Friday, February 29, 2008

Relative Pitfalls

There was an awesome presentation today in sociology, where a student had to describe the development of societies. She presented it as an introduction in a basic linear chart: Hunter-gatherer, Pastoral, Agrarian, Industrial, Post Industrial. Afterwards, my professor raised the good point: Try to see the different societies as co-existing. They are not necessarily linear. She asked the class:

"What dangers does this sort of evolutionary thinking provide?"

Student hands shot up, and one by one they called out the dominant flaws:

"It can be oppressive , as if those other societies are "less" human than our society."

"It assumes that the best way to go is Industrial, when it really isn't necessarily so."

"Marginalizes those who are in the lower "levels."

All good points! Of course, I had to play devil's advocate once again. I raised my hand and asked, "But what are the pitfalls of not at least including linear-development in a greater, very relative scheme?"

I continued, "It's like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. You can't just dismiss the developmental aspect of societies. Yes it's not completely linear, but it's not to say it doesn't exist. Maybe if we embraced a vertical and a horizontal thinking system we could understand it better, because it is complex."

The class raised their hands again, repeating the same arguments as they did before.

I tried to clarify myself, throwing out the word "holons," and described a few metaphors (Galaxies, solar systems, planets, increasing complexity). The most that I got out of it was that it was interesting that, "linear views in social sciences persist."

Alas. This is just a ramble. An irritated ramble. It's alright though, as frustrated grip fades, I'll just end this with a passing but important point:

To hold relativism to an extreme is to undermine your own value. No one view is right, except for that view. Accept all cultures, beliefs, societies as equal, except for values that don't agree. And I'll leave that paradox for any readers to poke at.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Nirvana Body

So what happens when it all finally clicks? When the ego collapses utterly into the divine, when the self discoveries the infinity of love abounding? Is it different for me than it would be for you? We're all unique, for sure. But there seems to be a handful of characteristics, if you will, "before" and "after." As a sociologist, I find myself constantly dabbling into these sort of studies. The empirical poking and prodding method may not be able to grasp the wisdom behind nirvana, kundalini, satori- perfectly fine by me. What it can do, though, playfully and with passive observations, is list a few characteristics about this elusive, mystical state. Believe it or not, there are some physiological traits of this experience. They do not reveal to us the insides of samadhi, only the outsides. So, I promise nothing in this entry that will reduce the mystic to scientific variable, a lab rat, test tube or statistic. Instead, I only offer what empirical science can tell us, and leave it up to the wonderer you are to take a leap into the unknown.

Mystical states are often a process, or transformative growth. One could call it a metamorphosis of you, totally and completely. It's a revolution, J Krishnamurti would call it. A revolution of the bodily state, the mental state, and the spiritual state. To be a mystic misfit, it takes the right tools to unlock a natural process that is already within you. Nope, I won't get into metaphysics. Way too complex for me. There are so many metaphysical theories on the subtle and psychic world, that to try to squeeze them all in this blog would totally lose the point. While you read this, remember that there are exceptions, and that enlightenment is not always so rough a transformation. This is really describing the dramatic, sudden shift that occurs often enough. Keep in mind that it may take years, it may take days. It may be blossom like a flower or rage in like a thunderstorm. We'll be dancing in the lightning for today.

So I'll keep it to the point, and in a nifty list. What's enlightenment like?

The End of Becoming

1. the body.

In The Three Pillars of Zen, there's an wonderful chapter that actually describes a number of satori experiences by both westerners an easterners. In fact, all of these are first-hand accounts. If we wanted to know "what's enlightenment like," we couldn't have found a better answer than by those who have gone through it. So, how do they explain it? The first aspect they often describe is a bodily change.

Hallucinations- Visual blots of light, shapes, figures. These are common.

Tremors- The body may start shaking violently. Not a seizure, but often enough the practitioners must lie down for a while.

Fainting- Literally, just passing out, with a combination of other characteristics on the list.

Sensation of Dying- many feel as if everything is being let go, and they go through a death-experience, the "death pose." UG Krishnamurti described his own experience like this. He actually thought he was about to die, and lied on his bed to let it all go black.

