Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Mindless Menace of Violence (by Robert F. Kennedy) FULL

We have never needed this message more. This speech is the one clean spot we need to work from to clean up the rest of the mess we are in. Though they took his life 50 years ago they cannot silence his voice or his message of peace and humanity for all. It is now up to us to join together and put an end to the violence and truly establish liberty and justice for all.

Monday, May 28, 2018

The meaning of progress

A whole lot of people talk about progress. They see progress as an increase in material wealth and a higher standard of living. This was indeed needed by a great many people. It is still needed by a great many more.

But the true nature of progress does not lie in the material world alone. It must be accompanied by a similar increase in our moral and spiritual development. By moral and spiritual, I do not mean religious teaching, though I do not exclude it as a means for such development. I mean the understanding of our existence as human beings who live with lots of other human beings, not to mention all the other living things on the planet.

The essential meaning of progress is moving from where we are to somewhere better or further along a trajectory. A corollary is education, of moving from a state of ignorance to one of knowledge and understanding. The ultimate purpose of education should be the development of wisdom.

But there are two ways of saying the word progress. There is 'prägres and there is pro-GRES'. 'Prägres is the general notion of movement whether abstract (as a concept or ideology), or, concrete (as in making progress). Pro-GRES' tends to refer to actual movement along a path or trajectory.

The deal is, growing up from childhood to adulthood is itself a progression from one state to another. We often think of the latter state as the better of the two until we reach a certain point in the aging process and then we nostalgically yearn for an earlier time.

Societies do the same thing as they grow, reach their peak, and then get old, ossified, and infirm. Our own society has moved from the more communally integrated  and agrarian, but rather sedentary, ways anchored to the land, the seasons, and each other to a highly mobilized, fractured, industrial way of life wholly based on abstractions that are falsely taken as concrete realities.

Wow! This is so ancient I have no idea when I wrote it. It was when I was still at my dad's in MN so before 2009 and who knows how long before that. Still, it was the start of a decent essay. Continuing on tho... [Update: it was sometime in 2006.]

This industrialism is considered progress by many. But is it really? Sure there are some material comforts we didn't have before and some of it is indeed an improvement. But the rest of what that has entailed at the cost to our planet, to the lives we share it with, and to our own health has been severe, if not fatal.

The problem is that human thought was taken over with the advent of mass media, especially television. What could have greatly accelerated the expansion of human thought and understanding around the globe became a tool for propaganda and social control for very narrow, selfish, and ultimate destructive, ends. As a result, rather than having moved further along a given trajectory from a state of ignorance to one of wisdom, we have regressed into an even more primitive mental state resembling the horrors of Medieval superstitions. It seems all many of us can do these days is to keep the demons at bay and hope our financial situation doesn't bottom out altogether.

It's time to take serious stock of where we are, where we're currently headed, and where we would rather go. If we are to PRO-gres' at all, we will need to rethink the meaning of 'prägres.

Prince Peace Initiative and Imagine Peace Movement

Prince reigns at Coachella

This is from 10 years ago. But at the restored LotusFlow3r website is a video of him performing 7 then sliding into Come Together with the bridge of having the audience shout "War, No More!" and then getting the audience to sing "Come Together, Yeah!."

In the first week of learning about Prince I had the thought that to carry on his legacy to spread peace and love and bring in a new dawn for our planet, I came up with the idea of a Prince Peace Initiative and Imagine Peace Tour. It begins with concerts but it's purpose is to create a movement big enough to clean out our government, stand down the war machine, reduce the power of corporations and billionaires back down to proper size and free the people from their stranglehold. I would add, we need to clean up our planet and restore it to health and in the process, restore health to people and our communities. Anyway, I feel totally vindicated that what came to me as an inspiration is indeed a valid idea since Prince already did it and we just need to do a LOT more of it. Lots and LOTS more and no quitting until we have peace and freedom on our planet.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Establishing order in society

These are the 5 cardinal relationships that will establish order in society. 

I will eventually type them here but for now here is the pdf I got it from.

The Five Great Relationships of Confucianism

According to Confucius, the smooth functioning of government and society rested on five key relationships:

1. Between ruler and subject;
2. Between father and son;
3. Between husband and wife;
4. Between older borther and younger brother;
5. Between friend and friend.

