Monday, November 10, 2014

Why Dogs are a Sign of the Decline

I walked down a rather steep decline, my Children in tow. There was a woman with an unleashed dog walking upwards. My kids scrambled up the side of the embankment because they are scared of dogs. They both were attacked by a dog that the owner had assured us was, 'nice'. The woman scowled and then informed me that this was a dog friendly park and that I should expect more and more dogs this way. She insinuated that my children who are afraid of dogs were out of place here. I informed her that the dog was not leashed and that was a violation of the agreement to have her dog there. She didn't answer and glowered at my children and me as she walked past.

Now this isn't about the dog and us exactly. It is about something that has been ruminating with me. I have a deep, visceral reaction to dogs and people-now more so than ever. In the city I live in there are 140,000 dogs and growing (fast), there are 93000 children and falling, pretty fast. They produce, I am told, 10 million tons of feces a year. Almost all of this untreated. But again, I am just pointing this out, it is not about the environmental cost of dogs (who are killed at a rate of 20-30 million a year by euthanasia. Not to mention cats who are at a much higher rate and, I am told again, are a very strong  cause of small mammal extinction/pressure to extinction).

I am talking about what is the underlying cause of this boom. For, we know, pets have been with us since we were 'us', as far as we can tell. Dogs have lived among us for eons. However this is the first time, or first era, in which we have such a pervasive amount of 'companion' pets for such a large portion of our society. These existed before for Pharaohs and such but not for the working class. I guess you could call it a testament to the rapid wealth development of the masses but I would not agree, not in practice.

What is going on? There is, especially in this country, a pervasive Commercial Nihilism. That there is not Truth but that which you can acquire-and the very act of acquisition implies and sometimes explicitly implies ownership. This ownership is not just the fact that it conceptual 'belongs' to a person but is an inherent ownership. I believe that this is why our 'children' numbers are decreasing and our pet numbers are increasing. The ownership of children, while it can go on, is usually confounded with the advent of puberty. The Terrible Teens is a confrontation of the individual against the system, it is a battle for independence. The most intimate and close system that the person is engaged with, usually, is that of their family. The power of that is usually, warranted or not, coming from the parents.

I have always found this fear of teens from parents interesting and a bit confusing. My children are not yet there, but fast approaching it, but I have little or no fear in this particular area. Most of my entire career has been spent with teens, high barrier teens, and I absolutely adore the arising of an independence. It is the most important revolution that can occur. It is the crafting of an ineffable worth from the conceptual imputation of the system. One can succeed in this or fail. I find this a difficult task to engage in but I enjoy it. Because something causes pain does not mean it is not 'good' or pragmatic. I think we mistake these two often in our pleasure seeking society (as opposed to meaning seeking society). If good, or happiness, were the same thing as pleasure then drug addicts would be happy.

The act of wanting to own something, wanting to impose upon it, is a violent act, to take away its individualism and create a proxy-self on a gross level is oppression. That this is met with opposition from the teen is the greatest fear I have heard form prospective parents and as excuses not to have them. The second most reason not to have them, I have heard, is, in short, the bother that it takes. Oh, they at first talk about finances, or wanting to go to Paris on a drop of a dime, but it really all boils down to is 'bother'. The bother of having children detract from our incessant pleasure seeking, of titillating our nerves, of binding sights into boxes (like this infatuation with pictures that we do not ever see or use as ads on Social Media to how well we are doing).

The insidious nature of this drive is that they know that it is meaningless. Most do. This incessant materialism and imposition. They know it. They even say they are against it although they act in accord with it. This is Commercial Nihilism-a meaningless act of oppressive exchange by actors who know its impotence-yet still practice it. We have power in the act of enforcing the agonist into something-with Dogs it is to love us, our best friends, to wag their tails and beg for food, to feast upon their biological pack mentality and turn it into a beast wearing a tu tu. The language, so often used, "this is my baby" in regards to a dog, is there. It is Their baby, a child born of the coupling of fundamental Selfishness and Conscious Ignorance. The wolf descendant bred with its siblings to look a particular way, clipped of testicles, uterus, and tail, clipped of ear and shorn of coat, put in a cage to be their 'Den', leashed, fed manufactured food, etc. Not to say that taking these away would make it any better. The root is rotten. It is not the Dog's fault, in this life, they have no Mind in the sense of being able to decipher the world from what appears and is True. They are instinctual, or mostly so, and they have no work to do (the happiest dogs I have ever seen are those who are coupled with what appear to be homeless people. I think it is because they have a job to do in that relationship-protection etc. The power dynamic is not so large as to not be reciprocal, even, even in some regards). With no work to do they are relegated to one instinct, to one aspect-their deference to power.

