Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tao Bible - Ecclesiastes 7:9

Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.
~ King James version ~

After a bitter quarrel, some resentment must remain.
What can one do about it?
Therefore the sage keeps his half of the bargain
But does not exact his due.
~ from Verse 79 of the Tao Te Ching ~
Anger often comes when our ego-based desires go unmet. If we had no ego-based desire, what could we be angry about?

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

Chapter 2, Part 3A - Lieh Tzu

Mr. Fan had a son named Tzu Hua, who succeeded in achieving great fame as an exponent of the black art, and the whole kingdom bowed down before him. He was in high favor with the Prince of Chin, taking no office but standing on a par with the three Ministers of State. Any one on whom he turned a partial eye was marked out for distinction; while those of whom he spoke unfavorably were forthwith banished. People thronged his hall in the same way as they went to Court.

Tzu Hua used to encourage his followers to contend amongst themselves, so that the clever ones were always bullying the slow-witted, and the strong riding rough-shod over the weak. Though this resulted in blows and wounds being dealt before his eyes, he was not in the habit of troubling about it. Day and night, this sort of thing served as an amusement, and practically became a custom in the State.

One day, Ho Shêng and Tzu Po, two of Fan's leading disciples, set off on a journey and, after traversing a stretch of wild country, they put up for the night in the hut of an old peasant named Shang Ch'iu Wai. During the night, the two travelers conversed together, speaking of Tzu Hua's reputation and influence, his power over life and death, and how he could make the rich man poor and the poor man rich.

Now, Shang Ch'iu Wai was living on the border of starvation. He had crept round under the window and overheard this conversation. Accordingly, he borrowed some provisions and, shouldering his basket, set off for Tzu Hua's establishment. This man's followers, however, were a worldly set, who wore silken garments and rode in high carriages and stalked about with their noses in the air.
~ Lionel Giles translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Lieh Tzu.

Afternoon Matinee: The Corporation, Part 22

Today's feature presentation of the Afternoon Matinee is one of 23 parts of the documentary, The Corporation which is based on the book, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Power and Profit by Joel Bakan.

Long Time Coming

Congress repealed Depression era banking regulation that kept your banks from risky investments in 1999.

Congress enacted legislation in 2000 that allowed extremely risky investments in real estate and other derivatives, illegal for nearly a century.

In 2001, the big banks and Wall Street celebrated its newly purchased freedoms with a decade-long binge of fraud and risky investments. Like a greedy con artist, they took everything they could from people here and around the world until there was no more to take. We have now hit the wall thanks to them.

The outrageous expenses of wars based on lies caught up with us and shoved the deficit to new heights. The tax cuts for the top 1% took away revenues needed to balance the budget.

The money they steal from the Social Security surplus is no longer enough. They want to keep the tax in place for us and take an even bigger rake-off.
~ from The War on You by Michael Collins ~
It has become fashionable for anyone slightly left of center to blame all this nation's economic woes on the Tea Party movement. We're told that it is the Tea Party that is holding America hostage and the driving force behind the protracted "debate" on the debt ceiling.

As Collin's shows above and any number of other sources have highlighted, the Tea Party certainly plays a role, but not THAT big of one. The powers that be have spent the past 15 years or so setting the table for where we find ourselves today. The snippet above notes a few of the foundations -- there are countless more that could have been listed.

And so now, we will get to see what they have wrought. Whatever it is, we can be certain of one thing. For the vast majority, it won't be pretty...not by a long shot!

Line by Line - Verse 38, Line 20

Thus it is that the Great man abides by what is solid, and eschews what is flimsy;
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

Therefore the truly great man dwells on what is real and not what is on the surface,
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

Therefore the great person:
Abides in substance, and does not dwell on the thin shell

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

The Masters pay attention
to what's beneath the surface.

~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
I'm sure most of you have heard the sayings, Beauty is only skin deep and You can't judge a book by its cover. Both express the general sentiment of this line.

There are many species in the animal kingdom whose appearance has been adapted to blend in with the surrounding environment. When other creatures scan the area in a superficial manner, they miss out on their next meal! Those who look more deeply aren't so easily fooled...or hungry!

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

"Good" Team Play

What sort of moral compass allows us to condemn actions by one administration only to be silent (complicit?) when our own candidate commits them?
~ from Time to Reset Our Moral Compass by Norman Mathews ~
I only chose to highlight this one sentence from Mathew's superb essay (I hope you follow the link to read the whole article) because it refers to an issue that is seldom discussed: team play.

In so many ways, politics isn't all that different than sports. In the athletic arena, we have teams. Their counterpart in politics is the political party. (On the more intimate level, your family is viewed as a team too.) We're taught from an early age publicly not to badmouth the team or its members. Behind closed doors, you can get in someone's grill or knock them upside the head, but in public, we're taught to wear a shit eating grin.

For you sports fans, we all know the drill. A player on one team fumbles the ball in the last minute, misses the key free throw or strikes out on a pitch in the dirt. After the big loss, the team's coach and various star players are interviewed. Everyone says that the loss wasn't due to this one grievous foul-up -- even though everyone KNOWS it was -- and what a great guy or gal their teammate is. He/She has 100% of our support, we're told, even though most of us are really darn sure he/she is being berated by teammates in the locker room.

This same scenario plays out in politics too. While there are Republican representatives irate with Speaker of the House John Boehner's inability to lead and Democratic representatives fuming over President Obama's bend-over-backwards strategy of accommodating almost every Republican whim, neither side seems willing to take their guy to task. Our elected leaders refuse to speak their minds candidly because you just can't openly criticize the players on your "team."

As many pundits have pointed out, politicians have become so possessive of the team name and brand that they are willing to create train wreck after train wreck as if all they are doing is playing a game of Risk. Under this mentality, it is far better for your team to win or hold the line than to allow the opposing team to win OR to draw up a compromise with them.

If we look at most of the world's well-known religious and philosophical figures, one interesting aspect they share in common is that they placed the whole of humanity and the world before team. Jesus was a revolutionary for his time and, unlike many of his compatriots, advocated nonviolence instead of violence. Siddhārtha Gautama renounced his world of privilege and went out to live among the people. Lao Tzu wrote the Tao Te Ching before disappearing into the mountains and Chuang Tzu turned down an invitation to a royal court.

