Sunday, October 31, 2010

Lunch Date

Chuang Tzu met Yahweh over lunch today and, it pains me to have to write this, but they imbibed on a little too much of the fermented grape which means that they were unable to provide me with much help on tonight's scheduled Tao Bible post. They both kept cracking each other up with, well, sophomoric behavior. At one point, they got into a celestial farting contest and, between you and me, that Yahweh dude won hands down as he has a lot of pent up gas!

Anyhow, I hope they sober up tomorrow, so we can get back to exploring the Tao Bible. I can guarantee you one thing -- I'm going to hide the wine bottle!!

Jon Stewart Echoes Lao Tzu

In a bit of serendipity, something that Jon Stewart said yesterday -- at the Rally To Restore Sanity in our nation's capitol -- dovetails nicely with today's Line by Line post. If you will remember, today's snippet generally pertained to the notion that too much noise makes it difficult to hear.

Stewart made much the same point when he said, 'If we amplify everything, we hear nothing,"

You see, Taoists are everywhere in our midst and we simply don't recognize it!

Real Life Tao - Limited Horizons

You know how it goes, don't you? You hear a song -- one you haven't heard for a long, long time -- that transports you back to a pivotal moment in your life. Last night I heard the song, Open Your Eyes, by the band, Asia, and I was transported back to the summer of 1991.

I was a graduate student at Pittsburg State University. As a former social worker and recently elected member to the Student Government Association, I pitched an idea to host a major conference on our campus that dealt with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). My proposal was met with great enthusiasm and I was given the go ahead.

This was before computers were really in vogue (at least for me!), so trying to find speakers involved a lot of phone calls and legwork. In about one month's time, I was able tentatively to line-up several prominent speakers to address a variety of issues around STDs and sexuality, in general. I worked out a schedule and a grid that featured several different events in different locations on campus each hour.

The aforementioned song featured prominently in the ad campaign I developed. Working with the school's communications department and a local radio station, I produced several 30 second Public Service Announcements which featured the chorus and instrumental portions of the song as background with some classically-trained voice-over professionals.

However, just as I started to enter the home stretch in taking this conference from initial conception to fleshed out reality, the rug was unceremoniously pulled out from underneath me. The student body president -- the woman I reported to on my progress -- decided that my vision was too grand and that the student senate wouldn't be able genuinely to pull it off. So, she (in conjunction with the school's administration) scaled back the conference to almost nothing and, not surprisingly, it barely registered a blip on the school's radar.

What angered me to no end was that, because the student body president had very limited horizons, she unilaterally surmised that no one else could possibly see a horizon beyond hers. The plug was pulled because she didn't think SHE had the time and energy to pull everything off, when, in fact, she wasn't doing the work in the first place!

I have encountered this problem many times before and since. As an individual who is obsessive-compulsive (OCD), when I focus on something, I often can do the work of many people. If I commit to an idea or project, I will see it through, come hell or high water. If she only would have stood back and allowed me to follow through, I had all the bases the covered and then some.

(Approximately one decade later, I was the sole person responsible for scheduling a regional all-day peace conference at Willamette University that featured nearly 50 presenters from across the region/nation and had attendance of over 750 people. So, when I put my mind to something, I deliver.)

For me, this goes back to the "one size fits all" mentality that permeates western society. Too often, people judge what is possible by what only they see as conceivable. If an idea falls beyond their own personal horizon, they incorrectly assume it is beyond everyone else's too!

One of the lessons repeated over and over again by the ancient Taoist sages is that, if a person is open to possibilities, more possibilities present themselves. So often, we stunt our own abilities and capabilities (or those of others) by narrowly confining our vision to what we think we can see before we actually see it. By setting arbitrary parameters on what we believe is possible or doable, we limit our potential for success.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Line by Line - Verse 12, Line 2

Music's five notes the ears as deaf can make;
James Legge translation, from
The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

The five tones deafen the ear.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

The five sounds make one deaf in the ears
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

Noise deafens.
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
Have you ever been in a noisy, crowded room and tried to have a conversation with the person next to you? It often can be quite difficult to differentiate what your friend is saying from all the other nearby conversations. In fact, at times, all you hear is a disjointed cacophony of sound!

As with the previous line, sensory overload can be a vexing problem in modern-day society. We have so much information streaming in that it can be next too impossible to digest it all. It is no wonder that so many people spend their lives bouncing from one confused state to the next.

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

Hidden From View

Here's a snippet from a news article that speaks volumes about how what you see is not always all there is to see.
Some of America's largest emitters of heat-trapping gases, including businesses that publicly support efforts to curb global warming, don't want the public knowing exactly how much they pollute.

Oil producers and refiners, along with manufacturers of steel, aluminum and even home appliances, are fighting a proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency that would make the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that companies release — and the underlying data businesses use to calculate the amounts — available online...
What should this revelation tell us? That the corporate world isn't as serious about combating global warming as they would like us to believe!

Think about this. If your business is working hard to try to mitigate the crap you spew into the air, water and ground, what genuine objection would you have in regard to the release of this data? You could point to the areas in which your efforts have been successful AND you could explain the other areas you are working hard to lessen. It would provide you with a superb vehicle to win greater public support.

Of course, if the amount of pollutants your enterprise is spewing is far greater than your manufactured image, then I could easily see why you would raise objections. You wouldn't want the public to know that there is a wide chasm between your words and actions.

Hmm. Kind of like a lot of politicians these days.

The Tao of Dark Sages - Chapter 11, Part 1

The Tao of Dark Sages
by Scott Bradley

Good morning! Mark-tzu has told me you have an assignment. So, why are you here? Someone different. Buz, you haven’t said a thing. Why are you here?

Morning, Sue-tzu. Well, I thought that we had answered that question, but then I realized Mark-tzu was asking me to look more deeply at my own motivations. I have to admit that I really hadn’t done so. So, I’d like to tell you now that you two are helping me — whether that’s spiritually correct or not.

Yes. I guess we have accepted that fact. However disconcerting.


Why "disconcerting," Sue-tzu?

I quote from Chuang-tzu: "Mutton doesn’t want ants, but ants want mutton, especially when it is off." I just wonder how far "off" I am. But let’s return to Buz’s answer.

Wait a minute, Sue-tzu! Sorry, but I need to understand why you wouldn’t want to help us. If I’m an annoying "ant" then maybe I should just move on.

I’ve offended you, Scott-tzu! But please don’t take what I say personally. My concern is more with my harmony with the Tao than yours. When I asked, "Why are you here?", do you think I didn’t ask myself the same? What is it in me and Mark-tzu that brought you here? Is our "mutton off"? What does it mean to be "off"? It means that the sage has fallen into the trap of seeking to share. Why share? Why this desire and need to share?