Blackouts- Where am I? Hours vanish, in and out of consciousness.

Intense Pain- The body goes through varying levels of pain. Yikes. Discomfort, aching, or sometimes even total-body pain.

Sweating- Nothing more to say. Usually accompanied by fever.

Often the Roshi will have the person taken care of. A blanket, some water, some rest are all important. The sensations can come and go over a few days, as in two noted cases (one of which is Krishnamurti's).

2. The Mind

The Mind and Heart go through an intense period as the body wrenches through the shift. A severe depression might arise, a disconnect from the outside world, or a hypersensitivity may occur (Asking not to be touched, etc).

Sometimes, the experience is described as an accumulation of all your troubles, your pathologies, your crisis or in other words - your shadow self bubbling up to the surface. You may feel as if every pain and fear you have ever felt is happening now.

3. The Spirit

A sense of many lifetimes may arise. You may feel disconnected from a sense of self. There's no "I" anymore, it's dying. You may feel that your past lifetimes are all coming to the surface. Just like your shadow self, your subtle self is shifting.

The Constance of Being

Often after these intense periods of time, the individual feels absolutely refreshed. There is a strange calmness and resonance in everything. The people, the cars, the plants and animals - it all feels and looks, and is - so vibrantly alive. It becomes difficult to differentiate things anymore. You start to just see things without labeling them. UG Krishnamurti, after his experience, went out for a walk and had to have a flower explained to him. "What is that?" Is replaced by a simply acceptance of everything that arises.

Thoughts seem diminished. They are present, but like everything else that arises, they are neither grasped nor let go. They just come like wind, rain and clouds.

A sense of self is still there, but so tiny the awareness is no longer "my" awareness, little "i" is now just "I am"-ness.

Past and Future as Now

Many times, individuals feel a sense of "timelessness" in which they see past and future in the present. They claim to, sometimes, look at someone else and see their former lives, or even their future lives - just as naturally and as easily as normal sight.

As you can see, the list is dynamic and not conclusive. Not set in stone at all. What it does show, however, are tendencies. Tendencies for gravitate towards these traits. What's it mean? Probably ripples on the pond, the moon's reflection on the surface, when "I-am-ness" manifests totally in a human being. What these ripples will show, however, is that the empirical eye can observe them. That the half blind vision of science, studying bit-by-bit of the kosmos, can begin to see connections, and hopefully a bigger picture here. This is not some crazy "inner attitude" that people can dismiss without a second thought (although this does happen...), what I hope is that other scientists will start taking this seriously, and join the mystics in their song.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

From, "You are the World," Jiddu Krishnamurti

So when one observes oneself, one sees that one is constantly building images in relationship and therefore creating division. Hence there is actually no relationship at all. Although one may say one loves the family or the wife, it is the image, and therefore there is no actual relationship. Relationship means not only physical contact but also a state in which there is no division psychologically. Now when one understands that- not verbally but actually - the what is the relationship between the observer who says, 'I'm afraid,' and the thing called fear itself? Are they two different things? This brings us to the question as to whether fear can be wiped away through analysis. Does this all interest you?"

I read this on the train yesterday. A few nights ago while I was trying to sleep, something like that hit me right before dreaming. I just started "looking" at the way I was building images about everything, and everyone, including myself. Just looking at them. Not trying to change them or adjust them. It seems very interesting now, but when I was experiencing it there was a "light-hearted" nature to the moment. I felt less tense, more flowing. This has occurred more frequently lately. At any rate, I just found it sorta interesting that I opened up this book to something similar. Krishnamurti continues on the next page,

"Because in analysis there is always the observer and the thing observed; that is, the analyzer and the thing analyzed. And the analyzer must be extraordinarily awake, unconditioned, without bias or distortion in order to analyze; if he is at all twisted in any way, then whatever he analyzes will also be biased, twisted. So that is one problem in analysis. The other is that it will take a great deal of time, gradually and slowly, bit by bit, to remove all the causes of fear - by then one will be dead (laughter)... And, even after you have discovered the cause (or causes) of fear, will it have any value? Can fear disappear when I know what I am afraid of? Is the intellectual search for the cause able to dissipate fear? All these problems are involved in analysis because, as we admit, there is this division between the analyzer and the thing analyzed.

