Monday, April 30, 2012


They say "everything happens for a reason".  This is a useful belief, even if we have no way of testing it.  I will submit, though, that a large part of the reason is usually a perception we had or did not have, a decision we made or did not make, and an action we either did or avoided.

Personally, I have never been afraid to make decisions, and never afraid to act.  But I have often failed to understand my motivations, which begins with perception.

As I look at our cultural landscape, and that of other nations around the world, I am increasingly persuaded that most all human activity is in large measure self destructive and unaware, for reasons traceable to common psychological faults, most beginning in childhood.  Quite often, religion exacerbates these faults, rather than curing them.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Prince

One time, a King, cruel as kings and fathers sometimes are, decreed that his young son was to be bathed in the town square every morning from birth.  As he grew older, this practice continued, until as a young man he still had to appear fully nude every morning in the village square.  Time and necessity, of course, make all things endurable, and he accustomed himself to this practice.

In due course of time, his father died, and he became King.  He continued this practice.  An adviser pointed out to him: "Sire, you are now the king.  You can end this practice".  The new King replied: "Ah, but it is the Law of the Land."


The word "warrior" gets overused.  The task of a warrior is to wage war. This definition is in the word.  War, by definition, involves the use of real or threatened violence.  At its worst, it involves cutting of arms, legs, heads; stabbing, burning, crushing; often it is accompanied, historically, by rape and pillage, the world over, including, of course, by American Indians (some of whom included ritual torture as well).

There is nothing beautiful in war, except to the extent that waging it successfully prevents some other group from doing to your group what you wind up doing to them.  This is the actual, as opposed to the glorified, history.

Overcoming fear, hunger, privations of all sorts: this is of course useful.  But we need a different word.  In my view, rather than making such things heroic, we need--in some future form of our social order--to expect them.  To be a member of a social order is to have faced down such challenges.  As Dan Millman wrote, approximately, the goal is not to be superior in an ordinary world, but ordinary in a superior world.

One day, perhaps a "peaceful warrior" will simply be friend, brother, or neighbor. 

That's the best I can do for now.  I'm still working on a preferred word.   Ascetic is in the neighborhood, but not quite right.

Way of the Peaceful Warrior

Just read it for the first time.  Will share a few thoughts.

First, it seems clear to me that Socrates was, as Millman insists, a real person.  But I don't think he had any of the supernatural (should I use the word "unusual", since anything possible is "natural"?) powers attributed to him.  I don't think Joy entered the picture during his career.  I think he found himself a kindly, patient, ersatz father, with whom he did spend many nights talking, and who left a strong, lasting impression on him.

As I thought about the path of the book, it seems to me--this is the conclusion I've reached for myself, and of course (agreeing, as I do, with nearly everything I think) I think it reasonable--that happiness is the first step.  You don't need to fast for a week, or tenderize your feet, or risk insanity facing multiple demon assailants.  The book, in my view, is backwards.  It seems to me you seek first happiness, pleasure in movement, acceptance of what is and will be, and then build that happiness into your work.

We read "there are no ordinary moments".  In a sense, this is no doubt true.  For years, I trained a martial art in which every training session began with the exhortation "Shikin harimitsu daikomyo": every moment contains the possibility of enlightenment, or of a great light emerging.

Yet, can you not drive yourself nuts trying to capture EVERY moment?  All the time, you are just there.  You are just washing the dishes; you are just typing a post.  This very process seems to me a process of grasping, of tanha.  It is a greed for experience.

In my minds eye, I picture some woman on a farm somewhere, singing in a slight breeze, while hanging out the laundry, fully engaged with her moment, without realizing she is supposed to be fully engaged.

In all things, there needs to be, it seems to me, a give and take between pursuit, and being pursued.  This point is latent in the book--at one time or another both are advocated, but it seemed particularly salient when Dan was traveling the world trying to find himself, as so many of his generation did.  The answers may have been in rural Appalachia, or maybe in an old black church in a back street in Harlem, if by "answer" we mean people living the way he wanted to live.

This "warrior" motif has always seemed to me designed to appeal to a sense of unrecognized, because denied, machismo.  It is no use lying to yourself, but most everyone does.  You don't achieve the level of athletic success that Millman did without being hard core macho.  He took a LOT of risks, worked EXTREMELY hard, and was successful.  He was, in his own estimation, manly.  He had ample justification to feel this way.  Yet, when he met Ram Dass, and Da Free John, and studied Aikido, that sense of aggression was no longer appropriate, so he modified not the core reality, but his own way of expressing it.

