Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Go in Peace

Though I won't be celebrating the passage of this specific day to the next, many of you will. For those who do celebrate the changing of the year, one of the routine rituals is making a list of New Year's resolutions. Might I suggest you place peace near the top of your list?

I found a really cool website called Peace Seed. The site is "dedicated to the concept that when one studies different religious traditions, one is struck by the repeated similarities of basic truths." One of these basic truths is the desire for peace on earth.

So, whichever belief system speaks to you, let it speak to you in the spirit of peace.
Our Father, it is thy universe, it is thy will:
Let us be at peace, let the souls of the people be cool.
Thou art our Father, remove all evil from our path.
~ African Nuer Prayer (Sudan) ~

Victory breeds hatred, for the defeated live in pain. Happily live the peaceful, giving up victory and defeat.
~ Buddhism Dhammapada 201 ~

"I charge you all that each one of you concentrate all the thoughts of your heart on love and unity. When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content. Thoughts of love are constructive of brotherhood, peace, friendship, and happiness."
~ Baha'i Faith, Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 29 ~

Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God.
~ Christianity, Matthew 5:9, King James Version ~

Do you want long life and happiness? Strive for peace with all your heart.
~ Christianity & Judaism, Psalm 34: 12, 14, King James Version ~

"Through what can the Empire be settled? Through unity. Who can unite it? One who is not fond of killing."
~ Confucianism, Mencius 1.A.6 ~

Peace be to earth and to airy spaces!
Peace be to heaven, peace to the waters,
peace to the plants and peace to the trees!
May all the gods grant me peace!
By this invocation of peace may peace be diffused!
By this invocation of peace may peace bring peace!
With this peace the dreadful I appease,
with this peace the cruel I appease,
with this peace all evil I appease,
so that peace may prevail, happiness prevail!
May everything for us be peaceful!
~ Hinduism, Atharva Veda 19.9.14 ~

And make not Allah by your swearing (by him) an obstacle to your doing good and guarding (against evil) and making peace between men, and Allah is hearing and knowing.
~ Islam, Qur'an 2.224 ~

The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.
~ Judaism, Talmud, Gittin 59b ~

Now is the gracious Lord's ordinance promulgated,
No one shall cause another pain or injury;
All mankind shall live in peace together,
Under a shield of administrative benevolence.
~ Sikhism, Adi Granth, Sri Raga, M.5, p. 74 ~

Tao invariably takes no action, and yet there is nothing left undone. If kings and barons can keep it, all things will transform spontaneously. If, after transformation, they should desire to be active, I would restrain them with simplicity, which has no name. Simplicity, which has no name, is free of desires. Being free of desires, it is tranquil. And the world will be at peace of its own accord.
~ Taoism, Tao Te Ching 37 ~

A Platinum Parachute

If you want to know what's wrong with our economic system, a story I just saw on the noonday news is oh so typical. An executive with Merrill Lynch, Peter Krause, was paid a whopping $25 million for 3 months work. He's used these proceeds to purchase a $37 million apartment on Park Avenue in New York City.

Of course, there's absolutely nothing illegal about this (as far as anyone knows). He was paid according to the terms of his contract. The honchos at Merrill Lynch agreed to these terms and so he got his money.

I suppose an argument could be made that, were Merrill Lynch flying high, he had earned every single penny. But that's a difficult argument to make when you know the company was doing so poorly that it allowed itself to be purchase to avoid bankruptcy. So, it does beg the question: What did this fellow do in three months that warranted a $25 million paycheck?

Regardless of the legality of the contract, it's a public relations disaster. Not only does it make him look like a greedy you-know-what, but it makes Merrill Lynch look like fiscal imbeciles!! No wonder they were one step away from going under.

For me though, the worst part of this story is the obvious disconnect between the reality of everyday working families and the world of high finance. Average Joes and Janes are losing their health care, pensions, homes and jobs during this severe economic downturn, yet it seems to be business as usual for the fat cats.

Even worse is that they are cavalierly throwing around OUR money.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

No Auld Lang Syne For Moi

For me, one of the downright silliest celebrations is New Year's Eve. I make it a point willfully not to watch the clock. Some years I go to bed early. At other times, I curl up with a good book.

In truth, every night is the eve of a new year. The past day is slipping behind us and the next day is the beginning of the next 365 or 412 or 1,822! Since none of us knows what our tomorrow will bring, we're never certain if we will make to the next night. Me thinks if a person is going to celebrate December 31, then it makes just as much sense to celebrate February 13, June 28 and November 1.

So, celebrate 12/31/08, if you must, but also try to celebrate each and every day of your life.

What if a Falling Star?

In modern society, we seem captivated by celebrity. The news is punctuated with the exploits and actions of socialites, movie stars and recording artists. We watch their every move and, many times, their activities and dramas drown out the important issues of the day.

Religion falls prey to this same spectacle. Most of the major religions have invested their authenticity in one specific individual. If it could be shown that this founding personage had never lived or was a grand fraud, the religion itself would fall like a house of paper-thin cards.

For Jews, that singular person is Moses. In Christianity, it's Jesus. For the Muslims, it's Mohammed. In Buddhism, it's Buddha. And for the Mormons, it's Joseph Smith. (I'm not very familiar with Hinduism, so I don't know if this point applies.)

If it could be shown definitively that each of these individuals was, in fact, a fictional character, the foundation of each religion would be shaken to its very core. Even if each had walked upon the earth, but it could be shown definitively that the words and deeds ascribed to each were greatly embellished and exaggerated, once again, each religion would find themselves in utter crisis.

Adherents would no longer know what to believe or who to believe or what words in their holy documents to trust. In essence, the deeply devout of each belief system would become lost sheep in desperate search of a new shepherd.

In Taoism, it's really immaterial whether or not someone like Lao Tzu ever existed. My guess is that either he didn't exist at all or someone of that name did exist, but he didn't singularly write the book ascribed to him. In the end, it really doesn't matter one way or the other.

The belief system of Taoism isn't built upon the back of one person. The insights of the Tao Te Ching are just that -- insights. They carry no more weight than your insights or mine. The insights in this book may help you or I as we walk down the path -- then again, they may not.

While the falling star of religion will burn up the religion itself, a falling star for a Taoist is merely a beautiful sight to behold.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Fool Me Twice

There is a very interesting article Joshua Holland posted at AlterNet that suggests that much of the recent financial "crisis" may have been yet another snow job. To wit,
There is something approaching a consensus that the Paulson Plan -- also known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP -- was a boondoggle of an intervention that's flailed from one approach to the next, with little oversight and less effect on the financial meltdown.

But perhaps even more troubling than the ad hoc nature of its implementation is the suspicion that has recently emerged that TARP -- hundreds of billions of dollars worth so far -- was sold to Congress and the public based on a Big Lie.

President George W. Bush, fabulist-in-chief, articulated the rationale for the program in that trademark way of his -- as if addressing a nation of slow-witted 12-year-olds -- on Sept. 24: "Major financial institutions have teetered on the edge of collapse ... [and] began holding onto their money, and lending dried up, and the gears of the American financial system began grinding to a halt." Bush said that if Congress didn't give Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson the trillion dollars (give or take) for which he was asking, the results would be disastrous: "Even if you have good credit history, it would be more difficult for you to get the loans you need to buy a car or send your children to college. And ultimately, our country could experience a long and painful recession."

For the most part, the press has continued to echo Bush's central assertion that there's a "credit crunch" preventing even qualified borrowers -- that's the key point -- from getting loans, and it's now part of the conventional wisdom.

But a number of economists are questionioning the factual basis of the credit crunch narrative. Columnist David Sirota recently looked at those claims and concluded that Americans "had been punk'd" -- that "the major claims about a credit crisis that justified Congress cutting a trillion-dollar blank check to Wall Street were demonstrably false," and the threat of a systemic banking crash was used by the Bush administration to overcome popular resistance to the "bailout..."
First, if this turns out to be true, it doesn't surprise me at all. I've gotten to the point in which I rarely believe ANYTHING that comes out of the DC beltway. Almost everything they tell us is baked in half-truths anyway and there almost always seems to be some sort of angle involved.

But the thing that really gets me -- and this will make me almost sound like a Bush supporter -- is that I'm getting really tired of the blame falling solely on the current administration. While I agree with many that George W. Bush will go down in history as one of the worst presidents this land has ever known, he's had a tremendous amount of help from both sides of the aisle!

The old adage "Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me" applies in the present situation. Since almost every measure brought before Congress by Team Bush over the past 8 years has not been what it seemed originally, one would think that our elected representatives would cast a more critical eye at what is brought before them. Yet, time and time again, we hear Congress lament, "We didn't know. We didn't know."

This leads me to be believe that a) They DID know and/or b) They're all a big bunch of buffoons! Either way, you and I get to pay for it.

Seeing the Future

In the previous post, I discussed how prophets tend to be ignored by their contemporaries. They beseech their brethren to turn away from the negative direction they're heading, lest tragedy befell the entire society. These prophets offer up a new path to tread and warn that, if their message is not heeded, dire consequences will result.

So, what exactly is a prophet and how does he/she "know" such things? If a person chooses to take the orthodox approach, a prophet is a person selected by the all mighty. Their words are God's words and the prophet tells of things that are preordained -- in other words, they have the ability to see into the future.

If a person chooses to take a much broader view -- someone like yours truly -- then a prophet is someone in tune with the world around them. Rather than being divinely selected, the individual is inspired by the rhythms of the universe. Their words are their own and the prophet predicts what will happen in the future based on the current trajectory.

It's often not that difficult to have a really good idea of where a society or nation is going by looking at where they are now and the direction they're headed. If a person watches a group walk due south for hundreds of miles without the slightest deviation, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out where they will end up.

