Monday, March 31, 2008

Where Art and War Meet

My mind went on an overactive tirade the other day: "Wouldn't it be nice if everyone could just get along? Looking out on the world right now and reading various news accounts, you'd think that the whole world was going up in flames--Kenya, Zimbabwe, Iraq, Tibet, China, Russia, Ukraine, Columbia. The list goes on and on. How are we ever going to get to a different place--one where peace and prosperity are the reality and not merely the expectation?" Yada, yada, yada.

When this tape began running through my mind, I knew it was time to take a step or two back and re-assess. Paramahansa Yogananda said that "a harmonized mind produces harmony in this world of seeming discord." Hum. That probably meant it should start with me. So, I decided to take a harmonized mind out for a stroll to see if that made a difference. I couldn't say the world got instantanously more put together, but my perspective took an enlightened turn.

Take the wars issue. There's a lot of them going on as we speak. Many are being waged by Muslims against anyone else in their path, including rival Muslims. But on the flip side, where once wars were predominantly waged about territory and wealth, they've now evolved to wars of ideology tinged with the underpinnings of territory and wealth. Looked at from the universal perspective, that is definitely progress and may be evidence that we are on the path to the next big evolutionary step--no wars at all.

My mind began to enjoy this walk-about when it realized something as seemingly chaotic as war-waging could have a silver lining. "But, was there any progress toward the ultimate goal?" my always inquisitive mind asked, "Silver linings only go so far." Surprisingly, the answer was a reassuring although not a resounding "yes" on a couple of different fronts. A few areas got a more measured "maybe."

On the "yes" side, we had the scientific community's recent confirmation that compassion could be learned, much like a sport or a musical instrument. To my mind, that meant in the future, learning compassion could be included as part of the curriculum of every child in the world and, as such, could be the overarching theme in every study including history, health, science and music.

At a young age, children could be taught to meditate and, in doing so, open their hearts to every living thing on the planet. Subsequently, the lines of science and spirituality would first blur and then disappear altogether. That would be a good start toward getting along, I thought.

Another "yes" included the restoration of the Iraq National Symphony Orchestra, led by a colorful and courageous conductor. Every day he risked his life to bring music to his country, but dids so because he believed strongly that where music played, dissonance departed. His own words eloquently expressed his thoughts: "I like to think that we inspire people--they see us and they see the barbarism everywhere. It gives them a choice: It could be like this, or like this."

Improvisation is important when playing music in a war-torn country, but this orchestra plays on--even if it only has part of the orchestra any given night. Thus, not only have the melodies inspired, but the story behind them have as well.

On the "maybe" side was the story of the first inkling that Cuba was at long last opening a window to individual freedom. Cuba's new leader announced Friday that he was lifting the ban on Cubans staying in foreigner-only hotels. This surprise came on the heels of an earlier announcement that ordinary citizens would be allowed to purchase cell phones. While these might seem like two odd new freedoms to have granted, each was a sore point to the subjects of this island nation.

What's more, the brother Castro "pledged to make improving everyday life for Cubans a top priority and undo 'excessive restrictions' on society and the economy" (AP, 3-31-08.) Like Bhutan which just last Monday held it's first democratic election, Cuba may be moving slowly in the same direction, even if its communist leader doesn't know it yet.

Also in the "maybe" column were sparks of light coming from nations formerly held by tyrants, in such places as Zimbabwe, Kenya and Pakistan. Each may have moved through a rocky transition only to have emerged on the other side stronger in the knowledge that without freedom a people were simply impoverished slaves.

In Zimbabwe, an election was held a few days ago that for the first time might not be rigged by their dictator of 28 years. At 100,000% inflation, no jobs, and no international future, the people may have had enough and the courage to back it up. On another front, Kenya is just awakening from months of rioting and killing to a government shared by its opposing parties. This feat was orchestrated by the former UN Secretary General.

While in Pakistan, the newly elected Prime Minister freed the beloved but imprisoned Chief Justice in an act of vindication for this fledgling democracy. In their recent elections, the people resoundingly trounced the former dictator, and he will be lucky to get away with his life.

The final "maybe" was held for the article as to how al Qaeda will perish. Many understand that change can only come from within. But for the last seven years the question has been: how will change come from within when there were few within who wanted it. That may be changing.

Evidence for this unexpected transition merged from an unlikely place, the Egyptian prison cell of a terrorist Imam. Quite unexpectedly, this influential cleric wrote a new tome recanting his former views. This book has caused quite a stir in intellectual circles, although some refute his "conversion," saying it was nothing more than torture speaking. The world can only hope the new views are real.

Bret Stephens, a thoughtful editorialist for the WSJ, recently shown a bright light on the murky world of fascist Islam and found:
"There really is a broad rethink sweeping the Muslim world about the practical utility--and moral defensibility--of terrorism, particularly since al Qaeda started targeting fellow Sunni Muslims. Osama bin Laden is no longer quite the folk hero he was in 2001. Reports of al Qaeda's torture chambers in Iraq have also percolated through Arab consciousness."
"Moral defensibility"--many of us have wondered why this has not come up before? More remarkably, Stephens went on to say:
"No less significant is that the rejection of al Qaeda is not a liberal phenomenon. On the contrary, this is a revolt of the conservative elders. . . they have seen through (or punctured) the al Qaeda mythology of standing for an older, supposedly truer form of Islam. Rather, they have come to know al Qaeda as fundamentally a radical movement."
And not religion at all--again, better late than never. And he concluded his astute observations:
"In would be a delightful irony if militant Islam were ultimately undone by a conservative reaction. That may not be the kind of progress most of us had hoped for. But it is a progress of a kind" (3-25-08.)
I couldn't have said it better myself. Many have been waiting for the Muslims to denounce killing, and the first crack in this wall may portend more.

With that, my mind decided it was time to come in from its stroll. After all, it had had enough intellectual stimulation for one day, and the lines of harmony were starting to blur. But before retreating to the land of dreams, it turned to thoughts of cheek kissing. Yes, cheek kissing.

Listen up, because this international politeness will soon be a necessary requirement for any member of the international community. That means all of us. With that in mind I'm sure, last Thursday the WSJ featured an lengthy and instructive article on the art.

You might be as surprised as I was that there was the one, two or three cheek kiss and rules as to when each was appropriate; of course, there were always exceptions. But as I was drifting off to sleep, it struck me like a thunderbolt that wars would no longer be possible if cheek kissing was the accepted etiquette-especially if the three cheek bussing became the norm.

After all, how could you kill someone you just kissed three times? It gave new meaning to the hippie saying "make love not war," but I never contemplated that underutiized phrase might portend the revolutionary re-invention of cheek kissing as an instrument of peace. Now that would be progress.

Kiss, kiss, kiss. Pass it on.

Of note: A fiery sky pierces my sister's evenings regularly. She is mesmerized by them and so am I.

Today's Weather Report: Don't know how to tell you all this, but we are in the midst of a blizzard. Big heavy flakes, but lots of them are careening past the window without pause. In Missouri, tornadoes from this same storm are menacing the state. I'd rather have the snow, thank you. Bet they would too.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tips for Building


Two rules of life activity must be taught the young student, whatever his or her age:
  • He must be taught to focus on constructive activity and to refrain from pulling down the old order of living.
  • He must be set to build the future and to creatively THINK along the new lines.
  • He must be warned not to waste time in attacking that which is undesirable, but must instead bend all his energies to creating something new.
In this way public attention will gradually be focused upon the new and beautiful, and the old established creations will fall into decay for lack of attention and so disappear.

Of Note: This is sage advise from a wise Tibetan Master DK and goes with the "energy follows thought" line of reasoning. Thanks to Marie, another ethereal arboretum picture graces this blog.

Today's Weather Report: It's cloudy and looks like snow. The rocks in the garden are starting to poke their noses out from under their white blanket. A spot of bare ground outside the kitchen window shows evidence of green shoots where the garlic plants refuse to die. Four years they've been coming up now with little to give but the first verdant color of the season. On this dreary day, the offering is gladly accepted.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Ponderings on the Bizarro

Many times people exhibit bizarre behavior that comes to the attention of the authorities. It's up to these hopefully enlightened men and women to decide what to do next. Sometimes, one is left wondering if what occurred was the best possible outcome.

Take for instance the case of the nipple ring at the Lubbuck Airport on February 24th. The circumstances were pretty straightforward--a woman went successfully through the metal detectors, but was singled out to be screened with a hand-held device. This apparently more sensitive monitor beeped in the breast area, at which time the woman said to the TSA woman that she had two nipple rings. OK, I said to myself, so far so good. Certainly the TSA has had to deal with nipple rings before. Apparently not.

What happened next bordered on the bizarre. The body-pierced woman suggested to the female TSA officer an above-the-waist strip search that would prove that the nipple rings were in fact just that and not something more sinister. After conferring with higher TSA officials, it was decided that the rings had to be removed, viewing them was not good enough.

Not knowing anything about these nipple appliances, I did not realize it would take pliers to remove them. But that's what happened to this lady. She found that although her nipple ring popped right o
ut, it was the nipple bar on the other side that caused the problem.

She was understandably embarrassed and distraught at the handling of this affair. At a press conference with the use of a bra-ed mannequin and a strategically placed nipple ring and bar, she and her attorney made the situation perfectly clear to assembled TSA officials and the press. You could hear a collective ouch when she pulled the bar out with the pliers. To their credit, the now enlightened TSA changed its procedure regarding body-jewelry. They let it be known that henceforth passengers could either allow a visual inspection or remove the offending rings, bars or brads.

Now that body-piercing is on the TSA's radar screen, you might consider warning pierced persons you know to remove the devices before heading to the airport. Especially those individuals who have body piercings in more intimate places below the waist--think of the embarrassment that could cause. Or maybe not. It probably took a certain lack of embarrassment to get a piercing there in the first place, don't you think? What's more, these intrepid exhibitionists might like to see the look on the TSA inspectors faces when forced to find what's causing that incessant beep-beep-beep below the waist.

OK, in all seriousness, my advice to the TSA: forget the visual inspections and just turn the sensors down a notch. No body piercing jewelry has ever been implicated in a terrorist attack to date. Seems to me this might be a case of prejudice against the unusual dude or dudette rather than a real threat against the security of this nation.

Not to be outdone by this nipple-pierced lady, law enforcement officials in northern Wisconsin have had to deal with a criminal complaint against a man caught screwing a dead deer by the side of the road. Yes, that happened not far from here when a man spotted a road kill when bicycling and pulled it off into the woods to make whoopy. He is reported to have felt bad about it later and confessed to having a problem. I can see that, how about you?

This week the man was convicted of the crime, although his attorney contended it was not a crime to make love to a dead deer, only one that was alive. The court found that argument was splitting hairs and convicted this obviously troubled individual of crimes against a deer. When the man gets out of jail, he will have to register as a sex offender. Won't the registrar be surprised when she gets these documents. Bet she checks to see if someone is pulling her leg.

I don't know about you, but a psychiatric evaluation might have been more in order. It could have changed the whole dynamic from one of "punishing the pervert" to that of helping an obviously troubled soul. It certainly would have made me feel better as Mrs. John Q. Public who lives in an area often littered with dead deer on many roads less-traveled.

And moving on, a man out east was convicted this week of putting his 2-month old baby in the microwave for 10 - 20 seconds. Crazy, you ask? At least that's the word that immediately came to my mind. As a matter of fact, the perpetrator said he was experiencing a period of psychosis and pleaded temporary insanity. The jury thought not, and the man was sent to the hoosegow. I did ask myself, why someone who experiences psychosis was left to watch a 2-month old baby. Maybe that's the same thing the jury wondered as they pondered this more than troublesome case.

And finally, the first case of mass national delusion may have been documented this week, although justice will not be meted out by a jury as in the case above. In what could only be termed strange behavior, the Chinese government conducted a Potemkin tour of Lhasa, Tibet with outside journalists to prove that the situation there was now calm, and everyone was ready to move on to happier times. The officials took the corralled press from hither to thither, interviewing along the way. In what was perceived by these detainees as a fully scripted tour, no one was allowed to deviate from the itinerary or wander from the group. A few intrepid reporters tried, but failed.

Not surprisingly, those interviewed, even a rebel in prison, said that what happened was wrong and against the doctrine of communism. Of course, the disruption of the tour by the crying Buddhist monks was brushed aside as atypical. After all, these men were loyal to the splittist Dalai Lama and, therefore, should be ignored. "Let's move on please," the smiling Chinese guides were quoted as saying. God knows what happened after that episode to the beleaguered monks, who appeared to have come completely unglued living in this apparent madhouse.

The Chinese were obviously quite serious in their attempts to persuade the busy entourage that everything was back to normal. I was left convinced that the Chinese government must be suffering from collective delusion. In an era of 24/7 news, their attempts at such deceptive persuasion looked, shall we say, crazy.

The journalists on this walk-about could be the enlightened heroes here by not letting this unsettling moment pass without calling it what it is--and respectfully requesting freedom to gather news in Tibet without restraint. With the Beijing Olympics in the offing, they might have a window of opportunity here. Even delusion governments have been known to come to their senses when their reputation is on the line--as well as mega-bucks, of course. That's what you call crazy as a fox.

Of Note: This roadside photo was taken by Jim in 2001 at the old Namekagon River bridge just a stone's throw from our driveway. It's an example of a northern Wisconsin thoroughfare and shows how isolated some of them can be. Think Mrs. John Q Public from the story above.

Today's Weather Report: Today was sunny, the temps were in the 30's and the snow was receding slowly but surely. From my records, I saw that in 2005 it was 73 degrees and the daffodils were up 4 inches in places! Certainly does not comport to the snowy scene outside today. Here global warming must mean global cooling.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The 40% Connection

What do lettuce and us have in common? About 40% of our genes, that's what. Surprised? I was. As we go up the evolutionary ladder, it gets even better. Mice double that at 80%--that's why these cute critters are so useful in the pharmaceutical lab. For the mighty gorilla and chimpanzee the number is scary--95% to 98%. No wonder we feel such a kinship with the beasts. After all, it only gets to 99% with all other humans in the world.

Many African bush tribes believe that the chimpanzee evolved from man and not the other way around. The scientific community would scoff at that. But, esoteric history reveals that first came man with his stock of creative genes. Almost an unlimited supply given the number that differentiates man from his brethren. That 1% is a lot of genetic material.

Just put Darwinian evolutionary thoughts aside for a moment and think about humanity creating. It's really not that hard if the concept of man as God is considered. Think how much fun it would be to create something brand new--like lettuce, let's say. The first try would probably be a little grotesque, but with practice, hey, look at the varieties that could unfold! Endive, argula, spinach, green, red, curly--endless, really.

The animal kingdom, particularly the primates, would probably be left to the old creativity pros. The question would be how close could they get without crossing into strictly human territory. Obviously, about 98%. That close would almost make killing these beasts for food cannibalism. And that's just what some of the bush African tribes believe.

Meditating on these new concepts could open a window into realms of the previously unimaginable. In this bright world lines of connection never cease because the root of all creation is man and his genetic offerings. As a matter of fact, this fresh way of thinking about the world could carry the following Illuminating words by Omraam Aivanhov to new heights: "Strive each day to make your life purer, richer, and more luminous. You will subtly and imperceptibly lead all of creation to heaven."

Of Note: This potted plant photo from Marie was as close as I could get to lettuce. You're going to have to use your imagination a bit. But that's what this passage is all about anyway, using the imagination. What fun! The genetic percentages were gleaned from an article on primates in the April issue of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC magazine.

