Saturday, November 25, 2006

Encyclopedia Mythica

For those of us who are interested in myth and folktales, this is a very cool site. There's a lot of good info on myth from a variety of cultures, and a lesser amount of info on folktales. The site is searchable, which is also cool.

Here is their mainpage info:

Welcome to the Encyclopedia Mythica

Please enter the award-winning internet encyclopedia of mythology, folklore, and religion. Here you will find everything from A-gskw to Zveda Vechanyaya, with plenty in between.

The mythology section is divided to six geographical regions: Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe, Middle East, and Oceania. Each region has many clearly defined subdivisions that will ease your search.

The Folklore section contains general folklore, Arthurian legends, and fascinating folktales from many lands.

In addition, we feature special interest areas to enhance and refine your research. A Bestiary, legendary heroes, an image gallery, and genealogical tables of various pantheons and prominent houses.

To bring our entities to life, we have created an image gallery, where you will find hundreds of images of all kinds of deities, heroes, and strange creatures of every description.

The encyclopedia will serve the serious researcher, the student, and the casual reader with equal success. Come in and enjoy! Think mythology, think EM!

Encyclopedia Mythica


On Journaling

This is from The Daily Om a couple of days ago.
Mapping The Inner Journey
Journaling As Meditation

Of the countless forms of meditation we can use, journaling offers its own unique benefits. Most meditations help empty the mind of concerns and bring positive ideas from our mental landscape, but journaling helps us anchor that experience in the material world. Not every person is attracted to meditating in seated silence, and journal meditation is a nice alternative as an active meditation. It allows us to trace our journey and see where we have grown and what lessons we may be repeating. By employing a different part of the brain than creative or inspired thought, writing or typing a journal can create a greater sense of connection and union with our physical selves and the world around us.

In working through challenges, it can be helpful to first empty all worries from our heads onto the safe pages of our journal. Fears can be brought to light rather than allowing them to haunt the dark corners of our subconscious. We may even feel heaviness dissipate once our heads are free from clutter, leaving space for inspiration and the creation of positive images in their place. Often in the process of writing out all the details of an event that troubles us, something that had been forgotten will come to the surface, providing a missing piece of the puzzle. Then we can truly begin to come up with answers, and write them down beside the worries to map the way from concern to constructive thought.

For capturing guidance and flashes of inspiration, journaling is ideal. This is especially true in the case of dreams, which often fade as we awaken. While working toward goals, keeping track of progress as well as guidance from readings or divination tools can be encouraging. Though it can be difficult to keep all of our guidance in the front of our minds, if we write it down it can serve as a reminder whenever we need it. We can also use our journals to converse with our higher selves or even the universe. Journaling offers yet another way to unburden mind and spirit, while also creating a record of the present and preserving our hopes and dreams for the future.
This is good advice. Journaling is not something I think of as meditation, but it certainly can be used that way. I use journaling much in the way I use a therapist -- as a sounding board and a safe place to unburden myself of pain, doubt, and fears. But I also use my journal to work through problems, plan courses of action, or record high points in my life.

I strongly recommend, however, writing long-hand in a paper journal. Maybe it's just me, but it feels much more personal and tangible. It seems like it might activate a more bodily sense to journal by hand with pen and paper.


Richard Dawkins in the Lion's Den

I found these clips at Throw Away Your TV. He gave this reading of The God Delusion at Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg, Virginia on October 23, 2006. Many of the students in the audience are from Jerry Falwell's Liberty "University." I was quite surprised to find that Dawkins was speaking there -- both that he would agree to go into the lion's den, as it were, and that they would invite him.

The first segment is of Dawkins reading from his new book.



The second segment is where it gets really interesting -- Dawkins takes questions from the audience. They are politely dismissive and he responds seriously and clearly.



If nothing else, it's good to see that Dawkins is not simply speaking to the choir and is actually taking his message to the people who are most likely to disagree with him.


New Poem: Dead Weight



Dead Weight

Memory is an anchor dragging the earth
behind me, uprooting flowers and gardens,
scaring dogs and small children with the clanging
of its rusted chains -- and I willingly pull
this dead weight with me through every slow step
of every day, complaining when it crushes the furniture
or drags me to the bottom of a lake I walked into
under a full moon in the middle of winter,
wondering with each step why I left the shore.

I don't remember agreeing to this bargain,
to accepting the chains, yet I covet the weight
keeping me in place -- so hard to dig the key
out of hiding and release the lock, walk away
light as a newborn from all I have done, the suffering
I have seen, all the faces of those I have known, so
hard to cut myself loose from the pain and loss
of those years with which I condemn myself.

I need to be anchored, I tell myself, to be bound
by all I have known, to wear my accountability
in plain view, this dead weight chained to my waist --
and I fear the weightlessness of cutting the links,
unlocking that lock, the freedom to be a new man
in each fertile moment -- I cower before this hope,
this mysterium tremendum, the unbearable gift
of freedom I crave with each passing breath.


Friday, November 24, 2006

Acharya Lama Gursam in Tucson

Dharmakirti College is hosting three separate teachings by Acharya Lama Gursam next week and weekend. These look cool and I will certainly be attending one of them, probably the Saturday morning session.

