Did you know that in the last election Trump got only 25.5% of the vote when you count all the people in the country who were of age to vote?
Did you know that Clinton got only 25.6% of that vote?
Did you know that 46.9% of people who could have voted did not vote?
Did you know that even this number is better than in any other recent election?
Can you really blame them when you consider the choices, the fakery, the money, the bombast and sloganeering, the outright lying, the insanity of it all…?
(And in the French election a few months ago there was a record low turnout of just over 70% of the vote.)
Obviously neither candidate had much of a support group in the country, regardless of how loud their supporters seem to be.
Did you know that in a recent bout a “mixed martial arts” practitioner easily beat a master of tai-chi? This happened in China, and the modern pugilist who is also Chinese made mincemeat out of the classical tai-chi master and then he suffered massive public criticism for making a traditional master look bad. Interesting stuff in some way. The usual stuff is the portrayal of classical Asian martial arts masters as almost invincible. You see that in movies and on TV. You know, karate, kung-fu, judo, tai-chi, akido, etc., all these are portrayed as leveling everyone down to mere helplessness. The fact is that in several encounters over recent years all these masters have been easily beaten by these new modern “no-holds barred” practitioners of “mixed martial arts”: meaning there are practically no rules and all kinds of tactics are allowed. Now I find this whole world rather disgusting; these modern day gladiator games where they put two men (and sometimes 2 women) in a large cage and the two go at it until one is pulverized. But even here there is something to be learned. I am amused how the image of these classical masters is taking a beating in more senses than one. People who take up one of these classical martial arts as PART of a whole spiritual regimen and which aids this spiritual journey have nothing to worry about–they lose nothing in this revelation. But people who have been mesmerized by pop images of “martial arts monks” or something like that and want to be able to physically dominate someone, well, these folks are in for a shock if they meet one of these other guys. Image is one of those key mechanisms that drives our economy, the “selling point,” and one of the key psychological weak points. Image is really always a key problem in life and especially in spirituality. Folks following some spiritual path can be quite vulnerable to the “image problem.” There is the image of the “spiritual master,” there is the image of simple monastic life—which actually isn’t so simple after all; there is the image of what spiritual experience should be, what “God” should be in your life. Suddenly the whole thing collapses under the weight of some stress or other, and then what do you do……? Maybe that’s the real beginning of the real spiritual path.
Did you know that a hunter killed an elephant, and then the elephant fell on him and killed him? It was in the news a while back. Now I am not in favor of anyone getting killed, but I am also sick and tired of all these people who kill animals because it gives them a thrill to kill and then take home a trophy to display their prowess. It’s one thing if a person kills an animal to feed his family; it’s quite another when it’s done for the thrill of killing. That is sick, no matter how many millions of people do it. Like the guy who guns down a dozen or more ducks, filling them with lead from his shotgun. Maybe this elephant was sending a message from Mother Nature: Please stop this insanity!
Did you know that there are Buddhist monks in Thailand and Malaysia carrying guns–they are engaged in real battles with Muslims. Real physical violence going on between these religious groups. In some ways surprising and shocking; in other ways not so much. This is a phenomenon that has been going on since the beginning and continues to this very day, no matter what the culture or the nationality: Muslims vs. Buddhists in Southeast Asia, Muslims versus Hindus in India, Muslims versus Jews in the Middle East, Shia Muslims versus Sunni Muslims, Catholics versus Protestants in Europe, Christians versus Jews in Europe, Christians versus Native Religions, Christians versus “pagans” of all sorts (like the burning of “witches” who were really practitioners of a rival religion), and so on. Amazing story really. No wonder so many people find it so hard to accept any kind of organized religion.
Did you know that ISIS has actually killed more people of the Islamic faith than Westerners of all other faiths (or none)? ISIS is a lot like Christian fundamentalists who have become pathological killers. ISIS will not tolerate any version of Islam except their demented and grotesquely distorted one. Kind of reminds one of the Christian mob that killed Hypatia, the pagan woman philosopher in Alexandria in the 4th Century. I know that’s an ancient example, but I choose it for a reason.
Did you know that we have detected gravitational waves? You may be wondering what that has to do with spirituality, religion, human values, etc., the usual topics of these reflections. Well, maybe nothing; maybe everything. First of all, I admit I am a science nerd….love the stuff….always did and always will. The wonders and mysteries of the universe were my first gateway into a contemplative orientation in life when I was a little kid. It still enchants me with its beauty and its awesome grandeur. Sad, therefore, to see some Christians and some of other faiths who look upon science as some sort of “enemy” of religion; equally sad to see some scientists who insist on the hegemony of the scientific view to the exclusion of all other understandings of our life here and now.
But let’s get back to these gravitational waves. They were detected by unimaginably supersensitive instrumentation that was only possible to build in recent years. Two black holes over 3 billion light years away were colliding and set off this ripple through the whole cosmos. Imagine sensing an event that happened over 3 billion years ago–the earth was just beginning to form—the event is so far away that light traveling at over 186,000 miles a second would take 3 billion years to reach us. And here’s the real kicker—no light and no form of energy can ever escape a black hole, that’s why that name, because the gravitational field of a black hole is so intense. What happened in this cataclysmic event is that these two behemoths collided, one of them was over 30 times the size of our sun, and the result was so enormous that it caused a ripple effect in the very fabric of spacetime. All this was predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Amazing stuff the more you learn about it!
Did you know that a young man by the name of Alex Honnold scaled the rocky face of El Capitan in Yosemite with no other equipment than sticky soled shoes and a bag of chalk dust for his fingers? He went up this seemingly impossible rock over 3000 feet. Now many others have gone up El Capitan with ropes and all kinds of other equipment to aid them, but nobody had done what Alex did. Imagine being up against a rock face a 1000 feet above ground with your fingers grabbing hold of whatever crack space you can and your feet hugging a ledge of 1 or 2 inches wide. I got wobbly knees just looking at the photos! That gets you an idea of what that was all about!!
I was interested in some of the reactions to this event when it reached the major news media. Sadly some people felt a need to demean what Alex had accomplished. Ok, I agree, he hadn’t cured cancer, or created a great work of art, or discovered something about our universe that changed the way we look upon it all, or……whatever…..that’s no reason to demean this accomplishment. There is a wonder to it that beguiles the open heart. Alex is a good guy, not a “showboat,” not someone doing it for publicity or something like that–he lives a simple lifestyle, he lives simply to climb, like his whole being is made for that. One of his friends and also a great rock climber himself, Tommy Caldwell, had this to say:
“It’s all too easy for headlines about climbing to lean on clichés about the climbers themselves–that these people are daredevils, thrill seekers, adrenaline junkies. But to most climbers, nothing is quicker to trigger the gag reflex. Climbing is an intimate relationship with our world’s most dramatic landscapes, not a self-boasting fight against them. I don’t claim to understand the inner workings of Alex’s mind, but I know one thing for certain: Alex climbs to live, not to cheat death.”
The other day I witnessed a young father taking care of his mongoloid child of about 10. This also was an amazing scene. That kid could have been aborted; he also could have been institutionalized from the get-go. But no, he was being taken care of by a loving parent, for whom this was no easy challenge. You could easily see the real self-transcendence this called for. How much this young man had to forgo or at least adjust to in his life. He did not find a cure for cancer or create a great work of art or do anything special intellectually, but what an amazing feat this represented. And self-transcendence is really the core thing of all spiritual journeys, no matter what you call them; and without that we are only playing at it as it were.
So our world is filled with many wonders and much beauty and inspiration and it’s important to note this because our political and social and economic world can be very, very depressing.