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Friday, November 30, 2018

"God through Binoculars" is "Witty," "Engaging," "Tragic," "Gripping" ... and Available at Amazon!

God through Binoculars: A Hitchhiker at a Monastery is available now. You can order the book through the publisher here or from Amazon here.

What readers are saying about "God through Binoculars":

"God Through Binoculars blew me away. Danusha Goska has written a truly unique and remarkable work - gripping, tragic, eclectic, powerful, and empowering."

Rabbi Dr. Natan Slifkin, Director, The Biblical Museum of Natural History, author, "The Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom"

"A witty, provocative, and thoroughly engaging memoir about the difficulties of faith, the complexities of love, and the consolations often found in nature. Whether she's writing about hyenas or jihad, hitchhiking or the perils of political correctness, Goska is always interesting. I loved this book!"

Daiva Markelis, author of "White Field, Black Sheep"

"As unsparing as it is tender, this book is a high-octane lyric meditation by a larger-than-life soul. Amid a multitude of coincidences, controversies, and calamities, the reader is invited to laugh, grieve, ponder, take exception, and especially, take heart."

Claire Bateman, author "Locals: A Collection of Prose Poems" NEA grant recipient

"The great books about spiritual journeys never give you easy answers. They don't say 'Do these 10 things and you will find peace or faith or salvation.'  Goska knows this truth. She has lived this truth. As you read her beautifully written, witty, and inspiring book, you will find yourself not only following her journey, you will find yourself living your own journey."

John Guzlowski, author of "Echoes of Tattered Tongues" Montaigne Medal recipient

"An effortlessly wise voyage, not only into the human soul but also into some fundamentals of the Western tradition. Goska is a formidable writer, who combines sensitivity and kindness with extraordinary toughness, and her vigorous prose reflects this unusual combination. Her prose grabs you and does not let you go."

Dario Fernández-Morera, author, "The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise"

Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese and Comparative Literature, Northwestern University

"This is a moving, inspiring, heartfelt expression of love, pain, and healing, skillfully written with equal amounts of grace and compassion."

Larry Dossey, MD, author "One Mind"

"Impossible to put down.  Goska is a true original, a gifted writer and an even more gifted spiritual explorer. Her previous book 'Save, Send, Delete,' like this one, displays a remarkable range of philosophical and religious knowledge, accompanied by profound insights that will stay with a reader long after they are encountered. Goska has packed more experience into each one of her years on this earth than most of us will in a lifetime. I urge you to give a look at this irresistible journey of faith in search of answers."

David Horowitz, "Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey"

Charles Ades Fishman, winner, 2012 New Millenium Award for Poetry

"Goska reminds every birder and nature lover that they are connected spiritually to the birds they see and the experiences they have outdoors. Our souls and hearts are refreshed and renewed by allowing ourselves to understand in some small way that we are connected to something in nature that is ancient and forever."

Don Torino, Naturalist for Wild Birds Unlimited and President, Bergen County Audubon Society

"I read 'God through Binoculars' the way I read everything that I am enjoying or that interests me, at increasingly breakneck speed. I finished it this morning and plan to begin again, reading more slowly and thoroughly for the subtler bits. The two writers this book reminded me of most were Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen. They also have an edginess and a sense of putting themselves out there without giving a damn what others think."

Julie Davis, author of "The Happy Catholic"

"Danusha Goska is a walker, an observer, a thinker. This pilgrimage-in-a-book reminds me of Paolo Coelho in its thrust and scope. But Coelho merely walked the camino – Goska walks the byways of the world, from rural Virginia to the wildernesses of Asia. Always questioning, always seeking, Goska shows us the profound in every living being, from hyenas to humans. If you are willing to accompany her on this journey, you will be changed yourself."

Brian Ó Broin, author of Thógamar le Gaeilge Iad, Professor of Linguistics and Medieval Literature, WPUNJ

"'God through Binoculars' is … complicated, just like the natural world Goska so compellingly describes; just like the spiritual insights she gleans from her own well-traveled life, marked by random encounters that may not be all that random. She is a committed monotheist who believes in evolution, but expresses annoyance with Darwinist absolutes. She is awed by Mother Nature, but recognizes the random cruelties that play out within the wilderness. Through her binoculars, she observes a world constantly in flux – shaped and reshaped by variables that somehow work together in unbelievable complexity. Because of that complexity, she is skeptical about any 'straight-line' redemption of life's disappointments by an all-loving God. Yet she believes that God is indeed all-loving, that her own burdens might not be lifted, but can be transmuted into blessings. If she can believe that, maybe even the greatest skeptics among us can, too."

