Archive for June, 2008

Matthew 5:29-30 (again) and some Buddhist Stories *NEW*

June 30, 2008

Recall last time there was talk of body mutilation in order to avoid doing wrong.

I have to admit that I was wrong when I said that there was no mention of hell because there was. I’m sure you all ready caught on to that being the clever reader that you are. The mentions of hell are in lines 29 and 30. They mention that if you have a tendency to sin and you do not mutilate yourself, you shall be cast into hell. So this just makes the case for anyone who has committed a crime to mutilate himself. If a preacher does not do so, and they pick up preaching again, I suggest asking them if they doubt their own book.

I can imagine that there are things “beyond my knowledge” such as angels, miricles, and the continued fame of the Spears sisters. I can not believe someone who professes something as literal truth then does not follow it. So these lines really discredit the whole thing for me.

However, it is not my job to prove nor disprove this book. Much more intelligent people have tried. I am merely reading it as a found object-someone left it at my desk–in order to see how it may improve my own life. By reading the suggestion for self mutilation, I must say that this book is not the work of someone with a sound mind.

I know of two stories of body mutilation in Buddhism. In the first, Buddha himself was in a prior life. He was sitting in meditation and a king came by. He didn’t like how calm pre-Buddha was so he told him things to upset him. This, of course, didn’t work. The Buddha’s never lose their temper not even as pre-Buddha’s, it would set a bad example. Then he began to cut the man up into little pieces. Pre-Buddha sat there calmly while he was chopped to death.

The point of this story is that Buddha wanted to illustrate that you never had an excuse to lose your temper. You should always retain a balanced mind even under the worst circumstances. Think about it. If the king is going to cut you up, that’s it. Fighting is useless. The only thing you have left is your dignity and piece of mind. It is up to you to keep them or lose them.

Quite frankly, I would have crapped my pants when I saw the king and got more worried when he threatened me. That’s why I’m not even close to being calm let alone enlightented. However, when I hear this story, it calms me down. It makes my problems seem small and it makes me feel better. I don’t actually think I need to let someone mutilate me. I will not allow it if I can help it. Also, I don’t literally believe this story, though there were similar stories of Greek stoics and early day Christians facing torture and mutilation with calm.

This is funny because out illustrious Christian leaders get pissed off at the drop off a hat. Ask them the wrong question, and they are beet red, jumping up and down.

The second story is actually a Zen story. It is where the great Zen master is sitting in a cave for nine years facing a wall. A follower comes and asks for teaching. The Zen master says no. Again, the follower asks for training. Again, the answer is no. So the follower cuts off his own arm. Finally the Zen master says yes.

What’s the point except for the fact that in a Zen story someone has to do something that completely contradicts common sense? The point is that if this guy would cut off his arm for teaching, what would you do? Again, it does not recommend the practice of body mutilation. It does not say that you need to cut off your arm to become enlightened. It’s just a story about a person’s devotion.

In short, my advice today is do NOT practice body mutilation.

Outsourcing Course Work

June 27, 2008

Move over grandpa, the new kids are in town, and damn are they smart! The next move for the brilliant millenial college students is to

outsource coursework to India
.

Just reading stuff like this makes me feel stupid. Yes, I know, there are many people who are upset about this. These people are morons. There’s always going to be hypocrisy when genius is invoked.

For one thing, people who run a business at a profit are given mega-bucks. When the little guy tries it, people act as if he’s some kind of criminal. Hmmm.

I know the big objection is that the students are not going to learn anything. I think that they have learned enough so they should graduate all ready. The value of time and money. Face it, if you can take a big paper that would have taken you hours and outsource it, it gives you more time to work a job. In one hour, you can make enough to produce many papers. Thus efficiency improves. Everyone is happy except for those who are living in the Silurian Era.

I mean the main thing I learned from doing my papers was that:

1. Papers are a very artificial way to learn. You can only delve into a small aspect of what the whole class was about thus becoming an expert on very little while the majority of the subject passes you by.

2. The main thing you need to know to do a paper is paper formatting and footnote rules. Also, you will probably risk getting called a plagerist whatever that is. You will do little learning of facts, concepts, or skills.

3. Anything is more fun than writing a paper. Staring at the wall, eating a pencil, or smashing your foot in the door. Nothing sucks like actually working on a paper.

So thanks to the genius of the new generation I can kill myself now knowing the world will be taken care of much better than I could have.

Tour Guiding I: Genesis of a Tour Guide

June 26, 2008

In addition to my lovely day job, I also have a really fun night job. As a tour guide.

I like being a tour guide because most of it consists of talking radical leftists politics with history and acting majors. In between chit chatting, I occasionally wave the queen’s wave, your hand upright, fingers together. Now slowly rotate your hand about your wrist. No! Slower. Better, but do it a bit slower, and you have the queen’s wave down. For some reason the tourists love it eventhough it is not required of my job. I also occasionally try to get people to come to the show. Mostly it’s hanging out which is great because each night it’s like going to a cocktail party where I get paid.

The other reason I love this job is the costume. I get to wear a shirt with puffy sleeves, a red vest, a tricorn hat (three corners for the non-majors in the history of colonial clothing), and a neckstock. The latter is like a tie, but even thicker than the one they had in the seventies (ninteen seventies) and shorter. It’s like a puffy tie to match the shirt. Think Pirates of the Carribean.

Once I had kids come up to me and ask if I was a pirate, and I said yes. Then they mentioned that if I was a pirate I must drink rum all the time. If this were true, the child continued in their strange but logical vein, you must be an alcoholic. I guess so.

The final reason I like my job is that it is relaxing. During the actual tour it is very quiet, and I all I can hear is the white noise hum of the projectors. I usually stare at a tree and zone out while I listen to the soothing hum. This is nice because I am forced to be there. No where to go. Nothing else to do. Just stand and relax. Very fun.

Found: Man’s Search For Meaning

June 25, 2008

A friend of mine recently gave me Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. He said it would change my life. I was skeptical seeing as I had read so many books that have all ready changed my life, I felt that I lost the capacity to have my life changed.

Not so.

However, like most cases, I seem to have taken a different message home than the one that Frankl wanted me to take home. He has this idea that people need to have meaning in their lives in order to survive. The ones who gave up on life died.

The thing is that Mr. Frankl seems to have an absurd feel of death moreso than the normal fear that all of us humans have. Of course we are afraid to die. Otherwise we wouldn’t take care of ourselves and we’d either get in an accident or starve to death.

However, he fails to realize that there are some ways of living that are not worth it.

I find it amazing that he was able to find meaning and even a little joy in a concentration camp. That’s great. I don’t think I would have, however. I’m not upset over that. I realize that people do what they have to, and you can’t judge someone in extreme circumstances. So I’m not judging.

But if I were in a concentration camp, I’d kill myself. At least I hope so. I honestly can’t say I have the courage just to off myself, but I hope so.

Besides killing people, the other purpose of these camps was to “efficiently” manufaturer whatever the Nazis needed for the war effort. Aside from the daily abuse, it would piss me off to no end that I was helping that effort. Plus, I’m a baby when it comes to pain. And I have a foul temper especially when I am abused.

I have read in other books that the Samari wives would kill themselves and their children if they were in danger of being captured. I agree with this. Capture is only suffering with no hope of a better life. It is degrading.

But Frankl seems to think that there is something wrong with suicide. I don’t. I think it can be honorable.

I also take exception to the fact that people feel that suicide is a coward’s way out. If you ever thought about suicide for a few seconds, you’d realize that it’s not. It takes a lot of courage.

For some reason, our society seems to think that people are immortal. They are not. You are going to die anyway. If you kill yourself, you get to pick the circumstances.

That’s wonderful. Once I realized I could just kill myself, I felt liberated and free. I felt that nobody could have any power over me I didn’t want them to.

Just for the record I’m not depressed. I’m not planning on killing myself any time soon. I’m actually happier than ever, and life is more precious. I feel more free than ever.

Thanks Dr. Frankl.

Matthew 5:29-30

June 20, 2008

These two verses are a continuation of the ones I had posted about earlier, but the theme is different so I realized that to cover them both in detail, I had two themes so I’m breaking them up. I am at the most message rich section of Matthew now, and it’s getting good.

Last time we talked about how undesirable things begin in the mind, and that to stay away from these things physically, we can start by staying away from them mentally. I guess I forgot to add, that there is no mention of how to do this. Just don’t look at a woman with lust. This is more difficult than it appears for us mortals. How to do this?

Alas, there are zero instructions on any kind of mental training here. Nor are we truly given the reason why lust is bad. It’s just bad, that’s it. Trust me.

If someone wants to know why lust is bad, they have to think about what it would be like to drink salt water to quench one’s thirst. It just makes you more thirsty. If you are OK with this then you can be thirsty all the time. No problem for me.

As for the techniques, I suggest meditating on all the unattractive qualities of the body such as the body fluids: blood, pus, mucus, and so on. Think about the object as old, without skin, and decaying.

Instead, we get a joke. Yes, they Jesus jests, though I never heard anyone laugh at this. However, I know that this is a sad joke because nobody actually put this into practice.

instead of sticking in the same vein of training your mind to stop you from doing things you regret, he tells you to engage in body mutilation. I quote: “If thy right eye offends thee, pluck it out”.

I have heard of a lot of Christians who say you have to take the bible literally, every word is true. I have also heard of many fundamentalists who would cheat repeatedly on their wives. Why then to they have two eyes? I mean they want to persecute people for loving others if they happen to be of the same sex. But the very clear statement about plucking out your own eye, they seem to ignore.

This makes me angry because there are many parts of this book that are highly unclear as I have pointed out earlier. And yet, here is something that is clear as day and it is ignored.

Similary, the next line talks about taking off a hand for stealing, your own hand. It doesn’t say cut other people’s limbs off. This is very clear. If you steal, you must mutilate yourself. Again, nobody follows this. Why? This is very puzzling because they go on and on about hellfire in the future, but no talk about self-mutilation.

Oh, I have yet to see a single thing about hellfire yet. Perhaps that’s coming up. I’m looking forward to it.

Sweeping Strike or Endless European Vacation?

June 19, 2008

Like most liberals, I believe that Europe is some kind of European paradise. They actually pass laws to force people to do things that we liberals only dream about. Like the Netherlands bike riding act of 1952 that forces every home in the Netherlands to maintain one bicycle per home. When someone comes from America they are to lend them their bicycle to show them how cool they are. They also have a mobile health care van…for prostitutes. And they get about a year’s vacation for every year of work. Except for Austria.

So when the oil companies finally did something nice for the common bicyclist in America, and they raised petrol (that’s gas for Americans—for non-Americans, by “gas” we mean the stuff we put into our vehicles and not farts), the European oil companies did one better. See petrol was all ready over four dollars a gallon, that is it comes out to over four dollars a gallon when you do the math to convert from their more enlightened usage of the half soda bottle (litre) for volume and the more enlightened Euro for currency. So in order to show their solidarity with bicyclists, they raised the price to about twenty dollars a gallon.

What did the good people of Europe do? Take a vacation. While they were on vacation they asked for extra everything. Bus drivers in the Netherlands want better payment, milk farmers in Germany want more money for their milk. Finally consumers in Athens didn’t want to pay so much for a Nintendo Wii. I guess things have changed since the days of Socrates where people would just sit around drinking and making up philosophical systems for American students to major in.

I’m not sure whether they’ll get all their demands. Protesting is a dicey affair that seldom leads the fruit that’s expected. In the Netherlands, a judge said that the milk factory strike was illegal so the kindly farmers stopped striking. I found that surprising, but also incredibly easy going.

Despite the limited success so far, there have been some great benefits for bicyclists. In the city of Lisbon, there’s no fuel. No fuel means limited driving which means the entire frikin’ city is a bike paradise. I’d fly there immediately if the airport weren’t shut down due to a fuel shortage as well as a general strike for the guys who wave the fluorescent cones around on the runway.

Also, there in Lisbon, there is no milk, fruit, vegetables, meat, pastries, nor twinkies. They never did have twinkies, actually, which is another good thing about Europe. The bad thing is that the list of stuff they don’t have is so long, it would be easier to print what they do have lots of pissed off consumers. I predict that one day, they will join their Athenian bretheren in the strike that is giving all of Europe an even longer vacation than they all ready have. Long live Europe.

Matthew 5:27-28

June 18, 2008

I’m starting to feel that a bit of breaking this into sections would make this book a lot easier to read. I’m not sure, but perhaps they lacked the typesetting technology that this would require. On the other hand, they did manage to break the whole thing into chapters somehow so this could be possible.

The actual message here is in two lines. It starts out saying that if you look at a woman with lust, you have all ready committed adultery in your heart. I think that this is very good advice. Basically not to start out on the path of doing something that is wrong. This reminds me of the beginning of the Dhammapada where it says, that everything starts with the mind, speak and act with an impure mind and suffering will follow as the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.

So basically, you shouldn’t even consider doing something that is wrong, and if you catch yourself doing so, stop. Of course, for me, I accept that people will have differing views of what is right and wrong. I believe that suffering really does follow doing wrong things. For example, if you touch a hot stove, your hand gets burned so you can say that touching hot stoves with a bare hand is wrong. Very simple.

I radically accept the fact that other people have a differing sense of right and wrong. I definitely feel that people have a different sense of suffering judging from what music people listen to for entertainment. That is unless, there is a private torturing company next door to my house. Use of that kind of “music” for torture makes more sense to me, however, I doubt it. Most people who start businesses move out of Philly even if they are from here for some reason or another.

Anyway, the point that you evil starts in the mind is a strong point, and this I admire.

Hi People!!!!!!!

June 16, 2008

Below is a letter I got. Names changed to protect the guilty.

HI LEEROY

I hope you had a great weekend!!!!!!!

Could you please send me a DETAILED MAP of the resident halls of EAST PHILLY UNIVERSITY! Where do we park our truck on the Pope Black delievery on Thursday?

Moe

THANKYOU

Matthew 5:23-26

June 13, 2008

This is really good. It says that before bringing a gift to the altar, if you remember someone he is angry with you then you should stop in the middle of the ceremony, leave the temple, and make peace. Then go back to complete the offering. This is brilliant because it takes a look at one’s _intention_ behind worship.

I love this because it gets to the heart of what I think that religion should be all about. It should be about learning about one’s feelings and becoming a better person. it should not be about empty ritual. Similarly, when an Emperor asked a Buddhist monk what merit he would recieve for building so many templed, the answer was “none what so ever.” It seems harsh, but it shows that action without having a heart that is turned in the proper direction is empty of relgious meaning.

Also, note that Jesus did not say that making a gift to the altar was a waste of time. He did not say that “works will get you no where.” He actually seemed to encourage the offering. He didn’t say the offering was critical, but he also didn’t say don’t do it.

This is important because I have heard some people say that Jesus said that “all works do not lead to salvation.” I think that this has been taken to mean that one should not do anything good for other people that calling oneself a Christian is enough. This is nonsense. I believe that one recieves merit from doing good deeds. If you look for the results the you probably will be disappointed. You should do good deeds for their own sake. Being a good person does not insultate you from feeling suffering. Blah, blah, blah. I don’t know why there is any controversy on these subjects. The answers seem to be painfully obvious to me.

Anyway, Jesus goes on to speak out against litigation. I agree with him 100%. As stated in the past, I think that US citizens have a warped view of the law which is created by the media. Getting rich by a lawsuit is very difficult. Judges want to uphold the law, not make people rich nor do they care about helping one carry out your silly vendetta or revenge fantasty. Law suits are expensive, time consuming, energy draining, and soul sucking. The only people who really make out from these tedious and infuriating affairs are the ones who have no investment in the actual outcome. Go to court and you lose on day one just for wasting your time.

Jesus agreed. My favorite part is “Thou shalt by no means hence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.”

This means that if you think going to court is going to get you to wriggle out of something. It won’t happen. You will have to pay everything. The usage of the word farthing is funny. I know they meant no humor, but were merely trying to translate into modern terms, which in this case is England in 1604. I think that shekel would have been a better word. But King James didn’t ask me. Still the point remains. Don’t piss away time in court.

Anger Does Not Give Up On You

June 12, 2008

Most people who know me know I have an anger problem. Even if they have not seen my legendary anger, they have heard me speak about it like an embarassing genetic disease.

The funny this is, I can’t recall when I knew I had anger issues. I guess it started with jealousy over better treatment of my siblings or classmates. The thing is, I don’t really remember it being a big part of my life until I began arguing with my parents over philosophical and political issues. The more I learned, the worse it got. I began to get angry because people had difficulty accepting what I thought were some obvious scientific facts. I also began to get upset by positions people were taking that I thought were unreasonable. For example, I got angry when people tried to justify every atrocity for their families. I spent a lot of time on this one and I came up with the best come back ever: “Everyone has a family.” So there, bitch!

Things peaked during the Bush II era. At this point, my wife explained to me that I had a problem

I have tried, over the past few years, to give up on anger. At times, I was repressing it. It seemed to work for a while then it came back really strong. I became highly irritable. The main focus of this irritation was the repeated thought that “Why do _I_ have to adapt to others? Why do I always have to be the nice one?”

Of course, this whole line of questioning was incorrect. I don’t have to do anything. However, I chose to make it my goal to give up on anger.

Of course, I didn’t want to do outright suppression. I did “work” with my anger, tracing it’s effects on my body. I found I got tight in the shoulders and the chest. Breathing was more difficult. Also there was a surge of tingling power through my arms and legs. The anger wasn’t a solid thing in me, but rather it kept coming and going all over my body like spots of electricity.

When I was not angry, I would try to think of all the things that got me angry, my buttons. Then I would try to create a new line of thinking where I could accept this problem. I would try to give up assumptions about the world that led me to anger. For example, with drivers, I gave up the notion that they would have courtesy, politeness, or even common sense. I realized that they act in ways that are sometimes selfish, but more often contrary to their own interests. For example, some drivers, when they see me will deliberately go as close to the curb as possible to prevent me from passing on the side. They put so much effort into driving close to the curb, they’d have to slow down and focus on not wrecking their car. If they had, instead, sped up to pull away from me, they would never have to deal with me again. They would get to their destination quicker, and not have an angry biker on their hands. I realized that driving induces temporary insanity. This helped a lot. One does not expect much from the insane.

However, no matter how much I gave up on anger in principle–I do not believe in “justified anger”. No matter how much I kept in touch with my body during the day. No matter how much I worked to eradicate the seeds of anger–the ideas that lead me to grow angry. No matter what I tried, I still got angry. Where does this anger come from? I don’t know.

It seems to come back like an annoying distant relative at family reunions. I have faith that this is only a temporary phase. I have “trained” myself to be angry, and rehersed many a temper tantrum. I can thank my wife for showing me that I was doing this. Now, I only do this when I “lost myself”. As soon as I see myself doing it, I stop. This helps a lot. All of it helps, mindfulness of body, mindfulness of thoughts.

Still, I really get impatient with this retarded thing known as anger. I give up on it, but it has not given up on me. Not by a long shot. Not even a little bit. Damn you anger. I hate you!