Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Nude in Public

I'm one of those people who has scary dreams of being nude in public. It happens pretty often, though I can't remember it happening in the last six months. Usually, in the dream I have gotten myself into the embarrassing situation because in my air-headedness, I have forgotten to dress completely, or left my clothes someplace rather far away. Now I am faced with a social situation in which I need to try to keep my dignity. I interact with people in the dream while naked, but they don't always seem to notice. I do sometimes detect side whispers and laughs at my expense.

This dream speaks volumes about one's self-perception, guilt or shame, and fear of being exposed for who and what one is. It is a solid meme that rings true from person to person. You have that dream, you know how it feels.

I listened to a great talk by Alan Watts this morning on KGNU. To me, it was the perfect sermon, about how all of life and eternity is in the present moment, and how "knowing that" is what you want. You put up lots of barriers for yourself against knowing it. You aren't pure enough, you haven't studied long enough, you aren't ready. But the truth is, you already know it. You just let yourself forget, over and over and over.

Watts quoted Matthew 6:28-30 ":Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
 29And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
 30Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?"
Then he said, "No one ever preaches a sermon on that." (This was 1973.) "They say, 'That is all well and good for Jesus Himself, but we have to be practical. After all, He was the Boss' Son, He had a special "in", so He knew everything would turn out all right for Him.' They don't get the part where Jesus is trying to tell everyone that they are the Boss' Son, too. Now that's the Good News, the Gospel." Watts pauses here, then says: "It never got out."

He gets a big laugh from the people there at the talk. This recording sounded like one of his seminary talks. The wry truth that those religious insiders know is that Jesus' actual Gospel hasn't "gotten out" yet, even though it is plainly written in the Bible. That you can look at the Gospel stories through Jesus' eyes, and that doing so is in fact the whole point. That you can "know" as Jesus did, and speak as he did, - "For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. (Matthew 7:29)

You know how scribes teach. They are forever looking something up in their scrolls, and then saying, "Yep, here it is right here, in black and white, it says this that and the other." Not Jesus. He spoke from his heart, and made it up as he went along. People heard his authority, not because he shouted and gave orders, but because he spoke as one who knows something from personal experience. He knew the experience of a human being who could stop all the worrying, and know that he was the Son of God. Watts went on about how incredibly courageous a person would have to be to take Jesus at his word about letting God provide. Give all your clothes back to Dad or to the poor, walk out in the street naked. (That is where I started thinking about my nude dreams.)

What would you think about person who was walking around naked in public, who seemed sane and at peace with himself? I wonder how much chance there would be for such a person not to get locked up. You can't do it with a plan for what is going to happen to you, and be sincere. But then, none are our plans are ever secure.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Help me Improve

I'm hoping a few people will find my blog soon, and give me constructive feedback. Even critical or damning feedback might help me improve.

In trying to improve, I am not hoping to professionalize, or "monetize" this effort. It is all very well and good, under the old paradigm, to provide a reliable, high quality product, in such a way as to to appeal to a certain segment of the market. It is believed that our combined societal professional and moral ethic will, without conscious thought, create the best possible outcome, so by all means, professionalize and monetize.

But I don't want to milk the cow. I don't want to provide a high quality, consistent product. I appreciate quality and consistency, but I am not looking to support the current, false-faced paradigm. When I can believe that our societal effort is going toward a healthy end, that will be the time for me to be "professional" and "consistent". In the meantime, I see all the efficiency and effectiveness of our society being turned into wanton destruction. I feel an obligation to question the value of efficiency and effectiveness in themselves, in this circumstance.

What kind of comments DO I want? Certainly, the kind engage the subject matter: How do we use the technological tools we have to reorganize society toward a saner way of life? Any discussion of the content is welcome. Comment about my form or style are also welcome, if you are a skilled editor. Also, "meta"-type comments are especially welcome. For example, someone recently said in response to my writing, "Use 'I' statements. Think of how people are going to hear it. Think of what people need to hear, and what they don't need to hear." I realized that there are some things I need to express for my own mental health, that are not useful for others to hear. It is not self-censorship to edit those out of my public writing. If you see something in that category, let me know. Thanks.

