A Dialogue On God Part I

vcxa8286The great difficulty with language is that we use it in our attempts to explain things for which no true explanation exists. In the Hermetic writings of the third century it was written, “If you don’t make yourself equal to God you can’t perceive God: for like is known by like.” Anything I say about God is restricted by the limitations of language and my personal experiences. The following is part of an internal dialogue that started in a dream.

“Do you believe in God?” she asked in a soft angelic voice.
She was visible only as ether but the voice was female. My mind wandered back to the day Kathleen died and the transcendent experiences of that evening. Yes, I believe in a power greater than myself of which I am a part but not in the God of Abraham and Isaac. Not the God of Christianity whose leaders send missionaries to convert a world which does not need converting, to rescue the savages who do not need rescuing and who engagd in endless Crusades all in the name of their God. Not the vengeful God who would destroy Solomon and Gomorrah or reduce all of life to what could be carried in an Ark. That God, the one that Jesus called ‘Father’ is not my God.
“If not the God of Abraham, who is your God?”
My God is the timeless point of infinity from which all life springs forth in an ever expanding universe. A God of acceptance and love, not of vengeance. Evil is man’s creation, not God’s. The God of Abraham is a part of Christian Mythology and is a belief system created by man. The God of Abraham is no different from the Gods of Greek Mythology. Is it not strange to you that mankind labels the Greek Gods as Mythology but not the Christian God? We gave these gods human traits and short comings. No omnipotent being would require obedience or worship of any kind.
Mankind has used the name of God to control and to enslave his fellow man. They have made God a point of fear more than a point of love. The name ‘God’ itself is a distortion and carries with it too many dogmas and conditions. The sole purpose of my God is the creation of an ever expanding universe which includes life in all of its many varied forms. I have no god but life.
“You don’t see God as darkness and light, then?”
God is the point in which duality does not exist. God is the central point in which all duality is one. All life is one. The entire solar system is one.
“Do you believe everyone has the same God?”
God is a part of each of us. In an universal sense and in an individual sense. Like the soul. Although there is only one point for the creation of life, God, each of us sees God differently subject to our personal experiences and faith. Man created God. God did not create man. God created life. Man is merely a manifestation in human form of that life energy. He is equal to, but no more important to God than the ant or a solar system. Man is a life form and not the apex of life’s evolution.
“What makes you so sure of this?”

Look at the night sky, the Milky Way. Look at the photographs of the universe sent back by the Hubble telescope. You see millions of stars, planets, moons, galaxies and the possibility of so many life forms like and unlike our own. And yet, we picture God in the image of man. Not only does that fact extort man’s ego, it also demonstrates his stupidity.

“How so?”

We call Him (as if God has a sex) by many names, Jehovah, Yahweh, Allah, El Shaddai.  “Mohammad encouraged his followers to call upon God by any of His 99 Names. Judaism refers to 72 Divine Names, and the Hindu scripture Mahabharata contains a thousand names of Vishnu. The English word “God” is used by multiple religions as a noun or name to refer to different deities.” (1) And although we call Him by many names, God has no image. For me the name ‘God’ is only a point of reference for us to have a common subject for discussion.

Michelangelo did a great disservice to the world when he gave God a face on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It is how modern man sees God. He no longer sees God in everything that exists but rather as a bearded old white man with his finger giving life to Adam. I do not blame him for his depiction. It merely further the belief that man is in the image of God.

To Be Continued…

(1) Andrew Wilson, World scripture: a comparative anthology of sacred texts—p. 596, International Religious Foundation, Paragon House, New York, New York 1991.

Beliefs: Part II

vcxa8286Every act is a statement of your beliefs. What you believe is so ingrained with the consciousness and with the body that you and its reflection are one. A man cannot be separated from his beliefs any more than he can be separated from his soul. A change of belief can occur when a belief no longer serves the individual and a conscious choice is made to let the belief go. Those individuals who took the lives of innocent people last week in Paris were called terrorists in the news media, but to their supporters they were the oppressors of the infidels. They were heroes. In his day, Jesus was considered a religious fanatic and the Minutemen who fought against the British in US history were considered terrorist by their enemies and freedom fighters by their supporters. “One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist.”

We have been fighting the wars of fanatical religious beliefs since man first created a belief in invisible gods and set about to gain followers. The Crusades are still happening. Nations have beliefs also and expect their citizens to maintain those beliefs. The state of Israel is a perfect example. They call the Palestinians terrorists to justify their insane aggression against mostly innocent women and children. The state has also banned any demonstrations by their own citizens in protest to the state’s aggressive policies. Prior to the US invasion of Iraq, there were world wide protest. GW Bush made a public statement that US policy was not determined by world opinion. He invaded a country based upon the false belief they had and were planning to use WMD. More so, he convinced the world that a lie was true. I lost all respect for Collin Powell the day he appeared at the UN to spread a lie onto the world. A belief in the form of a lie was justification for one nation to destroy another through military might.

If there is a need to convince others of your belief, then that belief is in doubt. A belief needs no other support than for one person to believe it. If others adopt someone’s belief as their own, that is a choice, but to punish, kill, or destroy those who believe differently shows the inherent weakness of that belief and of our society. It’s the religious crusades being acted out on a daily bases. It is the battle of my god is better than your god all over again.

Unfortunately it is a war without end, and as always in such wars, the innocent suffer the greatest loss.

To Be Continued…

Beliefs: Part I

B4C0A454-579E-47EC-B306-E76CD25BDF24In the battle of beliefs. Who wins? Might? Wisdom? Gods? Beliefs are always right of course, at least to those who hold a particular belief. Why would anyone believe something they do not believe is true? We are conditioned to believe what we believe. The course of this planet’s existence following the dawn of humankind has been led by beliefs. We once believed the earth was flat, that the sun revolved around the earth, and that Pluto was a planet. All the major revolutionary events of history were founded on the strength or weakness of a belief: political, social, economic, scientific, or religious. My invisible god is better than your invisible god. My political system provides the greater good for the greatest number. And my favorite, “We will bury you!” The strength of my belief is backed by my military might. What would my life be like if I did not have to believe in anything at all?

A belief is always true to the individual who believes it to be true. A belief takes me outside of myself. A belief can result in an individual sacrificing one’s life to the belief.

As a child, I believed in the Easter Bunny, Santa Clause and the boogyman but eventually I out grew those beliefs. That is the thing about any beliefs. They don’t seem to stick around for too long at least not to the philosopher in me but for the poet, it is a different story. The poet believes in beauty, joy, love, the curve of a woman’s body, and the endless possibilities in a child’s eyes. These are beliefs having to do with ascetics of life but very little to do with fanaticism. One could, I imagine be a fanatic in love to the point of narcissism or self sacrifice. This is the closest I have ever come to the experience of fanaticism, but I did not think my action fanatical at the time, more of loss and despair. Despair can be a fanaticism, I suppose, but not one chosen, like a religion or political party.

I have never believed in anything strongly enough to make the ultimate sacrifice of my life. I have experienced moments of euphoria, of ultimate despair, but never have I believed in a cause for which I would sacrifice my life. Life is too important a gift to be taken lightly. I would not fight for my country’s belief and would not have gone to Viet Nam, if drafted. My “number” was never called.

If I have a belief, at this time in my life, it is that the perfect exists in everything. It’s the yin, yang balance of existence. We must experience both in order to see one, for the one would be unknown without the other. We cannot know the experience of light without the experience of darkness. Although this is my belief, I do not know that I would sacrifice my life for it. Perhaps this belief has not been tested to the point of sacrifice. How many lives have been lost since the dawn of humankind because of what someone believed was true?

The central beliefs of the inhabitants of the planet have religious roots, bound with religions dogmas created to serve man, or was man created to serve religion? When did the belief in an invisible god take over our minds? Was there one large event or no event at all which caused us to stop the search of self and replace it with the search for a god? Was it fear that caused us to lose faith in ourselves and place it in an external, invisible being with omnipotent powers? What happens when the belief in an invisible God leads to fanaticism and a breaking of the dogmas upon which the belief was initially established?

In this first part of my writings on Beliefs, I raised a number of questions. In the follow up essay, I hope to answer some of them.

The Golden Age

vcxa8286This is not something anyone can tell you for if they do, you probably won’t believe them. In my 20’s, I thought I knew everything, and I did from my perspective as a twenty something year old. I was the first in my family to graduate from college. I had survived the racial rebellion of the late sixties, college, the war in Viet Nam, (by luck of the lottery draw,) a marriage, and a divorce. I had lived abroad and I held a management position in Corporate America. This is what I believe is referred to as “the know-it-all arrogance of youth.” I knew I didn’t know it all, but I also felt unstoppable, and I was a bit at that time arrogant. As a Black man seeking equality in White America, I had to be.

Then in my 30’s I started climbing the corporate ladder at a fast track pace. My primary focus and measurement of success was how often I received a promotion. I lacked any true personal identity. I was a corporate man in all the material ways. My nickname in the neighborhood was Mr. IBM. I wore three piece suits, drove fine cars and dined with beautiful, intelligent, sexy women. This was truly a “golden age.” It couldn’t get any better than this, or at least that is what I told myself.

During my 40’s I started to ask the important questions concerning the quality of my life. What is important to me? Am I doing the work I want to do? Am I happy? I did not view this self examination as a “crisis.” No, it was an opportunity to switch gears in midstream if I so chose. It was a time of awakening. I left the corporate world and stripped myself naked of the material abundance to which I had become accustomed. I sold the car, gave away the televisions, suits, skis, tennis rackets, and everything else which had become a symbol of the person who no longer existed. I decided to add back only those things which were necessary for my existence in the world. I traveled lightly without all the encumbrances which at one time seemed important and/or necessary. I sought a different way of being in the world. This was my “golden age.” I was free to be me for the first time.

At the age of fifty-two, I found my soul mate. A beautiful spirit who was fifteen years my senior. A woman with whom I could share my heart and soul, and know I would not be judged, only loved, even more, if that was possible. We would be side by side forever, at least that is how we planned it to be. She died eighteen months later during a white water boating accident while on vacation in Mexico with her daughter and grand daughter. They survived. It was during this period of my life that I suffered the greatest despair and agony of all my time in this world. I was ready to give up, but I knew that is not what she would want me to do. So, I kept going. This too was a “golden age”. I received three gifts during this time. I learned the joy and pleasures of love, the heart breaking grief of loss, and the knowledge that life goes on.

Today, I have been on this earth for seventy-one years. As a result of the lessons learned during my 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, I live my life the way I choose. Presently I am retired and living in Cuenca, Ecuador, learning Spanish, and exploring the fascinating world outside my door. Before here, I lived the last three and a half years on Vanua Levu in the Fiji Islands, a hundred yards from the South Pacific. Each segment of my life when examined individually has merit, but when explored in the totality of seventy-one years, it has purpose. I am supposed to be here. There is no doubt in my mind. I only know this due to having lived the life I have lived. I understand the value of life and I am grateful for the time I am allotted. I listen to the echoes of my own life and I am comfortable with my body. This body has endured the most changes over the years and I am grateful for its endurance, strength, and good health.

There was a time during my youth when the future was all I thought about. Today, in truth, I give it very little thought. I have not reached the “know-it-all complacency of old age,” (whatever age that is) and I still have “enough not-yet-calcified intellectual foundation with which to integrate and contextualize” new ideas. I read, I write (poetry, essays, a dabble in fiction), I think, and I dream. For me, life gets better as I grow older because the innocent wonder of the child returns with age, and blends with the wisdom gained through the experience of being alive.

Yes, the mid-twenties to late thirties are a “golden age,” but it is not the only one. Each age of my life has been my “golden age” for what I bring to it from experience, and for what I am learning from it by living. There is not just one golden age for us during our lifetime. There are many. May all your ages be golden. Believe me the best is yet to come.

Land Of The Free

vcxa8286Almost seventy years ago George Orwell published his futuristic dystopian novel, “1984”. The main character, Winston Smith, works in the Ministry of Truth where he rewrites history according to the Party’s platform. Winston is a citizen who is overwhelming frustrated by the totalitarian control of the government over its citizens. Everyone is watched on tv screens by a sinister looking image known as Big Brother. Everything you do, where you go, and with whom you speak is monitored. You are not permitted to rebel in thought or action. You are not allowed any individual expression of any kind. Even sex is forbidden. This is the way 1984 was envisioned in the mind of Orwell back in 1948.

Thirty-five years ago in 1984 Apple Computer ran an add for the Macintosh.

We will bury them in their own confusion. We will prevail.

The Big Brother informs his catatonic audience before he is destroyed by the hammer of freedom and his victims are released from his spell. It was Apple’s coming out party and they were ready to break the grip Microsoft held on the technology industry. “1984 won’t be like ‘1984’”, the ad said.

More recently I read with much disappointment the text of President Obama’s 2014 speech on National Security. In the aftermath of the revelations brought to light by Edward Snowden, a hero in my book, I saw a man frozen by his own fear to be the individual he was during his election campaigns. He seemed controlled by what former President Clinton called, “the government underneath the government.” Clinton never gave this organization a name but it sounds to me like “Big Brother” might fit.

Obama was afraid to make a decision that would alter the status quo in any way. Instead, he left the important decisions like where to store the data to a constipated Congress that couldn’t pass shit after a ton of Exlax to do his job and to make the tough choices.

Present Obama justifies our nation’s surveillance of citizens, allies, and enemies because “they do the same” to their citizens, allies, enemies and yes they even spy on the United States. That way of thinking did not even work when I was a kid. I can hear my mother now.

Just because so and so jumps into the river does not mean you have to.

After the intelligence failures leading up to 9/11, I understand how the nation might not want to be caught off guard again. However, what civil liberties are being exchanged for that mistake by our intelligence services and does each and every American and world citizen have to pay for it with the loss of our privacy and personal freedoms?

I also reject the premise of taking one point in history, 9/11, and using that example to inject fear into the citizens of a nation and world. There ought to be a statue of limitations on how long an act of war can be use by governments to control the populace and destroy their personal freedoms one by one.

Remember the Alamo!

The Cold War may be over but the enemies are still the same, fear and ignorance. The government is using both against the once free citizens of this nation.

No one under constant surveillance is ever free.

When a subject is observed, he behaves differently. His behavior conforms to how he is expected to behave and for such he receives either a reward or a punishment. His worse fear is no longer death. His fear of the government becomes greater than whatever it was the government was protecting him from. His worse fear is now Room 101 in which he learns the government knows everything about him, even his dreams.

So ask yourself, “Do you feel free in America today?

The Road To Ecuador

vcxa8286I never made it to Vilcabamba. When the shuttle stopped in Loja, the voice in my head, my guide through life, said, “Get off here.” I did and the moment I walked through the town entrance, I fell in love with the city. I was under the castle’s spell. While walking from one end to the other, I decided to say here for the night rather than continue on to Vilcabamba. Another great thing about travel, changing plans in midstream when where you are, feels like the place you need to be.

I followed the streets according to my interest in the names and saw two men working outside a hotel. I asked about a room for the night. After a brief conversation, I asked the owner, if he knew of any apartments for rent in town. He showed me two of his in the final phase of completion on the top of the hotel. He offered for me to stay in one for the same price as the hotel room. I was concerned about the noise from the disco and took him up on his offer as a trial run for a possible future rental. When the music woke me around midnight, I thought of the wonderful times I had dancing with a group from the school on Friday and the salsa lessons I took at the school during the week. Any apartment in the area would still be affected by the sound as music was all over town. In my head, I danced myself back to sleep.

So, while looking for a hotel room, I found an apartment on the edge of El Centro. It is on the top floor of a four story disco/bar (The Mills) which is opened on Friday and Saturday nights. From the outside it looks like a modern version of the Taj Mahal and would not have grabbed my interest at all, visually, as a place to live. Rather over done for my taste, modern and trendy, but as fate would have it, I saw the inside first. Otherwise I would not have stopped.

One of my favorite poets, Charles Bukowski, recommends all writers live above a bar. The more rough and tumble the better. So, it appears this is my chosen fate. Now I have a place to land when I return. From the roof top, I have a 360 degree view of the city and the mountains. Climbing the eighty stairs to my apartment a few times a day will keep me in shape. Legs don’t fail me now.

This morning I visited the various open markets in town. Fruits, familiar and unknown, filled the makeshift stalls. Salted fish piled high. Beans of every size and variation one might imagine. I stopped in the main square and listened to the Marine Band Concert, saw men and women on horseback parade around the town and kids playing jump rope and using a loading ramp as a sliding board. This is a town of happy people. I am happy here. This is where I am supposed to be, and for now at least, Loja is home.

Reading

vcxa8286Reading is another one of the four things, along with writing, thinking, and dreaming, I have done for myself most of my life. I have always found books to be easier to be with than people. A book can engage me the way few people can. People generally want to be right whereas a book openly presents itself for the readers’ enjoyment and engagement. Where thinking is having a conversation with myself, reading allows me to have a conversation with the author and/or the characters of the book without the egos of in person encounters.

A book is a conversation I choose and not one I am placed into because of social situations. If I don’t like a book I am reading, I can set it aside for another time or maybe for good. There is no proper social edict involved. Reading opens me to new experiences, new places, new thoughts, and ideas. It expands my world and offers me different views of how to see this life of which I am a part. Reading expands me in a way only matched by my dreams and thoughts.