Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Glimpse of Outward Infinity

This stunning video contains what is called "the single most important picture ever taken by humanity." Actually it contains several taken in 1995 by the Hubble space telescope. I'll let the video speak for itself, but the point is, we reside in a realm that is too large to comprehend.

Now, viewed in conjunction with the fractal video below, you get a clear idea of how we reside at the fulcrum of two vast infinities. Draw your own conclusions.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Glimpse of Inward Infinity

Here are some looks deep into mandelbrot sets, which are fractal images computed from a relatively simple mathematical formula. Fractals are found throughout nature, from clouds and lightning strikes to shorelines and cabbage heads. Keep in mind, these are real representations of our everyday world, not just creative artwork. This is nature depicted mathematically. This is our world as we look deeper, and deeper, and deeper.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cautionary Tale of a Nail

A tradesman transacted a good morning's business at a fair and filled his bags with gold and silver. He wanted to reach home by nightfall, so he strapped his bags of money to his saddle and rode off on his steed.

At noon he stopped in a small town for food. As he was about to set out again, the stable-boy brought his horse and said: "Sir, a nail is wanting in the shoe on the left hind foot of your animal."

"Then let it be wanting," replied the tradesman. "I’m in a hurry and the shoe will doubtless hold for as long as I have yet to travel."

Late in the afternoon he stopped again, this time to feed his horse. And at this place another boy told him a nail was wanting in the horse’s shoe and asked whether he should take the horse to a farrier.

“No, no, let it be!” replied the tradesman. “It’ll last the couple of hours I have yet to travel and I’m in haste.” And he rode off.

But with the twilight his horse began to limp. From limping the horse soon began stumbling. The tradesman prodded the animal onward, but the horse fell to the ground and broke a leg as the money bags tumbled loose and spilled the gold and silver into a ravine.

The tradesman recovered what little money he could in the darkness and wandered off toward home on foot, leaving his badly injured horse behind.

“All this misfortune," he muttered to himself, "is owing to haste and the want of a nail.”

~ Anonymous folk tale

Saturday, February 16, 2008

I Ching #46 ~ Pushing Upward

Pushing upward has supreme success.
One must see the great man.
Fear not.
Departure toward the south
Brings good fortune.

“The pushing upward of the good elements encounters no obstruction and is therefore accompanied by great success. The pushing upward is made possible not by violence but by modesty and adaptability. Since the individual is borne along with the propitiousness of the time, he advances. He must go to see authoritative people. He need not be afraid to do this, because success is assured. But he must set to work, for activity (this is the meaning of 'the south') brings good fortune."

Friday, February 15, 2008

Zeus & the Good Things ~ Aesop Fable #525

The Good Things were too weak to defend themselves from the Bad Things, so the Bad Things drove them off to heaven. The Good Things then asked Zeus how they could reach mankind. Zeus told them they should not go together all at once, but only one at a time. This is why people are constantly besieged by Bad Things, since they are nearby, while Good Things come more rarely, since they must descend to us from heaven one by one.

Symptom of Change

It is only with great caution that I venture political opinions. As Dylan says, we live in a political world. And our politics tend to be vicious, combative, sprinkled with lies and error.

However …

Look at the three front-runners for the US presidency, soon to be narrowed to two. Right now we have a white woman, a black man, and a Republican who has a long history of cooperating with Democrats. This array is significant.

America has never before considered a black person for one of its top offices. It has not been "ready."

The last time a woman even came close to election was 1984 when Geraldine Ferraro ran for vice president. Back then most believed the country was not "ready." After all, what would happen if Walter Mondale became president and something happened to him??

As recently as four years ago, McCain was battered harshly in the GOP primaries by a Republican political machine that labeled him a turncoat liberal.

Coming back to today, what can we see? Only one thing clearly. Change is in the air. Regardless of who gets elected, there will be major change. Not change simply tied to the election itself, but a broader change that's coming. The 2008 elections are only a symptom.

Like anyone else, I have no idea what form this change will take, but I know this: Prepare yourself because something big is happening.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Did She Know of bin Laden's Murder?

I confess to being a conspiracy theorist when it comes to Osama bin Laden. I remember a Christmas lunch in 2001 when I announced to a group of coworkers that bin Laden was dead. They looked at me in momentary stunned silence and then went back to the standard office gossip.
  • I figured he’d been killed in the Battle of Tora Bora in Afghanistan earlier in December of that year when U.S. and British special forces blasted the cave-entrenched al-Qaeda headquarters to smithereens. 
  • And I figured bin Laden would be more useful to the Bush administration dead rather than alive, and that his death would therefore remain a secret. (The subject of an upcoming post.)
There have been rumors and speculation about his death for nearly seven years now, coming from multiple sources. The fact that he has not been seen, that his video appearances are highly suspect, and that his audio tapes also are doubtful only add to the speculation. Yes, we all know the CIA has confirmed his voice print on a couple of audio tapes, but I’m with most of the world in believing the CIA’s integrity is seriously compromised.