Let me quote again from Chuang-tzu: "To know the Tao is easy, not to speak about it is hard. Knowing and not saying, this is to aspire to the Heavenly. Knowing and saying this is to be subject to the human element."

To be "off" is to seek external validation, to feed the ego-identity. Why do so-called gurus give satsangs, write books, start foundations, take new, exotic names, gather disciples? Though these things can no doubt arise positively, how much of it is just surrendering the knowledge of the Tao to the "earthly element"?

How much of it is a negation of the Tao itself? Beware those who share out of benevolence and compassion! What are these, but sneaky methods of feeding the ego-self, creating false purpose and meaning. To be in harmony with the Tao is to dwell identity-free in purposelessness and meaninglessness. That is freedom!

If you're interested in reading more from this series by Scott Bradley, go here.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tao Bible - Joshua 7:25

And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.
~ King James version ~

Each person is responsible for him or herself.
~ possible Taoist alternative ~
Achan, found guilty of stealing, is punished by having have his entire immediate family, livestock and possessions stoned, then burned.

Each person is responsible for their own self (which, of course, may be nothing more than illusion anyway). If society deems it necessary to punish, the punishment should fit the crime and it should pertain solely to the guilty party, not anyone else connected by blood or social ties.

If you're interested in reading more from this experimental series, go to the Tao Bible Index page.

Going Down the Tubes

A few days ago I read a report about some sort of index (sorry, no link) that ranks nations around the world in regards to peace, nonviolence, citizens opinions about feeling secure and overall prosperity. The US, not surprisingly, wasn't ranked very high. The author noted that we shouldn't view the index as being all bad since we did come in ahead of Somalia!

Today I found another article featuring an index -- the Corruption Index. Again, the US didn't even make the Top 20 (the higher up the list, the less corrupt).
Iraq and Afghanistan rank near rock-bottom in an index of corruption in 178 countries that found that nearly three- quarters of the countries surveyed showed serious corruption problems.

Iraq ranked 175 and Afghanistan 176 in the global index, just above Burma (Myanmar) and Somalia. These were the same ranks they achieved in 2009.

The United States, while still in the top 20 percent of the world index, fell from 19th in 2009 to 22nd this year, again failing to score in the top 20. That put it behind Canada, Barbados and Chile in the Americas.

The survey was carried out by watchdog group Transparency International (TI) in Berlin. To form its index, TI compiles surveys that ask businessmen and analysts, both in and outside the countries they are analyzing, their perceptions of how corrupt a country is...
I think it's quite illuminating that the opinions sought did not come from everyday citizens. No, the opinions utilized to compile the index came from "businessmen and analysts".

Can you just imagine how far down the list the US might be if average voters had their say?

Who Was Matt Hughes?

Ever since I wrote a post or two about the late Matt Hughes (from Storm Chasers on the Discovery Channel), I have had a lot of visitors. I think many of you were stunned to learn he died in May and you're trying to ascertain precisely what happened. The big question on so many people's minds is: How and why did he die?

Sadly, my own research has indicated that Matt died due to complications encountered after a suicide attempt. To provide a little bit more information on who Matt Hughes was, I found an article from the Wichita Eagle and a blog post from KAKE-TV. Hopefully, this info will be helpful.
from the Wichita Eagle
Valley Center pair is part of Discovery's 'Storm Chasers' team
by Stan Finger

Opportunity can knock at the most unexpected times.

Just ask Brandon Ivey and Matt Hughes.

They were driving through a blizzard in Pratt County last March when fellow storm chaser Reed Timmer called them on the cell phone.

"Hey, I've got an opportunity for you," Timmer said.

The Discovery Channel program "Storm Chasers" needed someone who could forecast weather and help position other chasers during violent weather outbreaks for the new season of the cable show. Timmer had recommended the two friends from Valley Center.

"It was like a dream come true," Ivey said. "We started chasing (storms) practically from the moment we got our driver's licenses."

Footage from two months of chasing this spring will be the basis for the new season of "Storm Chasers," which debuts at 9 p.m. CDT Oct. 18 on the Discovery Channel.

They chased storms from mid-April to mid-June — a period that proved to be one of the quietest on record for Tornado Alley.

"It was like (finding) a needle in a haystack," Hughes said. "It was an extremely difficult season.

"We chased raindrops for three weeks straight."

Ivey, 29, and Hughes, 30, say their fascination with severe storms was born on the same day: April 26, 1991, when a tornado tore through Haysville, south Wichita, McConnell Air Force Base and Andover.

They were boys then, but they were still awed by the power of the storm...

from KAKE-TV
R.I.P. Matt
by Aaron Blaser

It was May 12th and I was typing away, preparing my next blog about how the city of Wichita really dodged a bullet on May 10th, when a tornado had its sights on the city. But on May 14th, everything changed.

One of our KAKEland StormChasers, Matt Hughes, was taken to the hospital after trying to take his life. This sentence is still hard to explain and even more difficult to express on a computer screen. Matt was in the hospital for several days in intensive care, there was a 24 hour vigil outside the waiting room, family, other chasers, business associates, etc.

I spent quite a bit of time bouncing from work to the hospital and back again...hoping for the best, comforting others, but several days later, after serious complications arose, I knew we were going to lose him.

I want to explain something right away, Matt was a young, vibrant, and resourceful man. One who embodies the passion everyone should have doing something they love. He would do anything for anyone, would try to make everyone happy, would try to do a good job for someone..and would never ask for anything in return.

What a lot of us didn't know was that he suffered from depression.

When Matt came to me in March of 2009 to tell me that him and his chase partner, Brandon, were picked to co-star in the Discovery Channel's hit show "Stormchasers" --I was excited! Matt was truly worried about his role for KAKE and that he'll not be able to do as much for us as he wanted to since he'll be away from the state a lot with the production crew. He then asked me what I thought about the show and whether he should do it. A veteran of several chasing shows myself, I told him to seize the opportunity because it may never happen again. He accepted the job and the rest is history.

For those who follow the show, Matt was the forecaster for Sean Casey's TIV (Tornado Intercept Vehicle)--he was responsible for placing Sean in front of tornadoes so he can capture IMAX quality footage for a future project. Matt did a fine job on the show, he was responsible for getting Sean his first legitimate close-up encounter with a tornado with his IMAX cameras. The producers of the show were so happy with Matt and Brandon that they signed up for a second season, of which principal shooting is wrapping up now.

The two of them this year were able to capture some amazing footage for the show, and for Sean. While the professional side of Matt was going fine, his personal life was nothing but.

I won't go into specifics here, but there was never any illegal activity, but an accumulation of issues at home were mounting, and he kept it to himself until the end...
Related post: To End It All, Suicide, and Thinking We Know

Addendum: Via The Storm Report:
A special memorial fund has been established to benefit Matt’s two sons, Hunter and Collin. Donations may be sent to the Matthew John Hughes Memorial Fund, c/o Intrust Bank, 142 North Ash, Valley Center, Kansas 67147.

