Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Nature of Evil

To really "get" this posting, read it from the bottom up.

I am not sure the title of this blog fits the topic any more, since we have seem to wandered off onto "the meaning of life."
__________________________________________
From: Joe Mercurio Sent: Friday, February 09, 2007 3:08 PM

Bula: whew! Ok, I can't deal with this today. DSL's back Monday :-)
We agree on these points, anyway:

Kaky writes: "I also want to make an important disclaimer: those of us who THINK we are "more evolved" than others should be wary of falling into that great "sin" called PRIDE."

Totally agree. But we both obviously believe what each of has stated is the truth. That's not the same as pride, although it can become that...

Kaky: Hmmm....yes I suppose it could become that. But only if we let it. I think there is a difference between saying "you believe something different than I do" and "everyone should believe the same way I do and what I believe is better than what you believe."

Bula: It is in our nature, part of our nature, but that does not mean WE are evil. Our nature is good, but fallen. So we are not evil but have evil tendencies. Note the fallen part. That means we're really on a path to reclaim what we should have been. That has to happen first before we evolve.


Kaky: I think we have argued about this "fallen" thing before in a previous blog. I will just agree to disagree with you here. I don't think we will come to terms with it because I don't see us as "fallen" in the same way you do.

Bula: Points where we definitely disagree :-)
1. Kaky writes: "Furthermore, evil persists because people are at different places in the spiritual, evolutionary process." Evil persists because we use our free will to follow it, and also because it's incarnated in a being that is opposed to our avoiding evil in the first place. Evil won't go away until that being and its own are destroyed and we're transformed into beings that reflect the choices for good that we have made.

Kaky: I think free will is more the choices we can make in our evolutionary process. But I agree that evil won't go away until we are all transformed.

Bula: 2 Kaky writes: "But in the human form, evil will always be present. It is a part of us and our world.It is present currently. It will not always be so." We will always be human. Jesus is still human even though He's God as well. He's the model of our ultimate destiny.
But I want to spend some time putting these assertions into a logically sound argument (assuming you can be convinced that logical argument CAN be used in this discussion :-)

Kaky: Well, I am not sure there is too much logic to be had in discussing things like this. I mean, we are really discussing beliefs that can't be totally proven. It's not a scientific discussion where I can say, "See this microbe? That's God!" and you will say, "Ah! I see it now! Under the 20x setting. It's all gloppy and has a name tag that reads......GOD!"

Bula: This is fun!!

Love,
Joe

Kaky: I agree this IS fun. And I have to (obsessively/compulsively) post this. You can add to it later. I promise. I will still want to blog.

Love,
ME (your sister, Katherine....Kaky)

_____________________________________________________


LMAO

Okay, Buddha K. Here goes....

Bula: Kaky writes, "...we might never know what true goodness is"

Innately, we are good, so at some level, across all cultures and religions, we all know what goodness is. Whether we embrace that knowledge and allow its seed to grow, or ignore it, neglect it, choke it off, or allow it to be choked off, we all have it. That's why we can identify evil as evil in the first place.

Kaky: Well, yes....we do have good in us. And I believe we innately do want to evolve. And sure, we can identify evil (refer back to my mighty list of evils which are based on destructiveness and massive disunity). Evil goes against our innate desire to evolve. But it IS part of us.

Bula: Kaky writes, "So the ever-presence of evil is almost some kind of necessary catalyst for our spiritual and physical evolution until we move past the point of needing those unhappy reminders. "

Evil brings us down, not up! True, evil has entered our reality, but it was not meant to be there. Now, struggling against evil can build character, but the reality is we never entirely win that battle on our own. The only way we ever going to evolve, spiritually, and physically, is to get rid of the evil that holds us back, the evil that was not meant to be there, the evil that stops us from being our true selves.

- Buddha Kenaba
Kaky: I am not going to argue whether evil was "meant" to be there or not because I believe it's just part of our evolutionary process. It wasn't "meant" as in some higher form of destiny put it there. What I mean is, simply, evil is there the same way good is. It just "is." And no, we don't and should not embrace it. But I will argue that evil brings us down only if we let it. We all have the capacity to be evil. We all have the capacity for destruction and even self-destruction. It is in our nature, part of our nature, but that does not mean WE are evil. It means we must decide what to do with it, and others must help. If we don't help one another overcome that destructive and self-destructive side of humanity, we all lose. Furthermore, evil persists because people are at different places in the spiritual, evolutionary process. It is our job to get ourselves evolved, and in doing so, we help others do the same and subdue our evil tendencies. But in the human form, evil will always be present. It is a part of us and our world. That doesn't mean we ignore it, however.

Remember I said we are part and parcel with God? We die (that is, our current bodies die), and I believe we come back in our next evolutionary form. Yes, this is a form of reincarnation, part of the evolutionary process. Eventually, though, we live enough, evolve enough to become not human at all. We cease to send ourselves here in human form because we have evolved as much as we can as humans. Some people would call this "spirit" but I just call it part of the whole...a different manifestation of the whole. I believe that is what Jesus was--a being so evolved, he could defy what we perceive as death. I also believe that is what real Buddhas are. And others. You can't tell me Jesus was the only, fully evolved being that ever was.

By the way, I am not sure these fully evolved beings always manifest themselves as humans or spirits (ghosts, to some). Remember the burning bush?? How do you know the damn bush wasn't the manifestation itself? See? God, nature and us....there is no distinction.


