Friday, March 31, 2006

Jail the Crooks!

I get so tired of the debate over illegal immigration! It's a smokescreen for racism bound up in the 'ol stars and stripes. If politicos and pundits alike REALLY TRULY wanted to stem the flow of illegal workers, there's a simple way to accomplish this aim -- arrest, jail and fine the people who hire them!!

Molly Ivins makes this same point in Immigration 101:
...should you actually want to stop Mexicans and OTMs (other than Mexicans) from coming to the United States, here is how to do it: Find an illegal worker at a large corporation. This is not difficult -- brooms and mops are big tip-offs. Then put the CEO of that corporation in prison for two or more years for violating the law against hiring illegal workers.

Got it? You can also imprison the corporate official who actually hired the illegal and, just to make sure, put some Betty Sue Billups -- housewife, preferably one with blonde hair in a flip -- in the joint for a two-year stretch for hiring a Mexican gardener. Thus Americans are reminded that the law says it is illegal to hire illegal workers and that anyone who hires one is responsible for verifying whether or not his or her papers are in order. If you get fooled and one slips by you, too bad, you go to jail anyway. When there are no jobs for illegal workers, they do not come. Got it?
Of course, all the people screaming about the need for so-called immigration reform would NEVER support such a strategy. Why? Because illegal workers are good for business!! You don't have to pay them squat and you don't have to worry that said workers might complain too loudly lest they be rounded up and shipped back home.

Like Brad over at greenInk, I personally think we should quit talking about illegal immigration altogether. As he wrote back in February,
Morally, putting limits on immigration is wrong. Who gave anyone the right to say where someone else can and cannot live? What right do Americans, whose ancestors pillaged, plundered, murdered and stole their way across the continent, have to draw lines on the map and say, “this is ours, now go home”? What right does ANY government have to control people in this way?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Tao of Oz

I've written many times before that Taoist themes pop up in the unlikeliest places. Often, we find such themes in classic works. I'm certainly not suggesting that an author sets out to pen a Taoist metaphor, but the universal aspects of Taoism can still be easily discerned. For but one example, The Wizard of Oz.

Near the end of this classic film, we find the following dialogue:
Dorothy: Oh, will you help me? Can you help me?
Glinda (Good Witch of the North): You don't need to be helped any longer. You've always had the power to go back to Kansas.
Dorothy: I have?
Scarecrow: Then why didn't you tell her before?
Glinda: Because she wouldn't have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.
Tin Man: What have you learned, Dorothy?
Dorothy: Well, I -- I think that it -- that it wasn't enough just to want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em -- and it's that -- if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with! Is that right?
Glinda: That's all it is!
Scarecrow: But that's so easy! I should have thought of it for you.
Tin Man: I should have felt it in my heart.
Glinda: No. She had to find it out for herself. Now, those magic slippers will take you home in two seconds!
In other words, a person can't find themselves looking externally. Our self is always where we are.

Even more importantly, no one can hasten the journey of someone else's self-discovery. Each of us must follow own own path in our own way in our own time.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Double-Edged Sword

I received my determination letter today from Washington's Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. I have been classified as an "Individual with Severe Disabilities". While no one would be overjoyed to be classified as such, I am very pleased, if only because my worsening medical condition has been validated by the government.

Yet, this happiness is very tempered. Because I do not fall into the profoundly disabled category, I'm being offered NO SERVICES at this time. No, my name has been added to a waiting list and I've been told I can expect to receive the needed services sometime in the next 2-3 years (that's right, y-e-a-r-s)!

It seems there's not enough money budgeted to provide services to people with disabilities. Our government has more than enough money to wage a senseless war in Iraq, but we don't have enough money to assist our own citizens. Seems like rather odd priorities, doesn't it?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Vegetarian "Terrorists" Among Us

I'm feeling much safer now. I've just learned that our intelligence community is being ever vigilant to protect me and you from vegetarian "terrorists". You know the kind I'm referring to, don't you? Yes, it's those [vile] people who gather vegetarian food to feed to the poor and the transient. Gosh, if we were to allow this type of activity to continue unfettered, it could mean the end of mom, apple pie and baseball!

According to "Keeping Tabs on the Peaceniks" posted on AlterNet today,
More evidence that the U.S. government is justifying surveillance of political dissidence under the guise of monitoring "terrorism" has recently come to light. Early this March an FBI agent's presentation at the University of Texas law school listed Indymedia, Food Not Bombs, the Communist Party of Texas and "Anarchists" as groups on the FBI's "Terrorist Watch List" for central Texas.

Food Not a moniker for volunteer-run groups that distribute unused vegetarian food from grocery stores and restaurants for free to the general population. Its name stems from a belief that excessive military spending could be redirected to provide food for the hungry.
It's damn scary to think that there are people out there wielding zucchini and carrots. I mean, those things are radioactive, aren't they? Would you want to chance sitting down next to someone on a bus or the subway who was "armed" with an apple or head of lettuce?

I shudder to think of the danger!

Fiscal Amnesia

Ruth Conniff's column "Shooting for the Sun" in the April edition of The Progressive provides a most apt example of the disconnect between what the Bush administration SAYS and what the same administration DOES. Remember how the mighty shrub ran around shouting, "Support the Troops! Support the Troops!" while the budget he submitted to Congress cut things like VA benefits?

Well, here's another prime example:
President Bush snapped on his safety goggles and toured the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colorado, on February 21. It was part of his tour to promote energy proposals that are supposed to end our "addiction to oil," as the president put it in his State of the Union address. Just before Bush's photo-op at the lab, the Energy Depatment quickly restored $5 million in funding the Administration had cut from the very programs the President was there to tout.

