Sunday, July 29, 2007

Climate Change: Crisis or No Crisis?

Graph shows result of ten efforts to measure global temperatures of the past thousand years. Source of graphic: Global Warming Art
The huge issue of Global Warming finds opposing viewpoints within the land of Buddhoblogistan. Most recently, ~C4Chaos of the eponymous blog put up a post titled “IQ2 Debate: Global Warming is Not a Crisis.” Independently, on the same date, Ajahn Punnadhammo of Bhikkhu’s Blog posted “Facing Facts,” where he tells us “First, the [global warming] situation is beyond serious.” Strange -- isn’t it? -- that an issue that should be wholly the province of scientists to determine what’s what finds advocates on the far sides of the matter among non-expert Buddhists.

C4 presents as evidence the arguments of author Michael Crichton in a debate which he and his team "won," demonstrating that the challenges of what relatively minor climate changes might occur will be met by human technology and creativity. For his part, the bhikkhu quotes an article in New Scientist where it suggests, if nothing is done, we have a radically different planet in store for us. With his post, Ajahn Punnadhammo presents a map of Florida with a much diminished land mass.

Other buddhobloggers that I track that have posted “no crisis”-leaning posts are hokai of hokai’s blogue who posted an echo of C4’s post: Joshua Zader of Mudita Journal who posted “Putting Science before Politics” which quotes an article in the Chicago Sun-Times titled “Alarmist global warming claims melt under scientific scrutiny” and Matthew Dallman of The Daily Goose who quotes an article that says, “So why do the pessimists think we won’t adapt to another change in climate? Why are they hyperventilating about what is likely to be a relatively minor environmental shift?”

Meantime, those that see a real crisis ahead include, in addition to Ajahn Punnadhammo, Danny Fisher (of Danny Fisher) with, most recently, "On Buddhist Evironmental Activism," and also in “Vegetarianism, Buddhism and the Climate Crisis,” and last year's “Stop Global Warming”; and Sujatin (of lotusinthemud) with many posts on the climate crisis in recent months, including “al gore sees 'spiritual crisis' in global warming” and “world needs to axe greenhouse gases by 80pct: report.”

I haven’t tried to (and probably couldn’t) gather statistics to prove it, but my sense of it is that bloggers everywhere, including those in the greater Buddhist community, seem to see the climate-change issue through the prism of their political position. Buddhist bloggers who have a demonstrated liberal bent see a crisis acoming, while the more conservative among us are highly critical of evidence of a climate change or doubt what change in climate might come will present worrisome problems.

But why should that be!? Should not anyone’s position on whether there is or whether there ain’t a pending crisis be wholly determined on an objective basis, taken direct from the unbiased instruction of The Science Gods!? Should not the scientific consensus be the sole authority?

Perhaps rather obviously, this matter, like so many others, demonstrates that we tend to see what we are looking for. We diminish the significance of evidence we prefer not to see and place on pedestals anything that confirms our beliefs/suspicions/expectations or the beliefs of those in our political tribe. Thus, we inhibit our ability to look out on the world with objectivity, to see with clarity whatever is true.

Still, while I don't doubt all the Buddhist bloggers' global-warming posts come from compassionate hearts directing wise, truth-seeking minds, some of the posts that are being written are flat wrong and, fifty years hence, will prove to be ridiculous.

From my wet finger in the wind, I have been convinced that the bhikkhu, Danny and Sujatin are far the most correct here. A concensus has gathered. The scientific community tells us human activity is warming our planet and a crisis is nigh.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Dharma Dan to Return as a Guest at Buddhist Geeks

Daniel Ingram
Daniel Ingram, aka Dharma Dan, appears to be on his way back for a second go-round at Buddhist Geeks. What I learn from a blog by hokai d sobol in hokai’s blogue is that Dan and hokai will be together in a forthcoming BG pod cast series hosted by Geek Vincent Horn. In his post, hokai calls Ingram “the arahat extraordinaire,” and links to his free online 300-page book in pdf-format, “Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha: An Unusually Hardcore Dharma Book.”

The relatively obscure Dharma Dan has been the surprise hit, the best guest they've reeled in thus far, in the seven months that Buddhist Geeks has been casting pods. The three-episode audio posts where Vincent interviewed Ingram have gathered long comment streams with Dan answering questions and elaborating on his thoughts as BG listeners/readers express their delight or complaints with what they heard. [The second episode has an astonishing 88-item-long comment stream, at the time I write this. In that stream are many interesting and long comments by both Dan and hokai.]

Ingram is an intense, fast-talking fellow, eager to discuss issues that have been semi-hidden or taboo. Specifically, he earnestly discusses the true nature of Enlightenment, which does not make those who attain it perfect, imperturbable or sublime.

Here is a snippet from the first of three [1, 2, 3] episodes in the Ingram interview that Buddhist Geeks posted last Feb/Mar. Here, Ingram describes the onset and attainment of Enlightenment:

Essentially what happens is layer by layer of your consciousness and experience- you begin to notice that those things are not split up in the way that we thought they were. There’s not the independent, discrete, steady, continuous, controlling, observing, isolated entity in the center of it all that is either thinking or observing thoughts or doing or, you know, being done to or, you know, whatever it is. That sense of things progressively begins to be weakened until finally the last hints of that illusion just suddenly stop.