I also want to make an important disclaimer: those of us who THINK we are "more evolved" than others should be wary of falling into that great "sin" called PRIDE. It is important to remember that the evolution happens differently to different people. It's not our place to judge someone's evolutionary path. (I write this just so you don't start using evolution as a some kind of spiritual Darwinian measurement or as an insult as in, "Sputter....sputter.....you are so......SO UNDER-EVOLVED!!!!!") And this is not the same thing as saying we should not help eliminate evil._________________________________________________

Katherine G wrote:
Re: Buddha

"In contemplating the river, Siddhartha has a revelation: Just as the water of the river flows into the ocean and is returned by rain, all forms of life are interconnected in a cycle without beginning or end. Birth and death are all part of a timeless unity. Life and death, joy and sorrow, good and evil are all parts of the whole and are necessary to understand the meaning of life."
http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/siddhartha/summary.html

From: Joe Mercurio In the natural world in which we find ourselves, this is all true. All true, that is, except for the part about evil. Evil itself is not necessary and not part of the true "Whole". Evil is a perversion of the whole, a twisting, a breaking away, the ultimate disharmony that is opposed to, (and only can exist) because of the utter goodness of the Whole. The Whole prevails and the harmony of Its music will even work the perverted noise of evil into its universal song...
Katherine G wrote: How can you separate evil from the whole when it obviously exists because there is something we call "good"? Yes, evil is a twisting away from the good as you say (or the positive evolutionary process as I see it), but it's yin and yang---we don't know what good is unless we know what evil is. I am not saying we have to experience or do evil to understand it (though that's most often how we learn from our mistakes) but without that opposing force (the disunity and the destructive force) we might never know what true goodness is because we have not evolved that far. It's like we have to see the bad to see the good--we are forgetful creatures who too easily dismiss things even like recent history from which we should have learned. So the ever-presence of evil is almost some kind of necessary catalyst for our spiritual and physical evolution until we move past the point of needing those unhappy reminders. This is my explanation for pain, as well, by the way, and it answers the question "Why is there evil in the world?"_________________________________________________________
RECAP: Kaky: Wait. Stop right there. This goes back to the definition of logic and ability and reasoning. How can you determine that our knowing about our own realities is any more superior than my Shiba Inus? Yes, we reason in an entirely different way. Yes, we have created complex language and theories on what we believe to be logic. But how do you know what is going on in the mind of animals? And since we are the ones who have reasoned ourselves right into war and global warming (don't argue about global warming here, by the way), then how can we prove we are powerful in terms of evolutionary intellect? I would argue that animals are just fury humans. Or humans are just bald animals. We are one. There is no division. There are external differences, but there is no division in creator.

Bula Kenobi: Logic is not just a perception, it's a universal constant, regardless of who's mind it's in, whether human or animal or ET. Black is black and cannot be other. We can call it by another name, but it's still black. If I'm a man, I'm not a woman. If you're married, you're not single. If Shiba is a dog, she's not a cat. None of these realities rely on individual perception, interpretation, or opinion. They are simply true or false. And if we reason like that, and we're divine, as per your argument, then the divine nature itself is the source of this logic. Thus, we can argue and discuss logically using simple logical premises, whether we take your definition of God or mine to be true...
Kaky: Hmmm....prove to me that logic is a universal constant. Travel to every cosmos and prove it. You can't. Black is whatever we think it is. You can look like a man but really be a woman if you have the hormones and feelings of a woman. If you are married, you can be separated, in limbo, insane, or in hell. Shiba is a dog who thinks she is a cat, so why would I bother to argue with her otherwise? Divine nature has nothing to do with logic. Logic is a human concept and only the really brilliant dare to defy it (like Einstein). We can utilize our sense of logic as a tool, and once we use those tools, we need to invent. Yes...invent....go outside the box. Things are more often gray than solely black or white. Calling things black or white is a logical error, a logical fallacy, the either/or fallacy. So even if you don't believe in my sense and use of logic, you ought to listen to your own definition of it, and in definition, the either/or mentality is a logical fallacy or error. Look it up. You will see.

____________________________________________________
Bula: But, you've just basically agreed with me. Asexual reproduction creates a "child" that came from the parent, which also came from a parent.
Kaky: What I was saying here was that a "child" comes from one parent--one being. So the child and the parent aren't really separate, are they, because there is no mix of genes between two parents. Creation begets creation from its own source.

Bula: Sexual reproduction follows a similar pattern, except that the child comes from 2 "others". Those parents came from parents who came from parents who came from...maybe ape ancestors? (don't post that part - it'll throw the entire blog off track) And the ape ancestors came from maybe fish like ancestors who came from something in the big bang...which was caused by what?
Kaky: Why do you think the previous statement would throw off the whole blog? I have to keep it there to maintain authenticity and integrity. Besides, no conversation is well done without a certain amount of round-about-ness. So...back to the discussion, anyway.

Bula: So far, nothing you or I can point to in the natural world comes from nothing.

Kaky: Exactly. I am not saying we come from nothing or that we ARE nothing. I am saying we are so something that we come from ourselves, from that same power that is everything.

Bula: Everything has a source. So the source of the universe must also exist. And if our universe is somehow the creation of another universe, then that universe had to come from somewhere. Someone or something outside our reality (whatever "outside" really means) must be the genius behind all this.
Kaky: You are doing it again--separating us from the power. Why can't you see us part of that genius--so part, in fact, that there is no distinction?

Bula: OK, that's my argument for a creator being an entity that is separate and distinct from the creation. Summary: everything in the natural world has a "maker" that is different than the object or person "made", so, logically, the natural world itself (that is, all of our reality) must also have a maker.
Kaky: Logic? LOL You are kidding, right? Logic is in the mind of the beholder, and we are the beholders and creators of logic. But then again, I was the one who always bugged you to tell me the "why's" of math, and you were always the one to tell me "don't ask why." I was also that one to argue that we only know the number one is the number one because that is a name we assign to it. On another planet, one might be 20 or 36 or dog poo. So you see? We are right back to the old argument from our early high school years. Not much has changed in the disagreement because I am still arguing that we have created the concept of God and to me, there is no distinction between God and us. And you are still arguing the concepts of the establishment. LMAO

Bula: Now, your response to this line of argument was that I was attempting to prove my point using "...the artificial need for external, biological proof." Our minds and reasoning abilities distinguish us from animals to an incredible degree and are an amazingly powerful means we have of learning about the reality that we live in.
Kaky: Wait. Stop right there. This goes back to the definition of logic and ability and reasoning. How can you determine that our knowing about our own realities is any more superior than my Shiba Inus? Yes, we reason in an entirely different way. Yes, we have created complex language and theories on what we believe to be logic. But how do you know what is going on in the mind of animals? And since we are the ones who have reasoned ourselves right into war and global warming (don't argue about global warming here, by the way), then how can we prove we are powerful in terms of evolutionary intellect? I would argue that animals are just fury humans. Or humans are just bald animals. We are one. There is no division. There are external differences, but there is no division in creator.

