Sunday, November 27, 2005


The words Guru, Swami, Super Swami, Master, Teacher, Murshid,
Yogi, Priest,

most of those sporting such a title are
just peacocks.

The litmus test is:
hold them upside down over a cliff for a few hours.
If they don't wet their pants

maybe you found a real


(translated by Daniel Ladinsky, from "Love Poems From God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West")

Saturday, November 26, 2005

"The Politics of Meaning" and mail

From Michael Lerner's book "The Politics of Meaning":

"The recipients of instrumental government caring do not get the idea that their economic entitlements represent an act of caring by society as a whole. Consequently, they do not feel particularly grateful. Rather, they hear themselves being discussed as a social problem that must be managed and controlled, and the benefits they are receiving appear to be part of a scheme whereby others (who have more wealth than they do) will exercise social control. To the recipients, these acts of instrumental caring actually feel more like patronizing and paternalistic gestures, not like genuine attempts to treat them as equally-cared for members of a concerned community. Some recipients feel guilty and ashamed; others feel angry and full of rages; few feel gratitude. The rage intensifies when their inability to find jobs at a living wage is blamed on them, and they are characterized as having created a pathological culture of poverty that keeps them from enjoying the opportunities that would otherwise be theirs.
Nor does the way in which services and benefits are delivered express an ethos of caring. Governmental officials who originally entered public service precisely because they desired to care for others soon discover that they are not rewarded for the degree of caring that they show to the public. on the contrary, such concerned behaviour is seen as soft and foolishly idealistic. The task of government workers is to administer people and things, to provide benefits and services that are often underfunded - and hence, incapable of creating the goals for which they were created. Overextended in demand and greeted with suspicion or outright hostility by some recipients of the services they provide, government officials soon develop a protective emotional shell that makes it difficult for them to act in a way that conveys genuine caring to the public. At best, what the public receives is objective caring (namely some service or economic benefit is really being given to them) in a way that does not feel subjectively, genuinely caring.
As a result, even though we continually benefit from government services that may objectively represent our mutual generosity and willingness to care for others, it is very rare for us to feel that we directly experience that generosity and caring. Even services that are provided efficiently and at relatively low cost, such as the US Mail, rarely feel like a manifestation of collective caring. Our actual benevolence is rendered invisible, and hence fails to create in us the sense that we belong to a world that benefits from mutual goodness and generosity of spirit, as manifested through the mechanisms of government."


Yesterday as Martin and I were riding our bikes home from the Natural History Museum, he said to me, "Keep your eyes peeled for a mailbox; I've got to post something."
A few minutes later, as we were stopped at a traffic light, he peered around and dashed behind me. I turned to see him handing his letter to the driver of a US Mail truck idling behind us. As we started riding again, she honked and waved.
"She took my letter!" Martin said and we both grinned with glee. And I was filled with wonder at the miracle of us humans - not too many thousand years ago, with only sticks and stones as our tools - having organized a system that has the power to deliver a small object to a precise location, anywhere in a gigantic continent, within a few days, for the cost of a piece of currency so negligible to us that we allow piles of it to collect beneath our couch cushions.
The ability to take that miracle for granted being perhaps even more amazing than the miracle in the first place.