An atheist, a monotheist, and a panentheist

An atheist, a monotheist, and a panentheist walk into a smoke-filled, crowded bar. The bartender is at the far end, but the atheist can’t see him through the haze. Finally the atheist declares to his monotheist friend, "There is no bartender." He turns away from the bar, and takes out a bottle of Dasani he brought with him.

The monotheist diligently looks for the bartender through the smoke, catches a glimpse of him, shouts and waves to get his attention, and orders a Scotch whiskey. After relishing a sip, he chides his atheist friend. "You foolish unbeliever," he says. "You don’t see the Bartender because you turned away, but just ask him, and he’ll hear you and give you anything you want. In just a moment I developed a  personal relationship with the Bartender, and this fine Scotch is proof." He turns to the panentheist for additional support and asks, "isn’t that right?"

The panentheist says, "Who cares? I’m stoned just from breathing the air in here!"

Merry Subversion!

I’m having a subversive Christmas. I’m thinking about the subversiveness of the Christmas story.

Why subversive?

Spirituality is by its nature subversive… it sees significance and meaning beyond the material… that something is going on behind the "seen". Awakening (what I usually call mysticism) is even more subversive; it sees the interior (subversive!) way as of primary importance for the individual for experience God. The way of peaceful warriors is more subversive still: for us, it’s a challenge of (subversively!) transforming the world by allowing ourselves to be transformed.

Subversion, subversion, subversion! The arrival of the Teacher was announced to a few. Most simply weren’t interested. The presence of living Teachers today is of interest only to a few: most could care less. Yet the Teaching persists, and it’s so subversive, you can’t even grasp it with your mind. That which you think you know is the first thing that must be subverted for the seed to take root.

Nine months before this subversive birth in a smelly barn away from the eyes of the world, something else subversive happened. A messenger (angelos) privately, (subversively!) told Mary that she would become pregnant when "holy breath" (pneuma hagion) and "the power of the Highest" (dunamis hupistou) overshadowed her. (Lk. 1:26-36)

Mary immediately understood the subversive direction of this future birth:

He has shown the power of his arm,
He has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones
and exalted the lowly.

The hungry he has filled with good things,
the rich sent empty away… (Lk 1. 51-53)

Just try saying that at a presidential inauguration, and see how long to takes the Secret Service to react! It’s subversive, and it’s not what the powers of this world want to hear, period.

So what will be conceived in you, when holy breath fills you, and your delusions are overshadowed by the Highest power? What or who will you give birth to?

One Word

 

1word screenshot

 
 

Proving reincarnation among human beings is challenging and controversial. However, proving reincarnation (redigitalization?) among blogs is much simpler. Case in point: Eternal Awareness, one of the wisest and most beautiful blogs (or even websites) that I’ve ever come across, is now deceased. Its recorded bits and bytes are slowly going the way of all data, to fragmentation and decay as the server endlessly spins, satisfying the incessant requests for information to manifest in the blogosphere.

But… a new blog has appeared on the spinning wheel of the world-wide Web! It’s called One Word, and carries the same spirit, written by the same author. One Word is unique though, just as every person is unique. Where Eternal Awareness was sublime and serious, One Word is playful and funny, but no less insightful. It’s a cyberspace Shiva enjoying his divinity and merrily dancing on the demons of ignorance.

In this incarnation, Shiva answers to the moniker of my friend Mark Warner, whom many of you know from reading Eternal Awarness. Mark decided to revitalize his blogging through a digital death and rebirth, and revitalized it is. One Word will blitz you with blasts of creativity, humor, art, insight, and joy at brisk intervals. Enjoy!

 

The Payoff of Esperanto

 

Esperanto flag

 
 

Something that many Esperantists have to contend with is the perception that a planned language is somehow useless, something on a par of Pig Latin. (One of these is a co-worker and friend of mine, who often reminds me of this opinion.)

But consider this… On Friday, I IM-ed a complete stranger in a foreign country and we chatted for an hour completely in Esperanto… After introducing ourselves, we discussed our respective blogs, programming languages such as PHP and C#, languages in general, mystical perspectives in Buddhism and Christianity, personal experiences and viewpoints, etc.