Therefore analysis is not the way - obviously not - because one has no time... Psychologically speaking there is no tomorrow: We have invented it. And so, when you see the falseness of analysis, when you see the truth that the observer is actually the observed, then analysis comes to an end.

You are faced with the fact that you are fear - not an observer who is afraid of fear. You are the observer and the observed; the analyzer and the thing analyzed."

Krishnamurti definitely has a way with his words. There is an authority in it, yes, but at the same time there is a clarity about it. Sometimes he can really lay down the wisdom in coherent, flowing words. Reading, I feel, can be just as effective as meditating. It's a form of meditation. Your mind links up with the words, the ideas, the "pointing out" nature of language and lets your ego unfurl its boundaries naturally, exposing your spirit to the naked kosmos. Because of this, I often find myself reading things like this than meditating. It's very natural for me. At any rate, I hope you readers enjoyed this excerpt. More to come.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Upcoming Events for Spring Semester

2 Movie Showings:

What the Bleep Do We Know?

Integral Presentation

So the two movies will focus directly on science, religion and spirituality. The next event, the Integral Presentation, will dive into psychological and sociological issues, presenting debate and discussion over Wilber's work and Clare Grave's Spiral Dynamics. The last event, Zen Meditation, will be an open invitation to the entire campus to try out Zen. Hopefully, a Roshi will be our guest speaker. Otherwise I may have to make a sound-byte collection of Alan Watts or something. We'll see! But yeah, this is it so far. 

The only trouble we've been having is with submissions. It's the general apathy of the student body (I'll come to your events, but don't expect me to submit anything). The officers of the club and myself have some anxiety. Will we be able to publish? At this point, I'd love to, and I think we can, but if we don't we still have made strides with the community in presenting new ideas and refreshingly alternative events. So, either way, I feel we're doing very well. And there's always next semester! Hope this continues...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Follow Up

So, as individual people, do we allow the past to condition the present? Are we perpetuating an image, a memory and labeling it 'me?' If so, the so-called persona of a human being is re-created, from moment to moment, by bringing the past and injecting it into this moment. What happens if that stops, or if we notice this psychological action - just for a moment?

Imagine what implications this would have on a sociologist or a psychologist attempting to describe the nature of a human being, and why he or she acts in a particular way. As a scientist, an inquisitor and an explorer, why isn't this one of the very first things that we are encouraged to engage?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Conditioning The Present

Furthermore, it is always possible to argue not that we are conditioned by the past, but that we use the past to condition ourselves in the present, and for reasons which are not historical but deeply inward and unknown."

Alan Watts

This one struck me like a koan. How about you? Isn't that interesting? In one striking statement, reasoning is inverted, and pointed directly at the 'ego,' crushing its game by revealing its secret workings (which are all so very obvious at this point). 

Imagine the effect this attitude could bring to psychology, sociology and the rest of the sciences? Religion?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Dusty Papers: Sociology Part II

So in my last blog I was taking a look at the pros and cons of sociology in the classroom. As it turns out, my B+ might end up having to be changed to a C-. While doing some casual research online (Drinking pomegranate tea while listening to Stuart Davis and digging into google), I realized that a number of links under "sociology" were all university-related works, or paper calls in scholarly circles. What about major sociological projects? In many of the sciences, there are at least a handful of intriguing projects that get their hands dirty and attempt to grapple with some new dilemma. Alas! I was mistaken. It seems that a majority of sociology circles are academic based. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but I asked a few of my friends why sociology was so university-based. I got a number of interesting points:

1. The US in particular has shifted heavily to individualism- and a science that took the reigns on that was psychology. Sociology is too plural-based to take the spotlight. Instead, we see magazines like Psychology Today answering gender, race and culture questions.

