Archive for religion

Clarifying Guilt

Posted in Culture, Philosophy, Relationships with tags , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2010 by 99ppp

I’ll describe guilt as that uncomfortable feeling that one has gone against one’s conscience, at least that’s what ideally it should be. Yet that feeling can expand into situations where that unease  can erode our principles and undermine our values.

We begin to form our moral foundation from the discipline of our parents . We defer to their ethical experience, and believe that they have a greater hold on what’s right and wrong, what’s fair, and so on.  Parents become the primary agents of culture, teaching us how to acclimate to societal norms..As we age, though, we could see that they are only human, they make errors, and perhaps their moral compass was calibrated to their environment and times. “Because I said so” becomes an increasingly weaker argument, and solely a declaration of power. In fairness to parents, often they are simply attempting to keep us from repeating the mistakes they made. Often ethical transmission may be simply an attempt to validate their principles. That does not stop the questioning, though as the universality of teen rebellion can attest. We begin to challenge our parents assertion of what’s ethical and fair. We may look within, to our peers and the wider popular culture to get our new cues on how to behave.

Breaking customs appears to be one of the greatest difficulties within families since they are often the rites that are considered unifying. My mother used to get fixated on dates, on one particular occasion there was a silly family altercation simply because someone else forgot Mother’s Day and didn’t call. Now I didn’t believe in  recognizing these “greeting card” holidays (and still don’t) , but did it to appease her. When I found out about this conflict and my mother’s righteous indignation, I immediately declared I would no longer recognize those holidays, since they were now becoming a potential source of conflict. My mother suggested I cared less about her if I didn’t, I responded I didn’t like my feelings to be dictated by the calendar.

Enter religion. I was taught on the importance of God at home and in school, and was told that without that religious guidance I would go astray. I was skeptical, and felt that I could infer some of the rules of the Bible intellectually (I was raised Roman Catholic), and didn’t feel that was needed for it to be sent down by God. I get the sense that guilt drives much of religion, as we must carry the burden of Adam’s original sin, making us responsible for decisions we didn’t make. I confessed to a priest only once, and never again. I can see the use many people can get some peace of mind  from it, but couldn’t see how this man could give me absolution.

Guilt cues us in to violations to our values, ethics, principles, and agreements. However, I began to feel that it is unfair to hold us accountable to principles we didn’t pick. Often guilt can simply be a response to seeing a loved one get hurt after some act or expression. We often believe we’ve hurt the person, but it can be just as likely that the person hurt themselves by projecting expectations onto us, and holding us responsible for surprising them in an unpleasant way. Nonetheless, we feel bad, call it guilt when perhaps it’s simply a fear of alienation. To fulfill expectations we didn’t agree to condemns us to reaffirm existing culture instead of engaging and participating with it by questioning, examining and challenging it when it fails to resonate with us. We become agents of conformity. We can erode the confidence to form our individual principles and become spectators to the ever-shifting tides of ideas that make the amorphous blob of mores and customs we call culture.

I crave equanimity.. sometimes.

Posted in Culture, Philosophy with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2010 by 99ppp

I recall as a teen seeing those infomercials on Transcendental meditation. They were usually quoting studies on how they calmed the mind and lower stressed and I was fascinated by it. I knew little or nothing on eastern religions, yet it seemed that they were peaceful, and even as a youngster, I tended to analyze situations from a myriad of angles before making a decision. The line between thinking and worrying is very fine, so I was fascinated by it. My mother got a bit panicked, thinking it was some cult (some might argue that it might be). Yet this started my exploration into equanimity, meditation in particular, and pined for the ability to remain cool under pressure, and even handed in stressful situations. The journey has been sporadic and elusive, as I am both attracted to equanimity and skeptical simultaneously. Spock-like stoicism seemed attractive at one point to one curious of the world around him and gravitating towards science.

Dispassion, objectivity, perhaps this was the way to stop craving, wanting, pining. Buddhism is described as the middle way, evenhanded, as any leanings could could make one suffer. While the Four Noble truths resonated with some part of me, the eightfold path didn’t as it sounded pretty moralistic despite I may agree with many of the principles. Then there is the apparent paradox of wishing suffering to end. I’ve read enough commentary, and several books on Buddhism attempting to reconcile them, making exceptions adding more and more words to what should become simpler, without being simplistic. Detachment or attachment, indifference or commitment. Both seemed right and wrong.

Paradoxes fascinate me, I eventually ventured into Taoism through a wonderful book called The Tao of Physics. Connecting both my interests, I found Taoism somewhat more flexible, allowed for mystery, allowing for harmony and flow rather than stoic discipline. There seems to be a sense of humour in the Tao Te Ching, telling the reader the Tao cannot be defined, and yet the book attempts to describe it. Sometimes the passages read like fortune cookies or a conversation with your drunk uncle.Buddhism still held many important ideas, many shared with Taoism, yet seemed a little rigid, and more structured. However, I could not dismiss it.

