Monday, April 20, 2015

Musical Interlude: Yanni, “Felitsa” (Live at El Morro, Puerto Rico)

Yanni, “Felitsa” (Live at El Morro, Puerto Rico)

"A Look to the Heavens"

“On the right, surrounded by blue spiral arms, is spiral galaxy M81. On the left, marked by red gas and dust clouds, is irregular galaxy M82. This stunning vista shows these two mammoth galaxies locked in gravitational combat, as they have been for the past billion years. 
Click image for larger size.
The gravity from each galaxy dramatically affects the other during each hundred million-year pass. Last go-round, M82's gravity likely raised density waves rippling around M81, resulting in the richness of M81's spiral arms. But M81 left M82 with violent star forming regions and colliding gas clouds so energetic the galaxy glows in X-rays. In a few billion years only one galaxy will remain.”

The Poet: Rainer Maria Rilke, "And Yet..."

"And yet, though we strain
against the deadening grip
of daily necessity,
I sense there is this mystery:
All life is being lived.

Who is living it then?
Is it the things themselves,
or something waiting inside them,
like an unplayed melody in a flute?

Is it the winds blowing over the waters?
Is it the branches that signal to each other?
Is it flowers
interweaving their fragrances
or streets, as they wind through time?"

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

“Who Knows What Evil Lurks?”

“Who Knows What Evil Lurks?”
by Andrew Bard Schmookler

"I recently had an interesting experience writing a piece for an American newspaper that’s published me over the years. In my piece, I addressed the puzzle of why it is that some of the most remarkably decent people I know have supported an American leadership that’s itself remarkable precisely for lacking such decency. To that puzzle I proposed an answer in two parts. For one thing, I suggested, these good people have been seduced by leaders expert in displaying the trappings of righteousness—leaders good at using the flag and the postures of faith to distract from the lying and bullying and arrogance they also enact right before our eyes. But it’s the second part of the answer that made my experience with this commentary itself a story worth telling.

Part of why these good people can be seduced by a bad leader, I said, is that part of them welcomes the seduction. A leader can give people an opportunity to express—vicariously, in the name of the glorious "Us”— forbidden impulses that they’d never allow themselves to act on as a "Me” in their individual lives. And it is precisely those people who are most extraordinary in their hewing to the straight-and-narrow path who are likely to be most vulnerable to the temptation presented by a leader who can disguise the forbidden in the garb of virtue. The same strict upbringing that can produce exceptionally impeccable conduct can also make a person a stranger to those parts of themselves they’re required to suppress.

What’s not integrated into the personality does not disappear, but instead becomes a point of vulnerability. History has shown that among the most dangerous leaders are those adept at giving hidden expression to people’s forbidden desires.

My piece was scheduled for publication. But then a higher-up spiked it, saying that it was not appropriate to allege any moral or psychological shortcomings to any group of this president’s supporters. Now, if it were just this newspaper man, I wouldn’t think this reticence to publish such an argument signified much. After all, prudence might lead a journalist to hesitate to offend a constituency that, these days, seems animated by an angry and vengeful spirit. But I also heard some of this from my own circle of colleagues who customarily vet my writings before I go public. For this past year, as I’ve been taking on the ruling powers these people also oppose, they’ve generally been cheering me on. But several of them balked at the idea that there might be anything dark in our fellow Americans that these dark powers are giving expression to.

That’s what I find interesting here. It seems to me another sign of that inability in today’s America —particularly among liberals—to confront the dark dimension of human affairs. The idea that if the human creature is confined in too tight a cage, there might be subterranean feelings of vengeful rage would have been no news to Nietzsche, or Freud, or Jung. Why is it not credible to us?

We’ve lived our whole lives in the shadow of that terrible twentieth century discovery that decent people in a civilized society might be willingly complicit in atrocity. Why should it be so surprising that Americans, too, might have their dark sides? We’ve seen normal people slaughter their neighbors in Bosnia and Rwanda, summoned by destructive leaders to supposedly righteous causes. Why should it be out of bounds to imagine that an American leader could bring out of his followers, collectively, the worst of their potentialities? Our dominant religion declares that we are all sinners. So why should it be implausible that a political force might gain its fuel from tapping into that sinful side?

That old-time radio show used to ask, "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?” The answer, these days, seems to be: I don’t want to know.”

"Alive in Joy: Dispelling Drama"

"Alive in Joy: Dispelling Drama"
by Madisyn Taylor, The DailyOM

"Some people are so used to creating drama that a peaceful existence seems uncomfortable for them. There are scores of people in the world who seem to be magnets for calamity. They live their lives jumping from one difficult to the next, surrounded by unstable individuals. Some believe themselves victims of fate and decry a universe they regard as malevolent. Others view their chaotic circumstances as just punishments for some failing within. Yet, in truth, neither group has been fated or consigned to suffer. They are likely unconsciously drawing drama into their lives, attracting catastrophe through their choices, attitudes, and patterns of thought. Drama, however disastrous, can be exciting and stimulating. But the thrill of pandemonium eventually begins to frustrate the soul and drain the energy of all who embrace it. To halt this process, we must understand the root of our drama addiction, be aware of our reactions, and be willing to accept that a serene, joyful life need not be a boring one.

Many people, so used to living in the dramatic world they create, feel uncomfortable when confronted with the prospect of a lifetime of peace and contentment. The drama in their lives serves multiple purposes. Upset causes excitement, prompting the body to manufacture adrenaline, which produces a pleasurable surge of energy. For those seeking affection in the form of sympathy, drama forms the basis of their identity as a victim. And when drama is familial, many people believe they can avoid abandonment by continuing to play a key role in the established family dynamic. The addiction to drama is fed by the intensity of the feelings evoked during bouts of conflict, periods of uncertainty, and upheaval.

Understanding where the subconscious need for drama stems from is the key to addressing it effectively. Journaling can help you transfer this need from your mind onto a benign piece of paper. After repeated writing sessions, your feelings regarding the mayhem, hurt feelings, and confusion often associated with drama become clear. When you confront your emotional response to drama and the purpose it serves in your life, you can reject it. Each time you consciously choose not to take part in dramatic situations or associate with dramatic people, you create space in your inner being that is filled with a calm and tranquil stillness and becomes an asset in your quest to lead a more centered life."

The Daily "Near You?"

Dundee, Dundee City, United Kingdom. Thanks for stopping by.

Satire: “Hillary Promises to Get Everyday Americans Foreign Money”

“Hillary Promises to Get Everyday Americans Foreign Money”
by Andy Borowitz

NASHUA, N.H. (The Borowitz Report)— “Delivering a stirring populist message at a campaign appearance in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton vowed that as President she would help everyday Americans obtain large cash payments from foreign governments. “Like a lot of everyday Americans, many of you are struggling to pay your bills,” she told an audience here. “As President, I will work tirelessly to help you make ends meet—by getting foreign governments to pay you." “In cold, hard cash,” she added, to a standing ovation.

Growing emotional, the former Secretary of State spoke of the “transformative power of foreign money,” calling it “nothing short of magical.” “I’ve seen up close how large sums of foreign currency can change people’s lives,” she said. “And I will not rest until every middle-class American partakes of the riches of the Emirates.”

Clinton said that she and she alone was qualified to disgorge heaps of cash from foreign governments, and took a swipe at two of her Republican rivals. “Do you honestly think Ted Cruz could pry loose any Moroccan money—or Rand Paul?” she asked. “Come on. No one in Morocco knows those losers.”

Rightwing Nuthouse: "5 Right-Wing Lunacies This Week: Bill O'Reilly Hits Peak Paranoia"

"5 Right-Wing Lunacies This Week: Bill O'Reilly Hits Peak Paranoia"
by Janet Allon

"1. Bill O'Reilly rails absurdly about how it's open season on White Christian males. Even John Stossel can't sway him with facts. Bill O'Reilly sees no pattern in the numerous incidents of police killing and brutalizing of black men in this country. No pattern at all. But he does see a pattern of people picking on white Christian males. They are under siege. "The fact that I am white and in a powerful position makes me the enemy, " he whined on his show this week, adding that "anyone who denies American values are being threatened, is a dishonest idiot."

This campaign of white male suppression is being carried out by, who else, women and minorities, or as O'Reilly prefers to think of them, liberals and "race-baiters." Among those race-baiters? New York Times columnist Charles Blow, Tavis Smiley and anyone else who suggests that black men are disproportionately targeted by police. O'Reilly does not want to talk about that though. He wants to talk about his group's grievances. "Our traditional American values are under siege everywhere,"  the arrogant Faux Newsian asserted. It's a fact. Examples included how human beings are being redefined by these anti-American zealots (that 's a reference to abortion rights, just so you know); how marriage is being redefined and how dreadful "narcotics" (his word for pot) are being legalized.

The horror.

O'Reilly remained stalwart in his assertions, even when his Fox fellow traveler, John Stossel, pointed out the utter folly of his argument. "Your war on Christianity, you're just a 10-foot-tall crybaby," Stossel, a self-described secularist, said. "It's not so bad. Christians aren't being killed." Yeah but, "They're verbally being killed", O'Reilly countered. Unimpressed, Stossel said, "So what?" "You shouldn't be diminished because you believe a certain way," O'Reilly protested. "Aren't you outraged by that?" "What's diminished?", Stossel asked, then mentioned an ABC News poll saying that 83 percent of Americans identified as Christians. "You are the majority. You've won." "It's not a matter of winning," O'Reilly replied. "It's a matter of respect. "

Aw, poor Billy O'Weilly. His feewings are weawy weawy hurt. No wespect.

2. Sarah Palin's reaction to Hillary Clinton 's campaign start: Hey, what about me? Sarah Palin just wants everyone to know she still exists and that she can be equally incoherent in Facebook posts as she is in speeches. Also she, like Hillary Clinton, once rode around the country in a bus and had reporters frantically chasing her and wondering where she would show up next. No fair, no fair, Sarah Palin said in essence. Hillary Clinton stole my idea of being chased by the media. No one has ever thought of that one before, that's for sure.

Here's some of what Palin posted to Facebook: "Hmmm, as people all over the country are reminding each other, this Hillary Scooby-Doo Tour thing sure looks familiar. We're flattered the liberals think the idea is really keen! Since it's * # ThrowbackThursday, it's also pretty keen to thank the democrats for taking a page out of our playbook and also to share the picturesque, sincere, no-media 'One Nation' RV trek of ours a few years ago."

Nope, doesn't make a whole lot of sense to us either. But she did conclude, ominously, "Makes me want to fire up the RV again, load up the kids!" Hoo boy! Sure hope she's not serious. See her self-aggrandizing video and read her incoherent ramblings here.