2. Sociology in class rooms has a specific focus: Gender, race,  and differences. There's nothing inherently wrong with discussing these differences, but they focus so heavily on how we are different, and on how we stratify ourselves that we end up creating further stratification. By focusing so heavily on stereotypes we actually reinforce them into our daily lives, not dissolve them. Sociologists have to realize that a majority of students have grown up with a cultural awareness since elementary school. The previous generation grew up without many civil rights in place, they paved the way for us. But what they have to understand is that we grew up with those civil rights inherent in our lives. This is far from a perfect awareness, but sociology fails to come to grips in recognizing it, and so the department goes on the back-burner while other departments tackle social issues.

3. I guess this was my major point while on the D Train to Brooklyn: We tackle alot of modern social issues: Gender, race, class, stratification, identity. They are, of course, important. Understanding the major divides in society is to discover them. But then, shouldn't we ask ourselves: Are these symptoms we are seeing or are they the root of the sickness? If a society is full of problems, sociology is great at listing those problems and seeing how they are all related, but they fail at one crucial point - diagnosing and treating. If we are here to study society, to understand the human being, plural, shouldn't diagnosing the problem be a major part of what we do?

You've got some symptoms: Gender bias, class stratification, identity-issues, racism.

Why do these arise? Are they independent of any other cause? Just gender bias arise simply because there are males and females? Things are of course, not so simple. But the point is:

What is it about the human being that divides in the first place? Couldn't our worldview, and our own view of ourselves in relation to the world be a major contributor to the rest of our issues?

Seeing the self as a separate entity, for instance, creates a world where "I" am placed into, and if I am separate, small and fragile, I must develop boundaries to protect myself. When I do this, I might become a racist, a power holder (Make my "self" bigger by dominating others), etc. A number of social issues might be better understood this way, rather than just categorizing stratification, we could seek to understand how and why it occurs in human nature.

On the other hand, if I see myself truly in relation with the world, not self and other, but as self-other or as self-world, it's a whole different view! Boundaries need not be erected so high. In fact, the connection with other humans can help dissolve those boundaries, and pathologies, into creating a deeper, more connective community with less stratification. Instead of building more boundaries by focusing so deeply on the symptoms, I guess I'm calling for a study of human nature, collectively, so that we can help society and our very existence as a whole. That and, maybe save sociology from being forgotten in the dusty vaults of the universities.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


For you nerds out there (I guess - is a sociologist considered a nerd?) I'd just like to take a moment to reflect on my chosen major - Sociology. I have been taking classes for about two semesters now, and hopefully am gaining somewhat of an idea of what it's all about.

What is it, essentially? The study of the human collective. It's psychology, plural. Heavily tied into anthropology (that's very similar, with an empirical twist). Since I'm starting this major late into my college career, I'm actually going backwards and taking the introductory class this semester. We're learning the basics: how to do research, research ethics, culture, class, economics, Marx and Weber - all that good stuff.

Now, in my more particular socio classes, we seem to be focusing on these general topics:

1. Class Struggle
2. Gender
3. Globalization
4. Statistics
5. Suffrage
6. Race!
7. Gender!!
8. Class!!

Yes. Something definitely repeats in that list. We are heavily interested in, it seems, class and gender struggles throughout the world. How do the oppressed battle the oppressors? How does matriarchy struggle for a presence in patriarchy? How does race bias affect societies? It seems like, in other words, we're going over the major developments of the last century: gender, class, and race. These are really important issues because they are still issues. In many of my classes, the professors urge us to try to understand the delicate and complicated problems we face, even in the industrialized world. All in all, I'd give the focus a hearty B+.

The only thing I would really like to see more of, and so far am not, are other issues that may be harder to distinguish if we're looking on the surface. It takes a little digging, and a little remembering - but whatever happened to wonder? Or C. Wright Mill's "Sociological Imagination?" I don't want to sound idealistic, but can't we enchant our research with this wonderful tool? We have a great set of lenses to utilize: empirical research, statistics, data, sociological terminology. But what of wonder, adventure, thinking outside of the box? From dabbling into sociological books and talking with my professors, it seems they too are quick to admit you will not find such a spirit hidden readily in scholarly jargon. 

