Saturday, July 08, 2006

Bush Pilot (with English subtitles)

The Bush pilot himself reports about his job and the obstacles involved

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Evaluation of Ken Wilber and Integral Institute's Possible Cult Status

Open Integral has posted an article by Elliot Benjamin, ON KEN WILBER’S INTEGRAL INSTITUTE: AN EXPERIENTIAL ANALYSIS.

This is a first-person account of some dealings with I-I, including interactions with KW. While at first finding himself an enchanted fan of I-I and KW, Benjamin began to have some concerns about the possible cult status of both the man and the organization. This is an area where he has some expertise.

He concludes:
I would say that there are definitely things to be cautious and observant about in Integral Institute, not the least of which is Ken Wilber’s strong ego and harsh criticisms of many of those who disagree with him. However . . . I will give both Ken Wilber and Integral Institute the benefit of the doubt and place this organization in Neutral territory regarding cult dangers vs. beneficial spiritual characteristics.

The article is well-thought out and informative. Give it a read and then decide for yourself. I tend to agree that there may be some areas to be concerned with, and I agree with Benjamin's conclusion:
[I]f you do not like what you see at Integral Institute then you can disengage without repercussions. Big egos, strong ideas, and harsh criticism of opponents are not the same as cult dangers . . . .

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Being the Mirror

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Being the Mirror

When we say that we have knowledge, or that we have discovered our real nature and we are in this nature, that means that we are "being the mirror." You see, "being the mirror" or "looking in the mirror" are two completely different things. If we "are the mirror," then we have no concept of dualistic vision.

If a reflection manifests in the mirror, why is it manifesting? There are two reasons. One is because the mirror has the capacity to manifest infinite reflections. This is the mirror's quality. If there is an object in front of the mirror, whose capacity it is to reflect, naturally a reflection will appear in the mirror. Furthermore, the mirror has no idea of checking or accepting the object it is reflecting. The mirror doesn't need any program for that. This is what is called its qualification, or infinite potentiality.

In the same way, when we have infinite potentiality, but we are ignorant of our real nature, then we always conceive that "I am here" and "the object is there," "I am looking and seeing an object," and so on. We do not discover that we are like a mirror, and if we never discover this, then of course there is no way that we can function like the mirror. When you discover that you are like the mirror, then there is a possibility that you will be the mirror.

When you are the mirror, then you have no problems with reflections--they can be big, small, nice, ugly, any kind. For you, the reflections are only a manifestation of your quality, which is like that of a mirror. When you have no problems with reflections, then you understand self-liberation You are not changing or transforming something. You are only being in your real nature.

~ Dzogchen Teachings by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, edited by Jim Valby and Adriano Clemente, published by Snow Lion Publications

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My Personal DNA

I just took this cool test. Apparently, I'm hyper-masculine with low empathy. That sucks.

You can move the cursor over the color to see what it represents as far as my test scores.

See my full results: My Personal Dna Report

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Bill Moyers Talks to Jeanette Winterson

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On Faith & Reason, Bill Moyers interviewed Jeanette Winterson last night.

I've always like Winterson, ever since reading Sexing the Cherry in a feminist lit class in college. I admire anyone who can rise out the religiously oppressive childhood she lived through to do anything of value in the world.

She's definitely the exception to the proposed rule that children can only rise one half of a developmental level higher than their parents.

Here is the link to the video of the interview.

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Poem: Jack Gilbert

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Tear It Down

We find out the heart only by dismantling what
the heart knows. By redefining the morning,
we find a morning that comes just after darkness.
We can break through marriage into marriage.
By insisting on love we spoil it, get beyond
affection and wade mouth-deep into love.
We must unlearn the constellations to see the stars.
But going back toward childhood will not help.
The village is not better than Pittsburgh.
Only Pittsburgh is more than Pittsburgh.
Rome is better than Rome in the same way the sound
of raccoon tongues licking the inside walls
of the garbage tub is more than the stir
of them in the muck of the garbage. Love is not
enough. We die and are put into the earth forever.
We should insist while there is still time. We must
eat through the wildness of her sweet body already
in our bed to reach the body within that body.