The lab
rehired the thirty-two workers it had laid off the day after the State of the Union speech...the $5 million represents only a fraction of the labs $28 million shortfall. Bush's budget cuts have brought much of the nation's renewable energy research to a halt. [emphasis added]
I could make a glib comment here, but this story speaks for itself!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Democracy Ain't Always Pretty

The Bush administration and pro-war conservative Christians must really be feeling a bit bewildered by now. We go to Afghanistan to liberate "the people" from the Taliban and yet we recently learned that a Christian-convert is facing the death penalty for denying Islam. We go to Iraq to liberate "the people" from Saddam Hussein and the people, in turn, don't vote for the US-backed candidates. We try to affect "democracy" for the people of Palestine and they overwhelmingly vote for Hamas.

What so many conservatives fail to comprehend is that democracy can be a bitch. When people are afforded the opportunity to make choices, said choices won't always be what particular people may prefer.

If you truly believe in democratic principles, you've got to accept this fact.

Friday, March 24, 2006

What's So Civil About Debate?

While reading the newspaper this evening, a particular headline caught my eye that stated something like, "Bush Open to Civil Debate on Immigration". This got me to thinking -- What IS a civil debate? In my experience, what most people mean by this term is that they welcome a robust discussion as long as you end up agreeing with whatever their stated position is!

This is not merely a Bush administration problem. No, it's extremely commonplace. You hear Republicans and Democrats call for civil debate. The same goes for Christians and atheists. People talk about it in the largest corporations and at small neighborhood meetings. The call for civil debate is everywhere.

If we examine these two words, I think we'll find that they aren't a good fit; they don't mesh well together. In a manner of speaking, it's like putting oil and water together. You wind up with either very oily water or watered down oil.

Civil means "sufficiently observing or befitting accepted social usages; not rude". A synonym often used in place of civil is polite. Debate, on the other hand, is a far more aggressive word. It means "to engage in argument by discussing opposing dispute".

Now, I realize that some people won't see a problem with the marriage of these two words. What's wrong with a polite argument? From my perspective, civil and polite are very subjective terms. What I may consider polite, you may consider downright vulgar. What you consider civil, I might call divisive.

Even further, arguments tend to devolve quickly into very emotional affairs. When most people that I know argue, there is a certain amount of tension in the air. If the argument lasts more than a minute or two, the conversation grows heated and some folks begin to lose their composure.

So, you see, in order to be civil, one must be rational. Unfortunately, arguments are more often the realm of emotion. Generally speaking, when rationality and emotions collide, the latter wins out.

For me, anyone who pleads for a civil debate is asking for something that doesn't objectively exist.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Questions or Answers?

One of the key concepts in Taoism is the idea that opposites beget each other. It's the same supposition that Hegel made in his work on the dialectics. Feuerbach and then Marx, of course, took Hegel's concept even further in the discussion of dialectical materialism. In Taoism, this conceptualization is best typified by the Yin-Yang symbol.

Beyond this idea that opposites qualify each other and are gradients toward each other on the continuum of life, there also exists in Taoist thought the notion of balance and harmony. This has gotten me to thinking lately about the interrelationships between such concepts and I'm having a difficult time wrapping my wee brain around them.

If the goal of all being is the attempt to balance between conflicting forces, what then is the balance between good and evil or right and wrong? Put another way, what do we call the dead center between light and darkness?

In one manner of speaking, such a place must contain both lightness and darkness. Yet, on the other hand, we could just as easily posit that the mid-point between these two extremes (extremes in the sense of human comprehension) may not contain either. So what exactly is it? What do we refer to it as?

And this leads me to the real ultimate human question: What is the precise middle ground between life and death? Is it embracing life while recognizing death or is it something devoid of both?

I'm not going to offer a glimmer of an answer because, right now, I don't have any. That's not to say that I don't know the answer; it's more than I'm not quite sure of the question.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


One of the many facets of having a blog is the pressure to write, even when you don't have anything you feel needs to be written. For some, it's simply a case of market numbers. Such folks are always working to increase their hit count. For others of us, the pressure to write is borne more out of a sense of duty and obligation to our regular readers -- We've invited you to be a partner in our virtual world, so we want to share something -- anything! -- with you.

As Taoists, however, we understand the importance of flow. Sometimes the river rushes swiftly. Sometimes it meanders. And sometimes the water is quiet and unmoving.

My waters today fall into the latter category. There are many things that I am contemplating; they simply haven't asked me to write them and, until they do, I won't.

Monday, March 20, 2006

In Memory

A lot of the verbiage on so many blogs is about the most trivial matters. Others deal with local, regional, national and/or international news and commentary. Some, like this one, deal with philosophy and perspective which can sometimes border on the trivial. But some blogs deal with life and death issues and are about as personal as one can get.

The author of The Useless Tree is in mourning. His remarkable 14 year old son died yesterday. Many of us know about the trials, travails and great joys of his son's life through the book, Aidan's Way (Understanding disability from a Taoist point of view).

So, my one post for this day is in memory to Aidan Martin Crane. He has touched so many lives through the words of his father. As Luke Skywalker might say, "I feel a tremble in the Force".

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Of Rotten Canned Meat

There are a few certainties in each person's life: birth, death, taxes and...SPAM. (Even if a person never uses a computer or the internet, they still receive spam in the form of junk mail!) Yes, spam has become ubiquitous. Even more importantly, it's everywhere simultaneously. I'm beginning to wonder if spam isn't necessarily constrained by the space-time continuum.

The one thing about spam that really bothers me is that most such pieces aren't written very well. Each one seems chock-full of misspellings, incorrect grammer and lax or nonexistent punctuation. They seem to be the last reservoir of the famed dangling modifiers and run-on sentences.

I realize not everyone may be as discriminating as I am. However, if I receive a solicitation from someone and said solicitation is very poorly written, I'm immediately suspicious. I mean, if you want me to part with the little money I have, I think you should at least make the effort to present me with something readable!

Here's a piece of spam I received early this morning. It's unremarkable -- It's not much different from the thousands of others I've received. And, of course, it's poorly written. (I will denote some of the most glaring problems.)

I have a client that [not "that", but "who"] deposited a huge amount of money into our bank here in London [a period, comma or semi-colon is needed here] unfortunately he and his family was [were, not was] involved in the latest tsunami mayhem. The money is stuck here in the bank because all his next of kin died with him. [If he's dead, you no longer have a client.] What I don't like is to see the bank add it to their Billions. This money can be used for charity purposes of [or?] things like that. I must be frank [comma or period] I do not know you or anything about you. [comma, not a period] But I need somebody I can trust that I can front as his next of kin somebody far outside my area. [If you don't know me, how do you know you can trust me?] The money involved is $45,000,000.00. [Come on now! Who desposits $45 million dollars into a bank account?]

We can use $1,000,000.00 for incidental expenses and share 50% into two [does not make sense] for ourselves and the rest 50% [the "other' 50% or the rest OF THE 50%] can be given to [a] charity or Tsunami Victims [no needs for capitalization]. I will provide you with full information when you accept my offer. I am sorry I have to reach you this way, but due to the nature of my job [another missing comma] I have to hide my identity for now. I am also sending this email to some other people [yet another missing comma] in case you don't believe my story.

This is a risk free transaction and there is nothing to fear about [rather odd phrasing]. I will be in control of every process. [That's not very reassuring.] This is not a spam letter [If somebody feels the need to tell you it's not spam -- guess what? -- it's spam!]. Take it very serious.

Waiting for your Urgent [no need for capitalization] reply.

Best regards
Kem Purr
Do you have any spam you'd like to share?

Saturday, March 18, 2006

A Return Engagement

Reincarnation is a belief prevalent amongst Hindus, Buddhists, some Taoists and I'm sure other people too. Such adherents believe that a person's soul or essence is reborn several times in different earthly expressions before reaching heaven, nirvana or perfection. Personally, I've always thought that reincarnation was a really far-fetched idea.

Lately, however, I've come to realize that I too believe in reincarnation, albeit in far different way than most who utilize the term.

To put it in its simplest terms, for me, reincarnation is nothing more than the act of human compost. From what I've observed in my lifetime, all matter eventually dies and breaks down into its most fundamental elements. These elements come together to form new matter.

We see this process at work in our home compost piles. We bring together vegetable scraps, fallen leaves, small twigs, grass clippings and a variety of other spent plants. With a little time and care (and even without the care), the various parts of this mass breakdown into a rich mulch which we spread on our gardens and lawns. From this mulch springs new life.

That's fine and dandy, some of you may say, but what about a person's soul or essence? Well, I don't see why the very same process can't occur with our spiritual side. It could be that, when we cease our present earthly existence, our spiritual essence returns to Tao and is thrown onto the giant soul compost pile to be transformed into celestial mulch. In time, this spiritual mulch becomes the springboard for the essence within future matter.

I'm certainly not suggesting this is the way it is. I'm just saying it's as good a possibility as the next belief.

As a Taoist, I really don't ponder these sorts of things very often because it represents the kind of question that we can't answer in this lifetime. Why waste a lot of precious time and energy worrying or debating what none us can know definitively until we get there.

That said, I see nothing wrong with people casually expressing their beliefs on this topic or venturing to guess what the "hereafter" MIGHT be like.

Anyone have an interesting theory you'd like to share?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Mexico Defeats US 2-1

After having stated in my last post that I no longer follow sports like I did in my youth, I'm leading off my second consecutive post with a sports story (the irony here is not lost on me). In the inaugural World Baseball Classic, the team from the good 'ol US of A isn't going to make the Final Four. Our boys insured that outcome by losing to the team from Mexico today.

I realize that some of the more reactionary readers of RT will immediately think, "See. This proves it. This guy is so anti-American. He's happy the home team lost!" If you are thinking this right now, you are partially right. I am rather tickled that the home team lost, but not because they are fellow Americans.

I'm not anti-American; I'm anti-arrogance. And US sports teams have become rather arrogant these days.

One of my all-time favorite sports moments is when the US hockey team defeated the Russians in the 1980 Winter Olympics. Dubbed the "Miracle on Ice", I remember exactly where I was and how I ran around like an idiot whooping and shouting as the final second ticked off.

The reason I was so elated is that the overconfident Russian team -- guys who scoffed at the notion that a bunch of former college players could even skate with them -- had so underestimated the Americans lads that they were beaten soundly.

If the American team had faced off against the Russians another 99 times, the Russians would probably have not lost to us ever again. But that doesn't matter. When it counted most, they DID lose.

American teams are now falling victim to this same air of overconfidence. Both our athletes and the general public have a misguided belief that, even on an off-day, our men and women can defeat any other team playing to their utmost potential. It's as if American teams merely need to go through the motions and that's enough to insure victory.

Well, it hasn't been working out that way lately. When our teams and individual athletes don't put their best foot forward, they tend to lose.

In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu warned against the feelings of arrogance and overconfidence. From a Taoist perspective, it's not a case where either of these sentiments are deemed to be evil or sinful. No, it's far more pragmatic than that. Simply put, arrogance and overconfidence set the stage for defeat.

The Russians proved this point in 1980 and the US baseball team proved it again today. Underestimate your adversary and you overestimate your own prowess. Get too big of a head and it will fall that much harder when it invariably gets knocked off.

Straying From the Path

When I was a young lad, I was a certified sports fanatic. It didn't matter what time of year it was or what sport was featured on the TV -- if they broadcast it, I watched it! As I've grown older though, sports no longer seems all that important. I rarely watch or attend games and my main form of sports news is watching the highlights on ESPN. (I offer this solely as a backdrop to today's topic.)