All four were individuals who told it like they saw it and didn't hold anything back because it might not look for good for the team. In their own writings or writings about them, they criticized their compatriots as much as outside sources. They did this because they possessed strong moral compasses -- ones that were not corrupted by the false sentimentality for their brand.

That's what we need today, both in the public and private sphere. We need people who tell it like they see it, people with inner conviction and courage who are unafraid of criticizing their own team when that team is way off the mark.

Chapter 2, Part 2C - Lieh Tzu

'At the end of nine years my mind gave free rein to its reflections, my mouth free passage to its speech. Of right and wrong, profit and loss, I had no knowledge, either as touching myself or others. I knew neither that the Master was my instructor, nor that the other man was my friend. Internal and External were blended into Unity. After that, there was no distinction between eye and ear, ear and nose, nose and mouth: all were the same.

'My mind was frozen, my body in dissolution, my flesh and bones all melted together. I was wholly unconscious of what my body was resting on, or what was under my feet. I was borne this way and that on the wind, like dry chaff or leaves falling from a tree. In fact, I knew not whether the wind was riding on me or I on the wind.

'Now, you have not spent one whole season in your teacher's house, and yet you have lost patience two or three times already. Why, at this rate, the atmosphere will never support an atom of your body, and even the earth will be unequal to the weight of one of your limbs!

'The only way to etherealize the body being to purge the mind of its passions.

'How can you expect to walk in the void or to be charioted on the wind?'

Hearing this, Yin Sheng was deeply ashamed. He could hardly trust himself to breathe, and it was long ere he ventured to utter another word.
~ Lionel Giles translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Lieh Tzu.

Obtuse Mathematics

Most Americans don't consider themselves stupid, but a person has to wonder anyway. If you've read the most recent reports about a potential deal to end the debt ceiling standoff, it appears obvious that our elected leaders and the mainstream media think that the majority of the public is slow and dimwitted. Both most likely are correct!

Why do I write such nasty things? Consider the following from CNN.
The framework of a tentative deal to raise the nation's debt ceiling calls for up to $2.8 trillion in total deficit reduction over the next decade, two sources familiar with the negotiations told CNN late Saturday night.

The agreement, still being negotiated by the White House and bipartisan congressional leaders, would allow the debt ceiling to be raised by enough to last at least through the end of 2012.
This deal supposedly is a compromise between the Democrats and Republicans. The Republican Plan on the table (Boehner's plan) calls for approximately $2.7 trillion in cuts. The Democratic Plan on the table (Reid's plan) calls for approximately $2.4 trillion in cuts.

Consequently, if the new proposal being worked on was a genuine compromise, one would expect that the final figure would fall somewhere between $2.4 trillion and $2.7 trillion. But we're told that the compromise position is $2.8 trillion which happens to be MORE than either proposal on the table!!

The saddest part is that most Americans won't recognize this obvious discrepancy.

Religious Atheism

Religious Atheism
by Scott Bradley

"The Buddha's answer is trenchant. Only an atheist religion can be a religion. All the rest is idolatry, the worship of a God who is the work of our hands or our mind...This, in my view, is at once the point of contact and the difference between Buddhism and the attitude of our times. Religious atheism, a religion without God...was what the Buddha preached. And the denial of God as the basis of life (that is, of the human religious attitude), epitomizes and synthesizes the phenomenon of contemporary atheism." — Raimundo Panikkar (The Silence of God)

This, in a nutshell, is Panikkar's message. Buddhism, he tells us, is a mysticism without belief, and as such, both speaks to modern humanity in its own language (atheism) and provides it with a spiritual dimension (religion) that it otherwise does not have. I would certainly agree with his general thesis, but question whether Buddhism is, in fact, without belief. It seems to me to be rife with belief and unquestioned metaphysical presuppositions, even in its most rarefied forms, and always opaque in its convoluted psycho-philosophical pronouncements. It is no 'simple way'.

Philosophical Taoism, on the other hand, especially taken as only a springboard for one's own philosophical and mystical journey, fills this need more truly. This is only my opinion but, unlike Panikkar, I do not envision a universal remedy for humanity's ills, but merely my own. Were I a Buddha, I guess I'd be no bodhisattva, who defers Nirvana until the world is saved through his compassion and virtue (this is not belief?), but rather, would jump right in — goodbye, and good luck!

This apparently extreme individualism, I might add, is predicated on the belief that all is well and nothing needs to be saved, in any case.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tao Bible - Ecclesiastes 7:3-4

Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
~ King James version ~

Compassion is more productive than apathy.
~ possible Taoist alternative ~
What strange biblical lines!

Compassion -- rather than sadness -- can be a spur to action. The latter often is focused solely on the self-ego, while the former is an expression of the interconnection one to others.

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

One Deadbeat Dad

Chapter 2, Part 2B - Lieh Tzu

'Right and wrong, profit and loss, are the fixed principles prevailing in the world of sense. To let the mind reflect on what it will, to let the lips utter what they please, and not grudgingly bottle it up in one's breast, so that the internal and the external may become as one, is still not so good as passing beyond the bounds of self and abstaining from all manifestation. This first step, however, pleased the Master and caused him to give a smile.

'At the end of seven years, there was another change. I let my mind reflect on what it would, but it no longer occupied itself with right and wrong. I let my lips utter whatsoever they pleased, but they no longer spoke of profit and loss. Then, at last, my Master led me in to sit on the mat beside him.

'The question is, how to bring the mind into a state of calm, in which there is no thinking or mental activity; how to keep the lips silent, with only natural inhalation and exhalation going on. If you give yourself up to mental perfection, right and wrong will cease to exist; if the lips follow their natural law they know not profit or loss. Their ways agreeing, Master and friend sat side by side with him on the same seat. That was only as it should be.
~ Lionel Giles translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Lieh Tzu.

Bye Bye

Here is the setup. You live in a mid-sized metropolitan city. There are four major grocery chains, 3 regional grocery stores and 5 of the mom-and-pop variety. You work for Gouge-For-Less. You've worked there for 5 years and have received excellent performance evaluations each year. You are well-liked both by your coworkers and the management. You are very happy with the company and look forward to a long career with them.

One day you come to work and you can't find your time card to punch in. You go see your supervisor to find out what's up. She tells you that you no longer work there; you now work for Just Try'n to Get By Groceries, an up and coming local store. Two of their former employees will now be working at Gouge -For-Less.

