Sunday, July 16, 2006


this is an audio post - click to play

There is something I don't know that I am supposed to know. I don't know what it is I don't know, and yet am supposed to know, and I feel I look stupid if I seem both not to know it and not know what it is I don't know. Therefore I pretend I know it. This is nerve-racking since I don't know what I must pretend to know. Therefore I pretend to know everthing. I feel you know what I am supposed to know but you can't tell me what it is because you don't know that I don't know what it is. You may know what I don't know, but not that I don't know it, and I can't tell you. So you will have to tell me everything.
--RD Laing "knots" p56.

As a child I knew things I was not supposed to know, and did not know things I should have. I knew this, but for the longest time, did not know who to trust with this awareness. One day when I was 16 I gave this to Max and stood mute as he read it. I knew when he finished reading that he understood. During his last months, he told me everything he felt appropriate, and through his kindness, comprehension was born. I knew more than I thought I did. I just did not trust that my self knew it. Growing as an adult is a reconsiliation of what I have learned experientially, with that knowing self within. Awakening, I think, is less about learning, and more about rediscovering what one was born knowing. Releasing the primal self, bound by social conditioning, that knows no civilized fears, only survival and pleasure and pain.

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Monday, July 10, 2006

On population decline in First World countries

Robert J Samuelson posted an op-ed column in the Washington Post called "Behind the Birth Derth."
It is an intersting commentary on Putin's incentives to get Russian women to have more babies, as well as addressing the larger issue of plummeting birth rates in First World countries. This is not an issue I have given a lot of thought to, but as I read the article, a few thoughts percolated up.

That this is not a new issue. A hundred years ago, Teddy Roosevelt urged native-born Americans, especially those in New England, to make the sacrifices necessary to raise larger families, because (if I recall correctly) 'eugenics' was on the rise and there was a perception that the "superior" Northern European race would eventually die out as a result of low birthrates. And this, long before the widespread availablilty of birth-control devices and pharmaceuticals.

That, while he posited various possible reasons as to why the birthrates are so low in industrialized countries, Samuleson missed a few things, either becasue he did not think of them, or because they are too 'hot.' They are as follows:

One, education, particularly a socially liberal education, suppresses the desire to reproduce. In grade school we are educated on the causes of so much poverty and disease and infant death in Third World countries, the primary culprit being over-population. The same thing with envrionmental degradation: over-population--too many people and too few resources. People who are aware of the world and their responisiblities toward their fellow man are not going to go on a breeding binge. It is perceived as a very selfish thing to do. Additionally, the availability of education and career paths to women created options they did not have before. Women, particularly those who choose not to reproduce, are no longer economically dependent upon men, and are no longer pitied as 'spinsters' and 'bluestockings'.

Two, those religions which stress abstinence from sex until marriage, consider birth control a sin, and relegate women to child-bearing, child-rearing drudgery have been falling out of fashion the last couple of centuries, again, partly as a consequence of the growing liberalization of society and the increasing availablity of information across socio-economic levels. Religion, supersition, poverty and ignorance would appear to go hand-in-hand with a brood of runny-nosed kids who themselves are having children while their mothers are still pumping out their younger siblings.

Three, the rise of the "nuclear family" in Western culture has destroyed the incentive to reproduce which one would think that a higher standard of living might give. Really. Lets face it, It takes two people working full-time++ in order to support a First World household, with or without children. We like our high standard of living and want to maintain it, and we don't have the internal or external resources to earn our bacon, fry it, and serve it up to our children without feeling overwhelmed.

By this, I mean that raising children responsibly is time-intensive and financially expensive--health care, child care, the necessity to take time off work to care for them when they are ill, the cost of keeping them educated and participating in supervised and "age-appropriate" activities, the cost of keeping up with compulsive consumerism of the pop culture which is driven by children and teens who lack purpose and meaning in their lives... Until relatively recently, children were raised in a more communal/community environment--they lived in the same house, neighborhood, or town as their extended families, of whom grandparents, great-aunts and great-uncles were the primary caretakers of young children. But with industrialisation and increased mobility, it is much more common for adults to live separated by hundreds of miles from their families--and raise their children themselves in a small, nuclear, family. This creates a lot of financial and emotional stress, and the observation of this stress by others who have not gone the 'child' route tends to raise doubts. I know this from personal experience: I am known to say that "I like other people's children" or that "I like being an auntie" far more than I would enjoy being a parent, myself.

Fourthly, there are social and environmental ills in the world that provoke people to refrain from reproducing, if they have a choice. The world is so full of murder and rape and molestation and extinction and pollution and scarcity and neglect--why pass that on to children? Many feel that we should first make the world a better place to live in, before bringing more people into it. Why add to the epidemic of suffering?

Lastly, those who do not examine history are doomed to repeat it. It is obvious to me why Europe's birth rate is much lower than that of the US. Sure, the US has a far more religious population, in general, than European countries, and thus more children (heck, religious states like Utah have birth rate that is something like triple that of states such as New Hampshire), but that's only part of it.

Europe is more crowded, it has fewer resources, and its people are still living with the consequences of World War I and II in ways that the US is not. Much of Germany's aggressiveness in the early 20th century was attributed to a growing population that was feeling crowded and resource hungry, a population that, having purged its country of most of the immigrant and non-Arian resource competitors, began looking at expanding their territory to give themselves more room to grow.

To quote Samuelson quoting Wattenberg:
"The forthcoming and dramatic depopulation of Europe and Japan will cause many problems," writes Ben Wattenberg in "Fewer," his excellent book on the subject. "Populations will age, the customer base (for businesses) will shrink, there will be labor shortages, the tax base will decline, pensions will be cut, retirement ages will increase." All plausible. In 2000, one in six people in Germany and Japan were 65 or older; by 2050 the projections are for one in three.

Is opening borders and allowing immigration from countries that cannot support their populations a solution to the above-mentioned consequences of de-population? Probably. But immigration is a real sore point in most First World countries, as illustrated by immigrant riots and demonstration in France and the US. And the reason (I think) is because we socially-enlightened First Worlders do not feel it is right to maintain a second-class of laborers supporing a social and cultural elite---and yet, as a whole, we do not want to comprise on our standards of living in order to help raise others up...

There. I'm done babbling. Really. Now that I've emptied my mind of such dark thoughts, I'm going to wash my hands, brush my teeth, and retire to my delicious bed with a yummy fantasy involving me, a man who knows how to use his mouth and fingers, and restraints. Mmm.... yes.... I feel much better already.

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Conversation on gender relations

Friend: I don't understand why you are keeping him at arms-length.

Me: In ways I don't trust men when it comes to romance, you know that.

Friend: That's obvious. Yet its such a paradox. You prefer men for friends and lovesr, yet, you don't trust us.

Me: Men don't know what they want. They say things they think they mean; and they ask for everything, and then, when they have all a woman has to give, its suddenly too much for them. I've seen it again and again and I've never allowed that to happen to me. I've always held something back and my lovers always pushed for more. They expect it from women. 'Why can't you love me like I love you?' they ask. 'Because you love the mystery and when there is nothing in reserve no mystery remains,' I answer.

Friend: I can understand that, but I think there is a difference between letting yourself enjoy someone and trusting them completely. You don't have to have the latter in order to experience the former.

Me: Well, what do you prefer.... A woman who gives it all up and loves you with everything she is, or a woman who gives you what she thinks you are capable of appreciating and keeps her core-self inviolate?

Friend: I'm not really sure, to be honest.

Me: There you are. Another example of a man not knowing what he wants from women :)

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Hymns for the Drowning

This is an audio post - click to play

Poems to Vishnu by Nammalvar the Tamil poet

While I was waiting eagerly for him
saying to myself,
"If I see you anywhere
I will gather you
and eat you up,"
he beat me to it
and devoured me entire,
my lord dark as a raincloud,
my lord self-seeking and unfair.
(Tiruvaymoli 9.6.10)

In that time when I did not know you,
you made me love your service,
in the midst of my unknowing confusion,
you made me your servant;
disguised as a dwarf, you asked,
"Three steps of earth, great king Bali,"
you tricked him unawares,
and now you've mingled inside my self.
(Tiruvaymoli 2.3.3)

In return for the great gift of your mingling inside myself,
I ended up giving you my self
-- so now what other return can I make?
you are the self of my self,
my father who ate seven worlds;
who is my self? who am I?
it's what you've made it, you who gave it.
(Tiruvaymoli 2.3.4)

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Reflections on Integrity and the Human Dilemma

Reflections, (C) KR SilkenvoiceLately I have been thinking about drive and ambition, purpose and resolve, and the confidence needed to support that resolve, and how integrity fits in there, between the drive of the ego to survive, to thrive, to achieve, and the conscience which tells me that it is of vital importance that I not hurt others in the process of getting what I want.

I recognize that my words, thoughts, deeds, and intentions create an environment that either supports or weakens my resolve. And whether it supports or weakens my resolve is dependent on my integrity, my ethics, my system of values. I am a person of conscience. And while I have few morals in the sense most people seem to, my values are very simple and I live in harmony with them: I do what makes me happy. And I try not to do what will make me unhappy.

Notice there is no undertone of fear. I lack fear with regards to my integrity/values because I am not a religious person. I do not have a 'faith' which dictates my ethical integrity. I do not allow myself that luxury: faith does not confront the questions of existence and how we respond to it; faith simply provides consolation and assurances that following a certain spiritual and moral road map is the answer to those questions.

There is not much that I invest 'belief' in because... in believing something, in taking it on faith in the absense of experientially substantiated fact, I close myself off to other things, one of which might actually be the truth. I refuse to believe in things that I cannot know. I neither affirm nor deny the existence of a god or gods, or an afterlife, or reincarnation, or a soul, or any of those Big Unknowables. Instead, self-honesty requires that I recognise what I do not know and I cannot know, and focusses me on what I can address: the human dilemma and the possible resolution of it.

And the human dilemma is this: at core, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, we humans are are isolated, anxious creatures in a hostile world. Most of us experience ourselves as beings pitted against the rest of the world--just one more desperate soul struggling to survive amongst countless others. It is this desperation which puts us in conflict with our own integrity, I think. Desperation often drives us do or say things which hurt others and thus ourselves. Whether we admit it or not, we humans are empathetic beings in a participatory / shared reality, and we cannot hurt, abuse, or lie to others without diminishing our own Integrity, that law within. Thus the sense of conflict between survival and integrity. Thus the human dilemma.

And the possible resolution? Remembering that we have 'reality' in common. Remembering that we are more than just competitors for the 'better' things in life. Remembering that everything is transient: that we are all born, that we will all die, and that we will all suffer in between those two inescapable events. And lastly, realizing that as long as we fear the inevitability of suffering, we perpetuate it.

I think that most people don't realize that when we act with integrity, when we operate from a place of compassion and empathy for ourselves and each other, when we stop clinging to our fears of the undeniable and inescapable transience of life, we create a world with less suffering. Or at least, we are less likely to contribute to the fear and suffering. Ultimately, my integrity, and the integrity of my thoughts, words, intentions, and deeds, are based upon my sense of what I have in common with others, rather than what separates or distinguishes me from them.

The Internet, more than anything, has taught me that much.

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