While my wife & I worked on rearranging the living room this morning, I flipped the TV on to ESPN. There, in living color, professional boxer Mike Tyson was plying his trade. The show featured a bevy of clips of Tyson during the early portion of his professional career.

Most people are familiar with the name Mike Tyson, even those who know little about the sport or who detest it. Tyson is infamous for biting off a chunk of an opponent's ear during a fight, being married to Robin Givens and for being convicted of a raping a woman. He has become the poster child for all that's wrong with boxing.

But that's not the person my wife & I saw during his early career as shown in this television program. We saw an individual who seemed to be following a Taoist-like path. His assorted problems seem to have afflicted him once he left that path.

In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu talks about the art of war. While war should always be the last option chosen -- because, in war, there really are no winners -- if one must fight, there are certain principles one should adhere to.
A good soldier is not violent.
A good fighter is not angry.
A good winner is not vengeful.
from #Sixty-Eight

Mercy brings victory in battle and strength in defense.
from #Sixty-Seven
The early Mike Tyson exemplified all of these ideals. He entered the ring with little bravado. He didn't taunt his opponents. When he knocked out his ring adversary, he went to help him up and to check that he was okay. In fact, in several of these fights, as Tyson was pummeling away, he would look to the referee as if to say, "Please. Stop the fight. I don't want to hurt this guy." When the fight ended and his victory was secure, he walked away quietly.

Had Tyson remained on this path, he might have become not only the greatest boxing champ in history, but a quality human being as well. Unfortunately, as most of us know, Tyson lost sight of the path. He has stumbled and bumbled his way toward oblivion. And, try as he might, he just can't seem to find his way again.

What a pity!

A Launch onto a Path

I'm always trying to discover new Taoist blogs and websites with Taoist content. As we each walk along our own paths to Tao, the experience can be greatly enriched by sharing our experiences with others who are walking on their paths. To this end, I will frequently attempt to draw the attention of RT readers toward these types of blogs and/or websites.

A young man in Marquette, MI has launched two blogs today, Beginning Taoism and Beyond Religion.

The initial entry of the former states,
Well here's my new blog about my journey through the beginnings of Philosophical Taoism, because i'm not big into 'religions.' If anyone has any advice they'd like to share, I'm all ears! Time to start analyzing the Tao Te Ching. I recently bought Tao Te Ching: The Definitive Edition by Jonathan Star, it includes his rendering of the book and a verbatium version.
His first entry for Beyond Religion says,
In all World Religions, various parts of the "truth" can be found. The problem is, every religion believes that their religion holds the whole truth. This belief in their path as "the only path," leads to major confrontations. Wars are fought, people are slaughtered over their beliefs. In reality though, none of these religions contain the whole truth, just bits and pieces of it. And the infalliable scriptures? How can they be infalliable if they are written by man? Man makes many errors. Man puts his own opinions in it, puts his own desires in it.
I invite RT readers to consider going along on the ride with him.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Oh, Those "Dangerous" Pacifists!

We've all heard the rationale. The defenders of domestic spying tell us that no American not collaborating with the enemy should be worried. They've told us that our government is only trying to protect us from violent terrorists bent on destroying America. They've scoffed at the notion that our government would spy on people who simply disagree with the Bush agenda.

For all those people who said these sorts of things and more, I wonder how you feel now that you have egg all over your so-called patriotic face!

Yesterday the ACLU released documents which clearly show that the FBI is keeping files on some groups SOLELY because they oppose the war in Iraq. The FBI isn't claiming that such groups are aiding and abetting the enemy. They aren't claiming that these pacificists are in communications with any known terrorists or terrorist organizations. They aren't claiming that these organizations are funneling money to unsavory individuals.

No, the SOLE criteria that has landed these folks on the FBI watch list and has led to an investigation is that they oppose this stupid war!!
Two documents released today reveal that the FBI investigated gatherings of the Thomas Merton Center for Peace & Justice just because the organization opposed the war in Iraq. Although previously disclosed documents show that the FBI is retaining files on anti-war groups, these documents are the first to show conclusively that the rationale for FBI targeting is the group's opposition to the war.

“It makes no sense that the FBI would be spying on peace activists handing out flyers,” said Jim Kleissler, Executive Director of the Thomas Merton Center for Peace & Justice. “Our members were simply offering leaflets to passersby, legally and peacefully, and now they’re being investigated by a counter–terrorism unit. Something is seriously wrong in how our government determines who and what constitutes terrorism when peace activists find themselves targeted.”

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A Well Needed Chuckle

Are you having a rough day or week or year? Are the pressures of the world weighing down on you? Are you at the point where you feel you just want to throw up your hands and scream at this crazy world? If so, I'm going to write you a simple prescription: Laugh a little!

You can fill your prescription over at Ron's Journal. Simply hand the pharmacist a note that reads, "Guidelines for Millenium Enlightenment….". He will provide you with a six step remedy for what ails you.

To give you an idea of the healing power of this wonderous elixir, take a gander at step #4:
If we want world peace, we must let go of our attachments and truly live like nomads. That’s where I no mad at you, you no mad at me. That way, there’ll surely be nomadness on the planet. And peace begins with each of us. A little peace here, a little piece there, pretty soon all the pieces will fit together to make one big peace everywhere.

Flow Like a River

One of the many RSS feeds I subscribe to is Technorati:Taoism. As the philosophy of Taoism continues to gain traction in western circles, it provides me with the opportunity to discover more blogs authored by Taoists or that deal with Taoist themes.

Today I discovered a relatively new blog, A Tedious Existence. I'll check it out for several days to see if the author publishes frequently enough for me to add it to Taoist Links in the right sidebar.

