About Me

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Did Socrates say "Know Thyself", or was he misunderstood, as all are. Show Thyself is all we can do. The knowing is unknowable.  

I am filled with joy.  It can't be helped.  

Became a Farmer, Builder, Musician, Tank Commander, Librarian, Lawyer and Minister. I have failed at many things. And now retired.  Filled, just filled, with Joy. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

My wife loves cats and jellyfish and light.

My wife loves cats and jellyfish and light. July 31, 2007

We live with three laughing cats. Well, smiling cats, not quite laughing. I have not actually heard them chuckle, but it's as close as cat-belly gets. They smile because of Rebecca's jokes and attention to comforting details. Each cat wears two whiskered jewels above their smiling jaws. These jewels are the pigmented choroid coat of their eyes, the iridescent tapetum which gathers the palest scatters of light and communicates its shapes to the relatively enormous medula oblongata of felinity. Of course, with all these collected flickers of light, the cats cannot discern the details next to them. They need to be touched, and to hear the soft mouse-munch bird-flutter kitty-food noises which are of interest to cats. And they need to hear Rebecca's voice in order to make sense of this habitat: The way she loves them and the light.

We visited an aquarium by the sea. Rebecca stood in amazement as she beheld behind glass an armada of jellyfish gently pulsing. Their many eyes were hung on streamers, all keenly observing the details of the dangle, while at the same time gathering the scatters of light under swimming waves. Here were creatures with really no brain at all, but with perfect eyes, and some part of their tented tendrils, the persistent grace part, the hydrozoan direction toward light indifferent to fate and the tides, that part, shared an understanding with Rebecca even without her touch. There was the annointing love of the luminous to which they gently aspire.

My life is shared with Rebecca. With her, even though I am without perfect eyes, and without much light, I am able to make sense of this habitat, and as close as my belly gets, I laugh at fate, and even tides. Even...tides.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Prostitute? Never met one. But I can play a few tunes....

Just got back from a trip to the District of Columbia. There are some excellent jazz clubs and sidewalk cafes. All night. And something occurred to me....

I've been all over the world, and in all but two States of the United States. Never met a "prostitute". Never been solicited. Oh, there were people dressed funny, and a guy looking for money someone else would earn, and there were people who were poor, hungry, and some just lonely and untethered. Many looked afraid, many looked like they needed help. Many had a "knowing" confidence. A few folks asked if I was "looking for a good time". I always was. So were they I suppose, and they moved on. The point is that Prostitution is a haunting, a ghost of flesh. A "sense" of "other women". http://www.drik.net/calendar2k/english/index.html. It is not fair to say it is "reality" -- it is no nowhere.

The "prostitute" is like a unicorn: rare if not entirely fictional. Granted, we push for extremes -- and there is an edge off of which, are places in which, it is impossible to be. Perhaps in a new tide of "stepfjords", or in the middle class suburbs depicted by a "John" Scissorhands, in the courtesanity we seek for balancing lives of disparity, there is this perpetual idea of paying for what we would like to want. The money does not makes it clean, so it is always something the man did not do. The money does not touch the person, so it is always something the woman is not being.

By offering our body orifices to unrelenting gods one at a time we live case by case, losing the theory, swallowing the night monsters seriatim so they go away. Following a trail, our successor covers our own tracks as we leave. Nothing so basic, so unnecessary, so un-eradicable, so common and so improper. We try to live by our instincts, but it is our instincts which try to rise above ourselves: So far, no, but -- this man will be different; this woman will satisfy me. The whip of desire turns into a whingeing complaint, the precation of hope is handed its own head on a platter of certainty as blindness fills the body and displaces the desire itself. Sensation becomes insensate.

There is no "act", no "being", no possibility of hope for consummation, no beginning and no end; hence, no Reality. This is an entire industry built upon the back of unicorns and women who are not "there". The "traffic" of sex is simply more than mere prostitution can ever bear.

The hunting/gathering tribes warring against each other around my childhood were always trying to end up with the "surplus women", the last minute attempt to get some kind of "victory" out of the effort. To get something, to come back with something. As if this part in that part was going to explain the pushing and pulling, the war-path nested in the hostility, caused by the desire, caused by the love.

