Crystal Ball Gazing

Well, a no-fly zone has been instituted over Libya. It may be too little, too late. I guess there is no way to know at this point.

I don’t know if it was the right thing to do or not, but I do know that doing nothing was unacceptable. Somehow we have to make it clear to petty dictators that murdering your massive opposition is not acceptable, no matter how many paid henchmen you can pay.

There is nothing clear about whether it will succeed or not–the no-fly zone I mean. Andrew Sullivan directs us to Marc Lynch and his views which I think are well worth reading. All depends, in his view, as to whether or not we can succeed and do so quickly. The stakes are high. Bahrain and Yemen are both now engaged in severe crackdowns against rebels in their nations. A quick success in Libya could give them pause. Otherwise, the cries for freedom may be muffled once again.

Some good news in Wisconsin. A judge there has placed a temporary restraining order against the Govenator’s new union busting bill. A full hearing will be held, to determine the legality of the sleazy trick the GOP attempted by violating the “open records” law. There is some reason apparently to think that the judge might be inclined to the union side of the equation.

Lest we forget, the GOP of course is claiming that union benefit packages, including pensions are grossly unfair and bloated. All the while they claim this, not a one of them refuses their own pension plans gifted to them by taxpayers. Steven King (R-IA), oinker from Iowa, claims his is “slim pickins”, while the FACTS seem to suggest just the opposite. Like health care, which they are also again, and which they also receive from the taxpayers. Me thinks King, et.al. speak with forked tongues.

Did you know that in the three areas of the US that carry the english version of Al-Jazeera, it gets quite high ratings? Did you know that every time cable networks start to talk about putting them on the regular cable news lineup, the conservatives go bat shit crazy? Political Irony suggests, I guess we don’t have freedom of speech here unless it agrees with what corporate-owned media likes.

As many of you know, the Dalai Lama has been the political and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people for many years. He has been in exile since 1959. Recently he signaled his intent to step down as political leader, feeling that the Tibetan people should be able to rule themselves. They don’t like the idea, and apparently do not intend to amend their constitution to make that possible. I guess it means that the Dalai Lama is doing something right. It’s hard to think of any leader that the people wish to remain in office in this world today. Maybe we should take a look.

A book you might want to take a look at, called the Sufi’s Garden.

The Sufi’s Garland
by Manav Sachdeva Maasoom
Published by: ROMAN Books
Publication date: 25th March 2011
Price: $24.95 (Hardcover)
104 pp, 6-1/8 x 9-1/4″
ISBN: 978-93-80040-02-8

A small excerpt:

I went outside to see
if God’s voice
was disturbing anybody

I think I’m going to inquire about getting it for review. It looks simply divine. [h/t 3quarksdaily]

I bet you forgot, that you used to memorize things. If you are old as me anyway, which is older than most trees, but not quite as old as the Jurassic. See, we used to memorize things like phone numbers and addresses. And we don’t have to do that any more, so we are beginning to lose our abilities to remember stuff. I can tell you that is true because I dare not send the Contrarian to the store to pick up five things without writing them down. Actually, make that three things.

Anyway, there is a new book out that helps you remember what you never knew, or something like that. How to remember stuff. Moonwalking with Einstein: the Art and Science of Remembering Everything. Read a review of it here.

Okay, you got enough information to make you  the hit of the party tonight. Have at it.

What’s Up? 05/25/10

What’s up here, is weather. Finally a break in the two-day swelterfest! A nice manly thunder boomer went through awhile ago and we got some nice rain for a half hour or so. A good soaker as they say.

I can almost hear the sounds of “thanky neighbor” from the crops. Hopefully we have also stymied the turkeys that we now are sure were the culprits in the tomato thievery.  The Contrarian has vowed that he may set out and bring home the bacon (or in this case gobbler) if they persist in not stayin’ on their own turf.

In today’s newsy world I thought you might be interested in the following:

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Yeah, I said I wasn’t going to preach here, but really if you haven’t signed up for 3quarksdaily.com you are missing something. They have such a wide range of subjects that you will just come across the most amazing stuff. Who knew there was a site called: AskPhilosophers.org? Amhurst College has it, and well, I find that the longer I’m blogging, the more interested I get in sites that really make me think–open my horizons if you will. The upshot is that they have an app for your Iphone.

Everybody loves Mozzarella Sticks right? Pioneer Woman gives us a new take with panko crumbs. They make them special so she swears.

