Thursday, January 22, 2009

beautiful birds...

Many years ago, during the last winter I spent in the Pacific Northwest before I moved to Europe, I had the good fortune to experience the Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count, an annual event that has been going on for more than 100 years where volunteers from all over the United States go out into the cold winter weather to count birds. The volunteers that year were organized by the husband of a friend of mine who had been an Audubon Society member for many years and who had a good many Christmas Bird Counts already under his belt.

Our task was simple: Go outdoors with our binoculars, notebook, and pen or pencil, look for birds, make note of their types and numbers. Ultimately, our data was sent to a central Audubon Society office where it was tabulated and used for creating a census of birds in the entire country for that year.

It was wonderful trudging through the snow, scouting for birds, finding and watching them through the binoculars for a whole day. When I returned to the warmth of my house at the end of the day, I remember having a feeling a peacefulness that I have never felt since.

Anyway, the reason I'm writing about this is that the Blog of Note from 21 January 2009 was Miradas Cantábricas and consists of some of the most beautiful photos of birds that I have ever seen. Except for not being outside, looking at these photos of the birds is as good as the Christmas Bird Count and makes me want to venture out into the cold this weekend to see what birds I might be able to find. Check it out! It's in Spanish, but you don't need to be able to read the words to enjoy the photos, although it's useful to know that if you click on the words "Entradas antiguas" at the bottom right of the page, you will get a new page with more photos from earlier blog posts.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Energy Medicine

One of my interests is energy medicine. I have explored various approaches. The ones I currently find most interesting are Zdenko Domancic Bioenergy Therapy and the work of Donna Eden which is based on Touch For Health which has procedures for testing and balancing the 14 primary Chinese medicine (TCM) meridians.

This morning, I was looking at a book called "Vibrational Medicine: The #1 Handbook of Subtle-Energy Therapies", by Richard Gerber, MD. There is a chapter in this book about scientific studies that have been done with persons who describe themselves as spiritual healers. These studies show that, even from a distance, such persons can have a positive effect on plants, animals, and water, and that, in general, the effects are always towards life, health, and improvement, and away from entropy. One of the studies suggested that anyone could learn to do this kind of work and that effectiveness seemed to improve with practice.

Friday, January 9, 2009

by their fruits you will know them…

What I don't get about Christian fundamentalists, apart from their inability (unwillingness?) to see that much of the Bible is metaphorical (Jesus himself is famous for his metaphorical stories - the parables), is that they pay so much attention to quotations from the Old Testament (to be discussed in some future post maybe) and to what the apostles, his imperfect followers, had to say. In my view, the most important and only entirely essential information required by a Christian is to be found in the gospels.

Although the apostles were delegated by Jesus to carry on his work, they were still fallible and made mistakes. They were different from you and me only in that some of them knew him personally, but that wouldn't automatically make them great teachers themselves. I have known at least one great teacher in my life, and I can tell you that neither I nor any of the other students who learned from him could ever presume to convey more than an imperfect remembrance of only a very small portion of all of the things that he said and did during the time that we knew him. Great teachers speak truth from a place of inner certainty and knowing. Jesus spoke from his own inner awareness and certainty of the fact of his divinity and of ours (from the Christian viewpoint, logic dictates that if God is our father, we are his children, and therefore also divine – another future post, maybe). When Jesus said "follow me - I am the way", he was instructing his followers to BE like him.

It is my opinion that the writings of the apostles in books other than the gospels could be compared to this or any other blog post where someone writes about what they think about some subject, and such writings may or may not be of any value in terms of ultimate truth. I think one must really consider and decide for themselves whether or not to accept as truth anything that is written, no matter where it is written or who the author might be.

Some of the breadcrumbs of Jesus' thought processes, however, which could be useful for someone who wanted to emulate him, remain in the few things that he is alleged in the gospels to have said and done, although likely not everything was recorded accurately or completely. Nevertheless, it seems to me that what Jesus had to say, and his reported behaviour as recorded in the gospels should provide the definitive behavioural guidelines for anyone wanting to be Christ-like, and while there are some inconsistencies, mostly the messages are pretty consistently:

- "do unto others as you would have them do unto you"
- "forgive others"
- "do not judge others"
- "feed the hungry"
- "visit the sick"
- "give to the poor"
- "be merciful"
- "love one another"

and, moreover,

- "love your enemies"

I have wondered, since many supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003, how Christian fundamentalists reconcile with their supposed faith and "saved" status the dropping of bombs on anyone, since Jesus admonished "love your enemies", and taught such things as "Blessed are the merciful", and "Blessed are the peacemakers", and "whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of judgment", and "for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil", and "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not him that is evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also". I can't find anything in any of the recorded words or deeds of Jesus that would justify dropping bombs on anyone.

Jesus also allegedly said some pretty amazing things like

- "greater things than these shall ye do"
- "if you had the faith of a grain of mustard seed, you could move a mountain"

I don't see any Christian fundamentalists trying to move mountains or perform miracles, or even trying to convince anyone else that this is possible, and I bet if anyone started moving mountains or performing miracles, there would be a huge outcry that the miracle worker/mountain mover is the anti-Christ. If Jesus came back again, would he be recognized? Would the fundamentalists accept him or call him the anti-Christ? How would they know it was him and not some impostor?

These long dark past eight years, I have wondered how those who think of themselves as being Christians could continue to support and defend an administration that, among all the other terrible things it has presided over, so obviously cares nothing for the poor and has done everything possible to facilitate further filling the already over-full coffers of the very rich.

Jesus is also reported to have said "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits". A lot of bad fruit has come out of the Bush administration - we now have a 10 trillion dollar deficit (this seems like minus fruit to me), there is a huge financial crisis with more and more people losing their investments, their retirement funds, their jobs and their homes with each passing day, more than 1.3 million Iraqi people are dead because of an illegal war undertaken on the basis of known lies - these are but a few examples of all the bad fruit. Bush and his minions are at least false prophets and Bush is himself possibly the anti-Christ, except he will be gone in a few days and hopefully won't feel inspired to push the button as his last dastardly deed before we see the backside of him. I hope that the next time we must endure the frontside of him, he will be sitting in a court of law where he will be made to answer for his many crimes. He claims to be born again, but his fruit says otherwise - a bad tree (my apologies to all trees, but please blame the Lord for the analogy) who won't be gone soon enough for me.

Monday, January 5, 2009

my favorite luxury...

I like a lot of different kinds of music, but mostly I prefer silence. If any music that I know or like is going on, I can become totally distracted from whatever task is at hand. Music can take over my mind completely, so that anything requiring careful or analytical thought becomes impossible. Even worse, listening to just about any music can have the effect of it repeating endlessly in my mind for days or even weeks afterwards, which can be especially annoying if the songs are ones I don't particularly like, or thought I liked very much but after hearing them for the five thousandth time in my head I don't like them so much anymore. I suppose on the plus side, this capability that I seem to have of being able to replay any song in my head repeatedly can be convenient because I don't need an iPod or a CD player when I want to listen to my favorite songs, but I feel happier when there are no songs playing in my head and there is only silence.

I sometimes enjoy listening to lively, energetic, "up" music when cleaning house - I can get a boost in my energy level from such music, with the knock-on effect that the work seems easier. Sad music, on the other hand, can leave me with a feeling of melancholy for days, and since I do tend to find the sadder songs more beautiful, I have to be careful not to listen to them too much since I prefer to be in a good mood.

Any kind of interesting, complex, or beautiful music can space me out to the point that it's dangerous if I happen to be driving at the time. I once nearly caused an accident while listening to such music in my car, but fortunately other drivers were paying attention. I rarely listen to music in my car anymore.

I purposely never play music in the car when other people are with me, as I prefer having conversations with people when I am driving. Maybe other people can talk when music is playing, but I don't seem to have this ability. Music takes over my mind and I find it very difficult to carry on a conversation. My children have never been very happy that I never play music in the car while driving them to school and back, but we have had many interesting conversations over the years and I am certain that the silence allowed these conversations to happen.

Before the days of radio and other modern audio devices, most people only ever listened to music at church, concerts, and special events, unless they were musicians and could play an instrument or sing for themselves. I think that the modern world suffers from an unfortunate gluttony of sound. Nearly every public place plays some kind of music, as if silence is some sort of negative state that must be avoided at all costs.

For me, music is a type of noise, not always unpleasant, but always distracting from what's going on inside me. Silence allows me to hear my inner voice and to have control over what thoughts I think and what feelings I feel. Silence helps me to know what I feel and to deal with how I feel. I prefer silence whenever possible. It is my favorite and most valued luxury.