Sunday, 15 January 2017

A Memo To Donald Trump

Dear Reader,

As we move towards the 70th anniversary of Mahatma Ghandi's assassination, let's think a little of the issues he wanted to address, which were not (in their nature) specific to India.

Mahatma Gandhi fought a long - but peaceful - 'war' against injustices that he himself experienced. It was Gandhiji who observed there are seven social sins that create blockages to establishing real justice:

  • Politics without principle
  • Wealth without work
  • Commerce without morality
  • Pleasure without conscience
  • Education without character
  • Science without humanity
  • Worship without sacrifice

Surely Ghandiji struck recognisable chords? In the UK, what was the fight of the 19th c. fledgling Labour Party and radical Liberals (and the Fabian Society) but to remove gross injustices in this country? As our lives have become easier have we forgotten all that? Does Donald Trump think these are relevant issues?!
We should - if we are to call ourselves a civilization - also carry the fight to all those in need of support and succour, wherever they may be....until we realise that a decent world can't be built on a hierarchy of neo-liberal exploitation, and that we can't have everything unless someone else has nothing... Deborah Orr - lead article in The Independent, 16 Aug, 2005
Yes, we may help a little in trying to transform our political system and by cutting 'Third World' debt. Every little helps. But to 'see the light' and cause major transformation does require individual effort, perhaps aided by some personal experience (such as loss of a loved one). In a world where time is rapidly running out, the hungry, the dying, the oppressed - they are all crying out for love and understanding. Do we really hear? Do we modify our own way of living in sympathy and empathy with the donwtrodden? All peoples are our brothers and sisters, let's not forget.

Thank you for reading this.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

What Would 'Abe' Think Of Today's State Of Affairs?

Dear Reader,

The tail-end of what is said to be Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address made not long after the American Civil War, was as follows:
... this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
What stirring words and words of hope that people then had to cling onto, but how, in the space of 150 years, that idealism was replaced by dominance from the top. And frequently cynical dominance at that.

It would appear that consciously or unconsciously there has been a decision made by the people that at least part of Lincoln's 'promise' is to be fulfilled. That reasoning - in Brexit and the election of Trump - appears to have been the intention by the surge of populism that has prevailed, but a great worry must be that perhaps the vote will not guarantee a political leadership that really means to honour the will of the people.

Further, and most importantly, the current lacking of one part of Lincoln's promise - that the people's will should prevail "under God" - means that populism for populism's sake is threatening to be the name of the game, and not what Lincoln appears to have intended, which is a system of governance under the framework of spiritual justice. There is a difference, for in today's world we are transfixed by gain and materialism and not by spiritual ideals. Any governmental system motivated by what is best for one's pocket and personal comfort is not the best government, and my fear is that we shall be in more of a mess than we were before as governments try to work out how to try to interpret what is the people's will.

The Victorian period - both in the UK and the USA - was replete with people of great virtue to safeguard the interests of the people. From Birmingham came Joseph Chamberlain, whose fine local government schemes had been driven by fiery and honest members of the non-established church, and the UK also had the ideals to admire in William Gladstone. The U.S. had the likes of Abraham Lincoln. But where are their equivalents today?

Our governments - and their electors - are in great need of people with wisdom to lead the populist mood, not self-interested businessmen and class-based interests to determine the route needed.

Just how to find those leaders is a very moot point. Perhaps we will have to endure disaster after disaster for such people to emerge from the chaos.

Thank you for reading this.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Time Waits For No Man, they say

Dear Reader,

"Time marches on" is the common epithet, and even though we are entering a New Year, time is still time, and no New Year celebration changes that! Time is a continuous process, but we like to break it up into manageable chunks, don't we?

But a New Year does give us chance to reflect and think about where we are at and what we might hope for in the New Year. For my part, I can only hope that my life becomes even more simple, and I will try to make it so. In fact, I see simplicity being a major basis for happiness: when we are cluttered with too much - especially when it's not needed - discontent seems to become a bed-fellow. Many of us tend to seek for more to escape the feeling of discontent but we invariably fail miserably to get what we really want - which is peace of mind.

