December 26, 2002

Comments on "How to separate the wheat from the chaff"

See December 25, 2002 entry in Starz Light's blog. Starz's text is in green, mine in black.

I have just spent several hours surfing web sites full of unsettling information. I could cite site after site, but how does one determine the veracity of these sources? I am sure I wish I knew, Starz. I, too, have seen web sites full of unsettling information. I don't know whether it is true that concentration camps already built in various parts of the country are ready to accommodate the first dissenters and other "undesirables". I do wish I had the answers. When I find one of those unsettling web sites, do I ignore it as the work of kooks or do I forward it to everyone I know? When rumors about Nazi atrocities started to circulate outside Germany many people dismissed them as the products of deranged minds, because they thought it was not possible such horrible things were actually happening, it was obvious that the rumors were just gross exaggerations. The reality turned out to be worse than any rumors that had circulated. People walked into the gas chambers still not believing that what they had heard could possibly be true.

Do you feel that blogging raises the consciousness of anyone? Definitely yes: first and foremost the blogger's own, and second her/his readers, though that is out of the blogger's control. I have learned much from reading my fellow bloggers; the blogosphere is a churning cauldron of ideas; it much enhances the dialog that always goes on between writers and readers. Thanks to the net we all can be both. Of course this does make for a tremendous volume of material in which it is difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, the gold from the mud. But it is a matter of degree: it was already difficult when all we had was publications on paper. And as the volume of material has increased so have the means to communicate recommendations, reviews, etc.

Or are we just preaching to the choir? Or even just enjoying the sound of our voices without caring if anyone listens? Nothing wrong with enjoying the sound of one's own voice :-) but I think all bloggers care to some extent about being read - yes, even those who claim not to - otherwise why publish on the web at all? We could just write in our own journals, to be read by no one other than ourselves. And many of us do have private journals in addition to our blogs. But we also aspire to communicate and find out how others react to what we have to say, and to stimulate each other to greater insight and understanding.

It is true that perhaps the greatest things that have been written were written with quill pens on scarce and expensive parchment. Now we have computers and the web, but where is the genius to create masterpieces? Maybe masterpieces are being created among us; we just don't know about them yet.

Does the sharing of our questions, concerns, or support for the issues of the day constitute activism on any level? In my opinion yes; writing has always been an important form of activism. We speak - or write - our truths and put them out there in the universe; who or how many might read them - let alone be influenced by them - is neither our business nor anything that we can do anything about (other than honest efforts to increase "the circulation" of our blogs,
like submitting them to search engines, web rings and the like).

Do you ever follow the links down paths that show opinions in opposition to yours? Sometimes I read some educated, civilized conservatives like The Leibman Theory; but the Neanderthals - with respect for the original Neanderthals - I cannot stand.

Do you have information sources that you believe to be giving a complete and honest picture? And if so, I'd love to know what they are. I tend to trust sources on the left much more than those on the right (which I don't trust at all). Jeanne d'Arc has a list under the title "Good Guys" (right-wing publications she appropriately calls "The Opposition", and has a list of those, too), and also links to The Lefty Directory, which contains, among many other things and links to left-wing blogs, an interesting interview with Jeanne d'Arc. Liberal Oasis is another aptly-named site. There are many others. But, as you say very well, I'm sure both sides spin the stories; however, we much prefer the spin on the left.

I thought about taking this question to e-mail, but then felt it might make interesting dialog here. I'm glad you did; the wider the possibilities of dialog are set the higher the probability that someone will come up with bright ideas that might promote insight and understanding.

I never cease to be intrigued that two very intelligent, well-read, highly educated people can come to diametrically opposed positions. It seems there is no Truth (with a capital "T") Is everything relative? I believe it is very likely that "there is no Truth (with a capital 'T')", and those who believe there is - and "they" have It, of course - are horribly dangerous to the rest of us and likely to want to burn us at the stake to make us see the error of our ways and accept their One and Only Truth. In my opinion the reason "two very intelligent, well-read, highly educated people" sometimes "come to diametrically opposed positions" is that they perceive things differently, and don't give the same weights to the same components. It is known to law-enforcement personnel that two witnesses of the same event can give wildly different accounts thereof and both believe they are being absolutely truthful. The sages tell us that unless one has reached the fourth state of consciousness known as enlightenment one only perceives shadows, projections, "spectra" of "reality", and obviously shadows of one object can be different depending on the angle of illumination. We unenlightened ones don't perceive reality but a picture, a map thereof. A picture can be darker or lighter, or have various kinds of distortions. Iowa can be pink in one map and green in another; it is still the same Iowa, just different maps.

Another image I like is that reality is a mountain; we are all climbing the same mountain from different sides; the views we see are different and the degrees of difficulty of the climbing are different too, depending on whether we're climbing a steep or a gentle slope. When we reach the top we'll all be in the same place and our views will be similar - though still dependent on the direction we're looking... - but while we're climbing it doesn't make any sense to despise a fellow climber because her/his path is different from ours.

December 22, 2002

Starz Light blog

Starz Light is a recently started blog I recommend.

In answer to the December 20 post there about online names and identities, I would have preferred to use for my blog the name Emilio by which I have been known for 62 years, but it was already taken, which accounts for my use of its Latin version �milius. See my post of September 9, 2002 for an explanation of the name.

Regarding online person� there are some articles I find interesting at Psychology of Cyberspace and its associated links, including one article named Identity Management in Cyberspace which seems to be exactly along the lines of what Starz is talking about.

I�ve thought and am still thinking about a name and a description for my blog that accurately reflect me and my blog, are witty, pithy and meaty, and induce a strong desire to visit and read on everyone who sees them. But by the time I think of something apt my blog will be listed in too many places and it will be too much of a hassle to change...

Space exploration is a matter of great interest for me too, and I have wondered many times why enthusiasm for it seems to have diminished so much in the US and indeed everywhere. Let us compare what happened after Neil Armstrong got to the Moon with what happened when Columbus got to America (not that I believe for a moment that Columbus was the first human being who traveled to America from another continent, or even from Europe): after Columbus a process started that led to what America (North and South) is today (not that it wouldn�t have been better for the Earth and especially for American Indians or Native Americans [I find advantages and disadvantages in both denominations, but I am told many persons of those ethnicities prefer the first; anyway, this is a subject for another discussion] if that process hadn�t taken place), but after Armstrong got to the Moon there were just a couple of trips or so and then nothing for thirty years.

I know unstaffed (NOT "unmanned", please) vehicles have been sent to other places, but everybody (including those who claim that unstaffed vehicles are more efficient, etc.) knows it's not the same.

One possible explanation for the lack of space travel is that somebody told somebody in a very convincing manner "You human beings are dirty, irrational, cruel and violent, and make messes everywhere you go. You have ALREADY made an incredible mess of the area of space near your planet, which is strewn with your garbage. You're simply not ready to venture further into space � privately we doubt you will ever be � and you better not even try, because we simply won't let you".

The idea of non-Earth beings appearing on the scene and curbing human arrogance � probably the only thing that ever might � fills me with glee. "Guess what, girls and boys: we are not the crown of creation, the most important beings in the universe. In fact much of the universe thinks of our planet � IF it thinks of our planet at all � as a remote drop of mud, and perhaps not even "nice" mud, as in a garden, but... and of us as the somewhat disgusting bugs and bacteria that populate the mud. Perhaps it would behoove us to show a little more humility, and some respect for other species, including the bugs that populate "our" mud..."

Who knows? Perhaps there is some light at the end of the tunnel, and it is not the headlamp of an oncoming train.

Welcome to the blogosphere, Starz! May you write for many years in good health and happiness, and may your readers and you enjoy fruitful and interesting dialogues!

December 21, 2002

Department of Errors the media feed us

On the first column of page 28 of the December 16, 2002 issue of Newsweek magazine, an article about Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser to the unelected person occupying the Presidency contains the following sentence: "Rice joked that the magazine was trying to turn her into Madame de S�vign�, a 17th century courtier and mistress of Louis XIV." (Sic) Have Ms. Rice and/or Newsweek discovered new historical data? Does anyone know of any sources claiming a liaison between Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, marquise de S�vign� and grand-daughter of St. Chantal, and the Sun King??

The article goes on to point obvious differences between Madame de S�vign� and Ms. Rice, so one fails to see the basis for the comparison, even as a "joke".

Were Ms. Rice and/or Newsweek thinking about Madame de la Valli�re, Madame de Maintenon, Madame de Montespan or some other "17th century courtier" who was a "mistress of Louis XIV"? The comparison does not hold any better with those other ladies.

Is there any implication on the part of Ms. Rice and/or Newsweek of a liaison between Ms. Rice and the unelected person acting as Head of State? And if that is so, where are the reporters who pounced on President Clinton for less?

I am puzzled. But a question that worries me even more is: which of the other pieces of information contained in that article � or for that matter in the whole magazine � is(are) equally grossly inaccurate?

December 12, 2002

December 10, 2002

Max Leibman's comment and my reply

My fellow blogger Max Leibman wrote an interesting comment to my post on sexuality, and I'd like to respond below to some of his points. What Max wrote is in blue, what I wrote is in black.

I see points to agree on -- included that love is rare and deserving of nurturing, and I will go as far as to agree that a great deal of undeserved discrimination has been perpetrated against practitioners of non-traditional sexuality.

