Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tao Bible - Ezekiel 18:5-9

But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right, And hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, neither hath defiled his neighbour's wife, neither hath come near to a menstruous woman, And hath not oppressed any, but hath restored to the debtor his pledge, hath spoiled none by violence, hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment; He that hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase, that hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed true judgment between man and man, Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord GOD.
~ King James version ~

A small country has fewer people.
Though there are machines that can work ten to a hundred times faster than man, they are not needed.
The people take death seriously and do not travel far.
Though they have boats and carriages, no one uses them.
Though they have armor and weapons, no one displays them.
Men return to the knotting of rope in place of writing.
Their food is plain and good, their clothes fine but simple, their homes secure;
They are happy in their ways.
Though they live within sight of their neighbors,
And crowing cocks and barking dogs are heard across the way,
Yet they leave each other in peace while they grow old and die.
~ Verse 80 of the Tao Te Ching ~
At times, the Bible and the TTC don't sound so dissimilar. For the most part, both urge us to treat each other fairly and with compassion. If we lead a virtuous life, then we can be said to be people of God or Tao.

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

Chapter 14, Part 11 - Confucius

The Master said, "To be poor without murmuring is difficult. To be rich without being proud is easy."
~ James Legge translation via The Internet Classics Archive ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Analects of Confucius.

Wherever They Go

Trey Smith

I just read another of Glenn Greenwald's superb columns. In this one, he talks about the NYPD spying program of ordinary Muslim Americans that was recently revealed. What is so remarkable about these activities is not that they were done in secret nor the fact they are based on "terrorism hysteria" -- in today's America this is par for the course!

No, what I find most remarkable is that few public officials (from BOTH corporate parties) and many of my fellow citizens will admit that there is ANYTHING wrong with this nefarious activity. Since the religion of Islam and its adherents have been painted as the new scapegoats for all that is wrong with our nation, people are more than willing to turn a blind eye to a program that is clearly and patently illegal and unethical.

If a strong connection between Jared Lee Loughner (Tuscon shooting massacre) and Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma City bombing) had been established that concerned a more mainstream trait, do you think many of the same people would view this issue in such a blase manner?

For example, let's say that investigators quickly discovered that both men were devout members of the Baptist Church. In delving into the beliefs of this denomination, investigators found a message that was both intolerant and, at times, favored violence as a means to send a message. Do you think that most Americans would be okay with the NYPD or the FBI spying on innocent Baptists around the country?

Of course not! People would be up in arms and the Religious Right would point to this program as ironclad proof that President Obama indeed is a "Nazi!" The likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly would have a field day denouncing the government and calling for heads to roll. Politicians of all strips would be falling all over themselves to see who could denounce this program the loudest.

But none of this is happening because the target population is Muslim and the powers that be have whipped up so much hysteria over the past decade that most Americans believe that all Muslims are suspect. Since we can't trust a one of them, we must keep tabs on their every move.

This mentality sickens me.

Afternoon Matinee: Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison, 4 of 6

Not Exactly a Saint Bernard, But...

Trey Smith

In the wee hours of this morning, I got an idea (which often is a sign of impending doom). I've been using the same windows manager for some time now and I thought I would try out some different ones. I downloaded three of 'em and, after trying each one out, I decided the one I'm using ain't so bad!

After trying the third one, I rebooted my computer to go back to the default -- Gnome. But a funny thing happened when I rebooted: nothing. The GRUB bootloader kept freezing up. It froze up so quickly that it quit loading BEFORE I could get to rescue mode.

Aaah! Now what am I going to do? Fortunately, I have live cds of two different versions of Linux Mint. By this point, I had surmised that the last windows manager I had tried had somehow screwed things up. So, my plan was to load Linux Mint via my cd drive, then find the offending files and delete them.

It seemed like a sensible and reasonable plan...except it didn't work!! Since I signed in to each session as a guest, I didn't have root privileges and, without those privileges, I couldn't delete the files!

I was very fortunate that I had recently downloaded the latest version of Puppy Linux (the distro I had used back when I first switched to Linux). Since Puppy runs solely in RAM, I was able to finagle root status (though I can't remember how I did it) which allowed me to find the offending files and delete them.

Holding my breath, I rebooted and it worked like a charm. My system was back to normal. In order not to have to go through this again, I created a GRUB rescue CD -- something I had put off doing.

This was one of those times when it was quite beneficial to be OCD, though going off to bed at 5:30 am is a bit late...even for a night owl like me :-D

Keep 'Em Coming

Trey Smith

I realize that a lot of average folks have bought into the idea that privatization isn't such a bad idea. They have been convinced that private companies can manage public services at a savings (even though most studies show the exact opposite). What I don't think far too many of my fellow citizens realize is that private firms have different priorities than government and these different priorities change the nature of the services offered.

While government tries to be cost-effective, the private firm's overall objective is to generate a profit. When making a profit is the main goal, things like quality service, fairness, good wages, health and safety, and environmental stewardship take a back seat. If a private company runs afoul of any of these things, their first order of business is to try to shift these costs onto an unwilling public. If successful -- and they often are -- the company gets to reap the financial benefits, while being allowed to shirk the economic responsibility.

When making a profit, particularly a short-term profit, is your main objective, it changes your perspective on what constitutes good government policy and these changes frequently conflict with the public good. Take, for example, the private prison industry.

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) is the largest private prison corporation in this country. According to Common Dreams, the CCA has a plan to purchase state-run prisons in 48 states. If fully or partially successful, the CCA would soon have a major interest in keeping the prison population in these states as high as possible!

If your company wants to maintain or increase the number of incarcerated persons, then you will do everything in your power to see that this aim comes to fruition. You will lobby hard for stiffer sentencing laws and you will work with government officials to make more crimes subject to prison terms. You will also fight against alternative solutions to incarceration because fewer prisoners means less profit.

Will such advocacy make our communities safer? Probably not, but you aren't concerned with public safety -- your focus is on generating as much profit as possible. And so, while you will portray yourself in public as a disinterested bystander, in private, you will be working hard to undermine what is best for the people and the communities they live in.

By and large, this is why privatization is not such a wonderful idea. Once a private corporation has a pony in the race, they will do everything possible to insure that their horse wins. If it means shooting all the other horses, then so be it.

Line by Line - Verse 61, Lines 8-9

and that small states, by abasing themselves to a great state, win it over to them.
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

And if a small country submits to a great country,
It can conquer the great country.

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

If the small country is lower than the large country
Then it can be taken by the large country

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

If you submit to someone
more powerful than yourself,
you create an opportunity
to get your own way.

