Thursday, 23 August 2012

When Governments Eat Their Citizens

The horrors inflicted on India and on the Indian population by the British Raj are far too numerous to recount and too well known to need rehashing. From the massacre at Amritsar to the devastating Bengal famine where the British outlawed relief organizations and in the following year, after up to one third of the population had died, raised taxes to recoup the money lost to crop failure, the British presence in India was one of bleeding the population to death to maintain the lavish lifestyle of the British wealthy.

Reading William L. Shirer's book, Gandhi, I was struck by two passages.

"....In the spring that year, by a symbolic act whose significance I myself did not grasp, a march through the stifling heat to the sea with a little band of followers to make illegal salt, Gandhi had aroused the Indian people from the lethargy into which they had sunk after nearly three centuries of British rule, if you counted the incredible period when they were governed for two hundred years not by a foreign country but by a bizarre band of traders greedy for profit, the honorable members and agents of the East India Company. These hustlers had first come out from England early in the seventeenth century, found the pickings beyond their fondest dreams, and, by hook and by crook and by armed might, had stolen the country from the Indians.

It was the only instance in history, I believe, of a private commercial enterprise taking over a vast, heavily populated subcontinent, ruling it with an iron hand and exploiting it for private profit. Probably only the British, with their odd assortment of talents, and their great entrepreneurial drive, their ingrained feeling of racial superiority, of which Rudyard Kipling would sing so shrilly, their guile in dividing the natives and turning them against one another, and their ruthlessness in putting down all who threatened their rule and their profits, could have done it, and gotten away with it for so long." (page 18) (emphasis mine)
Later on, Shirer said:

 "That the British, with their cunning policy of divide and rule, had often encouraged Hindu-Moslem animosity and sometimes fomented it was no excuse for the Indians to give in to it." (page 23)
(Incidentally, it was the British Crown having given the East India Company exclusive right to market tea in the colonies that led to the Boston Tea Party and the start of the American revolution.)

This book was written in 1979 and, of course, Shirer died in 1993 after a long and illustrious journalistic career. One wonders, however, what his thoughts would be if he had lived until now.

I do not think it could be argued that the East India Company was any longer the only instance of a private commercial enterprise taking over a continent and exploiting it for private profit. Wall Street has simply replaced the East India Company, America has replaced India, and American taxpayers have replaced little brown men. Just as The Raj required surviving famine victims to bare the heavy cost of increased taxation, so too will the surviving American taxpayer be required to bare the heavy burden of the financial sector's "crop failure." Nor do I have the least bit of doubt that a great deal of the Republican-Democrat animosity has been created and fomented within investment banks and other hallowed halls of capitalism to divide and conquer the less worthy natives and turn us against each other.

I say a great deal, but not all, because I firmly believe that the formerly great and distinguished Republican Party has, for the most part, been hijacked by the neo-conservatives who are merely shrills for the criminals on Wall Street who have sold American wealth to China and India and who continue to agitate for a completely unregulated and unfettered free market economy which will bring more coin into their pockets. The bail out may or may nor have been necessary, depending on who you listen to, but you can rest assure that those who will benefit the most are not the average citizen but the exrememly wealthy financiers and industrialists who are still in charge of milking each one of us. They have simply sent the government to do the milking for a while.

Sadly, most of the goats and the cows will accept this and allow themselves to continue to be milked. It is kind of like sex. When you are having sex sometimes a new partner seems more exciting.

So, my friends, get ready to be fleeced some more. Wall Street isn't finished with us yet. This is just the tip of the iceberg and I predict that more and more financial maleficence will come to light and you and I will be required to make up for more money that the wealthy have 'lost.'

Mooing and bellowing about it isn't going to stop it. It is time for the animals to kick over the milking stool.

(Originally posted to Multiply on September 29, 2008)

The Dream Is No Longer Possible

"Every one of us can do something to protect and care for our planet. We have to live in such a way that a future will be possible for our children and our grandchildren. Our own life has to be the message."

~~ Thich Nhat Hanh

"A few years ago, while researchimg my book "the World Without Us," I visited a tribe in Ecuador whose remaining shred of once bountiful Amazon forest was so depleted that they'd resorted to hunting spider monkeys. This was especially grim because they believed themselves to be descended from those very primates. In essence, they'd been reduced to eating their ancestors."

