Thursday, January 27, 2005

Life in Hell

What is it like to live in Hell? Not so difficult, really. You just have to accept that:
  • you have no friends, no allies and no role models
  • you will never get the opportunity to express your creativity, e.g. no whistling
  • you must communicate in vagueries and half-truths and read between the lines of everything that is said to you
  • you have to pretend that you are interested when you are not
  • all those wonderful places and activities you imagine will stay in your imagination
  • it is necessary to find a way to be thankful for what you have - no matter how little - and a positive attitude to your labor - even if you are raking coals
  • you have no power to physically change anything, you are a victim of fate
  • getting upset about your condition will do nothing except make you feel worse

If you can come to terms with the above reality, then you should do just fine in Hell.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Om Mane Padme Hom

The body is the vessel of the soul. But not quite in the same way as a car is a vessel for the body. The soul has its own space that is completely removed from the body and its environment. In this space of the soul, physical space is ultimately irrelevant. What occurs in physical space doesn't last. The presence of the soul in the mind and the mind in the soul is what delivers me from local complication. To observe without responding, to experience without getting involved.

The soul visits the body, shares and directs its experience on the physical plane. As the body clings to the sensations of the physical, it moves away from the soul. The soul must claim its own space to the benefit of the body. Thank you for this space and this body. Thank you for this freedom from the passions.

It is not difficult for me to seperate from involvement with others for involvement's sake. There have been times when I have enjoyed the company of others, in particular my own wife and son. They are the two most delightful people in my life. Of course I have had my share of irritation with them. But I love them both dearly.

Claiming the the space of the soul involves an acceptance of things as they are in the physical realm. It is comforting and useful to understand that I am not really here, that this body is really just a television set for the soul, a really advanced VR television that involves the full suite of human senses. This understanding helps me to rise above the imperfections of the physical environment I find myself in. Once I rise above, once I claim my space, my body stands in this physical space without want or complaint. What others think isn't so important. Ultimately it's irrelevant. But in the meantime it can be interesting, like part of a good television show.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

fish, prisons and cars

I don't eat fish because the world's oceans are being depleted in an uncontrolled, underregulated manner. I also don't wish to feel like an invader. Every year, the fishermen's nets must go deeper to bring in their catch, the shallower depths being depleted. The waters off the North African coast are emptied of fish by European boats, forcing the local landdwellars inland to nourish themselves, feeding on all sorts of exotic land creatures, threatening yet another ecosystem.

A diet of fruit, vegetables and grains lends itself much more easily to a managed replenshing ecosystem. 12 kilos of grain produce 1 kilo of beef. Better to eat a kilos of grain.

Prisons in general don't do a lick of good beyond getting dangerous people off the streets. They do little to reform and provide little in the way of education to their inhabitants. Take for example the food. Instead of feeding prisoners cheap processed sustenance and punishing them for preparing their own food, why not give them the chance to prepare their own food in community kitchens? They could learn new recipes and ways of preparing low-cost vegetables and grains in such manner as to make their lives more interesting and rewarding while actually lowering the cost of feeding them. And why not pro-actively give prisoners the opportunity to start their own businesses while behind bars. They could, for example, learn to make handmade leathergoods and porcelain and a whole range of price-fetching handicrafts. Painting and pottery could also be encouraged as business propositions. Naturally, these would be offered as incentives to be on one's best behavior.

The basic notion that prisons should be halls of punishment does not make things better and in fact eats up tax money. Instead, make them places where inhabitants can actually become productive citizens without even leaving the walls.

Another idea are prison sports leagues.

Cars are the single greatest waste of space, greatest polluters and most brutal killers and mamers on earth. If only a fraction of the money spent on automobiles were spent on public transportation, the world would be a much more beautiful, healthier place. I don't drive and don't encourage others to do so.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Ethical Dilemmas

Ethical Dilemmas

Read each of the following dilemmas. Consider the wrongs committed in each and who is responsible. Discuss what actions can be taken to rectify the situation. Consider the consequences of each action.