Buddha Nature

In The Jewel Ornament of Liberation (by Gampopa, and translated by Khenchen Gyaltshen Rinpoche) Buddha Nature is defined and described as follows:

(Buddha Nature is) the pure essence potential to attain enlightenment that is inherent I every sentient being. It is obscured to varying degrees by afflicting emotions and subtle obscurations, bit it can be actualized through the practices of moral ethics, meditation and wisdom.

Acharya Lama Gyursam will discuss the meaning of Buddha Nature and its relation to practice and attaining enlightenment.

Suggested Donation: $15.00
November 30, 2006 (Thursday)
6:30 PM – 8:30PM

Grace St. Paul Episcopal Church's Parish Hall
2331 E Adams St (one block west of Tucson, one block south of Elm)

___________________________________________

Loving Kindness

Loving Kindness is defined as the wish that all suffering sentient beings have happiness and the causes of happiness. The Words of My Perfect Teacher (by Patrul Rinpoche, and translated by the Padmakara Translation Group) states:

The image given for boundless love is a mother bird taking care of her chicks. She starts by making a soft, comfortable nest. She shelters them with her wings keeping them warm. She is always gentle with them and she protects them until they can fly away. Like that mother bird, learn to be kind in thought, word, and deed to all beings in the three worlds.

Acharya Lama Gyursam will present this important teaching from the perspectives of “Loving Kindness For Self” and “Loving Kindness For Others”.

Suggested Donation: $15.00
December 2, 2006 (Saturday)
9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Ada Peirce McCormick Building
Library
1401 East First Street
Tucson, AZ
(free parking)

____________________________________________

Vajrasattva Empowerment & Teaching

There are two things we need to do in order to attain enlightenment: purify our negative karma and obscurations; and accumulate merit and wisdom. Both are required. The best method for purification is the sincere practice of Vajrasattva, accompanied by the Four Opponent Powers. “The Preliminary Practices of the Incomparable Drikung Kagyu” states:

Generally speaking, virtuous and non-virtuous acts depend on mind. The mind is the master and the body and speech are the servants. Because of the degree of the power of afflictive emotions…we create non-virtuous acts (which will) bring suffering and undesirable conditions…Therefore, it is very wise to purify all non-virtues we create before they bring the result. This purification…can be very effective…Vajrasattva meditation is a special practice for the purification of non-virtuous causes, so with confidence and without hesitation, enter into the Vajrasattva practice.

In The Words of My Perfect Teacher it says:

The main obstacles that prevent all the extraordinary experiences and realizations of the profound path from arising are negative actions, obscurations and habitual tendencies. Just as it is important to clean the surface of a mirror if forms are to be reflected in it, so too it is important to eliminate our obscurations so that realization can appear… The Conqueror taught countless methods of purification for this purpose, but the best of them all is meditation and recitation related to the teacher as Vajrasattva.

Suggested Donation: $30.00
December 3, 2006 (Sunday)
Empowerment: 10:00 AM—1:00 PM
Teaching: 3:00 PM—6:00 PM

Ada Peirce McCormick Building
Library
1401 East First Street
Tucson, AZ
(free parking)

Two Photos: Washington D.C.

Back in March, Kira and I went to D.C. for a Psychotherapy Networker conference. I took a lot of tourist-type pictures, most of which are not at all notable. But I also took a few pictures of things that I found intriguing. Here are two them.

This is one of the longest escalators I have ever seen. It's up near the National Zoo at (I think) Washington Square Station. I was intrigued by the feeling of being at the bottom of this long tunnel.


This was taken in a small park just down the street from the Capital building. It was early in the morning and the temp was around 28 degrees. This homeless person had slept in the park that night and was still sleeping when we walked by. In the background you can see a sign for Senate staff parking. I didn't expect to see this in this part of the city.

Anyway, these aren't great shots, but I wanted to share them.


The Abusive Guru: Sogyal Rinpoche

This morning I was looking at traffic to my site and found that someone came here while searching for info on Sogyal Rinpoche as an abusive guru. This was something I had never heard anything about, so I looked at the search results and read a couple of articles. The abuse was sexual in nature and occurred over a long period of time, culminating in a civil suit that was settled out of court back in 1995.

I've been very hard here on gurus who have been abusive in any way toward their students or followers, especially Andrew Cohen and Rabbi Marc Gafni (here and here). So I feel like a hypocrite for posting so many of Sogyal Rinpoche's quotes without knowing that he has been one of the worst abusers.

Rinpoche as been an important part of my coming to Buddhism. His Tibetan Book of Living and Dying is one of the books that got me serious about being a Buddhist, and his Glimpse after Glimpse has been the source of a lot of inspiration in my meditation and mindfulness practices. It pains me to know that he is not a good person (or has not been a good person in the past).

Here is the story from 1994:

Best-selling Buddhist author accused of sexual abuse

$10 million civil suit filed in Santa Cruz by a woman who says Sogyal Rinpoche, author of the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, "coerced" her into an intimate relationship

By Don Lattin
Special to the Free Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- With the blessings of the Dalai Lama, a group of American Buddhist women have launched a campaign to expose the alleged sexual misconduct of a prominent Tibetan lama and best-selling author.

Sogyal Rinpoche, author of the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, is accused of "physical, mental and sexual abuse" in a $10 million civil suit filed last week in Santa Cruz County Superior Court.

According to the lawsuit, an anonymous woman identified only as "Janice Doe" came to Rinpoche for spiritual guidance last year at a retreat sponsored by the Rigpa Fellowship meditation center in Santa Cruz, but was "coerced into an intimate relationship" with the Tibetan guru.