3. Michele Bachmann says Obama will bring about the second coming of Christ. Wait, isn t that a good thing? Color us confused. Michele Bachmann, no big fan of President Obama, told the always rational folks who listen to End Times Radio that indeed, the End Times are near. Aren't they always?Who and what is ushering in this Armageddon, this End of Days, or whatever your personal favorite name is for the Great Cataclysm? Why the Anti-Christ himself, President Obama, by negotiating with Iran, and as Bachmann says, turning his back on Israel. While End Times sound really really scary and bad, the irony is that those End Times are precisely what need to happen for the second coming of Jesus Christ. So, that's a good thing, right? It is when you are a fundamentalist Christian. So maybe she should be thanking Obama. Hallelujah time is nigh!

Bachmann prattled on nonsensically about fatwas and supreme leaders of Iran. She is, funnily enough, an expert on Islamic scripture as well as Christian scripture. Who knew? "If the United States turns its back on Israel, as our president is doing today, in my opinion, we cannot continue to indulge in the fantasy that the United States will be free from receiving the negative blowback, or curses, in biblical parlance, that could come our way and they could be severe," she said. "If we actually turn our back on Israel," Bachmann said, the U.S. can expect to "reap a whirlwind."

It's all very very concerning, and yet, curiously, joyful.

4. Chris Christie: Poor me. Wah wah. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his wife Mary Pat are not wealthy, according to them and them only. Never mind that their $700,000 income last year puts them easily in the top one percent of earners. That's not how Christie defines wealth. Wealth is defined a whole bunch of ways,  Christie said in an interview with the editorial board of the Manchester Union-Leader. Wealth is a feeling, and he just does not have that feeling. The reason Christie does not feel wealthy is that he has four children, he said, and that he has worked really hard. Also, other people don 't think of him as wealthy, he argues, and therefore, he is not wealthy.

The subject came up because the Christies, along with the rest of America, filed taxes last week. But Christie, unlike the rest of America, reported earnings of $700,000, a figure that puts him pretty solidly in one percent land. "The fact that my wife and I, who are not wealthy by current standards, that we have to file a tax return that's that thick... is insane," Christie told the editorial board. "We don't have nearly that much money."

We feel just terrible for the Christies, and the fact that they had to file that big fat tax return. That's hard.

5. Men 's rights blogger: Women with short hair should be monitored by the authorities. Men 's rights nutjob Roosh V, who blogs under the moniker Pick Up Artist, always has extremely helpful suggestions for women. He thinks women would take more responsibility for themselves if rape on private property was decriminalized, for starters. Thanks, Roosh! Or should we call you Mr. V? How exactly decriminalizing rape would help women is kind of murky.

This week, the Rooshter made an even more bizarre suggestion for how law enforcement should occupy their time, now that they ve been freed up from all that pesky rape stuff. The authorities should be alerted when women cut their hair short. This, he says, is an act of self harm. Worse still, it hurts men (the group Roosh actually purports to care about). When women cut their hair short, they are trying to appear less fertile and therefore less attractive to men, he reasons.

Here it is from the horse's (ass) mouth: "If a woman cuts her hair to a short length, or shaves it outright in a Skrillex haircut, we can now confidently say that she is making herself appear less fertile, less beautiful, and less healthy. A woman cutting off healthy hair is one step away from literal cutting of her skin with a sharp object, because both behaviors denote a likely mental illness where the woman presents herself to society as more damaged than her genetic condition would indicate, suggesting that she has suffered environmental damage that has reduced her overall fitness. She must be monitored by state authorities so she doesn 't continue to hurt herself."

Stupefying, no?"

"How It Really Is"

Oh, you useless peasants citizens, stop whining that these psychotically delusional and 
"entitled" because they're better than you trash with money  wonderful job creators
 are now able to continue financially raping you to spread the benefits of their 
total hatred and contempt deep felt love and admiration for YOU, the average serf American.

"US Navy Sends Aircraft Carrier, Warships To Intercept Iranian Weapons Shipments In Yemeni Waters"

"US Navy Sends Aircraft Carrier, Warships To Intercept 
Iranian Weapons Shipments In Yemeni Waters"
by Tyler Durden

"Update: Because the report from AP does not play well with "Everyday Americans", US CentCom is denying:


The 'proxy' war is escalating very rapidly. As AP reports, Navy officials confirm that the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is headed to Yemeni waters to intercept an Iranian weapons shipments. Just as we warned 10 days ago, the probability of a major escalation over the latest proxy Middle Eastern civil war escalated substantially when Iran parked two warships off the Yemeni coast.

As AP details, "U.S. Navy officials say the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is steaming toward the waters off Yemen and will join other American ships prepared to intercept any Iranian vessels carrying weapons to the Houthi (HOO'-thee) rebels fighting in Yemen. The U.S. Navy has been beefing up its presence in the Gulf of Aden and the southern Arabian Sea amid reports that a convoy of Iranian ships may be headed toward Yemen to arm the Houthis. The Houthis are battling government-backed fighters in an effort to take control of the country. There are about nine U.S. ships in the region, including cruisers and destroyers carrying teams that can board and search other vessels. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ship movement on the record."

As the following Naval update map shows, the two Iran warships will now be located in the immediate vicinity of not only two US aircraft carriers, CVN-71 Teddy Roosevelt and CVN-70 Vinson, but well as the big-deck amphibious warship Iwo Jima which as reported before is providing marine support should the situation demand it.
Click image for larger size.