 ~~ Alan Weisman

"In very seperate ways, both he [Thich Nhat Hanh] and I have concluded that as humans lose the links to the past from which we spring, we threaten to kill our future."

 ~~ Alan Weisman

"Just as no person lives forever, no species escapes eventual extinction, and ours is no exception. Yet to be alive, as Thich Nhat Hamh so eloquently reminds us, is both a blessing and an honor to uphold. To realize that we are part of a grand, changing, living pagent - one that, no matter how deep a wound it sustains, will always be renewed - brings great peace. But this grand perspective doesn't relieve us of the responsibility of living and acting at the highest possible level of awareness while we are here now."

~~ Alan Weisman

"The bells of mindfulness are sounding. All over the Earth, we are experiencing floods, droughts, and massive wildfires. Sea ice is melting in the Artic and hurricanes and heat waves are killing thousands. The forests are fast disappearing, he deserts are growing, species are becoming extinct every day, and yet we continue to consume, ignoring the ringing bells."

~~ Thich Nhat Hanh

"We need a collective awakening. There are among us men and women who are awakened, but it's not enough; most people are still sleeping. We have constructed a system we cannot control. It imposes itself on us, and we become its slaves and victims. For most of us who want to have a house, a car, a refrigerator, a television, and so on, we must sacrifice our time and our lives in exchange."

~~ Thich Nhat Hanh

"In twenty-five years the population of China will be 1.5 billion people, and if each of them wants to drive their own private car, China will need 99 million barrels of oil every day, But the world production is only 84 million barrels per day. So the American dream is not possible for the pople of China, India, or Viernam. The American dream is no longer even possible for the Americans. We can't continue to live like this. It's not a sustainable economy."

~~ Thich Nhat Hanh

In the meantime, 25% of greenhouse gases are caused by the beef we raise in the United States to eat. Fully 80% of the corn grown in the United States is consumed by livestock. In the United States alone the grain that is fed to the animals we eat would support the total calorie need of a planet of 8 billion people. We must change the way we live, the way we think, the way we eat.


(Originally posted to Multiply September 27, 2008)

Book Review: The World We Have

Genre:  Outdoors & Nature
Author: Thich Nhat Hanh
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

"Every one of us can do something to protect and care for our planet. We have to live in such a way that a future will be possible for our children and our grandchildren. Our own life has to be the message."

"In twenty-five years the population of China will be 1.5 billion people, and if each of them wants to drive their own private car, China will need 99 million barrels of oil every day, But the world production is only 84 million barrels per day. So the American dream is not possible for the people of China, India, or Vietnam. The American dream is no longer even possible for the Americans. We can't continue to live like this. It's not a sustainable economy." (Thich Nhat Hanh)

"In this provocative book, noted Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh offers a dramatic vision of the future of a planet overheated by rapidly disappearing fossil fuels, degraded by massive over-consumption, and besieged by unsupportable population growth. Hanh finds answers to these critical problems in the Buddhist teaching of the impermanence of all things. He demonstrates how this teaching can offer inner peace and help us use our collective wisdom and technology to restore the Earth's balance. Mixing inspiring insights with practical strategies, Hanh cites projects his own monastic community has undertaken that can serve as models for any community. Both his “ No Car Day,” observed once a week, and the “Earth Peace Treaty Commitment Sheet” can impact our ecological footprint on the Earth. Above all, he shows how acceptance of problems is that first critical step toward a deeper understanding of the best way to care for our Earth." (Amazon)
(Originally posted to Multiply September 27, 2008)

Book Review: The Year of Living Biblically

Genre:  Biographies & Memoirs
Author: A. J. Jacobs
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

This book is a comic tour de force, one of the funniest things I have read in years while remaining inoffensively irreverent and, in the end, heartwarming and engaging. It was hard to put down. It was one of those books that, when you are finished reading, you think, "I wish I had read this slower and on a rainy, Sunday afternoon." Absolutely first class. Jacobs is to be commended.

