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:: Thursday, May 30, 2002 ::
What's a garden for? Growing and nurturing. What grows in a garden? That all depends on the garden.
I'm taken with French lavender - of the three varieties, it's scent is the most striking. One can never experience the full wonder of lavender until the fresh leaves have wafted the enchanting fragrance beneath your nose. Lavender scented candles and lotions are nothing more than that, paltry attempts at mimicry. Nothing else captures the essence of the real thing.
Amazingly, lavender's promise and potential is locked inside tiny seeds, hardly larger than fleas, which take weeks to germinate. The tender seedlings are dwarfed by the clumps of soil around them, at the mercy of mere raindrops, facing incredible odds against their survival.
Lavender seeds seem something of a vestige, an afterthought of the wonderfully scented flower stalks from which they came. But that doesn't stop nurseries from selling the seeds, and like a fool who never learns to leave well enough alone, I keep planting them.
Sometimes I sit outside for hours watching the soil where they're planted... watching... calm and excited at the same time - steadfast resolve on the outside, whirling dynamo inside.:: Bryan Travis :: 05/30/2002 @ 02:10 :: [link] ::
In Part 1, I explained my non-committal pacifist ways (aka apathy), and now, at the risk of veering off course yet again and having to save my original post for part 3, I'd like to add another explanation for my apathy. As I was growing up, graduating from high school and attending university, I was a registered Republican and took the conservative highroad more often than not. After graduating college and joining the ranks of corporate America, that grand bastion of Republican conservatism, my views began to change, and as a consequence, this new liberal is in the process of finding his roots and deciding what he believes.
Maybe it's because I can't help but take an opposing stance to what I perceive as the majority around me. Thus, at university where liberalism reigns, I drifted toward the conservatives, and in corporate America where conservatism reigns, I was drawn to the left. Perhaps when I'm immersed in the rhetoric of the predominant political mindset for a length of time, the realization dawns on me that what I'm hearing is complete drivel and utter crap, because neither the Republicans nor the Democrats sufficiently represent my beliefs. Furthermore, very few politicians earn my respect by having the intestinal fortitude to "do the right thing" if it means losing a few constituents or some face in the process. The two party system has never worked for me, although one is usually a better fit than the other, and at present, I'd say Democrats are a two- or threefold better fit with my beliefs than the Republicans.
You know, the more I ponder the previous paragraph, the more it rings true. More evidence I dislike our two party system: Guess who I voted for in the 2000 presidential election. Go on - take a wild shot. Bush? Only if I checked myself into a sanatorium first. Gore? Definitely preferred to Bush, but not nearly a perfect fit. Nader? Although I'm pro-environment, I thought he was whacked on most everything else. I voted for John Hagelin. He was the Natural Law candidate, and got all of something like 308 votes in the state of Kentucky. After reading his website today, I learned Hagelin is a quantum physicist, which I didn't know at election time. So I voted for a scientist, that profession I hold in higher regard than almost every other because of its strict adherence to a tried and true epistemology, the Scientific Method. Go figure.
On the other hand, I'm having second thoughts about Hagelin after reading his website. The use of phrases such as "Minister of Science and Technology of the Global Country of World Peace" to describe him are unnerving. That alone was enough to make me think, This is not the person I voted for 18 months ago, but it got worse - much worse. In his Proposal to Prevent Terrorism, Hagelin promotes the use of transcendental meditation by 40,000 individuals to defeat terrorism and reduce social violence. Oh, dear...
He cites 50 experiments and 19 published studies that suggest a large group of people performing daily transcendental meditation creates positive feelings and goodwill in the collective consciousness of others in close proximity. I haven't reviewed these studies, so it must be very prejudiced and unscientific of me to express serious skepticism about the idea, but so be it - I am seriously and gravely skeptical. John Hagelin probably won't be getting my presidential vote in 2004.
It's not that I don't believe in the powers of meditation; in fact, I've expressed my Buddhist inclinations more than once or twice in previous posts. For me, the practice of religion and spirituality are deeply personal and private. Meditation unquestionably alters the mental state of the meditator, a change which is easily measurable on an EEG machine. But to suggest my personal meditation will positively influence others around me? At the very least, I think it's fair to invoke Carl Sagan by saying extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Find the nature of this meditative influence, isolate and measure it, and repeat the process over and over again. Then, and only then, will I be convinced.
If I had to venture a guess, I'd say meditation improves the meditator's outlook on life, putting them in a better mood. When a proximal group of people in a society meditate, the improved demeanor of the few meditators is amplified and measurable throughout the population. No metaphysical energies required.
On the other hand, what Hagelin suggests is precisely what Buddhism teaches. Suffering is endemic to human nature, but it is unnecessary. Buddhist monks meditate and pray for humanity to help others on the path to enlightenment so they might understand the nature of and reasons for suffering and purge it from their lives. Metaphysical energies are implicitly required.
What we have here is a classic test of faith. How effortlessly we can simultaneously maintain two conflicting views of the universe around us in our heads - the concrete and the metaphysical - as long as they don't collide like mine are at this very moment! If I believe there is truth in Buddhist philosophies like I say I do, and if reducing the threat of terrorism and the death of innocents is as important to me as I say it is, then I have no choice but to vote for Hagelin should he run again in 2004. Yes, I must, even if I don't think he has the full skillset to be president, because I know he won't actually get elected, which makes it all the more important I vote for him... on principle.
I hate getting caught up in quandaries like this. For some of you, it's probably no big deal to put your faith aside in favor of more concrete "common sense" methodologies to resolve issues existing outside the confines of the "Sunday Morning Box," in which case I congratulate you on your mastery of multi-modal thinking.
My happy little voyage of self-discovery takes me to strange and exotic places. No, I'm serious, folks. Did you catch it? Did you notice how "Hagelin is a wacko" I was at the beginning of this post, only to flip around by the end? That's a huge change, and good or bad, I pin all responsibility for it on this weblog, because none of this would have happened if I hadn't created it in the first place - I never would have forced myself down this path of the discovery of my freakish self.
So much for apathy and not taking a stand.
And so much for the real reason why I wanted to write this post, which now must wait for Part 3.
Damn. Damn. Damn.:: Bryan Travis :: 05/30/2002 @ 01:02 :: [link] ::
:: Monday, May 27, 2002 ::
I'm no political maven, rarely debating or even adopting clear-cut opinions on world issues. There's a reason for choosing one's battles, and I must sheepishly admit it's possible I self-limit to preserve my peaceful and comfortable lifestyle. Eh?, you say? Allow me to explain: Assuming I were to research all current events in depth to become a well-versed pundit and formulate an Official Opinion of Bryan for... well, everything, I know myself well enough to realize it would be impossible to sit here at home on a Sunday evening blathering in my weblog about finding personal Zen in growing herbs, paddling on lakes to commune with Nature, or experiencing the beauty of music.
Even as I am today, with only a vague, detached awareness of what's going on in the world via Internet newsfeeds and the opinions of my fellow webloggers, it's hard to shake a haunting sense of being callous to the plight of other human beings - all 6.1 billion of them. Despite the insulating effects of my vague awareness, that's a lot of callousness for one person to maintain. Nevertheless, my Prime Directive echoes throughout my mind: Must... maintain... comfortable... lifestyle!... Must... remain... fat... dumb... and... happy... at all costs!
Cursed with an intimate, detailed knowledge of all the injustices and cruel deeds committed in the world, an emotional detachment would be impossible to maintain, and failure to take action would mean the loss of all self-respect. I'd have to disobey my Prime Directive daily. It would be like Obi-wan saying, There has been a great disturbance in the Force, and then ignoring the fact an entire world has just been obliterated by a blow from the Death Star. With such awareness, I wouldn't, couldn't be so mild-mannered; at a minimum, I would have joined the Peace Corps long ago.
But Fate is a restless dancer - she always keeps in step with the music, and I missed my cue to join her onstage when the orchestra was playing that gigue. Perhaps it's for the best, though - most of us are meant to stay in the audience, which probably includes me, for I might be many things, but charismatic is not one of them. Hordes of activists wouldn't flock around me as I shouted a call to action, demanding unity as we worked together to make the world a better place to live.
So I've limited and muted my activism to environmental concerns and personal freedoms - particularly the freedom of self-expression, civil rights and equality, and freedom of (or from) religion - on a domestic scale, thus preventing my conscience from ever attaining enough critical mass to do much of anything about any of it, including the two aforementioned issues I believe in the most. Am I a bad person for wanting (and living) a more tranquil life? If I walk down the street and pass someone lying on the curb covered in blood pleading for help and I keep on walking without so much as calling 9-1-1 on my mobile, most would agree I had acted with selfish indifference toward another human being in dire need. If I, or any one of us, walk down the street with the awareness millions of people thousands of miles away are lying on the ground covered in blood or starving or suffering oppression, are we guilty of the same selfish indifference a million times over? Surely not to such an extent... but do you think our consciences are entirely clean? Where do you draw the line?
I didn't write this post to pose answers to those questions, because I don't even know where or how to begin answering them, but that's what it turned into. What was intended as an introduction for something else entirely turned out to be an entire post in its own right. These questions have plagued me for years, and I share them today so you, too, may struggle with them.
Yup, I've got nothin' but love for my readers, asking such unanswerable questions. You should be so lucky.
What I really wanted to say when I began writing this post and more, in part two.:: Bryan Travis :: 05/27/2002 @ 11:23 :: [link] ::
:: Tuesday, May 21, 2002 ::
Quick! It's 4:00am - do you know where your brain cells are?
Apparently in some state of insomnia, and isn't that just lovely? I thought my state was founded on the effects of late night coffee and caffeine, but alas, no caffeine for 18 hours. Well, maybe the fact I'm awake at this moment isn't so surprising given that I promptly went to bed when I came home.
Let us peruse directives in the insomniac's handbook:
Frequent causes of insomnia are related to lifestyle changes. Arthur Dent comes to mind: "I seem to be having tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle," and with that insult about the Vl'hurg commander's mother, a terrible, centuries-long... well, any Hitchhiker knows the story. Let's see what Google has to say about lifestyle.
Okay, why does alternative lifestyle always mean gay? Most alternative musicians are not gay. Lifestyle is the food you eat, the clothes you wear, the way you exercise, the hobbies you have, and so much more. Sexual orientation is only one slice of Lifestyle Pie. I'd go on, but guess what - I'm sleepy. Hey, Sandman! Do the needful and smother me with your bag o' sand.:: Bryan Travis :: 05/21/2002 @ 04:23 :: [link] ::
:: Tuesday, May 14, 2002 ::
What's an ass gasket? Just so we're all on the same page, an "ass gasket" is the paper ring you line the toilet seat with in public restrooms to protect your butt from countless strains of teeming microorganisms causing GodKnowsWhat Disease. If you wake up one morning and have painful, purulent discharges simultaneously from all body orifices, that's when you slap yourself on the forehead and chuckle heartily, "Well, silly me, that's what I get for not using an ass gasket!"
I try to refrain from posting about things seen in public restrooms - utter words like "urinal" or "gas station washroom" and people get all squeamish and recoil in disgust - but I'm making an exception today for no other reason than to say I saw the most amazing ass gasket in the restroom today. It looked like someone built a nest on the toilet seat in the corner stall! There were countless, small pieces of toilet paper meticulously positioned around the curvature of the seat, with more than a few "reject" pieces flung onto the floor.
Sometimes I wish I could convince myself it was worth the hassle to carry around a camera all the time so all of life's little surprises could be documented.Bryan Travis :: 05/14/2002 @ 14:43 :: [link] ::
:: Monday, May 13, 2002 ::
Sometimes spam is pretty damned funny, in spite of itself. Waiting for me when I came home tonight with the subject "Stop playing with that measuring tape!":
DID YOU KNOW?