In all sincerity, reflecting on all that's been going on since the start of the Millennium (and before) I feel that we have been manipulated - or massaged - into believing that wars are inevitable, that dictators need to be removed and that economic growth is the panacea for the future of the world. But these policies have clearly not worked. So I ask these serious questions: "Who really benefits from these policies?" and "Do we have a choice?"

Well, the benefits (if any) are surely not felt by around 98% of the world's 6 billion population, and the wars we have entered and are still fighting have caused huge suffering and have left ugly legacies, not benefits. Meanwhile, despite deprivation of many in the non-developed world - and increasingly in the developed world also - we are witness to gross anomalies in how public funds are spent - particularly in the CERN collider project. If you do not know what I am alluding to I invite you to do some research on the subject - it's quite incredible to find how so much has been done and spent under our very noses that we would reject, I am sure, if we were to vote on it. We have preferred instead to concentrate our attention on issues like Brexit and Trump versus Clinton. And sport and the latest fashions.

On the question of whether we have a choice, the big stand we can make is just not to go with what we're told to go with. Perhaps instead we should use more common sense and realise that the World can only take so much, including economic growth, which has surely reached its limit.

The World wants and needs peace, does it not? Well, I feel that we seem to be getting further away from peace, not getting closer to it. We surely need to change the tide by reversing the process. We can do this by saying "no more!" and personally acting upon that determination for the sake of a better, peaceful and sustainable, future. There is a better way and it is achieved by a notion of the common good: independence of thought is needed, yes, but that should not mean the break up within nations and of nations, which is currently the popular theme. Instead, perhaps the common man should unite one with another around the World in Common Purpose and True Spirit of no harm, as demonstrated by Gandhi, the 70th anniversary of whose death we are to remember and contemplate on in one year's time. 

I wish you well and, sincerely, a very Happy New Year.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Can The Ocean Fill A Small Hole In The Sand?

Dear Reader,

Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away. Matthew 24:35

Well, Christmas approaches again. I wonder how many of us have thought that perhaps this time should be about contemplating how (it is has been said) to “Cut the 'I' feeling clean across and let your ego die on the cross, to endow on you eternity.”

About this, the author of the following is Father Charles Ogada, a Catholic Priest of the Order of the Holy Ghost Fathers, who revealed this story a few years ago:
Many spiritual masters have said that it is with the mind that you can conquer the mind. And this is true. But nay, it is very difficult. Why? Naturally the mind does not want to die. How then can you trick it into destroying itself! How difficult it is for the thief to catch itself.
Even when one has succeeded through rigorous spiritual exercises in emptying the mind of all thoughts and desires, yet that tiny root-seed-impulse, the seat of ego-consciousness, the sense of I–ness from which all thoughts germinate, will still persist.
Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430) was troubled by this problem. How can the mind know God?
One day he was having a walk along the shores of the ocean lost in silent contemplation. As he walked, he met a little boy who had made a very small hole beside the sands of the shore and was transferring the waters of the ocean into the little hole.
Augustine was puzzled when he saw this child. He stopped and asked the little child what he wanted to do. The boy told him that he wanted to transfer the ocean into the hole he has made.
The saint was amused by the child’s audacity. He told the child that it is a mere waste of time. First the hole is not big enough to contain the waters of the ocean and secondly, even if it were as big, it will take the child uncountable lifetimes to transfer the waters with the little cup in his hand.
The child then raised his head and said to the saint: “So also it is for the mind to understand God!” Immediately the child disappeared and Augustine realised it was Jesus who had come as a little child to teach him this lesson.
Dare to Let God do it

There is a simple way out. And because this way is very simple, it is very easy since it allows you be at ease and at peace throughout the process. Allow God to kill the mind. Don’t try to kill the mind. You might not succeed over a trillion million life times. Instead, allow God to do it. In the first place only God can do it because only He has the Power of mental dissolution. God is the Master-mind. Only the master can set the slave free. Secondly, it takes Him no time. When God Himself fights the war then not only will you be sure of victory, but you will also enjoy the war. The war will be fun. This is because you will be unaffected by whatever happens since the Lord is your shield. You will remain calm and equal-minded in cold and heat, day and night, sorrow and joy, loss and profit because you know you are in that Divine zone where you are totally screened from the dualities of the mind. 