"Make no mistake: A.J. Jacobs is not a religious man. He describes himself as Jewish "in the same way the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant." Yet his latest work, The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible, is an insightful and hilarious journey for readers of all faiths. Though no fatted calves were harmed in the making of this book, Jacobs chronicles 12 months living a remarkably strict Biblical life full of charity, chastity, and facial hair as impressive as anything found in The Lord of the Rings. Through it all, he manages to brilliantly keep things light, while avoiding the sinful eye of judgment." (Dave Callanan)

"Jacobs, a New York Jewish agnostic, decides to follow the laws and rules of the Bible, beginning with the Old Testament, for one year. (He actually adds some bonus days and makes it a 381-day year.) He starts by growing a beard and we are with him through every itchy moment. Jacobs is borderline OCD, at least as he describes himself; obsessing over possible dangers to his son, germs, literal interpretation of Bible verses, etc. He enlists the aid of counselors along the way; Jewish rabbis, Christians of every stripe, friends and neighbors.

In an open-minded way he also visits with atheists, Evangelicals Concerned (a gay group), Jerry Falwell, snake handlers, Red Letter Christians--those who adhere to the red letters in the Bible, those words spoken by Jesus Himself, and even takes a trip to Israel and meets Samaritans. Through it all, he keeps a healthy skepticism, but continues to pray and is open to the flowering of real faith. Jacobs is a knowledge junky, to be sure. He enjoys the lore he picks up along the way as much as any other aspect of his experiment. One of the ongoing schticks is his meeting with the shatnez tester, Mr. Berkowitz. He is the one who determines whether or not your clothes are made of mixed fibers, in keeping with the Biblical injunction not to wear wool and linen together. The two become friends and prayer partners, in only one of the unexpected results of this year.

In the end, he says, "I'm now a reverent agnostic. Which isn't an oxymoron, I swear. I now believe that whether or not there's a God, there is such a thing as sacredness. Life is sacred." Not a bad outcome." (Valerie Ryan)
(Originally posted to Multiply September 27, 2009)

Book Review: The End of America

Genre:  Nonfiction
Author: Naomi Wolf
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

This could possibly be the most important book you will ever read. If, that is, you are still allowed to read it by the time you make up your mind to do so

Get this book!

The two reviews below say it so much better than I can.

Hurry. Now. Before it is too late. Freedom is almost gone.

"Sometime in the near future, the United States of America will reach an ideological and political tipping point, a point of no return, where almost everything the Constitution of the United States is a guarantor of -- and the government is a steward over -- will be subverted, eliminated, or altered to provide for the increased centralization of American governance in the executive branch, no longer beholden to the will of the people. The cold, iron hand of authoritarianism already wields the pen striking out various civil liberties guaranteed the people of the United States. Other rights will soon follow.

But these dark things need not come to pass in our democracy. Forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes, and Naomi Wolf has written "a citizen's call to action" that pierces to the heart of this slide toward a veritable dictatorship. The End Of America: Letter Of Warning To A Young Patriot outlines how easily it has been done in the past, citing examples of Mussolini's rise to power, the advent and usurpation of Germany's democracy by the Third Reich, and Stalin's ruthless consolidation and centralization of power in Russia. Wolf breathes a terrible life into a monster most people in America do not know exists, although many see it and refuse to acknowledge it. Wolf warns that the willful collective denial of what the United States government, especially the executive branch, has been doing in the name of national security and the protection of America's freedoms must end or our democracy as we know it shall end." (Saul Relative)


"The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot
A Citizen’s Call To Action

By Naomi Wolf

Fascism: Fast and furious in ten historic steps.

1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
2. Create a gulag
3. Develop a thug caste
4. Set up an internal surveillance system
5. Harass citizens’ groups
6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
7. Target key individuals
8. Control the press
9. Dissent equals treason
10. Suspend the rule of law

Naomi Wolf says: Recent history has profound lessons for us in the U.S. today about how fascist, totalitarian, and other repressive leaders seize and maintain power, especially in what were once democracies. The secret is that these leaders all tend to take very similar, parallel steps.

In the true spirit of Thomas Paine, Wolf takes her slender pamphlet/book (155 pages) to the streets of America. Our job is to read it, write about it and Revere it. Ride through the towns across the land yelling: “The fascists are coming. The fascists are coming.”

That is, if it isn’t too late.