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Poem: Mary Oliver

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This morning
two mockingbirds
in the green field
were spinning and tossing

the white ribbons
of their songs
into the air.
I had nothing

better to do
than listen.
I mean this

In Greece,
a long time ago,
an old couple
opened their door

to two strangers
who were,
it soon appeared,
not men at all,

but gods.
It is my favorite story--
how the old couple
had almost nothing to give

but their willingness
to be attentive--
but for this alone
the gods loved them

and blessed them--
when they rose
out of their mortal bodies,
like a million particles of water

from a fountain,
the light
swept into all the corners
of the cottage,

and the old couple,
shaken with understanding,
bowed down--
but still they asked for nothing

but the difficult life
which they had already.
And the gods smiled, as they vanished,
clapping their great wings.

Wherever it was
I was supposed to be
this morning--
whatever it was I said

I would be doing--
I was standing
at the edge of the field--
I was hurrying

through my own soul,
opening its dark doors--
I was leaning out;
I was listening.

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Hell Must Be Some Kind of Black Hole

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Hell must be some kind of black hole that sucks in sinners instead of light:

There are an estimated 6 billion people in the world, that’s 6,000,000,000 people! The average life expectancy of a person is estimated to be around 70 years of age. With all the natural disasters, people smoking, the global aids epidemic, terrorism, drug overdoses, liquor related deaths, accidents, murders, war, etc—I’m sure the average life expectancy is much lower. Visit a cemetery sometime and you’ll be surprised how many people have died at a much younger age. Nevertheless, let’s suppose that the average person lives to be 70 years old. 6,000,000,000 divided by 70 equals 85,714,285. This means that 85,000,000 people, on average, die every year. If we divide 85,000,000 by 365 days in a year, this means that an average of 232,876 people are dying every day in this world. Are you shocked?


Let's assume that I'm right concerning the percentages. Let's just assume that only 1% of the population is truly born-again. This means that 2,328 people enter into Heaven each and every day. Sadly, 230,548 people plunge into hell-fire each and every day. What percentage of people do you believe are truly saved? If you say "ALL," then you are obviously NOT a believer. There are an estimated 1,000,000,000 Muslims in the world, all denying that Jesus is the Son of God, all denying that Christ ever died on the cross, all denying that Jesus is God. There are another estimated 1,000,000,000 Catholics in the world, all who believe that Mary is deity, that the Seven-Sacraments are essential to salvation, that the pope is God upon the earth, that the priest has power to forgive sins and that good works can get them to Heaven. I witnessed to a Catholic man this week who proclaimed that he didn't believe Jesus was God. How sad! Most of the world has been deceived by false religion. Yes friend, billions of people are going to Hell. Each and every HOUR, roughly 9,500 people die. Thousands of those people go straight to hell.

"I'm on the Highway to Hell . . . "

So, assuming his math is correct, heaven is about the size of a major city, while hell must be of black hole proportions to hold all of those sinners. Makes you wonder.

Mythic religion is so much fun!

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Self-Esteem vs. Self-Worth

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This was yesterday's Daily Om:
Your Innate Value

Though much of who and what we are changes as we journey through life, our inherent worth remains constant. While the term self-worth is often used interchangeably with self-esteem, the two qualities are inherently different. Self-esteem is the measure of how you feel about yourself at a given moment in time. Your worth, however, is not a product of your intelligence, your talent, your looks, your good works, or how much you have accomplished. Rather it is immeasurable and unchanging manifestation of your eternal and infinite oneness with the universe. It represents the cornerstone of the dual foundations of optimism and self-belief. Your worth cannot be taken from you or damaged by life's rigors, yet it can easily be forgotten or even actively ignored. By regularly acknowledging your self-worth, you can ensure that you never forget what an important, beloved, and special part of the universe you are.

You are born worthy-your worth is intertwined with your very being. Your concept of your own self-worth is thus reinforced by your actions. Each time you endeavor to appreciate yourself, treat yourself kindly, define your personal boundaries, be proactive in seeing that your needs are met, and broaden your horizons, you express your recognition of your innate value. During those periods when you have lost sight of your worth, you will likely feel mired in depression, insecurity, and a lack of confidence. You'll pursue a counterfeit worth based on judgment rather than the beauty that resides within. When you feel worthy, however, you will accept yourself without hesitation. It is your worth as an individual who is simultaneously interconnected with all living beings that allows you to be happy, confident, and motivated. Because your conception of your worth is not based on the fulfillment of expectations, you'll see your mistakes and failures as just another part of life's jo! urney.

Human beings are very much like drops of water in an endless ocean. Our worth comes from our role as distinct individuals as well as our role as an integral part of something larger than ourselves. Simply awakening to this concept can help you rediscover the copious and awe-inspiring worth within each and every one of us.
It's easy to get caught up in trying to build self-esteem, and a lof of books have been written on the subject. On any weekend, you can probably find a workshop somewhere promising to help build self-esteem. Many of us have faulty images of our worth (based on external factors), and consequently we suffer from low self-esteem.

The issue seems to be whether or not we seek validation from the exterior, from others (self-esteem), or from the interior, from our inner nature (self-worth).

Yet, this Daily Om is as eloquent as anything else I have seen in demonstrating that self-worth is the true gift we always already possess. Simply tapping into our inherent worth will do more to build self-esteem than any number of books or workshops.

I was raised to assess my worth by things like income, the kind of car I drive, my home, my clothes, and other materialist factors. Our consumer culture does a good job of keeping these values foremost in our consciousness. By all of these standards, I am not a very successful human being, and I'm a lousy excuse for a man.

I still struggle with some of these beliefs. I have subpersonalities who are tied to looking good (which is fine unless self-worth is tied to that feeling), to having nice things (not because I enjoy them, but so that others know I have them), to keeping up with the Joneses, and other idiotic 50's era ways of measuring self-worth. They still have the power -- if I am not observant and mindful -- to makle me feel bad about myself.

Isolating those voices in my head and becoming aware of them through attention and mindfulness has done a lot to reduce their power over me. It's important to remember, however, that those voices developed to protect me from feeling ashamed as a child or young adult, from being made fun of. Those voices do not desire to hurt me, but rather to protect me. It is simply true that they are no longer appropriate in my life. They are self-preservation tools from previous developmental stages.

If I had been taught from the beginning to find my worth in my uniqueness as a person, in my individuality and my connections with other people, those voices may never have been so strong or so central in my psyche.

Maybe as we learn these hard lessons, future generations can avoid this particular pathology in their development.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Integral Relationships: A Preliminary Developmental Model

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This model is in its early stages and has more than a few kinks to work out -- one of which was pointed out by Kai in the comments to an earlier post (please check this post for the source of some of this theory). He points out that not all relationships begin in a fused state, which I think is true.
Fusion isn't an inevitable step in a relationship ("limerance," though, is, I think, and might be more skillfully substituted for the idea of fusion.) . . . . I agree that we all begin in an unskillful space, however; perhaps that unskillfulness manifests differently for different folks, though.

I think that one way around this objection -- which seems valid in terms of romantic relationships -- is to suggest that this model applies to all relationships. David Schnarch talks about how our first romantic relationships mirror patterns we inhabited with our parents.

Hal and Sidra Stone, in talking about bonding patterns in relationships, also look to the parent-child relationship as the source of adult bonding patterns. So in these cases, the fusion stage is one we all move through as children. If that stage is not adequately resolved in childhood (teen individuation is when it often happens), it will shape our adult relationships to a lesser or greater degree.

My preliminary model uses David Schnarch's language to a certain extent – touching on what I think is one of the defining characteristics of integral anything.

* Schnarch talks about the fusion stage as identity created through a reflected sense of self. We are undifferentiated and unable to define ourselves separate from our emotional ties to the other. We see ourselves as we are reflected in our meaningful relationships.

* The next stage may then be identity created through the opposition of self to other (and the successful attempt would reflect emotional separation - the end of fusion), which Schnarch mentions as one way that people try to break the fusion pattern. Too often however, we are unable to break the fusion, which results in bickering to establish boundaries or leaving to escape the fusion (which doesn't really end it).

* Then we might discover identity as a result of maintaining self while in relationship with others (we no longer define ourselves through emotion, but rather, through a more aware ego sense). We have access to a core self that does not fluctuate based on the conditions around us, yet is capable of maintaining strong emotional connections to others.