When the Iroquois finally defeated the Hurons, they had captured so many widowed women, that half their warriors were actually Huron blood. When the Romans exterminated the Sabine men, they returned with Sabine women, and from that moment on, they could never return "home"; all of Rome was doomed to keep conquering, and now they were actually half Sabine when they did it.

There is that begging conversation between the egg and the sperm. You think it is Mind over Matter? The body will participate in this thought: There is the egg-flea, swimming, and the egg is the furred rock, rolling. People thrive by dancing together, rock and roll. Pay the musician, hire the hall. Ladies are free in the fireman's ball.

Getting Back to God the Forgotten Son and wholly irrelevant Spirit

The leadership of this bustly world is involved in many interesting things and most of them have "got it" that there is a connection, and probably a valid one, between their manifest notions of success and money. What is abundantly clear, of course, to anyone with eyes and ears picking up the signals all about, is that the leadership of the entire globe is busy doing things other than what was taught, painstakingly, by The Buddha, Jesus Christ, or Mohammad, to name but three of the "spiritual" leaders who continue to be invoked, and who could not be less relevant to anything that is happening.

Can this be any clearer? No one can miss this. The observation is Fact -- What was taught, the content, by the so-called Spiritual Guides, is now utterly forgotten if it was ever remembered, AT THE TOP. The rest of us, the fumbling masses, the tired and hungry, the lotus-eaters among us, the retired, the spun-dry, whether we "believe" or have Faith, or not, at least we must see that our Leaders, across continents, across cultures and classes, none of them have what could be called any "religious Faith".

An example? You were waiting to hear from George Bush? He has claimed that Jesus Christ, no less, is his "model" and "hero". Yet, in his Presidency, in his decision-making as the "Decisioner", has George Bush performed a single act consistent with The Message of that Messiah? What part of "War" do you not understand?

Bush makes empty claims to a "religious" basis or justification for what he has done. It is impossible that anyone, even he, could "believe" there is any connection however remote or slight between what he has done and what Christ taught.

Another example? Bin Laden, of course. He claims to invoke the Quran, and even more than Bush (who almost never cites the Bible or indicates the slightest familiarity with the Gospel text), often quotes from the Quran. Unfortunately, his "quotes" are often inapt or incorrect. Not a single line of God's guidance delivered to Mohammad justifies suicide, war against unarmed innocents, repression of women, drug-profiteering (opium in Afghanistan!), tribal slaughter among Sunni and Shiite, or even the outright theft from the Jews who were only recently hounded out of their ancient homes to the profit of the Mullahs and other hypocrites after centuries of peaceful and prosperous cohabitation with the descendants of Mohammad from Persia through Babylon all the way to Granada. Jews Greeks Arabs Scythians and other smaller groups lived for Centuries of peace, literally creating a Golden Age presided over by a poetic and Learned Islam which EARNED the laurels upon which the ignorant Wahabi "warriors" now seek to sit.

There is no doubt that Arabs are important people. Not their warriors -- their old men waving weapons. The important Arabs are the engineers. Building the most beautiful cities in the world. They will hang gardens in Babylon once again. Gilgamesh Found.

Wisdom project - Solway's description of something BIG. I like the "larger self" part.

"I settled on a purpose for my life: the survival of wisdom. I always wanted to do something BIG, and this was the biggest anyone could ever do. It meant that not only would I have to become as wise as possible, but I would have to drag other people with me, who are my larger self. The problem was, I had only met one or two people in my whole life who had any genuine interest in truth and wisdom. So my first task was, and still is, to get people to a level where they at least have some respect for reason and truth." - Kevin Solway, http://members.optusnet.com.au/~danrowden/Profiles/kevin.htm

When Power "acts", it creates new realities...

When Bush was first sworn into the Whitehouse, I recall several interviews with staff in which the "new reality" fix was expressed--Karl Rove boasting that they intended to "cause" the future; they moved from mere prediction to creation. David Suskind reported the neo-con nonsequitur:

"When we act, we create our own reality...
We're history's actors...and you, all of you,
will be left to just study what we do".