Today's Weather Report: This morning we awoke to 5 degrees. Hum. Thought that kind of temp was long gone, but guess not. March is always full of surprises. Otherwise, it's a bright sunshiny day.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

When the Dalai Lama Came to Visit

You may think I've gotten too serious in the last month and have lost my sense of humor. That couldn't be farther from the truth; actually, it's always in the background, not far away at all. Take this picture for example. Jim "dolled" it up a bit and isn't that great at spelling, but the photo showed the Dalai Lama when he came a-visiting Mossback Lake a few years back.

Susanne looked truly happy and relaxed; I looked a bit nervous, trying to hide it with a smile not reflected in my eyes. The Dalai Lama just looked serene, as usual. He dropped in on his way through to assure us that when Tibet went up in flames in or around 2008, we were to take notice. And not to worry, everything would turn out OK--even if it didn't appear so on the surface.

Over hot green tea, His Holiness kept us in stitches about other things that could happen that same year. He found wry humor in the fact that while Rome was burning, entrepreneurial man would continue creating as if nothing was going on. It surprised us that the Dalai spoke little about faith and a lot about science.
Although there were several discoveries and events he foretold, I remembered two very well.

One prophecy of a scientific bent had to do with "space" travel for wealthy folk who would pony up $100,000 or more to get a thrill ride in the outer atmosphere that would be completed in half an hour. The Dalai said, shoot, he went farther than that every day in meditation, and he did it for free. Such a deal. He jokingly said maybe he should market the technique and raise money for the poor.

The other vision had to do with fishing with sound. Because I've got fishermen in my family, this one caught my attention. He said scientists would figure out a way to train fish to catch themselves by swimming into a net when they heard a particular sound at feeding time. We laughed out loud at that one as we pictured north woods fishermen having to leave the bars and really, well, fish. There'd be no more excuses for not bringing anything home or lies about how the big one got away.

Not being from the area, His Holiness didn't quite understand our mirth. So, we took him out fishing on our little lake to show him how it was done, and how few fish are caught in the usual process. You should have seen him trying to get into the shaky boat
and our faces when a turbulent wind gust blew his crimson, flowing robes over his head. Our embarrassment was quelled when we discovered that he did indeed wear something underneath. Not that we could describe what the undergarment was, but thanks heavens for small favors!

We all had a good laugh over that episode while talking late into the night. He left the next morning with as little fanfare as he arrived without even as much as a good-bye. All in all, we found the exiled leader to be a regular, practical guy--not at all stuffy or formal. That was good because things have never been formal in our neck of the woods.

Now that it's 2008, these vivid memories have come streaming back, and all the Dalai Lama's predictions have come to fruition. Tibet is burning, inside and out, the starship is in production to take rich tourists for a ride, and fish farming by sound is the next aquaculture frontier. Susanne is about to graduate from law school, Jim is writing a book and I'm just writing.

And the Dalai Lama? Wonder how he's doing during these turbulent times? As one of the most talked about men of our time, one doesn't have far to go for the answer. According to a co-traveler, Pico Iyer, the Dalai Lama is doing just fine, thank you. He might ache inside, but on the outside his message never varies. Iyer reveals in the March 31st TIME magazine:
"The Dalai Lama delivers complex, analytical talks and wrestles with doctrinal issues within a philosophy that can be just as divided as anything in Christianity or Islam, but he has decided that when he finds himself out in the wider world talking to large audiences of people with no interest in Buddhism, the most practical course is just to offer, as a doctor would, everyday principles, regardless of religion. Since material wealth cannot help us if we're heartbroken, he often says, it makes more sense to concentrate on our inner, not our outer resources."
Many ache for him from afar as this powerful drama plays out, even knowing that His Holiness has the matter under control--at least in his own mind. In that illumed place, he may know that this incendiary situation tests two basic universal principles--the freedom of speech and thought and the concept of nonviolence--and the consequences for Tibet are uncertain in this round. He may find reassuring that the test is having a different outcome in
two other Himalayan states, Bhutan and Nepal.

I do recall that he told us during his unexpected visit not to worry; that everything would turn out fine, even if it looked like chaos from the outside. One thing's for sure: the Dalai Lama approaches all life with a knowing smile, a compassionate heart and a prophetic eye. He recognizes that some year humanity will awaken from its long slumber and move forward into a dramatically changed, enlightened future. But until then, I think we'll invite him back for more fishing. This time, though, we'll give him a pair of shorts; those robes just didn't work in a small boat.

Of Note: This picture was taken in 2003, the year Susanne graduated from Northland College. She would soon be on her way out to Idaho and the rest of her life. The spaceship story came from yesterday's WSJ, while the fishing by sound story broke in the Associated Press yesterday as well.

Today's Weather Report: Back to spring again today. Sunny and gorgeous, though not short-sleeved weather yet. Back and forth, forth and back. It must be spring in northern Wisconsin.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

So Be It


Holy Spirit-Force of this creation,
source of life's beginning and end,
we thank you for our story,
honored as we are to be part of your greater story.

We are grateful for you consciousness and our memory,
and for the multiple episodes of our lives
in all their ambiguity.

Their ebb and flow make sense in your purview,
and we bless you for your caringness
through all the eons of evolutionary unfolding.

May our story by a worthy part
of a conversation with creation itself,
transparent and meaningful
in a larger context than we can begin to comprehend.

So be it.

Of Note: This calming photo was taken at the arboretum in Dallas by my talented sister, Marie. Its ebb and flow matched perfectly with the poem that was sent by my Mother, who received it at a group she attends weekly. We honor the author whoever it may be.

Today's Weather Report: I awoke to a snow shower and now the sun is out. This is pretty typical of March. Goes well with March Madness that is on TV.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Himalayas Aflame

Is it just me, or does anyone else think that something is happening in the Himalayas? Three of it's nations are experiencing radical change and some with fiery consequences. What is apparent from these various struggles is that the call of freedom will not be suppressed--although, the jury is out as to the final outcome of each experiment in governance.One of these nations, Nepal, is the home of Mount Everest and other mighty peaks. For over 240 years, it has enshrined a monarchy, which by all accounts is now considered a failure. This will soon change. On April 10th 600 representatives to a constitutional assembly will begin the trek to a democracy controlled by a President and Prime Minister. Under the planned scheme, the King will be left out of the political loop completely.

His has been a troubled reign, to put it mildly. In 2001 the entire royal family, save one, was gunned down by an inebriated crown prince, who then turned the gun on himself. Being out of town, the current King saved his own hide, but not for long. Maoist insurgents were soon at his door and caused havoc until 2005 when the beleaguered king staged a royal coup and ousted or jailed elected officials.
John Whelpton, an author on Nepal's history, said in an understated sort of way: "First of all, he grabbed power and, secondly, he didn't use it properly."

The Maoists were not impressed, either, and continued their guerrilla tactics which fomented a national uprising in April 2006. By November 2006, everyone had enough, and a UN peace accord calling for a new government was reached. The King was done. The people had spoken (WSJ, 3-22/23-08.)

Having seen how it could be, the King in nearby Bhutan insisted that his 700,000 subjects stage free and fair elections yesterday to seat a Parliament and pass a constitution. Bhutanese citizens went along with his request reluctantly. For a nation that adores its beneficent Monarch, this was a step forward into the future--one for which they had no frame of reference. Most expressed fear in losing what happiness they have always known under the King,
who ruled under a Gross National Happiness Index rather than a Gross National Product indicator. How enlightened; what's more, it worked.

The visionary Bhutanese King believed his people were ready for the evolutionary move into democracy and wanted a peaceful transition, even if it meant a transient dip in the National Happiness Index. With the elections on Monday, he got his wish--although the inevitable fighting among parties had already commenced, much to the chagrin of the citizenry.

One young woman in blue jeans and sneakers was quoted as saying: "It frightens me. Democracy is just starting now. We can see the candidates fighting, and it's just the beginning." On 3-21-08, The Los Angeles Times said that the young electorate might like their fashion new and hip, but not their politics.

One wonders why China left these two monarchies alone when marching into Tibet in 1959. Could it be that Tibet just wore them out? Seems that it still is--except now, with a bad PR twist before the nation's coming out party at the Olympics in August. Tibet proves that freedom might stay hidden under a bushel basket for awhile, but coerced peace will not sustain itself--even if that is the wish of the beloved Dalai Lama.