Your supervisor thanks you for all your hard work for the company, hands you your box cutter and tells you that you need to report to your new employer by 4:00 p.m.

While this scenario would seem quite odd out in the real world, it is a routine part of business for athletes who play for professional sports teams. Owners and management trade players like kids who trade sports cards. More often than not, the athlete has no say in regards to whether or not he/she wishes to be traded or where they might be sent.

As a youth, I accepted this system because it was the status quo and, to be quite frank, I didn't really think about the human implications. Now that I'm older, I can't believe that sports teams are allowed to get away with this. It is to treat human beings like a commodity!

I know a lot of people would say, "Yeah, but they get paid gazillions of dollars." There's no question, in my mind, that far too many professional athletes are paid unrealistic sums to play the games they played as children. When one compares the societal benefit between a home run hitter or a defensive lineman with an elementary school teacher, it would seem the latter is far more valuable!

Yet, regardless of how much money they get paid, it is quite dehumanizing to be treated like nothing more than a sack of potatoes to be be tossed here or there at the whim of management -- to not have a real say in when, where or for whom a person works.

Afternoon Matinee: The Corporation, Part 21

Today's feature presentation of the Afternoon Matinee is one of 23 parts of the documentary, The Corporation which is based on the book, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Power and Profit by Joel Bakan.

Guest Post: Time to Challenge the Two-Party System

Time to Challenge the Two-Party System
by Dave Jette

A call for a progressive Presidential campaign in 2012

Working together, the Obama administration and the Republican Party are preparing to sell the American people down the river. In order to ensure that the corporate class doesn't lose one penny of their ever-burgeoning largess, the rest of us will be forced to shoulder the entire burden of the economic calamity that was engineered by none other than that same corporate class.

The big question now facing those of us who define ourselves as progressives, socialists, Greens, anti-corporatists, and/or environmentalists is: Are we going to continue to support a Democratic Party that no longer represents our interests or will we stand up to mount some sort of challenge outside of the two-party duopoly?

We have known for quite some time that the Republican Party is moving ever more rightward, and now is controlled by social reactionaries. It is ideologically opposed to providing government services, and unabashedly supports the transfer of wealth to the very rich, repression of the working class (particularly of trade unions), and support of American imperialism.

The Democratic Party, while supporting some progressive social policies, is also moving ever rightward, with the same political objectives as the Republican Party (upward transfer of wealth, repression of the great majority of American people, imperialism).

The Democratic Party ("Republican Lite") is perhaps more dangerous than the Republican Party in transforming the United States into a fascist society practicing unfettered imperialism, because it proceeds more slowly, more surely, and less obviously in this direction. This is particularly true with the office of President, for liberals and many progressives are able to rationalize their support of morally untenable policies out of a (professed) fear that things would be even worse under a Republican President, so it's necessary not to rock the boat.

It is time that we recognize the Democratic Party for what it sadly has become. It, like the Republican Party, is institutionally controlled by the very wealthy, concretely by the huge corporations whose interest they necessarily serve. For a great many decades, the Democratic Party has functioned to siphon off the energy of mass progressive movements, emasculating our political effectiveness. It is a complete waste of time to try to transform the Democratic Party into a vehicle for progressive social change.

To this end, several activists from around the country strongly believe that what is needed is a national progressive electoral organization ("PEO") that will 1) elect progressives to office to actually implement progressive policies; and 2) generalize (ideologically) particular progressive struggles to the whole range of progressive struggles, so that people see the need for an overall transformation of society.

Unlike many past efforts of this nature, we haven't spent much time at all working out platforms, rules, and structure precisely because we believe such things should be developed organically by the people who come together to form the basis of this movement that seeks to serve as a counterforce to the corporate takeover of our nation and, indeed, the world.

However, as a first step in the process of creating a national PEO, we call for running a progressive candidate of national stature in next year's Presidential election. This campaign is to run to the end regardless of the effect that it may have on Obama's re-election chances, and it will draw together those electoral activists who have finally rejected the Democratic Party as a meaningful "lesser-of-evils" alternative.

We have accordingly drafted a working document, "A Call for a Progressive Presidential Campaign in 2012". [If you would like to receive a copy, please contact me.]

Life is growing bleaker for the bottom 90 percent and, once President Obama and Congress close the deficit ceiling deal, the gloom will spread and envelope what is left of the American Dream. We can choose to continue to play the lesser-evil game in 2012 OR we can stand up and say, "Enough is enough!"

The choice is ours to make.

Dave Jette has recently been active in Seattle with the Green Party at the local, state, and national levels. Since 1999 he has served as treasurer of ten electoral campaigns, including two for U.S. Senate and one for Congress.

Line by Line - Verse 38, Lines 18-19

swift apprehension is (only) a flower of the Tao, and is the beginning of stupidity.
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

Knowledge of the future is only a flowery trapping of Tao.
It is the beginning of folly.

~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

Those with foreknowledge
Are the flowers of the Tao
And the beginning of ignorance

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

If you've already made up your mind,
you don't know the first thing about Tao,
and you never will.

~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
As Derek Lin explains these lines, they are about people who are superficial and lack the depth of substance. They make a big show of "being in the know," but they lack real virtue.

On another level, none of us can see into the future. People who are well-grounded can make educated guesses based on the circumstances, but in so many situations there are variables even the wisest among us don't take into account or are unable to see.

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

Taking the High Road

Over the last decade, virtually every Terrorist plot aimed at the U.S. -- whether successful or failed -- has provoked greater security and surveillance measures. Within a matter of mere weeks, the 9/11 attacks infamously spawned a vast new surveillance statute (the Patriot Act), a secretly implemented warrantless eavesdropping program in violation of the law, an explosion of domestic surveillance contracts, a vastly fortified secrecy regime, and endless wars in multiple countries. As it turned out, that massive over-reaction was not a crisis-driven anomaly but rather the template for future actions. [What's most striking, and ironic, is that the Norwegian response to the Oslo attack is so glaringly un-American even though its core premise -- a brave refusal to sacrifice liberty and transparency in the name of fear and security -- was once the political value Americans boasted of exhibiting most.]

