Sunday, December 16, 2007

Not words, not books

No words, no books
to love's quiet music

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Mitt Romey on respect for many religions

NOTE: I am not endorsing Mitt Romey for President. But, am impressed with his wording on the issue of religion.

Mitt Romey's December 6, 2007, speech on religion contains the following, beautiful passage. Worth quoting:

"I believe that every faith I have encountered draws its adherents closer to God. And in every faith I have come to know, there are features I wish were in my own: I love the profound ceremony of the Catholic Mass, the approachability of God in the prayers of the Evangelicals, the tenderness of spirit among the Pentecostals, the confident independence of the Lutherans, the ancient traditions of the Jews, unchanged through the ages, and the commitment to frequent prayer of the Muslims. As I travel across the country and see our towns and cities, I am always moved by the many houses of worship with their steeples, all pointing to heaven, reminding us of the source of life's blessings.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Civilization, Terror, and Real Security

Published in Berkeley Daily Planet, July 3, 2007.

Today, the biggest "temples" are skyscrapers devoted to office work; no cathedrals at the center of town devoted to worship of a Higher Power. The true religion of world civilization is money. The attack upon of the World Trade Center in New York City was not just an "attack upon America" but an attack upon the current modes of world civilization. Terrorism challenges civilization, just like street crime challenges a local community. Crime is a symptom of a social sickness; terrorism is the surface symptom of systemic disorder in civilization.

What's wrong with civilization now? We must ask and dig into this question. This question has been asked since the beginning of the industrial revolution. And, needs to be asked even more now. The terrorism that we suffer now is happening as a tension between the oil producing and oil consuming parts of our civilized modern world. I have no answers, but ask that we just look at this tension in all its dimensions.

Modern global civilization depends on freeways, cheap petroleum, making lots of stuff, shipping stuff here and there, extensive personal and business travel, telecommunications and computer networks. These are the wonders, and potential downfalls, of our age.

Our money-oil based global civilization undermines the Earth itself. Without Life on earth, the notion of "economy" is meaningless. Our governments, businesses, and households assume "growth" as the prime measure of a healthy economy. Earth has finite resources. Humans are now hitting Earth's walls. It's time to renew our models of economic health to include the health of all life on the planet -- not just humans. Economic grow alone is very dangerous at this time.

Commuting in private cars to work is not an acceptable form of civilization. Freeways are the backbone of modern urban civilization. They encourage sprawl - commuting from one city to another. Freeways, in the morning are clogged with cars in both directions -- going to work where you do not live sometimes one or two hours away. Pedestrian communities need to become the norm. Work, live and play within walking distance of your bedroom.

The consumer economy with its advertising and marketing system, encourages spiritual bankruptcy to increase the making, selling and buying of "goods" to create satisfaction that never stays. So we must go on to consuming more.

Security will come from little actions. Little actions change the world. Save a bit of a tree by NOT using the wood coffee stir stick to mix the half-and-half in. You know that the cream will swirl around by itself. Drive a little less, walk more. You'll be healthier and have cleaner air. Don't just air travel on a whim, even if you can afford it. Stay near home; become a tourist in your neighborhood. Find work near home. Life will become more relaxed. Share cars. Go for "growth in value", not growth in consumption. A new kind of consumerism is needed: a consumerism of knowledge and wisdom rather than things. Place more value on time with friends and family rather than exchanging gifts. Remember that you buy your money with the time in your life -- time that you could have used for real relationship with friends and family instead of buying things and experiences.

This post-consumer world will not be so wealthy in material, but will be much wealthier in spirit -- we'll have more time for being and creativity. This could become the basis of a real security, of a world that does not breed terrorism. A world where the tension between oil production and oil consumption is not the fuel of politics, religious wars and hate campaigns.

Civilization as we know it now will either collapse or transform. I vote for transformation; for the gradual changing of our ways of life until we get to a life positive form of civilization. This post-consumer world will also be a world without terror as we know it now. It will be a kinder place.

Become peace

Published in "Letters to the Editor", The Berkeley Daily Planet, Oct. 19, 2001.

Spiritual consciousness looks inward to the “self” for the causes of problems. It offers no solutions to social problems, but the radical root of a sound foundation for good religious and political action.