Line by Line - Verse 12, Line 1

Colour's five hues from the eyes their sight will take;
James Legge translation, from
The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

The five colors blind the eye.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

The five colors make one blind in the eyes
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

Sight obscures.
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
In The Tao of Peace, Wang Chen has this to say about this line, "The five colors nourish the eyes but when looked at excessively result in blindness."

What each writer is trying to express is, in the words of Derek Lin, the danger of "sensory overload". When we get so wrapped up in rushing to and fro, we find it that much more difficult to maintain balance. There are too many sensations for us to synthesize and so it's not uncommon for it all to end up as a jumble in our brains.

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

Reading, Writing and Debtor's Prison

Studies have shown time and time again that those who are able to attain a college education out earn those who do not by a substantial margin over the course of their working life. So, it would seem that it would behoove high school graduates to run full bore to the nearest institution of higher learning to say, "Sign me up!"

Unfortunately, it's not that simple anymore. Sadly, a college education is becoming financially out of reach for a growing number of people. According to a story on NPR, "The cost of going to a public college has increased by 24 percent in the past five years. The cost of private school is up 17 percent." The reporter tries to soften the blow by arguing that aid and scholarships have increased too, but the sticker price remains way, way too high!

The adjusted cost per year to attend a private college is $21,020 and $16,140 for an in-state student at a public university. If a student matriculates in 4 years (these days it often takes 5, 6 or more), those figures jump to $84,080/private school and $64,560/public school.

Either way you cut it, that's a huge chunk of change! (For the sake of comparison, it cost me LESS THAN $16,000 to earn two bachelors and one masters degree.)

Even if a person lucks out and is able to find a living wage job or better in this miserable economy, he or she still is looking at a decade or more to pay back the principle WITH interest. If a person is NOT so lucky -- and far more individuals will fall into this category than the other -- it represents a financial burden that literally can swallow up a person.

What about all those college graduates who end up in service-oriented minimum wage jobs? They will quickly discover they have enough trouble making it from month-to-month! Paying back college loans simply will get jettisoned from the minuscule budget and -- before you know it -- that prized degree will lead to falling credit scores which, in some cases, can remove you from the pool for better jobs.

Democracies do not function adequately if the citizens are not well-informed and well-educated (think Tea Party times one million...unless, of course, you ARE a member of the Tea Party, then you probably can't count that high*). By placing quality education beyond the reach of more and more Americans, we are moving away from the concept of a robust democracy and we are doing so at great peril.

*I'm sorry, I couldn't help it.

The Tao of Dark Sages - Chapter 10, Part 3

The Tao of Dark Sages
by Scott Bradley

I have done both and it leaves me with pure experience, or pure awareness, I guess you could say. There is only emptiness. And awareness fills that void. And all these things to let go? They are all the same. If I let go of anything completely, there can’t be other things to which I still cling. It’s a way of being, and if you are that, then, well, you are that. Does that make sense?

Absolutely! Though we might have a list of things to let go of, in the end, there is only letting go. And it’s the big things like life and death and identity that bring this home because they go to the core of our problem. Which is...?


How so?

The only reason we cling is we believe there is someone to cling and something to cling to. If I have no separate ego-identity — no belief in my own existence—then there is no self which can cling and no ‘other’ to cling to.

Yes. And we might add, there is no need to cling. Because clinging is always an attempt to give substance and support to the ego-identity. We cling to life and fear death because we believe we have an existence to lose when, in fact, we have nothing of the sort. I’m going to quote Mitchell again, from the same Chapter 13: "What does it mean that hope is as hollow as fear? Hope and fear are both phantoms that arise from thinking of the self. When we don’t see the self as self, what do we have to fear?"

So, "Abandon hope all you who enter here!" Isn’t it ironic, the inscription over the gate to Milton’s hell, stands over the gate to our heaven!

Let’s leave it there. Don’t forget your "homework." See you tomorrow.

If you're interested in reading more from this series by Scott Bradley, go here.

A Fricking Franchise

Last year, I wrote a series that featured one verse of the Tao Te Ching (TTC) each day. That series featured my own observations plus a multitude of print and internet sources. During late spring into the summer of this year, I featured a second series on the TTC called Other Voices. Unlike the previous series, this one solely featured the insights and observations of others.

I am now conducting a third series on the TTC, Line by Line. My best estimation is that this series will conclude near the end of 2011 or the first few months of 2012.

What then?

Well, I was thinking that I could author a 4th series on the TTC that goes word by word! That would keep me going on this same topic for, I'm guessing, a decade or so.

If I'm still kicking and halfway sentient, I could follow that up with a 5th series that goes syllable by syllable. Of course, that series would probably take SEVERAL decades to complete.

Hmm. Maybe I should investigate Religious Taoism's formulas on immortality. :-D

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tao Bible - Joshua 6:21

And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.
~ King James version ~

Utter destruction is not the way of Tao.
~ possible Taoist alternative ~
God smiles upon the people of Israel as they slaughter and pillage Jericho.

In Verse 68 of the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu counsels us that:
A good soldier is not violent.
A good fighter is not angry.
A good winner is not vengeful.
Violence, anger and vengefulness ultimately will foster resentment and retribution. It perpetuates conflict and moves everyone away -- victor and vanquished alike -- from Supreme Virtue.

If you're interested in reading more from this experimental series, go to the Tao Bible Index page.

A Lot Less Guano To Worry About

First came the report of massive bee colony die-offs. Now, we're receiving reports that bats are dying in record numbers across the eastern states of the US.
Dr Kunz, a biology professor at Boston University and one of a handful of bat specialists in America, is describing the terrifying advance of white-nose syndrome. In just four years the virulent fungal infection has spread from a single cave in upstate New York to massacre more than a million bats across the North-east.

Scientists and conservationists have been astonished by both the virulence and viciousness of the disease. When a cave becomes infected 75 per cent of the bat colony is likely to be wiped out during the first winter hibernation. After the next winter 90 per cent of the original colony will have succumbed.

This savage fatality rate threatens to destroy one of North America's top predators, leaving a gaping hole in the continent's food chain with as yet incalculable knock-on ecological effects. One senior US wildlife official has gone so far as to describe the massacre as "the most precipitous decline of North American wildlife caused by infectious disease in recorded history"...
I realize some people will say, "Big deal. What's a few less bats?" But these sorts of findings are highly important. It shows that something is askance in the overall environment. It seems to be slowly hemorrhaging.

More importantly, since everything is interconnected by almost invisible threads, the decimation of bee colonies or bats will have serious repercussions for us all. We have yet to realize the ripple effects as it moves up the food chain!