The failed Christmas Day bombing over Detroit led to an erosion of Miranda rights and judge-free detentions as well as a due-process free assassination program aimed at an Muslim American preacher whose message allegedly "inspired" the attacker. The failed Times Square bombing was repeatedly cited to justify reform-free extension of the Patriot Act along with a slew of measures to maximize government scrutiny of the Internet. That failed plot, along with Nidal Hasan's shooting at Fort Hood, provoked McCarthyite Congressional hearings into American Muslims and helped sustain a shockingly broad interpretation of "material support for Terrorism" that criminalizes free speech. In sum, every Terrorist plot is immediately exploited as a pretext for expanding America's Security State; the response to every plot: we need to sacrifice more liberties, increase secrecy, and further empower the government.

The reaction to the heinous Oslo attack by Norway's political class has been exactly the opposite: a steadfast refusal to succumb to hysteria and a security-über-alles mentality. The day after the attack -- one which, per capita, was as significant for Norway as 9/11 was for the U.S. -- Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang, when asked whether greater security measures were needed, sternly rejected that notion:
"I don't think security can solve problems. We need to teach greater respect." It is simply inconceivable that any significant U.S. politician -- the day after an attack of that magnitude -- would publicly reject calls for greater security measures.
~ from On Not Freaking Out With Fear: An Un-American Response to the Oslo Attack by Glenn Greenwald ~
One point that has been made by many over and over again is that, when we curtail liberty as a response to terrorist attacks, the terrorists have already won. Another way of stating this is to say that, if we meet hate with our own version of hate, love loses.

I often find it surprising that a nation which supposedly is infused with Christian values doesn't want to understand that the only means of combating hate is with love. Wasn't that the ultimate message of their savior? You know, that message that one should love your enemies?

If we look at all the major belief systems in the world -- Taoism included -- we find the same kind of message. Two negatives added together do not equal a positive. No, two negatives only create a deeper malevolence.

I certainly applaud Oslo's mayor. He understands that the way to defeat hate is by embracing multiculturalism and endeavoring to teach people to respect each other. Let's face it. Respect is not that different than love. When we honor others for their humanity -- regardless of whether or not we personally like them or agree with every aspect about them -- we are expressing a compassionate form of love for them as unique individuals.

On the other hand, if we choose to hate those who we believe hate us, we are no better than those we criticize. Even worse, if we pass laws and regulations to stifle the inherent human ability toward compassion, we end up multiplying suspicion and hate to a far greater degree than those who attack us.

Chapter 2, Part 2A - Lieh Tzu

Lieh Tzu had Lao Shang for his teacher, and Po Kao Tzu for his friend. When he had fully mastered the system of these two philosophers, he rode home again on the wings of the wind.

Yin Sheng heard of this, and became his disciple. He dwelt with Lieh Tzu for many months without Visiting his own home. While he was with him, he begged to be Initiated into his secret arts. Ten times he asked, and each time received no answer. Becoming impatient Yin Sheng announced his departure, but Lieh Tzu still gave no sign.

So Yin Sheng went away, but after many months his mind was still unsettled, so he returned and became his follower once more. Lieh Tzu said to him: 'Why this incessant going and coming?' Yin Shêng replied: 'Some time ago, I sought instruction from you, Sir, but you would not tell me anything. That made me vexed with you. But now I have got rid of that feeling, and so I have come again.'

Lieh Tzu said: 'Formerly, I used to think you were a man of penetration, and have you now fallen so low? Sit down, and I will tell you what I learned from my Master. After I had served him, and enjoyed the friendship of Po Kao, for the space of three years, my mind did not venture to reflect on right and my wrong, my lips did not venture to speak of profit and loss. Then, for the first time, my Master bestowed one glance upon me--and that was all.

'To be in reality entertaining the ideas of profit and loss, though without venturing to utter them, is a case of hiding one's resentment and harboring secret passions; hence a mere glance was vouchsafed.'

'At the end of five years a change had taken place; my mind was reflecting on right and wrong, and my lips were speaking of profit and loss. Then, for the first time, my Master relaxed his countenance and smiled.
~ Lionel Giles translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Lieh Tzu.

Oh Yes, We Pay

I was watching the news last night and several of the sound bites concerned the allegations of several conservatives that something like 46% of the population doesn't pay taxes. Those in that group are in favor of raising taxes on the wealthy, these folks said, because a) it doesn't impact us and b) we want to stick it to people that are better off than we are.

My wife and I fall into that 46% who don't pay income taxes directly and directly is a key word here. The SSI I receive is non-taxable and the amount my wife earns is, after the standard deductions and exemptions, less than zero.

But to suggest that we don't pay taxes is a bald face lie! On the federal side of the ledger, my wife has payroll taxes (social security & Medicare) deducted from her monthly paycheck. On the more local side of the ledger, we pay sales and property taxes. We also pay taxes with our telephone, cable, electric and water/refuse/sewer bills.

And, though we don't pay income taxes directly, we certainly pay them indirectly. Corporations that provide products and services factor into their prices their potential tax liabilities. Why do you think oil and pharmaceutical companies (to name just two) are enjoying record profits?

They jack up their prices to cover some or all of the taxes they would owe IF they paid at the marginal rate. But here's the truly interesting part. While consumers are charged higher prices to cover their corporate income tax bills, a good number of them actually don't pay those taxes at all!! Consequently, though corporate taxes are figured into the egregious prices they charge, they often end up simply pocketing the money and then they utilize these "gifts" to lobby Congress to lower the taxes they actually don't pay even lower.

So yeah, we pay and pay and pay and pay.


by Scott Bradley

If all is mystery, where is there not a gateway into Mystery? What stone, turd, butterfly or tree does not invite our thankful surrender? What keyboard, jet or freeway roar cannot make us marvel at the human hive? What thought or feeling is not the expression of immediate Reality?

Gates are everywhere. Everywhere and everything is a gate. Some invite us more than others. What invites you may not invite me. But, like "Tao", there is nowhere they are not.

Gates to what? To transcendence, to thankfulness, to joy.

There are gates that simply speak to us of the wondrous Mystery of it all. The morning birdsong even now outside my window.

There are gates that would overturn our reified minds. That all is truly well. That all things are of equal worth. That there are no conditions to meet, for all is "Tao" expressed. That, hidden in All that is, nothing can be lost. That even now, there is nothing more you need to be.