Melanie Forde, author of "Hillwilla" and "On the Hillwilla Road"

"An inspiring and inspired read by one who has long since heard the music."

Kevin Di Camillo, author of "Now Chiefly Poetical," columnist at National Catholic Register

"Goska is brilliant with words, painting highly evocative pictures. She's unafraid to explore emotional, spiritual, and philosophical frontiers. She's been all over the world, learning about cultures from the inside. This book brings these gifts and experiences to bear on a personal journey to a place few readers know."

Karen A. Wyle, author, "Twin Bred"

Edward "Rusty" Walker, author of "Transparent Watercolor: How to Use the Direct Method to Achieve Radiantly Clear Color and Translucency in Your Paintings"

"Amazing. Ordinary situations brought to life. Observant, with a real wit. A pleasure to read!"

Brian Koral, blog reader

"A masterpiece. I couldn't put it down. Goska has an incisive mind, an insatiable curiosity, and a captivating writing style. As a veterinarian, I particularly appreciated her colorful and informative writing about the animals she has encountered in her adventurous life."

Dr. Morton A. Goldberg, Veterinarian and Project Gutenberg volunteer

"C.S. Lewis wrote in his great novel 'Perelandra' that though 'there seemed to be, and indeed were, a thousand roads by which a man could walk through the world, there was not a single one which did not lead sooner or later either to the Beatific or the Miserific Vision.' Goska is a pilgrim walking the roads of this world and trying her best to follow the Spirit as he leads her at each fork in the road toward that 'one Face above all worlds which merely to see is irrevocable joy.'"

Mark P. Shea, Author, "By What Authority?: An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition"

"Goska is a true wordsmith, a writer you enjoy reading for the prose as well as the imagination and education. Moving from thought to thought and scene to scene in no obvious order, you later realize the grand plan underneath it all, the coherent worldview that shapes how she appraises her fascinating experiences. And unlike secular writers of similar works, she is able not only to be romantic about life's rich variety, but to ground it in the good God of revelation. That combination of orthodox faith, humorous observations of eccentric people and moments, and practical philosophy is rare in contemporary writing."

The Rev. Evan McClanahan

Sin Boldly Podcast

"You catch a monkey, they say, with trinkets in a wide-bottomed, narrow-necked vase. The monkey inserts his paw, and opens it up to capture his treasure. When he tries to withdraw his fist, he can either hold on to the trinkets or let them go and free himself.

Jesus invited, 'Leave everything you have, and follow me!' That might seem fairly easy for a pilgrim who can't afford her own car. But even the poor must surrender.

Goska's monastery journey is a meditation on the deliberate opening of hands. With the slow freeing of each finger, another trinket is jettisoned and a new perspective is revealed. Nature provides her window to the divine: indigenous fruit, a hawk's soar, and being arrested by an unlikely savior. This hero's journey ends where she began, but as a new person, with a new vision.

Goska is a bold spirit who has fine-tuned her soul to encounter grace in unlikely places. In the spirit of Flannery O'Connor, as well as the Beats, she is wonderfully refreshing. Her sensitivity to God's possibilities is awe-inspiring. Step beyond predictability and embrace one heck of a ride!"

Deacon Kevin McCormack, host, WABC radio, "Religion on the Line," Xavier High School principal, adjunct professor of theology at Molly College

"'God Through Binoculars' is a mesmerizing book. The primary narrative concerns the author's visit to a monastery, but this is interspersed with reflections on the habits of hyenas, the spiritual defects of Meso-American art (Goska seems to like the hyenas better), the Holocaust, and a host of other subjects. The satirical account of her visit to the monastery makes the book worth reading all by itself. Fierce, hard-won, deep-rooted piety breathes through the snark. In an age of cutesy, feel-good memoirs with easy answers, this is the real thing – a book that brings you in touch with the restless, passionate intelligence of its author and forces you to think in a fresh way about every one of the many subjects it addresses."

Edwin Woodruff Tait, writer, farmer, and consulting editor for Christian History magazine.

