To Those Who Call for Calm in Ferguson

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Justice for Mike Brown, National Moment of Silence in Washington, DC on August 14, 2014. Photo by Elvert Barnes/flickr

Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims, have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.

This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. In the light of these ideas, Negroes will be hunted at the North, and held and flogged at the South so long as they submit to those devilish outrages, and make no resistance, either moral or physical. Men may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must certainly pay for all they get. If we ever get free from the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and if needs be, by our lives and the lives of others.

Frederick Douglass, 1857

“The Significance of Emancipation in the West Indies.” Speech, Canandaigua, New York, August 3, 1857

Freedom makes me anxious and the NSA beats Xanax

At Sheremetyevo Airport Edward Snowden reportedly passed the time reading Russian literature, including Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. To my knowledge he hasn’t read Brothers Karamazov, but this quote from a famous section called “The Grand Inquisitor” seems appropriate:

Man is tormented by no greater anxiety than to find someone quickly to whom he can hand over that great gift of freedom with which the ill-fated creature is born.

What else can explain the wholesale embrace of the “keep you safe” NSA surveillance industry among a significant part of the population?

Perhaps party loyalty can as well. New polling numbers from Pew show that major shifts in opinion against NSA surveillance programs and for civil liberties are occurring, except among one group:

The largest changes toward demanding civil liberties protections have occurred among liberal Democrats, Tea Party Republicans, independents and liberal/moderate Republicans. Only self-identified “moderate/conservative Democrats” – the Obama base – remains steadfast and steady in defense of NSA surveillance. The least divided, most-pro-NSA caucus in the House for last week’s vote was the corporatist Blue Dog Democrat caucus, which overwhelmingly voted to protect the NSA’s bulk spying on Americans.

Unwavering devotion to Obama and the Democratic Party leads to a blind, childlike faith capable of rationalizing almost anything.

All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory.  -George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Cool Quote of the Day

Photo by PublicDomainPictures

Learning not to cause harm to ourselves is a basic Buddhist teaching. Nonaggression has the power to heal. Not harming ourselves or others is the basis of an enlightened society. This is how there could be a sane world. It starts with sane citizens, and that is us.

-Pema Chödrön, Comfortable with Uncertainty

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We are trying to create a Buddhist world, an enlightened society, and one of the principal ways of doing that is for each one of us to become sane. Once you have understood, studied, and practiced, you might actually have to do something. Together we might need to wake up the whole world from its sleep and create an enlightened society in accordance with Great Eastern Sun vision. So we should appreciate one another. We should appreciate that we are going to create a wakeful world.

-Chögyam Trungpa

The Silken Tent

Photo by ahisgett/Flickr

She is as in a field a silken tent
At midday when the sunny summer breeze
Has dried the dew and all its ropes relent,
So that in guys it gently sways at ease,
And its supporting central cedar pole,
That is its pinnacle to heavenward
And signifies the sureness of the soul,
Seems to owe naught to any single cord,
But strictly held by none, is loosely bound
By countless silken ties of love and thought
To everything on earth the compass round,
And only by one’s going slightly taut
In the capriciousness of summer air
Is of the slightest bondage made aware.

-Robert Frost

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Almost anything can be done if one proceeds slowly enough. Often we are discouraged by the enormity of a task or the length of a journey and become impatient with the difficulties we face. We lose faith in ourselves. Patience reminds us that what is in front of us is just this moment, just this step, just this breath.

~ Joseph Goldstein

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Without the recognition of non-violence on a national scale there is no such thing as a constitutional or democratic government.

-Mahatma Gandhi, Non-Violence in Peace and War

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ZUMA Press/Newscom/File

There’s another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts the personality of the hater. We usually think of what hate does for the individual hated or the individuals hated or the groups hated. But it is even more tragic, it is even more ruinous and injurious to the individual who hates. You just begin hating somebody, and you will begin to do irrational things. You can’t see straight when you hate. You can’t walk straight when you hate. You can’t stand upright. Your vision is distorted. There is nothing more tragic than to see an individual whose heart is filled with hate. He comes to the point that he becomes a pathological case. For the person who hates, you can stand up and see a person and that person can be beautiful, and you will call them ugly. For the person who hates, the beautiful becomes ugly and the ugly becomes beautiful. For the person who hates, the good becomes bad and the bad becomes good. For the person who hates, the true becomes false and the false becomes true. That’s what hate does. You can’t see right. The symbol of objectivity is lost. Hate destroys the very structure of the personality of the hater. […] when you start hating anybody, it destroys the very center of your creative response to life and the universe; so love everybody. Hate at any point is a cancer that gnaws away at the very vital center of your life and your existence. It is like eroding acid that eats away the best and the objective center of your life. So Jesus says love, because hate destroys the hater as well as the hated.

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama on November 17, 1957

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The human world is continually speeding up while the non-human world of plants, insects, and animals, with its once vast range of ecological diversity, is rapidly declining, causing irreversible imbalances throughout the web of life. A spiritual practice exclusively concerned with my enlightenment, my transcendence, or my emancipation from this life, this body, or this earth is not a spiritual practice tuned in to these times of ecological, social, physical, and psychological imbalance. The declining health of our ecosystems and the call for action in our cities, economies, communities, and families remind us that we don’t have time to wait for enlightenment in isolated caves or inner sanctums; instead, it’s time to consider action in the world and inner practice as synchronistic and parallel. Action in the world is not an externally imposed duty or simply a preliminary stage on the path to greater awareness but is itself a valid spiritual path and an expression of interdependence, freedom, and awakening.

Michael Stone, Yoga for a World Out of Balance

Cool Quote of the Day

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Your soul is oftentimes a battlefield, upon which your reason and your judgment wage war against your passion and your appetite…

For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction.

-Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet