Sunday, May 5, 2013


From The World's Religions, Huston Smith, 1991

"We hear that East and West are meeting, but it is an understatement. They are being flung at one another, hurled with the force of atoms, the speed of jets, the restlessness of minds impatient to learn the ways of others. When historians look back on our century, they may remember it most, not for space travel or the release of nuclear energy, but as the time when the peoples of the world first came to take one another seriously.

"The change that this new situation requires of us all - we who have been suddenly catapulted from town and country onto a world stage - is staggering. Twenty-five hundred years ago it took an exceptional man like Diogenes to exclaim, 'I am not an Athenian or a Greek but a citizen of the world.' Today we must all be struggling to make those words our own. We have come to the point in history when anyone who is only Japanese or American, only Oriental or Occidental, is only half human. The other half that beats with the pulse of all humanity has yet to be born.

"To borrow an image from Nietzsche, we have all been summoned to become Cosmic Dancers who do not rest heavily on a single spot but lightly turn and leap from one position to another. As World Citizen, the Cosmic Dancer will be an authentic child of its parent culture, while closely related to all. The dancer's roots in family and community will be deep, but in those depths they will strike the water table of a common humanity. For is the dancer not also human? If only she might see what has interested others, might it not interest her as well? It is an exciting prospect. The softening of divisions will induce borrowings that sometimes produce hybrids, but for the most part simply enrich species and sustain their vigor.

"The motives that impel us toward world understanding are varied, [but] ...The final reason for understanding one another is intrinsic - to enjoy the wider angle the vision affords... Without two eyes - binocular vision, there is no awareness of space's third dimension. Until sight converges from more than one angle, the world looks as flat as a postcard. The rewards of having two eyes are practical... But the final reward is the deepened view of the world itself - the panoramas that unroll before us, the vistas that extend from our feet.

"But the greatest gains need no tally. To glimpse what belonging means to the Japanese; to sense with a Burmese grandmother what passes in life and what endures; to understand how Hindus can regard their personalities as masks that overlay the Infinite within; to crack the paradox of a Zen monk who assures you that everything is holy but scrupulously refrains from certain acts - to swing such things into view is to add dimensions to the glance of spirit. It is to have another world to live in. The only thing that is good without qualification is not (as Kant argued) the good will, for a will can mean well in cramped quarters. The only thing that is unqualifiedly good is extended vision, the enlargement of one's understanding of the ultimate nature of things.

-Huston Smith

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Everything Cycles

From "Planning Ahead Can Make a Difference in the End" by AARON FREEMAN (via NPR)

"You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

"And at one point you'd hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

"And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

"And you'll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they'll be comforted to know your energy's still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you're just less orderly. Amen.

-Aaron Freeman (more here)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Seven Secret Sayings of God

From Cloud-Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown, Alan Watts, 1973

1. Before the beginning when God created the heaven and the earth, and the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep, God said I AM THAT. And it is so.

2. Also, being in eternity which is neither linear nor sequential, where all is nowever, God said, YOU MUST DRAW THE LINE SOMEWHERE. And it was drawn.

3. But it was no dreary straight line or flat wall, for God then said, HAVE A BALL. And there was a ball, in the image whereof all stars and planets came to be formed.

4. Thereupon God said, THERE ARE TWO SIDES TO EVERYTHING. And there are: the inside and the outside, the dense and the spacious, the right and the wrong, the left and the taken, for, as it is written, One shall be taken, and the other left.

5. And God said, IT MUST BE IN TIME. And thereafter it was, is, and will be, for as it is written again, 'As it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall be, through all ages of ages. Amen.'

6. And forthwith God said, SPACE IT OUT. Whereupon it came to pass that, beside this and that and now and then, there is also here and there.

7. And God beheld how firm a foundation this was and said unto himself, GET LOST. And there you are.