~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
These two lines suggest to me the art of reverse psychology -- convincing someone in power willingly to do the opposite of their intention.

In all honesty, however, this is one of the few verses in the TTC I wrestle with. I'm not altogether sure of what it means!

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

Huainanzi - Entry 61

Trey Smith

Useful suggestions should not be rejected just because they come from people in low positions, nor should useless suggestions be followed just because they come from people in high positions. Right and wrong are not a question of social status.
~ a passage from
The Book of Leadership and Strategy by Thomas Cleary ~
There's a TV commercial from a national pizza chain that made me think of this passage from the Huainanzi. The CEO from the chain remarks that a new product they are featuring didn't come from their test kitchen; it came from a manager of one of their restaurants.

Who knows if this is true or just some commercial gimmick, but, in the ad, the CEO acts surprised that one of his underlings -- someone far down the ladder -- came up with such a winning idea.

I think most people who ever have worked for a big company or agency know how hard it is to get the higher ups to listen to you. If you happen to be a front line worker, the general sentiment is that winning ideas or strategies only can come from those at the top of the pyramid. Your job simply is to implement their vision and to leave the thinking to the executives!

To read the introduction to this ongoing series, go here.

Chapter 14, Part 10 - Confucius

Some one asked about Tsze-ch'an. The Master said, "He was a kind man."

He asked about Tsze-hsi. The Master said, "That man! That man!"

He asked about Kwan Chung. "For him," said the Master, "the city of Pien, with three hundred families, was taken from the chief of the Po family, who did not utter a murmuring word, though, to the end of his life, he had only coarse rice to eat."
~ James Legge translation via The Internet Classics Archive ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Analects of Confucius.

Daily Tao - Dream World

When few lived on Earth the reality was said to be more dreamlike, less solid. (Aboriginal and Shamanistic dream-world/states).
With billions reaffirming the World every moment it is said to be quite real. (Reality, for may something to fear and be controlled by).

One is born and later she asks how the world can just be a dream as it seems so real.
Later in life she sees how we all share this dream that we all live within.
It has grown in solidity as the collective reaffirm it and the memories of the mind itself are the trees and the buildings.

Sleeping she witnesses a new world, but no one shares this one with her, so on waking, it vanishes. For a time it was just as real.
She sees how her mind can give rise to worlds and people so she accepts how a greater mind can give rise to the world and many people of whom she is one.

As a part of the dream and a dreamer she senses a state of sleep in her mind and realises bliss.


Truth is that we are the world, we are the universe and we are the root. We can look out at the manifest dream world or in at the source. They are one. One illusory conceived, one apperceiving.

Daily Tao is a reprint from Ta-Wan's blog, Daily Cup of Tao, which offers one post per day for an entire year. You also can read these posts in an ebook.

Yuan Dao: Dao as Process

Scott Bradley

Ames (Yuan Dao) makes the point that Western thought has traditionally approached Reality as essentially static; its metaphysics has largely viewed Ultimate Reality from an ontological perspective. The world may be in flux, but with respect to the 'One versus many' debate, this has resulted in an emphasis on the One as diminuating the many. Somewhat ironically, he calls this the "two-world view"; the differentiation of the One from the many, in an effort to exalt the One, creates a dualism.

The classical Chinese approach he calls the "one-world view". Dao, as representative of Reality, is not static Being, but an unfolding process inseparable from the particulars of its expression. This follows from the concept of the cosmos as a self-creating arising as opposed to a creation ex nihilo by a Creator.

With reference to the Daoist belief 'in the oneness of things', Ames writes "this is not to surrender the particularity of things, dissolving them into some unitary and perfect whole. . . Because the world is processional and because its creativity is ab initio rather than ex nihilo — a creativity expressed across the careers of its constitutive phenomena as opposed to being invested by some independent source — its patterned regularity and content are always provisional and under construction. Phenomena are never either atomistically discrete nor complete."

Dao is a process, an endless transformation. For this reason, the sage is envisioned as one who 'rides the dragon' of transformation. Harmony with Dao is fully embracing indeterminate becoming.

It is things in their particularity, moreover, in which Dao is seen, not in some imagined purity of being. Becoming is, to Western thinking, imperfection. To the classical Chinese mind, it is the absolute given of Reality, and thus perfection.

Because Reality is processional, every phenomenon within it is a 'happening' within a dynamic, relational context. Thus, one seeking how to most happily live in the world must "seek to understand the continuities that define and give meaning to this particular moment and this particular place in life's ongoing process."

Harmony with Dao is harmony with the realities of each individual and necessarily unique circumstance in which one finds oneself, because these circumstances are Dao. Harmony with the apparent imperfection of process is harmony with Dao. “Finding it in oneself” is not finding some core reality within, some spark of Dao, but surrendering into the process which one is.

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

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tao Bible - Ezekiel 17:2

Son of man, put forth a riddle, and speak a parable unto the house of Israel.
~ King James version ~

My words are easy to understand and easy to perform,
Yet no man under heaven knows them or practices them.
~ from Verse 70 of the Tao Te Ching ~
It is interesting to me that the word parable means a simple story illustrating a moral or religious lesson. However, as we see at various points throughout the Bible, the people often were confused as to how each parable should be interpreted. When we get to the New Testament, there are several cases in which the disciples -- the confidants of Jesus -- had nary a clue what his various stories meant!

While the TTC is somewhat straightforward, the Zhuangzi can be likened to many of the parables in the Bible. Part of the problem with all these texts is that they are ancient and so modern eyes often lack the relevant context.

One wonders if the disciples of Chuang Tzu were just as mystified as the disciples of Jesus when attempting to interpret their stories.

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

Chapter 14, Part 9 - Confucius

The Master said, "In preparing the governmental notifications, P'i Shan first made the rough draft; Shi-shu examined and discussed its contents; Tsze-yu, the manager of foreign intercourse, then polished the style; and, finally, Tsze-ch'an of Tung-li gave it the proper elegance and finish."
~ James Legge translation via The Internet Classics Archive ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Analects of Confucius.

Sad Commentary All the Way Around

Trey Smith

More than 100 law enforcement officers in riot gear broke up an out-of-control crowd waiting to buy a new Nike brand basketball shoe timed to be released during the NBA All-Star Game in Orlando.

About 1,000 shoppers gathered for the shoe release an at Orlando mall late Thursday, reports CBS affiliate WKMG. The Orange County Sheriff's Office said almost 200 deputies went to the Florida Mall around 9:45 p.m. to deal with the massive crowd, which became unruly after Foot Locker canceled the release of the limited-edition Nike Air Foamposite One "Galaxy" shoes.
~ from Nike Air Foamposite One Galaxy Shoe Release Spurs Riot at Florida Mall via CBS News ~
Episodes like this provide a sad commentary all the way around.

For starters, this isn't about something that's needed like food or heating oil. These people were getting all out of sorts over shoes and fancy shoes at that. There's nothing wrong with wanting to look nice, but people, GET REAL! There are millions of your fellow citizens out of work and around the globe people starve to death everyday. Trendy shoes shouldn't be that damn important. If they are, you really, really, really need to reexamine your priorities.

On the other hand, what were the police thinking by sending 100 officers in riot gear!! Our domestic police forces have become so militarized that they seem to address almost every situation these days with overkill. There were no reports that anyone in the crowd was brandishing a weapon and yet local law enforcement sent 100 cops with shields, body armor, guns and clubs to calm people down(?).

Afternoon Matinee: Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison, 3 of 6

Paper and Cloth

Trey Smith

I am sure you've heard the reports from Afghanistan about violent protests taking place all over the country as the result of some US troops burning Korans. As Glenn Greenwald and others have pointed out, it involves a lot more than that. This latest incident is merely a trigger for a decade of grievances.

But what I'm going to focus on in this post is how people get up in arms when someone else tramples on one of their beloved books and flags. As Greenwald sees it,’s perversely fascinating to watch all of this condescension — it’s just a book: who cares if it’s burned? – pouring forth from a country whose political leaders were eager to enact a federal law or even a Constitutional amendment to make it a criminal offense to burn the American flag (which, using this parlance, is “just a piece of cloth”). In fact, before the Supreme Court struck down such statutes as unconstitutional in 1989 by a 5-4 vote, it was a crime in 48 states in the nation to burn the flag. Here is what Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote in dissent about why the Constitution permits the criminalization of flag burning (emphasis added):
The American flag, then, throughout more than 200 years of our history, has come to be the visible symbol embodying our Nation. It does not represent the views of any particular political party, and it does not represent any particular political philosophy. The flag is not simply another “idea” or “point of view” competing for recognition in the marketplace of ideas. Millions and millions of Americans regard it with an almost mystical reverence, regardless of what sort of social, political, or philosophical beliefs they may have.
Might one say the same for Muslims and the Koran?
It's interesting how people view symbols. Ours are hollowed and yours are silly. Ours are to be protected at all costs, while you shouldn't get your panties in a wad if we inadvertently desecrate one of yours. We behave this way and so do you. In many ways, the symbols themselves become more important than the principles they supposedly represent.

In this country, burning a flag is a protected form of free speech, but, if you decide to burn one, that doesn't mean people won't attack you. Depending on the local police department, they may stand by as you get pummeled. So, this flag that supposedly represents freedom is used as a prop by many who would deny you your freedom to dissent!

Another thing our flag is supposed to represent is religious freedom -- the right to worship any god or no god of your choosing. The state is neither to promote nor castigate particular religions.

One of the reasons we say we are in Afghanistan is to provide these people with a taste of the American ideal. Yet, both in Afghanistan and here at home, many Americans want to deny Muslims the right to practice their religion and to seek to protect THEIR religious symbols. In the eyes of far too many of my fellow citizens, our cloth trumps their paper and they have no right to complain.

Line by Line - Verse 61, Lines 6-7

Thus it is that a great state, by condescending to small states, gains them for itself;
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

Therefore if a great country gives way to a smaller country,
It will conquer the smaller country.

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

Thus if the large country is lower than the small country
Then it can take the small country

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

If you yield to someone
less powerful than yourself,
you will be in a position
to influence them.

~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
In all candor, were it not for Ron Hogan's rendition, these two lines have puzzled me for some time. They certainly do not describe the way modern conquest plays out. For example, the US doesn't lower itself, it overwhelms the opposition with numbers and force!

But Hogan's way of viewing these lines makes a lot of sense to me.

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

Cindy Lou, They Are Watching You

Trey Smith

The Department of Homeland Security is casting a very wide net these days. Recently, it was reported that the agency provides its analysts with a 39-page "Analyst's Desktop Binder" that, among other things, contains lists of both key and innocuous words to be used to keep an eye on all of us who utilize the internet. Use one of these words in the most innocent of ways and chances are that your communique will wind up in some national database!

To provide an example of what I'm talking about, I have created a message posted on the Facebook wall of 16 year old Cindy Lou H. The words in bold red are a few on the all-important security list.
Sorry I haven't joined in the conversation lately, but I'm just getting over an attack of the stomach flu. Let me tell you, it was one nasty infection. I felt like I had come down with the plague or something! LOL

Nana thought it might be nothing more than a case of food poisoning, but it's not like I ate an apple with a worm in it! Ooh, that's gross.

Well, you all know the drill when you catch a virus like this. You feel sick as a dog! You lay around dealing with wave upon wave of nausea and puking. It's like the germ has decided to target your gut and you can't wait until you get some relief! After a while, you feel like you're being held hostage by this little microbe thingy you can't even see.

Enough about that. Dad just left for the airport to pick up Uncle Steve. He's getting back from visiting my cousins (his kids) in Yuma and El Paso. Uncle Steve texted me last night and said he took a side trip to some town in Mexico and he's bringing me back a surprise. I wonder what it is.

Cindy and Guy are coming by later to take me out to celebrate my amazing "recovery" from the flu. I hope we go to Subway because I'm itching for that new pork sandwich they've been advertising lately. After that, I think we might drop by the gym and exercise.

That's all for now. I'll try to update later tonite.
Of course, now I have really gone and done it. By sharing this information with you and using so many of the watch words, the Department of Homeland Security will be watching me too! They probably were watching this blog anyway because another of the provisions in the aforementioned manual directs staff to monitor ANYONE on the internet who writes ANYTHING that could be construed as criticizing the government.

I think I fit that definition, don't you?

Chapter 14, Part 8 - Confucius

The Master said, "Can there be love which does not lead to strictness with its object? Can there be loyalty which does not lead to the instruction of its object?"
~ James Legge translation via The Internet Classics Archive ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Analects of Confucius.

Daily Tao - Life Music

Life, like music, is best in harmony.

Daily Tao is a reprint from Ta-Wan's blog, Daily Cup of Tao, which offers one post per day for an entire year. You also can read these posts in an ebook.

