Friday, December 31, 2004
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
I've been reading America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction, written by Jon Stewart and other writers from The Daily Show. It's a faux civics textbook, complete with the "This Book is the Property of" stamp on the inside front cover. Stewart and his merry band ridicule and shred every institution in American civic life, and they show no concern for political correctness, either left or right. Here is a sample relevant to my employer:
This is not to insinuate people feel the judicial branch is an unimportant part of our government, just that it is the least important. And that is exactly how the judicial branch likes it. Flying under most people's radar allows the judicial branch to quietly control all aspects of your life. From your morning hardcore pornography masturbation session, to your lunchtime abortion, right up through your twilight neo-Nazi march through a predominantly Jewish/black community, the judicial branch is there to make sure everything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law . . . under God.
Most excellent political satire.
Saturday, December 25, 2004
Christmas 2004 went surprisingly well for my family. The day got off to an extremely early start, with Toby and Adam both waking up before 3:00 a.m. Really for the first time the boys were aware of the concept of opening presents under the tree. Toby became obsessive about it and ended up opening some of Adam's presents too. That didn't bother Adam a bit; he only wanted his share of the swag. The boys played indoors all day, with the exception of a couple of relatively brief car rides. Adam may have had the best day of his life, while Toby certainly had a very good day. We even had a dusting of snow on our roof, something that is extremely rare in South Louisiana.
Friday, December 24, 2004
Saturday, December 18, 2004
Deep, blue, open sky,
a fragile pine branch swaying.
I smile from the grass.
emptiness; it depends on
how you see the world.
This afternoon, I needed a break from tossing Adam into the air repeatedly, so I lay down on the grass. He ran off and played by himself as I just looked into a gorgeous, cloudless sky.
Adam, by the way, has had some major self-esteem milestones recently. A few weeks ago, he got on the big-kid swing for the first time. Last weekend, he got his first bike. This week, he started rejecting pull-ups in favor of underpants. Now if we could get him to make the connection between those underpants and the potty, we'd have it made.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Today's daily Zen is home-grown and political. Jesse Jackson's latest publicity stunt -- a last-minute challenge to Ohio's electors in the Electoral College -- made me think about how political junkies need to relax and get on with life after November 2 (or, if you live in Washington State, after whenever the recounts are over). This morning I thought up a couple of haikus on the way into work:
Bush wins again.
Republicans! I think they
need to get laid.
Dems a-jumpin. But they just
need to get laid.
Saturday, December 11, 2004
I've been thinking recently about why I have had so many odd dreams in the past couple of years. I've posted a few of them here, and there are quite a few more. I didn't dream very much at all until recently, then it was like the steel door behind which my subconscious self was locked burst open. Many of the dreams I have had are about dealing with the subconscious, though the dreams presented themselves in a symbolic form. Many of the issues that are coming up go way back to my childhood; it's intersting how feelings one has about oneself as an adult are based on childhood experiences. For example, I have strong feelings of inferiority to many other people IRL, despite understanding logically that I'm no worse or better than they are. I wonder how many people have subconscious issues pop up around age 40? How can they/we alter patterns of thought and behavior that have become entrenched over a lifetime?
Friday, December 10, 2004
There’s a controversy a brewin’ among the Mormon intelligentsia. A former Church Education System employee named Grant Palmer is facing an internal church disciplinary proceeding, evidently because he wrote an opus titled “An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins.” I’ve not read the book, but I’ve heard it essentially discusses many of the historical controversies of early Mormonism and posits that the LDS Church has chosen to ignore inconvenient facts or to sugar-coat and spin the negative. Additionally, Palmer claims that the Book of Mormon is not an actual work of history. None of this is exactly shocking to anybody who follows Mormon history; indeed, these various controversies have been around for years and have been discussed ad nauseum.
Various Internet fora have taken up Palmer’s banner, and even a number of former Mormons are outraged that Palmer may be excommunicated due to his book. I, on the other hand, have suggested that he be burned at the stake in downtown Salt Lake City, but then I love a spectacle. Actually, I can’t imagine that Palmer thought the Brethren in the Church Office Building would be down with a book containing that word “insider” in its title that debunks the official, “faithful” history of the LDS Church. Heck, Palmer may even have been present when Apostle Boyd K. Packer delivered his Orwellian address about the writing of Mormon history back in 1981. Packer decried historians who believe that everything that is factually true must be told, and declared that “not everything that is true is useful.” He went so far as to say that historians who write “advanced history” that, although factually correct, causes less sophisticated Mormons to lose their faith, are at risk of eternal damnation. Shortly after Packer’s speech, the LDS Church History Department was trashcanned.