This is also the message of the Bhagavad Gita

Please click on the image to read.

In 2016, I became much more aware also of how the teachings of peoples as far apart from one another as the Maya, the Hopi and Tibet also convey the essence of the same perspective outlined above. 

My Christmas present to you is the thought that since the essential teachings of all sincere spiritual paths are so similar there is reason to suggest that, even amidst the terrors that have been experienced this past few years by (seemingly) most unfortunate peoples, that there is reason for Hope. And that there is cause for Faith and Charity to join in to prepare for what must surely be the soon-to-arrive and welcome end of the Old and the beginning of the New, when Peace will reign.

Happy Christmas!

Sunday, 11 December 2016

What Has Populism To Do With Coral Reef Destruction?

Dear Reader,

Our focus, perhaps media-driven, seems to be on populist determinations. The Corbyn, Brexit, Trump and Italy's referendum events have opened the doors to people wanting to have their say; to have a proper share of the control in what is going on in the world. However, though I can see the point of the reaction - certainly because we have created leaders and governments that are usually not in touch with the everyday affairs of ordinary people - do we (the masses) understand enough of what we are doing and what direction we are going in? Are the right reasons being employed? Is this all just another expression of the 'me, me, me' phenomenon?

Populist movements are not new, of course. One of the greatest such movements was led by a banker, Thomas Attwood, back in the 1810-1830s period, when he led a campaign in England to introduce a fair system of elections and proper representation in government. But from his home base in Birmingham, he utilised the remarkable sense of unity between employers and workers that existed there in those days to create a Political Union that was unprecedented. And he spoke in front of crowds of 100,000 or more in Birmingham to put his point across. They were momentous days, and some commentators have remarked that those days were possibly the closest this country has come to a revolution. What stopped a revolution was that the British government finally gave way to sense and the creation of reform laws that - over time - changed the democratic landscape of Britain. And, eventually, created education for all.

So, history suggests that populism does have a place in things, and that populism can be a real and welcome force for change. What is more, such events as led by Attwood do not need people of great levels of knowledge, but, rather, greater levels of moral conviction and determination.

So, isn't it that characteristic, moral fibre, that should be the main thrust of populism? For without it, I submit, the chance of creating anything better than previously existed is lost.

In which case, with Donald Trump indicating that he is going to overturn the Dakota pipe-line decision; that fossil-fuel creation and manufacturing will continue as though climate change is a chimera, what has populism achieved in the USA?

Great coral reefs are being destroyed as a result of climate change and pollution; whole species are in danger of extinction, and other catastrophic situations, and yet Trump is being welcomed by people who say they are tired of 'the establishment', but in reality are really just wanting to have more money in their pockets. Meanwhile, the institutions of Europe appear to be in the process of being dismantled while there is a refugee crisis that affects the whole of Europe, and with no populist idea of what to do about it.

Never mind, those with money will still be able to buy their BMWs, Mercs and Jaguars - and yachts. For the time being.

Thank you for reading this.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

You Think You Know Where We Are Going?

Dear Reader,

Despite that time in the early 60s, when we seemed to be at the edge of World War when the Russians were sending ballistic missiles to be installed in Cuba, Cuba under Castro was well-led and to be admired in many respects: in my opinion. Certainly, there were articles appearing in the liberal press postulating the view that the country was the best led country in the world!

After all, education, health and the economy were all looked after well, with no reports of corruption nor, even, any secret police to spread terror - and certainly no extreme materialism. The Cubans that had fled their country at the time of the 1959 Revolution have never been happy with Castro's presence, of course, but those that remained seemed to be happy under Fidel's regime.

But Trump the Philosopher sees things somewhat differently. To him, Castro removed people's rights and was - in his words - "an evil person". But I have to ask the question, what "rights" do people really need? The attitude seems to suggest that "rights" are to actually supercede "duties", but, surely, we have to earn - through duty - our rights: yet there is a prevailing tendency to expect an easy life with the minimum effort, which has been one of the drawbacks of our Welfare State. And, in around 1970-time, it became so much easier to have abortions and divorce without thinking through the consequences of such action.

Now, I understand the basic reasons why abortions and easier divorce came into being - and I have the utmost sympathy with those reasons - but, to me, both "rights" have been vastly over-utilised and these and other moral issues no longer seem to be discussed, as though we have moved into an age where everything goes. But without morality we cannot call ourselves civilised, I suggest. And our sense of community has, sadly, largely dissipated.

There may be those who think that "civilisation" simply means freedom and the advancement of the arts - of any description - but was that the case in ancient advanced cultures, in India, China and Greece ... and even the Islamic era of the Middle Ages. Of course not - philosophy and ethics were of prime concern. And in the case of most of the ancient great cultures, a deep spirituality underlay their philosophy and ethics.

Our Western "civilisation" now rapes the earth, the air and the seas and follows a vision of continued growth, but (in the UK, for example) how many HS rail projects can you have before they start having to be built on water once the land has been used up?

Today, the Meaning of Life seems to be disregarded ... we are, they say, to follow the American Dream, or versions of it, modified to the way of life of each country but essentially still the same variety that seems to have propelled Trump into the White House ... or Trump Hotel, whichever he chooses to reside in. That in itself is a clue as to Trump's way of life. "Me, me and more me". Would the great American fathers be happy with this kind of vision? Is this what we really want?

Thank you for reading this.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Headless Chickens Need To Be Given A Direction

Dear Reader,

Do you get the impression that previously respected world powers now have their heads of government running around like headless chickens? Well, that's my impression anyway.

Our own Prime Minister May met Chancellor Merkel yesterday with both ladies all smiles ... and later parted with facial expressions showing clear division between the two. Brexit has caused a stir and no mistake, with our Tories thinking that the Great in Great Britain still means as much as it did 60 years ago. But we made a mess in the campaign against President Nasser of Egypt over the Suez Canal in 1956 (incurring sanction from the US) and then President de Gaulle put a stop to Brtish pride. I don't think we've learnt from those lessons. At least Prime Minister Wilson refused to join in with the US over Vietnam, but Wilson wasn't Tory, was he? Ahem, but Tony Blair wasn't Tory either (in theory), so his international ventures need a bit of explaining.

This year, however, we have experienced the rise of popularism - with Brexit and now Trump - but the poor people who understandably got fed up with the faire offered by their governments have been sold downriver. In both of the populist outcomes the people were downright misled by those who should know better, and the water now becomes murkier as people are wanting to know what's going on. And with the French and German elections looming I feel that the water will become even murkier.

What will the people do when the waters become more polluted? I would say they will get more angry ... and the anger will only create chaos  ... and, potentially, harm.

So it is surely time for man to think more about what he and his immediate circle can do about the plight of the world, for there is a way through it all. The way is not strictly a political way, though, as people have forgotten that politics is only a tool by which to go in a certain direction. To have meaning, that tool must work from a base of values, but the materialist base that we have created clearly no longer works.

So let us look at a prescription of positive thought delivered by a guru of amazing perspicacity - Sri Sathya Sai Baba - in the year 2000:
Today the food you eat, water you drink and air you inhale are all polluted. People themselves are highly polluted because their minds are filled with negative feelings and worldly desires. No doubt, you can have desires, but they should be under limits. Many human hearts are a den of evil qualities like anger, hatred, greed, jealousy, pomp and show. Love alone can drive away these negative qualities. Desire, anger, greed, jealousy, etc., arise only out of body attachment and improper food habits. So control your attachment and desires. The letters that you write will appear blue when the pen is filled with blue ink and red when it is filled with red ink. Similarly all that you see, hear and say will be negative if your heart has negative feelings. Hence fill your heart with love. Then all that you see, hear, say and do will be suffused with love and you will experience a world suffused with love.
Don't you think that this doctrine has extra meaning today, sixteen years since it was stated, having experienced what we have since 9/11 (2001)?

I read with great interest an article that appeared in one of today's UK newspapers, by an American doctor who had an out-of-body experience while undergoing surgery. He received a message whilst in the out-of-body state, which was to the effect that the basis of the universe is suffused with love, and that is the single value we should be living by. That doctor has now completely re-shaped his lifestyle and moved from mass production health working to a people-centred and holistically-based healing centre.

Doesn't it make you think?