And the nod of perception that was clouding things and making us think that we were a subject or a doer or an independent entity or a continuous person is gone. That said, all the processes that were there making us think that - to use paradoxical language. All those processes of identification of thought, of emotional life, of psychology, of thinking the word I, of intention, all the sensations of the body, thoughts, and everything that went into that are still there essentially happening as they did before. So, they were causal and empty before that and they are causal and empty afterwards and suddenly that‘s just understood.

And that’s at once a good thing in that it does tend to help the system function as best it possibly can, given the limitations of the human condition. And yet it’s also, having stripped away the sort of defense mechanism of the sense of a center point, one is left intimately connected and integrated with reality in a way that you now can’t get out of. And that has a certain sometimes excruciating and embarrassing aspect to it just owing to the nature of humanity.

Terrific stuff, in my estimation. The whole 3-part pod cast is terrific.

Unhappily, as excellent as Ingram has been as an interviewee, I have been disappointed with his online book. The book seems to flow back and forth, changing from being subjective to objective, dispassionate to personal, serious to jokey, even in the midst of a sentence. Ingram also seems to be obsessed with what the reader might want or need from the book vis-à-vis what Ingram can or chooses to provide. It‘s clear to me the book needs to be more-sharply focussed. If that could happen, it should be published and I would buy a copy in a jiffy.

hokai is a long-time premier Buddhist blogger in addition to being a “practitioner of dharma, lecturer and meditation instructor; apprentice in shingon buddhism; translator and publisher.” He is founder and editor of Dharma Treasury. He lives in Croatia. I will be interested to hear hokai for the first time. His blog is written in American English - rare for a European. I will be curious to see if I can discern US pronounciations in the midst of his expected Croatian accent.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I-I's CEO Robb Smith Responds

I was happy to see that Robb Smith, Integral Institute’s new CEO since ~May 1, 2007, responded, in his eponymous blog, to Blogmandu’s review of I-I’s disclosed finances, through August, 2006. He provides some additional insight that nonattentive outsiders, like me, didn't know or hadn’t understood.

First off, Smith tells us that subsequent to the fiscal year ending 8/31/06 that was reviewed, and before he came onboard as I-I CEO, Integral Institute “was incurring significant operating losses and its survival was threatened.” Smith writes that “Donor nerves account for the lower Institute donation activity at the end of 2006 and beginning of 2007, with the Q4'06 management upheaval understandably making folks nervous about the efficiency of their support.”

Smith doesn’t refer to the June, 2006, Earpy Dust-up [See last paragraph in this section of the write-up on Wilber in wikipedia for some objective info on Earpy and its aftermath.], where Ken Wilber chose to attack his critics in a blog post with subsequent claims that it was all a beautifully engineered “test.” Likely, it was all a Rorschach-like test, of sorts, meant to expose -- or, at least, embarrass -- his critics. In Wilber’s mind, and in that of his like-minded (if not sycophantic) supporters, the Earpy episode may have succeeded at some level, but my guess is that Earpy more so than anything else is the cause of the downturn in donations -- just as Earpy has been causal for a massive loss of respect for Wilber in the blogosphere and the burst of critical activity in Frank Visser‘s website, Integral World.

The end-of-06 “management upheaval” that Smith refers to is the mass firing of staff -- I-I’s first CEO, Steve Frazee, and others brought to I-I by Frazee that Wilber saw as loyal to Frazee and not to him.

Smith tells us that his new management team is “more stable” and helps I-I “by giving our very generous donors the comfort of knowing what direction we're heading” and that donations have increased, as a result. I am glad to hear this, and hope that it is true, but this claim of openness is contradicted by Smith's statement in an interview he did with Keith Bellamy of Integral Leadership Review (June 2007 issue) where he says, "Don't tell people a lot about what you're going to do, because the best outcome is that you meet their expectations, the worst is you don't." Also, management stability is very much dependent on how much the organization structure has changed such that the new team is insolated from Ken Wilber foolishness so that the organization can build on Ken Wilber genius. This insolation cannot happen if the Board of Directors isn’t Integral and courageous.

Very troubling in this respect is the sock-puppeting that new I-I Board of Directors member John Mackey was engaging in to boost his company, Whole Foods, in its effort to acquire Wild Oats. This was activity that is not only very much not Integral, it is perhaps criminal, and if it isn’t it should be criminalized. It would be a very positive sign to learn that Mackey has been removed from the Board. This should happen very soon, if it is going to happen at all.

Integral Life

In his post, Robb Smith also tells us (which was news to me) that Integral Life, Inc., is a new entity, a private corporation, that now owns the business-like revenue-creating sources [video sales, consulting and seminars] of the non-profit, Integral Institute. Integral Life will also “manage Integral Institute for a far lower overhead - and eventually pro bono.” Thus, it appears, Integral Institute becomes purely the think-tank it is sometimes described as, funded by donations.


In his subsequent post, Robb Smith addresses the issue of anonymity and writes, “At Integral Life we are considering the move to using real names in the community.”

This sounds good to me, mostly because the act of reporting “anonymous” and pseudonymous donors on I-I’s 990 disclosure form undermines its function and the social benefit of non-profit openness.

I would suppose if Integal Life (and Integral Institute?) does put in place a real-name rule for the hoped-for benefit of becoming more of a real community, it would promote more-Integral behavior. It would, at least, deter acts of sock-puppetry.

But would ~C4Chaos have to choose between his birth certificate name or changing his name to his nom de web which starts with a tilde? Would a judge allow it? Recently, a judge somewhere disallowed parents of a newborn to name their son 4Real, thus rending the chosen name NOT for real. Perhaps I-I could grandfather in C4’s use of his nom de web, if he were to promise not to give I-I more than $4,999 in any given year [thus keeping C4 under the donation-reporting requirement]. I would hate to find out C4’s birth name and learn it is something terrible, like Adolf Schicklegruber.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Integral Institute: A review of disclosed information

This is a non-expert analysis of the latest annual Private Foundation filing (aka, Form 990‐PF) of Integral Institute Inc. Integral Institute (hereforward referred to by its popular abbreviation, I‐I) was founded by Ken Wilber as an organization to propagate his expanding vision of all things Integral.

The most recent filing is for the organization’s fiscal year ending August 31, 2006. One of the lesser functions of the 990-PF is to provide the public with information about charity-related organizations. [Its General Purpose is to “figure the tax based on investment income, and to report (to the IRS) charitable distributions and activities,” according to IRS filing instructions.] The document was probably first available to the public sometime between January 15 and the middle of April of this year. I asked I-I to provide me with a copy recently and received it quickly in a friendly, no-fee method, over the Internet. [Thanks, I-I.] It’s not fresh data nor a fountain of highly relevant facts, but it provides some insight as to where I-I has been and how careful the institute is with its funds; where it is with some promised forthcoming activities; and if it is itself Integral in meeting its responsibility to disclose to the public what it is up to.

The financial data is pretty much viewed through a glass, darkly. You can get some idea if the organization is extravagant with funds (It seems not to be.), but what you can learn solely from an examination of a 990 can only barely suggest if assets are being efficiently utilized … or not.

With it’s filing, I-I did disclose extraordinary detail regarding its assets, including a 6-page Depreciation and Amortization Report on office equipment and furnishings. Funnest factoid: An asset called “Cell phone for Ken” was nearly five years old and had a book value of five bucks. Worthwhile fact: I-I has lots of computers and equipment, with none of it seeming out of line with what an outsider would wildly suppose the organization needs. There are a couple mildly expensive computers, with many others mid-range in price. It is hard to tell for sure, but it seems that I-I takes care of it’s office equipment (or keeps it, anyway) for the duration of its depreciable life and beyond. These are rough but encouraging indicators that I-I is careful spending its money.

The most positive sign of care with funds might be that I-I paid nothing to Ken Wilber or the institute’s other officers or directors. Nor were they receiving any benefits, deferred compensation or utilizing an expense account. Too, there was no one on the payroll for the year ending 8/31/06 getting paid $50,000 or more. After at least five years, I-I still shows signs of being a dynamic start-up. There was growth at the bottom line: Net Assets increased nearly 14% to over 2/3rds of a million dollars.

There is an indicator the private foundation was in the process of a change of status, converting to a public charity. A checked box on the form tells us the foundation “is in a 60-month termination under section 507(b)(1)(B).” That section reference indicates the pending change in status. [That is, I googled it to figure out what it meant.]

Very discouraging is the observation that I-I keeps most of its assets in cash, savings or temporary investments but receives very little in interest from them. Average amounts in these categories during the year were over $400,000. From this, a simple formula on the form computes a “minimum investment return” of over $20,000, but I-I reports revenue from interest and dividends of just over $8,000. Obviously, with earned interest/dividends of less than 2%, it suggests I-I lost an opportunity to pick up an easy 12 grand.

Also disappointing is I-I’s report of contributors. I-I is required on Schedule B of the form to report persons or groups or entities that have given the organization $5,000 or more. Though the penalties for failure to disclose are extraordinarily lax -- the donor can be denied a tax deduction or I-I might be subject to a $10 fine per instance of nondisclosure -- the information can be important beyond the IRS confirming donors’ tax deductions. The information alerts future contributors of those who might be influencing the organization. This is important in the same way that politicians’ reports of contributors has a beneficial social function of revealing influencers.

I-I reported that two of its contributors, in the amounts of $5,000 and $10,000, were “anonymous.” This constitutes a failure on I-I’s part to meet substantiation requirements to keep proper records OR is an overt refusal to properly report.

Also, the name given of I-I’s largest contributor, “Al Mare Kooli,” without an address, is suspect. Though I-I’s current accounting manager identifies the name as accurate and being that of a gentleman of Estonian descent, a quick googling indicates that the full name searched as a phrase is part of the name of a school in the Estonia capital, Tallinn. Of the three words in the contributor name, the first two are Italian for “of the sea” or “by the sea,“ and the last word is Estonian for “school” or “scholastic.” Indeed, Tallinn is on the coast of the Baltic Sea and the “School on the Rocky Seashore” -- Rocca al Mare Kooli or Rocca al Mare Kool -- has a very extensive web presence.

