Saturday, September 23, 2006


Everything has come undone.

Blogging will be sparse or nonexistent for the foreseeable future.

Last Week's Best Late-Night Humor

Here are the best jokes I missed because I was sleeping.

The Week's Best Late-Night Jokes

"In his speech, Bush said the United Nations is in danger of losing its credibility. And believe me, when it comes to international affairs, President Bush is an expert on losing credibility." --Jay Leno

"The president of Venezuela called President Bush the devil. His name is Hugo Chavez, or as Bush calls him, 'The fourth Dixie Chick.'" --Jay Leno

"Laura Bush is spending the weekend with Bill Clinton. She is the keynote speaker at the three-day Clinton Global Initiative. President Bush says he's OK with this, but we'll see how he feels when she comes back with her skirt on backwards and without that frozen smile." --Bill Maher

"Last week at Germany's University of Regensburg, which as you know is a safety school, Pope Benedict gave an address in which he discussed Islam's concept of jihad by quoting 14th century Byzantine emperor Manuel Paleologos II. You know if you're going to make a wholesale generalization, say it in German. It gives it that extra 'oomph.'" --Jon Stewart

"According to the latest poll, Bush's approval rating has rebounded to 44% -- the highest level in a year. The White House says it's thrilled that Bush has gone from an overwhelming dislike to a general dislike." --Conan O'Brien

"Oil has fallen to $60 a barrel. Experts predict it will continue to fall until exactly one minute after the polls close on November 7th." --Jay Leno

"You folks have any trouble with traffic today? It's because of the big opening of the U.N. General Assembly. You know who's here? The president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He's the president who can actually pronounce 'nuclear.'" --David Letterman

"It's hard to say you're sorry, especially when you're infallible. But by last weekend, Benedict offered these words of apology. He's sorry that people felt bad. That's known in Vatican terminology as a 'me-a-kinda.' It's a time-honored tradition in the Catholic Church dating back to the Inquisition when Pope Innocent IV said, 'We deeply regret the fact that so many non-believers happen to be flammable.'" --Jon Stewart

"In the West Bank a group calling itself the Lions of Monotheism fire bombed four churches, telling the Associated Press the attacks were carried out to protest the Pope's remarks linking Islam and violence. The irony of the statement, and this is often the case we find, was lost on them." --Jon Stewart

"It's rumored in Washington that Condoleezza Rice has a new boyfriend. Allegedly, he's Canada's Foreign Minister, Peter MacKay. Since he's a diplomat and he visits her at the White House, he has to have a Secret Service code name. Do you know what his Secret Service code name is? 'Captain Kirk.' You know why they call him that? Because he's going where no man has gone before." --Jay Leno

"General Colin Powell shocked a lot of people in Washington by speaking out against President Bush's policies, saying that the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. That's what I think he said -- it was hard to hear him because he was being hustled out of the room to his cell in Guantanamo Bay." --Jay Leno

"There've been huge protests in the Muslim world over anti-Muslim comments made by the new Pope, Pope Benedict. Today the Pope apologized, saying he never should have gone drinking with Mel Gibson." --Jay Leno

"This week, President Bush said he has no plans to invade North Korea. Bush said, 'This time, Rumsfeld and I are going to wing it.'" --Conan O'Brien

"Picture your family dead. Just for a second. Are you picturing it? Now go vote." --Jon Stewart, summarizing President Bush's interview with NBC's Matt Lauer

"Robert Novak does not watch The Daily Show or myself. Not surprising, I keep reading all these articles about how The Daily Show is big amongst the 125-year-old vampire demons." --Jon Stewart (Read Stewart's full rant against Novak)

Poem: William Butler Yeats

Sailing To Byzantium


That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.


An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.


O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.


Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

Parable: The Tamarind Tree

I found this nice teaching story at Once Upon a Time.

The Tamarind Tree

One bright and cool summer day the Buddha took a walk along the forest path, simply enjoying the beauty of the earth. At a cross road, he saw a man in grief praying earnestly.

The man recognized the Buddha and fell on his knees. He cried, "Lord Buddha, life is indeed bitter and painful! I was once a man with great wealth, living a life of ease and happiness. By trikery and deceit, those I trusted and loved took everything from me. I am now a wretched man with noone to turn to. How many more times must I be reborn into this world of suffering before I can be librated?"

Pointing to the mango tree by the road, the Buddha said, "Do you see that mango tree? You must be reborn as many times as the number of mangoes on that tree before you know the bliss of liberation from the sufferings of this fleeting world."

Seeing that there are at least dozens of mangoes hanging on the tree, the man gasped, "But Lord! I have lived a righteous life in accord with the precepts! Why am I condemned to suffer so much longer?"

The Buddha sighed. "That is the way it must be." And he continued his walk.

He came across another man praying by the road and this man too, fell on his knees and cried, "Lord Buddha, life is indeed bitter and painful. I have lost all those I loved to the king of death. I am now forlorn and lonely. Life is full of anguish. How many more times must I be reborn into this world of suffering before I know the bliss of liberation?"

The Buddha pointed to the field of wild flowers along the road and said, "Before you know the bliss of liberation from the sufferings of this fleeting world, you must be reborn as many times as the number of flowers in that field."

