The Pale Blue Dot

pale blue dot 2

Full quote:

“From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of an particular interest. But for us it’s different.  Consider again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known”

  • Carl Sagan

Leave a comment

Buddha’s Advice On Belief And Scepticism

You have to give Buddha a lot of credit.  This is a guy that in ~400 to 500 BC celebrated the law of conservation of energy as a truth to be internalized and made the basis of philosophy/religion.

The notion of “karma” also is tied deeply to cause-and-effect, recalling Newton’s laws of motion.

Buddhism has been absorbed by the West in many forms – the New Left in the 60’s, yoga, Salinger, Alan Watts.  Per the American Religious Identification Survey, alongside Islam, New Religious Movements and Others, and No Religion (including Atheism) it is one of the only religions actually growing in the last 20 years in America.

As our interconnectedness on this planet becomes more intimately apparent and as we integrate ourselves into a more humanistic and scientific mindset, a religion sympathetic to wisdom and logic such as Buddhism clears a path for modern ways of thought to follow:

Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it

Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many

Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books

Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders

Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations

But after observation and analysis when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all then accept it and live up to it

Text taken from:

Posted in Quotes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pledge to Dispel the Misery of the World

With the wish to free all beings
I will always go for refuge
To the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha
Until the attainment of full Enlightenment

Enthused by Compassion and Wisdom
Today in the Buddha’s presence
I generate the Mind of Enlightenment
For the benefit of all sentient beings

For as long as space endures
And for as long as living beings remain,
Until then may I too abide
To dispel the misery of the world.

– The Dalai Lama’s interpretation of Shantideva’s Prayer

Posted in Quotes | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment


Consider carefully the things that you want, because they require that which you already have as payment.

Be mindful of your current situation, to ensure what you have is not keeping you from what is most important.

Stress doesn’t come from the immediate situation, but instead a lack of time to evaluate one’s new state.  Devising an attitude on the fly is difficult.

It makes sense that the most successful attitude would be an uncommon one.  Equanimity is rare in the West.

Posted in Quick Ideas | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

We Have Not Succeeded in Unifying People


Posted in Current Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Optimism To Abate Terrorism

I think that Active Philosophy needs optimism.

The world needs optimism.

We need to believe in decency.

At the very least, we ought discount any notions of superiority.

I’d like to assume that the majority of people in a stable environment will be happy and peaceful.

When groups of Muslims are attacking Westerners and their interests, doesn’t it make sense to ask – why would they do this?

The inferred answer is: Islam is evil.

But we mistake the hardcore right wingers and totalitarians that find their justification in a religion for the religious themselves.  What environment would engender a hardcore religious theocracy?

The policies of the world (dominated by finance) induce extremism.  Both in the developed world and non-.

After years and years of devastating colonialism, a power vacuum is created, or encouraged.  The barbaric rise up.

All warlords, all generals, are the same, but their banners carry different hues.  Their followers are the same, the little men, the patriots, the rah-rah-rahers, except speaking different languages or perhaps thumping a different holy book against their chest.

Appeals to a divine cause are necessary.  Otherwise exploitation and murder would be discouraged if we based our decisions on our own observations stemming from this world.

We all know Earth’s history is bloody.  However that is no justification for decisions today, merely a shroud for cowardice.

Who is Al-Qaeda?  Does this group exist?  A group with no leaders, or voice?  Could it conceivably be a Western fancy that has now been adopted with great success for myriad causes?

The perpetual war on terror has no intention of ending terror – it is a cynical political ploy, manifesting perpetual war, empowering the warlords on all corners of the globe.  The worst is that it draws less from any primitive vicious human nature than outright laziness and fear.

A true war on terrorism would be a war on poverty, xenophobia, and entitlement.  It would demand self-reflection and change.

The divine is not transcendent, it is everyday.  If we pay attention to what’s going on and make an honest attempt to understand our condition, if we actively combat propaganda and encourage free thought, nobody will want to kill each other anymore. 

It is the science of our everyday lives.

Posted in Active Philosophy, Current Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Beyond Theology

“When God is dead, man, who was always defined as a creature other than God, begins to feel himself as other than reality – a sentimental irregularity in a dog-eat-dog system that might have been contrived by the Devil, if Devil there were.  Men so at odds with their environment must either bulldoze it into obedience or destroy it.  The two choices come to the same thing.