Another google-researched interpretation of the suspect name of I-I’s biggest contributor reveals that the “last name,” Kooli, is a character who is the jester in service to Shiva, the lord of the cosmos, in Indian theatre. Thus, the name is possibly a ruse, a joke, a hoax, meaning “The Jester of the oceanic Kosmos” or that the donor is like a jester in service to Ken Wilber, the lord of the kosmos. Anyway, it seems unlikely that the full name can have really been on any person’s birth certificate.

Possibly, the faux contributor name is an anigram of the person’s real name, which could be Marie Lookal, Alma Olokier, Mara Lookile, Oriole Kamal, Omar Ali Kole or Allie Markoo. Ken Wilber has used anagrams before. We all may recall when The Ken briefly was going by the name “Wyatt Earpy,” which has letters that can be rearranged to read “A pretty way.” So, if Ken Wilber -- or Ben Wilker, if I may cleverly call him that -- thinks that using anigrams is “a pretty way” to proceed, we may expect to see him use them extensively. You crafty bastard! I’m on to you, Ben!!

If I-I acts as a participant in misreporting information on its tax documents, that is neither cool nor kooli. And it certainly ain’t Integral.

Of more meaningful interest is the whirl of activity at I-I that generated nearly $2½ million of revenue and nearly as much in expenses. From the raw figures the 990 Form gathers, there is nothing that seems outrageous. Fundraising expenses were less than 10% of contributions. That’s excellent. The rule-of-thumb is that 35% would be excessive.

Nearly 30% of I-I’s revenues come from contributions. Over 38% is Gross Profit from sale of goods. From best I can determine, these goods are primarily comprised of video sales. 32% of revenue comes from consulting and seminars. Disappointing was the disclosure that only something over $1700 came in from IU [Integral University] courses. IU, as of August, 2006, seems little more than a twinkle in Ken's eye.

While this blog post may not generate great interest, I will be eager to see I-I's next filing - and to report on it - to see how things have changed. Exciting stuff -- to me, anyway.

Friday, July 13, 2007

John Mackey: Yet another nefarious Friend Of Ken?

A Blogmandu Special Report, by Tom Armstrong

This from Daniel Brook in the Huffington Post:

Jonathan Swift couldn't have thought up a better satire. John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market and avowed libertarian, just got caught exploiting imperfect market information and scheming to rip off consumers by building an organic food monopoly. Libertarians claim the market should be left alone to regulate itself, while progressives have long argued that investors need accurate information from companies about their finances and consumers need competition to get the best price. Apparently John Mackey is just the kind of nefarious businessman we need government to regulate.

As today's [7/13] New York Times reports Mackey was caught posting on Yahoo Finance's bulleting board under a pseudonym pumping up Whole Foods' stock and blasting its rival Wild Oats Markets. (Not content just to trick potential investors, he even praised his own coiffure: "I like Mackey's haircut. I think he looks cute!" he wrote under the pseudonym Rahobed, a corruption of Deborah, his wife's name.) The posts were discovered during a Federal Trade Commission case stemming from Whole Foods' attempt to acquire Wild Oats.

Update, from the 7/16 NYTimes Online: "For executives like Mr. Mackey, sock-puppeting [the act of creating a fake online identity to praise, defend or create the illusion of support for one’s self, allies or company] is probably more gratifying than effective in swaying opinion or stock prices — until they get caught. Then it is embarrassing, and for chief executives, at least, potentially illegal. Laws carefully prescribe what executives of public companies can say. The Wall Street Journal reported on its Web site Friday night that the Securities and Exchange Commission had begun [an informal] inquiry into whether Mr. Mackey violated security laws with the posts. ... [T]he consequences could be damaging to the company, if not to Mr. Mackey. Securities lawyers say the Federal Trade Commission might use the comments to scuttle Whole Foods’ proposed acquisition of ... Wild Oats .... Wild Oats may also use the comments as the basis of a lawsuit against Whole Foods. "

Among Ken Wilber’s 2nd-tier friends are Adi Da, Marc Gafni, Andrew Cohen and John Mackey. With friends like these, who needs Integral Psychology or Integral Economics or Integral Ethics? Speaking of Jonathan Swift, I now consider time spent studying the 2nd Tier in the works of Ken Wilber Gullible’s Travails.

Here, from Mackey’s blog at Whole Foods where he expounds on his version of Integral thought. This from Matthew’s blog at Zaadz, audio where Wilber and Mackey talk about Zaadz CEO Brian Johnson, yet another high-profile FOK. [You can read about Zaadz and Brian “13” Johnson, here.] And here, glowing praise of John Mackey in a magazine Mackey founded.

The beat goes on. Someday, we may notice a pattern forming that might tell us something ...

CORRECTION 7/20/07: An earlier version of this post quoted the NYTimes as saying the SEC inquiry was "formal." The Times' quoting of their source saying it was "formal" was correct, but the Times later added a correction addendum to their article to say that the inquiry by the SEC was informal, according to the SEC. The Times' reporting on the possible consequenses of the inquiry was not changed/corrected. ALSO, per I-I CEO Robb Smith in a comment below, John Mackey is not a member of the I-I Board of Directors. Wording in an earlier version of this post that said he was has been deleted.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Roundup on July 12, 2007

In today's B'du, Live Earth slips, Ego could use a massage, Darfur needs saving, the Geeks as French Royalty, airport art, a suicide and Moore v. CNN.