All of this means the odds of a naval "accident" involving one or more warships in the Red Sea just went up substantially."
And why is this important, Good Citizen? Because of the danger of a "false flag" attack on one or more American naval vessels, with Iran being blamed. This of course would start an all-out war, the long desired dream of the verminous NeoCons... a war which would have catastrophic world-wide economic effects as well as tragic and pointless loss of life, and could in fact trigger World War III, since Iran's trading partners and allies, China and Russia, might look dimly upon the whole thing and intervene...
- CP

The Economy: “The Last Time My Friend Tried This His Horse Dropped Dead…”

“The Last Time My Friend Tried This His Horse Dropped Dead…”
by Bill Bonner

Gualfin (“End of the Road”), Argentina - "The Dow plunged 280 points – or 1.6% – on Friday. It effectively gave back all of this year’s gains. But we’ll come back to the markets on Wednesday. Today and tomorrow, we’ll be riding through the puna – the high-altitude desert between Argentina and Chile – with a small group of friends, led by Jorge and his wife, Maria.

The Morning Conference: Days at the ranch follow a simple pattern. At 8 a.m., Jorge appears in the yard. Typically, he is surrounded by a small group of gauchos. There is Jose, for example, a stout young man with a broad, ready smile who is missing most of his front teeth. Pedro is less ready with a smile. He is more thoughtful and often appears to be calculating. Pedro had a medical problem a few years ago; now, he refuses to get on a horse. 

Jose wears a typical cowboy hat. The rest wear local, broad-brimmed hats; they look a little like flying saucers have landed on their heads. Saturday morning, they came dressed in layers of homemade sweaters and coats. It is autumn. The nights are turning colder. It does not warm up until midmorning. Unlike cowboys in the US, the gauchos here do not wear blue jeans or cowboy boots. Instead, they wear workpants, often stitched up in several places, and black, lace-up work boots. When we bought the ranch, we had winter coats made for all seven employees. The khaki coats are insulated. And they have “Gualfin” monogrammed on them. They look very cool when we wear them in Manhattan. But here, we’ve never seen a single one of the gauchos wear the coats – maybe because we’re never here in the wintertime. 

Three of the gauchos – Javier, Natalio and Jorge – stood together, each with his flying saucer hat slanted forward. The sun shined on them as they discussed the day’s work. No one smiled. No one joked. There was no discussion of football games or comedy shows. 

Origins Unknown: Javier would take the backhoe to clean out the irrigation canal by the river. The idea is to divert the little remaining water to the “swamp land” on the banks of the riverbed. This will give the grass there a few more weeks of growing season – leaving the cattle with a little more to eat in the winter. 

Following the 8 a.m. conference, Natalio put his shovel over his shoulder and headed down to the alfalfa pasture. There he will be a regador – an irrigator – moving the water around the field so that it waters as much grass as possible. Jorge sent the others to the vineyard, where they’re digging a hole next to each plant and putting fertilizer into the hole. When all the workers had dispersed, Jorge turned to Gustavo and gave him instructions. We were riding up to the Rio de los Patos (the river of the ducks). Gustavo would help to pack up the mules and saddle the horses. 

Gustavo has a bright look. He is Pedro’s adopted son. His mother is Pedro’s common-law wife. Many are the informal liaisons in this area. Gustavo does not know who his father is. This is not unusual. When Elizabeth, teaching English to a group of young girls, asked each girl to give her parents’ names, in most cases she got only half the story. The other half was “unknown.”

A Journey to the River of Ducks: Our trip to the puna was planned weeks ago. Jorge – who has lived on the ranch all his life – has never ridden to the Rio de los Patos at the west end of the ranch. Maria, his wife, had always wanted to. Now that Jorge is getting ready for retirement, it seemed like the right time to go. “Are you sure you want to do this?” asked our friend David, whom we invited to join us. “I checked GPS. You’re talking about going to a place that is at 17,000 feet… or more… above sea level and spending the night. A friend of mine tried that recently. His horse dropped dead when he got there. And I went to about 15,000 feet. That’s as high as I’ve been. But I had an oxygen tank.” 

We put the question to Jorge. “Are you sure this is something we can do? Can we breathe at that altitude?” “Not very well,” was the reply. Jorge smiled. He has very regular white teeth. And a warm smile. “But some people are all right and others aren’t. Some get terribly sick. We call it a puna. And if it is too much for us, we’ll just turn around.” He used the “us” generously. It was only the gringos who were likely to stumble. But the plan seemed like a good one. 

We’ve gone up toward the puna a couple of times. Two years ago, we spent the night at about 12,000 feet. We couldn’t sleep. Each time we began to fall asleep, we awoke with a start, gasping for air. But we were younger then. Now, with more age and experience, maybe we’ll be able to do it. “We’ll ride for 10 hours the first day,” Jorge explained. We’ll camp overnight at the puesto of Sylvia Gutierrez. She’s the farthest from the ranch house. Then we’ll push on to the puna the next day. That should be about another eight hours.” But Jorge had never been there on horseback. And we had learned that many of the estimates of time are little better than economic forecasts… 

Stay tuned for more…"

Liquid Mind, "Adagio for Sleep (Intergalactic)"

Liquid Mind, "Adagio for Sleep (Intergalactic)"

Musical Interlude: Barry Manilow and Cilla Black, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”

Barry Manilow and Cilla Black, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”

"If People Sat Outside and Looked..."

"In The Time Of Your Life..."