"Goska dares to ask the universally elusive questions: will any deity or doctrine fully suffice in this life? Is the duel beauty and brutality of nature and human interaction alone enough to fill our spiritual reservoirs? In examining the mysterious trifecta of God, the natural world and human industry, Goska illustrates how a truly benevolent God would want us to experience the brutality of life along with the transcendence of beauty. Time and again her words illuminate the agony AND the ecstasy of this life that ultimately inspire us towards love, awe and wonder. Goska's intellectual inquisition proves that the very acts of motion and inquiry are a kind of devotion all their own. "

Tina Schumann, "Two-Countries. U.S. Daughters and Sons of Immigrant Parents"

"Goska finds goodness and moments of beauty and synchronicity amidst a world of hurt and oppression. Kindness and serendipity give to her, and give to the reader as well, hope for the future and a sense of religious wonder and faith. Her passion for birds and the avian encounters – some downright magical – which occur at just the right moments in her experience offer tantalizing evidence of greater forces at work than can be explained by pure science or reason. Goska's book is provocative, in-your-face, and uncompromising – all the trademarks of the author herself. It is bracing to read strongly-held opinions backed up by facts and evidence instead of feel-good but unsubstantiated politically correct writing. "

Marc J. Chelemer, New Jersey birder

"All that Goska has done here is to give us a simple, straightforward account of a brief episode in her life. And yet she has captured something about the mystery of life and human interaction that is at once deep, moving, and universal."

Bruce Bawer, author, "Stealing Jesus"

"Goska takes the reader on a remarkable journey, first encountering the personal and political corruption of academia in the soul-crushing age of political correctness, and then finding escape and finally restoration of spirit. This is no harangue or political manifesto, but rather a compelling tale of exploration and growth from a natural storyteller that just happens to illuminate the intellectual and moral issues of our age."

Thomas Lifson, Founder and Editor, American Thinker, former Harvard professor of East Asian Studies

Is Open-Borders the Biblical Stance?

Please imagine this: You are a parent, and a homeowner. Your home is modest. You worked ceaselessly, at a job full of frustrations, humiliations and disappointments, frittering away the best years of your life, to put this home together. You love the color scheme. You love the carpets. You love the couch, even though you bought it at the Salvation Army. You like your neighbors. After years of walking on eggshells and negotiations, you've hammered out a modus vivendi with the folks next door and in back. You love your pets. You've got a walk schedule worked out where you take them to the park at the right times.

Your kid is chronically ill. Your kid needs expensive medication every day. Because of some fluke in the insurance, you have to pay for those meds out of pocket.

One night, you hear a rasping noise. Someone is using a file to jimmy your lock and penetrate your home. You hear more voices. There's a whole bunch out there. They're coming in.

Home invasion. You've heard about this in the news. Gangs are breaking into homes. Stealing whatever drugs are on the premises. Eating all the food. Throwing trash around. Disrupting lives.

Your child, your offspring, the person for whom you are responsible, needs drugs every day. These home invaders might steal the drugs, leaving your kid without necessary medication.

You have a gun in your nightstand. Do you use it?

Me? I'd use the gun.

This imaginary scenario helps me to understand why some can disagree so violently about borders.

On Sunday, November 25, 2018, US border agents used tear gas to hold back an onrush of protesting asylum seekers from Central America. NPR called this event a Rorschach test. Some see the border guards as protecting the US and the rule of law, and using non-lethal methods to do so.

On my Facebook page, I am seeing other responses. One Facebook poster said that anyone who doesn't support open borders has no conscience and is unaware of the Bible. Another accused me of being an "evil virus" because I don't support open borders. A third, an influential Catholic author, is accusing anyone who doesn't support open borders of being satanic. A fourth shared a popular meme declaring, "Real Christians would be waiting for the caravan with food, water, clothing, and offering any help needed."

I've been trying to talk to those calling me "satanic" and a "virus." I try to communicate the following.

Some of us see America as our home. We assess America as valuable. We realize how very much hard work went into creating the country we've been blessed with. America, the America we cherish, didn't just spring up overnight. America took long, hard work, and constant maintenance. We don't take America for granted. We realize that like any human creation, America could be destroyed by human hands.

We aren't xenophobes. We value immigrants who come legally, learn English, and respect and support American institutions before attempting to benefit from those institutions.

We see a national border as a necessity. We support a porous border. We want people, commerce, and ideas to flow in and out. We support laws to regulate this flow. We appreciate border patrol as serving that regulation. We assess persons attempting to violate our laws, not as heroes, but as criminals, and we support border patrol doing what is necessary to enforce the very same laws we ourselves have had to adhere to when we have crossed international borders.   