Yesterday a entry entitled Wu Wei was posted. I think it offers a most beautiful and poetic explanation of the concept. It is provided below. I encourage folks to check out more of what's written at A Tedious Existence.
Wu Wei is a Taoist term meaning, "without action." It also is said to be, "action without action." Our closest term would probably be "go with the flow." In Taoism, the goal is to achive perfect equilibrium, or alignment with the Tao. To "become like flowing water" seems to be the essence of this idea.

Each human being is a river. All are unique with their own set of subtle fluctuations. These are caused by the distinct psychic topographies inherent in each one, just as each river has varying topographies that effect its flow. The water needs to flow unimpeded. When it becomes dammed up, there is the potential for disaster.

There will always be subtle fluctuations, but these are good. They make life interesting, give it character. But the energy needs to flow. The meandering stream must continue to wind its way through the land, unhindered.

I must become as water, which follows the path of least resistance.

A Sage's Advice to Mr. Bush

At the outset, the voices against war in Iraq were few and muffled by the overall support of the American public. It seemed that only Leftists (my camp) and Libertarians had the nerve to state publicly that the pretexts for this war were built on lies and gross miscalculations. However, as we've all witnessed as of late, more and more conservatives are daring to join the bandwagon of criticism.

When a notable conservative like William F. Buckley, Jr. starts criticizing the president on the conduct of the war, people start to take notice. However, one of the most outspoken conservatives on the topic has been Paul Craig Roberts, a former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration.

In an article released today on, "Why Did Bush Destroy Iraq?", Roberts writes,
President Bush's determination to remain in Iraq despite the obvious failure of the attempted occupation puts Bush at odds with the American public and with our troops. Polls show that a majority of Americans believe that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake and that our troops should be withdrawn. An even larger majority of the troops themselves believe they should be withdrawn.

Yet Bush, who is incapable of admitting a mistake, persists in a strategic blunder that is turning into a catastrophe.
All this has got me to thinking about who is providing counsel to the president. He tells us that he has been having conversations with God himself and that his God approves both of his decisions and his conduct of this so-called war.

But what if Bush had sought the counsel of someone different? What if Bush had sought the advice of Lao Tzu? I believe Lao Tzu would tell the president some of the following:
If men are not afraid to die, it is of no avail to threaten them with death.
from #Seventy-Four

Why do the people think so little of death?
Because the rulers demand too much of life.
Therefore the people take death lightly.
from #Seventy-Five

A good soldier is not violent.
A good fighter is not angry.
A good winner is not vengeful.
from #Sixty-Eight

Those who know do not talk.
Those who talk do not know.
from #Fifty-Six

Monday, March 13, 2006

Growing in Tao

The Taoist Links in my right side bar have been growing lately. It's wonderful to see so many Taoists embracing the medium of blogging to help present a different and needed perspective on the world we live in. So many of our fellow citizens in the western world have grown to feel like something is missing in modern society -- an estrangement from themselves and nature -- that many actively are seeking a different way to approach our individual and collective lives.

Because Taoism stresses the inherency of each person following their own particular path -- that no one path is THE universal be-all path for anyone else -- I feel privileged to offer RT readers the opportunity to gain inspiration and insight from voices other than my own. My truth is no more true than any other.

If this is your first visit to The Rambling Taoist and you want to learn more about the philosophical Taoist perspective, I urge you to visit as many of the Taoist links listed in the right side bar as time permits. I visit most of them daily myself.

And I want to extend a warm invitation to anyone who knows of other Taoist-based blogs to please share them in the comments section. The more voices we can add, the richer the experience can be for all of us.

[Note: My general rule for adding blog links to the right side bar is that the blog be updated at least once or twice each week. I know that, for me, it's often frustrating to select a link that takes me to a blog that shows the same lead entry week after week.]

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Making the Connection

You've just gotten off from work and decide to stop at the local market. After picking out a few items for dinner, you hurry to the express lane for checkout. As you stand in line waiting, you start humming a tune from an album cut of a music group from long ago. The sales clerk -- who you've seen countless times before, but have never spoken to -- looks at you and says, "Isn't that such and such a song from such and such an album?" Yes, you say. "Oh, I just love that song," the clerk beams.

In this brief exhange, you've established a connection with another person. Said connection can be short-term or lasting, but it is the kind of connection that holds meaning.

We make these kinds of connections frequently. We find out that someone knows a friend of a friend of a friend. We discover that someone else shares our love of cooking, hang gliding or botany. We delight in learning that a complete stranger loves the same restaurant we frequent or the same vacation destination we dream of.

More often than not, such occurrences happen completely by accident. There we are, minding our own business, when someone reaches out and a connection is made.

One of the themes I harp on here at RT is that we humans share far more in common than the so-called differences that we believe separate us. We too often view people by arbitrary labels and fail to look for the connections that bind us. Instead of seeing a fellow human being, we see gender, race, ethnicity, and a slew of other arbitrary distinctions.

Both Lao Tzu and Jesus urged people to experience life like a young baby. Babies do not see a Jewish man, an Arab woman, a tall white person or a short Latino. They see individual faces and reach out to try to make a connection with whomever crosses their path.

Unfortunately, as we grow to adulthood, we lose this ability. Instead of trying to connect with others, we erect walls to separate ourselves. In doing so, we lose the opportunity to forge lasting connections.

In essence, we create our own hostile world.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

It should surprise no one that one of the key search terms that leads people to The Rambling Taoist is some derivation of the word Tao. In many cases, after having followed the link to the particular search engine, it is fairly apparent that the search is being conducted by someone who doesn't know a lot about Taoism and wants to learn more.

I take this as a very good sign. Many people are growing disillusioned with the trappings of so-called modern western society; they are looking for a way to get better in touch with themselves and the natural world. While Taoism isn't the only way to make this connection, it is gaining more traction in the minds of westerners every day.

