Tuesday, October 28, 2008

In Honor of The Victims

I am not going to get too into the politics of the Syrian raid. There are good arguments all around. Reports say that Syria had been making advancements in curbing fighters entering Iraq, they had been making efforts to for peace talks with Israel, and their government resources are spread too thin to curb the terrorist activities any more then they already have. They themselves have been victims of terrorist activities, such as a car bomb in Damascus that went off a month or so ago, killing 28. I believe the U.S. acted too fast and too aggressively.

But this post isn't about that.
This post is about the innocent victims who were claimed. Reports are conflicting. The official report from Syria is 3 men, four sons of one of the men, and a wife. Local reports claim 7 men and a woman. However, both reports agree that children were killed. According to http://translate.google.com/translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.syria-news.com%2Freadnews.php%3Fsy_seq%3D84570&sl=ar&tl=en&hl=de&ie=UTF-8,
the victims are as follows:

Khalifa Ahmed (20 years)
Ali Abbas (50 years)
Mohammed Daoud al-Abdullah (50) and his four children:
Solomon ( 16)
Alyan (18)
Ibrahim (22)
Faisal (34)

It took me hours of searching online trying to find the names of everyone, especially the sons. I wanted to post this blog to honor their memory as civilians of this world, who were killed in a conflict that should not have killed them. The American public (and possibly other around the world), have gotten into the nasty habit of ignoring the victims. A victim without a name is just a statistic. Names too, especially Arab names, are easy for a Westerner to forget. Pictures, though, are unforgettable.



I cried for these victims, I honestly did. Especially the children. I didn't know any of these people, but I find myself mourning them all the same. If we had discovered that there was a prominent terrorist figure in an American city, would we raid our own country? Or would we use swat teams and special tatics forces who are trained to target the enemy and only the enemy. If this had happened in American, people would have been outraged if 7 civilians were killed in the pursuit of a criminal.
The purpose of this raid was to kill one prominent leader of a terrorist cell. Just one.
We killed him, but took 7 lives with him, possibly more. One one hand I know that if he hadn't been killed, his actions could have indirectly led to the death of hundreds of American and Iraqi soldiers. But in this raid, we killed 7 or more presumably innocents just to kill one guilty man.


Someone on a internet thread said "Thats just life. Sorry it didn't turn out the way your mommy promised."
I can understand the logic of that viewpoint, but I can't bring myself to believe it, or adopt it as my own viewpoint. I would like to, but I just can't. There is something very wrong with this whole situation, with this whole world, when we can shrug off the deaths of innocents without even bothering to honor them. Instead of shrugging it off, we should work to avoid such situations.

This is how I'm honoring them, in my own little way, in my own little niche that I've created in this vast internet.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

My Goal

"After calculating that I wasted 6500 hours in church the first 25 years of my life, I vowed to spend 6500 hours doing volunteer work that would actually make a difference in the world."

- posted at http://www.onesentence.org/stories/popular/

This is my goal.
I've always wanted to help people. I hate seeing people suffer, especially when I know there is something I can do about it. Its not so much about making a difference or feeling good about myself as it is about helping those who need it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Live for Today ^_^

Happy the man, and happy he alone,
he who can call today his own:
he who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.

- Horace

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Palinbots Scare Me

I've seen a lot of videos circulating the web of clippings at Palin rallies expressing their opinion of Barack Obama. This is not the most disturbing, but it still one that makes me sad because it is a good example of how Palin's thoughtless remarks have polarized the nation. Yes, true die-hard racists have come out of the wood-work, but I like to believe that some of the people you see in these videos are basically good people who are mindlessly following the herd and altered their way of thinking in order to fit in. Conformity is contagious.

Pastafarians Chase Out Hatred

Found on http://freethoughtfortwayne.org/2008/09/22/the-score-is-now-flying-spaghetti-monster1-fred-phelps0/

Via the Arkansas Times blog we learn that Fred Phelps and his band of homophobic bigots from Westboro Baptist Church were recently driven out of Little Rock by a merry marauding band of Central Arkansas Pastafarians. The Pastafarians dressed as pirates in honor of International Talk Like A Pirate Day, waved swords and signs bearing slogans such as “God hates shrimp — Leviticus” and “God hates cotton-polyester blends” confronted Phelps’ group. Passing cars honked and waved at the pleased Pastafarians while a nearby TV crew captured their antics, ignoring the group from Westboro Baptist. Eventually Phelps and the other anti-homosexual protesters were forced to pack up their “Fags Doom Nations” and “You’re Going To Hell” signs and leave town. Priceless!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Taking Risks.

Author unknown

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out to others is to risk involvement.
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your ideas, your dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To hope is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.

But risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to do nothing.
The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, and is nothing.

They may avoid suffering and sorrow, but they cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live.
Chained by their attitudes, they are a slave, they forfeited their freedom.

Only the person who risks can be free.


I found this piece online today, and loved it.
The mainstream West often looks at Buddhism as people who do nothing and just sit. But when you think about it, this, in the eyes of the West, is a risk in itself.

The West defines "doing nothing" as someone who doesn't take risks. This means we follow the path set before us, get a job, a place to work, and that's it. In our crazy, money-driven world so focused on achievement, where time is money, one of the riskiest things a person can do is take time off to just sit in zazen. A person is being risky if they actually take the time to eat breakfast, much less sit down and actually eat breakfast, enjoying every bite.

Buddhists, in every corner and culture of the world, take risks. Look at the monks in Burma. Or the Tibetian refugees in Nepal. The Buddhist community of South Korea.
Or, better yet, look at the monks, nuns, and lay Buddhists at your local sangha. Everyone of the them are taking risks in one way or another, big and small. Buddhism helps them deal with the risks in a way that is practical and thoughtful.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bush vs. Jesus

Only in today's political world ^_^


Religion and Sexuality

I found this using StumbleUpon. It makes me glad that I am Buddhist.
Check it out.

Keep in mind that this was compiled 14 years ago in 1994, so some views may have changed. What are your thoughts?
The topic of sexuality is a passionate one of mine. If a person is straight, gay, bisexual, or asexual, that's fine by me. It's not my business, or anyone else's.
I take issue with pedophilia, rape, and other unconsentual acts.
I am a passionate advocate of birth control, and a woman's right to have options in regards to her sexuality.

I think its because Buddhist do have a truely unique view on the world which affacts every aspect of life, even sexuality. The Middle Way which allows us to look at life without extremes and absolutes, finding moderation, even when the rest of the world denies the existance of such moderation. Sex can bring suffering. Embarassment, STDs, anger, emotional ties, questions. Maybe thats why so many religions condemn it outside of marriage. But Buddhists only take issue with sex when it brings suffering. Sex in itself is relatively free of suffering. It's an act, thats all. What brings suffering is how sex is used. One night stands, or leading a person on in a relationship only for sex, or engaging in unprotected sex when you have an STD, that can lead to suffering. Sexual addiction is also another form of suffering, or using sex as a distraction from real problems.
But healthy sex, as a part of a healthy relationship, that only adds to the relationship.

Once again, any thoughts?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Angels and Assholes

"When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle.
Then I realised God doesn’t work that way,
so I stole one and prayed for forgiveness."

- Emo Philips

This made me laugh.
It reminded me of one of the fallacies I would always question when I was a Christian; if we are guaranteed instant forgiveness upon asking, then why bother being good?

It somehow reminds me of my father.
My father used to have a serious drinking problem. He would drink and drink and drink until it was 4 in the morning, and he couldn't even stand. I would wake up the next morning, and he would be out on the porch at 9 am, in the bright sun, reading the paper. I have never seen my father with a hang-over. I doubt he's ever had one. And so he never learned, and would drink again the next night. Hangover's are God/Universe/Nature's way of saying, "Idiot. Try some self-discipline next time." Suffering exists for a reason; we learn from it. He never suffered, so he never learned. (Okay, he eventually learned)

I was raised Christian.
I never fit in too well. I got in trouble with my youth group a lot. I brought a lesbian to church once (she wasn't well received). I read "The DaVinci Code" on a bible retreat (one lady told me I was poisoning my mind with the Devil's work). I asked all the wrong questions that made leaders shift uncomfortably and change the subject. I argued when a youth group leader told me and several other young girls that the bible gives husbands a right to beat their wives while the other girls around me stood quietly, accepting their possible fate. I advocated (and still do) gay rights, bisexual rights, transgendered rights, women's rights, comprehensive sex education, cultural understanding/awareness, and freedom for others to express their religion peacefully.
I didn't fit in too well.
Needless to say, I am no longer Christian.

I will admit, I do carry a certain amount of pride that I was able to walk away from the Christian church without any grudges, spite, or hate. Really. It just didn't work for me, so I left in search of something else, which eventually became Buddhism. I met a lot of good Christians who actually take to heart Jesus's teachings of love and forgiveness. It works for them, and I will not judge them negatively because of it. And knowing that there are good natured Christians in the world helps me deal with the ones who preach hate and intolerance. Some people had such a bad experience with the church that they get together with other anti-Christians just to bitch and moan, spreading the false belief that all Christians are intolerant, all Christians are rude, all Christians are hateful.
And that just gets us nowhere.

"There are angels and assholes in every religion."

This is something I encourage fellow Buddhists, as well as anyone else who stumbles upon this blog, to remember. Especially in this election season, when it seems like the angels fade away as the assholes come out of the woodwork and turn on their microphones, preaching their agenda of intolerance. Don't let them get to you too much. If you do, then they're already winning. Just remember, for every loud and belligerant asshole, there are a dozen quiet angels of every belief, who live around us and are helping their neighbors, being thankful for what they have, volunteering for a good cause, humbly making a difference, and smiling kindly, even on the rainy days.

quote found at: http://www.banksy.co.uk/manifesto/

Friday, October 10, 2008


My zen class held class at Uto-An, the local zen place of worship. I hesitate to use the words temple,monastary, or any other term for buddhist religious gathering, because it is simple a rented house where we do zazen in the livingroom. But there is suits our needs, and is simply Uto-An.
It's very peaceful, and Koun led us through a ceremony chanting the heart sutra, as well as a couple other chants, my favorite being one praising compassion.
It was fun. I am going to start going on Sundays, after mid-terms.

On a less-then-cheerful note, I have been dealing with a very debilitating anxiety condition. Anyone have any advice, particularly Buddhist-based advice, on how to deal with anxiety? It would be much appriciated.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Garrison Keillor Speaks of Impermanence

A Shame to Leave This World Early
by Garrison Keillor

I was in Santa Monica for a day last week, sampling baked figs at the farmers’ market on the Third Street promenade, a sweet sunny day that makes an old Midwesterner like me a little nervous. We fear seduction. Some days in California are so tender and delicious that a person could abandon all commitments and wind up living in blissful stupor in some cult devoted to the worship of the sky.

I have work to do. I haul it around in a black case the size of an anvil and when an hour or two opens up, in an airport or hotel, I dig in. I don’t lie on beaches, looking up at the sky. It’s blue in Santa Monica. You don’t have to look at it for long to figure that out.

My hotel was on the beach, so I headed back that way, crossing the Pacific Coast Highway on a pedestrian bridge. And there, 50 yards south of me, police cars and flashing blue lights. The northbound lanes of the PCH had been closed. A car sat in the middle lane, its rear end smashed in brutally. And south of it, a yellow tarp spread on the pavement. A body lay beneath it.
Then eight cops and EMTs lined up on either side of it, like pallbearers, and then they spread out a long white sheet which they held as a screen while the yellow tarp was pulled away and a police photographer took pictures with an enormous camera. A man in a dark suit bent over the body, studying it closely. The eight men stood quietly, hardly moving, and they looked straight at each other. They did not look at the body. It was a still-life scene, except for the flashing lights and the southbound traffic passing: eight men standing at attention, guarding a body, and two men moving with great delicacy around it, gathering evidence.

A blue sky over Santa Monica and on the beach, people lay on towels, sunning themselves. A few swimmers in the surf. Roller bladers out on the sidewalk and joggers, grunting about the presidential campaign. A day in which you’ve witnessed death takes on an aura of fragile loveliness. You breathe the salt air and you savor this on behalf of the dead and note the pencil-line delicacy of the long cane poles of the Japanese fishermen on the pier, the two triangles of white sail taut with wind on the distant boat, the skinny boy in blue trunks swinging high on the flying rings on the beach and soaring to the next set of rings. You see the portly man wade into the water and shudder as the water touches his testes and you feel it, the shudder of mortality. And visions of the fallen one stay with you.

A few hours later, online, news that the victim was a woman, 44, whose car had been rear-ended, that she had gotten out of her car and stood waiting for help to arrive and was struck and killed by a third vehicle. Her name was Alma and she was from Los Angeles.
The day goes on and though you don’t keep in mind the sight of the pallbearers around the body, the death attends you wherever you go. You imagine the woman’s plan for her day, maybe lunch in Malibu and a meeting at her kids’ school and supper and a movie afterward, a simple day in sunny L.A., and you abandon your own plan to work and instead you walk around looking at the shining world on behalf of Alma who died on the highway.

You buy a mango/papaya smoothie and a cafe mocha and in the face of death they are spectacular. You sit at a table in the brilliant sunshine, the light splashing off the stone facades and aluminum moldings. She was standing by her car waiting for help to arrive when she was struck by another vehicle and killed, and 30 minutes later men were standing at attention around her. It would be intolerable not to know the name of the woman. Attention must be paid. She trails alongside you as you walk into a bookstore full of art books and you pick up one with pictures of California beach houses, all whites and yellows and pale blues, sun-drenched rooms, bowls of flowers, cotton curtains, and the sea beyond. A beautiful world, Alma, and every day is a gift. I’m sorry you had to leave early.