This, it seems to me, is the source of what I view as the sequencing errors, the placing of the cart before the horse: he wanted us all to know how tough he was, and at that wanted to create (and he clearly succeeded in this) a compelling story.  Nobody reads books about "man met women, they fell in love, had no conflicts, and lived happily forever.".  This is the aim, in the end, of what Socrates taught Dan, but how dull it SEEMS, because we are used to tying ourselves in knots and calling it freedom.

As I begin to understand myself, why I do what I do, what experiences cause me to react in programmed and unthinking ways to certain situations, the more I realize that psychology is vastly more important than what gets called "spirituality".  Most people have wounds in their unconscious, which are reflected in--and quite possibly even  constituted by--behavioral and cognitive waste, inefficiency, circling of goals when straight lines are possible.

Dan has the classic characteristics of someone raised by a father whose demands could never be met.  Now, this is guesswork on my part, and quite possibly off by a lot, but this basic process I think has merit.  Dan cannot relax, cannot be happy, because he has been programmed  a certain way all his life.  All the visions Socrates gives him, all the exercises he teaches him, the mindfulness, the mocking of vanity: none of this satisfies him. What he needs is love, love that he thinks he got at home, but probably did not.  It was likely all conditional, upon his continued success.

Alice Miller makes an interesting point in her "Drama of the Gifted Child" that it is very common for children who actually felt a lot of pain to grow up remembering their childhoods as happy.  You have to  adapt, and children can adapt to nearly anything.  But they take those forms of adaptation to adulthood.  Many people, in my view, who want to find "God" actually are still processing psychological wounds.  God is there, I believe this, but most of us are too screwed up to see Him. I am: I will put that out there.

What I think actually happened is he did most of things in the book after he graduated.  He married, had a kid, traveled around, got divorced, met a younger woman, and did in fact fall in love, deeply.  Tracing their original connection back to Berkeley probably had great psychological and romantic appeal.  True love--I have heard--feels like you have known someone forever.  And within my own metaphysics, which considers reincarnation as a virtual certainty, maybe you sometimes do meet people you HAVE known something close to forever.

As I repeat periodically, the most useful "yoga" I have found is the Kum Nye program of Tarthang Tulku, which literally starts with learning to feel again, then with feeling happiness.  I personally have not followed it carefully enough, because I am still untying knots.  Too much shit drifts up too often for now, so I am currently trying to get that cleaned out.  But the system has merit.  I have done enough to know that for certain.

I enjoyed the book.  I found it useful, and no doubt emotionally sincere.  A large part of my own healing has come, though, from ruthless and determined truth-telling, and this is how I see this book.  Most of it is fantasy, but those fantasies do circle around certain truths.  It will not be a re-reader for me, but I would recommend people to read it once.


Compared to most animals, humans take an inordinately long time to achieve full status among the "pack".  In large measure, this is because our nervous systems and following social networks are extraordinarily complex, and not hard-wired like, for example, ants, whose lives are also very complex, seen as a whole.  Learning has to happen, organic learning, pattern formation as opposed to what might be termed biological pattern dictation.

Now, this is the case even in traditional societies--pre-"modern" societies--which have very clear, long standing rules about behavior.  The goal in such societies, though, is to take on what amount to preexisting cultural "genes", or memes, in exact and mimetic ways, such that the ultimate result creates stable orders across generations in a manner not all the different from biologically dictated orders based solely upon instincts.  Cultural maladaptions--for example, individualistic tendencies--are punished just as genetic maladaptions are in the wild.  Except, of course, when they survive and prove beneficial, as happened in the modern West's invention of science, and the individualistic ontological presuppositions upon which it is based.  Framed another way, we give every person the right to form their own opinions about the nature of reality and morality.  This has been fruitful economically and in the generation of advanced abilities to manipulate our natural world.

We must consider, though, that if we are going to ask every individual to form their own "culture", their own "self", that this INEVITABLY is going to take longer than a process based solely upon replication.

Like many impatient people with tendencies towards judgementalism, I have  tendency to find people trying to find themselves irritating.  This includes myself.  Yet, the "self actualized" person is actually more useful than the replicator, even if that person takes a much longer time to reach usefulness.  This point is worth remembering.

We live in a new world, from which the old rules based upon rote imitation are largely gone.  This is often called a bad thing.  It is the source of social conservatism.  At the same time, it is also an opportunity to grow out of childhood as a race.

To my mind, the process would be greatly facilitated by generalizing accurate knowledge about the universe, which would include the self evident fact that the 19th Century ended, and with it ping pong ball materialism.  The best evidence indicates both that extrasensory perception is a reality, and that we survive physical death in spirit.  These facts should be taught in schools.  That they are not is a crime of no small proportion.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Champagne Liberals

The difference between Champagne Leftists and Champagne Conservatives is the latter buy their own champagne; the former put it on the tab of the rest of us, and leave the restaurant before the bill comes due.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Two Beagles

I have more than once seen dogs attack one another, if restrained from attacking some other perceived threat. Tonight, I saw two beagles, restrained by a fence from responding to something they thought bad, attack one another viciously, as if the other one--one they spent every day with, and had for some years--were their worst enemy in the world. I tried to break them up, but finally the energy waned, and one put its head on the other, as if to comfort it. Both dogs were shaking, and stood there for some minutes, again unafraid of one another.

Do we humans not do this? Do we not break things we love, attack people we love, when under the thrall of some discarnate spirit of violent arousal? Do we remember who we were to one another in the end, like simple dogs?

I think we are certainly more clever than dogs, in many ways, and certainly stupider in some ways.

Connect this dot:


Fear is blasphemy. Concealed fear is hypocrisy. Fear faced is piety. Courage is virtue.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


I have not been posting much because I have made the determination to invest some time actually processing emotions. Thoughts are inevitably a substitute for this, and the reason that I refer to them as machines. They are useful, but not living.

It's unclear if I have any eager folks who closely follow this blog, but I thought I'd put that out there.

One can never describe a sunset--or a sunrise.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Clocks and Trains

Clocks: what if there were a clock that only measured time spent in a state of heightened awareness and pleasure, which we commonly call "living", to distinguish it from our ordinary time? What if there were a clock which only measured time spent in misery, and what if we defined that as "potential learning" time? How would those clocks compare to one that counted our ordinary time?

Trains: I was watching a model train set at the Museum of Science and Industry the other day, and found it strangely soothing. The trains just go in the same loops over and over, day after day. I remember the trains in Switzerland, which would start moving the very second the second hand on the large clocks on the platforms hit the minute of departure.

Trains go in tracks. They do the same thing every day, at the same time. Is their quality of "living" different than that of horses, or shoes, which travel all sorts of places? Are the contents of the trains not different every day; or, in the case of the model trains, are not different eyes on them every day? Is the exact content of their work not different every day? Is the difference in the fact of work different between trains and shoes? Is the quality of life radically different between someone who lives "artistically", moving erratically and unpredictably, and someone who is an insurance examiner, who works precisely between 8 and 5 across decades? Not intrinsically.

Sometimes I think we ask too much of life. Trees have their work; squirrels have theirs. The stars travel in their paths, which change only across millions of years. If we treat the fact of work as a given, and choose not to remain attached to one way of being relative to another, I think the sort of work, and the regularity or strangeness with which we choose to do it, matters far less than we supposed.

I am a bit hung over, certainly living "artistically" today, and will offer that as explanation for the oddity of this post, which is intended to express linearly some "cloudy" thoughts--sentiments, really.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Years wind slowly by:
Nothing's done, impatiently.
Somethings await birth.

The Good Death

One of my favorite movies is Battle: Los Angeles. It took me some time to convince my kids to watch it, since they are not normally too big on aliens and violence. I pointed out to them several times that the movie is not about aliens, but about courage, duty and honor, which is in my view entirely true.

In one scene a civilian father picks up a gun he is not trained to shoot out of necessity, and gets shot, and later dies. My youngest especially was sad, but I pointed out it was a good death.

This concept of a good death, which I first encountered in "The Last Samurai", is one with a great deal of value, in my view. First of all, it accepts openly the necessity, the inevitability, of death. Secondly, it implies that as there are different ways to die, there are different ways to live. Do you face what you fear? Will you die on your feet someday, staring down that which is trying to destroy you? Or will it chase you down, and grab you from behind, at a moment beyond your control, and in a way showing you the utter powerlessness and cowardice with which you have chosen to live your life?

Based upon the evidence I have shown them, which is copious and readily available in the public sphere, I have I believe convinced both of my children that there is no need to fear death. Last week, in discussing the sundry problems facing humanity and the United States in particular, my oldest said "I will be glad when I die and am in heaven". My response was "how do you know that you did not come here on purpose? How do you know that you were not in heaven watching all the useless suffering on Earth, and decided to come here to help fix things? Wishing to be somewhere else would be foolish if you came here on purpose; and I believe everyone does."

I truly believe this, and even if I am wrong about how the world works, this belief is in my view still useful.

I have one quote on my refrigerator: "Happiness comes more from loving than being loved; and often when our affection seems wounded it is only our vanity bleeding. To love, and to be hurt often, and to love again--this is the brave and happy life". J.E. Buchrose.

I would suggest that any of us would be lucky to die heroically--trying to pull a kid from a fire, defending the innocent or defenseless or otherwise trying to do the right thing--but what we are plainly faced with daily is the opportunity to face down our inner demons.

What did you do with this opportunity today? If you fight this battle often enough, then even a death in bed is a good death.