"Sogyal claimed (she) would be strengthened and healed by having sex with him and that to be hit by a lama was a blessing," the lawsuit states.

The suit -- which accuses Rinpoche of fraud, assault and battery, infliction of emotional distress and breach of fiduciary duty -- also charges that the Tibetan lama has "seduced many other female students for his own sexual gratification."

Sandra Pawula, spokeswoman for the Rigpa Fellowship of Santa Cruz, one of many meditation centers in the United States, Europe and Australia, declined to comment about the allegations, but said that Rinpoche is not married and does not claim to be a celibate monk. Rinpoche, who lives abroad, could not be reached for comment. The lawsuit follows a letter-writing campaign to the Dalai Lama by American women concerned about alleged sexual exploitation by Rinpoche and several lesser-known Tibetan lamas.

"What some of these students have experienced is terrible and most unfortunate," said Tenzin Geyche Tethong, the Dharamsala-based secretary to the Dalai Lama.

In a letter sent earlier this year to one of the women, Tethong said Tibetan Buddhist leaders "have been aware of these (allegations) for some years now."

Jack Kornfield, founder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Marin County, was among a group of two dozen Western teachers who discussed the sexual misconduct of Buddhist teachers with the Dalai Lama last year in India.

According to Kornfield, the Tibetan Buddhist leader told the Americans to "always let people know when things are wrong. Put it in the newspapers if you must do so."

Another woman allegedly abused by Rinpoche, Victoria Barlow of New York City, said she is "disgusted by the way the Tibetans have manipulated the reverence Westerners have for the Buddhist path."

Barlow, 40, said she first met Rinpoche in the mid-1970s, when she was 21, and that she was sexually exploited by him during meditation retreats in New York and Berkeley.

"I went to an apartment to see a highly esteemed lama and discuss religion," she said in an interview with the Free Press. "He opened the door without a shirt on and with a beer in his hand."

Once they were on the sofa, Barlow said, the Tibetan "lunged at me with sloppy kisses and groping."

"I thought I should take it as the deepest compliment that he was interested and basically surrender to him," she said.

Sources say the Tibetan Buddhists were trying to handle this issue within their community but decided, especially after the Dalai Lama made the comment about going to the press, to go public now.

"The Dalai Lama has known about this for years and done nothing. There is a real code of secrecy and silence," said Barlow.

The details of this article are verified in other articles that can be found on the web.

My inclination is to stop posting anything by Rinpoche on this site. As much as I think there is incredible value in his teachings, I need to respect the man as well. I don't expect all teachers to be perfect, and Chogyam Trungpa is a perfect example of a flawed man who was still a valuable teacher.

So, I'm torn and I want to throw the question out for discussion. How much can we separate the human being from the teachings? And how appropriate is it that we do that? Any thoughts?


The God Experiments

Nothing is quite so fun to scientists as a materialist test to quantify a subjective experience. Simply pin-pointing a region of the brain that allows us to have "mystical" experiences is not going to tell us anything about what those experiences mean, but I guess it fulfills the publish or perish requirement.

From Discover magazine:
The God Experiments
Five researchers take science where it's never gone before.

Three years ago, the British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins became a guinea pig in an experiment. Neuroscientist Michael Persinger claimed he had induced religious experiences in subjects by stimulating specific regions of their brains with electromagnetic pulses. Dawkins, renowned for his biological theories as well as for his criticism of religion, volunteered to test Persinger's electromagnetic device—the "God machine," as some journalists dubbed it. "I've always been curious to know what it would be like to have a mystical experience," Dawkins said shortly before the experiment. Afterward, he admitted on BBC that he was "very disappointed" that he did not experience "communion with the universe" or some other spiritual sensation.

***

Inventing God

Stewart Guthrie, an anthropologist at Fordham University in New York, is in the explain-it-away camp of researchers. Noting the plethora of gods that populate the world's religions, many with minds and emotions similar to our own, Guthrie argues that the belief in supernatural beings is a result of an illusion that arises from our tendency to project human qualities onto the world. Religion "may be best understood as systematic anthropomorphism," he writes in his book, Faces in the Clouds.

Anthropomorphism is an adaptive trait that enhanced our ancestors' chances of survival, he adds. If a Neanderthal mistook a tree creaking outside his cave for a human assailant, he suffered no adverse consequences beyond a moment's panic. If the Neanderthal made the opposite error—mistaking an assailant for a tree—the consequences might have been dire. In other words, better safe than sorry. Over millennia, as natural selection bolstered our unconscious anthropomorphic tendencies, they reached beyond specific objects and events to encompass all of nature, goes Guthrie's theory, until we persuaded ourselves that "the entire world of our experience is merely a show staged by some master dramatist."

Read the rest of the article.

The article largely rehashes information that most of us have already encountered, but as a whole it presents a fair overview of the scientific effort to quantify the "god" experience. They cover the five big names in "god" research: Michael Persinger, Stewart Guthrie, Andrew Newberg, Dean Hamer, and Rick Strassman.


The Dalai Lama on Humility

The Dalai Lama quote of the week from Snow Lion Publications:
Dalai Lama Quote of the Week

Any sense of conceit or self-importance gets in the way of cultivating the genuine altruistic intention, and the most effective remedy against this is the cultivation of humility.