The "gateless gate" is the gate that works for you. And it is indeed gateless for it yawns wide and inviting for the heart that can open to it.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Tao Bible - Ecclesiastes 6:9

Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit.
~ King James version ~

There is no greater sin than desire,
No greater curse than discontent,
~ from Verse 46 of the Tao Te Ching ~
While there are many, many differences in the perspectives of Christianity and philosophical Taoism, the idea of desire as being the root of our suffering is in agreement.

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

Chapter 2, Part 1C - Lieh Tzu

When the Yellow Emperor awoke from his dream, he summoned his three Ministers and told them what he had seen. 'For three months,' he said, 'I have been living a life of leisure, fasting in heart, subduing my body, and casting about in my mind for the true method of nourishing my own life and regulating the lives of others. But I failed to discover the secret.

'It is wrong to nourish one's own life, wrong to regulate those of others. No attempt to do this by the light of intelligence can be successful.

'Worn out, I fell asleep and dreamed this dream. Now I know that the Perfect Way is not to be sought through the senses. This Way I know and hold within me, yet I cannot impart it to you.

'If the Way cannot be sought through the senses, it cannot be communicated through the senses.'

For twenty-eight years after this, there was great orderliness in the Empire, nearly equalling that in the kingdom of Hua-hsü. And when the Emperor ascended on high, the people bewailed him for two hundred years without intermission.
~ Lionel Giles translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Lieh Tzu.

I Sure Could Use Some Easing

Over the last year or two, I have heard quite a bit about the Federal Reserve's use of a monetary policy called quantitative easing (QE). While I'm certain there are many complex aspects to this policy -- something a layman like me wouldn't understand -- many of the progressive economic reporters and commentators I feature frequently on this blog have stated that the best way to understand QE is to think of it as printing money.

If you or I print money, that's called counterfeiting. That could land us in jail. Somehow though, it is not counterfeiting if the Fed does it. So, I think I want to join the Fed!

It would really be great if, each time the family bank account starts to look low, I could get my fellow Fed members to shoot some QE my way. I promise (wink, wink) that I'll spend this new money responsibly and I won't waste any of it (wink, wink) on foolish endeavors. I will even pledge (snicker, snicker) to invest some of the money in my community.

I wonder if there is a QE software program out there that I could get my hands on.

Afternoon Matinee: The Corporation, Part 20

Today's feature presentation of the Afternoon Matinee is one of 23 parts of the documentary, The Corporation which is based on the book, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Power and Profit by Joel Bakan.

Face It, The Tea Party Has Won

With Americans still sitting on the edge of their seats waiting to see IF Congress can chisel out an "agreement" re the debt ceiling, it is time for progressives and leftists alike to admit one painful truth: The Tea Party has won!

It no longer matters in principle which austerity package garners the most votes. It doesn't matter whose plan it is. It doesn't matter how many trillions they lop off. None of this matters anymore.

What does matter is that austerity for the bottom 90% is the name of the game. Both mainstream political parties have embraced this methodology. With the exception of a very few mavericks, all the plans on the table follow the same basic blueprint. The differences in the various plans proffered are small. The basic formula is to gouge, gouge, gouge.

This is the focus those in the Tea Party wanted and that's what they got. So, they are the big winners here...which means the rest of us will wind up as the big losers.

Line by Line - Verse 38, Line 17

Now propriety is the attenuated form of leal-heartedness and good faith, and is also the commencement of disorder;
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

Now ritual is the husk of faith and loyalty, the beginning of confusion.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

Those who have etiquette
are a thin shell of loyalty and sincerity
And the beginning of chaos

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

Righteousness is a pale imitation
of true faith and loyalty,
and always leads to trouble.

~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
When all a person is left with is smug self-righteousness and ritual or etiquette, they become an impossible boor to be around. Such people lack any semblance of compassion and humility. He or she must be the center of attention at all times and such people go to great lengths to keep the spotlight on themselves.

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

It May Be Rubbing Off On Me

While it is nice to ruminate on the philosophical aspects of Taoism, it doesn't amount to much if the various principles and teachings don't impact our lives in a meaningful way. If all we are going to do is discuss these ideas in a sterile or academic manner, it becomes nothing more that tautological masturbation.

But you know something. I think this Taoism stuff may be rubbing off on me!!

Last night my brother asked me what my aspirations are. To be quite candid, I don't have any. I mean that in all seriousness; I can't think of a one. I'm not saying I don't have projects like this blog, better organizing the house or work in our garden, but I don't have a great desire or ambition to do or be something other than who and what I am.

In a manner of speaking, I am rudderless. For a lot of people, being rudderless is seen in a negative light. But I don't view it that way at all. I am getting better at taking each day as it presents itself and dealing with whatever life dishes out.

To be certain, I am not suggesting that I have freed myself from desire. There are still many things that I want that I probably don't need (like that extra cookie I wolfed down a few minutes ago). I also am not suggesting I have vanquished my penchant for anxiety.

It is more that I have no desire for high achievement, status, or power. I have no overarching goal or a bucket list that I feel I need to meet before moving on to the great beyond.

I guess I have discovered an inkling of what Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu wrote about those many years ago.

Chapter 2, Part 1B - Lieh Tzu

Then the Yellow Emperor sighed heavily and said: 'My fault is want of moderation. The misery I suffer comes from over-attention to my own self, and the troubles of the Empire from over-regulation in everything.' Thereupon, he threw up all his schemes, abandoned his ancestral palace, dismissed his attendants, removed all the hanging bells, cut down the delicacies of his cuisine, and retired to live at leisure in private apartments attached to the Court. There he fasted in heart, and brought his body under control.

For three months he abstained from personal intervention in government. Then he fell asleep in the daytime, and dreamed that he made a journey to the kingdom of Hua-hsü, situated I know not how many tens of thousands of miles distant from the Ch'i State. It was beyond the reach of ship or vehicle or any mortal foot. Only the soul could travel so far.

In sleep, the hun or spiritual part of the soul is supposed by the Chinese, to quit the body.

This kingdom was without head or ruler; it simply went on of itself. Its people were without desires or cravings; they simply followed their natural instincts. They felt neither joy in life nor abhorrence of death; thus they came to no untimely ends. They felt neither attachment to self nor indifference to others; thus they were exempt from love and hatred alike. They knew neither aversion from one course nor inclination to another; hence profit and loss existed not among them. All were equally untouched by the emotions of love and sympathy, of jealousy and fear.

Water had no power to drown them, nor fire to burn; cuts and blows caused them neither injury nor pain, scratching or tickling could not make them itch. They bestrode the air as though treading on solid earth; they were cradled in space as though resting in a bed. Clouds and mist obstructed not their vision, thunder-peals could not stun their ears, physical beauty disturbed not their hearts, mountains and valleys hindered not their steps. They moved about like gods.
~ Lionel Giles translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Lieh Tzu.

Riders of the Storm

If the US Congress genuinely was serious about cleaning up their act -- which they obviously aren't -- one of the things they could get rid of is the rider. As explained by Wikipedia,
In legislative procedure, a rider is an additional provision added to a bill or other measure under the consideration by a legislature, having little connection with the subject matter of the bill. Riders are usually created as a tactic to pass a controversial provision that would not pass as its own bill. Occasionally, a controversial provision is attached to a bill not to be passed itself but to prevent the bill from being passed (in which case it is called a wrecking amendment or poison pill).
I have discussed my loathing of riders in year's past, but a reminder of how insidious riders are was highlighted on last night's Countdown with Keith Olbermann. With the mainstream media singularly focused on the debt ceiling debate, hardly anyone has noticed this proposed piece of rancid legislation.

If You Meet the Buddha

If You Meet the Buddha
by Scott Bradley

After two hundred pages of reading about the "Blessed One", "Enlightened One", "Compassionate One", "Illuminated One", etc., I am ready for a bit of an iconoclastic rant. But I will control that urge and instead channel it to what I hope is a more constructive end.

One of the Zen Patriarchs said, "If you meet the Buddha, kill him." The point being, I think, that one should not let anything contentful get between you and that which has no content, that is, the Ultimate as experienced in satori. The Buddha is a distraction, clear and simple.

I would like to add to this maxim, a corollary: "If you meet the Buddha, kill him...but not before you smell his farts." This would indeed be an enlightening experience, and would likely help to free us from the folly of belief in saints — a distraction. A dead Buddha is a dangerous Buddha because, as I have said before, the only true saint is a dead one, because only then can we fail to see his or her imperfections.

One could make similar recommendations with respect to other beatified personalities. "If you meet Socrates, kill him...but not before he puts his hand on your inner thigh." "If you meet Jesus, kill him...but not before he pisseth against a wall." "If you meet Gandhi, kill him...but not before he verbally abuses his wife."

I am not being purely cynical when I say these would be enlightening experiences. I have shared that I experience a lot of guilt about my imperfections; it is a wonderful and liberating experience to realize that not only am I not unique, but even the so-called spiritual among us are likewise human.

When no saints are required or allowed, we can begin to realize what unconditional acceptance and affirmation really means. Saints are a distraction because they represent an extraneous ideal and lead us to believe that spirituality is something other than what we are. They reinforce a belief in 'right and wrong' and divide us from ourselves.

And besides, it's just plain silly.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tao Bible - Ecclesiastes 5:13

He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.
~ King James version ~

Those who crave ever more will never be satisfied.
~ possible Taoist alternative ~
Edward Abbey once wrote, "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." When one of our main goals in life is the acquisition of more, we become a cancer upon our own Virtue.

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

Chapter 2, Part 1A - Lieh Tzu

The Yellow Emperor sat for fifteen years on the throne, and rejoiced that the Empire looked up to him as its head. He was careful of his physical well-being, sought pleasures for his ears and eyes, and gratified his senses of smell and taste. Nevertheless, he grew melancholy in spirit, his complexion became sallow, and his sensations became dull and confused.

Then, for a further period of fifteen years, he grieved that the Empire was in disorder; he summoned up all his intelligence, exhausted his resources of wisdom and strength in trying to rule the people. But, in spite of all, his face remained haggard and pale, and his sensations dull and confused.

'The practice of enlightened virtue will not succeed in establishing good government, but only disorganize the spiritual faculties!'
~ Lionel Giles translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Lieh Tzu.

Afternoon Matinee: The Corporation, Part 19

Today's feature presentation of the Afternoon Matinee is one of 23 parts of the documentary, The Corporation which is based on the book, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Power and Profit by Joel Bakan.

Abuse From On High

If a parent decided to waylay one of their children, there is a good chance social services and the police would be called. If you get mad at a neighbor or co-worker and you decided to beat the snot out of him, you likely would be hauled off to jail. If you get mad at officials in your local government and you went to their offices to scream all sorts of invectives at them, you would be escorted away by security and, possibly, cited and arrested.

When we common folks abuse others -- for whatever reasons -- there tend to be serious consequences for our actions. Some consequences involve nothing more than public disapproval. Just as frequent, it involves the criminal justice system. Beat up your spouse or your grandma and there is a good chance you'll spend some time in the poky!

But when the abuse comes from on high, there often are few, if any, significant consequences. When no consequences are invoked, it only encourages more abuse with a grand sense of impunity.

As we have slowly worked our way through the Old Testament in the Tao Bible series, we have seen incident after incident in which an angry God abuses his creations, sometimes for the pettiest of reasons. Since God is the supposed apex of the mountain, there is no recourse whatsoever when he is the abuser. Not surprisingly, since he can face no recriminations, he continues to abuse his "chosen people" whenever he damn well feels like it!

This model seems to have been passed down both to Christian and Catholic churches. There are lots of pastors/ministers/priests who seem to take the cue from the Heavenly Father. They abuse their parishioners emotionally, physically and sexually. While some have been caught and run through the criminal justice system, many seem to get away with it time and time again. Instead of facing any sort of sanction, they merely move on to the next church down the road.

Corporate execs seem able to get away with murder, rape, pillage and community destruction, yet few are called to task. Their companies can produce products that foul the air, poison the water, denude the earth or destroy the life savings of millions and yet the only consequence they face for their willful actions is an increase in their compensation package!

And then there are our government leaders. For the past 15 years or so, there has been one feigned threat after another. Terrorists. Recession. Debt Ceiling. Illegal Immigrants. The Gay Agenda. Blah...Blah...Blah. Every few weeks a new specter is brought forth and we're told that if something isn't done quick, the sky will fall.