In fact, one of my professors even admitted that many books often tend to be a show of intellectualism over any honest, heartfelt questions. So I ask this one: Why can't we wonder? The answer of course, is redundant. Of course we can! There are a few gems in sociological research (Sidewalks) which attempt to narrate the research and make it accessible for everyone to learn from. It's in this spirit that I guess I am writing, too.

And in that case, let me wonder a little with you. These questions, right now, I'd like to ask without imposing concepts, and thus a bias:

1. What makes us tick, really? Not just economics, biology- those are a part of it. But really, what makes us tick?
2. What fundamental assumptions to we use to create how we see our realities?
3. Or even, can our basic assumptions about the world, and our relation to it affect every aspect of our reality - from individual actions to entire civilizations?
4. What discoveries has wonder brought us?
5. Because we believe we are born into the world, and not out from it - does this make a difference? Can it describe why things are the way they are? (Not in good shape for civilization, it seems.)
6. Let's allow ourselves to just wonder, and see what arises.

These and so many questions have arisen during my classes, but alas - they are never 'satisfied' or rather, no meaningful answer is given. To add to the starting point of criteria in our classes, I'd love to see us crack open Alan Watts' book, "Man, Nature and Woman." It explores our fundamental assumptions about humanity that run deep into culture, history and pour out in the present. The belief that there is a "self" and "other" for instance, creates a duality that seems to birth every opposite in the cosmos. These points, risen by Watts and many eastern philosophers (and sociologists in their own right), could do wonders for helping us understand ourselves, singular and plural. Why not start sailing the inner-cosmos, as well as the outer? To borrow the shamanic label, it's time for sociologists to embrace the psychonaut. 

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Reading "The Sociology of Early Buddhism"

So, while browsing links after searching google for "sociology, buddhism," this book came up. Being a sociology major, and very interested in how sociologists approach (if they do...) eastern contemplatives, I was excited at the discovery of "The Sociology of Early Buddhism," by Greg Bailey and Ian Mabbett. I browsed through the pages and started reading the first 15 (As they skip a few after that, insisting you buy the book to read it). At any rate, they began to discuss an apparent "problem" in understanding how and why Buddhism arose in ancient India. I had some trouble understanding what the problem was until they wrapped up the issue in a single paragraph (A rare treat for scholarly books):

"...Buddhism to have been something which, in its origin, it was not. In its origin it was a message for those who wished to forsake society, abandoning everything. It was not a rationale for the ambitions of holders of power and magnates. The gap between the austere ascetic impulse and the needs of expanding urban kingdoms is great indeed."

They continue to re-emphasis this point, sometimes in short paragraphs, other times in long, drawn out pages. Alright, well fair enough point, BUT wasn't Buddhism from its very start, a practice of the "middle way?" In other words, it wasn't about extreme abandonment or extreme indulgence. Have these authors included in their analysis, an understanding of Buddhist teachings? Or are they scratching at surfaces (Historical context, sociological concepts, etc). The more I seemed to read, the more I felt that the authors were setting up a false polarization of city vs. rural, ascetic vs. king. A book that helped me realize that this wasn't a centralized issue in understanding how Buddhism arose was Karen Armstrong's "The Buddha." Although her book is a little heavy with info and terminology, she writes the story wonderfully and really helps the reader understand how it all began.

The beliefs of the people at that time were ripe for a practice that would liberate themselves from "dukkha," which stemmed from a belief that suffering wasn't just in this life, but in others as well. You lived many lives and what you did here and now was a result of your own actions. At any rate... There were many different schools at that time, and Buddha himself wandered through 'em. India was ripe with a desire for liberation. This is somewhat of a cultural context, and C. Wright Mills' "sociological imagination" calls us to really try and walk in their shoes to understand it.

And second point, just scratching the surface of this book, did they review what the Buddha's own understanding was? His own teaching professes that one could achieve a "transpersonal" state of awareness in which one would be liberated from all objects that arise - whether it be another human being or a tree, or even a hot meal. But, having gone through his own testing, he realized one could not jump to an extreme. It wasn't a matter of "rejecting" society outright and completely, but embracing all things by not being attached to them. This principle, if you will, made Buddhism strongly appealing. It helped Buddha see through his own ego, more easily connect with his listeners and monks, and sway even the greatest of kings (Which, mind you, were also heavily religious). If you want to understand why Buddhism is appealing, you can't reject the essence of Buddhism itself. You can look at the historical context, the economic context, the sociological context, but feel free to dive into the teaching itself and explore what the meaning could do to a society that was ready and willing to explore good wisdom.

Alright, the rant review is over. If I can get through the rest of this, I'll try and see if there is anything I was dead-wrong about. So far though, I'm just a wee bit disappointed.

Weird Mars: Civilization and Apocalypse?

Did Mars once harbor a lush organic landscape, with civilizations that erected epic-sized pyramids? Could a catastrophic collision with a meteorite or some other large projectile in space, have decimated Earth's sister planet and left it a cold, barren red wasteland? Sounds amazing! Is it true? This team of researchers and scientists raise the questions about Mars, and demand for NASA to investigate strange evidence that would support these "crazy" claims. From bizarre tree-like shapes to strange pyramids and structures that resemble built structures, they investigate the intriguing possibility of a former civilization on Mars. That's all I have to say, let the conference speak for itself. If you're a space-geek like me, sit down, have a snack and enjoy the slideshows - and let me know what you think: Could there have been life? How could this effect us earthlings?

Google Video: Press conference about life on mars

Monday, February 4, 2008

"Change the Guard" - A Call to End Political Dynasty

A new blog by Lance Garret Steagall labeled, "Change the Guard," thunderously raises a point that has not been raised enough in the presidential race: The fact that two families have been on the top for the past 20 or so years. Bush, then Clinton, then Bush, and now Clinton again? So where is the change?

A brave citizen asked this question to Hillary, and she danced around the answer with usual political eloquence:

CLINTON: Well, as I have often said, I regret deeply that there is a Bush in the White House at this time. (Laughter.) But I think that what's great about our political system is that we are all judged on our own merits. You know, we come forward to the American public, and it's the most grueling political process one can imagine. We start from the same place. Nobody has an advantage, no matter who you are or where you came from. You have to raise the money. You have to make the case for yourself …

And, you know, it did take a Clinton to clean after the first Bush, and I think it might take another one to clean up after the second Bush. (Laughter, cheers, applause.)

It's shocking, no, disconcerting to hear little concern with this fact. Is she an agent of social change? Or is she a way to manage and continue the status quo? Is she truly just like the rest of us, the "same place," or is she privileged on the top?

Steagall writes, 

In saying "nobody has an advantage, no matter who you are or where you came from … you have to make the case for yourself," she denied the advantage of having a former president, still revered by much of the Democratic base, actively campaigning on her behalf. When Bill said choosing Obama is "rolling the dice," he proved that, in fact, you don't always have to make the case for yourself. When Hillary sent her husband out fund-raising, she proved that you don't "have to raise the money" yourself

It's very clear that she has every advantage over Obama - and this in itself is not a bad thing. Nobody ever said politics was fair. Though, I'm trying to make more of a case about privilege, which both Bush and Hillary have.

Steagall continues,
Every Bush and Kennedy in politics makes it clear; if you're a member of American political royalty, you've got a jump-start.

Her supporters can argue over the degree to which she has benefited, but they cannot argue over whether or not she has benefited. Hillary did not start from the same point as her competitors, she did not make her case by herself, and most important, she has no claim to change in this election.

Thirty years of the same two families in the White House is enough. It's time to change the guard.

Yes! Could not have said this better, and I'm glad someone out there is articulating it so well. I have never been too attached to principles and ideals, perhaps due to my own social hermitage, but there is something very wrong in allowing a virtual dynasty, blatantly obvious to an increasingly apathetic people, to continue. Hillary promises universal health care, while Obama does not. Is this really so? And how can we trust her? We know for certain she openly endorses and encourages her association with interest groups- and a majority of these interest groups are not interested in 'the people,' but their own financial benefits, and have been the source of resistance of universal health care in the U.S. for decades. Meanwhile, Obama is better at bring different social groups together and allowing compromise. His integrity is also steered at least a little more toward the people. As a sociologist, I find this sort of trait, or characteristic very important for a world leader. If our nation is truly "for the people," why are we continuously electing a small few to run the country, who are honestly looking after their own interests over ours?

I suppose this rant should make one final point: It's a shame it has come to this: Clinton vs. Obama. Kucinich was a worthy candidate who was slowly and cunningly pushed out from the spotlight by media, interest groups and political enemies (Not to mention Ron Paul was not mentioned once last night on Fox News). By endorsing Obama, am I just giving into the political game? Who knows, but I guess I'll leave it at that, and try to take some action, because it is usually better than none at all in the political world. As a side note, I would love to see how the Taoist concept of non-action can be integrated into modern politics. Hmm, more to come!

Peace, Being,

Shaman Sun

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Putting It In Perspective

Congressman and candidate Ron Paul has often mentioned putting the middle-eastern situation into perspective. What would happen if we were being occupied? What would happen if China was on our soil, using our resources? How would we react to nearly half a century of foreign occupation? Well, J.L. Bryan has written a fake timeline to show you just how you would feel. 

He opens with,

This is for anyone interested in understanding what American foreign policy has done to people in Iran.  (For simplicity's sake, I have combined the roles of the USA and the UK, as the USA was assuming control of the former British Empire at this time.)

Sure, it's just a switch - but it makes all the difference. I recommend that this is shared with folks and friends, just so we can really appreciate the importance of perspective.

Top 4 Writers Who Should be In Classrooms

Even though modern education can easily stuff our minds to the brim with intricate servings of "thinking critically," we never seem to apply that knowledge to ourselves. To top it off, most of the education we learn here in the West is heavily euro-centric, taking years to update and embrace new modes of thought. So, what if education were to begin to assist students in self-knowledge, and explore different worldviews that radically contrast, perhaps at surface level, traditional western values? What if east and west met? And then, what if east, west, north and south all found a congregation in the classroom, providing a mirror of both self-reflection and knowledge in the classroom? Man, we'd have one bad-ass educational system. Don't you think? This "top 4" is in no particular order, and I suspect it's the beginning of a long list of often-neglected writers would stir hours of conversation and thought in universities and high-schools across the world. In particular, the U.S. is in desperate need of new and dynamic education.

1. Alan Watts:

Why? Alan Watts is one of the few classical, yet easily accessible writers of eastern philosophy. Considering himself primarily an entertainer, his way with words, as well as book titles: "The Book: On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are"  provide both an intellectually stimulating and interesting read. He often gives readers an easy way into understanding the concept of the self, and how it is truly embedded into the world. We blossom out from it, not descend into it, he might say. This would provide students both younger and older, a freshly alternative view of the universe and their place in it. The often euro-centric classes would be shattered by a playful, creative and intelligent author. Watts is also the author of a huge collection of books, documentaries, lectures and essays. The possibilities here are endlessly fruitful.

2. Daniel Quinn:

Why? While Watts would help us ask big questions about who we are, Quinn will wittingly pose the deep, societal questions about aspects of civilization we take for granted. His work, particularly the underground classic "Ishmael," would force us to question the fundamental belief of civilization as a myth. Why are we? Why do we live like this way? Did human beings ever live another way? Aside from generating discussion, it would stir the cultural sediment and perhaps inspire a student or two to take action and openly explore alternate modes of living and subsistence. Quinn explores the lifestyles and culture of tribal societies vs. civilization. Tribal societies were, and still are, capable of a balanced and long life within nature, while civilization is always looming in the face of disaster, collapse. Quinn poses this theory: That perhaps our civilization was flawed from the very beginning, 10,ooo years ago. Check out his site.