Yuan Dao: The Sum of Daos

Scott Bradley

Discussing the Daoist attempt to understand the origins of the cosmos, Ames (Yuan Dao) writes: "Within the Daoist search for an explanation of origins, there is the assumption that the world is 'self-so-ing' (ziran) and autogenerative, with the energy of transformation residing in the process itself." Things create themselves.

This is a central theme in Guo Xiang's (252-312) commentary on the Zhuangzi, but not one I have seen much discussed elsewhere. The idea is that there was no beginning, and certainly no Creator, no Prime Mover. The world and the myriad things within it arise as process and not as the result of a diachronous series of causes and effects. It is a synchronous unfolding. Dao is now, in this present unfolding reality.

This is, as I say, an 'idea'; and perhaps its greatest value is not in offering us a new, ingenuous understanding to which to subscribe, but in shaking us loose from the understanding to which we already subscribe. Such ideas do not exist in a vacuum, however, but have a very real effect upon how we interact with the world. The belief that there is a Something 'out there', a God or Dao, causes us, in the project of self-integration, to focus on the external, rather than the internal. "Finding it in oneself" is the realization that you are it. Now. As process, not stasis.

Continuing with this line of thought, Ames writes: "Hence, the natural cosmology of classical China does not entail a single-ordered cosmos, but invokes an understanding of a dynamic 'world' that is the sum of daos construed by a myriad of unique particulars — 'the ten thousand things'. While from each perspective, dao as the context construed from that perspective is more of less coherent, dao as the sum of these contexts trades the coherence that would privilege one order among many, for continuity among them. Dao is, thus, the complex process of the world itself that does not reduce to any single order."

In this epistemological sense of Dao, it is Nameless because it is the sum of all the otherwise mutually exclusive names. Or, as in the Zhuangzian metaphor, Dao, like the wind, is the source of the each individual sound in the tress, the individual sounds themselves, and the sum of all those sounds. Each sound is 'right' in and for itself, yet all sounds are also 'right'. Dao is that perspective which gives coherence to the otherwise irreconcilable 'many', yet is itself rendered incomprehensible thereby.

Or, to use the Scottian metaphor, Dao is the flourishing of each and every bloom in the meadow, and the sum of all blooms, which is to say, the meadow itself. Being single, individuated blooms, we realize our own 'rightness', but not the 'rightness' of all the others (especially those tiny, insignificant white ones). The Daoist perspective is intended to enable us to transcend our particularity and see all blooms from the perspective of meadow. The consequence of such a perspectival shift is the breaking of the narrow confines of individual identity. We 'become all things', yet not at the expense of our individuality. Indeed, it is only in the loss of insular individuation that our individuality is most fully realized.

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

Monday, February 27, 2012

Stepping Out Tonight

Trey Smith

Stepping out of the Tao Bible series this evening, I have more of an observation than a question. I'm struggling to get through the Book of Ezekiel because, well, it is doggone boring. "God" is having one of his many tizzy fits and Chapter 16 is filled with an unending string of castigations and admonishments.

He hurls invective after invective until we get to Verse 60. It is at this juncture he mutters something that I find quite remarkable.
Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant.
It strikes that he is a poor parent! After reading the kids the riot act for what seems like forever, he turns around to say, "Don't worry. I'm going to let you off the hook again."

As a former social worker, I hated working with parents who used this tack. They would threaten their kids up one side and down the other, but, at the end of the day, the threats dissolved to nothing. And these parents couldn't fathom WHY their children continued to misbehave!

I would point out that threats are meaningless unless you back them up with something. A threat that a child knows will never come to fruition isn't actually a threat at all! The child has no genuine incentive to change his/her negative behavior because they KNOW it won't lead to an actual punishment.

This is not to suggest that threats are a good way to help mold children into caring adults. There often are more constructive ways to deal with situations. That said, if a parent issues a threat, then the parent should be prepared AND willing to carry it out.

"God" isn't providing a very good example of this here.

Chapter 14, Part 7 - Confucius

The Master said, "Superior men, and yet not always virtuous, there have been, alas! But there never has been a mean man, and, at the same time, virtuous."
~ James Legge translation via The Internet Classics Archive ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Analects of Confucius.

So Disagreeable!

Trey Smith

I will be the first to admit that I am often baffled by how a person is to supposed to disagree respectfully. It seems that however I try to approach a topic, I end up ruffling someone's feathers. They don't like my tone. They don't like my inferences. They don't like my examples. They don't like my points. They don't like the subject chosen. Sometimes, it's all of these things and more!

When I try to be tactful, I'm told that I must not understand what tact is. When I try to state the points of disagreement in a calm and deliberate manner, I'm told that I'm being arrogant and cold. When I list the points of disagreement, I'm told that I really don't understand or I wouldn't be disagreeing at all.

Since I don't seem to "get" a lot of the rules of social interaction, I don't tend to worry about it too much anymore. I used to, but no matter how hard I tried to follow the rules, someone invariably would point out that I broke one or more of them.

Afternoon Matinee: Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison, 2 of 6

How Un-Taoist of You!

Trey Smith

From time to time, someone leaves a comment here which states that one of our writers -- usually me! -- has written something that is -- dare I say it? -- un-Taoist. Most often these types of comments are in response to a post that criticizes, mocks or ridicules a different belief system.

To anyone who has ever left a comment of this nature, I have a question for you: Have you ever read the Zhuangzi (Book of Chuang Tzu)? Considered one of the two foundational texts of philosophical Taoism, the Zhuangzi criticizes, mocks and ridicules many of the other schools of thought of its day!

Many of the stories told feature Confucius or one of his disciples. Often, they are not presented as the learned person of the story, but as a fool. Chuang Tzu also takes a few swipes at the Mohists. In fact, one could easily posit that a good majority of the text of the Zhuangzi is a strong rebuke of the prevailing philosophies of that era.

So, when those of us writing on this blog criticize the prevailing attitudes extant in our modern world today, one could argue that we merely are following in the footsteps of Chuang Tzu.

Unless, of course, you think Chuang Tzu was un-Taoist!

Line by Line - Verse 61, Lines 4-5

-- the female always overcomes the male by her stillness. Stillness may be considered (a sort of) abasement.
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

The female overcomes the male with stillness,
Lying low in stillness.

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

The female always overcomes the male with serenity
Using serenity as the lower position

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

Victory comes
from lying perfectly still
and waiting for power
to come your way.

~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
There probably are numerous ways to interpret these lines, but I'm guessing sexuality provided the impetus. In the traditional act of male-to-female copulation -- what has been called the "missionary position" -- the woman takes the position below the male and, in a manner of speaking, invites him in for goodies.