An interesting opinion on the Cain-Abel problem entitled Abel: Murder or Sacrifice at Bible and Interpretation.

The Dalai Lama did an op-ed in the NYTimes. You can read that here.

MTV has an article about Lost and the religious implications of the show. Our friend James McGrath from Exploring our Matrix is featured.

Is atheism required for one to be a good scientist? The New Atheists say yes, some scientists say Nay. Read this thoughtful article at USAToday.

A book you may want to take a look at is Absence of Mind: The Dispelling of Inwardness from the Modern Myth of Self, by Marilynne Robinson. A review of it can be found here. It’s about science and religion and what can be understood of human consciousness.

Some world leaders give opinion on the Arizona anti-immigration laws. Thanks to Think Progress.

An excellent run down of the attempt to enact a law deporting the children born in the US of undocumented aliens is discussed here, via Crooks and Liars. Some excellent links to more information as well, especially the attempt to circumvent the 14th amendment.

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From Whence Comes Wisdom?

Last night, the Contrarian and I sat down to watch a documentary on the “lost years” of Jesus. As most of you know, nothing at all is known about the life of Jesus from age 12-30 or so. The bible is completely silent. There has been much theorizing of course, and there has been talk that he journeyed to the East, and India where he studied and lived in the Buddhist or Hindu monasteries.

The show turned out to be not very good, casting no real light on the subject at all. It ended up being nothing but innuendo and guessing, and somebody claims they saw, and stuff like that. At one point, at a Monastery in India a claim was made that the Dalai Lama had at one time seen the actual documents wherein Jesus time there was described.

The Dalai Lama disputed this fact, claiming no information whatsoever, but when on to talk about how all religions everywhere teach basic concepts of love, compassion, tolerance, forgiveness, and so on. He went on to remark that we must be about the business of reconciling among ourselves because we have this basic structure in common.

dalaiLamaTo make a long story short, the Contrarian wondered, “The Dalai Lama is undoubtedly a very wise man, yet is there any way to inculcate wisdom? Surely they taught him well from childhood, but just as surely wisdom does not necessarily emanate from knowledge.”

For those of you who are a bit rusty, when a Dalai Lama dies, his replacement is sought, and is found normally within three years  in a suitable infant, usually from Tibet. A number of tests are done to “insure” that this is the reincarnated Dalai Lama. If so, the child and parents are moved to a place where the child receives the necessary instruction to take on his new role.

Is it mere luck that this wonderful Dalai Lama is graced with wisdom? I am not sure, but I began to think about what might be the foundation of wisdom. Surely knowledge and education are most useful, but they are not required surely. Everyone has heard it said, that “he is wise beyond his years” and plenty of folks have met someone who is not educated, but still wise.

I turned to the bible for help, and in the Wisdom of Solomon, I found:

The beginning of wisdom is the most sincere desire for instruction. (6:17)

For she is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness. (7:26)

and in Sirach,

All wisdom is from the Lord, and with him it remains forever. (1:1)

Wisdom comes from God, which certainly makes sense as we would all agree (at least all believers) that God is the most wise. And in being wise, we reflect God as in a spotless mirror.

But Solomon says that it involves the “desire” for knowledge, not actual knowledge, and that seems key to me.

Wisdom I believe comes to those who look beyond themselves to the greater world around them. They “desire” to understand the world. The look, listen, think. They watch. They examine. They compare and contrast. They are “present” in the world, experiencing it fully.

In doing so, they begin to see the patterns, how things fit together, how relationships are built and grow, how they wither and die. How to avoid pain, how to grow from it. How to teach and how to learn. They see, all this and more.

They are the folks who are not the life of the party but still totally engaged. They are delighted in the delight of others, sharing but also calculating what moves others forward or back, into intimacy or withdrawal. They draw the conclusions. They predate the experiments and psychological and sociological papers detailing the results of studies. They have already seen the results, because they pay attention.

Most of us are not wise, though some of us would like to be. I am not sure that most people wouldn’t rather be rich or famous or “learned” in some field. They are in a nutshell students of humanity. But not just humanity for they see beyond humanity to human relationships with things and other living things. They see the rhythms of life if you will, the give and take, the peace and violence, the tit for tat that makes up the mosaic we call life.

