Gibran’s The Prophet on Children

January 12, 2020

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.


Gibran’s The Prophet: On Marriage

January 7, 2020

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.

You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days.

Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.

But let there be spaces in your togetherness,

And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another but make not a bond of love:

Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.

Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.

Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.

Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,

Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.

For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together, yet not too near together:

For the pillars of the temple stand apart,

And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.


Gibran’s The Prophet: On Love

January 2, 2020

When love beckons to you follow him,

Though his ways are hard and steep.

And when his wings enfold you yield to him,

Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.

And when he speaks to you believe in him,

Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.

Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,

So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.

Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.

He threshes you to make you naked.

He sifts you to free you from your husks.

He grinds you to whiteness.

He kneads you until you are pliant; And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.

All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.

But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,

Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,

Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.

Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.

Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;

For love is sufficient unto love.

When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart,” but rather, I am in the heart of God.”

And think not you can direct the course of love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.

Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.

But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:

To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.

To know the pain of too much tenderness.

To be wounded by your own understanding of love;

And to bleed willingly and joyfully.

To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;

To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;

To return home at eventide with gratitude;

And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.


Finding The Original Buddha

December 19, 2019

For anyone interested in religion and spirituality in general, and Buddhism in particular, Alexander Wynne has a marvelous short essay in Aeon about recovering the historical figure behind all the myths of the Buddha.

That he had a princely background, unaware of life’s sufferings, until a particular event is easily dismissed by unravelling some of the earliest strands in the Pali canon.

“In none of these is the Buddha ever called Siddhattha. Indeed, since this word means ‘one who has fulfilled [siddha] his purpose [attha]’, it looks very much like a mythic title, and in fact is used in only late mythic texts such as the Pali Apadāna.  The early texts instead refer to the Buddha as ‘the ascetic Gotama’. While the Mahāpadāna Sutta states that ‘Gotama’ was the name of the Buddha’s family lineage, other evidence tells a different story. Most texts say that the Buddha’s family belonged to the lineage of the ‘Sun’ (ādicca), which agrees with the Buddha’s oft-repeated epithet ‘kinsman of the Sun’ (ādicca-bandhu). Since there is no reliable evidence that the Buddha’s family belonged to the Gotama lineage, and a mass of textual evidence against it, how are we to explain this name? It is likely that ‘Gotama’ was the Buddha’s personal name, just as the Sanskrit equivalent (Gautama) is a common personal name in modern India.”

His early successes as a teacher are also in doubt:

“[A] critical study of the textual record suggests a surprising story: Gotama doubted his own teaching ability, was not taken seriously by the first person to witness him (as the Buddha), and did not achieve notable success with his first audience. How, then, did he succeed?

“[T]he Sutta-nipāta (‘A Collection of Discourses’) – an old corpus of wisdom literature – is more revealing. Gotama here emerges as a lone voice from the wilderness, inspiring others with a call to join an austere cult of meditation. [In the Muni-Sutta] the Buddha describes the sage as a radical outsider:  “Danger is born from intimacy, dust arises from the home. Without home, without acquaintance: just this is the vision of a sage” … Most striking is what could be called the ‘dialectic of silence’: when asked abstract metaphysical questions, such as whether the world is eternal, whether the soul is different from the body, or what happens to a liberated person (tathāgata) after death and so on, Gotama stays silent.”

Modern western Buddhism (a la Watts, et al) has lost much of the original teachings, relying more on fairly modern interpretations:

“A feature of the modern mindfulness movement, inherited from fairly recent Burmese innovations, is its appeal to the laity, and hence its essentially therapeutic, rather than salvific, aim. Nothing could be further removed from the Buddha’s radical ideal of sagehood. By insisting on ascetic discipline and a life of homeless wandering, Gotama presented mindfulness as a total life commitment [rather than as a component of an engaged lifestyle].”