I can tell you a more recent story to illustrate this point. The great nineteenth-century Tibetan Dzokchen meditator Dza Patrul Rinpoche always maintained a demeanor of true humility. At one time, when he was giving a series of teachings to a large crowd of students, he experienced a forceful yearning for solitude. So one day he quietly left his residence and disappeared, dressed like an ordinary pilgrim and carrying a walking staff and very little else. When he reached a nomadic camp he sought shelter for a few days with one of the families. While he was staying with them, his hostess asked him to read some texts and, since he looked just like an ordinary pilgrim, in return for his food and lodging she asked him to help with the household chores, which included the disposal of the contents of her chamber pot.

One day, while he was away from the camp attending to this task, some of his well-dressed monk students came looking for him. When his hostess heard their description of him, she suddenly realised this was the same person she had asked to throw away the contents of her chamber pot. (It is said she was so embarrassed that she just ran away!) Such was the humility of this great teacher, who had many thousands of students.

...great practitioners of the altruistic intention also possess a tremendous courage grounded in real inner strength.... This combination of a total lack of conceit yet possessing great depth of courage is what is required in a true practitioner of bodhicitta, the altruistic mind of awakening.

~ From Lighting the Way by the Dalai Lama, translated by Geshe Thupten Jinpa, published by Snow Lion Publications.


Sogyal Rinpoche on Self-Cherishing


Another good Rigpa Glimpse of the Day:
We may say, and even half-believe, that compassion is marvelous, but in practice our actions are deeply uncompassionate and bring us and others mostly frustration and distress, and not the happiness we are all seeking.

Isn’t it absurd that we all long for happiness, yet nearly all our actions and feelings lead us directly away from that happiness?

What do we imagine will make us happy? A canny, self-seeking, resourceful selfishness, the selfish protection of ego, which can as we all know, make us at moments extremely brutal. But in fact the complete reverse is true: Self-grasping and self-cherishing are seen, when you really look at them, to be the root of all harm to others, and also of all harm to ourselves.


Speedlinking 11/24/06

This morning's image was found at Allatok, where there are many other cool photo manipulations:

Since this is still the holiday weekend, this morning's speedlinking will be an abbreviated edition.

BODY
~ Humans show major DNA differences. "Scientists have shown that our genetic code varies between individuals far more than was previously thought."
~ 7 Ways to Maximize Your Results. Some basic but good workout tips.
~ Eric Cressey at T-Nation has a good article on training the lats, and why you would want to specialize on this muscle group once in a while.
~ Embryonic Stem Cells Yield Full Range of Heart Tissues.
~ Biking Can Make Women's Genitals Less Sensitive. Join the club -- that numbness sucks -- that's why I don't ride the bike or do spin classes for cardio.


PSYCHE
~ Fish oils, vitamins, herbs helpful for depression. I've been telling people this for a while now, maybe some more press attention will help people accept it.
~ Visions of God. Should we take literally our experiences of god?
~Fear Goggles. A look at the old social psychology explanation of emotions (arousal and context). The studies mentioned have fallen out of favor (although they were in the textbooks I read in college as a psych major), but there is still some validity to them.
~ From Steve Pavlina: Heart-Centered Motivation.
~ Via a tip from Joe at Until: Gratefulness.org.


CULTURE
~ The Village Voice has a nice tribute to Robert Altman, who died earlier this week.
~ As Holidays Approach, Data Show High Rates Of Food, Health, & Housing Hardships For African Americans & Latinos.
~ The Four Ashrams or Life Stages. "Brahmacharya, Grahasta, Vanaprastha and Sanyasa are the four ashrams according to Vedic philosophy."
~ 4,000-Year-Old Tombs Found Near Jerusalem Mall.


HABITATS
~ Ten Worst Science Books. This is likely to push some buttons. I own four of the ten. You can read more commentary on the list here.
~ Greatest Mass Extinction Gave Oceans a Face Lift.
~ EPA to Regulate a Form of Nanotechnology for the First Time.
~
EPA Exempts Some Pesticide Use. Of course they do, because Silent Spring was just a practical joke.


INTEGRAL MATTERS
~ From Mystery of Existence: The many meanings of transpersonal and Endarkenment: the beauty of the silent, full darkness and Spirit as 1st and then 3rd person. This is an excellent blog if you're not already reading it.
~ From David Jon at Zaadz: We Have Integral Cognition People.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

BUY NOTHING DAY 2006

Each year, Adbusters magazine sponsors Buy Nothing Day on the Friday after Thanksgiving in opposition to the consumerist frenzy that so many people feel compelled to participate in.

Here is their press release for this year:

NOVEMBER 24 IS BUY NOTHING DAY - NO PURCHASE NECESSARY
(November 25 outside of North America)

THE ULTIMATE REFUND
: On November 24th and 25th – the busiest days in the American retail calendar and the unofficial start of the international Christmas-shopping season – thousands of activists and concerned citizens in 65 countries will take a 24-hour consumer detox as part of the 14th annual Buy Nothing Day, a global phenomenon that originated in Vancouver, Canada.

From joining zombie marches through malls to organizing credit card cut-ups and shopoholic clinics, Buy Nothing Day activists aim to challenge themselves, their families and their friends to switch off from shopping and tune back into life for one day. Featured in recent years by the likes of CNN, Wired, the BBC, and the CBC, the global event is celebrated as a relaxed family holiday, as a non-commercial street party, or even as a politically charged public protest. Anyone can take part provided they spend a day without spending.

