Thursday, June 09, 2005

Beatty vs. the Governor: Send Arnold back to Hollywood

I read with interest the article transcribed from a speech given by Warren Beatty today from the keynote address delivered at the graduation ceremony for UC Berkeley's Goldman School for Public Policy. While I agreed with the underlying sentiments expressed I found myself wishing Mr. Beatty had stood up for actors. Certainly there is no reason to assert today that actors contribute less to our common happiness and wellbeing than do politicians. I would make a case for the contrary. I know one honest politician but I have known several honest actors. And actors do not expect the lavish retirement accorded to members of Congress and the larger legislatures. They know if they don't give the audience what it wants they could starve. A laudable attitude that keeps them on their toes.

The state of California would be far better off if this actor turned governor were still making the same quality movies for which he was so well known.

So I would I suggest to Mr. Beatty that his respect for politicians is misplaced. We all have wish lists of issues but first and foremost America needs to return control of governance to the people and reinstall accountability in governance. That is after all, the original idea. That does not mean handing control off to a new form of aristocracy which is what politicians have become.

Being elected to office is the equivalent of winning the lottery.

It has been going bad for a long time but it was the idea that politicians can experiment on us that destroyed the basis of accountability. The ideas of the past, grounded in the failures of socialist thought and utility theory do not work. With the advent of socialism in the early 1900s the practice of installing clever ideas with no proof they would work became accepted. Theories are nice but should never be used without full liability for harm caused and a comprehensive impact study, not in business and not in government.

No-fault divorce, welfare reform, and other nifty ideas foisted on us through legislation have destroyed the expectations of generations of Americans. It has to stop.

And in a world where Americans cannot trust the electoral process discussing health care is like shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.

We are as able to audit the accounts of those convicted of crimes like Enron as we are the ballots that elect our leaders. Therefore, America has no reasonable expectation of an honest vote. That should scare you. So, while I very much enjoyed the warm sentiments and insights of Mr. Beatty I would urge him to rethink his priorities.

Consider for a moment the retirement and benefits packages of those who serve. Definitely not what they voted up for us. Personally, if I had my way I would put the Congress on whatever privatized Social Security system they elect for us and give the elderly the retirement packages customized for Congress. To expensive you say? Just cancel the present war and we can afford it, I answer.

Which brings us to another issue on which I disagree with Mr. Beatty while sharing his sentiments. Taxation is not the best way to equalize wealth. The robber barons of California went after the money with the help of various legislatures and then bought respectability and acceptance, which was all too cheaply for sale. Being able to buy acceptability without fear of liability makes thievery carried out under the guise of “business” and “government” far too attractive. If this had not been the case, if liability were the disincentive it should be, then the problems with California's 'energy deregulation' would by now have resulted in the seizure of the ill gotten gains and hopefully restitution would have been rendered to those harmed. Jail time is far too good for them. Give them jobs at Walmart. Wealth is not the problem; what wealth makes acceptable to us is.

This kind of predatory behavior is not a recent development and predates both Mr. Beatty and myself.

Far from representing a forgotten era of capitalism the Roaring Twenties was alive with larceny, the legacy of law and practice already distorted by the growing partnership between government and big business that is only today reaching its full flower through the logical consistency of the NeoCons. The motto of these Grandees of Greed ought to be, “If you are going to steal, steal everything.” No one can deny they are efficient. Who else would have ended combat pay the second a soldier is wounded and then charged the injured for food and treatment while still in the hospital, rendering a bill on discharge?

One can imagine the murmurs of awe and respect issuing from the now dead lips of Nazi bureaucrats.

I will happily accord any politician the respect I give my plumber if he or she does the job as promised. Politicians deserve exactly as much respect and profit as they earn by fulfilling the duty they owe to those who pay their salaries. Perhaps at sometime in America's past being a politician meant a life of service but for longer than either Mr. Beatty of I have lived being a politician in America has meant, for most of those 'called' to that profession, serving up Americans to the interests of power. Being an actor is a profession far more worthy of respect. Honor is in any work well and honestly performed, not in the kind of work. Any actor posing as a corpse can tell you that.