Understanding and insight IS needed; I believe that no resolution is possible until a better dialogue is achieved (and that's not a one-sided street; plenty of closed-minded and shrill-toned belligerents can be found on either side of this debate).

The one thing I find here that I would question strongly is the notion that bisexuality is the natural condition. The animal kingdom often illustrates bisexual tendencies exist and are even common, but the overwhelming majority of copulations in many populations (I believe most populations of mammals, but I'm no biologist) is Male-Female.

I want to emphasize your use of "common", "majority", "many", "most". Sexuality is not to be decided democratically, with everyone following the will of the majority. And even if the ways of the majority were considered "the norm", the rights of minorities to engage in different forms of behavior that harm no one need to be protected.

In our own human sphere, our anatomies and personalities (the latter taken in aggregate -- a given woman can have any masculine personality trait and vice-versa) are complementary to a degree which, whether designed by higher consciousness or shaped by natural selection, compels a natural state of heterosexuality. Hormonal drives and pleasure centers appear to exist as a way of encouraging fornication, ergo procreation;

Not in homosexual people: their "hormonal drives and pleasure centers" incline them to prefer sex with people of their same sex. As to personalities, there are wide variations: whatever definitions of what is "feminine" and what is "masculine" are adopted there will be people who don't fit them. They may be dissenters, but they are not sick or abnormal or unnatural. I know you did not use those words, but many do.

the fact that we have moved beyond that, and now use sexuality as an act of pleasure or love with no desire to procreate is not an indication of the fundamental nature of the sexual human does not involve procreativity, but rather an indication that we have taken what nature gave us and applied it to a higher type of emotional cognizance. Yes, we may have moved beyond sexuality as procreation long ago, but that does not mean that procreative drives are not a fundamental part of the majority of sexual urges.

Not so, in my opinion: throughout my life I have felt a strong urge NOT to procreate: too many human beings on the planet, lack of paternal inclination and other reasons which might be the subject of another post. Some people feel the inclination to have children, some don't. Homosexual people too are split into those two categories; and those who desire children can have them through various technological means like artificial insemination, surrogate motherhood, etc. without having to engage in heterosexual activity they may find distasteful.

In fact it might be argued - and I do - that one of the social benefits of homosexuality is that it is less likely than heterosexuality to result in procreation, thereby helping to preserve the environment and heal Mother Earth.

Further, separating cultural influence and socialization from actual natural tendencies and characters is challenging, to be sure; however, we should not take that as license to write off anything that is taught as part of a culture as "indoctrination" and assume its basis is only as old, or valid, as its cultural history. It is entirely possible and reasonable that the cultural norms arose from or exist to reinforce a natural tendency that, for most people, produced happier and/or healthier results.

Homosexual people are happier and/or healthier being who they are and having the rest of their fellow human beings acknowledge and accept who they are as part of the spectrum of diversity that exists in nature.

Some "cultural norms" arose because they benefit some particular interest with the political power to impose them: throughout history patriarchies have encouraged and promoted procreation: it supplies more followers, soldiers, contributors, taxpayers, helps enhance political power, keeps females powerless and subjugated. Even now there is strong social pressure to breed, to the point that support groups - the child-free movement - are formed to provide emotional and intellectual sustenance to people determined to resist that pressure.

Your mention of "license to write off anything that is taught as part of a culture as 'indoctrination'" suggested to me the reflection that perhaps a good definition of "civilization" would be the degree to which an individual, as long as s/he harms no one, may safely deviate from prevailing, accepted "norms". Giordano Bruno was murdered and Galileo barely escaped by recanting for daring to contradict prevailing nonsensical accepted ideas about the universe. Have we made any progress? Matthew Shepard was murdered for similar "reasons".

Note that I say "most people" -- I still allow for the idea of healthy and natural homosexuality or bisexuality, even if I reject the idea that it is, could be or would be desirable as a statistical equivalent to heterosexuality.

In any event, a fascinating and thoughtful piece of "written daydreaming." It forced me to put into words why I, personally, believe that heterosexuality is a norm. I believe it has also pointed me towards places where my own thinking may need re-evaluation (or, at least, some factual-backing), so now "sexuality" is back in my research queue...

Thank you, Max. It is an interesting subject, and civilized discussion like you and I have just engaged in needs to be encouraged as a road to progress. I invite all readers to participate in this conversation.

December 09, 2002

Some thoughts on bi-, mono-, homo-, hetero-, a- sexualities

What follows is speculation; I am doing the writing equivalent of daydreaming aloud. My purpose is to promote thinking and examination of the issues involved. What I aspire to is communication with others who may also want to ponder these matters. If the subject interests you please tell me the areas in which you think I'm right � if any � and the areas in which you think I'm wrong, and why in both cases. Wouldn�t it be wonderful if we got a little closer to understanding and insight? I believe we have to stir the cauldron lest our thinking stick to the bottom and burn.

My speculations don�t intend to change anybody's sexuality but the approach we take to the subject. And the horrendous discrimination inflicted on humans with sexualities different from the accepted standard.

I remember reading years ago in the late lamented "woman of power: a magazine of feminism, spirituality and politics" (sic, all lower case, in the style adopted by some feminist writers, like bell hooks and others) a quotation by someone (quoting from memory; my almost complete collection of the magazine is still buried in the boxes in which it came from New York) to the effect that as long as the anatomical part touching her was loving she wasn�t much concerned about the sex of the body to which said part belonged. That impressed me and got me to thinking that indeed only a patriarchal system bent on reproduction or breeding could possibly claim that there is anything preferable or desirable or "normal" or "healthy" about sex between two humans of different sex. Even humans of different sex sometimes engage in sexual or sensual activities different from copulation with no thought given to reproduction. Sometimes special measures are even taken to prevent � hopefully, or at least reduce the probability � of conception and birth, so all claims to the reproductive connection have to be abandoned. Also, technology has enabled humans to reproduce without any sexual contact by in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination and a number of other techniques worthy of Dr. Moreau's island.

The extent of the connection between sex and reproduction is one of those big lies that many of us have taken for granted, at least during part of our lives, until we start questioning: wait a minute, does the Emperor have any clothes?

Perhaps at one point in the history of the species and of individuals there was no distinction between sensuality and sexuality. Even after some distinction developed � or was manufactured, or imprinted through brainwashing on individuals � there still remains an occasional blur occasionally between the two.

The patriarchy tries very hard to instill heterosexuality into individuals, but in some cases this effort fails and the individual remains bisexual. Perhaps in some cases some individuals react to the indoctrination by opposing it and in that process lose the ability to relate sexually to individuals of the other sex. In this scenario "normal", "healthy", "standard" sexuality would be bisexual; both homosexuals and heterosexuals � it seems natural to call both "monosexuals" � are individuals who have lost the ability to relate sexually to beings of either the other or the same sex. Perhaps this lost ability might be recovered, if desired, through therapy or other means.

Many of us lack the ability to relate sexually to beings of different species. That is a different ocean � I was going to write "kettle of fish" but realized something bigger was needed � upon which we might try to venture at another time. Small though the inclination in that direction may be among many of us at the present time, let us reflect that the time may not be distant when some contacts will start with non-Earth species, and new issues of sexualities might become current faster than we think.

Anecdotal evidence suggests a correlation between artistic talent and homosexuality, since homosexual people appear to be represented in some professions, like theater, in higher proportion than in the general population. Or maybe it is just that the biographies of famous people tend to be better known so we know whether they are homosexual. Maybe homosexuality is actually a distinction that makes people special. Indeed it is so considered among American Indians and other so-called "primitive" (HA!) groups.

Love is so rare. Wherever it is found it should be nurtured, protected, helped aided and abetted. When one thinks about it what is really unnatural, obscene, sick, perverted is for any kind of love to be thought of as unnatural, obscene, sick or perverted.

I am reflecting that two of the most beautiful love stories I know are of homosexual love: Solitaire and Brahms, a novel by Sarah Dreher and the 1985 movie Desert Hearts. (Don�t believe the user comment by "Tito-8" in the IMDB page; it's a wonderful movie with not one boring moment; read all the other glowing comments).

PaganSpeak Topics for December 2002

PaganSpeak Topics for December 2002

Topic # 1: Polytheist, Monotheist, Dualist or Other? (courtesy of Wren's Nest)
Are you a die-hard Polytheist who believes that the many Gods/Goddesses are distinct and individual entities? Are you a Pagan Monotheist? Pantheist? Do you believe that "All Gods/Goddesses are One God/Goddess"? Does the term 'Lord and Lady' represent a specific Lord and/or Lady to you or is it a term used most often to simply denote the concept of a male and/or a female deity? Do you think that all of these terms are interchangeable? Can you see where and when the need to define what YOU mean by 'Gods/Goddesses' might be necessary? What do you think about 'Choose one from column A and one from Column B' pantheon building?

My answer is "All of the above". I'll tell you what my own views are, but any other views are equally valid, and Divinity fits all the descriptions we can invent; yes, even the bad-tempered bearded old guy sitting on a cloud busily writing down every sexual thought we have. We move in the direction of what we worship and set our attention to, so we should choose wisely. Divinity being infinite and unlimited it does not make sense to say that Divinity is NOT something, any more than to say that Divinity IS something. Personally I believe some sages have experienced Divinity and believe what they say that Divinity is pure Consciousness. I have no conflict with anyone who believes differently; just let's not hurt each other nor anyone else. I believe everything is a manifestation of Divinity, and when anyone hurts anyone s/he is hurting Divinity: bad business; don't do it. By anyone I mean any living, sentient, conscious entity. Aardvarks are not conscious, you say? How do you know? You cannot know for certain that the human being next to you, even your own sister/brother, is conscious. So better assume that they are. Don't hurt anyone, including aardvarks.