Therefore, in a manner of speaking, the prophet does indeed see into the future -- it's simply not done by magic but rational and deductive thought.

Of course, one of the reasons that contemporaries always doubt the prophets in their midst is that they are always on the lookout for false prophets. I certainly don't fault anyone for initial skepticism because there are a slew of snake oil salesmen out there and, if you don't weigh what any given person is trying to sell you, you're far more apt to fall for anything.

For me, I always look at the foundational principles that gird the structure of a person. If these principles are borne of love, compassion and justice, then I'm far more apt to listen to their words of warning. On the other hand, if their foundation is built on hate, distrust and fear, then, in my book, the person definitely is a false prophet and I willfully ignore them.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

And So They Cover Their Ears

According to Christian tradition, Jesus said, "A prophet is without honor only in his hometown, among his relatives, and in his own home." While one can debate if the Jewish carpenter actually uttered this sentiment or not, it certainly wouldn't surprise me if he did. If we look at the annals of history, prophets -- both religious and secular -- are not welcomed by their contemporaries and their words are rarely heeded.

In fact, not only are prophets not listened to, they generally are mocked, scorned and belittled. At the time, a lot of their fellow citizens have called them lunatics. It was said that their message was pure poppycock or worse and the authorities often warned folks to simply ignore them.

Yet, once their predictions come to fruition, that's when people take notice. Consequently, it is quite ironic that many of the prophets of Christianity, for one example, are worshiped by today's adherents as being key figures in history while, at the time of their pronouncements, they were treated as crazed nuts or dangerous provocateurs.

This pattern carries on throughout history and is alive even today. In contemporary times, we have prophets, sages and philosophers who are sounding the clarion call for the need for systemic and fundamental changes. Their subjects include the need for society to live in more sustainable ways and that war/violence will lead to moral bankruptcy and destruction.

And what do those, who venerate the prophets of old, do in response? They cover their ears and eyes. They mock, scorn and belittle. They exhort their brethren to pay no attention to the pronouncements and they continue to live their lives as if everything is a-ok. In essence, they are repeating the very sins of their predecessors and, most likely, will suffer the same kinds of dire consequences.

When Going Mad Makes Sense

At times, I'm struck with a deep melancholy. I look out at a world so filled with wonders and promise, yet humanity is so filled with tension and strife. Rather than seeking ways to come together in cooperation and love, far too many people seem bent on hate and destruction. I often feel like a Don Quixote tilting at windmills!

What tends to deepen my blue moods is the fact that, when I suggest to others that there are other roads to travel, they look at me as if I've gone mad. Such and such is the way we've always done things, they say. Why mess with a good thing?

Far too many of my brethren don't genuinely see that the old standard ways a) were not that effective in the first place and b) are leading humanity and the planet to ruin. Yet, try as I might (and several of you continue to try as well), it sometimes seems like I'm yelling at a deaf person.

So to buck up your spirits and mine as well, here are the words to the "Impossible Dream" from the film, Man of La Mancha.
To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go

To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star

This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far

To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell
For a heavenly cause

And I know if I'll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest

And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star
~ music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion ~

Saturday, December 27, 2008

At the Roots

As I've continued the fractured discussions with those of a far more conservative mindset, I'm struck by a problem that seems to pervade the overall society -- By and large, far too many people look at the tree and not the roots that serve as its foundation. On first appearance, the tree may seem big and strong, green and alive. It may appear to provide shelter to all who sit beneath its branches. However, if the roots are diseased, this appearance is a mere facade and, what may look like the healthiest of trees, may, in fact, be dying.

As we gaze upon the world around us, we see a lot of trees that appear to be strong and vibrant. We're told that global capitalism is the best economic system on the face of this orb, yet this supposedly vaunted system is struggling under its own weight. The world economy is teetering toward a worldwide depression which will impact the poor and working class severely.

We are told that the U.S. military is the greatest in the world, yet despite spending trillions of dollars, destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands of families (both on this side of the pond and the other), wrecking the Iraqi environment and bankrupting domestic spending at home, we can't seem to defeat, once and for all, a rag tag army of guerrilla fighters who possess relatively little firepower.

In both of these cases and so many more, the condition of the root of the plant is what's causing the problem, but so few people want to get their hands dirty and so they refuse to dig down a few inches to look at it. No, they sit in their Sunday best sipping martinis in the afternoon sun gazing out on the beautiful daffodils and think that they understand the entire structure of each plant!

Let Me Kill for You

Last Sunday I wrote a post entitled, "Will You Kill For Me?'. It was an attempt to draw some comparisons between Charles Manson and "The Family" versus governments or organizations and the people they recruit to kill for them via war. As could be expected in a society that lionizes soldiers off to battle, many of the comments left simplified the entire construction and made it seem as if I was stating that I was denigrating U.S. troops by saying they were the same as the members of the Manson family who savagely murdered several victims in the late 60s.

As one person stated in a comment to a different post, context is of supreme importance in almost any conversation. I couldn't agree more! And that is precisely what is missing in these attempts to encapsulate my assertion in an emotionally-laden and simplistic manner. While there is certainly a grain of truth that I am indeed making a straight on comparison, the why of this comparison is the salient point.

A lot of people like to look at the members of the Manson family who wantonly slayed innocent victims as faceless monsters. In their mind's eye, these individuals are simply damaged goods who don't deserve any speck of understanding. I completely disagree.

It is of vast importance to figure out the how and why ordinary young people could be turned into remorseless murderers. Most of these kids came from broken and dysfunctional homes. A few of them came from typical middle and upper class homes. Yet, despite the differences in their upbringing, I think it's safe to say that all of them, with the possible exception of Charles "Tex" Watson, suffered from low self-esteem and self-worth.

Charlie seemed to have a radar for these types of people. He would bring them one-by-one into the fold and tell them that they were good people and their problems were behind them. In time, he segregated his followers from the rest of the world which meant he alone controlled the news and information they received. Day by day he preached to them his malignant worldview and, in time, his worldview became their worldview.

In essence, he brainwashed them. They ceased to form individual opinions; everything originated from the diseased mind of Charles Manson. Consequently, by understanding these dynamics, it is easy to see how they gradually became cold-blooded killers.

When we turn our attention to the topic of war, we find many of these very same dynamics in play. The people who make up our armed forces and those who wage the fight from the other side are, for the most part, ordinary and decent people who, if not trained as a soldier, would never dream of physically harming another human being. Killing others is simply not in their make-up.

Put a uniform on them and bark orders at them and, all of a sudden, these ordinary folks become trained killers. So, what causes this dramatic transformation?

Again, the answer is brainwashing. We have each been programmed to accept the notion that killing the "enemy" will serve a higher purpose. We are told that such killing is justified because it serves vital national interests or that our God will be pleased or we are protecting our way of life or a combination of all three.

In the United States, the military has been venerated from the very beginning. Our leaders -- both civil and religious -- laud their exploits. The acts of a soldier have been lionized in books, songs and films. We have designated certain holidays to celebrate their actions. Heck, we're even treated daily to TV, radio and magazine advertisements about the "honor" of being a soldier. In essence, the message of the glory of soldiering is hammered into the heads of every American from our first day on earth until our last.

It should be noted that this very same pattern is just as true for those we go to war with. The Muslims fighting us in Afghanistan and Iraq use these same techniques to recruit citizens to fight a war they know, from the very start, they can't win. Yet, despite this fact, more and more people keep signing up!

When everything in your society glories war, it becomes very difficult not to succumb to seeing such ideas and concepts as a given -- the way it is now, always has been and will be forever more. For many, it becomes next too impossible to form a different opinion on the matter.

It is in THIS vein that I draw a comparison between Charles Manson's "family" and the war machine of nations. The onus is NOT on the people recruited and trained to carry out the system-sanctioned killing (the killings of innocents indeed were "sanctioned" in Charlie's screwed up world), but on the leaders who perform the brainwashing itself.

In all such cases, good, decent people -- some with low self-esteem and some with not -- are manipulated in such a way that they come to see their role in killing as divinely-sanctioned and justified. And so the leader or leaders place a gun in their hands, identify the target and send them off to kill.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Five of Ten

So, how ARE things going in Iraq these days? Here's one-half of an article. I hope it spurs you to read the story in its entirety.
Published on Friday, December 26, 2008 by Informed Comment
Top Ten Myths about Iraq, 2008
by Juan Cole

1. Iraqis are safer because of Bush's War. In fact, conditions of insecurity have helped created both an internal and external refugee problem:

'"At least 4.2 million Iraqis were displaced. These included 2.2 million who were displaced within Iraq and some 2 million refugees, mostly in Syria (around 1.4 million) and Jordan (around half a million). In the last months of the year both these neighbouring states, struggling to meet the health, education and other needs of the Iraqi refugees already present, introduced visa requirements that impeded the entry of Iraqis seeking refuge. Within Iraq, most governorates barred entry to Iraqis fleeing sectarian violence elsewhere."

2. Large numbers of Iraqis in exile abroad have returned. In fact, no great number have returned, and more Iraqis may still be leaving to Syria than returning.

3. Iraqis are materially better off because of Bush's war. In fact, A million Iraqis are "food insecure" and another 6 million need UN food rations to survive. Oxfam estimated in summer, 2007, that 28% of Iraqi children are malnourished.

4. The Bush administration scored a major victory with its Status of Forces Agreement. In fact, The Iraqis forced on Bush an agreement that the US would withdraw combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, 2009,and would completely withdraw from the Country by the end of 2011. The Bush administration had wanted 58 long-term bases, and the authority to arrest Iraqis at will and to launch military operations unilaterally.

5. Minorities in Iraq are safer since Bush's invasion. In fact, there have in 2008 been significant attacks on and displacement of Iraqi Christians from Mosul. In early January of 2008, guerrillas bombed churches in Mosul, wounding a number of persons. More recently, some 13,000 Christians have had to flee Mosul because of violence.

Almost Like Mr. Potato Head

Since 1952, children have loved to project emotions on Mr. Potato Head. Depending on your own mood, you can make Mr. Potato Head look happy, sad, silly or decidedly wacky. In this same vein, religions have been playing a similar game with their deities. We're told that the all mighty is pleased, displeased, angry and jealous.

For me, there is a problem with this whole charade. We are told that the deity (God, Jehovah, Allah) is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and perfect. So, if the supreme one indeed has all these fine attributes, where is there a need or reason for human emotion?

If we break this down to look at the definitions of the attributes, I think the issue will be made more clear.

Omnipotent - having unlimited power and authority; all-powerful.
Omniscient - having infinite knowledge; knowing all things.
Omnipresent - present in all places at all times.
Perfect - complete in all respects; without defect or blemish; sound; flawless.

Now let's take a look at the word anger. Anger generally comes about because of stress, tension and frustration. We humans go into a situation expecting a certain outcome and, if the outcome is different in a way that has a negative result, we often express disappointment and anger. Conversely, if we humans encounter a situation expecting a certain outcome and, if the outcome is what we expected OR is different in a way that has a positive result, we often express joy and pleasure.

But these same scenarios cannot play out with the all mighty BECAUSE there are no surprises involved. Because the deity is omniscient and omnipresent, it already sees all the various options and choices plus it already knows the result! Therefore, there is nothing that could cause tension or stress for this perfect being and tension and stress are the fuel of human emotion.

So, from my perspective, if you choose to accept the notion that your deity has the 4 aforementioned attributes, you can't concurrently believe that this same being has emotions. Put another way, if you believe your god has emotions, then you can't believe it possesses those 4 key attributes.

Of course, I don't believe a "god" exists, so this isn't a problem for me at all.

Christmas Shoot

I'm sure most people have heard of the horrific shooting at a family Christmas Party in Covina, CA that has left at least 8 people dead. While this is the most sensational shooting for December 25, 2008, it is certainly not the only one. In doing a search on Google News utilizing the search terms of "Christmas shooting", I found scores of results of murder by gunfire.

While I realize that the NRA and other gun rights advocates will come unglued at the following suggestion, I make it nonetheless. I don't think individuals should be allowed to own guns. I'm not saying individuals can't use guns -- just not own them.

Many years ago a friend of mine in state government came up with a novel and interesting idea: if a person has a legitimate need to use a gun and they meet certain eligibility requirements, allow them to check out a gun from a local repository just like a person would check out a book or video from the local library.

From my vantage point, one of the chief problems with personal gun ownership is that it allows people to make rash decisions that often have deadly consequences. You become enraged with someone and rather than trying to work things out, you shoot them. You can do it without much forethought. You can do it without much effort. Once you've done it, you too often can't simply say, "My bad. Sorry 'bout that." The damage is already down.

In essence, guns become the easiest answer for dealing with angst and conflict.

I know one of the most immediate responses by many will be that only criminals will have the guns and we won't be able to defend ourselves. While I will grant that this line of reasoning does have some merit, you only rarely hear on the news stories of people using their guns for self-defense. Ninety percent or more of the reports are of people using a gun for aggressive purposes, not defensive ones.

More importantly, a lot of these horrific shootings of late involve individuals with no criminal record. The alleged gunman in the Covina shooting, Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, seems to be such a person. As the Associated Press reported today,
Pardo, 45, had no criminal record and no history of violence, according to police, but he was angry following last week's settlement of his divorce after a marriage that lasted barely a year..."I'm just — this is shocking," Detanna told the Times. "He was the nicest guy you could imagine. Always a pleasure to talk to, always a big smile."
Had Pardo not had such easy access to guns, do you think he would have gone to the party armed with a knife? Heck, let's even grant that he was so upset that he would have committed the crime armed with a knife. He would have been a lot easier to bring down under those circumstances than trying to wrestle down a man shooting two different guns.

Okay, I've said my piece. Now I await the onslaught of incredulous comments.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Unending Cycle

For the past few days I've been spending some time reading and commenting over at I'm doing this more for mild amusement than anything else because that blog is certainly not my usual cup of tea. It seems to be filled with reactionary people who are filled with great amounts of angst and hate -- particularly for anyone who supports peace, nonviolence, consensus, economic and environmental justice, and embracing the diversity humanity has to offer.

The people who leave comments resemble a raucous gang of thugs. As the ONLY non-conservative around, they take great delight in cursing at me and using all sorts of vile terms to describe me and/or my beliefs. At a younger age, I would probably have responded in kind, but age has taught me there's no purpose in lowering myself to their level of adolescent behavior. So, about the sternest word I've used is to suggest that some of them sound rather ignorant. For the most part, however, I just ignore their attempts to bait me and keep on point.

Since I've visited conservative blogs before, I knew going in that, by and large, most of the active participants were going to be "blow 'em to smithereens" types of people. And -- surprise, surprise -- that's precisely what I've found at In their mind's eye, ALL Palestinians, in specific, and ALL Arab Muslims, in general, are bloodthirsty killers and should be exterminated post haste. In addition, I've seen no evidence whatsoever that any of them oppose the current "wars" in Afghanistan or Iraq.

The problem with this overall mindset is that violence only begets more violence. It creates an unending cycle that cannot be broken. The only tool that stands a chance of ending the perpetual carnage is NONviolence.

The annals of history underscore the fact that violence never brings forth a lasting peace. The Palestinians and Hebrew people have been warring off and on for over 2,000 years. When the US and world community interjected themselves into the remnants of the former Yugoslavia, they had to deal with animosities that went back hundreds and hundreds of years. Even in our own country, many Americans Indians will tell you that the invading whites have been waging both a military and cultural war on their people since the 1600s and the resentment of many is still palatable.

So, the utilization of force (violence) only may ensure short-term objectives. Yes, you may achieve peace for a generation or two, but the resentment of defeat will cling to the vanguished and, one day, they will seek their revenge. All this does is fuel the cycle to restart anew.

Of course, the most hawkish people will suggest that the way out of this quagmire is via total annihilation of the enemy. Unfortunately, even this savage strategy won't work either. In the process of laying waste to an entire civilization or society, the conquerer becomes so ruthless that even current allies, neutral states and some of their own people will come to realize they've gone too far and that the chosen means do not justify the ends.

So, even if the conquerer is successful in wiping out the designated foe, new enemies automatically propogate and, inevitably, we find one or more opposing sides ready to spill blood all over again.

End of Days

Many religions -- particularly Christianity -- focus a lot of their energy on the end of the world. This has always struck me as a rather odd thing to emphasize. Our lives are so ephemeral and so it would seem to me that it would make a lot more sense to focus on the here and now that we can observe and experience rather than focus on the hereafter that we can't know nor investigate until, or if, that time comes.

In Christianity, the Book of Revelations with its wild and vivid imagery is the standard by which a great many Americans contemplate the "end times". At different points of history, various individuals have claimed to decipher this cryptic work and have declared that the end will come on a specific day. To date, they have each been wrong for the world, as we know it, is still here.

While religion can't really provide us with the kind of useful information about the end of things, science can -- or at least it comes closer. Part of the problem with science though is that theories and our understanding of the cosmos are always evolving and so what we understand to be a definitive explanation today will be replaced by a different and/or more definitive explanation tomorrow.

According to the state of our current scientific knowledge, the event that organically will bring about the end of planet Earth (and life on it) is the demise of the sun. According to the website, Windows to the Universe,
About 5 billion years from now, the hydrogen near the center of the Sun will begin to run out and the helium that has collected there will start to contract. This will increase the rate of hydrogen burning in a shell around the core. Our star will slowly bloat into a red giant and destroy the inner planets of our solar system, including the Earth.

As the helium core continues to contract from gravity, it will soon get dense and hot enough to fuse three helium particles into carbon. At the same temperature, the carbon can also fuse with another helium to form oxygen. Since the Sun is not very massive compared to some stars, it will never get hot enough in the center to create elements much heavier than carbon and oxygen. These elements will collect in the center of the star. Later it will shed most of its atmosphere, creating a planetary nebula, and emerge as a hot white dwarf star.
So, regardless of what we humans do, we have approximately 5 billion years to do it here.

I realize that, in the year 2008, 5 billion years is like forever. If we don't render the planet uninhabitable via global warming or kill ourselves ten times over from a nuclear or biological holocaust, one day a few billion years from now our descendants will be staring the end of life as they know it in the face and I'm certain this eventuality won't be pretty.

Since planet Earth has a finite lifespan (with the only caveat that this is what we know based on current knowledge), it would seem to me that we should take every care and make every effort to baby our planet as much as possible. It's not that living in a more sustainable manner will increase the planet's life expectancy, but it will maximize the quality of life for future generations.

I think that's the very least we can do for those who come after us. I think this is particularly poignant because some future generation will face the starkest reality ever -- the end of what we know and hold dear.


Last night my wife and I engaged in our annual viewing of It's a Wonderful Life. While the vehicle used to tell the story is an angel, the underlying theme smacks of Taoism.

We are each one small pebble. Any time we are dropped into a pool of water, this action causes ripples and these ripples multiply out from the center in all directions. Often, the ripples themselves are of a greater magnitude than the initial action. They touch others far and wide.

Because the stream of life is so vast, we typically aren't able to view how far the ripples spread. One seemingly inconsequential action can cause a reaction far from the original source.