Slippery Rock

Both Ajahn Punnadharmmo of Bhikkhu’s Blog and Cliff of everyday zazen point out the irony of the huge multi-venue Live Earth Concert being used to draw attention to global warming.

The modest-living Canadian bhikkhu writes
The hard fact is that if we can stop this warming at all (which is doubtful, curly light bulbs or no) it can only be done by massively scaling back our (meaning the rich countries) lifestyles. Use less power, travel less, consume less. In many cases it may not hurt to eat less. Nobody wants to face up to that yet, and probably won't until Mother Nature scales back our lifestyles for us, the hard way.
Cliff’s sentiment is similar,
… i’m not sure if such grand gestures [like the Concert] help but the intention is good. … as in all things, it comes down to individual effort. concern is not enough. it’s what i do that matters.
The Concert may or may not have helped much. News reports tell us the TV ratings for the event were terrible, but this may have been well-compensated for by a big online viewership.

Leggo my Ego

Gary Stamper takes co-credit for stirring up interest in the Seattle area over whether the feminine perspective is a bar to enlightenment [Andrew Cohen says it is in the current issue of his magazine, WIE. Stamper in Integral in Seattle and his partner, Anyaa McAndrew, in Goddess on the Loose explain why it’s not.] Now, Gary has blogged on another aspect of this, likely to stir more interest and debate: The Ego killing connection. Gary suggests that it is those with the biggest ego that advocate egocide and that in their ego-bloat want to drag off everyone else’s egos with theirs to a flaming death in Ego Hell. Contrariwise, Gary prefers a course of making friends with one’s ego and credits the Total Integration Institute when he makes this observation about the ego: “It's a valuable tool that, when befriended, allows us to be more fully integrated in our felt sense body experiences during this existence, rather than living the masculine approach of Eros without the integrated being of the feminine Agape. … En­light­en­ment is not masculine. Nor is it feminine. It's not emptiness. It's not fullness. It's all of the above, integrated into our human experience as fully and complete as humanly possible. It is ‘multi-dimensional whole being and Integration.’” [B’du reporter disagrees. Murder the ego monster, I say.]

The Stream

Danny Fisher of the same-name blog has submitted a vid question for the CNN/YouTube debate later this month that conjoins global-warming’s coming disasterous effects with the on-going crisis in Darfur. Danny also has posted a YouTubed ad from the Save Darfur Coalition that he hopes we all will see.

Let them pod cake. The Buddhist Geeks spend much of the time in their latest pod cast grousing over how busy, busy, busy each of them is which constraints them from bothering to respond to listener comments. This follows the prior episode where much of their time is spent marketing their T‐shirts to listeners. I guess I just don’t understand these ALL ABOUT WONDERFUL US pod casts. It’s Geek to me. What interviews have been really good have been so because of the interviewee, not because the three Geeks are impressive, polished interviewers or charismatic celebrities. Get over yourselves, Geeks!

Amadeus of Dharma Vision writes about the art to the right that appears in Portland International Airport. Many are protesting it's display there.

Bill of Integral Options Cafe writes touchingly about the loss to suicide of a friend he knew from the gym. The friend was a prominent, beloved Tucson obstetrician-gynecologist and "[b]y all accounts, ... one of the kindest and gentlest men you might ever meet."

I've been following the Moore-CNN saga because of a couple posts by Bill of the IOC. A crappy fact-skewing piece of reporting by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's medical reporter, that thrashed Michael Moore's documentary Sicko, propelled Moore into a pasting of CNN's Wolf Blitzen a couple days ago. Later, Moore and Gupta faced off on CNN's Larry King Show. Follow-up reporting on Moore's blog and the Huffington Post and elsewhere show that Moore's facts are pretty solid and Gupta's journalism is corrupt and corroded.

I'm leaving out a lot, but this is all there's time for. I'm busy, busy, busy, you know. S'later.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Roundup on July 6, 2007

No theme, no meme, just stream, today. Here are some quick words on some of the excellent posts just a click away, out in the Buddhoblogosphere [and maybe a little beyond, into the Integral savanna] that popped up during this young month:

Recently, kathy wilden [A Soto Zen Priest who blogs Monterey News], offered a comment to a Danny Fisher blog post re the virtues of vegetarianism in aiding our fragile planet in which she suggested that stemming population growth was the most important thing we should try to do. Independent from that, but relating to it nonetheless, a post in Matt Holbert’s integraljournal provides a synopsis of Kenneth Boulding's forthright set of three theorems, from 1971, for addressed the population problem. The theorems are “THE DISMAL THEOREM” “THE UTTERLY DISMAL THEOREM” and “THE MODERATELY CHEERFUL FORM OF THE DISMAL THEOREM.” Pretty dismal stuff. Lots of misery and starvation to be found there.