Bula: Your argument seems to imply that our ability to use human reason should play no role, or, at least, can't be relied upon, in trying to figure out the meaning of life or ultimate reality. If that's the case, then why does our reasoning mind ask the questions in the first place?! And forget about asking, how about, why do our minds incessantly hammer away at these issues, pushing many to drugs, sex, and alcohol and other abuses to avoid facing these questions?
Kaky: My argument implies nothing of the sort. My argument instead implies a need to evolve (hence I have used the word again and again) so we can realize and use our fullest capacity as creative beings. It's a pretty long process, as you can see, but one has to hope that if we created a cosmos, we can manage some of the finer details like world peace at some point. But then again, it is often easier to manage the larger picture than it is to manage the details, so it's not surprising human evolution is so damned difficult and we are so annoyingly un-evolved.

Bula: All of our physical and emotional human desires have a purpose and a fulfillment. We desire food to maintain health and nutrition, thus, we know how to eat. We desire sleep to rest our bodies and minds, so we know how to rest. We desire union and need and to keep the species going so we have sex. But in addition to all these desires, there is a deeper longing that never goes away even when all these other desires are satisfied. This desire longs for an explanation, a search for truth, a meaning outside of our little selves, some overarching purpose in life.
Kaky: Not everyone I know actively searches for meaning outside the self. Some people I have known seem to search only for self-gratification, to get the best of the physical world and nothing more than that. And if you recall, we don't just desire union to keep the species going. Come on......are you saying everyone who has sex just does it to procreate? Think back to the folks who only want self-gratification. Do you think they give a damn about procreation or emotional unions? Yes, most of us would like to believe that we are part of some larger picture, but there are those who are perfectly happy (and some might even argue happier) to live life and experience the daily tasks at hands (I am thinking of people who are able to live in the moment, complete tasks and enjoy them for their own sakes, and don't ever have conversations like these. Life is meaningful to them. They don't have to think about it. And they don't have to engage in a lifelong pursuit of self-gratification.

Bula: And if all our other desires pertaining to our physical world have a purpose and find fulfillment in this physical world, then logically, shouldn't this other desire, that longs for that mysterious something, also have a purpose? And a fulfillment? If natural desires originate and find fulfillment in the natural world, shouldn't desires that go beyond the natural find fulfillment in the super-natural world?

Kaky: Yes. The natural desire is to evolve. Some of us squelch that desire pretty well, however.

Bula: So here's the summary for my second argument that the creator is different from creation:

Natural desires all have a purpose and find fulfillment in the natural world. So desires that go beyond nature must also have a purpose and fulfillment, and, logically, their fulfillment would be found outside the natural world, that is, in the supernatural. But if there is no supernatural - because it's really just a part of ourselves anyway - then why do we have such desires? The answer must be that the supernatural does exist, is outside of ourselves, and does provide the ultimate fulfillment of our deepest longings....

OK, that was a great lunch hour. Now I need to walk :-)

Kaky: Sorry you missed your lunch. But it's better than losing your lunch.

Think of this summary: we ARE the supernatural.

Bula: We're supernatural to the extent that we have the presence of the supernatural One living in our soul. If we don't have that, then we're not only not supernatural, we're actually subhuman.....
Kaky: Grrrrrrrrrrrr! Quit being so negative about the human condition. We are not subhuman--we are just not fully evolved. You are only as subhuman as you allow yourself to be. If you refuse to separate your own identity from that of the divine, you will expect more of yourself and DO more! And you will be able to face hard times because you know you are not far from God...you ARE God!!! No, you will not be perfect, but my goodness...stop downplaying the divinity of humankind and animal-kind.

That being said, I am not here to convince you of anything, though it would be nice for you to really understand my perceptions of the universe, since I think I understand yours. Or maybe you do understand. Maybe you just disagree. Which is fine. It's just fun to exchange ideas in a respectful forum. So CHEERS, BRO!!!

__________________________________________________

Well.....some animals are self-healing and self-reproducing. (I know there's a science word for that, but I can't remember what it is. Asexual?) So why can't we and God be the same thing? But even eliminating the artificial need for external, biological proof, let's look at your argument. First, who says God must exist outside of our world and our universe? We only know what we know, including what we know about God. How do we know God isn't just some name we give to our innate higher power, our potential? How do we know God is not just the name we give to things we cannot express and cannot yet fully understand? Since the realm of our own understanding is finite and we know little about this thing we call God, it seems to me that even the concept of God is humanly contrived. Yet, there is undeniable power, a source, growth, potential, creativity, and capacity that we recognize. Therefore....we must be part of this source even if we don't fully understand it. Hence...we are part and parcel...we ARE God. We created ourselves. We sent ourselves here. There is not division between us and the source. We put up artificial parameters because we have not fully come into our own potential, but when we do, we will no longer need those barriers and we will be able to look in the mirror and at each other and see God without obstruction. Until then....we have these discussions (which will be read, I am sure, only the by the incredibly bored or equally masochistic).

Oh and one more thing about biology. Procreation happens between species that "do it" and blend their genes and bodily fluids. So literally, one being begets another. There is no "something else" the things come from--those things come from within our bodies or within the pollen or within the loins of the tigers. This is why murder is so seriously hurtful--in killing, we kill ourselves. The volcano comes from the Earth and rock which is already here. The cosmos comes from...where? Why must there be some external power? How do we know our universe is not just begotten of others, creations of that infinite power that is the true us? We only know what we already know, so we cannot presume there is nothing more to what we can see here.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt
Do you love scrapbooks, memory books,
or handmade cards but don't have the time?
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-----Original Message-----From: Joe Mercurio [mailto:jcjkkmercurio@yahoo.com]Sent: Tuesday, February 06, 2007 1:24 PMTo: Katherine GSubject: RE: FW: Tickle Me Elmo

Cool. I read it. Don't know who else will, but what the heck. Here's something that hit me as I was rereading that we can talk about for the next brain massage, if you're of the mind:
Kaky: That's a hard question for me to answer because I am the one who believes humans are part and parcel with God and nature, and if that is the case, then of course God cares because WE care.