Six Degrees of Separation

What if everyone in the world got hyper-networked? Meaning, not only is the person able to get on the Internet and use email, but also participates in online community and socializing? We are not far away from seeing what the effects of this will be in the future. A substantial fraction of the population of the United States is now participating on Internet social networking sites at least once per month.

What will this be like? It may be like knowing what kinship relationship you have with everyone you know or interact with. In hunter-gatherer societies, this was the case. Everyone you knew, was some kind of cousin, uncle or aunt. This was a great aid to knowing what kind of behavior you owe to that person. The question is whether this is a good or a bad thing for human freedom and satisfaction. I'm sure hunter-gatherer tribes had varying social structures that I might or might not like. But the general principle has to have a positive effect. The Golden Rule is more likely to be observed when you know how you are related to each person. It gives you a concept of how your behavior toward that person might return to you in kind (through a chain of relatives).

We don't need to know the genetic kinship relationship we have with every other brother and sister on the planet. Once we establish a connection with another person, that person is part of our network. If we are all literally connected through the Internet, then anyone we connect with in one way, can later connect to us (or try to) in any other way, for any other purpose. All of our history is available for a small fee; unless we really try to hide, we can be found by practically anyone you have ever met.

That's enough of the abstract picture. Theoretically, you are connected to everyone. Perennial mysticism  says, "All is One," but I don't need to go that far. I don't think it will be long before groupings of people who have connected and interacted over a long period become stable and start providing identity to their members. These will be like-minded people, who share many things in common. They will have a shared value-system. They will have begun to integrate themselves together economically. This will happen just because they know and trust each other. Inside the group, people will cooperate and share much more than physical neighbors generally do now in the United States.

The groups will be both local and international. You will be able to gather into your network people who think like you and whom you can trust. This will be greatly to the advantage of people who are naturally better at cooperating. This will lead to an expansion of peace and health - though we may not see this wave overcoming the weight of negative forces in the social environment for many years.

Monday, December 20, 2010

All I ever needed to know, I learned from having panic attacks.

I have a new tag line today (above). Some people might think it needs some explanation, which I'm sure I will be giving over time. Panic attacks are an interesting phenomenon, even somewhat to the person having them. They proved to me that changes in states of consciousness can be even more dramatic than going from sleeping to waking.

Panic attacks force you to think about death, and about what is important to you. I attribute some of my most cherished spiritual insights to panic attacks, directly or indirectly.

Friday, December 17, 2010

You must be who and what you are with some intensity.

You must be who, and what, you are with some intensity. This is not the same as a demand for overwork or strain. You can be a hero of achievement, or a person who is working hard to become that.  But if you are confused and uncertain of who or what to be, you can be confused and uncertain with gusto, being the superb actor you are. If you are lazy, you can be enthusiastically and undefensively lazy. If you are lazy, but you do no harm to others, you have a right to be left alone. If your laziness negatively impacts others - not just offends them - then you don't have a right to it. I.e., if you have entered into agreements and don't hold to them out of laziness, then you deserve a bad reputation.

If you are a violent or hateful person, you can also be what you are with gusto. I take a solemn attitude toward the reality of violence and hatred in people. It seems clear to me that even the most un-self-reflective person must experience phenomenal pain by being a hurtful. If there are those for whom being hurtful to others is enjoyable or at least not painful, I'm not sure I would recognize them as having human consciousness. They would seem to be as flat as a cartoon character, and effectively dead.

Why do we have such a clear image of a purely evil person, such as Hitler is supposed to have been, when so few of us have ever met such a person? Why do some of us superimpose that image on many people whom we have never met? Sociopaths are thought by current researchers to be 3-5% of the human population. Statistically, if you have met 1000 people, you have met 30-50 sociopaths. But successful sociopaths don't act evil in public, and unsuccessful ones are mostly locked up. The vast majority of the bad behavior we observe is caused by pain and causes pain to its doer. We end up treating practically everyone EXCEPT the most successful sociopaths as purely responsible for their own bad acts, as perhaps only the real sociopaths are in reality.

A pragmatic view seeks to understand how behavior is motivated, and recognizes its own reactivity. A negative emotional reaction on my part doesn't help me interact more smoothly with people. I can have such a reaction with gusto, though. Or I can let it drop, since it is only hurting me.

