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While We Still Have Time

In spite of the grimness of the times in which we live, there is still hope. If you feel, like I do, that the usual discourse about matters of critical concern tends to be superficial, misguided, and false, then you might find some solace and inspiration here. I will try to offer insight and a holistic perspective on events and issues, and hopefully serve as a catalyst for raising the level of dialogue on this planet.

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Location: Madison, Wisconsin, United States

I was born in 1945, shortly before atom bombs were dropped on Japan. I served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1971. I earned master's degrees in Economics and Educational Psychology, and certificates in Web Page Design and as a Teacher of English as a Second Language. I followed an Indian guru for eight years, which immersed me in meditative practices and an attitude of reaching a higher level of being. A blog post listing the meditative practices I have pursued can be seen here.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Emptiness

It seems almost pointless to write anything about what is going on between "Israel" and the "Palestinians." It is a tragedy of human failure, that in this technologically "advanced" era the species homo sapiens can do no better than bombing masses of children, old people and other non-combatants. What could I write that would make anything better? Would the killing stop?

Hardly. "Israel" has eased up on the missile and other attacks, mainly due to worldwide revulsion. Its prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed regret for the casualties, but placed the entire responsibility on Hamas, the governing body of "Gaza." "Hamas" of course blames "Israel."

Thanks goes to both of them for nothing from the rest of life on this planet. It's all O.K. as long as you have someone else to blame. I suppose this is what is known as a zero sum game. Zero sum, that is, if you count two hundred or so "Palestinians" equal to one "Israeli." When "Israel" launches one of its periodic assaults on "Gaza" they call it "mowing the lawn."

For what it is worth, I did write something a couple of weeks ago about the situation in "Gaza," a comment to a review of a TV series on NPR:

I don't have cable or dish, but am glad this series is airing. It may be in the collective unconsciousness by now, or the volksgeist/zeitgeist of the times, but I have come to the view of the situation in the "Holy Land," as an allegory for human interaction.
The key element in conflict is identity. The more extreme the identity, the more violent the expressions of that identity. If Jews weren't so self-identified before World War II, they certainly became so afterward, especially the ones who migrated to "Zion."
The "Palestinians" were not such a cohesive identity before the creation of "Israel," but they became so afterward. There is nothing like displacement and mistreatment to create a bond among people treated so.
The greatest absurdity of all, though, is the endless reward to "Israel" from the "U.S." government in money and weaponry for whatever mass atrocities they commit. No "side" in this conflict is "better" than the other, but the phoniness of "U.S." carte blanche only serves to make it worse. Our power structure couldn't care less about either "side," but domestic political concerns dictate that "we" keep the money and arms flowing. Death and destruction indefinitely into the future, all for political careers. The blame lies largely here. We are a nation run by cowards.
Identity is one of the strangest aspects of human consciousness. It enables people to kill each other, to force people to believe in something - or else, to create self-myths, rituals, culture and myths about "others" who are not part of one's identity. It may succeed in annihilation of the human species, should we continue in our pathological ways.

All this is happening, of course in context with global climate change. The news gets worse every day, it seems. So far, the industrial world has done next-to-nothing about it when measured against what needs to be done. The predicament is so enormous that the easy was to deal with it is to deny it exists, especially if one's short-term interests - like wealth, power, privilege and comfort - can have influence similar to drug addiction.

Then there is identity. Here in the "U.S." we have a combination of fundamentalist Christian identity working in tandem with "right wing" paranoia. I only use the term "right wing" because so many believe there is such a thing, an "ideology" along an imaginary horizontal spectrum, with a philosophy of "free enterprise," limited government, low taxes and a strong work ethic. This is the periphery, or facade. What "right wing" actually is is a mix of bigotry, intolerance, parasitism, xenophobia, scapegoating, vitriol and empire. There are variations, but the essence is a mental/emotional state of reptilian brain paranoia.

I have been writing about this for years, approaching the subject of our collapsing civilization from a perspective of moving from lower consciousness to higher consciousness. This avoids the duality of "left" versus "right," and thus is despised by those who consider themselves "leftists." Those who consider themselves "rightists" of course have no use for this view either. Both "sides" are addicted to duking it out in the forum of ideas, or lack of same.

Both sides are identified with their stances. It is the same as being identified with "Israeli-ness" or "Palestinian-ness." Or "American-ness." "Ukraine-ness." "Russian-ness." Adherent protestations notwithstanding, there is nothing inherent in any identity. There is no more substance to any identity than to being a fan of a sports team.

Or rock 'n roll band. I went to a few Grateful Dead shows, six to be exact. There was a certain snobbiness or a kind of hippie-elitism to think of oneself as a "Deadhead" - a dedicated aficionado of the band. As much as I liked the band and its music, I just couldn't get into the identity of being a Deadhead. The absurdity of such an identity was to me surreal. Most surreal were some of the people I would identify with were I to find Deadhead-ness meaningful.

Time of course is running out, but there is still a possibility of changing course. If we start to recognize the emptiness of paranoia, regardless of stance. Likely the best organization working to increase awareness of climate change is 350.org, yet it falls neatly into the trap of duality, and as a result is not having much effect.

In Buddhist practice it is said in various ways that through meditation, study, good works and helping others people can aid in the liberation of all sentient beings. Central to Buddhist awareness is the concept of Emptiness, that all independent existence is illusory. In other words, identity with some group as separate, unique, superior and deserving of special treatment is without substance - empty. Killing people to assert that an identity without substance is beyond criminal. It is stupid. Stupidity tends to result in a balancing, commonly known as reaping what you sow. The sooner we recognize this relationship between cause and effect, the sooner we can save our civilization. We "Americans" can start by ceasing to fund and protect the criminal occupation of "Palestine" by "Israel." The sooner the better.

I should add that our current power structure does not allow for defunding of "Israel." We can replace the power structure voluntarily, or we can wait for the system to collapse, and our lives along with it. We have a choice.
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Here's an old song. Here's another. This too. Here's a song by Steve Earle.

For those interested in Buddhist practice there are many opportunities. The World Buddhist Directory is a comprehensive listing of temples, sanghas and study groups around the planet.

For another journey into the surreal, this story about militarization of police should suffice.

R.I.P. Robin Williams.  If there is one thing we can learn from his passing it is that we are all in the same boat. Every day is a gift and an opportunity, and we are challenged to make sense of our lives no matter who we are. We cannot afford to think of ourselves as separate beings.

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