Bula: So how can the God who created the natural world and, logically,must at least BE ABLE to exist outside of it - how can that God be indistingushable from it at the same time? What in the physical word can we point to that would allow us to draw that conclusion? What I mean is, in nature, everything comes from something else, whether it's a human child or a newly formed volcano. And the "something else" that things come from , in the natural world, always comee from some other distinct thing, etc. The logical argument would be that, since everything in the natural world comes from something outside itself, then the natural world itself must also come from something outside itself, namely a supernatural origin of some kind...

(This should be interesting!)

_______________________________________________

Bula (Joe): Excellent fun! My one-liners usually get a pretty good response from you!
Kaky (Katherine): "So.....do YOU believe there are things that are inherently wrong and that we inherently know what they are?"

Bula: Absolutely yes to the first part, and on a very basic level, yes on the second. I think people "out of the box" DO know that things like murder are wrong.
Kaky: We know these are universally wrong because all humans feel pain when they are denied these things. (And you can only call me Kaky because you are my brother!)

Bula: So if a particular action does not cause emotional, mental, or physical pain to someone else, can the action still be wrong just by the nature of what it is? Or is the wrongness of an act solely dependent on its outcome?
Kaky: No, I didn't say that. Recall this list of universal evils:


1*torture

2*violence
3*murder
4*denying people the right to respect (respect meaning seeing them and treating them as worthwhile human beings, not in the trite sense)
5*denying people the right and opportunity to care for themselves and their loved ones (as in creating poverty, withholding health care, etc.)
6*denying people the right and opportunity to make their lives worthwhile

What I said is "We know these are universally wrong because all humans feel pain when they are denied these things." (Maybe "all" is wrong...how about "most?") But even if the victims do not know they are suffering (as in the case of the mentally ill or the seriously developmentally challenged), we know the previous things I listed are wrong because they DO cause pain on some level and because they fall within the realm of the list.


But let's assume for a minute the person does not feel pain, cannot feel pain. This is unusual, an exception to the rule. It doesn't make the actions any more right because these (above) are universal evils. For example, if a sicko mutilates an already dead body, the dead person doesn't feel physical pain, but the victim's family will because of the violent act (the sicko still perpetrates #4 and #5 on the list, and perpetrates #2 because it's violence).

Kaky: Human beings can understand what is wrong/evil/destructive if we give it a little thought and understand our own survival instincts

Bula: So let's say we "know" that something is wrong (like some punk steals an old woman's seat on the bus and we say "Hey, loser, that's not fair!"). Do we only "know" it's wrong for pragmatic reasons? For example, it's "wrong" for you to beat me up because I would then have the beat you up?
Kaky: No, as thinking human beings, we would know this is wrong because it causes the old woman pain (perpetrates #'s 4 and 5 and possibly #2, depending on the force used). But if we were not thinking human beings (and most of us in mainstream society are unless we have been raised as feral children, are insane, or have some other physical reason for not being so) then yes, we would still know this is wrong because we have been taught or have learned this is wrong. It might not be inherent for human beings to know something is wrong, but society has a way of teaching its members what is wrong and what is not, especially when it comes to the universal rules above.


But caution: soceity also has a way of teaching rules (morality, especially) that it really doesn't believe. Unless some higher authority (governing body or the masses) reinforce what is right and what is wrong, we could easily believe that some of the rules are just optional (as in the case of adultery or pot smoking or swearing in public or even milder seat stealing). So we must stick to the list of universal wrongs in this discussion.

Bula: One more question: does "God" (or whatever name God is invoked by) care about how we act? Does morality "go all the way up the chain"? Or is morality a clever evolutionary trait that helps humans survive? Or both?
Kaky: That's a hard question for me to answer because I am the one who believes humans are part and parcel with God and nature, and if that is the case, then of course God cares because WE care.

Yes, morality (whatever THAT means) is an evolutionary tool to a point, but I don't think we can always separate out what is evolutionary and what is some dumb rule society traditionally holds onto that it really doesn't need or that it doesn't really believe. Again, there is a huge distinction between morality (rules) and the list of universal evils above. We cannot confuse the two because when we do, we start to focus on our differences and not on our similarities.


Differences are wonderful things to have, but when it comes to assessing what is viable and what is not in the global sense, we MUST stick to universal criteria and not get into doctrinal differences which only leads to further disunity, the other great evil next to destruction. Remember I said destruction is far worse than disunity, but vast disunity can lead to destruction? Well, we can't focus on our differences to the point where it leads to disunity because destruction too easily follows. (Yes, I am aware I am mixing philosophical and religious and possibly other social metaphors here.)

Thanks for the mind massage!

.....Friday Philosophy_______________
__________________________________________

Hmmmmm.......good question. For me, at least, things that are wrong are destructive and disunifying. Destruction is worse than disunity, in my moral book, but disunity certainly makes it harder to create "right."

My definition of "evil" is that which is destructive. Some religions would say "evil is the moving away from God," and since God is essentially viewed as a creative force, my definition of evil is not so different from what those religions espouse.

There are things that I consider universally wrong/destructive/evil:

*torture
*violence
*murder
*denying people the right to respect (respect meaning seeing them and treating them as worthwhile human beings)
*denying people the right and opportunity to care for themselves and their loved ones (as in creating poverty, withholding health care, etc.)
*denying people the right and opportunity to make their lives worthwhile

We know these are universally wrong because all humans feel pain when they are denied these things.

Human beings can understand what is wrong/evil/destructive if we give it a little thought and understand our own survival instincts. Basically, we all want to live as pain free as possible, we want to be able to care for ourselves and our loved ones, we want to be thought of as worthwhile, and we want to make our lives meaningful; therefore, we need to acknowledge each other's needs and make sure we all get what we need. I am not sure we can know all this inherently because to a certain extent, we are animals. But we are animals who can and need to work on expanding our capacities, and we must start with the basics (like avoiding the things listed above).

This, of course, launches me into thoughts on war. War is evidence there is destruction in the world, and instead of creating and nurturing that destruction, we need to work towards eliminating it. Sometimes, it does seem to take a war to eliminate more war and destruction, and those who must fight wars give up themselves on so many levels, I can't even begin to go into it. I don't think what's happening in the Middle East warrants us nurturing further war, however. (I already blogged on the war, so let's not revisit that.)