Seeing so many hundreds of flowers in the field, the man cried, "But Lord! I have done many good deeds and have followed you teachings by heart. Why must I endure so much more suffering?"

The Buddha sighed, "That is how it must be." And he continued on his way.

When he came across a tamarind tree, another man fell down on his knees and cried before him, "Oh Lord! Life is full of suffering! During the days I toiled like a slave under the scathing sun; at night I have nothing to sleep on except a pile of grass on the cold, damped earth. Life is nothing but hunger, thirst and loneliness! How many more times must I be reborn into this world of suffering before I know the bliss of liberation?"

The Buddha looked up to the tamarind tree--each branch of it bearing many stems and each stem has dozens of leaves. The Buddha said, "Look at that tamarind tree. Before you know the bliss of liberation from the sufferings of this fleeting world, you must be reborn as many times as the number of leaves on that tamarind tree."

As the man looked up at the tamarind tree and its thousands of leaves, his eyes filled with tears of gratitude and joy. "How merciful!" he said as he prostrated to the ground at the Buddha's feet.

To this day the tamarind's seeds are the symbol of faithfulness and forbearance.

Human Drama: My Skin

One of my favorite bands from my emo era.

Friday, September 22, 2006

New Work at Elegant Thorn

I'm pleased to announce additions to Elegant Thorn Review.

~Two Photos: John Craig

~ Birth of a Poet: Third Meditation

As always, I am seeking quality poetry, photography, and flash fiction with a spiritual "feel" to it. You can find the guidelines here.

Poem: Wislawa Szymborska

By request from a friend at Zaadz:

On Death, without Exaggeration

It can't take a joke,
find a star, make a bridge.
It knows nothing about weaving, mining, farming,
building ships, or baking cakes.

In our planning for tomorrow,
it has the final word,
which is always beside the point.

It can't even get the things done
that are part of its trade:
dig a grave,
make a coffin,
clean up after itself.

Preoccupied with killing,
it does the job awkwardly,
without system or skill.
As though each of us were its first kill.

Oh, it has its triumphs,
but look at its countless defeats,
missed blows,
and repeat attempts!

Sometimes it isn't strong enough
to swat a fly from the air.
Many are the caterpillars
that have outcrawled it.

All those bulbs, pods,
tentacles, fins, tracheae,
nuptial plumage, and winter fur
show that it has fallen behind
with its halfhearted work.

Ill will won't help
and even our lending a hand with wars and coups d'etat
is so far not enough.

Hearts beat inside eggs.
Babies' skeletons grow.
Seeds, hard at work, sprout their first tiny pair of leaves
and sometimes even tall trees fall away.

Whoever claims that it's omnipotent
is himself living proof
that it's not.

There's no life
that couldn't be immortal
if only for a moment.

always arrives by that very moment too late.

In vain it tugs at the knob
of the invisible door.
As far as you've come
can't be undone.

~ By Wislawa Szymborska
From "The People on the Bridge", 1986
Translated by S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh

Speedlinking 9/22/06

Morning image is from National Geographic, a photo of Trinidad, Cuba (1999) by David Alan Harvey.

Good morning and happy Friday.

~ National Geographic reports that Saturn has a new ring, which I take to mean one that hasn't been identified before rather than a new ring that has popped up in the last year or so.

~ The Environmental News Network is reporting that Richard Branson will donate $3 billion, yes billion, to combat global warming over the next 10 years, or all of the profits from his airline and rail businesses. That's pretty damn cool.

~ Deepak Chopra posts about The Body's Wisdom on his Intent blog. It's all good as far as I can tell, except for the vegetarian suggestion, which is number one on his list. Anyone looking for optimal health should avoid vegetarianism if at all possible. For those who refuse to eat meat on moral grounds, well, that's a whole other argument.

~ You can listen to a lecture by the Ven. Geshe Ngawang Dakpa on Mind Training: Eight Verses on Thought Transformation. Here's a description:
To explore the challenges in our daily life, Ven. Geshe Ngawang Dakpa gives commentary on the classical text, Eight Verses of Thought Transformation. This mind training (lojong) text goes back over 800 years following the introduction of the Kadampa School by Atisha when Geshe Langri Tangpa set down these extremely profound teachings in brief form. Sharing his profound joy and wisdom, Geshe Dakpa offers us insight into the development of loving kindness, compassion, caring and commitment. Geshe Dakpa offers practical advice on how to stimulate inner reflection, deepen our wisdom and compassion, understand the true nature of our minds and ultimately achieve a greater degree of inner peace.
~ Stuart Davis gets in touch with his inner Vajra Sword while on tour in Europe. This is an example of Big Mind process in action, or more correctly, Voice Dialogue, as designed by Hal and Sidra Stone (credit where credit is due).

~ Will at Think Buddha is looking at whether there is an authentic self to be found beneath all the learned and conditioned responses that comprise our sense of self. It's a good article, so I won't tell you what he concludes.

