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.