"In the time of your life, live — so that in good time there shall be no ugliness or death for yourself or for any life your life touches. Seek goodness everywhere, and when it is found, bring it out of its hiding-place and let it be free and unashamed. Place in matter and in flesh the least of the values, for these are things that hold death and must pass away. Discover in all things that which shines and is beyond corruption. Encourage virtue in whatever heart it may have been driven into secrecy and sorrow by the shame and terror of the world. Ignore the obvious, for it is unworthy of the clear eye and the kindly heart. Be the inferior of no man, nor of any man be the superior. Remember that every man is a variation of yourself. No man's guilt is not yours, nor is any man's innocence a thing apart. Despise evil and ungodliness, but not men of ungodliness or evil. These, understand. Have no shame in being kindly and gentle... and have no regret. In the time of your life, live — so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it."
- William Saroyan, "The Time of Your Life" (1939)

Rumi, "The Guest House"

"The Guest House"

"This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond."

Jalal Al-Din Muhammad Rumi, "Rumi"

"The Invitation"

"The Invitation"

"It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for,
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking
like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know
if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by
life's betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain!
I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own,
without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance
with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember
the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you
can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even when it's not pretty, every day,
and if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand
on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”

It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair,
weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to
know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like
the company you keep in the empty moments."

- Oriah Mountain Dreamer

“How to Make Bad Days Okay“

“How to Make Bad Days Okay“
by David

“We human beings suffer from a persistent illusion that creates a huge amount of needless stress: we see today as much bigger and more significant than other days. It seems like we should. Today is the only day we’re able to actually do anything, and the only day we can experience the consequences of what we’ve already done. In that sense, today is pivotal: what you have to do today is clearly much more relevant to your life than what you had to do on the same date ten years ago. This seems like common sense.

But this common feeling overlooks a crucial fact that would save us a lot of suffering if we could only stay aware of it: other days are “today” too. In fact, it’s the only kind of day there is. Chances are, whatever was looming huge in your mind ten years ago today had no more absolute importance to your life as whatever is stressing you out this morning.

It doesn’t feel like it though, because it seems like the person you were back then — the person those problems belonged to — wasn’t quite you yet. You were still on your way to becoming who you are. You still had some bad habits you no longer have; you were still in a job or a relationship that was all wrong for you; you hadn’t yet discovered the joy of running every morning, reading before bed, eating mostly vegetables, or a lot of the other things that might seem essential to who you are now. Of course, ten years from now it will feel the same way. You’ll be a different person, and your life as it is today will seem distant, and not particularly relevant.

Research shows that we consistently overrate the importance of today in the scope of our lives. In 2012, a group of psychologists published a study in which they asked more than 19,000 people about how they had changed over time, and how much they expected to change in the future. The subjects were asked about their preferences, habits, and values, and how those things had changed over the last ten years. They were also asked to estimate how much they expected to change over the next ten.

The researchers found that at all ages, people consistently underestimated how much they would change in the future. For example, 40-year-olds looking back at their 30s saw that they had changed quite radically in the intervening decade, while 30-year-olds predicted relatively little change in the decade ahead of them.

From the abstract of the study: “People, it seems, regard the present as a watershed moment at which they have finally become the person they will be for the rest of their lives.”

It turns out that at every age — or perhaps on every day — we feel like we have reached the end of history. Today always seems so enormous, so significant in a way other days never were. Everything before today’s problems, which we see as our real problems, was backstory, relevant only in how it informs what happens today.

The extra significance that seems unique to right now was there all along, in every experience you ever had. And today, this day on which you’re sitting here reading this article — along with all the worldly concerns currently weighing on you — is happening on a date that used to be tiny in your mind, just another square on the calendar, and will soon be tiny again.

It’s not that today isn’t significant, only that life’s other days are more or less equally significant, even if it doesn’t seem like it from where you stand now. Today you might look back on your high-school breakup, and all of the fretting and sobbing that came with it, as silly or even cute. But when you were there it was happening now, and it was excruciating. 

Why is this important? For one thing, it’s needlessly stressful to believe that we’re always at an important crux in life. The fact that today’s problems seem urgent and far-reaching doesn’t justify how much we agonize over them, because everything we do is far-reaching. All of our decisions, from our choice of career to whether we return a particular call or not, have lifelong consequences. The path of life is all crossroad. But that’s what it means to be free. The sheer volume of happenings in a single human life makes each set of day-to-day problems much less significant than life’s overall course, which is what really matters, and which we are always, in every moment, free to alter.

If we could remember this reality, it would help us to be less uptight about the outcomes of our current problems. We could still make good choices, only without so much worry. There would be a lot more room for joy and humor if we learned that it’s okay for today to be a bit ugly, or unsettled, or sad. growth

There is solace to be found in simply recognizing the immense scale of our lives. A human life is too vast, too rich and varied in content, for any given day’s events to be critical to the whole thing. Therefore, our willingness to be calm in the face of day-to-day unsettledness is much more important than the specifics of what is so unsettling about right now.

This is true even of the big, permanent events: deaths, losses, diagnoses and breakups. A death, for example, is clearly permanent, but it is your relationship to that event that gives it meaning, and that relationship is not at all permanent. It will change fairly rapidly, in fact. It will be quite different a week later, and very different a year later. And by then, it will be someone slightly (or greatly) different who is experiencing it. You don’t have to bear the weight of the entire catastrophe today. Other days, and other Yous, will split the burden, in ways you perhaps can’t see from here.

But most stress, for most people, doesn’t come from these bombshell events. It comes from the endless tissue-box of little concerns that always seem so much larger than they really are, at least as long as we treat today like a different kind of day than all the rest. Once they no longer belong to today, their intrinsic smallness will be revealed.

The key is to recognize the relative smallness of these events as they are happening, and release the need for certainty about the outcome. Failure and difficulty are fundamentally okay. So are wasted time, bad decisions, disappointment and loss. All lives, even great ones, contain frequent doses of all of these things, and that means they are all less damning than we tend to think they are when they’re happening.

There will be days when you are so upset, you just can’t conceive of today as something small. That’s when it’s helpful to remember another humbling reality: your life is one of billions, and your “today” one of trillions, all of them just as vivid and inescapable as yours.

In high school I had an eccentric history teacher. He was very cordial and well-spoken, but had a burning pet peeve. He could lose his temper when students called people of the past boring or stupid. One time in class someone said the Russian Revolution was “super boring”, and this set our teacher off perfectly. For a few moments he just stood there, fuming through his nostrils at the student. He looked like he was going to explode, but was still searching for the words. “Don’t you understand it yet?!” he finally sputtered. “This,” he said, holding up the textbook, tapping a photograph of a crowd in a public square. “This is real like this classroom is real, like this school is real — all of these people were someone, and all of this was TODAY!”

Sunday, April 19, 2015

"Fukushima Update, 4/19/15; Your Radiation This Week"

Click image for larger size.

“Your Radiation This Week”
by Bob Nichol

“Good Day, this is “Your Radiation, This Week.” These are the recorded Radiation Highs that affected people this week around the United States and in your neighborhood. Let’s get right to it.

(*Counts per Minute, 50 CPM is an alert level. Levels are in Gamma unless noted.)

309 CPM Boston, MA
217 CPM New York City
426 CPM Raleigh, NC
258 CPM Atlanta, GA
424 CPM Miami, FL
214 CPM Chicago, IL
227 CPM St Paul, MN
365 CPM Lincoln, NE, Gamma and Beta Radiation Combined CPM.
264 CPM Des Moines, IA
332 CPM Aberdeen, SD
493 CPM Rapid City, SD
388 CPM Kansas City, KA
315 CPM Tulsa, OK
435 CPM Little Rock, AR
206 CPM Dallas, TX
261 CPM Lubbock, TX
410 CPM South Valley, NM
400 CPM Albuquerque, NM
529 CPM Grand Junction, CO
875 CPM Billings, MT
333 CPM Phoenix, AZ
352 CPM Tucson, AZ
148 CPM Las Vegas, NV
324 CPM San Diego, CA
312 CPM Los Angeles, CA
225 CPM San Francisco, CA
413 CPM Spokane, WA”
“Officials: ‘Such A Bizarre Thing’ Off California Coast”

KQED Science, Apr 5, 2015: "About thirty miles out from the Golden Gate, the federally protected Farallones are breeding grounds visited by hundreds of thousands of seabirds–many of which use the islands as a  winter way station- but not this year. Gerry McChesney, manager of the site for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says that’s a bad sign not just for the Farallon Islands but also for wildlife more broadly along California’s coast. There was also hardship for breeding marine mammals. Dozens of pregnant sea lions proved too weak to carry their pups to term “That’s such a bizarre thing,” McChesney says. “We were seeing multiple aborted fetuses every day,” 94 in total– or nearly half the number of sea lions born there in 2014. Nor was the warm winter kind to elephant seal pups. Russ Bradley, Farallon program manager for Point Blue Conservation Science, says elephant seal mothers, trying to cool off amid the unusual heat, led their pups up to a cliff that, while breezy, proved perilous – “and actually had a fair amount of pups fall into this sea channel, because they’re pups and they’re clumsy and they got too close to the edge.” “It is pretty brutal for the biologists out here that had to watch it,” McChesney says. “It was pretty tough.” Among the conspicuously absent birds was a type called Cassin’s Auklet, which feeds on krill. All along the Pacific coast, McChesney says, these birds have been suffering “a huge, unprecedented die-off like we’ve never seen” for want of food. That’s also bad news for other species that eat krill, he says, from salmon to blue whales."

US Fish & Wildlife Service, Apr 1, 2015: "Over the past four months, seals and sea lions are having difficulty reproducing, local seabirds have had low colony attendance. Observations of disrupted breeding activities include: California sea lions aborting pups due to poor body condition of the mothers. Since January 9th, 94 aborted sea lion fetuses have been recorded on the islands, well in advance of their June due date. Ninety-four is almost half the total number of sea lions born on the island in 2014. High elephant seal pup mortality due to warmer air temperatures. Pup survival was low this year. Many pups died when overheating mothers led them to a cliff edge in attempts to get cool; pups then fell to their deaths.  Low attendance of breeding seabirds– Farallon nesting seabirds usually visit the islands during winter, but this year winter attendance was unusually low. In fact, the Cassin’s Auklet has been largely absent from the islands in the last few months. Since auklets feed mainly on krill, their activity and nesting success are good indicators of the availability of this food resource, which is very important for many marine predators including whales and salmon. “These unusual observations highlight the importance of monitoring our coastal wildlife,” says Gerry McChesney, manager of the site for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “They are significant indicators of ocean health.”

KGO, Apr 2, 2015: "Researchers view the Farallon Islands as a barometer for the health of the overall ocean and this year in particular has been tough. Hundreds of sea lion pups have beached themselves, but elephant seals are having trouble too." Doug Cordell, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: “Some of them have died when the mothers lead them to a cliffs edge attempting to get cool and the pups then fell to their deaths. We’re seeing unusual occurrences with the bird populations. Very low attendance of the breeding sea birds. Any of these things in isolation you might say, ‘Hmm, that’s interesting.’”

