Saturday, December 19, 2009

Haiku Marin

[We'll reopen this long dormant blog with a little poetry]

"Fair trade certified"
The label on the full can
Of cigarette butts

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

In Memoriam

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

I've been banished to the 2nd level of hell!

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Second Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)High
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very Low
Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Moderate
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)Moderate
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Very High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

Take the Dante's Divine Comedy Inferno Test

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Warm Xmas Thoughts

This is from the late comic Bill Hicks (quoted in a San Francisco Chronicle review of a book of his work--Love All The People), and it reminded me of Jesus:

"The world is like a ride in an amusement park. And when you choose to go on it, you think it's real because that's how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and it's very brightly colored and it's very loud and it's fun, for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time and they begin to question -- 'Is this real, or is this just a ride?' And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, they say, 'Hey, don't worry, don't be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.' And we ... kill those people."

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Divine Mother Complex

Yesterday, for the first time in twelve years, I got hugged by Indian guru and divine mother Ammachi . Ammachi, known as “the hugging Ma” is considered by her devotees an avatar, or an incarnation of God (or, in this case, Goddess). Her primary activity is traveling the world, often giving thousands of devotees at a sitting the divine dispensation of unconditional love in the form of a deeply heartfelt and holy hug. I have literally watched her do this non-stop for hours and hours at a time, without a break, greeting and embracing each person in an endless line of people as if they were the first.

My first hug from Ammachi was such a disaster that it took me twelve years to go for another. I think after yesterday’s experience, I may wait even longer for my next hug—maybe forever.

When I first met Ammachi, it was the early 90’s. I drove out to her ashram in San Ramon, east of Oakland, California. The place looked like it had been a ranch. I arrived in time for her morning darshan (Sanskrit for “meeting God”) at the old barn where it was being held. There were about two or three hundred of us there. I must admit I was skeptical. I felt spirituality had to do with divine understanding, and could not understand what could be gained by receiving a hug—no matter how loving—without a good dose of teaching to go along with it. But although Amma did sometimes teach, the main event around her seemed to be the hug.

I got in line with a mixed crowd of folks, many of whom seemed to be suffering physically or psychologically. I guess they were in need of some divine motherly love. For my part, I was too proud to admit I might need some of the same, but always ready for a new experience, I waited patiently on the off-chance that with the hug might come some transmission of spiritual insight or bliss.

I finally reached Ma after standing in line for what may have been an hour. An usher gently pushed me forward onto my knees and into her arms. Ma is a small but round Indian woman. An Indian sari covered her ample yielding flesh. She hugged me to her bosom at first, but then did something unexpected. She placed her hands on my head and pushed my face into her lap. It felt like I was drowning between her full soft thighs, my face mostly covered by the folds of her sari. Barely able to breathe, I tried to lift my head up, but she applied more pressure, pushing me down. Finally, gasping for breath, I pushed harder against her. She then lifted my face up, holding it between her hands, looked into my eyes, and, between repetitions of the mantra “Ma, Ma, Ma”, grinned and laughed at me. This went on for only a moment before she again pushed my head down into her lap with surprising strength, for another deep dunk between her thighs. She played this game with me several times, waiting until I was gasping for breath, pushing up against her hand as hard as I could, then lifting me up and laughing in my face, with a kind of girlish—naughty girlish—charm. Finally, she laughed again and let me go. I wandered away from her chair not knowing quite what hit me.

A lot of water has gone under the bridge since that last hug from Ma. Over the years, my focus on intellectual understanding waivered. I began to wonder whether spiritual insight alone is all it’s cracked up to be. I started to feel that maybe the real secret is, as so many have taught, a heart full of love. After all, insights come and go, and different traditions use very different words and concepts. But what they all seem to point to, when all is said and done, is love. However you get there may not matter as much as whether you can find a way to embrace life, despite its inevitable pain—to love it, to love oneself and to love others.

Over the years I thought of going to see Ma again when she made her annual trips to the area where I live. Many of my friends always went, and they invariably spoke glowingly of the experience. But each time she came, I never seemed to find the time to make the hour drive to the ashram and to stand in line for what now, I heard, was often several hours, for a hug. But yesterday, I had nothing pressing at work, and it was a beautiful day for a drive to the country. Besides that, I felt called. So I took the leap and drove to Ma’s.

I arrived at an ashram much changed over the years. There were parking lots and parking attendants, and organized shuttles from the outlying lots to the main buildings. The barn had been remodeled into a simple but elegant hall. Due to the numbers of devotees, and the need for crowd control, tokens were given which determined the order of your hug. I got one in the group “1000-1100.”

I watched for hours as Ma sat royally, yet relaxed, and received one devotee after another. A tangible energy seemed to emanate from her end of the hall. I felt, at times, almost like I was watching a biblical scene. Holiness and peace pervaded the atmosphere. At times, I felt almost moved to tears, without knowing why. I watched and meditated and finally, after about four hours, it was my turn.

This time I was determined to put my natural skepticism aside. I had learned that in order to truly see the divine, you had to have faith. While discrimination is good, too much doubt clouds the vision. I decided I would open to Ma, as much as I could, as the embodiment of the divine feminine, as the embodiment of Mary, Tara, Shakti and all the other holy mothers and goddesses, as a manifestation of divine love.

