.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

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.

My Photo
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.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Surreality on Steroids

Frontline on PBS aired a new segment Tuesday night, The Secret History of ISIS. It isn't so secret. It has been pretty common knowledge that the "Islamic State" had its beginnings in the aftermath of the invasion and occupation of "Iraq." An upstart terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, organized displaced members of Saddam Hussein's army and Ba'ath Party.

After a number of horrific terrorist attacks in "Iraq," the Bush criminal regime devised a new plan, the "Surge," in 2007. Millions of dollars in payoffs were made to Sunni tribal leaders to keep them from attacking "American" troops, and in the process fending off the "Al Qaeda in Iraq" insurgency that morphed into "ISIS." Al Zarqawi was assassinated, and a new leader emerged, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He had been a "U.S." prisoner at Camp Bucca in "Iraq" in 2004. It was there that he gathered a following that led to ISIS being formed.

Bush after “choking on a pretzel”Frontline went into enough detail to show that ISIS is the result of the invasion and occupation of "Iraq," but left it to viewers to draw their own conclusions about culpability. I can fill it in. George W. Bush was in-effect appointed to the presidency of the "U.S." in 2000 by the Supreme Court. He and his partners in crime had planned to invade "Iraq" before the "election." His father had previously invaded "Iraq," on cooked-up "evidence" in 1990. Like father, like son

We could have had another Bush presidency this year, but thanks to blowhard Donald Trump we have been saved from that possibility. Trump is good for something. He out-faked and out-blustered all of his opponents. It will likely be him against Hillary Clinton this fall. What a choice.

This was all inevitable. It shows the fundamental weakness of a mass society. One way or another, whether by dictatorship or "democracy," power is concentrated in the hands of the few over the many. In true Orwellian fashion even dictatorships refer to themselves as democratic, and in a republic like we have in the "U.S.," whatever democratic institutions that do exist are diminished by corruption.

A good example is the current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts. He was part of the legal team that engineered disenfranchisement of Florida voters, and then stifled the recount. His reward was appointment by George W. Bush to the nation's highest judicial office.

This criminal sequence is a perfect example of the vulnerability of mass systems. The psychopathic and sociopathic few pursue control the many, and they use the energy and resources of the many to commit mayhem, enrich themselves and their cronies, and ultimately threaten not just the lives of the many, but all life.

Is there a way out? "Leftists" would say organize, organize, organize. Good luck with that. The closest thing we have to organizing against the machine is Bernie Sanders. He's fighting a courageous battle, but it is doomed to failure. He almost certainly will not be the "Democratic" nominee, and if he is, the vote will be rigged in much easier fashion than what happened in 2000.

I suspect we are going to have President Donald Trump. The kept news media are already softening to him, changing their coverage to something more accepting and friendly. As actor Johnny Depp has put it, he will be our last president. I suspect he is right.

There is a beauty to this. A corrupt, technologically "advanced" mass society, with the largest and most sophisticated military power in human history falls victim to the buffoonery of a completely phony grandstander. There is mounting evidence that he is mentally impaired. That will be surreality on steroids. A mentally impaired chief executive of the largest economic and military power ever at a time when human civilization is at stake. If this were a novel, no one would buy it.

It is still a long time until the "election." Almost six months. A lot will happen between now and then. I'm sure there will be plenty of surprises. Trump might come down with a mysterious illness. Hillary Clinton might get indicted. We will end up with a new president one way or another. Whomever it is, we face enormous challenges. The likelihood is that we will choose badly, and  might not be choosing anyway. No matter who is "elected," our troubles are only beginning.


Here's a song. Here's another. And another, my favorite. This Beatles song fits. This is a good song to sing along with.

This song is worth a listen. Here's another oldie.

We're all just trying to make it real. Maybe we just live in our own lands of make-believe.

In 2007 I did a photo essay of the Bush II presidency. It was the most difficult blog post I ever did, and I was physically ill afterwards. I have never hated Bush, but have not risen above revulsion.

Thursday, May 05, 2016


PBS replayed its "The National Parks: America's Best Idea" film last week, a monumental history of the parks, covering the political squabbles, "discoveries," advocates, detractors, and panoramic scenes.

The six episode series was a production from filmmaker Ken Burns, who has also made documentaries about the Civil War, baseball, Jackie Robinson, World War II, The Roosevelts, Prohibition, the Dust Bowl, the Lewis and Clark expedition, and many others.

Burns's movies are broad, comprehensive stories of important facets of "American" life and history, and are told in a steady mix of visual and narrative exposition that bring the stories to life.

I have one complaint, though. Burns employs a method of what I call the disembodied interview, in which various writers, historians, witnesses and other commenters expound on some topic or other, speaking to some unknown listener who is off-camera and anonymous. One annoying historian makes it even worse by turning his head from side-to-side so he can look at the anonymous interviewer out of the corners of his eyes. Someone else is being addressed instead of me, the audience on TV, and this someone else is faced sideways every few seconds.

Other than the disembodied interviews, though, the films are well-worth the time spent to watch them. In the case of the National Parks series, I was reminded of my own National Park experiences, and inspired to visit more of them.

My memories are different, though, from what several of the disembodied interviewees related. They consistently referred to being "humbled" by the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier and Denali, overwhelmed by something greater than themselves.

