Live outside the box

OK, I’m a geek. I work in front of computers all day long, I play mostly in front of a computer all evening. But it’s occurred to me that I live too much of my life (almost all of it!) in boxes. I live in a box, work in a box, and get from home to work (and vice versa )by means of driving a smaller box. This is true of a LOT of us. (You know who you are.) Today I had a pleasant day with several hours outside the box at Cape Hatteras. It was great!

New goal for the Frimster: a hour of unboxed living every day.

A Christian Fatwa? “He Should Be Killed”—Robertson

Q: What religion has leaders who use all available media to call for a religious government, and urge those they find most unworthy to be killed?

A: The Christian Religious Right. On the 700 Club on Thursday, August 19, Ayatollah Pat Robertson called for a fatwa on Ayatollah Muktada al-Sadr. His entire quote follows:

Al-Sadr is a rebel whose breaking the law. He’s a murderer, there’s a warrant out for his arrest. He should be killed, it’s just that simple. They should execute him and they should take care of those people. He’s holding up the most powerful army on Earth and he’s thumbing his nose at the authority of the new government, and it’s time the forces took action against him and stop the play. I hope this news says they’re going after him.The news yesterday said, well. he’d agreed to some kind of a deal, but he’s a liar, he’s not going to do a deal and it’s time we move in and do it swiftly and get this sore out of the way.

You can hear it yourself at The 700 Club website. [UPDATE: this broadcast has rolled off the page, as of Sept. 11, 2004l]

A few thoughts on Robertson’s fatwa:

  1. Making al-Sadr into a martyr would be unbelievably stupid. It would almost certainly condemn Iraq (and the U.S.) to years of war.
  2. Ayad Allawi, the Prime Minister of Iraq, doesn’t want al-Sadr to be killed. He actually wants him to run for office so al-Sadr can see that the majority of non-extremist Iraqis reject him.
  3. With this pronouncement, Robertson seems to have lost all contact with the teachings of Jesus Christ.
  4. Robertson can be quite comfy with killers when he can profit from them. Consider his business relationship with Charles Taylor in creating Freedom Gold through the tax shelter of the Cayman Islands. Taylor escaped from a Massachusetts prison, fled to Libya, instigated an insurrection in Sierra Leone, killed the president of Liberia, and initiated a war taking over 200,000 lives, and has been linked by the FBI to funding al-Qaeda:

Let’s pray for light—for ourselves, for Iraq, and for Pat Robertson.

We know what we want for ourselves . . .

I received this email from someone called “The Writer.” (I guess he or she meant to leave a comment but emailed me by mistake.) Anyway, The Writer had a brilliant insight, that basic spiritual truths are self-evident on the personal level, but not on the social level. No wonder Christ said to love our neighbor as ourselves!

It’s amazing how basic spiritual truths take many thousands of years to be learnt via hard experience by humanity. That the ends do not justify the means, and that peace is better than war and life better than death, and freedom better than imprisonment, are on the personal level self-evident. But on the larger social level things do not seem quite so clear, for some reason. . . . the writer.

Underneath the painting—the First Noble Truth

Last night, I had a deep realization of the First Noble Truth. Now, to anyone who’s not immediately put off by the negativity of the statement that “life is dukkha (loosely translated as ‘suckiness’),” the fact probably seems self-evident. There’s death, sickness, poverty, hatred, fear, all the stuff. You know it, I know it. Big deal. What came to me last night, (and it came to me like a sledge hammer on my head—it was a shock, I’m telling you, it was not pleasant!) was that life is anxiety. Or that anxiety is the canvas our lives are painted on.

It’s one thing to accept the suckiness of life intellectually, or even to see its effects in the world in general, but what happened last night was I saw it in everything. Most people have very few moments in waking life that don’t have a tinge of anxiety, although it might be so subtle it’s like the hum of a refrigerator in the kitchen, when you’re upstairs listening to the stereo. But it’s still there! We’ve really trained ourselves not to see it. (Even though it seems a third of their articles are about it, you could read Tricycle for years and not get it!)

Our anxiety comes from many sources—psychologists concentrate on our parents and authority figures, and yes, there’s anxiety there. All of our lives we’ve been given rules and consequences for not following them. And so, we become conditioned. Am I doing what’s right? Did I do something wrong? But this root anxiety is a lot more basic than that. Will I get what I want? Will I get what I don’t want?

On an even more primal, unconscious level—Will I get something to eat? Will something eat me? How do I stay alive?

And even more fundamental, and more subconscious—Do I really exist? Who/what am I?

So we cover up our anxiety with everything—possessions, positions, activities, interests, thoughts, beliefs, etc. ad nauseum. None of which are wrong in themselves,but the anxiety that makes us cling to them is usually unaddressed. “Now that I have x, feel x, think x, know x, do x . . . I’m OK, right?” It doesn’t matter what color the paint we throw on the canvas, the canvas is still there. Even the belligerent thug who slugs whoever disses him is just throwing another layer on the underlying dukkha, the canvas of anxiety.

Just being—I mean simply be-ing, as opposed to doing, and having—is something that causes tremendous anxiety to most people. Try to even talk to some people about sitting meditation, and even the thought—not the action, mind you, but the mere thought—of sitting and doing nothing horrifies them. Now I can see that’s at least part of what makes it the laboratory, where all the paint is stripped off the canvas of insecurity.

What happens when we go farther and strip off the canvas? What’s left? That must be what awakening is.

Spider-Man 2

My review of Spider-Man 2 is now up. I see my reviews splitting into two categories—short capsule reviews handled as blog posts, and longer reflections in which I write at some length about a movie, including what I see as it’s spiritual implications. Spider-Man 2 is definitely the latter kind of a review. I saw a lot in this one! Let me know what you think.