What’s remarkable about this, is I’ve only studied Esperanto seriously for about five-and-a-half months. If I had to guess, I’d say I’ve spent at most 120 hours actually concentrating on the language, and probably less than that. Although I made many minor mistakes, I was well-understood by my fellow speaker (whom I now consider a friend). This was confident and easy communication that enabled me to say whatever I wanted to. Esperanto enables me to have the ability to communicate easily with any of the hundreds of thousands throughout the world who have taken the time to learn it, whether they’re Dutch, Spanish, Brazilian, Chinese, Japanese or Iranian… And that investment is miniscule compared to what’s required even with relatively "easy" Indo-European languages like Spanish.

Last year, I studied Spanish for twice as long as I’ve studied Esperanto, and I was nowhere near having the ability to converse easily about anything… I’ll return to studying Catalan and Spanish soon, and I expect the experience of attaining proficiency in Esperanto will help greatly in learning those languages more quickly and easily. (Numerous studies have shown that to be the effect.) My suspicion is that it will go like this:

T(Esperanto + other language)   <   T(learning other language alone)

I succumbed!

It’s Darrell’s fault. And Trev describes it. I’d almost describe myself as allergic to the oh-so-trendy social networking stuff, particularly online communities… MySpace strikes me as a kid’s crayon drawing on the wall, Zaadz is nice, spiritual and, well, boring.  But Darrell invited me and the former WisdomReading group to join a Facebook group he started. Although I was certainly not expecting to like it, Facebook really impresses me. One thing that surprised me is that it automatically searched my Gmail contacts for Facebook members and invited them to become my friends… in couple of hours I had more contacts on Facebook than I’ve acquired on Zaadz over the last year or so.

One thing I like about Facebook is that it seems to understand some people might want a SN site to complement, not replace or substitute for a personal website or blog. And my Facebook profile now lists this site, my techie site, my Esperanto group’s site, and my Zaadz site all on the main page!

Heroes

 

Heroes title

 
 

I almost feel like I’m coming back to life after being gone awhile!  For the last three days, I’ve been on a "detox" diet, eating vegan, avoiding sugar, limiting caffeine, and exercising.  I already feel a vast difference… I have more energy and better concentration, and my mood isn’t just lighter—I feel an incredible optimism.

Earlier this fall I got hooked on NBC’s show Heroes. (I’ve got a bad habit of missing the first season of good shows… happened to me with Lost, too.) This week I began watching the first season episodes to catch up… still only about ten episodes through it, so no spoilers, please!

Why I mention both of these together is that both of them fit together in my life now. When I lost weight a long time ago, I remember feeling almost unstoppable, like I could do anything. There’s something in this massive tale of people discovering abilities that they didn’t know they had, that resonates with my own discovery of strength and joy that I’ve forgotten I had.

Of course, Heroes resonates strongly with me as a spiritual metaphor. It’s about spiritual warfare, the work of bodhisattvas versus the forces of destruction, fear, violence, and ignorance. This is something that’s coming back to me as well… for quite a while now, my sense of mission and purpose had been receding. Now it’s resurging. Heroes isn’t fiction. It’s spiritual reality. There really was a Spider-Man in New York. The one I know didn’t sling webs or swing from buildings, but he did jump into any fight at a moment’s notice with the goal of saving both the victim and the aggressor, and whenever possible, prevented fights from even starting.  His name is Vernon Kitabu Turner, and now he trains others in the way of the spiritual warrior.

There really are Isaac Mendezes.. . prophets who paint the future they see, presenting the challenge to change it.

There really are Peter Petrellis… persons who catch the spirits of others. One word, which might come from you or from me, might be enough to make them soar into discovering the cure for AIDS, or to bring peace to a war-torn land.

There really are Claire Bennets… people so resilient, they can return day after day to stresses that would tear up most of us.

There really are Hiro Nakamuras… people so filled with delight and wonder they might seem not to take much seriously… except their place in the mission of saving others and saving the  world.

And of course, there really are Jessicas and Sylars… people who will use any means possible to seize money and power.

So…
What kind of hero are you?

Time for a change!

I fit the stereotype of the computer geek who lives mostly in front of a screen, at work because it’s my job, and at home because it’s fun. However, this lifestyle has its price… I’m fat, or as the Department of Health would put it, clinically obese.