While this may not be, in isolation, a terrible thing, it is, like most things, not. The foundational error is the catalyst to this behavior, this error leaks into all aspects of our culture. This culture that has become one large stomach, which is insatiable, and not just materially-even in its swallowing of Culture, religion, our very selves, all thrown into it to be consumed. By being strictly desire focused we have, by definition, a status of constant incompleteness-a psychic, perpetual, dissatisfaction. The impotence of this state leads to perverse drives to dominate, to try to quell it, and manifests, in this age, as elevating and diminishing our oldest 'friend' into a caricature. In doing this, or all of this, we are not creating a window unto a truth created but witnessing ourselves in the mirror of our actions.

Childless, ultimately lonely-for comradary, community, takes the willful act of sublimating the conceptual self to a partless whole-but we forgo this struggle in favor for our cold power. Surrounded by our dominated pets, immersed in our pleasure to make them (and others) into our puppets, we become god-like in some ways but without wisdom. A lonely, impotent, glib god, who puts such energies into their own dissatisfaction.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Maybe it is Now: Tibet and Hong Kong: Mouse Swallows the Dragon

I sit here in my Yellow button down shirt with my gray tie and wonder if this is the moment. If this is where the subtle reality shifts into the gross reality, where the cracks become visible and the dam begins to actively leak, and then collapse. The naming of the Umbrella Revolution is also a very interesting and shows a symbolic relationship with the Tibetan culture as well. The Parasol in Tibetan Buddhist practice is represented as a protection from spiritual defilement analogous to the protection from searing heat of the sun (I am sure that you could use this to represent as an umbrella to protect against rain etc. as well). One was also pretty fortunate to be able to afford a parasol and this represent the fortune of someone able to be see that defilements and seek shelter from them.

What is it that they are protecting? What is the Umbrella Revolution going to do?

A seed is a catalyst to the tree, if it is more specific the seed of an apple tree produces an apple tree. It cannot produce a pear tree. Thus we examine the causes, the conditions, and the intention of those that practice and we can, through the only way we can from the side of the Other, their practice. We know it by what they do and say. I watched as young children really, no more than 20, pick through heaps of garbage placing items in different piles. I wondered what they were doing. Then I realized that they were separating the garbage from the recycling. I then saw another group sweeping the highway. One was interviewed and he said, "We are citizens of Hong Kong. We don't want to see it destroyed. We want to show that we care about this city." He went on to say, "we put up these signs," they said, in the translation, 'Sorry for the inconvenience caused by blocking the traffic.' Amazing really. Revolutions, and revolutions in China have been so bloody, heaped with bodies, when both sides have decided to use the futile seeds of violence-which bring about a fruit no one usually wants to eat.

This is why I have thought that Tibet is so unique, and so imperative to our human psyche. I have written about it before so I wont be too verbose for fear of losing the reader. But Tibet is important because reality is really just a paradigm (not Reality). The paradigm is made up of what has been done and these are the points of reference to develop the environments of our communities. Why Tibet is amazingly important is that, perhaps, the first time since India, there is a chance that there is a revolution that does not descend into violence. That there is a change of mind that shift the paradigm without blood. Oh, we know, that India eventually fell into this. Gandhi Ji has often said he 'failed' in this way. But, in his greatness, he was the leader of a movement that showed that non-violence was not only a way, but the only way, to be able to humanely engage a wayward enemy. One cannot expect, like I have pointed out above, to produce anything but violence from the seeds of violence. It is not that Non-Violence will never produce violence, there are too many seeds at play to say that, but it gives it the best shot, it weighs the equation a bit more to one side. Tibet is another chance, and frankly, an even better chance than India was. It is much smaller in population, the religious and ethnic makeup is not as diverse, and there is a leader that the vast majority of the population within Tibet and without identify as a Buddha. We will follow. He has proven himself in the various crucibles of this world and has shown that he believes in the worth of human life. When asked if he was even mad, just a little, at the Chinese for taking over his country he replied, "they took my country why would I give them my mind as well?" If you knew where this arose from it is not that he means that we remain neutral them as well. It means that we thank them for being our greatest teachers, teachers of patience, love, compassion for how can we measure these except for in their opposites? We look at them as grateful students, as loving recipients of a wonderful teaching. This does not, though, mean, as Gandhi Ji has pointed out, that we cannot confront. We will and have.

This leads us to the Umbrella Revolution. We have a chance here to be able to enact this change, perhaps. To engage it in the best of our selves. To even engage the Chinese populace through HK and be able to give them their heritage back. I have often thought China would come looking to Tibet for that. They have a long, long, history of Buddhist though, practice, of philosophical traditions of Virtue which were tried to be eradicated. As they move forward toward such wealth, at least some, they will soon, hopefully, find out what Americans who do not have this history, have found out-Materialism without purpose but Material ends is cold, inhumane, and awful for the Human. It breeds a perpetual stomach for consumption is the only way. It does not jibe with logic, reason, or any other form of inquiry to maintain this trajectory. While America will have to create it, China just has to remember it.

Be well

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Health Mania

Now there can be no arguing that many Americans are not healthy but I cannot say that I have ever met with a group of people more concerned about their health. Obsessed I believe could be a better term. I am bombarded at the store on how to better increase my sex drive by eating chocolate, or increasing my life span for 5 years if I decide to run in place thirty minutes a day, to even drink booze (the more, unfortunately, is not better according to the modern incantations). What is left unsaid is that health, by itself, whether we attain it or not, is good.

It is this the root of this oddity that we are so obsessed with health and not attain it that is agitating me. A reasonable examination of what this premise reveals shows that it does not hold up. The gross example being Pol Pot was healthy until his dotage and it is inarguable, I think, to say that it would have been better if he was not so healthy. Oh we can go into the matrix of identifying what causes what but up to a 3rd of the Cambodian population was killed. Fuck any intellectualizing of that. So why is it that we are trying so hard to identify it as good while not doing very well in attaining it?

It lay in the desolation that has become the meaning drive of Americans. We gave up our transcendence for a 4 bedroom home and all that that means. We gave up the practice for transcendence for the practice of material comfort; happiness lost out to pleasure. If we identify the mid to late fifties to the mid sixties or so as the halcyon days of economic activity we find the subsequent following years as a tottering tower of illusions. We reached our Elysian fields and found that they were wanting. We found the larger and larger homes but strangely they came with more and more anti-depressants and substance abuse. Erich Fromm points this out in his book The Sane Society where he has this chart that shows some of the richest countries as being the most melancholy (he identifies this by suicide and substance abuse demographics). Yes, even the liberal bastions of hope, the Nordic countries, fare poorly in his measures as they rank very high on this list of the blues.

Once we, as culture (sorta), climbed that alternative ladder that started with our decision to use material gain as our goal, we found a desert of existence. We peeked over the last barrier and saw that there was nothing stretched out except a dessicated world. The meaning dried out of and left to wither like some sort of once wet rag strangled and left to burn. We have come so far down this pathway that it is hard to destroy it and start anew. Or even to build toward a different trajectory. All we have is willful ignorance, if we are too scared to jump, or rebuild, we turn from the truth that we have found and go down the same ladder. Then we pretend that we are climbing a new ladder and refuse to look over the final barrier. We fall in love with the act of agitated motion, in my mind’s eye it is very similar to the running these health focused individuals do on a treadmill, or a track, or on their memorized routes; an act of locomotion that has been elevated to a reason unto itself. I see this as the reason that I have experience many middle to upper middle class children identifying and acting out the struggles of poverty e.g. gangs. I have experienced them shooting each other, speaking as they do, expressing themselves in these manners. It seems that they have chosen to take on the actions/reactions of those lower on the ladder in order to be further from the awful truth this pathway leads. If there is no transcendence then there is only pointless toil which really was the punishment for Sisyphus. If the hill and the rock were new to him each time and he thought that it was not pointless then I could see his punishment as, at the least, pleasure inducing as he would have, at least, a material meaning to attack. But once the cat is out of the bag there is no going back. We have reached that stage. We are only now sad but skilled sacks of shit trying to forget what we saw. We are Sysyphus with the knowledge of the futility of our work but with such attachment and desire (which must be cultivated in the material drive) that we fear to let the silly action die and seek another more fulfilling one.

Healthy for what? I asked a woman I was speaking to. Perhaps a bit too roughly. She was talking about jogging.


“Healthy for what? Even in a very basic material understanding, in an exchange mentality, we are born into debt-another suffered for us to be born, the earth groans under the demands to keep us (a gluttonous American) in the life we deem necessary, and what do we give back? Nothing? Healthy for what?”

“Well it isn’t just cost. There is a benefit even to an American’s life.”

“Of course, and that is the question one must ask, what is this benefit. What can we give? Who will we serve? Why do you want to be health?”

“I guess some would be scared to explore that because they are scared that they will see it is hopeless.”

“Do not mistake pleasure and happiness. Pleasure is body oriented and we have already elevated that to the purpose instead of medicine that keep us sane enough to try happiness. Happiness is mind focused and requires that one suffer. Just in the small sense of learning math, lets say, one cannot learn without frustration and suffering. It is not necessarily bad to suffer, just ask any good mother.

One must be willing to risk hopelessness in order to gain happiness and meaning. Its just that we have sacrificed so much for pleasure that we haven’t practiced sacrificing the goal of that sacrifice e.g. pleasure.

And, really, if we examine it, the leap is not that great. The risk is not that great. There is meaning to be had in even the mundane relationships we have. Biased Love is the root of unbiased love. Most if not all of us have biased love. Extend it outward by using your reasoning, logic, what separates, truly, those we biasedly love and do not...not much.”

“You seem angry.”

“The unnecessary suffering of humans bothers me especially when I am convinced it is an error that lay at the heart of it. If it was something that seem inevitable I would bear it and grin, and take my pleasure where I could find it. But it is not this way.”

“Im going to finish my jog now.”

She said and sauntered off. I hoped that she would find what she was being healthy for, to know that we are in debt, and that knowing this is a key to happiness.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Better Not Best

In my life I have been both condescendingly called a ‘do gooder’ as well as, I think, called this out of affection. Usually, the first of this group, feels it necessary to call me a condescending ‘do gooder’ because I challenge their thinking in this area. Recently it was a discussion on whether there should be a bottom to where a person can fall. I said it should include housing, safety, access to health care and an education. They scoffed and called me a ‘do gooder’ and despite my in depth discussion on how it wasn’t going to cost more money, they still said it was ‘too expensive”. The second group, usually, see what is being done by all the wonderful people I have been able to touch and know and my really small part and they say, ‘you’re a do gooder’ and move on from this. They don’t usually want the details. Recently, it hasn’t been the two groups that have weighed on my mind but the title of ‘do gooder’.

In its basic definition it is a person that does good. When we identify ‘good’ it is in juxtaposition with some identified moral good. And when a person adheres to this identification we call them good. When we either think it is excessive or praise it in a teasing way we come up with the term, ‘do gooder’. When I contemplate this, or have, there has been a level of unease at it. This unease I have, I think, found the root of.

I am uncomfortable with praise. I love to give it, to see the strength that I have the blessing to witness in most all beings I have met. As I practice I see that this ‘sight’ has widened and deepened and what was lost to me, previous to this, is not revealed. This is something that I have found to be remarkable in my quest but also a sustenance to try harder. It has also deepened my conviction on the near total infusion of suffering for beings and that it need not be so. My empathy and, at my best, my compassion grows and deepens with my feelings of sorrow and tragedy.

This sorrow that is coupled with the understanding that the situation need not be drives me. My teacher goes to bed at 9pm and gets up at 12am and begins his studies/service, driven by the need to help all beings. I cannot match this but I know it is possible because I see it. I know that I can grow my proverbial shoulders and when I am tired I can think on the suffering of beings and my energy is infused with the critical nature of the situation. By being a Buddhist, and being convinced in the eternal nature of existence all these beings have been those that I have loved dearly, who have loved me dearly, and of whom my duty should be unending. From just a mundane view of love, a tit for tat sort of love, one should serve.

How can I serve? In my life it has been surrounded by the efforts of a ‘do gooder’. But what I realize now is that this actual service has been infused with an error. This error is the basis for what I understand is the catalyst for my suffering, our suffering. That is the belief in inherency. What this means in the lens of a do gooder is the mistake that what I am working on, for, is, in itself, an entity that can bring about the Best e.g. Happiness. It cannot.

From a basic understanding of reality we know once something is posited there is something outside of that sphere of knowledge as well. For example, if I posit a ‘here’ there must be a ‘there’. On a more subtle level we see that with any imputation, even the word ‘the’ from the standpoint of being a concept, at the very least, there is a ‘the’ and there is not a ‘the’. Existence and Nonexistence.

In the more gross level of work in Human Services, as my life has been dedicated to, hinges on some deep philosophical implications. What am I really working on? When I hear myself extolling our students to gain some sort of quantifiable education within the system that we live in I find myself in sorrow. I am not even purporting, honestly, an education. I want them to have one so that they can take care of themselves because it has become increasingly more difficult for students to do this without this certification. However, really, what I am trying to do is to lift them up to a level of relative privilege. There is the ‘haves’ as are defined by some organization that churns our ‘requirements’ and stamps it on a piece of paper. By its very construction, this organization and the system that lends it its powers, we create the ‘Have Nots’ because they are the one’s without this certification. Once we have identified this certification as a measure of exclusivity, for that is what a bachelor’s degree and postgraduate degree is, we attach to it the material benefits e.g. jobs.

If this was just in a more just society that decided that there was a bottom that we would allow anyone to fall to, or choose to be in e.g. access to healthcare, education, housing, food, clothing being something that I have thought of before. These also have been practiced as the base level communities would allow their neighbors to have. Ours is not this society.

In our society with no floor we see that this imputation of concepts is so insidious. Again, if we didn’t attach so much exclusivity and separation (the opposite of inclusive non-conceptual thought) it wouldn’t matter. But what I have heard in practice and seen is when a former level of exclusive bestowal e.g. bachelor’s degree becomes too common then the next level of exclusivity is accepted as the norm. I have seen this with social workers at my work where a Bachelor’s degree was preferred, and then required, then a master’s degree preferred, and then required, now a very specific type of master’s degree in Social Work or education.

Our system as it is, is not in the business of eliminating the ‘Have nots’. It says it is by upholding programs that try to support students to privilege who were previously not within those bounds, but it does not try to move toward Just, at the least, not to say benevolent. By not having a bottom it can only be in the business of trying to foist as many people into privilege that the system can manage and then continue that process as the next level of exclusivity is used to identify privilege.

I can continue with my ‘do gooder’ ways, mostly because I am ignorant, but also because I have it within the context of a trajectory of life. What my duties are, are to support students and to help them gain skills enough to find meaning in their lives. For the vast majority of humanity that has ever existed in order for this to occur one must have met a modicum of material stability. But this material aspect is only a tool, a necessary tool but a tool nonetheless, to be able to craft meaning. Now that I think about it I think I must put Transcendent as a qualifier for meaning. The meaning for one’s existence, from my vantage, must arrive at a place where it become transcendent. That it arises above the means to get to that understanding but does not invalidate the pathway to it.

It is this calling that I have when I am trying in my ignorant ways to be a good man, good husband, teacher, child, friend-to try to live up to the sacredness of my existence through action, and also, to help support those, serve those, so that they can attempt the peaks that were our own to conquer.