Threatening economic calamity, terrorist attacks or the next world war day-in and day-out is a form of psychological abuse. One could make the case that it's a form of emotional terrorism. Threaten and frighten people too frequently and you end up with a nation of emotional basket cases willing to accept anything that will make the abuse stop.

Line by Line - Verse 38, Line 16

and when righteousness was lost, the proprieties appeared.
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

When justice is lost, there ritual.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

Righteousness is lost, and then etiquette
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

If you don't have justice,
all you have left is righteousness.

~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
For me, this line is an indictment on institutionalized religion. The religious have all sorts of rituals that they are supposed to abide by. Much of the time they get so caught up on the letter of the law that they lose sight of the spirit of it.

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

Handing Out the Scripts

You know that the debt kerfuffle is as staged as melodramatically as a World Wrestling Federation exhibition when Mr. Obama makes the blatantly empty threat that if Congress does not “tackle the tough challenges of entitlement and tax reform,” there won’t be money to pay Social Security checks next month. In his debt speech last night (July 25), he threatened that if “we default, we would not have enough money to pay all of our bills – bills that include monthly Social Security checks, veterans’ benefits, and the government contracts we’ve signed with thousands of businesses.”

This is not remotely true. But it has become the scare theme for over a week now, ever since the President used almost the same words in his interview with CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley.

Of course the government will have enough money to pay the monthly Social Security checks. The Social Security administration has its own savings – in Treasury bills. I realize that lawyers (such as Mr. Obama and indeed most American presidents) rarely understand economics. But this is a legal issue. Mr. Obama certainly must know that Social Security is solvent, with liquid securities to pay for many decades to come. Yet Mr. Obama has put Social Security at the very top of his hit list!

The most reasonable explanation for his empty threat is that he is trying to panic the elderly into hoping that somehow the budget deal he seems to have up his sleeve can save them. The reality, of course, is that they are being led to economic slaughter. (And not a word of correction reminding the President of financial reality from Rubinomics Treasury Secretary Geithner, neoliberal Fed Chairman Bernanke or anyone else in the Wall Street Democrat administration, formerly known as the Democratic Leadership Council.)

It is a con. Mr. Obama has come to bury Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, not to save them.

~ from Mr. Obama’s Scare Tactics to Get Democrats to Vote for His Republican Wall Street Plan by Michael Hudson ~
I am to the point in which I believe this whole deficit ceiling "debate" is nothing more than political high theater. A few months ago the powers that be handed out scripts and all we are now seeing are the various characters reading their lines.

A lot has been made about these meetings at the White House where somebody storms out in a huff. My guess is that these meetings aren't about the deficit at all; what the President and members from both parties really are discussing is the best time to move to the next act in the play. When they decide the time is ripe, then right on cue, the character who is supposed to throw a temper tantrum throws a temper tantrum.

The whole point of the play is to keep moving the line slowly down the field in such a way that the majority of Americans don't realize it. By feigning outrage after outrage, all the cast of characters is trying to do is to scare the pee out of the American people, so that we will be willing to accept a plan -- ANY PLAN -- to avoid the supposed default.

Dragging this entire process out and taking it to the last possible second is not due to political gridlock; it is to bring the plot to its great climax -- the evisceration of the Federal Budget.

The President and his fellow thespians should win a Tony Award for their grand performances!

Chapter 1, Part 13C - Lieh Tzu

'Those who abstain from taking property, public or private, are also thieves.

'For no one can help possessing a body, and no one can help acquiring some property or other which cannot be got rid of with the best will in the world. Such thefts are unconscious thefts.

'The great principle of Heaven and earth is to treat public property as such and private property as such. Knowing this principle, which of us is a thief, and at the same time which of us is not a thief?'
~ Lionel Giles translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Lieh Tzu.

Inside Out

Inside Out
by Scott Bradley

Buddhism describes enlightenment as a "turning about in the deepest seat of consciousness." The description alone is worthy of contemplation. It would seem that we cannot, by effort and will power, turn ourselves about down there in the depths of what makes us view the world as we do, but we can, I think, get intimations of what it would be like.

"Intimations" is a word that well describes this kind of experience, connoting as it does both the deep intimacy of the experience, and its received and numinous character. It is mystical, yet only tentatively so.

My description of these intimations is as 'a turning inside out of perspective'. Buddhism may (or may not) be speaking from the fullness of the enlightening phenomenon, but I have only my own experience from which to speak. Every intimation of transcendence that I experience is one of the dissipation of my insular identity. It is as if the self were turned inside out and viewed the world, not as other, but as itself. Or rather, and this may be where many ways part in understanding, the self is absorbed into the world. This, I suspect, is the near universal experience of those that dabble in mysticism. I wonder what that might mean.

Strictly speaking, I do not 'believe' in enlightenment, if by that is meant something we are supposed to experience because it is our destiny, or because otherwise we are in some sense lost, or it's what the Universe wills for us. That is to say, for me, it has no religious content. If there is such a thing, then it is a purely natural phenomenon and simply a realization of evolved human potential, and even then, not necessarily 'better' than any other way of existing. I don't mean this as if I believed in some scientific and rationalistic way to view existence, only it is my way of attempting to maintain religious neutrality — to keep the slate clean and empty of belief so that reality can express itself upon it.

Do you dabble? You most likely do, but if not, I recommend it — you'll like it.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tao Bible - Ecclesiastes 5:7

For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.
~ King James version ~

More words count less.
~ from Verse 5 of the Tao Te Ching ~
When we aren't consumed with imposing our will on others, we don't have the need to talk so much! If you think about, much of our daily conversations center around trying to satisfy the desires of our ego. Remove the unfettered desire and a lot of our incessant babbling will cease.

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

Chapter 1, Part 13B - Lieh Tzu

'Yet, stealing in this way from Nature, I bring on myself no retribution. But gold, jade, and precious stones, stores of grain, silk stuffs, and other kinds of property, are things accumulated by men, not bestowed upon us by Nature. So who can complain if he gets into trouble by stealing them?'

Mr Hsiang, in a state of great perplexity, and fearing to be led astray a second time by Mr Kuo, went off to consult Tung Kuo, a man of learning.

Tung Kuo said to him: 'Are you not already a thief in respect of your own body? You are stealing the harmony of the Yin and the Yang in order to keep alive and to maintain your bodily form. How much more, then, are you a thief with regard to external possessions! Assuredly, Heaven and earth cannot be dissociated from the myriad objects of Nature. To claim any one of these as your own betokens confusion of thought.