Marketing Your "Product"

We live in a world of competing ideas. If you want an idea, concept, notion or strategy to win out over others, you need to be able to market it in such a way that it can enjoy mass appeal. You need to show that it answers the basic questions, it will provide meaning in people's lives and it certainly doesn't hurt if you can offer some enticements to seal the deal.

Most people understand this methodology when it comes to the field of politics or the land of consumer products, but they don't think it applies to religion at all. Religious belief is an altogether different animal. But is it really?
Ancient religious proselytizers were working in a competitive environment. They were trying to get people's attention and hold it, tell a story that could occupy a special place in their spiritual lives. For a religion to thrive, it had to offer at least as much as the competition. So religions naturally evolved in the direction of successful rivals, just as rival softwares are forced by the market to adopt one another's best features.
~ from Chapter 12 of The Evolution of God by Robert Wright ~
Wright lays out a strong case -- one that I definitely subscribe to -- that religion isn't a different animal at all. Like every other human-constructed ideation, it must be marketed properly to have the desired effect: millions upon millions of believers.

A successful marketing campaign must attune itself to the period of history it occupies. Your ad campaign must tap into what people currently desire OR you must at least understand current sensibilities in order to create the needed desire that does not yet currently exist. If you fail to package your product in the right way, it will easily fall into the dustbin of history.

This obvious fact seems completely lost on modern day fundamentalists of all religions, particularly evangelical Christians here in the US. They want to return to the marketing campaigns of yore without the realization that what appealed to early societies, no longer applies.

Can you imagine what it would be like if, instead of focusing on religion, these folks targeted consumer products in the same way? They would demand that the companies who sell Pepsi Cola or McDonald's hamburgers eschew modern day ad campaigns for those we watched in the 1960s! While those ad campaigns were considered cutting edge in their time, today they seem silly and antiquated.

After watching these two ads from the 60s, are you now burning to rush out to buy a Pepsi and a burger?

Times change and the world of ideas changes too. What may have worked for and spoken to people living in the area of the Mediterranean Sea in the first centuries of the Common Era no longer works for nor speaks to sufficient numbers of people in these modern times. If religion hopes to survive, it needs to get with the times or it will soon find itself in the proverbial dustbin.

Line By Line - Verse 11, Line 8

and what has not that for (actual) usefulness.
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

Usefulness from what is not there.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

That which is empty is used to create functionality
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

but we use nothing.
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
For anything to move, there must be space. You can't roll a wheelbarrow through your basement if the room is filled with junk. You can't turn the handle of a coffee grinder if the handle is impeded. Neither you nor I can dance in an elevator jam-packed with people.

By the same token, if my heart is filled with fear and hate, there is no room for compassion or love. I rob myself of the possibility of stretching out my being to experience new concepts or sensations.

Emptiness provides us with the expansiveness to be the most human.

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

Thinking We Know

So often, when we learn that a loved one, friend or acquaintance has committed suicide, we are initially dumbfounded. Some of the time, after the shock wears off, we end up not being that surprised at all. We knew of the internal demons (perceived or otherwise) the person fought against and we realize that suicide was an inevitable conclusion.

By and large, however, many of us had nary a clue. Bill or Cindy always seemed so outgoing and upbeat, we think to ourselves. Uncle Tom or cousin Bess seemed so full of life. It's at times like these that we begin to wonder if we were too self-absorbed to notice the obvious clues. How could I not have sensed this?

It's one thing when the deceased is someone we know personally; it's quite another when the decedent happens to be a celebrity or newsmaker. We like to delude ourselves into thinking we know someone intimately simply because we watch them regularly on the TV or in the movies and/or we listen to their music. Because their persona or performance impacts our emotions -- we feel a "connection" -- we like to believe we KNOW the person behind the public facade.

For me, this is the prime reason so many fans (like moi) of Storm Chasers on the Discovery Channel have felt blindsided by the death of TIV meteorologist Matt Hughes. The Matt we saw on our TV screens each week looked like a decent guy with a quick smile and a warm personality. He didn't appear to fit the stereotypical image of a person who battled with depression.

What did Matt have to be torn up about anyway? He was an up and coming star on a widely popular cable reality show. He had a successful career, a wife and two young sons. His future looked bright.

But stereotypes hide the pain that all of us deal with. Television, in particular, presents people as one-dimensional caricatures of themselves. Each of us is a complex organism with many dimensions. What we allow others to see is but a pale facsimile of want transpires in the depths of our being.

Matt Hughes, like so many others, was far more than his public image. It's rather obvious that he suffered a pain that he no longer felt he could bear. Despite his seeming success, it must not have been enough to compensate for the sorrow in his heart. Since none of us can truly know what crosses or demons any other person must shoulder, I cannot judge him. I can only hope that his act of desperation brought him peace.

When it comes to the lives AND deaths of others, we err grievously when we think we know.

Related posts: To End It All, Suicide and Who Was Matt Hughes?

The Tao of Dark Sages - Chapter 10, Part 2

The Tao of Dark Sages
by Scott Bradley

Alright! I’ve obviously met my match. So, why are you here? Go deeper — all of you. Why are you here? I don’t want to hear the same shallow answers. Look into your hearts and ask yourself this question. You like homework? This is your homework. Come see me tomorrow!

Thank you, Mark-tzu. And yesterday’s homework?

Oh hell! Okay, Scott-tzu, what have you discovered about hope and despair?

I enjoyed being in the center.

Good answer. What does it mean?

Hope and despair are both the consequence of attachment — attachment to the time-concept and the concepts of good and evil. I find it easier to think of the basic underlying source: the attachment of desire and aversion. Whether I hate something or love it, makes no difference — in either case I am attached and allow it to have power over me. If I have something, I fear to lose it. If I don’t have something, I suffer in my hunger to have it. It makes no difference; it’s all suffering. Being in the center means living totally unattached from desire and aversion. It means living off the merry-go-round. Or, as Sue-tzu says, it means getting off the ladder and standing on firm ground.

Yes. It’s actually Mitchell’s adaptation of Chapter 13 of the Tao Te Ching where the ladder metaphor comes from: "What does it mean that success is as dangerous as failure? Whether you go up the ladder or down it, your position is shaky. When you stand with your two feet on the ground, you will always keep your balance." So, Scott-tzu, you have experienced this state of detachment?

Well, yes, but only momentarily. Enough to experience something of the freedom and peace it brings. And to want to experience it always.

So, you are attached to this feeling of detachment?


I suppose so. Perhaps that’s why I only experience it momentarily?

Perhaps. What of the rest of you? What have you discovered in your meditations?

I could only mostly just contemplate about it. I can’t say that I know it much in experience. It seems to me that to realize this would be to be totally indifferent to everything.

Indifference. What is indifference?

To not care. To be unaffected by whatever comes from outside myself. To be unattached, like Scott-tzu said. I like to try being completely indifferent to my own death. I figure if I could be indifferent to that I could be indifferent to anything. I know it’s not the same thing as actually being detached, but I find that if I ‘try on’ an experience it sort of helps me to move toward actually experiencing it.

I agree. I "try on" experiences, too — after I have experienced them. I ask myself, “What would it feel like, now, to have no identity?” Even though this may be removed from actually being without identity, it does enable me to understand better how I can be without identity. And yes, indifference to one’s own death is a great focal point. Chuang-tzu points out frequently that birth and death are the same, have the same Source, and all is simply Returning to the Source. So, how can we be indifferent to our own death?

By being indifferent to life?

Can you expand that?

If I have let go of my grasp on life itself — just letting it be or not-be as it will — then it’s loss cannot affect me.

What does it feel like to have let go of life? If you have experienced it before, try it on now.

If you're interested in reading more from this series by Scott Bradley, go here.


Yesterday, in the post, "To End It All", I mentioned learning the sad news that Matt Hughes from the TV program, Storm Chasers, had died in May as the result of suicide. I spent the day sorting out my feelings and thoughts about this topic. Suicide is very similar to incest; it's one of those issues that people don't like to talk about. It tends to make people feel uneasy.

I have very mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I believe that people have the right to end their own life. I don't view it as a sinful activity. It may certainly be misguided, but I certainly don't view it as evil. We exercise so little control over our lives that suicide can provide a degree of peace of mind in knowing that, while no one gets to choose if or when we are born, we CAN dictate when we die.

Of course, there is a distinct stigma attached to the concept of voluntarily deciding to end one's own life. Some view it as the ultimate example of selfish self-centeredness. However, most of us commit our own form of suicide. It merely takes longer to finish off the deed.

If you look across the world today, billions of people smoke, drink to excess, abuse all sort of drugs, clog our arteries with transfats, and/or engage in a multitude of risky behaviors. All of these activities and more are certain to shorten a person's lifespan. We choose to fall prey to our most craven desires and these actions typically result in our own deaths before our time.

So, why do we look down on our brethren simply for speeding up the process? While far too many of us drag the process out over many decades, some people decide to take care of the issue in one swift move.

That's one side of the issue. Another side is that many people who decide to end their life do so as the result of clinical depression, an organic and/or psychological disease. It's one thing if an individual -- with all their sentient faculties intact -- makes a well thought out decision to bring their life to a close; it's quite another for someone dealing with a mental illness to make that same decision.

Often, the person suffering from depression does not have the capability to size up the situation and circumstances rationally. This can mean that their decision is rendered due to distortions and that they can't accurately view all the pros and cons involved. In many such instances, the decision to commit suicide is based on acute short-term criteria that does not factor in long-term effects.

And this brings me to the third part of this post. The tragedy of the act of suicide is not only a valued life cut short but the long-term psychological damage that is inflicted on those who continue to live on. Loved ones and friends of a person who up and kills themselves are saddled with tremendous guilt and pain. Many believe that, if only THEY had been more attentive or compassionate, the victim would not have chosen the route he or she chose.

I've mentioned before that, in my late teens to early 30s, I came close to suicide a few times. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I was struggling with severe hormonal deficiencies as the result of undiagnosed Klinefelter's Syndrome. Because my body did not produce adequate amounts of testosterone in relation to estrogen, my moods bounced up and down like a person who suffers from bipolar disorder.

Since I'm sitting here at my keyboard as a 53 year old gent, it should be quite apparent that I never followed through with my intentions! Despite the internal turmoil I felt, the one thing that kept me from taking that final step was the knowledge that my personal actions would adversely impact those I loved and who love me.

In my own personal misery, I was still able to acknowledge that my actions would psychologically destroy my dear wife, Della. It would also cause immense pain for my parents, brother, grandparents and close friends. The thought of being the direct cause of so much abject misery for others kept me from taking my own life.

On the whole -- though, like most people, I do have my "moments" -- I'm glad I decided to stick around a while longer. I figure that I have been granted this one life and, through all the joys and pain this one life offers, I need to make the most of it and keep on muddling through until my time comes to its natural conclusion.

Other related posts: To End It All, Thinking We Know, and Who Was Matt Hughes?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tao Bible - Joshua 6:5

And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him.
~ King James version ~

Tao delivers no one to anyone else.
~ possible Taoist alternative ~
God tells Joshua that he will make the walls of Jericho crumble when the Israelites surround them and scream.

War is a human shortcoming. It is a failure to walk the path of supreme virtue. Conflict is based solely on desire and the refusal to be impartial. As Tao is desireless, Tao takes no sides.

If you're interested in reading more from this experimental series, go to the Tao Bible Index page.

To End It All

Sometimes the pain of life becomes too much to bear. The only way out, the only to slay the demons, the only way to end the pain is to end it all -- commit suicide.

Last night my wife and I watched one of our favorite TV program: Storm Chasers on The Discovery Channel. As is my wont, after the program ended, I had to race up to my computer to visit the Storm Chasers home page to satisfy more of my vicarious storm chasing fix. While motoring around the site, I happened to peek at the blurb for next week's episode. Here's how it reads:
Episode 4: Dedication
Premiere: Nov. 3 at 10 PM
Sean finally gives the reigns to his meteorologist and navigator Matt Hughes, who leads the team to their best tornado intercept ever. Then triumph turns to tragedy as Storm Chasers loses one of its own.
What do they mean by "loses one of its own?" Does someone walk off the set or, more ominously, does this suggest someone died?!

Well, I just HAD to know. So, I started surfing for the answer. Just as I found a link that mentioned that the allusion DID pertain to the unexpected death of a member of one of the chase teams, my brother called. We talked for nearly 2 hours and I was ready for bed after that. Still, I noted to myself that I needed to remember to resume my web search when I got up.

Of course, when I awoke this morning, I didn't remember what I had told myself the night before. As I headed downstairs, I heard my wife gasp. "What's wrong?" I asked. "Oh my goodness, I received a message on my FaceBook page that storm chaser Matt Hughes died in May," she replied. So, that is the death the blurb refers to.

After conducting a bit more web research, it looks like Matt's death was the result of suicide. All the official reports merely state he died in a hospital in Wichita, Kansas. No cause of death even is hinted at (which is not uncommon in cases of suicide). I learned from reading a few message boards that Hughes had battled depression all 30 years of his life and his friends/colleagues have indicated he died from complications of a suicide attempt.

These revelations have really left me in a funk. He was one of my favorite storm chasers on the show and, not unlike many people, I had grown attached to this face I watch on my TV screen. I will probably write a bit more later regarding my thoughts and observations on the issue of suicide (or I may not), but right now all I feel is a deep sadness that I'm unable to put into words.

Follow-up posts: Suicide, Thinking We Know, and Who Was Matt Hughes?

