Wednesday, September 30, 2015

"If I ate an Inuit diet......"

"If I ate an Inuit diet, extremely low in plants and high in fats from oily fish and blubbery mammals, my blood vessels would soon be screaming out for mercy. The Inuit themselves have no such problem. They have long since adapted to their distinctive diet, and have several unusually common variants in genes that metabolize fatty acids."

These are the first sentences of an interesting article reviewing genetic variation among small groups in climatic extremes and what the"rest" of us humans can learn from this. The article has links to some of the original research. If you are interested in the topic, or in the possibilities of human adaptation to extreme conditions, to changing conditions, it is worth while.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

"Why Are Little Kids in Japan So Independent?" - and what we can do to encourage similar attitudes in our society,

"What accounts for this unusual degree of independence? Not self-sufficiency, in fact, but “group reliance,” according to Dwayne Dixon, a cultural anthropologist who wrote his doctoral dissertation on Japanese youth. “[Japanese] kids learn early on that, ideally, any member of the community can be called on to serve or help others,” he says.

This assumption is reinforced at school, where children take turns cleaning and serving lunch instead of relying on staff to perform such duties. This “distributes labor across various shoulders and rotates expectations, while also teaching everyone what it takes to clean a toilet, for instance,” Dixon says.

Taking responsibility for shared spaces means that children have pride of ownership and understand in a concrete way the consequences of making a mess, since they’ll have to clean it up themselves. This ethic extends to public space more broadly (one reason Japanese streets are generally so clean). A child out in public knows he can rely on the group to help in an emergency."

The comments about this article from many different cultural perspectives and the explanations/critiques are of particular interest.

Many Flavors One Flavor; One Flavor Many Flavors - A Dharma Talk 9-27-15

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Mixed messages -on Middle East Immigrant Refugees and ....?

Recent news reports from  the Obama administration state the US will accept 100,000 + Syrian refugees from Islamic State fighting in the next year., most if not all Muslims. Some have praised this, some questioned and even challenged. And we can see the turmoil in many European nations regarding the flood of migrants, in the 100,000s +.

At the same time, we have the following reports:

"The fate of those Iraqi Christians who had fled from the Islamic State only to be incarcerated in the United States has finally been decided by the Obama administration: they are to be thrown back to the lions, where they will likely be persecuted if not slaughtered like so many Iraqi Christians before them."

 What is going on?

"It is also worth noting that because Christians in Iraq and Syria are facing genocide—as opposed to displacement—there is a limited window for rescue. Unlike the thousands of refugees pouring into Europe, who are mostly escaping the violence driven by the sectarian war in Syria, Christians are facing a targeted campaign of annihilation. The U.S. ought to take that distinction into consideration when prioritizing the resettlement of the additional 30,000 refugees the country is slated to absorb over the next two years.

Earlier this year, Rep. Juan Vargas, a California Democrat, introduced House Resolution 1568, the “Protecting Religious Minorities Persecuted by ISIS Act of 2015.” The act’s modest goal is to require the secretary of state to “report to Congress a plan to expedite the processing of refugee admissions applications” for religious minorities threatened with extinction by ISIS.

The bill hasn’t moved in Congress, partly due to inattention but also because the Obama administration seems to want nothing to do with it."


"A scientific poll born out of a Holocaust-based film reveals that 1 in 3 American adults say they would have said “no” if asked to hide a Jew were they around during the Holocaust."

"Anybody who hoped Russian President Vladimir Putin would have the key to defeating Islamic State or bringing peace to Syria just got their answer: The first airstrikes in Russia’s air campaign in that benighted country didn’t target the terrorist group at all.

Instead, Putin followed President Bashar al-Assad’s playbook. The Syrian leader's forces have rarely taken on Islamic State unless forced to do so. Indeed, Assad has seen the fanatical Islamist force as a useful ally in persuading the international community that Syria’s war consists of a choice between him and barbarians, with nothing in between. As Putin put it in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly this week, Assad is “valiantly fighting terrorism face-to-face.”

No, he is not. To create the binary choice Assad seeks, and to eliminate any opposition that the U.S. and Europe might consider acceptable, Syria’s president has directed his fire power against rebel groups other than Islamic State, making him an ally of opportunity for the terrorist organization. By contrast, the groups that Assad attacks, and which Russia struck on Wednesday, do routinely fight Islamic State."