If you are a person who desires to learn more about what is called classical or philosophical Taoism, I'm going to share with you some of the books I first utilized/am utilizing to learn more about this ancient Chinese philosophy. It is my hope that the regular readers of RT will use the comments section to add to this list. (You can, of course, include non-Taoist sources of inspiration in your life as well.)

One word of caution: While reading material can certainly help illuminate the path, each individual must connect with Tao on their own and in their own way. None of the books listed will outline the creed or "official" doctrine of Taoism because there are no such things.

I'm going to divide the list into three components: books I've read from cover-to-cover (more or less), books I'm reading right now and a few books that are not necessarily Taoist, in nature, but inspirational nonetheless.
All links are to
Books I've read on Taoism
Books I'm Reading on Taoism
Inspirational Books That Aren't Necessarily Focused on Taoism
There are my lists. As indicated above, I hope my regular Taoists readers will add to this list and I hope the materials suggested help anyone looking to follow the path of Tao.

UPDATE: After posting this entry, I read a superb (and short) comparison of Taoism with open source software compliments of A Quiet Watercourse. I warmly encourage new AND old seekers of Tao to read, "Free Software & The Watercourse".

Technorati: Taoism, Daoism Taoism, Daoism
Wikipedia: Taoism

Friday, March 10, 2006

Feets by the Foot

It's really weird how thoughts pop into our heads. While touching up my crewcut, a poem I wrote nearly 30 years ago started bubbling up in my brain. Here it is, more or less.
Feet are for walking (or so I've been told).
It's been that way since the days of old.
But, from what I've seen, that's not really true.
There are other things that most feet do.

There are footballs and footsteps and footprints of age;
footers and footnotes to cover each page;
footing and footwork to help make a stand;
footholds and foothills that cover this land.

But whether in north, east, west or south,
feet are commonly found in one's mouth.
A phenom I'll grant, so hard to be so
to totally cover the heel and each toe.

Still, most people won't let this get in their way
for they cram it in once and that's where it stays.
We're talking 'bout doctors and lawers -- people of wealth
plus the folks in the ghetto; heck, even myself.

This penchant we have it's like a disease
one that moves 'round on the wings of the breeze.
Whether in romance or nations at war
your mouth is the place your foot was made for.

But one shouldn't laugh for it sometimes brings pain
'cause sandals and boots are made of coarse grain.
We should all know by the way it appears
that some keep their feet in their mouths for years!

The solution, it seems, is to quit making shoes
for a shoe in one's mouth has hardly a use
(except, of course, to remind of what's there
that fashionable piece of unsightly footware).

Well, I've now come to the end of this tragic tale.
I covered it all from hill to the dale.
The moral, I guess, should not be in doubt --
This foot in my mouth will never come out!

Church of Reality Challenges Other Religions on Morality

Here's an interesting press release I received yesterday from Marc Perkel of the Church of Reality. I think he makes several valid points. What do you think?
The Church of Reality today issues a challenge to other religions on the issue of ethics and morality. We live in a world where the hatred among religions grows daily between Christianity and Islam and the time has come to put a stop to it. Both sides claim the superior moral position and to represent the word of God while taking up arms and going to war with no concern for the costs to civilization and the future of the human race. Both religions claim divine inspiration from the same source, but as an outside observer, we do not see it. We believe that what you do represents what you believe and, if you are dishonest and you are violent, then that is what you are and that is what you believe.

Both religions claim to be a religion of peace, yet neither side has not the will nor the divine inspiration to make peace happen. If your religions truly have divine inspiration and guidance, then one can only conclude that your gods are failures. On the other hand, if your gods actually do represent love and peace, then your religions do a disservice to your creator.

It is logical, therefore, to assume that the superior religion would be the one which wins based upon the nature of the gods that one believes in. Therefore, our challenge is: Show us your God through you and show you are the true voice of the master by winning through peace and not by war. According to your own holy books, when you turn to war over peace and when you put hate before love, you are violating the very core principles that you claim that God stands for. Therefore, you cannot win a religious war by doing the opposite of what you claim God wants you to do.

We in the Church of Reality are Atheists. We look at your behavior and we conclude that, if a God does exist, that you are not in touch with it. We are committed to believing in whatever is real. We would believe in God if God were real. Your religions claim that you have a personal relationship with God, that you communicate with God directly, and that God transforms you into something that reflects its nature. So we say, show us the fruits of that transformation. We ask you, if your God is powerful enough to erase the hatred from your heart and to bring peace through each of you, to stop the violence. If your God is so weak that his followers can't stop killing, then you aren't going to convert any Realists to your religions.

We in the Church of Reality also believe, "By their fruits you shall know them." So, if you are filled with the spirit of the Lord, then lets see if you can shine the light of God's peace and love and end the wars.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

From All Over

For me, one of the greatest joys of blogging is the opportunity to relate to people from all over the world. I consciously seek out blogs that originate from beyond the Pacific Northwest as well as from around the world. It's both interesting and informative to see what others in distant places are thinking and writing about. In many ways, it only strengthens my belief that, regardless of differing cultures and mores, we humans share far more in common than what separates us.

As I'm sure is true of most blogs, The Rambling Taoist receives visits from individuals from the far flung corners of this global sphere. In looking over the locales for the last 100 visitors, nearly 30% originated from outside of the 'ol US of A. Here's a partial list:
  • Paris, Ile-de-France
  • Surrey, Prince Edward Island, Canada
  • Manchester, England
  • Lancaster, Blackpool, England
  • Merelbeke, Oost-Vlaanderen, Belgium
  • Taipei, T'ai-pei, Taiwan
  • Heerenveen, Friesland, The Netherlands
  • Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
  • Priestdale Lagoons, Queensland, Australia
  • Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan, Malaysia
  • Alboraya, Comunidad Valenciana, Spain
Some of these visitors I've come to know in a virtual way. For one example, Bert hails from Belgium and has afforded me the opportunity to read (though certainly NOT understand) Flemish on his blog, Haunted by Tao.