Feb. 22, 2015 winter pelagic trip, Monterey Bay: "Shearwaters were extremely low in numbers, either because of the warm water, or because of the declining numbers which I have been talking about for the past several years, or because of both reasons." Full KGO broadcast here.

NY Times, Apr 15, 2015: "Regulators approved an emergency closure of commercial sardine fishing off Oregon, Washington and California. Earlier this week, the council shut down the next sardine season. Revised estimates of sardine populations found the fish were declining in numbers faster than earlier believed. Stocks are much lower than estimated last year; the reasons are not well-understood."

Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting, April 13, 2015: "Ben Enticknap, Oceana senior scientist (1:08:00 in) - “We’ve seen a significant change in recruitment [Recruitment: The number of new young fish that enter a population]. There’s been practically no recruitment in recent years, and this was not expected.” Full recording of the PFMC meeting here.

Undercurrent News, Apr 14, 2015: "According to the report on the emergency action from the PFMC “the total stock biomass of Pacific sardine is declining as a result of poor recruitment.“ A California Wetfish Producers Association official said “little recruitment was observed in 2011-2014.”

Oregonian, Apr 13, 2015: "Pacific coast sardines are facing a population collapse so severe fishing will be shut down. The downward spiral in spite of favorable water conditions has ocean-watchers worried there’s more to this collapse than cyclical population trends. “There are a lot of weird things happening out there, and we’re not quite sure why they aren’t responding the way they should,” said Kevin Hill, a NOAA Fisheries biologist. Fishery managers are adding it to a list of baffling circumstances off the West Coast. NOAA surveys indicate very few juvenile fish made it through their first year. “The population isn’t replacing itself,” Hill said."

SFist, Apr 14, 2015: "The population appears decimated. As the Council writes, “temperatures in the Southern California Bight have risen in the past two years, but we haven’t seen an increase in young sardines.” Sardines typically spawn in warmer waters, with cold water decreasing their numbers."

SF Chronicle, Apr 14, 2015: "Sardine population collapses. There's evidence stocks are going through the same kind of collapse seen in the 1950s. The sardine population along the West Coast has collapsed. Causes of crisis- a lack of spawning- was blamed for the decline. Severe downturn, things recently took a turn for the worse because of a lack of spawning due to poor ocean conditions in 2014. The collapse this year is the latest in a series of alarming die-offs, sicknesses and population declines in the ocean ecosystem along the West Coast. Anchovies have also declined due to a lack of zooplankton. Record numbers of starving sea lions. Brown pelicans, too, have suffered from mass reproductive failures and are turning up sick and dead. Strange diseases have also been proliferating in the sea."

Monterey Herald, Apr 13, 2015: "For the first time in 30 years sardine fishing will be banned."

KPCC, Apr 1, 2015: "The first time that sardine fishing has been banned since federal management of the fishery began. Many are worried a catastrophic crash is happening."

"How It Really Is"

The Universe

“Remember when it was really fun to catch raindrops on your tongue, walk under archways because they were there, and roll around in the sand at the beach? To go all the way to the store for a tiny treat, lie on the grass looking for "God" in the clouds, and make scary monster faces in the mirror? To watch the stars because they were winking at you, count the flowers in the garden by the door, and put Cocoa Puffs up your nose?  Well, I'm happy to inform you, most of it still is. Whoohoooo, you're alive!”

    The Universe
“Thoughts become things... choose the good ones!”

“The Age of Insanity”

“The Age of Insanity”
bt Barry Levinson

"I continue to worry about what I have referred to in past posts as "the age of insanity." Recently I met with R.H. Flutes, my old friend from the Lying Institute of America. Dr. R.H. Flutes was in a jubilant mood because his former student, Ted Cruz, was on the presidential campaign trail.

Dr. RH Flutes: Ted Cruz, a brilliant student! When he's caught in a lie, he just says it was a joke! How brilliant is that? There's no defense for it- if you don't get the joke, end of discussion!

Me: Yes... Brilliant...

Dr. RH Flutes: Listen, lying is hitting an all-time high in political circles. It excites us, stimulates us, entertains us...

Me: Why?

Dr. RH Flutes: Because, my dear friend, when a way of life is dying, a government, society hears the death rattle- truth dies first.

Me: Are you saying that the United States of America is dying?

Dr. RH Flutes: Certainly! For quite a while now. We have lost our way. We have stopped dreaming of a better America, afraid of the future, fearful of progress, fearful of our own government. Look at us now! We accomplish nothing, plan nothing, prepare for nothing- it's only survival! We are a fearful people without dreams, so lying is our compensation. Lying is the fake Band-Aid. Lying is the tranquilizer to make us feel better.

I thought Dr. Flutes, who is always somewhat of a provocateur, was overstating his case this time:

Dr. RH Flutes: Just look at the Supreme Court rulings recently. They have basically said that there is no racism in America. Really?! These men and women are not dumb, but the ruling on voting rights is insane by any standard. Or the Citizens United ruling, which basically lets as much money into the political process as any wealthy individual wants to spend? And they don't believe it pollutes the political process? Nonsense. Of course it does.

Me: If they know it's wrong, why did they vote that way?

Dr. RH Flutes: It's a good question, perhaps too difficult to explain, but I believe once idealism is betrayed, once the dream fades, the support beams begin to bend and falter. The Titanic went down one compartment after another. Lying in America is surging through our bloodstreams! Everything is becoming meaningless. Nothing of substance can stand in its way.