And the dismal just keeps on comin'! Michael Bauwens of P2P Foundation writes of "The Coming Dark Age." It seems it is inevitable. "But there is also good news is this scenario, ... [a Dark Age is] actually a necessary occurence for the overall growth of humankind, a kind of socially necessary collective regression, much like the same principle of regression in the service of the ego used in psycho-analysis." Right. The positive side of the Black Plague.

Bad Boy Al of In Pursuit of Mysteries offers a couple of meaty, clever rebel quotes from a pair of authors. Here's the first sentence from one: "If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts."

M. Alan Kazlev of Integral Transformation offers an update on his book-in-progress. He's retitled it "Integral Metaphysics and Transformation" and says this: "... I'm making the language a bit snappier and more provocative; the previous drafts were rather too tame. I was trying too hard to be polite, and I think a lot was lost as a result. There are times when one has to speak out strongly and boldly."

Bernie Simon who "jots and scribbles" The Careless Hand writes about the the body of a Russian lama, dead for 75 years, whose body has not decayed. Bernie tells us there are many other stories of Buddhist masters whose bodies did not decay. The masters put themselves in a state somewhat akin to samadhi. "According to Abhidharma, you cannot die or be physically harmed while in samadhi. There are stories in Tibet of yogis meditating in caves who accidentally fall into samadhi and are discovered many years later, their hair grown to their waist and fingernails grown into claws." Btw, an article, borrowed from Interfax, on the dead lama's body has been posted to The Buddhist Channel.

moe of Mystery of Existence builds a list with sublists, all about a thought. And a non-specific one, at that.

Gary Stamper of Integral in Seattle recommends Bill of Integral Option Cafe's vid on Crazy George Bush. It's a satire, based on "Gnarls Barkley's Crazy" that Bill found.

Speaking of Gary, he is outraged at the latest issue of Andrew Cohen's What is Enlightenment? magazine. He writes in Integral in Seattle, "Andrew Cohen and Ken [Wilber] talk about enlightenment for women and how [women] have to get past and give up their sexual (feminine) power in order to become enlightened. ... Andrew totally fails to [understand] that there might be different approaches to enlightenment."

Bill of Digital Dharma borrows a quote from an great old column in Zbohy about sobriety. Here, two sentences: " The person who desires change must reach his physical, spiritual, emotional and mental bottom. A good candidate for salvation is one who has no more answers and no more plans."

Mushin of Love, Truth, Beauty, Pluralistic Spirituality links to several posts that tell us the next Buddha will be a collective.

Dave of Via Negativa writes an Independence Day poem. It begins, "Independence Day:/the hunters gather/for archery practice/in the woods."

~C4Chaos of the same-name blog writes - from Ireland! - of patriotism on his first July Fourth as an American citizen. "To me, patriotism is a step towards 'selflessness.' Patriotism is stepping into a bigger ethnocentric circle, where motherland is one's nation (instead of one's tribe) and people are one's fellow citizens (instead of one's kin)."

Meantime and contrariwise, Danny of Danny Fisher quotes Howard Zinn from an article in The Progressive. "On this July 4, we would do well to renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed. ... We need to assert our allegiance to the human race, and not to any one nation."

James Ure of The Buddhist Blog wishes us, or America, a Happy Interdependence Day. Quoting an article, "Beyond Fireworks," James writes, "... freedom is different from independence. Independence implies that we are not dependent on others -- that we are autonomous, able to act on our own. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. We are completely dependent on others and we can do nothing on our own."

PeterAtLarge of The Buddhist Diaries wishes everyone a Happy Fourth, but with a kicker: " guys might have done better to stay with us Brits--but we're working to re-colonize this place. Have you noticed how many British accents you hear these days? We're working underground to re-civilize the barbarians. Not much success so far, I have to say. Ah, well."

Paul Cox, A Blue Eyed Buddhist, writes there is "Still a horrible war going on ...". "One thing that we might tend to forget is that there’s still one hell of a tough war going on in Iraq. I still believe that the US should draw down its forces there; I think we’re probably doing more harm than good, and we don’t have much of a dog in the fight." Paul recommends that for perspective we should all read Michael Yon's "Bless The Beasts and Children, about a massacre that occurred in Iraq. The regular media doesn’t report it for any number of reasons, but they should."

This is self explanitory. Gregor of Entering the Path writes a post called "Wearing Down the Mountain." Here is its beginning lines: "My mind tends to wander quite a bit during the beginning of a Zazen session. The shear volume and randomness of the thoughts that pop up are really amazing. The mind can be a strange thing, and I’m convinced that my own is overactive to the extreme."

Meantime, Cliff of everyday zazen is wearing down his carpet. He writes, "but the carpet, like my habit, has worn down in some places only. maybe the path i walk isn't broad enough."

hokai of hokai's blogue begins a series of posts called "History and Dharma" this month. It is all dense and meaty, geeky and Integral and requires a lot of focus and attention to read if you are as stupid and ignorant of hokai's references as me. Nonetheless, I'm digging into it, and, in the beatnik sense, diggin' it and I recommend y'all click on over there and do the same. Here, a bit of a foretaste on what it is about: "What I'm interested in is how states & structures co-arise, in other words, in which ways and to what extent they affect each other? Has anything changed in that influence from premodern to modern to postmodern? Is our role in that relationship somewhat different due to the growing awareness of such distinctions?"