Actually, the High Holy leader of the displaced Tibetan government is in a bit of an unexpected predicament. Youth, who had never known a free Tibet, apparently had enough and were responsible for the uprisings and demonstrations that rocked not only their country but China and India as well. The WSJ revealed: "A new generation of impatient activists is vying to seize control of the Tibetan Freedom Movement from the Dalai Lama." The beef here is the desire by His Holiness for Tibetan autonomy while the protesters want a nation free from Chinese rule. That's quite a gulf.

Characteristically, the Dalai Lama's provided a measured response to the youthful activists: "If you continue in violent uprising, I will step down." The Chinese did not wait to see if this lofty threat would have an impact and deployed mega-troops and armaments to squelch the unrest. Aides to the Dalai Lama acknowledged that "rising anti-Chinese passions are carrying many Tibetans away from positions their spiritual leaders have long advocated. Yet some of these officials see a silver lining. The protests could bring Beijing back to negotiations for Tibet's autonomy, after several rounds of talks failed" (WSJ, 3-20-08.)

With the impending Olympics, anything is possible. But the Chinese blamed His Holiness for the whole debacle; thus, rapprochement is unlikely. Having said that, just this morning, French President Sarkozy threatened to boycott the Olympic opening ceremonies and others might follow suit. Outside pressure may have an impact where the Dalai Lama apparently missed a beat. Could it be he lives in a vision of a peaceful future without taking into account the present cries of his people for freedom? Cries that will not be silenced under the proverbial bushel basket any longer?

As the dynamic stories of these three high-mountain nations unfold, we will watch and wait for we know that inevitably as day follows night, enlightenment follows crises. One thing is clear, the Himalayas are aflame. Whether the response is an eight-alarm house fire or a staid bonfire is up to its citizens.

Of Note: Marie's fiery sunsets continue to put the exclamation point on these blogs. She understood early on that the enlightenment we talk about has to do with light and fire. And no better place to find that combination than in a sunset.

Today's Weather Report: Well, this must be March because the duel between Winter and Spring is taking place with no end in sight. Today was cloudy, snowy, rainy and 38 degrees--though the winds from yesterday abated. More slushy snow is predicted in the next week.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Travelling Free, Sort Of

The March 31st TIME magazine listed several ways to travel free around the world. Well, not absolutely free; a person would first have to get to the desired location. But, at least the stay would be free. This caught my eye because travel is very expensive these days with the dollar so low and oil prices so high.

The article caught my eye for another reason as well. If we are actually going to promote brotherhood and peace, wouldn't living in other countries with local families be a great way to do that? I know, I know. This concept is nothing new to those intrepid travelers who were never tourists. But now that TIME magazine has highlighted the benefits, millions of new people have been introduced to this potentially enlightening opportunity.

As a matter of fact, Daniel Hoffer, co-founder of Couch Surfing, said: "What used to be a fringe hobby for a few travelers is becoming a mainstream phenomenon."
In a nutshell, his Website couples local hosts with tourists, who sleep on the couch. This must attract a following because the company's usership has grown by 56% in one year to 470,000. That's a lot of people on a lot of couches! Couch surfing might be perfect for the modern-day vagabond checking out the world on a dime. Look at for details on how to get started on this adventuresome pursuit.

Another take on this free exchange is reciprocal hosting. For example, a birdwatcher from England might wants to visit northern Wisconsin to view the loons. So, the birder comes for a visit and then opens her house in England to the Wisconsinite. Sounds a little like a foreign exchange student, but with adults and the added benefit of reciprocity. This is an old service that has spawned many friendships over the years and can be found at The Website pointedly explains that peace and brotherhood are the foundation of this non-profit:
"Servas means 'serve' in the international language of Esperanto. Servas is a peace movement that serves thousands of people around the world by opening doors to peace and understanding. Our hosts welcome, share and shelter travellers from around the world. Our travellers seek, learn and experience new cultures by spending meaningful time with Servas hosts. All Servas members foster new insight, knowledge and tolerance of others."
Interestingly, TIME magazine did not go into this aspect of the organization. Maybe the author of the piece thought that a travel service fostering peace might be too heavy for the normal TIME subscriber. She might have been surprised, however, to find that a full disclosure might have sent even more followers to the Website. Or maybe not.

Want to work in an exotic local in exchange for a place to sleep? is the place to go. Under this novel arrangement, a tourist works four or five hours a day and in return gets a room, or room and board depending on the arrangement. For one elated participant it gave an opportunity to take in the local color in a way she could not otherwise afford: "I wanted to remind myself that there are other ways of living and earning. It was hard work, but I wouldn't have been able to go otherwise. I didn't spend any money that month." And, what was she doing? Picking figs in Greece, a fact that is affirmed by a picture of the happy tourist holding a large pallet of the fruit in front of her.

Thomas Berry said that "The world is the larger sacred community to which we belong." Organizations like these three help those who want to discover this connection first-hand by traveling the globe. And what better way than free, sort of.

Of Note: This picture taken by Jim of me several years ago illustrates an exotic, northern Wisconsin location called Buffalo Roam
(otherwise known as our home.) Several years ago, I took a dilapidated 100 year old totem pole and refinished it over a summer. We fittingly planted it near the entrance of the lengthy driveway which runs along-side a couple of old Indian burial mounds. One day, upon driving in, I found a Native American, who had been taking in the burial mounds, peering up at the totem pole. He wanted to know if it was real. I laughed and said, "No, but I must have done a decent job of painting the pole, huh?" The man expressed his admiration for the piece and a lively conversation ensued. This was one of those chance encounters that makes for good memories.

Today's Weather Report: Well, we are back to Spring weather in the upper 30's, low 40's with plenty of sunshine. That March wind, though, is 11 mph!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

God Is a Pacifist and Other Myths, Part III, IV & V


PART III--Continued

"It will not always be so. We did not win this battle in Atlantean times eons ago and went 'underground.' But, in your parlance, this time we will win, like a remake of an old movie with a different ending--one that ultimately affects the evolution of the entire solar system. Many are watching from a distance and helping when it is allowed by universal law."

"Humanity's actions to date
have made the Lighted outcome inevitable, particularly with the successful conclusions of the World Wars when the doors of evil were partially closed. Evil came very close to winning the day during those dark times, and We were very close to withdrawing Our attention from Humanity--a situation which could have spelled doom for mankind. But, to the amazement of some in the Hierarchy, mankind drew from its Heart that Light necessary to overcome its adversary and the rest is history, as you know. Had America stayed neutral as many wanted, the battle would have been lost. Like We said, it was VERY close."

"Beloved pacifists see ahead in time when man will live with man and other kingdoms in harmony. They are visionaries and their intentions were and are good.
But the fight between good and evil is not yet concluded and cannot be ended prematurely because of the impact it could have on this entire evolutionary cycle. The Dark Ones would like this fight to end now, and thus the pacifist unknowingly play into their manipulative hands."

"The multidimensional situation is much more complicated than you can imagine. We know that your finite brains have a difficult time with these rigorous concepts. Many Hierarchies of Gods exist and your limited view sees only a small portion of the whole. As a matter of fact, you might be surprised that the Ultimate God, All That Is, remains unknowable, even to Us. His Purpose is inscrutable, and Our job is to grasp the part of the Plan that is ours to implement. It is this which propels Us forward on the Path--and you with Us. "

"Know this to be true, Susan: in all of these lessons, we speak with words you can hopefully comprehend--it is not always what We know as Truth on the plane in which We dwell. Truth like everything else is multi-dimensional. As you evolve to new vibrational levels, you will know directly and join Us in these historic efforts."