1. Joe is a 10 year-old boy who wishes he were older. He likes hanging out with older boys who often engage in mischief. One summer day he goes with his older friends into the woods where they all look at pornographic magazines, smoke cigarettes and drink whiskey. Joe does each of these things but feels awful about it later and feels the urge to confess to his parents.

2. Ben is a crane operator. One of his junior colleagues expresses an interest in operating the crane at a demolition site. Ben allows this and the young man accidentally swings the wrecking ball into a passing police bus. The bus rolls over and is badly damaged. While no one is injured, 12 prisoners escape and large-scale efforts are required to recapture them.

3. Sally works in a diner next to a high school. Late one afternoon a boy comes in the door and orders an egg salad sandwich. The last one left has been sitting out for nearly the entire day and Sally suspects it might have gone bad. But the boy insists on having it and says he doesn’t care if it’s gone bad. If she refuses to give it to him, he continues, he’ll tell all his classmates never to come there again.

4. A soldier witnesses an enemy raid on a village in which horrible atrocities are committed including rape, torture, murder and thorough violation of property. Some weeks later, while on a scouting mission the same soldier recognizes the leader of the raid caught in an animal trap.

5. A college student is applying for graduate school. While taking the entrance exam, he discovers that the exam proctor has accidentally given him the answer key along with his exam paper.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Mormon New Year

New Years Day 7:42 a.m.

There’s no need to cough, I’ve discovered. Not most of the time anyhow. I have found I am able to breathe through the sensation and experience first the tickle at the back of my throat and then the pain, the watering of the eyes, the sort of overwhelming readjustment that to me feels most like bursting into tears, but silently. It means coming to grips with - facing up to – a deep pain. And experience it in its full. To cough it off is to discount it, to scare it away with an act of destruction. I just coughed. I couldn’t find the pain.

I passed New Year’s Eve with my wife and son at a party hosted by some Mormon friends of ours from Canada. Many of the members of the Budapest international branch of the Mormon Church were there. Unlike at other New Year’s parties I’ve been to, there was no alcohol, no weed, and no coffee. There was also little in the way of music and no dancing. There was a TV on in a side room where a group of teenage girls sat watching old musicals the whole night.

It could have been interesting to have turned up earlier and played more of a role in setting the tone for the event. To have shook hands with everyone who showed up “on time” and greet the later arrivals. To have joined in the early discussions. But there weren’t many discussions that I came across. I got involved in one with a Norwegian medical student who’d joined the Church at age 19. He told me of his earlier interest in Hinduism and how he’d learned about the Church from a college roommate from Turkey who’d become a Mormon some time after coming to Norway. That discussion could have gone somewhere interesting, I think. But it was derailed by an older man who’d recently returned from Cambodia where he’d been mission president for a number of Southeast Asian countries. He related some interesting experiences. But I would have preferred to talk with the medical student about his journey from Hinduism to Mormonism.

I have long thought that the doctrines and teachings of the Church play less of a role in members’ lives than does the institution. “The Word of Wisdom” forbids the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea; does define them as a separate group, to an extent. It needn’t in the sense that any Mormon is free to join the company of drinkers and smokers while abstaining from ruinous acts. But most I suspect avoid the company of non-members. Except of course for the missionaries. They seek out the company of non-members everyday and engage in discussions about faith and righteous living. I noticed no missionaries at the party.

There were several young children running around and that also was a constant distraction and interruption. I don’t want to begrudge these folks at the party for being boring. But I suppose if I can isolate any one element that was missing at this party when I compare it to the New Year’s Eve parties I’ve attended in previous years, there was no sense waiting for the unexpected. No chance of a drunken brawl. No possibility of French kissing with someone else’s wife in the coatroom. And no drug-induced changes of character on anyone’s part. Too much best behavior for even a lively discussion.

But I am thankful that my family and I are alive and well and that we have a New Year to look forward to and that these sweet and decent Mormoms are our friends.