Sunday, March 27, 2011

Three Threats

We face three threats to our longevity as a species and all grow out of the dysfunction of ego: Pollution, Over-Population and Nuclear (and other) WMD

Global climate change will be minimally very disruptive and could escalate way beyond the worst case scenarios of only a few years ago: rising seas, epidemics of old and new diseases, agricultural catastrophe, shifting currents drastically changing climate, unprecedented refugee dislocations and more. On top of the climate change situation apparently chiefly caused by deforestation and the dumping of carbon into the atmosphere, there is the dumping of toxic chemicals into the air, soil and water, the loss of topsoil, the poisoning and depletion of the oceans, the extinction of species.

The planet, in some estimates, can sustain a population of 150,000,000 at a U.S. lifestyle. Obviously, at six billion and climbing, we are way beyond that and something’s got to give. The high-consumption portion of world population must make serious adjustments as must the population-escalating portion. The adjustments might be voluntary if the crisis is fully recognized, and soon. If not they will be involuntary.

Nuclear weapons, as well as other clever yet-to-be-developed (or perhaps just not yet public) Weapons of Mass Destruction, have the potential to kill millions and render large areas uninhabitable for long periods. The proliferation of these weapons is on-going and encouraged by intransigence on the part of the nations already in possession, hesitant to give up what they mistakenly view as security or advantage. Nuclear power plants are pre-positioned nuclear devices to a serious terrorist and helpful ingredients in the making of nuclear weapons. There are more than 10,000 nuclear warheads, some on hair-trigger alert and hundreds of nuclear plants with full-time cheerleaders committed to promoting the technology. Radiation is increasingly, routinely, entering our planet’s life system. Radiation is a carcinogen.

Madness you say? You would be not mistaken. All of this suicidal behavior is driven by fear which is created by the mistaken belief that we are not intricately interwoven into the web of life but rather are alternately masters or potential victims of an indifferent and violent order. The nurturer of this bleak view is the ego, a pseudo entity that will sacrifice whatever it takes to find momentary safety and maintain the illusion of its own importance and reality. How to escape Ego? Take a breath, let it out; there you are.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

(NRC) Nuclear Regulatory Collusion

On Monday 3/21 an official with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) explained to us, via NPR news, that we needn’t worry about radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. NRC’s mission is to protect the public by ensuring that nuclear power plants in the U.S. operate as safely as possible. There are several worrisome factors that would lead us to question NRC credibility, as much as we’d like to believe their assuring pronouncements:

• The nuclear industry funds the NRC – can you say collusion of interest?
• The NRC has never turned down a license extension request from a reactor that has reached the end of its original operating life (this week they renewed a 40 year old reactor in Vermont for another twenty years)
• NRC has a history of ignoring or downplaying safety violations, for example ignoring a leak that had been going on since 1993 at Indian Point, a plant nearer New York City than Tokyo is to Fukushima; ignored regulations requiring releases of radioactively contaminated air be via controlled and monitored pathways at Vermont Yankee; there are others and these are only for 2010 according to a Union of Concerned Scientists annual report in which NRC also did some things right (see
• The day before 911 the NRC determined that the possibility of an airliner crashing into a reactor was so remote that it needn’t be considered in safety review. Many think a reactor was the target of the failed hi-jacked airliner of 911.
• Attempts to infiltrate mock-terrorists onto nuclear sites over the years were successful 50% of the time despite reactor security knowing the dates of these tests in advance.
• NRC staff embrace the flawed, potentially deadly belief, that an extremely dangerous process of boiling water, leaving extremely long-lived radioactive waste can be “safe” even when safety regulations are ignored and benign alternatives are available.
• NRC and other nuclear advocates constantly give assurances that certain scary outcomes are so unlikely as to be virtually impossible and when they do happen (think Japan, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl) there is a gathering of the wagons to defend the industry that resembles the denial surrounding alcoholic addiction.
• Anti-nuke groups warned against the decision to build nuclear plants in Georgia, their arguments and warnings ignored but their concerns about cost, safety and alternatives confirmed, item by item, in the end. This doesn’t seem to figure in Georgia Power’s recent decision to once again overrule these same objections to the same pro-nuke mind-set (denial is not a river in Egypt).
• President Obama’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future includes exactly zero anti-nuclear advocates.

Keeping in mind that official weather reports in heavily nuke-committed France falsely reported wind patterns to the public showing radiation from Chernobyl by-passing France, that the scenario still being played out in Japan was considered impossible by our nuclear geniuses, are assurances from industry bedfellows to be uncritically bought? Or might it be wiser to adopt a philosophy of Buyer Beware!