Monotheism has done enormous harm to human beings and the whole earth, and I feel a ferocious distrust thereof. Some people become convinced that there is only one Deity and next thing you know they are busily torturing anyone who does not believe in exactly the same way in order lovingly to show them the error of their ways. Yes, I believe there is a Unity in this Divinity/Consciousness; the Divinity/Consciousness is the same everywhere, in all its infinite manifestations. Some sages, the Enlightened Ones, have experienced this Divinity/Consciousness, but nothing can be said or told about it: those who know don't tell, and those who tell don't know. Those who know don't tell not because they are being mysterious or keeping a secret, but - they say and I believe - there is nothing to tell; it simply cannot be told. We cannot relate to this unmanifest Divinity/Consciousness, though we will experience it when our minds become quiet and we lose whatever prevents us from experiencing it.

But Divinity/Consciousness has infinite manifestations, into some of which we CAN sink our spiritual teeth - and into some of which we can and do sink our physical teeth. Some of these manifestations of Divinity/Consciousness are am�bas, some are carrots, some are chickens, some are us, some are angels, some are gods and some are goddesses.

So, are the many gods and goddesses distinct and individual entities? Yes, and they are also, as am I, diverse manifestations of Divinity/Consciousness. Am I a pantheist? Yes, everything is a manifestation of Divinity/Consciousness, or Divinity/Consciousness is immanent - resides in - everything.

As an exercise in what I like to call thealogical affirmative action and in order to counter my own conditioning and millennia of patriarchal domination I direct my worship to Goddess in Her diverse manifestations. I believe what the world and my own spiritual growth require are the cultivation and enhancement of traits traditionally seen as feminine: cooperation as against competition, nurturing, compassion, patience, non-aggression, better communications. Goddess is a combination of all Her manifestations throughout history.

Of course I recognize the existence of Gods, including the angry old guy sitting on a cloud, I just choose to direct my worship/set my attention on Goddess. What do I think about 'Choose one from column A and one from Column B' pantheon building? Hey, whatever works. All I ask is that no one hurt anyone.

As the Bible - a good book, containing much literary beauty and a lot of truth, though also lots of nonsense, like the infamous "You shall not allow a witch to live" (Exodus 22:18) - says: "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren [AND "sistren", I'd like to add, to give the plural of "sister" a nice antique patina] to sit together in unity and harmony" (Psalms 133:1).

Topic # 2: Pot-Kettle: Do We Have Our Own Fundamentalists? (courtesy Wren's Nest)
Does religious fundamentalism exist in some Pagan and/or Heathen communities? Can a closed group or tradition be considered as fundamentalist? Are there some Pagans and/or Heathens who 'preach' one true Pagan or Heathen way? Is resistance to the 'mainstreaming' of Paganism/Heathenism a form of fundamentalism? How can we approach the preservation of Pagan and/or Heathen spiritual and/or cultural integrity and identity without falling into fundamentalism? Is fundamentalism even necessarily a 'bad' thing? You can also check out Isaac Bonewits' essay on fundamentalism at: A Call to Arms for definitions and other background material.

Alas, I would not be surprised if there were Pagan fundamentalists somewhere. Pagans being human - contrary to what some "Holy" Inquisitors believed - we are heir to all the diseases that affect that sorry species. In my opinion preaching and eagerness for converts are mostly motivated by the desire for more financial contributions and a wider political basis, and I guess some Pagans might be as ambitious as the worst of them.

That in my opinion accounts for the reluctance of many Pagans to the so-called "mainstreaming" of Paganism (besides, which form of Paganism would we "mainstream"?). We are afraid something similar might happen to us to what's happened to other religions and we might see the appearance of Pagan Swaggarts, Bakkers and ayatollahs, Goddess forbid, and other frauds.

The phrase "the preservation of Pagan and/or Heathen spiritual and/or cultural integrity and identity" fills me with dread: it sounds too much like "racial purity", "party line" or Orthodoxy. "Integrity" and "identity" are things that each Pagan person has and does with whatever s/he sees fit. Many of us have had to change our beliefs, and some have changed identities, so which "integrity" and "identity" would we be talking about preserving? Some sort of trademark or copyright on the words "Pagan" and "Heathen"? Some institution or person(s) in charge of deciding who is or ain't a "true", "real", "legitimate", "genuine", "bona fide" Pagan or Heathen?? Goddess forbid, perish the thought, chas vechalilah veshalom (for those who might not know, the latter is Hebrew for "May we be spared, may we be preserved and may we have peace". Yes, I do believe it to be more powerful in Hebrew, but you don't have to).

Some Pagan groups, like Gardnerians, or A Druid Fellowship, or several others, do have their own rules and standards of legitimacy. I don't belong to any of them but have the greatest respect for them, and they are not remotely "fundamentalist" by any definition of the term. They are also open to any seeker in good faith who wants to join them. As to "closed" groups, I am not fond of the concept - I can hardly even imagine rejecting a seeker in good faith - but they must have their reasons, and unless the criteria are unreasonable or illegal - like race - I guess the concept of individual liberties demands that they should be free to have their closed group. After all, if I marry somebody and - supposedly - reject all others I am in actuality forming a closed group. Not guilty of fundamentalism.

"Is fundamentalism even necessarily a 'bad' thing?" Well, yes, as excellently explained in A Call to Arms.

Other than that I don't have anything to add to what my beloved teacher Isaac Bonewits wrote so well in his above-mentioned essay, reading which, as well as all his other writings, I earnestly recommend.

Topic # 3: Yule/Litha
In the Northern Hemisphere Yule is upon us. In the Southern it is Litha or Summer Solstice. What are your plans?

Being thankful that the Sun stops going away from us and starts on Its way back, looking forward to Spring and Summer, being warm inside the house with my family (my spouse and my dogs) and engaging in my regular routine retirement rituals: reading, writing, resting, relaxing, reflecting, relating and roaming the web. :-)

Forgot an important plan: avoiding as much as possible the sickening flood of xmas-related sounds and images.

November 26, 2002

Ancestral considerations

I neither am particularly concerned nor do I care to know who my ancestors were. I think that information is only of mild anecdotal interest, like "this is where Pickett's charge took place": cute if you are touring Gettysburg, but not essential to the knowledge of history. Even if I had some more information about my ancestors than I do, and if most of it beyond two or three generations was not utterly lost among the ashes of the Holocaust, I would be neither particularly proud to have "good" ancestors nor particularly ashamed to have "bad" ones. As it happens and will be seen later, all of us in all likelihood have both.

But though the questions of WHO don�t motivate me, the questions of HOW MANY seem to lead to some startling conclusions. Please let me know of any errors you find in my reasoning.

The length of a generation is usually acknowledged to be between 25 and 30 years, i.e., three or four generations per century. The exact figure we choose does not change the results substantially. And let us keep into account that throughout most of history the length of a generation was much less, because people of 25 or 30 years were already old and most often bred at much earlier ages. Let us count four generations per century.

Let us take eighteen hundred years ago as an arbitrary date for computation: we are in 202 C.E., during the empire of Septimius Severus, 1800/25=72 generations ago.

Since all of us have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great-grandparents and the number of our ancestors doubles with each generation, the number of our ancestors 72 generations ago was

This is 787,061,080,478.274 (roughly seven hundred and eighty seven billion) times the current world population estimated at six billion.

Even if the world population had been 6 billion during the entire time human beings have been on this planet, the total number of human beings EVER would be much less than 4,722,366,482,869,650,000,000.

This leads me to the following conclusions: all of us have many ancestors in common; many of those ancestors in turn must have had the same ancestors, many of whom had the same ancestors, many of whom had the same ancestors, many of whom had the same ancestors...

We are all so mixed that ALL racial distinctions are utterly meaningless, like the presence or absence of a mole or eye color.

Does this mean that Adolph Hitler and I have some of the same ancestors? Alas, yes, though far enough in the past to be shrouded in the mists of antiquity... And besides I DID start out saying I would be neither proud nor ashamed of my ancestors, didn�t I?...

Besides in my opinion the sharing of memes counts for much more than the sharing of genes. That is why I prefer my friends to my relatives, and I AM proud of my memetic ancestors, whom I have chosen, unlike my genetic ones, whom I have not.

Unreadable web pages

Is it just me, because I'm getting older and my eyesight is deteriorating? What's with colored backgrounds on web pages and text that is only a shade darker or lighter than the background? Are the authors of such pages reluctant to expose their musings to the perusal of others and so make them difficult to read as a half-way measure toward not posting them at all? What's wrong with good old black on white?

It used to be that when I found a page like that I would copy the text and paste it in Notepad so as to be able to read it. Now, unless I have powerful reasons to believe that the text in question contains the secrets of life or some other highly desirable insights (HA!) I just pass it over.

Yes, I know I can tell my browser to remove colored backgrounds, but, as with the copying and pasting, mostly it's not worth the effort, and if the author is so keen on preventing me from reading her/his site I'm happy to accommodate.