Palmer’s book certainly could cause less sophisticated Mormons to lose some, or all, of their testimony of the LDS gospel. It’s no wonder that Salt Lake evidently wants his head on a plate. Palmer does not want to be excommunicated for his book, but I don’t see how he could have expected any other result. Don't get me wrong -- I'm all for anybody who writes honest history, whatever conclusions they might draw, and I have sympathy for the plight of LDS scholars who must always color inside the lines drawn by the ecclesiastical authorities. It just seems to me that you can't claim to be an "insider" and call into question some the fundamental claims of the faith without risking being made an "outsider" forthwith.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
The other night, I had a dream in which President Bush was screaming at somebody in a booth that looked like it was part of some indoor exposition. However, I think it was a member of the press on the receiving end of Bush’s screeching. Bush then came by where I was standing with some other person and explained why he sometimes sounds like a blithering idiot during press conferences. He expressed his belief that the press and the public are too stupid to understand what’s going on in the world. Bush then went into a detailed riff about the Israel/Palestine situation that made him sound like a total genius. The President was wearing Coke-bottle glasses that distorted his eyes. He looked very weird.
As my gentle readers know, I'm not particularly antagonistic towards President Bush. However, I wonder why I've had two dreams very close together in which the President came off very badly.
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Recently, DW and I finished watching the first season of "Arrested Development" on DVD. AD is one of those shows that has no safety net, and its willingness to take risks and its apparent lack of concern about offending anybody are a couple of the elements that make it a great show. It’s the story of a wealthy family that loses everything when the family patriarch is arrested for various white-collar offenses. One brother is a responsible, normal guy, and he is left to run the business. The rest of the family is clueless, and all of them have become accustomed to raiding the family company’s treasury for their personal expenses. The family matriarch is a scheming socialite; one brother is a part-time magician; one brother is infatuated with his mother and behaves like a child; the sister is a self-proclaimed liberal activist, but is really a fashion-obsessed airhead; and the sister’s husband is a closeted gay psychiatrist who loses his medical license and wants to be an actor. The son of the normal brother is a brainiac teenager who is obsessed with his female cousin, with whom he is forced to share a bedroom. The female cousin is in perpetual rebellion against her parents, but her rebellions take unique forms.
All of these people, with the exception of the responsible brother and his son, are out for themselves and nobody else. Their misadventures are funny enough, but the show also has managed to poke fun of the gay marriage debate, the Ten Commandments controversy, the Iraq War, the legal system, prison gangs, people faking disabilities, Spanish-language television, inspirational videos, "Girls Gone Wild," psychiatry, acting, social climbing, and incest. Like I said, they really don't seem to care about offending people. As an added bonus, Executive Producer Ron Howard narrates the show. The show airs on Sundays at 7:30 CST on Fox. Check it out.
Monday, December 06, 2004
The birds have vanished from the sky.
Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me,
until only the mountain remains.
-- Wang Ch'ang-Ling (698-756)
This poem is a great description of the feeling of complete mental freedom and ego-abandonment I occasionally experience while sitting zazen. Sitting in the correct posture allows me to lose awareness of my body, and getting myself beyond thought and non-thought (very difficult for me to do, actually) allows me to abandon my ego and feel connected to life, the universe, and everything. The first two lines of this poem to me have to do with clearing out the mind, but maybe not -- the Soto school encourages practitioners to let thoughts drift in an out as the scenery of zazen. Finally, the mountain imagery is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, "only the mountain remains" suggests the abandonment of "me" or ego. Second, a person seated in zazen is like a mountain, with the knees firmly on the ground and the head pressing against the sky. Is the mountain in this poem a meditator who has abandoned his/her ego? Or is it really a mountain?
Friday, December 03, 2004
My brother-in-law is in town from Utah for a few days. He's a very straight-arrow LDS guy; however, he's not the least bit self-righteous or judgmental about it. I had lunch with him and DW today in the French Quarter. I left them as they both sat down to have psychic readings. I hope that the gal who did DW's reading told her something about always giving me what I want.