And here is another take on this that was sent to me after the above postings:

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Is seeking and fostering peace the problem? A Palestinian journalist speaks out.

"A Palestinian TV talk show host is facing strong condemnations and threats for hosting an Israeli Jewish singer who is extremely popular among Palestinian youths.

The condemnations expose the ugly face of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS), whose followers are vehemently opposed to any form of "normalization" between Palestinians and Israelis.

The BDS activists are demanding that those who brought the singer, Zvi Yehezkel, to the TV show in Ramallah be punished. The activists do not even seem to care that the singer supports peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

They are more bothered by the fact that a Palestinian TV station in Ramallah dared to invite a Jew to an interview. The BDS activists are also not ashamed to expose their anti-Semitism by expressing their outrage over the fact that Yehezkel is an observant Jew wearing a skullcap."

For the full article see:

VW cheating on emissions part of fundamental economic and political problems

The public discovery and outrage over cheating by VW on emissions tests for their diesel cars over many years has already resulted in the resignation of some top officials, as well as many lawsuits and other legal actions. However, careful analysis shows it is part of a much bigger problem. There are a number of good articles about this. Here are some excerpts from one article which links and challenges orthodoxies:

"For a meaningless cut in greenhouse emissions, Europe got higher emissions of nitrogen oxides and diesel particulates. While claims of thousands of additional deaths from this diesel pollution are questionable, Europe now realizes it converted half its cars to diesel for no good reason. And this is just the beginning.

If carbon dioxide is a problem, cars were never the solution. Cars and light trucks account for less than 8% of global emissions; U.S. cars and light trucks account for less than 3%. U.S. car makers are being required by government to spend hundreds of billions on fuel-mileage improvements in the name of global warming that will have virtually zero effect on global warming.
The real carbon problem, if it’s a problem, is upstream in power plants and heavy industry. If those problems are solved, cars might as well go on burning gasoline. If those problems aren’t solved, cars contribute little.

What if we insist on carbon-free cars anyway? Even then, the internal-combustion engine is far from obsolete. Hydrogen, manufactured using non-carbon energy, could fuel the cars we have on the road now. So could biofuels. Electric cars, which we subsidize out the wazoo, not only are insufficient to solve any carbon problem. They are unnecessary....

Expect, even now, a decorous investigation of the VW scandal. Don’t expect a full exposure of the panic when the company realized it could not hit the U.S. emissions targets for nitrogen oxide, plus the Obama fuel mileage requirements, plus customer expectations for price and performance in an affordable sedan...

Politicians who accept huge costs on behalf of the public in order to pose as saviors of the climate, for policies that will have no impact on climate change; business people who play along out of self-interest or fear; a science community whose members endorse the RICO Act to prosecute people who question the claims of climate science.

As a historical note, the mental antecedent here is the energy crisis of the 1970s, which became conflated with the environmental crisis of the 1970s, bequeathing an intuition that requiring higher-mileage vehicles would solve some actual problem (it wouldn’t)."

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

"The free market isn’t merely the best mechanism ever devised to provide people with what they want; it is also the best mechanism ever devised to provide people with what they don’t want."

Wanting is a prime driver of much of our life. The Second Noble Truth of the Buddha is often described as Wanting/Grasping/Desire (in Sanskrit trsna) - which is a cause of unsatisfactoriness (dukkha) and stress/suffering in life. According to the 4 Noble Truths, wanting and not-wanting are similar in their role of leading to dukkha in our life.

There is a new book,“Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception,” by Nobel laureates in economics George A. Akerlof and Robert J. Shiller. Here are several excerpts from recent good review articles:

"Markets are capable of such power for good, because they allow so much positive selection. Even so, markets can produce a great deal of harm, because they also allow negative selection. Not all of those new ideas are good-for-you/good-for-me. Some of them are good-for-you/bad-for-me. And associated with such ideas come the tricks to inveigle me into buying in."

"RS: An information phool is someone who has been fed a biased set of information so that they then would make erroneous judgments. A psychological phool is someone who is affected by his or her own feelings, emotions and psychological anomalies. Information phools and psychological phools are everywhere, and you might be one of them. We know that we are.

Q: But why isn’t phishing competed away? Why don’t customers do business only with those who treat them fairly?
RS: Often the glitch in your defenses is very subtle and even the phisher doesn’t know exactly how it works. Also, businesses play tricks, and [their] competitors play tricks. Businesses often have tight profit margins. They can’t give money away. So they have to play the same tricks themselves. Professionals develop skills in manipulating people, and there’s a survival of the fittest for them: The very best ones amplify and are everywhere in their impact.