November 18, 2002


Jodi's blog entry Let's talk about sets made me think of Bloodroot, a feminist restaurant and bookstore in Bridgeport, Connecticut which I visited several times throughout the years while I was living in the New York area. Bloodroot is run by the Bloodroot Collective, and in my opinion it provides a most interesting experience. Unlike most restaurants, the silverware and the plates and cups they use are all different, from different sets. This is a political statement - one of many the place makes: it is meant to celebrate diversity and avoid waste, and to eschew the uniformity that is associated with patriarchal systems (think of uniforms, "one country, one people, one leader", and, most especially, one god). Visit Bloodroot if you're anywhere within reasonable distance, and by all means read their web pages.

November 15, 2002

Seven sinless people in the whole history of the world

In patriarchal religions, no matter what you do you can't be in full compliance with The Rules. That is very bad for one's mental health and self-esteem. Yes, this is a sore subject for me, and one of the grudges I hold against such doctrines, under the pernicious pervading power of which I grew up and still live to a large extent, though striving eagerly for liberation.

I heard many years ago from my Rav Eli Carlebach, of blessed memory, that it says in the Talmud that in the whole history of the world there have been only SEVEN (7) people who never in their whole lives committed any sin. (The story was later picked up by the Roman Catholic Church, though of course their seven sinless people are not the same as in the Jewish list.) So if one wanted to live a life free of sin one would be doomed from the start: if only seven people in history succeeded one would have a MUCH greater chance of winning the lottery, being struck by lightning or going through some other highly unlikely event. So it seems to me that according to those doctrines God WANTS me to sin, i.e., to fail to hit the mark. Why make a set of rules that only seven people, of all the millions that ever existed, could observe it its entirety, without any deviation? Yes, I know: I sin, God forgives me, we're all friends. But what about my self-esteem? I'm a miserable sinner who can't do anything right. That we are ALL sinners is one of the basic tenets in both Judaism and Christianity. We are constantly in need of forgiveness, absolution, pardon, amnesty, indulgence, clemency, exoneration, conveniently arranged, of course, by the religious establishments. Am I the only one who thinks this is sick?

Would an allegedly loving, all-compassionate Deity create such an impracticable, virtually impossible-to-follow set of rules? Or else the supposed "crown" of His creation � i.e., we � is a complete failure.

I wonder whether perhaps He is actually some minor spirit, allowed by His elders and betters to play with this remote splattering of mud � i.e., our solar system area of the Milky Way � as His fiefdom so as to keep him off the streets and out of worse mischief, sort of like Napoleon being named Emperor of Elba. That could account for His Meanness and His Bad Temper.

It wouldn�t take much to impress us human beings with a few Divinity-like trappings; a few relatively elementary tricks and our jaws would drop in awe.

Another thing I could never understand is why a sinner who repents is supposed to have preference over someone who has not sinned (not that there are so many of those). Isn�t that an encouragement to sin for someone who wants to please her/his God?

I know: it's all a mystery, unfathomable for us "mere" mortals. Well, if you can swallow it and are happy with it that's great. But throughout history followers of patriarchal religions have pushed and pushed their modes of behavior (I refuse to call it "thought") to the point that everyone is suffering under them. In spite of the first amendment to the US Constitution ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.") we have laws regarding who can get married that reflect Jud�o-Christian doctrine as well as many other laws also upholding Jud�o-Christian ideas. Including a sneaky pronouncement which, under the guise of extending health insurance benefits, is a horribly dangerous blow to women's reproductive freedom of choice: read about it in Raye's blog. As Raye writes very aptly: "this isn't a slippery slope any longer. It's a headlong dive off the cliff."

To any Jud�o-Christian who might feel what I write attacks her/his religion I say: Do you see now why many of us non-Jud�o-Christians resent your religion(s)? Indeed, the free exercise of religion should not be impeded, but that doesn�t include trying to control the behavior of others. Don�t have an abortion and don�t marry a person of the same sex if your religion forbids it, but do not try to curtail my freedom to do so if I want to, since MY religion does allow it.

You personally may not have burned any members of my religion at the stake, but prominent members of your religion(s) have, IN THE NAME OF YOUR RELIGION(S) and supposedly in compliance with their commandments. But we'll leave that, as a reason to resent your religion(s), for another blog entry.

November 08, 2002

PaganSpeak topics for November 2002

PaganSpeak topics for November 2002:

Topic #1: Faith (courtesy of Wren's Nest) What is faith? Is it simply a decision to believe in something rooted in our psychological needs, or is it deeper than that? Is it illogical, or based in a logic that goes beyond what our conscious minds can grasp?

We Pagans might try to "reclaim" the word "faith" from the abuse it has suffered at the hands of monotheistic religions, but I don�t have much faith in faith, the concept has been battered too much. I don�t think "a decision to believe" is possible; one either believes something or one doesn�t. One could decide to claim to have faith in something, and I suspect many do, and there is a theory that acting as if one had faith might generate such faith, but why would one fake it to begin with? There are possible reasons, like entry into a group seen as desirable, but I see great dangers in faking anything. I "believe" or "have faith in" what my own experience, including that of a spiritual nature obtained through meditation or reflection, tells me is true. Yes, I could be horribly wrong, but I "have faith" in the teaching of the Buddha: "Be a lamp unto your own feet". I don�t expect anyone else to have faith in the same manner I do and I feel inclined neither to burn at the stake nor in any other way to harm those who don�t share my faith.

Faith (as in "keeping faith") also has the meaning of loyalty to a group. I have the highest regard for loyalty, but I believe in keeping in mind the story of Plato being bested in an argument by an opponent, to Plato's great embarrassment; a close friend of Plato's agreed with Plato's opponent and another friend protested: "How come you agree with his opponent, being that you are such a good friend of Plato's?" "I am a friend of Plato's, but I feel even greater friendship for the truth".

Ultimately I suspect that our experiences and what we believe in form a mutually reinforcing network.

Topic #2: Magic for Personal Gain (courtesy of Wren's Nest) Do you think magick/spells should be used for personal gain? What constitutes personal gain (e.g. love spells, money spells, healing spells, self-improvement spells...)

In my opinion any magick that harms no one is ethically acceptable; however I would strongly recommend GREAT caution in asking for anything too specific like money, and I would also strongly recommend NEVER doing any magick without including some formula like "for the good of all and according to the free will of all", as recommended by Marion Weinstein in "Positive Magic". Remember Oscar Wilde's wise dictum about there being two tragedies in life: one being not to get what one wants and the other, even worse, to get it; one difference being that in the first case the onset of disappointment does not occur so fast.

Love spells geared to influence another person's feelings without her/his consent are a form of psychic attack, as are healing spells done for someone else without that person's consent and preferably active self-initiated request.

Rather than love, money, health or special abilities in my opinion it is better to ask for wisdom and insight to understand the reasons why things happen, the strength and ability to cope with them and the awareness to learn from the experiences. I believe Goddess knows what's best for us better than we do. And invariably gives it to us, even without our asking.

Topic #3: Thanksgiving In the USA we are about to celebrate Thanksgiving. This doesn't mean it has to be an American-only holiday however, what are you thankful for this year?

Gratitude to the Gods for their boons is a feeling that ought to be cultivated and practiced at all times. That is one reason why I'm not fond of the Thanksgiving holiday as observed in November. The pictures of the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians sitting together in unity like brothers is totally false: the Wampanoag Indians helped the Pilgrims establish themselves and avoid starvation and other dangers, and as soon as the Pilgrims were settled and comfortable they proceeded to exterminate the Wampanoag Indians (do you know of many Wampanoag Indians in Plymouth, Massachusetts at the present time?).

As to the exchanges of gifts also depicted often in connection with the Thanksgiving holiday, it actually went more or less like this: the Indians gave the Europeans the constitutional decentralized form of government the US has used so successfully (at least until the Republican coup d'�tat of 2000), a number of useful plants, including some that are now staples all over the world, like potatoes, tomatoes and that most wonderful of foods, chocolate and the ability to survive in the American continent, while the Europeans gave the Indians syphilis, genocide, smallpox-contaminated blankets, pollution and a level of poverty and incarceration in Indian communities at the present time that defies imagination and is higher that for any other group in the country.

I am thankful to the Gods for many things, including enjoying the system of government we owe to a large extent to the Indians, but I don�t observe the Thanksgiving holiday, and I wish white people would use the day off to contemplate what has been done to the original inhabitants of this continent and attempt some reparation and restitution.

November 07, 2002

Why blog? and other stuff

In the interests of transparency, full disclosure and compliance with sunshine laws I have to declare at the outset that one of my purposes in writing this is to encourage my friends (and also anyone else, even if s/he's not in that exalted category) to start and maintain their own blogs. It's fun, and since it harms no one that should be sufficient reason to do it. The requirements of an examined life, however, compel me to analyze the reasons further.

It is true that adding even more drivel to the blogosphere harms us all, so let us endeavor mightily and effectively to make what we write non-drivel...

This subject has already been covered very well in Molly's blog entry of 07/24/02. I'd like to say that in my opinion it doesn�t matter that "every blogger has written about it at one point or another". Is it really possible to write anything new and original? Just like the air I breathe has been breathed before by countless others, something similar to anything I think or feel has already, in all likelihood, been thought/felt by others. Or even by me. That doesn�t invalidate anyone's experience. Perhaps on the contrary, it should give us all something to share, a common ground, a basis for understanding.

Through my blog I am "meeting" a number of interesting people and learning a lot from them, and being stimulated to thought by what they write. The blogosphere is like a huge circle in which we can choose when to speak and when to listen. A blog is like a talking stick in this circle.

Sean has chosen Socrates' advice "Know thyself" as epigraph for his blog. Of course we all know Socrates' recommendation � usually, alas, "more honour'd in the breach than the observance" � but it is useful to be reminded of it now and then. Blogging is an excellent tool to pursue this goal. Perhaps one (or more) of my readers � if any... � can tell me the source of this quotation I love: "How can I know what I think/feel until I read what I write?". Blogging is useful to dig into one's mind, where everything we need is to be found, according to the sages. Mullah Nasruddin was seen one night in the street outside his house, circling a lamppost on his hands and knees, examining the ground with great attention. One of his friends walked by and, though accustomed to the Mullah's strange behaviors, could not refrain from asking: "Did you lose anything, Mullah?" "Yes, my keys; I misplaced them in the house and now I can't find them" The friend asked in astonishment: "Mullah, if you misplaced them in the house why are you looking for them out here??" The Mullah looked at his friend with compassion for his lack of understanding and replied: "Well, the light is much better out here!".

The Buddha taught "Be a lamp unto your own feet", let your own light illumine your path. Consider the words of the sages, but don�t go anywhere just because they tell you to.

On the other hand, I'm sad about the results of the election. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe women should not have the right to do as they choose with their own bodies. Maybe we should bomb Irak into the stone age (remember that delightful phrase?). Maybe we should strive for a gun in every pocket. Maybe...

Am I bitter about the election? You bet I am. I try to comfort myself thinking that after all what I consider the side of justice and compassion did not lose for THAT big a margin. Some historian � I can't locate the quotation now � wrote that the US is unique in the history of the world because all other empires have had a beginning, a period of maturity, and decadence, while the US has gone from beginning to decadence without going through maturity.

I believe there are reasons for everything, and maybe eventually we'll find out what they are.

November 02, 2002

More on whether to vote or not

Please read Raye's post on the "President's" nominee to serve on the Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee at the Food and Drug Administration, and think whether you want to help elect as many Democratic candidates as possible this election.

October 31, 2002

To all persons who are not planning to vote but would vote Democratic if they did

Please change your mind and vote. Perhaps you lived all your life in the United States of America and elections are something you take for granted, no big deal. But I assure you they ARE a big deal. In most countries of the world there are no such things as elections, or if there are they are a sham, sometimes with only one set of candidates getting 99.9% of the vote. Yes, I agree with you: what happened here with the 2000 elections seemed to indicate that the United States is going the way of other countries with a government selected by coup d'�tat. But let us hope that was an aberration due to a most unfortunate but unlikely-to-happen-again combination of circumstances: a relatively tight vote, the presence of a ridiculous and hopeless third-party candidate who drained votes from the Democrats, retarded or malicious vote counters in Florida who took too long to perform their task and a Supreme Court with a Republican-appointed majority that made a political and not legal decision.

If you have the good fortune of being a citizen of the United States PLEASE do not fail to vote.

October 27, 2002

The browser wars revisited

Ten days ago I wrote here that I couldn�t make my blog work on Netscape and Opera. I am happy to say that I�ve had some flashes of inspiration (HA!) and now it does seem to work on those browsers (while, wonder of wonders!, miracle of miracles!, still working on Internet Explorer...). Also, a problem with increased indentation as one scrolled down the page has been corrected. No one is more astonished than I... I may even get it right eventually. Stay tuned. :-)

October 26, 2002

Arts and letters daily

Arts and letters daily is back after a hiatus, for the edification of many of us who missed it grievously. It's a collection of brief comments with links to articles in the press of several countries about not only "arts and letters" but also science, philosophy and many subjects of interest. A web log in one of the best senses of the expression. If I had the time I would read each and every one of the articles referred to there, but even now that I am retired there aren't enough hours in the day, so I have to be selective. Do yourself a favor and visit, but, mind, it's addictive. You've been warned.

October 23, 2002

The "free" press

A reporter for a Columbia, MO newspaper e-mailed my local Mensa group wanting to interview some members in the area for an article, and group members were asked whether they'd be available for this purpose. In declining politely I was reminded of the reasons why I have a horror of reporters. I have a friend who says he not only doesn�t believe in a free press, he doesn�t believe in the press, period, and I see his point. In theory I am, of course, a strong advocate of a free press, but in practice, alas, there are many problems.

Throughout my life I�ve had a few contacts with reporters: in connection with my job, my involvement in the animal rights movement in the seventies and early eighties, and in other capacities. Consistently, without exception, the stories that were published and/or broadcast to which I had contributed were full of errors, some of them factual, and not only not impartial but slanted against the position(s) I was trying to favor. In one case a prominent New York newspaper turned a story about cruelty to animals and some people's efforts to rescue the victims into a "humorous" piece along the lines of "look at these crazy people running around the underground bowels of the UN complex trying to save the stray cats who take refuge there; they go as far as to actually feed the stray cats; can you believe that?". The well-known reporter who asked to interview me about this matter lied to me by misrepresenting his intentions as writing a sympathetic story which would help the cause of stray animals in general and these in particular.

Instead what I had said was quoted out of context and in some cases falsely, I was made to sound insane and the whole article was geared to discrediting the UN even further.

It should be emphasized that before talking to any reporters, UN staff members are required to obtain authorization from the UN Department of Public Information or else get into serious trouble, including dismissal. Getting these authorizations is a time-consuming hassle, and I suspect whoever granted them to me made a mistake for which s/he was severely punished.

Another time, on a different subject, a colleague of mine and I spent a considerable amount of time carefully preparing to answer questions from a well-known television reporter. We wanted to make sure we would have all the facts in hand and the positions carefully explained. The interview came and we thought it had gone quite well. That night we eagerly tuned in to the network, VCRs ready to tape our interview: it was just skipped; as thy say, "left on the editing room floor", so all our efforts to "give" a good interview were wasted.

I'll spare my readers (if any) other examples. The errors and bias I�ve invariably found in press stories of which I have first hand knowledge make me suspect that their other stories may be full of errors too. I'd like to think that there may be SOME reporters who care about their sources and endeavor effectively to get their stories straight; I haven't come across any and am unwilling to widen my experience with reporters. As the saying goes, I already gave at the office, and if I never talk to a reporter again it will be too soon.

Maybe "free" press refers to the liberties some of them take with the truth.

October 22, 2002

Pro Choice Is Not Anti Life

I�ve joined the Pro Choice Is Not Anti Life web ring, and I have a few observations about the subject.

The patriarchal attitude that pretends to deny women control over their own bodies puts my usually non-violent nature to a severe test, but calling that position "pro life" is really adding insult to injury. Some of those who hold that position engage in or condone the bombing of women's clinics and the murder of doctors who serve in them; is THAT "pro life"? Some of them are in favor of the death penalty; is THAT "pro life"? Unfettered availability of firearms; is THAT "pro life"? Whatever war the country happens to be engaged at the time; is THAT "pro life"?

What they are in favor of is power over others and control over their lives. If you disapprove of abortion then don�t have one, but don�t try to impose the rules of your religion over others who may follow different religions or no religion.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion", says the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Why then are there laws regulating the sexes and numbers of the participants in a marriage, and which day of the week should be a day of rest? And to make matters even more outrageous many of those who flout the First Amendment on those issues are keen on invoking the Second Amendment to thwart any attempt to regulate firearms.

One of the most egregious of those entities is aptly commented upon by Tess.

October 18, 2002

More about bears, brought about by Oso's ordeal.

Words, words, words. 728 of them. I wanted to make them 666 so as to spook any fundamentalists that might read my blog (don�t laugh; I hear I'm quite popular with them...) but, as usual, I wrote too much...

I first found the concept of "totem animal(s)" in Jean Auel's "Children of the Earth" series of books, and it got me thinking about who would be mine, an interesting inquiry as part of the "Who am I?" quest.

I�ve always felt much kinship with bears; I have much in common with them: I am slow, heavy and ponderous, but can be surprisingly agile and fast when necessary (this last applied mainly when I was younger, not so much now); I would if I could spend the entire winter sleeping in a cave, I have no use for snow and ice; I like honey and sweet things in general; I love salmon (and all fish, for that matter, as my last name implies); I am mostly a solitary animal and can get quite grumpy on occasion; I like to play in the water.

A friend and I were once watching a documentary on polar bears; in one of the scenes it showed from behind a polar bear trying to climb out of the water into an iceberg; my friend commented and I had to agree that the bear looked remarkably like me.

I believe if we put aside human arrogance and the patriarchal belief that humans are superior to or better than other animals we can learn much from them. The Goddess Our Mother teaches that we are all sisters and brothers, Her children inhabiting Her body.

There are other animals with whom I feel particular kinship and share some traits: dogs, of course, have a special place in my heart, and teach us what's really important in life: love, friendship, loyalty, play, food and shelter, warmth in winter and coolth in summer, the young (for those who breed). Dolphins and other cetaceans, who spend their entire lives playing, eating, making love, resting and perhaps meditating and conversing about Goddess knows what in their mysterious languages that can carry much more information (and hence shades of meaning) than our human ones. Their low-pitched sounds can travel across oceans, so they can talk with any other whale(s) in the world. In a way they have their own internet...