This Soul story continues to have sequels and the awakening "I" is setting into its new Soul rhythm. Many days it's like a well coordinated dance; other days it is a disconnected jitterbug with one uncoordinated partner out-of-step to the melodic universal tune. But self and Self know the evolutionary outcome is inevitable, even if the unruly personality rebels now and again or simply is too busy to pay close attention:

"Say what, Teacher? We are one and the same, You and I? With everything else, too? But it feels so unnatural to think in terms of unity. Oh, that's what they all say, huh? And I used to think when I was young and foolish that You and the other Gods had no sense of humor!"

"Susan, you should be glad We did and still do--'bon-bons and Lucky Strikes!' You are such an irreverent pupil sometimes. My word, spiritual domestication is SUCH a slow process for some."

To Be Continued. . .

Of Note: Four years later, my blog continues this imaginary discussion with the Gods. On another front, you might think that the cloud pictures that accompanied this story are all the same. They are not. Marie captured each one a moment or two apart. Look closely.

Today's Weather Report: It being Easter, I thought it would be nice to continue Spring. But, alas, we have been plunged back into winter for the day. Snow and blowing winds reminded us that it's only March, and we usually have more wintery-type weather ahead of us.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Deodar Tree

If we take a deodar tree--the highest and most powerful--how many marks we find on the trunk of former branches which have fallen away. This did not weaken the deodar; on the contrary, the places where these branches fell off became the strongest; even steel will break against them.

No Teaching is terrified at those who fall away. It knows that the lower branches must fall aside. Thus, those which fall away, carried by the wind, may fulfill their designation. They may even generate new deodars. And in any case, their resin will be curative.

Later, when set together to support the corner of a house, they will join unitedly in hearing the general stress. Therefore, do not be terrified of those who fall away. They cannot go far from the resin of the heart.

And if you observe the mass of crossroads from above, you will even smile at the travelers who meet. When the length of the infinite path is realized you will also apply different measure. Wandering is not terrifying--immobility alone is chilling.

From HEART #236, M. Morya, 1932

Of note: My photographer sister, Marie, has such a great eye, especially at sunset. This pictured tree is in her neighborhood and a magnificent stand-in for the tree mentioned above. For the record, a deodar tree is an East Indian Cedar, and the Sanskrit word literally means timber of the gods. It is known for its curative powers.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Spring Has Sprung

What sunshine is to flowers,
Smiles are to humanity.
These are but trifles, to be sure;
But, scattered along life's pathway,
the good they do is inconceivable.

Joseph Addison

Of Note: Photographer Marie's artful eye caught these glimpses of spring when she visited her local arboretum recently. The pithy quote is from the 3-20-08 Word For the Day at . Every day be sure to check out to donate free to hunger, breast health and others.

Today's Weather Report: Spring is certainly here at least for the moment. It will be in the 40's again today, with snow melting straight-away. Chicago is expecting 9 inches of snow! Jim is back to running so that is a good spring sign, though our roads are too slippery and goopy. Thus, he has to drive to the road.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

An Other-Worldly Conversation

CEO God has been otherwise occupied lately. With all that is going on, that is not surprising. His Emissary did pop in today, though, to answer a couple of questions I had about current events.

It's not always easy being a runner for CEO God; He's quite a taskmaster. But I've never heard any complaints from these intrepid intermediary Souls when we've met. They are instead calm and quiet in a glowing sort of way. Ah, someday we will all join them and be running too, which is certainly is a different picture than sitting around eating bon-bons and playing the harp.

At any rate, I have to warn you that the Emissary launched right away into gentle but stern words of admonishment for the way we humans view the spiritual. CEO God has said over and over that we are in a time of battle and need to act courageously and wisely as warriors. The Emissary just reiterated that fact in His own pointed way. It was as if we'd been talking for ages. . .

The Emissary: "This is no mystical or visionary dream with which I am presenting to you. It involves hard business sense on the physical plane, a practical commonsense, a cessation of the constant presentation of a beautiful future in a mythical heaven of idleness and uselessness. The bringing in of the Kingdom of God, the preparation for the coming of the Christ, and the salvaging of mankind demand courage, organization, business acumen, psychology and persistence; it needs trained workers and much money; it calls for carefully considered programs, possessing long range vision, plus sensible modern procedures. It is to this that all with a true vision and love of humanity are called today."

Susan: "Thanks for that clarification, Sir. Oh. Sorry, you weren't finished."

The Emissary: "No, not yet, just give me another moment on this weighty issue before We get to your questions. At any rate, so much has been discussed in relation to these laws [of love] from the mystical and strictly Christian angle that the terms used are essentially meaningless; the whole subject requires revitalizing; it needs to be endowed with a fresh and new presentation and a new terminology, more suited to the growing mental grasp of the scientific and modern mind. There has been endless talk about Brotherhood and the establishment of the principle that we are all children of God, and this has done little to change men's approach to each other and to the shared human problem."

Susan: "OK. Your point is well taken. But, will you at least give us some credit for getting to the point where we TALK about Brotherhood, even if we have no idea what it really means? And how do we take the next steps anyway? I haven't figured it out yet myself."

The Emissary: "Yes, you do know, but have been so preoccupied with your health situation lately, you've gotten a little waylaid. But, as a kindness for you today, here's a simple reminder: 'Let love be the keynote in all relationships, for the power which must salvage the world is the precipitation of love, and how shall that find its way onto the physical plane save through a group whose ears are attuned to its imminent emergence, and through the lives of those in the group who are irradiated by love itself?' "

Susan: "Of course, of course. You are so gracious not to rub my nose in the fact that sometimes striving folks like me fall off the wagon. But, thank heavens, not everyone falls off at the same time!"

The Emissary: "As you well know, that's why group work is the current mode of operation. Like the Three Musketeers said, 'All for one and one for all.' By the way, those three soldiers are really stand-up guys and running spiritual errands for CEO God as we speak. Their loyalty and courage are beyond reproach, qualities that makes them particularly useful in certain dicey circumstances. Well, enough of this, why did you call Us today? Our time is short for non-essentials, such as this visit."

Susan: "Yes, I understand that and will make this brief, hopefully. I called because I found out this week that in 1995 the Chinese government kidnapped 6-year-old Gendun Choekyl Nyima, who had been named by the Dalai Lama as the 11th Panchen Lama, the second in command for Tibetan Buddhists. These government louts then designated their own Panchen Lama, and the real Panchen Lama has not been heard from since."

"Not that the Chinese would care, but the impostor has little to do because he has no followers. That amounts to a pretty good government job, wouldn't You say? Even worse, the Chinese government is now blaming the Dalai Lama for inciting the protests and riots this week in and around China, like he wants to overthrow the regime even though he continually denies the fact. Can't the Chinese government see that they are themselves inciting the riots by their strong-armed tactics? Where is the enlightenment in all of this chaos? Isn't it time that Tibet was finally set free?"

The Emissary: "OK, Susan, you need to calm down, really. It is not good for your health to get so worked up. We can assure you that the rightful Panchen Lama is doing fine, and thus, you have little reason to fret. The energy created by his kidnapping is paving the way for the enlightened changes that will succeed the present situation. Both he and the Dalai Lama knew of the dangers and rewards when his naming took place so many years ago--it was and remains a private matter between them. Because of this pact, We cannot elaborate further."

"As to what the Dalai Lama is up to, only he would know that. We can only advise, watch and listen. However, do not get overly concerned with the activities taking place on the physical plane. Much is gong on behind the scenes of which you are unaware, some of it of a karmic nature that has nothing to do with current events."

Susan: "Well, if you say so. But, I'll have to ponder on that awhile. Hum, with all these weighty matters occurring, I'm a bit embarrassed to ask you my second question. It too has gotten me a bit worked-up."

The Emissary: "Susan, time's a-wasting. Please continue, chop-chop."

Susan: "OK, in a book I read this week called Journeys to the Mythical Past, Zecharia Sitchen revealed that since 1993, the Vatican has been the co-owner
with the University of Arizona of a space observatory outside of Tucson. That struck me as an unusual papal investment. The next revelation floored me, however. Listen to this: many at the Vatican believe in extraterrestrials, the kind from outer space--not angels or the like."