Wolf’s previous books have mostly centered on women’s issues. The Beauty Myth, Fire With Fire, Misconceptions, Promiscuities: The Secret Struggle for Womanhood and The Treehouse. This work, The End of America is completely out of left field. A radical departure, if you will. While not trying to minimize the importance of her previous progressive books, this tome is a major historical piece of non-fiction. I say so because of its simplicity, minimalism, brevity, cohesion and importance.

I’ll tell you what it’s not.

It is not highbrow. It is not pompous. It is not longwinded. It is not complicated.

It is simply, the truth.

At once a brilliant indictment of the Bush administration, The End of America, explains in blunt terms how the last 7 years have paralleled the same steps taken during the 20th century that led to the dictatorships of Italy, Russia, China, Germany, and Chile.

Believe me, folks. It can happen here.

The book is not partisan. It is historical. It starts with the premise that ten steps, ten small changes are all that is necessary to move a country from democracy to fascism.

The work demonstrates how the massive escalation of executive power in the White House has eroded the core values that surround our personal freedoms. In her citizen’s call to action, Wolf demonstrates the very real threats that exist to our civil liberties and explains how we can deal with this growing threat. You can start by reading this book.

In the 2006 military coup in Thailand, the leaders of the coup took a number of systematic steps. Within days, the coup leaders declared martial law, sent soldiers into residential areas, took over radio and TV stations, issued press restrictions, tightened travel and rounded up the usual suspects. They weren’t winging it. They knew exactly what they were doing. Veteran campers know how to make a fire. There are certain steps you take. The U.S. has already initiated the 10 steps to fascism and they are spelled out above. Wolf illuminates them all clearly and precisely. From the USA Patriot Act to the John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007, we have seen a breathtaking passage of laws that its own signers now admit they didn’t even bother to read. By the way, in case you are wondering, the Defense Authorization Act allows the President (or his surrogates) vast new powers over the National Guard. He can send Michigan’s militia to enforce what he decides is a “state of emergency” in California over the objections of the state’s governor and its people. This is a clear violation of the Posse Comitatus Act, which was meant to stop the federal government from using the military as police force. So much for state’s rights. Having seen its citizens beaten by a foreign king’s army, the founding fathers wanted to prevent our own government turning on its own citizens. Apparently the Bush administration finds that to be a restriction on the executive branch and an unconstitutional check on his powers. Question is, what are you gonna do about it? Vote him out? Okay, what about the next president?

As Americans follow the latest turn of events regarding Britney Spears or Miley Cyrus, the people who crave power consolidate it quietly and aggressively. They don’t have time to watch the latest episode of American Idol. They are in the business of creating their own.

Germans still went to the movies in Berlin in 1931.

The Chinese will soon have the Olympics as the Germans did in 1936. The outward structures always appear the same. The point is that fascism doesn’t come as a black and white newsreel any longer. Today, it comes in fuschia and pastels with a yellow smiley face. It is Disneyfied. It wears the same clothing as you do. The hair styles are the same. The shoes are the same. Remember the crazed thuggish gang of Republican operatives banging at the door while the Florida recount was occurring? They all wore white starched shirts and tan khaki slacks, yet they were dressed to kill. Democracy, that is.

This democracy business is a lot of work. Freedom makes you fat and lazy. I mean that in a good way. We used to be able to sit back and let our elected officials take care of business. Well, apparently business has taken care of our elected officials. Now we gotta do it. Ugh. Time to get off the couch. Well, let’s get it on. I guess we do have to fight for our right to party.

The End of America by Naomi Wolf serves as a companion piece to her sister-in-arms, Naomi Klein’s work, The Shock Doctrine. Read them both and you will understand everything you need to know about today’s threats to democracy. But read them quick. The clock is ticking, we’re in the 4th quarter of the Super bowl with no time outs." (Mark Groubert)
(Originally posted to Multiply September 27, 2008)

Shock Doctrine Redux

Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

This is a long piece but it behooves every intelligent American to give her a careful listen. I expect we will see a raft of legislation passed in the very near future that will eventually tighten Wall Street's grip on our throats and if not Wall Street, the criminals in Washington.

(Originally posted to Multiply September 25, 2008)

Just Don't Eat Your Neighbor

Each morning a number of elderly Indian men gather each morning in the park in town. They sit and talk for a while and then each goes his separate way. Only a couple of them actually go for a walk. They just meet and talk. I have never seen them in a coffee shop. I only see them here and with cold whether coming I suppose I won't see them for much longer this year although I am sure they will still meet somewhere as that seems to be their habit. Probably at the Sikh Temple.