What's really important in life? What do we need to do to overcome that despair that at some point(s) in our life we have all felt? Not that there are answers that are valid for all; each of us needs to discover the correct answers for her/himself, avoiding in the process any inclination to burn at the stake those who find different answers. Why? Well, according to MY answers any harm we do others causes a chain reaction that affects all involved sometimes for very long times, and has to be neutralized before anyone can find peace.

Not doing harm to anyone seems like a concept on which we could all agree. But of course then interminable discussions would ensue on what precisely constitutes harm. The "Holy" Inquisition maintained it was doing good to witches and Jews by burning them at the stake to cleanse them from their "errors" and save their souls. George W. Bush and his accomplices thought � I guess, though I wonder how anyone can be THAT misguided � they were doing good by stealing the election and enacting the first coup d'�tat in American history.

No, one CAN'T win. But I digress. What could I do now that at the time of my death I could look back upon and rejoice that I did? I submit this is not a bad way to select what we are going to do at each moment. That is if we can choose freely, those who are employed are exempt, but the time will come, Goddess willing, for them too to be happily retired. :-) And I guess some fortunate few even enjoy their jobs...

It helps to think of the times in one's life � if any � when one has been really happy,, preferably through one's own efforts. If one needs a specific other being that could be a problem, because s/he may or may not be available/willing/alive or a number of other necessary conditions.

October 17, 2002

Browsers... :-(

Please use Internet Explorer to view this page. I don�t know how to make it work in Netscape (let alone Opera) and I'm tired of wasting my time trying.

October 14, 2002

My dog Oso recovered

Some upstanding citizen exercising his (no, I'm not using my usual "her/his" here; I'm 99.9% sure it was a male) constitutionally-protected right to bear arms shot my dog Oso last Saturday morning. Oso was � thank Goddess � able to drag himself home (otherwise we might never have found him); we rushed him to the veterinarian (Dr. Jennifer Boatright) who immediately shot him with pain medication and steroids and took a number of X-rays. The bullet had entered his rear left thigh and traveled through his body in a trajectory parallel to his spine and was lodged between one of his lungs and the spine. Miraculously � thank Goddess a million times � the bullet didn�t seem to have permanently affected any vital organ. Note that the bullet's point of entry and trajectory indicate that he was shot from behind, probably while he was running away.

The doctor sent Oso home with pain medication and anti-biotics and told us to watch him, that he would probably get better on his own, in which case it was best to leave the bullet where it was ("You'd be surprised how many Missouri dogs are walking around with bullets inside them", she said). If Oso didn�t get better then it would be necessary to open him up to remove the bullet and attempt to repair whatever damage was found.

Poor Oso looked utterly and heartbreakingly in shock, with his head down, his tail between his legs, his legs trembling and whimpering in agony whenever he tried to move or sit or lie down.

Fortunately the veterinarian must have given him a massive dose of pain-killer, and when we got home Oso collapsed and slept for several hours. Thank Goddess when he woke up he seemed considerably better and he's been steadily improving since, and less than 48 hours after being shot he was from all appearances his usual self.

Oso is a sweet and loving dog who usually sleeps on our bed between Ellen and me (our other dogs Goldman and Cosita usually sleep elsewhere on the bed or on the rug nearby) and has an inexhaustible inclination to being petted, rubbed and scratched; I�ve never known a more affectionate dog.

His name is the Spanish word for "bear" and comes from a vaguely ursine look on his face and from the fact that someone said that he was an "Australian shepherd" dog ("Aussie", hence Osi, Osito). But he isn�t, he is actually a pure-bred specimen of that most distinguished, rare, refined and sought-after of dog breeds: the aristocratic MMMM (Much-Mixed 'Merican Mutt). They are known for their resilience, which may partly account for Oso's recovery.

As I'm writing this he's lying on the rug next to my chair. He always tries to place himself as close to us as he can.

Why would anyone hurl a piece of metal propelled at high-speed by an explosion against another living being? Self-defense would be the only reasonable explanation, and it does not apply in this case because (a) Oso was shot from behind, probably while trying to run away, and (b) Oso would not attack anyone unprovoked, and perhaps not even provoked.

The right to bear arms cannot be infringed without a constitutional amendment, but it can and should be regulated by law. A constitutional amendment to change the second amendment would be a hopeless undertaking, since even attempts to regulate firearms are usually unsuccessful. I do not dispute that without private ownership of firearms the American Revolution would have failed, but that was around 212 years ago, and the second amendment clearly refers to "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state", not to some bozo shooting dogs in the vicinity of residences (Ellen said that she heard the shots from the house).

I am astonished that purchasing Valium requires a doctor's prescription in triplicate written in government-supplied forms printed, like currency, with all kinds of anti-counterfeiting devices, while anyone can purchase guns, even automatic machine-guns (or surplus military tanks, for that matter). The worst thing that anyone can do with Valium is become relaxed and calm, while I don�t even want to go into what can be done with an automatic machine-gun.

The gun lobby has a saying: "If guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns" which is disingenuous: for one thing nobody is trying to "outlaw" guns, since � alas � that is clearly prohibited by the Constitution, and for another it is obvious that "outlaws" will always have and do anything they please.

I submit that buying a gun should at least be as difficult and require some proof of real "need" (HA!) as buying a Valium.

This country had at one time a Prohibition under which only outlaws had and were able to supply liquor; this Prohibition had to be revoked because it was realized that promoting crime was the only thing it did. Proving yet again that human beings do not learn from history there is currently a prohibition of a number of substances which has the same effect as the old liquor prohibition: consumption of those substances is higher than ever (probably even higher than if they were legal, I submit, because of the enticement of illegality) and supports and promotes an immense criminal establishment and concomitant "law-enforcement" (HA!) establishment.

There is no gun in our house and we intend to keep it that way because I believe there is abundant evidence that keeping a gun is counterproductive to one's safety.

But I do cast a mean protection spell. Why, then, was my sweet Oso shot? Well, for one thing spells provide much protection, like helmets, but not a 100% guarantee, and for another I never anticipated the possibility of someone being shot... We're all in the hands of the Goddess Our Mother, and I know that She lovingly prevented any permanent damage to dear Oso. May She continue to extend Her protection and love over all beings.

October 05, 2002

Laughter is another state of consciousness in which we're closer to Divinity

I found the jokes in the Laugh Lab web site extremely funny, and the information there interesting. Think of the times you laughed so hard it almost hurt. Even remembering those times does us good. That's why stories are so important: even a story about a good story carries much of the power of the original. This story illustrates that well.

October 03, 2002

If I could think of a title for this I'd use it; since I can't, I don't.

During the last few months, after Cindy died, I have been very bad in maintaining correspondence with my friends. My friends, even if I sometimes neglect them, are among the most important entities in my life and I feel very guilty about my lack of communication. So in order to assuage my conscience I have decided to start this web log and invite my friends to visit it if they're so inclined, so any time you wonder how your friend Emilio is doing visit here and Goddess willing you'll find some information. This does not mean that we will not keep corresponding privately, please e-mail me any time you desire and I shall respond, eventually.

Not that I REALLY feel guilty; I have worked long and hard � don�t laugh, I CAN work long and hard, and Goddess knows that too many times in my life I have � to rid myself of that artificial, pernicious feeling, the only purpose of which is to control the behavior of the victims. It's just a feeling that neglecting my friends is unskillful behavior; not the sort of thing that my self-image requires.

Self-image! That's another snare for the unwary. When you have dumped external masters you still have to deal with yourself. But once you become aware of the traps your self-image places in your path it becomes easier to re-write your character.

My natural laziness is taking over my life increasingly. Sitting at my desk and lying in my bed I can see through glass sliding doors the forest that surrounds my house and I like to look at the soothing green and let my mind wander. Sometimes I may even not be thinking of anything... Does this mean that I have attained enlightenment? Hardly! But it is pleasant, and relaxed and peaceful. There is blessed silence in the area, which suits me well. I sometimes long for periods of sensory deprivation: no sound, no light, etc.; a little like the three monkeys covering their eyes, their ears and their mouth, but beyond that.

War? (yes, again)

I recommend I'll Have a Side Of World Peace With My Fountain of Youth.

I strongly dislike the de facto unelected acting "President", and disagree with Tess' opinion that "The only thing I see that's truly diabolical about Bush is the way he massacres the English language." Horrid as his mistreatment of the English language is, in my opinion there is a lot more than that wrong with the de facto unelected acting "President" and his right-wing gang. But I think Tess makes several good points about the lessons of history on the impossibility of "rational discourse" with madmen.

Psychopaths sometimes have to be forcibly restrained for the protection of others. In the case of an isolated madman the paramedics are called, but in the case of a madman at the head of a country and commanding armies military action may be necessary.

I am as much against war as anyone; war is horrible and to be avoided at ALMOST all costs. But let us remember that without war the unholy institution of slavery would still exist, we would still be British subjects, the Nazis would rule over any area of the world they had chosen to invade. In some cases war may be a necessary evil, and the lesser of various evils.

Why have there not been other horrendous atrocities of the magnitude of 9/11 since that day? We will probably never know, but a possible and in my opinion likely explanation is disarray caused among the terrorists by the pounding inflicted on them by the US Armed Forces.

A Stephen Gaskin quotation

"Religions only look different if you get them from a retailer. If you go to a wholesaler, you'll find they all get it from the same distributor."
--Stephen Gaskin

I read this quotation in the signature file of a message someone sent to the Pagan Unity Campaign Political Action Committee [PUCPAC] mailing list. I had never heard of Stephen Gaskin and I thought the quotation was well-worth looking him up. My search found many sites, among others Stephen Gaskin resources, I thought worth reading.

Going back to the quotation, and if you�ll pardon the military analogy, different religions are like the various branches of the armed forces: the Navy and the Air Force travel in different vehicles, have different rituals, structures and uniforms, but they both answer to the same Commander in Chief (except, of course, in some "countries" where sometimes one branch fights another for control of the government, but that is a different story; I'm talking about serious countries here). It would be inconceivable for the Navy to say that flying planes is evil and to attack the Air Force because they fly planes instead of sailing ships. They are supposed to cooperate and support each other in pursuit of common goals.

Now that I think of it, some religions even use military analogies themselves, and refer to "the armies of the Lord", "[adjective for the followers of a particular religion] soldiers". Well, soldiers should not fight sailors, airmen* or marines... [* I'm afraid that women in the Air Force are also called "airmen".]

But many religions act more like corporations peddling the same product: God. "Our God is better than theirs, and besides only we can sell you the proper instruction manuals to use Her. If you worship Her according to any but our instructions, anywhere but in our institutions, She will not love you and you will be doomed to eternal suffering. Don�t gamble with your salvation, use only our brand of God. It's just better."

Like the four elements Water, Air, Earth and Fire, the fifth sacred thing, Divinity/Spirit is freely available to all who seek Her, and cannot be owned.

Attempting to trademark God is probably the ultimate folly in the long sorry history of human hubris.

September 20, 2002


I invite dialogue. If you think my blog contains brilliant and fascinating writing, the worst drivel ever perpetrated or anything in between, I'd like to know. If you have any thoughts concerning what I write I'd like to know them. And if you'd care to share any other thoughts about anything else please do. Some of my most interesting ideas, the ones I have most fun with and which make my life better have arisen in conversation/correspondence with other lovers of wisdom and seekers thereof.

If something I wrote suggests to you that we may have some intellectual or spiritual chemistry please communicate with me, and send me your own blog's URL. If you don�t have a blog yet you might want to start one. It's fun.

In London's Hyde Park it is common for people to stand on a soap box and start speaking, and visitors can stop to hear any speaker they want. Theoretically anyone could stand on a soap box and start speaking in any public place anywhere in one of the � very few � free-ish countries in the world, but, unlike in Hyde Park, such behavior would be considered unusual. The internet turns the entire world into Hyde Park. Finally one no longer needs to own a press to have free press, just a computer with an internet connection.

The problem is noise: there are so many speakers that it is difficult to find the ones offering meaningful messages among the enormous amount of nonsense, and often superficial nonsense at that, like a prominent member of the blogosphere who wrote a detailed account of his search for the perfect laptop bag.

Of course we are all free to write whatever we please in our own blogs; it's just that I regret the time wasted even in clicking on such a blog. But what do I know? There is a saying that "God is in the details"; perhaps if I were at a higher level of spiritual evolution I would be able to perceive profound significance in a story of a search for a laptop bag. Perhaps the laptop-bag-seeker would find what I write hollow. So we engage in mutual non-blog-reading.

If one cannot digress in one's blog where could one? Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), one of my favorite authors, who would have been a great blogger had there been a world wide web in the sixteenth century, was a master of digression: look at what he did in his essay "Upon some verses of Virgil" (in the original French, in the English translation by Charles Cotton (1630-1687)).

September 19, 2002


The points CrankyChick makes in Politics are very valid. Goddess knows I neither like nor trust the de facto, unelected "President", but maybe some sort of action against Iraq is indeed necessary. It is a fact that the Government has access to a lot of information we the people don�t know. This is not to say that the people should not express their opinions; they should and the Government ought to take them into consideration. But in thinking about the issue of Iraq I am reminded that if Adolf Hitler had not been stopped forcefully � which many Americans opposed at the time � I (and many others) would now be a wisp of smoke in the stratosphere. By the way, for an interesting comparison between the de facto, unelected "President" and "der F�hrer" see Amish Tech Support.

I see the legitimacy of opposing war no matter what; it is a tempting position and provides a moral "high ground", but what if avoiding war now (assuming this were possible, since war is being brought into American territory) were to lead to even greater evils in the future? As usual in life, this is a decision that must be taken without having all the necessary information (and I don�t mean just because some information is secret, but because nobody knows).

I'm glad I'm not President, and I can't imagine anybody actually wanting to be. I'm much interested in hearing/reading all articulate, intelligent opinions on either side of this dilemma; perhaps they will help me see more clearly what would be the ethical course of action. Goddess help us all!


E-Prime Tutorial is an excellent web page on the subject of E-prime, and it contains several interesting links. E-prime is a variation of the English language from which all forms of the verb "to be" have been excised. Yes, I, too, found the concept strange the first time I came across it: what harm could the innocent verb "to be" possibly cause? As it happens, plenty. Read on!

September 09, 2002

Tess' "100 things about 100 bloggers" project

"Numa gave to one of his four sons the name of Mamercus, which was the name of one of the sons of Pythagoras; whence, as they say, sprang that ancient patrician family of the �millii, for that the king gave him in sport the surname of �milius, for his engaging and graceful manner in speaking". [Plutarch's Life of Numa Pompilius (John Dryden's translation)].

To be sure, I'm totally unrelated to �that ancient patrician family of the �millii� (some � alleged � descendants of which, I understand, live to this day in Rome), my ethnic background being Jewish Eastern European. The root �mel� is related to both music, as in melody and melisma, and honey (�miel� in French and Spanish), as in mellifluous and hydromel.

Let that be the first item in my contribution to Tess� "100 things about 100 bloggers in 100 days" project (see this and this).

Here are the next 18; I shall have to squeeze harder to produce the other 81:

2. I love all non-human animals and generally relate well to them, particularly to dogs. I believe all animals are equal in that they seek to avoid pain and obtain pleasure and are generally fond of food, drink, shelter, comfort, warmth or coolth as necessary, safety, companionship, play. No, I don�t believe in giving dogs the right to vote, as some idiotic detractors of the animal rights movement have suggested (although dogs might have done better than the human American public did in 2000), but I do believe in giving dogs the right to a life free of any form of exploitation and so-called �bio-medical experiments.

3. I have most of the traits of Asperger�s syndrome (see this) but have been told by alleged �experts� that I don�t qualify as a full-fledged �Aspie�, to which I reply �If _I_ don�t I wonder who does�.

4. My favorite movie is �A man for all seasons�. I disagree with the principle that Sir Thomas More was upholding (the authority of the Bishop of Rome over the Church in England, and whether said Church would get to keep its assets); personally I don�t think it was worth dying and abandoning his family for, but I admire his integrity in refusing to consent to something he thought was wrong. Thomas More had boundaries: he would go out of his way to defer to the authority of his King on most matters, but there was a limit to what he was willing to consent to, and he preferred to die rather than violate that limit. He said �Enough!�, up to here you can go, but no further; there is a territory within which I am free to follow my conscience and you cannot touch me. As Mahatma Gandhi said �You can kill me. Then you�ll have my dead body. NOT MY OBEDIENCE!�.

5. I�ve only held two jobs in my entire life: 31 years at the UN and before that nine years teaching mathematics at a university in Argentina.

6. I HATE the patriarchal mindset, control, manipulation and the arbitrary exercise of authority. As a result I hate the oppression of the powerless by the mighty like the treatment of non-human animals by human society and all other forms of exploitation.

7. I have had some of my best ideas in conversation or correspondence with other students, thinkers and researchers, so I'm very fond of that kind of exchanges.

8. My ethnic background is Jewish but my religion isn�t. I describe myself as a Buddhist Witch.

9. The music I like best is baroque and classical. I also like many romantic works. The works written in the twentieth century that I like can be counted with the fingers of one hand. So-called popular music mostly gets on my nerves, though I can tolerate some styles in very small doses. I do, however, like folk music from many countries.

10. I am happily married.

11. I am strongly pro-choice and believe that the decision to terminate a pregnancy or bring it to term should be strictly the mother�s. I resent the term �pro-life� being used to designate the anti-choice position, especially since its proponents are also often supporters of war, guns, the death penalty, bombing of clinics, shooting of doctors and other right-wing anti-life items. What the anti-choice crowd is for are control, domination, tyranny, slavery and the perpetuation of the patriarchy.

12. I�ve never met a dog I didn�t like. Will Rogers is supposed to have said that he'd never met a man he didn�t like; I'd have _loved_ to have been able to introduce Will Rogers to some men I know...

13. I distrust religions the holy scriptures of which contain some form of the �kill them all� meme. Whether the �all� that are to be destroyed are witches, infidels, Amalekites, heretics, adulterers or anything else is immaterial. It is true that some followers of those religions are modern and moderate and don�t insist on the literal implementation of those injunctions, but they are still there on the books � which of course cannot be changed because they come from Above � and any shift to the right may bring them back into full currency, as has indeed been the case in several instances. �Kill them all� passages in holy books make me nervous, and I'm angered by attempts to whitewash them: �Well, yes, but it DOESN�T _REALLY_ _MEAN_ �kill them all�� What part of �kill them all� don�t you understand?? Some individuals are putting �kill them all� into practice even now, as we speak!!