~ Joe Perez at Until argues against the Great Books proposals. He bases his objections in some quotes by Alasdair MacIntyre, a neo-Thomist philosophy professor at the University of Notre Dame. But Joe isn't done there, he later posts a rebuttal to Matthew Dallman's recent article at The Woodshed on "The Humanities as the Integral Tradition."

~ Nick at The Lotus & the Magnolia notes in University of Buffalo -- Student Opinion that some students weren't thrilled with a visit by the Dalai Lama.

~ P2P Foundation posts on an effort to make a peer-to-peer movie.

Okay then, on to some less fun news:

~ Robert Kennedy is in Rolling Stone again, with a much needed warning about electronic voting machines and the possibility (I'd say probability) of another stolen election.

~ On a similar topic, The Nation has a piece on the lack of a Constitutionally guaranteed right to vote, and the lack of a nationally standardized voting criteria. This allows local folks to run elections however they want, often with serious flaws in the system.

~ The Financial Times of London reported that the reason most of the "secret" CIA prisons were closed is because the CIA was refusing to use the interrogation tactics the Bush administration wanted in fear of being prosecuted for violating Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions. Brings into perspective the president's insistence on legalixzed torture and exemption of agents from war crime charges.

~ Meanwhile, Bill Clinton weighed in on the torture law and finds it problematic.

~ David Ignatius at the WaPo argues that the Bush administration didn't make an effort to protect the CIA until it was too late. It took three years to get a DOJ report on the legality of the techniques they were being asked to use, and by then everything was becoming public knowledge.

~ Also from the WaPo, Dan Froomkin looks at Bush's disconnect from reality in Iraq, and Michael Kinsley looks at Bush's reverse narrative on Iraq, starting with "Mission Accomplished" in 2003 to the "it will be long, tough war" approach we hear now.

And that's a wrap.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


You Have Fantastic Karma

You are a kind, sensitive, and giving person.
And all your good deeds will pay off - if they haven't already.
But you're not so concerned with what you get in return anyway.
You have an innate caring nature - and nothing can change that!

SDi at the Clinton Global Initiative

This messaage from Don Beck appeared in this morning's list serve:
This afternoon, I think around 3 PM New York Time, Mark Drewell, an executive with Barlowworld from Johannesburg, is making a presentation at the Clinton Global Initiative/2006 Annual meeting. His topic is within the Bridging Differences in Embattled Societies stream. You might be able to listen to him live on the Internet. Mark was a friend and colleague in South Africa during the transformational process, and played a major role in Middelburg (with Middelburg Steel & Alloys) in dealing with a major conflict in the town involving the conservative Town Council and "radical" Comrades from the township. This was a signal event in the history of South Africa since it was probably the very first such "forum" that brought elements together across the apartheid divide. Several people had been killed in the township. Tension was high. There were threats of a general boycott in the town. There were rumours that the army would be called out. But something quite unique and unexpected happened.

I had worked with MS&A for several years, saturating the entire company with an understanding of value systems. The executive team was trained in the use of Value Engineering/Value Management processes. When the crisis hit, the young lads responded in a courageous, visionary, and caring fashion to move into the conflict, defuse it, establish a tradition of joint problem solving, and transformed the entire community out of a danger zone and into one of the first "integral" experiences. I did a full day workshop bringing together the "radical" Comrades and the South African Police in the same session at the same time. And that was unheard of during the heyday of apartheid. Conditions came together for an extraordinary success, even to the point that Desmond Tutu came by just to sit in on one of the sessions, and starting crying, saying: "I never in my life believed this sort of thing would happen in South Africa."

Nelson Mandela and other national leaders deserve all of the credit they have received for the transformation, but the real work was done at the coal face with people like Mark Drewell. And, the business sector was instrumental in the shifts yet, alas, has not received the acclaim they earned. I'm so pleased Mark received the invitation to speak at such an event and there many other South Africans who have a lot to say. One of our purposes will be to bring them into the present context around cultural integration and confluence since we appear to lack an understanding of models and processes that actually work. Those same Comrades, an one was named Doctor Selala because he had "stitched" several people ie cut their throats. He and his Comrade mates were also transformed by people like Mark and the steel company into a profit center where the company used the excess chrome from the production lines to make Pots for Africa...owned by the Comrades who became salesmen up into Africa, but supported by MS&A. The talk was translated into a positive walk.

Sogyal Rinpoche on Tonglen

I blogged yesterday on tonglen, at least in part, and so today's Rigpa Glimpse of the Day is on tonglen. Fittingly. Wisdom comes when you need it.

The holy secret of the practice of Tonglen is one that the mystic masters and saints of every tradition know; and living it and embodying it, with the abandon and fervor of true wisdom and true compassion, is what fills their lives with joy. One modern figure who has dedicated her life to serving the sick and dying and who radiates this joy of giving and receiving is Mother Teresa. I know of no more inspiring statement of the spiritual essence of Tonglen than these words of hers:

We all long for heaven where God is, but we have it in our power to be in heaven with Him at this very moment. But being happy with Him now means:

Loving as He loves,
Helping as He helps,
Giving as He gives,
Serving as He serves,
Rescuing as He rescues,
Being with Him twenty-four hours,
Touching Him in his distressing disguise.

