Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Eat Pray Love

March 13, 2011

Ever since Oprah shook her head, sagely, and said, “I love this book,” I had to read _Eat, Pray, Love._

Actually, I have no idea on why I picked up this book.

Overall, Lizzy Gilbert is a decent writer who keeps me interested.

On the other hand, she’s clearly selfish and narcicistic.

I try to have compassion for all beings, but it’s so tough to have compassion who someone who’s so wealthy yet so poor inside. Someone who is seen as smart, but is so stupid. And someone who claims to be so deep, but is completely shallow.

I can forgive people a lot, but she really does spirituality a disservice here by making India into a kind of spa crossed with Disney Land and an Ashram.

When I first started reading about Eastern religions, I learned how unimportant I was in the universe. This made me feel much, much better. I started to focus on helping other people instead of myself. I worked part time and went to nursing school part time. I meditated whenever I could and read as many Buddhist and Toaist books as I could. I gradually learned the differences between Theravada, Zen, and Tibetian Buddhism.

Despite my 12 hour days, bitchy co-workers, and dying patients, I was actually happy. Or at least you could say, I was done with depression.

Lizzy, and the other hand, eats pasta and gets hit on in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and she is still sad.

Now I realize that I have come from a rich country, and have been really lucky. I don’t feel like I can judge anyone. But to read this book just made me feel as if she were giving the third world both her middle fingers.

The book only gets worse when she leaves Italy. I have to say that I know diddly about Yoga philosophy. However, it can’t be completely different than the other types of meditative and contemplative practices.

Yet, the way she writes about it makes it seem like this kind of product.

In meditation, we learn that there is always some suffering in every human activity, but we learn, by careful practice, to fucking DEAL WITH IT. We learn we are big enough to handle our life and our problems. We learn that any kind of expectation is going to lead to disappointment.

What’s Liz’s version?

She tells us that with a little Yoga, we can have BLISS. All the time. Forever.

This is total bullshit and a setup for more pain and disappointment.

Also, in Buddhism there’s the notion of the Hungry Ghost. Liz is totally a hungry ghost.

This notion can be taken figuratively as a mental state in which one is full of desire which burns up all else. They are in a deluded state because of an intense greed. This is exactly how Liz is.

For example, when she’s in Italy, an awesome country by her own standards, she gets jealous of someone going to Slovenia. Why?

It reminds me of a little child in front of Saturday morning cartoons watching the toy commercials. They could put anything on that screen, and the kid screams, “I want that.”

I would have expected a trip to India to teach her more than what I learned in my public library, but alas, instead she sells a completely pain-inducing and disappointing version of Eastern philosophy. This could only have been made by those trying to sell something.

In fact, I could not stop thinking of “The Century of Self” and “How TV Ruined Your Life” especially the aspirational episode of the latter. Just as a factory farm breeds a perfectly plump, big breasted, antibiotic infested chicken each time, our stew of aspirational media is producing perfect self-centered humans each time who only think with their impulses and senses. It’s like a junkie only seeing their next fix–all other thoughts are squeezed out.

Very sad.

It scares me that this book is so popular, but it taught me a lot of the world we live in.

…but I’d have to kill you.

May 11, 2009

Whenever I hear the phrase, “I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you” it makes my blood boil. What a way to combine arrogance and stupidity.

It’s always stupid to say such a thing.

First of all, how many people have these secrets that are really important? Not very many. In fact, many of these secrets are really just arrogance.

An example is the torture memos. There was a prediction that all hell would break loose if they were released. Guess what? All hell has not broken loose. In fact things are pretty peachy today. So those idiots who said that we need to keep this stuff classified are discredited forever.

Second, you’d have to kill me? Why would you have to kill me? Let’s say you could kill me, which is highly arrogant. “I could kill you just by thinking about it.” Do it, GI Joe.

Why would you have to kill me? Let me tell you a secret, “I have no credibility.” Not on TV, not in public, not anywhere. I’m not an expert on anything. If you told me a deep secret, and I called the news, nobody would listen. I could go to a street corner, and I’d be just another crazy. So to say you _have_ to kill me is dumb.

It’s also kind of aggressive and rude. “I’m going to kill you b/c of the contents of your head.” WTF? Say that and you sound like a complete asshole.

So if you want to sound idiotic, arrogant and kind of like an asshole living in an imaginary Bond world say stupid shit like this.