At this point he was as animated and jubilant as I had ever seen him. This next part he said to me with a huge smile on his face:

Dr. RH Flutes: And the truth? Too real. This is the age of junk-food politics, my boy. Every day these politicians rant about this and that, and there are those who expose the lies on a daily basis, but no one cares. Lying is just so entertaining. It might not be good for you, but damn, those French fries taste great!”

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Musical Interlude: Afshin Toufighian & Ali Youssefi, "Rise"

Afshin Toufighian and Ali Youssefi, "Rise"
Lyrics from “The Hidden Words of Bahá'u'lláh”

Musical Interlude: Afshin, "Prayer of Change"

Afshin, "Prayer of Change"

Free Download: Hermann Hesse, "Siddhartha"

by Hermann Hesse

"Siddhartha" is a novel by Hermann Hesse that deals with the spiritual journey of a boy known as Siddhartha from the Indian Subcontinent during the time of the Buddha. The book, Hesse's ninth novel, was written in German, in a simple yet powerful and lyrical style. It was first published in 1922, after Hesse had spent some time in India in the 1910s. It was published in the U.S. in 1951 and became influential during the 1960s. Hesse dedicated "Siddhartha" to Romain Rolland, "my dear friend".

The word Siddhartha is made up of two words in the Sanskrit language, siddha (achieved) + artha (meaning or wealth). The two words together mean "he who has found meaning (of existence)" or "he who has attained his goals". The Buddha's name, before his renunciation, was Prince Siddhartha Gautama. In this book, the Buddha is referred to as "Gotama".

Plot summary: It starts as Siddhartha, the son of a Brahmin, leaves his home to join the ascetics with his companion Govinda. The two set out in the search of enlightenment. Siddhartha goes from asceticism, to a very worldly life as a trader with a lover, and back to asceticism as he attempts to achieve this goal. The story takes place in ancient India around the time of Gautama Buddha (likely between the fourth and seventh centuries BC.

Experience is the aggregate of conscious events experienced by a human in life – it connotes participation, learning and knowledge. Understanding is comprehension and internalization. In Hesse’s novel "Siddhartha," experience is shown as the best way to approach understanding of reality and attain enlightenment – Hesse’s crafting of Siddhartha’s journey shows that understanding is attained not through scholastic, mind-dependent methods, nor through immersing oneself in the carnal pleasures of the world and the accompanying pain of samsara; however, it is the totality of these experiences that allow Siddhartha to attain understanding. Thus, the individual events are meaningless when considered by themselves—Siddhartha’s stay with the samanas and his immersion in the worlds of love and business do not lead to nirvana, yet they cannot be considered distractions, for every action and event that is undertaken and happens to Siddhartha helps him to achieve understanding. The sum of these events is thus experience.

For example, Siddhartha’s passionate and pained love for his son is an experience that teaches him empathy; he is able to understand childlike people after this experience. Previously, though he was immersed in samsara, he could not comprehend childlike people’s motivations and lives. And while samsara clung to him and made him ill and sick of it, he was unable to understand the nature of samsara. Experience of samsara at this point did not lead to understanding; perhaps it even hindered him. In contrast to this, Siddhartha’s experience with his son allows him to love, something he has not managed to do before; once again, the love itself does not lead to understanding.

The novel ends with Siddhartha being a ferryman, learning from a river, and at long last at peace and capturing the essence of his journey: "Slower, he walked along in his thoughts and asked himself: “But what is this, what you have sought to learn from teachings and from teachers, and what they, who have taught you much, were still unable to teach you?” And he found: “It was the self, the purpose and essence of which I sought to learn. It was the self, I wanted to free myself from, which I sought to overcome. But I was not able to overcome it, could only deceive it, could only flee from it, only hide from it. Truly, no thing in this world has kept my thoughts thus busy, as this my very own self, this mystery of me being alive, of me being one and being separated and isolated from all others, of me being Siddhartha! And there is no thing in this world I know less about than about me, about Siddhartha!”

FREE download, in PDF format, of "Siddhartha," by Hermann Hesse is here:

"A Look to the Heavens"

“It looks like a lunar landscape but this remarkable photograph actually shows our Milky Way and the planet Jupiter in all their glory - viewed from a cave in America's Utah desert. The spiral galaxy, which cannot be seen with the naked eye, was captured by photographer Wally Pacholka using a 35mm camera and 50mm lens on a tripod with a 30-second exposure - long enough to collect the light but not to see the stars moving.
Click image for larger size.
Pacholka, 59, an architect from Long Beach, California, relied on the light of a crescent moon to illuminate the subject and chose the area because of the near-absence of ambient light. He said: 'I had to drive 800 miles each way five times to get the shot right. And I had to hike two miles to the cave and back again at night, getting lost each time I came out.' His photo shows the Milky Way - estimated to be 100,000 light years in diameter and 1,000 light years deep - and Jupiter (to the top left), the biggest planet in the solar system with a diameter 11 times that of Earth's. After Venus, Jupiter is the second-brightest planet despite being about 390 million miles from Earth. The cave, which has been carved out of the desert's red sandstone rock, lies to the south-east of Salt Lake City and is estimated to be 300 million years old. The area is rich with Native American ruins.”

"Do You Remember?"

"Do you remember still the falling stars
that like swift horses through the heavens raced
and suddenly leaped across the hurdles
of our wishes- do you recall?
And we did make so many!
For there were countless numbers of stars:
each time we looked above we were
astounded by the swiftness of their daring play,
while in our hearts we felt safe and secure
watching these brilliant bodies disintegrate,
knowing somehow we had survived their fall."
- Rainer Maria Rilke