Line By Line - Verse 11, Line 7

Therefore, what has a (positive) existence serves for profitable adaptation,
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

Therefore benefit comes from what is there;
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

Therefore, that which exists is used to create benefit
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

We work with something,
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
Here's what Roshi Hogan (not the same person as Ron Hogan) has to say about this line and overall verse:
Sometimes what we do not have is as or more important than what we do have. It is because we do not have certain things like craving or greed, that we are able to have serenity. It is because we do not have desire for the material, that we can have the benefits of the natural. Be grateful for what you have, and what you do not.
To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

Calling the Shots

A recent international headline caught my eye. It concerns the nation of New Zealand and how governmental leaders basically were blackmailed into changing national labor laws in order not to lose a lucrative movie deal.
A union leader has berated the Government for selling the "fundamental rights" of workers in order to convince Hollywood studio Warner Bros to keep the filming of The Hobbit in New Zealand.

A deal between Warner Bros executives and Government ministers was confirmed last night after two days of negotiations.

The Government has agreed to up to $34 million in tax breaks and help with marketing costs and an urgent change to labour laws.

The legislative changes will apply to the film industry - not just to The Hobbit movies - and will ensure that film workers hired as contractors will not be able to later argue in court that they were employees...
Reading between the lines, it's very clear that the Hollywood behemoth wants to keep its labor costs as stinkingly low as possible by not paying benefits to the majority of its workers. If most of their "employees" can be redesignated as "contractors", then the studio gets to pocket even more of their profits than before.
The amending legislation will be introduced to Parliament today under urgency and already has the support of the Act and United Future parties, which is enough to ensure its passage into law.

But Council of Trade Unions President Helen Kelly told National Radio this morning the changes were unnecessary and "opportunistic".

She said under the current law it was already clear whether someone was an independent contractor or an employee.

"The current law says that if you are employed as an independent contractor in any industry, the court can look through that contract and see whether if it is genuine - whether there are reasons for it, you're a company, you're trading in other places, you've got control over your work, you're pretty autonomous over how you do it - or whether you are actually an employee - you turn up every day, you work under instruction, you don't work for anyone else and you don't run any sort of company [or] provide your own equipment, if it looks like you are actually an employee - it can deem you one.

"And then employment rights flow - sick leave, holiday, those sorts of things," Ms Kelly said...
While there's no question that New Zealand's government officials sold out the country's workers, the true villain here is the US-based film company. They basically put a gun to the head of the New Zealand government: Give us precisely want we demand or else you will lose a very lucrative $670 million contract!

In these international economic hard times, few political leaders ANYWHERE would have the will to walk away from that kind of money, so it's not surprising that they caved in. What else could they do?

This episode simply underscores that, too often, governments are far less powerful that economic giants. To be certain, governmental leaders can talk tough, but, when push comes to shove, they truly aren't in the power position. If they dig in their heels and stand their ground, big corporations easily walk away and quickly find a different governmental body with far less backbone.

The principled leaders who refuse to be blackmailed are lambasted from many sides for turning their backs on so-called needed economic development.

The Tao of Dark Sages - Chapter 10, Part 1

The Tao of Dark Sages
by Scott Bradley

Sue-tzu is not feeling well and asked me to see you all this morning. But I am not sure why I am here before you. Why are you here?

Good morning Mark-tzu! Sue-tzu gave us homework and told us to come back this morning.

Good morning, Scott-tzu. If Sue-tzu told you to come then I guess we should deal with your ‘homework.’ But still, I don’t understand why you are here in the first place. Why are you here?

Like what I told Sue-tzu yesterday — we hoped you’d teach us. And this led to the assignment to understand and experience what it means that hope is the same as despair.

But we won’t teach you. We have nothing to teach. So, your hopes are dashed — which is fortunate for you, since now you can realize the futility of hope!

With respect, Mark-tzu, we’ve heard that before. Sue-tzu told us the same years ago and in the end she consented to teach us by way of pointing toward the moon.

Is it possible that Sue-tzu might have grown in wisdom since then and come to see the error of her ways? As Bob Dylan sang of his former political beliefs: “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now!”

I suppose, but she did start teaching us yesterday! And she asked you to do the same today!

Alright, then. I teach. Why are you here? ‘To be taught’. Why do you think that being taught will help you? Nellie?

Good morning, Mark-tzu. When I first sat before Sue-tzu I had not a clue how I could overcome my depression and sense of hopelessness; and she started me on a path that has led to real peace. So, her teaching helped me. She taught me how to help myself. So why don’t I? Just help myself? Because I seem to have come to a plateau and can’t quite seem to move further on.

Yet you know that what you seek does not reside in me or anything I can teach you. It does not reside in us or anything arising from our discussions. It resides in you and you alone. It is your awaken-ing, Nellie, and no one and nothing—not even the Unknown — can make it happen for you.

There is no ‘message’ or ‘formula’ or ‘transference’ or ‘divine intervention’ that can do it for you. A verse from the Bible comes to mind, even though it is fraught with mis-direction: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling!” You’re on your own, Nellie; unless your conscious experience differs radically from mine.

Yes. But ‘all truth is paradoxical’, Mark-tzu. And there is some dialectic involved here; what you have just ‘not taught’ me has ‘taught’ me a lot. Maybe ‘facilitator’ is a better word than ‘teacher’.

If you're interested in reading more from this series by Scott Bradley, go here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tao Bible - Joshua 5:2

At that time the LORD said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time.
~ King James version ~

Each being is made as nature intended.
~ possible Taoist alternative ~
God tells Joshua to see to it that the foreskin is cut away from the penises of the men of Israel.

Through the process of evolution, each being comes equipped with certain physical features. Humans may, of course, alter said features for health, social or aesthetic reasons. It is of no concern of Tao one way or the other.

If you're interested in reading more from this experimental series, go to the Tao Bible Index page.

Beyond the Yellowed Pages

We all know how it goes. The mainstream media fixates on a story for a time -- going full bore 24/7 -- then they move on to the next sensational item. Since the media has pulled up stakes, far too many members of the public wrongly assume that everything has returned to an idyllic hunky-dory state.

Life rarely goes that way. It's not uncommon at all for most of the real tragedies to occur once the cameras stop rolling. Unfortunately, because the key issues are subject to an "out of sight, out of mind" mentality, the genuine victims of tragedy end up suffering from abject neglect.

This past spring and summer the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico dominated the mainstream media and the blogosphere alike. In time, it faded from view and the nation's attention was diverted to "important" stories like Lindsey Lohan's attempt to stay out of jail. Unfortunately, the damage wrought in the gulf from the oil and dispersants has not gone away at all. Everyone and everything in the coastal communities continue to suffer greatly.

