October 15th, 2007

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Good Morning!

I am awake and feeling and enjoying the results of the weekend of Sensory Awareness, of sensing.  The idea is to become aware of the air in which we swim, and the ground beneath us, the gravity which is our support, and against which we "pull" to enliven and lift.

It is experiential and so a challenge to talk about, and yet, I will work today to find ways to perhaps convey a piece of it or perhaps offer ways you might work right now where you are.   Perhaps there is this.

Sit.  Feel your sitbones.   Sway back and forth a bit.   Turn your head slowly to the right, aware of the journey, the balancing of particle and wave, and that is my own terminology.  I feel like I am breaking the wave into particles and then putting them back into waves again.  I am not sure what it is for others, but it is to enjoy the journey, not the destination of head looking right.   What is this for you, this journey?   What responds within?   Do it twice.   Then, do it on the other side.  Notice your breath.  How are you breathing as you turn your head?   Are you holding your breath or allowing it entry in and out?

We share one ground, one ocean of air.  Partake.   Give!   Receive!!

Breathe through your feet and all around.

Mount Madonna has magnificent oak trees, and one minute, you are in oak woodland and the next in redwood forest.  You can camp there.  Think fall and acorns and coolness and ease.
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Like that, we receive -

Sunday morning, I headed out for a walk with my friend Sara.  I had forgotten to grab a piece of fruit from the huge bowl offerings, so was feeling hungry as we discovered a huge oak tree, and then, walked along the path.  We came upon the temple from the back.  It is open, so we were beckoned in for blessings.  Two ointments were placed on my forehead with an accompaniment of lovely words, and six nuts were placed in my palms.  Like that,  I was fed.  Life is rich as that.
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Stewart Brand -

Here are Stewart Brand's comments on the latest Long Now gathering as presented by Juan Enriquez. The talk at the event was titled "Mapping Life."

"All life is imperfectly transmitted code," Enriquez began, "and it is promiscuous."  Thus discoveries like the one last month of an entire bacterial genome inside the DNA of a fruitfly is exploding the old tree-of-life models of evolution. The emerging map replaces gene lineages with gene webs.

"There is a whole genomic continent to discover, and we've just mapped part of the coastline so far."  Noting that his friend Craig Venter has just transplanted the DNA from one microbe into a different one, and booted it up there, Enriquez said that humans are going to be increasingly designing and controlling the code of life.  "We'll do with bacteria what we do with our pets."

Likewise new maps of brain function are raising questions such as, "Can we model the brain, can we download it, can we transplant it, can we reboot it?"  Prostheses such as robotic arms used to be driven by muscle signals, but now they are being controlled directly from the brain.

Enriquez noted that some nations are charging ahead with such technology and the education that drives it while others cripple themselves by holding back.  Portugal had colonies throughout the world, he said, but they never respected the natives enough to help educate them, and so left intellectual blight behind them and at home.  London and Paris are full of Indian and Chinese restaurants, but there are none in Portugal.  He showed a photo of a billboard that read: "Portugal--- We were a world power for about 15 minutes."

The new maps of life, he said, will profoundly affect countries, business, religion and ethics.  Being alive in the midst a scientific renaissance like this is Christmas every day.

During Q&A Enriquez lamented that the pharmacology industry has retreated to doing just marketing now instead of discovery, haven been driven into a defensive crouch by public misapplication of the "Precautionary Principle" that all new technologies are guilty until proven innocent, and innocence is impossible to prove.  Thus the potential death of tens is used to head off treatments that could save tens of thousands.  I asked him, "What would you call the opposite of the Precautionary Principle?"  Kevin Kelly offered from the audience, "How about the Pro-actionary Principle?"

                --Stewart Brand


Stewart Brand -- sb@gbn.org
The Long Now Foundation - http://www.longnow.org
Seminars & downloads: http://www.longnow.org/projects/seminars/
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Thomas Merton Reflection of the Week -

New Logo
The Merton Reflection for the Week of October 15, 2007

My own peculiar task in my Church and in my world has been that of the solitary explorer who, instead of jumping on all the latest bandwagons at once, is bound to search the existential depths of faith in its silence, its ambiguities, and in those certainties which lie deeper than the bottom of anxiety. In these depths there are no easy answers, no pat solutions to anything. It is a kind of submarine life in which faith sometimes mysteriously takes on the aspect of doubt when, in fact, one has to doubt and reject conventional and superstitious surrogates that have taken the place of faith. On this level, the division between Believer and Unbeliever ceases to be so crystal clear. It is not that some are all right and others are all wrong: all are bound to seek in honest perplexity. Everybody is an Unbeliever more or less! Only when this fact is fully experienced, accepted and lived with, does one become fit to hear the simple message of the Gospel-or any other religious teaching.
           The religious problem of the twentieth century is not understandable if we regard it only as a problem of Unbelievers and of atheists. It is also and perhaps chiefly a problem of Believers. The faith that has grown cold is not only the faith that the Unbeliever has lost but the faith that the Believer has kept. This faith has too often become rigid, or complex, sentimental, foolish, or impertinent. It has lost itself in imaginings and unrealities, dispersed itself in pontifical and organization routines, or evaporated in activism and loose talk.

Thomas Merton. "Apologies to an Unbeliever" in Faith and Violence. South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1968: 213-214.

Thought to Remember:

[A] faith that is afraid of other people is no faith at all. A faith that supports itself by condemning others is itself condemned by the Gospel.

Faith and Violence: 214

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Ruth Denison -

The first night at Mount Madonna, I was delighted when Ruth Denison sat down next to me at dinner.  She is a little sprite of a woman, and is now 85.  I had read Sharon Boucher's book, Dancing in the Dharma, which is about Ruth.  Ruth is a pioneering teacher of Buddhism in this country and the first to organize all-woman retreats.  She is a spiritual teacher who wears cute hats,  barrettes and pig-tails.  She borrowed someone's little motorized cart and sped around the room so quickly it set the alarms off on the cart.  She probably had more energy than any of us.

I was surprised when I googled her this morning to remind myself that she had supported the Nazis and was a teacher in Germany at that time.  When the Allied troops came, she was repeatedly raped.  I struggle to hold the picture of this tiny woman enduring such abuse and being such a little sprite now.  Also, she worked with Charlotte Selver, a woman who had to leave Germany because of the Nazis, and there we were all gathered in a room, in a spiritual community that seemed to be oriented to Hinduism, though I saw Kwan Yin, who I thought was Buddhist.    Now, I check her out.  Indian Buddhism.  Anyway, I love the combination of culture and religions coming together in one room, in one community, and how surely healing comes.

One woman led us in a dance of peace that is being danced in groups all over the world.  I can't now remember the words, but the feel of the movement is with me, of hands held, and I must believe that  filling the world with images of connection, and moving spaciousness will lead to peace.

It rains now here, and I look out on dripping green.  This conference I attended was titled The Ground We Share, Opening to the Living World.  I feel today like an anemone with tentacles joyfully exploring the texture of what surrounds even as I strongly root to bedrock within. 

I spoke with Chris this morning, and he and Frieda are moving along, also joyfully,  with their wedding plans.  All is falling into place.  They will be married in the midst of redwoods with one of them an albino redwood, one who can not photosynethesize, but lives off surrounding redwood friends.  There are about thirty of them in the world.   It is to consider how much each of us is lifted and supported in a loving, connecting flow.

For me, this workshop was about love, love for myself, inner and outer, and love for those around me, and all that surrounds me.  We wrote a letter to ourselves and sealed it, and it will be mailed to us in three weeks, to remind us what we were feeling at the end of the conference.  I felt love, and began my letter.  "Dear Cathy,  I love you!"  How good to feel, know, and say that to ourselves.  What a mantra it makes.  

May you create time today to explore the wonders within.  It doesn't take time.  It can be each breath.  Dive into yourself as into a sea.   What we see without is reflected within, and what we feel within is reflected without.  How gently then it is to lean to paint the lines of our lives and fill them in.

One leader, Lilly Nova,  spoke of walking on the ground, of meeting it, as though we were walking on tissue paper.  We practiced that and then considered the breath in its path of moving in and out.  Do we allow it to touch us lightly, delicately, curiously, or do we shove it in and out without thought of nourishing and digesting each morsel like food?

Sensory Awareness is about working with and honoring the four dignities of man, Lying, Standing, Sitting, Walking.  May you enjoy the paths your body-mind takes as you journey through your day.

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Paul Krugman admiring Al Gore -

Op-Ed Columnist

Gore Derangement Syndrome

Published: October 15, 2007

On the day after Al Gore shared the Nobel Peace Prize, The Wall Street Journal’s editors couldn’t even bring themselves to mention Mr. Gore’s name. Instead, they devoted their editorial to a long list of people they thought deserved the prize more.

And at National Review Online, Iain Murray suggested that the prize should have been shared with “that well-known peace campaigner Osama bin Laden, who implicitly endorsed Gore’s stance.” You see, bin Laden once said something about climate change — therefore, anyone who talks about climate change is a friend of the terrorists.

What is it about Mr. Gore that drives right-wingers insane?

Partly it’s a reaction to what happened in 2000, when the American people chose Mr. Gore but his opponent somehow ended up in the White House. Both the personality cult the right tried to build around President Bush and the often hysterical denigration of Mr. Gore were, I believe, largely motivated by the desire to expunge the stain of illegitimacy from the Bush administration.

And now that Mr. Bush has proved himself utterly the wrong man for the job — to be, in fact, the best president Al Qaeda’s recruiters could have hoped for — the symptoms of Gore derangement syndrome have grown even more extreme.

The worst thing about Mr. Gore, from the conservative point of view, is that he keeps being right. In 1992, George H. W. Bush mocked him as the “ozone man,” but three years later the scientists who discovered the threat to the ozone layer won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In 2002 he warned that if we invaded Iraq, “the resulting chaos could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam.” And so it has proved.

But Gore hatred is more than personal. When National Review decided to name its anti-environmental blog Planet Gore, it was trying to discredit the message as well as the messenger. For the truth Mr. Gore has been telling about how human activities are changing the climate isn’t just inconvenient. For conservatives, it’s deeply threatening.

Consider the policy implications of taking climate change seriously.

“We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals,” said F.D.R. “We know now that it is bad economics.” These words apply perfectly to climate change. It’s in the interest of most people (and especially their descendants) that somebody do something to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, but each individual would like that somebody to be somebody else. Leave it up to the free market, and in a few generations Florida will be underwater.

The solution to such conflicts between self-interest and the common good is to provide individuals with an incentive to do the right thing. In this case, people have to be given a reason to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions, either by requiring that they pay a tax on emissions or by requiring that they buy emission permits, which has pretty much the same effects as an emissions tax. We know that such policies work: the U.S. “cap and trade” system of emission permits on sulfur dioxide has been highly successful at reducing acid rain.

Climate change is, however, harder to deal with than acid rain, because the causes are global. The sulfuric acid in America’s lakes mainly comes from coal burned in U.S. power plants, but the carbon dioxide in America’s air comes from coal and oil burned around the planet — and a ton of coal burned in China has the same effect on the future climate as a ton of coal burned here. So dealing with climate change not only requires new taxes or their equivalent; it also requires international negotiations in which the United States will have to give as well as get.

Everything I’ve just said should be uncontroversial — but imagine the reception a Republican candidate for president would receive if he acknowledged these truths at the next debate. Today, being a good Republican means believing that taxes should always be cut, never raised. It also means believing that we should bomb and bully foreigners, not negotiate with them.

So if science says that we have a big problem that can’t be solved with tax cuts or bombs — well, the science must be rejected, and the scientists must be slimed. For example, Investor’s Business Daily recently declared that the prominence of James Hansen, the NASA researcher who first made climate change a national issue two decades ago, is actually due to the nefarious schemes of — who else? — George Soros.

Which brings us to the biggest reason the right hates Mr. Gore: in his case the smear campaign has failed. He’s taken everything they could throw at him, and emerged more respected, and more credible, than ever. And it drives them crazy.

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Change -

In looking for a specific Buddhist website today, I received this lovely message.

            What you are looking for
                is no longer there.

                       Change is like this.

                                       May you be well and happy!

I reflect, and invite this to be so.