What's more, since every entity causes ripples, it's often difficult to tell the ripples made from our small pebble from all the others. In essence, all we really see is the movement of water without understanding that this movement is propelled by billions upon billions of ripples caused by billions upon billions of small pebbles.

To be certain, while all pebbles are small in relation to the entirety of the cosmos, some are slightly bigger than others. People tend to become fixated on the ripples caused by the slightly larger pebbles and to discount the ripples made by the smallest pebbles. However, since none of us can know which ripples will ultimately have the greatest effect, it makes far more sense to treat them all equally.

Every journey begins with one step; every wave is launched by one ripple.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Meeting Travelers Along the Way

In following one of the referring urls to TRT, I found a Taoist blog that is new to me: The Path of Water (it's been added to the Taoist links on the right-side column). This represents one of the great joys for me of blogging -- Discovering fellow Taoists and having the opportunity to gain insights from them. As there are no definitive creeds nor dogma attached to Taoism, one of the best methods I've found for deepening my own understanding of Tao is to read the explanations of others on their own paths.

In a post in November on "Homosexuality", the author had this to say about the Tao Te Ching:
The first is that the Tao Te Ching is not a religious text in the same way as the Bible or Qur'an. It does not claim to be the "word of God" or some kind of infallible reference, but rather is the observations of either one or a group of people depending on what you believe. I like to think of it as a travel book, where the writer says "I did this to get where I wanted to go", and you can take from it what is useful to get you to the same destination, but it is not something to be blindly followed. If other texts pass any comment I don't know, but it would only be an opinion not a law. At the end of the day you are your own guide to the Tao.
What a splendid description!

What If...?

In his beautiful song, Imagine, John Lennon asked what if there's no heaven, countries or possessions. It's an interesting question because we each hold beliefs about life and death, right and wrong. It's a good thing to take our beliefs out of the closet from time to time to examine them in the light of a new day. What if...?

It's a question I've been asked by many a Christian. What if you're wrong about God and Jesus, they ask. Wouldn't you be better off believing in such things simply to cover your bases?

For me, this is an imbecilic argument. Believing in something half ass to "cover your bases" defeats the whole purpose in the belief. It places the focus on oneself, not on the thing or idea to be believed in. Besides, if there is a God, wouldn't one expect that he or she would easily see through such a guise?

There may be a God or some other supreme entity. Then again, there may not be. The way I see it is that none of us will know for certain until (or IF) the time comes. So, why waste time and energy now on trying to comprehend the incomprehensible?

While I will readily admit that the possibility exists that there is a supreme entity, most religious adherents refuse to play the "What if...?" game. If the tables are turned and you ask most of them, "What if there is no God nor heaven?", they seem incapable of fathoming that they could be wrong!

A few years ago I had an ongoing email exchange with two fundamentalist Christians in Salem, OR. They loved to play the "What if...?" game with me as long as each of them was asking the question. When I was the one asking the question, then the game was no longer considered fun. One of the gents steadfastly refused even to consider that he might be wrong -- He had talked with "God" many times, so he KNEW he was right. The other fellow simply went silent.

Regardless of one's beliefs, asking ourselves "What if...?" is a good exercise. If you don't ask the question, you never have a chance to grow. You become mired in a quagmire of your own creation.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

One Half of the World

A consistent proof that religion is man-made and anthropomorphic can also be found in the fact that it is usually "man" made, in the sense of masculine, as well. The holy book in the longest continuous use -- the Talmud -- commands the observant one to thank his maker every day that he was not born a woman...The Old Testament, as Christian condescendingly call it, has woman cloned from man for his use and comfort. The New Testament has Saint Paul expressing both fear and contempt for the female. Throughout all religious texts, there is a primitive fear that half the human race is simultaneously defiled and unclean, and yet is also a temptation to sin that is impossible to resist.
from "God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything" by Christopher Hitchens
I agree wholeheartedly with the above sentiment! For me, ANY belief system that denigrates and seeks to subjugate the female gender is suspect. More importantly, if there IS a God, I would bet it's far more likely that it's a She not a he.

Beyond the Headlines

I grew up watching Walter Cronkite and the Huntley-Brinkley Report in an age when investigative journalism had real bite. I cut my teeth during the 60s when the airwaves were filled with horrific reports from the Vietnam War and riots in the streets of America. This is not to suggest that network news was perfect (remember the whitewashing of the Kennedy administration), but it was a bulldog compared to today.

These days mainstream journalism has become tepid -- to put it mildly -- and self-censorship is the rule of the day. I rarely discover anything monumental by watching the national news; the best source is now the internet through organizations like TruthOut, AlterNet and Common Dreams.

Take for example a snippet of the article below. If journalism today remotely mirrored that of the 6os, one could expect even a slight mention of the following unreported story -- a story that needs to be told.
What do you do when you notice that there seems to have been a killing spree? While the national and international media were working themselves and much of the public into a frenzy about imaginary hordes of murderers, rapists, snipers, marauders, and general rampagers among the stranded crowds of mostly poor, mostly black people in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, a group of white men went on a shooting spree across the river.

Their criminal acts were no secret but they never became part of the official story. The media demonized the city's black population for crimes that turned out not to have happened, and the retractions were, as always, too little too late. At one point FEMA sent a refrigerated 18-wheeler to pick up what a colonel in the National Guard expected to be 200 bodies in New Orleans's Superdome, only to find six, including four who died naturally and a suicide. Meanwhile, the media never paid attention to the real rampage that took place openly across the river, even though there were corpses lying in unflooded streets and testimony everywhere you looked - or I looked, the rest.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Civil Discourse

In days of yore, I truly believed it was possible for individuals all over the political spectrum to come together to engage in civil discourse. We would all sit down at a big table -- real or virtual -- to thresh out the points one by one. In time, we would find agreement based on facts, not ideologies nor perspectives.

What a pollyanna view!

As I've aged (and, hopefully, matured), I've found that the whole problem with this premise is that facts are solely in the eye of the beholder!! What is blue to me may be red for you. What is accepted as a firm scientific conclusion to one person may be nothing more than propaganda to another.

How we each view the world and the foundational principles our personal constitution is built upon makes all the difference in the world. For example, if a person accepts the notion of global warming as a hard cold fact, then a lot of the wacky climatic events of the past few years will only underscore the reality of human-caused climate change. If, on the other hand, a person believes that global warming is nothing more than liberal propaganda, such a person will view the advent of this seemingly wacky weather as indicating something completely different or, maybe, not indicating anything at all.

In many cases, religion (or a lack thereof) has a great impact on our definition of fact or reality. What may be self-evident to adherents of one belief system, may be anything but to adherents of a different system.

And for those who might argue that there IS an absolute reality beyond mere human capacity, I would counter -- According to whom? Even if a person accepts the notion of a god or gods, that reality only is absolute from their perspective!

A Milestone of Sorts

I didn't start this blog to be popular. I don't follow all the rules and hints needed to drive traffic to it. I simply write on topics or observations that interest me and, in doing so, I have a small group of people who accompany me on this ride.

From time to time, my traffic numbers shoot up precipitously. The first few occasions happened when I wrote my first entries critical of Christianity. My numbers rose again when I wrote a series of posts about a so-called educational outfit, Linda Christas. The stats spiked again when I wrote about the Grays Harbor Port protests in May of 2007 -- A lot of the visitors then were from the US government and military!

However, today for the very first time, I've had 100+ visitors stop by TRT. Most of these folks made their path to here via -- a conservative blog that took great exception to my post "Will You Kill for Me?'

It would seem that my visitor totals only shoot up when certain types of people feel the need to "put me in my place". That's their right. I have consciously chosen not to moderate comments, so anyone can write most anything they desire.

That said, I'll be happy when they return from whence they came and my numbers slide back down. I've learned that there's really no point in trying to reason with them because reason only clouds their arguments and tends to upset them.


At my house, today begins another typical week. There is nothing major on the agenda. I'll go about my regular routine, just like the week before and the week after.

For most people in South Bend and around the country as well as the world, this is a very special time -- Christmas Week. Children are growing more and more antsy in preparation for the opening of Christmas presents and area churches are preparing to celebrate the birth of their savior. Since my wife and I are childless (by choice) and I'm not a Christian, neither of these variables concern me.

I certainly don't begrudge others for celebrating their holiday as long as they don't begrudge me for not celebrating it. About the only affect Christmas Day has on me is that I must change my grocery shopping routine to take into account that the South Bend grocery store will be closed and the Raymond grocery store only will be open for limited hours.

Other than that, Thursday will be Thursday.

Finding the Off Switch

On Friday, in the post "Tao of Dreams", I brought up the point that our minds often interfere with our brains. The former clogs the receptors of the latter and we often find it difficult to become one with Tao. So, it would seem that the simple solution is to turn off the mind from time to time. This is not easy, however.

I suppose it's easier for some. I know that many people can get lost in music, poetry or nature itself. I envy such individuals!

For years one of my greatest irritations with myself was that I seemed unable to disengage my mind. It didn't matter the time of day, the location or what I was doing. I could be watching Jeopardy on TV or trying to go to sleep -- my mind wouldn't shutdown. Millions of random things ran through it constantly and I analyzed almost every bit of it.

Unlike others, the arts or nature didn't do the trick. When I listen to music, I either repeat the words of the song in my head or replay the chords. When I read, I say the words out loud in my mind. Even trying to get lost in nature didn't work either because I was internally commenting on every sound, sight or smell.

As I grew older, I tried to teach myself how to meditate. I tried chanting some mantras, but I was constantly analyzing the mantras themselves. I also tried to blank out everything -- to sit as an empty vessel -- but I found that I was always saying to myself, "Don't think of anything" which, in and of itself, is thinking of something!

Part of my difficulty in this area, I believe, is tied to AS. As I lead a very repetitive existence, this pattern is exhibited in how my mind operates. I suppose I find comfort in repeating things and, since I don't deal well with change or an interruption of my routines, an ever engaged mind is a defense mechanism.

However, in the past three or four years, a marvelous thing has occurred. When I finally gave up on trying to find the off switch, it magically appeared! While I still can't manage to keep the button pushed down for long periods, I am now able to flick the switch from time to time.

In essence, when I quit thinking about it all the time (mind), it made itself self-evident (brain).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Will You Kill for Me?

It's a Sunday evening in snow bound South Bend. My wife & I are enjoying a quiet night in front of the fireplace. A little before 8:00 p.m., we start flipping through the cable channels to find something to watch. My wife's preference is to watch a movie. One of her favorite channels is Lifetime. I immediately recoil. "If you're going to watch that crap, I will retire to my upstairs cave."

So, we continue flipping around until we happen to notice an MSNBC documentary entitled, "Will You Kill for Me?" It's all about Charlie Manson and The Family.

I know a lot about this topic. When the best seller Helter Skelter came out, I read it from cover to cover (and reread it several years later). I've probably watched most of the documentaries made concerning Manson and I've read a lot more than the aforementioned book. I find the whole topic very disturbing, yet interesting. As a former social worker, I've always been interested in why people commit heinous acts.

However, as I watched this program, I grew a bit uncomfortable. The main thesis seemed to be focused on the cult aspects of the Manson family and the observation that the events that took place were from a bygone era. More importantly, the viewpoint behind the program seemed to say that killing for someone else is a societal anomaly.

People kill for others all the time! It's not an anomaly at all.

Right now the U.S. has over 100,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their underlying mission is to kill for our country -- all of us here stateside. Our opponents are bent on killing our soldiers to defend their own supporters and countrymen.

While Manson used drugs and sex to mold and manipulate his disciples, the governments and insurgent forces alike involved in the current "wars" use religion, nationalism and sentiments like patriotism to mold and manipulate soldiers, freedom fighters and terrorists to commit unthinkable atrocities. How is this so different than Manson?

And it's just not in "war" that we find this tragic circumstance. People are recruited everyday into companies that develop and peddle products that kill people and destroy the environment. Some do it solely for greed, but a lot of these people believe in what they're creating and selling. The capitalist ethos has molded and manipulated them into believing that they are each serving a higher purpose.

Remember DDT? It was supposed to revoltionize agriculture and, thereby, be beneficial to humankind. And what did it really do? It made the planet and people very sick. Yet, the people who manufactured this vile substance defended it as beneficial until there absolutely was no question that it was anything but.

DDT is but one solitary example. I'm certain each reader can think of 100 more.

If truth be known, what scares people so much about the Charlie Mansons of the world, is that these individuals are not outside of the mainstream as much as we might like to believe. Yes, their tools of manipulation tend to be beyond the norm, but the end results aren't altogether different.

Bass Ackwards

It just astounds me how often the weather prognosticators get our weather wrong. I realize that weather prediction is not an exact science, but if you used the Southwest Washington Coast as a guide, you would think there was no science involved altogether. Sometimes I think we'd be just as well off if we received no weather predictions at all!

For the last three days we've been told that the storm of storms was headed our way. It would start off slowly Saturday morning with light snow. The light dusting would continue until late afternoon or early evening, then the heavens would open up and we could expect around one foot of snow. Not only that, but once this frosty deluge started, we would be buffeted by sustained winds of 25 - 35 mph with gusts of 50 mph or more.

As usual, the forecast didn't resemble the actual event at all. For starters, the snow began at around 9:00 a.m. on Saturday and dropped between 4 - 6 inches on us throughout the day. When late afternoon arrived -- the time the heavy snow was supposed to commence -- it stopped snowing. For the last several hours we've had nothing more than light rain and the temperature has shot up past freezing (it was in the 20s for most of the day -- 10 degrees or so colder than predicted).

Not only did the massive evening snow not materialize, our winds were meager compared to the predictions. Our top wind gust was only 17 mph, far less than the predicted sustained winds.

The forecast high for today is 45 degrees. I hope this proves to be correct as my wife was unable to ascend our 3 block long hill in the car. It's somewhere down the hill off the road. Maybe we will be able to float down the hill in the snow melt to retrieve it. :-)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Here or There

For a period of about a month, I was posting between 1 - 3 entries here each day. All of a sudden, the posts became more infrequent. Well, it's not because I encountered writer's block or I ran out of things to write. My attention was turned elsewhere.

I had gotten far ahead of my schedule for GreenPRO, an online database of progressive policies, resolutions and ordinances. In fact, I got so far ahead that I didn't need to do any research nor add any entries for nearly one month -- that same period of time I was posting a lot here.

In time, I began to realize that I had taken so much time off that I was now behind schedule. So, for the last week or so, I've added nearly 100 new entries. While finding the information to post certainly takes some time, the formatting of text in WikiMedia syntax is what really eats up the day -- Note: I'm a one-fingered typist! After plodding along at this task for several hours, I'm in no mood to think or write deep thoughts.

This is a very typical situation for a person with AS. At times, we can resemble an alcoholic going on a binge! In fact, binges often describe my life. I get all consumed with GreenPRO or this blog and it's all I think about. The transition from one to the other is often difficult as I always find it very difficult to switch gears and my personality doesn't allow me to do two things at once. Thus, I'm either working like a madman on the database or I'm writing tomes here. (I'm winding down from GreenPRO as I'm close to being one month ahead of schedule again, so I should resume writing more here.)

At least research, formatting and writing aren't as bad for one's health as staying perpetually drunk or stoned. ;-) It still drives my wife a bit batty, though.

Tao of Dreams

The weather outside is frightful, but the fire inside's delightful. Since we've got nowhere else to go, we watched one of our favorite videos, Field of Dreams. On the surface, the movie appears to be about baseball and "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. In reality, however, there is a far deeper message and baseball is the vehicle used to get us there.

When people first learn of Taoism, I'm often asked what source materials a person should get a hold of. While reading the Tao Te Ching and the Book of Chuang Tzu provide great inspiration and The Tao According to Pooh and almost any book by Alan Watts provide great insights, a person could do just as well watching Field of Dreams.

I'm certainly not suggesting the movie (or the book the movie is based on) was derived from a Taoist perspective or that the author or producer ever had an explicit Taoist thought, but the essence of Taoism is played over and over again throughout the story.

The lead character Ray (played by Kevin Costner), keeps hearing a voice. Initially, it says "Build it and he will come." Later he hears "Ease his pain" and "Go the distance". Another character, Terrance Mann (played by James Earl Jones), hears the voice on one occasion too.

Each time the voice speaks, Ray and the other character drive themselves crazy trying to figure out what it all means. They think hard, but find no answers. After a while, they throw up their hands and they focus their attention on something different. It's at the moment when they quit trying to figure it out that the message becomes clear.

We've all experienced situations like this. There's a word on the tip of our tongue, but, no matter how hard we try, it evades us. We're telling someone a story about a friend or celebrity, but, for the life of us, we can't seem to remember the name! We concentrate. We furrow our brow. We think and think and think, but end up drawing a complete blank.

Several hours later, when we are now oblivious to the previous situation, the word or name pops out. Heck, we may be awakened from a sound sleep to exclaim petulance or Bob Sanders.

The lesson here is that our minds often impede our brains. The former is crammed full of baggage (thoughts, desires, emotions, needs, dreams, aspirations, etc.) and so the lines of communication between the brain and the mind get clogged. When we lay the mind aside and allow the brain to function freely, the clog is cleared and the message flows unimpeded.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My Day in Court

We've all seen the ads about automobiles. They show sleek and shiny vehicles that define ones power, wealth and/or sex appeal. A person's choice of which car or truck to purchase, we are told, defines who we are and what kind of image we wish to project.

Of course, the above may be true for those of a certain economic standing, but, for the rest of us, the choices are greatly limited -- We buy what we can afford and that's not much at all!

When my Nissan Pickup gave up the ghost last year, we had next to no money available to purchase a replacement vehicle. We didn't like any of our choices, but finally went with a 1995 Ford Escort Wagon. It has proven to be an unmitigated piece of crap, but it's OUR piece of crap.

While there are host of things wrong with this lemon, the one that landed me in the South Bend Municipal Court today has to do with the car's less than adequate seat belts. I had received a ticket 3 weeks earlier for not wearing my lap belt.

I requested a Mitigation Hearing. This morning I told Municipal Judge Elizabeth Penoyar that I readily admit that I was not wearing my lap belt and that it was a conscious decision. I had not worn my lap belt prior to receiving the ticket and I did not fasten it today when I drove to the hearing.

The reason I don't wear it is because it does not serve the purpose intended AND it does not meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (though it was allowed to be manufactured this way). According to the federal regulations, a seat belt must be adjustable and have some mechanism that causes the seat belt to lock the occupant in place in the case of an accident.

The seat belts in the 1995 Ford Escort do neither. The belts are not adjustable -- it's one size fits all. When I'm sitting in the driver's seat, the automatic shoulder harness can be pulled out far enough that I can wrap it around the steering wheel and the lap belt pulls out almost as far. In addition, there is no catch mechanism whatsoever. The belts continue to give until they reach their maximum length.

Consequently, my fear is that, in case of a serious accident, my belts will not keep me in my seat AND will most likely entangle my legs and arms which could cause me great difficulty in escaping a burning or sinking car. This is why I have made the conscious decision not to wear the lap belt. (The shoulder harness is even more ineffectual, but it engages automatically and, if disengaged while the motor is operating, causes an alarm to sound unabated.)

I've read online that there have been many complaints about the ineffectiveness of seat belts on Ford Escorts, yet the government has refused to issue a recall. So, car owners like myself are stuck in an almost impossible situation: Wear the belt and risk death or serious harm OR not wear the belt and risk $124 tickets.

One other solution is to get new seat belts installed, but that solution is cost prohibitive for poor people like us. While the parts themselves only cost around $50, the labor runs several hundred dollars -- several hundred dollars we simply don't have!

My argument was compelling. Initially, the judge wasn't sure what she could do, but she came up with a solution that I believe is fair. My case has been continued for one year's time. If I am not ticketed for a seat belt violation during the next 365 days, the case will be dismissed and no fine will be assessed.

So, I will continue not to wear my lap belt. If I am pulled over by an officer for whatever reason, I will immediately fasten the belt and, when I'm done speaking to the fine public servant, I will disengage the belt before driving off.

If my wife & I win the lottery, then we will buy a new car which will define our newly found power, wealth and/or sex appeal. ;-)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Damn Cold

Generally, one of the advantages of living on the southwest Washington coast is that we tend to avoid weather extremes. The warmest month of the year is July with an average high of only 72 degrees. December and January are the coldest months with an average high for both months of 45 degrees.

Anytime the temperature goes really high or low, that is outside our norm and it's really outside the norm right now! In fact, the prediction is for lows in the teens for the next 2 nights with highs barely broaching the freezing mark.

I grant that, for most people in the country, this is no big deal because it IS that time of the year. However, if I had wanted to enjoy extremely cold weather, I would have moved to Minnesota!!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Is There Truth in Religions?

The question is: Is there not truth in religions, in theories, in ideals, in beliefs? Let us examine. What do we mean by religion?

Surely, not organized religion, not Hinduism, Buddhism, or Christianity-which are all organized beliefs with their propaganda, conversion, proselytism, compulsion, and so on. Is there any truth in organized religion? It may engulf, enmesh truth, but the organized religion, itself, is not true. Therefore, organized religion is false, it separates man from man. You are a Muslim, I am a Hindu, another is a Christian or a Buddhist-and we are wrangling, butchering each other. Is there any truth in that?

We are not discussing religion as the pursuit of truth, but we are considering, if there is any truth in organized religion. We are so conditioned by organized religion to think there is truth in it that we have come to believe that by calling oneself a Hindu, one is somebody, or one will find God. How absurd, sir; to find God, to find reality, there must be virtue. Virtue is freedom, and only through freedom can truth be discovered-not when you are caught in the hands of organized religion, with its beliefs. And is there any truth in theories, in ideals, in beliefs?

Why do you have beliefs? Obviously, because beliefs give you security, comfort, safety, a guide. In yourself you are frightened, you want to be protected, you want to lean on somebody, and therefore you create the ideal, which prevents you from understanding that which is. Therefore, an ideal becomes a hindrance to action.
~ Jiddhu Krishnamurti (1895 - 1986) ~

All Bark, No Bite

After all the various weather warnings, not much happened. We did experience some minor flooding from the coastal surge, but the high winds never materialized. I think the highest recorded gust in South Bend was 46 mph and we had received 1.2" of rain at the time our local weather station went offline (around 9 p.m.).

This is the thing about weather and our weather prediction capabilities. For all our science, knowledge and gadgetry, we still guess a lot! One of the drawbacks of guessing is that we sometimes guess wrong. So, in 2007, the guess was for a moderate storm and we got a very severe storm. This year the guess was for a moderate storm and it ended up being fairly run-of-the-mill.

To be quite candid, I'm a bit disappointed. While I certainly didn't wish a severe storm on my neighbors with the resulting damage, I do like storms! I was looking forward to be able to watch the trees bend a little sideways.

I sort of feel like a guy who lights a roman candle and all I got was a little fizz. :-(

Thursday, December 11, 2008

And the Winds Shall Blow

Last year about this time, southwest Washington (where I live) and northwest Oregon were pummeled by hurricane force winds. The strongest gusts recorded in my county were near 150 mph and sustained winds of 60 - 90 mph lasted for over 24 hours. Trees fell by the hundreds of thousands and power was out for anywhere from 4 days - 2 weeks.

What made this sad situation all the more fun was the forecasts of the preceding days. About one week before the big storm made landfall, the predictions were dire and everyone around was understandably anxious. However, about 3 days before the storm hit, the National Weather Service severely downgraded the potential storm and everyone let out a sigh of relief. Then the storm hit and it was worse than the first prediction!

Consequently, I would think folks would understand why everyone in Pacific County, Washington is on edge tonight. The National Weather Service has issued a High Wind Warning, a Coastal Flood Watch and a Special Weather Statement for our area for the next 36 - 48 hours.
High Wind Warning
Issued by The National Weather Service
Portland, OR
2:06 pm PST, Thu., Dec. 11, 2008




Special Weather Statement
Issued by The National Weather Service
Portland, OR
11:22 am PST, Thu., Dec. 11, 2008


I certainly hope that this storm doesn't turn out to be as bad as last year! If we lose electric power again, things will be much worse this time around due to the arctic chill. I guess I should at least take some solace in the fact that this year we have a sufficient amount of wood to burn in the fireplace.

Let's all now say the winter oath together, Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Dream a Little Dream of Me

When I was younger, I dreamed all the time -- some may say too much! Over the past decade, however, the dreams went away. Now, it rarely happens.

I've often wondered why. Maybe I've grown more cynical through the years. It might be as the result of my fibromyalgia. I no longer sleep well and five consecutive hours is about my limit these days. I recently read that many folks afflicted with fibro suffer from a sleep disorder that doesn't allow them to enter deep sleep, thereby, no opportunity to dream.

In many ways, it may be just as well. My dreams were always sort of weird because I rarely saw faces in my dreams -- that's connected with AS.

With no dreams, I just take each day as it comes and hope I muddle my way through it. :>D

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Perfect as Perfect Can Be

When I think back to my early years in Sunday School class, it's amazing I wasn't driven stark raving mad by age 8 or 9. One of the chief messages impressed upon our young, developing minds was that we each should always strive for perfection. Of course, after having this idea drummed into our heads year after year, we were then told that humans, by our sinful nature, could never come close to the sought after perfect state.

Even at a young age, this dichotomy boggled my mind! If not one of us has the capability even of landing in the neighborhood of perfection, why aim for it? Why set up humanity for the inevitable failure? Targeting an attainable goal -- like near perfection, excellent or really damn good -- would seem far more reasonable because, though a great number of folks wouldn't climb as high as this rung, many would succeed. They would become the role models for the rest of us to emulate.

By the time I reached my college years, the probing question on my mind was: Who says people can't be perfect? While I granted it would be very difficult to accomplish, I believed that, if each of us set our minds to it, we could accomplish anything.

But as I entered my 30s, I began to question the entire concept of perfection. From a Christian standpoint, we're taught that God embodies perfection. And who informs us of this? God himself! Since we don't have the intellectual ability to verify this assertion, how do we know if it's true or not? Maybe God is just like the rest of us in that he doesn't like to admit his own shortcomings.

From a Taoist perspective, many believe that nature is perfect. Again, we have no way to verify this. For all we know, nature may take a lot of missteps along the way and simply have the ability to self-correct...most of the time.

I think this whole idea of perfection arose because of humankind's imperfect nature. We assumed that if we're imperfect, something somewhere must be our opposite. If mortals are imperfect, then the celestial beings must be perfect.

I've basically removed the concept of perfection from my mind's eye. For me, the concept exemplifies a static state and our universe is anything but static. There are far too many variables and perspectives -- What might be perfect from one perspective may be wholly imperfect from another.

More importantly, if there is some personified being looking over us, wouldn't this entity be constantly striving to perfect its perfection? If so, then perfection itself would never be reached because every state of being would lead to the next and on and on.

Contrary Evidence

"Belief system are stunningly resistant to [such] correction, for the simple reason that deeply committed believers are not offering a variety of debatable proposals about the nature of the world. They see the world through their beliefs, not their beliefs from a worldly perspective. Therefore, whatever happens can only confirm the truth of what they believe. When we present believers with contrary "evidence", we only prove to them that we are outside the realm of faith and therefore unable to see the world as it is. For this reason, belief systems are not only impervious to opposition, they thrive on it."
~ p. 28-29, "The Religious Case Against Belief" by James P. Carse ~

Snake Eyes -- Move Jesus Six Spaces

It's amazing what one can find on the internet by following one link after another. I was looking at one of the referring urls coming to this blog and then, two links later, I discovered a new board game, "Playing Gods: The Board Game of Divine Domination".
Playing Gods is a satirical board game of divine domination. Two to five players each play a different god, and compete with each other to take over the world. This is done by spreading your believers, converting the followers of other gods, or killing them off with Acts of God.
My reaction to this game is a combination of hysterical laughter and horror. On the one hand, I salute the creators for ingenious creativity. Since I tend to be anti-religion, it sounds like it might be a real hoot to play. On the other hand, I generally detest games that glorify violence, in any form, though I must confess I used to play the board game Risk.

Nonetheless, I think it would be quite entertaining to watch Jesus, Buddha and Allah duke it out in someone's living room. Bring on the popcorn and beer!

The Theory of Everything

Learned people study some of the oddest things! Two gentlemen recently published a study on "The Effect of Country Music on Suicide". Why would someone even think this up and then decide to spend time and money on researching it?

Probably a month doesn't go by when I hear of or read about some other bizarre study. Within the past month or so, I learned that a quite a few physicists are trying to discover the theory of everything. Like THAT will ever happen!

We can't predict the weather reliably. Things happen everyday that no one can explain. We make decisions that turn out to have long-term negative consequences. So, why would anyone think they could uncover a theory that explains everything?

Even if someone did stumble upon it, they wouldn't recognize it because everything is far too vast for any human or all humans collectively to grasp. In my mind, such an undertaking is about as realistic as trying to take a picture of a unicorn or obtaining a one-on-one interview with a leprechaun.

Of course, I personally believe there is indeed an explanation of everything -- Tao. But no one will find it through theorizing mathematical formulas or conducting empirical studies. In fact, such methods will guarantee that these researchers won't connect with it at all!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Belief You Me

I often find wonderment from trips to the library. I typically head off down the hill with a specific book or topic in mind, yet I often arrive back home with something altogether different or, at least, with what I sought after PLUS something completely different. This was the case yesterday as I picked up my order for the book, "The Lilies of the Field" and also brought home, "The Religious Case Against Belief".

I'm not sure WHY I picked up the second book since religion is not a topic that generally appeals to me. I suppose it was something about the title that happened to pique my interest at the time.

I finished Lilies in one day. It's an extremely short book, but it still represents a feat for me because I'm a very slow, plodding reader. I've only read about 10 pages of book #2 and it's already got me thinking about the concept of belief.

For as long as I can remember, I've been taught that fact and belief are two different animals. The former is based upon empirical, deduced or observable reality, while the latter cannot stand on any of these three edifices. Fact belongs to the world of science and belief to the world of theology.

As I've aged, I've come to see that this is a false dichotomy because facts are beliefs too! It's just that they are beliefs that can be replicated, deduced or observed by others. Facts are no more real than non-facts.

For example, there is no way to prove that 1 + 1 = 2 is real. One really is nothing more than an adjective, a way to describe something else. I can hold a peach in my hand, but I can't hold a one in my hand. I can hold one peach in my left hand and one peach in my right hand, then tell you I have two peaches, but I can't hold two ones.

A "one" or "six" or "fifty" doesn't exist. Each is an abstract concept. Just like religion. Just like Tao.

The Fox Chases IE from Henhouse

When I first launched my blog in 2005, my tracking software indicated that nearly 3/4 of my visitors used some release of Internet Explorer as their web browser. As the weeks, months and years have ticked by, this figure continues to decline. As of today, over 65% of my visitors use something other than IE with Firefox now showing a comfortable lead.

I think this is fantastic news as I support open source software. I began using Netscape as soon as it came out and switched to Mozilla and Firefox as soon as they came out. I will admit, sheepishly, that I too used IE and Outlook when I first began surfing the web, but both programs irritated the hell out of me. I'm glad that others were irritated too and this spawned a multitude of alternatives.

I also have K-Meleon and Opera on my computer because I sometimes like to see how different web sites appear on different browsers, but I use Firefox 95% of the time.

Beets Me!

People with AS seem to have a great deal of difficulty with small talk and casual conversation. It seems we either don't know what to say at all or whatever comes out of our mouth is deemed weird, strange or unusual. Mind you, it seems perfectly logical to us, but this logic seems to be lost on almost everyone else!

On my birthday in October, I purchased a vegetable juicer. I used to have one years ago, but, in time, it finally wore out and since my wife & I are poor, we just never seemed to have the extra money to buy another. My wife spotted the one we purchased on the clearance shelf of one of our two local grocery stores. They obviously wanted to unload it because they sold us a $70 juicer for a mere $25.

The very next day I went to the other grocery store -- it's only about 5 blocks from my house -- to purchase organic carrots and beets, so I could make my favorite juice. Alas, while they had oodles of carrots, not a beet could be found in the entire establishment! One of the checkers, Marie, informed me that she was sure more beets would arrive in the next day or two. Crestfallen, I returned home with the carrots and enjoyed a tall glass of carrot juice.

Two days later, I returned to the store. As I entered, Marie and Kim (another checker) were standing next to their registers talking. I nodded in their direction and asked, "Do you have beets?" I thought this was a proper question as a) this WAS a grocery store, b) Marie had previously indicated that beets should arrive about now and c) I had acknowledged their presence with a nod.

Both of them looked at me oddly. "That's a really strange question, Trey" said Marie. I obviously must have looked completely befuddled because Marie added, "Most people would say hello first or ask how we are. They wouldn't simply walk in off the street to ask 'Do you have any beets?'."

I asked Kim if she too thought my question was odd. She said that it was. I still don't consider it an odd question, but after discussing the oddness of my approach, I was able to ascertain that they did, in fact, have beets.

I made a mental note of this situation. A few days later I was having a bit of trouble remembering which aisle the olives are on. Seeing a different checker, Teresa, I made sure not to repeat my previous guffaw. I said hello and asked her how she was doing. With what sounded to me like irritation in her voice, she asked, "Do you need some help?" I told her I was looking for olives and she directed me to the proper aisle.

Maybe she wasn't irritated and I just thought she was or maybe she was annoyed. I'm not sure, but she didn't seem interested in telling me how she was doing.

So now, I'm completely befuddled. I ask a direct question and I'm faulted for not being generally friendly, yet when I try to play the role of the friendly shopper, it now seems that's being too friendly. All these two situations cause in me is to not want to talk to people at all since I seem incapable of figuring out what they might want from a conversation.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Taoist Jesus

I've reprinted the following article twice before (2005 & 2006), but I find it so exquisite that I'm doing it again in 2008. It is written by a fellow who goes by the moniker Disciple Dan. He used to host a website called The Path of Tao Jia -- the link no longer works. If nothing else, this should provide readers with great fodder for contemplation and discussion. See if you agree or disagree with his premise.
Was Jesus a Taoist?
by Disciple Dan

Before beginning this article, let me say that I have been a follower of Jesus of Nazareth since I was thirteen years old. I was ordained as a minister in the Christian Religion in 1972, and have spent more than thirty years in service as a minister to that religion. I feel, therefore, that I have an established understanding of what Christianity teaches, and am able to speak candidly about that faith. Without the slightest hesitation, I can say that I love Jesus and deeply respect his teachings... but I am no longer a Christian.

The foundation question that must be asked before asking if Jesus was a Taoist, is to ask if Jesus was a "Christian." This question probably evokes laughter from some, and others would exclaim with contempt, "Of course he was! The Christian Religion is founded on Jesus and his teachings!" I beg to adamantly differ with you.

Christianity was not founded on Jesus nor his teachings. Jesus was a Jewish carpenter from Nazareth who never gave the slightest indication that he intended to leave the Jewish faith nor institute a new religion. On the contrary, Jesus followed the Jewish law and encouraged others to do so. He was circumcised on the eighth day and attended the Jewish feasts in Jerusalem. He would, in fact, die while attending a Passover Feast in Jerusalem. When he cleansed the lepers, he told them to go to the Temple and make the proper religious offering according to the Jewish law. Even when he was disgusted with the hypocrisy of the leaders of his religion, he told his followers to obey the Chief Priest because he "...sat in Moses seat."

The single motive of Jesus seems to have been the reform of his own faith. When approached by a non-Jewish woman in search of his favors, he told her that he had been sent to the "...lost sheep of Israel." The scriptures teach that it was his custom to attend the synagogue on the Sabbath day... a habit that he maintained until his death.

Those people who followed him were also Jews. When he died he was removed from the cross early because the Jewish Sabbath was about to begin, a clear indication that his closest followers were still devout Jews. His followers buried him in a Jewish burial place according to Jewish customs. Later on, when the Apostles had a difference with Paul of Tarsus, it was over the matter of circumcision and the keeping of the Jewish law. Again, this is tacit proof that the Apostles were still very much orthodox Jews with no intention of leaving their religion.

If Jesus had intended to start a new religion, he would have certainly committed some of the things he intended to be taught or observed in his religion into written documents. No such documents exist. In fact, there is not the slightest reliable indication that Jesus ever wrote anything, even though we know that he could read and write, and was educated so well in the Jewish law that he was able to impress the scholars at Jerusalem with his brilliant scholarship when he was 12 years old.

There were a number of Jewish sects in the region where Jesus lived. A Jewish sect would be like a Christian denomination. There were the Pharisees, the Saducees, the Essenes, the Herodians, and a number more. It is obvious, I believe, that Jesus did intend to start a new sect, because he clearly appointed leaders in his group, but the thought of beginning a new religion separate from the Jewish faith was unthinkable to Jesus. If so, three questions need to be asked. First, If Jesus did not found Christianity, then who did? Second, Who originated the central beliefs of the Christian Church if Jesus did not? And third, what did Jesus intend to be taught in his new sect?

It is clear to any honest student of the Christian religion that Paul of Tarsus was the founder of Christianity. Therefore, it would behoove us to have a close look at this fellow Paul. He began his life as a rigid, devout Pharisee, probably the most conservative sect (denomination) within the Jewish religion. There is not the slightest indication from New Testament Scripture that Paul ever saw Jesus nor heard a single lesson Jesus ever taught. Paul had a "vision" on the road to Damascus. Even in the vision there is no indication that he actually saw Jesus, but he did see a "light." This vision, much like the vision of Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith, was a major turning point in his life.

Paul did not seek out the Apostles of Jesus after this vision, as one would expect, so that he might be instructed in the fundamentals of this new Jewish sect. Instead he set off for the wilderness where he spent several years developing his very own, unique, never before heard or taught set of doctrines which became the foundation of a new religion which he personally forged from these novel ideas - many of which were 180 degrees out from the teachings of Jesus, whom he had never actually heard. He was never appointed an Apostle by the authorities in Jerusalem, and, in point of fact, boasted about this fact in the first chapter of Galatians. He claimed his appointment to be an Apostle was an act of God.