* I think the first truly second tier or integral stage would be differentiation with the ability to take on the other's role and experience their point of view. True empathy, to me, feels like the bginning of an integral awareness. When we can take the role of another, the separation between self and other begins to break down – we begin to see all the ways are alike, and with empathy begins pure compassion.

* Finally, we might know and experience that we are all one at some absolute level, yet still maintain our separate self-sense. This would be the ability to hold Welwood's absolute love and relative (fully differentiated) love in our interior space simultaneously. With this stage we are fully integrated in our relationships, and able to experience true compassion and empathy based on an experiential awareness on oneness.

In all likelihood, there are intermediary stages, as well, especially at the top end.

I think many people mistake fusion for the touch of the absolute or nondual. Another variation on mistaking a pre-personal state/stage for a post-personal state/stage.

What makes it all the more confusing is that a fused couple might actually have access to absolute love as Welwood defines it as a state experience, while still existing in a pre-personal stage of relationship. It's easy to see how a couple could confuse the two.

For more discussion on this conception, please see the Integral Relationships pod at Zaadz.

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Buddhism and Integral Spirituality

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Back in the early years of integral theory, Wilber used to talk about states and stages differently than he does now. He used to suggest that a state experience was good, but that it needed to be solidified into one's daily functioning to be become a stage of development. Now he suggests that the states and developmental stages, while appearing similar, are not the same thing.

Here is a dharma quote from Snow Lion Press that we can use as an example:

Dharma Quote of the Week

It is important to recognize the difference between an enlightened experience and the state of enlightenment. To penetrate the veil is to see the nature of reality for the first time. This enlightened experience in the Zen tradition might be called a satori. This is a powerful shift of insight that shakes our reality. No longer can we live with the delusion we may have once held. Our solidly held concepts about reality begin to crumble. Samsara shakes, as Lama Yeshe once put it. This experience may not be comfortable. To come so close to this existential threshold challenges our secure sense of identity and can be frightening. Indeed, as a Tibetan lama once said, this fear is a sign that we are close to the edge. We are beginning to recognize the lack of substance of our ego-identity. Our "wisdom eye" has opened to a new truth--an ultimate truth, as opposed to relative truth.

When we penetrate the veil, however, the work is not yet done. We may have had an enlightened experience, but there is further to travel. As Gen Jhampa Wangdu once said while I was in retreat, it is not difficult to experience emptiness; the problem is holding it. For this insight to have its full effect, the mind needs to be able to sustain awareness for prolonged periods of time. Tibetan teachers will sometimes say we may hit the nail, but only with a quality of focused attention can we repeatedly do so. With the development of tranquil abiding, the veil can be cleared completely in the way the red ring of fire created by the incense burn[ing] slowly expands and consumes the entire film of tissue paper. The mind is gradually cleansed of the emotional turmoil and confusion that is generated by the misconceptions we have about reality.

--from The Wisdom of Imperfection: The Challenge of Individuation in Buddhist Life by Rob Preece, published by Snow Lion Publications
In this passage, the author suggests that a state experience (emptiness) is not sufficient for enlightenment. He contends that we must be able to hold that state for the majority of the time for it to be considered enlightenment. If we can do this, the experience of emptiness itself will burn away any imperfections (shadow stuff) in the psyche.

But does holding emptiness constitute enlightenment in the new model of Integral Spirituality?

Not according to Wilber. A permanent state is still only a state. For integral enlightenment to occur, we need to continue growing through all the stages of development, along all the lines, in each of the quadrants. Enlightenment is a whole lot harder than it used to be.

Of course, we have to keep in mind that this is context dependent. One can only attain the highest level of development that has been realized during one's life span. Buddha or Jesus may have attained the highest possible level of development during their lifetimes and by those standards were enlightened -- but they would not be enlightened by our standards.

Wilber has made the concept of enlightenment a lot more complex, but I think this is good. People like Andrew Cohen claim enlightened status, but developmentally they are still children in many ways. How Wilber is going to reconcile this fact with his friendships with questionable gurus remains to be seen.

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Sogyal Rinpoche: The Personal Path

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Sogyal Rinpoche's Rigpa Glimpse of the Day:
The teachings tell us what it is we need to realize, but we also have to go on our own journey, in order to come to a personal realization. That journey may take us through suffering, difficulties, and doubts of all kinds, but they will become our greatest teachers. Through them we will learn the humility to recognize our limitations, and through them we will discover the inner strength and fearlessness we need to emerge from our old habits and set patterns, and surrender into the vaster vision of real freedom offered by the spiritual teachings.
This is the true path as far as I am concerned. We may have guidelines, or mile markers, along the way, but the journey is one we take within ourselves. As we confront shadow stuff, we befriend these parts of ourselves and learn the lessons they can teach us. It is a never-ending process of purification.

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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Zion: The Narrows

[I originally posted this on July 3rd over at my Zaadz blog (easier photo formatting). But I wanted to post it here as well. I plan to talk a bit more about this adventure as soon as I have it clear in my head.]

This morning Kira and I split up and did our own thing. I did a hike/swim called The Narrows. It follows the main canyon that Zion Park occupies – the Virgin River – all the way up into the canyon. The hike itself, full distance, is about 5 miles each way. I did about 3.5 miles (each way). [There's a longer 16 mile version as well.]

The hike starts out pretty mellow.

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But it starts to get a lot more narrow as you get in about a mile or so. The cool thing is how high the walls are – between 1,500 and 2,000 feet straight up in places.

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Some of the patterns and markings on the walls are extremely interesting. All of the walls are seeping water in lesser or greater degrees. It takes 4,000 years for rain water to seep all the way through the stone.

As you get further in, the walls are only about 25 feet apart in a lot of places.

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As I got up to the place where I stopped (lack of time), the water was chest deep and there was no way around it. You have to wade through carrying your pack over your head.

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The sun was just starting to get visible in the canyon bottom – around 11:45 in the morning.

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The trip was amazing. I'm so glad Kira and I agreed that I should do this. It's proof that I can ask for what I want and get it in this relationship – what a novel concept.

It was also a great way to let my inner child have his fun – I used to do things like this a lot when I was young, though not so intense. But it was fun to get all wet and have it be okay. And it was fun to explore a side canyon for 45 minutes and not have to worry about anyone else.

I highly recommend this hike to anyone who comes to Zion and can endure the physicality of it.

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Relationships: Absolute vs. Relative Love

[Images stolen from Integral Institute.]

In my never ending quest to examine and refine ideals for an integral relationship model, I have come to Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships by John Welwood. He makes a clear distinction between absolute love (which we often feel early in the bonding process) and relative love (what we have to contend with in relationship).
At the deepest level of our being -- the divinity within that we share with all beings -- there is no separation between me and you. At any moment it is possible to experience the warmth and openness of a heart connection with any living creature: a lover, a child, a friend, a stranger passing on the street, or even a dog. When we appreciate the beauty of another's being, the heart channel opens and a spark of absolute love passes through us. In this moment of connection we no longer feel so separate or isolated. We delight in sharing the one lovely, tender presence that dwells in the heart of all.

Yet at the same time, on the relative plane, we always remain separate and different. We inhabit separate bodies, with different histories, backgrounds, families, character traits, values, preferences, perspectives, and, in the end, different destinies. We each see and respond to things differently, and approach life in our own unique way.

Yes, we can experience moments of being at one with another. But this can happen only when we connect being-to-being, because at the level of pure being and pure openness, we are one. My openness is not different from your openness, because openness has no solid form and therefore no boundary that separates us, one from the other. Therefore, when we meet in a moment of absolute love, being-to-being, it is like water poured into water.

Relative love, by contrast, is an exchange that occurs on the level of form, person-to-person. Every person, just like every snowflake, every tree, every place, every circumstance in this world, is completely distinct. Each of us has our own unique character and way of unfolding, different from all others. While two persons can know themselves as one in the realm of pure openness, they remain irrevocably two in the realm of form.

One night you connect deeply with another, which leaves you feeling wide open to this person, totally amorous and enamored. But then the next morning, though you may still feel loving, that wide-openness may become clouded by considerations that start to arise: Is it safe to open yourself to this person? Can you accept the ways this person is totally different from you? How deeply is he or she able to understand you? Are you a good match?

Melting into oneness provides moments of blissful union in absolute love. and this is what the great mythic romances thrive on, this pure discovery and meeting that often happens outside ordinary time and space. But the challenges of relative love bring couples back to earth, forcing them to continually face and work with their twoness. This is not a bad thing, however. For without honoring the ways in which they are distinctly different, and exploring how to keep finding each other across these differences, a couple's connection will lose passion and vibrancy, and run the risk of unhealthy emotional fusion or codependency.
One of the things that can seriously damage a relationship is when the couple experiences this early blissful union and expects that to be what the relationship is -- blissful, easy, merged. Rather than face the reality of relative love, some couples become fused -- losing all individuation or differentiation. Rather than Dick-and-Jane, they become DickandJane. It is actually that merging energy -- emotional fusion -- that can leave us feeling alone and unloved because it is not authentic, pure openness.

From this description by Welwood, and from what I am reading in the Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch, I want to tentatively propose a hierarchy of relationship development: Fusion, Differentiation, Integral.

Emotional fusion is a pre-personal form of relationship. Differentiation is a personal and individuated form of relationship. Integral (whatever that may be) is the post-personal form of relationship.

Among other things, Integral may be the ability to hold both the absolute and the relative nature of relationship in our hearts and minds at the same time.

Any thoughts on this?

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Video: Clean Up New York

Give David Lynch one minute to craft an anti-litter message, and this is what you get -- vintage Lynch.

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy 4th of, uh, oh hell, Just Read the Post

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MSNBC/Newsweek has been picking up some of Andy Borowitz's work, and that's a good thing.
July 4, 2006 - In a nationally televised Fourth of July address, President George W. Bush stunned the nation by announcing that he was declaring himself independent from the United States Constitution.

“Just as our forefathers threw off the horrible yoke of British rule on July 4, 1776, today I am throwing off the yoke of this truly annoying document,” Bush said.

The president said that the original copy of the Constitution would be auctioned on eBay and that proceeds from that sale would help pay for a “long overdue” cut in the estate tax.

According to White House aides, ever since the Supreme Court decided last week that the use of military tribunals in Guantanamo was unconstitutional Bush had been looking for a way around that decision, even contemplating sending the Justices themselves to Gitmo.

Ultimately, one aide said, the president decided that a declaration of independence from the constitution was the most workable solution: “The fact is, whenever we’re trying to get something done around here, that stupid Constitution gets in the way.”

Bush acknowledged that some legal scholars would call his declaration of independence from the Constitution unconstitutional, but added, “To those people I say, no backsies.”

The president said that while he was no longer required to obey the U.S. Constitution, he still respected the Declaration of Independence, “because it has a really cool treasure map on the back.”

Elsewhere, after his wife and daughter appeared on Iraq’s most-wanted list, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein demanded that his mother-in-law be put on the list as well.
Is it still funny if it's really kind of true?

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I am intensely grateful that I will be sleeping in my own bed tonight. I know that hotels/motels think that soft mattresses say luxury, but what they really say is back pain. So I'm glad to be back in my own bed.

I'm also grateful to get back to regular blogging tomorrow. I've missed it.

And I'm grateful that I saw Zion and Bryce Canyon -- both are amazing places.

[Bryce Canyon]

[Zion National Park]

What are you grateful for?

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Sunday, July 02, 2006

Bryce Canyon Boggles My Mind

Zion is beautiful (more pictures to come), and I probably like it best of the Southwest parks I've been to, but Bryce Canyon boggles my feeble little mind.

The sheer magnitude of the landscape is so impressive that I felt tiny and insignificant. I love that feeling.

And the diversity of natural formations – all of them limestone – that have been created by frost-wedging and the “dissolving power of rainwater” is amazing. I took more than 160 pictures today at Bryce, and few of them look the same.

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And, as always, I am fascinated by trees. I took many pictures of trees, but these two are among the best.

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Finally, no trip is complete if I don't make some friends. This first guy just ran right up to me and stood there, probably waiting for me to feed him. He was sorely disappointed.

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And this guy is probably a long lost brother or cousin. Certainly, he is a family member – one of the few I want to have any contact with.

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Ravens are not only one of the smartest creatures on the planet, they are also one of the most beautiful.

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