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Blogger Brian
Salem, Oregon
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Turan, thanks for sharing the place versus ground quotes. I enjoyed them. Makes a lot of sense.
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Spence, please read my comment again. What I said is quite different from what you wrongly believe I said. What I said is that Robbins and I have positive views of the cosmos. Those views lead us to criticize those who hold illogical and seemingly demonstrably false views of the cosmos, because those false views aren't benign (American politics is full of examples of the dangers of Christian fundamentalism, as is Indian politics). Don't you see that every time you criticize me and Robbins you are supporting my point of view? I could say you are anti-atheist, but I don't do this. Rather, I recognize that your fervently held religious beliefs lead you to defend them, which comes across as anti-atheist, but really isn't, since I consider that your comments flow from a positive motivation. So why can't you believe that Robbins and i are motivated in the same fashion, by positive motivations, not negative ones?
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Jen, I do this all the time. I have a chronic health condition that came on suddenly. It caused me to become seriously depressed about a year ago. My mother struggled with alcoholism for much of her life. I'm active in my town's politics, and also with state and national politics. I'm very familiar with suffering. I relate to those who suffer. But I strongly disagree with your belief that the suffering of people is due to their past lives/karma. This strikes me as uncompassionate. The Buddha spoke of those who, if I recall somewhat correctly, wanted to know the cause of someone's injury before helping with the problem. This was viewed by the Buddha as absurd. What we should do is try to help others as much as we can, not judge them because of an absurd belief in past lives and bad karma.
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Spence, you've become fond of using the term anti-theist. But this makes no sense. Everyone who is pro-something is anti-not-that-something. I like coffee. I just ordered a latte, and am about to drink it in a coffee shop. If somehow lattes weren't available, as happened for a while last summer when the City of Salem water system was infected with toxic algae, I was disappointed. I wanted coffee, and I was disappointed when I couldn't get it. Or take global warming. I believe it is happening, and I believe we humans need to do something about it, because it threatens the habitability of our planet for our species. I often criticize deniers of global warming for their failure to recognize scientific facts, and their political implications. So my positive belief in global warming leads me to a negative reaction when global warming deniers spew lies and falsehoods. Likewise, Osho Robbins has a positive view of spirituality: oneness. He is adept at pointing out the falsities, or at least logical contradictions, as people who believe in Sach Khand/Heaven, a personal God, and such. This flows naturally from his positive view. Robbins didn't start out saying "I'll bash those stupid satsangis." For one thing, he was one, and it appears that he still considers himself to be one. In the same vein, I'm still deeply committed to understanding the truth about the cosmos. I still meditate every day. I'm still a vegetarian. I'm still "spiritual," albeit in a non-religious sense. I'm only anti-religion in so far as I see religion spreading falsehoods about the cosmos, in the same way I'm only anti-global-warming-deniers in so far as they spread falsehoods about the Earth's climate. I'll also point out that by your logic, you aren't a believer in God but rather an anti-atheist, because you like to challenge atheists like me. Does this really describe you? If not, then acknowledge that just like you, I and Osho Robbins also are motivated by positive views of reality.
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Arjuna, read Stephen Hawking's last book. I've read the chapter dealing with what happens inside black holes. Science has some good understandings, based on quantum mechanics and relativity theory, about what occurs there. Naturally these are based on mathematics and the known laws of nature, since nothing escapes from black holes, except, likely, some short-lived virtual particles called "Hawking radiation," since he was the first to recognize that they would be emitted from black holes.
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Religiously-minded commenters should do some Googling before blathering on about atoms losing energy, and implying that something divine keeps them in motion. Here's some links to educate these people. Basically the message is... Energy is conserved. It can't be gained or lost. The universe started off with all the energy it would ever have in the Big Bang. Since, that energy keeps things in motion. This motion is guided by the laws of quantum physics. http://www.fnal.gov/pub/science/inquiring/questions/perpetualmotion.html https://education.jlab.org/qa/atomicstructure_08.html https://van.physics.illinois.edu/qa/listing.php?id=1195
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Dungeness, JB can respond to you on his own, but your comment does come across as patronizing and psycho-babble to me. You seem to believe that there is only one kind of meditation, your kind. This is absurd. Most mindfulness sorts of meditation, which are extremely common, don't have anything to do with mystical mumbo-jumbo, negative powers, and other supernatural stuff. I've been enjoying several sorts of guided meditations via iPhone apps, and I've never heard anyone advise that they should have a teacher before meditating. Also, Buddhism (for example) doesn't teach that meditation eliminates suffering, pain, distress, and such. What it aims at is lessening the reactivity that causes us to feel sad about our sadness, pain about our pain, etc. Suffering is an inexorable part of life. Meditation doesn't do away with it. That's why your comment sounds so patronizing to me. You are judging someone whom you don't even know, layering on to this person your own views about meditation, which are decidedly out of the mainstream.
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777, your views are abhorrent. They make me glad I'm an atheist rather than a narrow-minded religious believer. You believe that Stephen Hawking and other disabled people suffer because of what they did to others in a previous life. This is absurd and utterly lacking in compassion. How can you live your life with such hatred and disdain for others? Sure, I understand the (mistaken) belief that karma carries over from past lives. I used to believe in this lie myself. But now I've become a much more caring person, because I've given up this false belief. You still hold on to it. Consider what harm you are doing to yourself and others by looking on people in this way -- as suffering because they caused suffering to others, no matter how much good they are doing in the world, as was the case with Stephen Hawking and countless others. Your religious views have been the basis for horrible discrimination in India against "untouchables" and other low caste people. Yet you keep spewing them on this blog today. Grow up. Stop the hatred. Show some genuine love for others rather than just blathering about it in your comments.
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I'm no mental health professional, but I'm prepared to diagnose a malady that is rampant in Salem: parking space mania. Some of the symptoms are: -- Feeling that something is seriously wrong if it isn't possible to park in a downtown block where your intended destination is located. -- Driving... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Salem Political Snark
Spence, and all, regarding the supposed distinction between theism and anti-theism, I think this is spurious. Here's why. Let's consider communism and anti-communism. Pretty clearly, someone has to be other than a communist to be an anti-communist (I'm thinking back to the cold war days, but vestiges of communism remain). It isn't possible to be an anti-communist unless one isn't a communist, which we can call "acommunist," in the same way someone who isn't a theist is an atheist. So all anti-theists are atheists first and foremost, as this is the basis for their being opposed to religions. Some atheists are milder, simply lacking a belief in God without being committed to opposing religion. My point is that atheism is the key thing here. It doesn't make sense to speak of atheists and anti-theists as different. An anti-theist is a more radical and committed atheist, just as an anti-communist is a sub-set of people who aren't communists. We just don't have a name for this, like acommunists, because so few people are communists, whereas the vast majority of people in the world are theists, so we have a word for non-religious people, atheists.
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Salem's one and only daily newspaper, the Statesman Journal, is falling deeper into a well of mediocrity. The newest outrage against journalistic excellence was obvious in yesterday's Sunday paper where, for the first time in the 41 years that I've been reading the Statesman Journal, to my recollection, there was... Continue reading
Posted Nov 12, 2018 at Salem Political Snark
Skyline, before you laugh too much, you might consider some facts: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/30/migrant-caravan-causes-climate-change-central-america Excerpt: "Thousands of Central American migrants trudging through Mexico towards the US have regularly been described as either fleeing gang violence or extreme poverty. But another crucial driving factor behind the migrant caravan has been harder to grasp: climate change. Most members of the migrant caravans come from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – three countries devastated by violence, organised crime and systemic corruption, the roots of which can be traced back to the region’s cold war conflicts. Experts say that alongside those factors, climate change in the region is exacerbating – and sometimes causing – a miasma of other problems including crop failures and poverty."
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Spence, please share any ways that the existence of God or soul can be demonstrated, and I'll pass that on to scientists who might want to research this. As I keep noting, it is up to those who believe in supernatural phenomena to prove that they exist. It isn't up to skeptics to do this, or to prove that they don't exist. Why would scientists want to investigate something for which there is no evidence of its existence? It's like asking why scientists don't investigate unicorns. They would study them if they existed. Scientists do study subjects, such as dark matter, whose presence can be inferred, but whose nature isn't known -- in this case by the movement of stars/galaxies. But where is even any inferred evidence for God or soul? Nowhere. Everything we know about the world can be explained without reference to God or soul. So if these entities exist, and I strongly doubt they do, they have no effect on the world. Which means, they only exist as mental concepts within the minds of human beings. They are thoughts, not things.
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There's lots of ways to look at the results of last Tuesday's midterm election. But some ways are wrong -- like the attempt by Republicans to spin the election as a GOP win. Today Ed Dover spoke the truth about the midterms at an engrossing Salem City Club presentation, "Patterns... Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2018 at Salem Political Snark
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Good news. The headline of a Salem Reporter story says, "Neighborhood appeal puts Kuebler Gateway Shopping Center on Hold." Here's how the story starts out: Costco’s road to a new location in south Salem is not over after neighbors appealed the city’s recent decision to allow the Kuebler Gateway Shopping... Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2018 at Salem Political Snark
Spence, you have a religiously-motivated view of science. Look: I've read dozens of books about modern science. I subscribe to Scientific American and New Scientist. No reputable scientists make the sort of arguments that you're fond of making. Namely, that we shouldn't have confidence in what science knows now because science might know something different in the future. That attitude is crazy. I've called you out on it before, and I'll continue to do so. It's like saying, "I'm not going to enjoy the pizza I just ordered with my favorite ingredients because someday I might decide that I like a different kind of pizza." All we can do is live on the basis on what is known now. If solid evidence turns up for a different view of consciousness than science has now, then science will evolve to reflect those facts. Likewise, if solid evidence turns up for a supernatural realm separate from the universe we know now, then science will evolve to reflect those facts. One of my favorite Rumi stories involves a man who considers buying and living in a rundown house. He says, "if this house only had a roof and four walls it would be a great house." A wiser man than he tells him, "But my friend, we cannot live in 'if.'" I heartily agree. We have to live in the world that actually exists, not in the world that might exist. You seem to want a world that is a mixture of what is known now and what might be known in the future. But that latter world doesn't exist. It is a conceptual world, a mental world, a world of "if." Along with science, I choose to live in the world that is.
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In a Washington Post piece I read today, I saw a saying: "Republicans are naturally triumphal even when they lose and Democrats tend to get depressed even when they win." This seems generally true. But like I said last night, I'm pleased with how the midterm election turned out. Sure,... Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2018 at Salem Political Snark
JB, loved your comment about having no eyes. Great critique of Harding's simplistic "spiritual" experience. Arjuna, whenever someone tells me about a book that sounds too good to be true, I head to Amazon and read the one-star reviews. Here's the first review that popped up. Read the truth about Joe Dizpensa: ================= I purchased this book and participated in a workshop with Joe Dispenza. It seems that his team Encephelon cleans up the Internet with impeccable detail! (no Wiki page, or anything less than flattering anywhere) So what "Joe" dispenses in his new age message is done with a typical motivational marketing team that should be off-putting to the average person with a grain of discernment and a meditation practice. In general, in his last book his newer line of thinking sells the idea that the human mind can change the manifestation of reality and change his fate; all this can be done by a certain personal discipline including meditation. Until now it sits well with the newer current of ideas. I like the idea of meditating and love the idea of manifesting too! About the science facts, I'm not sure, but it sounds interesting and I'm willing to suspend disbelief and try it out. What pains me though, is the method of delivery of this so called Workshop ...where there never was a schedule handed out, we were left at the mercy of JD. In particular, he proceeds to claim to have witnessed spontaneous remissions of serious illnesses in his workshops, and I noticed several participants in wheelchairs or on crutches ... not counting all the participants with undetectable disease in the hall ... these people are especially vulnerable to false hopes that healing is instantaneous and about to happen! At no point does he show any real testimonies of miraculous healings ... his anecdotes should suffice to make us believe in a better tomorrow. His workshop was fairly expensive, and it is said that this cost is justified since it included videos (about 5 hours) of a previous workshop that no longer exists but which must be watched before you attend the progressive workshop ... the majority of the workshop I attended (progressive) was the verbatim repetition of that video!!! ... is it brainwashing? or lack of imagination or information? I would say that this is the recycling of old stock. They also strongly encourage us to read his latest book, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, which again a rehash of the same thing? (Enough already!) Even his anecdotes are the same! He seems to have learned his text very well. But don't expect him to interact directly with the participants; he can't go off script. He allows no questions from the audience. In addition, the meditations (which I find interesting) of the 2.5-day workshop are the same as those he sells online ... but it appropriates some ancient techniques of meditation (among others Kundalini) claiming that enlightenment is imminent and easy to obtain if you follow to the letter his instructions ... ex. you have to push the energy of the first chakra to the seventh with forced breath holding - a bit like self-asphyxiation -which can cause particular sensations ... pffft! However, I appreciate the fact that he encourages his "disciples" to install a daily meditation practice. But to judge as wrong or right the personal practice of a meditation, and to expect some kind of magical effect is not right. Meditation takes many forms and is individual...and is not a result oriented practice...it should be a journey. Pushing for results is not the way! I especially hated the obvious marketing in the workshop where he plugs advertisements for the upcoming workshops, publications, at all times; and where the electoral campaign/pep rally style is used by encouraging the participants to dance and clap after the breaks to lively music for no apparent reason except to make promotional videos (looks like you're having fun here -! artificial enthusiasm for a meeting where calm should be nurtured...) I also noticed that JD does not care entirely about our questions on site (you could ask questions at his paying webinars I guess), or our learning (no leader came to guide us, there were no group activities) ... he seems to be more interested in our wallet. He also seems to use a type of communication with his technical team by pretending to make us interact (ex. – “poke your neighbor” and “discuss what you understand”) that are not often logical since he did not give enough info for discussion and he obviously seeks a break for some reason ... perhaps he needs to blow off some time during these pauses ....or hear his next line in his earbuds. He also makes an unnecessary use of Youtube videos to so-called "spark our enthusiasm and inspire the imagination of our emotions" ... I think even here he gets a small break on stage ... all these videos were "déjà vu" for any subscriber to FB! Finally, I come out disillusioned and annoyed to have spent to attend a workshop with such manipulation techniques and lack of concern for the participants! I love some of his ideas, and I come out a little more aware of the dangers of this kind of workshop. I have compassion for some of his "fanatical groupies" and even some exalted shouters during the meditations. I hope my reflections and questions will spur discussion or at least "enlighten" a few ... I wish I had read this kind of criticism before spending ... but I think his team is efficient at digital scrubbing.