Based solely upon his personal reason and logic, this prolific writer and charismatic speaker redefined the sect that Jesus had founded. He now preached a radical new idea that righteousness was no longer a requirement for salvation. He said that righteousness was now a matter of correct "thinking" rather than correct "actions." It boiled down to what you "believed" rather than what you "did." This was, of course, the exact opposite message of Jesus who repeatedly admonished people to practical acts of compassion and righteousness, warning them that if their righteousness did not exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees, they would not "see" the Kingdom of Heaven.

Most significantly, Paul prescribed a new way to have your sins forgiven. He now preached that you must accept Jesus as being none other than "God" if you wanted your sins forgiven. He of course had not heard Jesus, nor those who had firsthand knowledge of him, when he made this pronouncement. Jesus had said that no one was good except the "Father" in Heaven, hardly something he would have said if he thought of himself as God. He had never claimed the attributes of God. He grew in "wisdom" just as other children did. He learned to walk, talk, run, and play just like all the other children in Nazareth. He had to be "potty trained" just like the other children, and his mother Mary wiped his nose and cleaned his behind. When hungry one day in Jerusalem, he hiked over to a fig tree to see if it had any figs on it. Had he been God, he would have known whether or not it had figs. When it didn't have figs, he lost his temper just like you and me.

Paul's new formula for the forgiveness of sins was totally at odds with Jesus' formula. Jesus had said that if you want your Father in heaven to forgive for you sins, you must simply forgive those who sin against you. When asked by a young lawyer what was necessary to obtain eternal life, Jesus had replied, "Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. Do this and you will have eternal life." This simple answer from the mouth of Jesus was drastically out of line with early Christianity's highly exclusive formula about accepting Jesus as "God," being baptized, being "confirmed," celebrating the Eucharist, etc. etc. etc. It is clearly obvious to any honest student of the New Testament that Jesus and what he taught do not resemble Christianity and what it teaches. Paul's religion, when devoid of illogical defense, boils down to a primitive religion with a deity demanding a literal "human sacrifice" for his appeasement. Paul would make Jesus be that sacrifice in his theology.

Questions one and two mentioned above can therefore be answered with one word, "Paul." Paul founded the Christian religion. Paul originated its creed. He began to preach that baptism should take the place of circumcision. This concept was foreign to the official group of Apostles in Jerusalem. The very fact that these Apostles were still obedient to the command of circumcision is once again proof that they were Jews with no intention of leaving the Jewish faith. They merely wanted to found a new "movement" or "sect" within the broader Jewish religion. To them, being a follower of their movement did not preclude you from participation in every Jewish rite, ritual, and feast. It would be like a Baptist man today who was also a member of the Lion's Club. One had very little to do with the other in their eyes. To them. Belonging to their sect would only make you a better Jew and member of the Synagogue.

Paul, however, had other ideas. He came to the first Church Council in Jerusalem and argued that Greeks and non-Jews should be included in the new sect. He further argued that these new members should not be circumcised or become Jews. The Apostles had no problem with their becoming members of the new sect as long as the outsiders became Jews. Paul, the eloquent speaker and brilliant debater won the day and a brand new religion, outside the Jewish faith, was born in Jerusalem on that fateful day. Because Paul was by far a more educated man than the fishermen and tradesmen who made up the Apostolic Brotherhood, and because Paul was brilliant in the arena of debate, and chiefly, because Paul was a prolific writer who wrote more books on the new Christian Religion than any other person, Paul's new religion spread like wildfire, while the narrow Jewish sect that had hoped to be a reform movement in Judaism withered down to nothing.

By 312 AD Paul's new religion had adherents throughout the kingdom, chiefly because of Paul and his companions untiring efforts at evangelizing and proselytizing from one end of the empire to the other. When Constantine made Paul's Christianity the State Religion in the Empire, the new faith quickly absorbed many of the pagan customs, rituals, feasts, and holidays of the various religions of the realm and swallowed up massive population groups. Deliverance from hell could now only come by complete obedience to the Bishops and Priests of the new Church, giving Constantine immense power over the populace. Many were forced to accept Paul's religion by threat of physical harm. It is a matter of record that the Christian Church killed more people during the first hundred years after becoming a legal religion of the realm, than had all its persecutors during the one hundred years prior to 312 AD.

The final question previously asked, might be a bit harder to answer. What did Jesus intend to teach in his new sect? Of course, there is the obvious answer: he intended to teach the simple message of the early gospels which taught a path to peace with God that included only two elements; loving God and loving one another. One thing can be determined with certainty: he did not intend to have a set of written beliefs - a creed, if you will. Had he intended this for his sect, it is obvious that he would have written it himself. No other possibility makes any kind of logical sense at all.

He was intelligent, schooled, and able to read and write. He opened the scrolls in the synagogue when it was his turn to teach and he read the Scriptures. He wanted no creed for his new sect because he wrote no creed for his new sect. He wrote nothing because nothing needed to be written. This idea of living by intuition and practical goodness without a set of written commands is Taoist to the core. Ancient Taoism had no creed and does not presume to tell a single individual how he/she must behave.

The rest of what Jesus intended must be inferred by the example of his living. He lived very simply. He told his followers to go about spreading their message taking no provisions for their journey. He said that while foxes had holes, he had no place to call home. He practiced simplicity to the very extreme. When he was hungry, he plucked corn in the fields to eat as he walked along the way, having brought nothing to eat for himself. This life of utter simplicity is a foundation teaching of Taoism. It is repeated over and over in Taoist thought... simplicity... simplicity... simplicity.

Jesus taught humility. He told his disciples that the least among them should be counted the greatest. He told them to lead by serving and not by demanding. It grieved him when they tried to maneuver themselves to positions of higher authority or esteem.

Little could he have possibly imagined that a religion would one day be established in his name whose leader would be called the "Supreme Pontiff" who would dwell in the largest, most posh palace in the entire world where people would vie for the opportunity to have audience with him and kiss his feet. Could he have dreamed of the vast treasures of wealth and art that would one day be hoarded in Vatican vaults under lock and key in his name while thousands of the people he loved so much went without the basic necessities of life? No, Jesus taught humility. Humility is a core foundation of Taoism. One of the three treasures of Taoism mentioned in the Tao Te Ching, is humility.

Jesus taught simple, even illogical, trust in the Father. He told people not to worry about what they would wear or what they would eat. He told them not to practice what they were going to say when questioned about their faith. He told them tomorrow has enough problems of its own, just live in the moment. Trust in the Tao - the loving "Spring" of all existence - is a foundation in Taoism. Living in the moment and flowing like water, allowing the circumstances of the day to dictate the acts of spontaneity that propel us forward, are pure Taoism.

Jesus taught that knowledge cultivated apart from intuitive reflection was of no value. He told his followers to consider the lilies of the field, and the carefree manner in which they addressed each day. Any yet they were arrayed in royal splendor. They didn't struggle to "be", they just were. He told them to consider the birds of the air and how they survived on intuition alone without forced intention. He even sat a small child before them, ignorant and unlearned, and told them that they must be as the child to "see the kingdom of heaven." He placed no value in the wisdom of the learned mind and repeatedly lifted up the ideal of teaching by example and common sense fueled by compassion. This truth that the things worth knowing are known intuitively in the depths of the human heart and cannot be learned nor taught is a foundation of Taoism.

Jesus practiced a "live and let live" kind of life. When those outside his religion approached him, there is not a single instance of his taking the typical Christian position of "You must be "saved" in the manner prescribed by my religion to enter Heaven." There are no instances of him telling anyone outside his own faith that they needed to adopt his faith. When a Pagan Roman Centurion approached him about healing his sick child, Jesus not only granted his request, but as he walked away he exclaimed, "I have not seen faith this great in all of Israel." Never is there the first indication of his proclaiming exclusivity in matters of spirituality to this man at a point in the grateful man's life when he would have definitely been willing to listen. Jesus knew that spiritual peace was not a matter of lining up brain cells to fire in the proper sequence to believe certain dogma, but rather, in a life of humble simplicity and service to others.

For the Taoist, spiritual peace is achieved by living a life of absolute child-like trust in the One beyond our ability to understand and comprehend; in a life of humility where good works are performed without the desire for recognition or ego-bulging praise; in a life of simplicity where "less is better"; in a life lived in spontaneity where we trust the Tao to provide and direct the course of the day's events; and finally in a life of compassion toward others, allowing them to progress spiritually in their own time and way. Does this path sound familiar?

For most of my life I have been a Taoist - but I did not know it. Perhaps that's the way it was for Jesus. I lived as a minister in the Christian Religion, daily forcing my mouth to say things that my heart did not truly believe. This horrible way of living brought me much misery and even a breakdown in my health. Finally, my Teachers from the Other Side brought me to the shores of this ancient Ocean of pristine Wisdom, thousands of years older than Christianity. I stood in humble awe. The crude, leaky vessel of my Christian faith was no longer needed or adequate. The time-worn ship of intuitive experience had brought me to the ever-waiting shores of enlightenment.

Was Jesus a Taoist? He was definitely not a Christian. He lived his life as a Jew but, like me, was in constant conflict with the faith of his youth. He was in so much conflict with his faith that its leaders finally killed him for his demands for reform.

Was Jesus a Taoist? He was more Taoist than he was Christian. He was more Taoist than he was Jewish. His message was clearly more Taoist than either of these religions.

Forty-one years after officially becoming a Christian, I made the conscious decision to make a sincere effort to imitate the life of Jesus of Nazareth. That is precisely why I could no longer be part of the Christian religion. Was Jesus a Taoist? All things considered, if we carefully consider the religion he practiced rather than professed, I believe he was.