philosophical

Salvation . . .

You: What does it mean to be saved?

Me: That depends upon your religious affiliation, but as a rule the Christian church teaches that Jesus Christ willingly gave up his life as a sacrifice for your sins, and by your acknowledgement of that sacrifice you have been freed from the curse of sin and death. It teaches that Heaven is reserved for those who die in the faith . . . Hell is reserved for those who don’t.

Christian doctrine accepts a convert as they are and promises them a new life where they will be forgiven of past sins and become a new person as they live under the living word of God and His bible. In time the simplicity of that message created the largest and most powerful religion known to man. People flocked to the Mother church and her teachings by the millions.

When I was a younger man I know I did. I was at the end of my rope. I needed help from somewhere. Jesus was there, free and open armed, for me. I was born again in a local church and as long as I remained in good standing with the church and it’s doctrine I was guaranteed a place at the table when I got to Heaven. Heady stuff for a guy who had absolutely no religious affiliation whatsoever, and it worked great for a couple of years . . . BUT . . . (more…)

The Art Of Discussion

debateHow many times have you read “no religion or politics” when looking at the membership rules in a web forum? I mean, you can talk about lots of other things, but two of the most important issues facing us in this life is considered taboo? . . . What’s up with that? Any talk concerning our spiritual well being . . . taboo. Any talk concerning the governing of our physical well being . . . taboo. These two categories are still, even in this supposedly enlightened country, considered unsafe because they always end up causing a heated argument . . . why?  (more…)

Free Your Spirit . . .

free your spirit

The Tao of Coffee

Two scholars spent the better part of an afternoon in a local Portland Starbucks arguing the theories of Evolution versus Creationism. Getting nowhere, they took the advice of the Chinese guy working there and decided to drive to the beach near Astoria to visit a sage named Chung Lee who reputedly had the answers.

The following morning they took off for the beach. Upon arrival, they soon found his cottage hidden amongst the coastal dunes. Although the cottage was empty they spotted the old sage not far away sitting on a high dune facing out to sea.

After approaching him, the old man turned, directed his eyes upon them and asked, “Where’s the coffee?” (more…)

What To Do?

back to the land

What do representatives of the largest corporations and governments in the world talk about when they sit around the conference table? Well, from what I’ve been hearing, these groups that operate outside the boundary of public scrutiny are actually the guys who create national and foreign policy for the country. All those guys you see daily on TV? . . .  including the president himself? . . . are merely front men.

Hillary Clinton, during a recent interview, was saying how happy she was to hear that the Council On Foreign Relations (CFR) had just opened a Washington office . . . “Now I won’t have to go to New York to find out what I am supposed to do.” she said and laughed.

Dumb me, here I thought the president was the guy who told her what to do. But then, if you think about it, he is only in office eight years max while these people have been around since the sixties. . .

Who are they? Check out their website and you’ll find a long ‘whose who’ list of the rich, famous, and powerful members that you will recognize. These guys operate quietly in the shadows, but don’t hide from the fact that they do so. They are the shadow government. (more…)

Science vs Religion

science vs religion

Michael Crichton, author of State of Fear and other best-selling novels, delivered this lecture at the Commonwealth Club on September 15, 2003.

“I have been asked to talk about what I consider the most important challenge facing mankind, and I have a fundamental answer,” opens Crichton. “The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda. Perceiving the truth has always been a challenge to mankind, but in the information age (or as I think of it, the disinformation age) it takes on a special urgency and importance.”

You can read the entire speech in PDF format at www.heartland.org/policy-documents/mankinds-greatest-challenge  . . .

This is not a rebuttal as much as my own viewpoint on the subject. I do not refute what Michael is saying . . . I agree with much of it . . . BUT . . . like Paul Harvey used to say, here’s my rest of the story.

(more…)

Truth . . . What is Truth?

truth

When it comes to reality, every time we think, or everytime we say, “this is the absolute truth” we should really be saying, “to the best of my knowledge this is true”. . . because most of the time our declaration of absolute truth will one day prove the point that we didn’t really know, we just thought we did. . . . If nothing else, this one action would save a lot of division and silly argument.

Today, I see this “I know and you don’t know” phenomenon taking place all across the board in every direction. Social status, education, even experience, makes no difference, it seems to me that dialog, for some reason, has been replaced with intellectual snobbery. “I know.” is now the order of the day . . . and really, what do we actually know for sure?

As an example: Take an ice cube out of the freezer and set it on the countertop. What you have is an ice cube. Without a doubt you KNOW what the object is . . . no doubt . . . absolute truth . . . ICE CUBE, and you are willing to argue until hell freezes over about the fact that this object IS an ice cube. . . . but wait a while and the ice cube melts away and turns into a pool of water. Then what do you have?

“Well the damn thing has melted!” you say. You are correct, your ice cube has just melted into a pool of water because all along that’s what it actually was. WATER. . . . This is what practically ALL of your opinions and perceptions will ultimately do also, because in all actuality, no matter how many experts you have on your side, you, or they, do not know their asses from a hole in the ground when it comes to absolute truth. (more…)

Awareness

What is it? I mean you hear the word and right away you get this image of a sage who has studied long and meditated hard until a certain moment in his life when, like the Buddha under the Bodhi tree, he has an eureka moment where he becomes filled with the light of awareness.

It seems the first thing these enlightened individuals do is create a way to reveal their empowered ego to the masses. Who needs more of the multiple money making schemes these guys in the ‘New Age’ movement have come up with? Why do so many groupies buy their books or attend their seminars? What does it get them except a short term fix that is no more powerful, and far more expensive, than the high that used to come from smoking a good joint. It dissipates just about as fast also. In their search for awareness these people have merely traded the rock stars of the sixties for the awareness stars of today.

To most of us common folks it seems we stumble along day after day experiencing our existence through the law of duality until somehow we finally get the message. And even then the message is just one piece of this huge puzzle called life. In my opinion any awareness a person may experience on an individual level is rather meaningless to the rest of us.

My view of awareness is far more practical. To me, becoming aware is merely when a person, through trial, error, and experience finally begins to see with some clarity that he or she is NOT the center of the universe, and there are far more important things to do in this life than waste time standing before a mirror playing the game “mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the greatest one of all?” It’s time to focus our vision higher and take a look at the world around us, right where we are at this very moment.

Practical awareness doesn’t come with labels like conservative or liberal or the multi host of others, matter of fact if you see yourself in such a light, you probably aren’t very aware of anything at all beyond ‘group think.’ Your just another damn groupie.

Awareness means to have the ability to place yourself in another’s shoes and walk in them for a while before you cast judgment upon them or their actions. Awareness helps create balance, not strife.

We all come from different backgrounds. Education, religion, family instruction (or lack thereof), race, nationality etc. all help build the foundation of our personal belief system.

Awareness kicks these blocks out from under us, draws it’s knowledge from a far deeper source and reveals to us in a very practical way that we are without a doubt our brothers keeper. And being kind and sharing with him begets far more riches for us than that guru acquires from his 350.00 per person seminar.

Once we realize that, no matter how smart we are, we are merely a cell in this large intergalactic body of energized oneness, we can know in our heart that we have grown in awareness, but not until.

Follow Your Bliss

Joseph Campbell was being interviewed by Bill Moyers on the PBS “Power of Myth“ series when I first heard his phrase “follow your bliss”. In his viewpoint this undertaking must happen if a man were to experience fulfillment in his lifetime.

Joseph Campbell was a very wise man, but just what does it mean to follow one’s bliss? Well, in my opinion it means merely to be balanced enough to know your gift and be willing enough to work towards bringing it to fruition.

An artist creating a work.

A business man creating a new business.

A teacher creating wonder and hope in young minds.

A philanthropist in the creative stage of giving.

On an on it goes, different for each individual yet having the same affect on all of them by bringing purpose into their lives. Did you catch the major theme through all this dream following?

Creativity. Being a creative human being is what it’s all about. After all what are we if not creators? Followers.

Now, following is not bad nor necessarily wrong. Without leadership we would be living extremely chaotic lives on this planet, and in all reality would probably have gone extinct some time ago. But there is a balance that must be maintained while following or else you may just deny your gift and ultimately lose yourself in another’s cause.

What’s your dream? (it is normally tied into your gift) Everybody who has not been beaten down or brainwashed by the society he lives in has one. What do you need to do in order to fulfill it?

I would say also that in order to follow your dream you must be realistic in your goals. Otherwise a man will spend his valuable youth chasing after someone else’s dream, be he/she a scholar, a movie star, a musician or a magician, it doesn’t matter.

He will merely be living as a copy cat who will never be as good as what he copies. Why? It’s not his. He is just fantasizing it is. Has anybody ever made Mozart’s music as good as Mozart himself? No, of course not. He may be good enough to copy and be almost equal to Mozart, but never will he surpass him. It’s impossible.

My gift is not in the music field and I know it, yet I still enjoy playing an instrument. Nor am I a painter, yet I enjoy painting a picture. We can do a lot of really cool stuff without activating our gift. Those who excel, the gifted ones who seemingly are heads above the rest of us, these guys are the ones I’m talking about.

I know my gift and when it’s working I am in another place. A place where nothing can touch me, nor harm me, spiritually speaking anyways. When I am in my gift, I am at one with the earth. That’s the best I can explain it. I’m sure Joseph could do better.

I fundamentally believe that each person born into this world has a gift of some sort programmed into his DNA and his goal, in order to be happy, is to find that gift and use it to the betterment of himself as well as his fellows.

The problem I see, at least in this country, is that in order to create anything of value you first must follow a learning curve of dedication, commitment, discipline and practice. All the things that seem to be out of vogue in this “hurry up I want it now!” society we live in.

As a practical matter we need to have a place of quiet solitude where we can meditate upon these questions and resolve them in our own minds before we even begin. Then we need to move forward to practice them.

Thich Nhat Hanh (a Vietnamese Buddhist monk) is a great example of a man following his bliss.

In the midst of the Vietnam War while the Americans were bombing the hell out of his country, he and his organization were busily rebuilding bombed villages, setting up schools and medical clinics, and helping through non violent means all he could to alleviate the plight of the citizens of his country.

For doing that he was ultimately forced out of his country and banned from ever returning. Nothing stopped him however and he remains practicing peace to this day in Plum Village somewhere in France.

Hopefully as/if things get worse for you in this country nothing will stop you either because what takes place on the outside is nothing to be compared to the power within once you find and follow your bliss. . . . Go for it! You’ll be glad that you did.

The Tribe

Eleven o’clock on a summer morning and the place was seemingly deserted, no dogs, nothing. Where’s everybody at? Where’s the kids I thought as I slowly drove past one house after another in the upscale housing development.

I gazed upon one perfectly manicured lawn after another, each bisected by ribbons of clean concrete drives and sidewalks. There probably wasn’t a dandelion in the whole damn allotment.

The carefully designed scene, instead of evoking envy, made me feel a little sad, especially for the chubby kids huddled around their TV’s and computers breathing stale, conditioned air. Kids who’ve never heard of kick the can, or knew the pleasure of playing hide and seek outside after dark. Kids who’ve never danced in the warm summer rain or gotten into a good fist fight. To me, this atmosphere was cold, sterile, and alien.

Day after day, aside from the occasional guy who still mowed his own lawn, or his wife coming and going in her new S.U.V., I rarely saw anyone. The only noise in the neighborhood was the sound of construction around the new over-priced home we were building.

I thought about my own childhood days growing up in the housing project and realized how lucky I’d been. There, in the summer, small dandelion-cluttered yards would be full of bare foot kids playing games in the grass. On the blacktop sidewalks they’d be riding bikes, or skipping ropes while their mothers huddled together on the front porch stoops gabbing amongst themselves.

I remembered the laughter, crying, barking dogs, smells of food cooking, back yards full of clothes hanging on lines while drying in the hot sun. We were a tribe of poor, noisy, blue collar common folk, but we were alive, and we had fun.

No music blared from boom boxes, no guns, gangs, or drugs. That would all come later, after corporate greed, TV, and welfare had taken their toll on the working class and stripped us of our pride.

***

I’ve created a stereotype here to prove the point that as we’ve sought to better ourselves by improving our social position we have also lost the need for each other. We have perverted our natural herding instinct by choosing to live in close proximity to, yet totally separate from, our neighbors. We’ve broken away from the tribe and have decided to go it alone.

These modern developments are a shining example of our separation. We surround ourselves with every modern convenience we can afford, close the doors to our large, self contained homes and spend our days locked within our mini-castles.

Instead of a moat and drawbridge, we have a security system. Instead of Knights in shining armor to protect us, we have a uniformed police force waiting close by to apprehend any neighbor foolish enough to break the thin red line. Have we created a modern version of Camelot and are regressing back to the Middle Ages?

I don’t know, maybe I’m just getting old, but I sure do miss my friends and those lovely, sunny bright medicinal flowers that have become a curse, as have their neighbors, to so many.

