Saturday, April 30, 2005
This is a joke? Who is the butt of this joke? Who played this joke on whom? People will always divide themselves into those who find a given joke funny and those who do not. In the case of this joke, would that divide indicate a deficient sense of humor or just that some of our rules are broken?
Friday, April 29, 2005
It is even easier to give candy to a baby than to take candy from a baby and just as harmful to the baby.
It was once unfashionable and low class to peddle hatreds. Hatred and action based on hatred got sort of a bad name from mr. hitler and mr. mccarthy to name just two of a crowded genre. For a long time after the programs of these two enterprising politicians were repudiated, it was noted that they were able to put over some very harmful lies on an uncritical population and leverage fear as a way to prompt the actions that those populations later saw as shameful and unwarranted harm. Why then has the disgrace of David Duke given way to the embrace of Michael Savage, Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh? Every time I read something these people say, the crude and undisguised hatred sears me. Every time I try to consider what their message and appeal might be, I conclude a bit more firmly that speaker and audience alike are tiny-hearted folk in great unspoken dread of losing something. What have they got to lose? They had freedoms but they are positively throwing those overboard in panic. What else have they got to lose? Belonging? To what group could you belong such that exclusion and persecution of or preemptive attack upon other groups would actually make the world a safer place or even improve your own well being in the long run? A bad conscience? Ah ha! who doesn't want to be told that his or her selfishness is natural and called for? That candy is poisoned.
The only real exit from a feeling of powerlessness is to look straight at the fear of which it is made.
Hatred and retaliation may look like exits since they face away from fear but you cannot move beyond them no matter how fast you run toward them. This is not leaving the fear but just turning your back on it so you can lose the awareness of it. "Here, drink the Koolade. Its sweet."
Note: the connections implied here would strike some as far fetched. Where after all, is the smoking gun that links the self congratulatory bashing of "liberals" and foreigners by the named cheerleaders to the excesses of the KKK or blood spilled by the "coalition" forces or the push to define freedom of speech as freedom to read the Bible? There never is a smoking gun because that would wake people up, the way the National Guard woke us up at Kent State. The process of turning a sickened zeitgeist into a groundswell of anger and hatred involves NOT shaking people up while assuaging any unease that might arise over little changes of policies and officials that ratchet towards the elimination or marginalization of the parties targeted by the escalating drumbeat of hatred. If reading books or blogs doesn't do it for you, spend a day at the Holocaust Museum in Washington and see how gradual the process is. Considering how often history has featured a little hatred parlayed into an orgy of horror , one does not need a conspiracy theory to sense that "here we go again": simple weaknesses of the human animal suffice to account for "strong trends and weak orchestration" leading eventually to "weak resistance to entrenched control".
Note: yes, I suspect that to some degree, I can't write this and be free of fear and hatred myself. This kind of self awareness requires constant effort. I don't think we need to get rid of anybody or even throw them in jail, just wake them up, remind them of their own humanity. I am trying to look at what I fear.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Do not seek yourself in this life, seek others. You can not see
yourself. You will find bits of yourself in this friend and that
lover and put the pieces all together. Be assured: you ARE complete
already. The purpose of the quest is not to acquire yourself but to
The job to consider quiting is the one you aren't allowed to do as well or carefully as you know how.
When goals are distant from the effort of the moment and couched in terms of "why to do this", it is as if you are in a row boat crossing the ocean. When goals are moment by moment and couched in terms of "what to do" , you are still rowing but now move an ocean liner through a ditch. When goals are in terms of "do the best you can", it doesn't matter where the finish line is as present effort becomes the goal.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
You will seldom overestimate your capacity to hurt another person's feelings...there is judgement in all but the most careful perceiving.
We are not likely to succeed if we start a dialog or a relationship by changing how another goes about perceiving us. The prosperous work is all internal. And that work is only a bit more likely. So, until we can see through hurt or somehow be above it, we hide. This reticence is nearly universal though it does not seem beneficial. The exception of course is "being in love" and the tendency of many cultures to celebrate that state in song and ceremony testifies to how deep and widespread is the wish not to be a stranger.
Monday, April 25, 2005
It is ok to like your ideas but if you marry one, the muse, seeing that you are content, will send you no more.
Sunday, April 24, 2005
[select text between brackets to see answer:
Sedition can be snuffed out in a society that is looking first for sedation.
More wordplay: The initial substring common to the two words is also common to the name of one of the oldest religious festivals designed to teach that we cannot be calm and sleepy if there is privation anywhere.