Now another voice has been added to the chorus regarding bin Laden’s death – this one carrying considerable political weight.

This past November 2, Benazir Bhutto, in an interview with David Frost on BBC, described Omar Sheikh as “the man who murdered Osama bin Laden.” Of course on December 27 Bhutto – head of the Pakistan Peoples Party and two-term Pakistani prime minister - was herself brutally assassinated.

During the interview, Bhutto was answering one of Frost’s questions regarding the identities of people who had previously attempted to assassinate her. She made the statement regarding Omar Sheikh as bin Laden’s murderer, and she and Frost just continued the interview without further clarification. Afterward the BBC re-ran the interview but edited out Bhutto’s statement about bin Laden. There was an uproar and the BBC later apologized and again re-ran the interview, this time with her statement restored. Most curious.

Yes, it’s entirely possible that Bhutto misspoke. Some think she may have meant journalist Daniel Pearl (although she mentioned Pearl moments earlier in the interview) instead of bin Laden. She also was quoted in October that she would help the U.S. military find bin Laden. But view for yourself the YouTube clip above and observe her tone as she makes the statement.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

From the Tao Te Ching

When a superior man hears of the Tao,
he immediately begins to embody it.
When an average man hears of the Tao,
he half believes it, half doubts it.
When a foolish man hears of the Tao,
he laughs out loud.
If he didn't laugh,
it wouldn't be the Tao.

Thus it is said:
The path into the light seems dark,
the path forward seems to go back,
the direct path seems long,
true power seems weak,
true purity seems tarnished,
true steadfastness seems changeable,
true clarity seems obscure,
the greatest art seems unsophisticated,
the greatest love seems indifferent,
the greatest wisdom seems childish.

The Tao is nowhere to be found.
Yet it nourishes and completes all things.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Love Your Fate

Relationships between people end. They always end, one way or another. Our son recently lost his young wife to illness. She died, leaving him with two small children to raise by himself. A restaurant owner I know suddenly left his mate of many years in favor of his new trophy girlfriend. Relationships end and the survivors must figure out how to go on.

Let me say that the mythologist Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) was one of the wisest men I've ever read or listened to. He was a true sage and I love to read his wisdom. Yesterday I was skimming through "A Joseph Campbell Companion" and found the following, talking about the survivor mentality.

Joseph Campbell wrote ...

When a relationship breaks off, it takes a person a little while to settle and find a new commitment. It’s after the break off, when there is no new commitment and life has been divested of all of the potentials, that this painful reaction takes place. For some people, this is a dangerous period.

The psyche knows how to heal, but it hurts. Sometimes the healing hurts more than the initial injury, but if you can survive it, you’ll be stronger, because you’ve found a large base. Every commitment is a narrowing and when that commitment fails, you have to get back to a larger base and have the strength to hold to it.

Nietzsche was the one who did the job for me. At a certain moment in his life, the idea came to him of what he called “the love of your fate.” Whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens, you say, “This is what I need.” It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge. If you bring love to that moment – not discouragement – you will find the strength is there. Any disaster you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life. What a privilege! This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have a chance to flow.

Then, when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments that seemed to be great failures followed by wreckage were the incidents that shaped the life you have now. You’ll see that this is really true. Nothing can happen to you that is not positive. Even though it look and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not. The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Dog & the Shellfish - Aesop Fable # 430

There was a dog who like to swallow eggs. He happened to come across a shellfish and thought it was an egg. The dog opened his mouth, took a big gulp and swallowed the shellfish whole. When his stomach grew heavy and began to ache, the dog remarked, “Well, that’s what I get for thinking anything round must be an egg!”

Fashion Statement

Why is being “grown up” regarded as so … well, unstylish? That’s what I asked myself yesterday after reading in the New York Times about the current trend in men’s fashions. According to the Times, the season’s look for men is “chicken-chested, hollow-cheeked and undernourished.”

“People are afraid to look over 21 or make any statement of what it means to be an adult,” says Kelly Cutrone of the fashion branding company People’s Revolution. And George Brown of influential Red Model Management says when male models call and tell him they’re 6-foot-1, he asks what they weigh. “If they say 188 or 190, we can’t use him. Our guys are 155 at that height.” At that height a male model’s waist should be 28 inches and he should sport a long neck, pencil thighs and a chest no more than 35.5 inches, Brown says.