Q: The book argues that incentives will inevitably lead some people to manipulate and cheat others. Doesn’t every five-year-old child learn on the playground that some kids cheat when they trade candy and gum? Doesn’t everybody already know what you’re saying?
GA: Everybody thinks they know it. But people think of manipulation and deception as things that take place on a one-off basis, not as something that’s inevitable. Phishing is as universal as the benevolence of the butcher and the brewer and the baker that Adam Smith talked about."

A youtube presentation:

And this:

Saturday, September 12, 2015

How Hatred is Inherited - This is the realm of Witnessing and Peacemaking. How do we serve this?

Below are excerpts from a review of "A Crime and the Silence" by Anna Bikont, publ. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 544 pages.

"In Poland - not only the murderers, but also the rescuers—who risked their lives to save Jews—remained terrified to talk: Well over half a century later, they still feared their neighbors."

"Jedwabne is a small town in northeastern Poland. In September 1939, Hitler invaded the country, and Jedwabne came under German occupation—before being passed to Stalin a few weeks later and incorporated into Soviet Belarus. After Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the Red Army withdrew from Jedwabne, and the Wehrmacht returned. A window of semi-anarchy opened, created by two totalitarian regimes carrying out modern social engineering projects in a not-very-modern space: Jedwabne was rural and impoverished. A third of the townspeople could not read or write.

In early July 1941, as they were still setting up their occupation regime, the Germans gave local Poles a few days to “self-cleanse” the town of Jews. “Self-cleansing” began with rapes, stonings, drownings, killings by farm tools. On the morning of July 10, 1941, Polish townspeople drove the Jews from their homes to the market square, where they forced them to pull the weeds from between the cobblestones. It was a scorching midsummer day. Jewish men were made to destroy the nearby Lenin monument, to carry a large piece of it on two wooden poles into the square, and then to proceed into a barn distant by a few hundred meters. Inside the barn, Poles killed the men and flung pieces of Lenin on top of the corpses. Then some 40 men herded the several hundred remaining Jews—now including women, elderly people and small children—into the same barn. “Some were herding their own schoolmates,” said a woman who was there that day. A short, heavy man named Józef Ekstowicz doused the barn with gasoline; someone lit a match and the barn burst into flames. Babies were tossed inside...."

"The confrontation between Poles and Jews is only one of three dramatic confrontations at the heart of this book. The second is between the generation that took part in the war and the generation that was “graced by a late birth.” How do grown children accept—or not—that their fathers were murderers? Ms. Bikont arrives in late autumn 2000, as if an intruder at an involuntary psychoanalytic session: a whole town experiencing the revenge of the repressed. This intrusion is the third confrontation: between intellectuals from the city and peasants from the countryside. Ms. Bikont comes to the provinces as if to a foreign country. A schoolteacher in Jedwabne tells her: “The only accepted life model here is to put money in the tray on Sunday and then drink all week, beat your wife, and moan about the Jews.” That the anti-Semitism virulent in the middle of the 20th century continued into the 21st was for Ms. Bikont a moral shock.

Not only the murderers, but also the rescuers—who risked their own lives to save Jews—remain terrified to talk: Well over half a century later, they still feared their neighbors. Yet they lived with them and had done so for a long time. This book leaves the reader haunted by the intimacy of the massacre: Women were raped by their own classmates, hundreds of people were burned to death by their own neighbors, and the few survivors who remained spent the rest of their lives among their families’ murderers. Even Stanisław Ramotowski kept doing business with one of the murderers “because there wasn’t another smith who shod horses as well as he did. ‘But I wouldn’t look at him or he at me; he kept his head down.’ ”

A Surprising Result of Research into Honey and High-Fructose Corn Syrup

"The belief that HFCS (High-Fructose Corn Syrup) may be harmful - linked to obesity or diabetes - has helped sink consumption of HFCS over the last ten years.

Researchers at the USDA decided to put that belief to the test. The honey industry, likely hoping that that honey's suspected health benefits might be proven, helped fund the effort.

The researchers gave subjects daily doses of each of three sweeteners - honey, cane sugar and high-fructose corn sweetener - for two weeks at a time. They then compared measures of blood sugar, insulin, body weight, cholesterol and blood pressure in the 55 subjects.

The researchers found that the three sweeteners basically have the same impacts. Most measures were unchanged by the sweeteners. One measure of a key blood fat, a marker for heart disease, rose with all three...."

"The effects were essentially the same,” said Susan K. Raatz, a research nutritionist at the USDA who conducted the study with two colleagues."

The final conclusion - 

The marketers  “made a big mistake when they called it ‘high-fructose corn syrup,’” said Raatz. "A sweetener is a sweetener, no matter the source."

Friday, September 11, 2015

A New Atmospheric Carbon Reduction Process

Is this possible on a large scale and would it make a beneficial difference in global climate changes?

"If only we could get rid of all the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by converting it back into hydrocarbons and oxygen — a kind of reverse combustion — the earth could be saved. Of course that requires energy, which is the reason we burned the fuel in the first place. Is it possible to bend the laws of nature and get something for nothing?

That is precisely what an Israeli company, New CO2 Fuels, proposes to do. Based on research developed by Weizmann Institute Earth Sciences Professor Jacob Karni, the company takes captured CO2 and uses renewable energy to convert it back into fuel, reducing the need for fossil fuel extraction and reducing CO2 emissions. Not only that, but the process is profitable."

I am not capable of evaluating the science or economic feasibility of this; here is the article sent to me regarding this process:

Thursday, September 10, 2015

“If the mind does not rest on anything”

by Elihu Genmyo Smith
“If the mind does not rest on anything, there is no clouding.
Talk of polishing is but a fancy.”

This verse is by Kakusan Shido, founder of Tokei-ji in 1285. She was the wife of the shogun regent Hojo Tokimune, and after his death, founded the temple. The previous regent Tokiyori, Tokimune’s father, had studied with Eihei Dogen and received precepts from him. Tokei-ji was a sanctuary for women who were widowed by Japanese wars or abused by husbands until the late 19th and early 20th century. This verse is the first of a series of Mirror Zen verses expressing the awakened life, used by this Rinzai order of nuns (founded by Kakusan) as koan practice curriculum.

The mirror is an image in Zen and in East Asian Buddhism expressing our nature, our life. We see it in verses related to the Sixth Ancestor, and the verses of Baojing Sanmei (Hokyo Zanmei in Japanese; Jeweled Mirror Samadhi), which clarifies the mutual interpenetration of absolute and relative, self as all phenomenal existence and all phenomenal existence as self.

Hokyo Zanmei is attributed to Dongshan (Tozan Jp), considered the founder of the Caodong or Sōtō lineage. Hokyo Zanmei developed from teachings by Shitou (Sekito Kisen Jp) which were passed down through the lineage of Yaoshan (Yakusan Igen Jp), Yunyan (Ungan Donjo Jp) and Dongshan. The verse text Sandokai/Cāntóngqì (Identity of Relative and Absolute) is also by Shitou. Dongshan is well known for his verses on the Five Ranks, mutual interpenetration of absolute and relative (Li and Ji).

Commenting on Jeweled Mirror Samadhi, the 17th century reviver of Japanese Rinzai Zen Hakuin Ekaku states, actualized awakening “is like two mirrors reflecting one another without even the shadow of an image between them.” Interbeing/interdependent with everything we encounter, every condition we encounter nothing but our life. This may be easy to say but is hard to see, harder to live and manifest – even though this is exactly our life as is. Do you see this? What is not clear for you? Where do you bump against “things” in your life? It may be difficult to see how self-beliefs, this resting on, clinging, thirsting and attaching to, blinds us and drives us in reactive fear, reactive anger about conditions and circumstances of “self” or “other.” What is your skillful effort when noticing clinging, especially when clinging includes reactive fear, reactive anger? Though not-so, yet this clinging attaching is exactly our practice realm life, nowhere else.

Many people assume that this bag of skin-and-bones is who we are; maybe a mind or thoughts and feelings inside it, maybe the whole of it. These assumptions make self-centeredness seem “natural.” The following are two alternative scientific perspectives. First is the human microbiome or microbiota – a microbiological perspective focusing on the body as a vehicle for many forms of flora and fauna that live “in us”, and that, in one sense, “we” serve by offering “them” food and living conditions. And they may offer us health in different ways, nurturing a symbiotic relationship. Microbiome cells outnumber “human cells” in our body by about ten-to-one; on our tongue, on our skin, in your gut. The organisms in the body communicate with each other. The organisms in “our” gut communicate with the organisms in “our” nervous system, and so on. From one perspective, we are serving them - as a home, food provider, etc. I say “we” and “them” in order to emphasize the perspective of the human body as a vehicle to enable these “other” beings to live, function. Of course, this dualistic perspective is looking at this life as either/or, self/other. What notion of “self” is truly appropriate?

I mention these alternative perspectives so that we can see that a perspective of me living “separate from” the world “outside,”(or in this case from the world “inside”),a traditional notion of human self-centeredness, is a construct, even though it is a construct that may be useful at times. To deepen our practice, being who we are, acting skillfully, we must be able to put down that construct when it is not skillful and appropriate.

The anthropogenic biome perspective views humans as a part of this whole planet (just as there are micro-organisms in our gut) which enable other beings on this planet, and the whole planet organisms, to function and interact. From this perspective, we can see a process of various species of plants and animals “using” (or cooperating with) humans to spread themselves over the Earth by, for instance, producing fruits that humans and others like; therefore humans (and other animals) take the fruit, seeds, plants, and move them from one part of the Earth to the other, accomplishing the plant’s “purpose” of spreading and growing. Potatoes and apples accomplish this by producing “fruits” that humans and others use.

I had a raised-bed garden, “growing” tomatoes and other plants. In fall and winter I enriched the beds, filling them with leaves, compost and food scraps, especially egg shells and banana peels. “My” tomato plants were eight feet tall, produced fruit early and in great quantities throughout the season. You could say, “Well, you worked because you wanted tomatoes.” Yes; and in another sense, I was serving the tomatoes - rather than “using” them, they were “using” me. Or the tomato plants and I functioned together. Working on the beds, creating supports so the plants could grow tall, watering, the tomato plants and I were not-two. Sunlight, insects, rain, earth minerals and root fungi are all this not-two.

Are we wedded to and trapped by self-centered dreams? Seeing this and the resulting unsatisfactoriness and stress can be an incentive for practice. It is not a problem with “self,” it is the caught-ness, believing and the holding to it. “Caught in self-centered dream…Holding to self-centered thought.” The Buddha’s awakening is expressed in the teaching of non-self (anatam), one of three aspects (trilaksana) of reality.

I write with my right hand. Imagine if the right hand insists it is the good one and that the left hand is deficient, is… “not me.” If the left hand got a splinter and the right said, “Tough! I am not going to help you. It is not my problem,” you might say, “What nonsense? These two hands are one body.” My right hand doesn’t think about removing the splinter, it is the natural functioning of one body. And I do not write with my left hand unless I have to.

Practice is the natural functioning of One Body Three Treasures. And we must make our practice effort. “To study the self is forgetting self, forgetting self is being awakened by the myriad dharmas.” The myriad dharmas in all directions, nothing but self. This is what Dogen is talking about.“To be attested by the myriad dharmas is dropping off one’s own body-mind and the body-mind of others as well. All traces of awakening are put to rest, and this traceless awakening continues endlessly.”This isn’t magical, floating off, but “dropping-off” attachment and self-centeredness. Living cast-off body-mind of self and others, myriad dharmas advancing, manifesting, attesting. What is interbeing of all existence, all dharmas and self? What is interpenetration? Please remember the Heart Sutra, “form is exactly empty, empty exactly form.” Thus the bodhisattva we are lives prajna paramita; fear non-arising- not clinging to, holding to; arising-passing as is.

The above is an introduction.

“If the mind does not rest on anything, there is no clouding, talk of polishing is but a fancy.” Please see this from an intrinsic perspective and from an experiential one. Translating the Japanese word as “As” rather than “If” may help us see these perspectives more clearly. The Japanese word translated as mind can also be translated as heart-mind. This verse koan is our practice to chew, to sit, to clarify and resolve, to present in face-to-face dokusan. There are testing questions to further clarify this matter;“If the mind does not rest on anything, how will anything be seen, heard, known or understood?” You are expected to present this to your teacher. There are capping phrases (jakugo): “Rising and sinking according to the current / going and coming / no footprint remains.”

The second testing question is, “A mirror which does not cloud and needs no polishing: set it before the teacher now!”– manifest understanding/actualization. Capping phrase: “The things are hidden in no secret treasure house / the heart-mind is eternally clear to see.” Listen to that. Things are not hidden in any secret treasure house. In fact, Buddha Teachings are never hidden. Because this is who you are, nothing extra or special is needed. Nothing is hidden - except we don’t hear, see, because we filter through self-centeredness -“caught in self-centered dream,” as if we are wearing blinders. No secret treasure house; because we thirst-attach-cling, practice effort is needed. The heart-mind is eternally clear to see - our encounters from morning to night.

Tokei-ji’s second ancestor is the nun Runkai. Her verse is, “Various the reflections, yet its surface is unscarred. From the very beginning, unclouded the pure mirror.” From the very beginning, unclouded - this is our life. Your life, everyone of us. And yet, how do we clarify and express this ourself? We have to do it for ourself. Even though it is so, unless we manifest it we do not live it - because, as a result of our narrow vision, it is just a theory for us.

The testing questions; “When it reflects variously, how is it then?” The comment: “The heart-mind turns in accordance with the ten thousand things. The pivot on which it turns is verily in the depths.”

The second testing question: “If from the beginning, the mirror is unclouded, how is it that there are reflections of karmic obstacles in our life.” If it is so, how come all these difficulties, suffering, attachments, reactive habits occur? Capping phrases are ways of expressing it a little differently after one has clarified the testing question. “Within the pure mirror /Never clashing with each other /The reflections of pine and bamboo are in harmony.” These capping phrases are, in a free-form, a hint of manifesting this in our life -if we can hear them.

The third testing question: “Show the pure mirror right before the teacher’s face!” Right now. Comment: “Heaven and Earth, one clear mirror / Now, as of old / Luminous and majestic.”

As I said, testing and capping helps us. Some of you have worked with koans, so you have a little appreciation of that. And even for those who haven’t, I hope you can appreciate it. Shenhui writes, “To make the mind go is illness. To make it come back into concentration is also illness.” Both making it go, making it come back, is illness. The sutra says, “Dharma are without coming and going.” Dharma is our whole life - Dharma nature pervades all locations. Everywhere, this non-abiding mind, our fundamental basis. Everywhere is your life. Everywhere is myriad dharmas, encountering and attesting self.

© 2015 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Dharma Talks of September Labor Day Sesshin 2015

Opening Remarks 9/2/15
Welcoming 9/3/15
Being At Ease, Ongoing Change 9/4/15
Non-Self 9/5/15
Fear and Unborn Buddha Mind 9/6/16

This Moment - A Dharma Talk 8-30-15

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning

"Black Earth" is Timothy Snyder's fascinating new book about WWII on the Eastern front, a follow-up on his earlier work, "Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin." For anyone with an interest in WWII or political economy, agricultural and food policies or racial politics, I heartily recommend these works. Bloodlands, in addition to the valuable and pioneering work on the policies of Hitler and the Nazi regime,  is especially powerful in exploring and documenting the brutality of the Stalinist regime during and in the years after WWII, when it acted in ways that were almost a mirror of Hitler's policies, with almost as brutal results.

Below is an excerpt from a recent interview with Snyder which is a taste of his work and the theoretical perspectives he develops. Because of their depth and wide-ranging relevance, I encourage reading the two reviews:

"What would you say were the basic principles of Hitler’s worldview, and what did that mean for how he viewed the idea of nation-states, or ethics, and other universalist principles we assume as given?

Timothy Snyder: So what Hitler does is he inverts; he reverses the whole way we think about ethics, and for that matter the whole way we think about science. What Hitler says is that abstract thought—whether it’s normative or whether it’s scientific—is inherently Jewish. There is in fact no way of thinking about the world, says Hitler, which allows us to see human beings as human beings. Any idea which allows us to see each other as human beings—whether it’s a social contract; whether it’s a legal contract; whether it’s working-class solidarity; whether it’s Christianity—all these ideas come from Jews. And so for people to be people, for people to return to their essence, for them to represent their race, as Hitler sees things, you have to strip away all those ideas. And the only way to strip away all those ideas is to eradicate the Jews. And if you eradicate the Jews, then the world snaps back into what Hitler sees as its primeval, correct state: Races struggles against each other, kill each other, starve each other to death, and try and take land.

Delman: And that’s a good world to Hitler?

Snyder: Yeah, that’s the only good. It’s a very dark, empty universe. I mean, that’s how Hitler describes it to himself. There are really no values in the world except for the stark reality that we are born in order to take things from other people. And so Hitler sees the only good thing as removing the Jews who pervert, as he says it, human nature and physical nature.
Delman: And so that’s what you mean when you say that Hitler saw the Jews as an ecological or planetary threat—that they were truly existentially damaging the planet with their ideas and their attempts to invert the natural order. You said that they were “un-nature.”

Snyder: Yeah, so unnatur is actually a term that Hitler uses, and I think it’s a really telling term. I think it gets to the heart of the matter. When we think of anti-Semitism, we start from the ground up, right? We think about everyday prejudice. We think about discrimination. We think about the separation of Jews from other people.

What I’m trying to do is start from the top down, and say that the fundamental issue is not that Hitler was more of an anti-Semite than other people. It’s not a matter of just turning up the notches and getting up to a higher level of anti-Semitism. It’s a whole worldview, in the literal sense of the world. He sees the Jews as being the thing which destroys the world, which infects the world. He uses the term “pestilence” in this sense—the Jews have infected the world. They’ve made the world not just impure in some kind of metaphorical sense—he really means it. And so the only way to purify the world—to make things go back to the way they’re supposed to be, to have a natural ecology, to go back to this struggle between races, which Hitler thinks is natural—the only way to do that is to physically eliminate the Jews."

Here is another review which encapsulates Snyder's position; "He does not see the Holocaust as a “war against the Jews”—as the historian Lucy Dawidowicz called it—for which Hitler was prepared to sacrifice ordinary military strategy, but as an extreme example of Hitler’s wide-ranging racial obsessions":

The essential moral self - Bodhisattva Activity of Serving

There is interesting new research results in neurological and brain studies.

These findings are especially significant in light of the Buddha teaching of the importance of intention regarding cause-effect (what is loosely called karma and karma-Dharma) and the importance of effort and intention regarding ongoing practice; 

the emphasis on compassion as a manifestation of wisdom, serving all beings, and Bodhisattva practice and Vows such as, "Beings are numberless, I vow to liberate them (from the attachment and delusions manifesting in dukkha/unsatisfactoriness/suffering);

the perfection of Dana/Giving Paramita; and the many texts describing Bodhisattva practice including the Lotus Sutra and Heart Sutra, to name two of the most well known;

and the many different Bodhisattva in Buddhist cultures and their varying practices and emphasis on their paths as guides for ongoing life practice.

Below is the abstract and link:

"It has often been suggested that the mind is central to personal identity. But do all parts of
the mind contribute equally? Across five experiments, we demonstrate that moral traits—
more than any other mental faculty—are considered the most essential part of identity, the
self, and the soul. Memory, especially emotional and autobiographical memory, is also
fairly important. Lower-level cognition and perception have the most tenuous connection
to identity, rivaling that of purely physical traits. These findings suggest that folk notions of
personal identity are largely informed by the mental faculties affecting social relationships,
with a particularly keen focus on moral traits."

(c)2013 Elsevier B.V.

Here are comments from an interpretive article and the link:

"This summer my 93-year-old mother-in-law died, a few months after her 94–year-old husband. For the last five years she had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. By the end she had forgotten almost everything, even her children’s names, and had lost much of what defined her—her lively intelligence, her passion for literature and history.

Still, what remained was her goodness, a characteristic warmth and sweetness that seemed to shine even more brightly as she grew older. Alzheimer’s can make you feel that you’ve lost the person you loved, even though they’re still alive. But for her children, that continued sweetness meant that, even though her memory and intellect had gone, she was still Edith."

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The War in Syria is getting worse

I was sent the following and offer it with the thought that sometimes doing nothing so as to not enter a conflict can lead to a worse situation, more violence and more death.

"It’s hard to believe, but the debacle that is the Obama Administration’s Syria policy could get worse. U.S. sources have been leaking that Russia may be preparing for a major military deployment to keep Bashar Assad in power in Damascus.

By some reports quoting Western diplomats, a Russian expeditionary force is already in Syria preparing for the arrival of jets and attack helicopters to carry out strikes against Islamic State. The State Department said in a weekend statement that Secretary of State John Kerry warned his Russian counterpart against such an intervention in a phone call.

No doubt that warning will work about as well as Mr. Kerry’s demands that the Kremlin stop promoting separatist forces against Ukraine."

What would reduce harm and suffering, reduce violence - in the short-term, the long-term - what is skillful?

Here is another perspective from a Russian dissident:
"The Rewards of the Obama Doctrine : Offering a helping hand to America’s enemies in Iran, Russia and Cuba will ruin lives and many more will die." Gary Kasparov

And from the NY Times, "Obama's Syrian Nightmare".