Yes, I was at a Seder yesterday. And in the text we read was a passage that is found in many Passover Haggadot:
We must cast out the plagues that threaten everyone everywhere they are found:
- The making of war,
- The teaching of violence,
- Despoilation of the earth,
- Perversion of justice and government,
- Fomenting of Vice and Crime,
- Neglect of human needs,
- Oppression of nations and peoples,
- Curruption of Culture,
- Subjugation of Science, learning and human discourse,
- The erosion of freedoms.
Bleeding heart liberal sentiments? Yeah, sure, just as long as you don't happen to be looking down the barrel of one of those plagues. I stupidly said "That looks a lot like the effect if not the stated policy of the Bush admininstration". I got a few scowls and a lot of blank stares. Some of those plagues are more manifest and brazen, others just side effects of parochial myopia but I can cite at least a bit of news or an offended party for each charge. Do people not want to be awakened? After the meal, a few individuals did speak to me with some passion about one or two of these areas where the new Pharoh's boot steps on their particular toes. If I ran the seder, I would read from Eli Weisel: "Is silence the answer? It never was."
Saturday, April 23, 2005
Compete! It is the one-word bible that pervasively informs so many aspects of life in America...work or play.
This is odd. Most of our conventional bibles, so far as I know, are mostly silent about us beating the competition and leave it to the deity to do that. I do know those bibles speak louder when the say "Cooperate". It is easier to enlist Darwin in this debate than any of the prophets but instead he is drafted and abused by those who have grown up with the lesson that you must get the other guy before he gets you. Even people who are uncomfortable with evolution like to think they are the "fittest". But they misunderstand that word to mean they are more dangerous and self reliant than others.
Only if you are completely blind to the many ways in which all persons and all life on earth are connected and interdependent, do you see the need to outrun out punch or outsmart the other guy as a, no, as THE self evident good.
If you note even some of the connections [ most of us are selectively blind to at least some and neither science nor art have yet found them all] then you begin to see that cooperation is also a sensible thing to have evolved in nature and to be confirmed by being repeatedly discovered in the insights about "brotherhood" and "thy neighbor as thyself" and "the stranger within your gates" and "all sentient beings" that human spiritual leaders have set down for us. Being the first post-evolutionary species, i.e. the first in which cultural [non genetic] behaviors with all their freedom from logic, are as important as any instinct or reflex, we have to be so very careful to see that the same common sense and mathematical balancing of interests that nature must obey is obeyed in our ethics and codes of behavior.
If, on both a personal and cultural level, the need for cooperation were accorded the same heartfelt allegiance the need for competition gets, would family income still be the largest determinant of whether children got all the practical education they could use and got it before it was too late to be absorbed? Would treating employment as a fixed pie, from which one should cut the largest possible slice, still be the de facto operating principle of job markets? Would we let the untrained just rot? Ignoring the pro and con of his assessment of the impact of technology, if you follow what Thomas Friedman sees at the sorry state of US competitiveness you might be prepared to consider that ultimately competitiveness is 90% cooperating and 10% competing.
"But its a dog-eat-dog world" you say? Who made it so? Chicken and egg questions only point to a cycle that needs breaking. Any culture focused on consumption dwells on eating the fruits of education. Help all to a good education or you are forgetting to plant the seeds and cultivate. Break the cycle or the harvests will peter out.
Friday, April 22, 2005
Fuming....but doing what?
Complaining is not the only coin the liberals have to spend in the never ending struggle for sanity and justice. My admiration goes naturally to those who, at some cost or risk, get in the cop's faces with the anti-war placard or climb a tree to prevent the chainsaws taking from us what only millenia could restore. But how are their efforts reported to the world at large? If we don't buy us a radio network, if we don't find some truth that is just as seductive as the pitches for selfishness and the appeals to fear, who do we stir but ourselves?
To the extent that anybody is listening amid the din, complaining is not utter fecklessness. Other than these exhortations and a few hundred dollars to environmental activist organizations, I am mostly just talking the talk. Consider the strange gulf between the self evident fairness of the causes we espouse and the greater efficacy of political fundraising and vote herding on the part of the interests oppossed to tolerance and fairness. I don't really have to be smart enough to psychoanalyze or financially deconstruct the momentary ascendance of the oppressive, the intolerant, the chickens of Hooterville who don't know how much Colonel Sanders spends to keep them focused on the wrong issues. I just have to trust myself and my causes enough to do something.
So? What are my excuses? On what little bannana peel do I slip off the path thinking "Is it that important?, is it worth the trouble? Isn't Moveon.org taking care of this?"
There are no proxies...its just me.
Perhaps because I fear discovering how dull my life really is, I suffer in some instances an inability to distinguish between a loss of nerve and a lost of interest.