Meditation practices are pivotal to both traditions so I began to investigate how to do so. I lost interest in Transcendental Meditation, and began to dabble in ways to experience thought-less, ego-less mindspace which seemed to promise some respite from my constant overthinking and fretting. I even used “Theta wave” cassettes which did hold some promise, experienced some lucid dreams, but didn’t like the idea to use technology to get there. I believe these states of mind are accessible to all and not reliant on some gadgetry or decades sitting in a cave. Eventually, I decided on Dr. Herbert Benson’s “Relaxation Response”, a simple secular form of meditation. Then came Zen.

The Zen tradition intrigued me since it was a mix of Buddhist practice and Taoist philosophy. I’ve read several books on the subject over the last two decades, but have yet to sit zazen, a form of meditation with eyes open. What boggles my mind is that the most powerful transcendent experiences came to me while doing the most mundane tasks. The first one came while washing the dishes. The second, while cropping my hair with an electric clipper. I lost my complete sense of self, everything was effortless. Then I just discovered there was no dishes to wash, no hair to cut. I didn’t do anything. A verb with no noun. Cutting, washing. I am now persuaded that the key to awareness is attention. To WHAT one pays attention to matters little, whether it’s sweeping, a mantra, a prayer, counting the breath, or a yoga pose. Conversely, it appears that these states are so elusive because we are continously distracted. I still struggle reconciling the irony that becoming so focused on one thing can make one dissipate from everything else, yet seem connected to everything else. Maybe there is no else, just everything.

Instruction Manual for Life

Posted in Culture, Philosophy, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 12, 2009 by 99ppp

Well worth a peek, good food for thought. [Vid: 8:01min]

Animation by TheraminTrees and QualiaSoup

Surrenderring “Marriage” to Religion: A Case for Civil Unions

Posted in Culture, Love, Relationships, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 4, 2008 by 99ppp

There is a controversial question placed before California voters today, Proposition 8 which will legally impede same-sex  couples to marry if it passes. Plenty of money has been placed to pass the measure, most prominently, the Mormon Church which poured approximately 20 million dollars into the campaign to pass it. The progressive viewpoint is to champion the cause of same-sex marriage, and at first I would be so inclined, as it isn’t fair to discriminate how people choose to unite regardless of their sexual orientation. The deeper problem is the word “marriage” itself. This issue will not go away, and the best way to transcend it, is to give the word “marriage” to religion and have the state only perform civil unions for ALL couples.

I am not a fan of marriage as an institution to begin with. I’ve already argued that it has nothing to do with love, yet I can concede that there are potential reasons why two people would want to get married: children and property. Civil unions can provide the identical protections without calling it marriage.

Giving religion the word, will dismantle the lever which those who wish to project their religious morality through the mechanism of the state. Those who get the religious ceremony would still need to get a civil union to be recognized by the state. Those same-sex couples of faith who still wish to get married, may need to wait for a while, yet surely there will be some progressive religious groups who would perform the ceremony, since the freedom of religion is inviolate.

Additionally, by giving the word marriage to religion, it gives greater clarity to the division of church and state.

All this time and energy fighting over a word is pointless, attention that keeps us distracted from more important issues, like the economy, the environment and questions of war and peace. Those with progressive secular values could simply abandon the quibble over one word, it simply isn’t worth it. Religion can even take the words “husband” and “wife” and we can embrace the inclusive gender neutral “spouse”.

what is culture?

Posted in Culture, Philosophy, Poetry, Relationships with tags , , , , , , , on April 28, 2008 by 99ppp

religion, ritual
christian, gnostic
judeism, kabbalah
muslim, sufi
beliefs, traditons
is this cultural?
What is culture?
who decides, who defines?

society, civilisation
class, elite
upper class, ruling class
social class, racial class
middle class, lower class
What class, no class?
is this cultural?
What is culture?
who decides, who defines?

culture jamming
advertising, consumming
art, philosophising
popular, unique
texting, gaming
loving, hating
music, writing
symbols, language
is this cultural?
What is culture?
who decides, who defines?

understanding, creating
thinking, exisitng
values, systems
spirit, nature
universe, mysticism
is this cultural?
what is culture?
who decides, who defines?

capitalist, socialist,
sexist, fascist
evolution, revolution
democracy, freedom,
will we ever find a simple solution?
one word, many words
too many words, No words
silence, just for a moment
one conclusion!

do we really need another word
to further divide?


Posted in Anti-War, Culture, Love, Philosophy, Poetry, Relationships with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2008 by 99ppp

Are we searching
for what is common,
or what is right?
The struggle we fight,
The power we crave,
The EGO we feed.

The constant slave to a system
that feeds the machine of greed.
The new religion

Consumption, destruction.
We fill a void
What a waste we create.

The constant slave to a system
That feeds the machine of greed.

Is our spirit lost ?
The battle, the war
Over mind, body and soul.

The constant slave to a system
That feeds the machine of greed.

Do we follow the masses?
Do we stand alone?
The system is failing
It can no longer sustain

The pursuit of love,
The pursuit of happiness,
The pursuit of acceptance,
We seek from others
Have we lost touch
with our own voice?

The constant slave to a system
That feeds the machine of greed.

Just scream
Scream out loud
Find YOUR voice