The Day after Tomorrow (Or two years after next?)

There’s been almost a glut of good movies this summer. I really haven’t had time to comment on most of them yet, and probably won’t get to some of them. floodingI was actually going to pass on making any mention of The Day after Tomorrow—it was a fun way to kill a couple of hours, a blend of sci-fi and disaster movie. It suffered from poor marketing and poor timing—being released against major blockbusters like Harry Potter III and Spider-Man 2; as well undeservedly negative criticism, much of which was ranting about possible political motives rather than simple critiques of a Sunday afternoon escape.

It has a suprisingly strong emphasis on the small-scale human perspective—a fairly good story for the disaster genre. Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal play a father and son, separated by a terrifying new kind of storm, unlike anything witnessed by modern humanity. The storm is powered by global warming and wreaks an ice age upon Earth within a couple of weeks, as melting polar ice shifts the warm ocean currents out of the temperate zone. Effects are excellent, and well-worth the price of a ticket. My assessment was that it was pretty good sci-fi. I really didn’t think much more of it.

At least not until last night, when I read this in a interview with Ervin Laszlo:

“Right now, for example, with the melting of the ice deflecting the Gulf Stream, it’s entirely possible that in three years England will have the frigid climate of Labrador,which is at the same latitude. Spring and summer just won’t come. (What is Enlightenment? Issue 26, p.22 “will spring and summer no longer come?” )

Dr. Laszlo is not just any scientist, but the pioneer of systems theory, which has revolutionized all science. He doesn’t know everything, but he’s one of sharpest minds on the planet. Dramatic climate change in northwestern Europe possibly within three years? While the heather turning into tundra does not an ice age make, it sure doesn’t appeal to me. I happen to like spring and summer, and I can well imagine the Brits prefer their four temperate seasons to climatological catastrophe. Laszlo, BTW, is hardly alone in his concern: there seem to be a number of European scientists quite concerned about the declining health of the Gulf Stream.

Let’s pray it’s neither the day after tomorrow nor three years down the road, but that we can still prevent it.

The system works. (Don’t look behind the curtain.)

A week ago a friend of mine was thrown into jail, charged with trespassing. He was innocent, but because his accuser complained loudly enough, he was tossed into jail, without an opportunity to meet with, let alone to be represented by counsel. Furthermore, he wasn’t scheduled for a bond hearing (his first opportunity to have legal representation) for nearly three weeks. Fortunately, his family was able to have his hearing moved up, and at his bond hearing six days after his incarceration began, he was released as there was not a shred of evidence against him.

In school, I was taught that part of what made America “the greatest country in the world” is that you’re always “presumed innocent until proven guilty.” At least in Virginia Beach, there’s a very good chance you’ll be judged guilty until proven innocent. My friend was actually rather lucky. Last night, I learned from a local community leader of the case of a teen-age boy who was incarcarated for six months before having a hearing.

The enormity of this problem goes unnoticed because this problem is invisible to most of us. But the fact is that 1 out of 50 American adults is in jail or prison as you read this. Not does America have the world’s largest prison population, but even our per capita rate of incarceration is the highest in the world». Thats’ right. Not Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Not the Islamic Republic of Iran. Not the People’s Republic of China. But the Land of the Free.

So what do you do when your friend is in jail, a victim of false arrest? You try to visit him, and give him a book to cheer him and help pass the time. But if your friend is in the Virginia Beach Correctional Facility, it doesn’t work like that. This isn’t the friendly cell of Mayberry RFD. An inmate is only allowed vistors for a half-hour, once a week, through the glass. Books can not be delivered to prisoners by visitors. Books can not be shipped to prisoners from local bookstores. An inmate may only receive a book if it arrives directly from a publisher! (Too bad if it’s our of print, as many spiritual classics are.) But of course, since the jail is taking on the role of an unofficial prison, there must be a library, right? Wrong. Daily exercise, like in a state penitentiary? It’s weekly in Virginia Beach. Adequate facilities? Inmates sleep on the floor, 30 men to a 20 X 50-foot room.