Thursday, April 21, 2005
I am so happy for you that YOU can afford the gas for that SUV, but the earth can't afford it....or do you live somewhere else?
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Do I need to know where awe comes from? According to the tour bus guide some dozens of persons per year get off that same bus and "fall" 500 feet down the face of that rim I trod. A few wait for dusk at the beach so they can, without any intention of learning how to swim, wade out into the breakers. What discomfort drives some away from the conclusion that all and any of our reactions to the world well up from within our own minds? We can fool ourselves about our responsibility for our own lives only so long. And while we are fooling ourselves, we are no better off, only out of touch. Gilding the lilly of our good feelings and tarring our bad ones doesn't control either but only puts greater insight out of reach.
If two look on the same scene and one finds awe but the other, terror
Why say the one is a gift from god but the other's a personal error?
What counsels us that we must "know" before we even "see".
Explanation is comfort but acceptance is cure.
All I know about a person who demands to be sure
Is that they never have been and never will be.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
How else to account for the certainty of a biggot or the doubts of a saint? This is not to scold but to warn. Its just our wiring: the mind, like a TV, tunes many channels but has only one screen. The trick is to not loose track of which channel you are watching.
Monday, April 18, 2005
Sunday, April 17, 2005
I think that sentiment both describes and excuses the business I fancy I am about, so it goes on the masthead. And it could be that the silent, who's acquiescence lends strength to those in error, may think of themselves more as being outside of society than of being above the fray but it is still an illusion and serves them ill.
Saturday, April 16, 2005
Now here's a little test: If you agree with that assessment but think it describes a dark side of the social contract, you might be a progressive. If you agree but think it describes an essential and benign feature of the social contract, you might be a conservative.
That's not all there is to moral training but in respect of what orders and suggestions we will take and which we will ignore, that's pretty much the program.
Culturally homogeneous societies pull this off...even at a cost to personal freedom of conscience and expression that is seen as oppression elsewhere. Cultural pluralism requires tolerance of a containing, simplified super-culture. When that tolerance is dispensed with, when one of the societies within the larger society holds that its views cannot be contradicted by the actions of any element of the larger society, fragmentation ensues. The essence of the contract of pluralistic societies is tolerance, a agreement that you will just put up with people who don't share all your beliefs as long as they don't hurt you and leave you alone to put your values into practice within your own group. The arrogance to abrogate that tacit treaty of tolerance is expensive: no appeal to common sense or fairness is left with any force should a group find its beliefs under censure following an attempt to impress its moral training on the broader society.
It is arrogance, it is not a right.
Friday, April 15, 2005
When a country is in harmony with the Tao,
the factories make trucks and tractors.
When a country goes counter to the Tao,
warheads are stockpiled outside the cities.
There is no greater illusion than fear,
no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself,
no greater misfortune than having an enemy.
Whoever can see through all fear
will always be safe.
I am not all that wild about trucks and tractors but I can't improve on the insight.
This is from Steven Mitchell's somewhat modernized translation of 2300 year old words,
the Tao te Ching of Lao-Tzu.
This is a snippet of the guidelines for writing essays/credos that could be read over the air as part of NPR's planned "This I Believe" series. It strikes me as a great opportunity for wider public exposure of "value" laden messages than is available to a bunch of liberal bloggers blogging to each other. There are a ton of good writers on this blogroll and a thousand thoughtful things you could say that might change somebody's mind...go for it!
Well, maybe the folks who listen to Rush won't be tuned in but we are after the swing vote not the heartless heartland of conservatism...you CAN reach people that matter!
From the NPR web page:
It may help you in formulating your credo if we tell you also what we do not want. We do not want a sermon, religious or lay; we do not want editorializing or sectarianism or 'finger-pointing.' We do not even want your views on the American way of life, or democracy or free enterprise. These are important but for another occasion. We want to know what you live by. And we want it terms of 'I,' not the editorial 'We.'
Although this program is designed to express beliefs, it is not a religious program and is not concerned with any religious form whatever. Most of our guests express belief in a Supreme Being, and set forth the importance to them of that belief. However, that is your decision, since it is your belief which we solicit.
But we do ask you to confine yourself to affirmatives: This means refraining from saying what you do not believe. Your beliefs may well have grown in clarity to you by a process of elimination and rejection, but for our part, we must avoid negative statements lest we become a medium for the criticism of beliefs, which is the very opposite of our purpose.
We are sure the statement we ask from you can have wide and lasting influence. Never has the need for personal philosophies of this kind been so urgent. Your belief, simply and sincerely spoken, is sure to stimulate and help those who hear it. We are confident it will enrich them. May we have your contribution?
