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Summer '99 Issue 10

Of Humility and Greed
by Tom Duffey

Star Wars Vs. Real Wars
by John Rude

Leaving Home: For Binos, In Memoriam
by Ness Mountain

Kaliyuga, Choo, Choo
by William Benz

Dreams of Kindness, Love and Grace
by Carolyn Berry

Torture In The American Gulag
by Tom Cahill

Departures
Fiction by Geronimo Tagatac

Transformation Found In A Broken Foot
by Stuart Watson

Parenting At The Future's Edge
by David Spangler

Intuitive Decision-Making In An Age of Chaos
by Paul O'Brien

Starry Eyed
By Spyrit

Email From Portland
by Kerul

William P. BenzKaliyuga, Choo, Choo by William P. Benz

Mon make a plan, JAH wipe it out. —Saint Marley

Freaking Out as a Source of Clarity
Do you ever get the feeling you’re coming apart at the seams? It’s that sinking feeling that if another piece of your Universe falls apart you’ll collapse in a puddle. If so, join the club. You’re certainly not alone. I’ve been there. Many times. As a matter of fact, from my calculations, you’re smack-dab in the middle of a Silent Majority. Just don’t expect any of its members to publicly volunteer to keep you company. From earliest childhood we’re taught to control our apprehensions. To persevere under such conditions is seen as a sign of maturity. Outright admission to blowing one’s cool is seen as a confession of ineptitude.

Besides, confessing to one’s own functional meltdown is culturally proscribed. Encouraging people to face their internal demons might arouse too much self-awareness. And self-awareness weakens the zeal of frivolous shoppers. Lose them, and who would buy all the ridiculously unnecessary products? Do you want to be responsible for ending the longest and most profitable expansion in our economy’s history? We haven’t seen prosperity like this since the Summer of 1929. If we want to push the Dow Jones Index higher, it’s better to nurture the ideal of simply enduring our internal dissonance, or better yet, ignoring it altogether. No need to get upset. Go with the flow. Or better yet, go Shopping. JUST BUY IT!

If you think such an attitude is ridiculous, you haven’t been following the ludicrous theories floating around Wall Street these days. I heard a successful stockbroker on TV last week talking about how wonderful the Economy has been, is now, and forever shall be! I was awed by his exuberance. His view of our financial future was so bright! So resplendent with visions of unlimited prosperity for all! I almost jumped off the couch and yelled, “Amen! Brother! Tell it like it is!” while Marx rolled over in his grave. Then, the inexperienced reporter broke the spell with an impertinent question. “Some people are starting to fear that this bubble is about to burst. What do you think?” The broker was shocked. He looked to the side, off camera, as if searching for the station manager to ask, “Where’d you get this guy? Doesn’t he know a comment like that could cost us both a fortune? Doesn’t he know we’re one of your station’s biggest advertisers? And we advertise because some Granny out there in TV land has $200 stuffed in a cookie jar and we want to invest it.” But, being the consummate professional, he recovered with a big smile and said, “Well, even if some parts of the bubble break, a sound program of diversified investment will insure maximum returns over the long run.”

Awesome! Totally awesome! But, excuse me! Parts? What do you mean by PARTS? A bubble ain’t got no damn parts! If my memory serves me well a bubble is made of a singular, somewhat spherical film that starts out thin and, as it expands, approaches what could best be described as outright flimsy. As in, totally lacking of substance. As in, increasing potential to rupture! “Granny, you better stop watching TV and go out and bury that $200 in the back yard. I guarantee you’ll have a greater return.”

Whooooa! See! I’m doing it again. I’m freaking out! For me, there’s no better catalyst than bumping into the Fantasy of Economic Prosperity. It’s everywhere. It’s the prevailing message of the ubiquitous info-commercial that passes as culture in this Great Land of Ours. What irks me most, is the assertion that our Economy has never been Better. Better? Better for whom? In 1980 the average CEO of a major corporation made 42 times the pay of an average factory worker. Ten years later it had more than doubled to 85 times. Last year it obscenely hit 419 times. In the last decade the average worker’s pay increased 68% while the pay of corporate CEO’s rose 1,596%. Anybody freaking out yet?

Witnesses Galore
But enough of this economic drivel, I want to talk about freak outs as potential sources of clarity. Even though frowned upon, a wonderful feature of the freak out is it’s rarely a secret. We usually have witnesses galore. Wailing and gnashing of teeth is of little value if there’s no audience. Of course afterwards, the fear of real or imagined repercussions usually drives us to masquerade as if nothing ever happened. People in positions of authority, real or imagined, are the most susceptible. “I wasn’t freaking out! I was, ah, just using emphatic theatrics! Yeah, that’s it! Emphatic Theatrics—to, ah, emphasize, ah, the grave significance of your circumstances. Which, I might add, is something that can only be done by someone in total command of the situation! Okay?” [Remember: The mark of true leadership is the ability to pile it on deep and then avoid stepping in it.]