The gentleman in the middle usually arrives at the park first. I often see him sitting along waiting for his companions to show up. I pass him each morning on my walk. As I pass him I bow and say "Namaste." He laughs and waves and says "Good Morning" and I laugh. At that point I have exhausted my scope of knowledge of his language and he of mine.  Yet with just those three words, a wave, a bow, and two mutual smiles we have established a relationship of sorts.

It is that simple to get along in this world. Just don't eat your neighbors. Smile, treat them with dignity. Don't see them as an opportunity. That is the problem with corporate America. They want to eat us. They see us all as an opportunity.

(Originally posted to Multiply September 24, 2008)

Corporate Greed

I wanted to say a few words about corporate greed. It seems like it is a timely subject. I am not going to discuss the Wall Street bail out. Enough is being said about that as it is but no one has commented on the central fact. We are being told that if they do not get a bail out the lending institutions won't make loans available, credit will dry up, and the economy will collapse. I have no doubt that things would get pretty rough but I am quite sure that the powers that be would not long dry up credit. Selling credit is how they make their money, but, they will scare the public to death and they could withhold credit long enough to make things very bad. That's all I have to say on that subject. I want to speak about another type of corporate greed that has led us to where we are.

I needed to shave this morning. I have been busy and let it go for three days so I was quite scruffy this morning and thought I had better scrape my face.

I remember when I was a boy. My father used to shave with Gillette Blue Blades. Truly horrible shaving implements but times were tough and things were hard and that was all he could afford. They were 25 cents for a package of five. Even that was expensive in those hard times. I remember Dad shaving with the same blade over and over until he would bleed when he shaved. He would then take that old Blue Blade from the safety razor and run it back and forth on the inside of a water glass to try to hone an edge back onto it so he could get a few more shaves.

Think about that the next time you think your money is tight!

I was thinking of that this morning when I finally got around to shaving. I use a Gellette Mach 3 Turbo. It gives a fantastic shave and the blades last a long time.

They should last a long time. They are extraordinarily expensive. A package of 5 Mach 3 Turbo blades cost $15. A package of 10 cost $24.

Did you get that? A fucking razor blade cost $2.40 each if bought 10 at a time and $3.00 if bought 5 at a time.

Those blue blades cost my Dad 5 cents each. That is $0.05.

Has that sunk in yet? Razor blades at $2.40 each. Now if you think it cost Gillette anywhere near that much to make those I have a bridge I want to sell you. This is the corporate greed I am talking about.

I could go on about this at some length but I don't think I have to. I am sure you are all bright enough to get the picture. The Mars family made a billion dollars selling candy bars at 5 cents a piece. I think most of us would consider ourselves quite fortunate to have a billion dollars. I am sure Gillette made a billion dollars selling those lousy Blue Blades at 5 cents a piece. So how much are they ripping us off for now?

(Originally posted to Multiply September 24, 2008)

Book Review: The Piano Tuner

Genre:  Literature & Fiction
Author: Daniel Mason
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

It has been a long time since I have sat down with a book and been so immersed that hours passed away like minutes while I read. I grabbed this book from the library and started reading it about 8:30 Friday night. The next time I looked up it was 11:00. That happened each time I picked this up. I love it when I become that engrossed in a book!

And in some ways that shouldn't have happened. This certainly wasn't a great book. The critics panned it. Still, it hooked me from the beginning and carried me along with its magic.

(Originally posted to Multiply September 20, 2008)

An Autumn Morning's Walk

Looking in the cheese compartment of the fridge this morning I found a roll of 200 ISO Fugi film. I have no idea how long it had been in there forgotten but it has been at least three years since I have had occassion to shoot 200 ISO film. After all that time I thought the film would be worthless but I dug out the "real" camera and popped it in before going for my morning walk this morning just to see what would happen.

People often say there is nothing near them worth taking a picture of but beauty is everywhere if you just take the time to look. All these photos were taken within 5 kilometers of where I live.

(Originally posted to Multiply September 20, 2008)

Beautiful British Columbia

I was born in a small fishing village on the coast of Maine and have lived in small hamlets and towns and very, very small cities all my life.

Business took me to the large cities from time to time and visiting family still leads me there. I enjoy the first hour or two and then the loathing of the traffic, noise, smell, people, and concrete overwhelms any benefit found in better shopping or entertainment and I long to be home.

I am a country boy and truth is that I pity you people who live in the cities.

These photos were taken a few years ago in the Ghost Lake - Matthew River area of British Columbia's vast interior, just a couple hours west of town. You keep your city, I'll stay here, thank you.

(Originally posted to Multiply September 20, 2008)

It Is Never Too Late To Get In Shape

Today is the beginning of my 5th month of no smoking. For some of you, I know, that probably doesn't seem like a major event but to myself and those who know me, it is indeed near earth shattering. For years and years I was seldom seen without a cigarette in my mouth. I was a dedicated and confirmed smoker who loved every aspect of smoking except the expense which finally made me make the attempt to quit. Quitting was accomplished with the aid of Champix but, none-the-less, it was accomplished and I am still amazed at myself. The more so since I wasn't entirely sure I even wanted to.

Most of the time I do not notice much difference. Obviously I have more wind but that is about all. Well, that and the extra $300-$400 a month in my pocket.

Truthfully, however, if the doctor were to tell me tomorrow that the tumor in my head had to come out next week or if I was given a terminal diagnosis, I'd have one lit up so fast you wouldn't be able to see anything but a blur of motion and a flash of smoke.

I was determined not to gain weight when quitting smoking. I was heavy enough having been unable to shake the weight medication put on several years ago. In the last 128 days, however, I have now shed 43 pounds. I have managed that Herculean feat by walking 2,040 kilometers in the same period of time averaging nearly 16 kilometers (10 miles) a day. In doing so I have completely worn out two very expensive pairs of runners. Nike's were just not made for people like me.

The days are getting cooler and shorter but I have hopes that I can lose 17 more pounds before it becomes too cold and too snowy to walk. That would get me to my lowest weight in 30 years and would make me very happy, as well as very fit. Losing weight is becoming harder now though. The more you lose, the lighter you become, the less calories you burn off in exercising. I also have to admit that after starving myself half the summer my appetite is stronger right now and I have been indulging it a bit. That stops this week and I will force myself back onto an 1800 calorie a day diet to accompany the exercise until I hit 160 pounds.

Who'd have thunk it? You are never too old to get in shape.

(Originally posted to Multiply September 20, 2008)

A Sad Passing

With all the sadness and trauma going on in the world at the moment, it is  worth reflecting on the death of a very important person, which almost  went  unnoticed last week.

Larry LaPrise, the man that wrote 'The Hokie Pokey' died peacefully at the age of 93. The most traumatic part for his family was getting him into the  coffin. They put his left leg in. And then the trouble started.

(Go ahead. Laugh. You know you want to.)

(Originally posted to Multiply September 20, 2008)

Filipino Canadian Picnic 2008 (Photos)

In August Tess and I went out to the lake for the annual Filipino/Canadian picnic.

(Originally posted to Multiply September 15, 2008)

Book Review: A Beginner's Guide to Buddhism

Genre:  Religion & Spirituality
Author: Jack Kornfield
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

By now you all should know that I love Jack Kornfield and his wonderful way of teaching deep truths. That I enjoyed this then should come as no surprise even though it is a 'beginners' look at Buddhism.

Amazon says:

"Leave it to Sounds True to find leaders in the fields of spirituality and health to explain the elements of some of the essential areas. Each original guide in their series is about 70 minutes long and provides the kind of information and instruction one would expect in a good primer. Although the liner notes are meager, limited to information about the narrator, each CD includes a "table of contents" that makes each part of the program easy to locate. The author of THE BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO BUDDHISM, Jack Kornfield, is a clinical psychologist, author, and former Buddhist monk. After discussing Buddha's life, Kornfield explains the foundations of Buddhism: dharma, the four noble truths, and the eightfold path. Discussing Buddhism leads nicely to the final two segments of the program: a guided mindfulness meditation and a guided loving-kindness meditation. Kornfield is the perfect guide to the joys of Buddhism. His voice, relaxed and kind, fits this program wonderfully, especially the guided meditations."
(Originally posted to Multiply September 12, 2008)

Something In the Air

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while may recall that this river gauge was way over flood stage in the pictures I took this spring. Now the river is as low as I have seen it in years and this after a very wet and rainy summer.