Incarceration rates are soaring for minor offenses, when both violent crimes and property crimes are at their lowest rates ever recorded. That’s right. So why do you feel so afraid when the fact is you’ve never been safer from crime, at least not in the last thirty years? Start recognizing cultural lies and marketed fear around you. Open your eyes.

Children have no choice but to accept the stories they are told about the world. But part of adulthood means seeking the truth. Spiritual awakening is not really about seeking bliss. It’s about ending the deception which the mechanisms of our fears, desires, and conditioning feed us in the Matrix. Here are some of them:

The system works.
It’s not perfect, but it’s the best we can do.
If you didn’t deserve it, you wouldn’t be there.
We spend too much trying to rehabilitate people.
Sure we bombed them, but it was for their own good.
If we kill all the bad guys, all the bad guys will be gone.

It’s time to determine to discard lies and seek the truth. That’s Jedi life in the Real World.

It’s dry here

Almost everyone I know has periods of spiritual dryness. I certainly am not past that; I’m in such a period right now. There’s a lot of doubt underneath the surface—”Is any of this helping? Am I stupid for seeking enlightenment? Isn’t meditation just a waste?”

I know these voices—and I think every mystic is familiar with them. Sometimes they seem more convincing than others. I think it’s strange we don’t talk more about our doubts and fears in the spiritual life. Instead, it’s much easier to keep up the mask of certainty. Almost all of our spiritual leaders do; uncertainty cannot be countenanced. “The Bible says . . .” “You must believe . . . ” I distrust such degrees of certainty now—too often a past certainty can lead to a present spiritual blindness. “God is on our side, we must destroy the evildoers, etc.”

And I’m not really distressed by the blankness of my spirit, or God’s silence right now. I’m trying to make it a part of my practice, to listen to the doubts, and fears “little Jon” has, and smile at them and let them pass. It isn’t always easy. In December last year, for a few weeks, it became a pretty rough time, with some feelings of despair. Many mystics, such as St. John of the Cross and Eckhart Tolle, have described “the dark night of the soul,” a period (often long) of despair and depression before God breaks through upon their consciousness and instills a never-ending awareness of infinite grace.

Fortunately (I think it’s fortunate), I’ve never had to deal with that, although a close friend of mine has. But last December for me was more like a shadowed nap-time of the soul. And this is nothing compared to that. Everything is practice, every emotion, even the fears and doubts.

My first maritime rescue mission!

A friend of mine invited me along for some boating this morning. We took out a 23-foot fishing yacht, and enjoyed the waters of Hampton Roads between Norfolk and Hampton. It was choppy on the east side of the Hampton Roads bridge, but quite a bit calmer on the west side. I even had a shot at piloting, which was a thrill, because I had never done it before (and my friend is not much more experienced than I am!)

After a while, clouds began rolling in, and we decided to head back. I was just beginning to hoist up the anchor when my friend saw a flare go up from a small boat about a quarter-mile to starboard. (God, I love talking like a sailor!) It turns out, though, that the Fourth of July is the worst day possible for a Roman candle red signal flare to get any notice. It took me several minutes to pull up the anchor through the mud (there’s got to be an easier way, and no, this boat didn’t have any kind of wench at all). Honestly, we were hoping that another boat might answer the call, but none did, so as soon as we were free, we sped off to help.

A man, woman and boy were on the boat—they couldn’t start their engine due to a dead battery. They had called a friend to come and get them, but we offered a tow, and they accepted. (Good thing, too. A thunderstorm had opened up, and visibility was down to about 200 yards. They would’ve been stuck for a long time.) It’s hard to understand directions being shouted from another boat over the roar of a 200-horsepower outboard motor in a heavy downpour, but we soon reached their boat ramp in Portsmouth. They were grateful for our help, and we felt grateful to be able to give it. It was a wet, long ride back to Hampton through the rain, but it felt like such a wonderful way to celebrate the holiday. No, my first “rescue mission” didn’t involve CPR or any heroics, just a neighborly tow, but hey, that’s Jedi life in the real world.