Reasons for participating in Buy Nothing Day are as varied as the people who choose to participate. Some see it as an escape from the marketing mind games and frantic consumer binge that has come to characterize the holiday season, and our culture in general. Others use it to expose the environmental and ethical consequences of overconsumption.

Two recent, high-profile disaster warnings outline the sudden urgency of our dilemma. First, in October, a global warming report by economist Sir Nicholas Stern predicted that climate change will lead to the most massive and widest-ranging market failure the world has ever seen. Soon after, a major study published in the journal Science forecast the near-total collapse of global fisheries within 40 years.

Kalle Lasn, co-founder of the Adbusters Media Foundation, which was responsible for turning Buy Nothing Day into an international annual event, said, “Our headlong plunge into ecological collapse requires a profound shift in the way we see things. Driving hybrid cars and limiting industrial emissions is great, but they are band-aid solutions if we don’t address the core problem: we have to consume less. This is the message of Buy Nothing Day.”

As Lasn suggests, Buy Nothing Day isn't just about changing your habits for one day. It’s about starting a lasting lifestyle commitment to consuming less and producing less waste. With six billion people on the planet, the onus if on the most affluent – the upper 20% that consumes 80% of the world’s resources – to begin setting the example.

So, tomorrow let's all stay home and enjoy some nature, or family, or anything other than succumbing to the consumer frenzy of Black Friday.


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The Corporation Is Available as a Free Download

According to Torrentfreak, Sundance Film Festival winner The Corporation is now available as a free download.

The award winning Canadian documentary ‘The Corporation’ has been released on BitTorrent for free. Filmmaker Mark Achbar just released an updated “official” torrent of it. Everyone is free to download, watch, discuss, and share it.

corporation free downloadThe Corporation received more than 20 awards, including an audience award at the the prestigious Sundance Film Festival. The Film gives insight into the inner workings of large and powerful corporations, and how these affect our society.

The new torrent download includes a high-quality rip of the master DVD and a 40 minute interview with Joel Bakan, the author of the book and writer of the film. Mark Achbar actually dedicated a computer in his garage to do nothing but seed.

Although the torrent download is free, the filmmakers encourage people to donate a small fee if they like what they see. We asked Mark Achbar how the first round of donations went. He said, “since my initial torrent launch of The Corporation at the end of August, there have been $635.00 in contributions. They ranged from $2 to three very generous gifts of $100 each. All are very much appreciated.”

You can download the film from the Torrentfreak site, but be warned -- this thing is nearly two gigs in size.


NYT 100 Notable Books of 2006

If you're going out shopping tomorrow instead of honoring Buy Nothing Day (remember, you were not born to shop), the least you can do is get the loved-one on your list a book. And just in time for the holiday shopping season, the New York Times has released its notable books list for 2006 (please note these are only the books they have reviewed, which is in no way representative of the great books to be found on the shelves of your local independent bookstore).

That said, here are a few books from their list that have made it onto my list of books to read.
Poetry

AVERNO. By Louise Gl├╝ck. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $22.) Poems inspired by the underworld of myth confront our most intractable fears.

COLLECTED POEMS, 1947-1997. By Allen Ginsberg. (HarperCollins, $39.95.) A hefty, brilliant volume that shows Ginsberg (1926-97) to be not only a legendary protest writer but also a lyric poet preoccupied with passion, place and fate.

STRONG IS YOUR HOLD. By Galway Kinnell. (Houghton Mifflin, $25.) Kinnell's first collection of new poems in more than a decade revisits themes of marriage, friendship and death, with long, loose lines reminiscent of Whitman.

Non-Fiction

CONSIDER THE LOBSTER: And Other Essays. By David Foster Wallace. (Little, Brown, $25.95.) Magazine articles with a moral framework.

THE COURTIER AND THE HERETIC: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern World. By Matthew Stewart. (Norton, $25.95.) An unlikely page-turner about a 17th-century metaphysical duel, fought in deceit and intrigue, that continues to this day.

Look for more "best of" lists in the coming weeks as the year draws to a close.


Poem: Li Bai


DRINKING ALONE WITH THE MOON

From a pot of wine among the flowers
I drank alone. There was no one with me --
Till, raising my cup, I asked the bright moon
To bring me my shadow and make us three.
Alas, the moon was unable to drink
And my shadow tagged me vacantly;
But still for a while I had these friends
To cheer me through the end of spring....
I sang. The moon encouraged me.
I danced. My shadow tumbled after.
As long as I knew, we were boon companions.
And then I was drunk, and we lost one another.
. . . Shall goodwill ever be secure?
I watch the long road of the River of Stars.


Sogyal Rinpoche on Noble Doubt


This is today's Rigpa Glimpse of the Day:
The Buddha summons us to a different kind of doubt, “like analyzing gold, scorching, cutting and rubbing it to test its purity.” For this form of doubt really exposes us to the truth if we follow it to the end, but we have neither the insight, the courage, nor the training. We have been schooled in a sterile addiction to contradiction that has robbed us repeatedly of all real openness to any more expansive and ennobling truth.

In the place of our contemporary nihilistic form of doubt I would ask you to put what I call a “noble doubt,” the kind that is an integral part of the path toward enlightenment. The vast truth of the mystical teachings handed down to us is not something that our endangered world can afford to dismiss. Instead of doubting them, why don’t we doubt ourselves: our ignorance, our assumption that we understand everything already, our grasping and evasion, our passion for so-called explanations of reality that have about them nothing of the awe-inspiring and all-encompassing wisdom of what the masters, the messengers of Reality, have told us?

Speedlinking 11/23/06 Thanksgiving Edition

A Thanksgiving image in honor of the day:

In honor of the holiday, this edition of Speedlinking will be a collection of things for which I am thankful.

~ Integral Blogs
~ Funny Pictures
~ Good Books to Read
~ The Beauty of Nature
~ YouTube
~ Deviant Art
~ Social Bookmarking Sites
~ Elegant Thorn Review
~ Zaadz and my Zaadz Friends
~ Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- the complete series -- and yes, I'm a geek
~ Poetry

And a whole bunch of things for which there are no links:
~ My friends and clients
~ Being a personal trainer
~ Being a writer
~ Steak
~ All the readers of this blog
~ My fellow bloggers
~ Pumpkin pie
~ Hot coffee on a cool morning
~ Buddhism
And the list could go on and on.

What are you thankful for this day and every day? Please take a moment to leave a note in the comments. I hope all of you have a happy Thanksgiving.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

For Some People, Intimacy Is Toxic

There was an article in yesterday's New York Times that suggests that for some people, intimacy is toxic and these people are better off avoiding intimate relationships.

The article looks at the history of one young man who was diagnosed as a "schizoid" patient. He was generally distant, had few friends or close relationships, and exhibited limited emotional expressiveness. He had attempted suicide at one point, but it was during a time when he was in an intimate relationship and dealing with stress from his parents.

The author of this article, Richard A. Friedman, M.D. (a psychiatrist as opposed to a psychologist), fails to distinguish in his discussion between a schizoid personality type, also known as a solitary personality type (SPT), and a schizoid personality disorder (SPD), which is much more serious.

After a bit of digging around on the web, it seems that while the schizoid personality disorder (SPD) is more generally (and falsely) presumed, there is much more prevalence of avoidant personality disorder (APD), which seems to be a pathological variation of social anxiety (SA) and/or a very harsh Inner Critic, and Asperger syndrome (AS), a non-debilitating variation of autism.

Those with SPD do not suffer the low self-esteem that those with APD or SA often experience. Asperger patients also seem to lack, in general, the self-esteem issues, so this may be one of the diagnostic keys to distinguishing between these often confused conditions.

The solitary type, which I think is what Friedman was really looking at in the NYT article, also lacks the self-esteem issues of SA or APD and the autistic traits of AS. For the most part, the solitary type just isn't social.

Here is a brief definition of the primary traits:
Dr. John M. Oldham has defined the Solitary personality style. The following six characteristic traits and behaviors are listed in his The New Personality Self-Portrait.
  1. Solitude. Individuals with the Solitary personality style have small need of companionship and are most comfortable alone.
  2. Independence. They are self-contained and do not require interaction with others in order to enjoy their experiences or to get on in life.
  3. Sangfroid. Solitary men and women are even-tempered, calm, dispassionate, unsentimental, and unflappable.
  4. Stoicism. They display an apparent indifference to pain and pleasure.
  5. Sexual composure. They are not driven by sexual needs. They enjoy sex but will not suffer in its absence.
  6. Feet on the ground. They are unswayed by either praise or criticism and can confidently come to terms with their own behavior.
Source: Oldham, John M., and Lois B. Morris. The New Personality Self-Portrait: Why You Think, Work, Love, and Act the Way You Do. Rev. ed. New York: Bantam, 1995.
None of these traits are in any way pathological. But they are likely to be misunderstood by others and seen to be symptomatic of other, more serious disorders as mentioned above. There is certainly a cultural component involved in that we value those who can play well with others, be diplomatic, make smalltalk at parties, and any number of other social skills that would make a solitary type want to run screaming from the room.

Now, why, you might be logically asking, am I spending so much time tickling out these various diagnoses? Well, for a few of reasons. One is that I score well above average on the Asperger's test (16.4 being average, 25 being my score, and 32 being autistic) but I lack the repetitive/autistic symptoms. Another is that I would rather have my fingernails pulled off with pliers than attend a cocktail party (this is one of the reasons I drank so much earlier in my life, to self-medicate enough to survive social situations). A third reason is that I mostly fit the six criteria listed above for the solitary type (my Inner Critic creates issues with #6, but I seldom respond to praise).

Still another element is that I have some of the traits of the avoidant personality type, but not seriously enough to qualify that as an accurate diagnosis. So here I am trying to shed some light on this issue, which certainly has an impact on my life and has impacted those who have tried to be a part of my life.

I think that I, like many others who fit this solitary type, have found ways to adapt myself to social expectations and have found ways to bring up the lesser functioning social skills in myself so that I don't stand out as much from others in social situations. In my case, having a powerful Inner Critic makes this adaptation essential -- it's job is to protect me from making a fool of myself or otherwise drawing unwanted attention my way. I also have a strong intuitive sense, which allows me to "read" people in ways that makes it easier for me to get along socially.

