Compassion

Compassion

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
― Albert Einstein

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An eye for an eye

the-blind-leading-the-blindAn eye for an eye makes the whole world blind – Mahatma Gandhi

Appealing to the innate humanity of my countrymen for resolution of this issue is a path grounded in failure as our society has become largely indifferent to human suffering.  Raising the issue of the death penalty with like-minded individuals also tends to accomplish relatively little as the rumblings of “preaching to the choir” quickly permeate the discussion.  So I opt for an alternative path with my diatribe today.  This is primarily directed to my vengeance charged countrymen, who ballyhoo and shout, “He should die for what he did” when a poverty stricken, mentally impaired person  is scheduled to be executed.  Not many privately schooled, W.A.S.P. “yutes” on death row at last examination.  Correction “youTHs.”  Moreover. state and federal prosecutors seek the death penalty in a disproportionate number of cases where minority defendants are concerned.

We have been conditioned to value the opinion of folks who have attached a lot of letters to their names, so please consider what John Roman, PhD, Senior Fellow at the Urban Institute and Executive Director of the District of Columbia Crime Policy Institute, et al., wrote in a Dec. 15, 2009 study “Reassessing the Cost of the Death Penalty Using Quasi-Experimental Methods: Evidence from Maryland,” published in American Law and Economics Association:

“Fourteen studies have estimated the costs of capital punishment, including one study of the federal death penalty and 13 state- or county-level studies. Each study concludes that the presence of capital punishment results in additional costs.  Cases receiving a death notice are approximately $517,000 more costly during the trial phase, $147,000 more costly during the penalty phase, and $201,000 more costly during the appellate phase than a capital eligible case where no death notice was filed…. On average, a death notice adds about $1,000,000 in costs over the duration of a case.”

One million bucks?  So you can cheer, “Justice is served!” Are you shitting me bro???  (Pardon my outburst, but this is offensive to my sensibilities.) Law school is equal parts blow, booze and books but you do learn that there is absolutely NO empirical evidence to support the claim that the death penalty serves as a deterrent to crime.  If not deterring further criminal behavior, then what?  Society is paying 7 figures more, per case, to satiate your moral appetites predicated upon the Hammurabic Code.  I am adamantly opposed to subsidizing your vengeance.  BTW, isn’t that reserved for the old bogey in the sky? (See Romans 12:19).   Enough is enough. That money is much better spent militarizing civilian police forces so that rabble-rousing college students can be pepper sprayed en mass and objectors to the status quo can be herded into free speech protest zones. After all, where on earth do these individuals get the notion that there is some expressly granted covenant to free speech?

I yearn for a time when the Federal government and the 33 remaining states can join the rest of the Western democracies and abrogate the death penalty entirely.  But our value on human life is rather low as a culture.  Only when we feel personally threatened do we respect the sanctity of life.  Furthermore, as has become evident in my examination of American history, accomplishing change as a result of bridging an ideological divide is rarely accomplished.  Reason is not a tenet shared by all.  If God can damn a man to eternal suffering then it is well within the ambit of the State’s power.

Legal fundamentals include the philosophy that “tis better to let 1000 guilty men go free than to punish 1 innocent man.”  However, such abstruse concepts are quickly forgotten when many opt to enter public service.  Therefore, until policy makers examine facts concerning the percentage of death penalty convictions overturned within the last 20 years based on DNA evidence, and realize that the “eye for an eye” punishment scheme was only relevant when men were fed to lions for sport, I suggest an examination of the financial prudence of life without the possibility of parole.  I am sure that one of these corporate lackeys of the Washington plutocracy can introduce legislation with support being derived from “fiscal conservatism” to abolish the death penalty.  Cut spending here before assaulting one of the support programs that benefit lower income families.

HJ

You’re the architect…

shutterstock120664477If you have attained nirvana, achieved bodhisattva status, or are comfortable within the framework of your own existence, you can probably skip this one amigos.