But a superior religion goes beyond theology.  It turns toward the center; it investigates and feels out the inmost depths of man himself, since it is here that we are in most intimate contact, or rather, in identity with existence itself.  Dependence on theological ideas and symbols is replaced by direct, non-conceptual touch with a level of being which is simultaneously one’s own and the being of all others.  For at the point where I am most myself I am most beyond myself.  At root I am one with all the other branches.  Yet this level of being is not something to be grasped and categorized, to be inspected, analyzed or made an object of knowledge – not because it is taboo or sacrosanct, but because it is the point from which one radiates, the light not before but within the eyes…

There is, then, a more structural and objective foundation for that leap of faith in which a man may dare to think that he is not a stranger in the universe, nor a solitary and tragic flash of awareness in endless and overwhelming darkness.  For, in the light of what we now know in physical terms, it is not unreasonable to wager that deep down at the center: ‘I myself’ is ‘It’ – as in ‘as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.’

If this is a hope, or a fervent belief, Krishnamurti is right in saying that it should be challenged and tested with the question, ‘Why do you want to believe that?  Is it because you are so afraid of dying, of coming to an end?  Is this identification with the cosmic Self the last desperate resort of your ego to continue its game?’  Indeed, if this Supreme Identity is, for me, a belief to which I am clinging, I am in total self-contradiction.  Not only is there no sense in clinging to what I am; the very act of clinging also implies that I do not really know that I am it!  Such belief is merely doubt dressed up.  The final meaning of negative theology, of knowing God by unknowing, of the abandonment of idols both sensible and conceptual, is that ultimate faith is not in or upon anything at all.  It is complete letting go.  Not only is it beyond theology; it is also beyond atheism and nihilism.  Such letting go cannot be attained.  It cannot be acquired or developed through perseverance and exercises, except insofar as such efforts prove the impossibility of acquiring it.  Letting go comes only through desperation.  When you know that it is beyond you – beyond your powers of action as beyond your powers of relaxation.  When you give up every trick and device for getting it,  including this ‘giving up’ as something that one might do, say, at ten o’clock  tonight.  That you cannot by any means do it – that is it!  That is the mighty self-abandonment which gives birth to the stars.”

-Alan Watts

Posted in Quotes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Excerpts from The Gospel According To Zen: Beyond The Death Of God

“A university student while visiting Gasan asked him: ‘Have you ever read the Christian Bible?‘ ‘No read it to me,’ said Gasan.

The student opened the Bible and read from Saint Matthew: ‘And why take ye thought for raiment?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.  They toil not, neither do they spin, and yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these…Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.’

Gasan said: ‘Whoever uttered those words I consider to be an enlightened man.’

The student continued reading: ‘Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.  For everyone that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.’

Gasan remarked: ‘That is excellent.  Whoever said that is not far from Buddhahood.'”

The Most Serious Question Of All

Provided he makes and wins an argument about Buddhism with those who live there, any wandering monk can remain in a  Zen temple.  If he is defeated, he has to move on.

In a temple in the northern part of Japan two brother monks were dwelling together.  The elder one was learned, but the younger one was stupid and had but one eye.

A wandering monk came and asked for lodging, properly challenging them to a debate about the sublime teaching.  The elder brother, tired that day from much studying, told the younger one to take his place.  ‘Go and request the dialogue in silence,’ he cautioned.

So the young monk and the stranger went to the shrine and sat down.

Shortly afterward the traveler rose and went to the elder brother and said: ‘Your young brother is a wonderful fellow.  He defeated me.’

‘Relate the dialogue to me,’ said the elder one.

‘Well,’ explained the traveler, ‘first I held up one finger, representing Buddha, the enlightened one.  So he held up two fingers, signifying Buddha and his teaching.  I held up three fingers, representing Buddha, his teaching, and his followers, living the harmonious life.  Then he shook his clenched fist in my face, indicating that all three come from one realization.  Thus he won and I have no right to remain here.’  With this, the traveler left.

‘Where is that fellow?’ Asked the younger one, running in to his elder brother.

‘I understand you won the debate.’

‘Won nothing.  I’m going to beat him up.’

‘Tell me the subject of the debate,’ asked the elder one.

‘Why, the minute he saw me he held up one finger, insulting me by insinuating that I have only one eye.  Since he was a stranger I thought I would be polite to him, so I held up two fingers, congratulating him that he has two eyes.  Then the impolite wrench held up three fingers, suggesting that between us we only have three eyes.  So I got mad and started to punch him, but he ran out and that ended it!’

Mumon’s comment: The stranger is like the wise theologian who preached the death of God.  Although his words are most eloquent his degree of attainment is obvious.  The one-eyed brother is like the pious churchman who worships God and asks him to solve his problems.  His motives are pure but his one eye is a handicap.  Now suppose you were to decide the winner of this debate.  If your decision is correct the death of God will be a joke too funny to laugh at.  On the other hand, if you cannot choose between the two no God will be powerful enough to save you from your fate.

Is God dead or not?

