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

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Cool Quote of the Day

Sunrise
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

Cool Quote of the Day

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

Cool Quote of the Day

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

Image

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

Cool Quote of the Day: Moving into stillness

Imagine a spinning top. Stillness is like a perfectly spinning top, spinning so fast it appears motionless. It appears this way not because it isn’t moving, but because it’s spinning at full speed.

Stillness is not the absence of energy, life, or movement. Stillness is dynamic. It is unconflicted movement, life in harmony with itself, skill in action. It can be experienced whenever there is total, uninhibited, unconflicted participation in the moment you are in–when you are wholeheartedly present with whatever you are doing.

For most of us, however, most of the time, our lives do not resemble a perfectly centered top, spinning so fast it appears motionless. Our lives are more like a top in a somewhat wild, erratic, and chaotic spin. We know we’re alive because at least we’re still spinning, but we are not quite perfectly centered, and we are not spinning anywhere near full speed. We don’t have as much energy as we’d like, we are not experiencing as much aliveness as we might, not are we experiencing the peace of stillness or the joy of being.

-Erich Schiffmann, Yoga, the Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness