Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Call me a bigot, call me whatever you will

But I find the dust-up between P.Z. Myers and the Catholic Wingnuttium quite amusing. Maybe it's because of the abuse these "religious" people subjected me to in Catholic school.

Here's the latest bit.

And here's the post that started it all

And here's the post where the "Great Desecration" is described.

BTW, Seung Sahn, no saint he, had a koan on what happened if someone came into a temple with a lit cigarette and flicked ashes onto the Buddha statue. Acting like Bill Donahue was not the answer to the koan.

Friday, July 25, 2008

What I did on my summer vacation...

In which I clink tea-glasses with Taiwan's former defense minister Chen Li-an, and then watch one of his guests at this banquet partially consume a fluorescent tube. I'm not sure why he did this; the meal was superb...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A new cult in town..

A new cult has moved into the middle school near my house. It appears to be related to this "church planting" organization.

The middle school had been occupied by this cult., but eventually they got their own space.

So of course, what we need in our middle school is for another cult to move in.

Anyhow, I thought it was time to make sure, given the recent spate of burglaries in the neighborhood, that the last thing I needed was more fliers telling me about their wonderful "church which isn't really a church." So I contacted 'em...

To Whom It May Concern:

Please do NOT distribute leaflets in the Westridge Place neighborhood, which surrounds ________. In particular please do not leaflet or come to my house (______). Please have no people come and call for us or proselytize. Do not phone us. You are not welcome on our property. We have no wish to join your cult.

_________ has had a rash of burglaries lately, and your organization would not want to be liable if your leaflets left in doors or elsewhere advertised to criminals that some house's occupants are not home. If that were to happen to my house, and your leaflets were left in our door or elsewhere, I would contact a lawyer to initiate legal action against your organization. Do not take this personally, I have the same policy towards other cults, pizza joints, cleaning services, and so forth. Please enjoy the facilities you have rented, but please be respectful of our neighborhood.

The last cult that was in ________ leafleted the neighborhood continuously, despite admonitions to do otherwise. I would hope that you would be a better and more conscientious tenant, and I would humbly hope that you show greater respect than they did.

You are on notice.

In addition, I would note that I personally interpret the idea that yet another cult's church needs to be "planted" in our neighborhood smacks of arrogance and pride. Pride, being a form of greed, is a serious poison to humanity. It is also clear that in the past few decades, with the explosion of fundamentalist and literalist cult churches such as yours, America has experienced a decline in morality, and an upsurge in greed, hatred and ignorance. This, to me, seems to naturally stem from the very premises of biblical literalism. I harbor no illusions that I have any chance of dissuading you from acting on your cult's beliefs, but I still am compelled to ask you to reconsider your cult's belief system. Regardless, even if you do not, I would ask that you treat your neighbors who do not follow your cult with respect. While I have no problem in principle with your cult meeting at our local middle school, I would ask that you try to remember your are, as we are, guests who are only temporarily here. Let's not be nuisances.

Finally, perhaps you have taken umbrage at my use of the term "cult." According to, your stated beliefs do indeed qualify for the use of that term, since they are clearly extremist. Again, if you take umbrage at the use of that term as applied to your organization, perhaps you might want to reconsider your belief system and practices.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Serenity Prayer versus the Boddhisattva Vows

In a recent discussion with my sister, who has had more than a little exposure to the 12 Step variation of the Buchmanism cult, the issue of rather hateful, resentful relatives, and their racism, came up.

My sister opined that it's a "serenity prayer moment" - one of the things that can't be changed and therefore not in need of attention (almost said, "mindshare.")

I replied that even though that particular relative may never change, and indeed may stay in fear and suffering for eternity, we are still saddled with the responsibility to respond to hatred, even if that response is within ourselves. And that responsibility must be towards quenching the hatred.

That's why I don't have much use for the serenity prayer type thinking; it's not a question of separating one's self from that which cannot be changed - that's a sad illusion anyway. We. Are. Stuck.

It is however a question of how the lotus will bloom in the mud; how will we save sentient beings who are not only innumerable but don't give a damn about how much suffering is produced in the world. The way is unattainable, but we vow to attain it. Because we have suffering in need of quenching.

A "serenity prayer" is, to me, a highly unsatisfying and inadequate response to the wonderful opportunity to practice a koan.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Quotable: Patti Smith


...[Q:]Do you ever feel lonely? Sometimes the pain still — the loss of my brother, the loss of Robert, the loss of my husband, even the loss of my children being children — we can access a lot of things that cause pain. This might seem really funny, but when I feel like that, I make myself smile.

[Q:]How do you do that? I just sit and physically make myself smile. Because sometimes it makes you laugh, and then you just go, “All right.”

She may be an unrepentant Naderite, but she seems to have her head screwed on straight.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Speaking of religious sects with copyright mania

Here's fallout from some more of that...

Rapture Ready: The Unauthorized Christians United for Israel Tour from huffpost on Vimeo

Anonymous versus Scientology

If you haven't been following this epic battle, you're missing some of the best entertainment on the 'net in years...

To things like this:

The Scientologists have responded with this:

The Church of Scientology International adds new, never before seen, chronology of Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard to and the Official Church YouTube channel at

(PRWEB) July 8, 2008 -- The Church of Scientology announced today the first time ever release of an online video presentation of Scientology Founder, L. Ron Hubbard. The ten minute on-line video presents a chronological overview of the major milestones and significant achievements of Mr. Hubbard's life.

HNews Imageis enduring legacy includes his presence as one of the most prolific and widely read authors of all time, with over 250 million copies of his books and recorded lectures in circulation, and as the founder of the only major religion established in the 20th century -- Scientology -- growing at an unprecedented rate. This video, containing historical footage and stills spanning three quarters of a century, much of it drawn from Mr. Hubbard's archives, can now be viewed on the Scientology Video Channel at and on the Official Church of Scientology Video Channel on YouTube at

Evidently they're so afraid of something that they don't even allow embedding of videos...

How uncool...

Friday, July 04, 2008



It occurs to me that many times in the Zen tradition there's lots of people who speak of "Big Mind." Big Mind this, Big Mind that, my body was dead but Big Mind was there, yada yada yada.

It occurs to me that it might be better phrased as "Big Heart," because there's lots of snake oil salesmen that will attempt to sell you "Big Mind" as "Big Power," when in reality what is needed is a cure for a sickness, manifested in greed, hatred and ignorance.

This occurs to me because of what can only be called an extreme condition of intoxication by the 3 poisons:

Almost everyone has some narcissistic traits, but being conceited, argumentative, or selfish sometimes (or even all the time) doesn't amount to a personality disorder. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a long-term pattern of abnormal thinking, feeling, and behavior in many different situations. The traits on this page will seem peculiar or disturbing when someone acts this way -- i.e., you will know that something is not right, and contact with narcissists may make you feel bad about yourself. It's not unusual for narcissists to be outstanding in their field of work. But these are the successful people who have a history of alienating colleagues, co-workers, employees, students, clients, and customers -- people go away mad or sad after close contact with narcissists...

Narcissicism is a personality disorder and that means that narcissists' personalities aren't organized in a way that makes sense to most people, so the notes below do not necessarily go in the order I've listed them or in any order at all. Interaction with narcissists is confusing, even bewildering -- their reasons for what they do are not the same as normal reasons. In fact, treating them like normal people (e.g., appealing to their better nature, as in "Please have a heart," or giving them the chance to apologize and make amends) will make matters worse with a narcissist.

That's the issue: Please have a heart.

You look at plethoras of "gurus" and "teachers" on the net, and invariably - perhaps especially when the presence of "Big Mind" is touted, there is missing 大心, or any heart at all for that matter.

Please. Have a heart.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Why practice?

From yesterday's NY Times:

You show up for an experiment and are told that you and a person arriving later will each have to do a different task on a computer. One job involves a fairly easy hunt through photos that will take just 10 minutes. The other task is a more tedious exercise in mental geometry that takes 45 minutes.

You get to decide how to divvy up the chores: either let a computer assign the tasks randomly, or make the assignments yourself. Either way, the other person will not know you had anything to do with the assignments.

Now, what is the fair way to divvy up the chores?

When the researchers posed this question in the abstract to people who were not involved in the tasks, everyone gave the same answer: It would be unfair to give yourself the easy job.

But when the researchers actually put another group of people in this situation, more than three-quarters of them took the easy job. Then, under subsequent questioning, they gave themselves high marks for acting fairly. The researchers call this moral hypocrisy because the people were absolving themselves of violating a widely held standard of fairness (even though they themselves hadn’t explicitly endorsed that standard beforehand).

A double standard of morality also emerged when other people were arbitrarily divided in two groups and given differently colored wristbands. They watched as one person, either from their group or from the other group, went through the exercise and assigned himself the easy job.

Even though the observers had no personal stake in the outcome — they knew they would not be stuck with the boring job — they were still biased. On average, they judged it to be unfair for someone in the other group to give himself the easy job, but they considered it fair when someone in their own group did the same thing.

“Anyone who is on ‘our team’ is excused for moral transgressions,” said Dr. DeSteno, a psychologist at Northeastern University. “The importance of group cohesion, of any type, simply extends our moral radius for lenience. Basically, it’s a form of one person’s patriot is another’s terrorist.”

Now, I manage a group of people; and because of various checks and balances and contingent outcomes I do not, I assure you, "take the easy job for myself."

But I do recognize many tendencies in myself to excuse or overlook behavior I might j'accuse! in others.

The conditioned mind is really that small, but it can be eroded.