Category Archives: Philosophy

Band Practice

ImageSundays are for band practice.  I play bass and it is my main passion in life now that I’m over the hill.  I want to play it well, at a professional level.  Here I am playing at the annual Beatles Tribute at the V.A. Hospital in Palo Alto, California, on September 18, 2013.

Other creative endeavors include writing (hence this journal) and Photoshopping, or digital art.  I love to create images, whether by drawing them outright or by combining and editing photos off the web.

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Fall: a Time for Brisk Weather and Contemplation

Fall 2013I love fall, a time when the weather suddenly chills and the nights grow long, and I find myself contemplating my life and what it means.

Right now I feel an indefinable angst.  I am in retirement and bored, looking to find new goals and purposes for my life.  I am not satisfied with this existence, where every day is the same as the one before.  I remember an old song from the late 1960’s, “Is That All There Is?”  The singer describes various life experiences, noting that something seems to be missing, that the experience — be it a fire, a circus, or love — is ultimately unfulfilling.  Life is therefore only a series of disappointments.

I don’t like the song.  I don’t like its cynicism.  It implies that life has an obligation to provide us with fulfillment and meaning without any effort on our part.  To a large extent, life is what you make it.  Life is a canvas, you are the artist.  Paint something!  Only you can provide meaning and purpose for your life.  If you wait for some outside agency to provide it for you, you may end up singing “Is That All There Is?”:

Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is

When She Doesn’t Love You: Walk Like a Man

I have a son who is at a crossroads in a relationship; it appears that he may not be able to work it out with his lady love, that she has left and isn’t coming back.  As a father, there isn’t much I can do, except to say, we all go through the heartache of a lost love.  It is a price we pay for being human.

So for my advice in this dark hour of his life, I can only offer this song of solace:  Walk Like a Man, by the Four Seasons, from 1963.

Here are the words to the song:

Walk like a man

Oh, how you tried to cut me down to size
Tellin’ dirty lies to my friends
But my own father said “Give
her up, don’t bother
The world isn’t comin’ to an end”
(He said)

Walk like a man, talk like a man
Walk like a man my son

No woman’s worth crawlin’ on the earth
So walk like a man, my son

Bye bye baby, I don’t-a mean maybe
Gonna get along somehow
Soon you’ll be cryin’ on
account of all your lyin’
Oh yeah, just look who’s laughin’ now
(I’m gonna)

Walk like a man, fast as I can
Walk like a man from you
I’ll tell the world “forget about it, girl”
And walk like a man from you

Communicating with the Dead: Lisa Williams

As I mentioned in a recent, previous post, I bought some books from Amazon.com that were authored by some mediums on communication with the dead.  I love to read about psychic phenomena, though I am by nature a skeptic.  I bought “Another Door Opens” by Jeffrey A. Wands, “Do Dead People Watch You Shower?” by Concetta Bertoldi and “Life Among the Dead” by Lisa Williams.  Of the three, Williams’ book was by far the best.

Williams tells her story in the form of an autobiography, from her first impressions as a child to her later readings with famous people and her discovery by Merv Griffin as a TV personality.  It’s interesting because it is told as an ordinary person with ordinary problems, except that dead people keep whispering in her ear.

Intrigued, I googled Lisa Williams and found that her television shows can be watched online.  I watched some of them and found them interesting and intriguing, though not definitive proof of her ability to communicate with the dead.  It is good to be skeptical, but not so skeptical that you lose an open mind.  I feel that Williams is sincere and not a charlatan, of which there are many in the psychic business.  I will continue to follow her career with interest.

While looking for Williams’ TV episodes on the net, I also came across a television show called “The Psychic Challenge,” where sixteen self-described psychics are put to a series of tests of their abilities, then graded by the persons they encounter in the tests.  I couldn’t help but feel that there is something to it — that some people do indeed have a sensitivity or six sense of some sort that enables them to see bits and pieces of the lives of deceased persons, or other facts not accessible by ordinary means .  This was particulary interesting in the investigation of crime scenes, where psychics have sometimes played key roles in solving murder cases or locating missing persons.

Of the three books I have read or am reading, I notice that all three authors express a belief in reincarnation.  It will be interesting to see what beliefs and impressions various psychics and mediums have in common.

Communicating with the Dead: Is It Possible?

Over the 4th of July I became very interested in the life of Katharine Lee Bates, the author of the great American song “America, the Beautiful.”  I read about her at Wikipedia and other sites and soon came to admire this extraordinary woman.  When I first heard the song, it was in Mrs. Nicholson’s Third Grade class at Irving School in Joplin, Missouri.  We sang it in class, and even at that young age I was blown away by the soaring beauty of Bates’ imagery: 

America, the Beautiful, For Amber Waves of Grain

For Purple Mountain Majesties above the fruited plain.

America, America, who sees beyond the years

Her alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears.

I liked the purple mountains part, because I had actually seen them, from the window of my dad’s car as we traversed the country.

So after the 4th of July, 2008, I became very interested in Bates and almost felt that I was somehow in communication with her soul.  I found a photo of her grave in Fallmouth, Massachusetts at Find-A-Grave, and learned that her life partner was Katharine Coman.  Both women were professors at Wellseley College in Massachusetts, where Hillary Clinton and other famous women, like Mrs. Chiang Kai-Shek, went to school.

Coman had contracted breast cancer and died in 1910 of the disease, but Bates cared for her for the three years of her illness.  After Coman died, Bates wrote a book of poetry for her entitled “Yellow Clover,” published in the early 1920’s.  Bates expressed so well the grief of those left behind when a loved one dies and I was touched by her poetry, as I had found a free copy of “Yellow Clover” at Google Books, where you can download out-of-copyright books as pdf files.  Earlier, I had looked for a photo of Katharine Coman on the net and none was to be found.  But the copy of “Yellow Clover” that I downloaded had a photograph of her.  I captured the photo and contributed it to Wikipedia where other people could view it and download it.

After that, my near obsession with Bates and Coman cooled  and I was able to turn to other things.  I felt that I had been able to thank Bates and show my appreciation for “America, the Beautiful” by finding this photo and making it available in the public domain.  It isn’t easy to say “thank you” to someone dead for 79 years, but I had found a way to do it.  I had a feeling, just a sense or instinct, that somehow I had been in communication with their souls, and I wondered if such communication were even possible. 

A couple of weeks ago I saw an article on MSN.Com about mediums and communicating with the dead, so I went to Amazon and ordered three books on the subject.  Today I’m reading the first, “Another Door Opens,” by Jeffrey Wands.  No, I won’t believe what it says in some slavish manner, but I will look for clues that ring true with my own soul and experiences.  And, if all I get from the readings is entertainment and enjoyment and perhaps, scaring myself a little, it won’t be for naught!

Will Western Civilization Pass Into History?

ramessesii.jpgLet us never take our freedoms for granted, nor assume that Western Civilization will forever survive competing cultures and forces, both within and without, who would destroy it.  The poem below is one I read in college; it is by Percy Blythe Shelley, who wrote it in 1817.

Wikipedia describes it this way: 

The central theme of Ozymandias is mankind’s hubris. In fourteen short lines, Shelley condenses the history of not only Ozymandias’ rise, peak, and fall, but also that of an entire civilization. Without directly stating it, Shelley shows that all works of humankind – including power structures and governments -eventually must pass into history, no matter how permanent they may seem at the apex of their influence. Ozymandias’ short-sighted pride seems amusing at first – until the reader realizes that the lessons conveyed are equally applicable today.   

 Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Neale Donald Walsch’s “Conversations With God” Book 1

ndwalsch.jpgAs promised in my last post, I did indeed read Book 1 of Neale Donald Walsch’s “Conversations With God.”  I had started it some months ago, decided it was boring and quit reading.  However, I became intrigued by the boiling anger the book generates in some Christians, so decided to give it another go. 

The book actually became interesting as I got more into the text.  I read some things that were almost profound; other things that were interesting; and some things that I thought were just plain dumb.  Nothing that I read was really earth-shaking.   In general, Walsch’s God (hereinafter referred to as “WG”) simply rehashed a lot of existing philosophy and religious beliefs.  Some of these beliefs come from Christianity or Judaism (the so-called “Abrahamic” faiths) and some came from Buddism, Hinduism or Taoism (the so-called “Brahmic” faiths).  The rest came from Walsch himself.

I will give Walsch a lot of credit for starting a new conversation, if not with God, about God and our concepts of the divine and the infinite.  The danger in this is that it will draw a lot of anger from devout religionists, who already have “the truth” and don’t want it messed with.  They see any new examination into the nature of God as blasphemy and the work of the devil.  I, however, have an open mind.  I think it is a healthy exercise to brush several millennia of dust from ancient religious texts and to reexamine their premises.  Man’s ideas about science, government, business, art and other aspects of culture have continued to evolve over the centuries.  It is only our concepts of the infinite that are fixed and static and not allowed to grow. 

