Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Reading Signs

Every word I write for you
Carries symbols to your heart,
Languages I wish I knew
That secret truths I might impart.

But the meaning and the signs
Lie in worlds I cannot sense
Ripening beneath the vines
Of courage and coincidence.

Could I go beyond this form,
I would venture in your name
And entering the raging storm
Find the eye from whence it came.

But instead I plead for grace,
Like a rose upon the lip
That you read its pleasant trace
And on its thorns do not grip.


Thursday, 14 January 2010

False Logic

According to a recent poll, 52% of Britons believe that religion is becoming a divisive issue in society. Are differences between religions a cause of evil? In my view, the cause of the world’s evils is greed, lust, anger and pride, all coming from the ego, and don’t most religions agree on this? And yet most people of faith are not very logical when putting their beliefs into practice. You don’t need to be a student of history to know that! But many people of no faith, despite their logical scepticism, are not very logical either – we’re all human after all – in believing that without the motivation of differing ideologies, the conflict between peoples would magically disappear. One problem with this is that it is in itself an ideology (and one of the tenets of communism). But more importantly it is based on a false logic. “Conflicts are usually along lines of ideological difference. Therefore it is the differences that cause the conflict.” Without ideological differences, the greed, the lust for power, the anger that drives us to retaliate and the pride that makes us value ourself over another still remain. The differences are merely a vehicle through which the evil expresses itself.

This kind of false logic is tremendously prevalent. The latest form that I’ve come across is the following, which seems to be a widely held view even among intelligent people. “Most terrorists are Muslims. Therefore, there must be something about Islam that encourages terrorism.” This is the same false logic. To see why, we can give examples of other statements of this form.  

“The sun rises in the East. Therefore, there must be something about the East that makes the sun rise there.”  

“Most witch-burnings were carried out by the church. Therefore, there must have been something about Christianity that promoted witch-burning.”  

“Most communist sympathizers were well-educated. Therefore there’s something about being well-educated that made one more liable to sympathize with communism.”  

“Most child sacrifice is carried out by witch-doctors. Therefore, there must be something about witch-doctor beliefs that encourages child sacrifice.”  

“Most developing countries that sign up to international trade agreements become more prosperous in subsequent years. Therefore there must be something about signing such agreements that increases prosperity.”  

“Most bananas come from tropical countries. Therefore, there must be something about the tropical environment that’s great for growing bananas.”  

As these examples show, this is false logic, but just because it’s false logic doesn’t mean that the deductions we arrive at can’t be true. In each case, if the second statement were true, then that would explain the first, but the truth in the first instance (except for the one about bananas) is almost always more complicated. Of course if there were something about Islam that encouraged terrorism, that would explain why most terrorists in recent years have been Muslim. And if it is ideological difference that causes conflict, that would explain why conflict is often along lines of ideological difference. In both cases however, history shows that it has not always been this way. The danger of ideology is that it provides organizational structures for evil. The original source of evil however lies deeper and without a suitable ideology its expression will always organize itself into some new ideology which it will use to justify itself as we saw in 1930s Germany. The original source of all evil lies in the ego. Ironic is it not that the wily old ego should take control of the steering wheel of even those structures, all the different religions, that most desire to control it.

Finally there’s another false logic that the terribly unequal treatment of women in some Muslim countries is also the fault of religion. At face value, this is undeniable with the Koran saying that women should inherit half that of men and so forth. But something which I came across recently (in a book called “Women of Sufism” by the American Camille Adams Helminski) is that it fails to recognize the context of Arabia at that time. Even in the West, an estate went to the first-born male, while in uncivilized Arabia maltreatment of women was severe and polygamy the norm. The Koran actually marked a revolution in women’s rights. How few people realize that today! So much so that the first Islamic saint is regarded to be Rabia who not only was a woman, but came from a very poor background. For anyone to rise out of obscurity was very unusual in the ancient world, let alone a woman. Nevertheless, the radical fundamentalists of today use the Koran to subjugate women. It is the lust for power and the over one-thousand year book provides a convenient pretext. But in light of the context of the Koran, it would certainly be false logic for us to blame their behaviour on the religion and as we shall see their behaviour is also based on false logic.  

Context is important because it recognizes intention. The fundamentalist believes that “The Koran was literal truth. Truth never changes. Therefore it still is literal truth.” But this is false logic, if we were to recognize that truth lies not in the moral laws and beliefs, but in the relations between those beliefs and society, in their intention. Another thing I learnt recently is that even in the short time during which the Koran was written, morals changed with slavery and polygamy going from acceptable to discouraged and alcohol going from discouraged to prohibited. Recognizing underlying intention, and letting go of the false logic of the fundamentalist regarding truth, the Islamic world would become a much more enlightened place, but for the moment they are stuck in a cultural time machine of former glory and shattered dreams. Perhaps they need another saint like Rabia to save them.  

More seriously though, the key is education.

But how to respond to injustice and achieve collective harmony? Seeing the tragedies of natural disasters and man's inhumanity throws us off balance. All each of us can do is realize that peace is an inside job and begins on the individual level. It cannot be imposed from outside us. "Be the change you want to see in the world." And how difficult it is for each of us to be mindful of not ourselves falling into false logic such as anger when we have been wronged and resorting to acts of war within our mind and emotions. So we must work on ourselves with devotion, mindfulness and compassion.

Edit: But now I see that I've caught myself in a false logic. Because if I truly believed that peace begins on the individual level, then I wouldn't have written this blog nor held up a mirror to the false logic in the world before that mirror was truly polished and I knew myself. Yet even if our own mirrors are not yet polished, there are times when to not speak out is to be an accomplice or in reverse if another were to point out our errors we might sometimes be grateful of that. A timely intervention could save another from trouble. So I guess I've got my own false logic to work through... On the one hand, I believe that we should "judge not lest we ourselves be judged", yet I also believe that we should speak out against injustice. So maybe I shouldn't have published this blog until I'd polished my own mirror of false logic, or then again maybe you'll allow that even a foggy mirror can shed some light. So if you'll forgive my foggy mirror, I've got some polishing to do, and in the meantime I'll try not to hold it up to the world unless absolutely necessary.

Blessings! And I hope you enjoy the song... "If the Stars Were Mine" by Melody Gardot.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Mary Gauthier - Our Lady of the Shooting Stars

Our Lady of the Shooting Stars
Was that you last night?
Did we dance a whispered waltz,
Did I hold you in my sight?
When morning came with open arms
She lifted you from me,
The sunlight burned my eyes away
And now I cannot see.

Our Lady of the Shooting Stars
As I face the early light
All that I can think of now
Is joining you in flight
But I have followed gypsies girl
I've lost my way back home
I've held the phoenix to my chest
And ended up alone.

If I move to you
Will you move to me?
If I move to you
Will you move to me?

Our Lady of The Shooting Stars
Teach me how to know
I want to feel my thoughts go dark
And rest inside your flow.
I'll awaken without fear
And breathe the cool clean air,
With your words upon my lips
Your will becomes my prayer


Our Lady of the Shooting Stars
Look what you have done
You've led me to the water's edge,
Running from sun.
Are you in the briny mist?
Do seagulls scream your name?
Their wings suspended by your love,
Or do I reach for you in vain?


Friday, 1 January 2010

New Year's Day Haikus

Wet coal in the hearth,
I wonder will it ever dry
And come alight?

The old year ending,
In the sea the setting sun
Appears like sunrise.

A dusting of snow
Sprinkled in the deep of night
Marks the New Year white.

Behold the full moon!
Because its surface is rough,
Its light is so smooth.