~ Sogyal Rinpoche

Bill Clinton on the Daily Show

Big Bill hangs with Jon Stewart.

Speedlinking 9/21/06

Morning image is "contemplate" by Gilad Benari.

I'm short on time, so these will be very speedy links.

~ Today is The International Day of Peace. If you can't make it to one of the events, please mark the day by trying to create an aura of peaceful acceptance wherever you go today. That's my goal for today.

~ National Geographic reports on the recent dicovery of "Lucy's baby," the first intact child found in a dig. You can see some pictures here.

~ Aeh at Pongsathorn's Blog takes a look at Thai Socio-cultural Center of Gravity: Traditional over Modern. Sample:
I see this evidence has a high correlation with the findings in my PhD research which show that Thai societal system is dominated by agricultural mode of subsistence over the industrial one. According to Lenski's Ecological-Evolutionary Theory, the agricultural technology is correlated with the traditional culture and the industrial technology is correlated with the modern culture.
If you want to get a sense for what is going on in that country right now, give this a read.

~ Jay at The Zero Boss is seeking advice on workplace crack etiquette. Please help him out -- crack is a terrible thing to see.

~ Joe Perez at Until has posted part one of a series, King and tyrants, blessings and admonitions, a look at Robert Moore's book on Jungian archetypes in men, King, Warrior, Magician, Lover. I was into Moore's work when I was a Jungian, but haven't thought about it in years. I think if we could see these archetypes as having level's of development, we might be in an even better place to understand how they function.

~ There is a new article by Chandra Alexandre, She's Everywhere: Exploring an Integral Women's Spirituality, over at Integrative Spirituality.

~ Edward Berge at Open Integral takes a look at Postmetaphysical Thinking in light of Wilber and Habermas, using comments by Alan Kazlev as a jumping off point.

~ Ken Wilber's blog has posted his forward to The Common Heart—An Experience of Inter-Religious Dialogue.

~ Mark Edwards at Open Integral examines The political manipulation of islamic fundamentalism.

More from the world outside of integral and Buddhism:

~ Katie Couric sucks, and she seems to have a political agenda (which we all knew already).

~ Bill Frist, Rick Santorum, and Conrad Burns top the list of corrupt polticians as determined by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

~ The story of the Canadian who was tortured in Syria on behalf of the CIA is getting a lot of attention, and so is the effectiveness of torture (or the lack thereof) and another story of extraordinary rendition is being covered by Mother Jones. Salon takes a critical look at where Bush's push for legalized torture has gotten him.

~ Political analysts think that where you shop is a better indication of how you'll vote than race, economic status, and just about anything else. Seems Target shoppers are swing voters.

~ Finally, Robert Samuelson thinks the internet has turned Americans (and the Western world for that matter) into exhibitionists. I think he has a point, but developmentally, it may be seen as regressive or transformative, depending on where an individual started, so it may not be all bad.

That's it for now. Have a great day.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Am I the Only One?

I can't say for sure when it happened. I could name a few events, some major and many minor, that may have contributed to the situation. But, really, I can't provide a single outstanding event that has made me the way that I am today.

I am cold, callous, insensitive, distanced, isolated, and aloof. I see innocent people die in silly wars on my TV and I debate the philosophical implications of cultural clashes. I watch people starve amid tribal warfare and I condemn the UN for not doing its job. I see immigrants who have died trying to find a better life in a nation that hates them and I feel nothing but anger toward politicians.

I see the world and its suffering and I don't let it in, not really.

It's so much easier to remove myself to the intellectual realm, as I am doing right now. I see all these horrors in my world being perpetrated on other human beings, and I don't cry or feel my heart breaking -- not usually. I get angry, frustrated, and bitter -- all things that are thinking, not things that hit me in my gut.

How does this happen? When I was a kid I couldn't watch Wild Kingdom and see a lion kill an antelope without crying. I was sensitive in the ways most kids are sensitive -- until it was crushed. How did that die? What killed it?

We should feel each other's pain. We should not be able to watch an entire group of people wiped off the face of the earth in Darfur or Somalia and feel nothing. We should not be able to watch hundreds of innocent people die as collateral damage in an unjust war and simply rant about our corrupt government.

I am not satisfied with being callous and cold and distanced.

Life is dukkha. Buddhism teaches -- and observation confirms -- that the world is filled with suffering. That's not all it is, of course, but there is war, sickness, injustice, brutality, hatred, death. We are surrounded by these things and we generally choose not to pay attention. And it is a choice.

Clearly, there is more to life than suffering, but until we become too uneasy, too uncomfortable, too pained by the suffering in the world that we no longer can tolerate it, it will persist.

When I sit in tonglen I can feel that pain. I can breathe it in . . . and breathe it out . . . and feel it in my gut. When I watch West Wing episodes (and I have all of them), I am often moved to that place where I feel instead of think. When I read great poetry, I am moved to that place.

Why do I need to seek out depth of feeling? When it did cease to be my natural state?

Am I the only one who feels this way?

Flash Fiction: The Call

The Call

He's lying on the couch watching a moth's irregular flight around the room. The creature seems to him to be lost, trapped in an artificial world.

The phone rings.

A list of possible people runs through his mind, but none of the names seem right. He wonders who it might be.