In many cases, however, certain regular readers hail from some of the locations listed above and yet I don't know the correlation between their name and their place of residence -- I only know they drop by frequently.

So, I'm offering an open invitation both to regular readers and anyone who just happens by who lives outside of the 50 states to use the comments for this post to share with me and others a little bit about where you live and/or who you are.

The best chance we have to create a world of peace and community is by getting to know each other, by having the opportunity to walk in another person's shoes, to see life from someone else's eyes. This is one of the great beautifies of the blogosphere. While we may never meet face-to-face or hear each other's voices, we CAN come to know each other and knowing people is the first step toward understanding.

Let's all endeavor to travel the path of life together as brothers and sisters.

Like Grains of Sand

One of the most basic elements of human life is the act of questioning. Each time we encounter a new experience, we make sense out of it -- or at least TRY to -- by seeking to engage or embrace it in an inquisitive fashion. We compare the current thing or circumstance with other things or circumstances in order to try to discern similarities or differences. By approaching life in this way, we seek to derive answers.

Not all questions are equal. Most share the quest to pinpoint something specific or tangible. Who said that? What are those? Where are we going? How did you know?

These types of questions lead to quantifiable or qualitative answers. Who said that? It was Mike. What are those? Plantains. Where are we going? To the beach. How did you know? I read it in the newspaper.

There is one question, however, that genuinely cannot be answered. Asking it only begins a never ending process in which each answer only leads back to the same question. Why?

Despite all our advances in the sciences, the why of life is still beyond human comprehension. We can describe processes, quantify data, and sometimes predict outcomes, but we can't answer the most fundamental of questions. Why?

While religion seeks to make vain attempts at answering this question, it really ends up no better than science. To answer why by saying God, still begets the question of why God?

The myriad answers to why are tantamount to the grains of sand on an ocean beach. There's no way any of us can count these grains of sand. While we begin our count, some grains are washed to the sea, while others are freshly deposited on the shore. If we each spent the entirety of our lives on the beach counting these grains, we would be no nearer done once our lives came to an end.

One of the central messages of Taoist thought is that why is a question that need not be asked. The Tao is the way of the way of the Way. Why it is that it is should not concern us. If it could be explain to us, we wouldn't understand it anyhow.

Rather than ask why, we should simply embrace this mystical force like the flowers, rivers and clouds do. By eschewing the search for the answer to why, we will find the answer to the question unasked.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Heads or Tails?

One of the great legacies of a life filled with chronic pain or unending sorrow is how this affects a person's personality and the way such a person interacts with others. While it is certainly true that no one personality can be boiled down to a mere one or two traits, this manner of semi-constant experience forms the foundation of a person's overall outlook.

From my perspective, it's like a coin. You can choose to be heads or tails.

For some, pain and misery become the lens that all life is viewed through. Such people become cynical, crabby, insulting, difficult to be around and completely negative. They feel as if the world purposely has dealt them a bad hand and somebody -- EVERYBODY -- is going to pay dearly!

I have some sympathy for such people. Life is a crap shoot and some people just seem to be born on the short end of a short stick. While I can understand the tendency to want to blame others for situations beyond anyone's control, it's not helpful -- both to the sufferer and the world at large.

There is another choice available -- empathy. Because I must deal with chronic pain, I know this has allowed me to feel empathy for others in difficult situations and circumstances. While the particulars of my personal misery may be far different from another person's, the base emotion allows me to get in touch with what they too must be feeling.

And let's face it, pain, misery and sorrow are part of each of our lives. I've never met a person that has not been touched by all three. In fact, I dare say that, if a person could escape them, then they aren't living much of a life and they aren't in touch with their inner being.

In the end, however, both pain and joy are transitory. They flow into each other and both represent steps along the path of life. Both are part of Tao as is everything else.

How we deal with pain and sorrow is up to each of us. How do you flip the coin?

Monday, March 6, 2006

Finding Joy in Misery

Our hedonistic society exalts pleasure and joy over misery. Being popular, attractive, wealthy and powerful is the name of the game. Besides, who wants to embrace pain and sorrow anyway? Both can be such abject downers.

Yet pain and misery have their place in the scheme of things. If nothing else, their existence is what makes joy and happiness possible. As both the dialectical method and Taoist philosophy realize, concepts only hold meaning when posited against their opposites. Consequently, misery contains the substance of joy.

This very idea is something I need to embrace. As mentioned in the previous entry, I was born XXY which has developed into Klinefelter Syndrome (KS). Individuals who develop KS have a tendency later to develop autoimmune diseases and disorders. My autoimmune disorder has been diagnosed as Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (MCTD).

MCTD causes pain in joints and connective tissue -- a lot of pain. Like Multiple Sclerosis, it comes in episodes. Between these episodes there are periods of remission. However, for some people (like me), the disease progresses to a point where the remissions are only partial and the episodes grow in intensity.

In some ways, this disorder borders on being funny. It's sort of like my immune system has taken on the persona of the Keystone Kops. My antibodies sit around playing cards when, all of a sudden, the intruder alarm goes off, "Warning: Intruder spotted in Sector 4!" The antibodies jump into their police cars to race off with sirens blaring to a particular area of connective tissue in my body.

Upon arrival, they soon discover there is no intruder. It was a false alarm. "Hey guys, what do you think we should do now?" one of the antibodies asks. "I think we need to attack something. I mean, that's our job, isn't it?" says another. So, despite the fact there is no germ or virus to repel, they attack the connective tissue itself. And they obviously have great fun doing this!!

