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Walking on the Earth

I learned something these past few weeks; it’s a lot easier to scrape paint off glass than to scrape off masking tape. Luckily I only taped one, the largest window, but cleaning it became an unexpected and tedious job. Water, lots of water, does help, but a paint scraper you’ve sharpened on a carborundum stone must be ground into the cement-like deposit.

I didn’t intend to write about the aftermath of long-overdue window painting, but it serves as a metaphor for what I did intend. These unwelcome chores can be a good exercise in mindfulness. In a way, scraping windows can be as useful a Buddhist exercise as Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Washing the dishes to wash the dishes”.

In “the Miracle of Mindfulness” he says:-
“While washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes, which means that while washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes. At first glance, that might seem a little silly: why put so much stress on a simple thing? But that’s precisely the point. The fact that I’m standing there washing these bowls is a wondrous reality. I’m being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There’s no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves.”

Yeah, I guess I blew it. I don’t remember following my breath, or being conscious of anything, except that damned glue I had to wet down and scratch away. I might have forfeited my chance of instant enlightenment. Not that enlightenment is the only goal for exploring the 2500 year old paths of Buddhism, as they have taken root in Western society. It has led to welcome developments in Psychology and Psychiatry, to effective measures for taming the mind, to new points of contact between science and religion, to the growth of a non-theistic path for the development of spiritual practice. As one who must admit to being a secular Buddhist I’d say the last is probably the one that attracts Westerners most; to make a new try for spiritual inner harmony for those who find little credibility and meaning in Western religion.

I particularly value the aphorism, “You have no control over what happens to you, but you have absolute control over how you respond to it.” We live in a secular world, growing more secular with every breakthrough in education, but it need not inevitably lead to a world without the sacred. Walking on water may or may not be accepted as a miracle, but the fact that we are walking on the Earth is the operation of an ineffable mystery.

The teachings that mind and body are indivisible and both sacred, and that the mind is the source of all our suffering seem enough to me to follow the path to conquering ones ego. Meditation can be learned as a method of conquering stress as well as a way to freedom from Earthly imprisonment. If one remembers mindfulness, the living in the present, as the way to make all our actions part of the path toward freedom from personal and culturally derived suffering—whether washing the dishes or scraping the dried masking tape off the glass—then every moment of our lives can be devoted toward living in a safer, kinder, more just world.

Today is Blog Jog Day

Welcome to Blog Jog Day! Please enjoy my site– I have some money for you to look at below. That’s always an interesting activity—and these notes are really funny. Afterwards, click over to http://riseabovereason.blogspot.com to see what the next Blog has to offer! Lost in the links? You can always go back to the main Blog Jog Day Blog at http://blogjogday.blogspot.com and find a new link to jog from. Thank you for stopping by my site!

You might also look at my other blog at http://thewildcatsvictory.wordpress.com/ I’ve been trying out some writing in Regency style. It is also in the Blog Jog.

Chris H.

Money to Burn

I felt it was appropriate in this period of financial crisis to effer some amusing relics of past insolvency. How can you tell this typical writer hasn’t enough money to invest and looks forward to everyone joining him in the poorhouse?

Yugoslavia — 10 billion dinar, 1993

Zaire — 5 million zaires, 1992

Just notice how shifty looking some of the geezers pictured on the bills are. Would you want them in your wallet?

Turkey — 5 million lira, 1997

Brazil — 500 cruzeiros reais, 1993

Romania — 50,000 lei, 2001

And here is one that doesn’t even need a shifty face to look suspicious.

Zimbabwe — 100 trillion dollars, 2006

Now aren’t these a prize collection to take to the bank? Trouble is, you’d probably get thrown out onto the sidewalk. This is just a small selection of currencies that have failed in the past few decades.

What is my Realization from this? When you see the TV ads recently announcing that so and so company is at your local mall offering generous prices for your old and cast off jewelry you had better ROTFL and stay miles away. They are just collecting gold and silver that is going to look a lot better than these pretty pieces of paper when reality catches up to ignorance. And they will be the ones laughing all the way to the bank.

 

The Destructive Impulse in Society.

The way the actions of Anders Breivik in Norway are interpreted in different media and different societies is as instructive as the initial knee-jerk accusation of some imagined al Qaeda linkage. The denial of the right has been the strongest response. It ain’t our fault!

Whose fault it actually is can be revealed by a little investigation of the sources. The right wing immediately blamed something outside the society for the atrocity. The centrists—Toronto Star and the NY Times as good examples—focussed on anti-Moslem ideology. The Pope deplored the “senseless violence.” as if the perpetrator had no deliberate plan he acted out. The response outside of North America and its complacency—looking at Al Jazeera and Guardian, for example—was more to the point. The attacker intended to “radically change Norwegian society” through his attack on the Labour, leftist, government and the youth summer camp of that same leftist party. This was a calculated attack on progressive society by its rightist enemy.

The acts of right wingers against progressives extends beyond this. The assassination of abortion doctors; the attack on social programs by the Tea Party. The Koch brothers and their financial support of anti-social activism must be included.

The right wing religious are implicated. The Abrahamic religions lend themselves to beliefs in personal righteousness that disregard the humanity of opponents as others. The Chosen people are inevitably set against those lesser who are not chosen. Hinduism is similarly afflicted with the same dangerous illusions as the other Theistic religions.

We are beginning to see the great differences in social reactions between Norway in 2011 and the USA in 2001. Even commentators in the US are pointing it out. The first reason for the differences to note is that between the persons in charge—between Jens Stoltenberg and George W Bush. This is clearly the difference in social values and maturity between the two men…and by extension between the societies they lead or led. The reaction in Norway has been exemplary and reasoned; to protect their social values by withstanding the urge to weaken them by hysterical attempts to enhance some chimera called homeland security. It has not been an instinctive reacion for everyone, and may yet be marred by the acts of the deeply fearful who take refuge in reactionary politics.

The reaction in the US in 2001 is still degrading that society with Moslem witch-hunts, widespread phone tapping, corruption of citizens’ rights, and failed wars that cannot find an end. The Americans fell into the trap Bin Laden set for them like shills at a county fair stocking up on snake oil—tearing their own society apart in a half-assed hunt for enemies within that completely overlooked the real enemies—the Anders Breiviks born and bred in the country and twisted in their minds by ruthless right-wing ideologies.

Is it possible for the US to see the example of Norway and reverse its course of the past ten years? Is it certain that everyone wants to do that? Perhaps a slight majority who might carry the rest? There surely are many who profit in power and finances from the present situation.

It seems clear to me that any initiative must come from the citizenry rather than the political classes that skulk in their bunkers trapped into an endless conflict with the mirror images of themselves. In their fear of the dictatorship of monarchs the founders of the republic succeeded in creating a system that is vulnerable to seizing up when most in need of decisive action. The USA is reaching what the chaos theorists called a bifurcation point—from here, things could start to improve or else descend into a death spiral.

Blog Jog Day in Eleven Days

August 7th 2011

I will be participating in Blog Jog Day on August 7th—a promotion to increase visitation to blogs. You might take a look at my other one at http://thewildcatsvictory.wordpress.com

Now I must sit down to write a new entry for BJD. So many things happening that I don’t know which to pick…of pick apart. You’ll have to come back to find out what I decided.

Turning Resources into Garbage.

Robert Skidelsky, the economic historian, recently wrote:-

“In 1995, I published a book called The World After Communism. Today, I wonder whether there will be a world after capitalism…

“Capitalism has always had crises, and will go on having them. Rather, it comes from the feeling that Western civilization is increasingly unsatisfying, saddled with a system of incentives that are essential for accumulating wealth, but that undermine our capacity to enjoy it. Capitalism may be close to exhausting its potential to create a better life – at least in the world’s rich countries.

By “better”, I mean better ethically, not materially. Material gains may continue, though evidence shows that they no longer make people happier. My discontent is with the quality of a civilization in which the production and consumption of unnecessary goods has become most people’s main occupation.”

I was so pleased to find I was not the only one deploring the plethora of trash characterizing our modern Western society. The “production and consumption of unnecessary goods” has been an object of my disgust for years. I hesitated to comment on it before lest I be considered no more than a foolish old man who failed to understand that prime miracle of neoliberal economics—that  huge array of choices available to the consumer. In most cases, the reason the public flocks to the ‘new’ and ‘fashionable’ is that they weren’t able to figure out the original.

Of course, Baron Skidelsky is approximately two months older than me, which could expose both of us the charge of not being ‘with it’; that horrible affliction so feared in today’s fifteen second society. But I’m quite willing to set my perception against that of anyone whose world view was learned from TV commercials. All the increases in so-called efficiency achieve is a faster transfer of the Earth’s valuable resources from previously undisturbed ground to the landfill.

Using computer communication before the Internet and Windows, required an investment in time, energy, and basic Mojo that the average citizen did not possess. I could, by sweating it, download the huge raw GPS data files I needed over the phone lines from the Government of Canada’s monitoring stations, but making the system easier to work for the average citizen saved me a lot of sweat and tears as well. But the world’s losses might have been greater than the gains. One need not understand anything about communications to send a text message by smartphone, but the amount of ‘garbage in’ and garbage out’ has been magnified immensely.

That this is not a trivial matter is discussed in a new book by the founder of Global Institute For Tomorrow, Chandran Nair, called “Consumptionomics: Asia’s Role in Reshaping Capitalism and Saving the Planet”. The world cannot continue producing huge quantities of trivial goods for an ever-growing urban population; we are past the time when we should be working to provide the necessities for the world’s poor. For Nair, capitalism’s deficiency remains its inability (or perhaps, as some might suggest, its contemporary unwillingness) to acknowledge the natural resource limitations that confront most of the developing world.

In an interview (Asia Times Online) , Chandran Nair says —
“The book has received a very strong response in Europe. I was recently speaking to a large European company in the global automotive industry and made the point that we really do not need another couple of billion cars in Asia which is the likely scenario if Asia adopts Western car ownership levels.

“This is hard for companies to hear, and even harder for them to incorporate into what they call their sustainability practices. But there is no denying the truth and I rarely find anyone arguing against these facts and the implications. The smart companies and non-deniers know and are willing to have that debate. Sadly many simply do not want to go there. Needless to say there are always the “technology will solve all the problems” group but they too, when pushed, back off.”

From my perspective, the way we use technology is not the solution, but the cause of many of our problems. In the craze for ‘new’ and ‘latest’ perfectly adequate and efficient technologies are replaced and consigned to the landfill merely because there is a new gimmick being sold to gullible ‘consumers’ by millions of dollars worth of advertising. I have witnessed this ‘progression’, more realistically regression, many times in my 72 years, but one example still relevant to today’s computer users may be sufficient.

The punched paper was replaced by the 5¼” floppy, was replaced by the 3½” floppy, was replaced by the CD.ROM, was replaced by the DVD, was replaced by the thumb drive … will be replaced by something else. All of these media/information storages worked satisfactorily, and had a place in modern computing, but the ‘out of fashion’ devices have been sent to the landfill along with millions of dollars worth of hardware that functioned with them. If you want to preserve wealth with some shares in a successful company of the future you could hardly do better than find one with expertise in gleaning valuable minerals from garbage—in a few more decades the landfill could be the only source of them.

New Directions

While this blog site was the first WordPress site I started it was immediately superseded by my other one, thewildcatsvictory.wordpress.com—now I decided to activate it.

These past few years I have been commenting more on other blogs and forums and thought an active site of my own could serve to collect some of the comments in one place as well as allow me to comment on reality myself, without piggybacking off others’ observations.

My comments elsewhere have generally been contrarian and progressive; materialist more than spiritual, although with considerable influence from Buddhist and Taoist thought as well as modern physics.

I’m not ready to post a full Realization at the moment as I’m without my own computer, which crashed last Sunday, and I’m not comfortable with this loaned laptop while I wait to find out how much of my life that had been stored on the old desktop has survived.

Just one observation to get things going. Any argument based solely on linear causality is inherently faulty, since the state of linear causality is a special case under general systems theory. If you doubt this, look at chaos theory, or read Joanna Macy’s excellent discussion in “Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory”. One cause for one effect is impossible.


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