What’s interesting, is how often such lame excuses are accepted. Maybe it’s a wish to avoid prolonging the episode. Maybe from experience we know that anything short of prompt agreement will plunge the Defensive One into greater depths of asininity. The freakout was bad enough. Let’s not stand in the way of a graceful exit. Who knows? By pretending it never happened the conflict might just slip away.

Well, that would certainly be nice, if it happened that way. But what we shun has a way of coming back to haunt us. The something we hoped would just magically slip into oblivion, tenaciously remains. The unresolved conflict, the suppression of emotion, the tacit projection that everything is hunky-dory only temporarily veils the dissonance of unfinished business.

The Messiness of Things
It’s important to notice that such internal dissonance isn’t the result of something being fundamentally wrong with us. We need not feel crippled by some original sin picked up before we were born. We’re not broke. We just need to face who we really are. We just need to know we’re a part of, not separate from, Creation. We need to accept our part in the messiness of things. To avoid such recognitions creates a bewilderment that’s difficult to relieve.

Unanswered, unresolved, unacknowledged, this internal conflict can be most disruptive. Every society must deal with this conflict within its members. Mature cultures with a thorough understanding of the demons within face this terror and bewilderment directly. That’s what a Vision Quest or Rite of Passage is all about. Allowing each member the necessary time and support to acknowledge this conflict within produces a more stable community. Allowing each member to taste these energies, to see the play of good and evil, to own both, and thus transmute that dichotomy into wisdom enables the indispensable transition from adolescence to adulthood.

Demonization in a Black Trench Coat
Immature societies take short cuts by packaging pre-conceived solutions. Demonization is the most often used formula for severing the connection with our negative faction. Personified as the Devil, these negative energies are cast into the Bottomless Abyss of One-sided Answers. Elaborate dogmas are substituted in their stead, in the hope this will bar the Evil One’s return. This is avoidance taken to extremes. In the deluge of coverage of the Littleton tragedy, it’s a wonder that some rambling journalist didn’t point out that Darth Vader wore a black trench coat. Such a comment would still have made as much sense as most of their babbling commentary.

Once proclaimed, dogmas need only to be memorized and accepted by faith. Not the type of faith that comes from knowing one’s self, from enduring a Dark Night of the Soul, but an expedited version that allows little latitude in forming solutions from one’s own juices. As an added feature, this method further abbreviates the whole process so it can be quickly done with a minimum ‘cost’ to both the neophyte and society. Well, that is, if you overlook things like Thirty Year Wars, the Inquisitions, and Jihads to drive out the Infidels.

Quick and dirty methods tend to produce less than optimal results. It’s like cutting off one foot then wondering why we hobble around in circles. As an old Tibetan Proverb says, “A new patch on an old coat soon comes off.” Quickly acquired resolutions tend to unravel at the first sign of conflict or engagement.

Now I can just feel some of you out there thinking this describes the type of society we live in. But you’re being much too kind. The category we fit in is another rung down from immature societies. We don’t even have decent dogmas. We’ve substituted thinly veiled propaganda crammed into our non-discriminating minds via 10 second sound bites and photo ops supplied by paparazzi. We have avoidance personified.

We’re taught to evade our internal dissonance. And when that’s not possible, to wait for further instructions. Whatever we do, we shouldn’t draw conclusions from our own experience or go digging for information to form our own diagnosis. Say, for instance, about World Events. That’s Madeleine Albright’s job. Just listen to the Evening News. Any channel will do. All will become perfectly clear if you pay attention. Did you hear? Pay Attention!

The State’s Competency Test
Our society aspires to present the Whole Universe in pre-packaged form. There’s a lot to soak up, so acquiescent complaisance is engendered at a very early age. Parents, Teachers, Ministers, Politicians, Police, and other Purveyors of Public and Private Opinion are on guard to protect us from individualized revelations. It’s for our own good. Maintaining control is the only way to avoid disaster. The fact that we’re teetering on the brink of collapse is never far from anyone’s mind. Not knowing the nature of the Evil within, there’s fear of its escape at every turn. People who don’t share this fear are seen as suspect. The only reason imaginable for them not to be afraid is that they’re in cahoots with the Devil. Whenever they’re found they must be stopped and shown the evilness of their ways.

“Class, today we are going to learn how the Pilgrims, having fled religious persecution, created the United States to guarantee freedom of worship.”

“Mrs. Wilson, if that’s true why did they kill all those witches in Salem?”

“Our Founding Fathers didn’t kill anybody! Well, at least, not anyone who obeyed the Law. Have you been reading ahead? Well, I guessed as much! Stop it! You’ll only end up confusing yourself and disrupting the class. You’ve got to learn these facts as they’re presented or otherwise you’ll flunk the State’s Competency Test and will have to repeat Third grade! Now, pay attention!”

As I said, whenever they’re found they must be stopped and shown the evilness of their ways.