Religious consciousness works with inter-personal relationships as the causes and resolutions of problems. Religious consciousness without a strong link to the spirit easily takes over behaviors of groups – so that we have the “letter but not the spirit of the law.”

Political consciousness is “world” centered. Politics is just a step beyond religious consciousness. The same feelings that are religious interchange with religious patterns of behavior and thinking. Religious groups often try to take control of politics; or, politics tries to control religion. The founders of the American Constitution insisted on the separation of church and state for these reasons.

Some years ago, a friend of mine took me to task on my political activism, pointing out that “first we must change ourselves, before we can change the world.” Eventually, I understood his wisdom.

I admit it – I want a peaceful world, where people live in harmony. Not a very exciting vision. Peace is a precondition for happiness. To get there, I need to stay with the first step – which is to learn to be peaceful myself. Than learn to share that state with others around me.

In other words: be the peace that I want to see in the world.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

From the Summer of Love to Woodstock

My second year of college ended, while "the Summer of Love" in San Francisco in 1967 exploded on the streets and in the media. Images of young "flower children" walking with colorful clothes, long hair, smoking dope, dropping acid, and making peace signs. Youth grasped, for a moment, that the world was overly focused on things, technology, power, domination, consumerism -- at the expense of being human and loving. And, something had to be done about it.

The older generation viewed young people as merely engaging in "sex, drugs, rock'n'roll". This was not true. Youth were recovering the love and aliveness unseen in parents and the people around them. A generation looked back and saw the clich├ęs of love, but not love itself. A time of radical rediscovery of love's luster, innocence and "becoming as children again".

Dehumanizing technology power manifested in the images and reality of the Vietnam War. Helicopters, napalm bombs, and chemicals destroying jungles. Machines and gadgets against people. Vietnam made no sense, yet took 50,000 American lives. "We", the good guys, where killing people, animals, and plants in a foreign land. In quiet ways, we did it here -- at home. Human instinct, culture and technology were out of harmony. The Summer of Love was a true healthy human response to insanity.

Abbie Hoffman, put it thus: The lesson of the 60's is that peoplewho cared enough to do right could change history. We didn't end racism but we ended legal segregation. We ended the idea that you could send half-a-million soldiers around the world to fight a war that people do not support. We ended the idea that women are second-class citizens. We made the environment an issue that couldn't be avoided. The big battles that we won cannot be reversed. We were young, self-righteous, reckless, hypocritical, brave, silly, headstrong and scared half to death. And we were right. (

A longing for return to the Garden of Eden got expressed in the "back to the land" and ecology-recycling movements. Many went to "live on the land" in communes. Others formed cooperative houses and communes in all major cities. Most of these social experiments faded away. But, many remnants remain. It's significant that the Summer of Love was in San Francisco on the streets near the corner of Haight and Ashbury; while, two years later, the Woodstock music festival happens on a farm in the East Coast.

The Summer of Love opened a path leading to the cultural and technical integration of Woodstock. An event greater than a music concert. University of California at Berkeley, Professor Hubert Dreyfus writes:

Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and other rock groups became for many the articulators of a new understanding of what really mattered. This new understanding almost coalesced into a cultural paradigm in the Woodstock music festival of 1969, where people actually lived for a few days in an understanding of being in which mainline contemporary concerns with order, sobriety, willful activity, and flexible, efficient control were made marginal and subservient to certain pagan practices, such as enjoyment of nature, dancing, and Dionysian ecstasy, along with neglected Christian concerns with peace, tolerance, and nonexclusive love of one's neighbor. Technology was not smashed or denigrated; rather, all the power of electronic communications was put at the service of the music, which focused the above concerns. (from Dr. Dreyfus's paper titled "Heidegger on the connection between nihilism, art, technology, and politics".)

A vision that harmonizes instinct, culture and technology was articulated and practiced. Can we find a way back to it in the middle of ordinary 21st century life? 300 years from today, another young generation shall either bless or curse us for our response to this question.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Remember, remember!

The following verse, constitutes a Hindu prayer uttered at the moment of death and often said in funeral rites. It's a good prayer for living well.