Monday, December 13, 2010


A character in one of my upcoming novels is going to say, "The art of sheep-shearing began with Godfrey Bowen and his brother Ivan, in New Zealand of 1938. Before that, there were processes by which wool was cut from sheep, but nothing you could call an 'art form'. It was inefficient, hard on the animal, and hard on the shearers. The Bowens began a process of continual improvement in their techniques of shearing. They pioneered techniques now used worldwide. Not only do modern methods reduce stress on animal and man; they also produce a superior product at a much greater speed. It is an admirable advance of human culture.

"The shearing of human "sheep" is also an art which has seen explosive development in recent years. It has gone from artisanal robbery to mass-production graft. The continual improvement of its processes has resulted in a stranglehold on our economy. The needs of ordinary people, for education, retirement and medical care, cannot be met satisfactorily, because efficiently provisioning those needs does not create profit at a high enough level to satisfy the gougers. It is a lamentable regression of culture.

"We are approaching the multi-leveled enslavement of the Roman Empire - proletarian, slave, conquered people. The only thing that is missing is the severe physical abuse and deprivation of the enslaved, by the enslavers, at least inside America itself, and apart from the huge imprisoned population. That will come when the oil-based economy becomes too expensive for ordinary people to participate in.

"If we can develop the skills of maintaining tightly knit communities, we will stand a chance of overcoming the stranglehold. We can produce and trade among ourselves the tools, inputs, food, and services we need. And with the base of the tight -knit community, we will have the political clout to resist persecution. Non-violently, because no 1,2,10,or 100 of us can be made into effective examples."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What could go wrong with that

>>I am led to the conclusion that good ideas are those that make us feel good, and creativity is recognizing good ideas.

I should probably clarify that I am talking about decision-making at the lowest level of atomicity. I am talking about cutting your experience of life into infinitesimal slices of time. In religious terms, what you decide to believe at every instant is the difference between being alive(-ish) and being dead(ly). I want to believe that I do have free will and the ability to make my life better. But it is obvious to me that on the scale of any meaningful period of time, I do not have free will to affect the world and make it a more habitable place for me. It is as habitable as it is ever going to be.

On a tiny scale of time, though - RIGHT NOW - it seems I can make a difference in how habitable my world is. I need only decide to love the current moment's experience. When I remember that and do it, I get along very happily. For various reasons, at times, I lose touch with that possibility. Then I suffer, but when the period of suffering is over, I see it as a dream drama, in which I was under a spell.

The nugget of creativity

The nugget of creativity is conceiving of something, and then realizing it is good.

(That is what God does in the Book of  Genesis, by the way.)

Here we have two parts to the problem of how to be creative: How do you cause an idea -- that might be good -- to come into your head? And, once it is there, how can you tell whether it is good or not?

Hegelian interlude
The first part is not difficult. Ideas or thoughts (I'll use the terms interchangeably) flow through the mind continuously. The mind itself is not continuous, but when the mind is in action, thoughts are present. Even the idea, "This is not an idea," is an idea.

Ideas are plentiful.  If the mind is aware of something, it is a thought. This is why we have words for different parts of our experience as sentient beings - we are aware of sensations of experience that are not ideas. The mind does not feel a quivering in my muscles, or any other sensation. There are sensations that are pre-thought. They appear to cause some thoughts. The sense that "I" (the subject) am feeling or experiencing things that are not "thought", provides the sense of continuous existence, between discreet thoughts. But the mind-part of my being is only manifest as discreet thoughts. Ideas that could be good are always available when one is thinking. But much of the thinking process in adults is taken up with denying that one is having certain thoughts. This is unfortunately due to our socialization process. It is difficult to evaluate any ideas that you deny to yourself you are having. If you can get over that hurdle, you should have access to plenty of ideas to choose from.

When is an idea good?
We usually think and idea is good when it makes us feel good, or hopeful. Business people think an idea is good when it makes money. It would be nice to think that our evolution has lent us to the ability to to recognize good ideas in terms of what is likely to be successful. If you think something is likely to be successful, then you feel hopeful about it.

Is the following true? that if the idea makes you feel good, it, or whatever it suggests, is more likely to be successful? Perhaps there is no connection. But some people do seem have an innate ability to recognize good ideas. It makes sense that having such a recognition feels good. So then, for some people, at least, ideas are good when they feel good.