So, Mr. Beatty, give actors the respect they deserve. I'd rather have a bad actor acting than one playing politician any day.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Faith and Religious Practice: Quantum Consciousness

When we accept the presence of the sacred in our lives and begin to listen to the flow of spirit coming to us from a place unseen we are confronted with a profound choice. Will we choose to hear or will we shoulder past the ineffable and continue on our way, ignoring what our minds tell us is irrational?
No choice comes without risks. But what is risked is not necessarily apparent, either to the one confronted or to those watching the logic of choice work its way out into the material circumstances that will record the totality of our individual lives.
The verities of the religious experience may be very different than we have thought.
This goes to several questions. One of these touches on the nature of reality, which we are beginning to understand through the insights offered through quantum physics as very different that previously believed. It is not the finite, knowable world that we saw it to be at the beginning of the 20th century. Most human institutions still rest on the assumptions of that century if not on an even earlier century. The structures of human institutions, born from the ideas of generations past, function as repositories for the conservation of moral and institutional capital and are therefore falling edge indicators for coming change.
This takes us to the question of faith, not in the way we have traditionally understood this but in a new way that I characterize as quantum consciousness. According to quantum physics each part of the whole, no matter how far removed from all others, is actually in immediate and intimate contact. This means that the faith derived article of belief stating that all life connects is literally, physically true, the spiritual then being understood as an aspect of our nature heretofore seen as separate and problematical.
But if we are all cojoined, both with our own spiritual nature and with the material world that extends from that nature then this is not faith but intuitively derived truth. There have been indications for a long time that those arenas of human insight, including art and literature, actually function as predictors for oncoming waves of change in how we perceive the nature of reality.
Dr. Leonard Shlain's book, Art and Physics, Parallel Visions in Space, Time, and Light, notes the relationship between the underlying conceptualizations in edge art and their predictive function in physics.
What, then is intuition and how can we use it as a tool for human progress?
Is religious intuition a partially understood means through which we as humans may understand our own nature and progress towards some unseen horizon? This would seem to be the case. But as with all intuition this is subject to interpretation filtered through the veil of ideas each of us uses to construct the immediate nature of our everyday reality. Because we see through those filters of our own internal experiences we use iconic representations that provide a context for meaning. This in large part explains the difficulty in communicating between individuals coming from different perspectives. But only in part. We can also be mistaken about what specific iconic representations mean to others seen through cultural filters when we translate these into language.
Assumptions about what may seem obvious are a constant block to real communication.
We are spirits living in bodies that see the world through images, language and ideas that may vary widely in understanding. Our backgrounds, genders, cultures, level of spiritual development, education, age, and other factors moderate our 'beliefs.' Our beliefs create the reality with which we react and interact with others.
We are spirits in process of becoming. What we are becoming lies beyond the horizon of our ability to understand. But if we are connected in the way that intuition and quantum physics now indicates then the comfortable and artificial limits we have provided through human culture, practice and religion are as fragile as a curtain suffering long exposure to the sun. It is ready to tear and only our assumptions are holding it in place. Those assumptions are what created it in the first place, let's remember.