Ha! I bet you wish you didn't ask me that, didn't you??????

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt
Do you love scrapbooks, memory books,
or handmade cards but don't have the time?
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-----Original Message-----From: Joe Mercurio Sent: Thursday, February 01, 2007 4:32 PMTo: Katherine GSubject:

Do you believe that there are things that are inherently wrong? And that we can know what they are?

Katherine G wrote:
LOL Yes, there most likely will be a blog posting coming up.

No, I don't think there is anything wrong with organizations espousing to higher ideals. That's a good thing. And I know we all fail. But again, morality and the ideas behind spirituality are different, so I am not sure I would call my "theories" (such as unity of all, need for charity, etc.) "ideals" per se. But maybe it's just the afternoon and I just woke up from a nap and am too sleepy to argue semantics at the moment. Either way, there are doctrines that I know I don't believe, so I would make a lousy "standardized" Christian.

Yes, Jesus did rock in that super-spiritually-evolved kind of way. And I don't think people (or churches) should cease to have higher ideals. (I know...I'm repeating myself.) I get mad at people who pray on Sunday and rip you off on Monday. And I have little tolerance for people who believe church is just some place you go to improve your public image or people who think that church makes them better people even when they are total bastards the rest of their lives. On the other hand, we can make ourselves crazy in trying to be "perfect" like Jesus, too. I don't think Jesus wanted that to happen.

I don't know I agree that all cultures "know" adultery is wrong. My perception is they don't really believe in the rule, that the "rule" is just some sort of tradition even when there is little tradition of following it. My theory is they inherited the rule from something like the Roman Empire or some other conquering culture. Inheriting a rule is not the same thing as inherently believing in it. (Don't ask me to back this up historically. I will do it some other time when I feel like Internet hunting.)

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt
Do you love scrapbooks, memory books,
or handmade cards but don't have the time?
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plus materials! Email me to find out more.

-----Original Message-----From: Joe Mercurio Sent: Thursday, February 01, 2007 1:40 PMTo: Katherine G

Interesting that you just proved my point, because most of the world's religions also agree on the exceptions you just pointed out (except the adultery part - even cultures that wink at it know it's wrong at some level, hence the winking).

But, instead of theories, can we use the word "ideals", or what we "should" be doing? Jesus did everything we "should" be doing, more than any of the rest you mentioned. He's the basis for all Christian doctrine. Do you really think that just because many, and maybe all, of us constantly fail to live up to those ideals - that's the reason we shouldn't have them in the first place? We don't live up to the standards of our own moral code, so why have the moral code? Or why belong to an organization that promotes a high level or morality, even it its members stumble in their attempts to follow it?

I see a blog posting coming up :-)



Katherine G wrote:
Um.....most religions I know seem to believe killing is okay if it's for war or self defense, that stealing is okay if it's an emergency or extreme situation, and adultery is okay if the guy does it. So no, I am not sure the "rules" are all the same, and I would disagree that "moral understanding across historical cultures follows a similar pattern." The theories have more in common though--that we are all connected, that people should be respected, and yes, that charity is important. There is a huge difference between perceptions and practice of morality (the rules and/or doctrines) and the more divine theories associated with belief. I have no issue with the theories. I do have issues with the practice and some of the doctrines, which is why I cannot handle a church with specific doctrines. What I love about Thoreau and all those guys and even Jesus and that they DID. They didn't just talk a lot of crap and then go screw over the rest of society.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt
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-----Original Message-----From: Joe Mercurio Sent: Thursday, February 01, 2007 10:07 AMTo: Katherine G

1800's? Maybe the awareness of the commonalities started growing then, as the world became "smaller". But the concepts themselves - religious based charity, love, divine care, etc. developed over many thousands of years in places and among cultures that were religiously, geographically, politically, and historically separated (or even isolated) from each other. Moral understanding across historical cultures follows a similar pattern. Almost every culture in history has believed that murder, adultery, stealing, etc. are wrong. Not that all, or even most members of those respective cultures followed those precepts, but basic concensus seems always to have been there...

Katherine G wrote:
What I find interesting is the time period in which this belief came forth. The mid 1800's were a world-wide time for thinking about globalism, reform, tolerance, etc. We had the Transcendentalists and the Unitarians, and the East had Bahai. You can see the influence Eastern religions had on the Transcendentalists, so this idea of unity was spreading as they were learning from one another.

I have this "thing" with trying to find connections, to see where things are related. I've been told I sometimes do this to excess and see relationships where there aren't any. I guess I think everything is related in some way. You just have to find out what that way is....kind of like a Rubik's Cube.....

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt
Carpe Diem

www.luxuriouschoices.net

-----Original Message-----From: Joe Mercurio Sent: Wednesday, January 31, 2007 4:16 PMTo: Katherine G


...Another monotheisitic religion with about 6 million members.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bahai_Faith.

Scouts are supposed to be reverant and believe in God and so they usually have one of these at summer camp, so we decided to do it at our winter camp out. It was really cool. I asked a couple of kids and a couple of parents to do pieces of it. Really shows that, in spite of huge doctrinal differences, there are some common elements, like love and reverence for God, charity, finding God in people and nature, etc. that show up in all religions... which is evidence that we all have the same nature and same origins and same creator. Amen.

Katherine G wrote:
Yes, I WOULD have liked it! How very eclectic and cool! (What is Bahai?)

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt
Carpe Diem
www.luxuriouschoices.net

-----Original Message-----From: Joe Mercurio Sent: Wednesday, January 31, 2007 12:22 PMTo: Katherine G



2 Cabins and a cook house with wood stoves. Actually got too hot in there at night. Lots of fun...

Even had a non-denominational prayer service with Christian,Jewish, Muslim, and Bahai scripture and prayers. You would have liked it :-)

Katherine G wrote:
LOL You're kidding!!!!! Wow. That is SCARY! What is even scarier is that you went camping with the scouts in the middle of the winter.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt
Carpe Diem

www.luxuriouschoices.net

________________________________________________________
References to philosophies, religions and beliefs represent personal experiences and perceptions only and are not meant to categorize, interpret, endorse, or defame; these statements are not intended to promote prejudice towards or to support any particular religion or belief, nor should they be interpreted as statements of intolerance towards individuals or groups of believers.
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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What's Your Legacy?