Friday, March 18, 2011


Painting: Coffee House Napkin Drawing, oil on canvas, Tom Ferguson

When I first encountered the idea of meditation it picked my interest, yet I got nowhere when I tried it out. Aside from being boring(!) I found that my mind raced with ideas, memories, things to do, unfinished business, when I was expecting some kind of esoteric experience. Once I even became quite frightened and thought, hey, is that it?, remembering maybe that scary line from my religious indoctrination, that no one can look upon the face of God and live. Understanding the practice, much later, as a means to becoming present, abiding in that deeply rooted state, as Tolle describes it, clarified what I found intuitively appealing. Joi de vivre is the real face of God, not the Biblical projection of fear.

My most profound experiences, given this understanding, can be explained as having entered into the state of presence. I once burst into tears before a Van Gogh, in the Toledo Museum of Art and just as unexpectedly broke down at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. and as I witnessed and caught my daughter’s slippery, primeval womb exit. I stood on the chilly December shores of Lake Superior anticipating a sunrise, the intensity of my consciousness gradually increasing until the sun’s appearance was accompanied by a metaphoric crescendo of a thousand voice chorus in the clouds; staring out the window of a European train watching the world unfold; captivated by a passage of Chopin; delighted by a Beatle riff, a flourish of paint, a flattened tin can, a splatter of rain against the window, reading/writing words that seem to magically materialize and cohere and express something true, at the heart of reality, doing the same visually with line and color – all moments of awareness, of felt interconnection, interrupting a dysfunctional stream of mind-chatter that otherwise dominates and subdues the joy of being.

What unites these experiences is that they occur in that gap in mindstream called presence, triggered by some intense or novel experience. They are also colored by the confusion and fear that a belief common to our culture engenders, the belief that we are separate and vulnerable, isolated individuals. When the contrary and self-evident fact that we are interconnected is felt, not thought, confusion and fear dissipate, replaced by a state characterized by a feeling of peace and joie de vivre with the depth of those feelings potentially fathomless and referenced throughout history in terms like mystical, cosmic, peak experience, godhead, expansive continuum, etc;

That felt interconnection is awareness, of being. The feelers via which we experience go deep and wide. If we are absolutely interconnected then we feel the full reach of physical reality, the inseparable and simultaneous layers of past, future and most profoundly, the ground of being out of which the illusion of form flows. In this state we dwell en-joy and we are moved to acts of creativity in the dance of life.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Jolly Ol' Folly

I’ve been reading Barbara Tuchman’s March of Folly (1984). Current events too numerous to list would very nicely qualify by her criterion to be included in the pageant: building nuclear power plants on earthquake faults; building nuclear power plants at all when benign alternatives are available and economically competitive; going for the golden greed award in a democracy, expecting people to be fooled all the time; taking actions to address terrorism that increase terrorism (violence begets violence); despoiling the biological system on which we depend for sustenance; seeking permanent psychological and physical safety and security in a corrupt, utterly and patently illusory social-political-religious paradigm.

Tuchman’s book begins its survey of folly with Troy and advances through the 3-4 popes presiding over the worst excesses of the Papacy, ironically during the Renaissance, enumerating very worldly, sometimes bizarre and certainly decadent church doings to include orgy, torture and murder, inter-city squabbles, alliances and betrayals with France, Spain and Germany all at a time when some of the greatest art of western culture was being created. Tuchman goes on to document the loss of the colonies by totally avoidable British folly, then on to the colony’s subsequent Vietnam folly. History offers far more examples than Tuchman is able to deal with in one volume but her point is made, namely that pursuit of policy contrary to self-interest, her definition of folly, has been with us and we can expect, surprise, to see it’s ugly head raised with the usual frequency in future. The lesson is hardly academic since we must live with the consequences and in a democracy we have opportunity to participate in perpetuating foolishness or stand in opposition.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Big 'D' Democracy

When you lay out a continuum of possible political points of view and compare it to the range of opinion in U.S. mainstream media it is clear that a narrow spectrum dominates, roughly Center or Corporate-right to Hysterical Right. Another way of saying it is that the greater, or at least a significant band of opinion, is excluded from the national dialogue. What then can only be called a propaganda system insists, relentlessly, that freedom and democracy are inseparable. What is meant by freedom in this sleight of hand, is capitalism, the favored value, trumping at all times democracy, which term is utilized not for its actual practice but in order to coopt its prestige. An obvious instance of this deception is in the workplace. If democracy is our highest value why is it not practiced where most of us spend half of our waking time? This question of course never arises in mainstream “debate”, chief proselytizer for the free market.

In private discussion however one can find libertarians and right wing ideologues scurrying to obscure the issue by claiming that we are a republic not a democracy! Or that the masses are not smart or well-informed enough to trust democracy. Well then, why not pair capitalism with republicanism in our slogans? Not quite as catchy, from a marketing point of view. And it begs the question, what does it mean? The answer, a system that allows a tiny elite of wealthy individuals and corporations to run things, an oligarchy actually, isn’t going to draw a lot of majority support so less insightful terms must be substituted. I think it was Jefferson who said that if the people are not sufficiently educated then educate them. If the choice is between education and throwing out democracy I modestly propose that we transfer a couple hundred billion dollars from the war machine towards true security.