Absolute and relative – he who knows these two together, through the relative leaves death behind and through the Absolute gains immortality.

The threshold of Reality is veiled by golden light.
Reveal It, O Lord, for the guiding purpose of my life is to know the truth.

O Lord of light, the knowing one, the golden guardian, giver of life to all, spread apart your rays, gather up your brilliance, so I may perceive your finest and most splendorous nature, the cosmic spirit that lies at your heart.

For I myself am that!

Let my breath merge with the cosmic breath; may my body be as dust.

Remember, O mind, remember what has been done.
Yes, remember, O mind, remember what has been done!

O Agni, show us the right path, lead us to eternal freedom, You who know everything.
May we not be diverted from our goal, for with all devotion we submit ourselves to You.

"Isha Upanishad"
Translated by Alistair Shearer and Peter Russell

Monday, May 21, 2007

Maranda and Steve - on the meaning of life

I interviewed a father (Steve) in his forties and his daughter (Maranda) who is 12 and a half. The audio includes both interviews. We can learn much from this father-daughter team.

LISTEN TO "Maranda & Steve on Meaning of Life" (4.18 mb; time 04:34)

Audio production by Lynette Webb.
Image from iVillage - Family Photo Gallery.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

"America" means "rich in love"

A friend of mine once sent me a postcard suggesting the real meaning of my name (actually spelled "Americo"). Having grown up as a Portuguese immigrant in Southern California, I had insecurity about my name. How could I live up to the country that my father named me after? My friend explained it this way:

Americo = Amo, ame (for "love") + rico (for "rich" as in Porto Rico, "rich port"). "Americo" means "rich in love". (In Italian it looks like "Amare ricco" and in Portuguese it's "Amor rico". Change the "o" to an "a" to go to the female form which "America" looks like.)

Perhaps, the real meaning of "America" is: the United State of "Rich in Love". These days, it doesn't look that way, unless making war instead of love is our way. My faith is that when this country gets past living in fear, it will rediscover its roots in love. There is much in a name.
Image from Riding Holidays.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Hubert Dreyfus on "What's the meaning of life?"

Hubert Dreyfus Interview: On the Meaning Of Life by americ

In March 2007, I paid a visit to Professor Hubert Dreyfus at his office in the University of California, Berkeley. He takes the question of meaning of life seriously. You will find his remarks provocative. Wikipedia reports that "Professor Hubert Dreyfus is a contemporary American philosopher. He is considered one the world's leading analysts of postmodern philosophy from Edmund Husserl to Michel Foucault, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and especially Martin Heidegger.."
Audio production by Lynette Webb.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Sacred Mirrors of Alex Gray

For a great web adventure into the mystical realm go to Alex Gray's website, then select "Paintings" (left panel), then select SACRED MIRRORS, and if you can, select LAUNCH FLASH NAVIGATOR. It's a wonderful visual journey.

This journey suggested to me by Fred Brown, Universal Yoga.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Cultivating Spiritual Wellness

On March 10th, 2007, I delivered a talk/dialogue "Cultivating Spiritual Wellness" at Elephant Pharm, Berkeley, California.

LISTEN TO "Part 1, Cultivating Spiritual Wellness" (6.10 mb; time 26:39)

Audio production by Lynette Webb.Image from University of Minnesota Department of Recreational Sports.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Still point of the turning world

In March 2007, I delivered the following lecture in my "Time, Money and Love in the Age of Technology" seminar at University of California, Berkeley. It is a commentary inspired by T. S. Elliot's poetry.

LISTEN TO "Still point of the turning world" (5.50 mb; time 24:02)

Saturday, March 03, 2007

What's the meaning of life? (Part 1)

I was having coffee with my friend Glenn at Peet's on Lakeshore in Oakland. A Catholic priest in a long black coat walked in. Glenn said, "maybe we can ask him what the meaning of life is?" I thought about that for a while; and, realized it would be fun to go around and ask friends , co-workers and others for their thoughts on the meaning of life.

Here's the first segment of answers to the question "What is the meaning of life?" Respondents range in ages from 11 to over 70 years. Voices, in order of interview, are Jacob Jr., Glenn, Daniel, and Becky. I'll let you figure out from the sound of their voices how old they are. Enjoy.

LISTEN TO "Meaning of Life - Part 1" (784 kb; time 03:19)

Audio production by Lynette Webb.
Image from Eric Weisstein's Home Page.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Living the truth

"Jesus was going to speak at the Bank of America World Headquarters."
--Black Velvet Dreambook

After years of working in a large organization, a conflict broke out between my inner self and life with my corporate career. I got good money as a database computer trainer in the corporate headquarters. I was unhappy with life in my "organization." I wanted my organization be an organism -- alive and interconnected. My daily experience, however, was more like the "night of the living dead."
On the bus to work I read a passage from Krishnamurti, "Live the truth." That phrase exploded in my mind. I must say "No!" to those aspects of life that are false or do not work. That same day I got up before my trainees and felt a pit growing in my stomach that gradually moved up to my mouth. After writing a sentence on the blackboard, I turned around and said, "I can no longer do this work. We are not real with each other in this company. We ignore each other. There is no love in this place. I quit." As I walked out, half the class looked stunned while the other half applauded.
Back at my desk, I felt a powerful stillness. I saw everything in a new light. The desk, the walls -- everything present was suddenly there. An emotional and spiritual fog had lifted. Gradually, people came by and wished me well. Some felt that I had contacted a deep need in themselves.
Socrates showed us that thinking the truth is not enough. Truth demands to be lived. He was tried and condemned to death by his community for his fearless inquiry into the truth. The decaying democratic society of his time would not hear the questions he had to ask. Partisanship won the day. His friends arranged to bribe the jailer -- Socrates could have walked out. But he argued that to do so at that moment would undermine the very principles for which he had lived.
Our living philosophy is in how we live life. The philosophy that we claim should pull us toward a new way of life. Too many words make talk cheap and eventually crowd out silent lived wisdom. Philosophy becomes hypocrisy when its labors are an avoidance of life's duties or a flaunting of mental ability. Wisdom comes from a humble acceptance of reality. The truth of our lives is stated in how we are rather than by what we say.
Truthful living begins with an enlightened view of life, immediately followed by enlightened action. For example, cultivation of the ability to see one's self in others. Skin, bones, temperament and social status do differ. Tolerance, patience, honesty, respect, and love allow us to recognize our "basic self" in everyone -- this leads to empathy and compassion. We become naturally concerned with fairness in our sexual, family, social, and cultural arrangements.
Just before leaving my corporate job, I would often sit on the 38th floor of my Market Street office building in San Francisco. I would look down from my sealed window. One day I realized that if that window could open, I would have been tempted to jump. I was having a crisis of meaning. My work paid the family bills, but did not tie into some greater sense of meaning other than economic security.
In my spare time, I attempted to create meaningful projects for myself and my friends. A serious conflict developed between the time and energy consumed by the company and my other more meaningful life. My best friend suggested the importance of "abandoning doing for being". This meant that to cultivate stillness and let action spring from the well of stillness rather than being driven from one blind activity to another.
In the months and years following my corporate resignation, I searched for my "basic self." I spent increasing amounts of time in the backyard with my friends contemplating being, truth, God, and the study of Martin Heidegger's Being and Time . I began to understand the power of stillness within myself.
One night I dreamed about a large audience gathered in the Auditorium at the World Headquarters of the Bank of America in San Francisco. The speaker was Jesus. He was dressed in pinstripe suit and was clean cut. The financial world was gathered to hear him talk.
The years have unfolded around that dream. I have imagined what Jesus might have said to that crowd. He spoke from the fullness of lived experience. Jesus put on a suit and tie to get a hearing. The message went beyond the appearances of clothes and social status. A finance of compassion would proceed from the spirituality of compassion. A strong ethic of sharing across all boundaries.
What does it mean to live the truth? If it is a mere matter of acquiring more knowledge, the place to find the most truthful living people would be behind the walls of universities. If it's being fearless, the ranks of the military infantry would be the best place to find the truthful. If a contemplative life is equated with living the truth, then monks would probably rank higher than the rest of us.
Corporations have shaped our world. Can we humanize ourselves to the point of humanizing our institutions -- rather than having ourselves institutionalized? Living the truth is almost impossible in this life. We are paid to lie to ourselves by "dressing for success" and pumping ourselves up with positive thinking sales lectures.
T. S. Elliot used the phrase "the timekept timekeepers." The exacting control of time can destroy a person's authentic sense of self-existence. There is a deep conflict between family time and working time. To advance in the corporate or institutional ladder, the price is our time, our life. Time is now controlled by institutional rather than organic life circumstances. Family life has become monetized. We pay baby-sitters and nursery schools for the job of fathering and mothering. We give our money over to junk food instead of cooking. "Time is money." The time of mothers and fathers is sold in the market place.
We manifest obsessive acquisitive behavior similar to mad gamblers mesmerized by slot machines. The more we attempt to acquire, the higher the costs of living. Consider what would happen if we dropped this acquisitive madness: The heart of humanity would become more concerned with quality, rather than quantity. Objects would be made and exchanged with a sense of the value of life all around. We would need fewer luxuries, since our contact with life itself would be more fulfilling. Saints and yogis need little, not because of self-denial, but because of a greater satisfaction level due to few trivial desires. Want less, and the economics of consumption would fail. GNP would drop. People would indeed produce less, but would feel more productive. Life would slow down. More attention would be paid to the direct production of food and shelter. People concerned with cornering markets with the intent of raising the prices would be considered antisocial rather than honored members of society. There would again be time for the great pleasures of conviviality, reading, music, and family growth.
The self is like a seed that grows in response to its environment. Maple seeds produce maple trees. Whether a tree is healthy or ill depends upon how the genetic material in that seed responds to its soil and climate. In the corporate world, I lost myself in a maze of daily entanglements. As I became still, I returned to the financial district after a seven year absence. Being in the world need not mean being lost in the world.
My resignation was needed so I could remove myself from the center of action -- out toward a quiet zone to recreate myself. One of my teachers suggested that in this life we are "either businessmen or employees." It may be possible, however, to find a way of life in terms of doing work as love and service.
Organizations can be organisms. They can and often do provide a sense of community. One of the keys is development of basic human trust rather than relying on the application of managerial control. This is true of families, institutions, and entire societies. Speaking the truth is easier when we trust each other. We are mirrors of one another. But when trust fails, we demand control. Our conversation becomes corrupted by a passion for mastery over each other through intellectual and physical display of power.
Trust grows from seeing our common basic needs for love, food, shelter, wisdom, enlightenment, joy, and freedom. We are often afraid to drop pretenses. Miracles occur when trust happens between people. The walls of our false personalities start to come down -- we begin to work together. Due to lack of trust, people often need drugs in social gatherings to help drop their personas. We have built psychological wall against psychological wall, showing to each other somewhat dull and gray faces. As the years pass, the laughter of childhood gets pushed down until it is gone.
There is something very impersonal about life -- at any moment our lives may be ended by forces completely beyond our control. But we can add a great deal of dignity to our fate by admitting and facing reality with a good heart and clear mind. We become stewards of the small acre of creation that is our very own individual life. As we respond, we are responsible and whole human beings. This is living the truth.
"Living the Truth". First published as an article in Footsteps. October 1992.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The art of coffee drinking

The art of coffee drinking is, along with tea drinking, one of the crowns of "the art of living." It can be practiced everyday, under different conditions.

I've gone to coffee houses for being alone -- especially to get away from the people at home, so I can write, think, speculate, ruminate, or do business. Then again, I go to coffee houses to be with people in a light way.

One of my very best friends told me that we need only plan having a cup of coffee each day! The rest takes care of itself. For us, this became a spiritual practice much like the Japanese tea ceremony. Of course, many things may happen in one day. But the art of coffee drinking is in the ease, the gentleness of the act. The simplicity of the situation. Life is good when kept down, for a moment, to a single point.

Sometimes, we would go to a place, like The Coffee Mill in Oakland, and talk about books whether, Martin Hiedegger's Being and Time or A Course in Miracles, and take periodic "mind breaks" that we called "twelve seconds." These mind breaks consisted in looking at a spot on the wall or remembering just one word for twelve or more seconds, until the mind experienced a moment of pure stillness.

That is the essence of the art of coffee drinking: to bring the mind to an active stillness. To be relaxed, yet wide awake. We naturally get this state when we drink good coffee in a good coffee house or in our favorite spot at home. Most of my best writing happens in coffee houses such as The Coffee Mill in Oakland or The Cafe Mediterranean on Berkeley's Telegraph Avenue. For me, going to the same places over and over again has a way of stimulating the writing process. But I write just a little bit each time. I don't write continuously, for that would turn the coffee house into an office, a place of work.

The power of simplicity can be seen in almost all aspects of life. The judo master flips the opponent with a thought. Remember when Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev shook hands in front of a fireplace -- and the world felt like it was moving closer to peace between the superpowers.

Going to a coffee house and drinking that cup has become like a church mass for some of us. It is part of the ultimate order of life itself. A sign that things are working well enough for at least a few moments.

When the mind is alert and at ease, miracles begin to happen. Clear conversation between people becomes possible. If you go to the same coffee house regularly and often, you begin to know an extended community of fellow lovers of life. The alienation of modern human existence is reduced.

A cup of gourmet coffee is a joy to the palate, just like fine wine. The flavor is rich, but not bitter. The acidity is low and not a disturbance to the stomach. Coffee should be taken in moderation -- it is a drug not a food. Treat it with respect. Two strong cups a day can be more than enough. Better yet, only one cup. We should get high on life itself -- not caffeine, alcohol, or whatever.

We get the most from coffee when we practice the high art of coffee drinking. Drink it slowly. Don't gulp it down. Do not ruin the experience with "to go" coffee. Sit down. Look out upon the passing world and the people all around. Know that there is time.

My cup is now empty. My writing pad is filled with these notes. Time to go to the word processor.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Timekept timekeepers

I journeyed to London, to the timekept City

      --from "The Rock"
      T. S. Eliot
Shortly after graduating from college, I developed the habit of being late for work. Even during college I was often late for classes. I would constantly look at my watch and race against it to be "on time." I once read a novel where the main character got so frustrated with time that he tore out the hands of a clock. But the clock kept ticking anyway!
One day my wrist watch fell into the toilet. It was waterproof, but not toilet proof.! I lived without a wristwatch. Soon I discovered that I did not need a wristwatch. Clocks are everywhere. Banks have signs flashing the current temperature and time. A clock is located on the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge. The radio announcer tells the time on the hour. There are clocks in supermarkets, offices, and classrooms. The majority of people wear wristwatches. Cell phones, PDA, microwave ovens, computer screens, and even ball point pens have internal clocks.
In the mid-Twentieth Century the concept of "flex-time" at work was revolutionary. You came into work before 8 A.M. and started at exactly 8 A.M. Just like the days in school. You could almost hear the bells ringing in your head.
I averaged five to fifteen minutes late. This was a source of constant strain between me and my supervisors. At first I thought that this was only my problem. But later I found that all of my co-workers struggled with time. My supervisor worried about looking too slack regarding this time issue. Top management knows that "time is money". Time wasted is money lost.
Many cat and mouse games were played over being on time at my workplace. We claimed that our work (much of it mental problem solving) happened on "off hours". Were we compensated for solutions to problems while we took our showers in the morning? No. Mind work does not really stop and start at the time range of 8 to 5. But as management pressed harder for our being there exactly at 8 A.M., one of our best people started reading his newspaper. He would not start doing his real work until about 8:10 A.M. It was a quiet of protest.
I stopped being late after my wristwatch drowned in the toilet's yellow waters. I discovered that I did not have to race the clock as I adjusted down my expectations of what could be done in ten or fifteen minutes. I began to realize exactly what I could do between two events, I felt like I had more time. I used to look at the spare 10 minutes in my watch, and fill up that time with something rather than going to my appointment -- naturally, I could not do all those things. I am a human being not a computer slicing nanoseconds.
In the 1920's a French critic of modern civilization argued that toward the very "end", things would speed up. We would have more and more choices, more things to acquire, and more things to do. This, he wrote, would be the human condition just before the collapse of Modern Civilization -- a civilization based on an almost exclusive devotion to the demons of money and time.
Our current lack of time is a symptom of cultural bankruptcy. We have more options than a human being can manage. We are supposed to be parents, good workers, sexy mates, and personally well developed in every way. There is just not enough time.
There is clock time and natural time -- these two kinds of time may or may not match. It's possible to be "on time" by the clock, yet early or late by natural time. We can never be "on time" by racing against the clock -- the clock will always win, if not by the numbers, by wearing us down and making us die young of high blood pressure.
When we are on natural time, we are always "on time". We are not either waiting or rushing. We are always in the right place at the right time. Doctors used to advise that newborn babies be fed at regular intervals such as 9 a.m., 12 noon, 3 p.m., etc. This was one of the first ways of taking away natural time from our lives.
The art of living is that of harmonizing clock time with natural time. Clock time holds the modern world together. So we need to adjust our clocks to fit human needs, not human needs to fit the clock. Airlines need to run on schedule. But human beings should just "show up" and move on as they will. I rarely look at bus schedules, I just show up and wait. If there are enough buses coming up, I don't worry about when the next bus comes. If I plan my days properly, I move through my appointments with time to spare.
Thumbnail image from Corbis.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Why religions sometimes fail to love

My oldest grandson asked, "Grandpa, what is your religion?" Thinking deeply, deciding to be honest, I said, "My religion is love; which is what great religions teach -- love." Then he said, "So which one is your religion?". Out of my mouth (and heart) came, "All of them, if they are about love." I also wanted to say that the great sages are humbled by the encounter with the mystery, the truth of that which cannot be spoken, of that union with the spirit known directly, while indescribable. That was too much to say; it says nothing anyway!

Grandson wanted me to pick one religion, just like buying a car or computer. As if a religion is a consumer item. But, it is not my way. For thirty years, I studied, digested, and internalized many religions; finding all leading to the same place inside myself. That is my particular spiritual non-religious perspective on religion.

Spirituality is very inner, very personal -- but as we share our spiritual lives we build common languages with terms, texts, rituals, and symbols which become religions. Religions naturally happen everywhere; they are spiritual support groups. Religion is totally useful, totally important. We especially need it for the great events of life: birth, puberty, marriage, and death.

Problems begin when different religions each make claim to the exclusive franchise on truth and true worship. Then there is exclusion; and, suddenly a religion turns from love to judgement. Suddenly, it's either "us" or "them". Suddenly, there is reason to judge and fight. The love, compassion, and understanding at the root of the spiritual founder's encounter with the divine is forgotten.

The seeds of great religions are the personal, yet cosmic-devine, insights of great souls such Christ, Buddha, Krishna, Lao Tze, or Mohamed. These insights are life changing. Someone asks, "Master, what did you learn? How did you become like this?" Teachings are passed by words and deeds which are recorded in many ways. A body of religious dogma forms to carry the teachings, but also corrupts the spirit of the teachings by freezing them.

Then, we become inauthentic by wanting to "look good" in the sight of others. Within a group of believers with a common language, there arises an inner experience created by the spell of the language. That freezes perspectives at a certain historical time and culture -- new historical changes in values and conditions are disallowed. Thus, we lose the "spirit of the law". The "letter" or "letters" of the law become more important than love.

Again, the basic spiritual truth is love -- loving our friends, children, neighbors, co-workers and more. Christ, Buddha, Lao Tze, and Mohamed are among the spiritual geniuses who knew the truth of love. Religion takes these fundamental human relationships to promote love in the wider community or society. This is how such teachings get embodied in a wider society.

When religion fails at love, it is worse than no religion at all. We have a form of "good" gang warfare in place that kills for reasons of love, and falls victim to the whims of madman and power grabbers. In each case, the "evil" ones are the others outside of our religion: the pagans, the heathens, the infidels, and skeptics. What did someone once say, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions?"

Monday, January 01, 2007

Root of the Golden Rules

All the world's major religions include some statement of what is called The Golden Rule in their primary ethical consideration. To do to others what we would have others do to us. Let’s go deeper and ask: “From where does the golden rule come?” I claim that it comes from a common root experience had all over the world in all ages. This is the experience of cosmic consciousness, which occurs in many different ways and circumstances.

LISTEN TO "Root of the Golden Rules" (duration 0:03:26; 1.57 MB; 64 kbps)