I wonder what exalted lives they lead that it takes visiting the Grand Canyon for them to be "humbled." Everything outside one's body is physically greater than oneself. By that definition my bathroom is "greater" than me, but I don't feel humbled every time I enter it.

What I experienced in the National Parks was   expansiveness. Most of my park visits were in one sojourn, in 1997. I quit my job, moved out of my apartment and headed West. After a few days doing sweat lodge ceremonies on the Rosebud Lakota reservation in South Dakota, I went to the BadlandsYellowstone, the Tetons, Craters of the Moon, some U.S. Forest Service sites in Oregon, the Redwoods in California, a state park in Big Sur, then the Grand Canyon. I also hiked the Boynton Canyon Trail outside Sedona, Arizona, and camped in not-too-distant Oak Creek Canyon.

By the time I reached the Grand Canyon I was satiated with beauty, so I was less overwhelmed than I was by Yellowstone and the other parks. It was still a great experience, and the most relaxed camping of the entire sojourn. What I remember from then, and from every place I visited along the way, was a sense of unity. Not "oneness," but non-duality, what is known in Vedanta as Advaita. It can be seen as a semantic parsing of words to non-duality as, hmm, different from oneness, but in my understanding of Advaita, there is no plural to be one from.

Or, from the lore of my guru-following days, Sarvam Shiva Mayam - everything is Shiva, the Supreme consciousness. In Buddhism, we are all of Buddha nature, and only need to awaken in order to realize Nirvana, a state of non-duality, among other aspects.

I could have visited even more national parks on this trip than I did, but what I saw was enough. It took a month, and  by the time I came back I was both tired of travel and rejuvenated. My allergies were gone - for the time being at least. I lost about ten pounds.  I eventually returned to the job I quit, something I wouldn't have predicted, but it was my best choice. A change of perspective can work wonders.

What, one might wonder, does an experience of non-duality have to do with ordinary mundane life? It has a lot to do with everything we do, individually and as a society. The modern Western view of reality is of things, a discrete and complex network of individual parts. Or, as physicist Fritjof Capra puts it, we have a mechanistic view of the Universe.

This mechanistic view gets in the way of understanding reality as it is, and it results in bad responses to challenges. People are things in the mechanistic view, and they are fair game for any level of abuse, exploitation, neglect, and of course killing.

A good example is our ruling elite's response to "ISIS." This organization came about as a result of our invasion and occupation of "Iraq," Over time, as the outrages of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and other loci of abuse accumulated, the ranks of the disaffected grew. The leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was tortured as a prisoner at Camp Bucca, another of our infamous detention sites. Now ISIS is essentially a large criminal gang, and the "official" solution is to kill them all.

Presidential candidates are climbing over each other to denounce and threaten to destroy ISIS. Donald Trump says the U.S. should send 20,000 to 30,000 troops to the Mideast, and bring back waterboarding. He also says we should kill their families. Erstwhile candidate Ted Cruz wants to "carpet bomb" ISIS with nuclear weapons.

These are the kinds of things sociopaths fantasize about when they see other people as mere things. Indeed, psychopath or sociopath is a personality disorder that is uniquely suited to the mechanistic, reductionist mind of the modern industrial human being. Everyone is the "other." Especially if there is self-promotion propaganda value in thinking of them that way.

Donald Trump is only the most blatant example of seeing everyone else as the "other." Obama does it too. With one major difference. He kills people whom he sees as different with his criminal drone strikes. Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill describe Obama's assassination program in their new book The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program. They cite evidence from leaked government documents to show how widespread and irresponsible Obama's drone attacks have been. They talked about it on Tuesday's Democracy Now.

Maybe Obama should visit a National Park. It would be nice if it were that simple. I was primed for moments of non-duality by many years of meditation, yoga, tai chi, and life experience that guided me to a different way of being. This is not exaltation, or being "better" than anyone - which would set me up for "humbling" experiences. It's more of an opening, or, as the Buddha put it, awakening. I have attained little in life. When I'm gone few will notice. But I'm glad I never became president. It matters that you kill people. And when you kill wantonly it matters greatly. No amount of exaltation, or "legacy" can make up for one "accidental" drone strike or attack on a hospital.

The false perception of duality isn't confined to politics, sad to say. We wouldn't have craven politicians if we didn't have an ample supply of craven people. Duality goes hand-in-hand with the mass industrial culture, so it is a constant struggle to keep one's head above the metaphoric water. If we don't rise above pathological duality soon we will be struggling to keep our heads above water literally. Some already are.

Here's some music of non-duality.

Here's some more. This too.

Here's some traveling music. Alternate version. More traveling music. Even more. And, of course, this. And this. John DenverLittle FeatHank SnowThis is what I felt like when my travels were over. One more.

This was my attitude towards many jobs I have had. Most of them deserved it. Thankfully, the one I went back to wasn't one of them. I did go back for one season after retiring, and it had become like most others. I'm lucky that I don't have to go back.

This is a decent rendition of the Guru Gita. It was not usually done solo, but in ashram groups, sometimes numbering over 1,000 people. Though I no longer follow the path of guru veneration, when I hear this chant it is as if I never left. Thankfully, as if is not the same as still being there. I described the experience in this post in 2006.

You can watch the PBS National Parks series on YouTube starting with this video. 

The Natural Resource Defense Council has some suggestions to prepare for climate change.

R.I.P. Daniel Berrigan. While I was "serving" in the Army his opposition to the war in "Vietnam" gave me great encouragement.