Or even better yet, just kill me anyway. Just fuckin’ kill me and spare the stupid drama. No need to tell me these stupid, precious state secrets.

I’m going to pop some pills now. I’d tell you what I’m on, but…oh never mind.

Matthew 7:16-20

August 21, 2008

This is more of along the lines “by his [a person but mainly a preacher] fruits you will know him”.

Yesterday, I said that I liked this. That is true, but only up to a point. I feel that often the real world is more complicated than can be split into two dualities. That being said, I do have a strong sense of right and wrong.

I am uncomfortable, though about the punishments that are going to go to “those who produce no fruit”. They will be cut down.

That sounds cruel to me. Worst, it reduces the value of human life to what they can produce. But this is a self-centered view. On one hand, one can think someone (like me) is a complete slacker and completely useless. Fit to be cut down. On the other hand, there is love enough for everyone in the world.

Also, as this book stated earlier, it’s not up to us to judge. Therefore, this is a potentially dangerous line because it may be taken out of context and used to judge others. For example, it may be used to blame people for their poverty. After all, if they are not a “corrupt” tree, then they would have good fruit, right?

On the other hand, I like it because it tosses out the fuzzy notion of intention which I’m not completely comfortable with. People always claim they have good intentions no matter what a mess they make. Here, we just look at the fruits. If the plan was so great, why are the results so bad? On the other hand, factors are out of our control, so maybe good intentions and a good plan can still fail.

So basically, I am highly confused. Probably from typing too much.

The one thing we can agree to is that it’s not up to us to judge.

Judging creates stress and hostility and neither of these make for a good day.

Matthew 7:13-14

August 19, 2008

I this next couplet. I don’t agree with it, but I think it sums up a great deal regarding Christianity.

Again, it brings up another duality. In this case, the duality is regarding life. Wide is the gate the leads to destruction and narrow is the gate that leads to life. OK.

In Buddhism this kind of thinking is called annihilism (destruction) vs. eternalism (life). Buddha did not preach either of these. Thus if asked if one’s soul is eternal, he’d say no. If asked if one were completely destroyed after death, he’d say no. This seems like a paradox, but I don’t think it is. I think that things are more subtle.

I know analogies don’t prove anything, but I think that they can be a good way to explain certain notions. In this case, one does not say that your body is destroyed after you die. Even if you are cremated, all the atoms that make up your body will still exist. This is the law of conservation of mass. However, you are not the same after you die. After decay, the pieces scatter, and the atoms are soon part of new living things. In a way, you live on. In a way, you don’t.

One modern Buddhist was asked that if the soul does not live on, then what part of you survives your death. He laughed and said, “your neurosis”. I thought this was funny as well.

It is as if your negative energy can live on. Can you positive energy live on as well? I think so.

I’m not saying that this is some kind of law for people to believe in. It is just the best way that I can see what’s going to happen to myself after I die.

I may be wrong, and I will be in a lake of fire. In this case, I should be buried in swimming trunks.

Matthew 7:7-12

August 18, 2008

This chapter continues with its feel good message. In this section it basically says ask and you will be given.

I could be wrong, but I think that this is the basis of _The Secret_. If you wish hard enough for something, you will get it. Anyone who ever tried this knows that there are mixed results at best at this approach.

For one thing, there are things we know to be impossible like resurrection. Try it! Close your eyes and wish real hard for someone we could use to be resurrected like Lincoln. If I see Lincoln walking around Philly tomorrow, I’ll admit that I was wrong on this, and the secret really works. If not, I’ll stand by my words.

I think it is dangerous to think this way. In fact, I feel that this is the basest form or religion. I call it the vending machine god. Put your money in the slot, press the button, and you get a coke.

There is so much more to spirituality, I gnash my teeth each time religion is boiled down to such simplistic terms. In fact, I feel that one of the biggest thing I learned from my little spiritual endeavors is accepting things as they are. This is the opposite of “asking and receiving all kind of goodies”.

Somewhere in my heart, there is lingering doubt. Maybe I’m too much of an asshole. Maybe I’m not one of the chosen people. Maybe there are people somewhere who are wishing away and getting all the goodies that they want. I bet they live in the suburbs where they never have to listen to other people’s shitty music.

I don’t know. All I know is that _my_ spirituality tells me that I wish them the best. I wish that they are free of pain and their riches increase.

Matthew 7: 6

August 14, 2008

Just like Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 7 is turning out to be one of the best seasons ever, so far, Matthew 7 is similarly a rocking chapter so far.

We get to a quote that is so pithy and useful, I can only comment on one line again. I guess I’m going to be crawling through this book for sometime to come.

This quote says “give not what is holy to the dogs”. I take this personally. It basically tells people not to talk to me about religion. I can relate to the dogs because I don’t understand what “holy” means. Does it mean we have some kind of respect or reverence? I can understand that, but why not say that. Or does it mean that we have to have a certain kind of feeling when we approach it? I get a special feeling when in a church especially when touching holy water. I know that it is just H2O, but there’s something magic about it to me.

I find this to be the biggest problem in vampire shows that are in a post-religious world. The vampires are actually linked to Christianity and when you get rid of most of Christianity, you get some strangeness. For example, Buffy sometimes uses holy water to burn vampires, but where does she get it? She doesn’t seem to go to church much, though she did mention bible reading in one episode. Does she steal it or buy it from a gift shop? Since religion is stripped of much of its power, it seems almost silly that crosses burn vampires especially just a piece of wood. That seems to be unreal to me. You should take a crucifix at least because any two pieces of wood that have fallen in the woods should not be able to burn a vampire. Does the cross have to be 90 degrees? What if it is 45 degrees? At what angle does it cease to operate?

Sorry, I got off track. I meant to speak of Matthew 7:6, but I guess I proved Jesus’s point there. It continues, “…neither ye cast your pearls before swine…” What a poetic line. I love it! Basically it means don’t talk about intelligent things to stupid people because you are just wasting your time. I like the fact he does not mention holy because this is a much more universal lesson, one that I can relate to as the person who has the pearls, too.

Then again, to believe this is a kind off pride. What if I don’t have pearls, but I am a swine? Hard to tell.

Faith? But faith that creates pride is a false faith; it’s actually delusion, not faith at all. Faith is a feeling a strength that your mind has in adversity that what you are doing is right, but it does not exclude a healthy skepticism and intelligent thought nor does it stop one from having compassion for others.

At any rate, having humility will also prohibit you from giving all your wonderful pearls to others and thus watching them trampled underfoot. So basically, if you have a bunch of pearls (good ideas) be very careful who you tell them to. Or in other words:

Beware swine!

Matthew 6:22-23

August 1, 2008

This is an interesting pair of lines. It introduces a huge topic in Christianity and in Western thinking, which is the duality between good and evil. It is this duality that defines Western thinking. This duality is also what separates, in the most general way, Eastern thinking from Western thinking.

I know I am grossly and disgustingly oversimplifying this, but here’s one uneducated guy’s take on all of philosophy on the planet earth. Note the fact that I separated all of the philosophy on the whole planet into two little groupings shows that I am hopelessly a Westerner in my outlook. I do not apologize for this.

I do realize that dualities create a lot of problems if you stick to them slavishly. People who speak in “Us vs. Them” terms sound like complete idiots. Worst of all, you can relax a great deal if you give up these dualities. I certainly have. This is one of the messages of _The Way and the Power_ by Loa Tzu. I tried this in my own life, but the thing to remember is you give up “unnecessary” distinctions. This does not mean giving up a sense of right and wrong. Hippies get this wrong about Taoism (and Zen Buddhism) and take this as a license to do whatever you want.

Hey, if you wanna do whatever you want, do it. Don’t waste time digging up musty ancient philosophers to rubber stamp your preselected ideas. Stand on your own two, preselected feet. I’m behind you on this. If you read an ancient text, do it with an open mind to LEARN SOMETHING. This is a pet peeve of mine. My other one is flies.

In this passage, Christ does not contrast good and evil, but rather “single” vs. evil. This is bizarre. Another head scratcher: “thine eye be single, thine whole body shall be full of light” or “thine eye be evil, the whole body shall be full of darkness”. For some reason, I keep getting hung up on the word single. What is it about thine eye being single? Single focused? Single minded? What? How does this contrast to the word evil. They are usually not opposed to one another. Is evil somehow multiple?

I can’t even start to speculate on this. It seems to be just another confusing head scratcher. I can picture myself standing there listening to this sermon and scratching my head. People around me are shrugging going, “WTF” or “Okaaaay.” Or maybe that’s only me there is the “inappropriate” laugher while the rest of the herd just stands there and pretends to understand. Who the hell knows.