Just in front of me was a mother with a three-year-old son. She placed the boy in Ma’s arms, and the child went completely limp. He laid in her arms in total relaxation, completely abandoned and surrendered. Ma herself seemed surprised. She opened her arms up and, with the boy still collapsed on her, lying utterly still, she laughed and said to us around her, “Look at this! Look! Look at this!”

Now it really was my turn. I tried to abandon myself to Ma as much as the young boy had. I collapsed into her arms. She hugged me to her. My head laid on her left breast. She leaned her head over mine, and said into my ear, loudly, “Ma, Ma, Ma” over and over again. Abandoning myself to the moment even further, I began to repeat “Ma, Ma, Ma” after her. It seemed involuntary. I was lying on her breast, repeating “Ma, Ma, Ma.” I noticed that as my mouth opened and closed to say the words, my lips were opening and closing on a wrinkle of her sari’s cloth, just over her breast, approximately where her nipple would be. I felt like a child, like a baby really, saying “Ma, Ma” and opening and closing my lips as if to suckle. Then I lifted my head, made a pranam to her, and it was over.

Like the first time, I wandered away half in a daze. At first I was happy. “That seemed to go well,” I thought. But then I began to think about what happened. Was my mouth really opening and closing on her breast as I said, “Ma, Ma” like a baby? Did anyone notice this? Did Ma notice this? Was she offended?

I had a fantasy that in the middle of my abandonment, one of the large orange-robed swamis who always seemed to be in close attendance to Ma noticed what I was doing. In my fantasy, his face darkened with outrage at what he felt was my obscene disrespect. He came over, picked me up by the scruff of the neck and—in a history-making move—had me physically ejected from Ma’s presence, to my undying shame.

How could I have let myself regress so far? Why would I do such a thing? What is wrong with me, I wondered? And I felt a bit dislocated from the event through my whole drive home, and for several hours afterwards. The spell finally broke—thank God—when my girlfriend got home from work, I told her the whole story, and we both almost collapsed on the floor with spasms of laughter at the absurdity of the whole thing.

In the end I think I’ll always be grateful to Ma for this experience. It is only due to her grace, that my career as a spiritual devotee is (I think) finally over. I don’t think I can look again to a guru for enlightenment or bliss. Ma killed that tendency with holy embarrassment and buried it with divine mirth.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Six Days In Fallujah

After six days in Fallujah, it is estimated that about 1,000 insurgents have died.

One wonders how one distinguishes an insurgent from an Iraqi civilian. One wonders how many civilians have died, and why no one mentions them.

Fallujah is a city about the size of Berkeley, California. It has been besieged by about 10,000 U.S. troops for the last 6 days. Will there be anything left of Fallujah when the battle ends?

It is acknowledged that Al-Zarqawi and the other terrorist leaders who made Fallujah their base left the city before the U.S. troops got there. Where are they hiding now? What is the next city that must be destroyed in the search for them? How many cities will be destroyed like Fallujah?

Destroying a country to save it is a strange and savage strategy. How many Viet Nams and Iraqs will it take before a better way is found?

Liberty blind-folded

I dreamed I saw the Statue of Liberty wearing a white blindfold. Her torch was half covered by a black shroud.

I asked the shaman what the dream meant.
He said, "This is a hard dream."

"The torch represents peace."

He did not say more. He did not have to.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

More Americans are creationists than accept evolution

Is it any wonder that conservative Christianity has such a strong influence in the U.S.? It's hard for some of us to fathom, but most Americans identify themselves as creationists, and reject scientific evolutionary theory. This is from a report on a 2001 Gallup poll:

Americans More Likely to Identify Themselves as Creationists Than as Evolutionists

Gallup has asked Americans several times over the last 20 years to choose between three statements that describe the origin and development of the human race. Generally speaking, the plurality of Americans have come down on the side of a creationist approach to human origins, while slightly fewer have agreed with a statement that reflects an evolutionary process guided by God, and only a small number have agreed with an evolutionary process in which God had no part.

Most recently, in Gallup’s February 19-21 poll, 45% of respondents chose "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so," the statement that most closely describes biblical creationism. A slightly larger percentage, almost half, chose one of the two evolution-oriented statements: 37% selected "Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process" and 12% chose "Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process."
The public has not notably changed its opinion on this question since Gallup started asking it in 1982.

A full report on the poll can be found here.

I should know better but, even though I am interested in religion and spirituality, I continue to be shocked at the prevalence of literalistic and fundamentalistic beliefs in the U.S. The last election is certainly a wake-up call on this issue.

Is it a failure of the educational system that allows so many Americans to reject science in favor of literal biblicism? A federal trial began yesterday in Atlanta, Georgia over a school board's decision to place stickers in student's science texts, warning them that evolution is merely "a theory, not a fact" and should be "approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered." A NY Times report on the case can be found here.

In 1987, the U.S. Supreme held that requiring the teaching of creationism in public schools' science classes violates the separation of church and state. The Cobb County school board involved in the sticker case is apparently testing the limits of the earlier case, arguing that creationism isn't being taught--students are just being encouraged to be critical of the theory of evolution. But if even school board's foster doubt about evolution--the basics of which have been amply demonstrated scientifically--then is it any wonder that so many Americans reject science and hold onto outdatedly literal religio-mythical beliefs?