Plainly, they “get it.” We like to hear their wisdom, but frankly, I think we most often look for some personal advantage in what they say, rather than the beauty of the truth they expound. There isn’t much “money” in wisdom.

There is peace in wisdom I think. Plenty of us would desire that, but desire is as far as most of us get, because wisdom isn’t easy. It’s painstakingly hard I think. It means not being number one and front and center. It means lurking at the edges. It means plenty of solitude and internal work.

It seems tailor made for monks and such. No one will ever accuse Donald Trump with being wise. Jimmy Carter may be there, or nearly so.

I would like to be, in fact I would  consider it just about the best compliment. But I’m not sure how wise people respond to compliments. Humility seems the cornerstone of wisdom too.

It’s a puzzling thought, wisdom. Elusive, elegant, wispy. But somehow, to me at least, it is something to strive for. Listen more, speak less, learn.

Whom do you find wise?

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Take that, You Vegetarian!

dalai-lama-01Is the Dalai Lama a vegetarian?

A person like myself, who’s motto is lack of knowledge shouldn’t stand in the way of a good opinion, would argue persuasively that indeed he is. In fact, I’d be willing to bet a fair portion of the farm on that fact.

Well, knock me over with a feather. Turns out he is not. Actually I was apparently under the mistaken impression that vegetarianism was a crucial requirement of Buddhism. I guess I was in a word–WRONG.

At least according to Olivia Rosewood who writes about yoga and did this piece in HuffPo, called: Meat Eaters are More Spiritual than Vegetarians.”

Some Christians think vegetarianism is bible based from Genesis, others say the exact opposite. As in most things, the Bible can be used to prove nearly any proposition one cares to argue. But clearly, vegetarians make the argument that their practice is more “environmentally friendly,” and healthy, and in the end, somehow more spiritual.

I am not a vegetarian, and frankly, have never seriously considered becoming one. Oh, I have thought fleetingly of it, but have known pretty much within seconds that I could never conform to it. Eating tabouli pretty much convinced me that at some point vegetarianism gets to equal eating grass. Yes I know, you can make faux burgers and so forth, and I’ve eaten a few, and no they weren’t horrid, but think. What does it say that you’re trying to make veggies taste like meat?

A fair amount of guilt has accompanied my fairly voracious consumption of meat products. At least from time to time I feel a twinge of guilt. I hate, despise, and otherwise loathe (hopefully you get the picture here) the treatment of most feed animals from chickens to beef, their lives are short, miserable and boring. I would be willing to eat less and pay more for animals that are treated humanely and are allowed to live reasonable lives until they reach my table.

Rosewood makes, I think, a rather good argument on three fronts. First, its all just energy. And there can be no feeling of superiority when the chain is circular, from grass to animal to human to death to grass and around about again.

Second, she makes a good point that no one can actually say that plants “suffer” somehow less from our eating them. And she points to some interesting  data that plants have communication systems we don’t have, and that are quite sophisticated in their way. Whose to say we are more “ethical” because they don’t have soft brown eyes?

Third,  our American Indian ancestors revered the animals they hunted and killed, taking on their spirits, honoring their lives and deaths for the sacrifice of humans. They were released to a better world of freedom from the meanness of life in the wild. And indeed, it is mean out there. Watch a nature show and see the cute little antelope, barely a few days old, being hungrily devoured by the lion. Nothing fair going on there. Life is cheap, and life may last mere minutes.

In fact, vegetarians do help us to feel all that guilt don’t they? They look superior in their natural fiber clothes and their fancy “earth shoes” and so forth. They are the recycling champs of the country too.  And probably some of the worst polluters though they fail to see it as they cart around their foo foo bottled waters, when the tap is of equal quality. All that plastic ends up in landfills mostly.

Anyway, this is not about trashing vegetarians. I don’t mind them at all, but I do mind that certain look you get from one when you saunter over to the meat counter. And their guilt becomes mine, and well, that’s not spiritual is it?

I’m not sure I get Rosewoods argument that meat eaters are more spiritual, only that we can be if we are not guilt ridden,  and  that vegetarians to the degree that they are superior thinking, aren’t. She seems to suggest that we can’t make an informed decision about vegetarianism while we are trapped by guilt. I dunno about that. I just know I’m never going to stop eating meat. And I feel pretty darn spiritual.

The Dalai Lama has always been a real hero to me. Now I can point and say, me and the Dalai Lama have something in common! A good steak!

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