My Place Tavern (1970)

When I left Ohio I had my old army duffel bag full of clothes, a few bucks I had borrowed from my friends, and a beat up Ford convertible. Everything else I owned down to the small box of pictures, ribbons, medals, awards etc. I left with my ex-wife who promised to keep them in the attic for when I returned. (Ha! They probably hit the trash can the minute I left.)

A week or so later, with the eight cylinder auto sparking on only seven, I backfired my way across the high desert and into the city of Portland, Oregon. My old friend Tom Yoho who lived in Portland was going to meet me in a SW bar by the state college called My Place Tavern.

It was an easy drive across the river. Soon I found the tavern sandwiched between two larger buildings sitting under a derelict sign bearing it’s name. I parked the banging beater (that I soon thereafter sold for $35.00) and entered through the heavy oak door into an environment much the same as every other neighborhood tavern I had been in.

The typical long bar with simple stools ran down the right side wall, booths ran down the left, a couple pool tables sat in the middle. The smell of smoke and beer permeated everything. The only difference I could recognize was that behind the bar a backdrop of hard liquor bottles was missing. They didn’t serve whiskey in Portland bars at the time.

It was close to noon and the place was almost empty. I called Tom from the public phone in the corner, ordered one of those hot Stewart sandwiches from the friendly bar maid, sat in a booth, and waited for Tom to show up.

It had been a couple years since I’d last seen him, but when he showed up I was shocked. My old tough guy, hell raising buddy had gone Hippie. He burst into the bars quietness all gregarious and charismatic as ever. BUT . . . He’s dressed like the damn Pied Piper. I thought.

“Sid! (everybody from the projects still called me Sid) Wow, man . . . FAR OUT! . . . Wow, Far OUT! . . . Wow . . . Cool . . . Man, this is so . . . Wow, Far out, Cool . . . “ He gave me a big hug (something you never do in the hood)

What the hell happened to this guy? I thought.

His midwestern no nonsense language had completely been replaced by this hippiesque sing song doper lingo that made absolutely no sense to me and he was dressed like a freakin freak. I was taken aback by old Tom for a while, but I soon learned to understand him and in time I even learned to speak and dress the part quite well myself.

We hung out in the tavern the rest of the day, drinking beers and playing pool, all on my dime of course. Some things never change, I thought, as I began to remember why he had left town in the first place. But he was still my all time best buddy. He was the good looking guy who always corralled the girls for the rest of us ugly dopes, so he got lots of slack.

Soon the place began to fill up. Everybody who came in the door knew Tom. He, of course, introduced them to me. We shot some pool, smoked a joint and thus began my two year love affair with My Place Tavern. I give her all the credit for not allowing me to blow my brains out in a particularly depressing time of my life.

I’d say there were at least forty gals and guys who formed the nucleus of this close nit community. We ate together and sometimes slept together. (remember SEX/DRUGS/ROCK and ROLL?) Mostly though, I knew I could walk in the place any time day or night, meet up with some friends and have a good bullshit session, cause there were plenty of things to talk about and plenty of trouble to go around in those days, even for the freedom conscience hippies.

I remember with much nostalgia the long philosophical conversations and arguments about Nixon and government, the war in Vietnam, religion, drugs, sex . . . every subject you can conceivably think of someone was able to talk about and give you their opinion on it.

We had fun also of course, sometimes loud and boisterous, sometimes stoned and subdued. Sometimes I would take the corner booth with a sweety I had just met for a little extra curricular lovey dovie.

We dropped acid and watched the walls breathe while warning about the dangers of shooting smack and crystal meth . . . Speed Kills! was never far from my lips. We nursed runaways and military deserters as well as sucker the guys with money and jobs out of their cash. We were a tribe.

There were people who came into My Place that I had never seen on the outside, didn’t know much at all about them, but inside, while we partook of the magical atmosphere of the Tavern, we were friends.

One day the owners sold the place. The new owners were more interested in making money than having us weirdos hanging all day in their joint taking up space so they began to clean it up. No more dope, no more after hours parties, you wanna hang here you have to spend became the order of the day.

Little by little the old crowd disappeared till one day after I got busted and tired of hiding from my parole officer I decided to hang up my hippie clothes and go back to the doldrums and responsibility of my Ohio life.

The tavern may have remained, but because of the doofus who bought it, all the life and blood had been sucked out of it and it just wasn’t any fun anymore. I really doubt it lasted long though cause you really can’t make a silk purse out of a pigs ear . . . and well, the place was always just a dive to begin with.