These five relationships were considered the building blocks of the socieal order.

To ensure harmony in society, Confucius prescribed certain "proper attitudes," or Yi, that the Chinese people were expected to adopt in these relationships. The ruler, for example, was expected to be kind and generous to his subjects, while his subjects, in return, were expected to to be loyal to the ruler. Likewise, fathers were taught to be kind to their sons, while sons were taught to be obedient and dutiful to their fathers. In marriage, a husband was expected to be good to his wife, while a wife was supposed to be obedient to her husband. Elders, whether brothers or friends, were expected to be considerate toward their juniors, who in turn were expected to be respectful of their elders.

The most important of these relationships, and the one on which all others depended, was the bond between parents and children. For Confucius, a smoothly funcitoning family--one in which children show proper respect for their parents, relatives, and ancestors--was a model for Chinese society as a while. In effect, the nation was like a gigantic family. Just as a son was expected to be loyal to his father, so a citizen was expected to be loyal to the emperor. If families were in harmony, society and government would also function poroperly. As an ancient Chinese poem, quoted in the Confucian book the Doctrine of the Mean, put it:

When wives and children and their sires [fathers] are one,
'tis like the harp and lute in unison.
When brothers live in concord and at peace
The strain [sound] of harmony shall never cease.
The lamp of happy union lights the home,
And bright days follow when the children come. 

Reverence for one's ancestors was an important part of Confucianism since the dead were considered just as much a part of the family as the living. The Chinese were expected to honor their ancestors by worshipping them at home altars and by remembering them on special family occasions. The Chinese believed that paying this kind of respect to ancestors would allow them to rest peacefully in the afterworld and to become kindly spirits. Failing to do so might make them demons instead. As Confucius to his followers: "To serve those now dead as if they were living is the highest achievement of true filial piety [family devotion]."

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Tanya Berry's wisdom

Home: “It’s a safe place where people are good to one another.”

Getting along:
For Tanya, getting along with others is the key. “You have to quit being so picky, and so fault-finding, and so snotty about it. You take people and their gifts, and you enjoy them and honor them.” Sunday services help develop those skills. “How else are you going to learn to get along with people if you’re not doing it week after week after week after week?”

The Woman Beside Wendell Berry: 
The Most Important Fiction Editor 
Almost No One Has Heard Of
Tanya Berry challenges our assumptions about women’s work and small-town living.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The old days

I liked it once upon a time when an organization would make all the arrangements for its members for a convention. The members paid one price for travel and hotel and the local members would travel as a group. We even had clothes that identified who we were so you could tell there were a lot of us, kinda like wearing Kimberly shirts. Man, those were the days. There is nothing like that kind of collectivism to boost morale and forge strong bonds of fellowship. Kinda like the Boy Scout Jamboree, except this was Japanese Buddhism.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Fixing a broken life

Is it possible to fix a broken life?
I asked that in 1992.
I finally understand the answer.
It is not the life that is broken, but its connections to other life:
family, friends, community.
To be alone and isolated without regular contact with others can bring a terrible loneliness.
Solitary confinement is cruel and inhumane.
One does not need to be in prison to experience this.
Many people experience this in our society all the time, especially the elderly.
The only remedy is to rebuild community by reclaiming and restoring the commons.
To break down the enclosures of privatization and bring down the walls of privacy to find and share our common humanity is the way to fix a broken a life.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Encountering Another Being

Very nice video about Encountering Another Being

Sunday, October 29, 2017

East and West: Two Attitudes Toward Nature

Two Attitudes Toward Nature

"Our consciousness is nothing but an insignificant floating piece of island in the Oceanus encircling the earth. But it is through this little fragment of land that we can look out to the immense expanse of the unconscious itself; the feeling of it is all that we can have, but this feeling is not a small thing, because it is by means of this feeling that we can realize that our fragmentary existence gains its full significance, and thus that we can rest assured that we are not living in vain."

 -- Erich Fromm, D.T. Suzuki, Richard Martino, Zen Buddhism And Psychoanalysis

Consider the manner in which two exceptional poets describe an ordinary flower. Here's the haiku of Basho, a Japanese scribe of the 17th century:

When I look carefully
I see the nazuna blooming
By the hedge!

Here are the words of Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies; --
Hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower -- but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.

Daisetz Suzuki, the venerated Zen sage and scholar, sees every difference in the world between the two experiences. "Basho does not pluck the flower," he writes in Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis. "He just looks at it. He is absorbed in thought. He feels something in his mind, but he does not express it. He lets an exclamation mark say everything he wishes to say." Tennyson, by contrast, "is active and analytical. He first plucks the flower from the place where it grows. He separates it from the ground where it belongs. Quite differently from the Oriental poet, he does not leave the flower alone. He must tear it away from the crannied wall, 'root and all,' which means the plant must die. He does not, apparently, care for its destiny; his curiosity must be satisifed."

Note that Basho, content merely to "look," reacts as though he has just learned the deep mystery of the flower, while Tennyson, grabbing, dissecting and scrutinizing it, is frustrated in his effort to understand -- frustrated all the more so, because he suspects the riddle of the universe might be disclosed to him at once if he could just make sense of the flower.

For Dr. Suzuki, the contrast in poetic feeling clearly points to irreconcilable mentalities: the western mind, he says, is "analytical, discriminative, differential, inductive, individualistic, intellectual, objective, scientific, generalizing, conceptual, schematic, impersonal, legalistic, organizing, power-wielding, self-assertive, disposed to impose its will upon others." He characterizes the eastern mindset as "synthetic, totalizing, integrative, nondiscriminative, deductive, nonsystematic, dogmatic, intuitive (rather, affective), nondiscursive, subjective, spiritually individualistic and socially group-minded."

This judgment might seem unduly pointed and preferential for a disinterested sage, but Suzuki is concerned chiefly to show that the heart of cosmic understanding can't be reached through the vein of conceptual analysis. "The Zen way preserves life as life," he says; "no surgical knife touches it. The Zen poet sings:

All is left to her natural beauty,
Her skin is intact,
Her bones are as they are:
There is no need for the paints, powders of any tint.
She is as she is, no more, no less.
How marvelous!"

I wonder if we haven't much to derive from the insight above -- "we" meaning "we who belong to the most scientifically and technologically advanced civilization in history," "we who can boast the loudest of having understood and mastered nature." A few comments, a few questions:

(i) Has western analytical intelligence evolved to the point where Tennyson's sentimentality might be said to be closer to Basho's than to our own? Tennyson at least gazed upon the flower with awe, and he was humble enough to admit that the little flower was an enigma to him. Today, with near certainty and considerably less humility, we can proclaim that we "know" what all organic life is: we know that its irreducible constituents are atoms; we know that it unfolds according to the self-transcribing ethos of the DNA molecule; we know we can manipulate any life form endlessly, whether in the manner of genetically modified organisms, fertility pharmaceuticals, cloning procedures, genomic sequencing, or other excogitations of biochemistry. Does such sophistication carry any sacrifices? What is lost in the way of naive wonderment at nature? What mystical insight is missed by the spirit which doesn't see anything fascinating or miraculous in mountain ranges, blue skies, old redwoods, fresh verdure?

(ii) If the consummation of discriminative intelligence leads to an indifference and an aloofness to nature, where does humanity go to sate its aesthetic and spiritual appetite? What happens to the appeal of myths, of allegories, of fables -- in other words, to all those sources of edification which lie outside the circumscribed boundaries of positivist science, technocentric industry?

(iii) To what extent might it be said that a naif like Basho is considerably happier than his mentally rugged counterpart -- that a Zen Buddhist like Suzuki, having remained leery of abstract, logocentric, conceptual thought, finds more joy in daily life than all the omniscient geniuses of the west put together? (Or is this question of the facile either-or variety?) Is it a coincidence or an irrelevant detail that the nation with the greatest R&D science budget, strongest military, most successful pharmaceutical companies, most developed media infrastructure also is the world's leading consumer of illicit drugs, the world's leading consumer of pornography, the world's leading gambler?

(iv) Doesn't the deepest intimation of the "why and wherefore" of life come from mystical experience, impassioned contemplation, reverent receptivity to nature, rather than from the stammerings of the workaday intellect?

(© Tim Ruggiero, May 2, 2002)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The seed beneath the snow

The seed beneath the snow is a wonder exploration of spirituality with the natural world and with the human world as well.