I’ve lost the weight twice before… in 1989, I began exercising (and stayed with it till it started becoming enjoyable) and cut most of the junk I previously called "food" out of my diet. I began to feel better than I ever felt in my life, than I ever knew it was possible to feel. In Ohio, I found intense exercise difficult to keep up during the long winter , so over the years some of the weight came back, but it wasn’t too bad.

However, when I discovered the Web in 1995, my physical activity level plummeted. Pounds began piling on quickly. I was able to take them off once again in 1999-2000 when I did the wretched Atkins’ diet, with the predictable result afterwards. Since then, my inactivity and eating habits have mostly gotten worse. I need a lifestyle change.

Of course, I’ve known that for years, and not yet been motivated enough to DO it.  But something interesting is going to happen: at work, some of us have agreed to play "The Biggest Loser" amongst ourselves… and a few side bets on it kind of sweetens the pot, in a non-caloric way!

An American with bad eating habits is up against some formidable obstacles–there is more at work that simply weakness vs. willpower. Some of these obstacles might better be called dark forces… There are the demons of self-doubt, etc. (although I’ve kicked that one’s ass back to hell!)  Then there are demons that twist minds in corporate boardrooms away from quality and towards hooking people into greater and deeper addiction to worse and worse food. I watched Spurlock’s movie, Super-Size Me again tonight for added motivation and inspiration.  Yes, it gave me that, but it also made me cry.

They are not only wrecking our own health on a nation-wide scale, but exporting insanity and obesity to the rest of the world. When there’s a MacDonald’s in every Baghdad neighborhood, then we can rest assured that Iraq has been defeated as soundly as we have.

So the challenge I face isn’t merely of calories and motion, but also of faith and spiritual warfare, that thing that spiritual warriors train for. It’s about overhauling myself. I’m remembering that St. Paul said "Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold," and I want to take that to heart… I’m going to practice meditation again regularly, which I haven’t done for a long time. There are habits I must break, and others I must form. It’s time for  a change.

 

Snapping out of it

I’m a pretty happy guy, but around the middle of the week I got hit by a several days of sadness that seemed to be triggered by nothing in particular, and about nothing in particular. But it was strong and very sad. Usually I’m able to quickly nip in the bud things that pull me down… I make my co-workers (and myself) laugh by cursing my computer as a "stupid piece of electronic excrement" when something doesn’t go as expected.

But this was kind of like the dementors of Harry Potter (though thankfully, on a much less intense scale)… joy just seemed to be taken away, and replaced with nothing at all. Now, it’s back, and I’m very glad. Funny how you don’t really appreciate what you have till you don’t.

At any time…

 

Wrathful

 
 

A Zen master (I don’t remember who) once said, "at any time, it is possible for anyone to exchange the radiant mind of the Buddha, for that of a demon." This is true. Sometimes it’s a trigger: one word, one action, can "set us off." Other times it’s subtle and difficult to know just what provokes the reaction, (although personally, I like Eckhart Tolle’s explanation of "the pain-body.") It happened to me last week, by all accounts, a pretty darn good week for me. Yet by the weekend I was feeling a vast amount of anger to someone who had not wronged me in any way at all.

Anger! Eventually I asked my teacher for advice, and he had me meet him at MacArthur Mall. If any of you have seen Peaceful Warrior, what happened next had a few similarites to the scene where Socrates asks Dan to meet him on the bridge. (Yes, I did meet him on a bridge on the mall’s highest level, and no, he didn’t throw me off). What he did do, was make me look at the people. Even though I was so angry, I didn’t want to see, I saw what I described yesterday as the windsocks revealing the wind. There was just Spirit—flowing everywhere, manifest by the forms It was animating. Spirit was flowing all around me. The proof was people were walking past. Kids were laughing. Tots were thrilling with delight in attaining the status of being bipeds. Adults walked, talked, shopped, complained, smiled, frowned.

For too long I had troubled myself by the emptiness of the holodeck, in my glimpses of looking past the program. But the fact is that I’m here, and there is nothing for me to do in this except interact with the program. It’s running for me. And it’s running for you, and for everyone else. But it’s only this character that I have any control over. And with through him, I interact with the whole; a universe appearing, full of beings made of the same stuff I am, feeling the same things I feel or have felt… Myticism is a heck of lot less "mystical" than I thought.