Silent Legacy
(M. Etheridge)
Listen:
28k 56k 128k

Why did you steal the matches
From the one room motel
Once they gave you answers
Now they give you hell
They will never understand
They wonder where did they go wrong
How could you be so selfish
Why can't you get along

And as you pray in your darkness
For wings to set you free
You are bound to your silent legacy

You've seen it in the movies
And you've heard it on the street
Craving the affection
Your blood is full of heat
They don't listen to your reasons
As original as sin
Deny all that you feel
And they will bring you home again

And as you pray in your darkness
For wings to set you free
You are bound to your silent legacy


Your body is alive

But no one told you what you'd feel
The empty aching hours
Trying to conceal
The natural progression
Is the coming of your age
But they cover it with shame
And turn it into rage

And as you pray in your darkness
For wings to set you free
You are bound to your silent legacy

You are digging for the answers
Until your fingers bleed
To satisfy the hunger
To satiate the need
They feed you on the guilt
To keep you humble keep you low
Some man and myth they made up
A thousand years ago

And as you pray in your darkness
For wings to set you free
You are bound to your silent legacy


Mothers tell your children
Be quick you must be strong
Life is full of wonder
Love is never wrong
Remember how they taught you
How much of it was fear

Refuse to hand it down
The legacy stops here

Oh my child...


Oh my child...

____________________________________________________________

References to philosophies, religions and beliefs represent personal experiences and perceptions only and are not meant to categorize, interpret, endorse, or defame; these statements are not intended to promote prejudice towards or to support any particular religion or belief, nor should they be interpreted as statements of intolerance towards individuals or groups of believers.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

What I Want to Be When I Grow Up

I've been wanting to do this for awhile now, because it's something that's been on my mind and something I remember writing about in my first diaries.

I want to talk about what I want to be when I grow up.

See, I never really could decide as a child, wasn't much better as a teen, put off college for a couple of years, and of course, ended up in Liberal Arts (or Liberal Studies, as it was called) with a determination to "make it all the way" as an English major. Hmmmmm. Well, I've made it this far anyway, and I am not sad I majored in English because in doing so, I got to at least critically read and think about all those other careers that, even as an adult, I always wanted to try out. But still, the other sides of me pout because after all, I have wanted to be some interesting and exciting things....like a soldier, for example. And a forest ranger. And a police officer. And a lawyer. And a cosmetologist and a journalist and a paperback writer.

When I was a kid, I know I briefly thought about being an astronaut. I now know enough about me and flight to understand there are not enough barf bags in the world to support that ambition. But I might have been able to work with the other career tracts if I didn't get so caught up in trying to study and learn all I know in my own field (which is scant enough, no matter how much). And I understand I am far too old and never have been in good enough shape to make it as a good soldier. Besides, I am not sure I would trust my aim or my nerves with a gun. So that kind of rules out the police officer thing, too. My poor physical shape eliminates the ranger idea--that and the fact that I can't seem to read a topographical or a Mapquest map. Se la vie. As for being a lawyer, well, I've learned through reading that there's a certain amount of related learning and memorizing unintelligible vocabulary that has to be done, and far too much competing and arrogance than I could ever serve up, so there goes the law school option. Besides, I hear lawyers have as many student loans as I do. And at least I get to ENJOY some of what I read. I'm not sure lawyers can say the same.

Cosmetology...I have my kids' hair to play with, and I change my own color at will, so I have had to settle for that. I sold Mary Kay and AVON for a bit, so I can't say I haven't had a certain amount of fun in the face-painting sector. Journalism? I'm not aggressive enough, and having a camera pointed at my face while I perform national and international public speaking would make me want to vomit (refer back to the barf-bag comment). Paperback writer? I have played around with various forms of trite fiction, but frankly, I'm just not romantic or scintillating enough, nor do I know how to market. My fiction tends to turn more serious in ways that would never make it in grocery-store-paperbacks, indeed, never makes it off my hard drive in most cases.

I recall considering other professions as well, and some of them make me raise an eyebrow even at myself. In the fifth grade, my best friend and I decided we would become cloistered nuns together. We discussed this through alternating fits of giggling and religious fervor, and I look back and wonder what made me think I could shut up for a lifetime when I couldn't even last through Math. As a teen, another friend and I decided on the Peace Corps. This might have worked except for the talking thing. As my husband points out, I probably would have been the one to strike up a conversation with the local Gorillas and get us all killed. But maybe he wasn't referring to apes.

So here I remain, reveling in the joys of English-as-an-undergrad, and I mean that sincerely for the most part. No, I do not earn a lot of money, but that was never a deterrent for me. I knew going into English that intellectual meandering, self-indulgent writing and heartfelt teaching weren't passages to wealth....which is fine with me, considering I hate to carry cash. (I thought about writing my kids checks for their allowances, but then I would have to drag the kids to the bank anyway, so I just ask my husband to pay them the two dollars when they complete the cleaning of the cat pan. It works out much better this way.)

I still think about all the things I want to be when I grow up, which of course means that I don't consider myself as HAVING grown ALL the way up, but I don't think that's such a bad thing when it means one is responsible but curious--curious in that way a nine-year-old soaks up anything interesting. I don't want to lose my sense of curiosity. I don't want to lose that wondering what it would be like to live a different kind of life. It doesn't mean I WILL go out and live it, but I don't see a thing wrong in reading, imagining, exploring. So I guess I will continue to do so until something else comes along that says, "Hey! You REALLY need to give this a try." I hope I am up to the task.

---Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt

________________________________________________________

References to philosophies, religions and beliefs represent personal experiences and perceptions only and are not meant to categorize, interpret, endorse, or defame; these statements are not intended to promote prejudice towards or to support any particular religion or belief, nor should they be interpreted as statements of intolerance towards individuals or groups of believers.

Opinions expressed on this page reflect only those of the authors and not necessarily those of the editors, site owner, or other contributors. Respond to this posting by e-mailing us at editor@luxuriouschoices.com or see the note below.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Finally, On THE War

I admit I've been putting off writing about the war, partially because we hear and read about it ad nauseam, and partially because it's been a complicated piece of pondering for me. You see, I'm one of those people who always thought I should be a soldier because I love democracy and I will fight for it, and I rather believe in a mandatory one year of service for all citizens between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five and wish I had done something while in that age bracket (though I don't know if I have ever been physically capable of it, and there certainly are aspects of the military I know I would have struggled with as a somewhat free-minded female). I admire soldiers for their discipline and commitment, and I think we owe Veterans, no matter what the war, our gratitude.

That being said, I think we need to get the hell out of Iraq. I'm not even going to bother ruminating over why we went there in the first place, if we should ever have gone to war, whether or not it's Bush's fault or the fault of the Republicans in office or the Democrats from five terms ago. In the time-warp of war, where minutes become hours, that's all ancient history.

We need to focus on the now and the how.

As is my style, I have been thinking about options and writing a little to-do list for Iraq. I'm sure, as always, I will be accused of over-simplifying the matter, but I've found as someone with a cluttered brain and a cluttered house, the best thing to do is to try to simplify if you really intend to get things done. You do this by identifying the underlying issues and working on those, specifically. The rest should then fall in order with the help of people of who are far better at working out the details than I am. Realize, then, that this is a big-picture plan.

Issue #1

Even if we do help establish a new kind of government in Iraq, it may or may not last, because the history and culture of the country and the Middle East do not necessarily support our kind of government.

What We Need to Do:

We need to recognize and acknowledge this issue before we can get any further into this discussion. The Sunnis and Shiites have been at odds and/or have remained separate for thousands of years. And now, their violence towards one another has increased. As much as I am an idealist, it's unrealistic to believe we, a rather unpopular entity at the moment, will be able to convince the majority otherwise. And really, our job is not to convince anyone of anything but to help establish peace and a semblance of order now that we have contributed to the breakup of what little order they might have had. We have not "failed" if Iraq chooses a government different from ours. We HAVE failed if we continue to make war and not peace.

Issue #2

The American People largely oppose this war and continuing on with it. The United Nations has not supported the war, and neither has the majority of the world, including some of Iraq.

What We Need to Do:

We need to write up a plan for leaving Iraq and set a date to do so. And it needs to be as NOW as logistically possible. We need to tell the world of our intentions. Now before anyone jumps up and says, "But that's suicide because then the bad guys will just wait until we leave and ruin the newly established Iraqi government and it will start all over again," let me remind you of Issue #1. Establishing any kind of new government will take years. And even after that time, there is a good possibility when we leave, war will re-erupt between the religious sects. Do we want our troops, our resources, and our attentions over there for years with little chance gaining anything from it? According to the voice of the majority and other countries, the answer is "no." As a democracy, we need to listen to the voice of the majority.

Issue #3

We do owe Iraq help because, whatever our intentions were, we screwed some things up over there. And we do not want more suffering as a result.

What We Need to Do:

There are hundreds of ways we can help Iraq without sending our soldiers over there to die and our resources over there to be depleted. What are some of those ways? I can list a few here, but if you really want to know, ask the people over there and over here for ideas. What we are talking about really is complex dispute resolution, and we have some of the best the world can offer. Sit with the Sunnis and the Shiites and all other parties concerned, find out what they want (besides revenge) and negotiate a treaty.

Refer back to #1. It may be that these two groups cannot live together peaceably. Would you tell a mutually abusive couple to stay together? No. You would encourage them to work it out, and if it didn't happen, you would suggest they separate. If there are two equally numbered groups who cannot get along, then re-draw the country lines and let them separate. Just because we decided against this action in our own Civil War doesn't mean the same has to happen in every country of the world.

Other ideas to help Iraq: help train their armies. Help rebuild their cities. Ask that the UN serve as a watchdog for peace. Do these things only if the Iraqi people want us to. None of these things require vast amounts of troops.

Issue #4

While we have been out and about messing around in Iraq, the state of the United States has declined into its own kind of mess. We have immigration, education, and socioeconomic problems that have gone ignored for too long. If anything, this sets us up for another terrorist attack, not the warring parties in Iraq.

What We Need to Do:

Focus on domestic issues. Make the United States strong again. Bridge the horrific cultural gaps between conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans. Protect our country from within by making it strong, unified, and focused. As the Transcendentalists believed, 'True reform must come from within.'

I will be adding more links and ideas to this piece so anyone who might stumble across it will know I am not just talking through the toilet.

In the meantime,

PEACE.

--Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt
_________________________________________________________

References to philosophies, religions and beliefs represent personal experiences and perceptions only and are not meant to categorize, interpret, endorse, or defame; these statements are not intended to promote prejudice towards or to support any particular religion or belief, nor should they be interpreted as statements of intolerance towards individuals or groups of believers.

Opinions expressed on this page reflect only those of the authors and not necessarily those of the editors, site owner, or other contributors. Respond to this posting by e-mailing us at editor@luxuriouschoices.com or see the note below.

NOTE: To post a new topic, click the "Blog This" link at the top of the page. You may also respond and read other responses by clicking on the "comments" link under the original posting, but remember, this is a moderated blog. All postings must be approved prior to publication. We very much appreciate your continued, thought-provoking, professional posts and look forward to reading more!

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Should We Bother with Saving the Internet?

My apologies and thanks to Mr. William Scott, J.D. for provoking this piece: my apologies because I couldn't help but turn this into a blog (and thereby, continue to work on it), but more a thanks because the topic, the inquiry, and the research aspect greatly interest me. I am sure I will be playing with this piece for some time.

Should We Bother with Saving the Internet?

My immediate reaction is that YES I want to maintain the right to research and learn via Internet without big business running that particular universe (as they seem to run everything else) and NO I would not want companies like Verizon telling me what I can and cannot see on the Internet...particularly when they can't even get my telephone direct debit right! The Internet seems to be the new and last frontier for truly free enterprise and research potential, and the "real thing" in terms of the Freedom of Information Act. We, as daily users especially, need to defend it.