The phone rings.

He tries to make a decision about answering it. Maybe one more ring. But . . . he doesn't want to talk or hear another voice. The moth is starting to circle.

The phone rings.

Maybe it's important, or an emergency. But he doesn't reach for the phone. Maybe I am needed somewhere, he thinks, but disregards that thought as fantasy.

The phone rings.

Last ring before voice mail takes the call. The moth lands on the carpet and flattens its wings to the floor. He chooses not to answer the call, no matter who it was or what it was about . . . .

If it was ever a choice at all.

Stephen Colbert on Tribalism


Speedlinking 9/20/06

Morning image is "The Colors of the Red Sea" by Stefano Rossetto.

I'm late with the daily speedlinks, but today both my early people canceled -- so I slept in. I'm starting to like this being lazy thing.

Okay, down to business.

~ Jay at The Zero Boss gets things off to a raucus start with a drunken rant about the evil that is John Tesh. I would have to agree with everything Jay says, and I haven't been drunk in a very long time.

~ About Buddhism offers an introduction to kasina meditation. The title link takes you to the Earth kasina -- so I'm guessing this is part of a series.

~ Mike at Unknowing Mind offers a response to Alan Cook's piece (Milinda's Questions) in response to Mike's original post on Karma. Did you follow all that? Good, so check it out.

~ Brad at Hardcore Zen was once the leader of Dementia 13, a punkish psychedelic band I was really into for about three weeks back in the late 1980s. The rest of the post is more interesting than that -- I'm just blown away that all these years later I've been reading his blog and I had idea he once really twisted up my brain (of course the drugs had something to do with that, too).

~ On the darker side of things, James at genius of insanity reposts an article about the Canadian who was falsely arrested, flasely detained, shipped off to Syria (aren't they supposed to be our enemy?) to be tortured for nearly a year, and then released with no charges filed. This is one of the few cases with a paper trail since it was the Canadians who alerted the US to keep an eye on this guy. He tried to sue the US government for the way he was treated, but the case was dismissed. Imagine that. What country is this?

~ ebuddha at Integral Practice blogs on the same story.

~ Two new online articles at The Woodshed:
The first is Dan Allison's newest column, called Animating Change, with provocative reflections upon his recent vieweing of Tim Burton's films The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride.

The other is a longer piece by yours truly, called The Humanities As The Integral Tradition, where I deal with the rise of theory, its harmful effects on the Humanities, Derrida, "-ism"-free thinking, and the task of artists who want to restore the Humanities to the centre of common imagination. Yeah, it is all a bit of a mouthful, I admit.
~ Dave Pollard at How to Change the World blogs on We're Not Aware of What We're Not Aware of.

~ M Alan Kazlev of Integral Transformation announces that: "the new Palaeos Wiki is now online. The original Palaeos site will also be restored, but will be greatly streamlined as various material is transferred over to the wiki."

~ Ryan Oelke at Anxious Living posts Typology and Social Anxiety: Part 2 - SAD and Introversion. You can read part 1 here if you missed it.

~ Umguy at ideological putty is wondering why his friends are becoming conservative -- he uses SDi/Wilberian language, but it's easy to follow for those not in the integral flow.

~ Mumon at Notes in Samsara blogs on Work, Family Practice and the Blogosphere, which is worth taking a look at.

~ Bill at Oaksong's Nemeton offers Thoughts on the Occupation of Iraq, Part Two. He's been doing some reading for these posts, so go have a read.

~ 50 new species have been discovered off of Indonesia's reefs, including a shark that walks on its fins. Evolution smevolution.

And that's a wrap for this morning.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Integral Health: Bad News Is Making Us Sick

Geri's Good News Network posted an article from The London Paper on how all the bad news we consume is making us sick. I posted on this in the Integral Health pod at Zaadz, but I wanted to expand on it here a bit.

Here is the article:
Bad news is making us sick
by Gabriel Miller, Thursday 14 September 2006 09:40

If ignorance is bliss, then tuning into the news these days is surely something more like self-inflicted misery.

Bombarded from all angles with apocalyptic stories of natural disasters, war, terrorism, and hurricanes, it’s a wonder that any of us even makes it out of bed in the morning.

But according to some experts, all this bad news is more than merely leaving us feeling a little sombre. It is actually making us ill.

It is often said that these days we live in a culture of fear, but if you ask any doctor, this is not a healthy state to be in. Even low levels of fear-induced hormones adrenalin and cortisol can be harmful to your health, causing conditions such as agitation, panic attacks, heart problems and even infertility.

According to clinical psychologist Dr Mary Burgess: “By constantly exposing ourselves to such scare-mongering news coverage, we are left in a heightened state of psychological arousal and alertness. That is simply not sustainable in the long run without negative medical repercussions.”

Looking over your shoulder the whole time and wondering what’s in everyone’s rucksack on the Underground may make you Sir Ian Blair’s idea of the perfect citizen. But you are also putting yourself in a constant state of anxiety.

Another clinical psychologist, consultant Dr Roy Bailey, has seen an increase since 9/11 in the number of people coming to him with worry-related problems since.