Of course, the affected joint is not happy at all. It becomes stiff and painful. And since my Keystone Kop antibodies go off on several such escapades simultaneously, I generally end up feeling like warmed-over crap.

Still, I hold to the thought that my misery makes my joy possible. It's true for all of us.

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Sunday, March 5, 2006

Of Beautiful Minds & Other Things

While the film A Beautiful Mind won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2002, I didn't happen to get around to seeing it until last night on TV. The movie is a loose adaptation of the life of the great mathematician John Nash and his battle with paranoid schizophrenia.

I wish I had done almost anything else last night EXCEPT watch the film. It has left me feeling very discombobulated. You see, I can identify with many of the emotional nightmares depicted. In my late teens and 20s, I struggled mightily to cope with the realities of life. I dealt with obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, excessive mood swings and extreme introversion.

My problem is not schizophrenia; it's Klinefelter Syndrome (KS). Unlike most males, I have an additional chromosome in my genetic make-up -- XXY. This extra X has wreaked a lot of havoc in my life.

While it's certainly true that not every XXY male will develop KS, I certainly have! Unfortunately, it wasn't uncovered until I was in my early 30s. Had it been discovered earlier -- in most males its diagnosed by the beginning of puberty -- testosterone replacement therapy (TRP) would have started at an earlier point and I probably would have avoided the hell of my 20s.

Be that as it may, TRP has made a world of difference in my life. It's almost like I've lived two different lives in one lifetime -- before TRP and after. Friends and family who knew me more in my pre-TRP days generally are surprised when they meet the more confident and less passive TRP me.

Yet, despite the significant differences between these two people, I still suffer from the same symptoms. Like Nash, however, I've learned not to listen to the "voices" (though, for me, I suffer more from disassociated emotional impulses than auditory hallucinations). It's a constant battle not to allow them to take hold, but the TRP me has more weapons to keep them at bay.

Like I said, I really wish I hadn't watched THAT movie. It landed way too close to the heart.

Saturday, March 4, 2006

How Does One Become a Taoist?

It's always interesting to see which search terms bring a person to your blog. Today, one of those search terms involved the question: How Does One Become a Taoist?

I suppose there are trillions of ways this question could be answered. For me, the answer is very easy. No one can become a Taoist...because you already are one.

From the perspective of Taoism, everything that exists is part of the one cosmic reality. If you and I are part of Tao, then there's no need to "become" something you are inherently part of.

And here's the best part of being a Taoist, you don't even need to acknowledge it. It doesn't matter one wit if you ever utter the word Tao. The fact that you exist is enough.

This is one way that Taoism is set apart from religion. In order to call yourself a Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, etc., you must subscribe to certain beliefs and understand the world from a particular perspective.

This matters not in Taoism. It's of no consequence as to what you believe in nor how you refer to yourself. It doesn't matter where you live or your position in life. It's not dependent on your age, race or gender. In fact, you don't even have to be human!

The fact that you are is all that matters. So, for anyone (or thing) that is reading this, I say: Welcome fellow Taoist.

Friday, March 3, 2006

Sex, Lies & Videotapes

When Bill Clinton twisted in the wind trying to mangle the English language and the definition of the words "is" and "sex", the ardent Right jumped on him like there was no tomorrow. Though Clinton ensnared himself in a web of half-truths and outright lies concerning his interaction's with a specific intern, he seem incapable of facing the truth.

So one would think the ardent Right would be pouncing with claws extended over the latest escapades of Misters Bush & Cheney. As I'm sure you're well aware, videotapes have surfaced recently which clearly show that the mighty Shrub was fully informed of the possible breach of levees in New Orleans PRIOR to Hurricane Katrina's landfall. These tapes easily contradict his statement, made 4 days AFTER landfall, that no one in his administration had any inkling that said levees might be in trouble.

Not wishing to be outdone, the mad hunter Dick Cheney has steadfastly stated that he played no role whatsoever in the outing of Valerie Plame. However, email correspondence released by the White House show the exact opposite -- that Cheney was involved in this process for nearly one year!

Yet, while Clinton was verbally flogged by the ardent Right, they seem more than willing to look the other way when it comes to Bush & Cheney.

As the Church Lady would say, How c-o-n-v-e-n-i-e-n-t!

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Change is Good...I Think

As a person who has limited knowledge of html and the like, I've stayed with the same layout template I chose in the beginning because I was nervous about my ability to change it. Well, I decided to throw caution to the wind.

This is a work in progress. Who knows? Maybe I'll decide I don't like this new look. Maybe I will. We'll see.

Addendum: I changed it back. While I really like a 3-column format, I still need to tweak the new template. At some point, it will probably return for good.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

A Self-Inflatable Raft

Religions and philosophic beliefs don't arise in a vacuum. They spring forth as the result of historical events and societal conditions. They are attempts to promise future stability and security amongst the insecurities, worries and fears of the people in a particular culture. And they are not built in a day, but evolve over a number of generations.

In other words, religions and philosophic belief systems are not akin to a self-inflatable raft. Neither pops up one day completely filled out ready to sail.

What if the great whatever decided today to rid the world of all religions and philosophic belief systems? With the wave of its mighty hand (for lack of a better term), the Bible, Koran, Tao Te Ching and all such texts simply vanished, both in their written form and in the consciousness of collective society. The names Buddha, Jesus, Mohammad, Lao Tzu, Moses, God and any others no longer hold any special meaning.

As society sets forth to tackle the challenges of living in this world, ideas concerning the purpose of life and our place in it will necessarily begin to take root and flower. In this specific instance, if you had the capacity to create a religion and/or philosophic belief system that IS akin to a self-inflatable raft, what will it look like?

What principles will form its foundation? What Golden Rules will you write? What will you name it?

The pages of this new Great Book are empty now. How will you fill them in?