This is the most serious question of all,

If you say yes or no,

You lose your own Buddha nature.

Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Douchebag Alert!

I HATE Ayn Rand.  Hate her.  And all her insane fascist hyper-capitalist followers. 

These guys espouse her philosophy perfectly.  It’s worth a skim, reading the whole thing causes glazed eyeballs.

It’s important to keep in mind that at the bottom of all these rabid tea-party conservatives are phony academics throwing their intellectual weight around, in the shadows of universities gilded by the financial oligarchy, publishing this garbage and ultimately winning a few victories such as inclusion on CNN.

What douchebags!

I LOVE Science, but we see how its mythos allows indifferent scum like these guys to say:

“Kings and aristocrats were swept aside to make way for the rights of man. This idea gave birth to a new nation, our beloved America, in which the individual was free to think and pursue his own happiness. A new person arose: the industrialist.

Slandered as robber barons, what these individuals actually did was earn fortunes by studying the discoveries of science and commercializing them.

A mind-boggling array of inventions and products ensued: automobiles, oil, radios, antibiotics, refrigeration, electricity, washing machines, air conditioning, indoor plumbing, airplanes and on and on, to our present world of personal computers and cell phones”

Really?  Thanking the industrialist?

If the industrialist had their way we would have a 12 hour 7 day workweek with no minimum wage and no benefits, as it was before the socialists and anarchists encouraged the working class to show solidarity.

He goes on:

 “Ask someone on the street to name a moral hero; if he isn’t at a loss, he’ll likely name someone like Jesus Christ or Mother Teresa. Why? Because they’re regarded as people of faith who shunned personal profit for the collective good. No one would dream of naming Galileo, Darwin, Thomas Edison or John D. Rockefeller.”

He lumps scientists with tycoons, one of the most respected and thoughtful professions with one of the most universally reviled.  What makes science great in no way justifies greed.  The modernization argument is used all the time to exploit, which is one reason we must always distinguish between being modern as a good idea and being modern as an excuse to violate the human rights of the poor.  That is the moral rationale behind imperialism – e.g. it’s ok to kill the natives because they’re “uncivilized” and we are doing them a favor by forcing technology, mercantilism, and industry upon them.

Assholes like this are the brainpower behind the libertarian movement.  Let’s not be fooled.  It’s true we need a radical direction to go in, but while the ultra right has a voice, one will never hear the ultra left in the media.

Unlike what this guy would have you believe, we’ve been living with “profit” as a moral code for centuries now.  Let’s try something else.

Posted in Active Philosophy, Current Events | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Grammar Of God

God – controversial.

Some say it is tough to define, but such ambiguity doesn’t stop us from using the word “life.”

No word is an obelisk, except for “obelisk.”

Nothing is concrete, except for “concrete.”

All is in flux.

This flux could be God.  The only thing constant is change.

All that statement says to me is that our grammar builds our logic in ways that are fucking confusing.

So let’s examine the grammar of God.

In scripture, little is actually defined about the Abrahamic God except that he rules all.   God is the undefeatable, all is His Kingdom.  His Word is Final.

Jesus reinterpreted God.  He began with a new definition: God is Love.  The true power of this ubiquitous, undefeatable concept will be unlocked by worshiping love.  Faith in tolerance and brotherhood is in Jesus’ mind an avenue to active philosophy.  With his new perspective he could tolerate and strike against maddening passive institutional forces: nationalism, greed, corruption – the human plague, a curse of our logic and language.

Strange that the most famous preacher of peace has been the ultimate symbol behind so much murder.

God is sometimes said to be all that is eternal.  Some mathematicians believe that the perfection of math is proof of God, others would say that the perfection of math is at best a conjured human fancy.

On a daily basis we talk  of nothings and somethings as though these exist, and they do, as concepts.

But is there truly “nothing”?  How do we attach a word to that which by definition does not exist at all?

Here we see how ambiguities arise in our language constantly, and just as hastily are swept under the rug like dirt.

The same arises with God.

God is everything and nothing.  God is infinite and limited and limitless.

God is the necessary to describe the infinite contingencies.  Does the necessary drive the contingent?  Do the contingencies combine to drive the necessary?  And if one possesses an active force does it one subsume the other?

This is just wordplay, and Philosophers bounced it around for a while until Kant found a constructive way forward, not that he removed the confusion, just reconsidered it.

Where does God as a concept lose it’s usefulness?  When it is used to discourage critical thinking.  As a political tool.  To justify a madman’s action.  To make people feel small.

Sometimes we say: Thank God.  Sometimes we say: God damn it.  God is capitalized.  You could just as easily not capitalize it, but the same could be said for the pronoun “I”.  Is the ego really so important?  Or financial institutions?  Can we really not just write: Gee dan, thank god i made it to wells fargo on time.