“People ask themselves ‘What can I do?’, and their answer is to become their own personal policeman,” he adds. “The problem is that this actually increases their feeling of vulnerability and subsequent helplessness.”

The perception that the number of tragic world events is increasing has coincided with our growing addiction to 24-hour news. The worse the stories sound, the more we want to hear them.

So should the news now carry a health warning? Dr Bailey argues: “It’s up to the news providers to balance the bad news with the good, and provide coverage more representative of the realistic nature of the threat.”

The issue then is not one of turning a blind eye. Rather it is one of balance. As the author and academic Norman Cousins once said: “If news is not really news unless it is bad news, it may be difficult to claim we are an informed nation.”

When we feel continually stressed out with fear about the world around us, our bodies release stress hormones (cortisol and and adrenalin) that can cause serious damage over time. Cortisol is a hormone that breaks down tissue (including muscle) for energy. Adrenlin is a hormone that raises blood pressure and pulse as it prepares the body for fight or flight. Prolonged high-level adrenlin secretion can cause adrenal fatigue, a kind of low-grade exhaustion.

But the fear we experience about natural disasters, wars, terrorism and many other threats reported on the news every night has psychological effects as well. We begin to believe we live in a world that is unsafe and we create boundaries of distrust. We may feel angry or frustrated all the time. We may regress in our development to lower developmental stages that feel safer or provide a more black-and-white view of the world. Ambiguity can become intolerable.

We experience cultural impacts from this as well. We tend to become more insular and isolalted, staying within our trusted circle of friends or ethnic groups. We begin to distrust the "other," anyone who is not like us or who we do not know. This creates divisions in the society, divisions which can result in Red State / Blue State thinking, or liberals and conservatives, or any number of other divisions, including ethnic (as in the immigration battles).

All of these things together create an over-burdened health care system, a fractured political system, and more marketing of bad news to keep us glued to our TVs, radios, computers and newspapers -- fear sells. It creates walls along our borders, communities that are fenced in, and initial support for unnecessary wars in Middle Eastern nations.

New Bill Would Defend Marriage From Sharks

It's only The Onion, no cause for alarm:

New Bill Would Defend Marriage From Sharks

Senators 'Taking A Stand' Against Ancient Killer

September 19, 2006

WASHINGTON DC—Senator Bill Frist (R–TN) introduced a controversial new bill Tuesday that would severely limit the ability of sharks to "mutilate the institution of marriage until it is completely unrecognizable."

"For too long, we've stood by as our most sacred institution has been thrashed, bit by bit, by these amoral predators," said Frist at a press conference, standing in front of a detailed diagram of a great white shark. "Marriage is a union between one man and one woman, and no shark should come between them with its powerful jaws and massive dorsal fin."

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Sen. Bill Frist (R–TN) decries sharks' "ferocious impact" on marriage.

Bill S-691, also known as The Protection Of Marital Extremities Act, was co-sponsored by Mel Martinez (R–FL), who said that, as a devoted husband, he would not want his own 25-year marriage to be split to pieces by a shark, and hinted that opponents of the bill were in fact aiding the fish in their "murderous ways."

"Liberals and Democrats would have you believe that sharks pose no threat to married couples," Martinez said. "They tell us that sharks should just be left alone to mind their own business, and they won't do anyone any harm. But we say it's time for those of us with backbone to stand up for what we believe in—before that backbone is torn violently from our torsos by these soulless, underwater killers."

Added Martinez: "Marriage is a sacred institution, but it is also very fragile, especially when coming into contact with the saw-edged teeth of a bloodthirsty bull shark."

Frist said it was vital that Congress act sooner than later.

"Sharks can smell a healthy, vibrant marriage from miles away, and it doesn't matter whether the couple are celebrating their 50th anniversary or are on their honeymoon—no one is safe," Frist said. He then held up a photo of a lifeless, newly caught shark hanging behind a happily married couple, which he said was meant to show sharks everywhere that the U.S. government "means business."

"It's simply a matter of faith," Frist added. "And I have absolute faith that, if we do nothing, we'll see many more families torn apart."

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Despite the fact that the bill calls for mandatory fines of up to $100,000 and a permanent designation on the Marriage Offenders National Registry for any shark found guilty under the new guidelines, some conservative groups still complain that it does not go far enough.

"This bill focuses too much on the species who have attacked marriage in the past, such as the hammerhead, oceanic whitetip, and tiger sharks, but we need protection against all sharks," said Nathan Comino, president of The Quint Group, a conservative anti-shark think tank. "Scientific evidence shows that the once-indifferent whale shark is now angrier than ever over holy matrimony. We can't afford to ignore the facts."

Critics also complained that the language in the bill regarding jellyfish was too vague, leaving a number of loopholes whereby they could escape prosecution.

According to recent polls, only 22 percent of voters who live in shark-infested areas on either of the country's coasts say they are "very worried" about the damage sharks could wreak on married couples, while that number jumps to 86 percent in more conservative, landlocked, regions of the South and Midwest—a statistic that opponents of the new bill are using to bolster their argument.

"Republicans are once again playing the fear card, squashing the potential progress this country could make by accepting sharks into the mainstream," said Eli Pariser, a member of the liberal group Move On. "Yes, sharks look different and act different. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't have the right to choose their own lifestyles and swim with married couples."

While opponents of anti-shark legislation have been vocal, some Democrats who say they support sharks' rights have been careful not to oppose the bill outright.

"I believe they should be able to swim and feed as they always have, but I do not condone sharks attacking marriage," Sen. John Kerry (D–MA) said. "This is an issue best left up to the individual states, whose residents know better than anyone which of their waters are safe to be married in."

Frist remained confident, however, that the bill would have support in the Senate.

"The endless onslaught from activist judges, liberal media, and sharks ends today," Frist said. "Nor have we forgotten the other threats marriage faces, and this bill sends an unmistakable message to rattlesnakes, mountain lions, and lightning that we are dead serious about protecting marriage."

Reunited REM: Losing My Religion

REM reunited with original drummer Bill Berry to celebrate their induction into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame on Saturday night.

On Buddha Nature

Rigpa Glimpse of the Day:

Buddha was a human being, like you or me. He never claimed divinity, he merely knew he had the buddha nature, the seed of enlightenment, and that everyone else did too. The buddha nature is simply the birthright of every sentient being, and I always say: “Our buddha nature is as good as any buddha’s buddha nature.”

~ Sogyal Rinpoche

Speedlinking 9/19/06

Image of the day is from National Geographic's Rivers of America.

I'm blogging this morning in the new Qumana 3.0 editor. I had tried an earlier version and wasn't thrilled. So I'm giving this version a test run. The Blog Columnist gave it a mostly good review.

~ Beliefnet has partnered with Sojourners founder Jim Wallis to create a new blog, God's Politics. Wallis is currently going toe-to-toe with the radical right's Ralph Reed (part one and part two).

~ About Buddhism offers a Q&A about the Four Noble Truths.

~ Steve Pavlina's Personal Development Blog takes a look at Subjective Reality Analogies. This is just another way of saying that the interior is real and valid.

~ Matthew Dallman expands on why he likes the Basic Program, which is essentially a Great Books approach to expanding consciousness. In another post, MD takes a look at the conflation of the GOP with conservatism and finds the equation false.

~ Justin Whitaker at American Buddhist has a nice post on a Thich Nhat Hanh book, called Cultivating the Mind of Love. The post is actually on being a Buddhist in academia, and on understanding that our true connection to reality is through our relationships with people, not philosophies.

~ CJ Smith at Indistinctunion has another good post on the Iraq War situation, this one looking at the possibility of a draw down in troops.

~ Integrative Spirituality posted an article by none other than Michael Murphy on Toward a Natural History of Supernormal Attributes. This is a reprint from 2002, but Murphy hasn't written much of late, so it's nice to see his voice again.

~ Dave at via negativa offers up Blogging tools I’d like to see.

~ Ryan Oelke at Anxious Living posts Typology and Social Anxiety: Part 1. This is one of my favorite blogs.

~ ebuddha at Integral Practice continues his exploration of integral values with In Praise Of An Integral Value - Habeas Corpus - Or perhaps a eulogy for it's death?

~ Will at offers the semi tongue-in-cheek What do Buddhists Look Like?

~ The Washington Post had two worthy editorials yesterday: Poverty's Changing Faces by Bradley Schiller and Time for Integrity by Richard Cohen. The later article looks at the McCain led resistance to Bush's attempts to legalize torture.

~ National Geographic looks at "The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation last week announced that they will contribute $100 million and $50 million respectively to help Africa's rural farmers boost food production."

~ Finally, when words fail you, there is always the insult generator. Here is an example of its work: "You sloppy eruption of synthetic donkey droppings." Not bad -- creative, gross, and to the point.

That's a full lid. Have a great day.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Sam Harris on Liberals

First Sam Harris took on the Pope, now he's taking on liberals. The first was to be expected, but the later may surprise some people, until you realize that Harris also defends the use of torture on suspected terrorists.

Here is Harris's attack on liberals, which is true but partial:

Head-in-the-Sand Liberals
Western civilization really is at risk from Muslim extremists.

By Sam Harris, SAM HARRIS is the author of "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason." His next book, "Letter to a Christian Nation," will be published this week by Knopf.
September 18, 2006

TWO YEARS AGO I published a book highly critical of religion, "The End of Faith." In it, I argued that the world's major religions are genuinely incompatible, inevitably cause conflict and now prevent the emergence of a viable, global civilization. In response, I have received many thousands of letters and e-mails from priests, journalists, scientists, politicians, soldiers, rabbis, actors, aid workers, students — from people young and old who occupy every point on the spectrum of belief and nonbelief.

This has offered me a special opportunity to see how people of all creeds and political persuasions react when religion is criticized. I am here to report that liberals and conservatives respond very differently to the notion that religion can be a direct cause of human conflict.

This difference does not bode well for the future of liberalism.

Perhaps I should establish my liberal bone fides at the outset. I'd like to see taxes raised on the wealthy, drugs decriminalized and homosexuals free to marry. I also think that the Bush administration deserves most of the criticism it has received in the last six years — especially with respect to its waging of the war in Iraq, its scuttling of science and its fiscal irresponsibility.