The person who recognizes a good idea, is inspired and energized. If this allows the person to put the idea into effect, then it is much more likely to have been a good idea than if it had died on the vine. Furthermore, it can be tested and modified, allowing it to become and even better idea.

I am led to the conclusion that good ideas are those that make us feel good, and creativity is recognizing good ideas.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Salvation Mantras

Salvation mantras are what I call statements that I can make to myself to banish fear.

They can take a surprising number of forms. One of the first ones that ever worked for me was, "Save me Jesus." This is a better version of the prayer that in a Chick Tract or Left Behind movie goes, "God, I know I am a sinner, and that I deserve to burn in Hell forever. But Jesus died to save me, and I humbly accept his gift." I was stuck in one of those versions for a long time, because it seemed the more sincerely you tried to claim belief, the more God was likely to believe you. (!)

If you actually find yourself wanting to say, "Save me Jesus," then you know as well as anybody can, that you actually do believe Jesus wants to save you. That is why becoming very conscious of your subconscious fears is so important. It was in the midst of a panic attack that I realized that what I wanted most was to believe that Jesus was good, and wanted to save me. In my mind, somehow Jesus is God and still separate from God, so that He could save me from that mean, punishing God, Who hovers ominously out of sight. So, I discovered as a third party might, by asking me questions at the moment that I was having the panic attack, as to whether I believed that Jesus could/would/had saved me. And that is all it takes in the frightening fundamentalism that I grew up in, to know that you are saved forever. (Being saved, just in case you didn't know means getting whatever the best deal is that God has to offer.) So, I am covered whichever way I turn, unless there is some true religion that isn't the one I grew up in, whose God is going to toast me for not having known about Him. But it is not hard for me to believe that my-best-friend Jesus is gonna be able to beat up that God.

Some things, logically, we can foresee in the future

Some things, logically, we can foresee in the future. Calendar dates, for example. No one would call you a mystical prophet if you said, "This year, Christmas will be on Dec 25." But it is a kind of seeing the future. It is also a tautology, if you define Christmas as "Dec 25".

A little less abstract is the idea that all sorts of Christmas-related celebrations will be taking place between now and then. What is the nature of something that is planned - is the plan existing now, or is the event existing in the future?

It may seem trivially obvious to you that the plan is what exists in the here-and-now. And the actual event that is planned does not yet exist. But, of what is the plan? What is it a plan of? You can't say, "it is a plan of an event." unless you are comfortable with talking about something that doesn't exist. You might say, well, it doesn't exist now, it only will be, in the future. So, either it exists now, or it exists in the future. This paragraph  is genuinely a discussion of what "is" is, which is what you do in philosophy courses (or did around 1978). Since I was in those courses, I had trouble understanding why, a few years later, people were so dismissive of Bill Clinton's defense of fellatio.

a blind actor playing a sighted person.
Kinda interesting social commentary.
unblip ( we now return you to the previous commentary)

Roger Cohen praises "...the men and women of the U.S. Foreign Service! They are, to judge from the WikiLeaks dump of a quarter-million of their private or secret cables, thoughtful, well-informed and dedicated servants of the American interest who write clear, declarative English sentences."

I recall my DCM at the embassy carefully checking the grammar, punctuation and word usage of every cable that was composed, usually making changes like an editor or an Writing teacher. One of the lower-middle-ranked foreign service officers compared it to a dog, piddling on a post, to mark it. To make his existence meaningful.

But, he frequently caught punctuation, and occasionally even grammatical errors in other officers' drafts. It seemed at the time punctilious and overly-scrupulous. And way out of proportion to the attention given to the content. It was as if he knew in 1984 that these cables could/would be published decades later, and he wanted them to look good.

Now it seems to me I had no way of knowing how he viewed the content. To me at the time, most of it seemed perfunctory information gathering and analysis. We did it because we did it, not because anybody cared. I guess that actually was the status of the reporting of a junior officer, or practically anybody who was assigned to the country I was.

