students alike. Within the History department, it is possible for students to pursue a concentration in Middle East and Islamic History. Over the past year or so, I’ve been so grateful for the presence of the CSMSC and the breadth and depth of the scholars they have brought to Vancouver to give public lectures.

2) Faith Based Perspective to Services/Student Development

At the University of Dalhousie, spiritual wellness is an important part of how health and wellness is understood.  The  Dalhousie Multifaith Centre features the events of diverse groups (including a group that looks at Women and Spirituality) and in general aims to provide “a complete education (that) addresses the whole person: body, mind, and spirit.”

Like Dalhousie, most universities have some sort of chaplain system in place. In one of the most interesting projects in Canada, students at the University of Toronto, fundraised over $70,000 in Sept 2012 for Canada’s first full-time Muslim chaplain. The Muslim Chaplaincy at the University of Toronto offers classes, counselling and dialogue programs and is a project that offers fascinating possibilities of how student affairs can provide indepth pastoral care. It is a project to watch, learn, and benefit from.

c) Athletics

Women in headscarves feature on the U of T athletics marketing materials and signage. On a personal note, seeing myself reflected in materials reminds me that exercise and athletics matter. There are ways to exercise and swim while still being covered, and health and faith are not incompatible. The Athletics facility also offers one hour of women only time daily in the weight room and reaches out to different populations at U of T to encourage them to prioritize their physical wellbeing.  (Their postcards advertising their classes and pooI for instance, feature Muslim women). In 2014, the U of T Multifaith Centre will also offer programming about the connection between spirituality and physical health.

The meeting of food and spirituality.

The meeting of food and spirituality in Kelowna, BC

d) Food

I lived at New College at the University of Toronto for a year, and the daily cafeteria menu at New College offered halal options every day. There were clearly marked signs and separate pots when a halal version of a dish was available. When the same item wasn’t available, an alternate menu item was offered and prepared separately.  At the cafeteria I visited at UBC -O, there were signs posted frequently indicating that halal, vegetarian, gluten and vegan options were available on the menu.

At UBC-O, I was impressed to see how halal, vegetarian and vegan food was clearly marked in the cafeteria, giving visitors many options for lunch, regardless of their faith background.

A moment of peace, Kelowna BC

A moment of peace, Kelowna BC

Seeking direction, Kelowna BC

Seeking direction, Kelowna BC

3) Space

There are multiple prayer locations at the University of Toronto and since the 1960s, there has been accommodation at Hart House for Friday prayers for Muslim students. There is space at Robarts, (the main campus library) prayer space at OISE for education students, prayer space at the Multi-Faith centre, prayer space at Bahen for engineering students, and prayer space at Emmanuel College.  There are nine prayer spaces in total at the University of Toronto, and these multiple prayer locations ensure that students are able to access prayer space easily, regardless of their field of study. Out of respect for the students and the needs of their prayers, the room at Hart House where Friday prayers take place has abstract art – no faces or figurines are present in the room.

At the University of Victoria, there are also multiple prayer locations on campus, and a variety of groups are engaged in spiritual practice on campus. At Simon Fraser University, each of the 3 SFU campuses offers easily accessible, bookable prayer/meditation spaces.

4) Dialogue

Through informal and informal programming at the Multi-Faith Centre, there is also ample opportunity to meet other students from different faith backgrounds. One of my favourite programs was called Muffin Madness, and featured tea, wonderful muffins and students from different faith groups. Any faith group that books space through the Multi-Faith Centre is required to co-host one Muffin Madness and one multi-faith experience, and the diversity of multi-faith programming offered over the course of the semester is impressive. For the most part, the programming is intersectional, and emphasizes the connection between spirituality and other aspects of identity or programs on campus.

 In September 2012 the U of T Religion in the Public Sphere began the “Religion Diversity  Leadership Project” a 3 year, $500,000 project with Citizenship and Immigration Canada to “build networks of communication, inquiry, and action around the problems and possibilities of living in a religiously diverse society.” The project offers religious diversity youth leadership training, service learning projects that focus on religious diversity, and  public forums and community research workshops.