As the Western calendar year draws to a close, it is a common practice to make planned improvements to our lives. Whether aspiring to a new physical ideal, smoking cessation, or seeking a career change, we identify some facet of our life that causes some consternation and seek modification.  Thus, our “resolutions” are born.  As our consciousness expands beyond the paternal gentleman in the sky, most of these changes are made from the perspective of self improvement, versus the old good/evil dichotomy that formerly underpinned the need for change in oneself.  Ergo, you want to be an improved expression of yourself, as opposed to, you are a “bad” person and want to avoid the ledger in heaven being etched with a demerit.  (A guilty conscience is better suited regarding being silent about the government committing a Sandy Hook type massacre of Afghan and Pakistani children on a monthly basis via its illegal drone war).

For the majority of us who have not developed an inherent samurai mindset, such resolutions are often quickly abandoned, forgotten and may resurface as the earth rounds 3rd base next year.  The futility of this tiresome process inevitably leads to despondency and we resolve not to make any resolutions. The “Screw it, I’m letting the chips fall where they will” sentiment.  Trust me, I know this quite well.  However, accomplishing any change is possible if we grasp a basic understanding about ourselves.

Consider an infant child that has ONLY played with fluffy cotton toys. If this child is presented with a rubber ball, it is impossible for he or she to determine that the ball bounces unless the ball falls to the floor or an adult displays this property to the child.  Thus, only by experience does the child learn that the ball possesses this ability to bounce.  Whether awareness that touching a hot stove burns or a warm embrace comforts, we learn via experience.  Some being pleasurable and others not so much.  Extend this reasoning to other aspects of your life and the inevitable conclusion is that our behavior is learned.  While Locke’s tabula rasa may not be correct since Chomsky’s language experiments displayed that the human brain is hardwired with a language template, you are not born with preconceived conceptions of the world.  As you encounter stimuli, your conscious apparatus conducts an analysis of every experience and places it along a continuum of favorable to unfavorable.  The resulting position determines the likelihood of an act’s occurrence.  As you grow, these memories are accumulated and your behavior is shaped.  In short via experimental learning, we aim to seek pleasure and avoid pain.

Of course, this is an overly simplistic model as motivation levels, need hierarchy and genetic traits are excluded from the analysis.  An individual whose early motivations are rewarded is more likely to remain motivated compared to one whose efforts are unsuccessful.  This however buttresses the claim that behavior results from reinforcement or is learned.  Genetics and need hierarchy are somewhat more complicated to analyze.  That being said however, there is no genetic trait that predetermines the type and quantity of food we consume or that precludes us from beginning a new career.

Well, what then of genetics?  Research conducted by the Canadian scientist Dr. Gabor Mate has shown that there are epigentic effects to the evolution of DNA.  DNA’s evolution is dependent upon the environment in which it evolves.  Sounds reasonable to extend this conclusion to facilitate improvement in our own lives. Say for example we would like to be fit, it may help our cause to surround ourselves with like minded people and begin to live and think in a similar fashion. I think the same principle would also apply to success. Try it and see how it works in your own life.

If we consider that everything we do is acquired from learning, any new desired behavior must also be learned, or un-learned depending upon the case at bar.  Be it exercise and wellness, self-assertion, consideration for others or whatever floats your boat, self-betterment is within the purview of your control.  Past failures are no indicator of future success.  Remember, the body has not evolved to accumulate 20 pounds within a three day period so equivalent loss in such a time frame is highly unlikely.  Start small and remain focused.  There is no limit to the human imagination and improvement in one sphere of life will usually overflow into others.  Happy Resolving!

One love,

HJ

Divided we fall…

Divided we fall...

A picture is worth a thousand words.  Do not let your governments wage war and sanction killing on your behalf.  Pain and suffering are not limited to a particular ethnicity or faith.

One love,

HJ

The Sweetness of the Chant

A Zen sage once posed the question, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound?”  If the frenetic pace of your life is  gracious enough to permit you to contemplate this, I urge you to do so.  Even though sound waves are produced from the snapping of the trunk and the tree hitting of the ground, only in the presence of a life-form capable of translating waves into sound is there sound, else there are only waves of energy.   Our ears are designed to receive these waves of energy and convert them into “sounds.”  I’ve often thought about the impact of these waves of energy on the human psyche.  Our existence is so dominated by our sense of sight that the magnitude of our ability to hear is almost an afterthought.