I will largely paraphrase what WG says in the book, in order to save space.  Here are some of the things I found intriguing:

1.  WG is pantheistic.  That means that everything is God.  God is not separate from his creation; he is the universe and everything in it.  It means that human beings are part of God and not separate from him.  We are a finite expression of the infinite.  WG doesn’t always do a good job of explaining this, at one point stating that we humans are “Gods.”  That won’t sit well with many readers.  Personally, I don’t have the lightning bolt thing down pat yet.  

2.  You existed before this life.  When you took physical form in this world, you caused yourself to forget who you really are.  While in this world of form, your major spiritual quest is to remember and recreate who you really are. 

3.  Death is no big deal.  It is failure to doctors, tragedy to those left behind, but relief and release to the soul.  The soul is clear that there is no great tragedy about leaving the body.   We are all immortal right now; immortality is not something you have to earn by following a religious script; we never do die, we only change form.

4.  God is not the vengeful, punitive God that many Jews, Christians and Muslims believe.  There is no Hell.

5.  Souls can reincarnate many times, be born into this world many times.  The decision to do this is made by the soul itself, so it can continue to grow.  Karma is not an obligation of the soul, but an opportunity of the soul to continue to grow, looking at past events and experiences as a measure of that growth.  [This contradicts eastern beliefs that karma is a debt of the soul to be repaid by successive lives on earth.  I like the original concept better.]

6.  Don’t envy someone who is very fortunate nor overly pity someone less fortunate.  “Judge not, then, the karmic path walked by another.  Envy not success, nor pity failure, for you know not what is success or failure in the soul’s reckoning.”  [I found this an interesting concept – that one’s lot in life was chosen by his own soul for its own spiritual growth.]

7.  Killing is evil, killing for God is the highest blasphemy.  However, you are not to be either a victim or a martyr; war is sometimes necessary and you have a moral obligation to prevent aggression against others and yourself.

8.  The purpose of life is joy.  WG says “Life should be a joy, a celebration…Four fifths of the world’s people consider life a trial, a tribulation, a time of testing, a karmic debt that must be repaid, a school with harsh lessons that must be learned, and, in general, an experience to be endured while awaiting the real joy, which is after death.”  [I agree with this.  Anything that destroys joy, including various religious beliefs, should be excised and thrown out as rubbish.]

9.  Money is good, not evil, not “the root of all evil.”  Being rich is good – there is nothing spiritually advantageous about poverty and want.

10.  Sex is one of man’s highest joys.  It is not shameful or evil.  Being attracted to the opposite sex is not “committing adultery in your heart,” it is following the dictates of nature that were programmed into us to procreate the human race. 

These are some of the ideas I found interesting and worthy of futher study and discussion.  There are others but this will suffice for now.

Some of the ideas of WG that I didn’t like or accept are these:

1.  Man is the greatest source of harm to nature and the environment.  Nonsense; man is part of nature and man’s imprint on nature, for good or bad, is negligible.

2.  Man could immediately end world hunger and cure disease in an instant if he really wanted to.  Balderdash.  This is moon-battery of the worst order. 

3.  Man could end war if he really wanted to – all we have to do, all we have ever had to do, is to agree.  Ri-i-i-ght.  All we have to do is reconcile many different cultures, religions, political systems, philosophies and world-views and we can begin beating our swords into plowshares.  When did any two humans ever agree on anything?  This comment is just plain dumb. 

4.  There is no such thing as evil – even Hitler went to Heaven.  I have a lot of trouble with this one.  WG implies that there are no consequences for mass murder, tyranny, cruelty and oppression.  Although I do not believe in the vengeful and punitive God nor do I believe in Hell, I find it unjust that Hitler, or others like  him, can merely skate on into paradise at the end of their lives.  Here’s where the older version of karma makes sense – where Hitler may redeem himself through many more lives on earth, experiencing the same horrors he visited upon others, or mitigating such punishment through better deeds.

Conclusions:  Walsch’s book is worth a read.   It does reexamine some religious concepts that need reconsideration.  It should not be considered a religious text or a new religion, nor should it be viewed as a literal expression of God’s mind.  If it helps you along the path to enlightenment and spiritual growth, that’s a good thing, but don’t take it literally.  Reexamining one’s religious beliefs is not a bad thing – it is necessary for your own spiritual growth. 

Here’s a quote I found on the web.  I think it says a lot that is related to this post:

God builds his temple in the heart on the ruins of churches and religions.  -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

Here’s another relevant quote:

We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty humans, and then blames them for his own
mistakes. – Gene Roddenberry