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Why Meditate

With ordinary consciousness

you can’t even begin to know what’s happening.

                                                                 –    Saul Bellow

                                                                         The Dean’s December

 

 

 

 

 

Within the paradigm of the culture in which we have grown up, it makes no sense to meditate.  But a paradigm is simply a (collectively held and agreed upon) world-view. It is not REALITY.  Basically, it’s a big IDEA … an idea with lots of parts.

The LAWS governing ideas … fall out of how they work.  

The power of any idea is proportional to  the degree of resemblance which it bears to the thing it is an idea of.

 

A 10-inch plastic model of an F-16 Fighting Falcon … is bound to be a mere model.  It will NOT be a fully-functioning (very small) version of the real fighter. It would be a ‘good model’ … if it has the same proportions as the real F-16 … and most of its external weaponry and general anatomy.

 

Like that … an idea is a ‘brain model’.  If it is a ‘good’ idea, it will bear a strong resemblance to whatever it is a model of.  But the degree of resemblance is BOUND TO BE imperfect … incomplete.

And it is this fact which gives rise to ‘First Law of Ideas’:  Any idea can be wrong.

 (since all ideas are already wrong … simply because they are a model of something else.)   Mmm?

 

So … does this mean that our (beloved) cultural paradigm is wrong?  

 

Of course.

 

The concepts which (if they were present in our paradigm) would allow us to have a single intelligent thought about the fundamentals of Human Life … or about Meditation … are simply absent.

 

I recently had the good fortune to watch a film – “Mindfulness  – Be Happy Now” (2015)

 

https://tubitv.com/movies/372297/mindfulness_be_happy_now    

(Mindfulness  – Thich Nhat Hanh … also: Deepak Chopra, Dr. Blaise Aguirre, Cesar Millan, et al.)

 

I highly recommend this film.

 

“Mind” certainly implies “awareness”; however … it does not necessarily suggest any distinctions (any internal, spiritual anatomy.  And in the film, “mindfulness” is not used to evoke ‘internal structure’.)

 

I would like to offer some.

 

“Mind” also (in addition to ‘awareness’) includes: thoughts, perceptions, perhaps even emotions … plus the ability to think – to discern, discriminate, to compare & contrast, to analyze, synthesize, create, make judgments, etc.

These are qualities (concepts) which already exist in our paradigm; but there are others (which do not) –

 

Consciousness has two aspects – Experiencer … and Experience.

Part of our consciousness poses as something (our experience … whatever we are aware of) … and the other aspect (the Experiencer) simply does the experiencing.

Like an ocean … which may have waves on it.  The waves are our experience … the ocean is the experiencer.  (the ocean experiences its own waves)   Mmm?

 

The number (percentage) of people (in the US) practicing meditation … is growing rapidly … but that group is still a small minority – 14% (as of 2017)

 

Ref:  https://nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/NHIS/2017/Meditation-Use-US-Adults  

 

The fact that you have read this far means that this    (meditation) is something you’re interested in trying … or perhaps – that you already meditate, but would like to understand it better.  Or maybe you have meditated, but have dropped the practice … but you keep wondering if it’s something you should take up again (and perhaps commit to).

 

You may like to look at my posts from last year –

 

https://www.worldfamilytrading.com/attention/    &

           https://www.worldfamilytrading.com/meditation/

 

I am now satisfied that we should not presume to judge what happens during a meditation; we are simply not equipped to do so.  –

I want to tell you about a certain meditation I had.

It must have been in the fall of 1978

shortly after the students at MIU had received the (new) Sidhis Program.

This was before the big wooden geodesic dome was even started.

We would gather in what had been the old gym

(built at least 75 years ago for Parsons College)

And it had Steam Heat.

You could see the big iron steam pipes up high, along the walls.

And when steam came into the cold pipes, they would expand (a little)

but not uniformly (for the heat came very quickly)

And the joints (or maybe the hangers) would occasionally make HUGE noises !

As though someone was BEATING on them – with a 2 pound hammer.

A single ‘blow’ … just every now and then.

So – we’re all (perhaps 300 students) sitting in meditation on the floor of the old gym

and (on a cold morning) – there would be these sudden and HORRIBLE NOISES.

Well, on this certain morning – I can remember feeling my Autonomic Nervous System ‘flare up’

whenever one of these big ‘Bangs’ would occur … (the ‘Fight or Flight’ Response)

And it struck me as FUNNY – because you’re supposed to choose a QUIET place to meditate in.  Mmm ?

Anyway, after maybe 3 of these big noises (and the resulting Autonomic Flare-up)

I changed.

But I did not know it.

I ABSOLUTELY COULD NOT HAVE TOLD YOU – that I was now different.

(Subjectively:   NO CHANGE)

BUT

When the NEXT noise occurred (JUST the same as the others)

it produced NO REACTION IN MY PHYSIOLOGY.  Not a RIPPLE !

The sound was the same; but my RESPONSE to it was totally DIFFERENT.

(if not for the Sound – I would NEVER HAVE KNOWN – that I had changed) !!

What does this mean?

 

It means – that WE CANNOT (accurately) EVALUATE OUR MEDITATION

ON THE BASIS OF WHAT WE EXPERIENCE IN OUR AWARENESS !

 

There are things going on – BENEATH  (or at least BEYOND) our Awareness.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

trailer (to A’Journe’s Talk 1):                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlfqsL3hTK0

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The Heart of Philosophy

 

 

I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties

through my love for truth — and truth rewarded me.

                                                                               –   Simone de Beauvoir

 

 

 

You don’t need to pay any attention

to anything I say

unless it’s true.

                                  – A’Journe
                                       (my standard disclaimer)

 

 

 

In the fall of 1964 I went, from Ohio. to the University of Idaho (on a football scholarship).  I enrolled in the College of Letters & Science (their ‘Liberal Arts’ college); and during my freshman year I took an “Introduction to Philosophy” course from the head of the Philosophy Department.  The homework amounted to (considerable) reading of the (direct) writings of the greatest philosophers of the western world, starting with the Greeks … and on up to the 20th century. Probably a dozen different philosophers.

I did not read these writings (because of habits I had ‘cultured’ in high school and was still perfecting); but I attended the lectures, where these were discussed.  I somehow managed to comprehend the core of the course content. And from this, something very important happened in my life.

I do not remember taking the final exam.  But I remember – a certain time (having finished the course), when I was alone, out behind the dorm I lived in.  

I realized – that there was substantial disagreement among these “Great Philosophers”.  (There was enough overlap for this to occur.)  And this meant that some of them had to be wrong.  And if THESE GUYS could be wrong, then ANYBODY could be wrong.  It was ANYBODY’S BALL GAME !

And the moment I realized this …  I felt as though I had just been commissioned.

 

There was no elder or supervisor or commanding officer around – to hand me a paper.  

Nonetheless, the path had been indicated.

 

[At the end of this post I will include a description of the beginnings (in this life) of my ‘career’ as a philosopher … and the link to the blog posting it was taken from.]

                                     

 

The word ‘philosophy’ has Greek roots.  It comes from two words: phylos – to love … and sophia – wisdom.  So: Love of Wisdom.

But, for the purposes of this essay, I will dare to change this slightly.

 

Love of Truth.

 

To be a philosopher, you must love the truth.  Want the truth.

 

I have noticed (when I am learning choral score … in choir practice) – that it is not enough simply to stare at the musical score that’s in my hands.  If I want it to give me information (as to what I should sing, and when I should sing it) … I need to ask   those funny marks on the page  to give me their best guidance.  (And I suspect – that is also important  that I am committed to [actually] doing what those squiggles tell me to do.)

 

I have heard Maharishi (Mahesh Yogi) say – that everyone is (naturally)  an artist … and everyone is (naturally) a scientist. Because of the tendency to see and appreciate Beauty … and also the desire to Know … these are things which are natural to life, and are common to all people.

Well, I feel confident – that being a philosopher is (just the same way) – not some ‘weird thing’ …

but quite natural …  since truth hunger / the desire to understand deeply are natural to us all.

Now, of course, these can be trained out of us, but that’s another matter.

 

And, to some extent, this (‘training out’) is bound to be cultural.

 

Did you know that in Bali, they do not even have a word for “art”.  (Everyone always tries to make anything they make   as beautiful as possible.)

Mmm ?

 

And in this country (the U.S.)    our relationship with the truth is (somewhat) disclosed by a certain ‘intellectual sport’  – debate.

 

[the following is an excerpt (from p.5 of) my “Preschool Interviews” –

Is there anything you’d like to offer, Grace? Any ideas as to how the world could be better?

Well, one thing that really disturbs me ­­ is that, as a culture, we don’t seem to be able to talk with each other. The Hawks and the Doves. Republicans and Democrats. Conservatives and Liberals. Pro­Life and Pro­Choice. Here at Vine Maple we pursue cooperation. We practice Think­Tanking. We learn how to make use of each other to come closer to the truth. But out there it seems like the only thing people know how to do is to pick a position and then fight. No suspension. No respect. No listening.

I think it’s a bad sign ­­ that schools and colleges have Debate teams and competitions ­­ where Arguing is formalized and turned into a game. As if there will be no consequences should we fail to understand our situation … and it only matters whether we can win an argument about it. As though the world doesn’t exist, but Marketing is real.

I know. It’s pitiful.

Yeah. It is. We have to learn to do better.

Yep. We do. Thank you, Grace, for your thoughts.

You’re welcome.

 

[and, as I suspect that the similarities (between modern America    and the Roman civilization of 2,000 years ago) greatly outweigh the differences, I offer (once again) this following excerpt from the Urantia Book] –

 

To a Roman soldier, as they walked along the Tiber, he (Jesus) said: “Be brave of heart as well as of hand. Dare to do justice and be big enough to show mercy. Compel your lower nature to obey your higher nature as you obey your superiors. Revere goodness and exalt truth. Choose the beautiful in place of the ugly. Love your fellows and reach out for God with a whole heart, for God is your Father in heaven.”

132:4.7 (1461.5) To the speaker at the forum he said: “Your eloquence is pleasing, your logic is admirable, your voice is pleasant, but your teaching is hardly true If you could only enjoy the inspiring satisfaction of knowing God as your spiritual Father, then you might employ your powers of speech to liberate your fellows from the bondage of darkness and from the slavery of ignorance.” This was the Marcus who heard Peter preach in Rome and became his successor. When they crucified Simon Peter, it was this man who defied the Roman persecutors and boldly continued to preach the new gospel.

 

The society we live in is probably less than ideal … with respect to those qualities which will produce philosophers.

But however damaged we may currently find ourselves, I still suggest – that we may set ourselves back on a good track  … by a rather trivial change in attitude.  And that IT is in fact the key … it’s the heart of philosophy.

 

Yearn for the truth.

 

And, let me say – that the reason I feel I am able to speak with some authority about this matter is … that I vary.

I am NOT uniformly and always a philosopher.  There are times when I (truly) am so … but there are also times (most of the time, to be honest) – that I am (much) less so.

 

And, of course, you may be entirely confident – that this ability (to see the truth / to come closer to the truth) will respond to practice & training … just as do all other qualities and habits … (good or bad).

 

All the Best to you.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I grew up in semi-rural northwest Ohio.

When I was 14,  just after I entered Shawnee High School, I matriculated also into a school which I could not see.

 

I do not know whether I had more than one teacher, or of what order of being they were, but they were not human.  I couldn’t see them.

Nevertheless, I was being taught.

There were no scheduled classes.

I was simply having my attention directed to certain things that were happening around me.

For example: to what was happening when a fellow student eagerly filled in a gap in their understanding.  Clearly this was being done because they were not comfortable with the “hole”; and they didn’t much care what it got filled in with.

 

Well !

That very moment I vowed I would never do such a thing.

If I didn’t understand something, I would live with the “blank”.

(I would wait TILL I DIED if necessary.)

I would wait till the understanding came.

 

I gave myself – completely – to this Training.

I was more devoted to it than to the education I was receiving in the school I could see, and from the human teachers I could see and hear.

 

Fifteen years later I was living in Seattle, Washington.

One day (in the spring of 1976) I was “auditioned”.

I was asked to work through, to think through –  the Freewill / Determinism Paradox.

(Do human beings have free will, or not?  Is our subjective sense of freedom – an illusion?)

I agreed to do so.

 

It was not the first time I had thought about this issue.  I had not thought much about it for some time.  Anyway, I agreed.

 

After a couple weeks of thinking it through, it occurred to me that I had done what I could do with the idea.

So I “notified my Teacher”, and “handed in my work”.

There was nothing written down.  I guess I figured they would be able to handle my thoughts directly (as perhaps they may have been recorded).

I sort of just “handed in my mind” to be reviewed and considered.

I didn’t hear any applause or anything like that; but I got the feeling that it was considered to be Satisfactory.

 

Soon after that (perhaps two weeks)  a certain thought came into my mind:  that there are two components (or aspects) of what we call  (here & now) “Experience”. There is an outer, material aspect; and there is an inner, subjective, non-material aspect.

(As I look out my window, I see a pond.  It has water and fish, etc. That is material.

Also there is my (inner) experience of it.  And this is made of Mind Stuff. It is not material.)

 

Now … everybody knows this.

 

And I had no reason to be thinking about it.

 

Furthermore, attached to this idea – was an INTENSE sense of URGENCY,

Which I did not put there.

(And the idea didn’t come from me, either.)

 

I had been auditioned … and then had been given an assignment.

 

For the next year and a half (till the “answer” came)  I was, I believe, as true to my assignment as I could have been.

 

Those next (4) years I spent at MIU (now MUM) in Fairfield, Iowa.  A liberal arts college where everyone – faculty, staff, and students – practices TM (Transcendental Meditation).  And since consciousness is there regarded to be the basis of everything, there is more than a little talk about it.

So whenever it seemed pertinent to a given discussion, I would interject something about my assigned idea (the outer and the inner).

Students came to talk to me.  In a steady stream. To encourage me.

The environment was about ideal.

 

But it was not until late in the fall term of my second year there that the Insight finally came.

 

In the class I was taking we were watching one day a film strip about a baby in a high chair, playing with some toy on the tray in front of him.  He knocked it off the tray, and the object fell out of his field of view. But he does not hunt for it.

Then the baby goes through a Transition.  THEN when his toy lands outside of his field of view, HE HUNTS FOR IT.

 

This immediately struck me as very important.  Significant.

But it took about two weeks for the Insight to present itself.

 

Then I understood it !

I had completed my assignment.

 

RECOGNITION is the key.

 

We watch the inner

And we recognize it

As

The outer.

 

–    [excerpted from my blog post  –  “Paradigm Shift”  (14 March 2018)

                                 https://www.worldfamilytrading.com/paradigm-shift/

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1pp8EPXHkV__y1lQ65wSpQT2hDDio8Gck1YVLSre9jjo/edit?usp=sharing      (Preschool Interviews)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

https://www.urantia.org/urantia-book-standardized/paper-132-sojourn-rome?term=132#search-jump-result-0     (Urantia Book excerpt   context)

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Changing Ethics

 

 

This morning I happened to watch TV for a while – because our Attorney General, William Barr was a guest of the U. S. Senate and was being asked various questions by various senators.

One of them (Senator Kamala Harris of California) asked him – “I KNOW you said that what the president did was Not ILLEGAL … but, DO YOU THINK WHAT HE DID WAS OKAY?”    

(A great question, I thought.  I wish the Attorney General had ANSWERED it.)

 

One might think that when Wm. Barr explains that his role is to determine whether a given act is CRIMINAL  … that he is simply behaving like a LAWYER. But (I am afraid) his is (rather) – thinking like a MODERN MAN.

I actually do not KNOW how widespread the change is; but I’m aware that there has BEEN one.  Fifty years ago, it was ‘normal’ to consider that ETHICS and LEGALITY were NOT equivalent.

In general, people (in the U. S.) had Higher Ethical Standards than what was understood as (merely) Legal or Illegal.

But at some point there came a SHIFT … such that (for many people, especially the young Movers & Shakers  … began to adopt WHAT is LEGAL – as their “ethics”.

One way to look at it – is that ETHICS per se  … were DROPPED … in favor of LEGALITY. And THE LAW became the new ‘ground rules’ that we ‘agreed’ to play by.

 

Consider, for example, the Great Meltdown of 2008.  This was an Economic Catastrophe (which impoverished thousands of people … all over the world) … and it was done ON PURPOSE … by a small handful of ‘modern men’    (playing these ‘new ground-rules’).

 

It’s a degradation.

 

[I include below – an excerpt from a little “play” I wrote several years ago … as it pertains to this topic] :

 

Hi. What’s your name?

Gregg Pravorsky.

How old are you, Gregg?

Five. I’ll be six soon.

Do you like it here? at Vine Maple?

Yeah.

What do you like about it?

The culture, I guess. The kids here are great, and the teachers are very dedicated. They’re smart and well rounded. (I understand they’re well paid; and I’m glad of that.) They’re very good at working together and at getting us excited about the things they reckon are the most important. And they learn too! The whole place is a learning community. But it doesn’t end there. You know ­­ Knowledge should move into Service. So we always have at least one activist project happening.

And right now that’s …?

Right now we’re collaborating with the folks at the Conflict Cafe trying to help people rethink the whole Enemy mindset, which, you know, is quite a prejudice.

Yeah. What would the world be like if we didn’t have enemies?

Well, it would be bad for business.

Maybe we should be in a better business.

(two seconds) Yep. We should.

Gregg, what would you say is the most exciting thing you’ve learned about here?

Well, I guess ­­ in the area of Economics. Ms. Jennings opened my eyes about what

wealth is and where it comes from. She has us imagine that we’re sitting on a cloud ­­ that we can see what people are doing, but we can’t see money. What you see then is ­­ everybody doing things for other people. (three seconds) So the fact that people are selfish ­­ that the whole thing is greed­ driven (you know ­­ people believe that money is real, that money is wealth) ­­ is very ironic. We go about taking care of each other and imagining that we’re selfish! It’s so funny!

I know. It’s very funny.

It is! And then, you know, Ms. Jennings has us think about the Organic Economics of a tree. It’s not hard to understand ­­ that when another leaf comes out on the tree, it’s not at the expense of the tree. The tree nourishes the leaf, of course, but the leaf gives more to the tree than it takes. It’s a sustainable arrangement. Nature functions on the basis of Specialization … and Service to the whole. (two seconds) Maybe we’ll figure it out. I hope so. (three seconds) The big financial meltdown of 2007 and 2008 is very disturbing. A few rascals ­­ hot shots ­­ financial engineers, academics, and business executives figured out a way to make money coming or going. They planned the whole thing … and then they just did it. Because the could. For fun. They impoverished people all over the world! For what? I’m pretty sure every one of them already had more money than they needed. They must have done it just for a lark ­­ just to indulge their power addictions. (four seconds) If you and I knew we were part of a tree ­­ how much sense would it make for us, first to figure out how to profit from the sale of the lumber … and then cut the tree down? And cut it up! And sell it!

Not only is it predatory, it’s self­-predatory! Like self­-mutilation. It’s madness. (three seconds)

I’m afraid so. It is disturbing. But thanks, Gregg, for sharing.

You’re welcome, Nancy.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The link to the entire ‘play’ is below, in case you want to look at it.

 

Also, I recommend you watch the film – “Margin Call”  (2011) … which portrays a “scene” from the big 2008 Meltdown.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1pp8EPXHkV__y1lQ65wSpQT2hDDio8Gck1YVLSre9jjo/edit?usp=sharing   (Preschool Interviews)

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Noble

 

 

The great movies enlarge us.

They civilize us.

They make us more decent people.         

                                                                                  –  Roger Ebert

 

 

 

Since the last blog I had the good fortune to (come across and) watch a film called “Noble”  (2014). It’s based on the true story of Christina Noble.

Here is an excerpt from her Wikipedia page –

Christina Noble, OBE, is an Irish children’s rights campaigner, charity worker and writer, who founded the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation in 1989.

Noble was born on 23 December 1944, in Dublin, Ireland.[1] Her mother died when she was ten. She was sent to an orphanage and dishonestly told that her three siblings were dead.[1] She escaped and lived rough in Dublin, where she was gang-raped.[1] Her baby son was adopted, against her will.[1] She married and had three more children but was the victim of domestic abuse.[1]

She visited Vietnam to care for abused children after a recurring dream, during the Vietnam War, about them appealing for her help.[1] This led to her creating the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation.[1]

She appeared as a “castaway” on the BBC Radio programme Desert Island Discs on 15 June 1997.[2] Despite being Irish, was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).[1][3] She is a recipient of the 2014 Women of the Year Prudential Lifetime Achievement Award.[4]

A film about her, Noble, was released 8 May 2015. The director was Stephen Bradley.

 

This (movie) is a ‘values story’ … which lifts up the values of compassion and service.

 

I use the term – values story – because many (perhaps most) of the stories we tell each other these days are (in fact … in the form of) films … and because I learned this term from Bob Humphrey (from his book – Values for a New Millennium)

In his book, Humphrey explains what values stories are, why it’s important to tell them, and how to do this in some (given micro)-culture … such as a school or a classroom.

Basically, it’s a way of strengthening (certain, selected) values in a given culture.

 

In the case of the movie (“Noble”)  the main character embodies very high values indeed – humanity, love & caring, integrity, dedication to a (larger) purpose, determination, ‘overcoming’, empathy … etc.

 

It constitutes a values story worthy of being told  … over and over; and I commend it to you without any hesitation.

 

[Here’s the trailer –      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2DwaFKqKxQ     ]

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

If you like this one … you may (also) want to watch –  “Veronica Guerin” (2003, w/ Cate Blanchett), which happens to be another film about a (heroic) Irish woman.

 

[At the age of 37   Guerin was assassinated   (by drug lords, in 1996).  Every person in Ireland at that time would be able to tell you where they were   at the moment they found out  that Veronica Guerin had been murdered.]

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Because Christina Noble had (and still has) a relationship with God (and/or Jesus) … [and this is brought out in the movie] … I feel I should say something about Faith Ministries.  

I happen to know something about this, because for 17 years (1995-2012) I was a part of a faith ministry (Global Community Communications Alliance, in Arizona    [ https://gccalliance.org ]  )

 

Not everyone will be interested in such an idea, I know that.  We’re modern people now, right?  Many (educated) people now think that we’ve ‘outgrown’ God … I know that too.  But this fact is inadequate to compel me to relegate God to the ‘superstition dustbin’.  

This comment is for those (few) with particularly spiritual ears.

There are many people who work hard to try to make the world better … but most of these are not in a faith ministry.

Christina Noble’s work did (and still does, I’m sure) constitute a faith ministry.

So – what’s the difference?

Suppose that you are deeply involved in good and altruistic work … Is what you are doing – a faith ministry?

It depends on who you think is in charge of the operation … if it’s God (and you’re doing what HE wants), then it’s a faith ministry.

If you’re working for yourself (even if you ask God’s blessing on your work) … then you should admit that you’re in rebellion (still). (which is what I am obliged to do).  Though this is NOT to say – that God cannot use you unless you’re in a faith ministry.  I believe he can … just not as well.

Ah … but Christina Noble (who had then come to Vietnam to try to help the children) … she says “I had a dream about Viet Nam … I don’t know why.” 

And she says (to God … or Jesus) –  “I don’t know what to do. … I tell you what – I’ll walk,   you lead.” … and she takes off walking … and comes after a while – to an orphanage.

She knew    that God was in charge.  And she was okay with that.

 

Among Bierce’s definitions we find –

 

Christian, n.  One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor.  One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.

                                                                               –   Ambrose Bierce

                                                                                            The Devil’s Dictionary

 

Bierce evidently had insight into the nature (and prevalence) of rebellion.

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An Eraser Also

 

 

You don’t need to pay any attention

to anything I say …

unless it’s true.

                              –    A’J
                                   (my ‘standard disclaimer’)

 

 

 

 

I think that Cat Stevens did a tremendous amount of good in this world.  His songs have (immeasurably) enriched our lives.

 

However … when he said –    (in “If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out”)

 

And if you want to be me, be me

And if you want to be you, be you

 

that scared me.

 

It’s an overstep.

 

Our (human) capacity for arrogance, after all, is something we need to remember; we need to keep it in mind.

(Let us NOT FORGET … the Titanic … or the Great Dust Bowl … or the great economic meltdown of 2008)

 

A (very) excellent children’s book is William Stieg’s – “The Amazing Bone”.

Pearl (the story’s main character, who is a sweet young female pig) happens across a talking bone one day in the forest.  

 

“But you’re a bone”, says Pearl.  “How come you can talk?”

“I don’t know”, says the bone.  “I didn’t make the world.”

 

This is wise.

 

It helps us clarify our “place” in the universe …

that we are the recipient of life … and NOT the author.

 

(whether we believe in God … OR NOT)

 

That’s why I regard those lines (from the Cat Stevens song) … as an overstep.

 

To be in right relationship with ourself … is no small challenge.

(being the most intimate of all our relationships … it is also the most challenging

of all of them)

 

I would vigorously defend any person’s right … to change & grow;

but what we are given to start with … is much more than just some amorphous thing

like a never-before-opened can of playdough!

 

What we were given to start with … is, in fact, so deep … and so mysterious

that it is altogether appropriate … that we accept the challenge

and take it on … as a lifelong task –

to find out … our true nature.

 

Doing this is part of being in right relationship with the self.

 

The intro to a Star Trek show says – “Space … the Final Frontier”

But

the true nature of the Self

is really … (more than ‘Space’) … the Final Frontier.

 

As St. Francis of Assisi said –

           

                      “What I am searching for … is the one who is searching.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

One’s own self is well hidden from one’s own self:

of all mines of treasure, one’s own is the last to be dug up.

                                                                          –    Friedrich Nietzsche

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

Now … here I am (yet again) recommending to you  –

the film – “Bella” (2006, written & directed by Alejandro Monteverde)

because

in it is a scene wherein José (the main character) is driving his car through a crowded suburb, when a young girl (chasing a ball) jumps into his path from between parked cars … and he hits her … and kills her.

And this happens on the veritable ‘eve’ of Jose’s new career as a professional soccer player.  His friend and agent (who is riding in the car with him) immediately says – “We have to get out of here!” … but José will not do that.  

He stays.  He meets the (bereft) mother.  He goes to prison.

(nor does he play soccer again … or drive his car)

 

He may have been speeding slightly … but it was an accident which could have happened to anyone.

 

But here’s the question _

 

What is the difference between these two people? –  José … and his friend (& agent)?

 

José refuses to run away from what he has done … while

his friend says – “We’ve got to get out of here!”

 

(that’s a BIG DIFFERENCE !)

 

Here’s how I make sense of it –

 

José is anchored in the Truth.  He lives in the Real World …

whereas – his friend is unmoored from the Dock of the Truth / (Reality)

and (imagines that) the Primary Reality he lives in

is the one of Appearances.

 

He is (in other words) a Casualty to Relativism.

 

Abraham Lincoln said –

 

           “How many legs does a dog have

               if we count the tail as a leg?

          

            Four!

            Because saying that the tail is a leg

                 does not make it a leg.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

To the speaker at the forum he (Jesus) said: “Your eloquence is pleasing, your logic is admirable, your voice is pleasant, but your teaching is hardly true. If you could only enjoy the inspiring satisfaction of knowing God as your spiritual Father, then you might employ your powers of speech to liberate your fellows from the bondage of darkness and from the slavery of ignorance.”

[This was the Marcus who heard Peter preach in Rome and became his successor. When they crucified Simon Peter, it was this man who defied the Roman persecutors and boldly continued to preach the new gospel.]

                                                                                                                                                                                                      – The Urantia Book, p. 1461.5

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It is possible to be (very) wrong about who we think we are.

 

More than 40 years ago I came to understand the ‘basics’ of why (by what means) our perceptions and ideas are powerful.

It’s because our ideas and perceptions bear a resemblance … to what they are ideas or perceptions of.  The greater the resemblance, the greater the power.

But resemblance is (always) a matter of degree, or ‘extent’ … it is never perfect.

 

And this means that – Any Idea can be Wrong.

(and this is partly because it already IS wrong … just because of its nature … and how it functions)

 

And I remember the day (in the late 1970’s … I was busing my lunch dishes back to the kitchen) … I realized that this ‘law’ also applies to our ‘self-concept’ (who we think we are) … and it dropped my jaw.

It was a shocking realization … that we could be wrong   even about “who we are”!

 

In high school I had a friend … who had been adopted by our Track Coach.  He was a great kid (and was our best pole vaulter); but he had grown up in the local (Allen County, Ohio) Children’s Home.

And this friend had a ‘permanent expression’ on his face.  You might think (to look at him) that he was perhaps a little cross.  But I am able to realize now … that he was not. It’s just that he had not been well treated … and had built a ‘shell’ around himself for protection.

And maybe HE thought that that shell was HIM  (or was part of him) … but it was NOT SO.

He was wrong about that.

 

That was just his shell.

 

We Americans are a ‘tough lot’ … able to tolerate homelessness, poverty, and corruption.

But – by ‘tough’, I really mean ‘hard’;  we have become hardened … encrusted.

 

But this ‘crust’ is NOT who we are.  It’s just our shell.

 

We have been brainwashed.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

A First on TV

For Walter Cronkite

 

This is the twentieth century,

you are there, preparing to skin

a human being alive.  Your part

will be to remain calm

and to participate with the flayer

in his work as you follow his hand,

the slow, delicate way with the knife

between the skin and the flesh,

and see the red meat emerge.

Tiny rivulets of blood will flow

from the naked flesh and over the hands

of the flayer.  Your eyes will waver

and turn away but turn back to witness

the unprecedented, the incredible,

for you are there

and your part will be to remain calm.

 

You will smash at the screen

with your fist and try to reach

this program on the phone, like a madman

gripping it by the neck

as if it were the neck of the flayer

and you will scream into the receiver,

“Get me station ZXY at once, at once,

do you hear!”  But your part

will be to remain calm.

                                –    David Ignatow

~~~~~~~~

 

Have we not been systematically ‘trained’ to think that it’s ‘normal’

to be told about some terrible tragedy … and then (three seconds later)

told about some beer (or something) ?

 

Do you suppose that this has no effect on our psyche?

 

And does not our ‘daily news’ teach us

to feel powerless?

 

Or, perhaps when YOU finish watching the news

you feel full of ideas & solutions …

and energized  and excited about solving all these problems?

Mmm?   Is that what happens?

 

 

It so happens that I spent 17 years in a Religious Order

(https://gccalliance.org/).

Some people said that we were a cult; but here’s how I make sense of it –

If GCCA is a dangerous cult, it’s because the people there take seriously

the idea that ‘we really ARE our brother’s keeper’ …

THAT’S  what made us a dangerous cult.

(because that fundamental idea is a threat to the core ideas of the BIG CULT –

the American Culture which spends twice as much on Entertainment

as on Education & Healthcare COMBINED … which (apparently) considers the many deaths due to anorexia & bulimia

as acceptable collateral damage.

The ‘bottom line’ is that we make a profit!  Mmm?)

No ‘brainwashing’ going on THERE, right?

 

Between 1976 and 1980 I attended MIU –

(a liberal arts college in southeast Iowa … at which school everyone …

staff, students, faculty … practice the Transcendental Meditation technique)

 

In those days there was a Math Genius / Math Teacher there by the name of Michael Weinless.

(I can still remember him … pacing back & forth in the front of the classroom

and saying – “W-we really should cover all of Mathematics in this course.”)

Well, one day (in my senior year, in the dining hall lunch line)

Michael said to me – “You know the difference between mathematicians and philosophers?”

(even though I was NOT in the Philosophy Major, Michael must have known that I had an interest in philosophy)

He says, “Well … mathematicians have pencil, and paper, and erasers … and philosophers only have pencil and paper.”

 

He was teasing me … by saying that in math … you might make a mistake … but you can find out that it’s a mistake

and correct it.

Whereas, in philosophy (he was suggesting) that one may say ANYTHING … and then – who is to say whether it is wrong … or where?

 

Well … I am hoping that I can ‘earn’ my eraser.

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All In

 

 

Patience is a hard discipline.  It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of the bus, the end of the rain, the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict.  Patience is not waiting passively until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are.  When we are impatient, we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later, and somewhere else. Let’s be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.

                                                                                         –   Henri J. M. Nouwen

 

In Dan Millman’s book – “Way of the Peaceful Warrior” the main character (the author) is working at a Service Station … for a guy – ‘Socrates’.  At one point, after a bit of training, Socrates asks Dan to go out back and sit on the big rock … and not get up till he has something worthwhile to tell him.        Well, he tries a couple times (and offers something) … but Socrates would just look at him and say … “Back on the rock.”

So (after at least two days) he’s sitting on his rock … and he sees some young people walking together across the street … and it comes to him.  He finds Socrates and tells him – “There are no special moments.”

He let him off the rock for that.

 

It’s easy for us (isn’t it?) not to be committed to living our lives fully … when we believe that not all ‘time’ is alike?  If I think that the moment I’m IN right now is (somehow) less important than OTHER (perhaps future) moments, then it’s easy for me not to bother much with THIS one.   Mmm ?

 

“When one is young one doesn’t feel a part of it yet, the human condition. One does things because they are not for good, everything is a rehearsal … to be put right when the curtain goes up in earnest. One day you know that the curtain was up all the time. That was the performance.”

                                                                                                             –   Sybille Bedford

 

How do we live our days?     As though the Curtain is Up?   As though there are No Special Moments?

Are we committed to the (gift of the) Day …  with a level of enthusiasm and creativity (actually) commensurate with the magnitude of the Gift?

 

It seems to me like this.  It’s not a terrible thing – I mean it may be terrible, but it’s not damaging, it’s not poisoning to do without something one wants. . . .  What’s terrible is to pretend that the second-rate is first-rate. To pretend that you don’t need love when you do; or you like your work when you know quite well you’re capable of better.                                      

                                                                                                                 – Doris Lessing

 

Once a young man bought a bus ticket from Lima, Ohio to Chicago.  It was winter and everything was snow-covered; the road too was covered with hard-packed snow.  Somewhere in the middle (in some little town in Indiana probably) the bus stopped at a cafe. He left his bags and coat on the bus and went into the restaurant.  The driver announced how long the stop would be … “15 minutes”.   Rather near the end of the break he went to the restroom. When he came out, the other passengers and the bus were gone.  

He went outside.  He could see the bus, heading westward, perhaps a quarter mile down the empty tree-lined road.   There was no reason for him to believe he would be able to catch the bus, but he ran after it anyway. He ran hard; but apparently no one on the bus saw him.

But presently a woman driving a station wagon pulled alongside him.  She was offering him a ride. He got into her car; and they overtook the bus.  It stopped and he got back on.

I happen to know this story is true … because I was there.

It was me, actually.

 

 

And now …

I have come to my Main Story –

 

In September of 2017 the little church choir I sing in flew (from Portland) to eastern (French) Canada … to sing for a few days … in Montreal and Quebec City.

(I am by now persuaded – that if you’re going to travel somewhere … you might as well sing when you get there.)

 

Anyway, it was enroute to Canada that we were in an airport … and had time to have some lunch.  As you probably know, there are often numerous cafes and restaurants in a big airport. And it was in one of these that I encountered a most extraordinary woman … a waitress in an airport cafe/restaurant.

And to me she is a true Hero.

 

She was doing a job that had very little glamour or status … but it was the way she did it.  She simply did her work with absolute and total commitment.  She was not “waiting” for (some future ‘great’ job … a high-paying job)  No. She did THIS one (Every Day, I’m sure) perfectly … holding nothing back.

She bestowed herself on everyone she came in contact with … with every customer she saw.

 

There was nothing awkward or uncomfortable about how she acted.  It was perfectly clean … and natural.

 

You could say – that she was completely professional … but I think that would be a belittlement of what she had achieved and was doingevery day!

 

She was absolutely inspiring!

 

What she had achieved (and was living)  … well … it’s very rare.

 

One may see such a level of attainment … only occasionally … in great spiritual leaders … truly enlightened souls.   Such ones.

 

Perhaps I saw it one day when I was in the Navy … in Admiral Zumwalt (who was, at that time the Chief of Naval Operations … the head of the whole Navy).  I happened to hear him speak to a gathering of troops in New London, Connecticut (where I happened to be attending a Radiological Control Monitor school).

He stood on that stage … in his dress blues … his feet apart … never moved or fidgeted …  hands in his coat pockets … removing a hand only to call on some sailor who wanted to ask a question.  (and a couple times he instructed a secretary to look into a certain matter so that he could follow up on it.)

I was terribly impressed with him.

 

I suspect that his commitment (to his job … every day) was also total and complete; but he was, after all, the Chief of Naval Operations; whereas – the airport waitress was in a job with low (near-zero) glamour or status … nor was it high-paying!   Yet she bestowed herself on every person she came in contact with … like there was NO TOMORROW !   She was ALL IN !

 

WHAT A GREAT SOUL !

 

(I did talk with her – about what she was doing … and how rare and great it was.  But I think I was remiss in not getting her contact information … if she had been willing to give it to me)

 

She ‘goes before me’ as a shining (and perfect) example of what is possible for ANY of us … (myself, of course, included.)

~~~~~

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.  Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.  All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

                                              

                              

                                                 Whatever you can do,

                                                 or dream you can, begin it.

                                                 Boldness has genius,

                                                 power and magic in it.

                                                                                                   –  Goethe

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[from paper 100 of The Urantia Book] –

 

100:7.1 (1101.5) Although the average mortal of Urantia cannot hope to attain the high perfection of character which Jesus of Nazareth acquired while sojourning in the flesh, it is altogether possible for every mortal believer to develop a strong and unified personality along the perfected lines of the Jesus personality. The unique feature of the Master’s personality was not so much its perfection as its symmetry, its exquisite and balanced unification. The most effective presentation of Jesus consists in following the example of the one who said, as he gestured toward the Master standing before his accusers, “Behold the man!”

100:7.2 (1101.6) The unfailing kindness of Jesus touched the hearts of men, but his stalwart strength of character amazed his followers. He was truly sincere; there was nothing of the hypocrite in him. He was free from affectation; he was always so refreshingly genuine. He never stooped to pretense, and he never resorted to shamming. He lived the truth, even as he taught it. He was the truth. He was constrained to proclaim saving truth to his generation, even though such sincerity sometimes caused pain. He was unquestioningly loyal to all truth.

100:7.3 (1101.7) But the Master was so reasonable, so approachable. He was so practical in all his ministry, while all his plans were characterized by such sanctified common sense. He was so free from all freakish, erratic, and eccentric tendencies. He was never capricious, whimsical, or hysterical. In all his teaching and in everything he did there was always an exquisite discrimination associated with an extraordinary sense of propriety.

100:7.4 (1102.1) The Son of Man was always a well-poised personality. Even his enemies maintained a wholesome respect for him; they even feared his presence. Jesus was unafraid. He was surcharged with divine enthusiasm, but he never became fanatical. He was emotionally active but never flighty. He was imaginative but always practical. He frankly faced the realities of life, but he was never dull or prosaic. He was courageous but never reckless; prudent but never cowardly. He was sympathetic but not sentimental; unique but not eccentric. He was pious but not sanctimonious. And he was so well-poised because he was so perfectly unified.

100:7.5 (1102.2) Jesus’ originality was unstifled. He was not bound by tradition or handicapped by enslavement to narrow conventionality. He spoke with undoubted confidence and taught with absolute authority. But his superb originality did not cause him to overlook the gems of truth in the teachings of his predecessors and contemporaries. And the most original of his teachings was the emphasis of love and mercy in the place of fear and sacrifice.

100:7.6 (1102.3) Jesus was very broad in his outlook. He exhorted his followers to preach the gospel to all peoples. He was free from all narrow-mindedness. His sympathetic heart embraced all mankind, even a universe. Always his invitation was, “Whosoever will, let him come.”

100:7.7 (1102.4) Of Jesus it was truly said, “He trusted God.” As a man among men he most sublimely trusted the Father in heaven. He trusted his Father as a little child trusts his earthly parent. His faith was perfect but never presumptuous. No matter how cruel nature might appear to be or how indifferent to man’s welfare on earth, Jesus never faltered in his faith. He was immune to disappointment and impervious to persecution. He was untouched by apparent failure.

100:7.8 (1102.5) He loved men as brothers, at the same time recognizing how they differed in innate endowments and acquired qualities. “He went about doing good.”

100:7.9 (1102.6) Jesus was an unusually cheerful person, but he was not a blind and unreasoning optimist. His constant word of exhortation was, “Be of good cheer.” He could maintain this confident attitude because of his unswerving trust in God and his unshakable confidence in man. He was always touchingly considerate of all men because he loved them and believed in them. Still he was always true to his convictions and magnificently firm in his devotion to the doing of his Father’s will.

100:7.10 (1102.7) The Master was always generous. He never grew weary of saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Said he, “Freely you have received, freely give.” And yet, with all of his unbounded generosity, he was never wasteful or extravagant. He taught that you must believe to receive salvation. “For every one who seeks shall receive.”

100:7.11 (1102.8) He was candid, but always kind. Said he, “If it were not so, I would have told you.” He was frank, but always friendly. He was outspoken in his love for the sinner and in his hatred for sin. But throughout all this amazing frankness he was unerringly fair.

100:7.12 (1102.9) Jesus was consistently cheerful, notwithstanding he sometimes drank deeply of the cup of human sorrow. He fearlessly faced the realities of existence, yet was he filled with enthusiasm for the gospel of the kingdom. But he controlled his enthusiasm; it never controlled him. He was unreservedly dedicated to “the Father’s business.” This divine enthusiasm led his unspiritual brethren to think he was beside himself, but the onlooking universe appraised him as the model of sanity and the pattern of supreme mortal devotion to the high standards of spiritual living. And his controlled enthusiasm was contagious; his associates were constrained to share his divine optimism.

100:7.13 (1103.1) This man of Galilee was not a man of sorrows; he was a soul of gladness. Always was he saying, “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad.”But when duty required, he was willing to walk courageously through the “valley of the shadow of death.” He was gladsome but at the same time humble.

100:7.14 (1103.2) His courage was equaled only by his patience. When pressed to act prematurely, he would only reply, “My hour has not yet come.” He was never in a hurry; his composure was sublime. But he was often indignant at evil, intolerant of sin. He was often mightily moved to resist that which was inimical to the welfare of his children on earth. But his indignation against sin never led to anger at the sinner.

100:7.15 (1103.3) His courage was magnificent, but he was never foolhardy. His watchword was, “Fear not.” His bravery was lofty and his courage often heroic. But his courage was linked with discretion and controlled by reason. It was courage born of faith, not the recklessness of blind presumption. He was truly brave but never audacious.

100:7.16 (1103.4) The Master was a pattern of reverence. The prayer of even his youth began, “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name.”He was even respectful of the faulty worship of his fellows. But this did not deter him from making attacks on religious traditions or assaulting errors of human belief. He was reverential of true holiness, and yet he could justly appeal to his fellows, saying, “Who among you convicts me of sin?”

100:7.17 (1103.5) Jesus was great because he was good, and yet he fraternized with the little children. He was gentle and unassuming in his personal life, and yet he was the perfected man of a universe. His associates called him Master unbidden.

100:7.18 (1103.6) Jesus was the perfectly unified human personality. And today, as in Galilee, he continues to unify mortal experience and to co-ordinate human endeavors. He unifies life, ennobles character, and simplifies experience. He enters the human mind to elevate, transform, and transfigure it. It is literally true: “If any man has Christ Jesus within him, he is a new creature; old things are passing away; behold, all things are becoming new.”

100:7.19 (1103.7) [Presented by a Melchizedek of Nebadon.]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_GmrfIKbDg    (David Belle – Still Alive  [parkour])

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To Think or Not To Think

 

 

 

The ability to think does not distinguish human beings from animals.  The higher animals are able to think; that is, they can work out the best way of accomplishing a task.  But only a human being is able to come to the conclusion – that something should not be done at all.

                                                                                                                          – The Urantia Book

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

When you think you’re green, you’ll ripen; and

When you think you’re ripe, you’ll rot.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

How does one transcend himself; how does he open himself to new possibility?  By realizing the truth of his situation, by dispelling the lie of his character, by breaking his spirit out of its conditioned prison.  The enemy, for Kierkegaard as for Freud, is the Oedipus complex. The child has built up strategies and techniques for keeping his self-esteem in the face of the terror of his situation.  These techniques become an armor that holds the person prisoner. The very defenses that he needs in order to move about with self-confidence and self-esteem become his life-long trap. In order to transcend himself he must break down that which he needs in order to live.  Like Lear he must throw off all his “cultural lendings” and stand naked in the storm of life. Kierkegaard had no illusions about man’s urge to freedom. He knew how comfortable people were inside the prison of their character defenses. Like many prisoners they are comfortable in their limited and protected routines, and the idea of a parole into the wide world of chance, accident, and choice terrifies them.

                                                                             – Ernest Becker The Denial of Death

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

 

If you read my essay of three weeks ago (March 13th … on  ‘Free Money’) you may have been able to detect … that as I was writing … I was learning.  I came to the realization that ‘acting out of one’s Ideology’ / (or ‘taking a position’) … is a (very common) substitute for (and alternative to) thinking.

 

Another way of describing this is  – “Knowledge is Finished”.

 

For example – if you belong to a church – does that community regard itself as ‘seekers for the truth’ ? … or does your church see itself as a ‘custodian of the truth’?

If you believe that Knowledge is Finished … the the second one will make sense to you.   But if you think that Knowledge is Not Finished … then the first one will make sense to you, but the second one will not.

 

[You may wish to have a look at my essay on Fundamentalism (24 Oct. 2018).]

 

The main thing we hate about Fundamentalists is that they think that Knowledge is Finished (and they happen to have taken a position that is at odds with ours)

 

Suppose you had the opportunity to converse with a (‘dangerous’) fundamentalist.  Suppose you were to ask him some questions –

 

Can you share with me your intellectual journey?  Can you tell me HOW you came to believe that ‘all infidels (non-believers) must be put to death’?

 

Do you think that they would (if they were actually willing to speak with you candidly) tell you about some long and complicated personal struggle? involving a great deal of genuine questioning and truth seeking?

I don’t think so.

 

I think we would find that they ‘arrived at’ their position … in the same basic way that they inherited their language or their culture … just by showing up and accepting it.

 

[Any culture is comprised of :   language … shared beliefs … customs … etc.  We basically HAVE NO CHOICE about whether to accept the Language we are born into.  But we DO have a choice about whether to accept the beliefs which surround us.

Of course – it is a CULTURAL VARIABLE – whether or not an individual is encouraged (or even permitted) to question the shared beliefs which surround us all.]

 

And this is (we think) one of the responsibilities of Education  – to encourage people to question the ‘normal’ beliefs.

 

And even if it’s true that the super-rich people (the ruling class) manage to keep our education system (here in America, anyway) crippled … (we avoid teaching Critical Thinking skills here) … even SO .. we can still take responsibility for our own personal education.  Mmm?

 

You know –   we really should treasure our great poets (and try to ‘hang out’ with them) … in order to learn from them … to receive from them something of their (superior) way of seeing the world.

 

I had never even heard of Wislawa Szymborska … till after she died.  

(which was in February of 2012 … and my main channel for education was NPR radio.  Some people there were talking about her, and shared a few of her poems)

Now I think she was one of the greatest poets ever … anywhere.

 

Though she lived a very modest and ‘ordinary’ life … in December of 1996 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

And (because of her comments on [what she likes to call]: “I don’t know”)  … I include here her Stockholm Nobel Prize acceptance speech. I hope you enjoy it –

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Poet and the World

They say the first sentence in any speech is always the hardest. Well, that one’s behind me, anyway. But I have a feeling that the sentences to come – the third, the sixth, the tenth, and so on, up to the final line – will be just as hard, since I’m supposed to talk about poetry. I’ve said very little on the subject, next to nothing, in fact. And whenever I have said anything, I’ve always had the sneaking suspicion that I’m not very good at it. This is why my lecture will be rather short. All imperfection is easier to tolerate if served up in small doses.

Contemporary poets are skeptical and suspicious even, or perhaps especially, about themselves. They publicly confess to being poets only reluctantly, as if they were a little ashamed of it. But in our clamorous times it’s much easier to acknowledge your faults, at least if they’re attractively packaged, than to recognize your own merits, since these are hidden deeper and you never quite believe in them yourself … When filling in questionnaires or chatting with strangers, that is, when they can’t avoid revealing their profession, poets prefer to use the general term “writer” or replace “poet” with the name of whatever job they do in addition to writing. Bureaucrats and bus passengers respond with a touch of incredulity and alarm when they find out that they’re dealing with a poet. I suppose philosophers may meet with a similar reaction. Still, they’re in a better position, since as often as not they can embellish their calling with some kind of scholarly title. Professor of philosophy – now that sounds much more respectable.

But there are no professors of poetry. This would mean, after all, that poetry is an occupation requiring specialized study, regular examinations, theoretical articles with bibliographies and footnotes attached, and finally, ceremoniously conferred diplomas. And this would mean, in turn, that it’s not enough to cover pages with even the most exquisite poems in order to become a poet. The crucial element is some slip of paper bearing an official stamp. Let us recall that the pride of Russian poetry, the future Nobel Laureate Joseph Brodsky was once sentenced to internal exile precisely on such grounds. They called him “a parasite,” because he lacked official certification granting him the right to be a poet …

Several years ago, I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Brodsky in person. And I noticed that, of all the poets I’ve known, he was the only one who enjoyed calling himself a poet. He pronounced the word without inhibitions.

Just the opposite – he spoke it with defiant freedom. It seems to me that this must have been because he recalled the brutal humiliations he had experienced in his youth.

In more fortunate countries, where human dignity isn’t assaulted so readily, poets yearn, of course, to be published, read, and understood, but they do little, if anything, to set themselves above the common herd and the daily grind. And yet it wasn’t so long ago, in this century’s first decades, that poets strove to shock us with their extravagant dress and eccentric behavior. But all this was merely for the sake of public display. The moment always came when poets had to close the doors behind them, strip off their mantles, fripperies, and other poetic paraphernalia, and confront – silently, patiently awaiting their own selves – the still white sheet of paper. For this is finally what really counts.

It’s not accidental that film biographies of great scientists and artists are produced in droves. The more ambitious directors seek to reproduce convincingly the creative process that led to important scientific discoveries or the emergence of a masterpiece. And one can depict certain kinds of scientific labor with some success. Laboratories, sundry instruments, elaborate machinery brought to life: such scenes may hold the audience’s interest for a while. And those moments of uncertainty – will the experiment, conducted for the thousandth time with some tiny modification, finally yield the desired result? – can be quite dramatic. Films about painters can be spectacular, as they go about recreating every stage of a famous painting’s evolution, from the first penciled line to the final brush-stroke. Music swells in films about composers: the first bars of the melody that rings in the musician’s ears finally emerge as a mature work in symphonic form. Of course this is all quite naive and doesn’t explain the strange mental state popularly known as inspiration, but at least there’s something to look at and listen to.

But poets are the worst. Their work is hopelessly unphotogenic. Someone sits at a table or lies on a sofa while staring motionless at a wall or ceiling. Once in a while this person writes down seven lines only to cross out one of them fifteen minutes later, and then another hour passes, during which nothing happens … Who could stand to watch this kind of thing?

I’ve mentioned inspiration. Contemporary poets answer evasively when asked what it is, and if it actually exists. It’s not that they’ve never known the blessing of this inner impulse. It’s just not easy to explain something to someone else that you don’t understand yourself.

When I’m asked about this on occasion, I hedge the question too. But my answer is this: inspiration is not the exclusive privilege of poets or artists generally. There is, has been, and will always be a certain group of people whom inspiration visits. It’s made up of all those who’ve consciously chosen their calling and do their job with love and imagination. It may include doctors, teachers, gardeners – and I could list a hundred more professions. Their work becomes one continuous adventure as long as they manage to keep discovering new challenges in it. Difficulties and setbacks never quell their curiosity. A swarm of new questions emerges from every problem they solve. Whatever inspiration is, it’s born from a continuous “I don’t know.”

There aren’t many such people. Most of the earth’s inhabitants work to get by. They work because they have to. They didn’t pick this or that kind of job out of passion; the circumstances of their lives did the choosing for them. Loveless work, boring work, work valued only because others haven’t got even that much, however loveless and boring – this is one of the harshest human miseries. And there’s no sign that coming centuries will produce any changes for the better as far as this goes.

And so, though I may deny poets their monopoly on inspiration, I still place them in a select group of Fortune’s darlings.

At this point, though, certain doubts may arise in my audience. All sorts of torturers, dictators, fanatics, and demagogues struggling for power by way of a few loudly shouted slogans also enjoy their jobs, and they too perform their duties with inventive fervor. Well, yes, but they “know.” They know, and whatever they know is enough for them once and for all. They don’t want to find out about anything else, since that might diminish their arguments’ force. And any knowledge that doesn’t lead to new questions quickly dies out: it fails to maintain the temperature required for sustaining life. In the most extreme cases, cases well known from ancient and modern history, it even poses a lethal threat to society.

This is why I value that little phrase “I don’t know” so highly. It’s small, but it flies on mighty wings. It expands our lives to include the spaces within us as well as those outer expanses in which our tiny Earth hangs suspended. If Isaac Newton had never said to himself “I don’t know,” the apples in his little orchard might have dropped to the ground like hailstones and at best he would have stooped to pick them up and gobble them with gusto. Had my compatriot Marie Sklodowska-Curie never said to herself “I don’t know”, she probably would have wound up teaching chemistry at some private high school for young ladies from good families, and would have ended her days performing this otherwise perfectly respectable job. But she kept on saying “I don’t know,” and these words led her, not just once but twice, to Stockholm, where restless, questing spirits are occasionally rewarded with the Nobel Prize.

Poets, if they’re genuine, must also keep repeating “I don’t know.” Each poem marks an effort to answer this statement, but as soon as the final period hits the page, the poet begins to hesitate, starts to realize that this particular answer was pure makeshift that’s absolutely inadequate to boot. So the poets keep on trying, and sooner or later the consecutive results of their self-dissatisfaction are clipped together with a giant paperclip by literary historians and called their “oeuvre” …

I sometimes dream of situations that can’t possibly come true. I audaciously imagine, for example, that I get a chance to chat with the Ecclesiastes, the author of that moving lament on the vanity of all human endeavors. I would bow very deeply before him, because he is, after all, one of the greatest poets, for me at least. That done, I would grab his hand. “‘There’s nothing new under the sun’: that’s what you wrote, Ecclesiastes. But you yourself were born new under the sun. And the poem you created is also new under the sun, since no one wrote it down before you. And all your readers are also new under the sun, since those who lived before you couldn’t read your poem. And that cypress that you’re sitting under hasn’t been growing since the dawn of time. It came into being by way of another cypress similar to yours, but not exactly the same. And Ecclesiastes, I’d also like to ask you what new thing under the sun you’re planning to work on now? A further supplement to the thoughts you’ve already expressed? Or maybe you’re tempted to contradict some of them now? In your earlier work you mentioned joy – so what if it’s fleeting? So maybe your new-under-the-sun poem will be about joy? Have you taken notes yet, do you have drafts? I doubt you’ll say, ‘I’ve written everything down, I’ve got nothing left to add.’ There’s no poet in the world who can say this, least of all a great poet like yourself.”

The world – whatever we might think when terrified by its vastness and our own impotence, or embittered by its indifference to individual suffering, of people, animals, and perhaps even plants, for why are we so sure that plants feel no pain; whatever we might think of its expanses pierced by the rays of stars surrounded by planets we’ve just begun to discover, planets already dead? still dead? we just don’t know; whatever we might think of this measureless theater to which we’ve got reserved tickets, but tickets whose lifespan is laughably short, bounded as it is by two arbitrary dates; whatever else we might think of this world – it is astonishing.

But “astonishing” is an epithet concealing a logical trap. We’re astonished, after all, by things that deviate from some well-known and universally acknowledged norm, from an obviousness we’ve grown accustomed to. Now the point is, there is no such obvious world. Our astonishment exists per se and isn’t based on comparison with something else.

Granted, in daily speech, where we don’t stop to consider every word, we all use phrases like “the ordinary world,” “ordinary life,” “the ordinary course of events” … But in the language of poetry, where every word is weighed, nothing is usual or normal. Not a single stone and not a single cloud above it. Not a single day and not a single night after it. And above all, not a single existence, not anyone’s existence in this world.

It looks like poets will always have their work cut out for them.

 

                                                        

                                                                         (Translated from Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh)

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

So … are you green, or are you ripe?

 

Is your life about   ‘I don’t know’? (or the alternative?)

 

Is your life organized around ‘Knowledge is Finished’?  … or around ‘Knowledge is NOT finished’?

 

Do you think? … or do you (merely) have a Position?

 

Find out.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“CLASSIFIEDS”

 

WHOEVER’S found out what location

compassion (heart’s imagination)

can be contacted at these days,

is herewith urged to name the place;

and sing about it in full voice,

and dance like crazy and rejoice

beneath the frail birch that appears

to be upon the verge of tears.

 

I TEACH silence

in all languages

through intensive examination of:

the starry sky,

the Sinanthropus’ jaws,

a grasshopper’s hop,

an infant’s fingernails,

plankton,

a snowflake.

 

I RESTORE lost love.

Act now! Special offer!

You lie on last year’s grass

bathed in sunlight to the chin

while winds of summers past

caress your hair and seem

to lead you in a dance.

For further details, write: “Dream.”

 

WANTED: someone to mourn

the elderly who die

alone in old folks’ homes.

Applicants, don’t send forms

or birth certificates.

All papers will be torn,

no receipts will be issued

at this or later dates.

 

FOR PROMISES made by my spouse,

who’s tricked so many with his sweet

colors and fragrances and sounds –

dogs barking, guitars in the streets –

into believing that they still

might conquer loneliness and fright,

I cannot be responsible.

Mr. Day’s widow, Mrs. Night.

 

        – Wislawa Szymborska

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

Notes from a Nonexistent Himalayan Expedition

 

So these are the Himalayas.

Mountains racing to the moon.

The moment of their start recorded

on the startling, ripped canvas of the sky.

Holes punched in a desert of clouds.

Thrust into nothing.

Echo—a white mute.

Quiet.

 

Yeti, down there we’ve got Wednesday,

bread and alphabets.

Two times two is four.

Roses are red there,

and violets are blue.

Yeti, crime is not all

we’re up to down there.

Yeti, not every sentence there

means death.

We’ve inherited hope —

the gift of forgetting.

You’ll see how we give

birth among the ruins.

Yeti, we’ve got Shakespeare there.

Yeti, we play solitaire

and violin. At nightfall,

we turn lights on, Yeti.

Up here it’s neither moon nor earth.

Tears freeze.

Oh Yeti, semi-moonman,

turn back, think again!

 

I called this to the Yeti

inside four walls of avalanche,

stomping my feet for warmth

on the everlasting

snow.

–  Wislawa Szymborska

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

“On Death, Without Exaggeration”

 

It can’t take a joke,

find a star, make a bridge.

It knows nothing about weaving, mining, farming,

building ships, or baking cakes.

In our planning for tomorrow,

it has the final word,

which is always beside the point.

 

It can’t even get the things done

that are part of its trade:

dig a grave,

make a coffin,

clean up after itself.

 

Preoccupied with killing,

it does the job awkwardly,

without system or skill.

As though each of us were its first kill.

 

Oh, it has its triumphs,

but look at its countless defeats,

missed blows,

and repeat attempts!

 

Sometimes it isn’t strong enough

to swat a fly from the air.

Many are the caterpillars

that have outcrawled it.

 

All those bulbs, pods,

tentacles, fins, tracheae,

nuptial plumage, and winter fur

show that it has fallen behind

with its halfhearted work.

 

Ill will won’t help

and even our lending a hand with wars and coups d’etat

is so far not enough.

 

Hearts beat inside eggs.

Babies’ skeletons grow.

Seeds, hard at work, sprout their first tiny pair of leaves

and sometimes even tall trees fall away.

 

Whoever claims that it’s omnipotent

is himself living proof

that it’s not.

 

There’s no life

that couldn’t be immortal

if only for a moment.

 

Death

always arrives by that very moment too late.

 

In vain it tugs at the knob

of the invisible door.

As far as you’ve come

can’t be undone.

 

              – Wislawa Szymborska

 

 

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A Wide-angle Lens

 

 

You must study history;

Otherwise, there’s only: Today … and Today … and Today !

                   – Serafina, a History teacher in South Africa /
from the movie ‘Serafina’ (1992, w/ Whoopi Goldberg, Miriam Makeba, et al.)      

~~~~~~~~~~

                                                           

 

If I had to have some surgery done  – let’s say, the removal of a brain tumor  – I would be (particularly) uneasy about it if I knew that the surgeon had only a little experience with such problems.  I would much prefer to have someone cut into my head … who was superbly competent by virtue of many years of experience performing similar surgeries, day in and day out.

We all know that (superb) competence COMES WITH … acquiring a great deal of experience.

 

I say this because I wish to acknowledge – that we (all) are the beneficiaries of SPECIALISTS (and our system which fosters specialization).

 

On the other hand … since IT’S CONTEXT WHICH AFFORDS MEANING  … we also need the ability to ‘back away’ from what we’re looking at … so that we’ll be able to see it within its context.  In other words –  specialization (and our entire system of specialization and ever-narrowing focus) is valuable … but it is not sufficient.

 

Here’s an illustration (of the power & importance of contextualizing)-

 

In the mind’s eye conjure up a picture of one of your primitive ancestors of cave-dwelling times—a short, misshapen, filthy, snarling hulk of a man standing, legs spread, club upraised, breathing hate and animosity as he looks fiercely just ahead. Such a picture hardly depicts the divine dignity of man. But allow us to enlarge the picture. In front of this animated human crouches a saber-toothed tiger. Behind him, a woman and two children. Immediately you recognize that such a picture stands for the beginnings of much that is fine and noble in the human race, but the man is the same in both pictures. Only, in the second sketch you are favored with a widened horizon. You therein discern the motivation of this evolving mortal. His attitude becomes praiseworthy because you understand him.

                                                                                                                                                                        – The Urantia Book    100:4.5 (1098.2)

          

 

Failing to “back away” (to get a broader view)  /  failing to contextualize … can lead to serious errors.  (And we have made lots of these).

When we imagine (for example) – that we live (simply) in an economy … and forget that we live first in a BIOLOGICAL SYSTEM (the world-wide eco-system) … we put ourselves (and our children) at risk.

[and this is WHAT WE ARE CURRENTLY DOING.   Our laws and corporate structures support planetary degradation.  It’s NOT hypothetical; … we are actually are doing this]

 

Or    when our Republican Party decided (after Barack Obama became president) that the Party’s purpose (while Obama was in office) … would be (simply) – to OPPOSE the PRESIDENT !

This is another example of ‘looking at the world through a long tube’ –  (commonly referred to as “tunnel vision”) Our Republican leaders “forgot” that we now live in a time of Planetary Crisis (crises) … and that our Future (and the very lives of our grandchildren) depends on our choices that we are making RIGHT NOW !

 

The basic/generic ‘problems’ of being human … the HUMAN SITUATION … is like this –

 

  • We must (constantly) assess the nature of our situation.

(If, for example, I am driving a car … I must be able to see [far ahead]: the oncoming traffic … in order to determine whether it is safe to pass the [slow-moving] truck which is in front of me.)

  • We must imagine the options we have.  We must be able to “see” the various paths which lead (into the future) from the place we are right now.

Sometimes we ‘overlook’ (fail to see) certain of our options.  But suppose that there’s only a (very) few paths (leading futureward from out current position … which have the possibility of taking us to Land of Survival [and thriving]) … if we should fail to see these … that would not be good.

  • Prediction … We must imagine how the world is likely to unfold … depending on whether we choose a certain path … or another one … and assess the (relative) desirability of the various (possible) worlds.

 

  • We must access (from within our own heart) our highest values … what we care about … and integrate that love into our vision of our (projected) futures.

 

  • And we must … act.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

[If you would like to ‘take permanent notes’ on this ‘Basic Human Situation’, so that you can always refer to it … do this:

 

Look at the palm of your (dominant) hand.  Imprint each finger with one of the basic elements:  

Using your other hand, grasp the end of your ‘little’ finger while considering the first aspect – (What’s the nature of the Situation?) … then imprint that into your pinky    by giving it a good squeeze (while imagining: “Situation?”.  

Then do the same with your ring finger (while imagining: “Options?”).  

Then with your middle finger    (while imagining: “Outcomes?”)  

Then squeeze your index finger while imagining: “Values / Love”?  

Then give your thumb a squeeze while imagining: “Action”.

              …. (‘Body Notes’)           ]

 

 

So … we can see that the ‘tunnel vision’ hazard    pertains to the first of the five elements – ‘determining the nature of the Situation’.

And we can appreciate that the knowledge that’s available to us as we look at the world through any tube (even though that view may be technically “accurate”) … a clear understanding will probably require that we also look at the situation through a wide-angle lens.

 

Anyway … now we have a context within which it makes sense … that  if we FAIL TO CONTEXTUALIZE  our “understandings” … it’s VERY RISKY.

 

Without adequate context … it may (actually) turn out that we do NOT UNDERSTAND … ANY of it.

 

It so happened that today I received an email (from TruthOut.org) which contained numerous articles (i.e. – their links); and among them was this excellent one    and I include it here … as it well contextualizes our life here in the U.S.    right now.

It’s by Sasha Abramsky  of UC, Davis) –

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

Since Attorney General William Barr’s “summary” of the report by Robert Mueller was issued, there’s been a lot of hand-wringing among progressives about what went wrong, and a lot of gloating from conservatives, and of course, from Donald Trump himself, about how Trump has been “exonerated.” Sean Hannity has talked of taking down Trump accusers one by one; Trump has called his opponents treasonous and “evil.”

This is, quite simply, utter nonsense. First off, Barr’s memo is so brief and cryptic, so cherry-picking in its use of quotes, and so devoid of the broader context in which Mueller presumably placed those quotes, as to be next to useless. We don’t know how much corruption, if not collusion, Mueller discovered, or how many spin-off cases were forwarded to other prosecutors. We don’t know where the Southern District of New York investigations are now heading, or which members of the Trump inner circle are likely to face prosecution down the road as these other investigations gather steam. Until the full report, or at the very least a comprehensive summary, is released, which I have no doubt at some point will be the case, these questions remain open.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s say that all of these end up being legal dead-ends, and that none of the people closest to Trump end up being convicted of any crimes.

 

If such were the case, none of the horror of the Trump administration would be diminished in the slightest.

 

What makes Trump so bloody awful was never simply the possibility that he may have conspired with a foreign government in his pursuit of power. What makes Trump so awful is how he wields his power now that he has it.

 

Whether or not Vladimir Putin and Trump colluded, and whether or not the Russian government blackmailed candidate Trump, since taking office the president has, time and again, made it clear that he admires strong-men leaders and their ability to silence dissent, to break the free press, and to politicize the judiciary to go after opponents. Trump has shown admiration for (and even aspirations to imitate) the world’s most dictatorial leaders: from Putin to Xi Jinping, from Mohammed bin Salman to Kim Jong Un to Rodrigo Duterte. Even as he has taken a more confrontational approach to China as a geopolitical rival, he has made it clear that he approves of many of Xi’s methods – including his being essentially made leader for life by a recent Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. He likes leaders who are worshipped and who render dissent treasonous. He likes despots who are unafraid to play violent, dirty games, to preserve and expand their personal power. He is clearly working to be such a leader himself.

Trump has used his platform, the vast reach of his Twitter feed and the huge audiences that his presidential speeches command, to demonize immigrants, including refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied minors fleeing drug gangs, and those so poor they walk hundreds of miles, with nothing but the clothes on their backs, to find succor in the United States.

He has instituted a travel ban against residents from five majority-Muslim countries, as a result of which no Syrian or Yemeni refugees are being allowed into the country, effectively condemning huge numbers to death in the most violent war zones on earth, and in Syria in particular, he has made it clear that the U.S. doesn’t care how much life is sacrificed. Under Trump, the language of human rights is entirely off the table. Last year only 11 Syrian refugees were admitted into the United States. Not a single one was admitted from Yemen. This horrifying reality alone ought to be enough to shame any internationalist GOP politicians who, for opportunistic reasons, continue to hold their noses and go along with this administration’s nativism.

Trump’s bureaucracy has put the U.S. government in the business of kidnapping thousands of children from their immigrant parents. It has turned the border lands into a vast military encampment laced with concertina barbed wire. It has fetishized the creation of prison camps to lock up tens of thousands of migrants while their asylum claims are held; and it has, against both U.S. and international law, bottled up tens of thousands of additional asylum seekers in camps in Mexico.

Domestically, the administration is doing everything it can to undermine health care access for poor people – including its decision this Monday to argue before an appeals court that the entire Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. It is attempting to shred the food stamps safety net. It is making it all but impossible for immigrants and their U.S. citizen children to access any public benefits, even emergency nutritional and health assistance. And in its attacks on organized labor, its hostility to an increased minimum wage, its weakening of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and its embrace of exploitative payday lending companies, it has gone out of its way to hurt the working poor.Trump has defended the Saudi leadership for its assassination of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi; and has cooperated with that same leadership in pursuing an utterly vicious war in Yemen, a war that has resulted in tens of millions of people facing starvation and epidemic diseases such as cholera. Elsewhere in the ongoing global war on terror, he has made the already awful usage of drones that he inherited from the Obama administration far worse, and has loosened the already feeble restraints on when bombs can be dropped on targets where civilian casualties are likely.

In going after Planned Parenthood and other organizations that perform abortions, Donald Trump is seeking to deprive women, especially lower-income women, of basic health care services. In attacking the LGBT+ community, through his transgender ban in the military and other actions, he is stoking hate-based violence and prejudice. Trump has race-baited Black people when talking about crime and has repeatedly used language dismissive of Native Americans, in addition to adopting policies that have disproportionately harmed Black and Native people.

The Trump administration is wildly destroying public health and environmental regulations that took a half-century or more to build up. It is making it exponentially easier for corporations to do grab-and-runs, extracting resources from the ground as fast as possible and leaving others to clean up the pollution of air, land and water that accompanies that plunder.

As for climate change — almost certainly the most urgent challenge facing humanity over the coming years — not only has Trump’s team turned the EPA and other agencies into agitprop centers for the fossil fuel industry, but it has, at every opportunity, tried to undermine efforts, from the local to the international, to mitigate the scale of global warming and its impact. In the long run, this malicious policy, while delivering high profits to the oil industry, will massively, perhaps permanently, undermine communities around the world. In the name of untrammeled profit, it locks into place untold misery for untold numbers of people globally.

Trump has shredded the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty; has humiliated traditional allies such as Canada, the U.K., France and Germany through attacking their democratically elected leaders and mocking their stances on everything from trade to security; and has violated a raft of UN resolutions in moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and in recognizing Israel’s permanent sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Time and again, Trump has shown himself unwilling to condemn white nationalism and land-soil-and-blood racial purity movements. This goes from his calling some of the Nazi marchers in Charlottesville in 2017 “very fine people,” to his struggling to disavow ex-KKK grand wizard David Duke’s repeated utterances of support for him, to refusing to label white nationalism a growing threat in the wake of the massacre of 50 Muslims in New Zealand earlier this month.

Trump’s legacy won’t be defined by the technical legal conclusions of the Mueller report, and certainly not by Barr’s scandalously opaque memo to Congress last weekend. Rather, his legacy will be defined by historians for the moral, cultural and physical violence his presidency has inflicted. He will be remembered for images of toddlers in diapers being paraded, unaccompanied by parents, before immigration judges. He will be remembered for the sadistic attacks on DACA recipients, the breaking up of families with Temporary Protected Status, the illegal appropriation of billions of dollars to build a wall that Congress repeatedly refused to fund.

Trump has been running the country as he ran his real estate and hotel business: He threatens and he intimidates, he takes pleasure in hurting the poor and the vulnerable, and in humiliating those courtiers whose presence he has grown bored of. He cuts constitutional corners whenever it is convenient to do so, and he bludgeons rather than compromises, because, temperamentally, while he fashions himself a master negotiator, in actual fact it’s always been his way or the highway.

If one lesson has been learned from Trump’s methods, it is that in this damaged political environment it pays dividends to always stay on the offense. If those who loathe what he represents start softening their critique of Trump in the wake of the Mueller report “exoneration,” they will give the autocrat an opening that he will ruthlessly take advantage of.

Now is not the time to backpedal on criticisms of Trump. Now is the time to step them up, to laser-focus on the moral ugliness and cruelty of this horrific man and the enablers now charged with implementing his vision. The damage he is already doing is immense; the damage he will do if his presidency is suddenly deemed respectable will be even more horrific.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Sasha Abramsky is a freelance journalist and a part-time lecturer at the University of California at Davis. His work has appeared in The Nation, The Atlantic Monthly, New York Magazine, The Village Voice and Rolling Stone. Originally from England, he now lives in Sacramento, California, with his wife, daughter and son. He has a masters degree from Columbia University School of Journalism, and is currently a senior fellow at the New York City-based Demos think tank.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  [28 March 2019]

If you read last week’s post, you know that it contained a ‘review’ of the Italian film – ‘Salvo’.

Well … since then I had occasion to re-watch that movie (I had not seen it for several years) … and realized that my memory was (in some ways) incorrect.      So I re-wrote the review … and added it (just now) to last week’s blog.

A’J

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

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Connection

If I speak all tongues of men and of angels, but speak without love, I am no more than a noisy gong or clanging cymbal. If I can prophesy and fathom all mysteries and knowledge and if I have so much faith that I can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all my possessions to the poor, or even give my body to be burnt, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind and envies no one. Love is never boastful, nor conceited, nor rude. It does not insist on its own way. It does not take offense, nor does it keep a record of wrongs. Love does not enjoy evildoing but enjoys the truth. There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, and its endurance.

Love never ends. Prophecy will cease. Tongues will be stilled. Knowledge will fail. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the Fulfillment comes, the partial will be done away with. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I saw as a child, I thought and reasoned as a child. When I became a man, I put away the things of a child. Now all we can see of God is like a cloudy picture in a mirror, but then we shall see him face to face. I do not know everything now, but then I will, just as God completely understands me.

In a word, there are three things that last forever: faith, hope, and love: but the greatest of them all is love.

                                                            Paul of Tarsus / 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are there some things we can learn  – about ‘creating connection’ … from a former FBI Lead Hostage Negotiator (Chris Voss)?

 

Absolutely.

 

Nathan Lozeron does a nice job summarizing Chris’s book  – “Never Split the Difference” in the following video:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIRk382yJm4&t=324s    (How to Negotiate)

 

It turns out that the key to negotiating successfully is based on the ability to (genuinely) empathize with your opponent and his feelings about his current situation… and then to get him to empathize with you and your situation.

 

Once you do that, the negotiation changes into a problem-solving session.

 

They (your adversary) can end up feeling they were understood and treated fairly … and you may well end up with what you were hoping for.

You allow them … to have your way.

 

It’s manipulative, I will admit.  But it works … because it is based on sound psychology – that we all have a need to be heard, understood, and respected … and to connect with others.

 

One of the best videos I saw this past week … is a TED talk by Lena Sisco, who worked at Gitmo (Guantanamo Bay) … as a military interrogator.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9j8iJHSCbY    (Building Rapport & Detecting Deception  – Lena Sisco)

 

Lena was very successful in this capacity (possibly, in part, because she is a good looking woman, but also) because she was good at building rapport.

 

She says that – if you’re NICE to people … it is Very Hard for them – not to be nice back.

 

She always greeted her (terrorist) detainee … with a smile  (a genuine smile).

 

Next – she would look for common ground: … ‘family’ … or ‘devotion to a cause’ … or whatever.

 

And she talks a bit about lying (which we ALL do) … and detecting deception.

But this video is less than 14 minutes;  it’s probably worth your time.

 

But now, I’d like to change gears.

 

Let’s talk about LOVE … as a Supreme Force.

Love is said to be the ‘glue of the universe’.

 

We have a saying – that “Love conquers all”.

 

Is this (actually) True … or is it just sentimental ‘crap’.

 

Well, this (very) question seems to have been taken on by a certain (Italian) movie –

 

Salvo (2013)

written & directed by Fabio Grassadonia & Antonio Piazza.

 

Salvo (the main character) is a body guard and hit man for a Sicilian mafioso. After foiling an attack on his employer, Salvo hunts down and kills the man who organized it … and encounters the man’s blind sister, Rita.

 

Rita has good hearing, and (while she is not in the same room at the time her brother is killed) she well understands what is taking place.  And (a minute later) when they meet, Rita knows that THIS is the man who just killed her brother (and, for all we know, her brother was her only family)

 

Then (perhaps through a TREMENDOUS DESIRE to see her brother’s murderer … we do not know, but) Rita regains her ability to see!   And Salvo is witness to this miracle!

 

(as must be obvious by now … this is an INTENSE movie)

 

Now (by this point in the film) there is no doubt that Salvo is a man of considerable courage.  You would say, actually – that “this guy’s got BALLS!”

 

But

 

He does NOT kill Rita (like he “should” have … for she is a ‘loose end’,  and protocol requires her death).  He decides instead … to protect her. (And all of this is communicated without words.)

PRIOR to this event, Salvo had been his Boss’s MAN … a Company Man.  But he is deeply moved by this experience; and he completely (and spontaneously) reorients and reorganizes his life.

 

And now, the set-up is complete.  And we see that the story is NOT about the mafia … or about killing.  It’s about Love.

 

Now the Test begins.

 

Rita has been SUPREMELY WRONGED; and she knows that Salvo has brutally murdered her brother … in their home.

 

Salvo (who has killed many men) is unquestionably the culprit.  He murdered Rita’s brother (within her hearing) . But …

he’s had a change of heart.

 

And now … these two … Salvo & Rita … begin to act out the Great Question –

Does Love have the power to overcome ANY obstacle?   even the Greatest Imaginable Obstacle?

 

When she has the opportunity, Rita attacks Salvo … verbally … and physically.

Salvo (only) protects himself; and never retaliates.  In fact he never even makes any attempt to win Rita’s trust with words.

Instinctively, he knows that would be ridiculous.  He has killed Rita’s brother.

His resolve to protect and care for Rita though … never wavers.  He never tries to take advantage of her sexually (or anything of that kind.)  His life has now become about loving her … whatever that requires.  We see NO indication (after his transformation) that Salvo is struggling to ‘do the right thing’.  His life has become (completely) simple:  He loves Rita.   He does not seem to experience any interior struggle or conflict.  His heart and mind are unified;  he is at peace.  Focused.

We can say that his Redemption is complete and (apparently) secure.

Rita then becomes the ‘question mark’.  Will Love prevail … in her?  (Will she also experience ‘Redemption’?)

 

Well, when Salvo’s boss figures out that Rita is still alive (and that Salvo is protecting her), he undertakes to solve this problem in a very predictable way … to have them both killed.  And he is not short of personnel or weaponry.

Then (we could say, that) the plot thickens.

But I do not think I will tell you any more of this story.  You should watch the movie.

 

On the surface, this film is so rough … that I have been generally reluctant to recommend it.  Today, however (after a little research) I became aware that ‘Salvo’ actually received 8 awards … and (another) 18 nominations.  (this would not happen in America)

Just keep in mind (as you watch it) that it is no ordinary movie.  It is Very Ambitious.  And Daring.  It deals with Extremes.

It’s not (really) an Action Movie, or a Gangster Movie … it’s not even a Romance.  It simply (and bravely) takes on the (big) question –

Is Love All-Powerful?’

**{Please note the below addendum} **

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ [  28 March, 2019]

What follows is an addendum (to the above review of the movie – ‘Salvo’)    and, to a certain extent, it is a ‘retraction’.

I wrote the (above) ‘review’ on the day I posted it (20 March 2019) … but several years had passed   since I had seen the movie. But the next day (March 21st) I did manage to find and re-watch the film!  And … I must tell you that some of the things I had told you (about what takes place in the film itself )    are actually incorrect.  This was not due to dishonesty … but simply due to how my memory had (somewhat) reshaped the events portrayed.    But – rather than deleting the original review, I decided to let it stand (as it was written “in good faith” … if distorted) … partly AS AN EXAMPLE OF HOW OUR MEMORY CAN CHANGE OVER TIME.

Anyway, let me now try to clean up the mess I made earlier. 

*    *   *   *   *    

Immediately after Salvo murders Rita’s brother, Rita tries to “see” Salvo’s face … by feeling it with her fingers.  Then, as he is about to kill her (as well)   Salvo realizes that she is regaining her eyesight … and he decides not to kill her..

I would still agree that this is the point at which the ‘setup’ is complete.  But it is not true that Salvo’s life has then become simple and one-pointed (that it has simply become about loving Rita.)  This is an exaggeration. I think the viewer of this film is meant to understand that neither of the (two) main characters knows clearly what they will do next.  The movie is really pretty organic (lifelike): when the next situation arises, then they are required to make a choice … and do something.

After killing Rita’s brother (and “meeting” Rita … witnessing her regain her ability to see … and deciding not to kill her)  … Salvo takes Rita to an abandoned factory (probably owned by his boss.  He transports both of them there in the trunk of his car.) He carries her in and puts her on a mattress. (He had probably knocked her unconscious at her home so that she would not cause him trouble … as we see blood on her hairline.)  Salvo buries her brother’s body ‘out back’ of the factory … as (& where) he had probably buried other bodies before. Rita, when she comes to … basically acts like a crazy woman for a day or two (which is understandable). One time (when Salvo goes away    and then returns) he finds that Rita has stuffed various materials into the bars of the windows … presumably because she is having a hard time with “regaining her eyesight”. Salvo’s response to this … is that he pulls all that stuff out of the windows. I took this to mean that he was “saying” –  “No, Rita. Even if it’s uncomfortable … being able to see is better than blindness. Let us not hide from the truth. Let us face reality.”

Perhaps a day later (when Salvo is again at the factory … and has left the door open) Rita comes storming out… clearly angry (& vengeful) and is brandishing a knife.  She comes at Salvo as though to kill him. But he only stands there … making no attempt to stop her. (as though he were saying to her – “If you wish to kill me, I will not stop you.  I killed your brother; you may kill me if you wish.”) At this, Rita throws the knife away but slaps him hard … then pushes him. Then again slaps him hard and pushes him again.   And yells – “What do you want from me?” And at this, Salvo (in anguish) embraces her (awkwardly, from behind) and only weeps. I took this to mean – that he was trying to tell her (without words)    that he would like to cherish her, to protect her, and to love her … but knows he does not have the right to ask it.

I reckon it is not a normal Romance … but it is a Love Story.

There must have been considerable import to the song Rita was always listening to  (or singing) in the beginning of the movie; but I know no Italian.  If anyone fluent in Italian would be willing to fill me in about this … I would be grateful.

I think it is a lovely film.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Someone who does not run

toward the allure of love

walks a road where nothing

lives.  But this dove here

senses the love hawk floating

above, and waits, and will not

be driven or scared to safety

                                     

                                   – Rumi

Posted on Leave a comment

Free Money

 

 

 

We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.                                                                               

                                                                                                                                               – R. Buckminster Fuller  

 

 

Poverty could be eliminated

by an outlay of 1% of the

Gross World Product.

                               –  World Watch magazine

 

                                    

 

 

 

I’ve done some research on the idea of implementing a Universal Basic Income.  It’s NOT a new idea. It’s been around for at least a century and a half … (and in SOME form – for about 5 centuries!)

 

A number of countries have tried out the idea … but mainly the experiments have been quite small.  In 2016 the people of Switzerland voted on a referendum (they actually DO that in that country) – on whether to adopt a Universal Basic Income (UBI).  It did not pass.

As far as I know, this referendum is the ONLY one to have occurred so far on this (fallen) planet.

 

Now … TO THEIR CREDIT, the Swiss are still exploring this idea.  They will TEST it in  – Rheinau – a village near the German border.  Here is a 2-minute video about it:

 

 https://nowthisnews.com/videos/money/this-swiss-village-is-testing-out-universal-basic-income    

 

It is RATIONAL … to test the program.   You know – ‘TRY it … and SEE WHAT HAPPENS’!

 

In MY view … the MAIN thing we need to understand (regarding this UBI issue) … is that the human beings on THIS planet … are (mainly)  NOT RATIONAL.

 

It will, I think, HELP us if we can see that … because it will put us in a better position to begin BEHAVING RATIONALLY.

 

We can make Better Choices.

 

Kierkegaard pointed out – that

We can observe life only by looking backward, but

We must live it    forward.

It’s a problem, isn’t it?

 

At times we must all make decisions based on less than full knowledge of our current situation (or less than a complete appreciation of our alternatives for action) … and so our predictions (of the various outcomes) are imperfect.  (and our comprehension of Human Nature may also be imperfect)

 

Robert McNamara complained about the “Fog of War” (that war is too complex to keep up with, or maybe even to comprehend at all) … but I do not think this is a legitimate complaint.  Well … maybe it IS legitimate … but it is not peculiar to WAR.  

 

It’s a Human Problem.  It’s just how Human Life is.

 

Mmm?

 

However … while I think such (basic) problems should be acknowledged … this is NOT my complaint.  (it’s NOT why I say that we are not rational)

 

As I look over the thinking of the people who have (for quite some time) been proponents of (somehow) solving the (considerable) problems caused by poverty  (e.g. – by implementing a Universal Basic Income) … I am struck by how much emotional baggage (and moral baggage) we carry … even as we try our best to think of ways to relieve human suffering … or even just improve our quality of life.

 

Even the rejection by the Swiss people – of having a UBI (for everyone in the country) was based NOT on rationality (that is … on data)   but on (what should we call it?)  …IDEOLOGY.

 

Now … here’s what I mean when I say that.

 

We learn how to be nationalistic … from going to high school Pep Rallies … learning (and singing) our School Fight Song … from cheering for our team to win  (and so on)   Mmm?

… and then we never learn a better way of being loyal to our country … or our team    (or, seldom do we, anyway)

 

Also … we have illusionary notions regarding (little things like) – ‘who we are’ … or – ‘Where does wealth come from?’

 

Most of us labor under the misconception that Wealth is Money … and (of course) it is NOT.

 

True Wealth is (really) :  Good Food … Good Friends … a Loving Family … a Healthy Body … a Friendly & Safe Community … a Good Education … Good Music …  Clean Water … Clean Air … a Clean Heart … Peace … Justice … Freedom … [and of course  – clothes … shoes that fit … shelter (for warmth & security) … a dependable car (or bicycle) … good roads … electricity … the phone system … the world wide web (etc.)]

 

Money is a medium of exchange (making direct barter unnecessary) … it’s a legal invention … and it’s good to have some …

 

But it (certainly) is NOT wealth.

 

A (brief) review of the thinking (of the historical proponents for a UBI)  … brings me to regard it (the thinking) as (mainly) arrogant and morals-burdened … and, it seems infused with a (false) sense of self-sufficiency (that is – they imagine that they are able to come to a sound conclusion based [merely] on their own thinking … and their ‘deep understanding’ of human nature).  In other words – while their proposals may be (actually) good … I still don’t trust their thinking.

 

And for the BULK of us?  (e.g. – the people of Switzerland, who voted NOT to implement a UBI in 2016) … I am afraid we are “thinking” about this issue … the same way we ‘learned to “think” about (other) Social Issues (like – ‘Who should win this football game?’  or ‘What is the nature of True Patriotism?’) when we first started going to High School Pep Rallies, and cheering during a game for ‘Our Team to win’.

 

I would LIKE to say something here that is NOT unkind … but still apt and true.  Mmm?   (It’s a problem, you see)

I think we should conclude that such ‘thinking” is not (really) thinking at all; it’s a substitute for thinking.

Instead of a (rational & effective) process … we have only Ideology … we have only   

             

–      a  position !

 

It’s uneducated, unenlightened, and debilitating.

Mmm?

 

Many of the proponents of having a UBI (free money for everyone) are able to see – that most of the wealth that we now enjoy … comes to us from (both) the Work … and the Thought … of (not only our contemporaries)  but people who have come before us.  We are all (already) the beneficiaries of other people’s (well-coordinated) labor …and their (brilliant) inventions.

Have you ever seen the face of the person who made the shoes … or the shirt you are now wearing?   or the people who built your house?  or your car?

What if I had to build and maintain the roads that I drive on?  I would NOT be able to do it.  Mmm?

 

Already we (continually) receive Social Dividends … merely by belonging to a society … to our culture & economy.

So … to implement (also) a UBI … would merely be to add yet another form of Social Dividend.

 

Besides … what if it (free money for all) could eliminate poverty?

 

This would NOT be Trivial!

 

For one thing – Poverty is ALREADY expensive!

 

(from Wikipedia        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_programs_in_the_United_States     ):

2.3 Trillion Dollar Total of Social Security, Medicare and Means Tested Welfare is low since latest 2013 means tested data not available but 2013, the “real” TOTAL will be higher.

Which begs the question – ‘Is this the best we can do?’

Is this the most effective way we can think of to solve the (associated) problems?

 

I would recommend to you the following videos –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zY8E3NO05mU    (Case for Universal Basic Income  – Charles Eisenstein)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIL_Y9g7Tg0    (Why we should give everyone a basic income – Rutger Bregman)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2aBKnr3Ep4    (Basic income and other ways to fix capitalism | Federico Pistono)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sp0gsyr-LBE    (Swiss village tests future … UBI

[universal basic income])

(If you only have time for one … I would suggest the third one by – Pistono)

 

In this presentation Federico Pistono points out that we need:  MORE EXPERIMENTS … and BETTER experiments.

 

So far, he says, that (of the 200 countries in the world) 14 have done some experimentation … but only two of these   involved more than 1,000 people.

 

In a 5-year study in Canada (1974-’79)  about 10,000 people were given $500/month.  They wanted to find out if people would stop working.  What they found was … “not really”.   There were 2 groups who worked less: women, who took longer maternity leave … and young boys.   But the high-school Completion Rates increased … and Hospitalization Rates fell by 8.5%

 

There was another experiment done in India (2011-2013)  in which 6,000 people received $4/month (about 40% of Subsistence for people in rural India).

(There was also a control group of 6,000 … who received nothing)

Here’s what they found:

 

An increase in (both) Food Sufficiency and in Nutrition

An increase in Livestock

No increase in Alcohol Use/Drug Use

Less illness

School Attendance increased, especially among girls (females tend to be marginalized)

And

People were 3 times more likely to Start their Own Business.

 

All these findings are promising … but the studies are too small to be conclusive.

 

Here’s what scares me –  We may LACK THE CAPABILITY … to CONSIDER THE ISSUE … and MAKE A CHOICE.

 

Koch Family Foundations have spent some $127,000,000 directly financing 92 groups that have attacked climate change science and policy solutions, from 1997-2017.

   [ref:   https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/global-warming/climate-deniers/koch-industries/  ]

 

And the hell of it is – that their efforts have been effective!

 

I’m afraid that this country (the United States) is an education wasteland.

 

We know how to take a position and argue for it; but we do not know how to pursue the truth and move closer to it (making use even of ideas and experiences of those we disagree with).

 

What evidence is there that we are capable of having a Real Discussion about (say) a possible UBI (free money for everyone) … (or about ANYTHING AT ALL, for that matter)   when we behave the way we do over the issue of Climate Change?

 

Mmm?

 

We need to have Real Discussions !

 

Do more experiments … then

(actually) DISCUSS THE FINDINGS !

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

www.econlib.org/library/Essays/rdPncl1.html   (I Pencil)

          [This is an essay that can help us appreciate the phenomenon of Emergence … and the (enormous) extent to which we have (already) learned to cooperate]

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

“I once happened to be dining with the Cardinal when a certain English lawyer was there. I forgot how the subject came up, but he was speaking with great enthusiasm about the stern measures that were then being taken against thieves. ‘We’re hanging them all over the place’, he said. ‘I’ve seen as many as twenty on a single gallows. And that’s what I find so odd. Considering how few of them get away with it, how come we are still plagued with so many robbers?’

‘What’s odd about it?’, I asked – for I never hesitated to speak freely in front of the Cardinal. ‘This method of dealing with thieves is both unjust and undesirable. As a punishment, it’s too severe, and as a deterrent, it’s quite ineffective. Petty larceny isn’t bad enough to deserve the death penalty. And no penalty on earth will stop people from stealing, if it’s their only way of getting food. In this respect, you English, like most other nations, remind me of these incompetent schoolmasters, who prefer caning their pupils to teaching them. Instead of inflicting these horrible punishments, it would be far more to the point to provide everyone with some means of livelihood, so that nobody’s under the frightful necessity of becoming, first a thief, and then a corpse.”

 

                            – Raphael Nonsenso (of Portugal)

                                        prior to 1516

[ref:    https://basicincome.org/basic-income/history/#note1    ]