And I think that I do have a need for intimacy in my life, but it likely won't resemble what anyone else thinks of as intimacy. I need lots of space and the freedom to seek intimacy on my terms, or I shut down psychologically. I have been made to feel in the past that this means there is something wrong with me. I am becoming more clear that there is not anything wrong with me (well, not this at least) and that I will need to be more clear with myself about who I am -- now that I know more about it.

To her credit, Kira (my ex) tried to work with me on this as much as she could (which varied depending on how much she was hurting from the distance I needed), but she wasn't built the same way I am. I doubt many other women who I might be compatible with in other ways are also going to be solitary types. But I won't stop looking for someone who is.

Anyway, this has all come as a big AHA! and it makes clear some things that never seemed to fit in the past. It's another step toward becoming more of who I am so that I am not a barrier to transcending myself over time. And it's a part of the change process that's been underway for some time now.


Michael Hedges - Silent Anticipations

Amazing guitar work from one of the best guitarists ever to die too young.




The Stuart Davis Show - Episode 1 - Featuring Genpo Roshi

Stuart Davis is a twisted human being. If you have no sense of humor -- or are a prude -- PLEASE do not watch this video. For the rest of you sick and twisted people, enjoy!

This is the Integral Naked text:
You are probably already familiar with the many antics of Stuart Davis, regular guest host of Integral Naked and one of the integral scene's most prominent artists, with eleven full-length albums under his belt. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world have already been exposed (often without consent) to Stuart's infectious personality, exemplified by his earlier forays into film making which became the notorious StuCam series. Well, the Kosmic Jester is at it again, taking on his most ambitious and controversial project yet—one which is guaranteed to entertain, enlighten, and occasionally nauseate you—a one-man episodic talk show, written, produced, performed, and edited by Stuart himself.

Integral Naked is proud (and only a little bit embarrassed) to present: The Stuart Davis Show.



The Top 100 Most Influential Americans

This is an interesting list from The Atlantic Monthly. The first ten or twenty are fairly predictable (although I'm not sure about Woodrow Wilson at the ten spot), but when you get down to 5 0 through 100 the list gets intriguing as to who made it where and why. Have a look and tell me what you think.

Here is how the list begins:

The Top 100

The most influential figures in American history.

.....

Click here for more lists, and information about how the selections were made.

Also, weigh in—who should have been on this list that wasn't? Who shouldn't have been on this list that was? Give us your feedback here.

1 Abraham Lincoln
He saved the Union, freed the slaves, and presided over America’s second founding.

2 George Washington
He made the United States possible—not only by defeating a king, but by declining to become one himself.

3 Thomas Jefferson
The author of the five most important words in American history: “All men are created equal.”

4 Franklin Delano Roosevelt
He said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” and then he proved it.

5 Alexander Hamilton
Soldier, banker, and political scientist, he set in motion an agrarian nation’s transformation into an industrial power.

6 Benjamin Franklin
The Founder-of-all-trades— scientist, printer, writer, diplomat, inventor, and more; like his country, he contained multitudes.

7 John Marshall
The defining chief justice, he established the Supreme Court as the equal of the other two federal branches.

8 Martin Luther King Jr.
His dream of racial equality is still elusive, but no one did more to make it real.

9 Thomas Edison
It wasn’t just the lightbulb; the Wizard of Menlo Park was the most prolific inventor in American history.

10 Woodrow Wilson
He made the world safe for U.S. interventionism, if not for democracy.

11 John D. Rockefeller
The man behind Standard Oil set the mold for our tycoons—first by making money, then by giving it away.

12 Ulysses S. Grant
He was a poor president, but he was the general Lincoln needed; he also wrote the greatest political memoir in American history.

13 James Madison
He fathered the Constitution and wrote the Bill of Rights.

14 Henry Ford
He gave us the assembly line and the Model T, and sparked America’s love affair with the automobile.

15 Theodore Roosevelt
Whether busting trusts or building canals, he embodied the “strenuous life” and blazed a trail for twentieth-century America.

16 Mark Twain
Author of our national epic, he was the most unsentimental observer of our national life.

17 Ronald Reagan
The amiable architect of both the conservative realignment and the Cold War’s end.

18 Andrew Jackson
The first great populist: he found America a republic and left it a democracy.

19 Thomas Paine
The voice of the American Revolution, and our first great radical.

20 Andrew Carnegie
The original self-made man forged America’s industrial might and became one of the nation’s greatest philanthropists.

Read the rest.


Satire: I Was Placed On This Earth To Put Off Doing Something Extraordinary

A little satire from The Onion. Thing is, I know people who are like this, always waiting for their life to start as the days tick away. They are never quite ready to do their "life's work," which will be something amazing, because there is always one more thing that needs to happen first. I think that this might be a disorder of the "sensitive self" developmental stage. This Onion piece is a pretty funny skewering of that type of person.
I Was Placed On This Earth To Put Off Doing Something Extraordinary
By Randy Gerber
November 22, 2006 | Issue 42•47

I Was R
Ever since I was born three weeks overdue, it was clear that there was something different about me. However, it wasn't until I postponed going into the ninth grade, just days before delaying my 16th birthday, that I realized what it is that makes me unique.

You see, I was placed on this earth to put off doing something extraordinary and I won't settle for holding up anything less.

I'm on a different path than most. A higher path. A path that takes numerous detours until one finds oneself, many months later, back where one first started. It's a long, hard road, but I know that if I just take things one lateral step at a time, I will at last defer achieving my true potential.