I also got the feeling that, in whatever discussions we might be involved in that did have real significance, the need was to represent the interests of some American company, or to show the locals who is boss, or give them some crumb that would get them to sign up to whatever today's vote in the UN was about, or occasionally to support humane treatment for some prisoner of the government.(The latter was one of my favorite parts of this occupation (foreign service officer). But I was later dismayed to learn that such "humanitarian" support is often denied to those of opposing political opinions, which makes it just another tool of oppression. How naive I was!)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Helping each other

Some people have no one to turn to.

As a small congregation, we can't help the entire world. We can't always help everyone who comes asking. But if someone has made an effort to be part of our community, we may go to extraordinary lengths to help them.

People with plenty of material resources only need emotional and spiritual support. But poor and disabled people often need help they simply cannot get without a friendly community. Moving is a good example. A woman with physical and mental disabilities lets someone in our church know she has to move apartments on a certain date. She can't afford to hire movers. But if she could, it is unlikely that she would have mental clarity to carry it off.

What would happen if no one stepped in? Moving day would come and go, landlords would be angry, and our disabled friend might end up in custody, possibly having harmed herself, possibly worse.

How much disruption and expense has been saved for everyone involved, when one troubled person receives adequate help? If we could find a way to get people the help they need, our entire society would benefit - but apparently, no one would "profit". A society that has no way of helping its weakest members under its economic structure, is doomed. Our society cannot sustain an enterprise that doesn't earn over a certain level of profit - regardless of how much the good or service is needed, by people who are willing and able to work. How does that add up to commonwealth, which values creating benefits to people who engage in it? And if our society is not a commonwealth, then why should those who are excluded from its benefits support it or abide by its rules at all?

If it quacks like a duck (etc.), it is probably a duck. If it is doesn't aim to benefit all, it is not a commonwealth.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Cats' Relationship

Pushkin and Gilda are pretty good friends, now. I see their little rituals of communication. Pushkin was laying at the base of my chair. Gilda walked in and sat down. Pushkin got up into a sitting position. They each, in turn, tentatively explored getting closer, and gradually sniffed each other, culminating in the touching of noses. They sniffed backward a bit, and settled into neutral sitting poses. Gilda laid down first, signaling she was comfortable with their proximity. Then Pushkin relaxed. Gilda pushed it a little farther, slowly rolling on her side, and lifting her paw in a playful gesture. She reaches toward him tentatively a couple times, finally just touching Pushkin's chin.

"Play?" I hear her saying. But when she touches Pushkin with her paw, he recoils with a "ghrr?!". Like, "Hey, what's up with touching me?"

Other times he might run away, fight back in a gingerly fashion, or hiss. Or, he might back off, move ten or so feet away, and settle into a waiting position, on his belly with his feet under him. He might watch her for a while. In which case, she is likely to casually lick a paw or stroll away, which brings Pushkin up to a stalking crouch. Slowly he steps forward, silently, one foot at a time. At some invisible signal, he rushes toward her, and she takes off in the other direction. But when she reaches a place of cover, she settles into waiting or stalking mode. Every other chase is likely to be turn-about-fair-play.

This is not how it was when Gilda first came to us. We knew from experience that Pushkin tries to make friends with every human and animal he meets. And he know how to do it. He holds back, and approaches slowly. If he sees a negative response, he goes about his business, and tries again later.

Random Thoughts

We know from the quality of our entertainment, that anything can be faked. This may have always been true - that the powerful leaders of society had secrets and means beyond the knowledge of ordinary folk, and could mislead them in whatever direction they wanted. But we in this era have been witness to so many unveilings of things we formerly thought were true, that we should be skeptics even if we didn't see, on most any fictional TV show, totally convincing scenes and happenings that we know for a fact are fakes.

Monday, November 22, 2010

From Mary Oliver's poem "Sunrise"

From Mary Oliver's poem "Sunrise":

...and I thought
how the sun

for everyone just
so joyfully
as it rises

under the lashes
of my own eyes, and I thought
I am so many!
What is my name?...

I got the image of a universe of stars in the shape of a human body. It is covered with skin, and clothes, and looks ordinary. But the eyes open to reveal two suns, surrounded by space. You dive into one of those eyes, and you are plunged into absolute darkness, except for the distant stars. You see nothing nearby - not even your own body. You are falling, uncontrollably, into this abyss. But there is nothing to fall toward. And no "thing" that is falling.

