Monday, August 23, 2010

My Life as a Work of Art

A couple years ago I was seriously considering taking up painting or drawing and becoming an artist in the commonly understood sense of the term when I had an epiphany. Unlike most of the epiphanies I have had in my life this one reverberates with me to this day and I have never questioned its veracity. Simply stated: do not create works of art, make your life a work of art. In every breath, every day, every person, animal and plant that comes your way make your life a work of art.

And I can attest that this works. As the days end I more often than not am left with a sense of amazement that somehow the truth and beauty of today has surpassed that of yesterday. My toes sink deeper into the sand, my spirit floats higher into the ether, my children laugh, my dogs play, my heart soars and I not to create works of art but make your life a work of art.

The Perennial Philosophy

Orwell and Huxley are two of my favorites. Both had the knack for fantastic fiction and the balls to confront the fascist cultures of their time in blistering non-fiction essays and treatises. Huxley's The Perennial Philosophy is not only an encyclopedia of religious knowledge but a timeless critique of the forms of government which have brought us to the near extinction of life on planet earth. I yield the remainder of my time to the master...Aldous Huxley:

Of all social moral and spiritual problems that of power is the most chronically
urgent and the most difficult of solution. Craving for power is not a vice of
the body, consequently knows none of the limitations imposed by a tired or
satiated physiology upon gluttony, intemperance and lust. Growing with every
successive satisfaction, the appetite for power can manifest itself
indefinitely, without interruption by bodily fatigue or sickness. Moreover the
nature of society is such that the higher a man climbs in the political economic
or religious hierarchy, the greater are his opportunities and resources for
exercising power...

That is why in Acton's words 'all great men are bad.' Can we therefore be
surprised if political action, undertaken, in all too many cases, not for the
public good, but solely or at least primarily to gratify the power lusts of bad
men, should prove so often either self-stultifying or downright disastrous?

"L'etat c'est moi ," says the tyrant;
and this is true, of course, not only of the autocrat at the apex of the
pyramid, but of all the members of the ruling minority through whom he governs
and who are, in fact, the real rulers of the nation. Moreover, so long as the
policy which gratifies the power lusts of the ruling class is successful, and so
long as the price of success is not too high, even the masses of the ruled will
feel that the state is themselves--a vast and splendid projection of the
individual's insignificant ego. The little man can satisfy his lust for power
vicariously through the activities of the imperialistic state, just as the big
man does; the difference between them is one of degree not kind.

No infallible method for controlling the political manifestations of the lust
for power has ever been devised. Since power is of its very essence
indefinitely expansive , it cannot be checked except by colliding with another
power. Hence, any society that values liberty, in the sense of government by
law rather than by class interest or personal decree must see to it that the
power interests of its rulers is divided. National unity means national
servitude to a single man and his supporting oligarchy. Organized and balanced
disunity is the necessary condition of liberty.

--Aldous Huxley
--The Perennial Philosophy
pp. 121-122

Saturday, August 21, 2010

killing the innocent

The Quran, in chapter 5, verse 32, says that if you kill one innocent person, it's as though you have killed the entire world. I heard this in the movie "Traitor" which seemed as if it might be original until it became one more justification for the so called war on terror. But the verse has been playing in my head and with my head since I heard it.

Those with legal training will immediately zero in on the meaning of the word 'innocent' as the crux of the matter. At one extreme 'innocent' would mean only young children who have not reached an age when they can decide for themselves whether or not to participate in the war effort. At the opposite extreme would be the view that all who are not actively participating in the fighting are innocent. The first view would exculpate most so called acts of terrorism as the victims are adults, paying taxes into a treasury which funds the war effort. The latter view would condemn all acts of terrorism and justify only direct action against military forces on the battlefield.

But let as consider some hypotheticals. A high ranking military officer on vacation with his family is killed. Would such an action be considered a violation of the Koran? What if he was a retired officer? How about an injured veteran who has served his time in the military and had a change of heart about his actions? Who has the authority to define innocence? Those of you who believe in an anthropomorphic God will simply answer that only God may decide but that is the answer of a coward.

Divinity has been delegated to us, the human race. Our actions determine the fate not only of our species but perhaps all life on this planet. If the powers that control the planet's resources are jeopardizing our future as a species than it is incumbent upon us to take action to stop the potential destruction of our species and our planet.

Religion, like all forms of dogma, is garbage but the texts that underpin many of the religions of the world are rife with beautiful and amazing insights into the complexity of the human condition. Sura 5:32 is just such an insight. It is a clear condemnation of the war tactics which are followed and have been followed by most state governments throughout history. Innocent death (or in our Orwellian rewriting of unpleasant terms "collateral damage") has become an accepted part of any conflict.

The loss of innocent life is glossed over when the murder occurs at the hands of a state, but if a resistance movement brings down a munitions factory and accidentally kills a night watchman it is front page news. A case in point is the Weather Underground's demise largely due to loss of innocent life.

I have heard it said that the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" is an improper translation of "Thou shalt not murder". To square the Hebraic, Christian and Islamic versions of this proscription we need only define the meanings of "murder", "kill" and "innocent". If murder is the killing of the innocent than the death of those who are not innocent is left to our discretion. Can a human being make such a determination? He can.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Muse

In my understanding of the term "muse" it means one who inspires the creative power of another, one who lights a spark, or dumps gasoline on an existing fire. We all should be so lucky to have a muse at the tender impressionable age of 14. For those of you who were not so lucky please continue to enjoy the comforts of your SUV, your incontrovertible religious texts, and your exclusionary political systems. For those lucky few of us who were effectively subverted your suburban life is a comedic backdrop against which the killing and dying of the real world unfolds.

When I was 14 or 15 my muse gave me a story to read. A story of a dystopian future in which the need for mediocrity surpassed the need for genius. In this story the highly intelligent were forced to don a device which created a sharp, painful buzzing sound in their advanced minds every 30 minutes so that whatever train of thought they were having was destroyed, reset to zero, reset to the status quo.

Today those of us in the advanced intellect class can only dream of 30 minute intervals of uninterrupted thought. Without the conscious avoidance of TV, radio, billboards, and internet ads and distractions one is lucky to have 5 or even 1 minute of free thought.

Thanks only to the muse are we conscious of the spin which is put on our reality everyday. 14 year old children defending their mothers and younger siblings against foreign invaders are classified as terrorists while adults dropping bombs on children are revered as models of bravery and uprightness. Sickening and laughable international political games murder people everyday, the hungry die, the sick waste away and the empires create legal documents to legitimate their slaughter and destruction.

I am at war with you, police, militaries, governments of every shape and form consider me your enemy. History is moving beyond the pathological collective to the free human individual. When every individual rises up, throws off the chains which force us to work for slave wages, live without adequate medical care, food, shelter and art the power of bullets and prisons and armies will be as a grain of sand thrashing about in a solar storm.

The muse for the child is like Morpheus. She frees minds. One free mind. Is there any way to estimate the value of one free mind? One free mind. What is the value of Spartacus' uprising, Hannibal's strategy, Lennon's music?

For those of you in the business of freeing minds take heart in the futility of your struggle. Maybe one in a thousand, or in ten thousand will make it but these are the Sergei Brins and the David Brins, Shakespeare and Chopin, Guy Faux and Steve Biko, Rosa Parks and Gandhi.