What I think is that this should be on a banner somewhere at a sports event. “For a real good time read Matt 6:22-23”.

Matthew 6:9-11

July 17, 2008

Last time, we learned what NOT to pray about. Don’t repeat yourself, and don’t ask for stuff.

This part teaches us how to pray. I think that this is a huge step for Jesus. When you establish a religion, the practices are very important to the believers. Like it or hate it, this is what I wanted from the start.

It starts out with an introduction telling us that the Father (God) is holy and in heaven. This is standard for many prayers.

Next it says, “Thy Kingdom come.” I believe this refers to Jesus’ view that his Father’s kingdom will come to the earth in the near future. I could be wrong here. If not, I have no idea what this means.

Next he says, that Father’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. I find this fascinating because it points to a vastly different view of God than the one I have. If he has to spell out something this obvious, perhaps to the people of the time, God was less powerful. I mean if God’s will was not done on earth, then who’s is? I thought God was all powerful.

Perhaps he means that God is _not_ all powerful or has somehow decided not to extend his power to the earth. This is an interesting concept and would make a good short story. Very nice line. In stating the obvious, he stated much, much more than the obvious.

Next he says, “give us this daily bread.” By this, I think he means more than just a request for bread. Recall, we are not supposed to ask for anything. I think that by this, he means that each day, the same old, same old goes by. Sort of like another day, another dollar type of thing. I’m not sure.

One thing I did notice is that prayer is a bit ADD in that there are no good transitions. Perhaps this is because he is more interested in the ideas presented rather than the form?

I stopped here, but there’s more prayer to cover. This prayer has too much going on to cover in just one post.

Matthew 5:38-48

July 10, 2008

These last ten lines are the end of the chapter. I feel like I have been dragging through this chapter forever. Finally, the speech reaches a point where it is unified in theme for ten lines.

It starts out speaking of “an eye for an eye” which was the idea that if someone took out their enemies eye, their punishment would be that they would lose an eye. Unlike many people today, I actually believe in justice. I don’t believe in any kind of “relativism” when it comes to basic morality. This is because if you talk to very young children, they all seem to have some kind of sense off justice that strikes me as being consistant. Only later on when they learn to lie, and other more advanced topics do they reach a point where, “everything is relative.”

If anyone tells you this, threaten their interests. Immediately you will see that they don’t feel that everything is relative when it comes to them. They will feel like the _deserve_ to be treated a certain way. This feeling is their sense of justice that they had tried to bury in a pile of verbiage and bullshit.

No, I don’t feel like there are any stone tablets that have “justice” written on them. To me, justice is just a feeling people have when they feel that things in the world are not right.

Again, this feeling is encoded in ancient law.

However, Jesus isn’t here to give us any new laws. He’s not a lawyer. We saw that last time when he told people that they should refuse to swear. Instead, just tell the truth. I really like this. Plain and simple.

What does he say to do when you have been wronged? Well, it seems like it quite silly. He says that if someone hits you on one cheek turn the other one as well. He goes on to itemize many other examples of the same idea. My favorite one is that if someone will sue you to take your shirt, give him your coat as well.

Definitely not loving court system. I don’t know what Christ was thinking when he said these things. Again, things break down when you get to the _why_ of things. However, I have come up with my own explanation.

I have thought about getting sued, and I came to the conclusion that it is better to give the other side whatever they want; it’s better to settle out of court. Courts are arbitrary, whimsical when it comes to judgements. They are pretty consistant in that they take a lot of time and always subject you to boring, over-wrought bullshit. They never say anything straight of like it is. Having to listen to all that shit drives me batty. Better to just give in early.

It’s less stressful. Plus what is more valuable than you own time and piece of mind? Nothing. The only reason you own things is that it makes you happy. If it doesn’t then it is like Buddha said. It is like seeing a glowing red, metal ball. Pretty colored lights. I want to pick it up. This is what property can do to you when you get sued. A wise one will drop the ball.

The same goes for all things. Resisting just creates more stress. So don’t.

The other breakdown is that it does not say _how_ you will not resist. It is natural to get angry when struck. How to keep your cool? I’d suggest meditation and mindfulness practices. But I could not find this anywhere in this chapter.

This is so frustrating to me because here you have this great advice, but no way to implement it. I know we are supposed to give it all up to God, but how? What do you DO? Perhaps chapter six will tell us.

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.