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Oversimplification of the opposition is hatred's favorite ploy even to the point of making oppostion where none exists.
This is why so many, both leaders and followers, are so willing to simply not hear basic facts and not see simple evidence about feared groups of "others".
Beware: in accepting this accounting of strife, we must then accept an obligation to guard against hatred of haters and biggotry against biggots. Even with these, we must engage in ordinary conversation, not words hurled over ramparts. This obligation is its own benefit!
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
The first generation to get it right will begin by being the first generation to forgive all those that got it wrong.
Monday, April 11, 2005
Wealth is an illusion, transient and a corruption if it can only be gained from the poverty of other people or future generations.
Sunday, April 10, 2005
Saturday, April 09, 2005
Friday, April 08, 2005
The trick? Did you immediately think "help what? help whom?" or did you assume some context and complete the question. You might have assumed "help make the world a better place" or you might have assumed "help ease my pain". Neither tacit completion is unlikely given where you are reading this and the kind of persons who most often read things here. These two certainly exhibit a difference of emphasis in self vs community. Other responses and no response are all possible too. The point I am driving at is that if the only context is a hint that help is needed, i.e. that there is a problem but no further specifics, what is THE PROBLEM THAT BUBBLES UP from the recesses of your mind? Why is THAT the problem lurking beneath the surface of consciousness?
No problem will damage you so much as the problem you feel helpless to solve or avoid. The problem you've never heard of might seem a more dangerous prospect but that sort of problem does not have its ally, worry, in your camp. Be on guard for those propensities in your nature that are really in cahoots with your problems.
Do read and write the angry expose' , the demolishing analysis and the withering sarcasm. But do it for the sake of the community it builds and the truths it restores and not just to be shooting those words like so many arrows into an empty field.
Thursday, April 07, 2005
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
The grating nonsequitor should give you the creeps.
Relax, you are never going to have this experience. We don't work that way. When somebody human posseses the absolute, devine and complete knowledge, that someone has to be YOU. If you become convinced that you are in the company of some other person so endowed then you too cease to have doubt and possess ultimate truth by proxy. But notice, the person with no doubt is still YOU. When you eventually discover there are other sects, there are people who have goofy fairy tales of supernatural elevation of THIER beliefs to dominence then you will go one of two ways. One is more or less "Oh! I get it! We all need to make up these stories. I wonder what's behind all that if we ALL do it?" The other is more or less to buy amunintion, line your basement with canned food and carefully test the purity of thought of those in whom you confide, sometimes appointing others the job of straightening out any starved mind who can be safely introduced to the real truth. For the simpler packagings of faith, relativism really is deadly dangerous company.
To feel that you have come to know the ABSOLUTE and sole set of truths upon which the world is founded amounts to worshiping yourself.
Monday, April 04, 2005
Revere the sacred text not for its stories but for the reverent community it keeps. Where ever it came from, it is an unfinished canvas to be painted the color of the life that community lives.
Its a love-hate relationship I guess but neither of those is disengagement.
Sunday, April 03, 2005
But long before those insights were cast in equations, we all had an economics lesson in a proverbial form: "Bad money drives out good". What we need to see is that little truism held because a wider one is with few exceptions:
Selfish behaviour drives out altruism and casts harsh light on our inherently total mutuality so that its negative side is seen and its positve obliterated in shadow.
You can probably think of an example you have seen: the most selfish examples that people get away with set the standard. Ken Lay or Bernie Ebbers surely didn't think they were inventing fraud but rather just doing a better job of it than any number of predecesors who will never see jails or judges. So, this is the force that sets our individual models of how the world works and how we shall survive onto rails, destined for some genteel form of "dog eat dog". Don't you wonder at the relief you feel, the way you are so heartened by the rare example of selflessness that your eyes moisten and for a moment you have no misgivings for our species? We are too adaptable by nature: we are capable of believing anything from "I am just one more wolf like all ther others" to "We're all in this together and I hurt noone without hurting myself". Which model we hold depends on experience more than on teachings. And the commonly held model gives rise to the most common experience.
Saturday, April 02, 2005
The opinion truly worth holding, the one that will promote equally your wellfare and that of others, welcomes all tests and will not require the armor of willful ignorance and selective perception.
To tackle this train wreck on the upstream or input side, consider this:
As unconscious as our true educations have been, we can generally be characterized as having acquired our models of reality through a series of accidents, some of them staged by our parents or our teachers. How on earth can we expect not to then go on and conduct a life full of accidents?
Friday, April 01, 2005
Just because you can say it well does not mean you should not watch what you say.