If it turns out I have gotten this all wrong, check out the comments section as the Baroness will set me straight -- ooh, now there's a loaded pun!

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

As Far Away As Possible

Trey Smith

Since the dawn of the nation-state -- maybe even earlier than that -- we humans have engaged in acts of war. War is waged for a wide variety of reasons, but coveting another group's territory and/or resources is chief among them. It was that way in the ancient world and it is that way today.

As long as we have been warring between and amongst ourselves, one of the greatest objectives of war has centered around the calculation of how to inflict the most damage on the "enemy," while exposing your side (at least, the "important" people) to the least possible amount of damage and injury. This objective is the prime motivation behind the development of weaponry.

I bet the first time someone hurled a rock with a sling, the folks on the receiving end said, "Whoa! We better figure out how they did that or we're going to be goners for sure!" The bow and arrow or the catapult meant that your fighting forces could inflict casualties without standing toe-to-toe with your adversary.

As civilization has advanced through the years, so too have our weapons. Guns took warfare to a completely different level. Hand grenades and flamethrowers caused greater amounts of carnage. Still, soldiers had to be in the near vicinity to employ these types of weapons and that meant they continued to be exposed to immediate retaliation.

To limit this ongoing exposure, we developed cannons, mortars, tanks and the like. This moved us further away still, but not far enough. Dropping bombs from aircraft flying high above the earth has become a reliable means for wreaking death and destruction, but planes can be shot out of the air.

Next came precision-guided missiles that can be fired from hundreds or thousands of miles away. While these projectiles are decidedly lethal and greatly limit our exposure, we have come to realize that they removed one important element from our bloodlust: We have pushed ourselves so far away that we can't "enjoy" the results of our handiwork. We only can see the aftermath; we have lost the ability to revel in the thrill of watching someone's head blown off.

And this brings us to war by drone. We have developed drones to give us the best of both worlds. On the one hand, since drones can be controlled from thousands of miles away, our exposure is negligible. The operator of a drone has a far greater chance of being killed on the highway or in his or her own bathtub than in the theater of war.

On the other hand, because drones are equipped with high-tech cameras, we get to see the devastation wrought in real time. While the operator conceivably could be sitting there in his undershorts with a martini in hand and porn on his iPhone, he can watch nameless men, women and children be obliterated in seconds! Good shot, Morrison. High fives all around!

In my book, this is why drones are so immoral. They make a statement about us as a people and that statement is grotesque and ugly. It's not enough that we want to kill and maim with abandon; we want to watch and cheer it as it if we simply are sitting in our living rooms watching American Idol or the World Series!

Chapter 14, Part 6 - Confucius

Nan-kung Kwo, submitting an inquiry to Confucius, said, "I was skillful at archery, and Ao could move a boat along upon the land, but neither of them died a natural death. Yu and Chi personally wrought at the toils of husbandry, and they became possessors of the kingdom."

The Master made no reply; but when Nan-kung Kwo went out, he said, "A superior man indeed is this! An esteemer of virtue indeed is this!"
~ James Legge translation via The Internet Classics Archive ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Analects of Confucius.

Daily Tao - Yield and Flex

As the large, powerful, unstoppable force comes upon you.

A slight shift to the side, you have it beat.

Daily Tao is a reprint from Ta-Wan's blog, Daily Cup of Tao, which offers one post per day for an entire year. You also can read these posts in an ebook.

Yuan Dao: "Han Thinking"

Scott Bradley

I recently stumbled on the Yuan Dao: Tracing Dao to Its Source (Lao and Ames; 1998). This is a translation of the first of the twenty treatises of the Huainanzi (c. 139 BCE), a major document of the Han Dynasty. This compendium of essentially Daoist thought was sponsored and probably partially written by Liu An, an uncle of the Emperor Wu and king of a vassal state, and was presented as a gift to the Emperor. It may very well have been an attempt, through the philosophy it espoused (let many voices speak), to forestall the inevitable annexation of his already diminished kingdom. In this regard, it utterly failed and Liu An was either executed or pressed to suicide. Not really knowing the audience, I presume to share what might be well-known to many. In any case, I will be sharing from this work in several subsequent posts.

What I find most enlightening in this book is actually not the Yuan Dao itself, but the commentary on it and the Daoism it represents. I honestly find truly insightful commentaries on philosophical Daoism quite rare, and this work is a pleasant exception.

The Huainanzi epitomizes the syncretistic approach to understanding the world which became known as "Han thinking". The Han Dynasty, the first stable consolidation of numerous kingdoms which vied with each other during the Warring States Period from whence the "hundred philosophies" arose, provided an opportunity for the more removed consideration and consolidation of those philosophies.

In this regard, Ames (I will assume Ames as the commentator, Lau as the translator) points to a methodology and approach to understanding largely foreign to Western thinking. Syncretism, the borrowing and synthesizing of many ideas from various, often contradictory, traditions, has a certain negative connotation in the West. This may, in part, have its roots in Christian orthodoxy which from its inception fought off attempts to reconcile and synthesize it with other religious philosophies of the time. (This is not to say that this cross-fertilization did not in fact take place, but that a certain less syncretic orthodoxy won out over others.) But it also has roots in the Western penchant for analytical and discursive reasoning. The truth can be dug out of things and represented in sure propositions.

Thus, "Han thinking" takes the many disparate voices of the previous centuries and offers them up to the reader as a whole. And the reader is enjoined to interact with and derive meaning from them according to his or her own time and personal inclinations. Comparing it with the many voices found in Genesis, Ames explains how the cultural authority of many conflicting accounts took precedence over logical consistency. It is an expression of the necessarily diverse cultural voice, rather than of a single “truth”. This, I believe, is very much in harmony with the Daoist approach to ‘truth’, the exposure to which may help those who wish to break the shackles of an inflexible belief in analytic truth to do so. I certainly need the help.

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

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Good Golly, Miss Molly

Trey Smith

Like most blogs, we use a statistical service -- Sitemeter -- that keeps a count of visitors and provides a variety of information. One of the tools featured is the referral source -- where a visitor came from on the web. I look at this information frequently because, well, it's interesting, to say the least.

Today, while taking a gander at Sitemeter, I noticed a few visitors came from a web site I'm not familiar with, so I checked it out. It turns out that The Rambling Taoists came in 2nd for the International Journal of Qigong & Taiji Culture's 2012 Readers Choice Awards.