But my correspondence with liberals has convinced me that liberalism has grown dangerously out of touch with the realities of our world — specifically with what devout Muslims actually believe about the West, about paradise and about the ultimate ascendance of their faith.

On questions of national security, I am now as wary of my fellow liberals as I am of the religious demagogues on the Christian right.

This may seem like frank acquiescence to the charge that "liberals are soft on terrorism." It is, and they are.

A cult of death is forming in the Muslim world — for reasons that are perfectly explicable in terms of the Islamic doctrines of martyrdom and jihad. The truth is that we are not fighting a "war on terror." We are fighting a pestilential theology and a longing for paradise.

This is not to say that we are at war with all Muslims. But we are absolutely at war with those who believe that death in defense of the faith is the highest possible good, that cartoonists should be killed for caricaturing the prophet and that any Muslim who loses his faith should be butchered for apostasy.

Unfortunately, such religious extremism is not as fringe a phenomenon as we might hope. Numerous studies have found that the most radicalized Muslims tend to have better-than-average educations and economic opportunities.

Given the degree to which religious ideas are still sheltered from criticism in every society, it is actually possible for a person to have the economic and intellectual resources to build a nuclear bomb — and to believe that he will get 72 virgins in paradise. And yet, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, liberals continue to imagine that Muslim terrorism springs from economic despair, lack of education and American militarism.

At its most extreme, liberal denial has found expression in a growing subculture of conspiracy theorists who believe that the atrocities of 9/11 were orchestrated by our own government. A nationwide poll conducted by the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University found that more than a third of Americans suspect that the federal government "assisted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or took no action to stop them so the United States could go to war in the Middle East;" 16% believe that the twin towers collapsed not because fully-fueled passenger jets smashed into them but because agents of the Bush administration had secretly rigged them to explode.

Such an astonishing eruption of masochistic unreason could well mark the decline of liberalism, if not the decline of Western civilization. There are books, films and conferences organized around this phantasmagoria, and they offer an unusually clear view of the debilitating dogma that lurks at the heart of liberalism: Western power is utterly malevolent, while the powerless people of the Earth can be counted on to embrace reason and tolerance, if only given sufficient economic opportunities.

I don't know how many more engineers and architects need to blow themselves up, fly planes into buildings or saw the heads off of journalists before this fantasy will dissipate. The truth is that there is every reason to believe that a terrifying number of the world's Muslims now view all political and moral questions in terms of their affiliation with Islam. This leads them to rally to the cause of other Muslims no matter how sociopathic their behavior. This benighted religious solidarity may be the greatest problem facing civilization and yet it is regularly misconstrued, ignored or obfuscated by liberals.

Given the mendacity and shocking incompetence of the Bush administration — especially its mishandling of the war in Iraq — liberals can find much to lament in the conservative approach to fighting the war on terror. Unfortunately, liberals hate the current administration with such fury that they regularly fail to acknowledge just how dangerous and depraved our enemies in the Muslim world are.

Recent condemnations of the Bush administration's use of the phrase "Islamic fascism" are a case in point. There is no question that the phrase is imprecise — Islamists are not technically fascists, and the term ignores a variety of schisms that exist even among Islamists — but it is by no means an example of wartime propaganda, as has been repeatedly alleged by liberals.

In their analyses of U.S. and Israeli foreign policy, liberals can be relied on to overlook the most basic moral distinctions. For instance, they ignore the fact that Muslims intentionally murder noncombatants, while we and the Israelis (as a rule) seek to avoid doing so. Muslims routinely use human shields, and this accounts for much of the collateral damage we and the Israelis cause; the political discourse throughout much of the Muslim world, especially with respect to Jews, is explicitly and unabashedly genocidal.

Given these distinctions, there is no question that the Israelis now hold the moral high ground in their conflict with Hamas and Hezbollah. And yet liberals in the United States and Europe often speak as though the truth were otherwise.

We are entering an age of unchecked nuclear proliferation and, it seems likely, nuclear terrorism. There is, therefore, no future in which aspiring martyrs will make good neighbors for us. Unless liberals realize that there are tens of millions of people in the Muslim world who are far scarier than Dick Cheney, they will be unable to protect civilization from its genuine enemies.

Increasingly, Americans will come to believe that the only people hard-headed enough to fight the religious lunatics of the Muslim world are the religious lunatics of the West. Indeed, it is telling that the people who speak with the greatest moral clarity about the current wars in the Middle East are members of the Christian right, whose infatuation with biblical prophecy is nearly as troubling as the ideology of our enemies. Religious dogmatism is now playing both sides of the board in a very dangerous game.

While liberals should be the ones pointing the way beyond this Iron Age madness, they are rendering themselves increasingly irrelevant. Being generally reasonable and tolerant of diversity, liberals should be especially sensitive to the dangers of religious literalism. But they aren't.

The same failure of liberalism is evident in Western Europe, where the dogma of multiculturalism has left a secular Europe very slow to address the looming problem of religious extremism among its immigrants. The people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists.

To say that this does not bode well for liberalism is an understatement: It does not bode well for the future of civilization.