On Suffering and Disillusion

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Then:

No action destroys evil, but only the apparently useless and perfectly patient suffering of it.

Simone Weil, Gateway to God, p. 51 quoted in my diary entry on 10 October, 1984.

My belief in the above to be true, while never total, was stronger over three decades ago, when I was a Christian. The example of Jesus, given by a well-known Jesuit, seemed to confirm Weil’s intuition:

The power of the human person, his secret weapon, is his power to suffer and die.

From The Two-Edged Sword by John L. McKenzie, S.J., from page 25 of the same diary.

Now:

I look at the way the world has been increasingly dominated by a single political entity since I read the above statements, with, seemingly, little but pain and destruction for any peoples whether they dare to oppose it or not.

This dominion has been achieved by a combination of overwhelming military might, the absolute and wanton waste of Mother Earth’s natural resources on weaponry and, since the Reagan years, the gradual extreme control of the West’s mainstream media to the point that, among the smartest of us, there is a dismal, widespread lack of awareness.

I am now far from convinced that there is much hope for the approach of “turning swords into ploughshares.”

By the way, we Christians might be forgiven for thinking that Jesus used this phrase somewhere in the New Testament, but we would be shocked (I was!) to find that this everyday, so hopeful expression comes from the name of a statue completed in 1959 by a Russian sculptor named Evgeny Vuchetich and presented at that time to the United Nations, where it still stands. But New Yorkers may well be aware of this…

Yes, a Russian from, er, Russia! Go figure! The same Russia that is now increasingly, and I am convinced unfairly, vilified on the front pages and TV headlines of all the major organs of the “free press” for doing things that the planet’s paramount hegemon has been doing for just as long, albeit with greater success.

Hmmmm….

 

 

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Conflict Near and Far

Cai Be floating market - Mekong Delta - 2008
From my heart to yours… Cai Bé floating market – 2008

I can’t let this lie.

Two tragedies (out of the myriad people on our planet suffer regularly) stand out in my mind and grieve my heart:

Gaza and Malaysia Flight MH17.

Many others exist, but these two are the worst for me because they involve unimaginable grief and they fuel the fires of long-standing hatreds. An earthquake or flood can bring people together. These two drive people apart.

Both involve bad political decisions made in the 20th century and both are being used in the 21st century to fan the flames across these two centuries.

I cannot bear to watch coverage of these events because I am acutely aware of the way all mainstream media, including my once-preciously-impartial-and-fairly accurate CBC, are being used and/or intimidated to further the goals of the new set of global conflicts in which Our Side are always the good guys and Their Side are invariably wearing the feathered headdresses or black cowboy hats.

So I write what I consider to be the brutal, unvarnished “truth.” After five decades of travel (In September 1965 at 20 I began a two-year volunteer teaching assignment in the West Indies),  observing world politics  and studying alternative and mainstream news sources I can fool myself into fervently believing that I “get it” – not all of it, but the “broad strokes” at least.

The process of writing my “truth” is cathartic for me. I’m a mess after simply glancing at the present media circus.

Then I reconsider what effect my blunt, certain-to-be-misunderstood-by-many “truth-telling” will have on my ability to continue to do the other things I love that make a real differences to a limited number of very important people.

And I take the post down and pick up the guitar.

Same Pot, Different Glazing

Jug found at Madinat Al Zahra, near Córdova, capital of Andalusía during the Golden Age
Jug found at Madinat Al Zahra, near Córdova, capital of Andalusía during the Golden Age

My professor of chemistry at Loyola College in Montreal pegged me as a late bloomer back in 1965. Yep. He got that right. I am rather slow to catch on to some things. For instance, the following question avoided my awareness for years:

How can a religion whose most dedicated souls strap 8-year-olds for not doing their homework be taken seriously as a sign of God’s grace?
Gotta be a few screws loose somewhere. I was lucky. All that happened to me was that I got whacked hard across the backside by my Grade One teacher for innocently sitting on my heels while practising kneeling at the communion rail, strapped by the Christian Brothers beginning in Grade Three, lifted off my feet and smashed against the lockers outside my Grade Nine classroom, and propositioned cleverly, but unsuccessfully, by the religious principal in my senior year. There were other offences, but these stand out. So how was I lucky? Continue reading “Same Pot, Different Glazing”

The Boston Marathon and U.S. Drone Attacks: a Tale of Two Terrorisms

Not to minimize the heinous, despicable tragedy that occurred in Boston, but to point out senseless suffering all over the globe. NONE of this can be justified.

Three of my previous posts that deal with the brutal cowardice of using drones

Earth First! Newswire

Earth First! Newswire

[UPDATE: Check out more current opinions, and analysis on the Boston bombings and possible Chechnya connection from the Earth First! Newswire]

To murder several runners using bombs at a sporting event is terrorism.

To murder 175 children using military drones is U.S. policy.

We should accept neither. We should fight against both.

List of children killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen:

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Tonglen with Tai Chi?

On the wall at Xi’an – “Monster Trip” – 2008

I have been combining Tonglen breathing as described by Pema Chögrön with Tai Chi (24 form) and with my strength exercises.

Tonglen is a simple process of breathing in dark things like pain and suffering (yours, that of those close to you, that of friends, strangers and, ultimately, that of all sentient beings), assuming this suffering, and breathing out healing and peace.

Physical Exercise: My personal trainer at the local gym after my heart attack(s) in February 2000 showed me how to breathe in prior to performing an exercise and breathe out while you are performing the strenuous part. This is safer for the heart. So, for example, I breathed in while I descended in a squat and breathed out while ascending. I breathed in before pulling on a rowing machine and breathed out while pulling. Now I breathe in slowly while resting between sets of an exercise and breathe out slowly during the entire action.

My morning program now consists of:

  • Treadmill walking for 30 minutes while listening to CBC podcasts on (mostly) philosophy or literature (simply walking on a treadmill is so incredibly boring otherwise for me)
  • Squats and dumbell exercises combined with tonglen breathing in my own home while listening to restful, oriental music
  • One performance of tai chi 24 method combined with tonglen breathing meditation while listening to restful, oriental music

Tai chi is supposed to be done while breathing in the chi (energy) and pushing it back out.  I had thought of the chi as positive energy, so it seems counter-intuitive to be breathing in “hot, dark and heavy,” (i.e. suffering), and breathing out “cool, white and light,” (i.e. healing and peace). Somehow, for me, this works really well to give me a feeling of peaceful healing.

As for the strength  exercises, at first it seemed weird to be breathing out peace and healing while one is doing the strenuous part of a physical exercise, but then I thought:

Bringing about peace and healing in the world, beginning with yourself, is hard work.

It makes sense to me now.

Three Objects, Three Poisons and Three Seeds Of Virtue

The title of this blog is one of the slogans used in The Main Practice (Training in Bodhichitta). This is one very useful activity of Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism. Bodhichitta is the state of having an awakened heart-mind. It is useful in alerting us to opportunities to avoid the consequences of giving in to our natural tendencies to react negatively to objects, people or situations..

I am not a Buddhist, but I suffer from unnecessary anger. I also believe in the interconnectedness of all sentient beings. I have found this practice of allowing suffering and healing to “ride the breath” a useful way to become aware of mounting aggression and often avoid losing my temper over something stupid. Continue reading “Three Objects, Three Poisons and Three Seeds Of Virtue”