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About Encephalon

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  1. Heading toward Tibetan schools

    I think this is a good point and I think you've made it repeatedly over the years, but at the risk of sounding like I'm hairsplitting and over-intellectualizing, there is a nuanced difference between monastic training and "what Buddhism is really about," and I don't claim to have ultimate knowledge of either. What I do know is that the reality of interdependence and emptiness is extremely difficult to conceptualize, let alone experience as a daily waking reality, because our separateness as individuals exerts such a powerful hold on our imagination, and we end up creating reified "souls" that are eternal and "selves" that are separate. I guess I'm somewhere in the middle in here when it comes to intellectualism. It's critical that people get at least a conceptual model of interdependency and emptiness in order to develop the experiential side, and what I've seen in here doesn't often serve that goal; the conversation appears overly intellectual but is often full of obfuscation and misleading conjecture. Along side this hyperintellectualism is a form of anti-intellectualism that to me appears more like the posturing of pure laziness and an unwillingness to ferret out understanding from the texts. At some point on the path to enlightenment, scholarship and practice must intersect and I believe those who deny this are not getting the whole picture. I should point out that I never fully immersed myself in the threads of interdependence or emptiness because I found them unnecessarily impenetrable. I ask those of you who nailed the subject down to forgive me for not recognizing it; there was too much background interference. Thanks Jetsun for recommending "How to see yourself as you really are."
  2. Heading toward Tibetan schools

    I'm working on it. Thanks for mentioning this important fact. Here's the list of Tibetan schools in Los Angeles. One of the few advantages of living in this city.
  3. Probably a good idea not to read his stuff, unless you're goin to stick with his older stuff like "The Geography of Nowhere." I like his sense of humor but for less caustic expression you might consider his colleague Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute. I obviously disagree with the reviewers since I enjoy his works and have sound reason to support his basic themes. He's clearly angry about the mess we've got ourselves into since it was not only avoidable but a predictable consequence of creating a nation that can't live without sucking the global tit dry, but I reject the notion that he relishes the prospect of our country being reduced to cannabilistic hordes.
  4. There's no genre I enjoy more than good 'ol post-apocalyptic dystopias, so I was a little disappointed with "World Made by Hand." Kunstler has had a prolific career as a writer, and I think he got cocky and wrote this thing too fast. His "Geography of Nowhere" is required reading in geography, urban planning, ecology, and sustainability studies across the country. It would seem that several Bums suffer from a fairly significant dearth of ecological literacy, something I would have never suspected in a website inhabitated by self-identified Taoists, but oh well. GoN tells the tale of how and why America chose to construct its cities and transportation grids as if humans, nature, and energy didn't matter. Read this and discover why imbuing the planet with permanence is as illusory error as reifing the "self." You're in for a treat, Serene, with The Long Emergency. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyEGnMa9MyM&feature=related
  5. Kunstler's "The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-first Century" goes in that direction. It's a detailed forecast of what would happen to the different sections of North America in the event of catastrophic disruptions in resource flows, i.e., no more cheap oil. Kunstler has been intimately involved with the work of the New Urbanism, the Post-Carbon Institute, and a constant presence in the field of academic geography and urban planning for decades. His strength is in detailing how we managed to get into the clusterfuck we're in, not necessarily designing detailed descriptions of how to get out of it, because let's face it, the vast majority still don't know where we came from, how we got here, or what the problem truly is, much less how to rectify it. For the few who "get it," those who understand the implications of a very plausible disruption of energy flows into our highly energy-dependent consumer culture, Kunstler has been addressing the same prescription that's being articulated by dozens of activist/theorists – prepare to organize culture on smaller scales; smaller farms, smaller homes, smaller financial networks, smaller communities, small enough to facilitate real cooperation. If such a blue print really existed, about 50 million Americans would jump at the opportunity and ask, Where do I sign? The great unwashed masses would remain utterly indifferent or clueless, while the paleoconservatives like JoeBlast and the rest of the crowd profiled in Kunstler's last essay, will continue to believe that suburban consumerism and "pro-growth" jingoism is the natural order of things and will return to America once the liberals are kicked out of office and we bomb the Middle East into submission and take Our Oil. You're not going to see people from the Right offering any viable solutions to the problems of perpetual consumer capitalism because they don't perceive that as a problem in need of a solution. Let's be clear; the only thing that separates modern American liberals from modern conservatives is a magic spigot of unexhaustible oil, undepletable topsoil, carbon-free emissions, and an extra continent or two.
  6. My wildly and optimistically speculative guess would be that once word got out that a bunch of dharma bums or Tao bums had successfully organized along the lines of the Amish and Hutterites and Mennonites there would be less psychotic fundy madness and a little more down-to-earth practicality on behalf of all parties. The pages of the DSM-III will be used to light fires while we read the classics to each other collect books on folk medicine. Something tells me the Fundies will continue a prayerful vigil until the last kernel of wheat is chewed up, followed by loud and lurid lamentations on why God had forsaken them.
  7. I still have a vivid memory of something Chomsky said years ago; what we really need is a persuasive, living, breathing vision of a viable alternative to the consumer model. It cannot simply be a few economic equations written down and theorized about. We've got to construct living models of how people can live outside of the consumer delusion. They already exist in small numbers across the globe but they get very little attention - no surprise there. The moment news catches on that people have voluntarily associated in sustainable democratic groups that don't prescribe the Rat Race and Fox News as a staple of modern life, more and more people take a look and say Fuck This Shit! I'm trading in my coat and tie for overalls and a wheelbarrel. We're talking about post-industrial skill sets, mass graves filled with televisions, manual labor, zendos, dojos, and organic farms. Okay, that's quite enough romanticism for one night! www.ic.org www.opensourceecology.org www.transitionnetwork.org www.postcarbon.org I still think it's necessary to post these messages because the noise machine designed to drown out any alternative message is kept loud 24/7.
  8. Reading Kunstler's weekly essay is the best part of my Monday morning. Enjoy! Bold italics mine and idquest's. The Choices We Make By James Howard Kunstler on February 20, 2012 9:41 AM The misalignment of politics and reality threatens to scuttle both major parties, but it's especially gratifying to see the Republicans sail off the edge of their own flat earth on the winds of religious idiocy. For forty years it has not been enough for them to just be a conservative party. They had to enlist the worst elements of ignorance and reaction, and they found an endless supply of it in the boom regions of the Sunbelt with its brotherhood of TV evangelist con-artists and a population fretful with suburban angst. Now, in the last hours of the cheap oil economy, the forty year miracle of the Sunbelt boom dwindles and a fear of approaching darkness grips the people there like a rumor of Satan. The long boom that took them from an agricultural backwater of barefoot peasantry to a miracle world of Sonic Drive-ins, perpetual air-conditioning, WalMarts, and creation museums is turning back in the other direction and they fear losing all that comfort, convenience, and spectacle. Since they don't understand where it came from, they conclude that it was all a God-given endowment conferred upon them for their exceptional specialness as Americans, and so only the forces of evil could conspire to take it all away. Hence, the rise of a sanctimonious, hyper-patriotic putz such as Rick Santorum and his take-back-the-night appeal to those who sense the gathering twilight. And the awful ordeal of convictionless pander and former front-runner Mitt Romney drowning in his own bullshit as he struggles to extrude one whopper after another just to keep up with the others in this race to the bottom of the political mud-flow. There is an obvious dither backstage now among those who cynically thought they could manipulate and control these dark impulses of the frightened masses as the candidates all pile into a train wreck of super-PAC obloquy. Won't some level-headed adult like the governors of New Jersey and Indiana step up and volunteer? Is this finally its Whig Moment - the point where the Republican Party has offended history so gravely that it goes up in a vapor of its own absurdity? I hope so. The conservative impulse is hardly all bad. We need it in civilization. But it can't be vested in the sheer and constant repudiation of reality. The opposing Democrats have their own problem with reality, which is that they don't tell the truth about so many things despite knowing better, and, under Obama, they act contrary to their stated intentions often enough, and in matters of extreme importance, that they deserve to go down in flames, too. Just as there is a place for conservatism in civilized life, there is also a place for the progressive impulse, let's call it - for making bold advance in step with the mandates of reality and an interest in justice for all those along on the journey. The Democrats under Obama don't want to go to that place. They want to really go to the same place as the fretful Sunbelt fundamentalists, but by a different route - and that place is yesterday, by means of a campaign to sustain the unsustainable. Mr. Obama is pretending that an economic "recovery" is underway when he knows damn well that the banking system is just blowing smoke up the shredded ass of what's left of that economy. He pretends to an interest in the rule of law in money matters but he's done everything possible to prevent the Department of Justice, the SEC, and a dozen other regulatory authorities from functioning the way they were designed. He has never suggested resurrecting the Glass-Steagall act, which kept banking close to being honest for forty years. He never issued a peep of objection about the Citizens United case where the Supreme Court tossed the election process into a crocodile pit of corporate turpitude (he could have proposed a constitutional amendment redefining corporate "personhood."). He declared he'd never permit a super-PAC to be created in his name, and now he's got one. Mr. Obama represents a lot of things to a lot of people. He is mainly Progressivism's bowling trophy, its symbol of its own triumphant wonderfulness in overcoming the age old phantoms of race prejudice. Alas, that's not enough. Where exactly is the boundary between telling "folks" what they want to hear and just flat-out lying? Neither party can articulate the current reality, which is that we have to reorganize civilization pretty drastically. I've reviewed that agenda many times in this space and it largely amounts to rebuilding local economies at a smaller and finer scale. That is just not on the table for all current leadership, or even in the room. If neither party can frame an agenda consistent with that reality, then we'll have to get there without them, probably after a very rough period when the pretending still lingers in the air like a bad odor and no reality-based consensus is able to form, no agreement about what we should do. That's the period when a lot of things fall apart and people get hurt. These are the choices we're making right now.
  9. Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment

    Well, I have to agree with you on just about all counts and I commend you on your passion, but I invite you to consider a couple of points - Try to ease up on the rhetoric. You're not the first person to realize the threat posed to this planet's ability to support life by human profligacy. There are millions of others who are ecologically literate and engaged in the process of trying to create an alternative to global consumerism. Sober mindedness is what is needed; alarmism has run its course. The era of fossil fuel-based industrial consumerism has come with its own expiration clause; as soon as these fuels are depleted, consumer capitalism will wind down and the earth will begin to rebalance. That's the good news. The not so good news is that the rebalancing will not accomodate all 7 billion of us, so find a community, practice the cultivation regimens of your choice, learn some post-industrial skills that will make you a handy person to be around, and join us in the task of creating a viable alternative to the industrial mess you've aptly described. You're not alone!
  10. Just curious - they were sold in one day! Were Bums the ones who bought them?
  11. Heading toward Tibetan schools

    There are many, many lessons to be had from Buddhist psychology and social theory. If you did nothing else but make an agnostic investigation of the 4 Noble Truths, the 8-fold Path, and the Three Poisons you could spend your entire life studying these alone and never exhaust the process. Check out Jack Kornfield's modern classic "The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology" to get an idea of just how inexhaustible yet powerful these teachings can be, without any notion of higher consciousness involved. As for me, it's on to see what spiritual states I can attain that intuit what I've learned from human ecology studies.
  12. As of Friday, Feb. 17 @ 8am PST, there are two copies available on Amazon for $2.20!! Act fast!