Think about how you feel when you listen to a song. Ever been driving down the highway towards the horizon and Highway to the Danger Zone comes on? Dunno bout you, but my reality tunnel is definitely warped for the next 4 minutes and 20 seconds.  I’ll even look in the back for Goose to calibrate air speed before downshifting and redlining the gear. Probably why the song was selected for the soundtrack in the first place. How about a jingle from an ad getting stuck in your head? Or Tiesto before a run? Whatever it may be, sounds impact our psyche on a far greater level than we may initially be willing to concede.

It’s said that in addition to taming the savage beast, music allows the listener to instantaneously experience the mindset of the composer at the time of composition. Personally, my mood is instantly transformed based upon what I listen to, thus lending credence to this. “The composer and performer are the alchemists who help to transmute the Earth by making its substance and souls resonate with echoes of the heavenly music. In so doing, these earthly echoes also become audible in Heaven, and the gulf between the two thereby closes by another hairsbreadth. This is the accomplishment of the Great Work of musical alchemy which, like alchemy proper, aims toward the redemption of all Nature as well as to the reunion of Man with his higher self.” (Musical Alchemy – the work of composer and listener – Joscelyn Godwin).

That being said, I would like to leave you with a “slice of heaven.”  I hope that you will permit yourself the following ten minutes of bliss.  Sit and chill, grab a cocktail or smoke some herb if you’re fortunate enough to reside in a jurisdiction where the oppressive laws of the State do not prevent the joyful experience that is cannabis, and listen to the following piece of music.  Close your eyes and count backwards from 100. Headphones are highly recommended.

If I can reduce the stress levels in your life by a factor of one-hundredth, I am happy.

Yuè luò wū tí shuāng mǎn tiān,

Jiāng fēng yú huǒ duì chóu mián.

Gūsū chéngwài Hánshān Sì,

Yèbàn zhōngshēng dào kèchuán.

While I watch the moon go down, a crow caws through the frost;

Under the shadows of maple-trees a fisherman moves with his torch;

And I hear, from beyond Suzhou, from the temple on Cold Mountain,

Ringing for me, here in my boat, the midnight bell

One love,

HJ

The Greatest Speech Ever Made

I cannot improve upon the title of this presentation as articulated by its publishers thus I simply re-posted. This excerpt was taken from the Charlie Chaplin film, The Great Dictator and it resonated with every fiber of my being. I hope that upon a careful listening of Mr. Chaplin’s words, you will be fortunate enough to have a similar experience.

In our modern society, Randian notions of humanity as merely a concatenation of private projects dominate the philosophical landscape. These views stress independence over interdependence and indirectly endorse the subjugation of my bretheren to achieve my own ends. In short, I am NOT my brother’s keeper. Has this thought paradigm yielded the maximum benefit for humanity?

I humbly request that you examine the state of affairs within the world in which we live. The scourges of racism, addiction, violence and child abuse continue to plague our societies. We have become hollow, self-serving, self-maximizing automatons as life system after life system on our planet is decimated. Has this brought contentment and happiness to our individual lives? Or, will happiness abound when we get the next model automobile, or the next promotion?

I shall leave the reader to independently arrive at his or her own conclusions.  I merely state that a world of finite resources cannot support an infinite growth paradigm. It is the opinion of this blogger that mankind is capable of so much more. The future is yours to mold amigos. Opt not for inclination to Cain’s heresy.

One love,
HJ

“In the abundance of water, the fool is thirsty.” – Robert Nesta Marley

 

Perception is Reality

elephantblind

“Several citizens ran into a hot argument about God and different religions, and each one could not agree to a common answer. So they came to the Buddha to find out what exactly God looks like. The Buddha asked his disciples to get a large magnificent elephant and four blind men. He then brought the four blind to the elephant and told them to find out what the elephant would “look” like. The first blind man touched the elephants leg and reported that it “looked” like a pillar. The second blind man touched the elephants stomach and said that the elephant was a wall. The third blind man touched the elephant’s ear and said that it was a piece of cloth. The fourth blind man held on to its tail and described the elephant as a piece of rope. And all of them ran into a hot argument about the “appearance” of an elephant. The Buddha asked the citizens: “Each blind man had touched the elephant but each of them gives a different description of the animal. Which answer is right?”**

Wisdom rests on the awareness that reality is a subjective experience.

 

**Spirit’s Dream – Understanding the Mental Universe by John Carnagey

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