Most of communication is cultural habit.  If someone decides he doesn’t want to capitalize a certain word, I applaud that.

Does God exist? What a strange question.

Do I exist? This question is of far more importance in Eastern Philosophy than the question does God exist?

I both exist and I don’t.  In some sense yes and in some sense no.

The same could be said for God, I suppose.

Does the Universe exist?  If the answer is “yes, in all cases” – I see another Obelisk.

No matter how certain we are of things, the words seem to fall apart.

We use them like fishing nets.  You call out “Jessica” and Jessica turns around.

In Wittgenstein’s view, and I tend to agree, words are given meaning only through use.

In the same sense, a scale is created only by playing notes.

We compound words derived from common usage with metaphysical concepts when we ask questions such as: Is God permanent?  What creates this world?

The only answer is that there is no answer.

Another koan, absorbed.

Yet I earnestly believe that the sooner we accept a lack of answers, and the fundamental linguistic nature of the questions, the sooner we can get to action.

Action, like a scale or a word, like true science, exists only in practice.

But is there even such a thing as free will?  Can we choose to act?  Another religious concern.

However, given the void of religions nowadays that satisfactorily describe our modern condition, we look to modern knowledge.

Modern knowledge will always be modern and never be able to answer certain questions.  Rather, it helps us to better hone these questions, and in doing so perpetuates them.

I think maybe if there was a more satisfying viewpoint that helped people to navigate our world as it stands today people could focus on action.

I know these ideas are rarely heard from the “far left” – those that believe in the power of human unity and the oppression of institutional thought.  I don’t know how I got here.

Today God is great, tomorrow God is a bastard, the next day I might say God doesn’t even exist.  Somehow I think my train of thought will be useful to others.

Is there a God?  A trick question.  Wordplay.

Another one – are there truly “laws” of physics, or do we merely describe infinite contingencies as best we can?

Are there “laws” of God?

I think some good commandments would be: Thou shalt Die.

But the infinite will flow through you.

The only answer is that there is no answer.

Thou shalt not be deceived by grammar.  Your decisions cannot be attributed to either outside factors nor your own devised plans.  This direction only brings puzzlement.  Thou shalt consider that it’s perhaps better to consider that decisions will themselves, like an electron.

The best analogy I can make is that consciousness is an instrument of will, our thoughts are the notes behind the scale, and the scale is our personal moral fiber, the values that bring the decision to act.

As I oftentimes say, our morals outweigh our free will.

The only way to control our morals are to control our thoughts, to build a scale.  As for any musician, improvisation and grooving with others will take years of practice.

In his book, The Meaning Of Life: A Very Short Introduction Terry Eagleton looks at many approaches to the meaning of life and concludes that it may be jazz.

Not a bad hypothesis – John Coltrane – Equinox

The priest or the astrophysicist knows no more or no less about God than me or you.  They are deliberately muddling the grammar, and in turn manipulating logic, if they claim one way or the other.

In that sense nobody else decides what you can think, they only offer suggestions.  It is always good to try to mine for new veins of thought, so one has many considerations to draw from.

Is God, the feeling that some claim to have, that they just “know” – closer to a rush of mortality?  Of imminent dissolution?

Perhaps God is all we stand to lose when we die.

Nietzsche famously claimed: God is Dead! – but his subsequent statement is less-famous: Long live God!

If you cast off the biblical God, the expectation is that something will fill the void left behind.

The nature of God is that as soon as you lose one, you find another.  That is what Ghandi meant by “God is the atheism of the atheist.”

God is a beautiful word because it says so much about us.

We revere the insight so greatly that we capitalize its avatar, the word – God.

God is symbolic of our search, our language, our logic, our questions, and possesses a special category in my (flawed) categories of existence, the truly undefined phenomena, that which we can neither prove nor disprove except by building obelisks.

We are here.  Knowledge is most useful for action, action that is in the eye of the interpreter.  How we filter this is again a matter of will.  In ways the most brilliant men, a Jesus or Kant, simply provide new ways of interpreting.

Rarely is it considered that we search just to search, and can stop at any time.

If we were to be content with this non-search, learning to separate practice and philosophy/religion, then we can truly accept one another, think critically and act fluidly.  That is the power of faith.

I know I am not crafting a very reassuring philosophy.  Not the “satisfying viewpoint” I proposed, certainly not the one yearned for in an age that craves satisfaction.  Contentment leading to activity is another raindrop in a storm of contradictions.

But that is the beauty of our world, that is the flux.

Claude Monet – Le Bateau Atelier

(The Boat Studio)

Posted in Active Philosophy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment