No difference

Most mornings I walk three or four miles.  As I walk I like to listen to podcasts or books on tape (or whatever they are now called). This morning it was episode 257 of the Kunstler Cast, an interview with Piero SanGiorgio, author of Survive the Coming Economic Collapse, a practical guide.  Fascinating stuff, especially in light of the different approaches Americans take (lone wolf survival, a la Jeremiah Johnson) vs. European approaches, which do not involve turning your back on society and manning big guns.  The great thing about being alive today is the ability we have to go further, track down books we hear about, and even download first chapters on Kindle to read.  That’s what I did.  And .. even though I will probably not read the book in its entirety, I read enough to be inspired.  I love the quotes which open each chapter.  Here’s one from Einstein: “Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment.  Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.”  And also this:

“To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the necessity of reflection.”

― Jules H. Poincare

Yes.  Yes .. it works on so many levels, from the unthinking, uncritical fundamentalist, to the whack jobs who populate the far right – the birthers, the truthers, the deniers and the assholes who throw sand in the face of truth, for whatever benighted or greedy reasons.  What, I ask you, can you do with people who refuse to believe in climate change, despite overwhelming evidence, but who are more than ready to believe that ISIS is at the Mexican border, spreading Ebola.  For the former there is evidence – ample, sound, mainstream evidence.  For the latter there is none – just naked, ignorant fear.  Imminent “threats” trump long term problems. Cranks and crackpots get listened to, while mainstream expertise is ‘elitist” .. or whatever.  Fear does this, fear and denial.

To doubt everything is no different to believing everything – it all amounts to the same lack of thinking.  And my oh my, that makes life convenient, doesn’t it?


Endless thinking ..

I picked this up from “The Mountain Path”, July 2006, and it’s a breath of fresh air on this cold February morning:

The problem, however, lies in the teaching that it is through thinking and through study of the scriptures (shastras) that we will gain enlightenment. Endless scriptural study is a serious error because it strengthens the habit of thinking. Such study is founded on a fundamental error, different from an error in mathematics, or physics, because it assumes that (a) one has a ‘self’ and is an individual person; and that (b) one needs something external to oneself to help one to get rid of this ‘truly existing’ selfhood. The moment you depend on the thinking mind to guide you, you implicitly assume that your Reality is not here and now, and that to discover our Reality will take time. All this is mental delusion. How can you get at Reality by seeking it in the future, when it is already here right now?

The more you study and the more you reflect on concepts in order to gain enlightenment, the more you indirectly assert that you are not Reality. In thinking like this, you are falsely conditioning your mind, reinforcing your ignorance. Because, as long as the thinking mind is in full swing, Advaita is out of question. To realize Non-Duality through thinking is an impossibility.



Astute Comment

“If he could just say that he has found ways to accomplish things through God, without telling us exactly how many ways there are, it could be a great book.”

Above quote from fellow LibraryThing contributor and list-hater, AnnaScott, reviewing Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life. Read more here, including this equally astute comment about the overall merit of the book in general:

“There are good bits of information in this book. Just not enough for me to reccomend it to anyone.”

That just about sums up quite a few books I have read recently.

Not alone

Turns out a guy named Mark Slouka, over at Harper’s, has harped my very fears aright, with a great essay on the theme of our collective national stupidity, and its effect on how we got into this mess.  Here’s a brief snippet, but it deserves a full read:

I was raised to be ashamed of my ignorance, and to try to do something about it if at all possible. I carry that burden to this day, and have successfully passed it on to my children. I don’t believe I have the right to an opinion about something I know nothing about—constitutional law, for example, or sailing—a notion that puts me sadly out of step with a growing majority of my countrymen, many of whom may be unable to tell you anything at all about Islam, say, or socialism, or climate change, except that they hate it, are against it, don’t believe in it. Worse still (or more amusing, depending on the day) are those who can tell you, and then offer up a stew of New Age blather, right-wing rant, and bloggers’ speculation that’s so divorced from actual, demonstrable fact, that’s so not true, as the kids would say, that the mind goes numb with wonder. “Way I see it is,” a man in the Tulsa Motel 6 swimming pool told me last summer, “if English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for us.”

Quite possibly, this belief in our own opinion, regardless of the facts, may be what separates us from the nations of the world, what makes us unique in God’s eyes. The average German or Czech, though possibly no less ignorant than his American counterpart, will probably consider the possibility that someone who has spent his life studying something may have an opinion worth considering. Not the American. Although perfectly willing to recognize expertise in basketball, for example, or refrigerator repair, when it comes to the realm of ideas, all folks (and their opinions) are suddenly equal. Thus evolution is a damned lie, global warming a liberal hoax, and Republicans care about people like you.

In other words, emerging from the collective national nightmare which was the Bush years is going to require that we give up our love affair with willful stupidity, and start actually becoming knowledgeable about the stuff we say we care about.  And this includes not using religion (“Faith”) as a trump card:

But there’s more. Not only do we believe that opinion (our own) trumps expertise; we then go further and demand that expertise assume the position—demand, that is, that those with actual knowledge supplicate themselves to the Believers, who don’t need to know. The logic here, if that’s the term, seems to rest on the a priori conviction that belief and knowledge are separate and unequal. Belief is higher, nobler; it comes from the heart; it feels like truth. There’s a kind of Biblical grandeur to it, and as God’s chosen, we have an inherent right to it. Knowledge, on the other hand, is impersonal, easily manipulated, inherently suspect. Like the facts it’s based on, it’s slippery, insubstantial—not solid like the things you believe.

Hear, hear. I wish I had written that!

More zealotry, please.

I Pity the Fool!

I Pity the Fool!

Here’s a promotional blurb from a new book, by R.L. Park, entitled Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science:

“He examines recent controversies and concludes that science is the only way we have of understanding the world….Science is the only way of knowing–everything else is just religion.” [italics mine]

Just religion?  Just?  Wonderful.  That’s what we need: more reductionist thought.  More all-or-nothing thinking.  More zealotry