"As a matter of fact, in May 2000, the Vatican sponsored an international gathering of astronomers and astrophysicists with the press reporting: 'For five days 250 astrophysicists discussed the birth and growth of 'islands of stars' of which the visible universe seemed to be populated; parallel to the official theme, informal discussions ranged from the Big Bang to extraterrestrial civilizations." Another Italian paper blurted on its front page: 'Extraterrestrials exist, and they are our brothers.' This was a quote from a Vatican astronomer! I really don't know what to make of this."

"And why weren't we told before that the Vatican had astronomers? Shouldn't that have come up sometime in the twelve years of my compulsory religion classes. I dare say it would have made them a heck of a lot more interesting."

The Emissary: "Susan, sometimes your naivety surprises me. Please understand that much about the Vatican is secret, but that segment is under the purview of Master Jesus. Thus, there is little We can say about the matter. Rest assured that all will be revealed when the time is right. As Robert Muller once said, 'The whole world stops and listens when someone comes along with the right new vision at the proper time.' "

"We ARE permitted to say, however, that the Vatican has long been factually aware of extraterrestrials. It has sinned, if that can be said of an institution, in not revealing this earlier. They had their reasons which were mostly political. But the time has now arrived to come clean and open their archives to scientists and historians. Much will be revealed about the roots of humanity and other far reaching matters, at least to those with minds and hearts open to truth."

Susan: "Wow, sometimes talking about the Vatican makes my blood boil! Who are they to keep such important truths from us?"

The Emissary: "While We are not apologists for the Vatican, we know that they have played a valuable role in the long history of mankind, sometimes for good and sometimes for evil. Our job is to look at the big picture, not the small, and the keeping of the secrets has been one reason for the Church's continued existence. Few are aware of this fact. It is not the only institution keeping the secrets, however, and the unearthing of them all is shortly approaching. However, that will occur if and only if mankind steps up to the plate of Brotherly love in a real, not imagined way. That concern was one of the reasons for my admonitions earlier in this session."

Susan: "No problem. I always profit from your celestial advise. And thanks for setting me straight about the Vatican--at least for the moment. I'll try to keep my temperature down from now on; though, I can't promise no more boiling blood. Gosh, time has flown! You do not know how much I appreciate that You came by."

The Emissary, with a smile: "Yes, we do, Susan, or We wouldn't have taken the time. By the way, remember to get adequate sunshine and rest--and watch that temperature. We need all the warriors we can get on the physical plane. While fulfilling a karmic requirement,
your current health situation is getting in the way of your advancement in an unnecessary way. Thus, you should continue to pay attention to the matter as you have been doing, just not overly so."

Susan: "Thanks, Your point is noted and your concern appreciated. Farewell, until next time and many thanks again for Your time."

Of Note: These blogs with the imaginary gods and emissaries could be called "Conversations with Myself." Readers should take what they like and ignore the rest. But, if a reader finds a passage or two particularly disturbing, that might be something for which further delving is required. Only he or she will know. The facts laid out about the Panchen Lama and the Vatican are true. The Emissary's responses are true in my mind.

The first three Emissary quotes were from The Externalization of the Hierarchy, A.A.Bailey. The god-like cloud formation is compliments of my Sister, M. Huffman. Thanks again!

Today's Weather Report: It is in the 40's and melting all around. No one could ask for a nicer day. So far the cats have not noticed the little maple tree on it's plant stand. Hopefully, they will steer clear.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I don't want to get to the end of my life

and find that I lived just the length of it.

I want to have lived the width of it as well.

Diane Ackerman

Of Note: Thanks to my Sister, Marie, for once again helping me grace this blog with beauty. The quote was the 3-3-08 Word For the Day from Marie turned me on to that great website as well. Be sure to check it out.

Today's Weather Report: Absolutely a gorgeous, spring-like day, and somewhere in the upper 30's. With only a few days until spring, I am smiling really big. My indoor little maple tree now has six tiny leaves. The challenge now is to keep it away from the five cats who would find the succulent little leaves tasty indeed.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

An Unscrutable Cadence

My conscientious photographer sister, Marie, recently emailed this picture--sometime around my birthday last month. It shows my Mom at about my age proudly surrounded by her three grandchildren at the time: two of my sister's three boys, Daniel (left) and Andrew (right,) as well as my son, Matt (middle.) These boys are now in their thirties, and my son is raising two sons of his own.

This cycle of life that we take so personally actually rolls on impersonally to an inscrutable cadence. Revolution after unceasing revolution humanity grows in creativity, that divine quality
about which we know so little and take for granted that which we do acknowledge.

Until now. Now is different, and many are awakening to the shouting voices of worried visionaries who clearly see that: "The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and their destination." In the last few years, many are beginning to understand that we are the creators, and no one else is poised to save us should we miss that point.

To assure a bright and successful future for our grandchildren and their grandchildren, today's parents must come to grips with their responsibility to the biomass called lovingly, Mother Earth. No one would argue that without coming together on this weighty matter, we're toast--quite literally. Some are making plans for her perceived destruction by creating spaceships to take them away from the scene. Wouldn't it just be easier to join in the new creativity that the current slew of problems require and help all mankind in the process?

The response to this last question has been a resounding YES, and thankfully, enlightened thinkers are fueling a new age of concern for the ground on which we walk and the air which we breathe. Many, including corporations, are beginning to see the environment now as community property for which we are all responsible.

The editor of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC recently opined that "Being green is not a trend. It is, perhaps, the most important challenge of our time." Last year this pioneering magazine acquired the Green Guide ( that touts itself as a consumer resource for Earth-friendly living offering "sophisticated" ideas past changing the light bulbs to florescent. As a matter of fact, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC magazine editorial board has a long history of responsible green behavior going all the way back to 1888 and have been leaders in the movement ever since.

We will know we have hit an environmental milestone when abundant biofuels are available. Many innovators are racing to this mile-marker, and at the forefront of this creative movement are biofuels made from non-food sources. (Whoever pushed biofuels from food sources should have his or her head examined, don't you think?)

As an example of this, the eccentric owner of Virgin Airlines, Richard Branson, impressively introduced his coconut and Brazilian babassu nut biofuel blend by drinking the stuff. Grimacing he said, "It's more appropriate for the engine." After that, the mixture was added to a plane that flew from from London's Heathrow Airport to Amsterdam in the first commercial biofuel airline test. The WSJ reported that the historical flight came off without a hitch with Sir Richard beaming like a proud parent, although he admitted between burps that the fuel tasted "horrible" (2-26-08.) Ah, what pioneers do for the cause!

The U.S. Air Force has their finger in this pie as well and has set a goal to have its entire fleet of planes using alternative fuels by 2011. That's only three years, but whose counting? Maybe they know something we don't, although word has it that the AF has been experimenting with natural gas and coal rather than biofuels, which could explain how they intend to take the leap so soon.

Other interesting biofuels include those made from algae. An advertisement from CNN in TIME magazine this week extolled the virtues of algae oil made by a start-up company in El Paso, Texas. The scientist in charge of the experiments said that algae can produce 100,000 gallons of oil per acre compared to 20 gallons per acre with corn! The pioneering scientist went on to say: "Take one-tenth of the State of New Mexico and convert it to greenhouse algae production, and the result would be enough oil to meet the transportation needs of the entire U.S." The citizens of New Mexico might not be too excited with that prospect, but the point is lowly algae may play an important innovative role in fueling our grandchildren's future.

Even more exciting are biofuels made by breaking down pollutants, creating a two-fold solution. InSinkErator, the Wisconsin maker of the ubiquitous kitchen disposal, has created a system being sold in Europe that takes kitchen throwaways and converts it to biogas and fertilizer (WSJ, 2-26-08.) While the waste-capturing system might not work everywhere, in Europe it is finding a place.