The Fraser River flowing south. It was a beautiful, sunny, warm fall day today.

I don't know why I post the pictures. I post the same pictures all year.

Some of the leaves are sporting bright autumn colors.

The Quesnel River flows towards its meeting with the mighty Fraser.

The aspen trees are exchanging their leaves of green for their after Labour Day attire.

This critter was stuffing himself with choke cherries.

This one was greeting passers by with his raucous cry.

The river is broad and deep. It is neither Republican nor Democrat, Conservative nor Liberal. It takes no care of anything but being exactly what it is, where it is, when it is. Perhaps if we could learn to be as placid we could rid ourselves of politicians.

This is a sight that some like. I am not one of them. Summer was too short.

I have walked over 1600 kilometers since the 15th of May, more than half of it on these trails around the twin rivers.

People ask what I do when I walk. What do I do? Why when I walk I walk! What else do you do when you walk?

Well, sadly, I know the answer to that. Most people never walk when they walk. They never eat when they eat. They never listen when they listen. And yet, everyone assumes that they do. When I tell people that I walk when I walk and they respond that everyone does it takes some convincing to show them that most people do not and that they themselves have probably never walked when they walked in their entire lives.

How about you? Do you walk when you walk? Have you ever? For even a moment?

If you have even once walked when you walked then you understand what I mean and if you never have then you cannot understand what I mean even though you are sure that you do.

Henry David Thoreau said:

"Of course, it is no use to direct our steps to the woods if they do not carry us thither. I am alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit. In my afternoon walk I would fain forget all my morning occupations and my obligations to society, but it still happens sometimes that I can not easily shake the village. The thought of some work will run in my head and I am not where my body is - I am out of my senses, What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking something out of the woods?"
St. Francis of Assisi was more succinct:

"There is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching."
The Buddha also had something to say about walking but I will leave that for another day when, perhaps, I can discuss walking meditation.

In the meantime, do you walk when you walk?

It is time to go. I wish to spend time with my father. His heart is heavy tonight. He lost hs last surviving uncle recently. Uncle John was just 10 years older than father and they were very, very close. Like brothers.

Tonight we have received word that father's sole surviving brother has terminal cancer and does not have long. That is the last of my father's family and I know he is feeling this passing very deeply. I wish to be with him. To just sit with him.

(Originally posted September 12, 2008)

Book Review: The Places That Scare You

Genre:  Religion & Spirituality
Author: Pema Chodron
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

This is a book that I have read for the second time. I read it for the first time and felt compelled to return to it. Most of what I read and listen to these days is about awakening the bodhisttava heart, about cultivating bodhichitta. Bodhicitta is mostly what Pema Chodron talks and writes about. She may phrase it differently but it ultimately comes back to this, comes back to softening the heart. I could fall in love with this woman.
This short but powerful book is another must read for those wanting to awaken the heart of compassion and fearlessness.

I hear so many people say that they wish they could have the heart of love and compassion that the Dalai Lama has. They can. It is available to any of us. It is available now. We need only begin the practice of cultivating it.

From Amazon:

"Pema Chödrön may have more good one-liners than a Groucho Marx retrospective, but this nun's stingers go straight to the heart: "The essence of bravery is being without self-deception"; "When we practice generosity, we become intimate with our grasping"; "Difficult people are the greatest teachers." These are the punctuations to specific teachings of fearlessness. In The Places That Scare You, Chödrön introduces a host of the compassionate warriors' tools and concepts for transforming anxieties and negative emotions into positive living. Rather than steeling ourselves against hardship, she suggests we open ourselves to vulnerability; from this comes the loving kindness and compassion that are the wellsprings of joy. How do we achieve it? Through meditation, mindfulness, slogans, aspiration, and several other practices, such as tonglen, which is taking in the pain and suffering of others while sending out happiness to all--emphasis on the all. Chödrön introduces each of these practices in turn, backing them up with succinct practical reasoning and a framework of ideas that offers fresh interpretations of familiar words like strength, laziness, and groundlessness. Chödrön is the type of person you'd like to have with you in an emergency, and to deal with the extremes of daily life. In her absence, The Places That Scare You will do nicely."
Read this book. Study this book. Grok this book. Become one with this book.