Mark my words: Nothing will get in the way of me getting things in the way of my goal.

Whether it's never finding the time to search for a cure for cancer, dedicating my life to abandoning the idea of helping those less fortunate so that I might instead watch The Game Show Network, or pushing aside the urge to start a family in order to spend time at the local bar, I take solace in knowing that I was meant to not follow through on something remarkable.

It's not the type of thing I can explain, especially not during my aimless daylong drives around town, or my spontaneous bouts of sitting in silence. It's more of a feeling I plan to someday put into words. Unlike other people, I know that when I surf the Internet for hours and hours, rather than simply killing time, I'm avoiding doing something truly spectacular.

I may not seem like much now, but someday everyone will see that I'll be more or less at the same place I am today. Many will count me out. They'll say that I don't have what it takes to stay focused on my dream, that I lack the determination to not succeed. Well, I can hardly wait to see the looks on their faces next year when I'm still five to seven years away from being something spectacular.

If I stay off task and dedicate myself 15 percent, I can become as big as the almost-greats of the past, the men who could've become Einstein, Galileo, or even Edison—men of limitless untapped potential who exhibited a nearly unparalleled capacity for procrastination. Like them, God has a plan for me. An amazingly vague plan that drags its feet and never really gets going until it's too late.

I guess you could say I'm one of the lucky ones.

Every morning when I wake up just as the sun is about to rise, before realizing how early it is and going back to bed, I have only one thing on my mind—getting a bit more shut-eye. I'm telling you, in time, I'm going to reschedule doing something so utterly amazing, I can't even start to think about it right now. Or later tonight, because that's when the Sanford And Son marathon is going to be on.

You only get one chance to delay the important things in life, and it's a chance I'm not going to hold up setting back unless I'm especially preoccupied.

What am I going to not do? Who knows? Maybe I'll procrastinate going into show business, or slack off becoming a world-renowned surgeon. Perhaps I'll put writing the Great American Novel on the back burner. Whatever happens, be assured that I will not rest until I've rested, and I will not start until I absolutely have to.

I am standing on the precipice of greatness, and I intend to stay there, even if it takes my entire lifetime.

Speedlinking 11/22/06

Morning image is from The Fairest:

For many of us, this is a short day as we head into the Thanksgiving weekend. Safe travel to everyone going someplace else this holiday. I'll be working this year -- seems an awful lot of people want to work our before the feast.

BODY
~ A Gene That Enhances Muscle Performance Identified By Dartmouth Researchers. It'll be a matter of time before someone figures out how to gene-dope using this research. Some forms of gene doping are already happening.
~ If you want to lose weight and keep the muscle, diet alone is the wrong approach. [Abstract] Nothing new here.
~ Breastfeeding protects against type 2 diabetes.
~ Thanksgiving Trade-Offs. How to Eat Your Heart Out and Keep It Healthy.
~ Grapefruit and Drug Interactions: A Comprehensive Overview. This is a serious issue for older adults.


PSYCHE
~ Broken Homes May Trigger Schizophrenia. I suspect correlation here more than cause and effect.
~ Perception of Consequences in the East and the West. Does each culture think differently?
~ Maintaining Mental Health Key To Having A Happy, Healthy, Holiday Season. This is suicide season, so maintaining balance is crucial for those prone to depression.
~ A new study asks why teenagers do stupid and dangerous things. This study reverses a lot of "common knowledge" about how teens think. Very interesting.
~ From Ryan at Integral Awakening: Confusion: The Precursor to Insight.


CULTURE
~ Nearly 4 in 10 U.S. babies born out of wedlock. Government report says hike happening despite steady drop in teen births.
~ Breast-Feeders Unite to Demand Their Rights. " A Women Apparently Kicked Off a Plane for Nursing Her Baby Inspires Protests Around the Country."
~ In precedent-setting ruling court says [Israel] must recognize gay marriage.
~ When religion loses its credibility. "What if Christian leaders are wrong about homosexuality? I suppose, much as a newspaper maintains its credibility by setting the record straight, church leaders would need to do the same:Correction: Despite what you might have read, heard or been taught throughout your churchgoing life, homosexuality is, in fact, determined at birth and is not to be condemned by God's followers."
~
Director Robert Altman dead at 81. This is a huge cultural loss. Nashville and Short Cuts changed my sense of what a movie could be.
~ From How to Change the World: The Four Preconditions for Let-Self-Change.


HABITAT
~ Toxin-Free Cottonseed Engineered; Could Feed Millions. " A toxic chemical has been mostly removed from cottonseeds, potentially turning an underused agricultural product into a food source for hundreds of millions of people, according to a new study."
~ Bill McKibben on 'green' Wal-Mart.
~ States sign nuclear energy pact. "An international consortium has signed a formal agreement to build an experimental nuclear fusion reactor."
~ Pressure at OSHA to alter warning: Author of advisory on asbestos in brakes faces suspension for refusing to revise it.
~ From World Changing: Design Notes From The Field: Choosing Good Plastics.


MATTERS INTEGRAL
~ From ebuddha at Integral Practice: Integral Faith Practice?
~ From Mystery of Existence: Seeing and feeling all as Spirit.
~ From Joe at Until: The evolutionary pecking order of monotheistic religions.
~ From Ken Wilber's blog: MULTIPLEX: Integral Naked on YouTube! This is cool.