We know that there are people in the world much worse off than we are. That's why we donate to charities and aid agencies active in poor countries. Our donations, a dollar here and a dollar there, contribute to the tens of billions of dollars Americans send to other countries every year, through both taxes and charitable donations. At least one source claims that "Americans give around three percent of our collective income to charity – more than the citizens of any other country."

We recognize the concept of "limited good." We get it that scamming and milking the American system leaves less for everyone. There are poor, chronically ill, and homeless people in this country right now. I know because I am low-income, and I am chronically ill. I face many a steeple-chase in accessing adequate health care. The simple fact is that even in a rich country like the United States, resources are limited.

We recognize the need for triage. We calculate what we can do. We can't do everything, so we ration our resources and our time. If Cause A gets the ten dollars we can spend that week on charity, Cause B will get nothing. We can't change that, any more than we can change gravity.

Many of us are Jews and Christians, and our scripture tells us that we will never be able to solve every problem. "The poor you will always have with you," Jesus taught. Deuteronomy 15:11, in the Old Testament, teaches the same. In both cases, the verse is placed in the context of triage, of making choices as to how to handle resources. In the New Testament, we read that a follower has purchased expensive perfume to honor Jesus. One of Jesus' disciples protests. "Should we really be spending money on perfume when we could sell it and feed the poor?" Jesus condones the splurge. Yes, help the poor, he advises, but when it comes time to spend extra for a special occasion, do so. You will never eliminate poverty, even by devoting every penny to charity. Deuteronomy tells us to take care of our poor relations and neighbors. And we do. But Deuteronomy reminds us that we will never end poverty. We can't. We do what we can.

The Bible, and real morality, teach that "charity begins at home." In 1 Timothy 5:4, Paul writes, "But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God."

This verse does not absolve believers from their duty to care for others outside the home. Jesus taught that even the Samaritan, that is, even the person most foreign to ourselves, is our neighbor. Rather, there is deep wisdom and insight into human psychology in this teaching. For humans, "the grass is always greener." The do-gooder dilettante will find it much easier to champion victims who are only images on a TV screen, and who demand only that we bash America in a Facebook post, in order to feel righteous.

If those bashing America now for her border policies were to rise from their comfortable perches in front of their ramparts from which they shoot salvos, that is if they were to take a break from their keyboards, they would discover that real needy people, the bum on the street corner of their nearest slum, say, are difficult. TV images don't smell bad. TV images don't try to pick your pocket. TV images don't return to drugs after you've invested time, money, and heartache in getting them clean. TV images don't make choices that sabotage their would-be saviors' best intentions. Yes. Charity begins at home. The person a truly caring person will focus on helping is nearby, and is difficult. If you can't help the person next to you, chances are you can't help the person behind that TV image.

I would love it if every open-borders supporter in this country now would take a day off from bashing America and Americans on Facebook and report to their local low-income area to devote their salvific efforts to American populations. I live in a low-income city. Mere feet away from where I sit, typing this document, there are men camped in a public park. It's 42 degrees Fahrenheit right now. Those men have nothing but ragged jackets between themselves and the cold. Many of them are alcoholics, drug addicts, and mentally ill. Many are African Americans, descendants of histories of injustice. 

Their tragic exposure and pathetic appearances are not the whole story. These men live mere feet away from a Salvation Army rescue facility. Why do they sleep in the park? Because the Salvation Army demands that before they receive three hots and a cot, the homeless men renounce drugs and weapons. They must also receive treatment for any mental illnesses. These men want their booze and their weapons more than they want an inside bed. They want to refuse treatment for their schizophrenia more than they want a warmth and nourishment. That's what it's like helping real people, rather than TV images. You face the impasses erected by real human beings' own bad choices.

Interestingly, many of my Facebook friends agitating for open borders don't live in neighborhoods anything like mine. When I google their hometowns, I find that they live in towns with above-average incomes, and below-average minority populations. If their photos are any guide, I can conclude that they live in comfortable suburban homes surrounded by large yards and colorful gardens.

Is it any wonder that they and I see America differently? I don't live in a rich enclave where illegal immigrants are the landscaper or the nanny. I and my neighbors don't have landscapers and we don't have nannies. We know how disruptive mass illegal immigration can be.

Over ten years ago, a local Democratic politician acknowledged to me that a much-needed, century-old hospital in my city would have to go under because it could no longer handle the burden of offering healthcare to immigrants. Why? Immigrants can claim that they have no income. They are often paid under the table. There is no record of their income. They send their salaries to their native countries, so they have no US bank accounts. Their health care tab shifts to the taxpayer. I witnessed such transactions first hand. I saw recent arrivals to the US claim to have no income and no assets and go out to the parking lot and enter brand new SUVs.