(Originally posted to Multiply September 12, 2008)

You Have To Be Absent To Be Fully Present

We live in illusion
And the appearance of things.
There is a reality.
We are that reality.
When you understand this
You see that you are nothing.
And being nothing,
You are everything.
That is all.
~~ Kalu Rinpoche

We live in illusion and the appearance of things. The greatest illusion we have is the illusion of self and it is that illusion that causes all of our suffering. Ridding ourselves of that illusion is the work of a lifetime but it begins, like anything else, at the beginning.

Freedom from selfing is liberation from suffering.

Larry Rosenberg has too great talks on being free of self:

(Originally posted to Multiply September 8, 2008)

Book Review: Life After Death - The Burden of Proof

Genre:  Religion & Spirituality
Author: Deepak Chopra
Rating: 1 out of 5 Stars

Deepak Chopra seems to have a need to write about everything under the sun but like a jack of all trades, he is master of none.

I had hoped that this book would at least be interesting or that, as a medical doctor, Chopra would at least attempt to offer some level of proof for life after death. Sadly, this was not interesting nor was any level of proof offered. This was simply a rather rehashing of Hindu theology. I found it all rather a waste of time.

Amazon says:

 "In India death is perceived very differently than in the West, "as a brief stopping point on an endless soul journey," says Chopra in this introduction to life beyond bodily existence. Chopra, a medical doctor and world leader in mind-body medicine as well as author of more than 45 books, now ventures to answer: what happens after we die? For Chopra, death deserves to be called miraculous, a "doorway to a far more important event—the beginning of the afterlife" and a mode of being that "can be as creative as living." Chopra effectively uses the classic Vedanta story of Savitri—a woman who comes home to find death, Lord Yama, waiting to take her husband, and who seeks the monk Ramana's advice to outwit death—to frame each chapter. Chopra grounds each topic in the long arc of this singular story, which is the perfect springboard for Chopra to introduce concepts such as Akasha (the highest stage a soul can attain) and Eternity within the Indian tradition (where we are beyond death, life, maleness, femaleness, and the experience of time). Chopra presents a fascinating account of life after death for Westerners that will certainly please his avid fans and draw in new readers as well.."
To which I say, it will only please his avid fans if those avid fans have given up any pretense of critical thinking.

(Originally posted to Multiply September 6, 2008)

Book Review: Holy Cow

Genre:  Biographies & Memoirs
Author: Sarah Macdonald
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

This book was a hoot. It made me laugh, This is a great read for a rainy, autumn weekend.

The Amazon reviewer has gotten it spot on so I will leave you with this:
Amazon says: "Australian radio correspondent Macdonald's rollicking memoir recounts the two years she spent in India when her boyfriend, Jonathan, a TV news correspondent, was assigned to New Delhi. Leaving behind her own budding career, she spends her sabbatical traveling around the country, sampling India's "spiritual smorgasbord": attending a silent retreat for Vipassana meditation, seeking out a Sikh Ayurvedic "miracle healer," bathing in the Ganges with Hindus, studying Buddhism in Dharamsala, dabbling in Judaism with Israeli tourists, dipping into Parsi practices in Mumbai, visiting an ashram in Kerala, attending a Christian festival in Velangani and singing with Sufis. Paralleling Macdonald's spiritual journey is her evolution as a writer; she trades her sometimes glib remarks ("I've always thought it hilarious that Indian people chose the most boring, domesticated, compliant and stupidest animal on earth to adore") and 1980s song title references (e.g., "Karma Chameleon") for a more sensitive tone and a sober understanding that neither mocks nor romanticizes Indian culture and the Western visitors who embrace it. The book ends on a serious note, when September 11 shakes Macdonald's faith and Jonathan, now her husband, is sent to cover the war in Afghanistan. Macdonald is less compelling when writing about herself, her career and her relationship than when she is describing spiritual centers, New Delhi nightclubs and Bollywood cinema. Still, she brings a reporter's curiosity, interviewing skills and eye for detail to everything she encounters, and winningly captures "[t]he drama, the dharma, the innocent exuberance of the festivals, the intensity of the living, the piety in playfulness and the embrace of living day by day."
Well worth your effort to read.

(Originally posted to Multiply September 5, 2008)