So what does this mean to us as individuals and as a people? It means that as individuals we need to confront the nature of the world in which we live and the nature of the world that lives in each of us. Today that need is greater because we are living in a time of transition. Every institution of humanity is showing the strain of long use that has worn it to shreds. Those institutions, forged from the ideas originating in the human mind, are failing because they are not modeling the coming change in consciousness that has been so long predicted.
Baldly stated, that change is from a hierarchal structure for human organization to a flatter, matrixed model for human relations. Equality expressed spiritually.
This is evident everywhere, even in the excesses of hierarchy reaching its logical conclusion as a form of resistance to change. In politics today it can be understood as the one predicted Rapture, that being in truth, the realization that all are one, Christians seeing this as a union in the spirit of Christ, others seeing it through the explanatory iconic representations of their own belief systems. Interestingly enough, nearly all human religious have predicted a transition in this period of time, another argument that the intuition driving these visions has predictive value.
As with all monumental transitions this one is tumultuous, impacting many in immediate ways.
The form and content of churches, giving place to the continuing human need to experience the sacred, are changing in unexpected ways that are leaving members of the older generations bewildered and isolated. The cognitive process to which the younger generations have been subject may well have changed them organically far more than we yet understand. The familiar structure of the human experience, firmly invested in a hierarchal world view is rapidly growing flatter through a series of punctuating events. This bald fact has been observable in business, with the downsizing of the Fortune 500 through the collapse of middle management with the advent of the desk top computer. This has been balanced by the almost hysterical desire of those in positions of power to hold on to the past by accumulating reservoirs of wealth.
The effect of quantum consciousness first appeared in venues for human action that were most easily modified by the forces of market choice. America, representing the optimization of freedom remained a mystic beacon for human hope even as the objective conditions that had made this true were diminished. Where choice is possible, in religion, in occupation, in relationships, choice has been exercised with growing frequency. We are seeing it last in government and other organizations that fail to allow for the modifying power of individuals voting with their feet and finances.
Quantum consciousness is the realization of human freedom, not in the political realm but in all parts of all venues for action.
Individuals from all parts of the world have accepted the idea that they should by inherent right be free. All of us are now trying to understand what freedom means practiced in the individual life. Our beliefs and the hope it generates may be changing the larger direction through the compiled force of quantum consciousness itself. Nothing is separate, as we are coming to see.
The body of human knowledge has increased exponentially. It is no longer possible for any one human being to know everything in even a subsection of one discipline when only ten generations ago it was possible for one individual to have working knowledge of the whole of human knowledge derived from Western Civilization. This rate of change has only shifted upwards with the interface created by the presence of the Internet and other means for the dissemination of memes that would previously have taken years instead of seconds or minutes to change the idea sets of individuals across divides of space and time.
So what does this say about how we should view religious practice?
With respect, with an open mind and with the view of understanding it as an overlooked tool for human understanding of the entire human experience.