We know this because of journalists like Dahr Jamail who have stayed with this important story. In an article post today on Common Dreams, Jamail writes,
Two-year-old Gavin Tillman of Pass Christian, Mississippi, has been diagnosed with severe upper respiratory, sinus, and viral infections. His temperature has reached more than 39 degrees since September 15, yet his sicknesses continues to worsen.

His parents, some doctors, and environmental consultants believe the child's ailments are linked to exposure to chemicals spilt by BP during its Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.

Gavin's father, mother, and cousin, Shayleigh, are also facing serious health problems. Their symptoms are being experienced by many others living along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

Injected with at least 4.9 million barrels of oil during the BP oil disaster of last summer, the Gulf has suffered the largest accidental marine oil spill in history. Compounding the problem, BP has admitted to using at least 1.9 million gallons of widely banned toxic dispersants, which according to chemist Bob Naman, create an even more toxic substance when mixed with crude oil. And dispersed, weathered oil continues to flow ashore daily...

The Last Supper

Another state has carried out a death sentence. In the current case, convicted murderer Jeffrey Landrigan was executed by lethal injection in Arizona last night.

As part of their report, CNN provides us with this tasty tidbit.
Landrigan's last meal consisted of steak, fried okra, french fries, strawberry ice cream and a Dr. Pepper, Marson said...
This certainly is not atypical. It seems that each and every time I read an article or watch a news report about a state-sanctioned execution, there is this perverse interest with the condemned person's last meal. Who the hell cares?!

Does it provide some insight into the mind of a convicted killer? Should I now assume that eating too much friend okra or strawberry ice cream might turn you and me into bloodthirsty killers? Did CNN include this information solely as a vehicle to get in a plug for Dr. Pepper?

I guess I simply don't understand people's fascination with last meals. A condemned person's last words may shed some light on the individual's state of mind or degree of remorse (IF they are indeed remorseful), but knowing what he or she ate doesn't add one iota of meaningful information.

Before we know it, reports may include how many trips they made to the latrine and whether or not it was a #1 or a #2!!!

Labor Pains

From a theoretical standpoint, I am very pro-union. I strongly support the concept of workers banding together to have a say in how their corporation, company, enterprise or governmental unit is run.

However, in the real America, unions ain't half of what they use to be. Too often, they focus on very narrow self-interest and refuse to look at the big picture (e.g., like how the demands of one union in a company might adversely affect another union in the same company). Many of their own big wigs have become about as corrupt as the management folks they rub shoulders with daily.

Worst of all, most of the major unions have married themselves to the Democratic Party and, regardless of how anti-union and anti-labor some Democratic candidates are, they support them to the death.

David Sirota makes this same point.
We saw this here in Colorado when the AFL-CIO responded to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet's opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act - ie. labor's top legislative priority - by loyally restating its lockstep support for Bennet and by then insisting that EFCA was suddenly a "non-issue" for labor unions. We also saw it with AFSCME president Gerry McEntee compliantly endorsing Rahm Emanuel for Chicago Mayor, despite Emanuel consistently laying waste to organized labor's basic agenda. This was the same McEntee who previously promised to lead the fight against any progressive groups trying to run primaries against anti-labor Democrats. Now, we see even more of this ignorance/corruption from labor leaders -- and in even more shockingly ignorant/corrupt terms...
For years I was a state leader of the Green Party in Oregon (1999 - 2004) and Washington (2006 - 2008). No matter how hard we tried to get organized labor to work with us on reforming the stilted political system or to consider seriously supporting our candidates, it was a definite no-go. Though our political agenda was a far better fit for them, labor would fall into lockstep for the Democrats every two years!

In between elections, organized labor makes a lot of noise. They decry the Democratic Party's abandonment of America's working class. They hold conferences, write editorials and make grandiose statements about how in the NEXT election cycle they will pull support from those candidates who do not support a pro-labor agenda. The rhetoric sounds all well and good, but as soon as that next election comes near, they soften the rhetoric and turn their backs on everything they said in the preceding months.

The refrain every election is the same: Yes, the Democrats may not be our friends, but the Republicans are our sworn enemies. So vote Democrat.
In an article headlined "Labor holds nose, backs former foes," Politico reports that "Labor's big threat to punish misbehaving Democrats has largely evaporated in the heat of the midterms, as unions now scramble to rescue incumbents they once pilloried." In this, the message to all Democratic politicians now and in the future is clear: Labor may talk about using the stick, but it won't actually follow those threats up with action come election time. Which, of course, tells all Democratic politicians that they won't pay a price for opposing labor's agenda... which, of course, effectively encourages Democratic politicians to oppose labor's agenda on behalf of corporate interests. This is, in short, labor saying "Thank you sir, may I have another?" to anti-labor Democratic politicians...
Labor once held strong political clout, but it's not as strong as it use to be and it grows more irrelevant by the year. At the rate they're going, they will soon become a political non-factor.

Poll after poll has shown that many Americans crave a new political party that will serve the interests of the vast majority instead of the machinations of the corporate class and wealthy elite. Organized labor could be the catalyst in the formation of such a party IF they had the courage to stand up for what they say they believe in. Unfortunately, as long as they steadfastly hitch their horse to a wagon going in the wrong direction, the chances of creating a populist-based progressive political force are about nil.

In many ways, organized labor has become its own worst enemy. What a shame!

Line By Line - Verse 11, Lines 5-6

The door and windows are cut out (from the walls) to form an apartment;
but it is on the empty space (within), that its use depends.

~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes which make it useful.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

Cut open doors and windows to create a room In its emptiness,
there is the function of a room

~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

A house is made out of wood or brick,
but you live in the space between the walls.

~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
These lines represent the third couplet in this verse that seeks to show that the space/emptiness/void is what makes life functional. Again, these metaphors are being employed in order for us to see how they apply to our minds and hearts.

Just like trying to navigate through a room that is clogged with far too many furnishings, it can be hard to maneuver around a mind filled up with hubris and hyperbole.

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

Taoist Poetry

Generally speaking, I'm not one to read poetry. So, I have no earthly idea why I performed a search for "Taoist Poets" this morning. But this search I did perform and I found one site that looked halfway interesting, if a person was interested in that sort of thing!

Here is one of the poems I found.
Looking For A Monk And Not Finding Him
by Li Po (translated by Rewi Allen)

I took a small path leading
up a hill valley, finding there
a temple, its gate covered
with moss, and in front of
the door but tracks of birds;
in the room of the old monk
no one was living, and I
staring through the window
saw but a hair duster hanging
on the wall, itself covered
with dust; emptily I sighed
thinking to go, but then
turning back several times,
seeing how the mist on
the hills was flying, and then
a light rain fell as if it
were flowers falling from
the sky, making a music of
its own; away in the distance
came the cry of a monkey, and
for me the cares of the world
slipped away, and I was filled
with the beauty around me.