Of course, this generative Reality is not new, it has always been the prerogative and responsibility of Power to work and ravel with "reality". What Rove missed is that Reality is a physical "what" without which his sine is non. Even if Reality is a gerund, it is interactive and reflexive. Reality is not just a plastic fundulum of "meaning different things to different people". Reality is not Rove's dog to hunt, and now it is a chicken coming to the home he ruined to roost. Rove was as wrong as those who claim there is a "Jewish Physics" or an "Oriental medicine". Sorry, it's just Physics, or Medicine, or not. Many have taken Rove's words to be merely hubristic. Actually, they show criminal culpability.

The criminal syndicate running the Whitehouse was right about many things, mostly in an ironic fashion. Our present circumstances--our Reality--IS the result of their actions. They did MAKE history, with remarkable speed and thoroughness: When Bush came into office, the US Government had a budget surplus; now, we are faced with a larger debt than all previous administrations combined. When Bush came into office, Americans could travel virtually all over the globe with a fair degree of respect and admiration; now, we are universally despised, our values viewed as "myths", and we hate ourselves. When Bush came into office, Al Qaeda's bases in Afghanistan had been bombed (while Republican's Senators screamed "wag the dog"!) and Bin Laden went into hiding; now Al Qaeda is an international franchise of forces striking at will throughout the world which has become its training ground and Bin Laden is one of the most popular and recognizable faces on the planet--an almost Christlike figure (for those who can still stomach irony).

Of course there is more. When Bush came into office, the US Constitution was viable and invoked; now it is irrelevant and moot, and made so by our own Supreme Court. Two other great democracies -- England and Israel -- have been pulled down with America by their loyalty. Desperately-needed land reform in Africa and South America has been institutionally delayed. Genocide is practiced with impunity. Drug companies and so-called "insurance" corporations have destroyed the "health care" system so that poor care has become extraordinarily dear. Manufacturing jobs are outsourced to a degree that has become a national security concern (buying tank and aircraft parts from China). The NYSE is itself propelled into a leveraged buy-out boom in which virtually all companies are takeover targets for "flipping" with cash borrowed from lenders freed of any "regulation" or accounting. The lenders themselves extend "creative" credit to "new homeowners" who cannot afford to repay the loans because the average wage is dropping. Corporate CEO's are making stratospheric salaries unrelated to actual "business" or productivity (as those words are commonly understood). Energy and power utilities have been caught pillaging consumers on a scale never before approached. Government power and assets have been put into the hands of people who have no inkling of "public service", but who do have a robust sense of self-interest.

The point is that Rove was right about "making history". We now have a history of self-defeating greed and overreaching from which recovery is not likely or even possible in the circumscribed space and foreshortened time frame left to us. If it is of any consolation, we who are about to die have the comfort of knowing that at least we did not "elect" Bush to office. Twice. He stole the election. Twice.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Remembering the Planning, Forgetting the Gotten

So often I work with detailed and fairly fast-moving plans involving inter-connected pieces. For example, I need to do A which requires B and C and C requires D and E to complete, and now A has been set aside, and now I need to do X Y Z....Meanwhile, I am hanging onto A in my memory, although it was never done, I am remembering my Plan or intention. Soon enough, that "memory" becomes what I remember. At numerous points, then, I can actually "remember" A, although I never did it. Scarey. Meanwhile, my memory of what actually took place, what actually happened while I was making the over-run Plans, starts dimming. Memories fade quite rapidly as new details and observations take up attention. What I actually "got" out of the whole layered process insofar as it is either unintended or simply superceded, then fades. My work is completely over-run: Even I do not recognize the results of what I do.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Gottlieb's TNYer review of the Atheists ascension

