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Archive for February, 2005

Advice from Shantideva

February 24th, 2005 No comments

“When you want to move or want to talk, first examine your mind. And then, with firmness, act in the proper way. When you feel desire or hatred in your mind do not act or speak but remain like a log.”

It’s ten days since I have posted to freedomforall.net and in some part that is because I have the above quote from Shantideva pinned under the screen of my computer. The quote reminds me to “keep it simple stupid” and this has lead to a questioning of the purpose of this site. freedomforall.net is an enquiry into personal and social freedom from habit and history and ignorance and desire. It is about our times and not about them. It is about truth.

Yesterday I spent part of the day with an old friend whose problems are in many ways worse than mine. He suffers HIV and a terrible addictive streak which has left him almost unable to control his life. We went out to buy some things and found ourselves in a shopping estate off the motorway. My friend spent money on bits of computer equipment he doesn’t need because the money in his pocket is more dangerous to him than anything. “Someone told me the quickest way to healing is to ask myself ‘am I being honest with myself?’”, he said.

That’s a question I have been asking about this project freedomforall.net. Am I being honest with myself? I think this is the greatest question we can ask for only if we are honest with ourselves can we be honest and real with others. Sometimes it seems we live in a society that has as it’s bedrock self-dishonesty. We see politicians brazenly lying, fudging and smudging the truth. We hear our parents lie to us about why we have to go to bed, the existence of Santa Clause and much else given in the name of childrearing.

The honest question I try to ask myself is how can I add to peace in the world. So far the only honest answer I can offer is that I must find peace in myself. Like most people, even most Buddhists, I am highly fragmented and able to lie to myself comprehensively. Shantideva’s attitude of immovability and My friend’s attitude of aiming for self-honesty combine very nicely into a meditative pact with self which I think can be greatly helpful in this endeavour.

In the name of honesty I have to admit the other reason I haven’t posted for a while is that my mind has been elsewhere. Actually it’s been quite a long way away, in New York, to be precise. Indulging itself in daydreams and hopes and desires, all centred around a certain New York Weblogger whose attitude, intelligence and photo conspired to lead me off into Samsara once again. I just wish it wasn’t all such fun, although in any case, relationships do not necessarily have to be ruled out and nor are they essentially samsaric.

It is the sense that one is going to be saved, have one’s life put right or made complete by the establishment of a new relationship that is the big lie in this arena. This leads to cathecting of the “love” object with those highs generated by daydreaming. This is the feeling most people have when they enter a room where the love object is present: contact with the person upon whom such grandiose fantasy has been projected leads to an uprush of endorphins and a resultant feeling good. “Oooh it must be love”. No stupid, it’s just more habits.

Love is the work you do to go beyond yourself in serving others. With this one I am entirely with M. Scott Peck. Love is work. Love is remaining like a log when you feel desire or hatred. The only problem with this as a working definintion of love is that you have to totally let go of self to attain it. I think that’s why Nirvana is better translated as “extinguishing” than “enlightement”: extinguish self and there is only love. Unless and until that is the root of action, you are stuck in the wheel.

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Houses Not Olympics

February 14th, 2005 No comments

The Olympic Committee are visiting London this week. On Thursday they will be in Newham visiting Stratford and the Lower Lea Valley, center of the proposed site. I wonder if they will visit a few of the many Bed and Breakfast Hostels littering the Borough of Newham. If they did they would see the dire need for housing now and the complete disregard most residents have for lots of tourists and egotistic sportsmen in five years time.

Perhaps a little protest at Stratford Station on Thursday afternoon would help them understand the dire needs this borough has and how focusing on the Olympics is distracting the local authorities from what they need to urgently do.

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Violence Begins At Home: And Ends At Home?

February 9th, 2005 No comments

I am completely against smacking in all circumstances. Children will not become good peaceful people if violence is used to control them. There is always an emotional scar involved in that and emotional scarring is what leads people to all kinds of violence.

I once looked after a child for a friend for six months. He, age five, was a nightmare: kicking, punching, screaming. Not just tantrums but absolute rage against everything.

It wasn’t his fault. His father left him with his aunt’s older son whilst conducting an affair with the aunt and the older boy used to inflict pain on him for fun. His mother was alcoholic and completely unnavailable emotionally. His father was an abuser of everyone concerned. His grandparents were oldschool fear merchants.

For the first month, every time it started, I swept him up in my arms, held him tight enough that he could not hurt either of us and told him that was what I was doing. His rage got worse and worse for a while, then stopped.

One time only he actually managed to give me a full on kick in the balls when I wasn’t paying enough attention. I struck out in shock at the pain and smacked him on the leg. I learned in that moment that I still had a lot to learn about self control.

After three months, as we sat eating dinner one day, he looked up from his meal. “Matthew, he said, “you’re actually here to help me aren’t you?”. “Yes”, I replied, “that’s exactly why I’m here”.

Nothing more was ever said but in that moment he expressed his realisation that not all adults were going to hurt him, lay trips on him or try constantly to control him. In that moment he admitted that he and I were both OK.

I fear that whenever a big person uses violence or the fear of violence to control a little person they are only adding to the violence in the world and the unpredictability. Children need to grow up centred in themselves as feeling persons, not supressing their true selves to avoid violence.

On this one I’m with Alice Miller. I think we would not accept a world where one in four kids are sexually molested and 30,000 die needlessly every day unless we ourselves had our feelings beaten out of us by our repressive families, upbringing and society.

The start of true peace on the planet has to be in the heart of each person, finding that it is possible and desirable. Violence against children makes this unrealisable for the vast majority of people. We have to stop the violence somewhere and the right place is at home in childhood.

Originally posted as a comment to a piece at the excellent cybersatan

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Capitalism In It’s Death Throes

February 8th, 2005 No comments

Capitalism as it has been configured until now is in it’s death thoroes. If the damage it is doing to human lives and the planet around us do not convince you, this story from Samizdata.net will.

It is about a berlin woman being threatened with benefit cuts if she does not accept a job as a prostitute. That a modern economy should treat it’s “free democratic citizens” in this manner is bizarre and the sort of sign that shows a system at the limits of its constraints.

When systems hit constraints, pressure builds somewhere, until the system blows a gasket or reconfigures. This is called discontinuous change. Discontinuous change is the stuff of revolutions and volcanoes. It is not all bad however. It’s merely a part of the information revolution in this case. The apocalypse, or revelation of truth, is dawning as freedomforall.net has reasoned before. Things will get better after that.

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Too Tired To Cope: Let Stephen Hawking Read Your Blogs For You

February 7th, 2005 No comments

Can’t keep up with all the blogs you read? Tired red eyes starting to itch? You need Natural Voice Reader. natural Voice Reader automatically reads anything you copy to the clipboard or paste into the programs window. Alternatively use it as a web browser, highlight what you want to hear and click read. Away it goes. Let it read your emails, reports, blogs – anything.

The free version comes with the voice that Stephen Hawking used for many years. It takes a little getting used to but it is worth it. If you use the net a lot and read a lot this software effectively turns any text to a personalised radio station. Alternatively a paid version comes with a higher quality and much more acceptable voices. I’m going to buy myself the full version – the first software I will have paid for in years – as soon as I get the money saved up.

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