Friday, May 14, 2010


Today I learned a new word -- a word I had never heard before. The word was "hawala," a word defined briefly in wikipedia as:

an informal value transfer system based on the performance and honour of a huge network of money brokers, which are primarily located in the Middle East, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and South Asia.

The word came up in connection with the investigation of a recent attempt to blow up a car bomb in New York's Times Square. The question arose, who bankrolled the effort and how was the money made available to those who wanted to carry out the unsuccessful bombing.

Something new, something previously unknown, something that delights the intellect ... tasty as the first potato chip. As it came to me, it was much more interesting that some aspect of spiritual endeavor, a topic I tend to beat to death.

And yet there was no getting around it -- the wonders of a new word, a new taste, a new crunch between the intellectual teeth, a new set of associations ... well, you know what they say about potato chips: You can't just eat one: If one's good, two's better ... just like heroin.

Of course, there is no reason not to enjoy some new-found treasure or toy or intellectual improvement. But over the long haul, the habit is worth examining, I'd say. No one can live on potato chips...or the beer needed to wash them down.

"Hawala" -- what a neat word. And how nice it is, whether true or false, to encounter something based on "performance and honour." Hawala has the scent of something both convincing and dangerous ... no one screws around when it comes to money.

But when it comes to intellect and emotion, well, there seems to be endless possibilities for screwing around. Hawala is based on "performance." Intellect and emotion are based on ... on what, I wonder.

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