Of course we just saw the long-overdue breast-beating from Diane von Furstenberg, plus Vogue's editors and other fashion leaders about starved female models and the crippling eating disorders they engender. And now this. The irony is that the Center for Disease Control just released data showing that, since 1960, the average American male’s height has gone from 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-9.5, and his weight from 166 to 191 pounds in the same period. “Nowadays a model who weighed in at 191 pounds, no matter how handsome, would be turned away from most agencies or else sent to a fat farm,” the Times concluded.

Including yours truly. My disclaimer is that I’m an overweight male. But I’m not writing this out of personal angst or envy. I just don’t know what the hell is going on.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Oedipus Bush

If you want to see characters and plots of great literature, turn off Masterpiece Theater and turn your attention to the White House. No, George Bush isn’t reading Sophocles, he’s got the lead. I was fascinated this weekend to read about a new book, The Bush Tragedy, where political author Jacob Weisberg carefully builds the case for a messy, Freudian father-son relationship at the root of our commander-in-chief’s behavior.

Here are two seminal sentences: Bush “has been driven since childhood by a need to differentiate himself from his father, to challenge, surpass and overcome him.” And to do that, “he trained himself to be hasty, extreme and unbending.” Add a spoonful of sibling rivalry in the form of smarter brother Jeb, and we’ve got the makings of a real head-case in the White House.

While the president’s Oedipal leanings seem to have eluded much of the electorate, suave anchormen and political pundits, not so with Karl Rove and Dick Cheney. The vice president “appreciated, in a way more subtle than Rove did, the way in which Bush needed to make himself his father’s antithesis.” The book claims Cheney has been able to get Bush’s buy-in on countless darkside actions simply by presenting them as “bold, game-changing and the right thing to do.” Early on, of course, was “finishing Poppy’s business” by toppling Saddam Hussein.

It’s important to note that Weisberg’s book doesn’t appear to be the simple-minded psychobabble of a Bush hater. The tale he tells is replete with details and testimonials from the Bush family itself, with many of its descriptions and conclusions recounted from earlier credible volumes such as Peter Schweizer’s The Bushes: Portrait of a Dynasty, Jordan Frank’s Bush on the Couch, and Craig Unger’s more recent The Fall of the House of Bush.

If the premise of The Bush Tragedy is valid, you're seeing classical themes dating to 450 B.C. working themselves out in a contemporary theater of war, governmental overthrow, torture, sacrifice and human misery, all without even having to pay for cable.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

I Ching #41 ~ Sun/Decrease

Decrease combined with sincerity
Brings about supreme good fortune
Without blame.
One may be persevering in this.
It furthers one to undertake something.
How is this to be carried out?
One may use two small bowls for the sacrifice.

"Decrease does not under all circumstances mean something bad. Increase and decrease come in their own time. What matters is to understand the time and not to try to cover up poverty with empty pretense. If a time of scanty resources brings out an inner truth, one must not feel ashamed of simplicity. For simplicity is then the very thing needed to provide inner strength for further undertakings." ~ The I Ching, or Book of Changes

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Stop for a Minute or Three

I'm a great believer in meditation. It's capable of accomplishing wondrous things in each of us if we'd just take a few moments to allow it to work. There are probably seven books on meditation on a shelf in my office and you can learn almost everything in any of them in the next three minutes.

Meditation can work on lofty spiritual planes or it can be the simple yet invisible cord that holds your life together. It can cure you of an impressive number of illnesses - mental and physical. I speak from experience.

But I've already said enough. Click on the link to Peter Russell's Three-Minute Meditation. He's an English physicist, consciousness researcher, lecturer, and author of a couple of my favorite books. He leads you through about two of minutes of calming instruction and then you can meditate for three or thirty minutes, your call. No need for special positions, special clothing or a special mantra.

You'll see how easy it is and how relaxing yet profound the experience can be, and now you can meditate whenever the desire arises. Thank you, Peter.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Half-full Consciousness

[Today’s post is again from The Daily OM, a site rich in insights. Check out its archives and articles sections for spiritually meaningful pieces on many topics.]
We are all familiar with the metaphorical story of two people looking at the same glass and one perceiving it as half-full while the other sees it as half-empty. As much as we’ve heard this, it’s still a valuable exercise to really observe our minds and notice whether we are engaged in half-full or half-empty thinking. People will refer to themselves as being of one type or the other as if it was a permanent characteristic, but we are all capable of shifting into a half-full consciousness if we simply make the effort. 

When we look at our lives with half-empty consciousness, we perceive a lack and think that the other half of what we want is missing. We are coming from a position of expectation and entitlement. On the other hand, when we look at our lives as half-full we perceive fullness. It is as if we recognize that our cup could be fully empty and so we are grateful for what we see as bounty—not something we expect or believe we are owed, but a gift. In half-full consciousness, we count our blessings. When we look at our lives we see all the elements that are in place and all the things we do have. This doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t seek more, but we seek from a place of fullness instead of from a place of lack. This fullness draws positive energy into our lives and often attracts more abundance. 

If you would like to begin to make the shift into half-full consciousness, try imagining your life as an empty glass. This is your life without all the people you know, the work you do, your home, or your current state of physical wellbeing. This is just an empty, open space waiting to be filled. Once you have that feeling of openness in your mind, begin filling it with all the people, things, and places that make up your life. You may be surprised to find your glass overflowing.

Maids & the Rooster - Aesop Fable #432

A hard-working widow had some maidservants she would rouse for work at the sound of rooster when it was still dark outside. The maids were burdened with endless tasks, so they decided to kill the rooster because it was the rooster who made their mistress get them up while it was still dark. Yet after they had killed the rooster, their desperate situation grew even worse. Now that the mistress was no longer able to tell the hour by the rooster, she woke the maids up even earlier than before.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Real Televised Championship

It’s the eve of Super Bowl Sunday, the annual playoff of the most expensive commercials on television. It’s the true championship of a free-market economy, with the season's most daring plays in mass-market advertising. I haven’t seen this year’s figures, but I know that in 2007, the cost of a commercial on the Super Bowl had reached $5.2 mllion a minute.

In the broader contest between commercials and regular programming, the commercials are winning. Twenty years ago, programming accounted for 51 minutes of every hour of television time. Now programming is at 42 minutes, with the underdog commercials having gained another 9 minutes. A typical 30-minute program now is about 21 minutes of programming, six minutes of national advertising and two minutes of local advertising.

If we watch 10 hours of television, we’ll see three hours of advertisements. Oh, and one other thing. Commercials going back to the 1960s were usually a minute long, then they dropped to 30 seconds and today are mostly 15 second pitches. In other words, we're seeing somewhere between two and four times as many different products being advertised as in years past.

Lucky us.

Friday, February 1, 2008

This is Your Universe

These images and many more from NASA's image bank are astounding when you consider that this is our universe in all of its complexity and beauty. This, folks, is the real thing. If you want to see more images along with more detailed captions, just visit NASA's website and check out the NASA Image of the Day Gallery.

The Farmer & the Viper – Aesop Fable #440

A farmer picked up a viper that was half-dead from the cold. When the farmer had warmed the snake, the viper uncoiled and grabbed hold of the man’s hand with a fatal bite. As he was dying, the farmer spoke some words that are well worth remembering: “Well, I got what I deserve for having shown kindness to a scoundrel!”

Embracing Grief

[Our daughter-in-law died unexpectedly a few months ago, so I can attest to the validity of this message, which I've copied from The Daily OM website's articles section.]

Change is something that happens each and every moment in our lives. Since nothing is constant, it may sometimes seem as if we are losing something whenever things do change. Understanding that this is part of our daily existence and that there will not only be gains but also losses in our lives can help us more readily accept and deal with whatever happens.

Whenever we lose something or somebody we love, it is important for us to take time out for ourselves and truly feel the weight of what we are experiencing. Although it may seem that doing so will push us into a deeper state of sadness, truly giving ourselves permission to be with whatever arises actually creates space for us to begin the healing process. This is because the act of grieving is a natural process, allowing us to sort through the range of emotions that are present in our everyday existence. Even though it may sometimes seem easier to involve ourselves in activities that take our minds off of our sadness, this will only make the route to healing more difficult. Unless we listen to where we are in the moment, the emotions we experience will only grow in intensity, and our feelings will manifest themselves in more powerful and less comfortable ways. Once we consciously acknowledge that these emotions are present, however, we are more able to soothe the sorrow of the moment. In so doing, we become more open to our natural ability to heal ourselves.

Grieving doesn’t have to be a process that keeps us rooted in our thoughts of fear and sadness. For the moment we might feel despondent, but by expressing and coping with our true feelings, we face the sadness head-on. When we allow ourselves to accept and deal with our loss fully, we will then be able to continue our life’s journey with a much more positive and accepting outlook. This will make it easier for us to see that our grief is ephemeral and, just like our moments of happiness, it will also come to pass.

- Reprinted from the Daily Om