Monthly Archives: August 2005

This is what makes us different

PERRspectives Blog: Hurricanes, Divine Retribution and the Right

In these times of American hyper-partisanship, even the response to an act of God like hurricane Katrina is revealing.

The disaster, which devastated the extremely red states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, brought no snide claims of “divine retribution” from the voices of the left. No one declared that a just God wrought vengeance upon the South for its sins of slavery, succession, civil war, Jim Crow or more recently, its coronation of George W. Bush. Instead, the liberal blogosphere, led by sites like DailyKos, urged readers to come to the aid of their fellow Americans, providing news updates, offers of shelter for refugees and support for the Red Cross.

Contrast that reaction to the compassionate conservative response of the radical right to acts of God – and man. Time and after time, the mouthpieces of the American Taliban that now have the ear of the President and the wallet of the Republican Party praised the wrath of an angry God that smited their enemies for a laundry list of sins and perversions.

The Robertsons, Falwells and Buchanans of the world differ only in degree, and not kind, from the likes of the Reverend Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas. Phelps has held anti-gay protests all over the country, most notably at the 1998 funeral of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard. Phelps latest abomination is to lead demonstrations at the funerals of U.S. troops killed in Iraq. Phelps and his congregants (mostly family members) contend that American soldiers are being killed in Iraq as vengeance from God for protecting a country that harbors gays. At their funerals, they offer shouts “God hates fags” and “God hates you” at the mourners.

All of which raises the question: where was Pat Robertson during hurricane Katrina? The same man who prayed to God to kill American Supreme Court justices has also claimed that his power of prayer altered the course of hurricane Gloria in 1985, sparing his headquarters in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

So while those on the left offer compassion, assistance and prayers for their neighbors impacted by the natural disaster that was Katrina, the reactionary right continues to use divine retribution as just another tool in its arsenal. All involved would do well to reflect on Abraham Lincoln’s words of caution to North and South from his second inaugural:

Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other…The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.

I often hear people say there is no difference between politicians of the left or the right, or that the right is somehow more “moral” than those on the left, or that people who espouse religion lack values somehow.

This is what makes us different. This is what makes us not more moral, not more special, not having better values, but, perhaps – more compassionate, more caring, more loving. We understand that humans have foibles and flaws. We know the world is not always kind. But we don’t blame God, or claim he’s “on our side”. We look for the best possible outcome of whatever situation we find ourselves in – not for ourselves alone, but for everyone involved.

This is what makes us different. That we care, not only for ourselves, our position, our “side” — but for everyone.

Rescuers Evacuate Switzerland District – New York Times

Rescuers Evacuate Switzerland District – New York Times

Rescue workers completed an airlift evacuation of a half-submerged riverside district of the Swiss capital Thursday as large parts of central and southern Europe were hit by flooding that killed at least 42 people.

Brienz, Switzerland, was one of many areas of central and southern Europe that were hit by flooding. At least 42 people were killed.

Lucerne, Switzerland, was flooded as well.

Hardest hit was Romania with 31 victims, many of whom were trapped inside their homes and drowned as torrents of water rushed in. Austria, Bulgaria, Germany and Switzerland reported a total of 11 dead, but numbers were expected to climb as more bodies of the missing are recovered.

Across the Alps, military helicopters were ferrying in supplies to valleys cut off by flooding and evacuating stranded tourists — and even cows — isolated in mountain pastures by the rising waters.

But we don’t have to worry about global warming….

What’s it going to take, the floods to hit DC like in Kim Stanley Robinson’s 40 Signs of Rain?

Wake up, America – wake up. Let’s stop quibbling over gay marriage and whose God is the bestest of all and get to work on the real issues that are going to dominate our future – like Global Warming.

Stupid Merkans – I’m sick of them.

“I know my own nation best. That’s why I despise it the most. And know and love my own people, too, the swine. I’m a patriot. A dangerous man.”
— Edward Abbey

Evolution debate creates monster |

Evolution debate creates monster |
Evolution debate creates monster

Satirists preach gospel of Flying Spaghetti Monster

By Scott Rothschild (Contact)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Topeka — From Darwin to intelligent design to the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The debate over teaching evolution in Kansas public schools has caught the attention of a cross-country Internet community of satirists.

In the past few weeks, hundreds of followers of the supreme Flying Spaghetti Monster have swamped state education officials with urgent e-mails.

They argue that since the conservative majority of the State Board of Education has blessed classroom science standards at the behest of intelligent design supporters, which criticize evolution, they want the gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster taught.

“I’m sure you realize how important it is that your students are taught this alternate theory,” writes Bobby Henderson, a Corvallis, Ore., resident whose Web site,, is part FSM tribute and part job search.

“It is absolutely imperative that they realize that observable evidence is at the discretion of a Flying Spaghetti Monster,” he wrote to the education board.

Henderson did not return a telephone call for comment. He says in his letter that it is disrespectful to teach about the FSM without wearing “full pirate regalia.”

Board member Bill Wagnon, a Democrat, whose district includes Lawrence, said he has received more than 500 e-mails from supporters of FSM.

“Clearly, these are just supreme satirists. What they are doing is pointing out that there is no more sense to intelligent design than there is to a Flying Spaghetti Monster,” Wagnon said.

Satirists? Such heresy! How dare they not believe in his noodly appendages! May they be condemned to the eternal vat of sauce…..

McCain endorses teaching about the Flying Spaghetti Monster

McCain sounds like presidential hopeful | ®

On Tuesday, though, he sided with the president on two issues that have made headlines recently: teaching intelligent design in schools and Cindy Sheehan, the grieving mother who has come to personify the anti-war movement.

McCain told the Star that, like Bush, he believes “all points of view” should be available to students studying the origins of mankind.

Including the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Johnny???

Have you been touched by his noodly appendage?


Bernardo Strozzi, Old Woman at the Mirror

The theme of this painting has a long tradition: the old woman who has not learned to give her life any other meaning but that of ornament and vanity, and who is unable to see the truth or recognize her true self in the mirror. Strozzi’s formulation, however, is both individual and new. It makes the most of the surface values, deliberately contrasting the wrinkled skin of the old woman with the fresh complexion of her servant and juxtaposing the firm and rounded forms of youth with the withered slackness of old age. He reveals in the mirror that the old woman’s red cheeks are painted with rouge, and he places a blossoming, scented rose in her wrinkled hand. He also shows us the uncriticizing complacency on her face, leaving it up to the spectator to deduce a sense of embarrassment, emptiness, transparent illusion and moral warning.

Our subjectivity
Is a mirrored,
Spiked casket.

We surround ourselves with the reflections of our own identities. We think only of ourselves, not of Tao. All we care about is survival and gratification. When will we see that all we have done is to surround ourselves with our own illusions?

We do not see the world as it truly is. We ignore the dilemma of our existence. We are like preening idiots inside a mirrored casket. As we build upon our illusions, the box gets smaller. Soon it develops spikes – the spears of our own egotism – only we are so self-absorbed that we do not notice the points. We are too in love with ourselves. We prance around, we fluff our hair. And still the casket gets smaller, and smaller.

Some succeed in getting out of this trap, but they are so attached that they drag their casket behind them for a long time. Those who drag their illusions with them are only a step better than those who are trapped in them. Only when we realize our true nature does the casket disappear.

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

I think when people look back at our time, they will be amazed at one thing more than any other. It is this–that we do know more about ourselves now than people did in the past. But that very little of it has been put into effect… There is a great mass of new information from universities, research institutions and gifted amateurs, but our ways of governing ourselves haven’t changed. Our left hand does not know–does not want to know–what our right hand does. This is what I think is the most extraordinary thing there is to be seen about us, as a species, now. And people to come will marvel at it, as we marvel at the blindness and inflexibility of our ancestors. — Doris Lessing, Prisons we Choose to Live Inside

“Our modern society is engaged in polishing and decorating the cage in which man is kept imprisoned.” — Swami Nirmalananda

“Truth lies within ourselves: it takes no rise from outward things, whatever you may believe. There is an inmost center in us all, where truth abides in fullness and to Know rather consists in opening out a way whence the imprisoned splendor may escape than in effecting entry for light supposed to be without.” — Robert Browning

“In our natural state, we are glorious beings. In the world of illusion, we are lost and imprisoned, slaves to our appetites and our will to false power.”
— Marianne Williamson

What do we imprison in ourselves? The things that, if we really dealt with them, might be dangerous to our standing in society; like showing our true age. or our true self.

The ego exists, in part, to protect us from things that are dangerous. But, if you truly come to view yourself as a part of everything else, what is left to be considered dangerous? The Tao says,

He who knows how to live can walk abroad
Without fear of rhinocerous or tiger.
He will not be wounded in battle.
For in him rhinocerouses can find no place to thrust their horn,
Tigers no place to use their claws,
And weapons no place to pierce.
Why is this so?
Because he has no place for death to enter.

Tao Te Ching, 50

It doesn’t mean one who walks the path of Tao will never die. It means that they have already accepted death and have no fear of it. Not being afraid, they can see things as they are, unobstructed by the veil of fear, and so are better warriors, hunters, and travelers. Or perhaps, just better at accepting life and the changes that come with aging, or becoming more fully oneself.

Westerners and Easterners see the world differently

New Westerners and Easterners see the world differently

Chinese and American people see the world differently – literally. While Americans focus on the central objects of photographs, Chinese individuals pay more attention to the image as a whole, according to psychologists at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, US.

“There is plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting that Western and East Asian people have contrasting world-views,” explains Richard Nisbett, who carried out the study. “Americans break things down analytically, focusing on putting objects into categories and working out what rules they should obey,” he says.

By contrast, East Asians have a more holistic philosophy, looking at objects in relation to the whole. “Figuratively, Americans see things in black and white, while East Asians see more shades of grey,” says Nisbett. “We wanted to devise an experiment to see if that translated to a literal difference in what they actually see.”

The researchers tracked the eye-movements of two groups of students while they looked at photographs. One group contained American-born graduates of European descent and the other was comprised of Chinese-born graduate students who came to the US after their undergraduate degrees.

Each picture showed a striking central image placed in a realistic background, such as a tiger in a jungle. They found that the American students spent longer looking at the central object, while the Chinese students’ eyes tended to dart around, taking in the context.

Harmony versus goals

Nisbett and his colleagues believe that this distinctive pattern has developed because of the philosophies of these two cultures. “Harmony is a central idea in East Asian philosophy, and so there is more emphasis on how things relate to the whole,” says Nisbett. “In the West, by contrast, life is about achieving goals.”

Psychologists watching American and Japanese families playing with toys have also noted this difference. “An American mother will say: ‘Look Billy, a truck. It’s shiny and has wheels.’ The focus is on the object,” explains Nisbett. By contrast, Japanese mothers stress context saying things like, “I push the truck to you and you push it to me. When you throw it at the wall, the wall says ‘ouch’.”

Nisbett also cites language development in the cultures. “To Westerners it seems obvious that babies learn nouns more easily. But while this is the case in the West, studies show that Korean and Chinese children pick up verbs – which relate objects to each other – more easily.

“Nisbett’s work is interesting and suggestive,” says John Findlay, a psychologist specialising in human visual attention at Durham University, UK. “It’s always difficult to put an objective measure on cultural differences, but this group have made a step towards that.”

Nisbett hopes that his work will change the way the cultures view each other. “Understanding that there is a real difference in the way people think should form the basis of respect.”

Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (vol 102, p 12629)

I’m always more interested in seeing things holistically and this is probably why I’m drawn to the Tao. Rather than the individualism of being “saved” as a person, the Tao relates one to the whole of creation and emphasizes becoming a part of the whole of Tao. Somehow I find this much healthier….


Job pressures are overwhelming.
Responsibilities are heavy.
When I close my eyes,
The demands of others are all I see.

Sometimes responsibilities can become so great that you cannot keep your mental equilibrium. Your attention is scattered. Feelings of frustration lead to tremendous unhappiness. Your insides ache. You don’t get enough sleep, you eat poorly, and you quarrel with others.

The sages may breezily pronounce all of this to be the folly of humanity. They are undoubtedly right, but the words of the sages are too lofty when we are scrounging in the dust for our survival. Many of us must face these pressures, at least for the moment. Even if we would like a way out of this madness, we will not be able to forsake society all at once.

When one is under stress, awareness of Tao is impossible. If you are fighting on the battlefield, or fighting in the office, or fighting in your home, or fighting in your mind, there is no such thing as being with Tao. If you are involved in this type of life, then you must content yourself to face your problems bravely — until you can do nothing other than renounce it.

Every moment that you are with your problems, you are not with Tao. The best you can do is to remember that our stress is not absolute reality.

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

“Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it.”
~ Lily Tomlin

One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important. ~Bertrand Russell

The field of consciousness is tiny. It accepts only one problem at a time. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

In times of life crisis, whether wild fires or smoldering stress, the first thing I do is go back to basics… am I eating right, am I getting enough sleep, am I getting some physical and mental exercise everyday. ~ Edward Albert

If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it. ~ George Burns

Any idiot can face a crisis – it’s day to day living that wears you out.
~ Anton Chekhov

I keep my life fairly stress-free these days. Not that there aren’t things I coulld stress over, there are plenty, but I know that stress triggers some very bad reactions in me. Tao is one of the ways I deal with stress, yoga and pilates are others. I just started playing tennis with a friend, and am truly bad at it so far. But doing something I’m lousy at just for fun actually amuses me. Or I will take a long walk when I’m stressed and reconnect to the world. Or garden. Or work on my art.

When I am truly stressed, and particularly when I’m angry about something, I clean. If you ever find my house truly spotless, watch out, because I’m probably in a very bad mood. Cleaning is one of those mindless tasks that I can get absorbed in when I’m mad.

Pets are important for me in keeping stress down. You can’t stay stressed when there are two ridiculous looking golden retrievers sprawled on their backs in the yard, or when a small grey cat or fuzzy black one curls up in your lap purring (like right now). Except when she digs her claws in, of course…

I don’t really care for most of the advice on “managing” stress, though. I don’t think stress is there to be managed. It is a way for the body to tell you you’re literally putting too much stress on it, and you need to stop. Of course it isn’t always possible to create downtime when you most need it, but when you get it, use it. We tend to rush around from one activity to another and not take time to just unwind and relax when we can. Stop overscheduling the kids and let them read a book instead. Stop overscheduling yourself and realize life can go on a few moments without you worrying about it.

And mostly, stop fighting. Try that phrase “you are right“. It shuts people up so fast, it’s amazing. Everyone is right in whatever way they have justified to themselves. It doesn’t mean you have agreed with them, only that you’ve acknowledged that they are right – in their mind. But they don’t have to know that.

Truthful words are not beautiful.
Beautiful words are not truthful.
Good men do not argue.
Those who argue are not good.
Those who know are not learned.
The learned do not know.

The sage never tries to store things up.
The more she does for others, the more she has.
The more she gives to others, ther greater her abundance.
The Tao of heaven is pointed but does no harm.
The Tao of the sage is work without effort.

Tao Te Ching, 81

India: Everything Gets Worse With Coca-Cola

India: Everything Gets Worse With Coca-Cola

PLACHIMADA, India – In the end it was the ‘generosity’ of Coca-Cola in distributing cadmium-laden waste sludge as ‘free fertilizer’ to the tribal aborigines who live near the beverage giant’s bottling plant in this remote Kerala village that proved to be its undoing.

On Friday, the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) ordered the plant shut down to the jubilation of tribal leaders and green activists who had focused more on the ‘water mining’ activities of the plant rather than its production of toxic cadmium sludge.

”One way or another, this plant should be shut down and the management made to pay compensation for destroying our paddy fields, fooling us with fake fertilizer and drying out our wells,” Paru Amma, an aboriginal woman who lives in this once lush, water-abundant area, told IPS.

Chairman of the KSPCB, G. Rajmohan, said the closure was ordered because the plant ”does not have adequate waste treatment systems and toxic products from the plant were affecting drinking water in nearby villages” and that the plant ”has also not provided drinking water in a satisfying manner to local residents”.

Apparently, the generosity of the Coca-Cola plant was limited to distributing sludge and waste water free and did not extend to providing drinking water to people seriously affected by its operations.

In a statement Saturday, Coca-Cola said it was ”reviewing the order passed by the chairman of the Pollution Control Board, Kerala state,” and that ”going forward, we are in the process of evaluating future steps, including a judicial review”.

The KSPCB closure order is only the latest episode in a see-saw battle between Coca-Cola and the impoverished but plucky local residents ever since the Atlanta-based company began operating its 25 million-dollar bottling plant in this village, located in the state’s fertile Palakkad district, in 2001.

Along the way, pollution control authorities, political parties, the judiciary and global environmental groups, starting with Greenpeace International, became involved in the dispute and Plachimada grew into a global symbol of resistance by local people to powerful trans-national corporations trying to snatch away their water rights.

That’s why I don’t drink it…..