New-born babies live completely in the now, with no sense of past and therefore no future, with no language yet there is feeling, no way to communicate, no labels defined and no filters yet installed. Very possibly a state as near perfection (read – “heaven”) as is possible. The perfect human “being.”
The implication in the Bible’s book of Genesis is that Adam and Eve, had they not disobeyed God, would have lived forever in the “Garden of Eden.” That’s worth contemplating. Were that the case, did animals and plant-life partake of the same apple and receive the same punishment of death? Does “mother nature” herself not recycle? Even in the most ideal of circumstances (no illness, no hunger or poverty, no abuse or war, etc.) I question whether most people would opt for keeping the same body and personality for eternity.
We might opt for death more often were it not painful. Suppose in the near future we discover how to eliminate any pain involved with dying. What then? Would the number of suicides increase dramatically? This seems especially likely if we don’t live in an “ideal” world and are unhappy with our circumstances in life. Why not pull the handle on the gambling machine we call life and try for 3 bananas? But there’s always the risk you’ll come up with two apples and a banana and a different life and it’s attendant circumstances could be less pleasant than our current one. Of course that presupposes that you believe in life after death or what some call “life-after-life” or what some call reincarnation. But even if you did not believe in anything existing after death, a void of nothing-ness might seem a better alternative to your current existence if you are suffering.
It’s my belief that, even if life were idyllic, sooner or later, one-hundred years from now or two-hundred, most of us would tire of this package and opt to end it or to have a different experience. If we are all individuations of God, here to experience its Self, and if God is omniscient (all knowing) then perhaps such a conundrum was contemplated before creation. The universe (which is said to be expanding) is in constant flux, whether measured in seconds or eons. The cells in your body are always dying and being replaced. Why should our lives in these bodies be any different?
Someone asked, “Where was God at Dachau?” I would answer: He was in the Jews – crying, huddled naked and shivering in the “showers.” She was in the guards laughing outside the locked shower doors. God was the camp commandant having dinner with his family and petting his beloved dog at that very same moment. God was the Jew who helped push his comrades dead bodies into the ovens. The Jew who pulled the gold teeth from his grandmothers lifeless body. He was in the barbed-wire, the vicious dogs barking, a sentry tower, the pits where the executed fell limp. God was in the worn and tired hands of prisoners who put cold water compresses onto their bunk mates feverish forehead and rocked them like babies while sobbing and the young boy dressed in tatters who gave his only meal that day to someone thinner than himself. Once you begin to see this, that there is no separation, then the only conclusion is that God is in everything and experiences everything; Nothing is outside of God.
Written after the bombings at the Boston Marathon, 4/15/13
I can only wonder what the people in Iran, Beirut, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, Lebanon, the Gaza strip, Somalia, Palestine and Syria (to name a few) think when they hear that the poor ol’ USA had a bombing where over a hundred were injured and three people were killed. Please people, put things into perspective. If nothing else, it serves to remind us that similar atrocities happen on a fairly regular basis in other parts of the world. Many people in the world live in this kind of fear on a daily basis. Some risk their lives to venture out of their homes for a gallon of water. We Americans are blessed and at the same time arrogant and insensitive to the world‘s suffering until it knocks on our door.
A friend of mine in a group I started that talks about books we’ve read, life, spirituality and philosophy (among many other things) recently asked me to summarize my philosophy on life. I gave her the first three sentences below as my response. Less is usually more but if you’ve read my other blogs you know that’s not my m.o. So below I have elaborated somewhat for you amusement:
What I can say with certainty is I don’t know. To understand and fully accept my not knowing is my greatest challenge. Only the closed mind is certain. I could tell you what I wish or hope for because, like most people, I seek to explain the mystery of the unknown and I look for something that will give me solace during difficult times in my life. Our thinking and (more to the point) our belief appears to make something “true,” if not true for everyone, certainly it is true for the individual. These “beliefs” sometime serves us (on a collectively level as well as individually) but often they do not. In many incidences such beliefs have become dogma over the years and do more harm than good. My questioning and thinking and grappling to understand the “mysteries” of life and our “life purpose” probably impedes my progress towards simply accepting what is. In sixty some years I’ve had only a handful of personal experiences that lead me to be believe that there is possibly more to this life than what meets the eye. I’m prone to believe (perhaps because of my upbringing) that much of what we experience may well be an illusion. I seek corroboration of my own understanding from the experience of others, in part to put meaning and insight into my life experiences but also because I don’t want to feel alone. It is difficult for me to believe that life is a random “accident.” Still, I concede that to be entirely possible and perhaps even likely. With increasing regularity, I find it easier to empathize with the atheist philosophy than with traditional religious believers. I want to believe that there is an “intelligence” behind the curtain or the “veil.” I think we err when we attempt to define “God.” My current philosophy is that what we call god is “All That Is,” and responsible for consciousness itself. The older I get the more I realize that humans create stories to explain what they don’t understand and we have created these myths in a well meaning effort to help us deal with life’s harsh realities. Any belief system, that at its core encourages us to love ourselves as well as others, to treat all sentient beings with compassion, respect and as equals seems to me to be the best approach, with the best possible results for all.
“Father Time” it seems, educates and enlightens. At this time in the history of mankind, there is no question that we understand much more than we did in the Middle Ages. Yet in those Middle Ages we thought the same thing. For example: in the field of medicine, we now know that “bleeding” someone (to rid them of certain illnesses) wasn’t the wisest thing to do. Unfortunately such ignorant thinking no doubt cost many a sick or injured person their life.
One has to wonder what we are doing today, not just in medicine but in many areas, that is still incredibly ignorant. One also has to assume that such thinking includes our very understanding of the nature of the universe and consciousness itself. Even twenty-five years from now, what will mankind look back on in dismay about this period in time we currently live in? Are we truly as enlightened as we think? What do you and I believe now that is total poppy-cock?
Because of technology, enlightenment in many areas in this day-and-age is advancing exponentially at a rate never before seen. We are approaching “warp-speed.” However, I believe our understanding of the metaphysical is lagging behind our technological understanding. I doubt that science will ever prove the existence of “god,” as it has yet to explain consciousness. However, a wise man comes to understand that the more we know, the more we know we don’t know; that behind one unlocked door remains an endless succession of many others.
The next frontier of understanding that will advance us as a more highly evolved race can only be achieved by going within. Three-hundred years ago, even one-hundred years ago, mankind might have reasonably hoped that war would someday (in the future) cease as we grew wiser but sadly, that has not been the case. Our technology and our weaponry have become more advanced but the thoughts and reasoning behind the need for them have not kept pace with our technology.
Something to contemplate.
Much, if not most “truth” is subjective but there are truths that seem unarguable (at least under certain conditions.) Gravity comes to mind, even though there is no universal agreement on what exactly gravity is or how it works. But a discussion about “truth” is not what this is about. At some level I think there is absolute truth but I doubt that our puny human brains can conceive or comprehend it (though we are sometimes granted insights.)
Having said that, have you ever wondered how many times a day you believe a “lie?” Many of our daily thoughts are seldom rational, much less factual. A great many are opinions taken from others and conceived of as our own. Other thoughts, while original, are simply thoughts that have come through the “filters” of our up-bringing, which doesn’t necessarily make them true, though perhaps true for you. Mixed into all of this is the idea (true or not) that perception is belief creating a reality. We all know that two people experiencing quite similar circumstances can experience very different realities, both apparently equally true for each individual. It is when I contemplate these things that I see what many esoteric s have, for eons, understood to be the “illusion” or maya of our beliefs.
Much of what we believe to be true we have taken as fact, often without question because it came to us from people we respect or have been taught to respect, such as parents, teachers, clergy and so forth. Lies then can be passed down, generation to generation until many no longer recall why they believe it. What core beliefs might we have that may not be true at all, yet we let them determine many of our life choices? They could be things has deep and profound as a belief in a “god” or “heaven” or “hell” or something much more mundane such as, “That guy scares me because he’s got tattoos.” How many things do we tell ourselves, on an hourly or even minute-by-minute basis, which are totally bogus? Some of these lies we believe because we’ve been indoctrinated, some because we are simply mistaken. Some lies are delusional, such as those of an anorexic person who may see themselves as being “fat.” That is their truth, even though when we look at them it does not become our truth.
It’s safe to say that most all of us, on a daily basis, live some lies and believe lies, both big and little. Lies about ourselves, lies about others, lies about the universe, etc.
What do you sincerely believe to be true, that were you to find out is false, would most frighten you and why? Similarly, what lie, released from your belief system, would most relieve and free you? What lies do you believe even when you know better? What lies might we believe, in all sincerity that we haven’t a clue about?
Do you believe you didn’t exist before your conception, that you are nothing more than the result of a collision of sperm and ovum? I’m not going to bring “God” into the equation but the bible says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you …” Of course this biblical quote is open to interpretation, the question being: does God’s foreknowledge makes it possible for God to know us before we are born? Foreknowledge (some would argue) does not mean pre-existence of the beings foreknown. I believe it is quite possible that before we are born we exist (in what some call the “soul” form) in another dimension (some might call it heaven.) So reason (the atheist will not call it reason) would dictate that if the soul can change form (or morph or however you want to look at it) and become that rapidly dividing cell in your mother’s womb, then who is to say we can’t morph right back into our “soul-self” at the moment of death? Just sayin’…
Three years ago, when I came to Wichita Ks , the Arkansas river was, (at least in places) probably 6 feet deep. From all indications that was the depth it had been running at for a long, long time. There are some places to the North and South where they have some control over the river depth. For what purpose I’m not sure but this past June I noted they raised the level of the water where they celebrate the “Riverfest” in downtown Wichita. This is to accommodate jet-ski races and some paddle boating that goes on during the festival week. When the festival is over they let the water level drop again.
This area (and much of Kansas for that matter) has been under a drought for at least the last two years and probably longer. We’re talking a serious drought that is ruining famer’s crops and spoiling the lakes for fishing and recreation.
I walk some of the many “river walks” here in Wichita with some frequency when the weather isn’t oppressive. I’ve never seen the river as low as it is now. Last year I had said the same thing but this year was truly worse.
As the water has receded you can see where the deeper main channels are in the river. Sand bars begin to appear in many places, particularly in bends in the river. Other areas become mucky “islands” where wind-born seeds take root and an assortment of plants begin to grow, some reaching heights of 5 and 6 feet. The river starts to change character. Late in the summer the city goes in and mows the plants down in some places. The river has become a pitiful shadow of its former self. The waters, usually muddy, begin to become clear because there is no up-stream rain water run-off to muddy them.
It is somewhat saddening to watch the water depth slowly dropping, trapping fish, especially the larger ones. Stranded in places where the water isn’t deep enough to allow them to move, they eventually lay there very much like beached whales. You see the carp, some between one and two feet in length dredging the bottom which now lies only inches below the surface. They are looking for food in what is a gradually diminished area for foraging. Some swim further and further into the shallows in search of food, until they suddenly realize they are stuck. Fish don’t have a very good reverse. Floundering about wildly probably does little good, much like a man struggling in quick-sand. These fish need a tow into deeper waters but that’s not going to happen.
They probably exhaust themselves and lie in that state unable to eat; their gills struggling to glean oxygen from the water until they suffocate or some predator comes along. While these are not pretty fish, (if there are such fish) it is disheartening to see them rummaging about in shallow waters, their backs exposed to the air while still managing to keep their gills under water. Eventually, in places along the river you can see their shiny scales reflecting the sunlight as they lay dead-still in water only two or three inches deep at best. A quick look across the river reveals their scattered corpses.
Smaller fish have more of a fighting chance to survive such conditions. Once, when the path I was walking came close to the water’s edge and maybe 4 feet above it, I was able to see where the more diminutive fish live as their world too slowly shrinks around them. There are some areas that remain where the water’s depth might reach one to two feet and it is in those areas that the fish congregate. These pockets of temporary safety are often connected by only the shallowest of channels, through which only the smaller fish could safely pass. Illuminated by a sun high in the sky and in water that was as clear as a bell I could easily see what this aquatic environment was like.
Whether the fish have the slightest clue that their “air” is rapidly disappearing is hard to know. The smallest, the minnows I call them, would be the last to know. They swim about in large numbers, moving as large flocks of birds do sometimes in the air, almost as if they were of one mind. They never stay in one spot long and as I watched, I learned one of the reasons why. The river bottom beneath them is mostly sand and it lies sculpted by the flow of the water above it. Logically, the fish tend to collect in the areas of greatest depth, often sharing it with other fish and other river creatures.
As I studied these fish from above and watched their behavior, I noticed a snake was lying on the bottom, underneath them. It was perhaps three feet in length and not much bigger around than my thumb. Its coloration not unlike the sand beneath it, only occasionally broken by a lighter colored band or “ring” which every few inches encircled its body. Lying perfectly still it became obvious that this snake was holding its breath.
Suddenly the snake’s head darted forward towards a nearby pod of swimming minnows and they quickly scattered about, trying to evade its attack. The snake did not surface and I could not tell if its strike was successful but it kept swirling about in the shallows, chasing after the minnows, causing them to flee with its every move. Then it would settle to the bottom and lie still. How it stayed under the water for so long was a mystery to me. The fish would, in turn, finally settle down, swimming less frantically but leave an area around the snake vacant, until, after a short time, they either forgot or no longer noticed the snake lying still on the bottom and they would apparently carelessly swim right above it.
I thought sure the snake would attack again, and yet it now seemed disinterested, making no effort to spear the nearest fish which was only inches away. I wondered if this was only some kind of game. But soon enough, the whole scene would play out again with the snake chasing after them and this time I thought I saw a flash of silver hanging, temporarily from the snake’s mouth. Success perhaps.
The fish swam a safe distance away and the snake moved about like the water itself, in undulant ripples, until it found a place where it could put its head above water, its lower body resting yet on the bottom. There the snake rested, unmoving again, as if meditating. It occurred to me that possibly the snake was resting between its attacks. Expending that writhing energy would no doubt deplete its air supply quicker and like a World War II submarine, it needed to surface to take on oxygen and recharge its batteries.
Life in the pool beneath the snake continued. Fish of perhaps two to four inches in length had observed all this from nearby where they were grouped in one big cluster. Only the slightest flip of their fins was visible. It appeared as if they were resting or sleeping and they were all facing the same direction. Two days later I passed the same spot, and, except for the snake, it was as if the same ‘movie’ was showing.
A bit farther along in my walk I passed over the river on a foot bridge and stopped to gaze down on the only channel under the bridge that actually had running water. Perhaps 6 to 10 feet across and maybe 3 feet deep near the river’s edge was another scene as from a PBS Nature special. Again there was a large cluster of fish, these mostly in the 5 to 8 inch size, all facing upstream, their flapping fins gently keeping them in position but going nowhere. They did not move from their location in the deepest part of the channel. Moving my eyes to where the water became increasingly shallow towards the center of the river I noticed, once again, large coveys of small minnows moving about nervously from one spot to another.
On occasion an island of green vegetation, perhaps the size of my hand, having apparently broken loose from the bank somewhere upstream, would float down-stream. Some of the smaller fish would approach the “island” and I wondered what the attraction was. They seemed to gather under its shadow and then would swim along under it. I wondered if they were nibbling at its roots dangling down in the water. Then, as if someone had said “boo,” they would scatter in all directions. I wondered if it was a larger fish intimidating the smaller ones saying, “Mine!” I saw this sort of thing happen twice in the short time I stood there observing.
Nearby my eye caught a movement in the water and I could see a turtle whose shell (shaped like a Word War I helmet) was maybe a foot across. It was relatively smooth and colored the same grey-green as the river bottom sand. The turtle was swimming towards the shallows, its long neck extended, sometimes above water and sometimes below. Fish passing by seemed to steer clear of its head. It eventually came to rest on the shallow sandy bottom and after pausing to take in some air; it sank down and shimmied its self down into the sand until it was completely covered, except for its head. Had I not seen it craftily create its camouflage I would not have know it was there. As its entire body disappeared under the sand it finally lowered its head under the sand and the transformation from turtle to river bottom was complete. It would occasionally lift its head up as fish swam by. I didn’t see it catch anything. Maybe it only wanted to nap undisturbed.
I realized that I was watching, live, what I had read about in books and seen on TV, in videos and movies before. Nature carries on, in spite of the drought conditions, each creature doing the best it can to survive. Being leery of enemies that sneak up on you is as much a part of their life as breathing. But they all share a common enemy when it comes to a drought.
Some observations about politics. August 13, 2012
I never cared about politics growing up; even into my 30s I had no interest, didn’t see how it really affected me and I often didn’t bother to even vote in elections. I can’t tell you what party my father or mother belonged to. For the record, when I became voting age I registered as an independent because I figured I should be able to vote for whoever I want, no matter their party affiliation. That was when I thought both parties might have something to bring to the table.
When Obama ran for president I watched the process with a good deal of interest. Since then I’ve retired and I have more time to follow the political three-ring circus. I must say, I’ve become rather disillusioned.
The two party system, at least on paper seems a good idea and I think it used to work as it was intended, the two parties providing a check and balance structure so that no one party ran rough-shod over congress, controlling everything. The point of the whole thing to me was the same principle we’re supposed to use with resolving any disagreement, whether between marital partners or nations, that being compromise.
When any politician, regardless of his party openly states that they are not willing to compromise, then we’ve lost sight of the original intent. The system, as it’s currently working, will not function or serve its purpose without compromise on both sides.
The division between the two major parties has grown wider and wider, especially in the last 4 or 5 years and I don’t think many would argue with that observation. The influence of money on politics has never been good but now it’s nothing short of insane. As long as money is the largest determining factor, politics will lose any semblance of respect it might have once had. Now corporations, super-pacs and lobbyists have congressmen on both sides of the isle in their back pockets. This cannot help but result in anything but abuse and corruption. Money should never determine or influence an election. This was never our founding fathers intention.
What frightens me is the “them vs. us” mentality that runs on both sides of the isle. If you listen to much of the media hype, we are frequently not hearing the whole story. The media (as well) is run by and heavily influenced by money. Discord, controversy and drama sells minutes and advertising on TV. With the advent of 24/7 network ‘news,’ there is far too much repetition of the trivial and distortion of the truth by the media in an effort to keep something in front of the viewers face. Objectivity has been run-over by blatant bias, the objective now being to vilify the other side. We are being taught to hate, ridicule and distrust anyone who thinks or acts differently than ourselves. We’re encouraged by the media to see our differences instead of our similarities. We are encouraged to take sides.
Not since the Civil War in America has our nation been so divided. Each has made the other side out to be “evil.” It’s “right” versus “wrong.” Lines are drawn in the sand and threats are made. Nothing good can come from that. If we continue our present course, I fear we will see another civil war in this country. Some are already hording food and building stockpiles of ammunition, expecting the very worst from their fellow man as a once “civil” society begins to crumble through ignorance and a failure to learn from their past. This “end of times” mind-set only creates what it fears.
I heard four or five years ago, someone say that the next “civil war” in America would very possibly be over religious differences. To slide backwards in this thinking would make us no more evolved than some of the so-called “third world” nations where there is still bickering and in some cases violence and killing against different religious factions. Clearly one party has chosen to take a stand which favors Christian thinking over all others in this country. This, in my opinion, is creating problems, especially in a nation with as diverse a religious population as ours.
Religious freedom, in my opinion, should not mean that any one religion can dictate the laws of the land. There must remain options and freedom of choice for all, (obviously within certain moral and ethical guidelines but not inherent to scripture alone.) As long as anyone believes that their “holy” book is above all others, unquestionable and without error, there are going to be some serious issues arise. In my opinion, until we can take a healthy and objective look at certain religious “traditions” and recognize that they no longer serve us, we are going to see an increase in hatred and violence. The source of the problem ironically comes from something we claim brings peace and understanding. Instead it brings hatred, judgment and intolerance.
I’ve found myself caught up in the “war” between the political parties. I’ve found myself labeling an entire group of people by the behavior of a few. I’ve found myself being swayed by a media that is often not objective, that promotes a biased agenda and is manipulative.
The human condition is such that we will never be able to agree on everything, but unwillingness to compromise is the surest road to disaster that I know. There’s entirely too much fear mongering going on within both political parties in the U.S. When we find both presidential candidates justifying misleading and questionable attacks and negative campaign ads in order to achieve their end, something is really wrong. The end does not justify the means. It would be better to err on the side of truth and history and lose the race. We are condoning behavior in adults that we would not encourage in our own children. How can we not see this?
To paraphrase a popular saying in the spiritual community, “Would you rather be ‘right’ or get along and be a peace?” The harder we try to convince the other person that their way of thinking is wrong, the more they resist. In order to know that, you only have to look at how you feel when someone tries to “correct” your way of thinking. It also seems to be forgotten that there is a civil and respectful way of having a debate. There’s no need for put-downs, distain, sarcasm and anger. Such behavior is unbecoming to anyone. I stand guilty of this myself and until I can correct this behavior in myself and set the example I will not see a change about me. For we project outwardly what is on the inside. I can talk the talk, but struggle to walk the talk.
It is long past time to begin a process of reconciliation in this nation. It’s time to find what we share in common rather than in difference and to see beyond our politics. Republican, Independent, or Democrat (etc.) may be a hat we sometimes wear but it is not who we are and when we begin to believe it is and do whatever it takes to maintain the illusion, we will ultimately reap what we’ve sown.