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A few days ago I predicted how I'd feel given certain results of today's midterm election. Below I've highlighted in green the outcomes that became reality. I added the Beto O'Rourke loss to the last two scenarios, having neglected to include it in my original post. You can see that... Continue reading
Posted Nov 6, 2018 at Salem Political Snark
Turan, great comment. You understand this whole "no self" thing well, and you've done some good reading in neuroscience. I wish other commenters on this blog were as nicely scientifically informed. Like you said, the experience of no-self isn't anything special. It is simply the reality that is veiled from us by the way the brain has evolved to operate. All species strive to survive (anybody who tries to swat a fly will realize this). But likely we humans are alone in not only having that striving, but also a mind that can anticipate our own death before a threat actually appears. So our feeling that we have a "self" may have survival value. Or it might simply be an artifact of our evolved neo-cortex, which not only can think, but can also think about our thinking. Plus have feelings about our feelings, etc. As I've noted before, like Russian dolls, we appear to be "strange loops" of consciousness. There's nothing mystical or supernatural about this. It is just reality. And at times -- such as in Harding's case -- the illusion of self falls away and we realize there is nobody having an experience. There is just experience, which usually includes an experience of being, or having, a self.
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Vinny, keep it up. Every comment you write makes me more proud to be an atheist. You do realize that the universe started with an immense store of energy at the moment of the big bang, right? And that this energy continues to power the cosmos, right? Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. So like the cosmos itself, it appears to be eternal. Mind-blowing, right? Yet this is how science views reality. There's no need for religion or mysticism to be blown away by the astounding fact of existence, and the related fact that our immense universe exists.
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Spence, you're spouting religious dogma. There's no evidence for anything supernatural, yet you say the self may not be in the brain. Sure, it could be on the moon. It could be in a black hole. It could be under our sofa. "Could be" is a word much loved by religious believers such as yourself. You fail to recognize the fact that I repeat over and over, citing philosophers and practitioners of science: the burden of proof is on someone making a claim to show the evidence for it. I've read many neuroscientific books that say there is no place in the brain where an enduring "self" is located. I've read zero neuroscientific books that say the "self" could be outside the brain. Regarding your last point, hopefully you realize that Buddhists are some of the most experienced meditators in the world, and Buddhism denies that the "self" exists. So that casts a lot of cold water on your argument. You look at the world through a Sant Mat perspective. There are much wider windows to view through, and I choose to look through them.
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Looking back, I realize that my despair over Trump beating Clinton in the 2016 election was caused in part by my failure to anticipate what I thought was unthinkable: Donald Trump becoming the President of the United States. So this time around, I'm going to envision various emotional states of... Continue reading
Posted Nov 3, 2018 at Salem Political Snark
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Echoing a Who song: Salem, let's not get fooled again. In the early 2000s a pioneering, far-reaching, creative Salem Futures project was killed by clueless conservatives. Our town has been paying the price ever since, as I'll discuss below. Here's how someone active in land use issues at the time... Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2018 at Salem Political Snark
Arjuna, consider this: when someone repeats a familiar truth, maybe it is because that's the truth. You appear to be looking for what you want to believe, a comforting belief, rather than what is true about the world in which we actually live. That's fine. Just don't mistake "comfort" for "truth." Sometimes the truth can feel painful.
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