Along this same line, from my archives, I dug out an article about a Massachusetts environmental microbiologist, who discovered a bacteria in the Potomac River that "breathes rust instead of oxygen, thrives in polluted earth, and can even generate electricity" (TIME, 2-9-2004.) This crafty microbe, Geobacter, was used to clean up a uranium mine in Colorado and an oil spill in Minnesota. However, the creation of electricity as part of the clean-up process actually gained the most fanfare and caught the all-seeing eye of the Departments of Energy and Defense. These megaliths bankrolled this frontline endeavor because of the potential for Geobacter to power sediment batteries on the battlefield.
I wonder if four years later these batteries are in use, although we might never know.

Of course, with every pro comes a con, and biofuels are no different. As it turns out, biofuels don't burn any cleaner in airplanes, and emissions are similar to the usual fuel blend. What is gained is the reduced environmental impact in their creation. In the Virgin Airline article, WSJ concluded: "Plants and trees producing the oils remove carbon from the atmosphere, and don't come with all the drilling, refining and shipping costs of crude oil. "

On the other hand, a recent study published in Science magazine found that "Corn based ethanol will nearly double the output of greenhouse gas emissions instead of reducing them by about one-fifth. . .a separate paper concludes that clearing native habitats to grow crops for biofuel generally will lead to more carbon emissions" (WSJ, 2-8-08, A4.)
It goes without saying that biofuels made from foodstuffs, such as corn, is just plain wrong, unless it's food wastes, such as turkey parts. But we can see from these examples that scientists, politicians and ethicists will be kept busy with these thorny issues for years to come.

And finally, a blog on the environment would not be complete without one mention of an enterprising recycling project. There are so many to choose from these days, but this one caught my eye for it's originality in creating expensive handbags from used candy wrappers, catalogs, and even New York City subway maps. The enlightened company Ecoist calls this group of purses the Candy Wrapper Collection, which have been purchased by such luminaries as Lindsay Lohan. Even more telling, however, the piece in DISCOVER magazine goes on to say: "The $188 Large Portfolio handbag, woven from Luna bar wrappers, was hand-made by fair trade workers in Mexico or Peru. Part of the proceeds funds a nonprofit organization that helps poor Mexican families build self-sufficient communities, and for every bag sold, Ecoist plants a tree."

The lesson here: capitalism, too, can be a positive human creation, and my hat goes off to the Ecoist company for figuring this out in such an innovative way. Our grandchildren's future can indeed be bright as they learn from an early age that they are inextricably intertwined with all else, including their candy wrappers, not to mention their cell-phone cast-aways.

Today's Weather Report: 3 - 5 inches of heavy snow fell last night, and Jim had to plow today. This is typical for March. Today was warmish, although I didn't put as much as my toe outside.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Aflame II

In the past, we have had the light which flickered;
In the present, we have the light which flames;
In the future, there will be a light which shines o'er all the land and sea.

Winston Churchill

Of Note: Thanks again to Marie for this awesome sunset photo taken from her house in February.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

God Is a Pacifist and Other Myths, Part III



"Greetings! We thought you'd never invite us in. Who are we? We are on the same Path as you and are here to en-COURAGE you to move along. We are a little ahead of you and could have gone on, but chose to stay awhile and help your group save the world."

"Yes, We can tell you that you are part of a great Hierarchy of Souls. You will be formally introduced to that exalted enclave once you have been properly domesticated to spiritual living. Our job is to show you the Real so that you might finally understand the Mind of God and join it. In so doing, you will question no more the little world of men because you will understand the answers directly."

"Our ultimate goal on Earth is to foster love among the Sons of Men. It is Our--and thus, your--only purpose. You hinder yourself from finding the Real through your undesirable habit of adherence to the unreal and its deafening noise, putrid smells and gross vibration. We mean this quite literally. The physical sticks to you like glue, and, the truth is, We are the only solvent."

"You have accused Us in the past of many things based on the myths you have been taught. These false teachings were especially prevalent in your religious upbringing. However, you always knew in your heart that these untruths were part of the unreal. We are now here to tell you that when you know Reality, it is LIGHT in your heart and a pure tone sounds in your ear. You've heard that for a few years without knowing its source. It was just Us tuning into your vibration."

"Particularly at this time, we ask that you put aside the myth that God is a pacifist. This cannot be so. A personified God, if you must, is pacifist AND destroyer. Death and destruction are inherently part of the Plan, just as much as birth and awakening. If truth be known, there would be no life without death. Just look around, and you will know this to be true. Each contribute equally to the evolutionary process."

"Let me try to put it to you simply, Sanat Kumara, the One whom you call God, knows the Plan from Those ahead of Him on the Path and steps it down to those on the the next rung of the Hierarchical ladder. These Souls in turn step the information down and so on and so forth until it reaches the masses of men. Keep in mind that We are not allowed by universal law to interfere with the affairs of humanity directly so have to use this sometimes inefficient, step-wise process to get things done. That is the way it's always been, except for two instances, but it would be digressing to go there. So, let us move on."

"Men at this time and throughout the history of humanity have used war to achieve ends. We only have you through which to work, as I said before. Thus, war is sometimes part of the Plan--because that is how the Plan is sometimes interpreted by humanity. This is a large topic and could fill volumes. Suffice it to say, however, that in some instances war, when motivated by universal ideas, is the best We can do with the circumstances on the ground. This is especially so at this crucial time when we must seal the door where evil dwells without fail."

"The window of opportunity is small in which to win this decisive battle; in the expanse of time, the opening is infinitesimal. However, until evil is put to sleep, the peace humanity so desperately seeks is not possible. Please understand that those Great Energies who promote evil will not have it. The coming of the Kingdom of God spells Their doom--and that fear guides Their every move. Fear is Their signature card and is an emotion They actively promulgate. Yes, you could say these Beings feed on it, and you humans keep them amply supplied with delicious goodies."


Of note: This is a continuation of the story began last Sunday. To understand the full context, please refer to my blog of March 9, 2008. The God-like picture is courtesy of M. Huffman, who always supplies me with the perfect image.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

PS: The Heart of the Matter

In the News You Can You Section, would it surprise you like it did me that pacemakers and other such heart devices do not have anti-hacker security? What does this mean? The WSJ reported that a study conducted by the Harvard Medical School and presented at a California computer security conference warned that wireless medical devices can be hacked, and they have proven it.

While leaving out various details of the exact experiment (thank heavens,) the researchers proved that Medtronic pacemakers and other devices are not secure. The article went on to say:
"The study is a latest in a series that have found flaws in the security of wireless-communications systems--from remote-controlled car keys, to Bluetooth telephone headsets, to the Wi-Fi technology used to connect to the Internet, to radio-frrequency credit cards that can be 'tapped' to make payments. But the prospect of remotely controlling somebody else's heart via radio waves rises to a different level" (3-12-08, D7, emphasis mine.)
Currently, Medtronics, who sells a goodly number of these pacemakers and other medical devices, said in a statement:
"The chance of an ICD [pacemaker] being reprogrammed by a computer hacker is extremely remote. . . the company said it was gradually increasing the sophistication of devices to prevent unauthorized people from tampering with a defibrillator, but said it was necessary to balance security with other factors. For example, it each defibrillator had its own password to prevent unauthorized access, a doctor might not be able t control it in an emergency situation."
Such nefarious intrusion has actually never happened, but could according to the Harvard study. Seems to me, it would be more enlightened than unenlightened to safeguard patients from a hacker dude stopping their heart on a whim. This does not seem like rocket science in an era where we are warned about wireless security ad nauseum.

The other large pacemaker outfit, Boston Scientific, assured the news that they do have rocket scientists in residence and have always secured its devices with encryption of some sort, which would at least slow any would-be hackers down. Lordy, save us from corporations who have their bottom line rather than the patient in mind.

Extreme Make-over

It seems religion is changing, sometimes in a big way if you look really closely. Take Christianity: now that the flock is starting to think, some church views have not held up to scrutiny. In fact, the latest Pew poll on Religion and Public Life showed major declines in mainstream denominations such as Roman Catholicism, Methodism and Lutheranism. The findings reported by WSJ revealed that: "Nearly half [44%] of adults in the U.S. have switched faith other than the one in which they were raised or have dropped affiliation with any organized religion. . . the study also found that more than one-third of respondents were raised Roman Catholic had left the faith as adults [the largest loss among all the churches.] Yet, the overall number of Catholics in the U.S. has remained steady--about 25% of adults--buttressed by a wave of Catholic Latinos immigration" (2-26-08, D1.)

Further, over half of the Jews and members of the various protestant churches polled are over the age of 50, which should be an alarming statistic to any church bent on survival. The poll went on to say, however, evangelicals make up a goodly portion of the protestants and are gaining adherents. Why, asked the pollsters?

According to a Boston University professor, it's because these churches "draw members by appealing to their day-to-day concerns. Its not hellfire and damnation being preached." And as we know, many politicians have taken note of this vocal religious segment--so, these congregates might like the attention.

The God Who Wasn't There, the Michael Moore-like documentary currently making the rounds, may be emblematic of these shifting religious attitudes. Newsweek said the movie "irreverently lays out the case that Jesus Christ never existed."
According to the website
"Bowling for Columbine did it to the gun culture. Super Size Me did it to the fast food. Now The God Who Wasn't There does it to religion. Holding modern Christianity up to a bright spotlight, this bold and often hilarious new film asks the questions few dare to ask. See the movie the Los Angeles Times calls 'provocative - to put it mildly.' Hold onto your faith. It's in for a bumpy ride."
That Jesus Christ wasn't God is one set of beliefs and held by many. That He did not exist at all is the more radical tenet of this DVD, narrated by a former fundamentalist and others who share his less-than-mainstream opinion. This controversial movie can be purchased from for only $16.99 for anyone interested in what a radical former-fundamentalist had to say about Jesus, or the lack thereof. On the other hand, maybe the money would be better spent on a charity of your choice. I'm sure The Hunger Site would accept the donation with a welcoming hand.

Except for secular Europe where churchgoing has been down for years, religion still plays a defining role in the everyday life of the normal world citizens--sometimes for the good and sometimes not.

While the Roman Catholic Church for the most part left its inter-meddling days behind in the Middle Ages, it still has schizophrenic moments. For example, under what circumstances would a Rwandan priest order a church with 1500 people inside to be burned and then bulldozed by militiamen? We may never know, but this very crime landed a Roman Catholic cleric in jail for life--a sentence handed down by a war-crimes U.N. Tribunal currently holding court in Rwanda. The original sentence of 15 years was extended to life when the guilty priest appealed his conviction. The account of the incident was horrifying:
"The tribunal said it convicted Seromba for his role in the destruction of the church in Nyange Parish, and the consequent death of approximately 1500 Tutsis sheltered inside. Seromba was convicted of leading a militia that attacked the people and poured fuel through the roof of the church, while police threw grenades inside. After failing to kill everyone inside the church, Seromba ordered it to be demolished."
According to the AP News story today, many Rwandans have turned away from the Roman Catholic Church angered by such acts of violence and the Church's actions during the genocide. Do you think?

On the other hand, another AP News story today related that Qatar (pronounced like guitar or gutter, take your pick) was opening its first Roman Catholic Church. A picture of the magnificent $15 million structure in Doha showed that Catholics in this Muslim country will finally have a place to formally worship. The often outspoken Emir of Qatar personally donated the land and gave his blessing, which he hoped would go a long way in securing the 2016 Olympics. Church construction for several protestant denominations was also underway, apparently for the same reason. Expatriates make up 70% of Qatar's population and have immigrated from the Philippines and other Asian nations. These are the folks for whom these new churches are intended. Jews are apparently still not welcome.

Although some have criticized the Emir's moves, others have applauded them. Since 1995 when he overthrow his conservative father in a coup, Shiek Hamad has been an enlightened mover and shaker in this tiny country, which sits on the largest gas reserve in the world.
"The country's most ambitious move to open up to the world has come through sports. Each year, Qatar now hosts dozens of sporting events for men and women. It held the 2006 Asian games and hopes to win the 2016 summer Olympics. The emirate last month also became the first Arab state to welcome a Israeli athlete for a competition, despite a regional boycott of Israel."
Also religiously enlightened are two movements in the Muslim world to open the arts to women. As you may remember from my previous blog about transgender men in Pakistan, the arts have not always been open to Muslim females. That is slowly changing.

In Afghanistan, a woman actually made it to the semifinals in the Afghani version of American Idol called Afghan Star. The show, now in its third year, has been controversial from the start because it promoted singing and other aspects of modernity, like white leather jackets and funky hairstyles (yes, even in Afghanistan.)

Now amazingly, a traditionally-garbed women made it to third place and will most likely secure a recording contract, like other finalist have done in the past. Afghan Star is the most popular show in the country and many watch it from crowded sidewalks and tiny storefronts.
Some say it is helping woman progress and shows the "peaceful side of Afghanistan." No one would argue that art could help build a peaceful culture, something which has been lacking in this war-torn country for several decades.

In Baghdad, a school of ballet is trying to do the same, although with a bit more difficulty. The author, Melik Kaylan, began his WSJ article with the words:
"In a conflict zone, you train your emotions to resist all kinds of horrors and suddenly you can be unmanned by an unexpected moment of grace. At the Baghdad School of Music and Ballet, a handful of 6-year-old beginners attempt the plie stance: Two little girls in pink leotards and bunned hair, four boys in white T-shirts and black shorts."
So begins the tale of this dangerous artistic endeavor in this war-torn Muslim country. It is only with a great amount of spunk and courage that the Iraqi female teacher, dressed in a leotard even in the presence of men, conducts her lessons each day. What's more, under her determined tutelage, the classes have begun to grow. This advance was only made possible after the area became more secure following the surge, but this does not stop the criminals who have occasionally kidnapped students for ransom.

Although the ballet school has its ups and downs, the National Symphony Orchestra and National Theater and Film directorate are flourishing. Ironically, all of these artistic institutions were opened under the secular dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. In the process of democratizing the country, they have been made a bit more insecure because of a backlash from religious fundamentalists. It is expected, however, that the arts will thrive again.

And finally, Buddhists continue to take a beating in Myanmar, where the UN's special envoy has been told to stay home because of his outspoken criticism of the regime in power. A bit farther north in Tibet, Buddhist monks not to be outdone by their southern counterparts, protested against China this week in a rare move. The Dalai Lama urged both sides to avoid violence, but his words came too late in the capital of Llasa where crowds burned shops and were then pummeled with tear gas by Chinese troops.

Rumors had it that 70 were killed and 1000 arrested. According to the AP News today, European Union officials "urged restraint" on the Chinese, but had no intention of boycotting the Olympics over the incident. Actor Richard Gere, long an advocate for a free Tibet, was quoted as saying: "They've [Tibetans] been brutally repressed for 50 years, 55 years, close to six decades. When you repress the people, they will explode. All people will explode."

But that is the point, is it not? There is no enlightenment without crises, whether it is the falling church census in the United States, a 6-year-old Muslim ballet dancer in Baghdad kidnapped by criminals, or the repression of Buddhists by a communist regime.

Maybe that means it's time for an extreme religious make-over, like on that reality TV show. Can't say I've ever watched it, but have heard that it transforms ugly ducklings into va--va--voom mommas who are more in step with the current cultural norms of beauty. Letting a little truth and beauty in the doors of religion might be refreshing, and enlightening. It's something that's never been tried, but it could be time, wouldn't you say?

Of note: The starkly beautiful photo from my sister M. Huffman reminded me of the Light due to pour into the stead institutions of the churches in the coming era. The current crises are the precursors of this magnificent event, prophesied to be overseen by Jesus himself. He did watch that video about himself and chuckled--won't they be surprised.

Today's Weather Report: I can feel the spring in the air. It's warm today and melting. One of the cats brought in a bird. Poor bird, happy cat. More than a foot of snow still on the ground, though. Tomorrow an ice fishing party on the lake, maybe one of the last. The ice out there is still a couple of feet thick.