Tom Morgan of In the Becoming Undone is pretty excited. His first book of poetry, On Going, comes out Monday.

ebuddha of Integral Practice offers a YouTubing of Eckhart Tolle this week. It is terrific. The message is that if instead of reacting to life's content that arises in the NOW we become aware of the NOW ITSELF, the undercurrent of stillness, we may realize that we are IT. Content and "the story of 'me'" becomes no longer problematic.

Serendipitously related to the Tolle Tube, is a Johnny Newt The Invisible Cat post, some of which reads. "do not cling to your delusions of what you wish the world could be or how the world should be, lets open our eyes and see the truth around us, be it harsh or painful let your open eyes destroy the mirrors of illusion"

Ian Sinclair of Jinajik links us to "an exhibition of some of the oldest documents of Sanskritic culture."

The identical twin brothers Smith report they are working hard in central Asia. Michael of Kathmandu for You is sending manufactured goods from Kathmandu to his US home in New Orleans. He writes, "I hope to set up regular shipments of certain items to raise awareness and money for the education of monks and nuns in Nepal." Dan of Kham Abiding writes from Tibet on July 4, "Today I worked hard to get off the job as quickly as possible, like A Good American. ... A lot of the girls cried at our year-end party the other week, and I didn't see any reason to uncork a small river before their examination. I returned my key, negotiated my phone bill with the building manager, and found a car to Kangding. Besides, I've always kind of sucked at goodbyes. I get reminded of change fairly often, but have difficulty expressing the right emotion at the right time."

Heather of K'vitch loved the new movie A Mighty Heart. "Economic, well acted by everyone, gut-wrenching, inspiring, filled me with horror at the same time as it painted Pakistan as a wonderful place.

Speaking of heart, and mighty ones at that, the mighty Sujain of lotusinthemud quotes the mighty Pema: "If you follow your heart, you're going to find that it is often extremely inconvenient."

Jack offers a long, thoughtful post in Mind Mountain about anger, generally, and toxic emotions of his own. He begins, "I’ve never had much difficulty with an explosive temper. Rather, my form of poison is a grinding arthritic frustration with the eventual effect of judging people very harshly in my mind, though less often in word or deed."

Whoa. morganells of morganells has a long post putting Truths together. Excellent stuff. It weaves the Truths from Buddhist perspectives through to discoveries from particle physics.

Joshua of Mudita Journal was no fan of Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth before. Now, he cites an article in the Chicago Sun-Times that ticks off seven instances where there is scientific evidence to refute significant claims in the documentary.

ryan of Nine Out of Zen finds motivation to do zazen from David Chadwick via Brad Warner.

Justin of Ordinary Extraordinary writes about the nexis of Zen and Love. I don't buy the usually brilliant Justin's thinking here. I would say Zen is about moving from ordinary to extraordinary and is not so much about love. [But, of course, Zen comes in many flavors.]

In a post called "Conditioned suffering," Zenmar, The Zennist, writes, "The Buddha teaching isn’t really about impermanence and suffering. What kind of spiritual physician would the Buddha have been to tell the many, in the words of Thomas Hobbes, that life is 'solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short?' The physician Buddha only gave the diagnosis of a disease to those who thirsted for phenomena. [For those who see with the third eye and break] the spell of phenomenal embodiment, they win nirvana."

The meaning of meaning and its significance: Kalsang Dorge's post in The-universe-is-all-in-my-head is great, heady stuff I've read twice and am still trying to get my head around. Here's a snip: "...Seeing and formulating is a basic requirement in order to exist as an intelligent being. Meaning is the operating system for the accomplishing person. ... The bases of meaning being realized, allows for new modes of thought. And perhaps these methods could be called "Meaning Processors" as these produce new meanings either directly or indirectly and they undo meaning in certain cases so that meaning becomes simpler, more general and therefore much more powerful."

And Th-th-th-th-tha-th-that's all, folks. Happy seeking.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Roundup on July 1, 2007

A picture by Michael, Gratitude, new blogs and the stream from recent days are on the card today of what's fresh and interesting in the buddhoblogosphere.

Picture This

Three details from a recent photograph in One Foot in Front of the Other.

Copyright 2007 Michael

Michael of One Foot in Front of the Other astounds me with his photo­graphy -- though he is no less inter­esting a writer of prose and poetry in his blog. At right, are three details from a recent photograph. A basketball flies into the trees, on its way toward the basket, posed perfectly to capture the name of its maker. Three players under the basket look like a grouping from The Last Supper. Two players’ shadows tell us the action that just happened. The details are scaled diferently, for display here. But you get the idea. Somehow, Michael squeezes a lot that is interesting into a single snap.

The Benefits of Gratitude

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.... It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. - Melody Beattie

Beginning March 9, 2006, Bill Harryman, in his Integral Options Café blog, started a 30-day regimen of Gratitude Blogging, "an experiment [where he committed himself to posting] one thing each day for which [he was] grateful." His first statement of gratitude was simply this: "Today I am grateful for a good friend who called me to arrange a lunch date."

On his 30th day, Bill was still going strong and finding himself to be expansive. His sentiments on Apr 7 weren’t a single item, but a list: "So many things to be grateful for, so today I will choose just three: canned protein drinks (taste bad, but do their job), clients who want to change and do their part to make it happen, and Kai's comments on my efforts at haiku (very helpful)." And he finished with the trailing tagline "What are you grateful for?"

Bill’s gratitude-posting regimen lasted well past the thirty days he committed himself to, but eventually, he did stop. But he has started up again with daily gratitude postings rather recently. And he blogged some gratitude today, hooray.

A week ago, I came upon an article that cites a study on the benefits of gratitude. The 2003 study, "Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life" tells us "that a conscious focus on blessings might have emotional and interpersonal benefits."

While we all seem to think we know what gratitude is, categorizing it and understanding what raw gratitude is is open to some dispute. As you might suppose. Try categorizing your own emotional states. But, rather non-controversially, gratitude is slotted in among clusters of other emotions that are pleasant, positive and interpersonal.

But there is an element of negativity in gratitude, for some, and this can be why many people are reluctant to explore and expose what they are grateful for. Gratitude can arouse feelings of indebtedness and one's lack of value to society.

Without going into the details of the impressive-seeming study and unpacking the statistical analysis of the collected data [which is well beyond my ken these days, anyway], it is reported that "participants in the gratitude condition reported considerably more satisfaction with their lives as a whole, felt more optimism about the upcoming week and felt more connected with others than did participants in the control condition. ... Therefore, it appears that participation in the graitude condition led to substantial and consistent improvements in people's assessments of the global well-being."

Thus, Gratitute seems very Buddhist and healthful for one's spirit and the community one lives in. Blog on, Bill. We all can be grateful for your gratitude-blogging regimen as something we may, ourselves, take up. What else might we be grateful for?

Birth Day

It is a birthday. Lucid Nomad began a new blog just this weekend, titled An Open Book: Of Mindfasting & Enlightenment. Mindfasting is not a term I'm familiar with. Lucid Nomad describes it in one of four posts already up. Quoting Alan Fox of the University of Delaware, Lucid Nomad writes,

"Mindfasting ... is emptying the mind of artificial constraints to open it up and make room for the appropriate natural response to occur. It therefore involves the elimination of rigid, dogmatic, formulaic attitudes and habits, and our self-identification with them."

Another new - practically brand new - blog is The Hinterlands, written by Gregor of Entering the Path. The Hinterlands is where Gregor intends to post words and photography from his hiking adventures in the back country.

It's not a birthday for the blog Buddhism and Conflict Resolution, an Amida Trust blog. It's been around four and a half months, but is new to me. The blog describes itself thus, "We aim for this weblog to be a source of guidance and inspiration for those people following the dharma who seek to resolve confict situations. Effective resolution is characterized by finding an agreement between two opposing ideas which engenders commitment, avoids harmful emotions and actions, and safeguards principles and relationship."

Ryan Oelke has a fairly new blog, begun last March, called Ryan Oelke, to add to the four he already had going - Buddhist Geeks, of course; the long-lived all-quadrants-all-the-time Integral Awakening; the valuable group blog Anxious Living and his blog in the Zaadz community. Ryan also informs us there's yet another blog, Tumblog, out there that he hasn't yet done much with. Ryan Oelke (the person) tells us that Ryan Oelke (the blog) is to be his "central campsite on the web," to be used for "personal/business" purposes. This makes sense since the new blog is at

The Stream

James Ure of The Buddhist Blog had a profound, touching experience helping people who were recipients of free meals at a nearby Presbyrterian Church. "As I filled each persons cup I concentrated on them as if they were the only person in the world. I saw the water I poured as precious gold. On such a hot day these folks gulped water as if it was the only thing that mattered--and in that moment it was. In that moment, offering them water was the most important thing I could do."

iPhone, uPhone, we all moan for iPhone: We find that ~C4Chaos of the same-strange-name blog is "sourgraping" for an iPhone in addition to drooling over it all, while Nagarjuna of Naked Reflections is "uncommonly excited" about them, but won't get one right away, if ever, even though he's "dazzled by its elegance and seamless multi-functionality." But in the midst of all the mad interest, Carlos Rull of suggests that we "iChill" and says we should enjoy "the iFlowers and the iOcean [and] go for an iWalk."

Sean of Deep Surface recently wrote of his father's death which happened suddenly while the two of them were on vacation, walking along a beach on Waikiki in 1984. The father was just 43 years old. In a follow-up post, Sean writes, "The images of that day with my Dad are vivid, but they exist only in my mind. Even what I do remember has grown fuzzy and lost details over the years. It’s clear to me that even the most defining moments in my life are not real in this moment. All my memories can be described this way - imagined stories of the past, incomplete and inaccurate. Even so, still being able to deeply feel the emotions related to those stories feels like a gift. When I can accept my memories as illusion, with no more reality than a novel, they are easier to savor as they arise."

After rather recently wiping out his blog, MikeDoe of DoeDo is back into heavy blogging, again. A current topic is creating, wearing and modelling a line of men's skirts. It is a very surprizing topic, fully unexpected, from the manly Mr. Doe.