14. My favorite activities, to which I devote my retirement, are reading, writing, resting, reflecting and roaming the web. I have finally found what I want to be when I grow up: a retired person...

15. I believe in non-violence and admire leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. But I realize that in some cases it is unavoidable to have to stop criminals like Adolf Hitler by violent means. Similarly, I am opposed in principle to the death penalty, but some crimes make me wish for the SLOW death penalty.

16. I believe heterosexuals are bisexuals who have lost the ability to relate sexually to beings of the same sex and homosexuals are bisexuals who have lost the ability to relate sexually to beings of the other sex. The healthiest sexuality is probably bisexual. In any case it is a matter of personal preference with no bearing on any other aspect of life. However, and though accurate statistics (an oxymoron?) are impossible to obtain (who is an artist? who is a homosexual) I believe there must be a correlation between creative artistic talent and homosexuality. I believe that were it not for the stigma attached to homosexuality in patriarchal societies there would be a lot more homosexuals. Personally I don�t have the ability to relate sexually to men, believe that if I were a woman I would be a lesbian and am surprised that more women aren't.

17. I have only set foot in three countries in my entire life: the USA, Argentina and Chile (unless one counts brief airport stops in Per�, Ecuador and Panam�, which one shouldn�t). This is a fairly low number, which I'm proud of... I don�t like to travel and believe in Blaise Pascal�s statement in his �Thoughts� that �all troubles come to human beings from not knowing how to stay quietly in their rooms�.

18. I was born in Argentina in 1940, came to the US in 1967 and worked at the UN in New York as a translator until 1998. I'm now happily retired and living in Sedalia, Missouri.

19. My politics is Democratic and left-wing.

(To be continued. Perhaps.)

Please send me your comments; I will post them in this blog or not as you wish.

My friend Fran sent me this message:

===========START OF FRAN�S MESSAGE===========

You made my day, my friend. Anything I write you can print, though most of it will be benign and unintellectual. Your philosophical thoughts throw me back 25 years into my first "real" philosophy class where a whole new world opened to me. The first philosophical question I asked myself (after I contemplated one hand clapping) was, "Does San Francisco really exist if I am not there?" Now that could be viewed as total self-absorption, a grandiose view of the world, but--it gave me lots of food for thought. And often when I grow quiet for my own form of meditation, the first thing that pops into mind is Plato's cave. We are all really trapped in the dark in so many ways.

Consensual view of reality--CRV. When I began to really change how I looked at the world, it came about by studying Eastern mysticism and eventually A Course in Miracles. Because each human being is programmed by experience and memory, every single thing we see and judge is subjective. For some crazy reason, this has brought me a lot of comfort and definitely has made me less judgmental in general. I am so non-confrontive by nature, however, that except in extreme circumstances, I rarely voice opinions. I'd make an absolutely crappy lawyer. Now--the exception is our president. When he said in a recent speech that we are not a super power but a super dooper power, I wrote him off 100%--and I am very vocal about this asshole.

Now death, that is another matter entirely. Though I am a believer in a higher power, I'm not positive there is a hereafter as I originally was taught to believe. I turned 65 this summer and death is more real to me now than it ever was. I have cared for and lost so many family members and friends and as a two time breast cancer survivor, I have fears that sometimes I can't quell. How I survive this ultimate fear is through my writing, my art, prayer, meditation, seeing Christ (Buddha or whoever) in the faces of others. Though I am nominally a Catholic, the religion itself which does indeed tie puppies to trees (and it's the male patriarchy that does the tying mostly), is not the pull. My belief in God and religion are two entirely separate things.

So, BLOG away, Emilio. My numb mind got to play a little this morning.

===========END OF FRAN�S MESSAGE===========

Thank you so much, Fran, for your kind and most interesting message.

The question "Does San Francisco really exist if I am not there?" is indeed fascinating. What if, as in my case, I have never been to San Francisco? Should I trust those who have been there and tell me there is such a city? The consensus is generally yes, and we believe in all kinds of things we have never seen. But some people have told us about the afterlife: mystics, people who have had near-death experiences. Why is it then that usually the afterlife is deemed to be in a different category from San Francisco: most people are sure of the latter but unsure of the former.

The fact that we have seen pictures and movies of San Francisco doesn�t help: many of us have seen pictures of planet Arrakis (in the movie �Dune�), but few believe that Arrakis does indeed exist in �reality�.

September 08, 2002

I have made a conscious decision to refrain in this blog from using expressions like �in my opinion�, etc. Of course anything I say without a specific attribution is my opinion. This is obvious to me but has led many times in my life to my being accused of being rigid and dogmatic. As a result I started using �in my opinion� too often and I am trying to strike a balance.

That the sky is blue and the sun is shining is only my opinion. Someone else may see things differently. There does seem to be what we call �consensual view of reality�, so if someone said that the sky I'm seeing through my window is not blue at this time I would investigate which of us is out of touch with that consensual view of reality.

I find it useful to question various aspects of that consensual view of reality (let�s call it CVR), and in many cases I find them distorted and harmful, and want to change them for my own sake and that of other living beings. Some aspects of CVR are not necessary, mandated, or inalterable, and can be changed just by wanting to. It�s like keeping one�s teeth clenched or holding one�s breath � which many of us unconsciously do from stress: when we suddenly realize that we can breathe, or relax our jaw, there is a great feeling of relief. Then our level of awareness goes down and we again hold or breath. Keeping awareness up is difficult but not impossible, and it is highly desirable.

The sages tell us that enlightenment is a sudden awareness that we can relax, that noting real can be threatened, that we don�t need to carry the universe on our shoulders, that we can shrug and basically it doesn�t matter, no big deal.

Why do we hold our breath? Inertia, everybody does it, everybody has always done it, once someone thought God spoke to him and ordered him to tell everyone else to hold their breath. There is a story that many millennia ago a wise man used to teach his followers in the evening; these were solemn occasions when everyone listened to the wise man in deep silence and concentration. But the wise man had a puppy who was playful and sometimes used to run around the students asking to be played with and petted or trying to catch mice and flies, thereby distracting the students, so on those occasions the wise man would ask a student to tie the puppy to a tree outside with a string until the lesson was over. Nowadays the religious organization loosely based on the teachings of the wise man covers the whole planet and has a strict rule that no religious teaching is to take place unless a puppy is tied with a string to a tree outside the building. Theologians have developed elaborate rules about how the Sacred Puppies are to be raised for this purpose by a special order of priests and the special Sacred Twine manufactured. Heretics have been condemned and excommunicated for claiming that tying a puppy outside to a tree is not necessary, that teachings imparted in a puppy-less fashion are perfectly legitimate and neither offend God nor call His wrath on practitioners.

So many detailed rules have to be observed in the Raising of the Puppies that obtaining them is an expensive burden on many faithful. Unsurprisingly enough, the many people involved in this profitable industry are among the staunchest proponents of tradition and have written many tracts explaining how evil and perverted the non-puppy heretics are.

Send me your comments, and tell me whether you'd like them published in the blog.

August 26, 2002

�Y si canto de este modo
por encontrarlo oportuno
no es para mal de ninguno
sino para bien de todos�

(And when I say these things
because I find them fitting
it�s for the good of all
and meaning harm to none)

�Mart�n Fierro�, by Jos� Hern�ndez (1834-1886).

I dedicate this first entry to Tess, of (�A meanie with a heart of gold...�), the example of whose web log was the push I needed to start this long-gestating project.

�Death comes to us all. Yes, even to kings he does�, says Thomas More in Robert Bolt�s �A man for all seasons�. And indeed it is an important event in our future for which many of us do not prepare, which many of us do not even contemplate. It is the only thing that is certain in our future, and yet it comes to many as a surprise.

Memes about death are among the most powerful, harmful and wrong that influence our lives. �Death is nothing terrible, for if it were it would have seemed so to Socrates�, says Epictetus in his �Manual�. But the fear of death is the foundation of all systems of coercion and control; without it the basis for arbitrary authority crumbles.

Promoting the loathing of self-induced death is especially important for the patriarchy: it needs to deny its victims this ultimate escape.

�What a downer; how depressing these thoughts are!� is a common reaction when this subject is brought up. But the awareness of death enhances life and provides a fresh perspective.

It has been said that at the moment of dying nobody thinks �I should have spent more time at the office�: when evaluating any activity consider how are you likely to feel about it at the moment of dying: avoid activities that fail this test: life is too short for them.

When interacting with friends ask each other: �If one of us were to die in the next five minutes, is there anything we would regret not having said?� and say it immediately. None of us has the certainty of living for the next five minutes.

In �Journey to Ixtl�n� by Carlos Casta�eda his teacher, Don Juan Matus, instructs him to �take your death as an advisor�.

�Y si caigo �qu� es la vida?
�Por perdida ya la di
Cuando el yugo del esclavo
Como un bravo sacud�!�

(Should I lose it, what is life?
I already gave it up
When of slavery the shackles
I courageously shrugged off!)

�La canci�n del pirata� (The pirate�s song), by Jos� de Espronceda (1810-1842).