'Mr Kuo's thefts are carried out in a spirit of justice, and therefore bring no retribution. But your thefts were carried out in a spirit of self-seeking and therefore landed you in trouble. Those who take possession of property, whether public or private, are thieves.
~ Lionel Giles translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Lieh Tzu.

Narcissists R Us

This fundamentalist ideology, because it is contradictory and filled with myth, is immune to critiques based on reason, fact and logic. This is part of its appeal. It obliterates doubt, nuance, intellectual and scientific rigor and moral conscience. All has been predicted or decided. Life is reduced to following a simple black-and-white road map.

The contradictions in these belief systems — for example the championing of the “rights of the unborn” while calling for wider use of the death penalty or the damning of Muslim terrorists while promoting pre-emptive war, which delivers more death and misery in the Middle East than any jihadist organization — inoculate followers from rational discourse. Life becomes a crusade.

All fundamentalists, religious and secular, are ignoramuses. They follow the lines of least resistance. They already know what is true and what is untrue. They do not need to challenge their own beliefs or investigate the beliefs of others. They do not need to bother with the hard and laborious work of religious, linguistic, historical and cultural understanding. They do not need to engage in self-criticism or self-reflection. It spoils the game. It ruins the entertainment. They see all people, and especially themselves, as clearly and starkly defined. The world is divided into those who embrace or reject their belief systems. Those who support these belief systems are good and forces for human progress. Those who oppose these belief systems are stupid, at best, and usually evil.

Fundamentalists have no interest in real debate, real dialogue, real intellectual thought. Fundamentalism, at its core, is about self-worship. It is about feeling holier, smarter and more powerful than everyone else. And this comes directly out of the sickness of our advertising age and its exaltation of the cult of the self. It is a product of our deep and unreflective cultural narcissism.
~ from Fundamentalism Kills by Chris Hedges ~
What he wrote!

Afternoon Matinee: The Corporation, Part 18

Today's feature presentation of the Afternoon Matinee is one of 23 parts of the documentary, The Corporation which is based on the book, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Power and Profit by Joel Bakan.

Not One of Us

We should all know how this plays out. An atrocity is committed in which innocent people are killed, maimed and injured. The perpetrator of this vile act either self-identifies or is identified by others as a Muslim. Many commentators -- particularly fundamentalist Christians -- immediately put two and two together. If the person committing the act is Muslim and the act itself can be defined as terrorism, then it's more than "obvious" that Islam is a violent religion and that ALL Muslims are suspect.

But this definitive exercise in "logic" breaks down when the shoe is on the other foot. If a self-identified (or one identified by others) Christian commits terrible atrocities of violence that kill, maim and injure innocent victims, we are told that we must NOT conclude that Christianity is a violent religion and that all Christians should be just as suspect.

Why this difference in analysis? It is because it is plain as day that anyone who says they are Christian, but commits these types of terroristic atrocities, isn't really a true Christian after all! If the person isn't truly a bona fide Christian, then we can't attach their crimes to the flock of the truly faithful.

Here's what Alex Pareene of Salon has to say about this dubious argument:
Here's the thing about that: The same is true of all self-proclaimed Muslims who commit acts of terrorism.
It is an excellent point. If Christians believe they can wave a magic wand in order to disassociate themselves from their wrongdoing brethren, then this same magic potion should work for Muslims too!

Somehow though, it rarely works that way! Muslims are forced to embrace the terrorists among them, while Christians quickly toss their terrorists over a bridge.

This funky bit of twisted logic doesn't apply only to terrorist either. Many evangelical Christians apply this same methodology to believers who have left the fold.

If you spend any amount of time at the Fallen From Grace blog, ex-Christian pastor and now agnostic Bruce G. reports about the numerous emails he receives each day from people who declare he was never a genuine Christian to begin with. From their myopic perspective, a true Christian could never walk away and, by voluntarily deciding that Christianity no longer makes sense to them, this proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the ex-Christian was never a real Christian at all.

Funny how that works.

An Intersection

From time to time, I am chastised by one or more readers for mixing the philosophies of Taoism and Socialism in my writings on this blog. I don't think a person can find a post I've written where I have unequivocally stated that a Taoist must be a Socialist and every Socialist must be a Taoist. It just so happens that I am both.

While I think a clear line can be drawn between Taoist thought and socialism, the same can be true for libertarian and anarchist theory as well. As with most classic documents, the works of the Taoist sages represent a conglomeration of several schools of thought and, therefore, cannot be pigeonholed into one political ideology or another.

That said, while I believe that philosophical Taoism is consistent with many strains of socialism, libertarianism and anarchism, I do not believe the same argument can be extended to capitalism. The main themes of this philosophy are at loggerheads with the dictates of the ideology.

Capitalism embraces competition, while Taoism stresses cooperation. Capitalism exalts the individual, while Taoism stresses the community. Capitalism celebrates separation, while Taoism speaks of interconnection. Capitalism is built on the edifice of desire, while Taoism teaches to let go of desire. On point after point, neither the means nor the ends are congruent.

In my mind, this lack of congruency explains why Taoism has never taken hold in western society. From our earliest moments, we are taught that God is a capitalist and, whether or not we deem ourselves religious, this early lesson remains in our subconscious. It colors the way we view the world. Any philosophy or ideology that runs counter to it too often is dismissed out of hand.

Perspectives like Taoism and socialism are more readily explored and accepted by society's outcasts, people who march to the beat of a different drummer. I certainly fall into this category as I am a weird mixture of autism and Schizotypal Personality Disorder. Because I already view life differently from the average person, I am probably more open to alternative philosophies.

And that goes a long way toward explaining why my writings on this blog are a mixture of Taoism and socialism.

Line by Line - Verse 38, Line 15

when benevolence was lost, righteousness appeared;
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

When kindness is lost, there is justice.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

Benevolence is lost, and then righteousness
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

If you don't have kindness,
there's always justice.

~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
I really like the way Nina Correa phrases this line (the whole verse too) as I think it captures the meaning quite well.
They lose compassion and simply parody justice.
As a way of explanation, she states,
If they can't convince others of their compassion, they'll fall back on pretending that what they’re doing is fair for everyone.
Sounds an awful lot like what justice has come to mean in America!

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