Wynne suggests it is of value to regain the original insights:

“Whether or not Gotama is correct, his voice is worth hearing. His antirealistic analysis – in which the world depends on the activity of our minds and sense faculties – could be a useful aid to modern cognitive science, and might broaden the focus of the mindfulness movement beyond therapy … Sleeping out in the open, eating once a day, and frequently on the road, Gotama cuts a more austere figure than expected. His silent wisdom comes from somewhere else. We learn about his early failures, and then the strange story of his success: how he created an ancient cult of meditation, through enigmatic silence, radical ideas, and a simple insistence on being mindfully aware of the moment.”


Opium Of The Masses Less Potent Today

October 17, 2019

The Pew Research Centre has issued a major new study entitled “In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues At Rapid Pace“.

“In Pew Research Center telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019, 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christians when asked about their religion, down 12 percentage points over the past decade. Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated share of the population, consisting of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009 …

“all subsets of the religiously unaffiliated population – a group also known as religious “nones” – have seen their numbers swell. Self-described atheists now account for 4% of U.S. adults, up modestly but significantly from 2% in 2009; agnostics make up 5% of U.S. adults, up from 3% a decade ago; and 17% of Americans now describe their religion as “nothing in particular,” up from 12% in 2009.”

The decline affects all geographic and socio-economic groups in the States:

 

The odd thing, of course, is that the evangelicals continue their pervasive hold over the Republican Party (even with an idolatrous and adulterous buffoon as leader). I suspect their conservatism will harden even further as their numbers (and influence in the wider community) continue to deteriorate.  But the longterm outlook is bleak for them, and the GOP may disappear along with organized religion if these trends continue and the party doesn’t find another source of support.

‘Religious “nones” are growing faster among Democrats than Republicans, though their ranks are swelling in both partisan coalitions. And although the religiously unaffiliated are on the rise among younger people and most groups of older adults, their growth is most pronounced among young adults.”

There is an enormous amount of valuable data to absorb from this survey and I have only touched on a few high points.  This is well worth studying in more depth.


The Trend To “No Religion”

April 3, 2019

Open Culture has an article on the popularity of religious groups in the United States.  The growth of those declaring “no religion” over the last couple of decades is noteworthy.

The reasons given are also interesting.  A non-belief in God is only the fourth most popular reason; complaints about religious institutions scores higher. Much of the decline seems to have come from “mainline” protestant denominations.

These changes have significant political effects:

“Evangelicals punch way above their weight,” says [Ryan] Burge. “They turn out a bunch at the ballot box. That’s largely a function of the fact that they’re white and they’re old” … A 2016 PRRI report noted that “religiously unaffiliated Americans do not vote in the same percentages as evangelicals, and are often underrepresented at the polls … Additionally, and most importantly to point out any time these numbers come up: “the nones” is an entirely overdetermined category full of people who agree on little.”

That compares problematically with the evangelicals who tend to vote a lot and as a bloc.


Jonestown: 40 Years On

November 18, 2018

Forty years ago today, in the jungles of Guyana, an extraordinary event took place: the mass suicide (along with some murders) of more than 900 followers of the Reverend James Jones. Almost all the victims were Americans, voluntarily drawn somehow into Jones’ mix of mysticism and socialism, drawn somehow to follow him, mostly willingly, even over the cliff of death into “revolutionary suicide.”

More than half the Jonestown population were women, many with infant children whom they obediently fed kool-aid and cyanide on that last day, forty years ago today.

Cyanide takes a few minutes to kill and it is not a pleasant way to go. But if you are ever tempted to romanticize these deaths, perhaps it is best to remember the radical brainwashing needed to bring hundreds of mothers to the extremes of mass murder and suicide.

Jones joined the “revolutionary suicide” with a bullet to the brain, his ideas forgotten, his death glorified as a gratuitous cult. Guns and knives did for several more about whim no-one speaks.  Not many survived, not many at all.  The people fade into the background, but the event remains.