At the University of Calgary  Faith and Spirituality centre, the Student team organises events (including an interfaith bookclub!) and holds weekly meetings for community members interested in Faith and Spirituality community work. Its weekly event calendar  features a variety of events, weekly teas and a program called the Communal Table that focuses on “building community around cooking and eating together.”

Effective public spaces are accessible, comfortable, sociable spaces with activities (source: The Project for Public Spaces). These four characteristics define great public spaces, and the same is true for vibrant faith friendly spaces and communities as well. Any organization or community that holds diversity as an important community value, must take spiritual health and faith friendly environments seriously in order to remain relevant.

Please Join #RainyReads November

2013 Vancouver International Writers Festival

2013 Vancouver International Writers Festival

November in Vancouver is a time of cold, grey skies and unceasing rain. It is the perfect season for reading. Last week at the Vancouver International Writers Festival however, I learnt that we’re not reading as much as we could be.  45% of Canadians do not meet the minimum literary standards. 42% of university graduates in Canada never read another book after graduation, and the average young person spends 60 hours a month in front of a screen and texts 20,000 words each month. In fact, 80% of families don’t buy books. (For most people, the speaker pointed out, Chapters/Indigo is a place to buy a yoga mat).

In a small way, I’d like to change that and read with others this November. And so, in the spirit of keeping cheery through the rainy season, I’ll be using the hashtag #rainyreads to share what I’m reading through social media and the blog. Please join me! I’d love to hear about your favourite books, books you’re reading right now, and books you turn to on days when going outside holds no appeal at all. And if you haven’t found time to read for a while now, for the month of November, try reading something you’ve been meaning to try for 15 minutes a day.  Tag your tweets with the hashtag #rainyreads (or @shaguftapasta), write on the Seriously Planning Facebook Page, and if you have reflections you’d like to share, do email seriously.planning@gmail.com.  If you’re in Vancouver, we’ll have a #rainyreads meetup over coffee at the end of the month.

Happy reading!

Intentions for Buying a Book

Wardah Books, Singapore

Wardah Books, Singapore

I was looking at the books in my room that desperately need a home (oh the challenges of bookshelf purchases!), and while wondering whether I should firmly resolve to strictly be a library user in the future, I came across these lovely intentions for buying a book. It was a reminder that when the intention with which you do something is wider than simply yourself, that action can become something good. I’m posting it here to keep the reminder fresh.

The Intentions for Buying A Book

  1. Intend to benefit from it, inwardly and outwardly
  2. Intend to occupy your time virtuously
  3. Intend to learn what is good
  4. Intend to protect and preserve knowledge
  5. Intend to help others, if someone asks to borrow it
  6. Intend to spread knowledge
  7. Intend to occupy yourself with it so as to keep away from idle talk.”

~Source: The Book of Intentions, by al-Habib Muhammad bin Alawi al-Ayadurus

Notes from the Human Rights, Religion and the Law Lecture at U of T (Jan 11th 2012)

In January 2012, the University of Toronto held a lecture called Human Rights, Religion and the Law as part of a series of events with the Ontario Humans Rights Commission (which was updating its policy on creed) and the University of Toronto Religion in the Public Sphere program. Every time I’ve heard Barbara Hall speak I’ve been moved by her warmth and powerful intellect, and that evening was no different. The other two speakers of the evening, Winnifred Sullivan and David Seljak were equally powerful, and scholars who I hope to continue to follow. What was powerful about that night was the widespread acknowledgement that we need to unpack our definitions and understandings of secularism, understand its foundations, and recognise the role of power in constructing what we assume to be natural. Once we do this, it is easier to see that models based on accommodation and tolerance are deeply flawed.

I mostly just listened to the speakers that night, but today I came across my (brief) notes from the lecture, and I’ve included them below.

Continue reading