I'd be lying if I wrote it didn't make me smile. I'm not saying I immediately started turning cartwheels or ran around the local neighborhood shouting in delirium, but it does give me a nice feeling.

I certainly had nothing to do with nomination process. In the 8 years of this blog, I've never entered a contest or nominated this blog for anything. That's not why I started it. I didn't have hopes of being the most popular blog visited blog either. I started it because I write and this is a platform for writing.

As I've mentioned before, I think clearer when I write things out. Scott is the same way too. I don't know if it's true for the Baroness, Ta-Wan and Shawn, but I bet it is!

Putting the words to virtual paper and then reading over them helps me to formulate my ideas better than simply thinking them or saying them out loud. It's been this way since I was a wee lad.

As Scott has stated more than a few times, what we each do here is really nothing more than contemplating in public space. One of the benefits we possibly derive from this exercise is born of feedback from others -- people like you. Your comments and emails cause us to rethink what we thought. Sometimes we change our minds; sometimes we don't.

Speaking solely for myself, your responses are very important to me. It allows me to see the various topics broached through a different set of eyes. While I initially may disagree with your perspective -- at times, vociferously so -- it does make an impact on me. It is not uncommon that, after my defensive postured has waned, your words and thoughts hit home and I have been known to contemplate them deeply for days on end.

And so, that's why this blog is here. It's not to win awards or reap recognition -- though that's nice -- it's here to help the 5 scribes become better people. It is YOUR continued involvement that makes this possible.

Chapter 14, Part 5 - Confucius

The Master said, "The virtuous will be sure to speak correctly, but those whose speech is good may not always be virtuous. Men of principle are sure to be bold, but those who are bold may not always be men of principle."
~ James Legge translation via The Internet Classics Archive ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Analects of Confucius.

What "Elite" Justice Looks Like in America

Trey Smith

The banks have been foreclosing on homes they don’t even legally own. That’s what robosigning is. Would you be willing to accept a measly $2,000 for being tossed out of your home and onto the street by someone who doesn’t even own the mortgage? Of course, not.
~ from Why Hasn’t Anyone Gone to Jail? by Mike Whitney ~
What Whitney is referring to is one of the so-called grand provisions of the recently announced 50-State Foreclosure Settlement engineered by the Obama Administration. A small portion of the people who lost their homes and had their lives screwed up will be eligible to receive a one-time payment of up to $2000.


I'm certainly not saying that, in this day and age, a grand or two won't be helpful to working and middle class families, but would you be willing to give up your current house right now for what amounts to a little more than peanuts?

Two grand (and remember, that is the maximum amount) is not going to help you buy a new house. At most, it will cover 1 - 4 months rent. If you're out of work and have been getting by with credit cards, then most or all of that money will wind up right back in the pockets of the same folks who illegally threw you out of your house in the first place!

From the standpoint of those who have suffered the most re this fraudulently illegal racket, this "deal" stinks! But as Whitney shows in his article, the rest of us won't fair much better because this wondrous settlement is really nothing more than yet another bailout for the banking industry!
Under the terms of the 50-state mortgage foreclosure settlement, US taxpayers could end up paying billions in penalties that were supposed to be paid by the banks. That’s the gist of a front-page story which appeared in the Financial Times on Thursday, February 17. The widely-cited article by Shahien Nasiripour notes that the 5 banks that will be effected by the settlement — Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Ally Financial – will be able to use Obama’s mortgage modification program (HAMP) to reduce loan balances and “receive cash payments of up to 63 cents on the dollar for every dollar of loan principal forgiven.”

And that’s not all. If borrowers stay current on their payments after their loans are restructured, the banks could qualify for additional government funds which (according to the FT) “could then turn a profit for the banks according to people familiar with the settlement terms.”

How do you like them apples? Leave it to the bank-friendly Obama administration to turn a penalty into a windfall. In effect, the settlement will help the banks avoid losses on mortgages that are vastly overpriced on their books and which were probably headed into foreclosure anyway.
If you're an everyday thief, chances are good that you will wind up in prison. However, if you're a well-connected financier, not only do you not need to worry about ever seeing the inside of a jail, but you will be feted with taxpayer dollars, so that you won't have to skip a beat in keeping up your lavish lifestyle.

Afternoon Matinee: Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison, 1 of 6

[Note: If you are Swedish, you'll love the the Swedish subtitles!]

Empty Again II

Scott Bradley

Emptiness as a sense of lack is negative in that it seeks to be full, yet cannot. Emptiness as the loss of lack is positive in that it seeks no fulfillment, yet is fulfilled.

“Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose” (Bobby McGee) begins to get this sense, but remains in the realm of lack. It is when everything is lost, not in the sense of loss, but in the sense of realizing that there was never anything to lose, that true freedom arrives.

True emptiness is that sense of being all things because one is no one thing in particular. Vastness is the experience of boundlessness when the boundaries of individuation are transcended.

The experience of vastness is fulfillment in emptiness.

Writing about these things is not experiencing the things themselves, though it is a way of coping with that failing. Yet within the context of our essential emptiness, the attainment of the experience of vastness is not necessarily anything other than yet another form of coping, albeit a happier one.

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

Line by Line - Verse 61, Lines 1-3

What makes a great state is its being (like) a low-lying, down- flowing (stream); -- it becomes the center to which tend (all the small states) under heaven. (To illustrate from) the case of all females:
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

A great country is like low land.
It is the meeting ground of the universe,
The mother of the universe.

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

The large country is like the lowest river
The converging point of the world
The receptive female of the world

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

Power flows down
to every level of existence
like a river to the ocean.

~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
When I read these lines, it makes me think of many of the nature documentaries I've watched over the years, particularly those that focus on the continent of Africa or the Rocky Mountains in the US. The films show landscapes where life is a struggle for significant portions of the year, then in spring or the rainy season, life explodes near rivers and watering holes.

It is in valleys near streams -- the low points -- that the young are suckled and creatures large and small are revived from the harsh winter or the long trek.

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

A Powerful Disconnect

Trey Smith

It wasn't that long ago that the US stock market looked like it was headed toward a free fall. News commentators, pundits and hired "experts" told us over and over again that America's fortunes are tied to the health of Wall St. If the Dow Jones Industrial Average tanked, the entire nation (and world) would be in a mess of trouble.

Over the past week, the Dow Jones has been flirting with the 13,000 mark, but this high hasn't seemed to impact most of Main St. America. The vast majority of us are still struggling to get by, while the titans of capital are lining their pockets with gold, frankincense and myrrh!

Why is it that, when the Dow Jones goes down it threatens the financial security of almost everyone, but when it goes up, it doesn't raise but a few boats?