Then, I read
Net neutrality and politics don't mix by George Ou. A detailed rebuttal of specific net neutrality concerns. This was a helpful article from the IT perspective, again, not my area of expertise. Ou views the project to save the Internet as a scaremonger tactic to keep companies like Yahoo and Google in business. He says that there needs to be a system to keep the Internet orderly, otherwise search results would be chaotic. This makes logical sense to me, and it makes sense that to some extent, what we see on the Internet already IS being controlled by big business (i.e. Yahoo and Google), as is the general media (look at who owns the newspapers and television networks). It’s common knowledge that people pay to have their sites listed in directories, and the people who invest the most money get the most hits from search results. Still, there are at the moment at least enough search engines, independent blogs, small businesses, and personal pages that keep the Internet somewhat free, though not always as orderly as some people might like.

My husband, an avid game player, seems to agree that some of the hype about keeping the Internet free has been reduced to what Ou deems “scare tactics.” Hubby says this kind of thing has been a commonly discussed “threat” among gamers for a long time, that charging for email and Internet hours comes along every so often and always is defeated because too many use and appreciate the Internet to let it happen (particularly among the gaming population). Of course, he is not nearly as inclined as I am to write letters to my Congressperson, so it could just be that vocal users have consistently saved the Internet for the general population, and this is just one more battle to be fought.

Let me retrace my steps a bit and say I am a firm believer in the Freedom of Information Act, and when we try to repress information, censor, or limit access to information, we get ourselves and our country into problems. (See
“We Need Fewer Secrets” by Jimmy Carter, Washington Post, June 2006.) Note that whenever a fascist regime comes in, the first people persecuted (that is, after the religious or ethnic group of choice) are the academics and the students, especially the vocal ones. Why? Because spreading education means spreading empowerment and freedom. Knowing how to think and not allowing someone to think FOR you can make you a mighty individual; doing so with ethics, integrity, sincerity, and thoughtfulness can make you an asset to humanity. The Internet, on its current developmental path, allows us the freedom to research varieties of sources from different perspectives, regardless of the authors' socioeconomics, access to specialized libraries, and/or ability to get something published. “Selling” the Internet to the highest bidders does us all a gross injustice because it suppresses the voices of those who might not otherwise HAVE a voice, and limits the right of all to read, write and analyze and to use their talents to their fullest potential.

Now take this from whence it comes. I am a proponent of government regulation, not because I think the government is the answer to everyone’s problems (indeed, in many cases, it is the CAUSE of everyone’s problems), but because the government assumably protects the rights of the individual. I do not consider businesses and corporations individuals, and so as far as I am concerned, the government is there to protect MY rights, and not Verizon’s or Comcast’s. Yes, industry and business are crucial to the economic and physical survival of this country, but a country ruled by business is like an ocean ruled by the sharks: most everything else will be eaten or killed, leaving nothing but some huge, pacifistic animals like whales that are just too BIG to eat and don’t care anyway because they eat kelp. As a “little fish,” I’m about tired of running away from sharks, and if they start swimming in through my computer screen via the Internet, it’s time to re-think the ocean.

What I am getting to is that first, I am not sure it’s the Internet itself we need to regulate so much as the big businesses that drive it. Let’s go back to the formation of this country as a metaphor. We had a lot of land (that we basically stole from the natives, but that’s another issue). We wanted to give people an incentive to develop it. We didn’t sell off, say, the Midwest territories to three people and say, “Here! Do with it what you want! Become overlords!” No, we offered land at a reasonable price to everyone, and everyone had to follow the laws of the country being developed.

The Internet is no different---it’s a vast land of mostly unexplored territory. And we don’t want information overlords. We want citizens of the net who agree to follow some basic rules (for example, don’t traffic drugs or children, and don't overcharge the consumer), and we want companies to do the same. Comcast and Verizon do not own our roads, nor should any big business own our Internet avenues and tell us what routes we can use and which we cannot. Individuals and companies are expected to follow the law, whether on the sea, on the road, or in cyberspace. So second (and certainly not in order of importance), we want to apply the rights of the Constitution and the tenets of the law to the Internet, and the only way we will be able to do this effectively is by finding concrete “real life” analogies to help us manage it. We must look at the Internet as a place and not just media. It's not the ONLY place, and it doesn't replace PHYSICAL places, but it is a place on its own. If we start looking at the Internet as something so foreign and abstract that we can’t rein it in, then we start to become more susceptible to arguments that favor activities and privileges we would never allow in the physical world. Treat Internet business issues the same way we would in any major city or state (and don't ignore the issues, as is the practice in SOME states).

Finally, in terms of actual regulation of the net, we DO need the same kind of enforcement and oversight on the Internet that we have in our streets, neighborhoods, and communities. We need cops looking at traffic and violations, agencies protecting consumer rights, mediators for those (serious) online spats, and yes, Homeland Security hanging out in chat rooms. And these entities and agencies must follow the laws as well. Yes, we have some of this in place already, but we don’t have nearly enough protection from the people who really understand the Internet and the kinds of crime that can take place on it. Police frequent bars and establishments known to have trouble; the same thing needs to happen on the Internet where citizens of the net become vulnerable in places like MySpace. Secret shoppers need to scope out scam shopping sites and the Department of Education needs to audit online campuses. We don't want the Internet to become a police state, but we do need more enforcement to keep the Internet safe (and that depends on us knowing what we are enforcing).


We want to preserve the best the Internet can offer, and the only way to do this is to maintain open access to information. So, should we bother saving the Internet? My response remains, "Without a doubt."

--Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt

________________________________________________

References to philosophies, religions and beliefs represent personal experiences and perceptions only and are not meant to categorize, interpret, endorse, or defame; these statements are not intended to promote prejudice towards or to support any particular religion or belief, nor should they be interpreted as statements of intolerance towards individuals or groups of believers.

Opinions expressed on this page reflect only those of the authors and not necessarily those of the editors, site owner, or other contributors. Respond to this posting by e-mailing us at editor@luxuriouschoices.com or see the note below.

NOTE: To post a new topic, click the "Blog This" link at the top of the page. You may also respond and read other responses by clicking on the "comments" link under the original posting, but remember, this is a moderated blog. All postings must be approved prior to publication. We very much appreciate your continued, thought-provoking, professional posts and look forward to reading more!

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