This financial drain is not the only price we pay for our flawed immigration system. In a 2007 article in City Journal, John Leo summarized then-recent research conclusions about the impact of diversity. Leo was summarizing the research of Robert Putnam, a superstar Harvard scholar. Leo reported that Putnam's "five-year study shows that immigration and ethnic diversity have a devastating short- and medium-term influence on the social capital, fabric of associations, trust, and neighborliness that create and sustain communities."

In my minority-majority city, I live the truth Putnam discovered. Inside the borders of this diverse city, people are ruder. They throw their garbage on the street rather than in a handy trash receptacle. They play music loudly. They get into fistfights. I have witnessed dozens, maybe over a hundred, street fistfights just from my own window. Blacks against Hispanics. Men against women. Teens against the homeless. In local stores, middleman minority Muslim shopkeepers hire Haitian strongmen to menace black and Hispanic shoppers.

When I cross the border, store security guards don't follow me. I am not asked to surrender my backpack before I shop. Bank personnel are courteous and eager to please and treat me less like a potential felon. Drivers follow basic traffic rules. All this happens the moment I cross the border. I am the same person. The only difference is where I am standing. Inside a more diverse environment, or inside a less diverse one.

There's another interesting occurrence every time I cross the border into my city. If I am given a ride, even by liberal friends, as soon as we cross the border into my city, I hear that loud, obtrusive CLICK. My driver, even among my most liberal friends, has just locked all the doors in the car.

George Borjas is himself an Hispanic immigrant. He was born in Cuba. He has shown through his research that poor, less well-educated Americans, including African Americans, suffer economically from immigration. If Jose will take that job for less than minimum wage, Joe, who must be paid on the books and be paid minimum wage, is screwed.

I think my Facebook friends who call us opponents of open borders "evil viruses" and "satanic" see America very differently. I think these people see America as guilty. As needing to be punished. As a big, fat, ATM machine that should be milked for all its got, and then milked some more. I think they see America not as their home at all. Not as something that they worked on. Not as something that they hold dear. I think they see America as something outside themselves, just a big, bad bank whose vaults should be emptied out and then burned.

Team open borders calls us xenophobes, bigots, haters, Nazis, and accuse us of lacking compassion. They insist that they have a monopoly on compassion and Biblical values.

I always find it rather ironic when people who have more money than I do, and whose exercise of compassion is limited to insulting me on Facebook, accuse me of being a xenophobic bigot. My first job after receiving my BA was as a teacher in a tiny, remote village in an impoverished, war-torn African country. After that I taught in a small village in Asia. I lived for years without electricity or running water, and I risked deadly disease, a few of which I managed to contract and, luckily, survive.

It is not compassionate or empathetic or Christian or Biblical to urge desperate people to leave their homes and walk over a thousand miles to a border that will inevitably frustrate them. It isn't compassionate or empathetic or Christian or Biblical to rage against one's own nation and one's own neighbors as "diabolical" "evil viruses." In Leviticus, in the Old Testament, and in Jesus' words in the New Testament, we are commanded to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. 

To love our neighbors, we have to start with loving ourselves. Opening the borders is not a loving thing to do, not to others, and not to ourselves. A rational border policy is about appropriate self-care. There's a reason parents must put on their own oxygen masks before they put on their child's. A parent who allows himself to suffocate is not going to be able to rescue his child. A nation that invites chaos by abandoning the most basic of security can do nothing for escapees from another chaos-torn country. We help Honduras, and the world best when we maintain our own integrity.

I invite open-borders supporters to act on their publicly announced compassion. Catholic Relief Services and numerous other aid agencies are active in Honduras and welcome donations. There are many opportunities to volunteer in Honduras. Inevitably, successful Americans who have achieved the American dream will have the most to contribute to others. That basic fact should be enough to cause open borders supporters to rethink their policy. When we have done well for ourselves, we are better able to do well for others.

Danusha Goska is the author of God through Binoculars

Monday, November 5, 2018

God Through Binoculars: A Hitchhiker at a Monastery. The Cover Decision

I like the first one better. The book is more focused on the woman than the binos or the monastery. I posted both on Facebook and most voted for the second one. So, as of right now, the second one it is, unless the publisher has second thoughts.