I will honestly admit that I know little of the intricacies of what goes on at the stock exchange. I barely earned a D in my one college course on economics! But what I lack in technical know-how does not in any way dampen my ability to reason with commonsense and commonsense tells me there is a powerful disconnect between Wall St. and Main St.

As Professor James Petras writes in an excellent article posted at Global Research, "The activity of Wall Street has no social utility, its practitioners enrich themselves with no redeeming activity." With a few limited exceptions, Wall St. doesn't create jobs. It doesn't build anything. It doesn't make anything and the only services it provides are those that predominantly service itself.

Aah, but we are told that Wall St. provides the needed capital to do all these things and more!


Despite the cooked government statistics that show the unemployment rate is falling, do a quick web search for the term "layoffs" and you'll find that layoffs are increasing around the country. At the time I am typing this, I performed such a search and found numerous such announcements. Procter & Gamble announces the layoff of nearly 6,000. The US Postal Service announces anticipated layoffs of 35,000 workers. School districts, colleges and all level of city, county and state governments are announcing layoffs of various sizes.

If the Dow Jones supposedly provides the capital for jobs and it is surging upwards, why do we continue to shed jobs?

Another "fact" we've been told for years is that Wall St. provides the capital for construction -- the building of things. So, with the Dow Jones hovering around 13,000, have we started a building boom?

In a word, no. Housing starts are way, way down. It's not too difficult to understand why. There is a huge glut of foreclosed homes -- a significant number of these were foreclosed on illegally -- and the overall housing market is greatly depressed. Add to this the woeful state of most city, county and state governments and this means that cash-strapped governments aren't building much either.

Finally, we are told again and again that Wall St. provides the capital for manufacturing -- the making of things. But manufacturing is dying in the US. It seems that every month we hear of a plant or factory being shipped overseas somewhere. The few manufacturers who remain wring concession after concession from their workers and local governments entities just to stay put.

So, here's my question: If Wall St. really doesn't create jobs, construction or manufacturing, what exactly is it that they create and who are they creating whatever it is for?

Do we -- the vast majority of us -- really need Wall St. at all?

Chapter 14, Part 4 - Confucius

The Master said, "When good government prevails in a state, language may be lofty and bold, and actions the same. When bad government prevails, the actions may be lofty and bold, but the language may be with some reserve."
~ James Legge translation via The Internet Classics Archive ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Analects of Confucius.

Daily Tao - Crumble or Flex

Flexible you adapt and adapting you live well.

Structured you crumble.

Daily Tao is a reprint from Ta-Wan's blog, Daily Cup of Tao, which offers one post per day for an entire year. You also can read these posts in an ebook.

Empty Again I

Scott Bradley

Damned if I didn't wake up empty again. Fortunately, I can write this post and start to fill up again. But the filling won't be the kind that makes full; nor is the emptiness the kind which enables fullness.

The emptiness of which I speak is that which is experienced as a sense of lack. Something is missing. It is understandable, therefore, that I should wish to fill it. But this sense of lack is much too deep to ever fill.

There is another emptiness, a positive emptiness, that is not a sense of lack, but of even the loss of lack. This emptiness, though different in kind, actually has the same root as the negative emptiness of lack. Root emptiness is not something spun out of the ether; it is fundamental to self-aware existence. It is a given of human existence. This, at least, is how it seems to me. This being the case, it is largely unavoidable. The question is what we do with it.

Before we can consciously do anything about emptiness, we must experience it. But, though I would suggest that there is no one who does not in fact experience it, we are typically able to cover it up sufficiently to keep it from over-powering our conscious selves; we are able to continue on with the facade of normal life. This is, in fact, to 'be normal'; this is 'mental health' and 'sanity'.

'Sanity' is, of course, a relative judgment. And it is possible, in this case of smothered awareness, to describe it as a form of 'insanity'. But it may very well be that some form of insanity is required for us to remain relatively sane. This being the case, quite apart from the 'requirement' of wuwei that we let people find their own way, for the most part we have no business trying to shake others free of their coping mechanisms. Should we do so, it is likely that we are simply exercising one of our own, just as writing this post is my way of coping with this morning's emptiness.

There is danger in becoming too intimate with emptiness as lack. Should one do so, and fail to find a new means of coping, depression and other unhappy emotional expressions can follow. Yet, if one is to discover emptiness as the loss of lack, that is, an emptiness of freedom, then it must begin with the experience of emptiness as lack. In this way, one becomes aware of the root emptiness of our essential reality.

The path to positive, 'fillable', emptiness, therefore, must pass through the negative experience of emptiness. In this case, negative emptiness is a potentially positive experience. Never is there a call for the rejection or negation of the full spectrum of the human experience.

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

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Tao Bible - Ezekiel 16:10-14

I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers' skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk. I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck. And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head. Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom. And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord GOD.
~ King James version ~

Tao singles out no one.
~ possible Taoist alternative ~
As told in the Book of Ezekiel, a certain group of people were utilized by God as a showcase. His love was poured out to them to show others his power and glory. He bedecked them in all sorts of material signs to show that they were a favored people.

Tao provides the sustenance to all being and non-being. As we are each a part of Tao, how could one form curry more favor than another?

Put another way, everything is beautiful in its own right.

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

Chapter 14, Part 3 - Confucius

The Master said, "The scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar."
~ James Legge translation via The Internet Classics Archive ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Analects of Confucius.

Journey To The Center Of Our Ego, Part 4

Shawn Tedrow

Oops! I forgot. Before we turn one page, wait a minute; anyone that dare takes this journey, do so at your own risk and expense. There is a qualifying cost to this endeavor.

We must engage ourselves in spiritual enantiodromia that Henri Ellenberger spoke of. Enantiodromia was coined by Carl Jung, meaning the superabundance of any force inevitably produces its opposite. The quality of this enantiodromia-force is an overabundance that is more than what is appropriate. Professor Lidenbrock, the main character in A Journey to the Center of the Earth, had this enantiodromia running through his body, soul, and spirit. Look to him, in the book, as an example of this required cost.

This takes a real gutsy, crazy-like commitment. Some may accuse you of chasing your own tail, and engaging in insensible non-Taoish behavior. Would I dare to suggest that we need to put assiduous courageous effort into our spiritual walk in order to realize results? Tao forbid!

This enantiodromia-effort that is required of us will inevitably produce its opposite. It is equivalent to the principal of equilibrium in the natural world, in that any extreme is opposed by the system in order to restore balance. Enantiodromia often foreshadows a rebirth of the personality.