3. Jiddu Krishnamurti: 

Author, philosopher, teacher and mystic. Why the pick? Krishnamurti is a system-buster, plain and simple. Systems are practical, but having a system buster is in itself healthy for a check-and-balance lifestyle, where nothing gets out of hand, and culture, let alone learning does not become like stagnant water. He raises the big, awkward questions: Why do we have religions? Are they escapes? What are ideologies but security fences to dwell within? He forces us, once again to question ourselves. It's not just a matter of thinking critically "out there," but what about "in here," in you and me? Self knowledge extends to world-knowledge. If we accept our insecurities and are in a constant process of self knowledge, then the lifestyles we will lead will reflect that. To Krishnamurti, the world's conflict is in fact an extension humanity's inner-conflict. In the library of books, essays and lectures he gave, the one resounding teaching was that of an inner revolution. 

4. Ken Wilber

Why? Well, he's been around long enough at this point to have both introductory books and in-depth and heavily detailed explanations of integral theory. He, like his predecessor Alan Watts, is deeply concerned with exploring the relations between east and west. What you will find is his ability to tie to the two together, finding east and west and west in east. Not only that, the cultivation and development of the integral theory provides a method and a philosophy that will help students see a "bigger picture." That is, see underlying patterns in seemingly different theories: psychology and art, sociology and quantum physics (Weird, eh? I'm sure there's something...), religion and science. The concepts and methods involved stimulate the analytical side, as well as the creative and explorative side of our minds. His works will raise deep questions, and ask students to ponder a world not only of horizons but of heights and depths. It explores consciousness in ways that are not usually emphasized. It takes the huge array of theories about everything, and makes a coherent "map" of them. Whether or not this map is effective will be up to the students to discern, but it is the vast library of material, of the general integral philosophy, following in the footsteps of the perennial philosophy, that will tickle the students minds and spirits. Not to mention, he is a fellow, at least part-time, blogger.

That's it for now. These list-blogs are fun to make, so anyone who reads this site should expect some more...

A Little to the Right

While browsing the blog-sphere, I came across this interesting blog by Dr. Martin Rundkvist: US Politics have no Left Wing. The key point I found here was the absurdity of American politics - to europeans, even our "liberals" are seen as conservative. We seek moderation, we do not promote change, not in the truest, most progressive sense. Only now are we seeing the possibility of a woman in office. Are we truly leading the world in the latest and greatest expression of democracy? And, are the democrats truly 'left,' or do they sway a little bit more to the right than we would like to think? This is what Dr. Martin has to say,

So, believe me, US politics don't have a Left. Looking at the presidential candidates, I am frankly appalled. None of them would be a viable politician in Sweden. They all support the death penalty, none advocates strict gun control and all make frequent mention of their religious beliefs in public. These are extremist stances. Not even the tiny Christian Democrat party mentions God publicly in Sweden, for fear of alienating the pragmatic rationalist majority.

Putting things in this context creates a drastic gap between our ideals about what it is to be democratic. In a sense, this forced me to think about the relativity of our politics. More and more, it seems we are standing more on the ground of loose myths about our country, instead of steady facts.

From a European perspective, US politics are an ongoing battle between the extreme Right and the middle Right. The Republican presidential candidates are really, really scary people in my view. So all of us in the world at large who live under the shadow of US political hegemony are holding our breaths, hoping that Clinton or Obama will make it into office. They're pretty bad, but the alternative would be unspeakably dreadful.

It is sad that it has come to this, but of the two, I'd say Ron Paul or Obama will have my vote. For one sound reason: integrity. The both of them have been pretty consistent, and do not play dirty politics like Clinton tends to. Not to mention the strange fact that two families have been running the country for the past 20 years: The Bushes and Clintons. This is rather more like a dynasty than a democracy. Just for the principle of it, I do not trust a small group on the top to simply pass around the presidency to the "privileged few." How come nobody is mentioning this?

Except for Mos Def on RealTime with Bill Maher. I think these questions shouldn't be considered absurd. If anything, let's explore the possibilities first, no? I do appreciate Bill Maher's work, but the one thing that gets to me is at times it seems he is too easily dismissive. At any rate, have a laugh and learn a lil':

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