After an interminable time, you reach the center, but you are still falling. The center is unbearable light, roiling and misting. You cannot look at it, but there is nothing to block it. It is not light, but it is there and it is real.

Please, please let me go back to where I am deluded and hypnotized. God, You are too much. OK, I believe in You. Just let me go back to my body. Let me believe what my father believes, and never thinks to question.

The poem brought me the first image, of the eyes that open backwards into a  universe. But the starkness of it reminded me of unbearable light.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Nothing to Fear

What is the truly revolutionary advance that humans are making in the evolution of life and consciousness on Earth? The ability to live without fear.

Fear, as an emotion, is an effective survival asset for creatures that do not have as much power to change the environment as we do. An instinct to jump away from a sudden stimulus appears in amoebas. In higher mammals, cognitive understanding of the environment allows cautiousness and flight/fight responses to be focused on things more likely to be real threats.

But the emotion of fear has very few positive effects for human beings. How often do we face threats that can be dealt with by the tendencies fear engenders? Only a soldier on a battlefield, or anyone in a dark alley, is more likely to survive is some circumstances if he or she is afraid. And the number of times in which any human being has ever survived because he or she was afraid at a given moment, is so small as to be statistically zero - at least since we stopped being large-animal prey, that might move faster with adrenaline in its bloodstream.

Don't conflate fear with rational understanding of risks. If you are "afraid" you might get killed in an auto wreck, and therefore refuse to ride with a drunk driver, any actual fear you experience is beside the point. You made a rational decision to avoid risk. You didn't need the emotion of fear to compel you to do it.

This is the controversial issue. It is hard to grasp the concept that the actual emotion of fear does not contribute to survival, and therefore does not need to be clung to.

Examples abound of situations in which fear is a detriment to survival, clearly. In all emergency situations, the first and strongest advice is, "Stay calm." But in the 99%+ of our lives that are not emergency situations, we often make no effort to stay calm. Some of us let fear completely control us much of the time. Is there a reason to think that allowing fear to rampage when we are _not_ in an emergency situation is any better for us than staying calm? I am speaking as a sufferer of anxiety and and panic attacks. Trust me, I have experienced fear in the whole gamut of situations, and in none does it do any good. (However, I have not been in a situation where I could hope to outrun an attacker. Such an attacker would have to have a limp.)

Adrenaline can make you work faster as well as run faster. If your survival depends on building a sandbag embankment before a storm come, fear could be helpful. If you are the engineer designing the embankment, too much fear will reduce your community's and your own prospects.

I believe that there is no downside to releasing fear. If fear is appropriate to the situation, it will be helping you do your work faster, but you won't be aware of it. If you are aware of it, it has already gone too far. You need to be using those brain cells to figure out what to do. Every thought cycle that involves fear is wasted.

I believe that my lassitude, and the tendency of most people to sit and do nothing, come from the fact that our brains are soaked in fear. If yours is not, congratulations. But if the shoe fits, wear it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

God's Self

One could say of God's Self that God's* Self** is always relaxed and confident. That is because God's Self knows that God's Self is eternal and cannot be harmed. Only if you know the inner experience of God's self, can you know that you are eternal and impervious.

"But being eternal and impervious aren't all there is to life." Thus saith the Lord. "They are the only perfection, the only Me, but then there is all of imperfection, and impermanence". All of the imperfection and impermanence are part of the whole that is perfect, because without them, the perfect isn't complete. In that way, they partake of perfection, while being imperfect, as Christians do when imbibing the bread and wine.

*there is no adequate pronoun for God, so I just use "God".
**God's Self is what I envision it must be like to see through God's "eyes". God cannot be an object to the human mind, since no true thought or image or perception of God can ever be had. If you eliminate the possibility of being an object, then what is left can only be a subjective perspective. I use "God's Self" as a synonym for God, but emphasizing the subjective nature of God's existence - the One Who sees and experiences at all times. God's will or God's creation would be objects, but are not synonymous with "God" as "God's Self" is. God's will is all that happens (verbs), and God's creation is all that exists (nouns).

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Here is a fun idea -

How do we get true representative democracy working as our government? (Set aside for the moment any doubts that democracy is True Religion.)

Libertarians say the less government, the better. There is some truth to that. But efficient and unobtrusive government can only be had if the election process is clean and not corrupt. One of the highest aims of government, therefore, is ensure that the process is clean. We are justified in spending whatever amount of money it takes to generate a clean election process.

Paying people to vote, if you pay them enough, is a good way of ensuring that everyone will vote. Only the very rich will not be incentivised to vote by a payment of $5000. The incentives to vote for the rich are already adequate, because they have a huge financial stake in what happens with the government. $5000 per person, per election voted in, would be paid as a refundable tax credit. All you would have to do is submit your receipt for having voted.

There would be little incentive or scope for fraud. You could forge a voter receipt, but it is probably easier just to go to the polls. Only one person could get each voter payment. And it would probably solve the poverty problem in one swoop. I know that sounds grandiose, but think about this: All that spending power, unleashed by poor people, would stimulate business, and therefore jobs, stupendously. All the now-unemployed people who would get jobs, would further stimulate the economy. And the _really_ poor, unemployable, mentally ill people would oftentimes get taken in by their now-middle-class in-laws. (Not to say that the people who are currently "middle class" often take in poor relatives. But the recently-poor-now-middle-class people do so.)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Not Allowing Fear

I am simply not going to allow myself to spend time in a state of fear.

There is no possible connection between safety and spending time in a fearful state. I plan to look at fears as abstractions, not as things to be experienced. Every time a fearful thought arises, it simply becomes part of an intricate database of how I respond to things, things I believe, and other facts about the world. My maximum safety comes from being as rational as possible regarding how I spend my time. Dwelling in a state of fear is a complete waste of time.

But is my dwelling in a state of fear (or not) a matter that is under my willful control?

When I think back to recent experiences of dwelling in a fearful state, I remember feeling that I did not have control. Is it possible to have a concept which, when remembered, bestows control of fear upon a person? I need not be afraid. A fearful being is not a safer being than a calm one. I don't need to fear loss. There is nothing I can lose or gain, except things which I have had and not had at different times. Were the times when I did not have them really worse or less good than the times during which I had specific things? Maybe not.

Clarity and peace are things I don't always have. It is hard to admit that having them is no better than not having them. Maybe if you spent so much time in clarity and peace that it got boring, a little fogginess and violence might be welcome. I think Hindu cosmology affirms that idea. The one great being is ever and always resting in complete ease. Part of that ease is the knowledge of pitiful, struggling human lives, close up, from the inside, from start to finish. In the midst of your pitiful, struggling life, you are aware of God in God's heaven. And God is aware of you. There is no separation between you and God. Our (Christian) image of God is precisely the same, if you think about it long enough.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Proof that consciousness is good

You only need to prove something is good if it has been accused of being bad. I define myself as consciousness, and I have been accused (somewhere in my mind) of being bad.

Fortunately, I cannot disavow any knowledge of my own actions (since my memory is intact). But I might disavow any intentions I  had about the outcome of whatever I did - as mistaken intentions. The actions themselves are as blameless as the actions of an automaton. The intentions can be wrong, or even sinful, but they are in the past. If I have sinful intentions now, I can only pray to God that they be changed, because they seem right and good to me. If I cannot see that they are sinful, how can God blame me for them? Can God not give me the ability to see that they are sinful? If God could, but didn't give me that ability, and still blamed me for the actions or intentions, God would be unjust. That may be true, but if it is, I have no way of changing it. And I see no evidence that God is unjust, unless you take the apparent injustice in the world of human experience as evidence that God is unjust.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Truly Thankful

People are confused by the idea of Grace. What does it mean to be in a state of grace? What is God's grace? How does one receive grace? Have I ever received or experienced grace?

Regardless of how some religions may define it, grace is something one experiences. If you have every felt truly thankful, then you have experienced a moment of grace. The opposite is also true - If you have never experienced a moment of grace, then you haven't felt truly thankful.

But the latter is not a real possibility. If you are conscious enough of the nature of your own experience, you will have recognized the experience of grace and the experience of feeling truly thankful. You may say, "Not in this lifetime." And that may be true for you, but only if that is how, deep down, you want it. Which no one does.