Towards the end of this book, after enduring a life threatening raging ocean storm, then being thrown and cast up on a shore to safety, Professor Lidenbrock and his nephew Axel, realized their compass was behaving strangely. They realized that the needle of the compass was pointing the wrong way after being struck by an electric fireball that nearly destroyed the wooden raft.

The author, Michael Washburn, speaks about a condition in which the two poles of the psyche finally become a true two-in-one. It is a condition in which ego functions and nonegoic potentials, at last function harmoniously (from the book, The Ego and the Dynamic Ground). This is when the ego’s deep rooted psychological chains, and its self constructed independence, deconstructs, and integrates into accord with Tao.

Some call this ego-death. I am not in that campground of thinking. I personally believe that the ego doesn’t die, but continues on and mysteriously merges into harmony with the magnificent wonders of the Tao. I am not saying that it doesn’t seem like the ego has died. Verne’s story explains that the electric fireball “nearly destroyed” the wooden raft. In other words, the raft still existed after the storm.

I call this raging ocean storm of adversity that the Professor and Axel went through, “the dark night of the ego”. This is when the ego is stretched to its limits, and its terrifying emptiness is woefully seen.

Thomas Merton, the famous author, Trappist monk, mystic, and teacher of Taoism, spoke about the mental and emotional undercurrent that develops in such a storm, when he said, “Dread means that we cannot any longer hope in ourselves, in our wisdom, our virtue, and our fidelity. We see too clearly that all that is ‘ours’ is nothing and can completely fail us.”

This is when the mind is hanging onto very shaky ground and experiencing extreme vulnerability. It is at this horrific time when we become a conduit of receptivity.

This dread that Thomas Merton speaks of is when the ego submerges into darkness, like the sun setting into the horizon of a torrential storm, and then within time, it miraculously ascends to the dawning of a new day.

Please note; the electric fireball that struck their raft, or ball lightening, as it is scientifically termed, is an unexplained atmospheric electrical phenomenon. Scientific data on natural ball lightning are scarce owing to its infrequency and unpredictability. Given inconsistencies and the lack of reliable data, the true nature of ball lightning is still unknown presumption as its existence is based only on reported public sighting.

Besides being passionate about the subject of radical spiritual metamorphism, I also can’t help but emphatically sense, that there is a law of physics, mirrored in the realm of the spirit. I call this “The Law of the Spirit of Life”. Please don’t misconstrue the word law here. It is not meant to be a law in the sense of a command. It is meant to convey that there is a consistent nature to the energy of Tao, similar to the laws of physics.

Now that I let all of that out of the closet, let’s continue on exploring into just the beginning of this book, and check out a few snippets of thoughts, as we continue on with “The Journey to the Center of Our Ego”.

See you in about one week, again......

You can check out Shawn's other musings here.

Afternoon Matinee: TV Bloopers and Outtakes

Expert Marxmanship

Trey Smith

We hear all the time about how the competitive genius of firms like Wal-Mart, Monsanto, GE and Apple Computer have mastered innovative technologies, and global supply chains to bring us all the objects we covet and consume. We understand they did all this by being braver, more far-sighted and just plain smarter than the rest of us, because that's what we've been told all our lives.

But thanks to intrepid journalists who have visited and reported on sites like the massive 400,000 employee Foxconn plant in South China, through which nearly all Apple's Dell's, and the product lines of many of their “competitors” pass, there are many reliable accounts describing how final assembly of all our cell phones, computers and computer subassemblies is done by workers, often children confined to barracks, exposed to toxic chemicals, worked to death and disability for near-starvation wages in 12 to 24 hour shifts, and discarded for newer serfs before they reach their late twenties. This innovative system is backed up by a Chinese state every bit as much the craven servant of capital as our own US government. And this is only one stage in the electronics industry's global supply chain.

It starts in Central Africa, in the Congo where most of the world's coltan, a naturally occurring compound used in every cell phone, circuit board, computer, car, aircraft, missile or electronic device, is mined. To ensure that a strong central Congolese government didn't block Western access to its vital resources, Western powers engineered the invasion of Congo by seven surrounding countries who turned it into a vast free-fire zone and killed 5 to 6 million in the last half of the 90s alone. The ore is shipped to China on freighters fueled by West African oil, where that industry has turned Nigeria's delta region into one of the most ecologically devastated areas on earth.
~ from Ecocide & Genocide Are The Secret of Capitalist Efficiency by Bruce A. Dixon ~
The capitalist class has a love-hate relationship with the word, exploitation. If we're talking about land and natural resources, capitalists puff out their chests at being called exploiters. To exploit these things is to turn them into profit-producing products and services. But capitalists become indignant if it is suggested that they are exploiters of people because, well, that looks bad and capitalist exploiters have a very high opinion of themselves!

As Dixon underscores above, the exploitation of natural resources and human beings goes hand-in-hand. Invariably, to exploit one is to exploit the other. This is why Karl Marx is so loathed by "free market" capitalists. He exposed the fact that capitalists do not subscribe to the Golden Rule. Capitalists, by the very nature of this economic paradigm, do not do unto others as they would want others to do unto them.

When we get right down to it, this is the chief reason I am staunchly opposed to the capitalist system. It treats people and the earth like chattel. The majority of us are viewed by the elite as expendable pawns who can be moved here and there on the chessboard of profit and global domination.

And while the majority of global capitalists SAY they are supporters and defenders of democracy -- the "super patriots" of our time -- nothing could be further from the truth! These titans of wealth are neither democratically-elected nor accountable to the people. They show no allegiance to borders or governments. ANYTHING that might impede their ability to amass staggering fortunes is to be fought tooth-and-nail. If it means despoiling the planet and throwing droves of people into poverty and squalor, so be it.

I know there are some of you who share my disgust with the system as it is now, but you hold onto the belief that capitalism's ugliness somehow can be mitigated. You believe that, with a few major tweaks, capitalism can be made to serve the interests of all the people.

All I can say to that rationale is that it is wishful thinking. When the generation of short-term profit is the core principle of the economic system, nothing can constrain it for long. No matter how much you try to tweak the system, the ownership class will quickly devise ways to subvert it. While some of the folks who do this are what we might call evil people, the vast majority are not. They simply are acting in ways that are an inherent part of the system.

While we can debate whether or not a democratic socialist economic system would be better, we need to develop SOME system to replace the exploitation-ridden capitalist system...BEFORE we exploit the entirety of our natural resources and Mother Nature makes the decision for us!