Not content with reviewing the most important of the post-911 string of best-selling books written by atheists, Anthony Gottlieb [for the love of God!], has also provided historical perspectives, statistical comparisons, and poll data....I summarize:
Since the World Trade Center was attacked by Islamicists on September 11, 2001, Religion has definitively fallen. Not a single saint or revivalist has arisen, from a single cognizable "Religion", with a single publication. The date is significant, however, for creating a publication outbreak for militant atheists throughout the world which had previously been peculiarly silent -- tolerant to the point of complete deference.
In 2004, THE END OF FAITH, by Sam Harris, was on the Times paperback best-seller list for 33 weeks. Then came BREAKING THE SPELL, by the evolutionist Daniel Dennett, and THE GOD DELUSION, by Richard Dawkins, a biologist and Britain's preeminent science writer. In 2006, Harris again entered the virtually un-opposed list, with his LETTER TO A CHRISTIAN NATION. And this year, the nonpareil columnist for Vanity Fair and Slate, Christopher Hitchens has published GOD IS NOT GREAT. Gottlieb does not expressly mention this, but there is NO OPPOSITION to the "points" submitted by this triumvirate who have disposed of the virtual reality in which Religion flourishes. Of course, the biology and the economics remain intact.
And the statistics are bizarre. A significant survey in pre-911 2001 found that more than half of the Christians belief "that Jesus sinned" -- a rejection of a central dogma of their own churches. Religious polling is now established as completely untrustworthy or verifiable. Sociologists estimate that only half the Americans who report "regular church attendance" actually do so, and belief in God is almost certain to be a small minority the world over. Curiously, even non-Christians in America responded to a Newsweek poll, telling them that "they too, expected Jesus to return", possibly within the next 50 years. In a Gallup Poll, 83% of Americans believe the Bible is the Word of God, but virtually none of them have a clue what the Bible says. Most respondents do not know who preached the Sermon on the Mount, and almost none can state what point Jesus was trying to make in his last public appearance.
Gottlieb however, is able to "balance" this one-sided onslaught with history and biology -- he himself is writing a book on "nothingness". While the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa maintained apartheit, its priests also protected protestors. While Pope Pius XII appeased the Nazis, many clerics (among the Protestants as well) were almost alone in their condemnation of the thuggery which was permitted by the Intelligentsia, the Universities, the Army, the Courts, and the Political Parties. The Communists seemed just as interested in thuggery as the Nazis. In Latin America and Brazil, the "liberation theology" of the Church, has been important in safeguarding qualities which decidedly would have been lost at the hands of "atheist" conquerors and thugs. While not mentioned by Gottlief, the great work of Las Casas, Sor Juana Inez, and Armentin under the Cross of Christ in previous centuries has been the only formidable obstacle to the Sword of Tyranny. Gottlieb points out that "The idea that people would have been nicer to one another if they had never got religion...is a strange position...For if man is wicked enough to have invented religion...[to suppress others] he is surely wicked enough to have found alternative ways of making mischief." [79b]
Gottlieb points out, with no little irony, that Christians started out as the "atheists" on the scene in the early days of the Christian era. The first surviving anti-Christian polemic consisted largely as an attack on their failure to worship the accepted Gods -- referencing Celsus, ON THE TRUE DOCTRINE, 178 A.D.
Celsus proclaimed the contradictions of a "personal God" who is in fact indifferent to the triumph of wickedness over good. He did not even send his Son to help until long after many terrible things had been happening to really good people -- "Did He not care before?" This student of Plato noted that Socrates had already expressed most of the wisdom supposedly drawn from "biblical" sources, long before Christ. And continuously, ever since Celsus, Christian and Islamic mobs have sought out and destroyed tons of wonderful Pagan and secular texts.
Gottlieb reviews the work of Voltaire, one of the "fiercest critics of superstition" who was in fact a man of deep "religious feeling". The satirical tale, CANDIDE, is an attack on the idea that all is for the best in a world watched over by a concerned God -- the work was inspired by the 1755 earthquake in Lisbon which killed some 30,000 "believers" while worshipping in crumbling cathedrals. However, Voltaire was awed by the ordered beauty of the universe which he thought pointed to a supreme designer, as a watch implies a watch-maker.
Gottlieb sums up not only the systematic ideas, but also the careful presentation style, of David Hume. In the 1779 DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION Hume prized apart the analogy between the natural universe and a designed artifact. He argues that if it is necessary to ask Who made the world, it is also necessary to ask Who made the maker. But while undermining the concept of a God, and of zealotry in general, Hume avoided inflammatory statements, never replacing dogma with intolerance.
Why does Religion persist, when the arguments against Belief have been so widely published for so long a time? Hitchens says it is born of Fear. Harris holds that there is a genuine biology in play, although the creeds are meaningless. Dawkins devotes a chapter, and Dennet most of his book, to a functionalist account of Religion. However frayed, the propensity to Belief is "hard-wired".
Of course, if Belief is hard-wired, what about the large number of Non-Believers? Phil Zuckerman, a sociologist at Pitzer College in Claremont, reviewed studies of some 50 countries with varying social pressure to believe or not believe, and puts the figure of Non-Believers at more than 500 million. While Non-Belief in a God may constitute the 4rth largest "persuasion" in the world today, it is also necessary to understand that we still may all be "believers". Looking at this landscape historically, and personally, from country to culture, and from ignorant to educated, the following facts remain clear:

(1) God does not exist.
(2) Everyone believes.

Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of suffering fools with "the intolerant zeal" which offended Hume and Gibbon 300 years ago among the Believers or their detractors known as the Philosophes. Now, the dialogue is conducted with bombs. The Improvised Explosive Devices invariably exact "collateral damage" including the loss of life and limb. Many suffer who were otherwise not interested in the conversation. The zeal which offended Hume is armed, and is not content with killing opponents. We are facing a period in which "ludicrous mammals" [Hitchens] prefer to destroy everything rather than build anything. It is not just that the "argument" is over, or that it will no longer take place. People will always argue. This is the subtle part of that "hard-wired" Belief.

The difference today is that the argument will take place in bunkers instead of gardens. Al Quada is not interested in Virgins. The Taliban is not interested in wine, women, and song -- all major constituent elements of a good conversation. The Shia and Sunni warriors are blowing up each other's communities, starting with the some of the most beautiful buildings in the world.

Of course, the Arabs are under pressure. It is demographic. It is a terrible pressure, to be faced with teenagers everywhere, and more coming. In the past, Rome endured it, the Vikings had it, the Huns went through it, and those tragic people trapped on Isla Pascua almost died from it.

Ultimately, the Arabs will reclaim the bedrock of their civilization, which is, of course, the bedrock of ALL civilized people: Wine, Women and Song! As late as 100 years after Mohammed PBUH, the Arabs were still designing the most beautiful stone, ceramics, mozaics, and fountains in the world. We know archeologically, from the evidence of the ceramics, that the Arabs made wine. We know ideologically, from the text, that neither the Bible, nor the Quran, nor any Hindu Gita, teaches anything about race hatred or bombs.

We find only evidence of the people trying to raise their families and educating their children to have a better life, here, now. Civilization has antedotes to chaos, fear, and ignorance.

Riparian: "By the shores of Gitche Gumee..."

Looking back on a busy life, one can see that certain heuristic events had great "mileage" or impact. For me, the Song of Hiawatha [Longfellow]has a resonance, a pull upon me, beyond anything that can be explained or reasoned out. A child is open to influences one cannot predict, and which may even be arbitrary or contrary.

BY THE SHORES OF GITCHE GUMMEE,
BY THE SHINING BIG-SEA-WATER,
STOOD THE WIGWAM OF NOKOMIS.

DARK BEHIND IT ROSE THE FOREST,
ROSE THE BLACK AND GLOOMY PINE TREES,
ROSE THE FIRS WITH CONES UPON THEM;
BRIGHT BEFORE IT BEAT THE WATER,
BEAT THE CLEAR AND SUNNY WATER,
BEAT THE SHINING BIG-SEA-WATER.

Of course, we CAN compare and "explain" post factum.
The poem was my first reading primer. And life is
clearly a desertified jungle, famine-flood, and gitche gummee
with beatings. So many gloomy pines later --
"no quiero acordarme" [Cervantes]-- here I am "Nel mezzo del cammin
di nostra vita mi ritrovai per una selva oscura" [Dante].