Archive for the ‘ Discussion Topics ’ Category

Tax Payers Right to Vote Act

Have you noticed the number of ads promoting this proposition? Have you noticed who is the number one supporter?

Yep, PG&E. Doesn’t that make you just a little bit suspicious? They have quite the special interest in effectively eliminating their competition. The proposition is a constitutional amendment that will require a two-thirds majority for a local government to either take over OR buy blocks of power to sell in competition. As we know, competition keeps prices and quality in line.

If this passes, it will be very difficult for local government to have any hand in utilities. Two-thirds is quite a lot. Then there is the cost of running the election and fighting the big pockets that will fund opposition ads.

The only reason I’m coming out against this is because it sounds fishy and there are no ads against it. The right to vote is something people will rally around. It’s a shiny pretty picture for the public…but it’s suspicious if you look any deeper.

Letting Everything In

There is a certain comfort in letting certain things in and excluding others from our view.  The same goes with people.  There’s people who have God, and people who don’t.  People who know what’s up, and people who are idiots.  People who pay attention when they drive, and people who should never be let out on the road.  People who have truth, and people who have no grasp of it whatsoever.

This method of looking at others has it’s comforts, has it’s securities.  It is a means by which we can understand the world by translating it into what is approved and what is not.  It certainly makes life much more simple.  Here’s what’s on my list of approved things, ideas, and people, and I reject what’s not on this list.

We all do this, to a certain extent.  And it makes sense.  We *are* trying to constantly simplify our experience to make it easier to handle.

But it’s interesting what happens when you stop putting people and ideas in categories.  You start looking closer, you start seeing more.  Because you’ve stopped filtering things out.  The priest at the church Ben and I go to was leading us through a meditation, and she said for us to stop filtering, and to let everything in.  Do not exclude any sounds, feelings, thoughts…just let it all flow and observe it.  Then, you start to see deeper.

The same is true for people and ideas, I think.  When you stop trying to declare something as either bad or good and just witness it, you see deeper.  And seeing this way allows you to see the truth hidden in everything, because it frees you from your misconceptions and even your opinions.  It humbles you because you *have* to let go of the things that make you comfortable in order to let everything in, and in doing so, brings you closer to truth.

Compassion and love break down barriers.  They stop us from doing this categorization and from simplifying the world.  Love asks us to look at the whole, to see each person, each idea, each moment as valuable in some way.  There is no in group or out group.  There is only truth, and what it is buried underneath.

And when you see things this way, you approach conversations, people, ideas with an entirely different perspective.  You start to understand the subtle language of the heart, and how it is speaking even through people’s so called intellectual ideas.  You start to see how someone’s pure intuition or pure desires were led astray.  And instead of feeling contempt for their ignorance, you can feel nothing but compassion and love.  You see their soul buried under so much weight, and you long to free them.

You are no longer distracted by the wrongness of what people say.  It seems petty to argue about it, almost tragic.  And it gives you patience and strength.  When you talk with someone it’s more like a jazz improvisation…each of you contributing ideas and playing off one another to build something interesting that may open up both of your understandings.  You don’t feel attached to (or the need to reject) any one concept or dogma because you sense the truth in all of them.  This gives you a freedom, a spontaneity, a creativity that you never had before.

And it is all in ceasing to seek comfort, and treating people and even their ideas and their words with compassion and love.  It’s not always about simplification; often, it’s about inclusion and integration.

Free Will

I kind of made this up as I went.

*****

How I’ve come to view free will (keep in mind the specifics are still developing in my head):

To me, free will has nothing to do with what choice you eventually make. Determinism doesn’t harm the dignity of a person. You are ultimately going to make the choice that is determined by who you are and what you’re presented with, and that is a good thing. Otherwise, your choices wouldn’t make sense!

You can always look back and try to think about what your motives were for a certain action, and there are always motives. You never do anything without reasons, even if you don’t take the time to make a mental list of what those reasons are before you do the action.

So I’m not going to focus on *what* decision you make, but the conditions under which you make it. Having more than one option isn’t what makes us *feel* free. What if someone is holding you at gunpoint and you can choose between telling them vital information or allowing yourself to die? Does that seem like a free decision? You *do* have more than one option, right?

I think that simple example is enough to show that our freedom is not based on the options, but based on the conditions. As such, I drew up a little continuum of free will, where the left represents no free will, and gets progressively more and more free as you travel to the right.

<–restraint/force—-marketing—-egocentricity—-authenticity—-harmony with God/the universe–>

Starting on the left, you have examples like the one I gave above. Where some outside force is forcing you to do something. The decision of whether you do what they say is still up to you, but the presence of the coercive force alters the situation quite a bit and makes you feel bound, regardless of how metaphysically free/not free you are.

Next on the scale we have marketing and consumerism. The whole art of creating needs in the people rather than trying to fill pre-existing ones. They’ve done quite a number on us. People think that their identity is tied to what clothes they wear and how they decorate their houses. Men and women are convinced that the only way for a man to show his love is to buy the girl jewelry. We think that our monthly income and what we’re able to buy is what determines our worth…and if not that…then how we look. Such a way of living life and making decisions is definitely not free or genuine in any respect.

Now we come to the ego. This is possibly one of the harder concepts to understand, but we’ve all felt it at some point. Most of us have felt at some point that our actions weren’t really coming from ourselves. Perhaps our emotions seemed to cloud our judgment, or we just got trapped in the heat of the moment. Or it can be even more subtle…as it is a continuum. Perhaps you listen to Switchfoot’s This is Your Life, and you feel saddened. Maybe you *aren’t* who you want to be. Maybe you chose a job that keeps you dead inside, and you long for something more. Maybe you’re just going through the motions. Maybe you’re avoiding really looking at yourself and who you are. Whatever it is, it keeps you from acting out of your genuine self, and in that sense, you aren’t all that free.

If that’s true, then the next step is obviously when you act out of who you are deep inside. The times when the whole of your energy and passion light you up and threaten to set you on fire. Your heart feels like it’s about to explode and you’re just so *present* to the moment. The decision seems clear, even if it means consequences that you don’t really like. Our actions, when they stem from our deepest self, are motivated by love, devotion, and self sacrifice. It’s as if everything inside you is screaming at you to make the decision, and you can’t help but do it. Notice that here, there really *is* only once choice that you can make, but it feels exponentially more free that the first time, when you had more than one option.

But most of us don’t live like that all of the time. Usually we just catch glimpses of that feeling here and there. But if we work at it, and keep ourselves aware and open, we eventually can come to the last stage. This one is more of an ideal than anything else. Imagine that you are genuinely yourself at all times. At some point, making decisions comes as naturally and as freely as breathing. You don’t need to control yourself, you just act. You don’t need to limit yourself, you don’t need to think about morality or law because at this point, whatever you naturally do is in complete harmony with the universe and with God’s will. You’re acting out of a place that is so rooted in unity, in God, in the entire natural order that you just become part of it. You join the dance, and dance spontaneously and beautifully in the complete and utter oneness of everything. Nothing can harm you, at least mentally and spiritually, because you know that every move is part of that dance, and that the dance itself is beautiful. Every action is pure joy.
Most people live somewhere between the marketing phase and the ego phase. When I look at the general population, it just saddens me, because so many people are caught up in this, and are unknowingly slaves to consumerism and their own egos. Those who have just broken free tend to look back and hate the system, and show quite a bit of contempt for the people still chained to the wall. But I can’t feel anything other than sadness and compassion for them. It makes me want to spend my life working to help them, to break their bonds and help them become the people they really are inside.
Reply from subtle seem the stars:

“I’m not sure how i feel about the possibility of interfering (i can see the appeal/compassion from the high level person’s point of view, but not really vice-versa especially if the person is not feeling miserable/desiring of any more), but i just thought the example was relevant to the idea of looking back from the more advanced phases onto those in the lower ones.”

Yeah you can’t just interfere and tell someone they are miserable and can’t see it. You have to kind of taunt them out of their mindset slowly but surely. You have to find a way to get them to look inwardly without insinuating that they currently suck. Basically, you have to write songs like Jon.

The other thing that is worth pointing out is that you *can’t* progress on your own. Like you said, people who aren’t feeling miserable and who don’t desire anything more won’t budge, they’ll just continue being what they think is happy. Something has to happen that comes from outside of you that makes you realize what is going on. And it’s not necessarily an easy process. It can be downright painful, even.

In that way I don’t really want to think of the more free person as “higher” than someone else. In a sense, they are actually lower. They didn’t do it themselves, and they only got to where they were by grace of a number of falls. The other people are just the same as they are, but they haven’t had the fortune to have suffered enough to break down the walls that surround their heart.

So for me, when I look at a close friend, or anyone really, who’s having a really tough time…half of me is drenched in compassion (co-feeling), and the other half of me is shouting for joy. Because every glimpse of pain is an opportunity to move deeper…it’s up to us if we decide to take it or not.

As far as how I interfere…I don’t really. Most of the time is just spent being patient, letting them work things through on their own…but being there as a guiding voice to try to get them to think in such a way as to help them open up, rather than close themselves off and rebind themselves again. Life does the work for me…I just try to guide them in the right direction when the going gets tough.

Seeds of Truth

In my experience, people hold to their opinions because on a very deep level, they sense truth in them.  It’s an intuitive truth that they feel regardless of logical implications.  And this is why so often logic is not enough to sway a person, because what they have latched onto is not logical, it’s intuitive.

The thing is, they have *rightly* latched onto this deep truth within their view.  But what most people don’t realize is that we build on top of these…or when we hear an idea we will eventually accept, we sense that seed of truth, and because of that we accept the entire idea.  Because we received them at the same time, this leads us to believe that every part of that idea is essential, and to let go of one detail would be to deny the entire truth, which we are not willing to do.

This picture offers us two useful pieces of advice when dealing with truth.

The first is on a personal level, when you are looking within yourself and deciding (or examining) what you believe.  Look for those seeds.  Probe deep into your views about life, about God, about science, about your personal relationships.  What is it that brought you to accept these views?  What little seed sprouted into the view you currently possess?

This is more difficult that it may seem, because often we sense these truths on a subconscious level, and at the forefront of our brains cannot tell the difference between the seed and everything that has been added onto it.  This is not to say that the add on’s are bad and should be removed.  It’s only saying that you will understand yourself better if you know the deepest reasons you hold your beliefs.

The second insight this can give us comes when we are trying to engage others in debate.  Rather than attack the details of a particular set of beliefs, try looking deeper into the other person’s view and find that seed of truth that keeps them holding fast.

If you can expose this seed to them, and it makes sense to them, suddenly they understand what is most important about their views.  If you then acknowledge the truth of that seed, and go on to say that such and such detail is different, you will have a better chance of changing their minds.

But again, this is very difficult.  You need extraordinary perception often much practice to discern what it is that is really important to a person.  Especially when it is so easy to pick at the logical inconsistencies within their view.  It’s not easy and there is no sense of winning. Instead of seeing the other as an opponent, you see them more as a lock.  Only the right key will open them, and you must find it.
Just something I was thinking about today.  Does it make sense?  Would examples help?  It’s hard to think of examples that wouldn’t be too controversial for the point to be seen.

The Multifaceted Issue of Abortion

In my opinion, the problem of abortion is a multifaceted issue.  And, it is more of a symptom than a problem in itself.

A symptom of what?  Fear.  Taking yourself out of your normal
perspective, can you imagine how scary it would be to find out you are
pregnant and do not have the means to care for this child?  And what
about what your parents will think?  They might even disown you.  Or if
you’re a single mother living in a poor community…how will you
provide for your child?  You can’t work and take care of her at the
same time, except for very select jobs that probably won’t pay much
money.  And besides, you’re not married.  What will society think?

I know it is their fault for getting into the situation (at least most
times…rape is a special circumstance that most people are more
compassionate towards), but that still doesn’t change the fact that the
guiding principle in these situations is fear.

Making abortion illegal, in my opinion, will only increase that fear.
Because before there was an out, a backup, if you couldn’t figure
anything else out.  And now there is no (legal) escape.  Because of
this increased fear, I think women might go to greater lengths, unsafe
ones, to be rid of that fear.

But then what do they trade the fear for?  Regret and guilt.  It’s not a happy situation.

So I would approach the problem with the goal of easing these fears so
that the woman can make a genuine choice from her heart rather than let
her fear consume her.

On a social level, I would probably do things like provide free
childcare in poorer communities, so the mother can work and earn money
to take care of her child, or continue going to school.  I actually
stole that idea from Obama. 😉  In addition, I would try to find ways
to increase the quality of schools in poorer areas.  As it is, richer
schools = better schools, and so the poor keep going in circles.
Basically, find things that will make it easier for the mother to give
her child a good life, and you’ll reduce some of the fear that consumes
her.

Also, reform and improve the foster care system.  Address the issues
that make people think growing up in the foster care system is a
nightmare you wouldn’t ever wish on your child.  Perhaps also offer tax
credits or extra benefits to couples who adopt a child.

But the most important thing, in my opinion, is the hardest to
implement.  I would make it a rule that before a woman can get an
abortion, she must attend one or two counseling sessions.  The purpose
of these sessions is not to persuade her to change her mind.  If it
were, it would never work.  Abortion has to remain an option because it
serves as the initial fear-reducer that will get them into the
building, where counselors can hopefully help guide them to be sure
they are making the best decision…the one their hearts tell them to
make.

On a wide level this idea will only work so well because it relies upon
an abundance of really good counselors.  If the counselor is pushing
the woman towards one particular option (be it keeping the baby, giving
it up for adoption, or having the abortion), she will sense that and
resist.  The conversation really needs to be centered around the
woman’s situation and her psyche.  And the counselor must give up the
idea that they can control the outcome, because by exerting control the
situation is only made worse.

The idea is to get them to talk and think about their situation.  There
might be an option they hadn’t thought of, or a way to make it work
they hadn’t considered.  It also may be that they hadn’t been thinking
of the long term, only the short term goal of being rid of all this
fear.  Regardless of the situation, their life would drastically change
if they kept the child, and some of that fear is rational, and some of
it isn’t.  It would help to have someone you can trust, someone who
isn’t going to push anything on you but who will help you come to your
own decision…one you can live with.

Yes, some of these women will still end up choosing to get an
abortion.  But, if we approach them with compassion and understanding,
I believe that many more women will make other, better decisions.  And
our society as a whole will not look upon these women with either
indifference or contempt but rather with compassion.

I think a combination of all these ideas plus many many more, all aimed
at making the decision to keep the child or give it up for adoption
easier to make, will help the situation the most.

But to just make it illegal, to me, is admitting we don’t understand
the problem, or that we don’t have or want to give up the resources
needed in order to really address it.  It’s easier to just call
something wrong and disallow it than to really engage the problem on
all levels.  And that is what I think we need to do.

Anti-life

"A powerful Catholic leader on Friday accused President Barack Obama of
pushing an anti-life, anti-family agenda and called Notre Dame's
invitation for him to speak scandalous."

I hate how people use such polarizing language.  Is Obama, or anyone who is pro-choice, really anti-life?  Is he really anti-family? Come on!  All this sort of thing does is demonize the "enemy" without making any attempt to understand him…which, honestly, isn't very Catholic.

It also eliminates all possibility of a middle ground.  Believe it or not, there are those of us who dislike abortion, but think that there is a better solution than making it illegal and calling people evil for doing it.

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Discussion

So, I’m having an interesting discussion with a friend on a message board.  He belongs to the Orthodox Church, believes that no one goes to Hell when they die, and thinks that Jesus’ message was primarily about *this* life and not the next.  So far I agree.

Our discussion is centered around the events in Christ’s life, and whether them actually taking place in the time line has any affect on the meaning derived from them.  I’m quite enjoying this discussion, so I’m going to paste some parts of it here for remembrance sake…and for anyone who wishes to continue it. 🙂

*****

So, it’s important to you
because it gives you a warm feeling that you’re on the right path? lol,
I don’t mean it that harsh of course, but if it was important to the
apostles, *why* was it important? Surely this seems to be a question
worth exploring, right?

I guess I find so much meaning in the story that I’m not sure what affect its historicity would have on its impact?

I
mean, say we had the bible, but the names were all changed…would it
still have the same power? If it doesn’t, is it a meaningful
difference, or does it just have less power because it’s not what we
are used to? Or, say someone came up with undeniable proof that Jesus
never existed at all, would that shake your faith?

I think it was important to them for a number of reasons, including
validation of Jesus’ claims, encouragement in their sorrow, hope that
they share the same fate, and confidence that they could now risk their
lives and do anything they dreamt of.

I see your point here. And I know for a great many people throughout
history it has been somewhat of a security blanket that gives them
courage and strengthens their faith. But, I guess, that’s exactly my
point. It’s a huge comfort, and since when did Jesus tell us to seek
comfort? Again, I’m not arguing that the story *wasn’t* historically
true, I just think that we tend to be way too attached to that aspect,
and it can limit our understanding so that we miss some of the most
profound and meaningful things in the story itself.

I guess I am just wary of attachment to particulars. smile.gif

For
me, even thinking that the story may be entirely myth, I still find
incredible power in it. My life experience validates Jesus’ claims. The
concepts in the story give me encouragement in my sorrows and hope for
my own resurrection (mainly in my life here, but sure after death too).
It doesn’t always give me the courage to risk everything and follow my
dreams, because often my vision is clouded by fear. But when I am calm
and centered, I see clearly and that courage comes to me in waves. I
worry that a courage based on a particular historical event is a way to
deny that fear. It’s a subtle underlying aspect of human life, and it
cannot be denied.

The only way to be rid of it is, as through
Jesus’ example, letting it in and not avoiding it. It’s a subtle thing
I’m talking about, how someone might push down a feeling of fear
because of their unshattering faith in a particular event…versus
understanding what that event tries to show us (regardless of whether
it happened that way or not) and listening to that advice and being
open and receptive…even to fear and suffering.

Let’s not forget though that it was important to Jesus too. For some reason, it had to happen, he predicted that it would, and told his followers to look forward to it.

It did have to happen, in the story, because of what it means. Because
of how it teaches us. It would make sense that Jesus would acknowledge
that it has to happen, because part of his point is that even seeing
something like this looming up ahead in our future, we must not be
afraid, for there is nothing to fear. If you imagine Jesus’ prediction
as a literary device in the story of the resurrection, it makes a lot
of sense. Not that it can’t be real as well, but it seems that the
meaning is there regardless.

But as to why it should be important historically, I guess I don’t
really have an answer right now, but it seems inseparable from the
story, to me anyway. Perhaps they are pat Christian answers, but if
it’s just a story, and never happened, and the Son of God didn’t exist,
and the Incarnation didn’t really happen, I’m forced ask what the point
would even be then? Besides just trying to be a better person by
modeling your life after a character in a story. And the Gospels, as
well as the other NT writings, and the writings of those shortly
thereafter, place great importance upon these events really happening.

Do you really think the Bible becomes empty and meaningless if these
events didn’t happen? Acknowledging that the events may not have taken
place in real life does not take away from the profundity and the
*truth* found in the story. This story puts into beautiful and precise
terms what so many other stories try to get at…some with better
success than others. It speaks directly to our hearts the way only
stories can. And there are echoes of these truths in almost every story
we write, in almost every life we live. But here we have it unclouded
by the fear in our normal stories. Jesus is a character without fear
(or rather, who does not act of fear), without sin, and the huge
tragedy in his life puts God’s lessons to us practically in neon
lights. smile.gif

It’s
so much more than just trying to be a better person. It’s discovering
the path to truth, to life. It’s trusting in the process, even if it
looks like it is leading you toward death…because the path to death
is a path to rebirth. It teaches us that there is no need to fear,
ever. And that love is a never ending spring; the more you pour out of
yourself the more you have. It is about letting go.

Stories are
meant to teach eternal truths in such a way that we can resonate with
them on the deepest level. Christ’s story is one of, if not the, most
profound of all. I don’t know about you, but when I talk about these
things my heart fills with excitement and joy at the sheer *truth* of
it all. It’s incredible.

Question for you, what was Paul meaning when he said if Jesus didn’t
really die and rise again, our faith is in vain? If it’s not important
as an event that really happened, why do they all place so much
importance upon it?

Well, I’m not a bible scholar,
so I can’t tell you what his original meaning was. I can only tell you
what I gather from it. Why must Paul be talking about a concrete event?
In the same passage he talks about the reflection between Christ and
Adam. But you don’t believe Adam existed. You have no attachment to the
particulars in that story. Yet somehow what Paul says is true, isn’t
it? That what was introduced with Adam is now overcome by Christ. Is it
an event that somehow canceled out a prior event? No, because the
prior event never happened in real life. It was a myth. But the meaning
of it is still strong…and the eternal aspect of the myth, the truth
of it…is now reflected and expanded on in the story of Christ.

I
don’t think he’s really talking about Christ being risen on a concrete
level (though again, it may be concrete as well), but on a personal and
existential level that goes much deeper. If Christ is not risen, if
there is no rebirth after death, then your faith and your preaching are
worthless. You do not fully believe in the meaning you preach. You do
not truly have faith. You are still in sin because you are still in
fear of death and suffering. And in your mind, those who are asleep
(notice he doesn’t say dead, interesting) have no hope of awakening, so
why preach? I think he’s showing how their point of view is reflective
of an inner state of despair and fear, when it should be one of hope
and life.

Anyway, just my perspective. wink.gif

*****

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