Evangelicals are hypocrites: Do not emulate them.

Evangelicals are hypocrites: Do not emulate them.

It is all well and good to call for the signing of endless petitions asserting some kind of ownership in a belief in Christ, but those are empty words. No one owns the message; but each of us can deliver it. How we do that tells everyone whether or not we are living in the Work.
It is not hard to tell. No one mistakes the concentration camps as acts of Christian love. No one who really looks and listens can believe that the evangelicals now pounding their chests and staking out the moral high ground are about anything but deceit. That many of them may be deceiving themselves as well is pathetic.
Those evangelical Christians who offend by using words to change His message are not acting as Christians. But are you? Christ is not about politics in the sense that politics can be used to force others to act. Christ is demonstrated in us when we act as Him, allowing the Gift of His spirit to move us in our own lives.
Sorry if this seems unkind but it should be so obvious. I spent most of my life as an atheist until Christ claimed me. But now I have no doubts.
Reclaiming Christianity cannot be done with words. As the gift was given so must it be lived. Only your acts have the power to affirm His message. Consider for a moment the message of Christ.
Christ gave us his body and blood as a meal to satisfy our needs. He did this freely. He could have at any time avoided the pain of torture and crucifixion. He welcomed it. This was not in His words but in the sacrifice of His human life on the Cross. That was the first part of His gift, but not the greater. The fact of His eventual death was determined at the moment he was born. What could death, even death on the Cross, be to the Son of God who clearly saw beyond its veil?
That death meant nothing. But then, He rose from the grave and appeared again among His followers to speak and to teach. He told them He had still one gift to give. And this time He gave His Spirit. It was not in words that He gave His spirit to dwell in each of us. This He did as a tangible, living act that broke His spirit like the loaf of bread He had held in His hands at the last Supper. After that moment in time we dwelt in Him, as He lives in us, all of us. It does not matter if you believe in Him, He lives in each of us no matter how we doubt and fear.
He has given this precious gift to each of us.
His actions changed the course of history. Because of His acts today we are different. The reality of his acts and Gift sent a message into the world that became greater than its parts. This happened because Christianity was not founded on words but on actions. If you would reclaim Christianity then you must retake it by the compounded acts of your life speaking out the simple but profound beliefs spoken by Jesus with His own life.
We are One in Him. What you do for anyone else so do you do for Him, directly and immediately. Love others as yourself. Love yourself so that you can love others.
This was foundational to the beliefs of the church Christ left behind in trust.
It was this belief made manifest throughout the first centuries of Christianity that changed the face of the world, moving humanity towards a vision of love and unity through the life of one Man.
As it was so it is today.
So toss that petition in the trash can. Now take your life, which is a gift from God, and make with it the living reality that speaks the essence of the message and the reality that is our living gift from the Messiah. Make your own statement. By so doing you will confound those who misuse Him.
Instead of requesting that someone else, in this case the government of the United States, care for others take up the duty left to you by Christ and do it with your own hands. In so doing you can bring the consciousness of Christ back into the world. Where there is disease, heal, as did the Christians of the early years.
In those early centuries the cities of the Roman Empire were frequently subject to plagues that killed thousands. As a practice, pagans had abandoned their own relatives to die when they fell ill. But early Christians, recognizing these victims as extensions of the Body of Christ, made them comfortable, feed them and tended to their needs. As a result as many as 70% lived. This was living the Word; the extrapolation of faith into acts.
The early church was a tool for making the Word real in the sight of all humanity. They heard and came. But this process was not through preaching words but in the eloquence of action.
There were many reasons for becoming Christian. To be Christian was to be persecuted, marginalized, despised. But it was also a force for change and the least among pagans saw, heard, and came.
For a woman becoming Christian meant that she owned herself. She could not be sold into marriage when she was as young as 10. She was not required to abort or kill her babies if her husband did not want them. She controlled her own property. If her husband died she was not given back to her father to be sold again into marriage. She could control and sell her own property and hold positions in the early Church. Many early Christian women did just that.
The promise of freedom built an early church culture of benevolence and love. 60% of early Christians were women. We know these things from careful study of the objective facts left behind, not from the obfuscations of later generations of 'church fathers.' Read the Rise of Christianity by Dr. Rodney Stark, a study in the sociology of the early church if you doubt.
The human spirit was hungry for more than food. They also hungered for freedom, especially the least of these, women. Women had no standing or rights in the pagan world.
That was the living truth on which Christianity flourished, the living word of Christ in works.
Where there was hunger, they feed that hunger. In a world that hungered mightily for freedom Christianity was a feast of the spirit. We know Christ today because that early church feed all of the hungers of a humanity with many needs.
We hunger for freedom today as much as for food to fill our bellies.
Where there is want and lack fill those needs.
It is much easier today than it was 2,000 years ago.
Now we have cooperative organizations enabled through our culture that allow us to donate, work, teach and heal with our spare time. Because we are more productive we have spare time. Go into your own community and see what needs to be done. Then do it.
Given the direction of the government of the United States and the message now being delivered by the Evangelicals awaiting the Rapture in the Rose Garden, there is, every day, more to be done.
Stop giving unto Caesar what is not due to him. Today you can choose. You can start giving to those who hunger for all of the things that the early church gave to those who they touched. Those things are still needed. You can hold up a mirror that makes the lies that offend you obvious to all who see.
But do it from your own heart, from your community, and from the love that Christ gave you without using the coercive power of government.
Christ never voted for the lesser of two evils and neither should you.