149 - Never Backward

Life revolves. You cannot go back one minute, or one day. In light of this, there is no use marking time in any one position. Life will continue without you, will pass you by, leaving you hopelessly out of step with events. That's why you must engage life and maintain your pace. Don't look back, and don't step back. Each time you make a decision, move forward.
~ from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations, Entry 149 ~
While I agree that we should always look forward, we do have the same problem with the future as we do with the past. While we can't re-engage what has been, we concurrently can't engage what is not yet. All we CAN do is deal with the present moment -- the right here in the right now.

That said, Ming-Dao does offer us a salient point. If we don't keep our eyes on where we're headed, it's next too impossible to stay on course.

Have you ever tried walking forward for any distance while looking behind you? If it's anything more than a quick glance, you're bound to step in a hole or run into a person or object. If you continually look over your shoulder on a busy downtown street, you run a great risk of being run over!!

There is nothing wrong with examining one's past in order to glean wisdom from our experiences. However, wallowing in what could have been but isn't will not change one damn thing. Once we screw up, it's over and done with. No amount of hand wringing can change what has already been wrought.

Beating yourself up for what you cannot change is a selfish waste of time and energy. It also sets the stage for you to make the same mistake all over again because you refuse to focus on what's right in front of you.

The Tao of Dark Sages - Chapter 9

The Tao of Dark Sages
by Scott Bradley

It’s been great to see you all. And I hope we’ll meet again sometime — maybe next year. Goodbye!

Ah, Sue-tzu! We were hoping you and Mark-tzu would share with us — you know, about your experiences.

“Hope is as harmful as despair,” Scott-tzu. You know that.

Yes, I know that. But you used to say we shouldn’t try to be spiritually correct in our use of words.

That’s true. So, what does it mean that you ‘hoped’ we’d share with you?

That we hoped, I guess.

As I suspected. Then you’re not in the center. Come back when you are.

But we’re here because we aren’t in the center and want to be — and think maybe you could help us along the path.

I just did. I gave you your homework: When you have understood and experienced what it means that hope and despair are the same, come back.

You’re hard, Sue-tzu! Help us with our homework.

Alright! Come back tomorrow morning and we can look at your progress — since this moment. I only want to hear what you have newly discovered. And no vain speculation! Ciao!

If you're interested in reading more from this series by Scott Bradley, go here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tao Bible - Deuteronomy 28:20

The LORD shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke, in all that thou settest thine hand unto for to do, until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly; because of the wickedness of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me.
~ King James version ~

When people suffer, it is their own doing.
~ possible Taoist alternative ~
Moses tells the Israelites that, if they don't follow all of God's commandments, he will inflict them with all sorts of diseases and pestilence, and then destroy them.

We cause our own suffering. Tao plays no role. When we turn away from our own internal nature and we allow desire to cloud our vision, we plant the seeds for our own misery.

If you're interested in reading more from this experimental series, go to the Tao Bible Index page.

It's Our Own Fault

While a lot of liberals want to blame the state of the nation on conservatives and the Tea Party, Chris Hedges places the blame a lot closer to home in "The World Liberal Opportunists Made". Here's a snippet, but I strongly encourage you to use the link above to read the whole enchilada!
The lunatic fringe of the Republican Party, which looks set to make sweeping gains in the midterm elections, is the direct result of a collapse of liberalism. It is the product of bankrupt liberal institutions, including the press, the church, universities, labor unions, the arts and the Democratic Party. The legitimate rage being expressed by disenfranchised workers toward the college-educated liberal elite, who abetted or did nothing to halt the corporate assault on the poor and the working class of the last 30 years, is not misplaced. The liberal class is guilty. The liberal class, which continues to speak in the prim and obsolete language of policies and issues, refused to act. It failed to defend traditional liberal values during the long night of corporate assault in exchange for its position of privilege and comfort in the corporate state. The virulent right-wing backlash we now experience is an expression of the liberal class’ flagrant betrayal of the citizenry.

The liberal class, which once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible, functioned traditionally as a safety valve. During the Great Depression, with the collapse of capitalism, it made possible the New Deal. During the turmoil of the 1960s, it provided legitimate channels within the system to express the discontent of African-Americans and the anti-war movement. But the liberal class, in our age of neo-feudalism, is now powerless. It offers nothing but empty rhetoric. It refuses to concede that power has been wrested so efficiently from the hands of citizens by corporations that the Constitution and its guarantees of personal liberty are irrelevant. It does not act to mitigate the suffering of tens of millions of Americans who now make up a growing and desperate permanent underclass. And the disparity between the rhetoric of liberal values and the rapacious system of inverted totalitarianism the liberal class serves makes liberal elites, including Barack Obama, a legitimate source of public ridicule. The liberal class, whether in universities, the press or the Democratic Party, insists on clinging to its privileges and comforts even if this forces it to serve as an apologist for the expanding cruelty and exploitation carried out by the corporate state.

Populations will endure repression from tyrants as long as these rulers continue to effectively manage and wield power. But human history has amply demonstrated that once those in positions of power become redundant and impotent, yet retain the trappings and privileges of power, they are swiftly and brutally discarded. Tocqueville observed that the French, on the eve of their revolution, hated the aristocrats about to lose their power far more than they had ever hated them before. The increased hatred directed at the aristocratic class occurred because as the aristocracy lost real power there was no decline in their fortunes. As long as the liberal class had even limited influence, whether through the press or the legislative process, liberals were tolerated and even respected. But once the liberal class lost all influence it became a class of parasites. The liberal class, like the déclassé French aristocracy, has no real function within the power elite. And the rising right-wing populists, correctly, ask why liberals should be tolerated when their rhetoric bears no relation to reality and their presence has no influence on power...

Beyond the Magic

I'm in the home stretch of the book, The Evolution of God by Robert Wright. While it's a long volume for a slow reader like me, I've learned a great deal. I haven't quoted from it as much as I thought I would -- many of its key points aren't neatly boiled down into short blurbs -- but several of its themes are bouncing around in my head and may come to light one of these days.

One thing that I contend Wright has done superbly is to look at the Abrahamic religious literature beyond their magical elements. If a person would allow themselves to read the Bible, for one example, without the notions of God and Jesus as supernatural forces, then it's far easier to see the evolution of one brand of human thought. (I realize that reading the Bible as such is tantamount to the suggestion that one watch the Wizard of Oz or Harry Potter and ignore the magical elements therein.)

With God/Jesus removed from the equation, it is far easier to understand why basic terminology and concepts changed from generation to generation by comparing what is being written with the overall geopolitical and historical realities of the various authors. It is far easier to theorize why the inclusion or exclusion of particular stories and allegories occurred when one also considers which sector of society or school of thought benefited the most from the changing narrative and/or interpretation.