But lucky for us, the messiness of things keeps intruding on our attempts to create a perfectly ordered existence. The vastly compassionate nature of the messiness of things doesn’t allow itself to be driven from the surface for long. It resists whitewashing its complexity into twin categories of Good and Evil. If we persist in trying, it strikes back from the inside out, hindering our sense of self worth. It strikes back by clearcutting the wilderness on either side of our straight and narrow Path. It strikes back corrupting our view of Justice and filling our prisons to overflowing. It strikes back to become an education that teaches children not to think, or feel, or question why, till they themselves strike back in desperation, in Self Defense.

Finally, there comes a point where this habit of avoidance riddles the very fabric of life where we collectively move and have our being. We awaken into a dark night of confusion where all things are out of whack. Where the world’s coming apart at the seams on every imaginable level. Our world’s screwed up. You can take that to the bank. As a matter of fact, the banks would be a good place to start, to figure out why things aren’t working for the Good of the Many . . . . Whoops. There I go again.

So what to do? That’s the question. Is there any solution being offered that addresses the terror we feel inside? Of course, as would be expected, there are many. Some are heart felt and depend upon personal plans of dedicated action. Others rely on scriptural authority and depend on all-powerful Deities to save the day. From the realm of the impoverished affluent, we hear it’s just a matter of making as much money as possible. With enough cash, they believe they can buy their way out of anything. Oh well, you can’t save everyone!

It would be interesting to examine each solution and analyze its relative strengths and weaknesses, but the issue I find more relevant is why so many of these solutions avoid the issue of our internal bewilderment. The alienation and paralysis we feel when facing our most terrible dilemma is intimately bound to this particular lack of self-inquiry. We can not continue to be satisfied with just taking sides. That leads to policies like ethnic cleansing. Or the equally depraved policy of turning a people into brutalized, homeless refugees in order to save them from genocide.

Kaliyuga, the Long View
Because we feel our problems so intensely and they appear with modern peculiarities, it’s easy to forget the human race has a lot of experience in dealing with such disarray. Unfortunately, today, a hearkening back to the Wisdom of the Past usually takes the form of returning to the good old-fashioned values of the last century. These are the same values that supported the devastating world wars, the predatory systems of commerce, the environmental devastation, and the subjugating forms of sexual identity that nearly destroyed the 20th century.

I guess, when I refer to going back to the Wisdom of the Past I mean WAY BACK to, say, somewhere around the Late Pleistocene. The wisdom we’re seeking is not about being Right or Wrong according to some cultural context, but about re-uniting with the immediacy of the experience of our place in the messiness of things. And that entails knowing intimately the gift we call our Mind. It’s about what that is and what that isn’t and how it’s possible to be both, and neither, at the same time.

In the Hindu system of time-keeping we get a more expansive perspective on the concept of the Past. Three months ago, on March 18th, began the 52nd century of their Kaliyuga. A Kaliyuga is a period of time that equals 432,000 solar years. Our year 1999 equals their year 5101. Thus, we still have 426,899 years left in the Kaliyuga.

While the Kaliyuga may seem lengthy, it’s only one tenth as long as the unit called a Mahayuga, which equals 4,320,000 years. But it takes 1000 Mahayugas to make a Kalpa. And a Kalpa, at 4,320,000,000 years, makes up a single day of creation in the life of Brahma, their Creator. This time period may be more amazing than it appears. Especially, if we consider that scientists have just recently dated the age of the Earth to about 4.5 billion years based on radioactive dating of uranium and thorium isotopes found in surface rocks.

An interesting feature of this time system is that it repeats in cycles. Following the 4.32 billion years of creation comes a period of dissolution during Brahma’s night. Then another period of creation begins the next day—his next day. An even more interesting aspect of this system is that Brahma doesn’t live forever. His life span is only 100 of his years. Which equals 1,576,800,000,000,000,000 of our solar years! The numbers aren’t as important as the perspective. In a realm of such long duration, there’s a very good chance the World’s not going away anytime soon. Depending on your perspective, this can be good or bad news. For me, it simply means that what we have is what we’ve got. It’s not going to get any better unless we take time to understand who we are.

Frightened Beyond Beliefs
To understand who we are is not an easy task. And though this may come as a shock to some, it makes absolutely no difference whether your computer is Year 2000 compliant or not. To delve into the core of one’s being without falling into despondency and self-doubt is hard. To do this with confidence without falling prey to infantile self-indulgence or full-blown egomania is very difficult. To probe deeply without fabricating occult and esoteric formulae is a test of real restraint. To maintain personal integrity without falling prey to orthodoxies claiming it can’t be done on your own is frightening beyond belief. To do all of this from moment to moment is the most astounding practice you’ll ever perform. To do this and return to share your insight with others is practically impossible.

Welcome to the only game in town.

William P. Benz is an Artist, Writer, and Poet living in North Portland. He Specializes in the Design of Information Filters, the Surfacing of Mental Models, and the Creative Reintegration of Defective WorldViews. For more info, visit his NEW WEB Space at http://www.aracnet.com/~wpbenz.

Alternatives Magazine - Issue 10

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