A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Letting Go Of Fear

In order to start the discussion I would have you consider the following ideas and charts:

  • About the poverty rate and the number of people in poverty.

  • About the growing oil demand and the probability that world total energy production per capita has started to steadily fall forcing prices ever higher.

A reasonable deduction from those facts is that the vast majority of us in America have very little hope of living any better in the immediate future, and maybe the long-term future, than we now do.

A large plurality of us have no hope of doing so whatever, short of winning the lottery.

A smaller plurality of us (but still quite large) will, reasonably, live much worse in the future than they do now.

A possible worst case scenario is this:

The Olduvai theory postulates that electricity is the quintessence of Industrial Civilization. World energy production per capita increased strongly from 1945 to its all-time peak in 1979. Then -- for the first time in history -- it decreased from 1979 to 1999 at a rate of 0.33 %/year. Next from 2000 to 2011, according to the Olduvai schema, world energy production per capita will decrease by about 0.70 %/year (the 'slide'). Then around year 2012 there will be a rash of permanent electrical blackouts, worldwide. These blackouts, along with other factors, will cause energy production per capita by 2030 to fall to 3.32 b/year, the same value it had in 1930. The rate of decline from 2012 to 2030 is 5.44 %/year (the Olduvai 'cliff'). Thus, by definition, the duration of Industrial Civilization is less than or equal to 100 years.

What do you do when you have no hope?

My teachers might just say that you should rejoice.

They describe the state of true spiritual insight as the state "beyond hope" and "beyond fear". So maybe we have a golden opportunity to achieve half of it.

The material things of our lives have no more permanence than the dew on the grass and even our very life itself is like a library book which you must return when it is due. The secret to material happiness is having few desires and being content.

We want so much. And we are always watching our back. Someone might be gaining on us. Someone might be out to get us. Someone might fire us. We might lose our credit. We might lose our good name. We might lose....well, just lose, that's all!

So let's go get some steak and fries to cheer us up. No, wait, there's a lobster special on! Or maybe a good Ruben sandwich, hot aromatic corned beef smothered in sauerkraut on thick crusted bread! With white wine; no, Belgian Ale; no sweet, dark stout! And top it all off with ice cream--Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia, Hagen Das Butter Pecan, Rocky Road, Death by Chocolate....

The state beyond hope and fear. Right here, right now. Watching the breath as it goes through the nostrils, watching the mind as it flips from possibility to possibility like a mouse in a maze, taking any turn possible in order to not watch the breath going through the nostrils. If we just watch the breath--give up our hope, give up our fear--there might not be anything there at all.

That's scary. And even if there is something there, it might just be an awful bore. No self-righteous anger, no excuses, and no fun. Right here, right now. Turning the mind back to the breath anyway. Settling in on the meditation cushion. Counting the outbreaths: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, a siren in the distance, a fire maybe?, no, a murder maybe?, will I see it on the news? Oh, damn! I lost count! I'm supposed to count to twenty-one. Sigh. One, two, three, four, five....

What was that? Nothing. Not even boredom. Just nothing. No space. No time. Nowhere. An absence of hope and fear. A gap which closes before you even realize it. A gap where you could give in, relax, open up--that is, if you can find it again! Back to the count ...twenty, twenty-one. Settle. Let the count go. Just watch the breath. Just watch the mind. Funny, isn't it? Hopping around like a little wallaby down under!

Just watch the breath.

Just watch.




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